CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT Friday evening, 6:30 P.M.
Jacob slipped in the back door with Mike and Colin just in time for a quick shower. Jill was still being beautified when he returned and Katy was playing with Paddie. High on Crunch Berries, he ran up the stairs to shower. Assuming Jill and Katy were still gone, he came flying out of the bathroom only to stop short.
Jill stood like a vision from God.
Her red strapless dress hung tight to her round breasts and flat stomach. The dress was specifically fitted to enhance her full behind exaggerated by her matching stiletto heels. Her skin looked sun drenched and seemed to shine. Even her short hair sparkled. She wore one of her diamond necklaces, matching diamonds on her ears and the Marlowe beauty on her finger.
His heart seized in his chest. He was sure he was having a heart attack. Dripping water on the floor, clutching his chest, he struggled to even form the word hello.
Jill laughed. Raising a single eyebrow, her eyes flicked to his interest expressed in a stiff spasm. And he laughed.
She was everything he’d ever wanted. And she was so beautiful.
He stepped toward her but she shook her head.
“I spent all day getting gussied up. Let’s meet the celebrities then see what’s next,” she said.
He nodded. Jill chatted. He wasn’t exactly sure what she said, just that she was talking. Her voice lilted across the apartment while he dried off and dressed in his tux. She helped his limp right arm intohis shirt and tux jacket. She adjusted his sling.
“You haven’t heard a word I”ve said.”
“I’m hallucinating,” he said.
“That’s why you’re not supposed to eat Captain Crunch,” she said.
“Who ate Captain Crunch?”
She laughed then helped him tie his bow tie.
“You’re gorgeous,” he said. “You look every inch a model.”
“That’s good because we took photos tonight for some magazine. Tonight is my first work night.”
He smiled. Leaning into her, he moved to kiss her.
“No kissing,” she said. “Mess up my makeup.”
“But I get to unwrap this present.”
“You better!” She exclaimed.
“There is a God.”
“And Katy?” Jacob asked.
“She’s playing with Paddie and hanging out with Uncle Steve. Val’s special guests are arriving with their kids. The kids are all playing together. It’s cute.”
“So how long?”
“Unwrapping,” he said.
Jill laughed. Taking his hand for stability, they went down the long stairs well to the door where the world’s famous stars were arriving.
Friday night, 11:30 PM
Jill took one last look at her sleeping baby. Katy and Paddie were sound asleep in one of second floor apartments. Scooter and Sarah lay on the floor near the bed. She heard the dogs jump on the bed when she pulled the door closed.
The kids had been with a family member the entire time they were awake. As soon as they started to lag, Jill and Colin settled them in this apartment. Jill knew that Jacob was asleep upstairs, so she stayed as long as she could. The paparazzi had to leave at eleven due to Denver’s curfew laws. Val thought the guests would clear out around midnight. She asked Jill to help say ‘good-bye’ if Jacob wasn’t up to the task.
The party was a huge success. They laughed, danced, ate and drank. Val’s famous friends were so nice. Jill was amazed. Val introduced Tanesha to a nice man who worked as a grip on Val’s soap opera. He was tall, dark and ‘fine’, according to Tanesha. Between fixing the stars’ makeup, Heather danced, laughed and so far, hadn’t settled on one man. She’d never seen Sandy as happy as she was tonight. Jill said a silent prayer that Sandy and Aden remained as happy as they were right now.
Closing the door to the apartment, Jill was sure she had never had a nicer night. She and Jacob floated through the evening in their own bubble of love. They danced and danced until he had to rest.
Jill smiled. She had just enough time to wake, and share some fast love with Jacob before they needed to be downstairs. She nodded to the soldier who moved to stand in front of the apartment door.
Her heels made a happy tap dance across the hard wood floors of the hall. Clinging onto the banister for ‘don’t fall stiletto help’, she made the quick trip through the Castle main kitchen where she picked up a bottle of champagne and some chocolate strawberries. Humming to herself, she started up the back stairwell to the apartment.
She saw him the moment she turned the landing. She felt his fist across her face a moment later.
“Slut.” Trevor slapped the strawberries out of her hand. “You’ll fuck the rich boy but are too good for me?!”
She moved to hit him with the open champagne bottle. He stepped aside easily and yanked the bottle from her hands. At that moment, as if she was standing right next to her, Jill heard Alex Hargreaves’s voice.
“Remember, he’s strongest when you first meet. He’s spent hours getting pumped up for this action. Go against him then and you’ll only get hurt. Give in. Make him think he’s winning. Make your move at the transition. He’s weakest at any transition.”
Jill blinked. Trevor was drinking the champagne from the bottle. His eyes were glassy as if he was high on something. She forced her lips into a smile.
“I didn’t know you were here,” she said. “Do you like my new dress?”
Taking a cue from Delphie, Jill smiled coyly while she twirled back and forth. The dress’s movement allowed her to press the panic button in the hidden pocket. Alex’s team would be alerted that she was in trouble.
“You look amazing.” Trevor’s eyebrows shot up.
As she had for so many years, Jill faked a seductive smile. He scooped her up and began devouring her lips.
“Good girl.” She heard the Alex in her head encourage her on.
“The kitchen’s clear and MJ has the kids,” a woman’s voice said from the landing below. “Come on. You can have her later.”
Trevor stepped back from Jill. Jill smiled in such a way as to make him believe that she was excited to be had by him. His face flushed with longing. She gave another coy smile.
“Come on!” The step-whore growled. “Bring the bitch.”
Trevor grabbed Jill’s elbow. He forced her back down the stairwell. Just as Trevor pushed her into the kitchen in front of him, Honey came flying in from the house.
“OH MY GOD! JILL! NO! NO!” Honey screamed. Turning quickly, she moved to toward the door to the party. “HELP! HELP!”
And her sister was on her.
Jill and Trevor stood in shocked silence as the sisters fought. The step-whore was smaller and Honey was stronger. But the step-whore’s fierce cruelty was no match for Honey Lipson.
“GO NOW!” The step whore screamed.
“KNIFE!” Jill screamed when she saw the flash of a knife in the step-whore’s hand. She heard Honey scream and what could only be the sound of a sharp knife penetrating delicate flesh.
“Go.” Trevor pushed her forward. Made wild by his wife’s actions, Trevor spoke in rapid tones. “That bitch betrayed us all along. She told the cops everything we planned. Every step of the way. She deserves what she gets. She KNEW better than to get involved. We WARNED her. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.”
He yanked Jill through the kitchen. Jill was too horrified to say anything. They were almost to the back porch when MJ met up with them. He was carrying Katy and Paddie. The toddlers seemed sound asleep against him.
“You have to take them,” MJ said.
“You’re backing out NOW?” Trevor asked.
“That crazy woman just killed her sister. There’s blood everywhere and she’s off cleaning up somewhere. I’m not getting involved in any murder. No way. No way,” MJ said. He thrust the toddlers into Trevor’s hands. “You want to do this? Do it yourself.”
MJ stalked off toward the upstairs apartments leaving Trevor holding the children. Out of instinct, Jill reached for her baby, her Katy, but Trevor thrust Paddie into her arms. With Katy in one arm, and holding Jill with the other hand, they started across the back porch.
“They’re out of the house,” Arthur Rasmussen said into the ear bud microphones. He was sitting in a room above Mike’s studio with two other soldiers watching a bay of video monitors. “Trevor has package A, B and C.”
“It’s on,” Alex Hargreaves voice cut in the feed. “I repeat. We are live. Game is on.”
“In motion,” six men’s voices reported.
“In place.” Came the report from three other men.
“The wife is with them now,” Rasmussen said. “She’s trying to get Package A from Roper. Roper isn’t giving him up. They are arguing. Looks like it’s time to go. Damn Roper’s good. We should hire her.”
Delphie rushed toward the tall red haired man standing at the doorway to the back porch. He was so intent on what was going on in the backyard that he hadn’t noticed her.
“Michael, there’s nothing more you can do now,” Delphie said.
MJ’s head jerked down to look at Delphie. His blue eyes searched her face.
“We have to let it play out,” she said. “Will you help me?”
“Yes ma’am,” MJ said.
“Sam’s putting pressure on the wounds like you told us,” Delphie said. “She needs a medic.”
MJ nodded. With one last wistful look toward the backyard, he followed Delphie to where Honey lay fighting for her life. Without hesitation, the medic in him took over.
“Sir, press right here.” He pointed to specific spot on Honey’s back. Crumpled, face down on the wood floor, Honey seeped blood from at least six deep knife wounds. “We need to get this bleeding stopped.”
“But her spine!” Sam exclaimed. “It’s….”
“Severed, yes,” MJ said. “She won’t make it if we don’t get this bleeding stopped. Mike!”
Mike walked into the landing.
“Grab her legs. Very carefully. 1, 2, 3.” MJ guided the men to straighten Honey’s broken body. “Great. Mike, I need the med pack I gave you.”
“It’s right here,” Mike said. Mike reached into a lower cupboard in the kitchen. He gave MJ the pack.
“I’m offline but we’re on camera here.” MJ nodded his head toward the ceiling. Looking up, he said, “I need a MedEvac.”
While Sam, Delphie and Mike stood around him, MJ dug in the pack until he found packet of saline. With quick efficient movement, he began setting up an IV. Glancing at Mike, he said, “You know what to do.”
Mike nodded. Taking the stairs two at a time, he found Jacob waiting on the other side of the door. The two men ran down the stairs and out into the backyard.
Paddie stirred in her arms but didn’t open his eyes. Jill sighed. It was all she could do to keep that woman from taking the precious boy. Who knows what she would do to this baby boy? Thank God they were pressed for time. Jill refused to allow herself to wonder about what was going to happen next.
Instead she focused on the warm bundle in her arms and keeping her footing in these stupid stilettos. Trevor led the way with Jill following. His wife pushed her forward from behind. She chuckled cruelly whenever Jill’s heels caught on the flagstone path.
Passing through the gardens, Jill looked longingly at the ripening fruit on the trees and the tall corn. Delphie had promised to let her help in the garden. But Jill had been to busy for gardening. She took a deep breath of the garden fragrance - moist dirt, flowering potatoes, ripening fruit. She wished she had taken more time.
Across the garden, she saw a couple making love. The man’s back was to Jill and his face was buried in his conquest’s neck. His conquest’s hands gripped the man’s moving behind. They were pressed against the privacy fence near the bees.
Jill sighed. She couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than making love among the intoxicating garden smells and warm night air. She about to say something to the couple when Trevor’s wife stuck her knife against her back.
“I’d kill you now, but I already got a good price for you in Bangkok,” the woman said in a soft terse voice. “If I lose money on you, I’ll take it out on your child. I can make top dollar on a three year old virgin.”
Horrified, Jill snuggled Paddie closer. The Alex Hargreaves in her mind said, ‘Watch for your opportunity, Jill. You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know what to do.’
“Thanks for wearing the rocks. I’m going to look great in them,” the step-whore said.
Jill kept her eyes on the couple to silently implore them to notice what was happening. The couple was too caught up in their own fervor. Hopelessness, rising from her very core, threatened to send her into the black oblivion.
Paddie shifted in her arms.
The strength she had only recently found within herself pushed away the helpless dark. Jill gritted her teeth. She was ready. She would do everything in her power to protect her child and this boy. Even if it took her very last breath.
Her opportunity would come.
And she would act.
Trevor and his wife had taken down a panel in the back privacy fence. A dark SUV sat running in the alley. They were almost there.
They had just reached Mike’s artist studio when, out of no where, a man dressed in black swung down from the balcony to lift Katy from Trevor’s arms. In a heart beat, the man was up on the balcony with Katy in his arms.
Jill’s head jerked to her right as a man slid past her on a wire. He held his arms out and she placed Paddie in them. Whoosh! Paddie and the man were also on the balcony of the artist’s studio.
Jill smiled when Katy and Paddie waved from the balcony. She was pretty sure Paddie wasn’t asleep against her. They must have been pretending like Alex told them to.
Trevor grabbed Jill by one arm and the step-whore grabbed her by the other. Jill felt the knife nick her flesh and blood begin to seep into her beautiful new dress. Feeling movement behind them, Trevor jerked them around.
Mike and Jacob came running from the house. Seeing Jill trapped between Trevor and his wife, they slid to a stop.
At that moment, Jill felt more than saw the step-whore kicked in the face. Her head followed the foot that kick her attacker to see Alex Hargreaves. Before she could say anything, the step-whore attacked Alex. With practiced ease, Alex removed the knife from the woman then flipped her over her hip. The step-whore landed flat on her back at the feet of Arthur Rasmussen. Art lifted the tiny woman to her feet and cuffed her hands behind her back.
“Go ahead, Jill,” Alex said. Alex’s husband, John Drayson, the man from the love making couple, came up to give Alex her heels.
Jill lifted her foot and smashed her stiletto heel into the top of Trevor’s athletic shoe. He jerked giving her the space to smack him in the nose with her elbow. His nose broke with a satisfying crunch. Stepping away, she kneed him in the groin for good measure.
“Ok, easy girl,” Jacob said.
Breathing hard, Jill jerked toward Jacob’s voice then threw herself into his arms.
“You belong to ME!”
Trevor grabbed her from behind and threw her on the ground. Trevor swung his foot to kick Jill. Mike stepped in-between Trevor and Jill. Jacob smashed Trevor’s standing leg from behind and crushed his knee. Trevor fell forward to the ground.
“Thanks Jake. We’ve got this,” Alex said. She nodded and a man lifted Trevor and cuffed his hands behind his back. Trevor glared at Jill with a mixture of hatred and longing.
Jacob reached down to help Jill up. Her dress was torn, there was dirt in her hair and a bruise forming on her jaw. But her smile shined brighter than the moon.
As Alex’s team began to assemble, Art Rasmussen started reading Trevor and his wife their Miranda rights. A tiny girl ran out from the house. Not even five feet, she was dressed in the latest tween fashion. Jill thought she was a child of one of the guests.
“Sir, Sergeant Scully has stabilized Ms. Lipson,” the girl said. “The MedEvac will be here in two minutes. We’ll need to get a stretcher in.”
With a nod of Alex’s head, a soldier went to move the idling SUV.
“Thank you Sergeant Peaches,” Alex said. “Please return to your station.”
The girl saluted Alex then ran back to the house.
“Marine,” Mike said into Jill’s ear. “Hard to believe, eh?”
The two men who rescued Katy and Paddie brought them down to Jill and Colin. With Katy on her hip, and Jacob’s arm around her, Jill was beaming. Katy began the blow by blow of everything that happened to her AND Paddie AND Scooter AND Sarah.
Colin saluted Alex. She dismissed him to bring Paddie to his anxious mother, Julie. They heard a helicopter land in a nearby parking lot. Two MedEvac paramedics came running through the privacy fence with a stretcher.
“You guys have anything you want to say before we let Denver Police take over,” Alex said.
Everyone stepped back as the paramedics, MJ and Sergeant Peaches ran by with Honey Lipson. Sam and Delphie ran behind the stretcher.
“You should die, bitch,” the step whore screamed. Lunging at the stretcher, she spit toward her sister. The soldier holding her arms yanked her back to standing. “I’ll kill you when I get the chance. Die, bitch, die.”
“Enough,” Alex said. “Take her away.”
The soldier pushed the tiny woman out into the alley where the Denver Police Cruisers were pulling up.
“This will never be over.” Speaking in an eerily quiet voice, Trevor’s eyes never left Jill. “You will ALWAYS belong to….”
At that moment, a red blossom appeared on Trevor’s forehead. His face went blank. Blood oozed over his right eyes. He slumped forward. The soldiers and police officers dropped to the ground.
Jill shrieked then crumpled into the garden.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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