CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWO
Thursday morning — 10:15 A.M.
Aden pulled up to the Midtown office building. Parking his car in the lot, he jogged across the parking lot to the entrance. He skid to a stop in front of the listing of doctors. Trying to calm his pounding heart, Aden stepped onto the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor. The elevator filled with other people and Aden pressed to the back. He had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming when someone held the elevator for one more person. Finally at the top floor, he followed three or four women out of the elevator then held the door for them as they entered the doctor’s suite.
Aden was standing in a sea of women. They instinctively shifted away from him and he made a beeline for the desk.
“I understand that my fiancé is having trouble with our baby,” Aden said to the nurse.
The room full of women fell silent. All eyes were on Aden at the desk.
“Who’s your fiancé?” the nurse raised an eyebrow at the suspicious man.
“Sandy? Trouble?,” the nurse said. “The only trouble she’s having is trying to figure out if she’s having a boy or a girl. Her kids are all up in it. They fight about it every time they’re here. Weren’t you supposed to bring her kids?”
Confused, Aden shook his head at the woman.
“Sandy’s in trouble,” Aden repeated.
“Not that I know of,” the nurse said. “Come on, I’ll take you back and you can see for yourself.”
Aden heard the waiting room fill with chatter the moment he stepped behind the desk. He glanced back at the sound then followed the nurse through a maze of rooms. The nurse tapped on the door then held the door for Aden.
“Well go ahead,” the nurse said.
The nurse gave him a little push into the room then closed the door. Sandy was lying on a table while a woman spread gel on her belly. They were engrossed in a conversation about the baby. Aden blinked.
“You’re getting an ultrasound,” Aden said.
His voice caused the technician and Sandy to look at him. The medical technician touched Sandy then left the room.
“Where are the kids?” Sandy asked. She gave him a confused smile. “Nash said you were picking he and Noelle up.”
“Nash called and said you and the baby were in trouble,” Aden said. “He made it sound like…”
Aden collapsed into a plastic chair next to the door. Sandy got up to go over to him.
“Are you all right?” Sandy asked.
“I thought…” He looked up at her concerned face. “He made it sound like you were losing the baby, like you were dying. I… I’m going to kill him.”
Sandy smiled and moved back to the table.
“Did you buy him an iPhone?” Aden asked.
“It was our agreement. He got an iPhone if he got caught up in school,” Sandy said. “He and Teddy did a good job.”
“Are you seeing Teddy’s father?” Aden asked.
“Zack?” Sandy asked. “No. We’re old friends. We get together once a week or so when he’s in town. I’m supposed to have lunch with him tomorrow. Why?”
“Noelle said he’s been sleeping over with you,” Aden said.
“I haven’t noticed another man in my bed. I think I would. It’s a fairly small bed,” Sandy laughed. “Where would he sleep? On top of you? You’ve been there every night this week.”
Aden smiled. Sandy got back up on the table.
“Nash told me you were bringing he and Noelle. I’m a little surprised they aren’t here,” Sandy said. “They’re making a huge sacrifice to give up their ultrasound appointment. They’ve come to every one. The nurses love them.”
“They want us here together,” Aden said.
“They usually come with me,” Sandy said. “We get lunch and sometimes ice cream. Who will I have lunch with now?”
“I’d be delighted to take you to lunch,” Aden said.
“What about your teeth?”
“I’ll manage,” Aden said.
“Have you done this before?”
Aden shook his head. The technician came back into the room. She went around the end of the table.
“Where are we now?” Sandy asked.
“Most of the money is on a boy,” she said. “Hi. We haven’t met. You look just like Nash.”
The technician began to move the wand over Sandy’s belly.
“What’s the bet?” Aden asked.
“We’ve had the hardest time finding out if Sandy’s having a girl or a boy,” the woman said. “It’s usually not a big deal, but Nash and Noelle have been so cute. We made a little pool that I would find out today. People are betting on boy or girl. We really like it when the kids come with Sandy. They brighten up our day.”
The technician continued to move the wand.
“Let’s see… here’s the head,” the technician said. “The baby is getting big Sandy. For such a tiny person, this is going to be a big baby. Here’s a hand. Everything looks good.”
The technician pressed on Sandy’s belly.
“Come on baby, let us take a look,” the technician said. The baby shifted away from the wand. “Aden, why don’t you put your hand here? Nestle the head and maybe…”
Aden put his hand on Sandy’s belly. He tried to imagine he was holding his baby’s head. Sandy put her hand over his and he interlaced their fingers.
“The baby is looking up at you, Aden,” the technician said. “Keep moving… Keep moving…
Sandy looked up at Aden. Feeling her gaze, he looked into her eyes.
“There we go,” the technician said. “Whatever you’re doing keep doing it.”
Sandy smiled at him.
“Well, hello!” the technician said.
Thursday morning — 11:35 A.M.
“Que? De donde?” Jacob said.
He was standing in near the edge of what had been the Castle chapel. The explosion had ripped through the flooring exposing the chapel’s foundation, or really lack of foundation. He’d spent the last week trying to stabilize the area. Every time he thought it was secure, something else collapsed.
Running out of options, he’d decided to create a foundation down here. They had built a wooden support structure for the entire second floor. He’d been working on a form for a stabilizing retaining wall and deep pillars when one of his men came over. The man gestured wildly. In his panic, he was speaking in rapid Spanish.
“Mas despacio,” he asked the man to speak more slowly. “What happened?”
The man shook his head and pointed to where he and a few men had been digging the trench for the new foundation. The other men looked equally panicked. Jacob walked over to the area where the alter once stood.
“Que pasa?” he asked.
The men shook their head and looked away. The first man pointed to something in the dirt. A human skull stuck out from the red clay. Jacob dropped to a crouch. Pulling off his glove, he reached out to touch the skull. His hand hovered over it for a moment.
“It’s real,” one of the men said. “I touched it.”
Jacob nodded. He sighed with relief. One touch would have shown him the last moments of that person’s life. He didn’t want to do that in front of these men.
“What do we do?” another man said.
“We call the police,” Jacob said.
“No more work today?”
“We won’t work here for a while.” Jacob shook his head.
Thursday afternoon — 3:15 P.M.
On her way home, Jill stepped into Pete’s Kitchen. She wasn’t really sure why she was here. She hadn’t been in since she stopped working at Pete’s. After four days of hostility and ridicule at school, she had wandered through her day. Somehow, her wanderings led her to Pete’s.
The entire staff came up front to say hello. Jill found herself hugging one person after another. Everyone seemed so happy to see her. Overwhelmed, Jill began to tear up.
“Give her some room,” the manager said. “Are you done with your semester? Like to pick up a shift?”
“Great! You’re always welcome here,” the manager said.
“We heard about what that tramp is saying,” a waitress said.
“Everyone is saying the most awful thing,” Jill said.
“They don’t know you,” a waitress said as she passed by with a hamburger and a Mexican special. “They don’t know Jacob.”
“Not like us,” the manager said.
“We were here when you and Jacob got together,” another waitress said. “We saw the whole thing.”
“And we went to the wedding,” Risto the cook said. “We don’t believe a word that hooker says. We know her kind.”
“When can you start?” the manager said.
“I can pick up a shift now. Jacob’s not working at Lipson so our schedules have changed.”
“Great,” the manager said. “I’ll check the schedule and call you.”
“How about a cinnamon roll for Katy?” A waitress took Jill’s arm and walked her back to the bar. “We take care of our own, Jill. You know that. No matter where you go or what you do, you’ll always be one of us.”
“Why?” Jill asked.
“Because you’re real,” The waitress laughed. “Nice people stick together.”
For the first time in almost a week, Jill felt her feet under her. She nodded. She would always be one of these hard working people. She was a nice person. She belonged around nice people.
Jill smiled. She was home.
Thursday afternoon — 4:11 P.M.
Delphie came up behind Jacob and put her hand on his back. They watched six uniformed police officers with shovels were carefully poking around in the dirt where the chapel had stood. The coroner and his assistant were working in the site where they found the skeleton. Jacob looked over at her.
“There’s nothing you could have done,” Delphie said.
“Did you know they were there?” he asked.
“A man and a woman or I should say a boy and a girl. They were about eighteen. The coroner thinks they died somewhere else and were buried here. They’re lying in each other’s arms.”
“Romantic,” Delphie said. “I knew there were unhappy souls down in those tunnels but I always thought they had more to do with the moving of bodies from Cheeseman. Did you know they were here?”
“No,” Jacob said. “I have this feeling like if I wanted to know, I would have known.”
“I feel the same thing,” Delphie said. “Did they find the rest?”
“The rest?” Jacob said. “What rest?”
“I don’t know,” Delphie said. “I just said that. I don’t know why.”
They watched a police officer yell. Another police officer came over to the first.
“We have another one,” the second police officer indicated to the coroner. “It’s a child.”
“It’s a nightmare,” Jacob said.
“We have to find out what happened to these people,” Delphie said.
Jacob turned to look into her face.
“We have no choice,” Delphie said.
“We always have choice,” Jacob said.
“Not this time,” Delphie said.
Delphie nodded and Jacob shrugged.
“I’ll do it myself then,” Delphie said.
“Do what?” Seth O’Malley said. He held his hand out and Jacob shook it. “Nice to see you folks again.”
“Sandy’s at her studio,” Delphie said to Sandy’s Godfather. “Did she tell you they found out the baby’s gender?”
“She called me after Aden dropped her off,” Seth said. “I’m thrilled.”
“I need to know what you know about this mess,” Seth said.
“Nothing,” Jacob said. “We just found them.”
“Them,” Seth said. “Yes. Well, I’ve been assigned to this case. My partner and I are going to be around a lot until we get this worked out.”
Delphie and Jacob nodded.
“You going to help me?” Seth asked. He leaned in so only they could here, “I know all about the psychic thing. I could really use your help. The coroner is saying the kids have been here since the 1970s…”
“Found another one,” a kneeling police officer said. “This one has flesh.”
“That’s four,” Seth said. “Any thoughts?”
“Nothing good,” Jacob said.
“Thank you Mr. Understatement,” Seth said. “This is not good.”
Delphie nodded her agreement.
Thursday evening — 7:30 P.M.
“Today may not be the best day,” Honey said.
“But… Well, I’m in town and Honey’s not working, so…” MJ said.
MJ and Honey were sitting on the couch in Jill and Jacob’s loft living area. Jill set down a bottle of Merlot and four glasses. After dinner, MJ and Honey has asked them if they could talk tonight. Jill had no idea what they wanted but they were so sincere, she was willing to change their evening routine to give them time. Katy was already bathed and was watching an ancient Jungle Book videocassette in Jill’s office. Jill sat down in a leather arm chair next to Jacob.
“It’s nice to spend some time with you guys,” Jill said. “We live in the same house, but don’t see you that much.”
“It’s hard for Honey to get up here,” MJ said.
“Get anywhere,” Honey said. “I miss my cool apartment.”
“I bet,” Jacob said.
“Being out of my apartment made me more convinced…” Honey said.
Honey and MJ shared a long look.
“Listen, Honey, if you need to move into a condo or somewhere else, I…” Jacob started.
“Move out? Me?” Honey asked. “No way. I mean, not unless you want me to move.”
“Of course not,” Jacob said.
“We’re not sure what’s going on,” Jill said. “We’ve had so much drama that… I’m glad you’ll stay.”
Honey beamed at Jill. Jacob poured the wine and gave a glass to MJ. He held a glass out to Honey. MJ took the glass and helped Honey grasp the stem with her paralyzed fist. Jacob gave a glass to Jill. For a moment, they sipped the wine in silence.
“Okay, I’ll start,” Honey said. “Jake, you have an apartment building. The one you showed us?”
“Have you done anything with it?” MJ asked.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Jacob said.
“You told us that when people move out, you were tearing out the old apartments. Did you do anything with the space?”
“I haven’t,” Jacob said. “I’ve been a little overwhelmed with everything. That building hasn’t had a lot of attention. The residents seem happy. That’s all I care about really.”
“We spent a bunch of time there this week,” Honey said. “Did you know Mrs. Robinson needs to be in assisted living but she can’t afford it?”
“Oh no,” Jill said. “I knew she was kind of old…”
“She’s eight-four years old,” Honey said.
“But that’s not the point,” MJ said. “We’d like to ask you to convert the building to wheelchair access.”
“The whole building?” Jill asked.
“More than wheelchair access,” Honey said. “I talked to Steve. He says the hardest thing about helping people like me is getting from place to place. We figure if we created a building for people like me with some nursing staff…”
“Like an assisted living?” Jacob asked. “Aren’t there big companies that run those?”
“They run them for old people not for younger people,” Honey said.
“People who want to work and stuff,” MJ said.
“MJ was talking to a doc at Walter Reed. He said the wheelchair bound soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have places to live. They’re more like me. They need help in the morning and at night, but otherwise, they want to work and live and…”
“We thought maybe you could hire people too,” MJ said.
“You know I can’t work at Lipson right?” Jacob asked.
“You still own it.” Honey’s face clouded. “This isn’t going well.”
“Wait,” Jill said. “We’re just trying to get what you’re saying. You’d like to convert my old apartment building into a kind of assisted living for younger people who are wheelchair bound. You talked to Steve. Is he in?”
“Steve says that he can find other nurses,” MJ said. “He says it’s great work and if we do it well, we could help a lot of people. It’s not like we’re asking you to do it for free. There’s good money in this for everyone. There just aren’t a lot of facilities.”
“It seems like a good business. The most expensive thing is…”
“The building,” Jacob nodded. “I have a building.”
“And you’re already tearing out the old stuff,” Honey said.
“We’re just saying,” MJ said. “Why not replace it with wheelchair accessible apartments?”
“I’m sorry. I’m tired and it’s been a shitty week,” Jacob said. “I think it’s a solid idea, but I’d like to spend some time running numbers. Would you run the business?”
“I want to keep working for Bambi,” Honey said.
“I’d run the business?” Jacob asked.
“We’d run it together,” MJ said.
“But we don’t have any money to put in,” Honey said.
“Sure you do,” Jill said. “You have your portion of the money Jake got back when Tiffanie divorced Sam.”
Jacob looked at Jill. She smiled at him. He shook his head at her in amazement.
“It’s really what you need, Jake,” Jill said. “A new mess to sort through. And that building is a mess. I’ll design the interiors. It’ll be fun.”
Jacob shook his head.
“What’s not right?” MJ asked.
“Everything’s right,” Jacob said. “And Jill’s right. I do need a new mess to sink my teeth into. Especially since we can’t get into the chapel until the police are done. The apartment building is about thirty percent occupied. I’ve demoed all of the third floor.”
Jacob closed his eyes for a moment to gather his thoughts. For the first time since finding the bodies, he smiled.
“We could start on the third floor,” Jacob said. “That would give us a place to try out the idea on a small scale. If it works, we move to the rest of the building.”
“What about jobs?” MJ asked. “People need jobs.”
“Let’s take it one step at a time,” Jacob said. “Place to stay first. We can add job placement as a service.”
“And we’ll be a part of it?” Honey asked.
“Of course,” Jacob said. “I have to think it through, but we can be partners in this venture.”
“But…” MJ said.
“We’ll figure out a way you can work your equity,” Jill said.
Honey and MJ looked at each other and smiled. Lost in his own thoughts, Jacob laughed.
“If you had asked me before this Johansen thing happened? I would have been much more gung ho,” Jacob said. “It’s been a crappy few weeks. I need a vacation.”
“You do,” MJ said. “You both do.”
Jill smiled at Jacob and he nodded.
“Maybe that’s what’s next.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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