CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and ELEVEN
Monday Evening – 7:30 P.M. PDT
“Did you see that?” Jill asked.
“The bright flashes of light?” Jacob asked.
“Like a million sparklers going off all a once,” she said.
“Yes, I saw them.”
“Wow,” Jill said.
She nestled her head in his arms. He kissed her bare neck and shoulders. They were entwined in the back corner of the hotel elevator.
“Are we off the ground?” Jill asked.
“A couple feet,” he said. “Sorry.”
They lowered to the ground. He shifted to disengage and buttoned his jeans. She kissed his lips. For a moment, they were lost in the passion that had levitated them. Jill sighed and he stroked the sheer back of her skimpy dress.
“Did that happen last time?” Jill asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“I thought I imagined it,” she said. “You should make the elevator go again.”
He leaned forward and pressed the sixteen button. The elevator began lowering toward the sixteenth floor. They stopped at the eighteenth floor and a man got on. Jacob held Jill’s hand.
“Did you guys get on upstairs?” the man asked. “I swear this elevator was stuck. Both the twenty and the twenty-one lights were glowing.”
“I didn’t notice. Did you?” Jacob asked Jill.
“I pressed the button about a million times.”
“Did that work?” Jacob asked.
“You’re here,” he said.
“Must have worked,” Jacob shrugged.
The man shrugged in agreement and turned toward the front of the elevator. The elevator continued its descent to the sixteenth floor. When the doors opened, the man stepped aside. Jill and Jacob stepped off.
“What do you think?” Jill asked.
“I think we should try it again,” he said.
“Room?” she asked.
As he had all those years before, he pulled her into the elevator landing bathroom.
“Let’s remember to lock the door this time,” Jill said.
With a flick of his hand, Jacob locked the door. Jill jumped into his arms.
Monday evening — 8:45 P.M. MDT
“Charlie, bed,” Sandy said. “I’m not joking.”
Noelle came out from her room in her pajamas. She looked at Sandy then at Charlie.
“It’s so early,” Charlie whined. “I won’t get to watch my shows.”
“I thought it was early too,” Noelle said. “But once we started doing it, it worked out really good. Plus, we Tivo our shows and watch them together when we get home. It’s fun. You’ll see. Sandy makes popcorn and…”
Shaking his head, Charlie couldn’t help but smile at sweet Noelle.
“Bathroom,” Sandy said. “Change and brush your teeth.”
“House rules,” Aden said. “You agreed to them when you chose to stay here.”
Charlie opened his mouth to say something else then looked at Aden. Aden’s eyebrow was raised and his feet were set. The boy assessed the man for a moment. Aden was not going to put up with crap from Charlie. Charlie gave a curt nod and went to use the bathroom.
“He’s going to test every rule,” Aden said.
“Until he knows he’s safe,” Sandy said. Turning to Noelle, she said, “Would you like a tuck in, missy?”
“That’s why I came out,” Noelle said.
Sandy followed Noelle into her bedroom.
“Would you like a story?” Sandy asked.
“Do you think I’m too old for stories?” Noelle asked.
“I don’t think so,” Sandy said. “A lot of adults read before they go to sleep.”
“But do you think other people will think I’m too old for stories?” Noelle asked.
“Other people?” Sandy asked.
“Nash likes stories,” Sandy said. “I like reading them. I bet your Dad will listen in.”
“Should I get Nash?”
“Sure,” Sandy said. Noelle was in the doorway, when Sandy added, “No, I don’t think Teddy will think you’re too old for stories.”
Noelle beamed at Sandy. She was almost out the door when she turned back.
“Should I get Charlie?”
“We can ask him,” Sandy said. “Are you all right with having him in your bedroom?”
“Sure,” Noelle smiled her big Noelle smile. “I’ll get them.”
By the time Sandy selected a chapter book about fair ladies, courageous knights, dragons and, of course, fairies, Nash and Noelle had returned.
“Charlie has to brush his teeth again,” Noelle whispered. “He’s with Dad.”
“We can wait,” Nash said.
Noelle got under her covers. Nash grabbed one of Noelle’s pillows and laid down on the bed. Sandy sat near the end. When Charlie came in, Nash indicated he could sit next to him. Charlie looked uncomfortable but Aden gave him a little push into the room. Charlie sat down on the bed next to Nash.
“Mom reads us stories before we go to bed,” Noelle said. “She says it’s good dream insurance.”
Remembering Sandy saying that to him when he was a child, Charlie gave a half grin. He crumpled some comforter for his head and lay back. Aden leaned against the door frame.
Sandy began the book. She made funny voices for all the characters. When the action increased, her voice was excited. After a half hour, her voice dropped in tone as Noelle and Charlie were asleep. Another ten minutes and Nash was out. Aden took Nash to his room.
And Sandy took Charlie to the large walk-in closet at the end of the hall. Jacob had set it up the tight space with a futon and drawers for Charlie’s non-existent clothing. She gave a groggy Charlie a dose of his medication and tucked him in. He was asleep before she flicked off the light.
Seeing Aden leave Nash’s room, she went to kiss Nash good night. She followed Aden in to kiss Noelle good night. She was closing Noelle’s door when she saw Aden coming from Charlie’s room. She smiled at him.
“Did you say good night to Charlie?” Sandy whispered.
Aden nodded. He took her hand and led her out to their dining room. Even though he could now live with Sandy and the kids, they made the effort to eat together every night. She went into the kitchen for their dinners.
“That child is a mess.” Aden followed her into the kitchen. “I don’t think he’s ever brushed his teeth.”
“He used to.”
Sandy dished grilled chicken and sautéed vegetables. Aden put the rest of the salad together.
“Must have been a long time ago,” Aden said. “It was like I was speaking French. We went through toothbrush, toothpaste, and every tooth. I did that with the kids when they were little.”
“Do you think it’s brain damage?” Sandy asked.
Sandy carried the plates out to the dining room table. Aden followed her.
“I think he just doesn’t know,” Aden said. “We talked about basic toilet hygiene – washing your hands, flushing the toilet, that kind of thing. How old is he?”
“Sixteen.” Sandy’s face was a mask of sorrow and guilt.
“How long has your Dad been dead?” Aden asked.
“A few years,” Sandy said.
Sandy’s entire attention turned to her dinner.
“A few?” Aden asked. He touched her hand. “I know it’s hard Sandy but how many years is a few?”
Sandy looked up at him.
“Um… I was eighteen,” Sandy said. “I guess it’s been eight, no nine years.”
“Charlie was seven or eight,” Aden said. “He acts like it.”
“Is it too much to deal with?” Sandy asked. “I mean we just got tentative custody of the kids.”
Aden shook his head.
“Should I find another place for him?”
“For Charlie?” Aden asked. “No. He’s welcome here.”
“I feel awful for him,” Aden said. “He’s like a lost little boy.”
“In a sixteen year old’s body,” Sandy said. “He had awful nightmares last night.”
“Why don’t I get up with him?” Aden asked.
“He’s had nightmares all of his life,” Sandy said. “I don’t mind getting up.”
“I have this feeling that he needs a man,” Aden said.
“You don’t mind?” Sandy asked.
“I don’t mind,” Aden said. “But I doubt I’m enough.”
“When he’s feeling better, he said he’d like take martial arts,” Sandy said. “Nash suggested it.”
“What’s he going to do tomorrow?” Aden asked.
“He’s going to come with me,” Sandy said. “I have a full day tomorrow. I thought he could do our laundry while he waits for me. He’s mostly needs to sleep.”
“And Pete?” Aden asked.
“Pete works in the mornings,” Sandy said. “He’ll be around in the afternoon.”
“So Charlie will have me, Pete and Colin, three men in recovery,” Aden said. “I hope it’s enough.”
“Certainly Seth too. And Sam, Jacob… Mike will be home next week,” Sandy said. “Why does he need so many men?”
“Because at some point, he’s going to get angry,” Aden said. “Really angry.”
“That doesn’t sound fun.”
“I’m glad you found him, Sandy,” he said. “I don’t think he would have made it much longer.”
“Let’s just hope he doesn’t wind up at the bottom of some ditch,” Aden said.
Unwilling to even acknowledge that possibility, Sandy took their plates into the kitchen. When she returned, Aden changed the topic. It wasn’t until much later, after they were in bed, that Sandy allowed herself to hear Aden’s words:
“I hope he doesn’t wind up at the bottom of some ditch.”
“Me too,” she whispered. “Me too.”
Tuesday morning — 8:45 A.M.
“Why do we have to stand in this line again?” Delphie asked.
They were standing in a long security line in the middle of the Denver International Airport terminal.
“This is the security line,” Sam said. “We have to get through security to get on the plane.”
“Oh,” Delphie said. “Why don’t we do this when we go on your plane?”
“Because it’s our plane,” Sam said.
Delphie took two steps forward. The man in front of her looked at her and she smiled. Sam came up behind her so his mouth was next to her ear.
“You don’t have to read everyone’s mind,” Sam said.
“They might be a security risk,” Delphie said. “I should do my part.”
“These folks are good at what they do,” Sam said. “Why are you so anxious?”
“I don’t like to fly,” Delphie said.
“You don’t have to,” Sam said. “We could stay home. Both Jacob and Jill said if it was too much we could stay home.”
“No… no… I need to get out a little bit,” Delphie said. “I can do this thing.”
“You’re very brave,” Sam said.
He stepped forward to give to the Transport Safety Administration agent their boarding passes. The man smiled and nodded toward the x-rays. Sam helped Delphie off with her shoes. They put their possessions on the conveyer belt.
Delphie leaned down to watch the white tubs move into the machine.
“What does it do?” Delphie asked.
“It xrays all of our possessions to make sure there’s nothing illegal in them,” Sam said.
“There’s not,” Delphie said. “Valerie gave me instructions and I followed them. Valerie flies a lot. Just think. If I can do this, I can go to Valerie’s premier in the fall. I really want to do that.”
Sam smiled at her. He shooed her through the metal detector. The metal detector went off.
“Oh,” Delphie said.
“Do you have anything in your pockets?” the Transportation Safety Officer asked.
“No, Jeremy,” Delphie said.
“How did you know my name?” the Transportation Safety Officer asked.
“It’s not my fault you didn’t win the lotto last night,” Delphie said. “Don’t take it out on me.”
Delphie walked through the machine again. It went off.
“Do you have any implants or a prosthesis?” the Transportation Safety Officer asked.
“No, why?” Delphie asked. “You wouldn’t have been shot if you hadn’t picked that fight.”
“What are you talking about?” the Transportation Safety Officer asked. “Go through the machine.”
Delphie went through and the machine went off.
“Ma’am, I have to ask you to wait here,” the Transportation Safety Officer pointed to a plastic lined holding area.
“What? Sam! Sam!” Delphie screamed. “What’s happening to me? I don’t want to go in there.”
“Listen, she’s never flown a commercial flight and…” Sam started.
“Sir, I need you to step away,” the Transportation Safety Officer said.
“She’s no risk to anyone,” Sam said. “She’s…”
“Sir, I will not warn you again,” the Transportation Safety Officer said.
Sam looked to Delphie. Behind the thick plastic walls, Delphie was crouched on the floor. Her elbows covered her face and she was crying into her knees.
“You can’t do that to…”
“I have a security risk,” the Transportation Safety Officer said. “Security risk! Security risk!”
Five Federal Air Marshalls and Transportation Safety Officers came toward him. They grabbed Sam and dragged him away from Delphie.
“SAM!!” Delphie screamed.
Tuesday morning — 9:45 P.M.
“Hey, whatcha reading?” Sandy asked.
Charlie was sitting on the couch in the back room staring at a magazine.
“Oh,” Charlie said. “Nash gave me this magazine.”
He held up a copy of Sports Illustrated.
“He said I had a lot to learn about sports,” Charlie said.
“Dad really liked sports,” Sandy said. “I didn’t know Nash liked sports.”
Shrugging, she leaned down to hug Charlie.
“How are you feeling?” Sandy asked.
“Sick,” Charlie said. “How come I feel sicker the longer it goes?”
“I think you’re coming down off crisis mode,” Sandy said. “Starting to feel how sick you really are.”
She touched his forehead to see if he had spiked a fever.
“Yeah,” Sandy said.
“Is Aden going to kick me out?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t think so,” Sandy said. “Why?”
“Oh, nothing,” Charlie said.
“What happened?” Sandy asked.
“Nothing really,” Charlie said.
Confused, Sandy shook her head.
“It just that I don’t know anything.” Charlie’s words came out in fits and starts. One phase quickly, then a pause. “About living in a house, you know. Noelle was mad at me this morning because I left the toilet seat up. She said she fell in. That’s just gross. But Aden told me to hold the seat up when I pee. Last night, I had nightmares and Aden came in. He was really nice. Made me feel better. But I don’t really know how to shave. Nash was talking about dating skills. What the hell are those? And…”
Charlie looked at the magazine then shook his head.
“I can’t read,” Charlie said. “Nash said this magazine would be easy but I can’t even read this.”
“Where are your glasses?” Sandy asked.
“Your reading glasses,” Sandy said. “You got glasses when you were three or four. Dad wore them too.”
“Glasses?” Charlie asked.
“Reading glasses,” Sandy said. “You had them when you started school.”
“I did? Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Sandy said. “I bought them for you. Remember you wanted red frames and Mom thought they were unmanly?”
Charlie nodded his head at some vague recollection. Sandy went into the salon. She went through a stack of reading glasses she kept for customers. She found a pair that she thought were strong enough for Charlie and brought them back.
“Try these,” Sandy said.
Charlie looked at Sandy and shook his head.
“I’m not wearing those,” Charlie said.
“Why?” Sandy asked.
“They are white with red lips all over them,” Charlie said. “They are definitely unmanly.”
“Who is going to know?” Sandy asked. The bell rang and Sandy said, “I have a client. Try the glasses. If they work, we can get some cheap ones at Walgreens until we get your eyes checked.”
Sandy went out into the main area leaving Charlie to himself. He looked up when he heard her greet her client. He returned to staring straight ahead. After a few minutes, he picked up the glasses and put them on.
He blinked. The world came into some kind of shape.
Picking up the magazine, he pulled the magazine close to his face then pushed it far away. The words were clear when he held the magazine near his face. He could make out letters and words. In fact…
He pulled the glasses off when he heard the Sandy and her client coming back to wash the client’s hair. He closed his eyes and rested until he heard them going back into the salon. He peered around the corner to make sure they were in the salon. When he was certain he wouldn’t get caught, he put the glasses back on and pulled the magazine close to his face.
He could read.
Not well, but he could make it out words. Determined, he decided to read every word in this entire magazine. Maybe then, he’d have something to talk about with Aden or Nash. He started on page one. When Sandy came to check on him, he was sound asleep. He had the magazine resting near his face and he was wearing the glasses. Sandy took them off, kissed his cheek and returned to her day.
Tuesday afternoon — 12:45 P.M.
“You arrested Delphie?” Seth O’Malley openly mocked the Federal Air Marshall Chief. “She’s a kooky lady but a terrorist? And Sam Lipson? What’s Lipson Construction? A front for Al Qaeda?”
“She knew things about the officer. Private things,” the Chief said.
“She’s a powerful psychic,” Seth said. “She could have a philosophical conversation with your great-great-grandmother on your father’s side. Now let them out.”
“Sir, we are holding them for Senior Homeland Security Agents,” the Chief said.
“No, you’re not,” Seth said. “You’re going to let these two nice people out and hope you haven’t traumatized them too much.”
“Homeland Security is on the way,” the Chief said.
“I’ll bet,” Seth said.
Like a hat trick, he turned to see MJ and Colin Hargreaves come in the door. Shaking his head, Seth stepped aside for Colin to wave his badge around. He had to keep from laughing when the Chief all but bowed to Colin. When the Chief turned to order someone to get Delphie and Sam, Colin rolled his eyes and Seth laughed. The Chief gave Seth a dark look.
Sam came around the corner. He looked from Seth to Colin and smiled.
“Where’s Delphie?” Sam asked. “If you’ve harmed her…”
“You hear how threatening he is?” the Captain said.
MJ grabbed Sam and pushed him out of the room.
“Where’s Delphinium?” Seth asked.
“Detective O’Malley asked you a question.” Colin stretched himself out to his entire six feet five inches and towered over the Chief.
The Captain looked at Colin then turned to go in the back. Two agents half carried, half dragged Delphie out. Seth was about to rush forward when Colin held him back.
“What’s wrong with her?” Colin asked.
“She fainted,” the Chief said.
“She had a stroke two months ago,” Seth pushed past Colin. He kneeled down to Delphie. “Delphie? Are you all right?”
Delphie saw Seth’s face and smiled.
“Seth,” Delphie whispered. “There’s terrible evil here. I’m trying not to look.”
“Colin’s here,” Sam said.
Delphie looked from Seth to Colin. She smiled at Colin.
“Girl this time,” she said to Colin. “Helen, Hilary, Heidi, Hailey, Harmony.”
“I was hoping so,” Colin said. “Julie likes Heidi, but Harmony would be lovely too.”
“Let her go,” Seth said.
The agents let go of Delphie’s arms. She took a step forward and passed out.
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