Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter One Hundred and Five : Mercurial

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FIVE Saturday – 5:15 A.M.

“Shh,” Sandy laughed. “You’ll wake the kids.”

“I don’t care,” Aden said.

Aden gave her a hard insistent kiss. She pushed at his chest.

“You will when Noelle doesn’t get enough sleep.”

Sandy pushed him through the hall and into the living room.

“You’re not supposed to even sleep here,” she said. “We could lose the kids all together.”

“We’ll talk to Social Services on Monday,” Aden said.

“We’ll talk to our lawyer,” Sandy said. “And we’ll tell the kids tonight. But first, you have to get to work.”

“Already bossing me around?” he asked.

Sandy shook her head at him.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to explode I’m so happy. You’ve made me the happiest I’ve ever felt. It’s like a drug. I’m addicted!”

Shaking her head at his antics, she giggled.

“Marry me again,” Aden said. His deep voice echoed through the apartment.

“Shhh,” she said. “Go. To. Work.”

Laughing, he kissed her again and left the apartment. Sandy went into the kitchen to get a glass of cold water. This pregnancy made her so hot. She refilled the glass from the bottle in the refrigerator then padded her way back to her bedroom.

No matter how stern she was with Aden, nothing could wipe the grin off her face. Sandy felt like she was in the middle of a fairy tale.

She looked down at her finger. He’d given her the band to her wedding set last night. The thin band of tiny pave diamonds sparkled on her hand. Spinning in place, she set her water glass on her bedside table and climbed into bed.

Last night was not the most passionate night they’d had. He’d carried her through the apartment then collapsed on the bed. Laughing, they made promises for a more passionate night. They fell asleep in each other’s arms. Still, she pulled the covers over her grinning face.

This morning, she was his wife.

She’d never thought she’d get married. After everything that had happened, who in his right mind would want to marry her? But he did want to marry her. And he had married her last night. She made sure to remind herself that marriage was hard work and it wasn’t going to be easy and all those other practical things.


She grinned at the lavender colored sheet in front of her face. It wasn’t a wedding little girl Sandy had dreamed of. It was the wedding that perfectly suited adult Sandy.

She hadn’t decided if she’d take his name or not. Not that she loved carrying her father’s name around with her like a black cloud. She just didn’t want to be owned by another man.

Sandy rolled on her side and heard… something. She flipped the sheet off her head to listen.  Sitting up, she heard the sound again.

Noelle was crying! Sandy jumped up from bed and ran out of her room.

“Noelle?” Sandy asked at Noelle’s door. Hearing nothing, she poked her head inside, “Noelle?”

Noelle’s bed was empty. Sandy jogged to the bathroom. Empty. She spun in place. Looking around the small room, she saw the closet door was closed. Sandy padded over to the closet door. Pressing her head against the mirrored door, Sandy heard Noelle inside.

“Noelle?” Sandy asked. “Honey, I’m going to come in.”

“NO!!” Noelle said.

Sandy opened the door to find Noelle sitting on her shoes in the back corner of the small closet.

“Noelle?” Sandy crouched down. “Come out, honey.”

“NO! LEAVE ME ALONE!!” Noelle yelled.

“No,” Sandy said. “I’m not leaving you alone when you’re this upset.”

“I HATE YOU!” Noelle said.

“More the reason not to leave you alone,” Sandy said.

“HOW COULD YOU DO IT?!” Noelle’s face, neck and chest were bright red. Tears streamed down her face and nose. Her hair was wild.

“Do what?” Sandy asked. “If you won’t come out, then I’m coming in.”


“No,” Sandy said. “Ok, how about if I sit right here and you tell me what’s going on.”

Noelle collapsed into herself. She pressed her face against her knees and sobbed. Sandy crawled over Noelle’s shoes to sit next to her. Sandy’s hand hovered over the little girl’s back before landing on her head. Sandy stroked Noelle’s hair and back.

“What did I do that made you this upset?” Sandy asked.

Noelle shook her head against her knees. Unsure of what to do, Sandy kept stroking Noelle’s hair and back. Noelle sobbed uncontrollably.

“Well, I’m very sorry,” Sandy said. “I would never ever do anything that would make you this upset. Whatever I did, it must have been pretty bad.”

Noelle’s head nodded rubbing her face against her knees. Sandy put her hand on the girl’s shoulder to hold her while she cried.

“I wish I knew what I did,” Sandy said.

“You m-m-married th-th-that g-g-guy,” Noelle said through her tears.

“Which guy?”

“The PILOT!” Noelle turned to Sandy in rage. Frustrated, Noelle raised her hands to shake Sandy off. In the process, she hit Sandy in the face.

“Ouch,” Sandy grabbed her face.

“SANDY!” Noelle screamed. The little weeping girl threw arms around Sandy’s neck. “Oh Sandy…”

“I’m all right,” Sandy said. “I was just surprised. Can we get out of this closet?”

“NO!” Noelle said. “You married that guy and…”

“I married your Dad last night,” Sandy said.

“He’s not my dad! He’ll never by my dad. He’s just some guy…”

“Noelle. Look at me,” Sandy said.

Noelle shook her head and turned her head away from Sandy. When Sandy’s sighed, Noelle’s eyes shifted to look at her. Sandy smiled at the girl and Noelle turned her head toward Sandy.

“Your father, Aden Norsen, and I got married last night.”

“You did?”

“Yes,” Sandy said. “You don’t recognize his voice because he usually has a lot of cotton in his mouth when he’s here. He comes for dinner then I help him with his teeth. Social Services doesn’t want him to be here, so we’ve snuck around.”

“You married my Dad last night?” Noelle asked. “Why didn’t you get me?”

“Because you have a big day today,” Sandy said. “You know how hard it is when you don’t get enough sleep.”

“But…This is what I wanted more than anything in the world!” Noelle said.

“I thought you wanted Teddy more than anything in the world,” Sandy said.

“No,” Noelle said. “All I ever wanted was a Mom. I wished on thousands of eyelashes, stars, shooting stars, wishbones…anything that would give me a Mom.”

Sandy hugged the girl.

“Nash too. We wanted you to be our Mom and… You sure you married MY Dad? He’s tall and his teeth are messed up and…”

“Here look.” Sandy leaned back to show Noelle her hand. “This ring matches my engagement ring.”

“I can’t tell,” Noelle said.

“We’d have to leave the closet to check,” Sandy said.

“Ok,” Noelle said. “Your eye is swelling up.”

“Let’s look at the rings, and then get some ice,” Sandy said. “Come on.”

She crawled out of the closet and held her arms out to Noelle. Noelle held her tight.

“Come on,” Sandy said.

Sandy held her hand out to Noelle. Noelle took her hand and they walked into Sandy’s bedroom. Sandy took the engagement ring from her jewelry box and slipped it on her finger.

“See,” Sandy said. “Match set.”

“You didn’t marry Teddy’s Dad,” Noelle said. “He’s been staying over.”

“No he hasn’t,” Sandy repeated what she’d said before. “Your Dad’s been here every night. Remember? Teeth? Social Services?”

Noelle’s eyes filled with tears again.

“But… but… I wanted to be in the wedding!”

Sandy laughed.

“Katy was in her Mom’s wedding,” Noelle said. “Don’t I get to be in the wedding?”

“You do,” Sandy said. “We’re having a really big public wedding next year when the baby’s here. You will be front and center for that wedding.”

“What about me?” Nash asked. “I want to be married too.”

Sandy held her arms out for the boy. They hugged.

“Will we get cake?” Noelle asked.

“We get cake tonight,” Sandy said. “Fancy store bought cake.”

“I think your cake is better than any store bought cake,” Noelle said.

“Yes, but it’s my celebration,” Sandy said. “Can’t make your own wedding cake.”

“Did you marry Teddy’s Dad?” Nash asked.

“She married OUR Dad!” Noelle said.

“You did?!” Nash asked. “What about the guy that’s been coming over?”

“It was OUR Dad! He sounded funny because of his teeth.”

“Oh, wow,” Nash beamed. “That’s great!”

“We’re a family,” Sandy said.

Noelle threw herself at Sandy and Nash hugged her.

“Can I call you Mom now?” Nash asked.

“I get to call her Mom!” Noelle said.

Laughing, Sandy shook her head at their mercurial nature.

“NO, I’m the oldest. I get to,” Nash said.

“Mom, your eye’s swelling,” Noelle said. Turning to Nash, she said, “See…”

“I’ll get you some ice, Mom,” Nash said.

He jettisoned into the kitchen. Noelle and his Mom followed close behind.


Saturday – 7:15 A.M.

“Moping around?” Mike asked Jacob.

Jacob had been sitting at the kitchen table wondering what to do with his Saturday when Mike came down. Not quite willing to admit he was moping, Jacob shrugged.

“Feeling sorry for yourself,” Mike said.

Refusing to acknowledge feeling sorry for himself, Jacob moved to get up.

“Listen, I have a lot to do…” Jacob said.

Mike laughed at Jacob. Knowing he was caught, Jacob smiled.

“Cereal?” Mike asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said.

“Sure?” Mike pulled a box of Captain Crunch with Crunchberries out of the pantry. “Really, Jacob Marlowe says ‘sure’ to Captain Crunch. We need to mark this day.”

He set the cereal in front of Jacob and retrieved two bowls from the cabinet. Jacob grabbed the milk from the refrigerator.

“Spoons?” Jacob asked as he sat down.

“Your spoon, sir,” Mike said.

Mike set the spoons down on the table. Jacob filled his bowl with Captain Crunch and gave the box to Mike.

“I don’t know,” Jacob said.

“Did you just answer a question I asked in my head?” Mike asked.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Jacob said. “You want to know why I’m moping around, right? Well I don’t really know. I’d planned on spending these days on the Castle. I can’t do that because of the murder scene. I was going to work on a new rehab project but I’d mostly be in the way. I was going to look at Honey’s new project but she and MJ want to show me their plans before I start. And…”

“Then you’re free to go fishing?” Mike interrupted Jacob’s flow of stuck projects.


“Yes workaholic boy,” Mike said. “Remember when you weren’t the Great and Powerful Sultan of Lipson Construction and we used to go fishing?”

“I still owned Lipson,” Jacob said.

“You still own it now.”

“Not really,” Jacob said.

“You deal with my sister like this?” Mike asked. “I’m surprised she doesn’t just kill you.”

Jacob scowled at Mike and dug into his Captain Crunch. The men ate their cereal in silence. Jacob picked up the box to refill his bowl when Mike cleared his throat.

“What I’m saying is that you used to do a lot of fun stuff. You’d ski, fish, backpack, mountain bike, hunt… whatever and whenever Jake Marlowe was up for fun,” Mike said. “You do remember that don’t you?”

“Vaguely,” Jacob said.

Mike raised an eyebrow at him and poured another bowl of cereal.

“You need to go to rehab.” Mike pointed to him with the box.


“Starting today,” Mike said. “You and I are going fly fishing. When we’re done, we’ll stop in Idaho Springs for pizza and a few beers.”


“Then we’ll drive home to our wives for dinner and romance,” Mike said.

“We have hockey tonight,” Jacob said.

“At midnight,” Mike said. “You can’t squeeze a little romance in between six and midnight? What has happened to you? You’ve got the skills to start foreplay from thirty miles out.”

Shrugging, he gave Mike a sour face and took a bite of cereal.

“Tomorrow, we’ll go rock climbing,” Mike said.

“I thought you were leaving for LA tomorrow,” Jacob said.

“Here we go again. This is the kind of attitude I’m talking about,” Mike said. “You used to say, ‘I’ve got an hour, I…”

“May as well play,” Jacob and Mike said together.

“That was a long time ago,” Jacob said.

“Like two years ago,” Mike said.

Jacob held his spoon out. Mike tapped his spoon to Jacob’s.

“Let’s go,” Mike said.

“Right now?”

“Yes, right now,” Mike said.

Mike grabbed Jacob by the shoulders and pulled him to his feet.

“Your gear is in my car,” Mike patted Jacob’s shoulder. “See, I can read your mind too.”

“I need to tell Jill,” Jacob said.

“I told her last night,” Mike said. “She said to have a great time. She and Katy have a play date with Paddie and his mom, Julie, this morning. She and Katy are doing something with Sandy this afternoon. We’ll be here by the time they get back.”

“But…” Jacob said.

“Call her from the car,” Mike said.

Jacob picked up the two bowls and carried them to the sink.

“Let’s go.”

Mike opened the door to the coal tunnel. Jacob rinsed the bowls and set them in the dishwasher.

“JAAACCCCOOOOBBB!” Mike’s voice echoed from the tunnel.

Laughing, he joined his friend in the tunnel.


Saturday – 2:15 P.M.

Standing in what she’d begun to think of as ‘her corner’ of the morgue, Delphie watched a middle-aged couple talk to the Coroner. The man’s hands gripped the woman’s upper arms to keep her from collapsing. The woman’s shoulders were hunched near her ears. Her fists were drawn up near her face. In her grief, she looked like a grasshopper ready to spring.

“This is my sister?” the woman said.

“Yes, ma’am,” the Coroner said.

“You’re sure?” the woman asked again.

“I’m very sorry, but we are,” the Coroner said. “We’ve been able to match the dental records you provided.”

“All these years…I told myself she was off on some exotic journey. She always wanted to see the world. She wallpapered her room with pictures from the National Geographic,” the woman said. “She woke me up… in the middle of the night. She told me she was going on an adventure… I’ll be back, she said. I won’t leave you, she said. But… How long has she been…?”

“About twenty years,” the Coroner said. “Based on the history of the building, the soil and the condition of the body, we can’t be more exact. We wanted to tell you as soon as possible.”

“She died that night!” the woman said. “Oh God…”

The woman turned into the man to cry. The coroner glanced at Delphie. Delphie had identified nineteen of the twenty-one bodies they had found. So far, she’d only been unable to identify the two bodies, they now called ‘The Lovers,’ found under the Castle together. The Coroner’s office had matched the dental records, descriptions and dates of disappearance on fifteen of the bodies. Seth believed they would confirm the identification of the remaining four by the end of the weekend.

The man and woman were the fifth family they’d talked to today. They had ten more to go. The entire building reeked with grief.

“May I see her whole body?” the woman asked. “I…”

The coroner pulled back more of the sheet. Every family had insisted on seeing the remains. Some families had waited decades to find out what had happened to their loved one. They needed the physical body to make their loved one’s death feel real. The woman’s hand moved toward the body on the table then retreated. She shook her head and turned into the man again. The Coroner covered the body.

“How?” the woman asked from her nest in the man’s chest.

“Due to the condition of the remains, we haven’t determined cause of death yet,” the Coroner said. “We’ll give you some time.”

The woman grabbed the Coroner’s arm.

“You will find the person who killed my sister,” the woman said. “You won’t let her become one of those cold cases that I read about in Denver Post. Promise me.”

“We are doing everything in our power,” the Coroner said. “Detective O’Malley will keep you in the loop on this investigation.”

“Who?” the woman asked. Her eyes flicked to Delphie for the first time.

“Detective O’Malley,” the man said. “You remember, Louise, we spoke to him yesterday. He picked up the dental records. We have his card at home.”

The woman nodded before her shoulders hunched again. Her tight fists moved near her face.

“Thank you,” the woman said.

The man negotiated the woman out of the morgue. When the door closed, the morgue attendants came to move the body. Across the morgue, the Coroner pointed at Delphie.

“Yes?” Delphie asked.

“You will figure this out,” the Coroner said.

“We will figure it out,” Delphie said. “Together.”

“These families…”

“They’ve waited a long time,” Delphie said. “They can find peace now.”

“And the dead?” the Coroner asked.

“We’ll find peace for them,” Delphie said. “It helps knowing that their families are treated with respect and kindness. That’s the first step to letting go of this world.”

The attendants brought out another body.

“Ready?” the Coroner asked.

Delphie nodded.

“You may send the next family in,” the Coroner said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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