Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and One : Headlines


Wednesday morning — 8:45 A.M.


Honey was wheeling out of her apartment when she heard:

“Please,” Delphie said. “You’re being silly.”

Thinking Delphie was having trouble, Honey flew to the stairwell. Strapping herself in, she waited impatiently as the lift crept to the main floor of the Castle. She was halfway up the basement stairs when a loud boom from the chapel area buckled the ancient stairwell paneling. Finally at the top, Honey plopped into the wheelchair waiting for her. She spun in place and wheeled toward Delphie’s voice.

She stopped short.

Delphie was hugging a small Asian man. The elderly man bowed to Delphie and left the house.

“Honey!” Delphie said. “I didn’t realize you were home.”

“The state shut my site down. Bambi sent us all home. The site managers are meeting to figure out what to do next,” Honey said. “Plus the sentencing is the afternoon.”

“That’s right. We’re all going to the sentencing this afternoon.”

“Is everything all right?” Honey asked. “I thought you might be in trouble.”

“Trouble? Me? No,” Delphie shook her head.

“Who was that?” Honey asked.

“That was Mr. Wei.”

Honey nodded.

“You’ve met Mr. Wei.”

“I don’t think so,” Honey said.

“You haven’t met Mr. Wei?” Delphie asked. “He fills our home with fresh vegetables, fruits and the best cuts of meat.”

“He what?”

“Mr. Wei owns a market off of Federal,” Delphie said. “I’ve shopped there almost as long as I’ve been in Denver. When he heard I was ill, he continued making grocery deliveries here.”

“He did?”

“His market has the very best fruits and vegetables in the city. The meat is very fresh and humanely treated. That’s why it tastes so good. I’ve heard Jill comment on how fresh everything is.”

“Jill likes the food that appears here.” Honey squinted her eyes at Delphie. “What about the Captain Crunch?”

“Mr. Wei only supplies fresh food,” Delphie said. “Maria takes care of the rest.”


“The woman who cleans the house?” Delphie said. “She’s more like a home nurturer. We don’t need that help right now. When the babies come, we’d have to kill her to keep her from helping. She likes to care for us. She feels like it’s her mission in life.”

“I thought she owned a cleaning service.”

“She does,” Delphie said. “Blane helps her with the books and taxes. She employs ten or fifteen women.”

“I saw her here the day after… everything happened,” Honey said.

“She came to help clean up,” Delphie said.

“How does the food get in our apartments?” Honey asked.

“Maria,” Delphie said. “She always does that. She knows us better than we know ourselves. She’s been very grateful for your meal plans. They’ve helped out a lot.”

Honey nodded as if she understood. Delphie laughed.

“How did you think the food got here?”

“Magic,” Honey said. “We were barely out of things when they’d just appear.”

“Magic?” Delphie laughed.

“Yeah,” Honey scowled. “Like cheating death or knowing the future or…”

“Oh Honey,” Delphie said. “You can’t confuse the natural with the fantastic.”

“The natural? Really.” Honey’s brow furrowed. “Define natural.”

Delphie laughed. A loud crash came from the chapel area.

“They’re still working,” Delphie said.

“Jake said they’re finding all kinds of cool stuff,” Honey said. “It’s like a treasure hunt.”

“He says that when things aren’t going well,” Delphie said.

Honey nodded. There was another loud crash.

“Let’s make some tea,” Delphie said.

“You’ll explain to me what you think is normal?”

Delphie laughed. Still puzzled, Honey followed Delphie into the kitchen.


Wednesday mid-day — 12:40 A.M.


“I just hate this,” Bambi said.

She began to cry. She stood to hug Jacob. They were standing in the middle of Lipson Constructions large conference room. Aden, Blane, Tres and Sam were near the front of the room. The site managers filled the rest of the space.

“I don’t think anyone likes it much,” Jacob said. “I don’t like it much.”

“We’d never be owners if it wasn’t for you,” another woman site manager said. Tears dropped from her eyes. “You made me a site manager. When my husband got sick? If we didn’t have my income, we’d be on the streets. My family owes our lives to you.”

Jacob smiled at what he felt was the woman’s exaggeration.

“We’re trying to say that none of the employee-owners want you to leave or want to leave,” Jerry Siegle said. “We polled everyone at our sites.”

The other site managers nodded their heads and mumbled in agreement.

“If you were going to take advantage of someone,” a small blonde beautiful woman said. “Why didn’t you pick one of us? I’d have your love child.”

“What about Freddie?” a site manager near the front said.

“Oh God,” the blonde woman blushed. “Don’t tell Freddie I said that.”

Jacob laughed.

“We’re just saying we’d do anything for you, Jake,” a man near the back said. “Well, I won’t be your boyfriend. I’m definitely over straight men. Blane however…”

The site managers laughed.

“Okay, okay,” Aden said. “We need to get down to business.”

“You can eat while we talk,” Jacob said. “Please. Delphie made your lunches. There are notes for each of you on the sandwich. Sandy made the cookies for dessert.”

The site managers opened the jaunty napkins in front of them. Their names and small notes were written on little cards tied to the napkins with jute. They shared the notes with each other then began to eat.

“Start with what happened,” Sam said.

“Aden, Blane and Dad were out,” Jake said. “You remember. I was here by myself. I went to our office manager and asked for someone to help with the phones. I hate telephones. The woman started the next Monday.”

Bambi raised her hand. Jacob nodded to her. She finished chewing then swallowed before she spoke.

“Did she work for Lipson before that?” Bambi asked.

“She worked for us for a total of one month,” Sam said. “Blane met her once…”

“In passing,” Blane said. “When she came in for an interview.”

“Otherwise, the management team never met her,” Sam said.

“She worked for me one full week,” Jacob said. “In that time, she was able to fabricate the entire story with text messages dating back about six months.”

“We’re researching how she did that,” Blane said.

“Is someone else involved?” Bambi asked.

“The office manager and our head of HR both put in their resignations,” Sam said.

“No, they weren’t involved,” Jacob said.

“We won’t let them resign over this,” Aden said.

“Cut to the chase, Marlowe,” Jerry Siegle said. “What the hell is going to happen?”

“We need to know what’s going to happen first,” the site manager at the end of the table said. “Once we know, we want to know why.”

“I placed my shares of Lipson Construction in a trust,” Jacob said.

“How much do you own now?” a site manager in the middle asked.

“Good question. About sixty percent,” Jacob said. “Valerie has regained control over her ten percent. The employees own thirty percent. The trust will continue to sell Lipson Construction to her employees.”

“By reverting ownership to the trust, Jacob is effectively out of the company,” Tres Sierra said. “The state will continue their investigation of him, personally. Our sites will be up and running again on Monday. In the meantime, we will cover salaries for the rest of the week.”

“Lipson will give the state one-hundred percent cooperation,” Sam said. “That means everyone, every employee. When the time comes, you’ll need to make that happen.”

“Who owns the trust?” Bambi asked.

“Katherine Anjelika Roper Marlowe,” Jacob said. “And any other children I might have.”

“And you, Jake? You’re out of the company?” a site manager asked.

The room became very still as the site managers struggled with the idea.

“I’m a salaried employee,” Jacob said. “However, right now, I’m on administrative leave until the state completes its investigation.”

“How long will the investigation take?” Jerry asked.

“We’ve been told that it could take an upwards of six months,” Sam said.

“Aden is stepping in as President,” Jacob said. “Dad’s staying as CEO. Blane is going to work half-time as COO. Tres will stay at CFO. Of course, this will have to be confirmed by the owners.”

There was a general buzzing in the room as the site managers spoke with each other. Jacob waited until their attention returned to him before speaking again.

“Anyone remember that I was sued by the old board of directors?” Jacob asked.

“The suit was declared a nuisance. It was thrown out,” Bambi said. “That’s what Honey told me.”

“Right,” Jacob said. “One board member, the prime instigator of the suit, is very… friendly…”

“She’s his mistress,” Blane said. “The little whore was only here to destroy Lipson so the guy could swoop in and buy it up.”

“Before the employees owned a majority,” Sam said.

“It’s a desperate measure to keep the employees from owning Lipson,” Jacob said.

“That’s what we believe,” Aden said. “I was contacted yesterday with a buy out offer.”

“We turned over a recording of that telephone call to the state,” Sam said. “Unfortunately, the state is legally obligated to do their investigation.”

“But why would they care so much?” Bambi asked. “We’re just folks trying to get ahead in life. Everyone who bought in has worked at Lipson for a long time. We all sacrificed to buy what we could. We deserve it.”

“I think it’s a bigger issue,” Sam said. “There are people who believe that we set a bad precedent. That by having employee-owners, by sharing the wealth, we encourage other employees at other companies to buy in.”

“And take the power and wealth from the few,” Blane said.

“Is that true? It seems so… revolutionary war or something,” a site manager said.

“Paranoid,” another one said.

A few of the site managers nodded to each other.

“I’m sorry to say that it’s real,” Sam said. “I hear it everywhere I go. Jacob’s taken the heat for making the employee’s owners. Even though it’s something I wanted, he’s the figurehead who made it happen. He’s been confronted by other business owners almost everywhere he goes.”

“What we’re doing is revolutionary,” Jacob said. “And totally appropriate. No one minds if you buy stock – give your hard earned money to us so we can run our companies as we see fit. No one likes the idea that you get some say with your money and the investment of your time and talent. We wanted owners, real owners who have some say in how their work lives go. We’ve also invested in making sure our employees know how to run a business. You don’t just give us your money and rubber stamping what we wanted to do. That’s what’s revolutionary.”

Jacob shrugged. The room became silent as the site managers digested the information with their lunch.

“Jake, what are you going to do?” Jerry asked.

“I don’t know,” Jacob said. “I’ve been doing underground utility twenty-four hours a day for the last five years. I’m not sure what I’ll do.”

“He won’t be far,” Blane said. “We’re just moving him from the limelight.”

“If I’m needed, I’ll try to help as much as the state will allow.”

“How’s Jill taking all of this?” Bambi asked. She immediately back pedaled adding, “I mean it’s none of my business and…”

“It’s all right,” Jacob said. “We’re a family business. Jill’s a part of my family. And… It’s really hard on her. You wouldn’t believe the horrible things people say to her and about her. Strangers say the cruelest things to her. We try… her sisters try… to protect her but her mother’s in Costa Rica, Mike’s in Prague and Steve just had a baby. She feels very alone. If you have a spare prayer, she could use it.”

The site managers nodded in agreement.

“Starting Monday, it’s business as usual,” Aden said.

“Just no Jacob,” Blane said.

“What’s Lipson construction without a Marlowe at the helm?” Jerry asked.

“An employee owned, employee run enterprise,” Jacob said.

No one responded. There wasn’t anything left to say. Jacob Marlowe, the man they trusted and loved, would no longer be at Lipson construction.

Nothing could brighten that reality.


Wednesday afternoon — 2:40 A.M.


“I am sentencing you to seventy-two years for each attempt on Honey Lipson’s life,” the judge said. “Honey Lipson received eight mortal wounds. You will receive eight consecutive seventy-two year sentences. For the crime of acquisition of the children, Katherine Anjelika Marlowe and Patrick Hargreaves Jr,  for the purposes of prostitution, you will receive two consecutive twelve year sentences. For three counts of human trafficking, you receive two consecutive twenty year sentences. For first degree assault against Jillian Roper, you receive a ten year sentence. The district attorney was willing to drop the rest of your charges. These last sentences will run after you’ve completed the sentences for attempted murder.”

The court room filled with the sound of gasps and comments. The judge had given Honey’s sister the maximum sentence for every charge. Tiffanie, Honey’s mother, slumped in her seat. Honey reached to hold her mother’s hand. Tiffanie looked at Honey and nodded. Sam put his arm around Tiffanie for support. MJ held Honey’s hand tight. Honey felt Jill’s hand on her back.

They were all there – Honey, MJ, Tiffanie, Jill, Katy, Jacob, Sam, and Delphie. Everyone who’d been hurt by her sister, Jacob’s step-sister. Yet, even though the sentencing was what they wanted, there was no joy in the judge’s statement. No one liked watching a young woman lose her life to the criminal justice system. They simply felt a sense of relief that the trial was finally over.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would say to you,” the judge said. “But I realized you wouldn’t hear me anyway. I will tell you that you better do good time. God might have mercy on you, but I won’t if you return to my court room. Deputies?”

The Department of Corrections officers moved forward to Honey’s sister. She let them handcuff her and lead her from the courtroom. Walking out of the courtroom, she slowed near Honey. Her smug face and ironic smile told Honey all she needed to know.

This wasn’t over.


Wednesday afternoon — 3:40 A.M.


“Mommy?” Katy asked from her bed.

She had been sleeping with her fairies when she thought she heard her mother say something.


Katy got up from her bed and wandered across the loft looking for Jill.


Katy opened Jill’s office door. Jill was sitting at her desk with her head in her hands. When she looked at Katy, tears were streaming down her red face.


Katy climbed up onto Jill’s lap. Katy’s hand brushed Jill’s face.

“Mommy, you’re face is wet,” Katy said.

“I feel really sad,” Jill said.

“I know.”

Katy put her head against her mother’s beating heart and fell asleep.


Thursday morning — 12:40 A.M. (3:40 P.M. Denver) Prague, Czech Republic


“Did you see the photo?”

Valerie leaned forward so that Mike could step into the bathtub behind her. Once in, Mike pulled her between his knees.

“Is the water too hot for the baby?”

“Nope,” Valerie said. “We’re all right. Did you see the photo?”


“How can you storm out if you don’t keep up with the tabloids?”

“Storm out?” Mike asked. He moved Valerie’s long hair over her shoulder then kissed her neck. “Before you ask again, I saw a photo of your huge baby belly.”

“A la Photoshop!” Valerie said. “How stupid are people? How could I wear those tight leather pants if my belly was that big?”

“They don’t really know what you’re doing,” Mike said. “Plus they’d just say it was movie magic.”

“We’ll be home before I really get that big,” Valerie said.

He reached for a hair brush and began brushing her hair. She melted against him.

“You sound like you want to go home,” Mike said.

“I do,” Valerie said. “I miss everyone. I miss the lovely chaos of the Castle.”

“I thought you liked your privacy, having your own life, working on movies.”

“That was the old me. The new me wants to go home.”

“I thought the old you wanted to go home and the fake you wanted the movie life.”

“I’m getting confused with all these me’s,” Valerie said.

She picked up a wash cloth and began washing his feet.

“Which you is having Wes’s baby?” Mike asked.

He wiggled his feet for her to stop. She scooted back to lie against him.

“None of me,” Valerie said.

“Wes says you’re pregnant with his child,” Mike said. “He says he has proof.”

“Well, he’s wrong,” Valerie said.

“Well, what Wes doesn’t know, is that I don’t care,” Mike said. “My baby? Wes’s baby? As long as it’s your baby? I’m in.”

“You say the nicest things,” Valerie said.

She looked up to kiss his lips.

“What if we decide to adopt?” Valerie asked.

“Whatever,” Mike said. “I like kids. You like kids. If we adopted, they’d still be your babies.”

“Our babies,” Valerie said.

“Our babies,” Mike said.

“Did you really storm out?” she asked. “You look pretty pissed in the photo.”

“I was painting! The vultures came out of nowhere,” he said. “They kept trying to get a photo of what I was painting. I had to pack up and leave. Yes, I was pissed. I stormed out.”

“What were you painting?”

Shaking his head, Mike didn’t respond.

“What?” Valerie asked.

“It’s a present,” Mike said.

“For who?”

“My girlfriend,” he said.

“You have a girlfriend,” she said. “Why don’t the tabloids know about her??”

Refusing to answer, Mike fell silent. Valerie laughed. She shook his knees. He kissed the back of her head. She sighed.

“I love you,” he said.


“That’s all,” he said.

“That’s enough.”



Wednesday night — 9:40 P.M.

“I may kill Nash,” Sandy said.

She set a bowl of soup down at his place then returned to cutting a fresh loaf of bread. Aden bought in a pitcher of water.

“They’ve been a handful this week,” Aden said.

“They want to see you,” Sandy said.

“I saw them today,” Aden said. “I picked them up from school.”

“They talk non-stop about you,” Sandy said.

“That’s funny,” Aden said. “When I see them, they talk non-stop about you.”

“I wonder what they’re up to,” Sandy said.

He sat down at the little table in her apartment. She sat down across from him.

“Oh wow, this is good,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was so hungry.”

“You’re teeth are bad,” she said.

He nodded and took another spoonful.

“Does the heat hurt?”

“It’s better than cold,” he said. “I’ve always wanted nice teeth. In the end, I’ll have really nice teeth.”

“Speaking of teeth,” Sandy said. “We need to get Nash in to see about braces.”

Aden nodded. He fell silent eating his soup. When he finished his bowl, she stood to refill it. He mashed the soft warm bread into pieces he could chew.

“I need to ask you something,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard for me to ask you for something else. You’re taking care of my kids. You’ve fed me every night, taken me to the dentist and picked me up.”

“It is your car,” she said.

“Well, you’ve just been great. But I need something… else.”


“For us to work…”

She scowled.

“I really want us to work. I think we can work,” Aden said. “I love you and you love me. We can do this.”

Crossing her arms, she shook her head. He took a breath for courage.

“I need you to go to an Alanon meeting,” he said.

“You have an addiction. You have a problem, not me.”

“Because I’m an addict, people who care about me can become codependent. I want to have a healthy relationship with you. I want us to work. I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he said. “And that means you’ll have to go.”

Sandy shook her head. She sat down across from him.

“Will you think about it?” Aden asked.

“My Mom used to go,” Sandy said. “She said it was a stupid waste of time. Everyone sits around complaining about how their lives suck. No one does anything. They just complain.”

“Your Mom’s not the most positive person in the world,” he said.

They fell silent while he ate the rest of his soup. She held her hand out to get him some more but he shook his head.

“You’ll think about it?” he asked.

“I’ll think about it,” she said. “No promises, but I’ll think about it.”

“For me?”

“For the baby.”

“And for me?”

“Sure,” Sandy sighed. “God, you are Nash’s father.”

He laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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