CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY-THREE
Saturday morning — 5:15 A.M.
Nausea woke Sandy from her drug induced sleep. She had to put her hand over her mouth to keep from vomiting. Dragging her IV behind her, she tried to make it to her bathroom but her surgical wound stopped her in her tracks. Like one, two, three, she felt the searing pain in her belly, crumpled to the ground and began throwing up.
She heard Aden call the nurse then felt his strong arms on her shoulders. He helped her to the bathroom where her stomach continued to purge. The nurse came in then ran out. Sandy had just stopped throwing up when diarrhea assaulted. Aden tried to help hold her up on the toilet. The nurse came running in with clean towels.
“What’s going on?” Aden asked the nurse.
“Her system has woken up.” the nurse said. “This is a very good sign.”
Overcome by the voiding of her intestines, Sandy could barely keep from vomiting. They heard running footsteps. Blane appeared at the doorway.
“Quickly now,” the nurse said to Aden. He helped her pull back Sandy’s hospital gown.
Blane began inserting needles.
“We’ll have to catch her when…” the nurse said to Aden.
Sandy passed out. As if all the drama of the last moments had never occurred, Sandy fell forward unconscious.
“Can you get her cleaned up?” Blane asked the nurse.
“Leave the needles in?” she asked.
“For now. I’ll be back in time to take them out,” Blane said. Turning to Aden, he said, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“But…” Aden said.
Aden watched another nurse come to help clean up. A housekeeper arrived with a mop. Blane guided, pushed, and nudged Aden out of the room
“You can shower at our house and be back by the time she’s settled,” Blane said.
“How did you get here so fast?” Aden asked.
“I was downstairs visiting Rachel,” Blane said.
“You were what?” Aden asked. “Why is everyone acting like this is normal?”
“It’s part of the treatment I gave her,” Blane said. “I jolted her system. Her digestive system and liver haven’t been functioning since her appendix burst.”
“That’s why she hasn’t gotten well,” Aden said.
“One of the reasons,” Blane said. “Before I left last night, I told the nurse to expect this. Dr. Tomogura called in this morning to see if Sandy had purged yet. Once her system purges itself, he’ll start with a round of aggressive antibiotics to see if we can get the infection.”
“We keep using the acupuncture to strengthen her system,” Blane said. “If the antibiotics don’t get it, we’ll start on herbal treatments.”
“Who is this Tomogura?” Aden asked.
Out of the hospital, they turned right and continued toward Blane’s house.
“He’s the best infection doc in the country,” Blane said.
“Why haven’t I met him?” Aden asked.
“He’s in Iraq,” Blane said. “He’s a military doc.”
“It’s now what you know, but who you know,” Blane laughed.
They crossed Eighteenth and continued on Franklin. Aden stopped in his tracks.
“Wait,” Aden said. “If Sandy’s incapacitated, I need to Kangaroo Rachel.”
“You can’t do it covered in vomit and shit,” Blane said. “Plus, Jill’s there.”
“You came over with Jill?” Aden asked. Not understanding, he shook his head.
“Jill woke me this morning,” Blane said. “We came to the hospital together. Jill and I are on the visiting list for Rachel. We were with Rachel when the nurse called. Jill will do the touch session this morning.”
“Oh,” Aden said. “How…?”
“It’s not what you know, but who you know,” Blane gave Aden a big smile. “According to our psychic friends, today will be a turning point for the health of your family.”
“That would be really good,” Aden muttered. “They don’t mean a turn for the worse, do they?”
They walked up to Blane and Heather’s home. Blane opened the door. They went through the front toward the kitchen. He kissed Heather’s cheek and took Mack from her.
“Oh great,” Blane said. “The muffins are done.”
“I just took them out,” Heather said.
“We thought you’d like something warm to eat before heading back.”
“You’re amazing,” Aden smiled at Blane.
“I know,” Blane laughed.
Sunday — 9:53 A.M.
Seth came into the room and moved to sit near the back. The Chief of Police waved him toward the front of the room. The room was filled with officers and detectives from every department. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations forensic team took up most of the back of the room. Their Agent in Charge raised a hand in hello to Seth. He waved him to the front of the room. The coroner came in after Seth and sat down next to him at the table in the front. The forensics technician set a latte in front of Seth and winked. Flushing a little, he smiled.
“Friend?” the coroner asked.
“Something like that,” he said.
“I wish I had friends like that,” the coroner said.
Seth held the cup to her and the coroner laughed.
“Go ahead,” Seth said. “We already had some. She was bringing a refill.”
“What’s her name?” she asked.
“Amelie,” Seth said.
The coroner gave him a strong look.
“Alvin,” he said. “Amelie Alvin.”
“You’re dating the Attorney General’s daughter? You are brave.” The coroner took a drink of the latte. She turned the cup around and pointed to the name on it. “This says Ava.”
“Her middle name is Vivian. I call her Ava,” Seth said.
“You’re really dating her,” the coroner laughed.
“I always thought that was just a rumor,” the coroner said.
“What?” Seth asked.
“That you get all the hot girls on the force,” the coroner said.
“That’s a lie,” Seth said.
“I can see that,” the coroner laughed.
“I don’t get anything female,” Seth said. “You can ask my ex-wives. Women are a complete mystery to me. Including you.”
The coroner jostled Seth and he laughed.
“I hear you’re a grandfather,” the coroner said.
“Grand-Godfather,” Seth said.
“Whatever,” the coroner said. “Sandy is your daughter and you know it.”
“I have a picture of the baby but she’s pretty tiny,” Seth said. “She looks a little bit like a monkey.”
Seth took his phone and showed her one of the more than fifty pictures he’d taken.
“This is Rachel Ann,” Seth said.
“I see a lot of preemies, Seth,” the coroner said. “She’s really beautiful. You’ll see. In a few months, you’ll have to beat the boy babies away with a stick.”
“How are they? Rachel and Sandy?”
“They’re better,” Seth said. “I don’t really understand it but Rachel appears to be kicking her infection.”
“She’s on the mend. They got some Army doc to manage her infection treatment,” Seth smiled. “I’ll tell you. I was really afraid. Still am.”
His eyes misted and he nodded. The police chief stepped up to the podium next to Seth.
“Let’s get started,” the police chief said. “We have a lot of evidence to cover. I’ve assembled a spokesperson from every team.”
The police chief indicated the men and women at the front table.
“We’ll start with Detective O’Malley,” the police chief said. “This is his case start to finish. We’re lucky to be in a situation where he can focus his considerable talent on this one case. Seth?”
Seth stood and looked out at his audience. They had sent the best and the brightest to work on this case. Their eyes and attention turned to him.
“I have three things I want to get straight right away,” Seth said. He held up an index finger. “One, we have and will use psychics on this case.”
The audience groaned.
“I don’t care what you think you know,” Seth said. “But this case needs at least one psychic. We would be no where without them.”
“Seth’s friend Delphie helped us identify all of the bodies.” Defensive, the coroner’s research person shot to her feet in the middle of the room. She continued, “We’d be totally stuck. These kids don’t have any records. No medical. No dental. No police records. Nothing.”
“Some families have waited decades to find out what happened to their loved one,” the coroner said. “I’d be happy to call them and let them know your sensibilities don’t include doing everything in our power to identify their beloved child.”
The audience shifted uncomfortably at the coroner’s strong words.
“If you have trouble with this,” Seth said. “Leave now. I won’t hold it against you. But I won’t tolerate any whining. The psychics identified all but two children. They also found this barn. Any questions?”
When no one stirred, Seth continued.
“Two, I am in charge of this case. I’ve received authority from the Chief, CBI and the Governor,” Seth’s middle finger joined his first. “If you have an issue with that, I’d invite you to leave now. I won’t tolerate back stabbing, egos or anyone questioning the authority of their command or this command. We have a serial murderer who recently executed a ten year old boy. I’m not going to play power politics while children’s’ lives are at stake. Any questions?”
He watched his audience blink and think. The younger ones sat up a little straighter. This was a chance for them to prove themselves. The older ones shifted in their seats. They had hoped for some room to maneuver in power politics.
“Third, this is a multidiscipline and multiagency investigation.” Seth’s ring finger joined the middle and index. “I expect you to give each other and the other agencies your cooperation. That means transparency, honesty, integrity, and complete cooperation. If I hear that someone from the Natural History Museum or Social Services or the FBI or the CBI or Goodwill, or any other agency or department asked you to do something and you refused? There will be hell to pay which can include your dismissal from the force. I’m dead serious about this.
“Does anyone have any questions before we continue?” Seth asked. “This is your chance to leave.”
He fell silent and waited. When no one moved, he nodded.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a serial killer in our midst. He might be your next door neighbor. He might have cooked your breakfast. He might even be sitting in this room. But as sure as I’m standing here, this man will kill another child. From the coroner team’s extensive and detailed work, we know he will kill again very soon.”
Seth began his presentation.
Note: We’ve had a lot of discussion about how much detail about the investigation we should share in Denver Cereal. We also asked you, our audience. We’ve decided to keep the majority of the ‘gory’ details out of the storyline of Denver Cereal. We are in the process of setting up another site that will entail much of the details of the barn site and the investigation. We’ll let you know when it’s ready. We will, however, continue to follow along with the characters as they engage in the investigation.
Sunday — 3:27 P.M.
“What do you mean?” Katy asked. “I’m going to see Paddie at school. Tomorrow.”
Jill picked up Katy and set her on her hip. They were just leaving after Mass brunch hosted by Paddie’s grandparents. Jill’s family, Paddie’s entire extended family and, of course, Paddie had been eating, talking and laughing most of the afternoon. The children had been playing in Paddie’s grandfather’s playroom.
“Sweetie,” Jacob said. “We’ve talked about this.”
“About what?” Katy asked. “We talk a lot.”
Jill set Katy into her car seat and went around to the passenger seat of her Lexus SUV. Jacob got in the front seat. Pulling out of the parking lot, Katy waved to Paddie as they drove off.
“You’re starting a new session tomorrow, right?” Jill asked.
“Paddie and me are going to pre-school,” Katy said. “Like we did last year and the year before and…”
“Katy, honey, you’re going to Kindergarten on Monday,” Jacob said.
“Kindergarten. Pre-school,” Katy shrugged.
“Paddie is going to pre-school,” Jill said.
Katy fell silent. She wasn’t sure what her parents were saying but she knew it was something important.
“But Paddie and me are in the same class,” Katy said.
“No, Katy-baby,” Jill said. “That’s what we’re trying to tell you.”
“WHAT?” Katy’s eyes welled with tears.
“Paddie’s too young for kindergarten,” Jill said. “He’s smart and tall and your best friend. But the cut off is May and he won’t be four until the middle of June.”
“No!” Katy said.
Katy banged her feet against her car seat. Jacob began counting the No’s. Katy usually gave a three No’s warning before she started a serious tantrum. They’d survived one No.
That was two.
“Paddie and I go to school together. We have the same class and the same teacher and…”
“Not this time,” Jacob said.
“I’m so sorry,” Jill turned around in her seat to look at Katy. “I…”
That was three. Jacob pulled over to the curb and Katy started screaming at the top of her lungs. As if her heart had broken in two, tears fell from her dark round eyes. Katy was mad and sad at the same time. That was a volatile combination inside the SUV.
Jill stepped out of the car to get in the back seat. Knowing Katy only wanted her mother, Jacob stayed put. Jill unhooked Katy from her car seat and held the screaming child on her lap. Katy kicked the seat and bat her hands but Jill held on fast. For more than fifteen minutes, the little girl wept out her frustration and anger.
“Paddie will forget me,” Katy hiccup sobbed.
“No one could forget you Katy,” Jacob said. “Particularly not Paddie.”
“I won’t have any friends.”
“You have lots of friends,” Jacob said. “You have school friends and church friends and … certainly Noelle is your friend.”
“No one is Paddie,” Katy said. “Mommy, you have to fix this.”
“I can’t baby,” Jill said. “I’m so sorry.”
Knowing the storm was almost over, Jacob got out to join them in the back seat. Katy climbed over to sit on his lap. For a moment, the little family held on through the end of the emotional storm.
“Will you promise?” Katy asked.
“Promise?” Jill asked. She brushed Katy’s fly away hair from her round face.
“I can play with Paddie,” Katy said.
“It’s all arranged,” Jacob said. “Remember? You’re to go to martial arts class and play dates every Tuesday at our house and Thursday at their house and…”
Katy clapped her hands.
“You might be sick of Paddie by the end of the year,” Jill said.
“I’ll never be sick of Paddie,” Katy said.
Jacob held Katy close then let Jill put her back in her car seat. Jill went around to the passenger seat. They continued up University toward home. Worn out by her strong emotions and the full day, Katy fell asleep.
“I feel awful for her,” Jill whispered to Jacob.
“It’s the only way,” Jacob whispered back. “If they stay in the same class, the inevitable boys want to be with boys and girls with girls stuff will break them apart. If they are to stay friends, they have to be in different classes.”
“Are you sure?” Jill asked. “She’s had a tough time making other close friends.”
“Because she’s always with Paddie,” Jacob said. “She’s going to be fine.
“Psychic prediction?” Jill asked.
“Not mine,” he said. “It’s too close to me. I care too much.”
“Delphie’s behind this?” Jill asked.
Jacob nodded. Jill reached around to lay a small blanket over Katy.
“Poor Katy,” Jill said.
“We have to believe this is the right thing,” Jacob said.
“And if it’s not?” Jill asked.
“We can always change our minds,” Jacob said.
Worried about her tough skinned, fragile hearted daughter, she fell silent. She watched the cityscape outside her passenger window.
“Don’t worry,” Jacob said. “She’s stronger than you think.”
Jill nodded to him but still worried. Katy had been through so much in her young life. Paddie was the one thing that carried her through the divorce with Trevor and every other awful thing. Katy hiccupped in her sleep and Jill turned to look at her.
She’d grown so much in the last year. She was taller and so much happier than she was last spring. Jill reached back to smooth her hair. When they arrived at the Castle, Jill insisted on taking her out of her car seat and carrying her to the loft herself. She went through the quick motions of changing Katy’s clothing and putting her down for her nap. She was just about to leave when Katy opened her eyes.
“Mommy?” Katy asked.
“Yes Katy-baby,” Jill said.
“Promise me that you’ll always love me,” Katy said.
“I will always love you,” Jill said. “I don’t need to promise.”
“Even when the new babies come?” Katy asked. “Will I still be your Katy-baby?”
“Always,” Jill said. “Even when you have babies of your own. You’ll always be my Katy-baby.”
She leaned over to kiss Katy’s face.
“The new class is a big change for you,” Jill said. “I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
“And Paddie?” Katy asked.
Jill smiled. Katy fell asleep before hearing the answer. She kissed Katy again and left the room. Change was coming to them. She touched her stomach. Seeing her gesture, Jacob wrapped her in his arms.
“When do we see the doctor?” he asked.
“Couple weeks,” she said.
“We should take advantage of the time we have now,” he said.
She gave him a soft smile and let him lead her into the bedroom.
Sunday evening — 6:45 P.M.
Seth opened Sandy’s door and laughed. The room was filled with noise and children. Charlie and Aden were arguing in a corner. Nash and Teddy were playing cards with Sissy in another corner. Sitting on Sandy’s bed, Noelle was talking a mile a minute while she braided Sandy’s hair. The happy noise level was high enough that they missed his entrance and his first ‘hello’.
“Hi there,” Seth said as he walked into the room.
They missed his second hello. Knowing they wouldn’t miss the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies, he opened the Tupperware container he was holding. The boys looked up almost immediately.
“Hey,” Nash said. He stood to hug Seth ‘hello.’ “Have you met Teddy Jakkman? He’s staying with us this summer while his Dad flies spy planes in Afghanistan.”
“I haven’t met Teddy,” Seth said. He gave the cookies to Nash and took a bottle of milk from his pocket. Teddy stood to shake Seth’s hand. “I’ve met your mother.”
“How?” Teddy asked.
“I work for the Denver Police,” Seth said.
“You seem to be doing well. I’m glad,” Seth said. “Where are your sister and brother?”
“They stay with my Grandparents on their ranch in the summer,” Teddy said.
“Your Grandparents?” Seth’s face pinched with worry.
“My Dad’s Mom and her new husband,” Teddy said. “They’re really nice to us. I would have gone but I wanted to work. Nash and I are working at Lipson this summer.”
“Good for you,” Seth nodded. “Sissy. Wow.”
Wearing one of her new outfits, Sissy stood to hug Seth.
“You look beautiful,” Seth said.
“Still too skinny,” Sissy said.
“You’re getting there,” Noelle hopped off the bed to hug Seth. “Hi Seth!”
In his sheepish Charlie way, he came up to say hello to Seth. He stuck out his hand but Seth pulled him into a hug.
“Do you think I still need rehab?” Charlie asked.
“Yes,” Seth said.
“Why?” Charlie went into full mope.
“Because you have a chance to clean up your life before you lose everything,” Seth said. “Just get it done. It took your father forty years to get it straight. You don’t have to waste all that time.”
Charlie gulped at Seth’s words. Their eyes held for a moment. Charlie nodded. Uncomfortable with the emotion, Charlie turned in place.
“Hey, don’t eat all the cookies,” Charlie said.
He took the cookies from Nash and Teddy. Sissy took the cookies from him. Charlie grabbed a handful as she walked away. Seth moved into the room. He sat in the space Noelle had vacated for cookies. Sandy smiled at him when he took her hand.
“New girlfriend?” Sandy nodded her head toward the cookies.
Seth nodded, “How are you?”
“Better,” Sandy said. “I can only have a little of this chaos in my day, so I try to enjoy it.”
“I stopped by to see Rachel before I came up,” he said. “The nurse said she doesn’t show any sign of brain bleeding? I didn’t know…”
“It’s common in preemies as small as she is,” Sandy said. “Every day, she gets a little better. She’s amazing.”
Seth smiled in a way to say that Sandy was amazing. She smiled.
“How’s the case?” Sandy asked.
“As good as it can be,” Seth said. “The Chief gave me all the resources I need.”
Sandy’s face showed her surprise.
“I know, it’s a miracle,” Seth laughed. “But kids are dying. That got his attention. The Governor’s attention.”
“It’s nice that he trusts you,” Sandy said.
“Yeah. I’m a big deal now.”
Sandy gave him a proud smile.
“Speaking of the case,” Seth said. “I keep forgetting to ask.”
Seth dug a plastic bag with the St. Jude pendant in it. He held it up.
“Charlie? Can you take a look at this?” Seth asked.
Charlie came over to the bed.
“Is this your friend Jeffy’s?” Seth asked. “It’s a Saint Jude. They found it in the barn.”
“Just a second,” Charlie said.
He got his glasses from the new backpack Sissy and Noelle had bought for him. Charlie took the package from Seth.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s it.”
He gave the package back to Seth.
“Wait,” Aden said. “Can I see that?”
Charlie gave him the plastic bag. Aden held it up to the light. He moved the chain back and forth.
“What is it?” Seth asked.
“I have this same pendant,” Aden said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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