Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Eighty-Four : Escape


Saturday evening — 7:45 P.M.

“Tanesha?” Jeraine called from the door to the Penthouse.

He walked into the Penthouse.


He was having dinner with the record executives when the restaurant ahd played the song, his song for Tanesha. The song was his present and his one hope to make up for everything that happened. The executives cheered each other and him for his “brilliant move” of leaking the song.

But he didn’t leak the song.

His eyes had shifted across the faces of the men he had thought were his friends until they’d settled on his ex-agent. The man’s face was a mask of arrogance and anger. This song automatically renewed Jeraine’s contract with the record company. The agent had made at least a hundred thousand by hacking his email.

And Jeraine was his slave again.

Jeraine excused himself from the table and slipped into the bathroom. He’d tried to call Tanesha. He’d tried to call Schmidty. He got only voicemail. When a crowd of men came in the bathroom, he slipped out and took a taxi home.


Everywhere he looked, he saw signs that she’d moved out. He rubbed his forehead. Tanesha had left him. Again.

He couldn’t blame her. He’d leave him too.

He felt high. No, he felt really high. It was all he could do to keep from losing himself in the dozen or more half naked woman pressed upon him. But he hadn’t done a thing. “This too shall pass.” His Dad told him to repeat it in his head. And it worked. He hadn’t strayed even a little bit.

Not a kiss.

Not a feel, a rub, a squeeze…

And certainly not…


Feeling dizzy, he stopped at the kitchen for a glass of water. Her tea was still here. That meant she was at her Gran’s house. Her Gran and Miss T drank the same tea. If Miss T left without her tea, she was at her Gran’s. He’d go there.

Smiling, he poured a glass of water and his head began to spin. The glass slipped from his hand and shattered in the sink. The palms of his hands caught on the edge of the stainless sink to keep him from falling face first into the jagged glass.

He remembered this feeling. His eyes blurred. His head felt woozy. Hearing footsteps, he tried to turn, slipped, and crumpled to the ground.


“Not quite.”

As Jeraine’s eyes sagged, he saw a pair of blue jean clad legs walk toward him.


Saturday night — 7:45 P.M.

“I guess I don’t really understand it,” Tanesha said. “There are a billion and one people who would do anything to be famous.”

Setting her wine glass down, Tanesha looked around the dinner table. Her girls, Jill, Heather and Sandy were sitting with their men, Jacob, Blane and Aden. Valerie sat on Tanesha’s right with Mike on her other side. Jill’s grandfather, Otis, sat between Mike and Angelika. Sam sat at the head of the table with Delphie at his right. The kids had already lost patience with the adults’ extended dinner and went upstairs to play video games in Sandy and Aden’s apartment. Ava, Seth and Bumpy came in late so they squeezed in on the end across from her.

“True,” Bumpy said. “They can easily replace Jeraine with a younger model.”

“Why go through all of this?” Tanesha asked.

“It’s confusing,” Valerie said. “When I think of just me… I mean, I worked on the soap opera for a long time and even did a few movies, but I’m not anywhere near as famous as Jeraine. No I don’t mean famous, well I’m not as famous as Jeraine, but I mean…”

“Bankable,” Seth said. “Put in a small amount of money and get a lot of money back.”

“Right,” Otis, Jill’s grandfather, said. “Backing talent? Artists? Even painters? It’s like gambling. You have to spend money on a thousand to hit it big with one. And once one person hits big? You want to get every possible dime from that person to make up for the other thousand you lost money on.”

“I’m not anywhere near that level, “ Valerie held her hand out to Seth and Bumpy. “But these guys? Jeraine? They’re bankable.”

“Most people work until both the fans and the record company are done with them,” Bumpy said. “To leave in the middle? Doesn’t happen.”

“Jeraine was set to take a step up in his career,” Seth said. “But he decided to clean up his act. He was ready to walk away when he was set up for his fan’s suicide. After a couple years in prison, he could have come out on top. Would have happened, but I came along.”

“It’s hard to understand,” Valerie said. “Confusing. But he gave it all up to be with you, Tanesha.”

“And himself,” Seth said. “That time in solitary reminded him of who he was.”

“Even as a young child, Jer never wanted a big life,” Bumpy said. “All the boy cared about was his Momma, his sister, me, and eventually Tanesha. La Tonya? She wanted fancy clothes, a big car, and a nicer house. But Jeraine was happy where he was planted. I mean, he went a little nuts when he was a teenager…”

“Called himself Jermaine,” Delphie said.

“Jermaine,” Bumpy shook his head. “Like he was some Jackson. Now that’s crazy.”

“Everyone goes a little nuts when they’re a teenager,” Sam said.

“I didn’t,” Tanesha said.

“How could you?” Sandy asked. “You just had you.”

“And us,” Heather said.

Tanesha took Heather and Jill’s offered hands. Her eyes caught Sandy’s. She had her girls. Tanesha’s phone rang.

“Hey, I’ve got him,” Tres Sierra said. “He’s completely out. Passed out in the kitchen. His Mom’s here taking blood so they’ll have it. Isn’t his Dad a doctor?”

“He’s right here,” Tanesha said.

“You should have him come over,” Tres said. “I don’t like the way he looks.”

Tanesha nodded to Bumpy.

“You know,” Tres said. “I think Jill was right. I don’t think he screwed those women.”


“He doesn’t smell like women,” Tres said. “You know what I mean.”

“Hrmpf,” Tanesha said. “We’ll see.”

“I thought you should know,” Tres said. “Anyway, I’ll be in touch. You’ll send his Dad?”

“I will,” Tanesha said. “Thanks.”

“You’d do it for me,” Tres said and hung up.

“You were right, Jacob,” Tanesha said. “He went to the Penthouse. Tres says he’s passed out. He asked if Bumpy could come look at him. I guess he doesn’t look good.”

Bumpy got up from his seat.

“With the prison time, he’s been clean almost a year,” Seth said. “They probably didn’t consider that.”

Bumpy nodded good-bye to everyone and left the Castle.

“Looks like everything’s in motion,” Jill gave a little clap.

“Come on, Ava, Heather, let’s get dressed,” Sandy said.


Saturday night — 6:45 P.M. PDT ( 7:45 P.M. MDT )

Hollywood, California

“Yes sir,” Schmidty said. “I realize it’s confusing.”

He gave the lawyer for Jeraine’s record company his best naïve smile. The lawyer for the movie studio had to look away to keep from laughing. Two of the film’s executive-producers leaned on the polished furniture. The third stood near the windows. The film’s Director sat next to Schmidty.

“But the bottom line is that the song doesn’t belong to Jeraine,” Schmidty said.

“Jeraine was hired by O’Malley to help him create a lead song for the film,” the movie studio lawyer said. “BumpyWilson, you know who he is?”

The lawyer for the record company scowled.

“You can hear his signature back beat on the song,” the lawyer for the music studio said.

“O’Malley belongs to me,” the Director said. “I won’t do a film without him.”

“We paid a fortune for him,” the Executive Producer leaning on the file cabinet behind Schmidty said.

“We paid three fortunes for him,” a strong New York accented voice came from the only woman in the room, the executive-producer standing by the windows. “If he died tomorrow, heaven forbid, he would already have been worth every penny.”

“Listen to the song! That’s my orchestra,” the Director said. “This song is brilliant. You better believe O’Malley’s worth every penny and then some.”

“Jeraine’s voice is on the song,” the lawyer for the studio said. “We contractually own his voice. The rest of this is… side business and royalty issues. We couldn’t be happier you’ve decided to use our song for your movie.”

“Jeraine’s voice is like frim fram sauce or shifafa,” Schmidty said. Seeing the lawyers confused face, he shook his head at his ignorance. “Look it up.”

“He means that Jeraine’s voice is a place holder for our actors,” the movie studio lawyer said. “Frim Fram Sauce was an unfinished song that Nat King Cole made famous. Frim Fram, shifafa, oss, and fey were rhyming words the song writer used to hold the place until he found better words. They needed a song to complete the album so the song was recorded. That’s what happened here.”

“Blame Jeraine,” the lawyer said. “The boy has no boundaries. Have you seen him with women? He leaked the song. Take up your beef with him. I’m not sure why this conversation involves us.”

“The Denver Police crime lab link the hacking of Jeraine Wilson’s email box to employees working in this building. Employees of this company,” the executive producer near the window said. “Denver Police are waiting for Jeraine to identify the men before they arrest them. You might want to call your colleagues in Denver so they have criminal representation.”

“Our people can be a little overzealous,” the lawyer for the record company said. “Especially prior to a live performance.”

“You asked how this conversation involves you,” Schmidty said. “Let’s be clear. Your company stole the movie studio’s property in order to re-sign my artist. You own my artists voice, but you don’t own his work.”

“I own his work,” the Director growled. “He works for me. And you stole from me!”

The corner of Schmidty’s mouth lifted. When he’d contacted the Director, he’d told him he would be able to pull this off. The Director had been a child actor. He understood exactly what Jeraine was going through. It wasn’t until this moment that the Director’s acting skills became apparent.

“I’d like to see those contracts,” the lawyer for the record company.

“I thought you’d say that,” Schmidty said. “Is electronic all right?”

The lawyer for the record company blinked at Schmidty. Schmidty gave him another sweet smile.

“Sure,” the lawyer for the record company said.

“Tell you what,” Schmidty opened his laptop. “How ‘bout I email them to you?”

“I still own Jeraine,” the lawyer for the record company said.

“Actually,” the movie studio lawyer said. “You obtained the song illegally…”

My song,” the Director’s head jerked to look at the movie studio’s lawyer. He pointed at the lawyer for the record studio. “He stole MY SONG!”

“Yes,” the movie studio’s lawyer sounded like he was speaking to a child. “He did.”

“I own everything O’Malley creates,” the Director said. “Everything. That means I own everything Bumpy and Jeraine create.”

“Different contracts,” Schmidty said.

“We only care about what our talent creates,” the woman near the windows said. “And they created this song.”

“Which means your contract with Jeraine expired,” Schmidty said.

“We’d happily take you to court over this,” the executive-producer who hadn’t spoken yet said. “But it sounds like you’ll have plenty to do defending your employees.”

“They don’t take cyber crime lightly in Denver,” Schmidty said. “And this is a slam dunk – motive, opportunity, the whole nine.”

Schmidty sat a little straighter. Since he worked with Seth, he felt like he was 1:1000th cop.

“We’ll file for copyright infringement, of course,” the movie studio lawyer said.

“At the very least!” the Director said. “We should file for emotional duress and…”

“What is it you’d like me to do?” the record company’s lawyer asked.

“Retract the song,” the movie studio’s lawyer said.

“Let people know there was some confusion and that the song is for our movie,” the executive-producer sitting behind Seth said.

“Officially release Jeraine from his contract,” Schmidty said.


“We’ll file for copyright infringement,” the movie studio’s lawyer said.

“Theft of intellectual property,” the executive producer near the windows said. “Harassment of our talent. We’ll request punitive damages for slowing production of the film due to your employees… what was the word he used?’

Overzealous,” the executive producer sitting next to the door said.

“Yes, over-zealousness,” the woman’s harshN ew York accent accentuated every syllable.

“And emotional duress,” the Director said. “I spoke with O’Malley. He’s so upset about this he’s talking about needing time to recover.”

“We pay for the Orchestra and the space whether they work or not,” the executive producer said. “We’ll need reimbursement for that too.”

“We’ll consider it,” the record company’s lawyer said.

His voice was neutral but the tension in the room remained high. Standing, Schmidty held out his hand for the lawyer to shake. The lawyer just looked at his hand. Schmidty chuckled.

“We’ll see ourselves out,” the movie studio’s lawyer said.

They filed out of the office leaving the record studio’s lawyer at his desk. They were in the elevator before Schmidty started to laugh.

“Emotional duress?” Schmidty laughed.

“I’m sensitive,” the Director laughed.

Everyone laughed.

“I’ll tell you James Schmidt the Fifth,” the executive-producer from New York said. “You have balls of steel. I don’t think even your father could have pulled that off. Do you have the contracts?”

“I will,” Schmidty shook his head.

“We have our song, right?” the Director asked.

“If this works, it’s all yours,” Schmidty said.

The movie people clapped.


Saturday night — 8:15 P.M. MDT


Lying naked in bed, Jeraine woke up with a start. His eyes scanned the room until he saw his mother sitting next to him on the bed. He tried to sit up.

“Slowly,” Dionne put her hand on his chest and pushed him back to the bed. “You’ve had a rough night.”

“Momma,” Jeraine said. “I’m still high.”

“You’re going to be for a while,” Bumpy towered over the bed.

“How Daddy?” Jeraine asked. “I didn’t do anything!”

“We think they gave you GHB in that Red Bull crap you’re forever drinking,” Bumpy said. “Or that’s what Seth said. We’re going to see if we can get some later on to test it.”

“G,” Jeraine said. “That’s why I black out.”

“Probably,” Bumpy said. “We’ll have to run some scans next week to see if you have brain damage. Miss T says you’re a little slow at processing new thoughts.”

“GHB, damn,” Jeraine said. “That’s why I want the women.”

“That and you’re a horny bastard,” Tanesha said.

“Miss T?” Jeraine looked at his mother for confirmation. “She’s here?”

Tanesha sat down on the bed across from Dionne. He rolled over to look at her. His hand stroked her face.

“I been lookin’ for you everywhere,” Jeraine said.

Tanesha smiled.

“Where are we?”

“You’re in a suite at the Burnsley,” Dionne said.

“We’ve pumped your stomach,” Bumpy said. “And did our best to clean you up. When did you get all those damned tattoos, son? You look like  prize Stock Show bull with everyone’s brand all up and down your backside.”

“Bumpy, leave the boy alone,” Dionne said.

“He looks like a fool,” Bumpy said.

“We’ll leave you,” Dionne said. “You have a half hour or so before you have to go.”

“Go where?” Jeraine said. “Momma, I feel like crap.”

“Doesn’t matter, son,” Bumpy said. “Your fans are waiting for you. They’ve been waiting all day.”

“Plus, we want to catch the guys that did this to you,” Tanesha nodded to him. “To us.”

“Come on, old man,” Dionne said. “Let’s let them have a little bit of a happy ending before the show starts.”

She kissed Jeraine’s cheek. Bumpy put his arm around her and they left the room.

“I looked everywhere for you,” Jeraine said.

“You passed out at the first place you looked,” Tanesha said.

“Yes, but only after I knew where you were,” Jeraine said. “You went to your Gran’s.”

Tanesha smiled.

“Who’s the good looking Mexican?” Jeraine asked.

“Tres,” Tanesha said.

“Damn, you should get with him,” Jeraine said.

“I’m in love with someone else,” Tanesha said.

“Anyone I know,” Jeraine said.

“I hope so.”

Jeraine pulled her to him and she laughed.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week


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