Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Fifty-Eight : Pond Scum


Saturday mid-day – 12:45 P.M. Treatment Center, Tucson

Sandy rubbed her left breast.

“Sore?” Aden asked.

“It’s the longest I’ve gone since Rachel was born,” Sandy gave a slight nod.

“You’re leaking a little…” Aden pointed to her right breast.

Sandy looked down at her blouse. She was reaching for the towel she carried with her when the door opened. She popped to her feet with the kitchen towel in her hand. Her mother came in with a man in a business suit and a kind hearted looking woman. They stared at each other for a moment.

“Nice to finally meet you,” Aden said. He held out his hand to Sandy’s mother. “I’m Aden Norsen, Sandy’s husband.”

He put his hand on Sandy’s shoulder. Sandy’s Mom gave Aden a limp handshake.

“Hi Mom,” Sandy said.

“Don’t I get a hug?” her Mom asked.

“I…” Sandy pointed to the moisture on her blouse.

“What did you spill?” Sandy’s mother face shifted from her false smile to disgust. Before Sandy could answer, her mother sat down across the table leaving the man and woman standing in the doorway.

“I’m Jeanette,” the woman took Aden’s hand and shook it. “Dr. Jeanette Smythe. Alice is my patient.”

Sandy blinked at the use of the name ‘Alice’ for her mother. Her mother’s name was Patricia Delgado.

“Alice?” Sandy blurted out.

“I’ve left Patty behind, Sandy,” her mother said. “Too much pain and trauma. I’ve chosen Alice as my new name for my new life.”

Stunned, Sandy blinked at the woman.

“Vere Morgan,” the man shook Aden’s hand. “I’m Alice’s attorney. I apologize for the delay. I needed to prepare some of the paperwork required for today. Alice has had a tough time deciding her course of action. But we’re certain now. Right?”

Somewhere between a scolding teacher and a kind Santa Claus, Vere raised an eyebrow to the-once-Patty. She gave him a soft, almost romantic smile. To keep from vomiting, Sandy focused her attention on her leaking breast. Her eyes caught the sparkle from her diamond wedding set. For the briefest moment, she was glad Aden had insisted on something so big. She was usually too embarrassed to wear it. But today, she was glad it was ostentatious and on her finger. The soon-to-be-Alice cleared her throat and Sandy looked up.

“Sorry,” Sandy said. “We’ve been waiting a long time. It’s the longest I’ve been away from my daughter. She was a preemie so we nurse every two and a half or three hours.”

“You’re feeding her like a cow?” The same-old-Patricia said.

“I’m breastfeeding my daughter,” Sandy said.

She opened her mouth to spout off all the reasons breast feeding was better for Rachel when Aden put his hand on her leg. She looked at him and smiled.

“I hate to be rude,” Aden said. “But we need to get back to our children. Alice, you requested that we fly here with Sissy and Charlie. You asked me on Thursday if Sissy and Charlie could come here themselves. We’d like to know why now you won’t see them now.”

Sandy’s once-mother’s eyes filled with tears. She gave her psychologist an imploring look. Sandy scowled. Clearly the woman was Dr. Stupid.

“If you’re going to take that tone,” Dr. Stupid said. “We’ll need to end this interview.”

Aden was so surprised his mouth fell open for a second. He furrowed his brow and sat back in his chair.

“This is a very painful conversation for me,” the-motherish-woman said. “I…”

“What if I start?” the lawyer said.

While the lawyer was looking for approval from the female-once-known-as-her-mother, Sandy squinted her eyes. She couldn’t remembered his name. Bear? Swear? No something Presbyterian. Vere. Vere what? Vere the lawyer. That would have to do.

“There’s no easy way to have this conversation,” Vere the lawyer said.

“Give us some idea what we’re dealing with,” Aden stated.

Presented with the lawyer, Aden switched to business mode. Sandy leaned back in her seat to allow him to take over. Her eyes shifted to the-creature-she’d-thought-was-her-mother.

“Patricia Delgado has given as much as she can. She has worked her fingers to the bone, struggled, suffered and given until there is nothing left,” Dr. Stupid said. “Only a shell of a woman remained.”

“In a few days, Patricia Delgado will cease to exist,” Vere the lawyer said.

“From the ashes of Patricia Delgado, Alice Endicott will fly!” Mimicking the wings of a bird, Dr. Stupid’s arms went up. While Sandy tracked the motion, her eyes never left the-not-quite-a-bird creature sitting across from her.

“So this is what you had planned,” Sandy said.

“I’ve tried and given and tried and given, Sandy,” Patricia-becoming-Alice-once-her-mother said. “You of all people know how hard I’ve given.”

“Yes, I know how much you’ve given,” Sandy snorted. Patricia-becoming-Alice scowled at her.

“What does this have to do with us?” Aden asked.

“Alice can no longer parent Mitzi and Charles Delgado,” the lawyer said.

“We’re prepared to take full custody of Sissy and Charlie,” Aden said. “Is Patricia or Alice or whoever prepared to terminate her parental rights?”

“There’s a sticking point with that,” Vere the lawyer said. “The children’s father arranged his estate so that Alice’s support is tied to the care of his children.”

“Mitch was such a selfish bastard,” Dr. Stupid said. “Poor Patricia put up with him because she loved him so, but…”

“You will not say another word about my Dad,” Sandy jumped to her feet. Her voice was low and deadly. Her finger pointed like a dagger at Dr. Stupid’s heart. For a moment, there was no question who was the most powerful person in the room. Intimidated, the psychologist and lawyer fell back in their seats. “Not one word.”

“See what I have to put up with?” the woman-who-always-hated-Sandy pretended to weep.

Aden tugged at Sandy’s arm to get her to sit down.

“Are we clear?” Sandy asked.

“Perfectly clear,” Dr. Stupid said.

The-almost-new-but-still-bitter-Alice gave Sandy a seething look.

“Good,” Sandy sat down. “Now continue with the bullshit.”

“Why don’t you cut to the chase?” Aden asked. “We’re in contact with Social Services. They’ve already established that we’re a suitable home for Sissy and Charlie. Terminating Patricia’s custody is only a matter of filing the paperwork. Do you have the documents prepared?”

“By relinquishing her parental rights, Alice will no longer have access to medical benefits and the financial support provided by her deceased husband,” Vere the lawyer said.

“How much?” Sandy asked.

“Sandra really, I think…” the woman-Sandy-had-suffered-for started.

“How much?” Sandy repeated.

“The remaining parental benefits amount to almost three hundred thousand dollars,” Vere the lawyer said.

“How about five?” Sandy asked. “Will five hundred thousand end this once and for all?”

“Sandy?” Aden asked.

His eyes took in her face. She shook her head. They had argued about this. While he disagree with paying for the children outright, it was her call. He gave her a nod.

“In gold,” the-woman-who-knew-the-entire-time-about-Sandy’s-abuse said.

“So that’s what this is about,” Sandy leaned back against the chair. “The gold.”

“I knew you had it,” the-creature-who-stood-by-and-did-nothing said. “I knew it!”

“What gold?” Vere the lawyer and Dr. Stupid asked at the same time.

Aden turned to assess Sandy. While he had no idea what she was talking about, he knew the look on her face. Part shame, part rage, and a healthy dose of deep pain, this was about Sandy’s sexual abuse. He set his face to stone.

“Patricia’s husband, the man I thought was my biological father, sexually abused me from the time I was about two years old,” Sandy said. “He made his living, and paid his child support, by prostituting me and selling the video tapes and photos of my sexual abuse. Because his activities were illegal, he was mostly paid in gold Krugerrands. He gave me a two-gallon jar of Krugerrands every Christmas. He said it was my college fund.”

Sandy never broke eye contact with the woman-who-was-never-her-mother.

“Patricia feels horrible about what happened,” Dr. Stupid said. “Everything that happened with her ex-husband – his death, the revelation of his horrible business, discovering what happened to you - was a crushing blow. It’s a key reason she’s leaving Patricia behind.”

“Did she tell you that she was an active participant in the business?” Sandy asked.

Sandy felt more than saw Dr. Stupid and Vere the lawyer turn to look at the womanish-thing-sitting across from her. Dr. Stupid recovered first.

“How can you say that?” Dr. Stupid tried for indignant.

“The only way this woman could have known about the gold is if she was involved from the very beginning,” Sandy said. “Did you steal me from my birth mother to have a child to build a prostitution and pornography business around?”

The cruel-mammal sneered at Sandy. Crossing her arms, she looked away.

“That’s what I thought,” Sandy continued staring at the breathing-garbage-in-human-form. “I always wondered how he managed to set up the business. He wasn’t very bright. But you? You could have set up the entire thing with a blink of an eye. And the new Internet business? Sheer brilliance. What were you? An equal partner? A share holder? What? Is that why you told Sissy we would live together? So you could restart the pornography business using her?”

“You’re exhausting,” the speaking-residue said. “Don’t you get it? Your endless needs have destroyed me.”

“We finish this now,” Aden said. “Or we leave and come back with law enforcement. The case we’re talking about is open and active. The FBI and Interpol are still tracking down active partners in the pornography ring. One phone call and…”

“Fine,” the woman said. “Five hundred thousand.”

“And you will terminate your parental rights to Mitzi and Charlie Delgado?” Aden asked.

Dr. Stupid looked from Aden to the lawyer and back.

“That’s correct,” Vere the lawyer said.

“But I want it in gold,” the rubbish-who-was-never-to-be-seen-again-by-Sandy said.

As if she’d never seen her before, Dr. Stupid gawked at her patient.

“Here are your options,” Sandy said. “The money is wired into your account today or I go home and see about the gold. In order to access the gold, I’ll have to speak to Denver Police Detective Seth O’Malley as he’s the only one who knows its location. I will take the gold to an assessor to evaluate the appropriate exchange for five hundred thousand US dollars. Of course, the assessor is legally obligated to report anything over ten thousand dollars to the Department of Homeland Security. But if you’d prefer…”

“I’d advise you to take the wire transfer,” Vere the lawyer interrupted Sandy.

“Fine,” something-so-nasty-you-throw-the-shoe-away-rather-than-clean-it-off said. “I’ll take the wire transfer.”

“Do you have the custody papers here?” Aden pressed.

“Yes,” the lawyer said. “I have the transfer of benefit documents.”

“What about the house?” Sandy asked. “Sissy and Charlie’s possessions are there. I want their baby books. I know Sissy wants her ballerina videos and…”

“The Westminster home closed last month,” Vere the lawyer said.  “Everything in the house was auctioned off prior to the sale.”

“You told Sissy we were all going to move back into Dad’s house and it was already sold?” Sandy asked. “After I paid to keep it out of foreclosure?”

The unit-that-gave-birth-to-Sissy refused to look at Sandy.

“I can’t comment on what was or was not said,” Vere the lawyer said. “I can tell you that I have liquidated all of Patricia Delgado’s assets.”

“Including Sissy and Charlie’s college fund?” Sandy was so outraged she could barely keep from screaming.

“That’s correct,” Vere the lawyer said.

Dr. Stupid tried to look smug. When Sandy shot her a steely glance, the idiot collapsed into herself.

“I’m the only contributor to that fund,” Sandy said. “Outside of random gifts from friends of my Dad’s, the funds were one hundred percent saved by me!”

“Be that as it may,” Vere the lawyer said. “As their guardian, their mother was the legal trustee of the funds.”

“I’ve heard enough,” Aden said. “What do we need to do to terminate this matter once and for all?”

“Transfer the funds and sign the papers,” Vere the lawyer said.

“It’s Saturday,” Sandy said. “The transfer won’t go through until Monday.”

“You will have to sign the papers on Monday,” Vere the lawyer said.

“Unless you’d like to hear from my attorneys, you will accept the transfer confirmation,” Aden said.

“I don’t trust them,” the rotting-vermin said.

Sandy opened her mouth to say something but Aden responded before anything came out. He took out his cell phone and placed a call.

“Hey Max,” Aden said. “I need some help. I’m here in Tucson. Yeah, I thought you’d remember.”

Sandy heard the tenor of Max Hargreaves’s voice through the phone.

“I need to file a complaint against an attorney in Tucson,” Aden said. “Oh great, anyone you recommend is fine. Sure, the president of the Arizona bar would be fabulous.”

“Just a moment,” Vere the lawyer said.

“I’m on the phone,” Aden said to him. “I’m sorry. We worked with your associate on those custody papers and the transfer of benefits from the Police Union. I don’t have her number. Oh, you can do that? Great. Do you mind faxing them to this… facility? Right, the number I gave you. Wonderful. Thanks.”

Aden held out his Blackberry to Sandy. She shook her head and took out her iPhone. Seth was still very sick; he would only answer if it was from her phone.

“How much?” Just the sound of Seth’s voice was grounding. Sandy’s eyes threatened tears.

“Five hundred thousand,” Sandy said.

“Go,” Seth said.

“I need the account number,” Sandy said.

Vere the lawyer scrambled through his briefcase. It took him a few minutes before he located the files. He pressed a piece of paper across the table to Sandy. Sandy rattled the numbers to Seth.

“Give me a minute,” Seth said. “Is it horrible?”

“She wants the gold,” Sandy said.

“Not on the phone,” Seth said. “Can you hold up until you’re home?”

“Sure. You?” Sandy closed her eyes to the room to absorb the sanity on the other end of the line.

“I’m home,” Seth said. “Ava’s here. Maresol’s trying to force feed me my favorite foods. Woe is me. Dale’s taken care of all of my duties – lawn, pool, maintenance. The boy even fixed that damned screen door. I’m living the life.”

He laughed. The laughter caused some kind of movement and he groaned.

“I can hear that,” Sandy smiled.

“Here’s the confirmation,” Seth rattled off a string of numbers.

“Sorry I don’t have a pen,” Sandy motioned to Aden and he gave her the space pen he kept in his pocket. “Ok, go ahead.”

There was a knock at the door. An attendant held a stack of papers. The attorney took them and closed the door. Standing near the door, he read through them.

“These won’t be necessary,” Vere the lawyer said.

“We prefer to use our own forms,” Aden said

Aden held his hand out for the forms. When the lawyer hesitated, Aden stood to his full height. His muscles flexed slightly. The slight lawyer gave him the papers.

“Alice has an additional requirement,” Vere the lawyer said.

“Seth hang on,” Sandy said into the phone. She looked across to the lawyer. “What?”

“These are confidential agreements,” Vere the lawyer said. “The entire agreement is contingent on complete and total confidentiality.”

“You were right, Seth,” Sandy said into the phone. “Great. Thanks.”

Sandy ended her call.

“What just happened?” the reeking-multi-celled-organism said.

“We cancelled the wire transfer,” Sandy said.

“But it went through!” the fetid-mess said. “You have a confirmation number!”

“I don’t really understand it,” Sandy said. “But I guess with a wire transfer of this size, you have to go through a couple steps.”

Sandy raised an eyebrow and folded her arms over her rage-filled heart. Vere the lawyer pressed the confidentiality agreement across the table to Sandy. Dr. Stupid perked up.

“I’m sure you can understand, Sandy,” Dr. Stupid said. “It’s important that Mitzi and Charles don’t know anything about our conversation. It would be devastating to their self esteem. Alice doesn’t mean to harm them. She’s trying to do what’s best for them. And you must agree, they’re better off with you and your husband.”

“You know what’s been great for Charlie’s self esteem?” Sandy asked. “He’s been sober for three months. Picked up 90-day his chip a couple days ago. He was going to give it to his remaining biological parent.”

“Sissy’s been invited to the New York ballet again. She was the only child selected from Denver,” Aden said. “Only she decided not to go last week because Alice promised her they would live together in Westminster.”

“I’m not signing any confidentiality statement,” Sandy got up from her seat. “Thank you for your time. We have everything we need to pursue parental rights termination in the courts. Aden?”

Aden went through the faxed papers and pulled out a notice of filing.

“These papers were filed yesterday afternoon in Colorado Superior Court,” Aden said.

“What?” the rotten-to-the-core thing jumped to her feet. “You can’t do that.”

“We already have,” Aden said. “Mitch Delgado’s Union Rep transferred his benefits to us. The order will go through on Monday.”

“You did all of this before you arrived?” Dr. Stupid actually looked shocked. Sandy furrowed her eyebrows at the woman. No one was really that stupid. Were they?

“When we were unable to get in touch with… whatever-her-name-is-now yesterday,” Aden said. “Of course, we didn’t think of the college funds. Is there anything else we should know about?”

“Either way, your parental rights are gone,” Sandy said. “Either take our offer of five hundred thousand dollars transferred today with confirmation and release of custody and slink away to whatever hole you think is best or push it and get nothing.”

“But… but…” Moisture appeared in the pond-scum-masquerading-as-a-woman’s eyes.

“Ok,” Sandy nodded to Dr. Stupid. To Vere the lawyer, she said, ”I believe you’ll be hearing from us.”

Aden followed Sandy to the door. Their backs were to the table when they heard:

“All right,” a mumbling female-voice-came-from-the-mold.

“Sign here,” Aden said.

He put the termination of parental rights in front of the thing-formerly-known-as-Patty. She scrawled a signature.

“You both need to sign as witnesses,” Aden said. “I don’t want to hear a word about duress or coercion.”

“But you are coercing me!” the bleeting-single-celled-organism said. “If I don’t do what you say…”

Sandy smiled and walked out of the room. Aden followed her. They made it to the parking lot before Dr. Stupid caught up with them. She gave them the signed copy of the termination of parental rights including their signatures documenting that the papers were signed by agreement. Standing next to their rental car, Sandy called Seth.  Without saying another word, Sandy gave Dr. Stupid a piece of paper with the transfer confirmation on it.

“You really must understand…” Dr. Stupid started.

“I hope you have a good attorney,” Sandy said. “That Vere isn’t going to be one for much longer.”

Sandy got into the rental car and locked the door. Aden got into the driver’s seat. While Sandy took a picture of the document with her iPhone, Aden turned drove out of the parking lot and down the street. She had just emailed a copy of the document to Seth when a series of fast moving Tucson Police cruisers wailed in their direction. Aden pulled over to give them space.

“How are you?” Aden asked.

“Not good,” Sandy said. “You didn’t seem surprised that she was involved in… you know.”

“I always thought she must have known,” Aden said. “I couldn’t figure out what she got from it. I mean, outside of her child support, she didn’t seem to have gained a thing.”

“She must have received some of the gold,” Sandy said.

“How much gold do you have?” Aden asked.

“Eight two-gallon jars full,” Sandy said.

“Why don’t I know about it?”

“I got them right after you got back from prison.”

“Got them?” Aden asked.

“I dug them up from my father’s lot,” Sandy said. “I got them before they started building. You were working and getting your teeth done.”

“And afterwards?” Aden asked.

“I don’t know,” Sandy said. “I didn’t mean to lie. We’ve had a lot of other things going on.”

“How does Seth know?” Aden asked.

“I told him,” Sandy said. “He was at the Castle to see the bodies Jacob found. He came by the studio to check on me and I showed them to him. He had them cleaned, counted, valued, and stored. They are in some vault someplace. Are you offended?”

“I feel like I should be offended,” Aden said. “But you’re right If you had told me about them that week, I wouldn’t have remembered. Didn’t we get married that week?”

“I dug up the gold in the morning and we got married that night,” Sandy said. “I think that’s why I didn’t tell you. I haven’t thought about them.”

“We are very rich,” Aden said.

“Well…” Sandy said. “I wanted to use them to make a foundation to help other kids that are like me.”

Aden smiled.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“Pete told me you wanted to form a foundation,” Aden said. “I wondered if you’d given up the idea or…”

“Jeez,” Sandy said. “My plate’s been a little full!”

Aden laughed and pulled into the resort. They drove in silence until he parked in their spot.

“How are we going to tell Sissy and Charlie?” Sandy asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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