CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX
Tuesday morning — 3:15 A.M.
After feeding Rachel, and checking on the rest of the children, Sandy lay down next to Aden. Asleep, he rolled over to hold her. Her black and white cat, Cleo, slipped next to Sandy for some snuggle time. Cleo’s loud purr accentuated Sandy’s warm, safe feeling. Rachel made a sound and Sandy put her hand on her baby’s belly. All safe. All sound. Sandy closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
“You poor dear,” Andy Mendy said. “Raising a child is a lot of work.”
Five year old Sandy looked up when Andy took her hand. As if she was watching a video, Sandy’s adult consciousness let the dream unfold.
“You can’t imagine what she’s been like this week,” the woman she’d thought was her mother, Patty, said. “She’s been dancing everywhere. Dancing! I have no idea where she picked it up. They swear they don’t dance at daycare. But she’s been a singing, wiggling, screaming banshee all week.”
“She’s a handful,” Andy winked at the child and little Sandy tried not to giggle. “Thank you for taking care of her this week.”
“I would only do this for…” Patty said.
The dream sequence stalled. Feeling a presence near her, adult Sandy looked over her shoulder. Andy Mendy took her hand.
“She did it for money, for power, for control, but mostly to vent her hatred,” Andy Mendy said. “She used you to vent her hatred for me.”
“I’m not sure it had that much to do with you,” Sandy said. “She loves money and power and hates love, joy, happiness, kindness…”
The dream began to play.
“…you,” Patty said. “I know how sick you are.”
“Yes,” Andy gave Patty a sweet smile. Adult Sandy knew the smile. She’d given plenty herself. It was a ‘go away’ smile. She couldn’t help but chuckle.
“You sure you’ll be all right this weekend?” Patty’s face shifted to some kind of false concern.
“We’ll be fine,” Andy said. “We’ll see you Monday night?”
“Sunday,” Patty said. “I’d give you another day but …”
The dream paused.
“She told Social Services these incredible lies,” Andy turned to look adult Sandy in the eyes. “I always thought she paid them off but I never found proof.”
The dream continued.
“… Social Services will have a fit,” Patty said. “I know you’d hate to lose her all together.”
Andy gave Patty a sweet smile.
“Bye, bye Sandy,” Patty kneeled down to five year old Sandy.
Andy put her hand on the little girl’s back and she kissed Patty’s cheek. Patty nodded to Andy and left down the hallway. Andy closed the door and kneeled down to the girl. Child Sandy threw her arms around Andy’s neck.
“Love you Mommy,” child Sandy said.
“Love you Sandy,” Andy said. “What shall we do today?”
“Dance!” child Sandy squealed. “Dance!
“Yes, let’s dance,” Andy said.
The dream paused.
“We did this every weekend until you were eight or nine,” Andy said. “When you were eight, I tried to fight her in the courts. But… I lost you all together. You don’t remember.”
“I had a sense that I had another Mommy,” Sandy said. “Someone who loved me, cared for me, and made everything better. But I figured I made you up.”
“The records are hidden in my boxes,” Andy said. “You’ll find them.”
“I remember loving you,” Sandy said. “I think I was told you had died but the trauma of everything has messed up my memory. That’s what the therapists say.”
“I thought you had died,” Andy said. “My beautiful girl. I…”
“Let’s watch,” Sandy said. “If I never remember then Patty’s cruelty will have destroyed the love and light that belongs to me, and to you.”
“Yes,” Andy’s face broke into a beautiful smile.
The dream continued. Holding hands, Sandy and Andy watched themselves laugh and play. For all the pain and all the trauma Sandy had experienced, she now saw how well she was loved. The simple joy of mother and child permeated her consciousness. She’d always felt like she had to grasp for love and hold onto the tiny remnants. She’d never realized she was surrounded by love the entire time.
“Sandy,” Aden kissed her cheek to wake her. Sandy hugged him close.
“I’m heading out. I’m taking Charlie with me to a meeting before work.”
While Aden continued his usual run down of where all the people in their tribe needed to be, Sandy held on to him.
“You okay?” Aden asked.
“Love you,” Sandy said.
He smiled and kissed her lips.
“You sure you’re okay?”
Sandy nodded. For the first time, probably since she had spent weekends with Andy, Sandy felt surrounded by love.
“We’ll talk tonight,” Aden said.
Sandy waved. Picking up Rachel’s sleeping form, Sandy went to wake the other kids. Throughout their usual morning grumbling and laughter, Sandy felt Andy standing right next to her. With an SUV full of talking children, she wondered if Andy had always been there. By the time, she reached her salon she came to the only logical conclusion.
Andy had always loved her. Even without knowing her, Sandy had always loved Andy. Somehow, that made everything that happened to her all right.
Humming the tune they’d danced to, Sandy opened the door to her salon and started her day.
Tuesday morning — 8:35 A.M.
Sitting on the back deck of the Castle, Delphie drank the remnants of her morning green tea. The day was going to be warm, at least ninety, yet she felt… bored. Her new age doctor had told her she was depressed. She had said her depression was a natural, normal side effect of having a stroke. The doctor had given her samples of some medicine and made her promise to try them. But Naomi, the spirit of her beloved friend Celia, told her she was bored.
As always, Naomi was right.
She was bored. Sighing, she picked up her cup. It was empty. She set it back down.
Since her stroke, she hadn’t been back to work. Plus, it was summer and most people’s attention was on the mountains and vacation. There wasn’t a big press for her services. Outside of a few long term clients, she wasn’t telling anyone’s fortune.
The garden was growing. With all the kids in the house, and Aden as their task master, she had plenty of help with the weeding, watering, pruning, and harvesting. Like they did every Saturday, Sissy and Noelle would show up around noon to eagerly help her with the bees again. For the first time in more than a decade, she was caught up on her beekeeping.
She had worked and worked and worked when they were trying to catch Saint Jude the serial killer. But they had caught him. Or she should say he caught up with himself. Delphie smiled at her joke and picked up her cup. It was still empty. Rather than make more tea, she continued her review.
The girls were helping with dinner.Rosacontinued to help with the house. The sale of shares of Lipson Construction had freed Jacob and Sam’s time. They were making steady progress on repairs to the Castle. They even had a foreman to keep track of things. The Castle didn’t need Delphie’s help either.
In fact, no one needed Delphie’s help. At least until Valerie had her baby and Honey had her baby and Jill had the boys and…
But right now, no one needed Delphie’s help.
She knew that Sam would say she should rest or go to the spa or go shopping or do something else to relax. She would be needed soon enough, he would say; and he was right. But all of that resting, pampering, and shopping sounded dreadful to Delphie.
She wanted to be needed. She needed to be needed.
Sighing, she picked up her cup and went into the kitchen. Mike was standing next to the sink eating a bowl of Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries. His hair was disheveled, his beard speckled with paint and his clothes were threadbare. His hands wore multiple coats of paint.
“Valerie out of town?” Delphie asked.
“LA,” Mike grumbled. “How’d you guess?”
“Just a hunch,” Delphie said. “Were you up all night?”
“Otis is coming next week,” Mike said. “I need to complete a few paintings.”
“You were up all night because you’re worried about finishing paintings?” Delphie raised her eyebrows at him. Caught, he smirked and went back to shoveling cereal in his mouth.
“Miss her,” Mike said through his cereal. “I’ve gotten used to having her around.”
“Why did she go to LA?” Delphie asked.
“Something emergency publicity something with Tanesha,” Mike said. “She and Tanesha left last night. They’re meeting with a few publicists today. I told her if she has the baby in LA, I’m not coming there.”
“She’ll have her here and you’ll be there,” Delphie said. “Don’t worry.”
“Who’s worried?” Mike asked. “Do I look worried?”
He poured the last of the cereal into his milk filled bowl
“No, you’re right,” Delphie said. “You didn’t eat an entire box of cereal because you were anxious and lonely.”
Scowling, Mike pointed his spoon at her. Delphie laughed. He smirked and finished his bowl. There was a buzzing nearby.
“You’re cell phone’s been going off this entire box of cereal,” Mike said.
“My cell phone?”
“Forgot you had it again?”
“I have a cell phone?” Delphie asked.
Mike rolled his eyes and went to pick up Delphie’s Blackberry.
“You’re lucky Jake plugs it in,” Mike gave her the phone.
“Oh look,” Delphie said. “This is my phone. See it has a photo of the Queen of Wands on the front. That’s me.”
She turned the phone toward Mike. He chuckled.
“It says: ‘Press messages then enter your code and listen,’” Delphie said. “Right there.”
“That’s a text from Seth,” Mike said.
“Oh,” Delphie pressed messages.
“Please enter your password,” the phone said.
“Oh, do I have a password?” Delphie held the phone out to Mike.
“Let’s see if Seth knows,” Mike took the phone and scrolled through the text. “He says it’s the date you met Celia. Something you wouldn’t forget.”
“Oh, right,” Delphie typed in the number. “You know, I’m not an idiot.”
“Yes, and you don’t have dementia,” Mike said. “You just…”
“Hate electronic gadgets,” Delphie and Mike said together.
“Right,” Delphie said. She held up a finger. “It’s Maresol asking me if I forgot about my phone again. Yes, Maresol, I forgot my phone again. She’s coming over and bringing lunch. Yea.”
Shaking his head at Delphie, Mike set down his bowl and started to leave the room. She snarled at him. He stopped in place. Backing up, he put the bowl in the dishwasher. He was about to leave when he caught the look on Delphie’s face. She was scowling while nodding to the voice message. She deleted the message and stared off into space.
“Is everything all right?” Mike asked. “Should I call Sam?”
“Sam?” Delphie asked. “No. Seth needs my help on a case. He wants to know how to pay me. How should he pay me?”
Thinking she wasn’t listening, he said, “In Captain Crunch.”
“With Crunch Berries,” she smiled. “Good plan.”
“So you’re all right?”
“I’m needed,” Delphie said. “Makes me happy.”
Mike nodded and moved toward the back door.
“By the way, Otis will be here tonight or tomorrow morning depending on when the CIA releases him,” Delphie said. “I bet Sandy will find time for you.”
Delphie nodded and dialed the phone.
“Can you…?” Mike started.
“Hey Sandy, can you squeeze Mike in? It’s kind of an emergency,” Delphie looked up at Mike. “She can see you now or tonight after the kids go to bed. But I bet your grandfather will be here by then.”
“Why can’t she just squeeze me in whenever? That’s what she usually does.”
“She thinks you need a bit of extra time today.”
“Me?” He nodded his thanks.
“Take a shower,” Delphie said.
Running up the stairs, he added, “Why do I need a shower?”
“He’ll be right there,” Delphie said. “Thanks Sandy.”
Delphie tucked the phone in to her pocket. She smiled. It was great to be needed.
Tuesday mid-day — 12:35 P.M. PDT
“What are you doing?” asked Schmidty as he arrived at their table with lunch from the commissary.
“Sending an email,” Seth continued typing on his laptop.
“Whom,” Seth said. “I’m sending the song I worked on last night to Jeraine Wilson. Do you know him?”
“I signed him last night,” Schmidty said.
“So everything is good,” Seth said.
“And what did you do last night?” Schmidty asked.
“I worked on this song,” Seth said
“Why are you so tired?”
“Some songs wear me out,” Seth said. “Are you my mother?”
“What’s the song?” Ignoring Seth’s question, Schmidty pushed a salad in Seth’s direction. “Eat.”
“It’s a special song for Tanesha,” Seth said. “I doubt he’ll sell it. It’s a private message from a man to the woman he loves. We musicians communicate in the language we know best – music. It’s beautiful, very special.”
“Oh,” Schmidty said.
“Why are you so tired this morning?” Seth asked.
“None of your business.”
Schmidty turned to his lunch. Seth smiled. He’d embarrassed Schmidty just enough to get him off his back. Now if he could get through lunch without Schmidty finding out about the LAPD, everything was fine. He ate his salad.
“You just worked on the song, huh?” Schmidty asked.
Seth nodded. Schmidty picked up their plates and took them to the trash.
“So why did the LAPD come to the house right after I left?” He said when he returned.
“LAPD?” Seth asked.
“The house has security cameras,” Schmidty said. “Dad’s idea.”
“What bothers me is that you lied,” Schmidty said.
“I’m sorry about that, it’s just that…” Seth started. Schmidty held up his hand and Seth stopped talking.
“I don’t really mind if you work on cases. You have a passion for it. I get that. I even think your music improves when you’re working on a case,” Schmidty said. “But the lying has to stop. It’s not good for your sobriety. It’s not good for our relationship.”
“You’re right,” Seth said. “I’m sorry.”
“So what’s the case?” Schmidty asked.
“You want to know?”
“If you’re doing it, I’m doing it,” Schmidty smiled. “What are we working on?”
Seth’s eyes reviewed the young man face. He blushed under Seth’s scrutiny.
“Just the gist,” Schmidty said. “The details gross me out.”
Nodding, Seth told him about the LAPD case.
Tuesday afternoon — 3:45 P.M.
Feeling like she’d been called to the principal’s office, Jill cleared her throat and sat down in front of the doctor. The appointment had changed four times until it was at a time when Jacob couldn’t come. She’d been confident she would be fine. Looking at the team of doctors hovering near the windows, she didn’t feel confident. Blane’s doctor stood near the door. But the man sitting at the desk was clearly running the meeting.
An older man, he had the look of a marathon runner and the steely eyes of a physic professor. He didn’t smile at her or treat her like a ‘little woman.’ Instead, he and Blane’s doctor had met her in the lobby.
He’d introduced himself as Dr. Zeit. Not Joseph Zeit or Joseph or Joe, using his first name like the younger doctors. He’d said Dr. Zeit as if he’d entered the world as a doctor. She found it oddly comforting and vaguely unnerving. Was there a human being inside there? Swallowing her panic, she’d followed the men to Dr. Zeit’s large office with a view of the Rocky Mountains.
“Mrs. Marlowe,” Dr. Zeit started.
“You can call me Jill,” she smiled.
“We’re all a twitter here,” Dr. Zeit said.
“Yes, I’m sure you noticed,” Dr. Zeit said.
“Seems like there’s a lot of doctors here,” Jill said.
“How much do you know about HIV?” Dr. Zeit asked.
“HIV?” Jill’s voice rose with panic. “Nothing.”
Dr. Zeit’s steely eyes peered at her
“I mean I was tested,” Jill words came in a panicked flurry. “Jacob too. When we first got together. Before we were married. We’re both negative or were. I haven’t tested Katy. Is that what you mean?”
“You’re terrifying the girl.” Jill looked up to see a woman a little older than she was stepping toward Dr. Zeit. “He’s an old school doctor. He figures if he stays quiet you’ll tell him what he wants to know.”
“What does he want to know?” Jill sputtered.
“I want to know if you work at Pete’s Kitchen,” the woman said.
“Sure,” Jill glanced at the woman’s red hair held in a simple pony tail, her brown eyes and bright smile. “I used to work there more before I was married. Now that I’m pregnant with the boys I…”
“I thought so,” the woman smiled. “Dr. Emily Hughes.”
“Emily,” Jill smiled. “Pancakes and coffee. Lots of coffee. Cinnamon roll when it’s fresh.”
“Jill was my waitress at Pete’s,” Emily smiled at Dr. Zeit. “During medical school.”
Jill gave Dr. Zeit an uncomfortable smile.
“You don’t have HIV,” Dr. Zeit said.
“What do you want to know?” Buoyed by Emily’s intervention, Jill sat a little straighter.
Dr. Zeit looked at Emily. Jill watched information pass from mentor to student. Emily nodded. Leaning against the desk, Emily took over the conversation.
“It’s not talked about a lot, but there are some people who are immune to disease,” Emily said. “We first found it in a patient in West Africa. It was one of those things. The WHO collected blood samples from hundreds of thousands of men and women. It took years to get through the samples. When they did, they found a man who was different. He was immune to HIV.”
“He came in, gave his sample, and went on with his life,” Dr. Zeit said.
“No one has been able to find him since,” Emily said. “We only have the one blood sample.”
“He has a genetic mutation that seems to infer immunity to, well, everything,” Dr. Zeit said. “Or everything we’ve tested him for.”
Dr. Zeit turned to nod to a tall, thin doctor standing near the windows. He stepped forward.
“We have seen other immunity,” the tall doctor said. “Some prostitutes in Ghana were immune while they were in contact with the virus. Oddly, they contracted the disease when their levels of exposure subsided.”
“We’ve found it in China,” an Asian doctor standing next to the windows piped up to say. “At least fifteen people, women.”
“The Chinese studies are interesting because the majority of Chinese people are Han,” the tall doctor said. “Basically, the same genetic stock.”
“I came to see for myself,” the Asian doctor said. “You are not Han.”
Jill shook her head.
“What’s your background?” Emily asked.
Jill watched every doctor in the room lean forward to hear.
“My mother is from Saint Petersburg,Russia,” Jill said. “My father is from Zimbabwe when it was Rhodesia.”
“Africa,” the Asian doctor nodded as if something made sense.
“He’s a white man?” an African American doctor near the door asked.
“I don’t know his genetic profile,” Jill said. “But he looks white to me. I mean, I could be Chinese or Han or… I don’t know what. My husband’s family calls themselves ‘American Mutts.’ I don’t think I’m much different.”
“The key is that you have the mutation,” Dr. Zeit said. “I think every doctor in this room would like to section some part of your body.”
The Denver Cereal will continue next week.
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