CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and SIXTY-NINE
“Andy Mendy jumped off a building this afternoon,” Ava said.
Seth felt the world grind to a halt. For a split second, the world was silent. Letting out a breath, the gears of his mind ground into action.
Andy had been alive all this time. Somewhere deep inside, he’d always known she was alive. No matter how hard he looked, no matter what resources he used, he’d never been able to find her. Somewhere deep inside, he’d always known she was alive. He closed his eyes. The memory of the first moment he’d seen her played across his eyelids. He’d loved her instantly; he still loved her.
Andy was dead.
Opening his eyes, he glanced at Ava. Would she know the love he felt for Andy? Would she care? He squinted his eyes to focus on what Ava was saying.
“It has all the hallmarks of a suicide, but we’re looking at it as a suspicious death.” Oblivious to Seth’s moment of inner turmoil, Ava continued, “There’s an envelope in her missing person’s file addressed to you. It’s from Mitch.”
She held out a manila envelope to Seth. In Mitch’s bold handwriting, it said:
“Give to O’Malley in the event of death.”
“The Chief’s been able to keep a lid on the story,” Ava said. “He wanted a chance to notify you and give you these documents. I’m so sorry, Seth.”
She hugged him.
“Did I hear you say something about Andy Mendy?” Schmidty joined them. “Sandy asked about her this afternoon.”
“Sandy?! Oh my God, Sandy!” Like a slap, Seth’s mind became clear. He stepped away from Ava. “Where is Sandy?”
“I checked before I left. She’s at the Castle baking a special cake for Noelle’s birthday,” Ava said. “Jill is with her. Aden and the kids are helping Delphie with some late summer gardening.”
“How is she?” Seth asked.
“I told her what happened,” Ava said. “She’s frightened. But you know Sandy, it’s Noelle’s birthday and that’s what matters. Plus Noelle spent the day with Mike for her first painting lesson. That’s all Sandy wants to talk about.”
“I helped Sissy get the paints,” Seth said.
“Yes, Noelle wanted me to thank you for the canvases,” Ava said. “She assured me that she’s only painting something for Sissy first because she gave her the paints. You get her second painting. It sounds like she had a great time.”
Seth smiled. He could almost hear Noelle bounce around with delight.
“Listen,” Ava said. “I know this is a shock. I know you feel deeply about Andy. But the Chief is waiting for you to read what Mitch’s letter. He wants a call when you’re done.”
“Does he know what’s in here?”
Seth turned over the envelope. The packing tape was still secure over the flap.
“No,” Ava said. “Out of respect for you, no one opened it.”
“I need to read this,” Seth said. “I need to get off my feet. I’d like a chance to speak with Sandy. I’m sorry.”
“I understand,” Ava said. “Schmidty? I think he’s waiting for you to open the door.”
Schmidty ran to open the front door. The limousine driver trundled their luggage into the house.
“Wow,” Ava said.
From the doorway, they could see the crashing surf through the wall of glass on the other side of the living room. They passed a small but functional kitchen. The open area was sparsely, but beautifully furnished.
Once inside the door, Seth plopped himself onto the light cream colored leather couch. He took out a pocket knife and cut the top of the manila envelope. Seth looked up at Ava then shook out the contents onto his lap. There was a typed letter from Mitch, a stack of paperwork and an audio tape. Without reading it, Seth looked at the paper trying to decide what to do first.
“Tell you what?” Ava asked.
When Seth didn’t respond, she touched his shoulder. He looked up at her.
“I’m going for a run on the beach,” Ava said. “I brought Clara with me. She’s…”
Clara, the brown Labrador puppy, barked from her small crate as the limousine driver brought Ava’s luggage inside the house. Hearing Clara, the corners of Seth’s mouth turned up, but he didn’t respond.
“Don’t be upset,” Schmidty whispered. “He’s like that when he’s thinking. I think the world disappears and…”
“I can hear you,” Seth stuffed the papers and tape into the envelope. “The world doesn’t disappear. My tiny mind is distracted with a decision I need to make before I can move on. That’s all.”
“Welcome Clara,” Seth nodded to the puppy. He pulled Ava onto his lap and kissed her lips. “Thanks for coming. I don’t imagine that was easy.”
She smiled at his acknowledgement of her efforts. He kissed her again.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Seth said.
“Enjoy your run,” Seth said. “Schmidty?”
“Yes?” Schmidty asked.
“Did dinner come with all of this?” Seth gestured around the palatial home.
“And groceries,” Schmidty said. “Dad selected your favorite meals. They will be delivered every night.”
Seth raised his eyebrows. Schmidty’s Dad had horrible taste in women, booze and food. Schmidty shrugged.
“I promised him I’d use his list,” Schmidty said. “And trust me, we’re using his list… after Maresol fixed it.”
“Good job,” Seth said. “We’ll need dinner for three.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Schmidty said.
“Piano room?” Seth asked.
Schmidty pointed to a room off the open space. Seth hugged Ava and kissed her. She smiled at him and got off his lap.
Nodding, he picked up the envelope and made his way to the piano room. It was no more than a shell of curved white walls with a glass wall on the end. A baby grand piano stood in the middle of the room. Seth smiled.
Out of habit more than anything, he tuned a few piano keys and ran through an easy tune. His mind shifted to the symphony they were massaging for the movie. He played through one or two sticky places then sighed.
Picking up Mitch’s letter, he spun around on the piano bench. The letter was dated six days before Mitch died. Ever the cop, Mitch had typed it on his old typewriter. Seth gave a soft smile for his old friend and settled in to read.
I found out today that you were right about Patty, about everything and a lot more. I’m not sorry I doubted you. Just sorry I didn’t do something sooner.
I met Andy Mendy on Monday. She’s everything you said she was – beautiful, funny, charming, and deserving of all your love. She did most of this for you, for your child. She wanted me to tell you that she will love you until she dies.
Facts, Mitch, facts. After all these years, I can hear your impatience in my head. Here are the facts, my old friend:
Fact: You are Sandy’s father. Add Seth to Andy? You get Sandy.
Fact: As you know, Andy was pregnant and on her way to meet you when her tour bus crashed. What you don’t know is that she delivered Sandy by herself, in the middle of some God forsaken swamp. By the time the ambulance came, she had lost a lot of blood. She had a stroke on the way to the hospital.
Fact: She begged them to call you but because her brain was scrambled. They couldn’t understand what she was saying and she couldn’t write. Her agent was listed as her contact person. They called him. They needed a living relative. Patty is Andy’s only known living relative.
Fact: It took years for Andy’s brain to recover.
Fact: By the time Andy could speak, you were already engaged to the thing known as Emily. Andy didn’t contact you at Patty’s insistence. By the time she could speak, Patty influenced her every decision.
Fact: Within a day of Andy’s accident, her agent sold a series of ‘Greatest Hit’s’ albums. Schmidty set up a trust for the proceeds from the new albums and rolled in the rest of Andy’s money. The trust is inaccessible to Patty. The money takes care of Andy. When Andy dies, the money goes to you and Sandy.
Fact: Sandy lived with Andy until she was three years old. Patty convinced Andy that she was too feeble to care for her precocious daughter. Andy’s estate paid Patty a handsome monthly fee for Sandy’s care. A few years later, Patty told Andy that Sandy had died as a result of a car accident. The story was that Sandy had been hospitalized for an extended period of time. Of course, Andy’s estate continues to make large monthly payments to pay down Sandy’s fictitious medical bills.
Fact: Patty never married the monster. That’s why you never found a record of their divorce or child support documents. Patty told me today (on tape) that she found the monster through a friend.
Fact: Patty hates Andy. Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word. Despise? Loathe? You wouldn’t believe the venom she spews about Andy (on tape). She used Sandy to exact her revenge on Andy for being beautiful, joyful, lovely and… amazing. Seth, Andy is amazing.
Why didn’t I tell you? I’m sure that’s the fact you want to know most of all. Reasons:
1) Sandy is finally stable and safe. Between Andy and I, we can pay cash for the condo she wants.
2) Andy begged me not to tell anyone. She is convinced that Patty or one of Patty’s ‘horrible friends’ will kill Sandy if Andy stops paying.
3) You’re finally sober. This mess is sticky and sobriety breaking.
4) I won’t live out the week. I can tell by the look on your face that you know it as much as I do. Sandy too. I guess I’m too chicken to die without you both. I’m afraid this would tear it. I hope when you read this letter, you’ll understand.
You’ll find everything you need to prosecute Patty in Andy’s storage locker. (Patty didn’t know I was taping her, so the tape might not be admissible.) And don’t worry. Andy was tougher than she looked. She had a lot of years to prepare for justice for herself and Sandy. She’ll get it in death.
I’ve known you longer than any other human being. We’ve seen hell and happiness together. Love you man.
Spinning in place, Seth began to play the piano. His fingers moved across the key; tears rained down from his eyes; sorrow filled his heart. When the tears eased, the sorrow drifted into a low ache. Slowly, his fingers played their last note.
Spent, he closed his eyes to rest.
Friday evening — 7:00 P.M. PDT
“What are you doing?” Ava asked as she came in from her run.
His shoulders shaking with silent sobs, Schmidty sat against the wall of the hallway. His head was tucked against his knees. Clara ran to the young man and nudged his head. His face a mask of grief, he glanced at Ava. Clara licked the tears on his face. He gestured toward the room Seth had gone into. He put his fingers to his lips and nodded toward the digital audio recorder in his hand.
Ava tipped her head to listen. Unbidden, the music invaded every crevice of her soul. She fell against the wall. Unable to stop her own overwhelming sadness, she slid down the wall to sit next to Schmidty. Clara climbed onto her lap. Ava dropped her head to cry.
~~~~~~~~ Friday evening — 8:45 P.M. MDT (7:45 P.M. PDT)
Jacob rolled over to look at Jill. On the early shift at Lipson, he and Katy had an early night. He’d been asleep for hours.
“How’s Sandy?” Jacob’s voice was slow and filled with sleep. “You can turn the light on.”
Jill turned on her bedside lamp. Hearing something on Katy’s baby monitor, Jill stopped to listen. Katy giggled in her sleep. Jill smiled. Katy and Paddie were giggling about something all afternoon. Katy must still find it funny. Jill went in her closet to change.
“How’s Sandy?” Jacob repeated.
“Sandy? She’s sad, scared, mad,” Wearing only her bra and underwear, Jill poked her head out of the closet. “Lots of things all mixed up together.”
She ducked back into the closet to grab her pajamas.
“I thought I heard you come in a while ago,” he asked when she came out.
“I wanted to finish the interior design for the Jefferson Park home,” Jill said. “I have the colors picked out but I’m not happy with the overall theme.”
“Our final plan meeting is tomorrow afternoon,” Jacob said.
Nodding, she went into their bathroom to brush her teeth.
“Did you finish?” he yelled into the bathroom.
Shaking her head, Jill came out brushing her teeth.
“Should we reschedule?” he asked.
She held up a finger for him to wait. She went back into the bathroom.
“I’m close,” Jill said from the bathroom. “I was hoping some sleep might help me pull it all together.”
“I hope it works,” he said.
“Me too,” Jill came out of the bathroom.
“Did you hear about Blane?”
“Blane?” Jill asked. “No. Heather called but we just talked about Sandy.”
“Blane’s liver crashed again,” Jacob said. “The doctor thinks only a transplant will save him. He and Heather spent the night going over their options – burial, cremation, stuff like that. He wants me to take care of Mack when he dies.”
“Of course, you said yes.” Jill sat down on his side of the bed.
“I said yes,” Jacob said.
“Listen, I need to…,” Jill said at the same time Jacob said, “I haven’t known how to…”
They stopped talking. Jacob raised his eyebrows to indicate that Jill should speak.
“You remember when everyone was tested to see if they were the same genetics as Blane?” Jill asked.
“Tissue type?” Jacob asked.
“Right,” Jill said. “I always get that confused because they used genetics to tell them apart. But you’re right, they were looking for matching tissue type.”
“No one matched,” Jacob said. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Oh?” Jill asked.
“I had to dig it out of him,” Jacob said. “I knew someone matched but Blane…”
“Wouldn’t tell you?” Jill asked. “Heather did the same thing.”
“Did you read her mind?” Jacob asked.
“No,” Jill said. “She told me. What did Blane tell you?”
“Katy’s the only match,” Jacob said. “When I confronted him about it, he said they decided not to go through with it.”
“That’s what Heather said,” Jill said. “Katy told her that it would work out. Heather thought that meant they wouldn’t need a transplant. She must be devastated.”
“Something needs to happen,” Jacob said. “He’s still fighting but…”
“God, poor Blane,” Jill said.
“Poor Heather,” Jacob said. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t understand why Katy’s a match but we aren’t,” Jill said.
“We need to call Blane’s doctor and find out,” Jacob said.
“I’ll call tomorrow,” Jill nodded. “I wondered why they were moving forward to have another baby. Heather was vague about it.”
“Can they do that with his AIDS?” Jacob asked.
“Some washing something something.”
“I can’t keep this medical stuff straight.”
He smiled. She leaned forward to kiss him. He hugged her to him.
“How are my boys?” Jacob put his hands on her belly.
“Good,” Jill said. “Active.”
“Tired,” Jill said. “The boys are more active than Katy was.”
“When does your school start again?” Jacob asked.
Jill kissed him and went to her side of the bed. He held out his arm and she tucked up against him.
“What do you want to do about Katy?” Jacob asked.
“I have this strong feeling that something else is going to work out,” Jill said.
“But I have a feeling they need to look at us again too,” Jacob said.
“I wonder if something changed because I’m pregnant or…”
Jill fell silent. Jacob tilted his head up. She was asleep. Smiling to himself, he closed his eyes.
Friday night — 9:45 P.M. MDT
“How are you?”Aden asked when Sandy came out of the bathroom.
Sandy held out her arms and he gave Rachel to her. Sandy kissed her cheek and set her into her beside the bed bassinette.
“How are you?”Aden repeated.
“Not great,” Sandy said. “Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure,”Aden said. “Did Charlie ask you why life wasn’t fair?”
Nodding, Sandy laughed. Hearing her mother’s laugh, Rachel made a tiny sound. Sandy picked her up.
“What did you say?”Aden asked.
“What did you say?”
Aden smiled. Sandy did this when she was overwhelmed and upset. Everything felt risky. She couldn’t afford the risk of sharing her thoughts before he did. Hoping to encourage her to talk, he answered her question.
“I told him that I thought life just was – not fair or unfair,” Aden said. “Like mountains or sky or…”
“Sounds like you,” Sandy smiled.
“What did you say?” Aden asked.
“I told him I was glad he was asking people,” Sandy said. “I told him I was proud of him and that I love him.”
“He kept asking until you told him?”
Smiling, Sandy nodded.
“I told him that fairness is a kind of currency, a kind of money,” Sandy said. “For a lot of people, the amount of fairness is evaluated in every exchange. They feel like they behave fairly; they expect to be treated fairly. Our Mom is like this. If she feels slighted by someone, even a little bit, she make sure she gets what’s ‘owed to her,’ like a debt.”
“That’s what you mean by saying fairness is like money,” Aden said.
“Exactly,” Sandy said. “I think Mom’s weirdness around fairness is why Charlie is so confused.”
“Makes sense,” Aden said.
“I told him that fairness is not the currency of my life,” Sandy said. “I don’t really know if life is fair or unfair. My life currency is love. I love people and they love me back. Sometimes, I sit back and check to see if the love in my relationships is balanced.”
“Mostly, yes,” Sandy said. “When feel like I give too much, I change those relationships. And mostly, I receive so much love. From Rachel.”
She caressed her baby’s head.
She touched his shoulder. He leaned forward to kiss her.
“Like tonight,” Sandy said. “Sissy and I worked most of the afternoon getting ready for Noelle’s birthday. When Noelle arrived, she was so excited about her day with Mike, she didn’t really notice.”
“I know,” Aden said.
“Mom would say that wasn’t fair. Why should she work so hard and get so little appreciation?” Sandy shook her head. “She’d want Noelle to notice every tiny gift, every decoration, everything.”
“I’m delighted she’s so happy,” Sandy said. “A year ago, I’d just met her. I can tell you, she wasn’t this happy. My love for her had me ask for Mike’s help. Mike’s love for Jill allowed him to easily say yes. Charlie, Nash, and Teddy’s love for Noelle allowed them to take up some of her payments so she can go.”
“Love is the currency,” Aden said.
“And the only thing that really matters to me.”
“Seth said that I lived with Andy until I was three,” Sandy said. “He thinks that’s why I’m not like Mom, I mean Patty. Andy was very loving and so am I. I hope we can make up for it with Sissy and Charlie.”
“What did Charlie say to your answer?”
“He hugged me and said he loved me,” Sandy smiled. “He’s a really great person.”
“You lived with them for most of their lives,” Aden said. “They’ve had you to love and care for them. Your love has made a difference.
“I hope so,” Sandy said.
“That’s all we can do – love and hope,” Aden said. “Do you want to talk about Andy?”
“Tomorrow,” Sandy said. “I need some time to think.”
He leaned over to kiss her. He told her he loved her and lay down. She snuggled with Rachel for a few more moments and set her down. Lying down, Sandy sighed.
“What’s the sigh for?” Aden asked.
“It’s amazing to be so loved.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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