Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Sixty-Two : Good life


Sunday afternoon – 4:25 P.M. Undisclosed location

 “Hello scumbag,” Colin growled to Trevor’s father.

“You… you can’t keep me here,” the man sputtered. “I know my rights! Where’s my attorney!? I want an attorney! Yeah, a court appointed attorney. A good court appointed attorney like… like that Casey Anthony had. And…”

“Shut the fuck up,” Colin said.

“You can’t keep me here,” the man started again.

“I can do whatever I want to you,” Colin said. “You should read your Patriot Act. Kidnapping is considered an act of Domestic Terrorism. You, your wretched friends and that evil wife of yours, have been classified terrorist by the US State Department.”

“Terrorists!!” the man tugged against his handcuffed wrists. “You’re the terrorist. You’ve kidnapped me!”

Colin chuckled. It never ceased to amaze him how bad people felt so victimized by the consequences of their actions.

“You planned and executed the kidnap a US Senator’s grandson,” Colin said. “Your compatriots have already given you up, jerk off. You can deny it if you want; go ahead. But remember, you and your buddies have already been labeled as domestic terrorists. Imagine how that’s gonna look on a job application.”

The man leaned back in his chair.

“He’s disabled,” a woman’s voice came from behind. “Paralyzed from the waist down.”

“Oh that’s right,” Colin laughed. “I forgot you were disabled because you’re not. Are you?”

“Only a very low person would mock an injured man such as myself,” the man sniffed at Colin.

“Well.” Laughing, Colin got up from his chair. “I’ll leave you to contemplate your sins.”

“Wait!” The man’s face became a mask of panic and despair. “You can’t leave me here! By myself!”

“What did plan for Paddie Hargreaves?” A big, powerful man, Colin knocked over his wooden chair with his quick movement toward the man. The man cringed away from Colin. “You planned to ‘stick him in a truck until the little bastard was paid for.’ You didn’t give a crap if he cried. You didn’t give a crap if he wet himself or went hungry. Hell, you didn’t even care if he died. You think you deserve better than that!”

“You have to understand! They killed my only child! They killed my beautiful son! They stole my granddaughter. They…”

“So your response to that is to put a four year old child, a baby, in a box? To let him beg for his mother!? Let him cry for his best friend’s help! To cry for his father to save him? You’d let a small child scratch at the lid of his coffin while you wait for your payday?”

“You have to understand…” the man started again.

“No, sir,” Colin said. “You have to understand. You fucked with the wrong people.”

Colin set his chair on its legs and walked out of the room.


Sunday afternoon – 4:25 P.M. Denver, CO

 Seth had vomited and had diarrhea. He’d cried and yelled. He’d hallucinated. And he’d drunk every wicked concoction Maresol could pack in a glass: beets and spinach juice, kale and apples and… he had no idea. He’d stopped asking after the first hour. He didn’t want to know.

His young friends were with him every step of the way. Ava got sick first. She was so sick he’d called Bumpy to check her. Just as she was recovering, Dale fell ill. Crying and begging his dead father to rescue him, Dale spewed from both ends of his digestive system. When Dale began to recover, Seth became ill. And for whatever reason, he took Ava and Dale back down with him. Bumpy arrived to click his tongue at them and leave them to their suffering.

Poor Maresol had cleaned up after them. Of course, the entire escapade was her idea. And they had tried to be tidy. Who knew that garden shower would come in handy? But, like always, Maresol didn’t deserve the mess she’d gotten. He had to remember to thank her in some special way.

Seth leaned against the back of the infrared sauna. He felt as if all he’d been wrung like a wet towel. His pain was less. Maybe. He hadn’t moved much. Ava was asleep against a corner. Dale was staring off into space.

“I wanted to ask you,” Seth’s voice was soft to keep from waking Ava. Her eyes opened to look at him.

“After this?” Dale asked. “I think you know everything there is to know about me.”

Seth nodded. He felt Ava’s eyes scrutinizing his face.

“You should ask him,” Ava said. The heat and juice had worked their magic on Ava’s throat. Her voice was now deep, clear and melodic.

“Seth?” Dale asked.

Embarrassed by Ava’s attention, Seth shrugged and got up to get a bottle of cold water from the cooler. He passed bottles to Ava and Dale before sitting down again. The bell went off and they moved to the hot tub.

“You were going to ask me something, Seth,” Dale said.

Seth shrugged and closed his eyes as if he was going to sleep.

“He wants to know why you and I haven’t dated,” Ava said. “And why we aren’t thinking of dating now. Isn’t that right?”

Seth shrugged. Dale’s eyes flicked from Ava to Seth then back to Ava.

“It’s a fair question,” Ava said. “If that’s what the look means. My father asked Seth if he thought I’d ‘get together’ with Dale now. And you said…?”

“I don’t know,” Seth said.

Ava’s eyes became slits.

“What’s wrong with ‘I don’t know,’” Seth said.

“You are a very frustrating man,” Ava shook her head. She gestured toward Dale. “Go ahead. Answer the old man’s question.”

“Old man?” Seth asked.

“That’s what this is about,” Ava said. “Seth is such an old guy. He’s old, used up, wrinkled, and whatever. Why don’t I want a relationship with a handsome guy who’s my age? I obviously care about Dale. What’s the problem?

Seth nodded as if she was making his point.

“See!” Ava pointed at him. “This is you being frustrating.”

Seth smiled. She shook her head at him.

“Let me solve this,” Dale said. “I think Amelie is an amazing woman. She’s beautiful, funny and a great friend. Don’t you think?”

“She’s wonderful,” Seth said.

“Dale and I actually met first,” Ava said.

“At a coffee shop,” Dale said.

“He was working there,” Ava said.

“To meet girls,” Dale said. “Ava came in for a chai.”

“Soy Chai latte,” Ava said.

“Decaf,” Dale said. “No caffeine for this body. That’s what she said.”

“That was before the police academy,” Ava laughed. “I was much healthier then.”

“We talked,” Dale said. “And right away, I felt this deep connection with her. You’ve probably noticed that.”

Seth nodded. Ava shook her head at him.

“Tell him what you said.”

“I took her hands,” Dale said. “And said something like, ‘I don’t know why, but you feel like the sister I never had.’ And she said…”

“That’s fun,” Ava said. “Because you feel like the brother I never had. But more than a brother…”

“A close sibling,” Dale said.

“Not quite a twin, but really close,” Ava said.

“So we agreed to talk after I got off work,” Dale said.

“He came over to my house,” Ava said.

“I brought wine,” Dale said. “No beer.”

“3/2 beer. We weren’t twenty-one yet,” Ava said. “I bought pizza.”

“We talked for hours,” Dale said.

“Like four,” Ava said.

Ava gave Dale a soft smile.

“What happened?” Seth asked.

“Beth came home,” Dale’s eyes filled with tears.

“And Dale moved in,” Ava said. “He didn’t go home that night.”

“That’s fast,” Seth said. He put a hand on Dale’s shoulder as he cried.

“He slept on the couch at first,” Ava said. “But from the moment Beth walked in the door to the apartment, Dale and Beth were together. They met his Mom like the next day. Dale’s Mom loved Beth like a daughter. They met her parents the next weekend. Her parents love Dale like a son.”

“And love my Mom,” Dale said through his tears.

“It was like a big family reunion, really,” Ava said. “They didn’t actually, you know, until a month or so later.”

“Beth was like that,” Dale’s unattended tears dropped down his cheeks and wet his lips. “She’d see a puppy and take him home. Then a month or so later, she’d meet someone the puppy belonged with and give him to exactly the right person.”

“Beth was an angel,” Ava broke down crying.

“But she never… never… gave me away,” Dale said. “And still I lost her.”

With Ava tucked under his arm, and a hand on Dale’s shoulder, Seth sat like a silent guard in the middle of their storm of loss. Their sobs lessoned. Their breath evened. But their eyes and hearts focused on the loss of their beloved Beth.

“How do you ever get used to it?” Dale asked.

“You don’t,” Seth said. “Ever. You just get used to them being gone. One day and the next… Time passes and you build experiences without them. But you don’t stop missing them or loving them. You just grow on. Then one day, you look up and your life has started again. It’s not better than it was, but it’s not worse either. It’s life.”

They fell silent thinking about what he’d said. The jets bubbled and the egg timer ticked. For a while, tears fell from Ava and Dale’s eyes.

“And still, you miss them,” Seth said.

And the jets continued to bubble and the egg timer continued to tick.


Sunday afternoon – 6:25 P.M. Undisclosed location 

“I really appreciate this,” Jill said.

With Katy in her arms, Jill stood against the glass looking at her ex-father-in-law. She and Jacob had flown home the moment they heard about the plot to kidnap Paddie and Katy. Of course, Colin didn’t tell her until a full day after his team had bagged the culprits.

When she’d called Katy last night, she was excited about the zoo and the splash fountain. She was excited about staying over with her Auntie Megan and Uncle Tim. She and her cousins were going to a real movie in a real movie theater. But the moment Jill heard about the possible kidnapping, she had to fly toDenver to see for herself. Of course, she had to track Katy down at Megan’s house, break up a massive water balloon fight between Katy and her cousins, and browbeat Katy for a while until she finally told Jill and Jacob about Paddie’s almost kidnapping. Colin offered them a chance to see her ex-father-in-law before the police came to pick him up.

“This man has been a real nightmare for us, for Katy in particular,” Jill said. “She’s really terrified that he’ll steal her away from her happy life.”

“My now life,” Katy said into Jill’s neck.

Colin smiled at the little voice coming out of the powerful little girl. Nothing delighted him more than seeing this amazing child being treated just like a child by her Mom and Dad. No matter what Katy was or wasn’t, she was first their baby.

“Her now life,” Jill said. “Do you want to take a look, Katy?”

Katy nodded into her neck.

“Should I set you down?” Jill asked.

Katy shook her head.

“Ok, I’ll turn around and you can take a look,” Jill said. “When you’re ready.”

Jill turned her back to the glass.

“Don’t do anything,” Jacob said. “I know it’s tempting; it’s tempting for me. But that’s who he is, not who we are.”

Jill felt more than saw Katy look at Jacob.

“He tried to hurt Paddie,” Katy said.

“We’ve got this Katy,” Colin said. “He’s not going to hurt Paddie or anyone ever again.”

“I could make that happen,” Katy looked at Colin with her big sweet round eyes. Even knowing what she was saying, Colin couldn’t help but smile at the child.

“I could make it happen,” Jacob said. “Easy. And no one would know. They’d think the jerk had a heart attack or an aneurysm.”

“So why don’t you?” Katy asked.

“Because I’m not a killer,” Jacob said.

“But doesn’t that make you weak?” Katy asked. “The kids at school say nice people are weak.”

“Powerful people are nice, Katy,” Colin said. “Because they know what they can do and choose not to do it.”

“You always say that,” Katy said. “But I still want to.”

“I still want to,” Jacob said. “More than you could know.”

“I really want to,” Katy said.

“I really really want to,” Jacob smiled and Katy nodded.

“Take a look Katy,” Jill said. “This is the last time you’ll see him.”

“Why?” Katy asked.

“He’s going to prison,” Colin said. “There will be a trial, but you won’t be involved. We have enough evidence to put him away for a long time. Plus he’s been lying about being disabled. He’s not a young man. He’ll die in prison.”

“Why is he so bad?” Katy asked.

“I don’t think we can know,” Jacob said.

“I used to think that if I gave Trevor everything he wanted, he’d be happy,” Jill said. “He only wanted more. It was like his appetite increased every time he got what he wanted.”

“He never got full?” Katy asked.

“He never got full,” Jill smiled.

“What if I get bad?” Katy asked. “Or Paddie doesn’t get full?”

Colin chuckled at her question.

“I think it’s a very good question,” Jill kissed Katy’s cheek. “But I think those of us who ask the question, aren’t ever going to be like that.”

“Oh,” Katy said. “And Paddie?”

“If Paddie loses his way, I’m sure you’ll help him,” Colin said.

“I will,” Katy said.

“Take a look if you want to,” Jill said. “We don’t need to stay here a moment longer.”

Katy lifted her head from Jill’s shoulder. Peering over her Mommy’s shoulder, she saw Trevor’s scary father. The horrible man had haunted her nightmares since they had gone to bury her old Daddy. He was sitting in a wooden chair under a bright light. She knew there was someone else in the room with him, but he couldn’t see them. He seemed to be waiting. She tried to read his mind but found Jacob blocking her. She scowled at him and he winked at her.

“Can I have chocolate?” Katy asked.

“Sure,” Jill said. “I was feeling like some ice cream myself.”

“Liks?” Jacob asked.

“Are you ready to go?” Jill moved Katy off her chest to look her in the face. Katy nodded. “What do we say to Mr. Colin?”

“Thank you Mr. Colin for putting the monster in the box,” Katy said. “Can Paddie come with us for ice cream?”

“Katy,” Jacob started.

“Please?” Katy’s bright face made Colin smile.

“I’ll tell you what,” Colin said. “Why don’t we all go? I wanted to talk to your Mommy anyway.”

“About Paddie or the new baby?” Katy asked.

“You’re ruining the surprise,” Colin said.

“Not me,” Katy bat her pretty dark eyes in a way she knew made adults laugh. Colin laughed. “Please.”

“We’ll meet you there,” Colin said.

He opened the door to the small room.

“I’ll walk you out,” Colin said.

They turned to their left and walked to the elevator landing. They took the elevator up two floors and went out into the parking lot. Jacob shook Colin’s hand. When Jill looked down at Katy, she was asleep. They got back in the car. Jacob helped Jill situate Katy in her car seat.

“How do you feel?” Jacob asked.

“Relieved, I think,” Jill said.

“We never talked about…” Jacob said.

“I know,” Jill said. “I’d planned on talking to you today after lunch but we raced here and…”

He leaned over. His hand cupped her chin. They looked at each other for a moment and he started the car.

“Listen Jacob,” Katy imitated Jill’s voice. “You need to understand that I feel guilty because I have this nice life and they don’t.”

Jill looked in the rearview mirror at Katy. She let out her little girl snickering laugh.

“You don’t have to feel guilty,” Katy imitated Jacob’s voice.

“I know I don’t have to feel guilty,” Jill said.

“I just do,” Katy imitated Jill’s voice.

“Oh,” Jacob said.

“And you shouldn’t feel guilty that I’m going to have boys,” Katy continued in Jill’s voice.

“I don’t feel guilty,” Katy imitated Jacob’s voice.

“Yes, you do,” Jill said.

“Mommy!” Katy said in her own voice. “Let me finish! I practiced!”

Jill looked at Jacob and he shrugged.

“You feel guilty because you think the boys are going to kill me,” Katy said in her Jill voice. “They aren’t.”

“How can that be?” Katy imitated Jacob’s voice and his hand gestures. She was so cute Jill had to force herself not to take a picture. Jacob was choking back a laugh. “All of the Marlowe women die when they have boys.”

“I’m not a Marlowe,” Katy said in her Jill voice.

“That would be kind of gross, Daddy,” Katy said in her regular voice. “That would be like Noelle having a baby with Nash. Ew.”

“Well then how?” Jacob asked.

“Mommy you have to explain it to him,” Katy said. “I’m just a little girl.”

She bat her eyes as if she was the most innocent creature in the world. Jill shook her head ruefully.

“You know I can heal things, right?” Jill asked.

“Injury, illness,” Jacob said.

“That’s how,” Jill said. “The boys aren’t in any discomfort. Nor am I. We’ll go until almost full term, at least that’s what the doctor says.”

“I’m not unhappy either, Daddy,” Katy said. “I don’t really want brothers, but that’s all right. I’ll be Mommy’s little girl for a while more. I like being Mommy’s little girl.”

They drove out of the parking lot and onto the Sixth Avenue Freeway.

“Can I go to sleep now?” Katy asked. “Or do we need to talk some more?”

Jill and Jacob laughed. Katy smiled at her joke and leaned back to sleep.

“Do you feel guilty because you’re happy?” Jacob asked in low tones.

“Sure,” Jill said. “I think it’s pretty natural. Seems like you feel guilty because you’re getting what you want.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Jacob said. “I don’t want more children more than I want you.”

“You’re lucky you don’t have to choose,” Jill said.

He smiled at her and slowed down for the light at Sixth and Kalamath. Jill woke Katy up around Josephine. Katy watched with round eyes as they drove past their old apartment and turned down Vine to Liks on Vine and Thirteenth.

“Look there’s Paddie!”

Jacob smiled at Jill.

“It’s a really good life,” he said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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