Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and One : Moving pieces

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND ONE

“You think Blane is Heather’s son,” Sandy said.

Seth nodded.

“Well, that’s weird,” Sandy said. “You know that Heather’s pregnant right now.”

Seth nodded.

“With Blane’s child,” Sandy said.

Seth nodded.

“Did you know that they ran both Blane and Heather’s DNA?” Sandy asked.

Seth nodded.

“You think Alma fucked with the DNA,” Sandy said.

Seth nodded. Sandy grimaced.

“I have always disliked that woman,” Sandy said. “God, poor Heather.”

Sandy stared off into space for a moment, and then her eyes turned to Seth.

“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” Sandy said.

“Why?”

“Tanesha asked if we can come over to Heather’s house,” Sandy said.

“It’s probably time for a break,” Seth said. “I’ll keep working and you can …”

“Oh, you’re going with me,” Sandy said.

Seth winced, and Sandy nodded.

“Now,” Sandy said.

Seth sighed and followed her out of the room. For the first time in recent memory, Sandy got on the elevator and Seth followed. The elevator started moving and Sandy turned to Seth.

“No one knows this,” Sandy said in a low tone. “But Heather’s had her and Blane and the baby’s DNA tested.”

“And?”

“Blane is not her son,” Sandy said. “Not related to her at all.”

“You’re sure?”

Ava took the sample and tested it herself,” Sandy nodded.

“When?”

“When you were sick,” Sandy said. “You paid for it.”

“That was nice of me,” Seth said.

“I knew you’d want to pay,” Sandy said.

“I do … did,” Seth said. “Why did Heather do it?”

“Heather thought her mother was too involved in the DNA testing,” Sandy said. “The woman who collected the DNA is a friend of her mother’s. Everyone at the testing place knew her mother. From the bank — at least that’s what they said. Then all that stuff happened with Katy and Jill. It kind of reeks of Heather’s mom. Plus, don’t you think it’s weird that we never found a match? “

Seth turned to look at Sandy.

“It’s not unusual,” Seth said.

“We tested thousands of people,” Sandy said. “From all over the world. Blane has saved Alex’s life many times, and he helps her team all the time. She took it upon herself to get everyone she knows tested. She even ran it through some military database.”

“That’s a lot of people,” Seth said.

The elevator stopped at the first floor.

“And?” Seth asked.

“Roger Lipson was Blane’s father,” Sandy said.

“And the mother?”

“Big mystery,” Sandy said.

“They look alike,” Seth said. “Blane and Jacob. Wouldn’t it be someone close to Celia?”

Sandy shrugged.

“Didn’t match to anyone,” Sandy said. “Remember no one knows. I only know because you paid through me.”

Seth nodded. The elevator opened and they left for Heather’s mother’s house.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 8:05 p.m.

“I haven’t heard from Heather,” Blane said to Jacob.

Jacob looked up from his cards.

“You’d tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?” Blane asked Jacob.

“If I knew,” Jacob said.

“And now?” Blane asked.

Jacob looked out across the room for a moment.

“What?” Blane asked.

“There’s a weird … cloud around your mother-in-law’s home,” Jacob said.

“Of bitterness,” Blane snorted.

Jacob scowled.

“Now you’re making me nervous,” Blane said.

“It’s just that …” Jacob nodded. “Uh …”

“What?” Blane asked. “Tell me.”

“It’s weird,” Jacob said.

“What’s not weird?” Blane asked. “I’m in the hospital. That’s weird. You’re not cheating at solitaire …”

“That’s weird,” they said in unison and laughed.

“So what is it?” Blane asked.

“There’s a man …” Jacob said. “He’s looking, looking, looking, everywhere, and every time.”

Jacob nodded.

“And Heather’s mother …” Jacob swallowed hard. “Whenever he gets close, she disappears.”

“Disappears?” Blane put his hand over his heart. “With my Heather?”

Jacob nodded. Blane blanched white.

“But …” Jacob said.

“But?” Blane asked. “Come on, Jake, I’m freaking out here.”

“She can’t do it this time,” Jacob said.

“Why?” Blane asked. “You have no idea how incredibly selfish this woman is. Heather’s entire life has revolved around her mother’s whims and moods. All she talks about is how wounded and injured she is, so much so that she never sees the evil she perpetrates on everyone around her. Heather barely lets her touch Mack.”

Jacob shook his head.

“She can’t do it this time,” Jacob said.

“Why?” Blane asked. “Who’s going to stop her?”

“That’s what’s so weird,” Jacob said.

“Who’s going to stop her?” Blane asked. “You?”

Jacob shook his head.

“Who?” Blane asked. “Jake! You have to tell me.”

“Paddie Hargreaves,” Jacob said. “Paddie will refuse her mother passage.”

“What?”

“The man will be here soon,” Jacob said.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 8:15 p.m.

Jill trotted up to the door of Heather’s mother’s house to get there before Katy and Paddie. Heather’s mother had never been very kind to children. In fact, Heather’s mother wasn’t very fond of Katy. If Jacob had been home, Jill would have left Katy with him.

Reaching the door, she smiled at her own lie. She could have left Katy with Delphie or MJ and Honey. She put on her brightest smile and knocked on the door.

Alma Fontaine opened the door. She looked at Jill and put a plastic smile on her face.

“Jillian, how are you?” Heather’s mother asked. “Did you come for the party?”

“Yes, sorry we’re late,” Jill said.

Katy and Paddie had reached the door by then and Jill put her arms on the kids’ shoulders.

“Katy, you remember Auntie Heather’s mother,” Jill said.

“Mrs. Fontaine,” Katy said in her sweetest voice.

“Fairy child,” Alma said under her breath.

“Excuse me?” Jill asked.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look so much like your father?” Alma asked.

“No,” Jill said. “Never.”

Alma scowled at Jill. She glanced at Paddie, and he gave her a sweet smile. Alma took note of his white blonde hair, pirate costume, and the plain wooden toy sword in Paddie’s belt before stepping back from the door.

“Please come in,” Alma said. “We have quite a party. The girls are playing Twister.”

Katy gave Alma a sweet smile before she and Paddie ran into the house.

“Thank you, Mrs. Fontaine,” Jill said.

“Cut the crap,” Alma started to say. “There’s no reason for you to always be of good cheer.”

Jill put her hand on Alma’s forearm.

“Are you all right?” Jill asked.

The woman looked Jill in the eyes. Jill reached inside Heather’s mother and found only a shell of a person. Deep inside, all of her beauty and grace were sound asleep.

“Can you wake up?” Jill asked out loud.

Like the flicker of a curtain, Jill saw the young woman who was Alma open her eyes. The flash of the young woman who might be appeared and disappeared in an instant.

“Leave me alone,” Alma’s voice was harsh.

A pulse of anger and hatred from Alma nearly knocked Jill off her feet.

“Hi there,” Seth said in a loud voice.

Alma looked up at Seth and Jill let go of Alma’s arm. Jill stumbled into Sandy, who propped her up.

“More guests!” Alma’s sickeningly sweet voice returned. “Detective O’Malley and dear Sandy! Please come in!”

Jill and Sandy made it across the threshold while Alma was focused on Seth. Jill felt a wave of Alma’s wrath rise up to greet Seth. Just as she was about to say something horrible, Heather called her mother from inside the house. Alma scowled at Seth and went inside.

“She’s really horrifying,” Seth said in a low tone.

Jill and Sandy nodded.

“She hates you,” Sandy said.

“Any ideas why?” Seth asked. He looked at Sandy and then at Jill.

“You can stop her,” Jill said.

“How?” Seth asked.

“No idea,” Jill shrugged.

He glanced at Sandy. She nodded and they went into join the party.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 8:20 p.m.

Yvonne gave Heather’s mother a puzzled look and glanced at Rodney. He nodded.

“We should get Jabari home,” Rodney said.

When he stood up, everyone turned to look at him. Jeraine glanced at Tanesha, who was holding Jabari. She gave him a soft smile.

“We can keep him,” Jeraine said.

“Best not to risk it, son,” Rodney said.

“We’ll follow you out,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha stood up with her tiny bundle and moved toward the door. Jeraine picked up the child’s diaper bag, blanket, and his new favorite soft elephant. Yvonne helped Tanesha put the child’s warm jacket on. The child fussed for a moment, but fell back asleep against Tanesha. Yvonne turned to Heather and her mother. She took Alma’s hands and smiled.

“Thank you for the lovely evening,” Yvonne said.

Alma gave Yvonne a sickeningly sweet smile, and Yvonne let go. Rodney helped her with her jacket and then held a hand out to Alma.

“Nice to finally meet you,” Rodney said. He used his other hand to cover his hand in Alma’s. “Thank you for all the kindness you’ve shown our Tanesha.”

Alma blushed and nodded. Turned away from Heather’s mother, Tanesha rolled her eyes. She turned back and smiled.

“I’ll be right back,” Tanesha said to Heather.

Heather nodded. Jeraine opened the door and Yvonne went through the door.

“That was odd,” Yvonne said from the front porch. She turned back through the open door.

“What is it, Mom?” Tanesha asked.

Yvonne shook her lovely head and started down the front walk. Jeraine followed Yvonne, and Tanesha came after him. Rodney followed them down the path.

“What happened at the door, Mom?” Tanesha asked.

“Oh,” Yvonne smiled. “I don’t really know. It just felt like … I don’t know.”

“Mom,” Tanesha said.

“Now, don’t bother yourself with this,” Yvonne said.

Rodney opened the back door of the car, and Tanesha negotiated Jabari into his car seat. She kissed his forehead and leaned back.

“Thanks for everything,” Tanesha said to her parents.

“It’s truly our pleasure,” Rodney said.

Jeraine put his arm around Tanesha while Rodney went to the driver’s seat. Yvonne rolled down the window.

“What is it, Mom?” Tanesha asked.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to go back in,” Yvonne said. “I felt like we … went through a barrier … I don’t know something. I think you need to try to get back inside.”

“I will, Mom.” Tanesha nodded.

“That’s my girl,” Yvonne said. “Love you, Tannie. Jer.”

She rolled up the window and Rodney pulled away from the house.

“What do you think?” Jeraine asked.

“I think Alma’s going to have hell to pay if I can’t get back in there,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine gave her a thoughtful nod.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“I was wondering if we had to go back inside,” Jeraine grinned. “That place, that woman …”

“She’s a trip,” Tanesha nodded.

“But …”

“Heather’s inside with Mack and Tink,” Tanesha said. “Sandy and Jill are there. Katy and Paddie too. We can’t leave them.”

Jeraine kissed her cheek.

“Of course not,” Jeraine said.

They went down the walk toward the house. They walked and walked and walked. Tanesha stopped walking.

They were standing on the sidewalk where they’d said goodbye to Rodney and Yvonne.

“Are we …?” Jeraine touched his forehead. “I’m sorry, Miss T, I must be high. I don’t know how it happened. I’ve been really careful and going to meeting and my therapy and …”

“I’m not high,” Tanesha said. “And I’m still standing on the sidewalk too.”

She looked at her watch and five minutes had passed.

“Fairies?” Jeraine asked.

Tanesha shook her head.

“What would break through this … magic?” Tanesha asked.

“Not fairies because you would have done that,” Jeraine said. “Right?”

Tanesha shrugged and shook her head.

“It’s that Alma, I know it,” Tanesha said. “She wouldn’t dare go against Fin. But get rid of us?”

Tanesha nodded.

“I just have to figure out who inside can help us,” Tanesha said. “Get us back inside.”

“Heather, Tink, the baby …” Jeraine said.

“Mack,” Tanesha said.

“Jill and Katy and the kid,” Jeraine said.

“Paddie,” Tanesha said.

“Sandy,” Jeraine said. “I’d bet Sandy can open the door.”

“Why?” Tanesha asked.

“Because she’s so loving and warm,” Jeraine nodded. “Call her.”

“I don’t have my phone,” Tanesha said. “It’s inside. Do you?”

Jeraine checked his pockets and shook his head.

“What about in the car?” Tanesha asked.

They went to his car and got inside. Jeraine began digging around in the car. Tanesha closed her eyes and rested in the seat.

“You’re angry,” Jeraine said more as a statement than a question.

“No,” Tanesha said. “I feel this pressure building. A kind of …”

She looked at the house. When she did, she saw Tink open the door. The teenage girl peered out. In her side mirror, Tanesha saw Charlie walking down the sidewalk. Tanesha got out of the car and met Charlie at the walk. He waved to Tink.

She kept looking from side to side.

“I don’t think she can see us,” Tanesha said.

“Tink!” Charlie yelled.

Tink seemed to hear his voice but she seemed unable to see him. He ran toward the house. A moment later, he was still standing next to Tanesha.

“Tink!” Charlie yelled.

Tink gave a quick shake of her head.

“I was supposed to meet her,” Charlie said. He glanced at his watch. “At exactly now. I’m trying to work on my timeliness. It’s my goal this month.”

Charlie looked up when Jeraine joined them. He smiled at Jeraine and Jeraine nodded.

“He can’t get there either,” Tanesha said.

Tink took a step out of the house onto the porch. The light around her bent as if she’d stepped through a membrane or some kind of bubble. She took another step and she was standing next to them.

“There you are!” Tink said. “Come on, let’s …”

She turned to gesture to the door she’d left open, and then realized she was at the end of the walk.

“What?” Tink asked. The girl’s anxiety became palpable. “But Heather … she … and I …”

“Sandy’s inside!” Charlie said. “I’m supposed to bring her home!”

“It’s okay,” Tanesha said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

“What do we do?” Tink asked.

Alma came to the door of the house. She looked out and then closed the door.

“We wait,” Tanesha said.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 8:42 p.m.

“Mommy?” Katy asked Jill.

She climbed up on Jill’s lap, and Jill held her close for a moment.

“Paddie and me, we’re getting sleepy,” Katy said.

“We can go any time,” Jill said. “Auntie Heather seems okay and …”

“It’s time,” Katy said. “That’s what I’m saying.”

“Time?” Jill asked.

Katy nodded.

“You should get the baby,” Katy said. She looked at Sandy. “You need to get your dad. He’ll know what to do when the man comes.”

“Man?” Jill’s voice rose with concern.

Katy threw her arms around Jill’s neck.

“Love you, Mommy,” Katy said in Jill’s ear.

As fast as the hug came, Katy jumped off Jill’s lap and ran to where Paddie was standing.

“Katy?” Jill got up.

Paddie drew his wooden sword. The air filled with the sound of a bell. With the sound, the sword turned from wood to shining gold and steel. Intricate designs appeared on the blade and handle. The child’s arm strained for a moment until he got the feel of holding the weight of the blade.

Fin and Abi gasped. Alma ran out of the kitchen. Jill tried to stop her, but Seth beat her to it. Seth grabbed Heather’s mother by the shoulders.

“Where did you get that?” Fin asked.

Fin took two quick steps and towered over the boy. Paddie set his feet and held the sword in front of him.

“He’s a child,” Sandy said. “You will step back.”

She got between Paddie and Fin. Surprised, Fin looked at Sandy. She pushed at his shoulders and he stepped back. He gave Sandy an assessing look. Jill moved to Sandy’s side.

“I got it at the smelly dead place,” Paddie smiled. “From the guy with white eyes.”

“We found it!” Katy said.

“The guy with the white eyes said I could keep it,” Paddie said.

“Why?” Jill turned around and knelt down to Paddie.

“I don’ know,” Paddie said.

“Do you know what that is?” Fin asked.

“What is it?” Seth asked. His grip remained tight on Heather’s mother.

“It’s a shiny sword.” Paddie gave them a gap toothed grin. “I have it to protect Katy.”

“It’s the Sword of Truth,” Abi said. “It’s a legendary sword that is supposed to have been made by Manannán himself before he met Queen Fand. It cuts through all lies and fabrication. All magic is useless against it.”

She reached down to take the sword from Paddie. Lightning shot from the sword at her. She yelped.

“So it’s yours,” Fin said.

“The man with white eyes said I could keep it,” Paddie repeated.

“What is this?” Heather asked Alma. “Why do you care about some stupid sword?”

“You cannot understand,” Alma said.

“Mom!” Heather said. “What is going …?”

Katy ran to the door. Before anyone could stop her, she pulled open the door. Paddie jogged after her. Katy pointed and Paddie used the sword to slice at the door’s opening. Katy and Paddie ran back stand with Jill.

“Close that door!” Alma said.

A huge lightning storm began outside. The house rumbled with the power of thunder and the yard lit up with lightning. Tink, Charlie, Tanesha, and Jeraine ran inside.

“Tink!” Heather met her daughter at the door. “What happened? I’ve been calling all over for you!”

“We were stuck outside and …”

There was a bright crack of lightning and a man stepped through the door. He was as tall as Fin, and wore a kind of leather tunic. He had olive skin and dark curly hair. He looked ancient and young at the same time. He was lovely to look at but had the fierce look of one not to mess with. He had an arrow in his bow, which he held in front of him.

Alma broke loose from Seth. She reached out her arm and grabbed Heather’s shoulder.

“NO!” screamed Paddie.

Paddie jumped toward Alma and Heather. He flicked the sword and Alma let go of Heather’s shoulder. The man put the arrow in his bow and raised it.

“NO!” screamed Paddie.

The boy turned to the man just as the arrow took flight. Fin raised his hand to divert the arrow but his magic could stop its path. Paddie deftly knocked the arrow from the air.

The man gave the boy a hard look. He was reaching for his quiver when Tanesha knocked the arrows out of his hand.

“Enough with the arrows,” Tanesha scolded.

Sandy grabbed the arrows and held them to her chest.

“Mirth,” the man said to Tanesha.

“Splendor,” he said to Sandy. He turned to Jill.

“Where is my daughter, Good Cheer?” the man asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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