Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Eighty-Seven : Sustenance

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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTY-SEVEN

Tuesday afternoon—2:35 p.m.

“This is my good friend Delphie’s house,” Yvonne said to Jabari. “She has been my friend through some terribly difficult times, so I expect you will be nice and respectful.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jabari said.

Yvonne was so surprised by his response that she looked in the rearview mirror at him. Sitting in his new car seat, he was staring out the window. She smiled and kept driving. She pulled in onto Race Street.

“Uh oh,” Jabari pointed to the few diehard paparazzi hanging around the Castle. “Is Delphie on TV too?”

The boys voice rose with anxiety.

“Do I have to be on TV?” Jabari screeched.

“No, you do not,” Yvonne said.

“You sure?” Jabari asked.

“They can’t see you through these dark windows,” Yvonne said. “I’m going to pull way into the back of this driveway. They can’t see back there.”

“How ’come they’re here?” Jabari asked.

“Do you remember meeting Valerie Lipson?” Yvonne asked. “White girl, black hair, big eyes …”

“Pretty,” Jabari said.

“She’s a movie star,” Yvonne said. “These poor men are hoping to get a photo of her so they can feed their kids.”

“And she doesn’t let them?”

“She does sometimes,” Yvonne said. “But she likes to lead her life away from the cameras.”

“Why?” Jabari asked.

“I think you know why,” Yvonne said.

Jabari didn’t say anything. Yvonne pulled up to the gate and put in her code. The photographers took pictures of their car. They pulled up all the way to the Castle garage. Yvonne got out and helped Jabari out of the back. Even though the Castle garden was done for the season, the grass was green and there was a garden bed filled with kale and other greens near the front.

“This is pretty,” Jabari said.

“You should see it in the summer,” Yvonne said. “Everything is green and gorgeous. Delphie grows most of their food out here. She has help, of course.”

Yvonne gestured to Noelle, Sissy, Ivy, and Nash. The children were watering the fruit trees by hand with hoses.

“I thought it might be fun for you to help them,” Yvonne said.

“Help those kids?” Jabari asked.

“They’re watering the trees,” Yvonne said.

“Why?” Jabari asked.

“I don’t know,” Yvonne said. “Let’s ask Delphie.”

“I have to see my mom today.” Jabari’s voice was very matter of fact.

“She’s meeting us here,” Yvonne said. “You’ll get to spend a little bit of time with her while we’re watching.”

“Oh,” Jabari said. He turned and saw the Castle for the first time. “That’s a really big house.”

“It is big,” Yvonne said. “They call it the Castle.”

“Is there a princess inside?” Jabari asked.

“There’s quite a few,” Yvonne said.

“Is that big guy the prince?”

Jabari gestured to Mike, as he came out of the carriage house. Mike’s beard was long and his hair unkempt. He was coated head to toe with flecks of paint. He walked toward them.

“He’s certainly one of them,” Yvonne said.

“Michael?” Yvonne asked. “Have you met my friend Jabari? He’s just visiting us from Atlanta. We’re hoping he’ll get to stay with us. But we don’t know for sure yet.”

Mike picked up Jabari and lifted the little boy until they were face to face.

“Nice to meet you, man,” Mike said. “I was about have some sustenance.”

“Sus-nants?” Jabari fumbled with the word.

“Food,” Mike said.

“I ate some lunch,” Jabari looked confused.

“This is man food,” Mike said. “Come on.”

Mike tucked the little boy under his arm and stalked to the kitchen. Yvonne went to say hello to the kids. Delphie came out of the kitchen, and hugged Yvonne. They went to the back door to peek in.

Mike had set Jabari on the counter. He’d already taken out two bowls and was pouring the Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. Jabari’s smile was so big it looked like his face was going to crack. Mike put the bowls on the table and grabbed some milk. He tucked Jabari under his arm again and carried him to the table.

“I knew they would love each other,” Delphie said.

“You were right,” Yvonne said. “Now what can I do?”

“When they’re done, we’ll get them picking kale,” Delphie said.

“I can do that,” Yvonne said.

“We’ll let them do it,” Delphie said. “They’re closer to the ground. Let’s have some tea.”

“What about …?” Yvonne gestured.

“We can go up to my apartment,” Delphie said. “Don’t worry. They won’t pay any attention to us when we go in. They’re bonding.”

Yvonne followed Delphie inside. When she got there, she heard Jabari say, “I hate them cameras.”

“Me too, brother,” Mike said. “Me too.”

“You do?” Jabari’s awe-struck voice was muffled by a mouthful of cereal.

“I hate them too,” Charlie said as he came in the room with Keenan. Charlie was holding a basketball.

“Me too,” Keenan said.

“Charles,” Mike said. “Get some bowls.”

Charlie gave the basketball to Keenan and went to the cabinet for three bowls and three spoons. Keenan sat down next to Jabari and Charlie sat next to Mike. A few minutes later, Nash came in from the garden. He went into the closet and got a fresh box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. He sat next to Jabari. Having established that they all hated the paparazzi, there was nothing left to say. The boys and the man ate their cereal in peace.

Yvonne grinned.

“See what I mean?” Delphie asked in her ear.

Yvonne nodded and followed Delphie to her apartment.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon—2:55 p.m.

Sandy led Seth down the hallway and into the storage room where Valerie and the kids had organized Andy’s possessions. Neither one was much for small talk, so Seth followed her into the room without saying a word. She gestured to a pair of red velvet chairs and he sat down. While he looked around the room, she went to a shelf where she took down one of the photo albums.

“I thought you could help me with … this,” Sandy held out a photo album.

Seth’s eyes searched her face before he took the album.

“I’m sorry, Sandy,” Seth said.

“For what?” Sandy sat down next to him.

“I realize this is an impossible task,” Seth said. “I guess I … I’ve been so sick that I … I should have taken this on.”

Sandy nodded that she understood his words.

“Well …” Sandy said. “It was a lot, mostly because it was such a mess. Valerie and the kids organized everything, and of course, Jake lets me keep everything here.”

“Delphie,” Seth said.

“What?”

“The Castle belongs to Delphie,” Seth said.

“Oh right,” Sandy said. “But Jake …”

“Yes,” Seth said. “They are very generous.”

“Jake said I could keep things here forever, if I wanted to,” Sandy said. “I was hoping to go through a little bit at a time and … Maybe …”

“I’ll help,” Seth said.

Sandy looked relieved.

“I thought we could start with these pictures,” Sandy said. “I was going to get them digitized, but I wanted to see if you knew any of these people first. Some of the photos can probably be trashed but … I don’t know what’s important and what’s …”

She opened the photo album so that the cover landed on his lap.

“I think you’re in this one,” Sandy said.

She pointed to the first picture in the album. In the picture, Seth was staring at something out of the frame. He looked incredibly young and very lost.

“Valerie put these together by the dates on the back,” Sandy said. “That’s when the photo was processed but not when it was taken. If they’re out of order, you’ll have to say.”

“I was a handsome devil,” Seth chuckled.

“You’re look like you’re about a year older than Rachel here,” Sandy smiled.

“This is my first day of college,” Seth said. “The juniors are assigned freshmen to show around.”

“Andy was assigned to you?” Sandy asked.

“No,” Seth said. “I wasn’t that lucky. She was assigned to my roommate.”

Seth gestured to a handsome eighteen year old boy.

“He played the trumpet,” Seth said.

“You seem so … young,” Sandy said. “And he seems so …”

“Hunky,” Seth said. “He was quite the ladies’ man. I was ten.”

Sandy laughed.

“Actually, he was very kind to me,” Seth said. “He was the oldest of ten or something like that. Mormon. He was terribly homesick. He took care of me, like a brother, the whole time we were there. We were roommates all the way through.”

“What happened to him?” Sandy asked.

“Drafted into the Navy band,” Seth said. “It’s kind of a cushy assignment, but he felt like the band played for the brass at their parties while the little people died in the jungles. By the time he got out, he’d lost his taste for music. He lives in Provo, sells insurance, and has a bunch of kids of his own. You’ve met him.”

“I have?” Sandy asked. She peered at the image of the handsome young man.

“Glint Fielding?” Seth asked. “He sold me my life insurance. Yours too.”

Sandy burst out laughing that the bald, heavyset friend of Seth’s could have ever been this gorgeous young man. Seth peered at the photo again.

“I guess he looks pretty different now,” Seth chuckled.

“You look remarkably the same,” Sandy said.

Seth flipped through a few pages to get a sense of what they were looking at. Sandy watched his face. He seemed thoughtful, interested, and slightly amused. Suddenly, his face turned cold.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Seth said.

“What?” Sandy looked down at the photo album to see what he was looking at, but he was holding the page to get a better look. She couldn’t see what he was looking at. “What is it?”

“I’d completely forgotten …” Seth said.

“What?” Sandy asked.

Seth laid the photo album page down and pointed to a picture. Andy was in the center of the picture at what looked like a party or a holiday gathering. Her eyes were glowing and she smiled. She looked like she was in love with whomever she was looking at.

“You?” Sandy asked. “She looks like she’s head over heels with whoever’s taking the photo.”

Seth looked surprised and looked back at the photo.

“I took this photo,” Seth smiled. “She’s looking at me. That’s not what I mean.”

Seth pointed to a young man standing just behind Sandy. You could only see the side of his face. He was looking at Andy.

“Patty is over here,” Seth said.

Seth pointed to the young girl who would eventually grow to be Charlie and Sissy’s mother. Sandy was surprised at how innocent and lovely she’d been.

“Andy didn’t have a lot of family,” Seth said. “Just the one cousin, Patty. Andy’s parents made their friends their family. Andy called the children of her parents’ friends her ‘second cousins’. That’s what she called him.”

He pointed to the young man again.

“Shit,” Seth said.

“Who is he?” Sandy asked.

“Ben Red Bear,” Seth said. “The police detective assigned to your case, and the rapes.”

“How is that possible?” Sandy asked. “You’d have recognized him!”

“I only met him this one time. I was twelve and …” Seth gestured to Andy.

“In love,” Sandy said.

“I didn’t really pay attention to anything when Andy was around,” Seth said. “At the time, he was absolutely obsessed with Andy. I was jealous but she thought it was kind of cute. ‘Sweet.’ That’s what she called his affection. But …”

Seth stopped talking, and looked off into the distance.

“But?” Sandy asked.

As if to decide how much to tell her, Seth looked at her for a moment.

“You can tell me anything,” Sandy said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he was the man she was with when she died,” Seth said.

Sandy leaned forward to look at the photo.

“Detective Red Bear killed my mom,” Sandy said.

“I’d guess so,” Seth said.

Sandy was so surprised that she fell against the back of her seat and stared off into space.

“Mitch hated him,” Seth said. “Red Bear never lifted a finger to investigate what happened to you. Which means …”

“He was involved,” Sandy said. “He didn’t do anything on the rape case either. Aden said that was a key point at Charlie’s grand jury today.”

Seth nodded.

“What are we going to do?” Sandy asked.

“Tread very carefully,” Seth said.

“But we’re going to do something, right?” Sandy asked. “Surely, we’re going to do something.”

“Oh, we’ll do something,” Seth said.

“What can we do?” Sandy said.

“We’ll get Ava’s lab to check the DNA in Andy’s case against his DNA,” Seth said. “There was a bunch of DNA. No prints, but lots of DNA. I wondered about it at the time—why would someone so careful with be so careless with DNA? If it’s him, we know why. They don’t test DNA against cops. Did you ever … uh …?”

“Not that I remember,” Sandy said.

They leaned forward together to look at the photo.

“Five bucks it’s his DNA,” Sandy said.

“Make it ten,” Seth said. “You’ll beat the house on that one.”

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon—3:07 p.m.

“Nice to see that someone knows I’m a star,” Annette, Jabari’s mother, said as she came in the side door to the Castle.

While she had arrived on time, she’d spent the last seven minutes “letting” the paparazzi take her photo.

“Come on, Jabber,” Annette said as she entered the main Castle living room. Her lawyer and publicist came in the door behind her and stood in the Castle entryway. She spotted Jabari playing cars on the floor with Keenan and Nash. Grabbing his forearm, she dragged him toward the side door and said, “Time to earn your keep …”

Jabari started screaming.

“Hey!” Nash jumped to his feet.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Mike asked. Towering over Annette, he pointed to her hand on Jabari’s arm. “Let go of the child.”

Annette’s mouth fell open. For the first time, she looked around the living room. The social worker, Risa, was sitting in an armchair. She had a cup of tea in her hand and a stunned look on her face. Yvonne was sitting near Risa and Delphie was standing in the doorway to the kitchen.

“Now!” Mike growled.

She opened her hand and released Jabari. Weeping, the child ran to Yvonne. She pulled him onto her lap. He hid his head and sucked his thumb.

“There he goes,” Annette said. “Crying like a baby.”

“He’s three,” Mike said. “He is a baby.”

“What’s it to you?” Annette asked. “You ain’t his daddy.”

“I’m his friend,” Mike growled.

“Annette,” Risa set her tea down and stood. “The judge informed you that neither Jabari nor his likeness could be used in any media.”

“Who are you?” Annette asked.

“As you know, I am Jabari’s social worker,” Risa said.

“I don’t remember you giving a crap when he was born or when he wet his bed or …” Annette started on a diatribe but caught a glimpse of the stunned faces of the children. She flushed and stopped talking.

“You’re late,” Risa said.

“So,” Annette said.

“You only get a half hour with your son,” Risa said. “You now have less than twenty minutes.”

Annette waged her head from side to side. She glanced at the door again.

“You all can go about your business,” Annette said. “I’ll stay with the whining baby.”

“Stop saying that!” Nash said.

“You’re hurting him!” Keenan said.

“I got this,” Mike said. He put a hand on Nash and Keenan’s shoulder.

“No,” Risa said. “I’ve got this.”

Risa walked to Annette.

“I’m terminating this visit,” Risa said. “We’ll try again later this week.”

“Later this week?” Annette’s voice rose with fury. “I can’t hang around podunk Denver forever. I got bidness in Atlanta.”

“Be that as it may,” Risa said. “I’m still terminating this visit.”

“You cannot do that,” Annette’s lawyer said. “My client is entitled …”

“I can do my job,” Risa said. “I can certainly do what I think if right for this child. Look around, sir. The child is hysterical. The mother is enraged that her ‘bidness’ might be disrupted by spending time with him.”

The lawyer looked at Jabari and then at Annette. He opened his mouth to say something.

“Your client put her child on a plane without a guardian or any care in the world and sent him to Denver,” Risa said. “He arrived in the middle of the night, and by the grace of God, found his way to his father’s old home where he waited alone in the cold for the better part of a day. It’s a miracle he’s alive.”

“You don’t know,” Annette said. “You’ll be sending that boy away in no time. He’s evil.”

Yvonne gasped. She gave Annette a hard look and carried the hysterical Jabari out of the room. Nash ran after her. Keenan watched them go. Mike gave him a little push and he ran after them.

“Call me when your client is in order,” Risa said. “I’ll see about granting another visit. But you can be damned sure that I’m going to report all of this … to the judge.”

The lawyer pursed his lips and squinted his eyes. Risa gave him a stern look. She pointed to the surveillance camera they’d set up for Annette’s visit.

“Come on, Annette,” the lawyer said. “There’s nothing more we can do here today.”

Annette pointed at Risa and then at Mike.

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” Annette said.

She spun in place and left the room. They heard her carrying on in front of the photographers in front of the Castle.

“That was awful,” Valerie came out from Charlie’s study room where she’d been watching. She’d ducked in there when Annette had arrived. “Is she out there?”

Mike nodded. Valerie gave him a sly smile. She pulled the knot out of her long dark hair, and tucked her shirt into her stretch pants. She picked up Jackie from her bassinette.

“How do I look?” Valerie asked.

“Gorgeous,” Mike said. He unbuttoned one of her shirt buttons exposing a bit of her breast.

Valerie nodded to Risa, grabbed her sunglasses, and went out into the Castle drive. Mike, Delphie, and Risa went to the door to watch.

The moment she stepped out of the door, the photographers screamed Valerie’s name. Annette screeched with fury. Valerie made a display of putting Jackie into her car seat. The photographers screams and calls to Valerie drowned out Annette’s screeching. Valerie took a long time before she got into Jill’s Lexus and drove out of the lot. The paparazzi followed her.

Stunned, Annette stood in the swirling cloud of dust in the Castle parking lot. Her lawyer and publicist negotiated her into her car and they left.

“Good riddance,” Mike said.

“Not for him,” Risa gestured to the sound of Jabari crying in the kitchen.

Mike gave a sad nod and they went to see how he was.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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