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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and NINETY-ONE
Thursday night—9:35 p.m.
“Seth!” Delphie yelled into the phone. Seth held the phone away from his ear. “It’s about time!”
He held just the mouth piece close enough to speak.
“How so?” he asked.
“Andy’s been here waiting for you!” Delphie yelled. “I’ve had to hide out because …”
A man’s voice rumbled in the background.
“Oh, it’s just Seth,” Delphie said in a normal tone. “He likes it when I yell into the cellphone.”
Seth groaned and Delphie laughed.
“What does Andy want?” Seth asked.
“Oh,” Delphie chuckled. “I don’t know. We were having such a good time gossiping about … well, never mind. I’m sure you just want to know whatever it is you want to know.”
“What were you gossiping about?” Seth asked because he knew he should.
“Have you noticed how much Rachel looks like Andy?” Delphie answered because she knew he was only asking because he should. “She’s the spitting image of Andy.”
“With Aden’s eyes,” Seth said.
“Why do you think your children look so little like you, Seth?” Delphie asked, and then laughed.
Seth rolled his eyes and waited for Delphie to stop laughing.
“Ok, ok,” Delphie said. “I know you’re just indulging me. Let’s see …”
Delphie went still. Seth waited.
“Oh,” Delphie said. “She said you have to go through that box.”
“What box?” Seth asked.
“The one in the storage area,” Delphie said. “I told you about it.”
“You never told me about a box in the storage area,” Seth said.
“I told someone …” Delphie said. “Oh that’s right, I told Sandy.”
“And I’d know that because …” Seth let the silence linger.
“You’re the great Magic O’Malley,” Delphie said and laughed.
“Very funny,” Seth said. “How do I get this box?”
“You have to ask Sandy,” Delphie said. “But that’s not why Andy wants to talk to you.”
“She wants you to know that she likes Ava,” Delphie said. “No, that’s not it either. Just a second.”
Seth fell silent while Delphie talked to the ghost of his first love.
“Really?” Delphie asked. “Huh.”
“What?” Seth asked.
“Nothing,” Delphie said. Her voice sped up. “Nice to talk to you.”
“Delphie!” Seth said. “Tell me what Andy said!”
“I don’t know if I should …”
“Tell me,” Seth said.
“She said that Patty’s getting out,” Delphie said. “You know, of prison. She’s been able to convince a judge that she’s not a flight risk, so they’re letting her out. That detective is part of that. He told them she was safe and everything … Andy says Patty and Red Bear are planning on getting the money and leaving the country but …”
“But?” Seth asked.
“Patty blames Sandy for putting her in prison,” Delphie said. “They have … um … They’re going to …”
“What?” Seth asked.
“You know, like before … but over the Internet,” Delphie said. “They’ve already set up the site and are taking money for people to watch it happen …”
“Oh my God,” Seth jumped to his feet and started running through the basement.
“I have to warn Sandy,” Delphie said.
“When does Patty get out?” Seth took the stairs two at a time.
“Tomorrow,” Delphie said. “They’re going to … Saturday night. But the Detective? He’s going to grab Sandy … soon.”
“Shit,” Seth said as he walked into the kitchen.
Ava was sitting at the counter reading a novel. She looked up when he came in. She mouthed, “What?”
“Where’s Sandy now?”
“She’s upstairs,” Delphie said. “At least that’s what Andy says. They said if they can’t get Sandy they’ll get …”
Delphie stopped talking.
“Who?” Seth asked. “Who will they get?”
“Rachel,” Delphie said. “From daycare.”
“I’m on my way,” Seth said, and hung up the phone. He looked at Ava.
“What’s going on?” Ava asked.
“I have to go to see Sandy,” Seth said.
“I’ll go with you,” Ava said.
“You don’t have to …”
“Don’t tell me what I don’t have to do, O’Malley,” Ava said. “You’re my almost husband. This is our life. I’m going.”
Seth stared at her.
“Go!” Ava said.
He ran out the backdoor and she followed.
Thursday night—9:35 p.m.
Jeraine looked across the waiting area. There were families clustered here and there around the waiting room. Rodney and Yvonne were in with Jabari. Jeraine was sitting with Schmidty and Risa, the social worker. Schmidty called in the big guys who’d provided Jeraine with security at the custody hearing. So far, they had managed to keep the waiting area free of cameras and paparazzi.
But they couldn’t keep Annette out.
She’d flown at Jeraine when she saw him. She managed to hit him a few times before a Children’s Hospital security guard had pulled her off of Jeraine. Between the security guard and Jeraine’s bodyguards, they’d managed to get the television people out of the hospital waiting room. Once her reality television people were gone, Annette calmed down.
Annette said that Jabari had had “problems” like this before. Jeraine got her to tell the doctor and he took Annette’s information. They had already contacted Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It was only a matter of time before they faxed the records. Annette sat down in a huff a few seats from him. About a half hour later, one of the women on her television show arrived. Annette greeted her with much fuss and the sudden appearance of tears. She hadn’t turned off the waterworks when another friend from television arrived. The three scantily clad, over made-up women glared at Jeraine and sat down.
Jabari’s fever remained. He was a sick little boy. The primary doctor thought he might lupus. Jeraine read about it on his phone before he called his father. Bumpy had said that they would have to wait and see. But Jeraine was terrified.
Jeraine had never felt so helpless in his entire life. He’d always been able to do anything he wanted. He’d wanted a record contract; he’d gotten a record contract. He’d wanted to be famous; he’d became super famous. He’d wanted to be rich; he’d become very rich.
Right now, all he wanted was for Jabari to be well. And there was nothing he could do.
Rodney and Yvonne finally came from the back. They repeated what the doctor had said.
“There is nothing anyone could do until the child’s fever is down,” Yvonne said.
Annette and her friends made such a huge fuss that one of Jeraine’s big guy guards went looking for a television camera. He found a camera and a cameraman pressed against the glass of the waiting room. The big guy guard destroyed the camera and scared the cameraman enough that he left.
When Annette started screaming at Yvonne, Jeraine couldn’t help but notice how Yvonne’s effortless beauty far outshone all of Annette’s makeup, plastic surgery, and expensive clothing. Jeraine wasn’t sure why, but it made him uncomfortable to see the women together.
“That woman did something to baby-Jabari.” Jeraine heard Yvonne whisper to Rodney after Annette and her friends had moved away from Yvonne. “I just know it.”
Jeraine looked at Yvonne.
“You do too,” Yvonne said to Jeraine.
He gave a slight nod.
“If my Tannie were here, she’d …” Yvonne stopped talking because they all knew that Tanesha would kick Annette’s ass and throw her out of the hospital.
“We don’t need that on television,” Jeraine smiled. Yvonne laughed.
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith?” the nurse asked from the front of the room. “The doctor would like to speak with you and … Risa? Are you here?”
The social worker stood up and walked with Rodney and Yvonne to the front of the room. Clearly agitated, the nurse said something in a low tone. Before they went into the back, Rodney turned and nodded to Jeraine. His stomach dropped. Rodney’s nod meant that Annette had done something to Jabari.
Jeraine was furious.
“Steady Jer. They want you to vent your rage on poor-little-Annette. You don’t want to be on that TV show either,” Schmidty said under his breath. “The best revenge …”
“ …is one delivered cold,” Jeraine said. “I know.”
“No,” Schmidty said. “The best revenge is letting people’s actions catch up with them.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Jeraine asked.
“It means you don’t have to work too hard,” Schmidty said. “If she hurt Jabari, she’s going to get hers pretty fast.”
Jeraine nodded. He knew Schmidty’s words should make him feel better, but they didn’t.
After all, Jabari was still sick.
Thursday night—9:55 p.m.
“So it looks like it worked out,” Heather said to Blane. Heather was cleaning up the kitchen while Blane sat at the kitchen counter. “If all goes well tomorrow—which it should—Tink’s brother, Chet, will stay with Nelson for the time being. When you’re well, we can look at integrating him into our family.”
She smiled at Blane, but he was staring off into space.
“Why do you think Nelson …?” Blane asked.
“I told you he came by here,” Heather said.
“I don’t think it’s more complicated than Risa said,” Heather said. “Nelson wants to see what it’s like to care for a foster child. It’s a temporary placement so it seems perfect all the way around.”
Blane gave her an odd look.
“What?” Heather asked.
“You think he’s interested in me,” Blane said.
“He said he was,” Heather shrugged.
“What do you think about that?” Blane asked.
“I think you and I are life partners,” Heather said. “We are a family. When you’re well, you may decide you want a relationship with a man. I might decide the same thing. Those men would have to integrate into our family.”
Heather nodded and Blane scowled at her.
“You’re being pretty adult about that,” Blane said.
“I don’t know,” Heather shrugged. “Maybe it’s naive, but feel really strongly that . . We’re a family.”
“Aren’t we?” Heather asked.
“We are,” Blane said.
“I don’t know how it will work or if it will at all,” Heather said. “But I think it’s nice that he’s trying to see if he likes being the foster parent of a teenager.”
“Before we even go out on a date?” Blane asked.
Heather smiled at him.
“You don’t think this is some kind of manipulation?” Blane asked.
“How so?” Heather asked.
“Maybe he’s just trying to pretend to be a good guy when really he’s …” Blane said.
“And ax murderer?” Heather asked. “Like the movie?”
Blane grinned at her reference to the movie, So I married an ax murderer.
“No, I don’t think he’s an ax murderer,” Heather said. “I think he’s cautious. And … we’ll see.You’re in no condition to date. Not now or for the next few months, maybe even the next year. If he’s still around when the baby comes, then we’ll figure something out.”
“You already have it figured out?” Blane smiled.
“It’s a lot less scary to think about Nelson than to think about what’s going to happen on Saturday,” Heather said.
“I talked to Tres,” Blane said.
“You what?” Heather asked.
“I asked him if he would … help you if something happened to me,” Blane said.
“Because you like him,” Blane said.
“You do,” Blane said.
“Hmmm,” Heather said.
“Hmm?” Blane asked.
“Oh,” Heather smiled. “It’s going to be a weird month or so.”
“That it is,” Blane said. “Should we get to bed?”
Heather nodded. She started up the stairs. They were standing on the landing when he touched her arm.
“Thank you for being my family,” Blane said. “For loving me.”
“We’re a family,” Blane said.
“Yeah, we are,” Heather said.
“Thanks,” Blane said.
He went into the bedroom to change and Heather closed her eyes. Tomorrow, and every day for the next month, she’d be standing on this landing alone.
At that moment, a strange thought hit her. What if Abi was right? What if she healed Blane with her love? What if loving was enough?
Heather smiled to herself.
She’d just love him, and hope it was enough. Nodding to herself, she went to join him in bed.
Thursday night—10:05 p.m.
Sandy was so terrified that she’d gotten up from the living room and come into the kitchen. She leaned against the counter and stared at the ceiling.
What was she going to do?
They said they’d “try” to protect her, but nothing was foolproof.
And if it wasn’t her, it would be precious Rachel. Aden got so angry when he heard that the threat that he’d taken the kids and left their apartment. Sandy wished she could leave. Leave and take her family to Timbuktu or some other out-of-the-way and safe place.
Jill came into the kitchen and hugged Sandy. Jill didn’t have to say anything. Sandy knew she understood by the way Jill looked at her.
But there was nothing Jill could do.
Men had paid money to see Sandy or her baby assaulted in the most horrible way.
And that was all that mattered.
“Sandy?” Seth stuck his head in the kitchen. “I think you should come out.”
“Just come out,” Seth said.
Jill held her arm out and Sandy tucked herself against her friend. She could feel the pulse of Jill’s positive and powerful energy. The mood in the living room had changed.
“We took this situation to our supervisor,” Raz said. “We’ve received the resources we need.”
“What does that mean?” Sandy asked.
“It means that Patty will stay in jail,” Colin said.
“Paperwork snafu,” Colin said. “Weird how that happens. That will give us the weekend. We also have access to the satellite feeds for the day of your mother’s death. We’re confident that we’ll find something to match our surveillance footage.”
“And that means?” Sandy asked.
“They’ve found something interesting,” Seth said. “They won’t tell us what.”
“You remember the guy from ICE?” Colin asked. “Charlie talked to him about the rape case.”
“He’s with the Department of Homeland Security, too,” Sandy said. “He said they couldn’t figure out how the videos were sold or track the money. He said they were ‘looking into it,’ but Charlie thought he was full of it.”
“That’s because they were able to pull the website,” Raz said. “Delete the connections by removing the server from the Internet. There wasn’t anything for them to track. But now …”
“This situation is new, and active,” Colin said. “The site will lead us not only to the sellers but the buyers too. This is really good. It’s led us everywhere …”
“Everywhere?” Sandy asked.
“To the current rape case – where the images were sold and how –your case, and …” Raz smiled. “He said to tell you that when they found the site the computer crimes guys screamed out loud. It’s a big day.”
“What does this mean?” Sandy asked.
“We’ve got them,” Seth said.
“What about tomorrow?”
“We have to walk it through,” Raz said.
“So my daughter and I are still at risk because of this detective guy,” Sandy said. “The guy who killed my mother and arranged my …”
Sandy cleared her throat.
“I’m afraid so,” Raz said. “We’ll protect you, of course, but I’m not going to insult you by saying that nothing can happen.”
Sandy gave a vague nod.
“But if we catch them?” Sandy asked.
“It’s over,” Seth said. “For good.”
“For you, and lots of other girls,” Raz said.
“Other girls?” Sandy asked.
“The man who you thought was your father managed a network of sites and girls,” Raz said. “That’s why he made so much money. He had girls all over the country, videos, pictures, and live feed. If we can shut these guys down, we can stop an operation that’s been going on a long, long time.”
“I hear what you’re saying,” Sandy said. “And I know you mean well. But I also know that Detective Red Bear probably didn’t get the memo. He’s out there right now planning to … And there’s nothing any of us can do about that.”
She swallowed hard.
“I need some ice cream,” Sandy said.
She walked out of the living room and back into the quiet kitchen.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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