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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and NINETY-TWO
Friday morning—7:35 a.m.
The doorbell rang at Sandy’s hair studio. Sandy had come to the studio early because she felt sonervous about today. Charlie had agreed to spend the day with her but he wouldn’t arrive until the other kids were off to school. Sandy hadn’t been able to sleep a wink. With the hope that a little time to herself would get her ready for today, she’d packed up Rachel and left for her studio before anyone at the Castle was up.
The doorbell rang again. Sandy came out of the back and saw Erin Hargreaves standing outside the door with her daughter, Grace. Sandy jogged to the door and opened it.
“Oh Sandy,” Erin said. “Thank you so much for making time for me.”
“I …uh …” Sandy scowled. She was booked all day with her usual Friday clients. “I’m sorry Erin, did we set something up?”
“I thought we did,” Erin said. “Or at least Alex said we had.”
“It’s no big deal,” Sandy said. “You’re always welcome. I’ll just fit you in.”
“I don’t want to be too much trouble,” Erin said. “Grace needs her first haircut and I was hoping maybe you could cut some of my split ends.”
“Let me check my schedule to see how much time we have,” Sandy stepped back and let Erin and Grace inside. She was about to close the door when Matthew, Erin’s partner slipped inside. “Just a second.”
Sandy looked at her iPhone and scowled. Her schedule had changed. She looked at Erin and Erin smiled.
“I don’t know what’s going on …” Sandy said
Sandy felt a little dizzy. Had that scum Detective Red Bear manipulated her schedule?
“Are you okay?” Matthew asked. He put his hand on Sandy’s elbow to steady her.
“I … um …” Sandy said.
“They didn’t tell you?” Erin asked.
“They canceled your clients,” Matthew said with a smile and a nod.
“Technically, I think it was Raz, but it could have been Troy,” Matthew nodded.
“But …?” Sandy started.
“Our team Sergeant contacted everyone to reschedule,” Matthew said.
“But …” Sandy started.
“It’s unnerving, I know,” Matthew said.
“Drives me crazy, but …” Erin gave Sandy a wincing smile. “Is there any way …?”
Erin nodded to the child in her arms, and Sandy smiled. Grace looked like she’d just woken up. She gave Sandy a groggy look.
“Of course,” Sandy said. “Where are my manners? Come in! Come in!”
“I’d never trust anyone else to give Grace her first haircut,” Erin said. “I’ve been putting it off, you know, because … I guess I’m already fighting her growing up.”
“I know what you mean,” Sandy said.
The doorbell rang again. Sandy looked through the glass to see the small woman that worked with Matthew. She was Native American and, outside of a yearly trim, she never cut her hair.
“Why don’t you settle in?” Sandy gestured to her hair cutting chairs. “Matthew, there’s coffee and hot chocolate in the back.”
“Great,” Matthew said.
Sandy went to the door.
“Hi Sandy,” the woman said. “Margaret.”
“Hi Margaret,” Sandy said. She stepped back from the door.
“I know it’s weird,” Margaret said. “But I was assigned to keep track of Rachel today.”
“You were?” Sandy asked.
“I was,” Margaret said. “Do you mind if I hang out with you here? Or should I take her to our house?”
“I’d really rather that she was …” Sandy started. “I mean it really makes no sense, but … I’d really rather she was with me.”
“I’d feel the same way,” Margaret said. “Is Rachel in the back?”
Sandy nodded. Margaret smiled and walked with purpose to the back of the shop. Sandy went to the cutting chairs where Erin was sitting with Grace. Matthew was walking around the edge of the studio looking at the walls and floor.
“Drives me crazy,” Erin said under her breath.
“What does?” Sandy asked in the same low tone.
“Just that they control everything,” Erin looked at Sandy in the mirror. “But honestly? They’re always right. Which you know?”
“Drives you more crazy?” Sandy asked.
Sandy heard a sound. When she turned to see, Matthew was talking on his cellphone.
“Exactly,” Erin said.
“What did you have in mind for Grace?” Sandy asked.
Grace had fallen asleep against Erin’s shoulder. Erin held her out for Sandy to take a look at Grace’s hair.
“Just a trim,” Erin said. “She has my crazy curly red hair and Matthew’s massive hair volume. We’re lucky she doesn’t grow a beard!”
“Do you want to hold her?” Sandy asked. “Or shall we set her up in a booster?”
Sandy looked up and saw Matthew letting a man and a woman into the studio. He said something to them. They nodded and left.
“Those are agents,” Erin said. “Matt’s helping assign them to effective locations.”
“I’m not supposed to know, but I do,” Erin said.
“What do you know?” Sandy asked.
“Matt was up all night last night,” Erin said in a conspiratorial tone. “They made a plan to keep you safe, but it requires a lot of finagling.”
“Finagling?” Sandy asked.
“Making sure people don’t screw it up,” Erin nodded.
“Who’s making the plan?” Sandy asked.
“Who else?” Erin nodded. Sandy smiled as if she knew what Erin was talking about. Erin laughed. “What did they tell you?”
“Nothing,” Sandy said. “Last night, I heard … and …”
“Did they tell you they had to check with their boss?” Erin asked.
“Do you know who their boss is?” Erin asked.
Sandy shook her head.
“My sister,” Erin said.
“The other one,” Erin said.
“Alex is Raz and Colin’s boss?” Sandy whispered.
“She’s kind of boss of the entire world,” Erin rolled her eyes.
“Oh,” Sandy said.
“Did I say something wrong?” Erin looked at Sandy.
“They said they talked to their boss and got help that they didn’t have before and …” Sandy started.
Erin shook her head.
“That wasn’t true?” Sandy asked.
“My sister is the nosiest person on the planet,” Erin said. “She’s got her fingers in everything. There’s no way she wasn’t all over everything Raz did, let alone Colin. They were probably just waiting for a reason to roll out all the stuff they’d already planned.”
“Did you really want Grace’s haircut?” Sandy whispered.
“If you could,” Erin said. “It’s her first cut and … But I don’t want to be selfish. I’d understand if you didn’t have time or just don’t feel up to working today.”
Sandy looked at her schedule on her iPhone again.
“They filled the whole day and some of the night with soldiers!” Sandy said. “Agents. Police officers. My Godfather Seth’s even on here.”
Erin nodded. Sandy crossed her arms for a moment and shook her head.
“You know what?” Sandy shrugged. “I don’t care. Having the team here is always a really fun day. Plus, they tip well.”
“Of course,” Sandy said. “Do you want me to touch up your hair? We have time.”
“We do?” Erin beamed. “Do you mind?”
“Sounds fun!” Sandy said.
Matthew came over to them.
“I was going to get some coffee,” Matthew said. “Can I get you ladies anything?”
Sandy heard the lie under his casual tone. Rather than confront it, she smiled.
“Sounds great,” Sandy said.
Friday morning—11:35 a.m.
“So I couldn’t get in,” Heather said.
She was standing in Tanesha’s kitchen in the little yellow house. Tanesha had taken the day off school to be available in case Jeraine or her mother needed her. Heather didn’t find out what was happening with Sandy until this morning when she’d stopped by the studio for her usual Friday coffee with Sandy. She wasn’t allowed into the hair studio.
“Did they tell you why?” Tanesha asked.
“MJ said that it was too dangerous,” Heather nodded. “They’re using Sandy to try to catch that police detective.”
“Like bait,” Tanesha shook her head with disgust.
“Right,” Heather said.
“What did you do?” Tanesha asked.
“I went away,” Heather said. “I mean what can a good girl like me do?”
“So what did you do?”
“I called Jill,” Heather said. “She doesn’t have any powers anymore because she had the babies, but they don’t know that.”
“What did she do?” Tanesha laughed.
“She ‘stopped by’ with Katy,” Heather said. “Sandy seemed relieved to see a friendly face. Katy charmed everyone, of course.”
“How’s Sandy?” Tanesha asked.
“Scared,” Heather said. “But I think having those soldiers and stuff around help.”
“At least she’s not alone,” Tanesha said.
“Is Jill staying with her?” Tanesha asked.
“I’m going in an hour,” Heather said. “Do you want to come?”
“Sure,” Tanesha said. “They’re keeping Jabari so there isn’t much any of us can do, or specifically anything I can do.”
“But he’s okay?” Heather nodded.
“He’s better,” Tanesha nodded.
“And his mom?”
Tanesha scowled. There was a knock at the door and Tanesha went to answer the door. Peering through the peep hole, she saw Jeraine’s other baby mother. Tanesha groaned.
“What is it?” Heather asked.
Tanesha scowled and opened the door.
“Jeraine’s not here,” Tanesha said before the woman could say a word. “I’ll let him know you came by.”
Tanesha started to close the door.
“I came to see you,” the woman said.
Tanesha glanced at Heather, who was shaking her head.
“Don’t let her in,” Heather mouthed. “You’re too pissed off.”
Tanesha nodded to Heather.
“Jeraine’s working,” Tanesha said. “You can call him.”
With a nod, she closed the door again.
“I came to see you,” the woman said.
“That’s nice,” Tanesha said.
She moved the door closed. The woman stuck her foot in the door.
“You agoin’ a be my baby’s step’,” the woman said. “I need ta see if you’s capable of bein’ a momma to my precious Jeraine.”
With her back to the door, Tanesha sneered.
“I can always tell dat judge dat I don’ think JJ’s safe here,” the woman’s voice was polite, but held the threat.
Angry, Tanesha whipped open the door.
“It’s not up to you to decide,” Tanesha said.
“Yes it is,” the woman said. “Jus’ ’cuz you da wife don’ mean I ain’t Jeraine’s mother.”
Tanesha scowled. The woman gave a little yelp and hopped back as if she’d been burned. Heather trotted to the door. She pushed Tanesha out of the way before the girl burned to death or something horrible.
“What do you want?” Heather asked.
“Who are you?” the woman asked. “I don’ need some white girl …”
Heather shut the door. Tanesha raised a finger as if she was going to make a point. Heather nodded as if she’d heard Tanesha’s point.
“Why don’t we go get Jeraine?” Heather asked. “He’s just downstairs.”
“He’s working,” Tanesha said. “He needs to make money to pay the womb he hired.”
“I heard that,” the woman outside said. “Just because you don’ like the way I live, don’ make you better than me.”
Tanesha whipped open the door.
“I don’t fuck married men with the sole intent on getting pregnant so that they can support me,” Tanesha sneered. “I don’t think having a wealthy man’s baby is an occupation.”
“You jus’ mad ’cuz you ain’t had Jeraine’s baby,” the woman said.
Tanesha flushed red. Her dark skin looked like the bark of a sequoia tree. Heather hopped in between the women.
“Why don’t you just go?” Heather asked the woman on the porch.
“I don’ take orders from no white girl,” the woman said.
“She’s too good for it,” Tanesha said. “After all, she sold her bodily functions to the highest bidder.”
“You saying I’m a prostitute?” the woman put her hands on her hips.
The ground around the house made a little rumble. The air in the house became heavy and dark. Heather heard Jeraine scrambling in the basement. He ran up the stairs and across the little living room space to the front door. Seeing Heather, he looked relieved.
“What’s going on?” Jeraine asked Tanesha. He put his hand on her back. “You feeling okay?”
“The mother of your child is here,” Tanesha said in a prim voice.
Heather managed to push Tanesha out of the way of the door. Jeraine flashed her a “thank you” look and went to the door. He stepped out on the porch and closed the door behind him.
“I …” Tanesha nodded.
She started for the door again, but Heather got in her way. Lost in thought, Tanesha stood face to face with Heather for more than a minute. Tanesha nodded. Heather pushed and prodded Tanesha back into the kitchen. She negotiated her onto a stool and started making some of Tanesha’s special tea.
Neither woman said a word until the pot had boiled and the tea was made.
“She’s right you know,” Tanesha said in a low voice. “I am jealous. She’s the one who had Jeraine Junior, not me.”
“She’s not right,” Heather said. “A child is not a competition or something you have so you can live in a fancy house. A child is a miracle, a soul commitment between mother and child, and father and child. You know that.”
Tanesha looked at her tea.
“This is never going to work,” Tanesha said. “He’s got all this … and I … have to deal with it and I … can’t.”
“Jabari’s pretty great,” Heather said.
Tanesha nodded and held the cup up to her nose.
“Have you met Jeraine Junior?” Heather asked.
Tanesha shook her head. They looked at the front door when they heard the woman yelling at Jeraine. Heather clapped in the direction of the porch and Tanesha grinned. They were not above being glad Jeraine was getting his just desserts.
“I should be like that,” Tanesha said. “Yell it out, but I …”
“Eh,” Heather shrugged. “We all have our ways.”
Tanesha looked at Heather. Her eyes reviewed her best friend’s face. Used to Tanesha’s scrutiny, Heather smiled.
“If you could make a wish and this situation was exactly as you wanted it to be, what would you wish?” Heather asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said.
“Humor me,” Heather said. “You’ve spent all this energy worrying and being angry. What if you spent a little time wishing for what you wanted rather than being angry things aren’t?”
“Is this some wish and the Universe provides crap?” Tanesha asked.
“What if it is?” Heather asked. “Humor me.”
Tanesha drank her tea while she thought. Heather waited.
“I guess I’d wish that Jabari was well,” Tanesha said.
“Would you wish Jer’s children didn’t exist?” Heather asked.
Tanesha scowled as she gave it real thought.
“No,” Tanesha said. “I think they’re a big reason Jer’s in recovery and stuff.”
“What about Miss Thing on the front porch?” Heather asked.
Tanesha scowled and drank her tea.
“I can wish anything?” Tanesha asked.
“Anything,” Heather said.
“I wish she was a better person,” Tanesha said. “Nicer, wiser. You know how much money he’s spent on her?”
Heather shook her head.
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year,” Tanesha said. “More than a million dollars plus expenses like housing and food.”
Tanesha shook her head.
“I wish the mother of his child used some of that money to become educated so the child would be educated.”
“Jer says she’s going to radiology school,” Heather said.
“Did you hear how she speaks?” Tanesha shook her head. “If she’s graduated the tenth grade, I’d be surprised.”
“So what do you want?” Heather asked.
“I wish she spent as much money on improving herself as she does on her nails,” Tanesha said. “I mean, she’s the mother of Jeraine’s child. She should be hardworking and smart and educated and sassy and … ”
Tanesha shook her head.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “I wish I had more tea.”
Tanesha set the cup down.
“You wanna go see Sandy now?” Tanesha asked.
“Good idea,” Heather said. “We’ll stop and bring her lunch.”
“I’ll get my purse,” Tanesha said.
She went upstairs to her bedroom. When Heather came around the counter, she noticed that Tanesha’s once empty cup was now full of tea.
And it was hot.
More than a little freaked out by that, Heather to the bottom of the stairs. Tanesha came down a moment later and they left to see Sandy.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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