Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Seventy-three: Taking it seriously

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-THREE

Wednesday afternoon — 2:10 p.m.

“State your name,” the District Attorney said.

“Charles Delgado,” Charlie said.

He raised his hand in a kind of wave. He wore an expensive suit that Maresol had bought for him. His hair was long but styled. Even with his still broken teeth and healing bones, he was model handsome. Dale had helped Charlie up to the stand this afternoon.

When the Denver Police learned that Sissy and Charlie were testifying, they decided to make their presence known. They cleared the court of everyone except those involved in the trial and Dale. Two friends of Charlie’s father, Mitch, were guarding the door.

“Charlie,” he said before the District Attorney could ask a question. “I’m Mitch’s son — Charlie.”

The judge put his hand on the edge of his desk and Charlie looked up.

“Let him ask you, Charlie,” the judge said.

“Oh, sorry, you said that,” Charlie nodded. He leaned over. “I’m nervous.”

The judge nodded and Charlie sat back in his chair.

“Charlie, we notice that your legs are broken,” the District Attorney said. “Your right arm and left hand are still in casts.”

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “That and my teeth are all that’s left. My dad used to say that we Delgado’s heal fast. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s what he said.”

“Two broken legs, a broken hand, and a broken arm seem like a lot to me,” the District Attorney said.

“Oh, it was a lot worse,” Charlie said. “Like I said, I heal fast. Sissy too.”

“How did this happen?” the District Attorney asked.

“Um, my dad got really sick after Vietnam…” Charlie started. “Uh, Agent Orange…”

“Your legs and arms,” the District Attorney said.

“Oh, sorry,” Charlie flashed a smile. “I haven’t really been out of the house for a while so all of this is…”

Charlie nodded.

“Take your time, Charlie,” the judge said.

“I had to work late and… well, I didn’t have to work late,” Charlie said. “I was trying to help my co-worker clean up. We’d had this crazy night and she was on clean up. I stayed to help.”

“Stayed where?” the judge asked.

“At Sam’s No. 3, on Fifteenth,” Charlie said. “I used to work there as a busboy. I mean, I didn’t get fired or anything. I just… uh… They said I could come back if I’m better; when I get better, I mean, I don’t want to be negative and stuff.”

Charlie nodded.

“What happened?” the District Attorney asked.

“I was walking to the bus,” Charlie said. “I used to take the Colfax bus — you know, the 15 — because it runs all the time. I…”

Charlie glanced at the judge and then back at the District Attorney, who nodded.

“Go ahead, Charlie,” the judge said.

“Well, I don’t remember very good,” Charlie said. “I mean, well. I don’t remember very well. Because… I just don’t. I… um… remember walking up Fifteenth Street. Um…”

“What happened Charlie?” the District Attorney asked.

“Oh, I got beaten up,” Charlie said. “Some guys with baseball bats and stuff jumped me. I thought they were going to kill me. They almost did.”

Charlie glanced at the judge.

“I saw my dad,” Charlie said. “When I was in the hospital, you know.”

The District Attorney didn’t move and the court was silent for a moment.

“They were trying to make sure I didn’t testify,” Charlie said. “They got the idea that I was lying about all the stuff I saw, with the rapes, I mean. They were told that I was lying to get their brothers in trouble because they were black, I mean, African-American.”

Charlie nodded.

“Objection,” the Defense Attorney said. “Assumption.”

“How do you know what they thought, Charlie?” the judge asked.

“Oh, they told me,” Charlie said with a nod. “Dr. Bumpy set up this thing called ‘Restorative Justice.’”

“Overruled,” the judge said to the Defense Attorney.

“Can you explain that to the court, Charlie?” the District Attorney asked in an attempt to regain control.

“Oh, I don’t know a lot about it,” Charlie said.

“What did you do?” the District Attorney asked.

“Um, Dr. Bumpy…” Charlie started.

“Let the record show that Dr. Bumpy is Dr. Bumpy Wilson,” the District Attorney said.

“So noted,” the judge said. “Go ahead, Charlie.”

“Dr. Bumpy set up a meeting for me and the guys who beat me up,” Charlie said. “It was pretty cool. We sat at a table and talked. They told me what they knew. I told them what I knew. My friend, Dale, and my Godfather, Seth O’Malley, were with me. Sandy came too, but having a woman there made it different. So she left. Um, Sandy’s kind of my sister and my mother.”

Charlie looked at the jury and swallowed hard.

“We were there for like three days. But… Uh. It was nice, felt really good,” he added.

“And did you go to trial?” the District Attorney asked.

“No,” Charlie said. “We agreed to a sentence and then presented it to you. You agreed to what we decided if I agreed, which I already had.”

“And what was their sentence?” the District Attorney asked.

“The guys have to help me pay for the medical bills and something called ‘restitution.’ I don’t know what that is. They have to pay a bunch of fines and stuff. I don’t know how much. They also agreed to volunteer to help homeless kids and other disadvantaged boys. They have to do a whole bunch of hours, but they’ve already started. They’re not bad guys. They just got mad. And if they don’t beat anyone up for… I don’t remember how long…”

“Five years,” the District Attorney said.

“Then it all goes away,” Charlie said.

“And that’s okay for you?” the District Attorney asked.

“Sure,” Charlie said. “Jeez, I’ve made mistakes and done stupid stuff before. They were really revved up on the idea that I was going to hurt their little brothers. If someone was going to destroy Nash’s life, um, my step-brother, I don’t know what I’d do. Of course, if I’d died, I probably wouldn’t feel that way, you know.”

The District Attorney shot Charlie a grin.

“Do you have any idea who might have told these men that you were going after the boys because they were African-Americans?” the District Attorney asked.

“Sure,” Charlie pointed to the third attorney at the far end of the defense table. “That guy. David Wodes.”

The Defense Attorney was on his feet. Before he could say anything, the District Attorney asked a fast question.

“And you know this because…” the District Attorney asked.

“Oh, the guys who beat me up told me,” Charlie said. “It’s kind of a big deal. Something called the ‘Bar’ — but not like an drinking bar, you know, something else — is holding a trial and there’s a criminal case against that guy. I have to testify in both of those.”

The court was silent for a moment.

“I was surprised when I saw him just sitting there,” Charlie said.

“We’d like to submit into evidence the record of the restorative justice session between Charlie and his attackers,” the District Attorney said.

The judge looked at the document before looking up.

“We need time to look through this document,” the judge said. “I’m going to dismiss us for the day. Charlie, you know what you have to do, right?”

“I can’t talk to anyone,” Charlie said. “That’s okay because this is a big deal for all of my friends. We take it really serious, I mean, seriously.”

“Good,” the judge said. “Court is adjourned. We’ll reconvene tomorrow morning.”

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday night — 8:40 p.m.

“So how was it?” Sandy asked from behind Sissy’s wheelchair as they left the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

They left the Opera House and started down the glass covered open walkway toward 14th Street where Jill was going to pick them up with her big SUV. Aden pushed Ivan’s wheelchair behind them. Sandy whizzed far enough ahead so that Sissy could speak without the men hearing.

“Did you see all of those girls?” Sissy said in a sad voice.

“I did,” Sandy said.

“His ex-girlfriends,” Sissy said.

“Glad they didn’t have knives,” Sandy said.

“Right,” Sissy said. “What did Janine say to you?”

“She said that it was hard to believe that Ivan wasn’t using the wheelchair as a joke,” Sandy said.

“Oh,” Sissy said. “Yeah, it is weird.”

“Does it bother you?” Sandy asked. “The girls.”

“Um…” Sissy said.

Sandy put her hand on Sissy’s shoulder for support.

“They are so beautiful,” Sissy said. “And… they can…”

“Dance,” Sandy said.

“Yeah,” Sissy said. “I felt…”

Sandy leaned over so she could see Sissy’s face. She kissed her sister’s cheek.

“You’ll be dancing soon enough,” Sandy said.

“It was so beautiful,” Sissy said. “Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than ballet?”

Sandy grinned as Sissy sighed. Sandy waited for Sissy to say what she always said.

“Someday, I’m going to…” Sissy started.

She stopped talking. Sandy pushed Sissy to the side of the building. She went around to the front of the wheelchair. Sissy’s eyes were vague. When she saw Sandy, her eyebrows furrowed.

“I…” Sissy said. Sandy watched Sissy’s face. “I think that Defense Attorney was right. I was never good enough to do ballet. I mean, what was I thinking? Those women are so… and I’m… I mean look at me!”

Sissy gestured to her injured body. Sandy hugged Sissy. As she had when Sissy was a child, Sandy said, “Shh, shh, it’s going to be okay. Shh.”

“Everything okay?” Aden asked as they approached.

Sandy let go of Sissy. She gave Sissy a hard look.

“Everything’s good,” Sissy said after catching Sandy’s look. She made an effort to smile. “I just feel… emotional, you know?”

“Was someone cruel?” Ivan asked.

“Who do we need to beat up?” Aden asked.

“Men,” Sandy said.

She gave them an exaggerated roll of her eyes. Sissy giggled at Sandy’s pretense.

“Huuh, huuh, huh,” Aden said as if he were a caveman.

Ivan turned his head to look up at Aden. Grinning, Ivan joined in. Sissy began to laugh. Sandy kept her hand on Sissy’s shoulder so Sissy wouldn’t laugh so much that she lost her breath.

“Let’s return to our mythical Castle,” Ivan said. “I feel the desperate need to have ice cream.”

“And cake!” Sissy said with a grin.

“But who would create such a delicacy for us?” Ivan asked.

“Sandy made another one for us!” Sissy said.

“Sandra,” Ivan said. “Our heroine again.”

Ivan’s mouth smiled at Sissy while his eyes took in her wet cheeks and red eyes. He held out his hand for Sissy and Aden rolled him nearer to her. Sissy took his hand. Reading his kind smile, Sissy nodded.

“Oh look, there’s Jill!” Sandy said as Jill pulled up in her huge SUV.

Sandy rolled Sissy to the sidewalk and left to get the SUV ready for them. Aden rolled Ivan next to Sissy and went to help Sandy.

At great cost to himself, Ivan leaned toward Sissy. She turned to look at him. He kissed her lips.

“I love you,” Ivan said. Even though he was in pain, he held his face inches from hers. “Always.”

Sissy kissed him. Ivan leaned back into his chair. He closed his eyes to absorb the pain which shot through him. Sissy squeezed his hand in support.

“Shall we?” Jill asked.

She touched Ivan’s shoulders and then went to Sissy. Aden helped Ivan into the SUV. Jill helped Sissy to her feet, and Sandy got the wheelchairs.

“Did you help him?” Sissy whispered to Jill.

“Guy shouldn’t have to suffer for kissing his beloved,” Jill said.

She winked at Sissy and helped her into the SUV. Aden got in the driver’s seat.

“What are you doing?” Jill asked in a pretend huffy voice.

“Huuh, huuh, huuh,” Aden grunted like a caveman.

While Jill looked confused, Sandy, Sissy, and Ivan laughed. He kept it up until Jill laughed too. She got in next to Sissy and Sandy sat next to Ivan.

“Driver?” Jill said in an exaggerated “rich” voice. “Take us home.”

“As you wish,” Aden said.

He took off toward the Castle.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday night — 8:40 p.m.

Tanesha pushed open her front door and stopped short. Her breath caught in her throat.

Jeraine’s bags were sitting at the front door.

She swallowed hard. She forced herself to breathe. In. Out. In. Out.

Images of his bags sitting by a variety of front doors flooded past the walls she’d set around them.

“Breathe.” She commanded herself. Focus on in. Focus on out. In. Out.

Her mind flashed. She was her knees begging him not to go.

“Breathe.” She commanded herself. In. Out. In. Out.

Her mind jumped again. Jeraine was standing there laying out his lies! HIS LIES! HIS FUCKING LIES! Rage flooded over her despair.

“Breathe.” She commanded herself. She closed her eyes and felt the breath move in, and then out. In. Out.

She blinked. Her eyelids were like shutters on dramatic scenes of desperate love. She’d thrown her wedding ring at him. She’d screamed and cried. She’d been indifferent. She’d been angry. She’d begged. She’d thrown things at him. She’d been loving.

And he’d lied.

“Aw, baby, ‘s all gonna be okay.” “You know I always come home.” “You is my one and only, baby.” “Ah honey, I’d never lie to you.”

“Just breathe.” She commanded herself. In. Out. In. Out. “You just have to breathe.”

Feeling him approach, she looked up. His eyes on her face, he crept toward her as if he were a lion tamer approaching an unpredictable lion.

“Hi?” he asked.

“I thought you weren’t leaving until Friday,” Tanesha managed. In her head, she demanded herself to focus, “Breathe.”

“No,” Jeraine said. “I have to leave in the morning.”

“So that was just a lie?!” Tanesha’s voice rose with a mixture of panic and rage.

“No,” Jeraine said.

He looked like he wanted to say something else. Thinking better of it, he shook his head.

“No, what?” Tanesha asked.

“Uh,” he started but stopped talking.

He looked at her. Her mind went completely blank. She felt like a bubble had formed where her thoughts should be.

She raised an index finger. She set her book bag next to the table. She picked up her running shoes from the pile of shoes next to the door and left the house. Sitting in a rocking chair on their porch, she forced her mind to focus on changing her shoes. She didn’t bother to put her boots away. Once her running shoes were on, she took off running.

She ran as fast and hard as she was capable of running. After a few minutes, she settled into a steady and rapid pace. She’d just completed a mile when she realized someone was running behind her. She stopped running and turned around.

Jeraine ran up to her. She raised her hands in a “What?” gesture.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

For a long moment, they stared at each other.

“Nowhere.” Tanesha’s grief-stricken voice came out. “We’re going nowhere.”

“Nah,” Jeraine said with a grin. “We’re going somewhere.”

They stared at each other again.

“Come on,” Jeraine said. “Let’s run City Park. If you’re going to yell at me, and I certainly deserve it, you can yell while we run.”

“Why City Park?” Tanesha asked. “It’s a long way.”

“We’re supposed to get cake and ice cream with Sissy and Ivan. Charlie started testifying today,” Jeraine said. He gave her a cocky grin. Imitating her voice, he said, “Remember? Our life? You can remember our life, for once, can’t you?”

Tanesha gasped a sob. He caught her before she collapsed. Hot and sweaty from running, she sobbed into his shoulder. After a few moments, she spun in place and took off running.

“Catch me if you can!” She threw back to him.

“Oh, it’s on!” he said.

Jeraine took off after her.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday night — 9:15 p.m.

“It’s very late,” Jabari said. He was holding onto Yvonne’s neck as she and Rodney walked toward the Castle from the parking lot. “That’s just the life of a rock star.”

Yvonne pulled back to look at the little boy.

“Are you a rock star?” Yvonne asked.

“No,” he giggled.

He buried his face in her neck.

“What is it?” Yvonne asked.

Rodney glanced at them. She nodded, and he knocked on the front door.

“I don’t really want to go,” Jabari said.

Yvonne held him close.

“Can’t we just go to your house?” Jabari asked. “I can sleep in my big, grown up bed? I can play with Mr. Chesterfield all day? Then I could go home and Mommy would put me to sleep? And I could play with her in the morning and then…”

The Castle door opened. Delphie welcomed Rodney with a hug.

“I thought you wanted to go with your Daddy,” Yvonne said.

“I do,” Jabari said. “I just… um…”

Jabari watched Rodney and Delphie talk. Rodney turned his body sideways and reached out to them.

“Can you come with me?” Jabari asked. “And Mr. Chesterfield? And Mommy, too? And Mr. Rodney? And…”

Jabari sighed.

“What is this?” Yvonne asked in a low voice.

She gestured for Rodney to go in. He shook his head and walked toward them.

“I just…” Jabari’s eyes welled with tears. Imitating Rodney, the child shook his head.

Rodney picked the small child up out of Yvonne’s arms. He hugged him tight.

“This is the best my life has ever been,” Jabari said into Rodney’s neck.

“Me too,” Rodney said.

“Certainly, that’s true for me,” Yvonne said.

“I don’ want anything to change,” Jabari said.

“What if it just keeps getting better?” Rodney asked.

The little boy was so surprised that he leaned back from Rodney. He turned to Yvonne.

“Is it possible?” Jabari asked.

His eyes became so big and so full that they almost filled up his whole face. His mouth fell open in a tiny “o.”

“Of course,” Yvonne said with a smile.

“Really?” Jabari asked. “You wouldn’t just want me to go so…”

“Stop,” Rodney said. “You know none of that is true.”

“I do?” Jabari looked at him.

“You know it here,” Rodney said. Rodney put his hand over Jabari’s heart. Jabari scowled. He put his own tiny hand over Rodney’s big one. After a moment, Jabari nodded.

“You’re right,” Jabari said. “I do know.”

Jabari smiled and held out his arm. Yvonne walked forward so Jabari could hug her too. Rodney put an arm around Yvonne. The small child sat cocooned by two adults who loved him completely.

“I still don’t want to go,” Jabari said.

“We’ll try it for a day or so,” Yvonne said. “If you don’t like it, we’ll come right home.”

“I forgot!” Jabari brightened. “You’re going with me!”

“We’re going to try it out together,” Yvonne said. “If we don’t like it, even for a moment, we come straight home.”

Jabari nodded. Rodney kissed his cheek.

“Think of me,” Rodney said. “I will miss you horribly.”

“Poor Mr. Rodney,” Jabari said.

He threw his arms around Rodney’s neck in a tight hug.

“Ready to go in?” Rodney asked.

The gate to the Castle parking lot. Aden navigated the large SUV into the parking lot.

“Can you wave?” Yvonne asked.

Jabari waved to the SUV.

“Let’s get out of the way,” Rodney said.

Yvonne followed Rodney and Jabari inside.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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