Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Sixty-five: Preparation

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Sunday morning — 8:05 a.m.
New York City, NY

“Well, I, for one, think we should stay for the concert,” Nash said.

Noelle screamed with laughter. Teddy’s big blue eyes followed Nash as he paced back and forth in the dining room. Sandy rolled her eyes and shook her head. They were sitting around the formal dining room table eating their last gourmet breakfast provided by their generous host, Bestat Behur. Sandy was sitting at the head of the table. Rachel was sitting on her lap and Sandy was feeding her oatmeal.

“I’m just saying that Seth is our family and our friend!” Nash said with a chuckle in his voice.

“Ba!” Rachel said and raised her hand in agreement with Nash.

Tink pointed at Nash and laughed. Using his crutches, Charlie came into the room.

“What’s going on?” Charlie asked.

“Jeraine is our good friend, Tanesha’s husband, no less!” Nash continued. “Tanesha’s staying. We should stay with Tanesha! She needs us!”

“Nash thinks we should stay for the concert,” Tink said.

“So?” Charlie asked.

“Nadia gets off work at noon,” Noelle said in the sing-song voice perfected by younger sisters everywhere.

Charlie grinned. When Nash walked by him, Charlie nodded.

“Thinking with your other head now are we?” Charlie asked.

Nash blushed but kept pacing.

“I’ve taught him well,” Charlie said.

“What’s happening?” Aden asked as he entered the room. He leaned down to kiss Sandy and plucked Rachel from her lap. “Shouldn’t you kids be packing?”

“Nash thinks we should stay here for the concert,” Sandy said.

“And his girlfriend!” Noelle squealed with laughter. Teddy chuckled.

“Nice try, buddy,” Aden said. He patted Nash’s shoulder and sat next to Sandy.

“Next week is going to be really hard,” Sandy said. “You guys have been up every night at plays and expensive dinners. You’ve had almost no sleep since we got here. We need to get home and get some rest.”

“You’re absolutely right, Mom,” Nash said.

“Stop manipulating!” Noelle said.

“Next week is going to be hard. That’s why we need to celebrate tonight,” Nash said with a nod.

“Sandy and I will talk about it. We…,” Aden pointed to Sandy and back to himself, “will decide and let you know.”

“But…” Nash said. “They’re going to win the Grammy, you know it. We’ll totally miss out.”

“Either way, you need to be packed,” Aden said. “If you’re done eating, go pack.”

“But…” Nash tried one more time.

“We’ll decided,” Aden said and pointed out of the room.

Nash went to the other end of the table and plopped down in the chair.

“Nash!” Aden said.

“I haven’t eaten,” Nash said. “I’m starving.”

A plate of food appeared in front of him. Ever the boy, Nash started shoveling food into his mouth.

“Nash! Slow down or you’ll choke!” Sandy said.

Nash looked up at her and made some effort to chew.

“If you’re not eating go pack,” Aden said.

Noelle and Teddy got up and left to get packed. Tink pointed to her full plate and Aden nodded. Charlie sat down next to Tink. He was there only a moment before one of Bestat’s helpers brought him a plate. Wanda sat down next to Charlie and another breakfast plate appeared.

“What do you want to do?” Sandy asked.

She nudged Rachel’s oatmeal toward Aden. Seeing the bowl, Rachel stuck her hand in the warm cereal and laughed. Sandy moved and Aden shook his head. By the time he’d cleaned off Rachel’s hand, a fresh bowl of oatmeal had appeared. Sandy watched his actions closely. He grinned at her and started feeding Rachel. Sandy grabbed her coffee cup, leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes.

“I think we should stay,” Charlie said.

“Stay?” Aden asked. He looked down at Rachel. “What part of ‘we’ll decide’ is confusing?”

“Okay, okay, you don’t have to be a dick,” Charlie said.

Aden scowled at Charlie. He moved to get up, but Sandy put her hand over Aden’s hand. Charlie raised his hands as if Aden was holding a gun.

“We’re all exhausted,” Sandy said. She gave him a partial smile. “Charlie doesn’t mean anything.”

“Sorry, man,” Charlie said. “It’s just nice to be here. You know?”

Aden blinked at Charlie a few times.

“This is my first time out. I’ve either been in the hospital or Seth’s house since… a long time. Anyone who gets in the way of that is bound to be a dick,” Charlie said with a nod. “And next week, we are going to be in that stupid trial. I’m scheduled for Tuesday. Tink tomorrow. Wanda’s up on Friday. And you know about Noelle and Nash. Sissy’s on the stand next week with Ivy.”

“That’s why you need rest,” Sandy said.

Charlie shrugged.

“Or stay,” Aden said with a nod to Charlie. “Sorry, I’m just…”

“On edge,” Charlie said with a nod.

“We’re all exhausted,” Sandy said. “Sissy getting shot and… everything. Noelle… Nash and Teddy getting beaten up. Your injuries Charlie. Everything that’s happened and now we have to gear up for that stupid trial.”

Aden looked at Sandy. For a moment, their eyes held. Aden’s head went up and down in a slow nod. Sandy smiled. She raised her eyebrows to encourage him to make the decision. He tipped his head sideways to encourage her. She nodded.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Sandy said.

Nash looked up from his second plate of food. Noelle and Teddy miraculously appeared in the doorway.

“Today, we rest,” Sandy said. “And I mean rest. You get back in bed and sleep. The most you’re going to do is watch a movie. You can hang out together in the entertainment room, but if it seems like you’re not resting, you go back to your rooms.”

“First they have to pack so we’re ready to go,” Aden said, and Sandy nodded.

“And tonight?” Nash asked.

“We’ll see the performance,” Aden said.

“And fly home as soon as it’s over,” Sandy said. “I’ll talk to Seth about using his plane.”

Aden and Sandy nodded in unison. The kids didn’t dare move or say anything. Rachel made a questioning sound.

“Yay!” Charlie said.

The rest of the children cheered.

“Wanda, call your parents,” Sandy said. “I’ll call Jill.”

Tanesha and Heather appeared in the doorway.

“What are you going to wear tonight?” Heather asked Sandy. “Tanesha has some designer dress that she can’t wear now and…”

“You mean you knew?” Tink asked.

“What else would they do?” Tanesha winked at Tink, who smiled.

“I’ve got this,” Aden said, gesturing to Rachel. “Kids?”

“We’re going,” Noelle said.

Teddy followed her. Nash ran around the table and hugged Aden.

“Love you guys,” Nash said as he hugged Sandy.

“To bed!” Sandy said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Nash said and ran out to the room. In the hallway, he yelled, “Yes!”

Aden laughed. Laughing, Sandy got up from her seat. She nodded to her friends.

“I’m going to rest,” Sandy said.

She set her coffee cup on the table and sauntered down the hall. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.


Sunday mid-day — 12:37 p.m.
New York City, NY

“There you are!” Seth said to Sandy as she stepped off the elevator. Ignoring him, she looked around at the mass of activity on the rooftop of the building. “I was beginning to wonder if something happened.”

“I was asleep,” Sandy said with a little more force than she’d wanted. “I have approximately a hundred teenagers to care for and…”

Seth smiled. He held out his arms and she let him hug her. Her eyes tracked all of the activity. People were running from place to place. A large stage was being set up near the street.

“How are you, my precious Sandy?” Seth asked in her ear.

“I’m fine, Golem,” Sandy said.

Laughing, Seth kissed her cheek and let her go.

“Schmidty said you were going to play in Midtown,” Sandy said.

“I changed the venue,” Seth said. He took her hand and led her into the fray.

“Why?” Sandy asked in a tone that made Seth stop walking. He turned to look at her. “Are you making things hard for no reason?”

Seth was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. One of his trigger to use drugs was becoming overwhelmed in situations that he had made harder than they should be. He grinned at her.

“I am making things difficult,” Seth said. “My specialty. But…”

“Seth,” Sandy said.

“I have a reason,” Seth said.

“Which is?” Sandy asked.

He pointed to the building behind them. Sandy turned around to see the hospital wing Sissy and Ivan were currently healing in.

“The hospital gave their okay,” Seth said. “Sissy, Ivan, and the other patients can watch. We’re also going to ask for a donation for the hospital from people to come see the show and down on the street. The NYPD are going to close off this block so people can watch.”

“You realize that at least half of the people up here are family,” Sandy said.

“Isn’t that great?” Seth asked.

Sandy gave him an affirming nod. He laughed at her reticence to approve.

“It looks like they’ll be ready soon,” Sandy said.

“Our time slot at the Grammy’s is around five,” Seth said. “But we’re going to start playing around three. I’ve asked a bunch of…”

“People to come play with you,” Sandy said with a smile. “It’s going to be a whole festival.”

“Anyone who’s in town,” Seth said. “We’ll use them for the performance.”

“Do you need them?” Sandy asked.

“Bumpy and I can’t carry the whole thing,” Seth said.

Sandy scowled again. She’d seen Jeraine perform this song with only his guitar as accompaniment.

“I’m worried that you’re on track for a relapse,” Sandy said.

Seth turned his full attention to her.

“There are a lot of triggers here — performing, having all your friends around, big deal performance, television,” Sandy said. Seth nodded. “That’s not to mention that your life is going really well. You and Ava just got married. You’re working on interesting mysteries. Your music has been outstanding.”

“Time to tank it all?” Seth asked.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Sandy said.

Putting his hands on his hips, Seth nodded with his eyebrows. He looked away from her before looking down at the ground.

“Well…” he said and looked up at her. His head nodded. “I do feel that manic energy, and I can see how it could happen.”

“Someone brings a joint,” Sandy said with a nod. “One thing leads to another.”

Seth nodded.

“What are you going to do to stop this?” Sandy asked.

“I’m going to leave the rest of the setup to the professionals,” Seth said. “The show’s producers are here. They can deal with the details. Would you like to go to lunch with me?”

“I can’t,” Sandy said. “I have to get something to wear for everyone to wear tonight.”

“Then I’ll head back to the hotel for sleep,” Seth said. “I’ll get grounded and ready to play.”

“In case you run into an old friend or whatever at the hotel, I already called Maresol and Ava,” Sandy said.

“Nap it is!” Seth said with a smile. “I’m a lucky man to have you care so much.”

“Yes, you are,” Sandy said.

“It’s going to be all right,” Seth hugged her again.

“Why did you want me here?” Sandy asked.

“Oh, I need to guarantee the bill here,” Seth said. “The show will reimburse me. They’ve already signed papers to that effect. But since it’s all just unfolding, they need me to front the money.”

Outside of a small salary, Sandy had full control of his finances as a way of slowing down his drug use should he happen to relapse.

“Is Schmidty here?” Sandy asked.

“There.” Seth pointed toward the stage. “I’ll head out then. Will you tell him I’ve left?”

“I will,” Sandy said.

She started across the rooftop garden toward where Schmidty was talking to someone. She’d just passed the small plot of grass when Seth called her.

“Sandy?” Seth asked.

Sandy turned around. Walking backward, she ran into one of the workmen. He grabbed her to keep her from falling. He set her on her feet and kept walking.

“Thanks,” Seth said.

Sandy waved and made her way to Schmidty. The young lawyer was sitting at a table near the stage with an older man. They were bent over some papers. Schmidty looked up when she approached.

“Sandy!” Schmidty said. “Nice to see you.”

His voice resonated with the understanding that the entire thing was ridiculous.

“Classic O’Malley,” Sandy said with a grin.

“Do you think he’s going to relapse?” Schmidty asked.

“I just talked to him about the same thing,” Sandy said. “He’s going back to the hotel for some rest.”

“He’s been up all night setting this up.” Schmidty nodded. “You think he’ll actually…”

“I told Ava and Maresol he was at risk for relapse,” Sandy said. “And Delphie’s staying with Maresol. He won’t slip away from them.”

Schmidty laughed. He introduced the man sitting next to him. The man dug through a briefcase for a stack of papers.

“You’re sure we’ll get reimbursed?” Sandy asked.

“How much is it?” Schmidty asked. He turned the papers around and said, “Cool million. Shit, Sandy, you could just write a check for this.”

Sandy gave him a withering look.

“This will just about liquidate the cash fund,” Sandy said. “We can’t really afford to spend all of it on this event while O’Malley is on his honeymoon. You know how he is.”

“Good point,” Schmidty said.

“We will reimburse,” the producer said. Schmidty nodded. “We have agreed to that. Also, we’re covering the insurance.”

“My next question,” Sandy said. “Can I see that?”

The producer pulled out the event insurance policy.

“And the injury…”

“Here,” the producer said. “Wow, you’re up to snuff.”

“Experience,” Sandy said. She scanned through the insurance documents and nodded. “Did you take a look at these?”

Sandy held up the stack of papers.

“Read them,” Schmidty said. “You’ll see my initials on every page.”

Sandy gave him a slight smile.

“I had to check everything three times when your father was in charge,” Sandy said.

Schmidty smiled. She initialed and signed everything.

“Anything else?” Sandy asked.

“Nice to meet you, Miss O’Malley,” the producer said. Sandy tried not to wince at the name. He shook her hand.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find clothing for the kids and formal wear for Aden and myself that we can by some miracle afford,” Sandy said.

“But…” Schmidty looked worried.

Putting the papers into his briefcase, the producer nodded his good-byes.

“Sorry, Jammy, I’ve got to go,” Sandy said.

“Can I walk with you?” Schmidty asked.

“Sure,” Sandy said.

Schmidty got up and they walked through the crowd of people setting up the event.

“Know any second-hand places for formal wear here?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t get it,” Schmidty said.

“What don’t you get?” Sandy bristled.

She was sure he was going to ask the “Why don’t you just spend Seth’s money” question. She didn’t spend it because it wasn’t her money.

“You’re a very wealthy woman,” Schmidty said.

“How do you figure?” Sandy asked.

“Your mom’s symphony,” Schmidty said.

“What about it?” Sandy stopped walking and turned to him. He turned to look at her.

“I can’t believe Seth didn’t tell you,” Schmidty said.

“Tell me what?” Sandy asked.

“Maybe I didn’t tell him,” Schmidty said with a nod. “You know, I bet I didn’t tell him.”

Like she did with Nash, Sandy grabbed the young man’s arms and gave him a little shake.

“What are we talking about?” Sandy asked.

“Oh, I sold your mom’s symphony,” Schmidty said with a smile. “Surprise!”

“And what does that mean to me?” Sandy asked.

“You’re a very wealthy woman,” Schmidty said. “Let me just say that you’ve made me a very wealthy man.”

“You mean you weren’t rich before?” Sandy asked.

Schmidty blushed and chuckled. She smiled and shook her head at him. She started walking toward the elevator.

“None of this nonsense changes the fact that I need to find clothing for a bunch of teenagers and myself and Aden,” Sandy said. “I haven’t worked in almost a month. And…”

“That’s right,” Schmidty said. “I sent it to the Castle.”

“Sent what?” Sandy asked.

“The check for the sale,” Schmidty said and blushed.

“Whatever,” Sandy said. “I haven’t been at the Castle in what feels like forever.”

“Here’s what I’ll do,” Schmidty said.

“Coming through,” a workman yelled.

Sandy stepped back so two workmen on either end of a large speaker could get between her and Schmidty. After they had passed, she stepped back. Schmidty was holding a credit card.

“Take this,” Schmidty said. “Buy what you need.”

“I can’t take your money,” Sandy said.

“I use these for clients,” Schmidty said. “You can spend as much as you want on it.”

“How will I repay you?” Sandy’s voice edged with despair.

“When you get home,” Schmidty continued, “and read the packet about the sale of your mom’s work. Then, you can write me a check or you can just accept this as my gift. I appreciate all the business you and O’Malley give me. It’s the least I can do.”

“You’re sure?” Sandy asked.

“Positive,” Schmidty said. “And when I said, spend what you want, I mean it. Sky’s the limit.”

“I’ll be shopping with Val,” Sandy said. “Her sky is pretty high.”

“Even better,” Schmidty said. “Just call me when you get through the packet.”

Because she was desperate, she took the card. She gave Schmidty a vague nod and got on the elevator down. Jill, Tanesha, and Heather were waiting for her on the street.

“How’d it go?” Heather asked.

“Weird,” Sandy said. “Hey, did Eros shoot Schmidty and Leslie?”

Heather nodded.

“They are perfect together though,” Jill said.

“It would never occur to my father that a nice Catholic girl would convert to Judaism to marry the nice Jewish boy of her dreams,” Heather said.

“There they are!” Tanesha said.

They jogged to the arriving limousine and got in the back where Valerie waited for them.

“Guess what I have?” Sandy asked. She held up the credit card. “Unlimited spending from Schmidty. He said it was a ‘thank you’ for all the business O’Malley gives him.”

“Go Schmidty,” Valerie said and grabbed the card.

“I know just where to go. Driver?” Valerie leaned forward to give the driver instructions.

“This is going to be fun,” Valerie said when she turned around.

Smiling, Sandy leaned against the seat. She was asleep before the limousine left the curb. Jill pointed at Sandy.

“She’s exhausted,” Jill whispered.

“Let’s take her back to Bestat’s,” Valerie said. “We can get everything. By the time we’re done, she’ll be ready for tonight.”

The girlfriends nodded in agreement. The limousine headed to Bestat’s where the driver carried Sandy inside. Moments later, they were on their way to their first destination.


Sunday mid-day — 11:37 p.m.
Denver, Colorado

“Hey brother,” Fin said to Jacob.

Jacob looked up from his bowl of Capt’n Cruch with Crunchberries. He shook his head and looked down at his bowl.

“What was that?” Fin laughed.

“The last time you showed up unannounced I spent a fair amount of time in the Sea of Amber,” Jacob said.

“That wasn’t me,” Fin said.

“So you say,” Jacob said. “The surprise arrival of a fairy usually heralds horrible things to come.”

“Old wives’ tale?” Fin asked.

“Fact,” Jacob said.

Fin pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. He clapped his hands and a bowl appeared in front of him. He poured himself a bowl of golden sugary square with brightly colored balls. Jacob nudged the milk in his direction.

“You need this,” Jacob said.

Fin looked at the milk. Jacob pantomimed putting the milk on the cereal. Fin poured some milk on the cereal.

“Now what?” Fin asked.

“And a spoon,” Jacob said.

A spoon appeared in Fin’s hand. He watched Jacob eat for a moment before digging his spoon into the cereal. He took a bite.

“Wow,” Fin said before finishing the entire bowl. He was pouring another bowl of cereal when he said, “You will not tell Abi.”

“I’m only supposed to have one bowl,” Jacob said, pointing his spoon at Fin before pouring another bowl for himself.

“What’s that?” Fin asked.

“Five?” Jacob shrugged. “I kind of lost count.”

“I can see why,” Fin said.

They fell silent while they ate their cereal. When they’d finished their bowls of cereal, Jacob looked at Fin.

“Did you come here for a reason?” Jacob asked.

“Oh yeah,” Fin said.

He reached across the table and touched Jacob’s hand. The next thing Jacob knew, he was standing in Jill’s bedroom at Bestat’s apartment. Katy was reading a book on the bed.

“Jill! Katy!” Jacob flushed with delight.

“Hi Daddy,” Katy said.

“Oh great, you’re here,” Jill said. She held up an informal tux. “Can you try this on?”

“What…?” Jacob asked.

“You said you wanted to see the concert,” Jill said with a smile.

Katy laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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