Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Eleven : Badass

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Wednesday evening — 7:05 p.m.

“How is she?” Sandy said in a low voice to Seth.

They were standing outside of the room Maresol used when she stayed at Seth’s home.

“Asleep,” Seth said.

“Which is good?” Sandy asked.

“Which is good,” Seth nodded.

“Thanks for this,” Sandy gestured to the dining room where her family was eating.

“Of course,” Seth said.

“With everything that’s going on — Charlie and well, everything, we wouldn’t have celebrated Sissy’s big achievement,” Sandy said.

“Glad we could help out,” Seth said. “But you know …”

“Yes, I know that Ava did everything,” Sandy smiled.

Seth smiled.

“She’s pretty great,” Sandy said.

Nodding, Seth smiled and put his hands on his hips. He gave Sandy a long look.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“I’m worried about you,” Seth finally said.

“I’m fine,” Sandy said.

She gestured to the dining room, but Seth didn’t move.

“You remember when Aden was gone and you were pregnant with Rachel?” Seth asked.

“I do,” Sandy said.

“You became very ill,” Seth said. “You made me promise that if I saw you pushing yourself to exhaustion again, I would let you know.”

Sandy turned to look at him directly.

“You’re doing it,” Seth said with a nod.

“I’m …” Sandy started.

“I’m not going to lay out all the evidence,” Seth said. “You know what you’re doing. It’s up to you to take care of yourself.”

“But …”

“Where’s Charlie going to be if you get sick?” Seth asked. “Or Sissy. You know she needs you to help her get ready for this enormous transition and then hold her kite string while she tries out her new life. You know that Aden needs you to be his rock while things continue to shake out at Lipson. You know that Nash and Noelle are like trauma victims. They need you to care for them and catch them when everything comes tumbling out. That’s not to mention your business!”

“I know!” Sandy said. Her voice rose in unfamiliarly harsh tones. “Why do you think I’m so exhausted?”

The dining room became silent. Aden appeared in the doorway.

“Everything okay?” Aden asked.

“Just talking to Sandy about taking care of herself,” Seth said.

Aden looked at Seth and then looked at Sandy. He looked worried.

“We’ll be right there,” Seth said.

Seth took Sandy’s elbow and led her into the den.

“What do you want from me?” Sandy’s angry voice was low so Aden wouldn’t hear.

“This is like Sissy and her eating disorder,” Seth said. “Me and drugs. Charlie and drugs. Aden and alcohol. This is your addiction, Sandy.”

“What do you want me to do?” Sandy asked. “I can’t just take a day off because I’m tired. My brother was almost killed! My sister is totally unprepared for her impending move to New York. My father’s best friend is injured because my mother left me a symphony that only I can unravel! Rachel isn’t even sleeping through the night yet! God, Nash and Noelle, they …”

“I want you to answer me honestly,” Seth said.

“When have I lied to you?” Sandy’s voice rose with frustration.

“Fair enough,” Seth said. “What does Sandy need right now?”

“I need to take care of everything,” Sandy said.

“Okay,” Seth said. “After that? What does Sandy need?”

Sandy scowled at him. Out of nowhere, she remembered having a similar conversation with Seth when he was high. Sandy and Mitch had gone to try to talk Seth into getting help. She remembered saying over and over again, “What does Seth need?” He would answer “Drugs.” She’d ask again.

As if he remembered the same night, Seth nodded.

“What does Sandy need?” Seth asked.

“I …” Sandy drew a blank.

Seth waited for a moment.

“Charlie is out of crisis, and Honey is the person he needs for the next step,” Seth said. “Sissy’s received her placement, and Ivan will carry her through the transition. Rachel is happy to spend time with that fairy girl.”

“Eddie,” Sandy said. “Yes, she came back just in time.”

“Nash is thirteen,” Seth said. “He’s not thinking about you. Noelle is caught up in her friends and her painting. They are all right for now — not forever, but for now they are all right.”

“And Aden?” Sandy asked. “He needs me …”

“Aden’s a big boy,” Seth said. “He can call his sponsor or got to a meeting. He can wait until you’ve rested.”

Sandy looked away from Seth.

“You know I’m right,” Seth said.

Sandy glanced at him and looked away again.

“I booked a suite at the JW Marriot,” Seth said.

Sandy didn’t look at him. She bit her lip.

“Your girlfriends are already there,” Seth said. “Tanesha’s son is asleep and Blane can’t have visitors tonight. The fairy girl has Jill’s twins for the night. They are all there exhausted and in need of a break. I think they scheduled massages in a half hour.”

Sandy looked at him.

“But …” Sandy started.

“Aden already knows,” Seth said. “You can just go and say goodbye. Take a night. Take ten. When you’re rested, you can reengage.”

“Are you sure?” Sandy asked.

“Go ask him,” Seth said.

Seth put his arm around her and led her to the dining room where her family was waiting. Looking in the room, she knew that Seth was right. The crisis was slowing down. She could take a night off, get some real sleep, eat good food, and hang out with her friends. Her family was just waiting for her to do it. Noelle and Sissy gave her a big hug. Nash managed to stop talking about himself long enough to wave. Aden held her tight and then released her to care for herself.

“See you tomorrow,” Sandy said.

“Tomorrow?” Aden raised his eyebrows.

Sandy blushed and nodded. He gave her a light kiss and went back to dinner. Seth walked her to her car.

“Get some rest,” Seth ordered.

Sandy sat down in the driver’s seat and fell asleep. Seth went to get Aden. They got her out of the driver’s seat and into Aden’s SAAB. Seth drove Sandy to the hotel. He helped her upstairs and the girlfriends helped Sandy into bed. She slept through the night.


Thursday morning — 6:05 a.m.

“Good morning,” Yvonne said.

She opened the blinds in Jabari’s room. The morning was still dark, but she thought it was nice for him to look out. When she looked at the bed, Jabari was watching her.

“Good morning,” Yvonne repeated. She gave him a what-do-you-say look.

“Good morning,” Jabari said.

He sat up in bed. Yvonne sat down on the bed next to him. He was acting so strangely that she felt his forehead to make sure he hadn’t relapsed. He didn’t move. Usually such a bright child, Yvonne scowled.

“Are you feeling okay?” Yvonne asked.

“I’m being a good boy,” Jabari nodded.

“By whose standards?” Yvonne laughed.

The little boy scowled at Yvonne.

“I’m never going to cause a fuss again,” Jabari said. “Never going to yell. Never going to make a lot of noise and …”

“How are you going to pull that off?” Yvonne laughed.

“What do you mean?” Jabari asked. “I’ll just be good.”

Yvonne smiled. She pulled the small child on to her lap and held him until he squirmed.

“It may surprise you that your Ms. Yvonne has been had some really hard and scary times,” Yvonne said. “Times I wasn’t sure I’d survive, when big, mean people overpowered me.”

“You have?” Jabari asked. He leaned into Yvonne.

“I would think to myself, if ‘I’m just good, this won’t ever happen again,’” Yvonne said. She looked down at Jabari. “You see, I thought I’d made it happen by not being good.”

“Did you?” Jabari asked.

“I thought so,” Yvonne said.

“But were you right?” Jabari asked.

“I don’t know,” Yvonne said. “Some people say I made it happen because of how pretty I am or because I loved Rodney too much or we were so very happy or …”

Yvonne shrugged.

“I’ll tell you that I didn’t want it to happen,” Yvonne said. “And if I could have? I would have done anything, everything, perfectly to make it not happen.”

Yvonne nodded to herself.

“I don’t want to go back to Atlanta,” Jabari’s voice was soft. “I don’ want to go back.”

A fat tear ran down Jabari’s face. Yvonne gave him a kind smile, and the child erupted.

“I don’ want to go back!”

Jabari screamed at the top of his lungs. Tears fell from his eyes and his nose ran. He pulled at his diaper and it spilled all over Yvonne and the bed.

“I don’ want to go back!”

Stronger than she looked, Yvonne kept him from hurting himself or her. The child screamed and punched and kicked. His hysteria rose until he threw up. The child’s emotional roller coaster continued as he worked through his terrifying ordeal. Yvonne stayed by his side. After what seemed like an eternity, the little boy began to calm down.

Yvonne plucked him from the middle of the vomit and diaper remnants. She carried him to the small bathroom off his room. Turning on the warm water, she set him in the bath and pulled off his night shirt.

“Did you make it happen?” Jabari asked.

“What happen?” Yvonne asked.

“The bad thing,” Jabari said.

“I don’t think so,” Yvonne said. “I was just there. I suppose I could have made sure I wasn’t in the middle of the mess. But I was in the middle of a mess. That’s just how it was. I believe I did the best I could.”

“I’m in the middle of a mess,” Jabari nodded.

“Yes, you are,” Yvonne said. “Are you doing your best?”

Embarrassed by his emotional melt down, Jabari blushed and looked down at the water in the tub.

“I think you’re doing your best,” Yvonne said.

“You do?” Jabari looked at Yvonne.

“I do,” Yvonne said. “Mr. Rodney does too. So does Mr. Chesterfield and Akeem and … Well, everybody who counts.”

“What if they’re wrong?” Jabari asked. “And it’s all my fault? And I have to go back? And I’m not doing my best?”

“What if?” Yvonne shrugged. “I would still love you. Mr. Rodney too. Your Mommy and Daddy. Gosh, Jabari, everybody loves you. Even if it is all your fault.”

“They do?” Jabari’s eyes opened wide with surprise.

Yvonne nodded. Jabari scowled for a minute.

“Sorry about the mess,” Jabari said.

“Life’s kinda messy Jabari,” Yvonne said. “We’ll clean it up.”

“We will?” Jabari asked.

“What else are we going to do today?” Yvonne asked.

“Oh,” Jabari said.

“Your Daddy’s in court. Your Mommy’s at school,” Yvonne said. “Grandma Dionne and Grandpa Bumpy are working. Mr. Rodney too. You and me, we need a good mess to take our mind off everything.”

“We’re good at cleaning up big messes,” Jabari said.

“That’s the truth,” Yvonne said. “We’re going to go over to that big house this afternoon to play with the kids there.”

“Keenan and Ivy?” Jabari asked. “Paddie and Katy? I saw them yesterday.”

“How does that sound?” Yvonne asked.

“I’d better rest for a while,” Jabari said. “They probably want to play and I’m … tired.”

Jabari yawned.

“Okay,” Yvonne said. “We’ll clean up first and eat and rest and …”

She looked at the boy and saw that he was falling asleep in the water. She smiled. She gave him a quick bath and carried him into his room. She put him back into a diaper and clean pajamas. She even managed to give him his medicine before he was sound asleep. Unable to use his bed, she carried him into her bedroom and let him sleep in there. With the child in her bed, Yvonne took out a novel and read while he slept.

One thing was sure. Jabari did not have to go back today.

That was a very good thing.


Thursday morning — 9:05 a.m.

Once again, Sandy stood on the office side of a one way mirror while Detective Red Bear sat in the interview room. She stared at the back of his head. The wound from the blow of Heather’s hockey puck had healed, but otherwise she was looking at the same man, through the same window she’d looked through all those weeks ago.

Once again, Detective Red Bear was waiting for the U.S. Marshall’s to show up to take him away.

It didn’t matter that he’d hurt Maresol. It didn’t matter that Maresol had to go to the hospital. It didn’t matter that Maresol now had a hole in her head. It didn’t matter that the doctors had cut off a hunk of Maresol’s long hair. Seth was taking Maresol to specialists to see what was next for her healing.

All that mattered was that the precious Detective Red Bear, miraculously risen from his heart issues, was now disappearing forever.

Because Raz and Samantha finally had their baby, she was working with some other Homeland Security agent, someone she hadn’t met. She scowled. She’d heard it was some badass woman.

The problem was that Sandy didn’t love loud mouthed, mean women. Or men, for that matter.

Sandy closed her eyes and prayed that this badass woman would be someone like John Drayson. She was convinced that his appearance at Denver Health was divine intervention. Dr. Drayson had saved Charlie’s life, plain and simple. Sandy nodded to herself.

She needed a divine intervention.

“Oh hey, Sandy,” a woman’s voice said.

Sandy opened her eyes to see Alex Hargreaves. Sandy scowled.

“You can’t be here,” Sandy said.

“How come?” Alex asked.

“Some Homeland Security lady locked this whole section down,” Sandy couldn’t keep the bitter pain from her voice. “So that nothing happens to the precious Detective.”

“He does seem special,” Alex nodded.

Sandy imitated a grumbling sound that Nash makes when he doesn’t want to do something. Alex smiled.

“Do you mind?” Alex gestured to the electronic board which controlled the room in front of Sandy.

“Are you sure?” Sandy asked. “Won’t you get in trouble?”

“I’ve spent all day and night yesterday sitting around waiting for the blessed birth,” Alex said. “Trouble would be good.”

“Blessed birth?” Sandy asked. She stepped back so Alex could get to the electronic panel.

“My mother’s words,” Alex grinned. “Did you hear what happened?”

“I heard something but …” Sandy shrugged.

“Raz has been sick with the flu,” Alex said. “Something he caught doing all of this rape crap. Anyway, he was there with Sami, right? She was getting a massage so he stepped out for like two minutes. Wham, she’s gone. Panic! Despair! Hysteria!”

“Sounds hard,” Sandy smiled.

In Alex’s easy company, Sandy was starting to forget how hopeless and angry she felt.

“We totally lost her,” Alex said. “You should have seen my mother. ‘What do you mean she’s gone?’ ‘How can a woman in labor disappear?’”

Alex laughed.

“Raz and I had to pull all of our resources to find her,” Alex said. “Then, your brother right?”

Sandy nodded.

“Anyway, Raz was hanging in there after more than a day of labor,” Alex said. “And all of this drama.”

“What did he do?” Sandy had to smile at this silly story, and Alex’s conspiratorial tone.

“Fainted,” Alex said. “I caught the blessed birth. ME! Well, me and Max, together.”

Alex laughed.

“Was Samantha mad?” Sandy asked.

“No,” Alex said. “She’s all blubbery and happy. I don’t know if she noticed Raz was passed out. You know how she is.”

Alex stuck a memory stick into a USB slot on the electronic board.

“I guess I don’t know how Samantha is,” Sandy scowled.

“She’s pretty focused on what’s going on with her,” Alex laughed.

“She was so great with Charlie,” Sandy started to defend Samantha. “I don’t think any of us …”

“Oh don’t worry, that’s not a put down,” Alex said. “She’d be the first one to say that she gets really focused on what she wants. Nothing else matters.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ve heard her say that,” Sandy said.

Alex pushed a button on the board.

“Oh, you mean she had her baby so she didn’t care what happened to Raz?” Sandy asked.

Alex nodded. Sandy laughed.

“Was he upset?” Sandy asked.

“Nah,” Alex said. “He’s seen her with shoes!”

Laughing, Alex turned a dial on the board. Detective Red Bear looked up at the ceiling and then around the room. He rotated his head to look at the one-way mirror.

“Can you take a step back?” Alex asked.

“Why?” Sandy asked.

Alex took a handgun out from a holster at her sacrum and pointed it at the window.

“You’re going to shoot him?” Sandy was a little embarrassed at how her voice rose with hope.

“Yeah, I know, right,” Alex said.

Alex’s entire focus was on the window and the man in the room. Detective Red Bear hopped to his feet. He looked around the room before screaming with rage. Handcuffed but otherwise unrestrained, he pounded his fists against the one-way mirror. Sandy was so surprised that she yelped and hopped back.

His fists pounded against the mirrored glass again. Trying to look through, he pressed his face up against the glass.

“That’s mine!” he said. “It’s mine!”

He was so intense and angry that Sandy scooted to a dark corner of the room away from the window. Three police officers came into the interview room. Detective Red Bear fought them tooth and nail, but they finally got his feet and hands restrained. Once he was tied down, Alex holstered her handgun.

Detective Red Bear continued to scream like a caged animal. Alex looked around the room for Sandy.

“Don’t be frightened,” Alex said. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“I’ve heard that before,” Sandy said.

“No, he really can’t now,” Alex said.


“Let’s see,” Alex said. “Raz and Colin have dismantled his entire operation. One of my guys found his last hidden bank account — that’s how we knew he was here. We tried to get to Seth’s house before he hurt Maresol, but … We were about twenty minutes too late.”

Alex nodded toward the Detective. He was yanking on his hand cuffs in an effort to free himself from his restraints.

“What is that?” Sandy pointed to the USB drive.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Alex grinned.

“And what it is?”

“Your mother’s symphony,” Alex said. “Seth told us about the symphony, and you know we had some down time last night.”

“You broke the code?” Sandy asked.

“Me and Max,” Alex nodded. “Seth conducted the Colorado Philharmonic Orchestra this morning. You know, those musicians got there about a half hour after we finished. Three in the morning, no less. Seth called; they showed up. Unbelievable. They just finished. Seth says it’s not perfect, like we could tell the difference.”

Sandy stared at the interview room.

“You want to hear it?” Alex asked. “You’d have to hear him scream.”

“That’s okay,” Sandy sniffed back a tear.

“I have to stay with you until the Marshalls get here,” Alex said. She leaned close to Sandy. In a low voice, she said, “They’ve been here for an hour or so. So when you’re done watching this prick suffer, you just let me know. They’ll take out the trash.”

Sandy was so surprised that she just blinked at Alex.

“You are a badass,” Sandy said.

“Just hate it when the refuse fucks with good people,” Alex said. “Makes me mad.”

Sandy nodded.

“You wanna see pictures of the blessed birth?” Alex asked.

Smiling, Sandy nodded.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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