Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Seven : Why you're here

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Tuesday morning — 9:25 a.m.

Heather grabbed her purse and started out the door of her and Blane’s home. She’d just run in to change her clothes and get a change of clothes for Tink. Mack was staying with Jill. With her hand on the door knob, Heather sighed.

Would Mack even remember who she was? She bit her lip. She’d been so focused on Blane and his recovery, her mother and her weird antics, Jabari and everything going on with him, and now Charlie. She spent every night with Mack, but was it enough?

She shook her head at herself.

“You don’t have time for these thoughts,” Heather repeated to herself what Blane usually said, and opened the door.

Tres Sierra was standing on the other side holding a bouquet of Heather’s favorite roses — white roses with deep red along the edges. She looked at him and then the roses. He blushed.

“I was just leaving,” Heather said.

“Oh,” Tres held the roses out to her. “I …”

She took the roses. For a moment, they stared at each other. She stepped back and let him inside the house. She set her purse and the dufflebag of clothing by the door so she wouldn’t forget them. He stepped inside. As he passed her, he took the roses out of her hands and walked through the house to the kitchen. Heather followed him.

“How do you know my house?” Heather asked the only thing she could think of.

“I used to come here when Blane was single,” Tres said.

“Enrique,” Heather said the name of Tres’s brother and Blane’s ex-boyfriend.

“Actually, I’d be surprised if Enrique has ever been here,” Tres said. “Blane’s always treated his home as his private sanctuary.”

Tres stood in their little den by the kitchen and looked around.

“It looks nice,” Tres said.

“Why did you come here?” Heather asked.

“Acupuncture,” Tres said. “I threw my back out. He treated me downstairs. Plus, we met here a few times for fantasy soccer. He used to play before … he had better things to do.”

With a nod to Heather, Tres went into the kitchen. He opened a few cabinets before he found a pitcher that would work as a vase. He added water to the vase and found a knife.

“Doesn’t look like you’ve been here much,” Tres said. He cut the ends off the roses and stuck them in the pitcher.

“With everything going on I …” Heather started. She shook her head. “Wait. Why are you here?”

“Blane asked me to check in on you while he was in the hospital,” Tres said. He looked at Heather and shrugged. “I was over here to drop the month end reports off to Aden and thought I’d stop by to see how you are.”

“Aden told you about Charlie?” Heather asked.

“I got the call last night,” Tres said. “Lipson care line. I would have been here last night but I needed to finish the month ends. With the earthquake and all that crap, things are pretty tight. I needed to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.”

“Don’t you always do that?” Heather asked.

Tres grinned.

“How is Charlie?” Tres asked.

“As good as can be expected,” Heather said. “He survived the night, which is more than the doctors thought.”

Tres gave Heather a sad nod.

“I’ve known him since he was a little kid,” Heather said. “He’s like my little brother or … I guess it’s like that for all of us.”

“I picked Tanesha up at the airport last night,” Tres said. “She’s pretty broken up about Charlie too.”

“I know,” Heather said. Her voice was vague.

“Jabari seems to be doing well,” Tres said. “Any word on whether they got on the court’s schedule?”

“This afternoon,” Heather said. “In Atlanta.”

“I knew you’d know,” Tres said.

Heather smiled at him. He turned his attention to cutting the roses. She’d forgotten how handsome he was. At least, he looked really handsome today. Fit. She could see his biceps flex through his Lipson work shirt. He smelled good too.

“I think …” Heather started at the same time Tres said, “When are you …?”

They laughed.

“You can go ahead,” Heather said. “I’m just talking.”

“Me too,” Tres said. “I feel …”

He fanned his chest with the hand holding the knife.

“First-date jitters,” he said. “I mean, I know it’s not a date and … It’s just … you make me feel …”

“Me too,” Heather said.

Tres gave her a handsome grin.

“When are you due?” Tres asked.

“Oh,” Heather looked down at her belly. “Early next month. We’re hoping Blane will be out. He’s done well with the treatment. Did you hear he started the cord blood yesterday?”

“Got the infusion,” Tres nodded. “I did hear that.”

Tres cut the last rose. He went to the sink and ran water over the knife before putting it back in the rack. He turned back to look at her.

“You’re very beautiful,” Tres said.

Surprised, Heather could only nod.

“Listen there’s something …” Heather started at the same time he said, “I’m sorry I …”

He gave her a sad smile and gestured for her to talk.

“My mom left,” Heather said in a fast, strident voice. She wanted to get the words out before she chickened out. “With my dad, so I think I’m going to be here for a while and …”

“Psyche left with Eros?” Tres looked genuinely surprised.

“How did you know?” Heather asked.

“I don’t know how,” Tres said. “I just know. Maybe Jake said something or … I doubt it though. I re-read the story when we met and again after Mack. You’re Hedone. I knew when we met that you were Hedone.”

His voice was so matter of fact that Heather nodded.

“Goddess Hedone,” Tres said.

“Half,” Heather said.

“And the other half?” Tres’s eyebrow went up suggestively and she blushed.

“My mom used to take me, whenever I got settled and …” Heather said in a flurry of embarrassed words. “I’m going to stay married to Blane.”

Tres nodded.

“Richer and poorer and all that,” Heather said.

“Wait. Are you saying we could …?” Tres’s eyebrows went up with surprise.

Heather nodded.

“And Blane?” Tres asked.

“He knows,” Heather said.

“I know he knows,” Tres said. “It doesn’t seem … polite.”

“It doesn’t,” Heather nodded. “But he’s already fallen for Nelson.”

“Nelson who works at Denver Crime Lab?” Tres asked.

Heather nodded.

“Huh,” Tres said. He looked at Heather for a moment. “That’s a lot to digest. You guys planned this?”

“No,” Heather said. “We planned that he would be my husband, father of my children, until my mom took me. But now that I can stay — one human lifetime, that’s the deal — we’ve made other decisions. For now …”

“Blane has to heal,” Tres said.

“Our first priority,” Heather nodded. It can take up to a year for him to have full immune function, that’s assuming that he doesn’t reject the infection or get sick or…”

Tres grinned at her.

“What?” She asked.

“It’s so clean, all above board,” Tres said.

“That’s Blane,” Heather said. “No hurt feelings.”

Tres nodded. Their eyes held for a moment. Heather blushed and looked down.

“I should go,” Tres said.

“Me too,” Heather said. “I need to get back to Denver Health to bring Tink clothes and then get to Saint Joe’s see Blane.”

“A day of many hospitals,” Tres said.

Heather nodded.

“But we …” Tres said.

Heather nodded. Tres grinned. Without saying another word, he walked out of the house. Heather blew out a breath. She waited until she heard him drive off before picking up the duffle bag and her handbag on her way outside. Once in her car, she smiled.

He was definitely the bright spot in a very hard day.

She started the car and headed toward Denver Health.


Tuesday morning — 10:05 a.m.

“I don’t understand,” Sandy said.

Aden put his arm around her shoulder to try to keep her calm. She looked like she was going to scream or cry or both. Of course, Sandy would never do anything like that. She glanced at him and turned back to the doctor.

“Charlie was supposed to die,” Sandy said. “That’s what you’re telling me.”

“He had massive internal bleeding,” the doctor said. “We removed his spleen. His liver is in shreds. He has a few broken vertebrae and …”

The doctor shook his head.

“We’ve opened his skull to relieve the pressure,” the doctor said.

“But?” Sandy asked.

“He’s still a very sick young man,” the doctor said.

“If he makes it today, you’ll have to go back in,” Sandy repeated something the surgeon had said last night.

“I’d encourage you to focus on today,” the doctor said.

“Because you still think he’s going to die,” Sandy said.

The doctor stared at Sandy. His eyelids flicked over his dark eyes like shutters. He swallowed hard. Blink, blink, swallow, followed by blink, blink, swallow.

“When would the surgery happen?” Sandy asked.

“Later today.” The doctor looked relieved to have something to say.

Sandy nodded.

“There’s nothing you can do but wait,” the doctor said.

“I’m sorry,” Sandy said. “But there’s everything we can do.”

The doctor looked at her as if she was covered in explosives and was showing him the detonator.

“We can be with him,” Sandy said. “Read to him, love him, pray for him …”

“Well, I …” the doctor said.

“You’re going to give us access,” Sandy said.

“I …”

Sandy gave him a stern look and the doctor flushed.

“That’s my little brother,” Sandy said. “You’ll give us access or … we’ll just take it.”

She sniffed at the man.

“One at a time,” the doctor said. “Fifteen minutes max. But if he gets worse or the visits are distracting to other patients, you’ll be cut off.”

As if he was in control of the situation, the doctor gave her an authoritative nod. She responded as if he’d given her a lollipop. He scowled at her and left the private family room. Sandy sneered at his back.

“Asshole,” Sandy said under her breath.

“What did you have in mind?” Aden asked.

“I want Heather and Jill here. Now,” Sandy said. “Sissy and Tink will stay here. Seth and Ava. Everyone from the Castle, of course. And we need to get that Akeem.”

“Rodney’s charge?” Aden asked.

“Him,” Sandy nodded. “You’ll make a schedule.”

“Uh …” Aden gave a quick shake of his head. “What?”

“We’re going hospital to hospital,” Sandy said. “While we’re here, the others will be there. We need a schedule. You’re good at making those. Organizing shifts.”

“Do I need to know what you’re doing at these hospitals?” Aden asked.

“Love,” Sandy said. “We’re going to infuse Charlie with love. Blane too.”

Looking up at him, she gave Aden a fierce look.

“Nobody dies today,” Sandy nodded.

She turned away from Aden to face the wall. For a moment, she rounded her shoulders and let her head fall into her hands. As if it had never happened, her shoulders pushed back. She turned to look at Sissy and Tink. The girls gave her an intimidated look.

“Nobody dies today,” Sandy repeated. “Now, where is my phone?”


Tuesday morning — 11:25 a.m.

Seth slid the sliding glass door open and stopped. The den in front of him was a mess. The cabinets were open, and their contents had been spilled all over the floor. He stepped inside.

“Maresol!” Seth yelled. “Maresol!”

He heard a moan and ran into the room. He jumped over the spilled contents of his vinyl record collection and slid across the tile through a pile of books. He rounded the bar and ran into the kitchen.

There was a small puddle of blood, more like a spill than an entire bodies worth.

“Maresol?” Seth asked.

He heard a noise from the cabinet under the bar. He opened the cabinet door and Maresol fell out. She’d been stuffed inside the cabinet with her knees up against her chin. She’d fallen onto her side. Seth dropped to the floor. He was checking her neck for her pulse when her eyes fluttered open. Her face was grey and her breathing shallow.

“Oh Maresol,” Seth said.

“Seth,” she whispered. As if it hurt, her hands went to the back of her head. “Is he gone?”

“Who?” Seth asked. He tried to move her hands to look at the wound on her head.

“Oso rojo,” Maresol’s mouth formed the words. “Police.”

Seth stiffened.

“He did this?” Seth asked.

“Hit me,” Maresol said. “I hid when he went up …”

There was a smash as something fell over upstairs.

“Call the police,” Maresol’s eyes begged him. “He wants to kill you. Said he would. Let them deal with it.”

Hearing a noise, Seth looked up to see Dale, their young, resident handyman looking over the bar at them.

“We should kick his ass,” Dale said.

“Dale!” Maresol said.

There was another crash upstairs.

“The guy who did this is …?” Dale asked. He pointed to the ceiling.

“No heroics,” Seth said.

“But …” Dale started.

“Please,” Maresol said.

She looked so sick that Dale gave an agreeing nod.

“We’ll let the Denver Police handle their own mess.” Seth said.

He waved for Dale to get Maresol’s other arm. Together, they mostly carried her out to the pool area in the carriage house. Seth called the police from there. They waited only a few minutes before the first police officer appeared at the back gate. He helped them get Maresol out of the backyard. Once out of the yard, the officer asked Seth and Dale stay out of the house and garden.

When the ambulance came for Maresol, Seth insisted that he and Dale go with her. A few minutes later, Maresol was wheeled into the emergency room at Denver Health. Seth pushed and prodded Dale to go with him to find Sandy.

“Oh good you’re here,” Sandy said.

She scanned Seth’s face.

“What happened?” Sandy asked.

“Maresol was knocked unconscious at the house,” Seth said.

“Maresol!” Sandy’s hand went to her heart. “Is she okay?”

“She’s in emergency,” Seth said. “Looks like a flesh wound, but she’s not exactly young.”

“You heard they opened Charlie’s …”

Sandy gestured to the crown of her head and Seth nodded.

“What were they after?” Sandy asked.

Seth winced and Sandy’s mouth fell open with surprise.

“Andy’s symphony …” Sandy said.

Seth nodded.

“Red Bear,” Sandy whispered. “He’s alive.”

“Asshole was there when we left,” Dale said.

“Oh God, poor Maresol,” Sandy said. She looked at Dale, and then back at Seth. “Where’s Ava?”

“With her sister,” Seth said. “At the homestead.”

“The way this day is going, you’d better check,” Sandy said.

Seth dialed his cellphone.

“How are you at loving?” Sandy asked Dale.

“What?” Dale asked.


Tuesday morning — 1:25 p.m. ET
Atlanta, Georgia

“Nasty business,” the family court judge said.

“Sir, we’re not sure what’s going on here,” Ephraim James, the lawyer Schmidty hired said. “Truth be told, we believe it’s a matter for the police.”

“That’s the truth.” The family court judge said.

“We’d like to let the police work out the details,” Ephraim James said.

“While you take the boy home?” the judge said.

“Yes, sir,” Ephraim James said. “We’d very much like to take the child home to Denver, where he belongs.”

“Those are the details to be worked out.” The judge looked over his reading glasses at Jeraine, Bumpy, Dionne, and Yvonne. He glanced at Annette, her boyfriend, and attorney. “Funny thing.”

“Yes, sir?” Jeraine’s Atlanta lawyer asked.

“I happen to know the Denver judge in this case,” the judge said. “Now I don’t know all of the family court judges in Denver, or even in Atlanta, for that matter. But Judge Teirten and I happened to have been on a few panels together — at conferences, you know. Turns out, there aren’t a lot of judges who deal with celebrities custody issues.”

The family court judge looked down the row on Jeraine’s side of the court and then down the row of people on Annette’s side. His eyes returned to look at Jeraine.

“I called him as soon as I was assigned this case,” the judge said. “You know what he said?”

“No, sir,” Jeraine’s Atlanta lawyer said.

“He said this matter was resolved,” the judge said. “Signed, stamped, and delivered. Just yesterday, for that matter.”

“Yes, sir,” Ephraim James said. “I’ve submitted a copy of the custody arrangement that Judge Teirten approved yesterday.”

“I see that copy here,” the judge said.

“Sir, we’d like to remind you that the father in this case telephoned my client and insisted that Ms. Annette take the boy,” Annette’s attorney said.

“That’s what’s confusing to me,” the judge said. “This custody arrangement … It took a lot of time and a lot of thought.”

The judge waved the agreement to show its bulk.

“You can almost smell the billable hours,” the judge said. “Now why would a father spend all that time and all that money — and this document reeks of money — only to telephone his ex to have her come pick up the boy.”

“His wife has forced him into …” Annette’s attorney said.

“How dare you?” Jeraine’s indignant voice echoed through the court. “They almost killed my father-in-law’s dog!”

“Mr. Wilson.” The judge put his index finger to his lips. “I don’t have any problem sticking you in jail here in Atlanta, but that’s not going to help your boy.”

Jeraine nodded.

“On the matter of the canine,” Annette’s attorney stepped across the space between the tables and set a document down. “We are requesting the City and County of Denver detain and evaluate for disposal the ferocious animal which attacked Ms. Annette’s friend, as well as, compensation from Mr. Wilson, who did, in fact, instruct them to remove the child.”

The judge waved the attorney forward with the document. The courtroom was silent while the judge, Schmidty, and Ephraim James read the document. Schmidty finished first. He set the document down on the table out of Jeraine’s reach. Jeraine tried to get the document, but Schmidty blocked him. Bumpy put his hand on Jeraine’s shoulders to steady his son. After a few minutes, the judge set the document down.

“I must say,” the judge said with a nod. “This is definitely a unique situation.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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