Looking for the beginning? Download your free copy of Denver Cereal Volume 1
CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN
Friday afternoon — 3:22 p.m.
Pulling into the Marlowe School parking lot, Yvonne glanced at Abi and laughed at her joke. Somehow, Yvonne’s car was waiting for her in the Castle parking lot. She wasn’t sure how the car had miraculously appeared in front of all those photographers. She was just glad it was there.
After all, she had to pick up her Jabari after his first few hours at school.
The Marlowe School was set up with large parking lot and a wide, open area in front of the school for older kids and teachers to wait. It was against the rules stay in the car to pick up your child. This was Celia Marlowe’s vision of how things should be. Parents were required to actually get out of their vehicles to check out their children. This forced the parents to check in with the teacher every day. Every once and a while someone complained, but most parents were used to the system which would continue at the new school.
Yvonne scanned the waiting area for Jabari and saw the white hair of Colin Hargreaves towering over the crowd. He was waiting with his son, Conner, to get Paddie from Edie. Noelle was standing with Keenan, and Ivy a foot or so away from Colin while she waited for her dad to pick them up. Noelle waved when she saw Yvonne. Ivy noticed Noelle waving and joined her. Yvonne smiled at the girls.
“They are adorable,” Abi said. “Just adorable.”
“Noelle’s a talented artist too,” Yvonne said. “And Ivy’s just getting her feet under her.”
“Uh huh,” Abi smiled.
Edie pulled up next to Yvonne’s car. Yvonne and Abi helped Edie get Katy and Paddie from the car. After some negotiating, Katy and Paddie agreed to hold the fairyies’ hands as long as they got to hold each other’s hand. Yvonne watched the entire interaction with anxious impatience. She wanted to get Jabari and get home.
When everything was arranged — Katy held Edie’s hand and Paddie held Abi’s hand —, Yvonne set off toward to the school. She was about a foot in front of Paddie when she felt something whiz by her. She turned and saw Abi weave and then fall on her side. Katy and Paddie dropped face down on the ground.
Then she heard the sound.
“Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” and then the squeal of tires.
People started screaming and running.
“Abi!” Yvonne turned toward her friend and then remembered Jabari. “Jabari.”
“He is safe, ma’am,” Yvonne heard Keenan’s voice in her head. She blushed. “The fairy is not.”
Yvonne went to Abi. The fairy was bleeding from a wound about an inch above her hip. Yvonne pulled off her fleece sweater and took off her long sleeved cotton blouse. Wearing only her bra, she pressed the cloth into the wound. Abi groaned. Yvonne glanced at Katy and Paddie. Katy’s dark eyes watched Yvonne. Edie bent down to talk to Katy, and Yvonne turned her attention to Abi.
“What happened?” Yvonne asked. She leaned in to put pressure on the wound in Abi’s side.
“Shot,” Abi said in a grunt. “Bounced …off … something …”
She gestured toward Katy. Yvonne glanced at Katy.
“We have a protective bubble around us,” Katy said. “Always me. Always Paddie.”
“She needs a doctor,” some woman said as she went by. Yvonne didn’t bother to look up.
“Do you need a hospital or …?” Yvonne asked.
“She needs to go home,” Edie said. “I’ve sent a message to my brother.”
“No,” Abi said. “I can’t leave …”
Edie made a determined look and stared at Abi, who kept shaking her head.
“They’re arguing,” Katy said in a soft voice.
Abi grabbed Yvonne’s hand. “You’ll … be … okay?”
“I will be just fine, grandmother,” Yvonne smiled a sweet smile.
“And … Annette?” Abi whispered.
Yvonne smelled him before she saw his legs. Fin knelt down on the other side of Abi. He touched Yvonne’s T-shirt covering Abi’s wound. His fingertips stroked her chin, and he gave her a sweet smile.
“Your Highness, I …” Abi whispered
He looked up at Yvonne.
“Yvonne,” he said with a nod. “Think ‘humans forget fairies’ and no human will remember we were here.”
With a nod, he scooped up Abi.
“And put your top on,” Fin said.
“Yes, grandfather,” Yvonne said.
He winked at Yvonne and they disappeared.
“Humans forget fairies,” Yvonne said out loud.
For a moment, everything went silent with the hum of fairy magic, and then reality returned. People were screaming and running around them. Sirens roared. Cars revved to get out of the parking lot. Yvonne pulled on her fleece top.
“Are you okay?” Yvonne touched Katy’s shoulder.
“We’re fine,” Katy said. “This is our spy training.”
“Spy training,” Edie gave a rueful shake her head. “Can you believe it?”
“We heard the sound and followed through on our spy training,” Paddie said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
“The bullet bounced off Katy’s protective shield,” Edie said in a low tone.
She helped Paddie to his feet. Yvonne helped Katy to her feet.
“Who did they shoot at?” Yvonne asked.
“Me,” Paddie said.
Katy nodded. Realizing what he’d said, the little boy’s bottom lip began to vibrate. Katy put her arm around him.
“I need to get Jabari,” Yvonne said.
“I need my Daddy,” Paddie said.
“My brothers are still there,” Katy said in her most mature voice, but her lip was beginning to vibrate too.
“Why don’t I get Jabari when I get the babies?” Edie asked. “Would you mind staying with Katy and Paddie?”
“Not at all,” Yvonne said.
She sat down cross-legged on the cold asphalt and patted her lap. Katy climbed onto one thigh and Paddie onto the other. Yvonne hugged the children to her. Paddie threw his arms around her neck and began to cry. Katy pressed her head against Yvonne’s shoulder and cried. Yvonne made soothing sounds and let them cry.
The police came into the parking lot with a roar. The paramedics arrived after the police. People ran around them. Children screamed and cried. Through all the chaos and noise, Yvonne held onto the children, and they held onto her.
Friday afternoon — 3:22 p.m.
On his way to the Marlowe School, Aden stopped fast to avoid hitting the ancient Datsun sedan which had stopped short at the light. He waved in the rearview mirror to thank the driver of the Pathfinder behind him for not slamming into the back of his SAAB. The man flipped him the bird and pointed to the Datsun. Aden nodded and shrugged into the rearview mirror. The man in the Pathfinder repeated his gesture.
Waiting at the stoplight, Aden’s mind drifted a million miles away. He worried about Sandy. In less than a month, Sissy would leave for New York. Although they hadn’t officially decided, he knew that Charlie was going to live with Seth, maybe in LA. Nash was talking about spending the summer with Teddy in some gruesome survival training recommended by Alex Hargreaves’s father. Noelle would probably go to wherever Mike ended up this summer. Aden scowled and tried to remember if that was Salem, Massachusetts or LA.
Either way, he had no idea what Sandy would without all of the kids around.
“Maybe we should have another child,” Aden said out loud. “Or two.”
Aden nodded at his brilliance just as the light changed. He followed the Datsun across the intersection. He turned on his blinker to turn right at the first street after the light. He had to go down half the block to get into the Marlowe School parking lot.
The Datsun stopped short in front of him and a guy jumped out of the passenger seat. Aden got a glimpse of the guy’s face as he got out. He looked like a runner in his hoody, running tights, and shoes. The guy jogged across the street toward the backside of the Marlowe school. Aden knew that some of the dad’s ran with their older kids. He hadn’t recognized the man, but maybe he was the partner of someone at Lipson or one of those paying dads.
The Datsun stalled and the driver in the car behind Aden, the small jobs appraiser’s husband, honked his horn.
Aden heard the Datsun turn over. Once, twice … Aden’s eyes tracked the jogger while Aden wondered if Aden should pull the SAAB around the Datsun. He glanced in his side mirror and then forward again. The jogger pulled something from his pocket. Aden gasped.
The jogger had a handgun. He was aiming at the Marlowe school waiting area.
His handgun was aimed where Noelle was waiting for Aden.
Moving more on instinct than anything else, Aden zipped around the Datsun just as its engine caught. Aden mashed on the SAAB’s gas pedal and got ahead of the Datsun. The Datsun slowed to pick up the jogger. Aden turned the wheel hard and the SAAB cut right in front of the Datsun just as it started to make its getaway. The Datsun bashed into the SAAB. The jogger hadn’t had time to put on his safety belt. His head hit the windscreen of the Datsun. The driver opened the door to run.
Amped up on adrenaline, Aden jumped out of the SAAB. In the middle of the busy street, he tackled the driver. He managed to catch the slight man by the shoulders. They landed hard, but Aden was bigger and definitely stronger than the driver. Aden held on for dear life as the driver kicked and screamed.
Within a few minutes, a Denver Police Officer touched his back.
“He was driving the Datsun,” Aden said.
“That your SAAB,” the police officer said.
“Yes,” Aden said.
“You Aden Norsen?” the police officer asked.
“Yes,” Aden said. “This guy was driving the Datsun and the other guy …”
The police officer leaned down and handcuffed the driver of the Datsun.
“You can get up now,” the police officer said.
He gestured to another uniformed police officer who jogged over to them.
“I saw the whole thing!” Aden said. “He was driving and I …”
“Sir, I need you to come with me,” the police officer said.
“But wait,” Aden pointed to his car and the shooter who’s head was still in the windscreen of the Datsun. “I need to give you my …”
“Sir, your daughter’s been shot,” the police officer said.
“Noelle?” Aden turned to look at the officer for the first time.
It was one of the men who’d helped Charlie. As if he’d heard Aden’s thought, the man gave a single nod.
“Noelle?” Aden repeated.
He felt the world spin. The officer grabbed his arm just below the shoulder and pulled him to his feet.
“She’s just a little girl,” Aden said.
“Who is telling everyone what to do,” the officer smiled.
“She’s …” Aden blinked at the officer.
“Something about some fairy-something,” the officer said. “There are a couple kids with her.”
“Keenan and Ivy,” Aden said. “Ivy! Did they get Ivy too?”
“No,” the officer said. “She’s very small. Probably couldn’t see her. Why?”
Aden gave a quick shake of his head and started toward the Marlowe School waiting area. The uniformed officer grabbed his arm again to stop him.
“What?” Aden asked.
“You got to go there and be the dad,” Aden said. “Your daughter needs you to be her dad now, so she can just be a hurt kid.”
Aden tucked in his work shirt while the officer patted some of the dirt from the asphalt off. The officer gave him a handkerchief and pointed to Aden’s eyebrow. He put the handkerchief where the officer pointed and winced.
“You’ll need a couple stitches,” the officer said.
He whistled and waved a paramedic over.
“Really I …” Aden pointed toward where Noelle was.
“Take care of yourself so you can take care of your kid,” the officer said.
They watched two officers walked by with the driver of the Datsun. A paramedic arrived to clean his face and put some butterfly bandages on. The paramedic was walking away before Aden asked the question he hadn’t dared to ask.
“Is Noelle hurt badly?” Aden asked.
“Any gunshot wound is bad in my book,” the uniformed officer said and nodded. “But she’s just got a slice out of her arm. Woulda been worse,but she dropped face down on the ground.”
“Face down?” Aden asked.
“Said it was spy training,” the officer said.
“Just telling you what she said,” the officer said. “You know that Hargreaves guy?”
“Max?” Aden asked. The officer shook his head. “Patrick?”
“Colin,” the officer said. “Homeland Security.”
“He’s the one who gave Noelle her ‘spy training,’” Aden said.
“He shoulda followed his own training,” the officer said.
“Why?” Aden asked.
“He got shot in the back,” the officer said.
“What?” Aden asked.
“He was wearing body armor,” the officer said. “Something about his sister. You know his sister?”
“Samantha?” Aden asked. The officer shook his head. “Erin?”
“Alex,” the officer said. “Hargreaves said his sister made him wear it. She’d kill him if he didn’t.”
“She probably would,” Aden said.
The officer gave Aden an assessing look.
“Families,” the officer shrugged. “Anyway, looks like this Hargreaves, his kid, and your daughter were the targets.”
“Paddie?” Aden asked.
“He’s okay,” the officer said.
“Fairy magic?” Aden asked.
“That’s what he says,” the officer said. “Cute kid.”
Aden smiled and nodded.
“We think they were there for your daughter.”
“Even pressed for time, they shot at her twice,” the officer said. “Missed her once, got her arm the second time. Hargreaves and the kid were probably just opportunity shots.”
Aden’s fuzzy head suddenly became razor sharp.
“Where’s Noelle?” Aden asked. “Where is my daughter?”
The officer pointed in the direction of an ambulance. Noelle was sitting on a gurney. Even from this distance, he could tell that Noelle was talking a mile a minute to a female police officer.
“She’s asking for her mom,” the officer said.
“I’ll call her,” Aden said.
“You do that,” the officer said. “Any idea why anyone would have it in for your kid?”
“She’s a witness in the big rape trial,” Aden said. “Key prosecution witness. So’s Ivy.”
“The kid with your daughter?” the officer asked.
“I’ll be damned,” the officer said. “Two shots. Two targets. Hargreaves said something about that too. Prosecutor’s going to flip out.”
“Not as much as I will,” Aden said.
The officer looked at him.
“My son, Charlie, was beat up this week after they told us he was safe,” Aden said.
“Charlie Delgado,” the officer said.
“My wife’s his sister,” Aden said. “Now Noelle.”
The officer nodded. They started walking toward where Noelle waited. They were almost there when the uniformed officer tugged on Aden’s arm. Aden turned to look at him.
“You listen to me,” the officer said in a low tone. “I shouldn’t say nothing, but some guys and I were talking about Charlie. We loved his Dad and Magic … Uh …”
“O’Malley,” Aden said.
“Him,” the officer said. His voice dropped to a whisper. In the chaos of the police, ambulances, and now a news helicopter, Aden had to lean in. “There’s so much money in this thing. Your kids, your wife, fucked it up for a lot of people. We think …”
“I hear you,” Aden said.
“The chief is on it,” the officer said. “He’s gonna see it right, but …”
“I will take care of my family,” Aden said.
“Any guy who’d total his car to catch a shooter …” the officer nodded. “You’re not without friends.”
The officer pushed his business card at Aden and walked away. Aden jogged over to Noelle.
“Daddy!” Noelle said from the gurney. “You’re bleeding! Daddy!”
Aden held out his arms. She leaned forward and began to sob.
Friday night — 11:22 p.m.
Sandy pressed open the door to the closest Catholic Church to Denver Health Hospital — Mother of God on the corner of Logan Street and Speer Boulevard. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected from this old church, certainly not the grandeur of the Basilica she usually went to on Colfax. She stepped inside and sighed at the simple beauty of this tiny chapel. She curtsied and moved up the center aisle to the front. She turned right at the front row and fell to her knees.
“I’ve never asked for an easy life,” Sandy whispered. “Never.”
She swallowed hard against her strong feelings.
“I’ve never asked for help or begged for mercy,” Sandy whispered. “Never.”
A single tear made its way down her cheek.
“I know how lucky I am,” Sandy whispered. “I do. I am grateful every single day!”
Her voice rose with her emotions. She took a moment to push her emotions away.
“I just …” Sandy whispered.
She looked up at the small pulpit and statue of the crucifixion of Christ.
“How much more can I take?” Her voice came out in a ragged sob.
Crying, she fled the chapel and raced to her car. She’d been so desperate for relief that she’d parked in the dark parking lot. Her senses heightened she knew someone was there. She ran to that stupid car that Aden made her buy and dropped the keys. Unable to see through the flood of tears coming from her eyes, she patted around for the keys. Her right hand found them and she stood up.
A strong presence covered her hand and she looked.
“Tanesha,” Sandy said as an out breath.
She threw herself at her friend. She felt a hand on her back and turned to see Jill. Heather was standing next to Tanesha.
“How did you find me?” Sandy managed to say.
She turned to hug Jill.
“Fairy magic,” Tanesha said.
“Really?” Sandy asked. “Fin?”
“He’s on the Isle of Man,” Tanesha said. “Abi had to retreat to the fairy kingdom to survive her wound. He left with her.”
“But school!” Sandy said.
“Fairy magic,” Heather said.
Sandy hugged Heather. Recovering herself, Sandy wiped her face with her hands.
“How is Blane?” Sandy asked Heather.
“He’s fine,” Heather said. “Before you ask, the twins are fine as is Paddie and Katy. Tanesha is going to take notes for Fin.”
“Jabari was inside when the action happened,” Jill said. “He’s kind of disappointed.”
Sandy coughed and snorted her laugh. The women watched her.
“I want to get really drunk,” Sandy said. “High. I want to have meaningless sex with a stranger. I want to …”
“Leave this life for the old awful,” Heather said.
“The old awful was a lot simpler,” Tanesha said.
“I knew who I was,” Jill said.
“I knew who I was,” Sandy repeated with a nod.
“How about some ice cream and a hot bath?” Jill asked.
“Jer’s staying with Jabari tonight,” Tanesha said. “We can have the run of our house.”
“What about Mack and the twins and Tink and Rachel and the rest of my kids and …?” Sandy started.
“Noelle’s in the hospital for the night,” Tanesha said. “Charlie too.”
“And the rest fine,” Heather said. “Well cared for by a fairy princess and the rest of our family.”
“You’re not fine,” Jill said in an even tone.
Surprised, Sandy’s head jerked to look at her best friend. Jill nodded. Sandy stared straight ahead.
“I don’t know how much more I can take,” Sandy said.
“We know,” Tanesha said. “Come on.”
Tanesha took the keys from Sandy. She led her around the car and made her get in.
“Ice cream first,” Heather said.
“Follow you to Liks,” Tanesha said.
Heather waved and Tanesha got in Sandy’s car.
“I can’t do this,” Sandy said.
“I know,” Tanesha said and started the car.
They drove a few moments in silence.
“I can’t,” Sandy said.
“I know,” Tanesha said. “But you’re going to do it anyway.”
Sandy fell silent.
“I can’t do it,” Sandy said with a sigh. “But you’re right. I’m going to anyway.”
“Yes, you are,” Tanesha said. “Yes, you are.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.