Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Twenty-eight : Sun and earth

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“You’ll have to …” Perses collapsed.

Candy and Jill screamed and rushed to help their mother hold up his weight. They all went down with a thud. Perses landed face down on top of them

“All right, girls?” Anjelika asked.

“Here, Mom,” Jill said. Candy grunted.

“Who can get out?” Anjelika asked.

Candy pulled her legs out from under her father’s body. She got up to lift her father a few inches off the ground. With her help, Jill was able to scoot out. They lifted him so their mother could get out.

“Is he dead?” Jill asked.

“No,” Anjelika said. “Just out.”

“He was going to say something,” Candy said.

“We have to assume he needs our help,” Anjelika said. “Let’s turn him over.”

“But Mom!” Jill said. She gave her mother an uncomfortable look.

“What’s wrong?” Anjelika asked.

“He’s naked!” Candy said.

Anjelika swore in Russian. She pointed to Perses. Candy backed away. Anjelika said something else in Russian.

“If you’re trying to make us help, you can at least do it in a language we understand!” Jill said.

“Net vremeni! Speshite!” Anjelika said in Russian. Having heard it all of their lives, they knew it meant “Hurry up. We have no time.” Or something like that.

Jill bent across Perses body to grab his left side. Candy didn’t move.

“Candace!” Anjelika said.

Candy shuffled to Perses. She grabbed his leg.

“Close your eyes if you don’t want to see him,” Anjelika said. Anjelika held onto his shoulder.

“Eyes closed, Mom,” Jill said.


“Shuttered,” Candy said.

“Good,” Anjelika said. “Because I am not paying for therapy for the trauma of seeing your father’s genitals.”

Jill snorted a laugh and Candy groaned.

“Better,” Anjelika said. “Now, one, two, three.”

With great effort, they rolled their father over. Candy turned her back and Jill closed her eyes.

“Mom!” Jill said.

“Forgive me. I was enjoying the view,” Anjelika said with a laugh.

Candy made a gagging sounds while Anjelika placed a towel over his genitals.

“Candy, sit.” Anjelika pointed to Perses head. Candy dropped down and crossed her legs. She scooted up and put Perses’ head on her lap.

“Jillian, I will take his feet.” Anjelika trotted to his feet. “Candy, you and I will ground.”

“Yes, Mom,” Candy said with a nod.

Jill watched her mother sit at Perses’ feet.

“Would it be okay if I try something?” Jill asked.

“What?” Candy asked.

“I thought of it before, when I had foresight and all those crazy powers, and really it was Heather that made me think of it — you know I’ve been reading this book about Hedone — and it might not even work and …” Jill started.

“Jillian!” Anjelika said. “Your father asked for your help!”

Anjelika pointed to Perses.

“But …” Jill said.

“Just do it, Jilly,” Candy said. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

Jill nodded to her sister and rubbed her hands together.

“Speshite!” Anjelika said.

Closer to Candy, Jill put a hand on Candy’s heart and one on her back.

“Love you,” Jill said.

“Whoa,” Candy said.

She went to her mother and did the same thing.

“What is this?” Anjelika asked.

“Now,” Jill said. “Focus on loving him.”

“Why?” Anjelika said. “This is not the way we do it.”

“I think it enhances our power,” Jill said.

“We use the same technique as our ancients,” Anjelika said.

“Time for an upgrade,” Jill said.

“But …” Anjelika said.

Jill gave her mother an impatient look.

“Okay,” Anjelika said. “We’ll try it, but …”

“Yes, Mother, we get it,” Candy said.

“Go on!” Anjelika ordered.

Jill rubbed her hands together.

“Focus on loving him,” Jill said.

She placed her hands on his heart.

“We love you, Dad,” Jill said.

She felt a rush of power flow to her father. Feeling woozy, she dropped to her knees. Before her, she saw the sea of amber. She felt the stuck, desperation that was slowly suffocating the people she loved. She watched Perses fight to get them out before succumbing to the pervasive desperation surrounding him.

“We love you, Dad,” Jill said.

“I love you, Dad,” Candy said.

“Perses, my love,” Anjelika said.

Minutes passed, and they hung on. Jill focused on the things she knew her father loved — the open ocean, long white ski slopes, laughter, a good meal, and her mother. She felt the tide shift. Desperation eased, and Perses began to rise again.

“Made of sun and earth,” Jill said. “Perses the Titan, we ask you to return.”

He opened his eyes and saw Candy.

“Candace,” Perses said. “Have you seen your mother?”

Candy nodded to his feet. Perses smiled at Jill before leaning up on an elbow.

“There you are,” Perses said.

“Welcome back, my love,” Anjelika said.

Perses’ eyes flicked to Jill.

“Made of sun and earth?” he asked.

Jill shrugged and he laughed.

“Come on, Candy,” Jill said. “They want to be alone.”

Jill helped Candy to her feet and they went to Candy’s bedroom near the back of the condo.

“How do you feel?” Jill asked.

“Like I could do anything,” Candy said.

“Love again?”

“Maybe,” Candy smiled. “Just maybe.”

Jill laughed.

“Girls!” Anjelika called from the front of the condo. Jill leaned out of Candy’s rooms. “Let’s get dinner. Say in an hour?”

“Good plan,” Jill said.

They heard their mother giggle.

“Wanna play a video game?” Candy asked.

“Something loud?” Jill asked.

Candy nodded.

“I’m in,” Jill said.


Tuesday evening — 6:25 p.m.

“Dad!” Tanesha whispered into her phone.

She was sitting in the end stall of the bathroom next to her lab classroom. She only had a five minute break. If she weren’t standing at her lab bench in exactly six minutes, the teacher would mark her absent for the entire class — even though she had been there since four.

“What’s wrong?” Rodney asked.

She heard him close the door to his home.

“I think I’m losing my mind,” Tanesha said.

His footsteps on the concrete told her he was walking out to his truck.

“What do you mean?” Rodney asked.

His truck door slammed closed.

“I’m seeing things,” Tanesha said.

“What kind of things?” Rodney asked.

His truck started.

“The answers for one thing,” Tanesha said. “Like I’m supposed to separate out this chemical, but I forgot to read about it last night. It’s not a big deal because no one did. Then I was holding the beaker and I could see how to do it.”

“Words?” Rodney asked.

“Like a little video,” Tanesha said.

“And did it work?”

“Yes,” Tanesha said. “Yes it did.”

“That doesn’t seem like such a bad thing,” Rodney said.

“Then I looked around the room,” Tanesha said. “I could see what everyone was thinking. Most people were thinking about themselves or just numb, but the guy on the end …”

“What about the guy on the end?” Rodney’s voice rose with tension.

“He’s the mole,” Tanesha said. “He hates me. Calls me a ni …”

“Don’t say that word,” Rodney said. “It demeans you and every single one of your ancestors who fought like hell so you that you could be where you are today.”

“And a bi …”

“Or that one,” Rodney said. “You are not a dog.”

“Well, combine the words and that’s what he calls me in his mind. So, he sells me out to the gossip rags.”

Tanesha stopped talking.

“So?” Rodney asked.

“Well, I thought ‘Oh fuck you’,” Tanesha said. “One minute, he’s just standing there, and the next minute, he’s falling over backward. Broke his leg.”

“Again not such a bad thing,” Rodney said.

“I’m scared,” Tanesha said. “What if I kill Jabari or my teacher or … Jeraine! You know how likely it is that I’ll end up killing Jeraine?”

Rodney chuckled.

“Where are you going?”

“To get you,” Rodney said.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“I’ll tell you when I get there,” Rodney said. “Tell your teacher you have a family emergency. Your father’s coming.”

“Okay,” Tanesha said. “That’s a good idea.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Rodney said.

“Thanks, Dad,” Tanesha said. “And Dad?”


“How did you know you needed to come?” Tanesha asked.

“It’s happened to your mother before,” Rodney said.

“I have to go,” Tanesha said.

“Try not to kill anyone,” Rodney said.

“I’ll try.”

Tanesha hung up the phone and went back to class.


Tuesday evening — 6:45 p.m.

“Hi, I’m looking for my son, Nash Norsen?” Aden asked the small, bright red-haired man standing at the bakery counter.

“Well, you see,” the man said in a thick Northern Irish accent. “About that.”

“What’s happened?” Aden instinctively put his hand on his heart

“It’s not exactly what has happened but what has been done,” the red-haired man said.

Aden scowled and looked at the man’s name tag. It said: EOIN. Aden had no idea how to pronounce that.

“What?” Aden asked.

“It’s not exactly what has happened but what has been done,” the red-haired man repeated.

“Does that mean anything?” Aden asked.

The man tipped his head to the side and thought for a moment.

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think it does,” the red-haired man said with a nod.

Aden put his hands on his hips and squinted at the man.

“I’m looking for my son, Nash Norsen.” Aden tried again.

“About that.” The red-haired man looked up at the ceiling. “Well, actually, …”

“His sister was attacked, as was our friend Sissy Delgado,” Aden said. “The Denver Police caught one of two killers set to kill Charlie Delgado, and our friend Wanda was nearly killed in the hospital.”

“And the girls with fairy names?” the red-haired man asked.


“Tink and Ivy?”

“They were out,” Aden said. “The killers missed them.”

“We know all about the attempts to kill and the almost killing in the hospital,” the red-haired man nodded. “Brutal business for such young people.”

“Is there someone else I might talk to?” Aden asked.

“Nope,” the red-haired man asked.

“Are you always like this?” Aden asked.

“It’s an affliction,” the red-haired man said.

“Affliction?” Aden asked.

“I’m better in Irish,” the red-haired man said. “You speak that?”

“No,” Aden said.

The red-haired man nodded. They stood there staring at the walls behind each other.

“What would it take for you to tell me about my son?” Aden asked.

“Those other kids,” the red-haired man said. “They okay?”

“We’ve been very lucky,” Aden said.

“I like that girl, Wanda,” the red-haired man said. “She’s a tough kid in a tough situation. Her dad brings her here on the weekends. She likes the peanut-butter chocolate chip cookies — eats them in tiny bits.”

The red-haired man nodded.

“’Course, we think of Noelle as one of our own,” the red-haired man said.

“Why is that?” Aden asked.

“Theodore is family,” the red-haired man said.

“Who?” Aden asked.

“Teddy,” the red-haired man said.

“And my son?” Aden asked.

“Is he your son?” the red-haired man said.

“Yes,” Aden said.

“Teddy?” the red-haired man asked. “I thought he was …”

“Nash!” Aden said. “Nash Norsen is my son.”

Aden scowled and tried to think of a way to get this man to connect him with Nash. Annoyed, he turned around and looked out the plate glass windows onto the South Platte.

“Hey Eoin, have you seen my dad?” Nash’s voice came from behind him.

Aden spun around.

“There’s a man who claims to be your father,” Eoin said. Aden sneered at him. “He hasn’t shown me his proof.”


Nash came around the counter, and Aden stepped back. Nash’s face was a quilt of red and purple bruises, dried blood, and stitches. Aden grabbed him and held him close. Nash grunted.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Eoin said. Aden glanced at him and he gave an indignant sniff. “He’s the worse for wear, but fine none the less.”

“What happened?” Aden asked. He set Nash back to look at him.

“We were jumped,” Nash said. “Teddy and me, because of the trial and all.”

“I thought you were protected!” Aden said. “Safe!”

“We did as well,” the red-haired man said. “They were unloading a truck. I was here. Cian had just stepped inside — one second and wham.”

“We kicked their asses,” Nash said. “Cian’s a madman.”

“Now, laddie, we promised we wouldn’t say that,” the red-haired man said. “We don’t want immigration to know the status of our friend Cian’s mind.”

Nash gave Aden a confirming nod to Cian’s madness.

“Let’s just say they ran away screaming,” the red-haired man said.

“How is Teddy?” Aden asked.

“About the same,” Nash said.

Aden touched Nash’s face and he winced.

“Did you take him …?” Aden started.

“We had a real, genuine doctor look at them,” the red-haired man said. “Who do you think we are? We’re not heathens.”

“Who?” Aden mouthed to Nash.

“Dr. John,” Nash mouthed back.

“So what if it’s in the family?” the red-haired man asked. “We were told to trust no one because anyone could be in on this thing.”

“It seems like you don’t trust anyone anyway,” Aden said.

“True enough,” the red-haired man laughed. “The boy’s all right though. No broken teeth, broken bones, nothing permanent. Theodore too. They’ll get some sympathy from the ladies.”

“Ladies?” Aden asked and looked at Nash.

Nash shook his head.

“The boys made dinner for you to take to your Misses,” the red-haired man said. “Why don’t you stay for a spot of tea and a muffin?”

“Muffin?” Aden asked.

“The boys have been cooking all day,” the red-haired man said. “They’re getting good at it.”

“Okay,” Aden said. He hugged Nash one more time for good measure.

“Do you want to try one?” Nash asked.

“Sure,” Aden said.

“Sit right there and I’ll …” Nash ran off to the back. Aden watched him go. Bruised and battered, Nash seemed one part little boy and one part adult. Nash was on the verge of manhood. Aden scowled to cover his wistful feelings about Nash growing up.

“They grow up fast,” the red-haired man said.

Aden nodded.

“And we just grow about the middle,” the red-haired man said.

Aden laughed which caused the red-haired man to laugh. They laughed until Teddy and Nash came out with dinner, warm muffins, and tea for three. The red-haired man gave Aden a nod. The boys sat down in front of Aden and began talking. For this moment, they were all boy, and Aden was listening.


Tuesday evening — 7:25 p.m.

Phoenix, Arizona

Yvonne closed her eyes and opened them again. She couldn’t remember a time that she had been so frightened for such a long period of time. She was exhausted from being terrified. She glanced at Dionne. Her best-friend’s face held the same terror and exhaustion.

Everything started out really easily. They had followed Agent Angie into the office building. The secretary let them back to a conference room where she said the bankers would meet them in.

“Anything for the FBI,” the woman had said.

Yvonne looked down at the ground where the woman’s body lie. She’d been pretty in life. Her long fingernails and almost perfect makeup indicated that she cared about how she looked. She’d had a swish in her walk as they came back here. She’d given them a knowing smile which seemed to say that they were going to get what was coming to them. Yvonne wondered if the secretary had deserved the bullet that went through her heart.

Looking straight ahead, Yvonne saw only the conference room table that Agent Angie had tipped over to protect them. Yvonne caught Dionne’s eye. She didn’t dare say a word for fear the men would remember they were still there. Yvonne used her chin to nod to Agent Angie. Dionne shook her head and shrugged.

Agent Angie lay between them. They’d shot her just below her bullet proof vest. That was before Agent Angie tipped the table over and they hid behind it. Dionne had done her best to treat the gunshot wound but in no time at all, Agent Angie had passed out.

Yvonne closed her eyes and tried to get the story straight. She knew Rodney would want to know. She pretended her loving husband was sitting next to her.

“What happened, Yvie?” the Rodney in her mind said.

“We went to the office with our warrant,” Yvonne said in her mind. “We went, just us — Agent Angie, Dionne, and me. Agent Angie was going to go by herself, but I told her that having me and Dionne there would scare them more. So we left all the armed guys outside and went in.”

She could see Rodney’s concerned face in her mind.

“We met the cutest secretary,” Yvonne said. “I remember thinking she must be sleeping with one of the bosses.”

“How could you tell?” the Rodney in her mind said.

“Just the way she walked,” Yvonne said in her mind. “She seemed so secure, so sure that we were in the wrong. Agent Angie showed her the warrant and she led us to this conference room. She said they would be there right away.”

“What happened then?” the Rodney in her mind asked.

Someone outside the conference room ran down the hallway. Yvonne looked at Dionne to see if she heard it too. She nodded that she had.

“What happened then?” the Rodney in her mind asked.

“I don’t remember,” Yvonne said out loud.

“Shh,” Dionne said.

“They came in,” Yvonne said in her mind.

“Who did?” the handsome Homeland Security agent asked in her mind.

“The men,” Yvonne said in her mind.

“I think he wants their names,” the Rodney in her mind said.

“Oh, I don’t know their names,” Yvonne said. “Creep one and Creep two. Their names were on the form.”

“Which one is Creep One?” the Rodney in her mind asked.

“No, it’s better if we figure out what happened,” the handsome Homeland Security agent said. “Names don’t matter until later. We can match them to photographs.”

“Go on, Yvie,” Rodney said.

“We waited for just a few minutes,” Yvonne said. “Agent Angie talked to the FBI men downstairs and told them to hold on. Then the cute secretary came in. She was leading Creep Two and Creep One was following him. She said something, um …”

Yvonne squelched a scream of surprise when a handgun went off somewhere down the hallway. Dionne reached over to grab her hand.

“We have to be quiet, Yvie,” Dionne said.

Yvonne nodded.

“What happened next?” the Rodney in her mind asked.

“Creep Two shot through the cute secretary to hit Agent Angie,” Yvonne said. “First in the bullet proof vest, then below the vest. Bang, Bang.”

“Just like that?” the Rodney in her mind asked.

“Just bang,” Yvonne said. “The girl was falling dead and Agent Angie tipped the table over. They shot at the table, but it’s metal underneath. Dionne worked on Agent Angie and I kept watch.”

“Did they say anything?” her handsome Homeland Security Agent asked.

“They said, ‘That should keep them for a while,’ and kind of laughed,” Yvonne said. “They came around and took our cellphones and Agent Angie’s guns. But that poor girl … She’s dead.”

“Yvie!” Rodney said. “Why did they leave you alive?”

“They said they knew how valuable I was,” Yvonne said. “And that Dionne looked fun because, you know, she’s so buxom. They thought that was very funny. Then the FBI agents downstairs called up and …”

Yvonne nodded to herself. For a moment, she wondered what Rodney would like to know next. Then it occurred to her.

Rodney wasn’t there to save her. Neither was her Homeland Security Agent. She looked down at Agent Angie.

She was going to have to save herself. She pulled up Agent Angie’s pant leg and took the small handgun tucked into her boot.

“What are you doing?” Dionne whispered.

“Making sure we come out of this,” Yvonne said in a soft whisper. Yvonne looked at the clips on Agent Angie’s belt and took two off that would fit this little handgun.

“I don’t like those,” Dionne said. “Most people die on the end of one of those things. I’m not going to …”

Yvonne unclipped the folding knife from Agent Angie’s belt and held it out to Dionne, who shook her head again.

“Just take it,” Yvonne said. “You think you know what it’s like, Dionne, but you don’t. You’ll wish you were dead before these boys even get started.”

“They’ll kill you, Yvie. Look …” Dionne gestured to Agent Angie. “And that poor girl!”

“I’m going to get us out of here,” Yvonne nodded. “Trust me.”

“I …”

“Do you trust me?” Yvonne asked in a whisper. When she did, she started to glow a clear white light.

“When did you have your tea last?” Dionne asked.

“Exactly,” Yvonne said.

“Do you have a plan?” Dionne asked.

Yvonne nodded. Not sure if it was a good idea, Dionne took the knife from Yvonne.

“We’ll go when I say,” Yvonne said.

Dionne nodded. They waited in silence.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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