Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Twenty-seven : Protected

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN

Tuesday evening — 6:25 p.m.
Denver, CO

“Next stop?” the red-haired man asked the dark-haired man sitting next to him.

The man sitting next to him gave a slight nod. They were sitting on the crowded 15 bus. The bus ran on Colfax Boulevard, a major artery in Denver, every fifteen minutes day or night. At this time of night, the bus was full of office personnel commuting from their jobs downtown. The men sat in the middle of the bus. They weren’t dressed for office work. If anything, they looked like worn out construction workers. They had the nondescript look of men in the middle of their life. Their hair was rough and their beards rough. They kept their heads down and avoided make eye contact.

The red-haired man reached up to pull the cord, but the bell rang before he could. Someone in the back wanted off at the same street. The bus stopped at Dexter Street. Five or six people stood up to get off the bus. The men mixed in with the crowd and slipped out the back door of the bus. They waited with the office workers to cross Colfax and headed into the Park Hill neighborhood.

Once across the street, the men held back from the press of people. These office workers were familiar with each other from the bus. The men couldn’t afford to be noticed. They shuffled along until they walked alone across the wide sidewalks of Park Hill. They moved at a steady pace. In no time, they were turning right onto Montview. They crossed the street and made it to the patch of holly in front of the Park Hill branch of the Denver Public library.

While the younger man watched, the other man bent down to retrieve a cloth wrapped package. They scooted into the alley. The older man unrolled the package to reveal two Cobra automatic handguns, a stiletto knife, and two combat knives.

“This should do the job,” the younger, red-haired man said.

The dark haired man nodded.

“We’d better check ’em,” the older, dark-haired man said.

They checked the handguns with quick, efficient moves. The handguns were loaded and the serial numbers were burned off.

“Hollow point,” the red-haired man said under his breath as he slid the clip back into the handgun.

The dark-haired man grunted.

“They really want this kid dead,” the red-haired man said.

“That’s why we’re here,” the dark-haired man said. “Where to?”

The red-haired man pointed down Montview. The man squinted as if to see clearly. He gave a slight shake of his head before following the red-haired man to the other side of the street. They had just reached the corner when a middle-aged woman came out the front door of the house to get the mail.

“Contracts for everyone?” the red-haired man asked.

The dark-haired man didn’t respond. As if he was trying to remember something, he looked down at the ground. A voice came from inside the house. The woman said something in Spanish and laughed. She got the mail and went in the front door.

A tiny gasp came from the dark-haired man. He grabbed the red-haired man’s sleeve and pulled him back across the street. Shaking his head the whole way, he dragged the red-haired man into the alley.

“What?” the red-haired man asked.

“You know who’s house that is?” the dark-haired man asked.

“No,” the red-haired man said. “Job is to kill that boy Charlie and anyone else that’s there.”

“That’s O’Malley’s house,” the dark-haired man said. “Magic O’Malley.”

“So?”

“You know how many people have tried to kill Magic O’Malley?” the red-haired man asked.

The red-haired man raised a shoulder in an irritated shrug.

“Five, I know of,” the red-haired man said. “Know how many lived to tell the tale?”

“What are we talking about?” the red-haired man asked.

The dark-haired man held up his hand with his thumb touching his fingers in a zero.

“If you’re scared, you can always …” the red-haired man started.

“No one survives threatening Magic O’Malley,” the dark-haired man said. “Not one. I heard there’s been at least a hundred tries. Bullets bounce off him. He can’t be killed.”

“Everyone can be killed.” The red-haired man stood a little taller. “I’ve killed plenty myself.”

The dark-haired man shook his head.

“O’Malley’s supposed to be protected by the ghost of his brother,” the dark-haired man said.

“Ghost?” The red-haired man snorted a laugh. “Come on.”

“This brother, he went through Hanoi Hilton and then was caught in Laos,” the dark-haired man said. “O’Malley found him three days after he died. That’s who protects him.”

“Who?”

“His badass brother,” the dark-haired man said. “Special Forces hard case survived a rain of hell only to die at the last minute.”

“If you’re scared, man, I’ll do it myself,” the red-haired man said. The red-haired man walked backwards away from the dark-haired man. “Just stay here. I’ll show you how it’s done.”

The red-haired man snorted a cruel laugh. He raised his hands in an “It’s easy gesture” and took another step backwards. An old Dodge truck smashed into the red-haired man on his right side. His body bent and his head hit the windscreen. The driver started to brake. His feet took flight and he flew over the top of the truck only to land in the path of the rear wheels. With the red-haired man under its rear wheels, the truck slid for a few feet until it came to rest on the sidewalk and curb in front of the library. A young girl hopped out of the truck.

“Did you see that?” the young girl asked the dark-haired man. “I swear to God, he just jumped out in front of me. I mean I was texting, and my mom always says not to text and drive, but really it’s just Montview.”

Behind the girl, the dark-haired man saw the dimmest outline of a skeleton-like man wearing a tattered army jacket. The dark-haired man screamed and ran the other way down the alley.

“Wait! Wait!” the young girl screamed after him. “I need a witness!”

The dark-haired man kept running until he reached the first big street a mile away. Trying to get his directions, he looked up at the street sign.

“Martin Luther King,” he said.

Somehow, the name of this great man was like a shot of electricity to his brain. He looked down at the handgun in his hand.

“Whatcha doing?” a voice came from behind him.

He spun around. A uniformed police officer was standing behind him. The officer had his hand on his weapon.

“I got a call that a man was running through the neighborhood with a weapon in his hand,” the police officer said. “So I’ll ask you again, whatcha doing?”

“I came here to kill a young boy.”

The police officer raised his handgun and the dark-haired man raised his hands.

“Why would you do such an evil thing?” the police officer asked.

“It’s my job.”

The dark-haired man felt something over his right shoulder. He glanced up and saw the street sign that said “Martin Luther King.” He felt like the great man was standing on his right shoulder making sure he did the right thing.

“Did you kill the boy?” the police officer asked.

“No, sir,” the dark-haired man said. “I realized he was living with …

“Magic O’Malley,” the police officer and the dark-haired man said in unison.

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the young man who was killed just a few minutes ago,” the police officer said.

“My partner was run over,” the dark-haired man said.

“You push him?”

“No, sir,” the dark-haired man said. “And I …”

The dark-haired man laid the handgun on the sidewalk and laid facedown. The police officer stepped forward and cuffed the dark-haired man’s hands behind his back.

“You were saying something,” the police officer said.

“I’m done,” the dark-haired man said.

“What?”

“Martin Luther King,” the dark-haired man said. “I’m done.”

“Good to know,” the police officer said.

The police officer picked up the handgun and tucked it in his pocket. He led the dark-haired man to the back of his police cruiser.

“You should call somebody,” the dark-haired man said.

“About what?” the police officer asked.

“I can tell you everything you want to know about … a lot of bad people,” the dark-haired man said.

“Bad people? You mean, like you?”

“Rape, pornography, that rape case going on,” the dark-haired man said. “The Delgado kids.”

“Mitch Delgado’s kids?” The police officer’s voice noticeably hardened.

“Them,” the dark-haired man said. “Charlie Delgado was my target. The younger one, the girl, was supposed to be hit in New York.”

“You’re saying I should call the FBI?” the police officer asked.

“Yeah,” the dark-haired man said.

“So you get away with your crimes?”

“No, sir,” the dark-haired man said. “So justice is done.”

“Justice?”

The dark-haired man nodded. The police officer shook his head and started his police cruiser. They took the short trip to the police station just a few blocks away. The police officer escorted the dark-haired man into the station.

“Hey Marty,” the police officer said. “You’re close with O’Malley.”

“He’s in New York,” the desk sergeant said. “Why?”

“Any chance Delgado’s daughter was killed today?” the police officer asked.

“She was attacked,” the desk sergeant said. “But she’s okay. Her ballet teacher is ex-KGB. Beat up the guy pretty bad. Why?”

The police officer gestured to the dark-haired man with his chin.

“He came here to get Charlie,” the police officer said. “Said that kid under the bus was here to do the job too.”

“I’ll call the FBI,” the desk sergeant said.

“Good idea,” the dark-haired man said.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon — 8:25 p.m.

New York City, New York

Sissy was sitting next to Noelle in the back seat of a big, black SUV. MJ was driving and Ivan was sitting in the passenger seat. MJ and Ivan were discussing what happened at the school. Sissy was so exhausted she was dozing against the back seat.

“MJ killed some guy today,” Noelle whispered.

“What?” Sissy asked in a whisper.

“Yeah,” Noelle said. “At least I think he’s dead.”

“What happened?” Sissy asked.

“He came to hurt me,” Noelle said. “MJ spotted him right away. He got to him long before anything happened. Not like you.”

Sissy nodded.

“You heard about Wanda?” Noelle said.

Sissy nodded.

“She’s pretty shook up,” Noelle said.

“I bet,” Sissy said. “She can’t leave the hospital.”

“Right,” Noelle said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I guess so,” Sissy nodded.

“What’s that?” MJ said into a radio attached to his dashboard. “Can you repeat?”

A voice said something undistinguishable.

“They’ve cornered those disgusting perverts.” Ivan turned around to talk to them.

“They are going to remember today as a very bad day.” MJ looked in the rearview mirror at Sissy and Noelle.

“You mean it’s over?” Sissy asked.

“It won’t be over until you testify,” Ivan said. “You know that.”

“But this stuff?” Noelle asked.

“They’ve found the men who are behind everything,” Ivan said. “At least for tonight, they’ll be in prison.”

“You don’t think it’ll stick?” MJ asked.

“Who knows?” Ivan shrugged. “Let’s just celebrate a night of peace.”

“Sissy, did you hear?” Noelle asked.

Sissy was sound asleep. Noelle nodded. No matter what happened, she was going to remember this day forever.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday evening — 6:25 p.m.

Denver, CO

“Heather?” Schmidty panted and yelled into Heather’s earpiece.

“I’m driving,” Heather said. “I only picked up because it was you. Can I call you back?”

“Where’s Tink?” Schmidty asked.

“Sitting next to me. Ivy’s in the back,” Heather said. She pulled into a parking spot on Colfax. “We just got back from seeing Blane. Why?”

“You’re not at the house?” Schmidty said. “Oh, thank God.”

Schmidty panted in Heather’s ear.

“You’re panting in my ear,” Heather said.

“Oh, sorry,” Schmidty said.

“What happened?” Heather asked.

“The silent alarm was tripped,” Schmidty said. “When the police arrived, there were two guys setting the place on fire.”

“And?”

“They thought you were dead inside,” Schmidty said.

“Why didn’t they just check?” Heather said.

“Whole place burned down,” Schmidty said. “The fire was so hot it would have hidden human remains.”

“Oh Schmidty, I’m so sorry,” Heather said.

“Yeah,” Schmidty said. “That’s what insurance is for.”

“Sucks.”

“The police caught the guys,” Schmidty said. “Turns out they were contract killers! They’re not talking, but they caught a guy outside Seth’s house who’s a chatterbox.”

“Charlie,” Heather said under her breath.

“Charlie, Maresol, Dale,” Schmidty said. “Anyway, his partner got run over by a texting teen.”

“How cliché,” Heather said.

“Effective,” Schmidty said. “The truck slid with him under its wheels.”

“Ew,” Heather said.

“The guy says he saw the ghost of Seth’s older brother, Saul,” Schmidty said. “Scared him straight.”

“Or into the psych ward,” Heather said.

“They think he’s pretty legit,” Schmidty said. “The guy said that two men were sent to kill the girls and burn down the house.”

“Tink and Ivy?” Heather asked.

“You know about Wanda, right?” Schmidty asked.

“Sandy told me,” Heather said.

“Both Noelle and Sissy were attacked today too,” Schmidty said.

“Are they okay?” Heather’s voice changed in such a way that Tink stopped talking to Ivy and turned to look at her.

“What happened?” Tink asked.

“Sissy and Noelle were attacked,” Heather said to Tink.

“Oh my God!” Tink said.

“What happened?” Ivy asked from the back seat.

Tink told her in a low voice. The girls spoke quietly to each other. Heather turned her attention to Schmidty, who’d been talking the whole time.

“I’m sorry I missed that,” Heather said.

“Ivan was in the KGB,” Schmidty said.

“He was?” Heather asked. “I thought he was a world famous ballet dancer and instructor from the Bolshoi.”

“He was,” Schmidty said. “He was a KGB plant. His brother is developmentally delayed. If he didn’t spy for them, they’d torture his brother. That’s how Seth found him. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Ivan was in danger from what he knew about the KGB and from the Bolshoi for being with the KGB. Seth brought him and his brother to Denver. Anyway, he kicked the guy’s ass.”

“And Noelle?” Heather asked.

“MJ’s with her,” Schmidty said.

“Sandy didn’t say anything,” Heather said.

“She’s not supposed to know,” Schmidty said. “New York wanted to keep a lid on it, but that was before they caught the guy at Seth’s and my house burned down.”

“Sorry about your house,” Heather said.

“All of your stuff,” Schmidty said.

“It’s just stuff,” Heather said. “The girls carry with them anything that matters to them. It’s a habit from being homeless.”

“I’ve arranged for you to stay downtown,” Schmidty said.

“Oh, that’s okay, Schmidty,” Heather said. “We can go the Castle.”

“You’re in protective custody until the case is resolved,” Schmidty said. “No one can protect you at the Castle.”

“Like it’s helped any of us,” Heather said.

“Sissy and Noelle would be dead,” Schmidty said.

“You’re right,” Heather said. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I’m frustrated. How could anyone have known where we are?”

“No idea,” Schmidty said.

Schmidty didn’t say anything else for a moment.

“We’ll go to Sandy’s condo,” Heather said.

“I’ll hire guards,” Schmidty said.

“Okay,” Heather said. “Thanks.”

“Give me an hour and I’ll have food service for you,” Schmidty said.

“You don’t have to,” Heather said.

“I’m happy to,” Schmidty said.

“You don’t think they told the bad guys where we were staying?” Heather asked.

“I don’t,” Schmidty said.

“Why?”

“It’s the same service the CIA uses,” Schmidty said.

“Oh.”

“What about essentials?” Schmidty asked.

“I’ll call my girlfriends,” Heather said. “We’ll figure out how to make it happen.”

“Can you drive around until we set something up?” Schmidty asked.

“I …” Heather turned her back on Tink. In a low voice, she said, “The kids are scared. Me, too.”

“How about having dinner at Seth’s?” Schmidty asked.

“Maresol won’t mind?” Heather asked.

“I’ll call Seth,” Schmidty said. “She won’t mind if Seth calls.”

“Okay,” Heather said.

“Stay there until we have everything set up,” Schmidty said.

Heather looked at Tink.

“Don’t worry Heather,” Schmidty said. “They could have killed all of them today.”

“But they didn’t,” Heather said. “What do you make of that?”

“Ghost of Seth’s brother?”

Heather laughed.

“I’ll call when it’s ready,” Schmidty said.

“We’ll head to Seth’s,” Heather said.

“Talk to you soon,” Schmidty said and hung up.

Heather put her phone down. She looked at Tink and then at Ivy.

“Schmidty’s house burned down,” Heather said.

“What?” Tink and Ivy asked together.

“It’s true,” Heather nodded. “We’ve been invited to dinner at Seth’s house.”

“With Charlie?” Tink’s voice rose with panic. “I look like crap! We can’t …”

“He’s seen you like this before,” Heather said with a smile.

“Look at my hair!” Tink said.

“Okay,” Heather said. “Why don’t we stop by Sandy’s and see if she can’t tame the hair beast before we go.”

The girls nodded.

“We’re going to get through this,” Heather said.

Even though the girls nodded, Heather saw that they had retreated into themselves. She gave them a sad smile and started up Colfax to Sandy’s salon.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday evening — 6:25 p.m.

“Mom?” Jill called from the front door of her mother’s condo.

“I’m in here,” Anjelika called.

Jill went through the condo to where her mother was making dinner.

“Hey,” Candy, Jill’s older sister, said as she walked by.

“Lunch Thursday?” Jill asked.

“I’ll be there,” Candy said.

Jill smiled and continued to the kitchen. Anjelika was chopping green onions on the butcher block median

“Hello, my dear,” Anjelika said. She hugged and kissed Jill in greeting. “Where are my babies?”

“Megan has them tonight,” Jill said.

“Why?” Anjelika asked. She went back to cutting green onions.

“I wanted to spend a little time with you,” Jill said.

Surprised, Anjelika set down the knife and looked up at Jill. She gave Anjelika a bright smile.

“What do you want?” Anjelika asked.

“Want?” Jill asked.

“Don’t pull that with me, Jillian,” Anjelika said. “I’m the master of that particular trick.”

“I thought we could have dinner and …” Jill nodded to the tray in her hands. “Sandy made us some cupcakes.”

“What if you just tell me and we go out for dinner?” Anjelika asked with a smile.

Jill looked away for a moment.

“Okay,” Jill said.

“Good,” Anjelika said. “Now what do you want?”

“You and dad, you have a contract, right?” Jill said.

“Yes,” Anjelika said. “It’s standard when a human marries into their kind. You’ll see when your friend Heather’s parents marry. Eros isn’t a Titan, but it’s similar. It sounds barbaric, I know, but it’s very beautiful.”

“He is supposed to come whenever you call,” Jill said. “Is that right?”

“Yes,” Anjelika said. “It is sworn in blood. If I need him, I only have to call. You kids too.”

Jill nodded.

“Why?” Anjelika asked.

“I wondered if you would call him,” Jill said.

“He’s working, Jillian,” Anjelika said. “I don’t call him unless I really need him. Anything else would be disrespectful.”

“I called him,” Jill said.

“I know,” Anjelika said. “He said he would be gone for a bit to take care of something rotten in the fairy world.”

Jill nodded.

“Please?” Jill asked.

“You know your father isn’t a toy,” Anjelika said. “You can’t just …”

“Mom!” Jill exclaimed. “Dad’s in trouble.”

“Oh,” Anjelika said. “What kind of trouble?”

“He’s trapped in the sea of amber,” Jill said.

“Good Lord,” Anjelika said. “How did that happen?”

“I have no idea,” Jill said. “We know that Jacob and Prince Finegal are there. We assume Dad, Delphie, and Keenan are there as well.”

Anjelika swallowed hard.

“Call him,” Jill said. “Some magic is more powerful than …”

“Perses!” Anjelika said. “I need you!”

Nothing happened. Anjelika scowled.

“Now what?” Jill asked.

“This has never happened before,” Anjelika said.

“What about when he was held captive?” Jill asked.

“I could hear his voice calling to me,” Anjelika said. “I knew he was captured, I just lost hope and … It’s a long story.”

“Try again,” Jill said.

“Perses! My love, my husband, my life,” Anjelika said. “I need you.”

The condo was so still and quiet that they could hear the click of Candy’s fingers on a keyboard in her room. Anjelika’s eyes welled with tears.

“Beloved Perses,” Anjelika whispered. “Follow my voice. Hear my prayer. Come home to me.”

Weeping, Anjelika dropped her face into her hands. Jill wrapped her arms around her mother.

“I thought it would …” Jill started.

There was a loud “whomp” as if something very heavy fell from a great distance onto the marble entry. There was a swooshing sound as if something very heavy sliding across the marble entryway.

“Dad!” Candy screamed in the hallway.

Anjelika and Jill ran out into the entry and found Perses curled up in a ball. He was wet head to toe with liquid amber, which hardened with each passing moment. Candy was shaking his shoulder.

“He’s not breathing!” Candy said.

Jill dropped down and hit her father’s back. He sputtered and spit out a mouthful of amber.

“Get out of your clothes!” Anjelika yelled. “The amber will kill you if it dries!”

Candy ran for a towel. Jill helped Anjelika undress him. Candy gave Anjelika the towel before running back for another. When Candy returned, their father was naked and holding her mother. Jill took the towel from Candy and wrapped the towel around him. He hadn’t yet said a word.

“Dad?” Jill said in a low voice to Candy.

“I know!” Candy whispered back. “It just came out. It’s just …”

Anjelika kissed their father.

“He’s been so awesome, you know, these last couple years,” Candy said. “About everything and … our Dad was pretty awful.”

Jill nodded in agreement that the father who raised them and Candy’s biological father was awful.

“Jillian?” Perses said quietly.

“Yes, Dad,” Jill said.

“You’ll have to …” Perses collapsed.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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