Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Fifty-six: Awakening a dragon

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Thursday morning — 8:45 a.m.
New York City, New York

“And what?” Otis asked in Russian.

He threw his hands up in the air and paced across Ivan’s open loft. At the windows, he turned back toward the couch. Out to the windows, and back to the couch. When he reached the window a third time, and Ivan hadn’t responded, he turned to point at him.

“I have to hear this from the daughter of my oldest friend!” Otis said.

Used to Otis’s outbursts, Ivan held his tongue. Mari was standing at the window looking out at the city below. Bruno sat in the armchair on Ivan’s left.

“God damn it!” Otis said, as he paced back toward where Ivan was sitting on the couch.

Otis stopped pacing. Ivan raised his eyebrows to ask is Otis was done; Otis gave him an acquiescing nod.

“I thought it was a good thing,” Ivan said in Russian.

“An unbreakable, mandatory one-year employment?” Otis asked. “It’s slavery!”

“They are paying me well,” Ivan said.

“I’d kill the man who trapped me like that,” Otis said.

Bruno nodded in agreement

“I thought this way they couldn’t get rid of me,” Ivan said.

“He thought they would want to keep the girl and get rid of him,” Bruno said in Russian. “This way they couldn’t break them up. What he says — it makes sense to me.”

Otis scowled at Bruno, who looked unimpressed by Otis’s scowl. Otis shook his head.

“I wanted to stay with her,” Ivan said.

“Instead, they got rid of the girl and you’re stuck!” Otis said. “Who is going to manage her rehabilitation? Without good care, she will never dance again.”

“I will take care of it,” Ivan said.

“No,” Otis shook his head. “You’re forced to work for the ballet company here in New York, while our ballerina rots away in Denver!”

Ivan shook his head at Otis.

“And why is that?” Otis asked.

“Katia,” Ivan said.

“That’s right,” Otis said. “The ridiculous girl. What did I tell you to do with her?”

“Get rid of her,” Ivan said.

“And, what did you do?”

“I let her move to New York,” Ivan said what he’d told Otis before. “I’ve had nothing to do with her. Nothing. Ask Nadia!”

Otis glared at him.

“What did you want me to do?” Ivan asked. “Kill her?”

Otis’s eyes flicked to Bruno, who stood up from the armchair. Ivan waved for Bruno to sit back down again. The large man looked at Otis before sitting back in his seat. Otis went back to pacing.

“This was her plan all along,” Ivan said.

“Shoot little Sissy?” Bruno asked, his voice filled with horror.

He stood from his chair. Otis turned at the window. Bruno looked at Otis, but this time Otis shook his head.

“To separate me from Sissy,” Ivan said. “Destroy Sissy’s chance at a career in the ballet.”

“That’s worse,” Bruno said.

Ivan nodded in agreement.

“Katia is the reason Sissy wasn’t hired out right by other companies,” Otis said. His head nodded as if he finally understood something. “Sissy is so talented. I couldn’t believe that every companies wouldn’t jump at a chance to have her.”

“Yes, this is true,” Ivan said. “But Sissy met the madam, who hired her.”

Mari walked over to the coffee table and picked up Ivan’s contract. She held the paper to her nose.

“She wrote this,” Mari said in Russian. “Katia. She wants to have you for herself.”

“It’s madness!” Ivan said.

He got up from the couch and stalked to the kitchen. The others watched him go.

“You hurt her ego?” Bruno asked in a loud English.

“Never,” Ivan shouted from the kitchen.

He returned with a percolator, cups, and fixings for coffee. Bruno and Otis made a cup of coffee for themselves before Ivan poured a black cup. Mari turned up her nose at Russian coffee.

“It is odd,” Otis said in Russian.

He looked at Mari. She gave a nod. Taking the contract, she moved away from the group.

“What will you do?” Bruno asked.

“I’ll work my contract,” Ivan said. “What choice do I have?”

“How long?” Otis asked.

“One year,” Ivan said. “If they try to make it longer, Nadia’s lawyers say we can intervene.”

“I have spoken with them,” Otis said.

Mari walked back toward them. The men turned to look at her.

“He is right,” Mari said. “This is not about Ivan. This is about the girl, Sissy. Katia has decided that Sissy has injured her in some way. How? She isn’t sure. She just feels the slight. She took the position on the board as a way of keeping Sissy from becoming a ballerina.”

“She married the homosexual to do just that!” Ivan said.

“Yes,” Mari said. “But there are things this Katia doesn’t know.”

The men became still and stared at her.

“She doesn’t know the girl is connected to O’Malley,” Mari said with a nod. She pointed to Otis. “Or you.”

“That’s good,” Otis said.

“She doesn’t know about Nadia,” Mari said.

“Nadia took over her father’s seats on all of the ballet boards,” Ivan said.

“The real question is why would this Katia take such a dislike to Sissy,” Mari said.

Ivan pointed to himself.

“Yes,” Mari said. “And no. Did they ever meet?”

“A few times,” Ivan said. “When Katia lived with me in Denver.”

“We should ask the Oracle, but this seems like something from a past-life,” Mari said. “Sissy is an ancient soul, very powerful. Like Ivan. This Katia resents her power. Sissy will have to deal with her.”

“She’s a child!” Ivan said.

“She’s not a child any longer,” Otis said. “Anyone can see that she’s a young woman now. Beautiful.”

“She is old enough to marry here in New York,” Bruno said with a nod.

Ivan shook his head at their encouragement.

“And Nadia?” Otis asked. “You cannot have the girl and Nadia at the same time.”

“Nadia is family,” Ivan said. “Sissy…”

Ivan touched his chest. Otis looked at Mari. She gave an agreeing nod that Nadia was family to Ivan, but that Sissy held his heart.

“Nadia says the same thing,” Otis said with a shrug.

“The question is how do we protect Sissy from this Katia?” Bruno asked.

“And get her the rehabilitation she needs,” Ivan said. “She has always had an extraordinary talent. She could have become a prima ballerina in every sense of the word. But now? There’s no way to know how she will recover. If her lungs don’t heal, she will not have the breath for ballet. If her chest isn’t steady, her stance won’t be accurate and she won’t be strong enough. All of this assumes that she doesn’t catch an infection or need more surgery.”

Ivan’s voice reflected his desperation and grief. The men dared not look at each other. There was a knock at the door. Ivan went to answer it. Seth O’Malley stood on the other side.

“What did I miss?” Seth asked.


Thursday morning — 11:05 a.m.
New York City, New York

“Hello?” Delphie yelled into her cellphone.

Sandy gave her a sour look. They were getting lunch at the hospital cafeteria while Sissy’s doctor gave her the once over. Sandy went to pay for their meals.

“Delphie?” Jill asked.

“Jill!” Delphie yelled.

Sandy hurried through the payment transaction to eavesdrop on the cell phone call.

“Delphie, you don’t have to…” Jill started.

“Oh, I know dear,” Delphie said with a chuckle. “It’s just kind of my thing.”

Jill laughed.

“What can I do for you dear?” Delphie asked in a normal tone.

Sandy waved Delphie over to a quiet table in the corner.

“I need some help,” Jill said.

“What’s going on?” Delphie asked.

“I went to pick up Katy yesterday,” Jill said. Her sorrow welled up at the thought of what had happened. Rather than cry, Jill cleared her throat.

“That bad?”

“She was…” Jill said. Her voice dropped. “I know she’s just a normal little girl…”

Delphie rolled her eyes and shook her head at Jill’s pig-headed assertion that Katy was a normal child.

“…but something dark, really dark, got a hold of Katy,” Jill said. “She was incapable of keeping it out. I had to…”

Jill knew that another word would bring her to tears. She cleared her throat again.

“You got rid of it though,” Delphie said.

“Yes, but…”

“It followed you?” Delphie asked.

“It looked like my father,” Jill said. “Katy had a seizure so I took her to the hospital but… the thing… and came here.”

“To the Castle?” Delphie asked.


“But it didn’t get in,” Delphie said.

“Mike said it looked like crows,” Jill said. “Honey too.”

“I see,” Delphie said.

“Mike got rid of it with the hose,” Jill said.

“In the house?” Delphie asked.

“No,” Jill said. “It surrounded my new car. I climbed in the back with Katy. Mike fought it with the hose. He said it looked like crows.”

“Crows,” Delphie said. “Black crows.”

“It still looked like my dad,” Jill said. “To me.”

“Roper?” Delphie asked.

“Perses,” Jill said.

“Lord Perses,” Delphie said in a quiet voice. She was quiet for a moment. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, why?”

“It’s a powerful offense to take the form of a Titan,” Delphie said. “Did you tell him?”

“Perses?” Jill asked. “Not yet.”

“Good,” Delphie said. Her voice rose in cheer. “Well, we knew it would start at some point.”

“Start?” Jill asked. “What would start?”

“The battle for Katy,” Delphie said with certainty.

“What?” Sandy whispered to Delphie. “What battle for Katy?”

Delphie waved her away.

“What are you talking about?” Jill asked. “Why would anyone battle for my Katy? She’s just a little girl.”

“Whether you want to admit it or not, she’s…” Delphie started.

“No,” Jill said. “She is a little girl first.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“As a little girl, she needs our protection and care,” Jill said.

The power in Jill’s voice echoed over the phone.

“You don’t know what I mean because you didn’t have a mommy,” Jill said. Delphie felt a stab of sorrow. “So help me God, Delphie, if I could go back in time, I would have protected you from horrible Levi. I would have helped you fight for your own soul. But I cannot do that.”

Delphie was so overwhelmed that she sniffed.

“I’ve tried,” Jill said. “I cannot protect you, but will do whatever is necessary to protect my children. You should want to as well.”

“I…” Delphie started.

“I need your help,” Jill said.

“I don’t know how,” Delphie said. “As you know, I had to…”

Delphie closed her eyes to the flood of horrible memories which appeared before her.

“I know,” Jill said. “How do we figure out how to do it?”

“Well…” Delphie sighed. Her eyes flicked to Sandy.

“I’m calling a meeting,” Jill said. “I’m asking everyone who might know something to come here. Fairies, you, Heather’s out of the hospital, my father…”

“When?” Delphie asked.

“Saturday,” Jill said.

“Sissy is due to be released on Friday,” Delphie said. “Seth is bringing us home Friday night.”

“So you can be there?” Jill asked.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Delphie said.

“Can you ask Sandy?” Jill asked.

“Sandy, that’s a really good idea,” Delphie said with a smile.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“Jill’s having a little get together on Saturday and wants you to come,” Delphie said.

Having monitored the conversation so far, Sandy knew Delphie was manipulating her. She gave Delphie a hard look.

“She needs your help,” Delphie said.

“I will always help Jill,” Sandy said. “Any day. When is it?”

“Saturday,” Delphie said to Sandy. Into the phone, she asked, “Morning?”

“Ten o’clock,” Jill said. “We’ll figure out how to protect Katy and the boys, and maybe in the meantime, how to protect ourselves. I’m really sick of my life and my children’s lives captured by someone else’s bullshit.”

“Yes,” Delphie said. “My bees miss me.”

“I bet,” Jill said. “See you Friday?”

“Friday,” Delphie said and hung up the phone.

Delphie stared off into space for a moment. Sandy touched her arm.

“What is it?” Sandy asked.

“Katy was captured by a trickster,” Delphie said.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“They are like the magpies of souls,” Delphie said. “They collect bright shiny powerful souls to use in trades.”

“Oh my God,” Sandy said. “And Katy?”

“Jill got rid of it,” Delphie said with a nod. “She doesn’t know it, but Jill and her family are one of two remedies for tricksters.”

“And you?” Sandy asked.

“I was captured,” Delphie’s eyes welled with tears. She fell quiet for a moment. “I… And…”

Delphie nodded as a fat tear rolled down her face.

“The other remedies is a pure human,” Delphie said. “Like you. Honey, too. You see them for what they actually are. The rest of us… We see what we want to see.”

“How did you…?” Sandy whispered.

“Sam,” Delphie said with a smile. “I’m not sure he even knows it. If he’s aware, he probably thinks Celia did it. But his humanity saved me.”

Delphie looked at Sandy and smiled.

“Human beings are more powerful than you know,” Delphie said. She wiped her tears and looked down at her tray. She scowled. “Mac and cheese again?”

“Let’s go out,” Sandy said. “Celebrate.”

Delphie’s eyes scanned Sandy’s smiling face.

“Celebrate?” Delphie asked.

“Sissy is getting out soon,” Sandy said. “Charlie will be home when we get there. Our family is back together. Spring is coming. You are not captured by the magpie.”

“And we get to watch Ivan and Sissy fall in love,” Delphie said with a smile.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Sandy said.

Sandy stood up from their table.

“We’ll let Seth pay,” Sandy nodded toward the door where Seth was standing.

“Good thinking,” Delphie said.

Delphie got to her feet and they walked to the door of the cafeteria.

“You’re buying lunch,” Sandy said to Seth.

“Here?” Seth asked. His top lip lifted in disgust.

“Some place swanky,” Sandy said. “Where we can go dressed like this.”

Seth took in Delphie’s tear stained face and looked back at Sandy. Her smile told him all he need to know.

“I know just the place,” Seth said. “Ladies?”

He linked elbows with Delphie and Sandy. He kissed Delphie’s cheek and then Sandy’s.

“Shall we?” Seth asked.

They left the cafeteria.


Thursday mid-day — 11:45 a.m.
New York City, New York

“Thank you, Denis,” Bestat said to her driver as he pulled up in front of the office building.

“Would you like me to escort you, ma’am?” Denis asked.

“Thank you,” Bestat reached forward and squeezed his shoulder. “I need to do this alone.”

“I will park the car close so I will be close,” Denis said.

Bestat smiled at him and started to leave the back of the Towne Car.

“Ma’am,” Denis said. He held out what looked like a white cotton handkerchief. “You’re smoking.”

“I angrier than I thought.” Bestat grinned at him.

He nodded toward a woman walking across the sidewalk. She smiled at him and got out of the car. She walked with what looked like casual ease and still managed to catch up with the woman in front of her. She reached the elevator landing just in time to get onto the car with the woman.

“Bestat!” the woman said with false joy. “What a pleasure to see you.”

“Katia,” Bestat said.

Bestat endured the woman’s imitation of the ritual of kissing both cheeks. Katia’s practiced behavior lacked the warmth that went with the gesture. The elevator doors closed behind her. The woman were on the car alone. They stood in a line facing the door.

“Are you coming to our little board meeting?” Katia asked.

“Yes,” Bestat said.

“With all that’s going on in your country — deposed dictator and military coop — I’m surprised you can take the time to attend,” Katia said.

Bestat’s eyes flicked to Katia’s face while her head stayed straight forward.

“I mean, really?” Katia asked. “Don’t you have better things to do?”

“Clearly not,” Bestat said.

“But we’re just having…”

“A hearing to determine whether to censure the teacher for his relationship with Sissy Delgado,” Bestat said.

“Did you hear they were married?” Katia’s eyes gleamed with malicious glee.

Bestat sighed.

“You should tread very carefully, Katia,” Bestat said.

“I should…” Katia said. “Do you have any idea who you’re speaking to?”

“I’ve spoken with your mother-in-law,” Bestat said. “She was unaware of your campaign to destroy Ms. Delgado’s career. Further, she had no idea that, in her name, you forced Ivan into virtual servitude for a year.”

Katia turned to face Bestat.

“Your mother-in-law has spoken to her homosexual son,” Bestat said. “She has told him that she is willing to stand by him while they speak to his father.”

Bestat turned over her wrist to look at her watch.

“That should have happened a half-hour ago,” Bestat said.

Katia’s phone beeped twice.

“I’d guess that is your husband telling you the news,” Bestat said.

“You had no right!” Katia said.

“You requested that Ms. Delgado’s guardians attend this meeting,” Bestat said.

She turned her head to look at Katia.

“I am one of her guardians,” Bestat said. “So is Seth O’Malley.”

“O’Malley?” Katia’s voice rose a bit.

“Sissy’s sister is a guardian, of course,” Bestat said. “You know, Otis? He’s an old friend of Ivan’s.”

Katia’s head went up and down.

“Otis will be in attendance as well,” Bestat said.

Katia swallowed hard.

“He’s always liked me,” Katia said with a little too much confidence.

“Have you met his new life partner?” Bestat asked.

Katia’s eyes went big.

“Yes, he is off the market,” Bestat said. “Now, we cannot affect the contract you tricked Ivan into signing, but we will not stand by as you destroy a talented young woman’s career.”

“You have no idea!” Katia said. “He groomed her to be his…”

Bestat’s head turned again to look at Katia. Bestat sighed. A thin puff of smoke came from her mouth.

“You know full well that he only said he was married to Sissy so that a dying girl wouldn’t have to go to the hospital alone,” Bestat said.

“That’s not what his date for the night said,” Katia said. “And she was there.”

Bestat reaching into her pocket and took out a USB drive.

“It happened in front of my home,” Bestat said. “This is the security tape. You can see him hesitate, and then make a decision. You can also see that Sabrina, the ballerina you referred to, was hysterical. You should also know that she’s been deemed an unreliable witness by the NYPD.”

Katia stared at Bestat.

“You have awoken a sleeping dragon,” Bestat said through her teeth. “Be careful that you do not get eaten.”

The elevator doors opened. Bestat walked off the elevator leaving Katia in her wake.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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