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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR
Saturday early morning — 3:21 a.m.
New York City, New York
Sissy sat on the side of her hospital bed.
She had no idea how she came to be sitting there. She simply found herself sitting there. Her body —band all the tubes and wires — filled most of the bed. This was the only empty spot on the bed.
Ivan was asleep in a chair. His hands were tucked under his armpits like he was cold. In the dim ICU light, he looked almost too beautiful. She smiled at Ivan. He had always been such a good friend to her.
Sissy scowled. She was surprised at the thought: “Ivan had always been such a good friend to her.” It was almost as if her friendship with Ivan was over. Why would she think such a thing? Ivan had been in her life nearly all of her life. Even when she wasn’t taking lessons from him, he still lived in her heart.
Shaking her head at her weird mind, she noticed Otis’s ex-bodyguard, Bruno. He was sitting in a chair near the end of her bed. He wasn’t quite asleep but he wasn’t awake either. Every once and a while, he shook himself awake and looked around. His face bore such unadulterated threat and violence that Sissy looked down so he wouldn’t look at her that way.
With a sigh, she kicked her legs back and forth on the bed. She was waiting for her father. Charlie had spent a bunch of time with her father when he was injured. Sissy hoped that if she remained right here, Mitch would appear.
She’d been waiting a long time.
When she looked up again, she noticed a woman standing just inside the curtains around her bed. The woman had white porcelain skin and white hair. She wore a white dress that was part Marilyn Monroe and part Helen of Troy. When she noticed Sissy was looking at her, she smiled.
“Are you ready to come with me?” the lady in white asked.
“Who are you?” Sissy asked.
“I’m the lady in white,” she said.
“I see that,” Sissy said.
“Are you ready to go?” the woman asked again.
“No,” Sissy said. “I’m waiting for my dad.”
“Mitchell Delgado,” Sissy said with a nod. “My dad.”
“Is he due here?” The woman’s voice was filled with honest confusion.
“My brother got beaten up really bad a couple weeks ago,” Sissy said. “When he was unconscious, he got to spend a bunch of time with our dad. Like when he was in surgery and stuff. I’m unconscious…”
Sissy gestured to her body in the bed.
“I’m waiting for my dad,” Sissy said.
“I see,” the lady in white said. “Your father is expected.”
“Right,” Sissy said with a nod. “I’m expecting him.”
“Well, that’s true,” the lady in white smiled.
Sissy scowled at the woman and leaned forward.
“Do you know why he’s not here?” Sissy asked.
“I do not,” the lady in white said. “I’ve never met your father.”
“Oh,” Sissy said.
She looked at Ivan again and smiled. She was so caught up in looking at Ivan that she forgot all about the lady in white.
“He’s very handsome,” the lady in white said. “He loves you very much.”
Sissy turned to look at her. For a moment, she couldn’t remember who the lady in white was or why the lady was there.
“Who are you again?” Sissy asked.
“I’m the lady in white,” she said.
“Obviously,” Sissy said with a roll of her eyes.
“I’ve come to take you…” the woman said.
“I’m waiting for my father,” Sissy said. “Mitch Delgado? Do you know him? Oh, I guess you said you’d never met him. Just seems like everyone knew my dad.”
Sissy nodded, and the woman smiled.
“I will wait as long as you need,” the woman said.
“You could help by finding my father,” Sissy said.
“Your father can’t come to you now,” the woman said.
“My father would walk on hot coals, over the highest mountains without shoes or clothes or… suffer a lot just to be here with me.” Sissy was surprised at how angry she felt. “You’re wrong. My father will be here.”
She gave a hard nod and the woman gave her a soft, kind smile. Sissy went back to looking at Ivan and kicking her legs on the bed. Every once and a while, she noticed the woman was still waiting for her. Sissy scowled at the woman and went back to kicking her legs.
“I think…” the women started.
A hand reached into Sissy’s curtained space and pressed the curtain back. The night nurse touched Bruno on the arm. Bruno jumped to his feet with a growl. Ivan opened his eyes. Sissy smiled at Ivan, but he didn’t seem to see her. He stood up and picked up Sissy’s hand from the bed.
“We let these men…” the nurse started.
“Ivan!” Sandy said.
Sandy threw her arms around Ivan. He buried his face in her shoulder. Delphie stepped into the small area after Sandy. She looked at Sissy and then looked at the lady in white.
“The lady is here,” Delphie said in a low tone.
“Sir,” the nurse said to Bruno.
“How ‘bout this?” Bruno asked. “I’ll wait out there.”
“I can only allow two people at a time,” the nurse said.
“I can…” Ivan said.
“No,” Delphie said. “You need to stay here.”
The intensity of her voice caught Sandy’s attention. She turned to look at Delphie.
“Is there any way?” Delphie asked the air.
“You know, Oracle, there is always a way,” the lady in white said.
“I am Delphie,” she said. “We’ve met before.”
“There is only one of you in this time. All Oracles are Delphie,” the lady in white said.
“I guess that’s so,” Delphie said.
“Who is it, Delphie?” Sandy asked in a low tone.
“It’s the lady in white,” Delphie said. “She guides spirits from this world to the next.”
“Your young friend is waiting for her father,” the lady in white said “He is blocked by it being her time, but you may call him. I won’t stop him.”
“Mitch,” Delphie said.
With her word, the spirit of Mitch Delgado appeared.
“Dad!” Sissy squealed with delight.
Her father scooped her up in his arms. Mitch’s presence was so intense that Sandy instinctively looked in his direction. Shaking her head, Sandy went to hug Sissy’s body in the bed.
“I am in no hurry, Delphie,” the lady in white said. “I come only as a service, to guide those who are blessed.”
“Yes, lady,” Delphie said to what looked to Sandy like the air. “Thank you.”
“There are others here that need my help,” the white lady said.
“We are grateful for your assistance with Sissy’s journey,” Delphie said.
Sandy gasped at Delphie’s words. Her hand went to her mouth to keep from crying. Ivan saw Sandy’s face and scowled. He went to Sissy’s body in the bed. He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
“YA lyublyu tebya,” Ivan whispered in her ear.
Sissy didn’t know what it meant but she liked the close, intimate way he spoke to her.
“Is there anything we can do?” Delphie asked the lady in white.
“You can love her,” the lady in white said as if the answer was obvious.
“We do,” Delphie said.
“What did she say?” Sandy asked.
“She said we could love Sissy,” Delphie said.
Ivan placed his unshaven cheek next to Sissy’s.
Sissy’s spirit felt the scratch of his beard. She put her hand on her cheek. Mitch gave her a knowing grin.
“I’ll attend to others and check back,” the lady in white smiled at Delphie. “Don’t worry, Delphie. I won’t let her go on her own.”
“Thank you,” Delphie said.
The lady in white gave Delphie a slight bow and disappeared.
“What… um,” Sandy said.
Delphie hugged her.
“She’s a spirit of sorts,” Delphie said. “A conductor of souls.”
“For everyone?” Sandy asked.
“Not everyone,” Delphie said. “I don’t know how spirits are chosen or who gets her help. She and I are kin. When I die, I will likely become a white lady.”
“You will?” Sandy asked.
With a smile to Sandy, Delphie stepped to the bed to see Sissy’s body. She touched Sissy’s forehead, and then looked at Sissy’s spirit.
“You need to return,” Delphie said. “Your life is not over.”
“But Dad just got here,” Sissy said.
Sandy flipped around to face the edge of the bed that Delphie was talking to.
“Sissy Delgado, you get yourself back in that body this moment,” Sandy said in her bossiest voice. As if out of breath, she gulped air. “You cannot, and in fact, will not die now.”
“But…” Sissy’s spirit said.
“Now!” Sandy said to the air on the side of the bed.
Sissy’s spirit scowled at Sandy.
“Your sister is right,” Mitch said.
“But Dad!” Sissy said. “You just got here!”
“I’m always with you, Sis,” Mitch said. “Always. It’s your brother who rarely sees me. But I am always with my favorite girl. You know that.”
“I guess so.” Sissy slunk toward her body. “You’ll stay with me.”
“Every day, every night,” Mitch said. “You know that.”
“Did she go?” Sandy asked in a low voice to Delphie.
Delphie shook her head.
“Sissy! Stop fooling around!” Sandy pointed toward the body again. “Get in there. Now!”
“You have so much life left to live,” Mitch said. “We Delgados love life. Don’t give up on yours so soon.”
Mitch took Sissy’s hand and helped her back into her body. He kissed her cheek. Sissy lay down into her body. Mitch winked at her and placed his hand over the machine monitoring her vitals.
The machine monitoring Sissy’s heart began to scream. Another machine started to squeal. The nurse rushed to Sissy’s bed. She look at the machine and left. A moment later, the doctor came in. He took one look at Sissy’s vitals and rushed out again. The nurse returned and set up a whole blood IV. An orderly started to move Sissy’s bed and the nurse escorted them out to the waiting room.
“What’s going on?” Sandy asked the nurse.
“You have to talk to the doctor,” the nurse said. “I’m sorry.”
She jogged back into the ICU. They stood staring at the ICU entrance until the doctor appeared.
“She’s lost a lot of blood,” the doctor said. “She must have had a slow leak. We wouldn’t have noticed until… Another minute and she would have… Lucky for you, something set the machines off. We are moving her into emergency surgery.”
“Yay!” Mitch let out a rousing cheer.
Smiling, Delphie shook her head at Mitch.
“What?” Sandy asked the doctor.
“Say a prayer,” the doctor said. “You’ll need your luck to hold.”
The doctor nodded and went back into the ICU. Sandy looked at Delphie and they hugged.
“I get coffee for us,” Bruno said before he walked off.
Ivan watched him go. He glanced at Sandy and then realized how weird it must seem to have him there.
“Sandra, I…” Ivan started.
“Delphie told me everything on the trip here,” Sandy said.
She held her arms out and they hugged. When they stepped back, Ivan nodded. He waved his hand to some seats in a quiet corner. Sandy walked to the seats, and Delphie followed. Ivan sat down last. Sandy started settling in. She took out a couple of blankets from a travel bag and gave one to Ivan and another to Delphie.
“I want to say,” Ivan swallowed hard, “this is my fault.”
“No,” Delphie said with a smile. “It’s not.”
“But…” Ivan started.
“Don’t worry, Ivan,” Delphie said. “These events are happening in their right order. We got here in time. They noticed Sissy was leaking blood in time. Everything is happening in the right time. Now, we have to live out the next few hours with hope in our hearts.”
Ivan nodded. When Bruno returned with cups of vending machine coffee, they settled in to wait.
“We were hoping great Zeus would hear our entreaties,” Fin said.
“Am I not Zeus?” the man on the throne said.
The crowd cheered for their leader. Perses watched the crowd to gauge what they would do. There were a dozen powerful Olympian Goddesses and Gods sitting in the crowd. Any one of them would happily send Tanesha to an abyss for their own amusement. So far, the crowd seemed to be amused by the fairies.
“I recognize you as Zeus,” Tanesha was so anxious that she felt like her heart was going to burst out of her chest. “I watched while the great Zeus was pulled from the Sea of Amber by myself, Jillian the Titan, and Sandy the Human — all under the instruction and power of Hedone.”
The people in the seats gasped with amazement at her both impertinence and her words. When Perses shifted on guard, Fin moved to protect Tanesha.
“If not for the great Hedone, you — powerful Zeus — would be living out your days trapped in the Sea of Amber,” Tanesha said.
Fin put a hand on her arm in warning. Perses kept his attention on the crowd.
“Who are you to imply that I was in Sea of Amber?” Zeus asked.
Tanesha swallowed hard and Fin shifted his body so that he stood in front of her.
“The great Zeus cannot be captured by something as insignificant at a serpent or the Sea of Amber!” Zeus said.
“That may be the case,” Tanesha stepped from behind Fin. “But stuck you were! And without Hedone’s help you would have spent all of your days until the end of this world in trapped in the Sea of Amber.”
“I was trapped there with you.” Perses shifted to face Zeus.
“Silence!” Zeus screamed.
The whispering court members fell silent. All of the court turned their attention to Tanesha. Fin put his hand on her elbow in case he needed to whisk them away.
“I know this child,” Perses said. “She is no liar. She is here out of love for Hedone.”
“What is it this fairy-ling is talking about?” Zeus turned to Hera.
Hera smiled at him. For a moment, the tension in the court seemed bound up in the body language of these Olympian rulers. Tanesha silent implored her best friend to wake up and fight for her life. But Heather’s face was blank and devoid of emotion. Zeus blinked once and then again.
“You took the memory from me,” Zeus said in a tone only audible to those standing nearby.
“I did,” Hera said.
Zeus reached his long arms out and they hugged. Sparks from their union lit up the golden hall. The Olympian crowd rose to their feet and cheered. After what seemed like a long time, Zeus stepped back. He looked at Hera and then kissed her cheek.
“We beseech you,” Fin said. “In light of the assistance you have received, we entreat you to give Hedone the chance to see her children grow to adults. Allow Hedone to return to her husband and all of her friends who love her.”
Zeus turned to look at Fin. He noted the hold Fin had on Tanesha’s arm. His eyebrows rose and his lips turned up in a smile. His head moved in a small nod to acknowledge Perses.
“No,” Zeus said.
Saturday early morning — 1:21 a.m.
“Sir.” His driver said in Russian. She turned around from the driver’s seat to look at him.. “I would gladly die for you.”
Otis reached over the barrier to touch the young woman’s face. He gave her a soft smile. They were parked in the hotel parking lot.
“There are some things a man must do himself,” Otis replied in Russian.
“Let me do it,” his driver asked. “I will take care of this pestilence for you.”
“You are very sweet,” Otis said. “A kind young woman such as yourself should not be involved in this horrible business.”
A red flush appeared on the peaks of her cheek bones.
“But sir…” Her words spoke her passion.
“What would you do if they capture you?” Otis cut her off. “You know what they do to beautiful girls.”
“My sister…” his driver’s large dark eyes filled with tears.
“Yes,” Otis said. “How is your sister?”
“She lives with my mother now,” his driver said. “She is safe, off drugs, and… You did that.”
Otis’s eyes scanned her young face.
“I will do this for you,” his driver said.
Otis leaned forward to kiss her cheek.
“Please stay here,” Otis said. “If I am to survive, I will need you to get me away from here.”
“Let me do this!” Her voice tugged at his heart.
“I cannot,” Otis said. “You know what to do if I do not return?”
“I will take the car to the airport.” The driver’s eyes began to leak tears. “I will leave the car there and take a plane back to Denver. In Denver, I will pack my things and move into the home you purchased for me in Silverton. I will live quietly in the mountains for two years before going anywhere.”
“You remember where to find the stash of US dollars?” Otis asked.
The driver nodded.
“You are a beautiful girl,” Otis said. “My wish for you is that you live a long happy life. You will find a good husband, have many children, and live well.”
She leaned forward and closed her eyes. He kissed her lips. Without saying another word, he left the limousine. Closing the door, he tried to shake the feeling that he was a creepy old man. As he walked, he looked back at the limousine. She raised a hand in saying good-bye. He smiled and turned into the hotel.
No matter what happened, he had no intention of returning to the limousine. She deserved a full life, not one attached to an old man who was incapable of loving her. Stepping into the elevator, he took a breath and let it out.
Tonight he was going to finish his own legacy. As a high ranking member of the Bratva, he had ensured that his sons would rise quickly to power. He could never have imagined their brutality and cruelty. Their inhumanity had turned on them. The Bratva had eliminated his every one of his sons, except for this one.
This one had retreated to the United States many decades ago. He was sent here to launder money. It was only a few years before he was investing in every form of depravity. Soon the Bratva could not control him. His son began to spread his brand of cruelty to every organized crime syndicate — the Mexican Cartels, the Irish Mob, the Italian Mafia, and many others.
It would end tonight.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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