Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Thirty-one : Danger

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Tuesday night — 9:18 p.m.

Phoenix, Arizona

Dionne looked across the room. The men had taken them into an office filled with soft couches, thick rugs, and even a fireplace. If Dionne didn’t know better, she’d swear she was in a hotel room and not a place of business. The men had checked with someone who was negotiating with the police before bringing them in here. The men …

They were more like the monsters that lived in the children’s books she’d read to La Tonya and Jeraine — gorgeous to look at and very evil. One of the men, Jeff, was tall, thin, and tan. His eyes were shockingly blue and his hair salt and pepper. He wore a clean blue dress shirt, even though it was nearly ten at night. His suit cost more than she and Bumpy’s first home. He was like a shark — always looking for what to consume next. He’d given Dionne the once over before turning his attention to Yvonne. While clearly the alpha male, this man would not be the one to actually kill them. He was more likely to order them killed or throw them out of a helicopter and let gravity do the work.

The other man … What was his name? Gio? Gino? Dionne closed her eyes for a moment. She’d been so frightened for such a long time that her mind was starting to blank out.

Gino. That was his name. Also some kind of banker in an expensive suit, this man was thick, tough, and had the look of a mobster. His face showed the wear of too much sun and too much alcohol. From what she could tell, this man was the muscle of the operation. He talked almost as much as he did cocaine and drank tequila. Snort a line. Take a shot. Suck on a wedge of lime. Tell a long winded pointless story. Snort a line. Take a shot. Suck on a wedge of lime. Tell another story. She did her best to listen to Gino.

The bodyguard looked like a cop. Jeff-the-alpha-banker told them that the bodyguard used to be a cop before he got in trouble. Gino had inferred that he was the trouble that had taken down the bodyguard. While they were in the bathroom, the bodyguard had gone to the conference room to get Agent Angie. Whoever was negotiating had agreed to turn her over to the police as an act of “good faith.” Gino had laughed and laughed as if it was his idea, but Dionne was pretty sure that Yvonne had made it happen.

Gino was the one who’d killed the young girl and shot Agent Angie. When push came to shove, Gino was going to be the one who would kill them too.

He was also the one who would end up holding the bag for Jeff-the-alpha-banker. Gino would end up stabbed by a shiv in some maximum security prison while Jeff-the-alpha-banker was on a beach somewhere. Gino asked her a question.

“I’m sorry?” Dionne asked.

“What ’re you thinkin’?” Gino repeated.

“Nothing much,” Dionne said. “I’m just a little fatigued.”

“Here,” Gino said. “Have a line.”

“No thank you,” Dionne said. “I come from a long line of addicts. My father, my son …”

“Jeraine,” Gino said. “That’s your boy.”

Dionne swallowed hard. She hadn’t realized Gino knew who she was. Gino grinned at her unease.

“I used to see him perform every year,” Gino said. “My dad took me to see you when I was a kid.”

“Me?” Dionne asked.

Gino nodded.

“My dad used to say that you were danger personified with the voice of an angel in the smoking hot body of a she-devil,” he said.

Gino leaned forward to cut another slice of lime. He snorted a line of cocaine, took a shot of tequila, and stuffed the lime in his mouth. Gino pulled the lime from his mouth.

“So don’t you worry,” Gino said. “When the time comes, I’ll kill you fast and easy. I owe it to my old man to make sure you don’t suffer.”

Gino looked her in the eyes. Dionne swallowed hard.

“I’m not going to rape you or nothing either,” Gino said. “I owe that to my old man. You can just sit here and when the time comes, I’ll make sure it’s easy.”

He gave a nod to seal the contract.

“That’s nice of you,” Dionne managed.

Gino laughed. He looked at the bodyguard and nodded his head toward Jeff-the-alpha-male, whose head was in Yvonne’s breasts. The bodyguard gave a sly grin and nodded.

At that moment, Dionne understood what was going on. Gino was a mobster, maybe one of those old New York Godfather mobsters or maybe something else. Organized crime, for sure. He’d been the organization behind the child pornography sites. They’d used Jeff-the-alpha-male, his money, and his connections to make things happen. She had misjudged him. Gino was not the side-kick. He was one of those mythical creatures — a true psychopath.

“Did you kill my friend Andy Mendy?” Dionne asked.

“Now that was the damnedest thing, wasn’t it?” Gino asked. He shook his head. “That was that prick Red Bear. He …”

Gino nodded to finish his sentence.

“She was a friend of yours?” Gino asked.

“I went on tour with her a couple of times,” Dionne said. “Our kids are about the same age. We’re in the same profession and live in the same town.”

Dionne did her best to give an unconcerned shrug.

“It will please you then to know that the great Detective is being dealt with,” Gino said. “Her kid got the symphony?”

“She did,” Dionne said. “How do you know about the symphony?”

“I made sure the box got to her,” Gino said with a shrug. “Just didn’t seem right that this prick would get the dough and her kid …”

“But you’ve made a ton of money off Sandy’s sex porn?”

The words just popped out of Dionne. Her heart jumped with terror. Gino raised his eyebrows. He didn’t say anything. Instead, he leaned down to cut a lime wedge. He pointed to Dionne with the knife.

“You should take a better look at …” Gino said. He pointed with the knife at Jeff-the-alpha-banker. “My people, we don’t get involved with no kid stuff.”

Dionne turned to look at Jeff. In her exhausted state, her mind jumped to an image of the boys’ hysterical mothers pacing in their office waiting room, poor little Ivy and Tink, Charlie’s battered body, and every other horror from this entire situation. The images battered her until her mind fell on an image of Sandy.

“Why? All of this … why?” Dionne asked.

Gino raised his eyebrows and nodded to Jeff-the-alpha-banker. There was a noise in the hallway and the bodyguard went out to look. Gino leaned in.

“Have you ever done something so something else could happen?” Gino asked.

Dionne gave him a confused look.

“You’ll see,” Gino said.

The bodyguard came back in the room. Gino looked up at him and the bodyguard shook his head.

“Hey, what do you drink?” Gino asked in a voice that Dionne thought was intentionally slurred.

Jeff-the-alpha-banker looked up from Yvonne.

“Uh …” Dionne saw that he wasn’t going to take “nothing” for an answer. “Wine.”

“Red? White?” Gino asked.

“Red,” Dionne said. “I’d like some cold water too.”

“Done,” Gino pointed to the bodyguard. “Get the good stuff.”

The bodyguard looked at Jeff-the-alpha-banker and he nodded. The bodyguard left the room.

“Just a little while longer, Dionne,” Gino said. “You’ll see. I’m not such a bad guy.”


Tuesday night — 9:48 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“What are you going to do?” Jeraine asked in a low tone.

They’d just put Jabari to bed in the small bedroom next to theirs. Jabari was good at going to sleep but he woke up with the slightest provocation.

“I’m going to call him,” Tanesha said.

She went into her closet and started to change out of her school clothes.

“Who?” Jeraine asked.

“Fin,” Tanesha said. “God, my clothes stink after lab.”

“What?” Jeraine asked.

“My clothes stink after lab.”

Tanesha poked her head out of the walk-in closet. Her pants were off and her shirt was unbuttoned. Jeraine raised his eyebrows at her and she smiled.

“You’re going to call Fin?” Jeraine asked.

“My mother is in danger,” Tanesha said.

“I remember,” Jeraine said. “My mom is with your mom.”

“I know,” Tanesha said. She nodded and went back into the closet. “We have to do something.”

“You’re going to call Fin?” Jeraine asked.

“I saw Fin in that sea of amber,” Tanesha said from inside the closet. “Saw him and then my computer broke. And, really, where is Jacob? Delphie? Little Keenan? If Valerie wasn’t in hiding, she’d be screaming to the rafters about Jake.”

“How are you going to call, Fin?” Jeraine asked.

“Just a sec,” Tanesha said.

He came to the door of the closet just in time to see Tanesha pulling up her flannel pajamas. She walked past him into their bedroom. She picked up her cellphone and looked at it.

“How …” Jeraine started.

“The Isle of Man is a real place,” Tanesha cut him off. “He told me once that the fairy queendom exists in private because no one expects it to be a part of the world. If he’s with Abi at his mother’s place, that’s on the Isle of Man. They have cell service there.”

“You’re going to call the fairy castle?” Jeraine’s voice held his skepticism.

“I’m going to call Fin,” Tanesha said.

She went to the couch tucked under the rafters of their attic bedroom. He sat down next to her. For a moment, she looked at her phone, and then she shrugged.

“I may as well try it,” Tanesha said.

She found Fin’s number and pressed the button. The phone rang once, and then twice. It rang a third time. Tanesha was about to hang up when she remembered that she had to use some of her fairy juju. She clicked off the phone.

“What happened?” Jeraine asked.

“I forgot to give it a whammy,” Tanesha said.

“A whammy?”

“Fairy juice,” Tanesha said.

She closed her eyes for a moment, and then clicked the phone again. The phone rang.

“Hello?” Fin’s voice said.

“I’m looking for Prince Finegal,” Tanesha said.

“Tanesha?” Fin asked. “Did you get my emails? I can’t believe you never called or …”

“Please confirm your identity,” Tanesha said.

“Uh …” Fin said something to someone in the background. “You bought the couch you’re sitting on at the Salvation Army when they had a store on Colfax.”

“Fin?” Tanesha’s eyes welled with tears.

“What’s going on?” Fin asked.

“Mom’s in terrible danger,” Tanesha said as tears fell from her eyes, “and the serpents say they have Dad, and they have Jake and Delphie and Keenen in the sea of amber and …”

“What?” Fin asked. “You must calm down and tell me everything.”

Tanesha gulped in air. Jeraine rubbed her back. She wanted to respond, but Fin’s words were an order. She was forced to calm down before she responded.

“Did you get my emails? My phone messages?” Fin asked.

“No,” Tanesha said. “Nothing. I saw you in the sea of amber.”

“The sea of amber …” Fin’s voice trailed off. She heard Abi’s voice in the background. “How do you know about the sea of amber?”

“I saw you in the sea of amber,” Tanesha said.

“You said that,” Fin said. “I’m a full blooded fairy. The sea of amber has no hold on me. Titans, witches, Olympians, Earth spirits, some feys but not all of them, earth sprites of course, humans, … no fairies, that’s for sure.”

“Fairies can go to the sea of amber and not get sucked up?” Tanesha asked.

“Of course,” Fin said. “We can’t find it though that takes a… Wait. Start at the beginning.”

Fin’s voice held so much magic that their bedroom lights flickered.

“You came to Jake’s room,” Tanesha said.

“I did not. Who said that?” Fin asked.

“Jill,” Tanesha said. “She said they were sound asleep. You came to their room. You were ill or sick and covered in blood. You told them that the curse wasn’t broken for you. Every time the healers closed Abi’s wounds they broke open. She is carrying a boy.”

“No, a girl,” Fin said. “We’ve already named her, Misty, after you.”

“Very funny,” Tanesha said. She pressed on over his laughter. “Jake left with you. So did Keenan and Delphie. Jill said you wanted or needed a Titan and asked for her or Katy. She called her father and he went. We didn’t know anything until Jill saw Jake in this stuff. Jabari said it was the sea of amber, and then Heather …”

“What did Hedone say?” Fin asked.

“She said that she could find the sea of amber, but it would suck her in,” Tanesha said.

“That’s true,” Fin said. “It’s an Olympian gift. No other being can find it.”

“Right,” Tanesha said. “And aren’t you a half-blood?”

“Me?” Fin asked.

“Because of Manannán,” Tanesha said. “Your father.”

“My mother made him a fairy,” Fin said. “Royal blood. Makes me better than a full blooded fairy. Over the millennium, we’ve had to be able to create fairies otherwise we’d become inbreed.”

“I thought that was a part of the war!” Tanesha said.

“Sure, it was a war which started a couple thousand years ago,” Fin said. “It’s not such an issue now.”

“Well, you told Jake that fairydom was rotten at the core,” Tanesha said.

“I said no such thing,” Fin said. “I’ve said this before — no one in their right mind would want to be the queen of fairies.”

Tanesha let out a frustrated sigh. Fin was controlling the conversation so she couldn’t get to her mother.

“You said something about a serpent,” Fin said.

“I told you about killing the female serpent …” Tanesha said.

“You did what?” Fin’s voice rose with fear and the smallest touch of awe.

“I told you all about it,” Tanesha said. “It happened in the basement of Sandy’s studio and …”

“I assure you, you never told me you took on a female serpent,” Fin said. “Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? She could have easily infected you and if not her, the thousands of offspring she carries will take over a human. You have no idea how many …”

“I have some idea, because we killed them all,” Tanesha said.

“You did not.” Fin’s voice was filled with disbelief.

“We did too,” Tanesha said.


“With hairspray flame throwers,” Tanesha said.

The line was silent for a moment.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“You got them all?” Fin asked.

“Every last one of them,” Tanesha said.

“Wow,” Fin said. “I’ve never heard of … anyone … ever … but flamethrowers, that would work.”

“We saw a serpent,” Tanesha said. “Tonight, that’s after Ne Ne, well it wasn’t really Ne Ne, it was a serpent we think and …”

“Maybe you’d better cut to the chase,” Fin said.

“Jake, Keenan, Delphie, and my dad are all in the sea of amber,” Tanesha said. “We met this ghost serpent or whatever tonight. He said the sea of amber is the domain of the serpent. They were taken as retribution for killing the female and her offspring. We killed her mate too, with the help of a dragon and…”

“You killed a mating pair and all of their offspring?” Fin’s voice reflected his terror.

“Right,” Tanesha said.

“Wow, give me a minute.” In the background, Fin said, “Did you know Tanesha and her friends killed a serpent mating pair and all of their offspring?”

“They did what?” Abi asked.

Tanesha held the line while they talked back and forth for a moment.

“What about Perses?” Fin asked.

“Perses got out of the sea of amber,” Tanesha said. “Some magic in his relationship with Jill’s mother.”

“She called for him,” Fin said.

“He arrived,” Tanesha said.

“They’re sure it’s him?” Fin asked.

“Yes,” Tanesha said. “Her mother, sister, and Jill were there.”

“Wow,” Fin said. “Once again, you’re blowing my mind, Tanesha. What did you say about Ne Ne?”

“She came here,” Tanesha said. “Or I thought she did. She did some magic in the basement and collected this sludge from …”

“Serpent dust,” Fin said. “Very powerful, but that wasn’t Ne Ne.”

“I know,” Tanesha said. “She stole my dad!”

“Where is Yvonne?” Fin asked.

“I’ve been trying to tell you that!” Tanesha said. “She’s in grave danger. She …”

“I’m on my way,” Fin said.

“Wait!” Tanesha said. “The fog-serpent said that they are trying to capture Yvonne to take over fairydom. They expect your world to fall to the serpent. That’s what this is about. Oh, and something about Delphie.”

“Of course.”

“Of course?” Tanesha asked.

“Oracles and serpents are historical enemies,” Fin said. “If you think the serpents hate the fairies, you should see them with an Oracle.”

Abi said something in the background and Fin replied.

“You’re saying that the serpents are waging war on our kingdom,” Fin said.

“They’re eliminating your family, your friends,” Tanesha said.

“Keenan shouldn’t have been stuck,” Fin said.

“He transformed,” Tanesha said. “Remember. He gave up being a full fairy to have a normal childhood.”

“Shit,” Fin said. “If they get Keenan …”

“They have Keenan,” Tanesha said.

Fin blew out a breath.

“If you go to Mom, they will attack,” Tanesha said. “The serpents believe she is something they call ‘the prize.’”

“She is not,” Fin said. “But I understand why they say that.”

“You have to save her,” Tanesha said.

“I cannot,” Fin said.

“What?” Tanesha asked. “She needs help.”

“She needs your help,” Fin said.

“How …?” Tanesha started.

“I’ll go,” a woman’s voice came from the background.

“Ne Ne is coming to you,” Fin said.

“How will I know it’s her and not that other thing that’s trying to kill my father?” Tanesha asked.

“You’ll feel it inside,” Fin said. “Did you like the other?”

“No,” Tanesha said. “I’m mad at her for not saving my mom.”

“She …,” Fin said.

“I can help.”

Tanesha looked up to see Abi standing at the top of their stairs. She was wearing a maroon velvet-crush floor length gown and her hair was up. She had a round baby bump, but otherwise looked just as she always had.

“What are you wearing?” Jeraine asked.

Abi looked down at her outfit.

“I know, right,” Abi said. She changed into her usual workout wear.

“Is that Abi?” Fin asked as soon as she spoke. “She’s there?”

“I think so,” Tanesha said. “Where do you work and why do you like it?”

“Endorphin,” Abi said. “I love spin classes and washing machines.”

“She’s here,” Tanesha said.

“Can you put her on?” Fin asked.

Tanesha held the phone out.

“You need to warn the Queen,” Abi said. “Ne Ne needs to find out how to get Jake and the others from the sea of amber. I can be helpful here. Yes. Of course. I love you too.”

She gave Tanesha a wry smile and held the phone out to her.

“Fin?” Tanesha asked.

“When your mother is safe, call me,” Fin said. “We’ll figure out how to get them out of the sea of amber.”

“Ok,” Tanesha said.

“And Tanesha?” Fin asked.


“Your girlfriends and you,” Fin said, “together, you are amazing.”

“All of the kids helped too,” Tanesha said. “Even baby Rachel.”

“The kids? Just amazing,” Fin said. “Ne Ne is off to the library to research everything. In the meantime, be safe.”

“I will,” Tanesha said.

“Ready?” Abi asked.

“For …?” Tanesha started.

The next thing she knew, she was standing in a soggy hallway of an office building.

“Let’s go save Yvonne,” Abi said.

She started down a hallway. Stunned, Tanesha stared at her back for a moment before running to catch up.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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