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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO
“What are you doing here?” Tanesha said when she caught up with Abi.
“Saving Yvonne and Dionne,” Abi said
“Wait.” Tanesha put her hand on Abi’s forearm and they stopped running. “You were just shot.”
“I healed,” Abi shrugged.
“No really, why are you here?” Tanesha asked. “You could be waited on hand to foot.”
“In my velvet finery?” Abi asked. “Courtesan to Prince Finegal?”
“What?” Tanesha flushed red. “I never … Why are you calling yourself a prostitute?”
“Maybe you meant a Concubine?” Abi asked.
“Abi, I …”
“It’s not you,” Abi said. “That’s what the court thinks of me. I had to get away.”
Abi grabbed Tanesha’s hand and pulled her into an office. They crouched behind a desk. A man who looked half-cop, half-bodyguard walked in front of the office.
“Plus, you can imagine how hot Fin will be when I get back,” Abi said with a smile.
“You mean Celeste is up to her old tricks?” Tanesha asked.
Abi looked surprised and then scowled.
“How did you know?” Abi asked.
“That fairy has her sights set on Prince Finegal and she doesn’t care who knows it,” Abi said. “She calls me the Courtesan Abi. She says she will allow him to keep me when they’re married so as not to estrange the Queen’s favorite grandchild, Ne Ne. The Queen thinks it’s funny so she doesn’t do anything about it. I’m the mother of Fin’s only living child, and still the Queen doesn’t do anything to stop Celeste. Plus Celeste is a part of the court, and…”
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“She vacations on the Antipodes Islands,” Abi said.
“We’re here to save Mom right?” Tanesha asked. She was frustrated that Abi was now distracted by “Stupid Celeste,” Fin’s name for the woman.
“Of course,” Abi said. “So you know, Celeste vacations on the Antipodes Islands.”
“You said that,” Tanesha said.
“They are islands off of New Zealand,” Abi said.
“Your geography is really awful,” Abi said. “Typical American education, you really need to know your own planet. I should get Ne Ne…”
“Wait!” Tanesha exclaimed. “What does Stupid Celeste have to do with mom and Dionne?”
“Why did you call her ‘Stupid Celeste’?” Abi asked.
“That’s what Fin calls her.”
“He does?” Abi asked. She flushed red at the idea that Fin thought Celeste was stupid.
Tanesha nodded and Abi smiled.
“That’s good,” Abi said.
“Answer the question!” Tanesha said. “What does Stupid Celeste have to do with mom and Dionne?”
“Everything,” Abi said.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
“The Antipodes Islands are considered too cold to be inhabited,” Abi said.
“They are volcanic islands,” Abi said.
“Serpents thrive in volcanos,” Abi said.
“Oh,” Tanesha said.
“Exactly right,” Abi said. “The Antipodes have long been rumored to be the lair of the serpent.”
“But Heather said the sea of amber was everywhere,” Tanesha said.
“She would know,” Abi said.
“Volcano?” Abi pointed to the ground.
“There’s a volcano here?” Tanesha asked.
There was a noise somewhere in the building and Tanesha stood up.
“I’m going to help my mother,” Tanesha said.
“If Celeste is involved…” Abi started.
“Just spit it out!” Tanesha said. Her words came out as a magic-charged order and Abi gave a slight bow.
“If I’m right, Celeste has made an accord with the serpents for Yvonne,” Abi said. “They are taking the end of this pornography ring as an opportunity to take her. I’ve always been able to protect her from this kind of thing. With me at court, she’s vulnerable. I bet Celeste had those child porn freaks shot me to get me out of the picture. Then it’s easy —Yvonne comes to Arizona and these jerks turn her over to the serpents.”
“Why would Celeste do that?” Tanesha asked. Her tone indicated how farfetched it all sounded.
“She thinks that will give her fairydom and…”
“Fin,” Tanesha said. “So Celeste is behind the child pornography ring and the rapes?”
“No, of course not,” Abi said. “That guy with your Mom is behind it all. It’s an investment to him. When one site blows up, he goes to the next. He doesn’t care about what’s on the videos or who gets hurt. He’s in it for the profit. As you can imagine, there’s a ton of money to be made from this filth, especially those homemade rape videos. Human beings can be so disgusting.”
“Just an opportunity,” Abi said. “She’s been waiting a long time to get her hooks into Prince Finegal. Now that Queen Fand and Manannán have been restored, the queendom is going through a kind of spring — lots of marriages, babies …”
Abi nodded. Tanesha thought through Abi’s effusive words.
“Celeste has been waiting for the right moment and contacted the serpents,” Tanesha said.
“Who are already your enemies,” Abi said.
“The serpents control the sea of amber,” Tanesha said.
“Exactly right,” Abi said.
“No Delphie to give the warning,” Tanesha said.
“No Jacob or Keenan to figure out how to get out of the whole thing,” Abi said.
“And my Dad?” Tanesha asked.
“That’s a good question,” Abi said. “They must think he has some special capacity.”
“A direct connection to my Mom,” Tanesha said.
“Well there’s that,” Abi said. “Rodney is uniquely immune to the despair that is the sea of amber.”
Tanesha opened her mouth to ask why when Abi spoke again.
“Did you really kill a mating pair and their offspring?”
“That’s a story I want to hear,” Abi said. “Ready to go?”
Abi took off out of the office they’d been hiding in. For the second time, Tanesha watched her back. This time she noticed a flow of tiny sparks following Abi. The fairy corps was here. Tanesha raced to catch up. Abi stopped at the end of a hallway. She smiled at Tanesha and then shrank to tiny size. There was a flash, and suddenly Tanesha felt as light as a feather. The world was very, very big.
“What the …” Tanesha started. She noticed Abi was ordering a group of blue taffeta wearing fairies to protect Tanesha. “You’re the boss of the fairy corps?”
“General Abigail, at your service,” Abi did a courtesy in the air. “You’re going to love it!”
Tanesha glanced at the horizon and Jeraine came into view. He was lying on the floor next to Jabari’s little bed. Jabari was talking about nothing and Jeraine was listening. They were so adorable that Tanesha smiled, and then she remembered her mother.
A room came into her view. Her mother had some white haired guy draped over her. Dionne was talking to a guy who looked like a mobster. One of those guys who hung around Alex Hargreaves’ house was standing in the doorway looking like a bodyguard. The mobster said something to the bodyguard, and they laughed. Dionne shifted uncomfortably. At least, they were alive and not in too much danger.
“Ready?” Abi asked.
“What are we doing?” Tanesha asked.
“Just follow with us,” Abi said. “And remember, we think the serpents are going to swoop in to capture Yvonne.”
“Fin said I have to save Mom,” Tanesha said.
“Of course,” Abi said. “First we have to get there.”
Abi took off flying and at least a hundred fairies followed her. The fairies around Tanesha waited for her.
“Shouldn’t we follow them?” Tanesha asked.
“After you,” the fairy nearest her said.
“I don’t know how to fly!” Tanesha said.
The fairy behind her pushed her. They were off! Tanesha flew as fast as she could to catch up with the rest of the fairy corps.
Tuesday night — 9:58 p.m.
“Is there anything I can do tonight?” Edie the fairy turned nanny asked.
She and Jill had been sitting at the kitchen counter while Edie told Jill about her date with James Kelly.
“No, thanks,” Jill said. “I’m glad you had a good time.”
“Not as amazing as you!” Edie said. “A real serpent.”
“Fog-serpent,” Jill said.
“Dust,” Edie said. “Made from the serpent dust. Very powerful.”
“Not as powerful as the real thing,” Jill nodded.
“That’s true,” Edie said. “Why didn’t you believe me when I told you that everything in our world was fine?”
“I figured you didn’t know,” Jill said. “I mean, Jake’s gone.”
“Delphie and Keenan too,” Edie said. “Scary stuff.”
“Anyway,” Jill set her glass in the sink. “I’m glad you had fun tonight.”
“He’s in town for a while,” Edie said. “Is it okay if he sees the kids?”
“Of course,” Jill said.
“What if he stays over?” Edie asked. She looked embarrassed. “I mean …”
“I don’t think that’s a problem,” Jill said. “Just keep it down.”
Edie giggled and Jill smiled.
“No really,” Jill said. “You can hear everything that happens here. No one cares, but you’ll have to deal with MJ asking James about it.”
“Sounds embarrassing,” Edie said.
“Exactly,” Jill said.
Edie nodded. Jill touched Edie’s shoulder and walked toward Katy’s bedroom before she remembered that the kids were with Megan tonight. She waved to Edie and went into her bedroom.
And the nightly torture began.
During the day, Jill was over-busy with work and school and Katy and the twins. The kids were the center of her life. She spent every moment she could spare with them. Even with Edie’s help, Jill was overwhelmed.
When she was married to Trevor, Jill spent a lot of time alone. She was either alone at work, cleaning and cooking at home alone, or alone with Katy. Trevor was a full-time job, in himself. When he was around, he was her entire focus, which also meant that she was alone.
Jill had not felt so alone since meeting Jacob. He spent most of his free time by her side. If he wasn’t with her, he texted or called her every couple of hours to check in. His presence was everywhere in her life. He built this home for them. He fathered her children. He took care of her in every moment of every day.
Now, he was gone.
She’d listened to that fog-serpent with true horror. Her Jacob was stuck in that stuff and there was nothing she could do about it. Her children didn’t have their father. Lipson Construction didn’t have their leader. And Jill was terribly, horribly alone.
She worried that she wasn’t making the right decisions. Should the boys be eating more solid food? Was it better for them to be at the Marlowe school or with Edie? Was there anything she could do to help Katy with her horse issues? If Jacob was here, they would talk through all of the options and make a decision together. Katy would have accomplished her horse certification and be able to spend the weekends riding with Paddie. As it was, both children were miserable. Jacob would know what to do.
And what should she do about the fog-serpent? According to Jeraine, Tanesha had gone off with Abi. Of course, she had to asked him if he’d buried Tanesha in the yard so that he could go back to being a drugged out whore, which only made him angry. Not that she blamed him.
Jill felt like every little thing was her fault. She was the reason Jacob hadn’t come home. She was the reason Katy couldn’t do her horse riding. She was failing at raising the boys.
None of this should affect her. If she was a good person, she could hold it all together for at least a little bit! But as it was, she was stumbling along, making one decision after the next with no real plan. Muddling through, that’s what her mother called it.
Jill didn’t like muddling. She especially didn’t like muddling through things where her children were concerned.
And now that Fin was alive!
Jill flopped over onto her back and pulled the covers over her head. No one would say it, but even her dearest friends thought maybe Jill had gotten it wrong.
Or maybe they didn’t.
Certainly Jill wondered if she’d gotten it wrong. Did Jacob just get sick of her and their life? Did he just leave? She’d asked Sam this very question tonight. Sam had just hugged her. He told her that Jacob would come home, not to worry. But Jill did worry.
What if he never came home?
She rolled onto her side to try to push the thought away, but her mind continued down the path. Jill would have to leave the loft. They were broke so she would probably not even have enough money to raise the kids. She’d have to go back to waitressing because her contacts with the lucrative remodel jobs were all through Jacob.
The boys would starve.
Katy would have to give up her horse.
Jill started to cry. She couldn’t hold it all together if he wasn’t here. She’d built this enormous life with him. He was an integral part of everything. Without him, everything will eventually fall apart.
Without him, she was sure to fall apart.
“Where are you, Jake?” Jill whispered.
Tuesday night — 9:58 p.m.
Tanesha flew close to the bodyguard just to make sure it was who she thought it was. She saw the distinctive burnt-orange Vivaldi “F” armband tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve. That guy belonged to Alex Hargreaves. So how did he get here? She flew too close and caught his eye.
“What is it?” the guy with Dionne asked.
“A bee, I think,” the guy said.
“Damned bees,” the guy said. “They love me.”
Tanesha sped across the room and landed on her mother’s shoulder. She saw the sparkling lights of the fairy corps twinkling around the room. Abi waved her wand and Tanesha heard her say, “Go ahead.”
“Mom,” Tanesha said. “I’m here.”
Yvonne looked up. She glanced at the bodyguard and then at Dionne. She gave a slight nod.
“Mom,” Tanesha started.
Without warning, Yvonne slammed the back of her right fist into the Jeff-the-alpha-banker’s nose. It made a satisfying pop.
“You stupid whore!” Jeff-the-alpha-banker said.
He raised his hand to slap Yvonne, but Tanesha flew to his hand. When she did, the five fairies protecting here flew at her side. Tanesha bit down on his thumb and the other fairies followed suit. Jeff-the-alpha-banker screamed.
“Hey!” Gino jumped to his feet.
Yvonne turned in an arch around the man with the white hair. Tanesha flew in front of her. Tanesha came face to face with the man. The man reeked of wealth and privilege bought out of the suffering of countless children including Sandy, Tink, and Ivy. Her very being pulsed with rage. This man would never see justice.
Tanesha wished the man’s head exploded. Instead, his eyes began to bleed. Yvonne pushed his shoulders. He hit the back of the small love seat and flipped head first onto the floor.
“How dare you!” Jeff-the-alpha-banker said as he jumped to his feet.
Gino tried to grab Yvonne, but the fairy corps intervened. He gave a yelp as if he’d been shocked and jumped back.
“Are you going to do something?” Gino asked the bodyguard.
“Sure,” the bodyguard said. He pulled a Homeland Security badge out of his pocket. “You’re under arrest.”
The bodyguard looked like he was going to arrest Gino, but went to where Jeff was lying on the ground.
“Kill him, Tannie,” Yvonne said in a low voice. “He’s already talking about starting the whole thing over again.”
Tanesha flew forward but was knocked out of the way by the bodyguard. She spun end over end until her flock of fairies caught her. The bodyguard was pointing to the ceiling.
“What?” Yvonne asked.
“That’s a camera!” Dionne said.
“We’ve got all of this covered, Mrs. Smith,” he said. He nodded to Dionne, “Gino, can you escort these women out?”
“Of course,” Gino said.
Dionne was so surprised that she gawked at Gino. He grinned.
“Mrs. Smith?” Gino asked. “We picked up your clothing from the hotel. If you want to shower and change, you’re welcome to. The national news media is out there.”
“I just want to go home,” Yvonne said.
“Yes,” Gino said. “Unfortunately, we need to keep you here for a bit.”
“We’re prisoners?” Dionne asked. “Is that what this is about?”
“No, ma’am,” Gino said.
Gino gestured to the door. Yvonne walked out of the room. Dionne watched her back for a moment before following him out. They were in the hallway when four policemen ran toward the room they’d been in. They kept going until they reached the conference room they’d started in.
“I thought you might want to get your purses first,” Gino said.
“Thank you,” Yvonne said.
Yvonne went to where they had set their purses. Dionne knelt down to where the girl had been shot.
“What?” Gino asked.
“You shot and killed that girl,” Dionne said. “Right here and …”
“So?” Gino asked.
“Where’s the blood?” Dionne asked.
“What blood?” Gino asked.
“You shot and killed that girl,” Dionne said.
“You sure?” Gino asked.
Yvonne knelt down to pick up their purses.
“Tannie?” Yvonne whispered.
Tanesha flew in front of her face.
“There you are!” Yvonne said. “Is Abi …?”
Abi flew next to Tanesha. Yvonne smiled.
“I knew you’d come!” Yvonne said. “Will you kill that Jeff creature?”
“No need,” Abi said. “It’s all worked out.”
Yvonne smiled. She got up with the purses in hand.
“She’s in real danger now,” Abi whispered.
“Fairy corps!” Abi yelled. “Circle the wagons!”
The fairy corps surrounded Gino, Dionne, and Yvonne as they moved out into the hallway.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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