Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter One-Hundred and Ninety-Nine : Forever

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and NINETY-NINE

Friday morning — 12:11 p.m.

Ava and Seth sat at the kitchen bar talking to Maresol when the doorbell rang. Shifting around on his bar stool, Seth grimaced.

“I can get it,” Ava said.

“I’m okay,” Seth said. “Just a little stiff in the mornings.”

Ava wiggled her eyebrows at him and he grinned.

“Knock it off,” Maresol said as she walked around them. “We don’t need to see you moon at each other.”

She slapped Seth with a dishtowel. Ava leaned forward to kiss him.

“Who is at the door?” Maresol added on her way to the door.

“Attorney General,” Seth yelled back. “Ava’s father.”

“I think I’ll go for a swim,” Ava hopped off her stool and trotted toward the back of the house. Still grinning, Seth watched her go.

“Attorney General Alvin,” Maresol’s voice drifted into the kitchen. “Please come in. May I take your coat?”

Maresol directed Ava’s father toward the small living room area at the front of the house.

“Can I bring you some coffee or tea?” Maresol asked.

“No thank you,” Aaron Alvin’s deep voice rumbled.

Seth, rolled his eyes. If the Attorney General didn’t want coffee, he was aiming to show Seth off at some public lunch. Maresol came in the kitchen.

“I’m not feeding that man,” Maresol said.

“You know him?”

“I don’t like the way he treats his daughter,” Maresol held out a cane to Seth. “Use this. You’re gimping this morning.”

“The first of the music people should be here around one,” Seth said.

“Then you’d better finish up with Mr. Important,” Maresol helped him stand.

“Thanks.” He nodded to her.

“For what?”

“Putting up with my bullshit all these years,” he said.

She smiled at him and he made the painful journey toward the Attorney General.

“Seth!” Aaron Alvin said when he saw Seth. “How are you feeling?”

“Better, thank you,” Seth sat down across from him.

“I saw the other men who were injured at an award ceremony we held in their honor, in your honor in fact, just last week,” the Attorney General said. “They seem to be still recovering as well.”

“It’s the joints,” Seth said. “Our doctor thinks we may have rheumatoid like symptoms for the rest of our lives. He’s testing us with a variety of treatments. Since it’s all new, there’s no real science.”

“Lab rats, eh?”

“Yes sir,” Seth said. “You’ve requested to see me a number of times. What can I do for you?”

“I’d like you to come to work for me,” Aaron Alvin said.

Seth was so surprised he couldn’t think of anything to say. The men looked at each other for a moment.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Seth said.

“As State Attorney General, you can imagine I have a number of cases that require an experienced detective. An honest man,” Ava’s father gave Seth a bright politician’s smile. While he smiled, Seth wondered how the grounded, real Ava he knew could be this man’s child. Before his mind could work on the puzzle, the Attorney General spoke again, “You’d join my staff, of course.”

“I don’t see an upside for me in that situation, sir,” Seth said. “I’m sure you realize that I don’t do this work for the paycheck. I have departments calling me from all over the country asking me to consult on their cases. I just helped LA close a particularly ugly murder and get a confession from the unlikely perpetrator. That’s not to mention my agent is thinking about sending me on a tour of the US to showcase some material I wrote but hasn’t sold. What would I gain from working with you?”

“You’d have a chance to work on some of the greatest puzzles in Colorado,” the Attorney General gave Seth another toothy grin.

“You mean like who brutally murdered that the beautiful, blonde fifteen year old under the Colfax bridge?”

The Attorney General looked surprised.

“There was so much blood that it must have soaked down to the murderer’s very underclothes. And she put up a fight. Trained in tae kwon do at Tiger Kim’s on Colfax,” Seth said. “Funny that the man you prosecuted had not a drop of blood on him, no fibers, not a bruise or a scratch and he had an alibi.”

“That was a long time ago,” Aaron Alvin licked his lips and looked away.

“Not to Rodney Smith,” Seth said.

“I made that right, O’Malley,” the Attorney General shifted in his seat. “Rodney Smith received twenty-five million dollars. That’s more than a million a year. It’s more than he’d ever have made as a professor.”

“What about the other twelve victims of the murderer Mitch and I had locked up in the Denver Jail with a signed confession? He told me he wanted us to stop him. He wanted to be caught,” Seth’s voice raised in anger. “What do those young women get? What about their families?”

“I personally saw to his execution,” The Attorney General’s eyes blazed with indignation.

“Twelve bodies later!” Seth said. “And what about Yvonne? Or her daughter?”

Aaron Alvin looked away for the first time.

“I know you still see Yvonne,” Seth’s voice held the full implication of his words. “Every Saturday, eight in the morning, for two hours.”

“You have my offer,” the Attorney General stood from his seat.

“Mitch gave you my answer over twenty years ago when you railroaded a good man to gain access to his gorgeous wife,” Seth said. “You remember what Mitch said?”

“I’ll wait for your answer,” the Attorney General walked toward the door.

“You have it,” Seth said.

The Attorney General continued walking. When he reached the door, he turned to look at Seth.

“Does my daughter know?”

“I won’t keep your secrets.”

“And Rodney Smith?”

“He doesn’t want to know,” Seth said. “He’s one of the most incredible men I’ve ever met. I’d say person, but Yvonne’s daughter, Tanesha, is just that much better a human being than he is.”

“And?”

“He doesn’t care about your excuses, your reasons, or the past. He’s not going to waste his life on anger or revenge,” Seth said. “He’s busy changing lives in the present.”

Aaron Alvin raised his eyebrows and gave a slight nod.

“There is one thing you could do… for him, for yourself.”

“What’s that?” the Attorney General asked.

“Release Yvonne.”

The Attorney General flinched and opened his mouth as if to say something. No words came out.

“Let her come home,” Seth said. “It’s been over twenty years. She’s still a beautiful woman. She has a family who will look after her, a family who love her, no matter what condition she’s in, or what she’s done. You don’t need her in your stable.”

Without saying a word, the Attorney General walked out of the house.

“That’s him?” Maresol’s voice was low and conspiratorial.

Seth gave her a quick nod.

“You were nice not to throw him out,” Maresol said.

“I’m going to marry his daughter,” Seth smiled. “Can’t be too mean to the father-in-law.”

Shaking her head at him, Maresol went back into the kitchen.

~~~~~~~~

Friday afternoon — 2:11 p.m.

“Oh yes!” Charlie yelled. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Charlie jumped up from his seat and danced. He wiggled his rear and shook his arms in the air. He was in the middle of hopping on one foot when Delphie peeked in on him. He jerked to standing straight up.

“Everything all right, Charlie?” Delphie asked.

“Um.” Charlie pointed to his computer screen.

“What is it?” Delphie beamed at him. Even though she knew his answer, she wanted to hear him say it.

“I GOT AN A!”

Charlie grabbed Delphie’s hands and began jumping up and down. He picked her up and twirled her around. Mike looked in the door.

“Hey! Put her down,” Mike said.

Charlie set Delphie down.

“What is all this fuss about?” Mike’s voice came out in fatherly tones. “You’ll wake the baby.”

Delphie and Charlie pointed toward the computer.

“YOU GOT AN A!” Mike began hopping up and down in imitation of Charlie.

Charlie and Delphie jumped up and down with him until they were laughing and jumping at the same time.

“Congratulations, man,” Mike shook Charlie’s hand. “Call Mom. She’ll want to know.”

“Good idea,” Delphie said. “Call Anjelika.”

Unable to keep from smiling, Charlie nodded.

“What should I make to celebrate?” Delphie asked. “We had brownies last night.”

“I’ll eat anything,” Charlie said.

“I’ll make a cheesecake,” Delphie said as she walked out of the room. “Maybe two so Valerie can have her own.”

“Good thinking.”

Charlie raised a hand to wave good-bye. Sitting back down at his computer, he sat for a moment and stared at his grade. It was the first time in his life that he’d done well at anything so square. He felt the flush of wanting to get high. Uncomfortable, he hopped to his feet and paced. He was about to leave the room when his cell phone rang.

“Go,” Charlie said in his coolest voice.

“Why hello Charlie,” Sandy said. “How are you doing?”

Charlie chuckled at her mocking of his cool cell phone answering technique.

“Sorry,” Charlie said. “Old habit.”

Sandy laughed.

“Did you get your test back?” Sandy asked.

“What test? I don’t know anything about a test.”

“English grammar,” Sandy said. “Weren’t you going to hear this afternoon?”

“I GOT AN A” Charlie yelled into the phone.

Laughing, Sandy cheered.

“Listen, I know you want to use,” Sandy said. “But you’ve come this far, if you use…”

“I’ll go backwards, not forward,” Charlie said. “I just thought of that. Thanks Sandy.”

“I have a couple more clients,” Sandy said. “But I’ll call Aden. We’ll celebrate tonight.”

“Ok,” Charlie smiled.

“See you tonight. Love you Charlie.”

Charlie hung up the phone. Sandy dialed him right back.

“I love you too Sandy,” Sandy said imitating his voice.

“I love you too,” Charlie said.

“Call Anjelika,” Sandy said. “She’ll be so excited.”

“I will,” Charlie said. “Thanks!”

“Why don’t you invite them to dinner? I think her husband’s home,” Sandy said. “They’re fun to have around.”

“Okay,” Charlie said.

“See you later,” Sandy said.

“Bye,” Charlie hung up the phone. He stood for a moment tapping his phone against his chin. He could call a guy he knows and get some…

Smiling to himself, he called Anjelika.

~~~~~~~~

Friday evening — 6:11 p.m.

Jeraine stopped his brand new, not-yet-available-to-the-public, black Dodge Dart in front of their new home.

“Are we going to see Gran?” Tanesha asked. “I thought she had dinner plans.”

“I thought maybe we could go on a date,” Jeraine nodded his head to their little house with the paint scraped off it.

“In your new car?” Tanesha smiled.

“I can’t help it if they gave me this car,” Jeraine smiled.

“Schmidty’s a good agent,” Tanesha said.

“Got rid of my pimp mobile.”

Tanesha smiled.

“Come on.”

Jeraine hopped out and came around the car. She let him open her door and help her out of the car. He went around to the trunk and took a wicker basket out of the back.

“Come on,” he repeated. “I have it all set up.”

He seemed so excited, so happy, she couldn’t help but smile. He put his arm around her, opened the broken picket gate, and led her down their front path. At the door, he stopped. Setting the basket down, he opened the door and picked Tanesha up. She squealed with laughter and he carried her over the threshold. He set her down, picked up the basket, and locked the door.

Tanesha took in the progress. There was a path of paper down the middle of the shining hardwood floors. Drop cloths lay near the repaired walls as if the painters had just stepped away. The missing heat registers exposed new heating ducts. New pipes were stubbed up in the bare kitchen. The doors were missing from their hinges. The security door to the garden was locked, but the inside door was off being refinished with the rest.

“You have to take off your shoes,” Jeraine said. “Jake said they would paper the whole house on Monday, but he wanted to give the finish few days to dry. We can walk on it though.”

“What did you work out about financing?” Tanesha gave voice to the question she’d been too afraid to ask before.

“He said he got a construction loan on the property,” Jeraine said. “I guess you don’t have to make payments for a year. He gave me one of those weird smiles and said he’d see where we were in a year.”

“So it’s still ours?”

“Yeah,” Jeraine gave her a toothy grin. “Schmidty got some company to sponsor most of the studio for a logo mention in the credits. The studio is supposed to go in as soon as the electrical is done which Jake said should happen by the end of the month. That was major expense we don’t have to cover. And…”

“And?”

“If I work this weekend and next week, I should make enough money to pay off everything we owe Jake and make a tiny dent in my debt,” Jeraine said. “Hopefully I can do it.”

“Why hopefully?”

“Movie people,” Jeraine shrugged. “They’ve got the hottest women and the best drugs. Follows them around wherever they go.”

“You’ve done this work before?”

“Some,” Jeraine said. “They’re not all like that, but this group? It’s going to be hard to stay focused.”

“How does Seth manage it?” Tanesha asked.

“That’s good thinking,” Jeraine said. “He controls his environment. But he’s The Seth and I’m…”

Jeraine drifted off in thought.

“You know what? I’ll ask him. He’s been sober a long time. I bet he knows just what to do.” Jeraine smiled. “Come on. Let me show you around.”

Jeraine led her through the house. He pointed out the color swatches taped to the walls and the furniture descriptions set in various places on the floor. In the living room, he patted the air as if it were the back of a chair.

“I’ll sit right here,” He dropped down into a kind of squat. “Drink my non-alcoholic beer and watch my non-winning Broncos on my big flat screen TV.”

“Where am I?” Tanesha chuckled.

“You’ll be off hanging out with all those hot med students,” Jeraine made an exaggerated sniff. “Leaving me to take care of business.”

Tanesha laugh. Jeraine hopped up and pulled her into the bare kitchen.

“I’m going to make fancy dinners for my exhausted wife,” Jeraine said. “We’ll have pots of tea ready for long study nights and…”

She kissed the back of his neck.

“What about your therapy and stuff?” Tanesha asked. “You’ll be hanging out with all those hot nurses. Oh Mr. Wilson, you’re so smart and…”

He spun in place and kissed her. She laughed. He took her hand and led her up the newly finished oak stairs to their attic bedroom. The shining floors spanned the entire space. Jill had placed their claw foot bathtub in the soon-to-be-master bathroom. Plastic sheets covered most of the floor of the bathroom. A cozy mattress covered with pillows and comforters sat in the middle of the room. Pillar candles rested on newspaper round the room and a portable turn table sat on a ledge.

“Look up,” he said.

Tanesha looked up to see they had set the sky lights in the roof.

“It’s not done or insulated so it’s a little cold,” he said. “But the plumber hooked up the tub and the water’s hot.”

“I thought the solar wasn’t going in until the roof was completed.

“Right,” Jeraine said. “We have a gas tank. The solar guy said we’d always have a back up so it’s new and big and hooked up. You want to take a bath?”

“This is really perfect,” she smiled at him.

“I know!” he hugged her. “Oh wait.”

He ran over to the turn table and gently set the needle down on a jazz record.

“Old school romantic music,” he said. “Would you like to dance?”

“Why… I mean what… is all of this?” Tanesha shook her head as if she was confused.

“I want you to know that I love you,” Jeraine shrugged.

“But…”

“No, I mean really know that I love you,” he said. “That’s what this is. I got your favorite comfort food from CoraFaye’s.”

“Chicken and chocolate cake?” Tanesha asked.

“Blane made the cake for me,” he said.

She smiled at him.

“And a little dancing, a little bathing, a little love-making,” Jeraine put his hands on either side of face. “For one moment, I want you to know that you are my whole world.”

Tears began to stream down her face and he kissed her.

“Oh, I forgot.” He pulled back and began digging in his pockets. He tipped his head to the left to think for a minute and then nodded. He pulled a velvet pouch out of his pocket. “You know how your girl Jill’s been helping me with my bling.”

“She said you have a lot of stuff, more jewels than any woman she knows,” Tanesha smiled.

“Right,” Jeraine said. “And good that I do. She’s going to help me auction it off on one of those sites and… anyway, that’s not the point. I had everything out and in the way back of my case I found this.”

He held up the velvet pouch out to Tanesha. She gave him a puzzled look.

“Oh right,” he took a ring out of the pouch. “After I left here, just two days, I got on a bus to go on tour with… Oh it doesn’t matter. I’m blowing this.”

“Blowing this?”

Frustrated, he blew out a breath.

“You were on a bus on tour with some big star singing back up,” Tanesha said. “Your mom said you had to learn the ropes.”

“Right,” he said. “I had some money in my pocket for the first time and, like I said, just two days after I left here, we stopped at this… I don’t know what it was, estate sale, junk sale, in Arkansas. The lady running the show liked to shop at these side things, especially in places where white people didn’t expect us. Throw them off guard or whatever.

“I got you this,” Jeraine held out a ring. “It’s a yellow diamond from Arkansas. I thought it would look really pretty on your dark skin.”

Looking at his expectant, happy face, Tanesha took the ring from him. She gave him a last glance then looked at the ring. It was old with gorgeous hand detailed flowers along the side. The gem was about a half-inch long in a radiant cut.

“The lady said her great-great grandmother wore it and that her great-great grandfather found the diamond in Arkansas. No slaves,” Jeraine said. “Jill said it was Victorian filigree and big – at least three carats or more. It was expensive. All the bonus money; every penny I had at the time. Everyone thought I was an idiot for getting it but I thought it would be so pretty on your hand and…”

Tanesha slipped the ring next to hear plain gold wedding band.

“It fits! Look, it’s so pretty!” He kissed her. “Jill said she thought it might. Do you like it?”

“It’s… all this… Oh Jer…”

“Don’t cry!” he smiled. “Let’s dance.”

She threw her arms around him and he held her close. Listening to the music, they began to sway.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week

~~~~~~~~

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