Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Fourteen : Bullet proof


Friday morning — 9:45 a.m.

Uncomfortable, Rodney stood in the doorway of the interrogation room. His eyes flicked from corner to corner of the room. The color on the walls was different from the small room where he’d lost his entire life, but his nostrils picked up the same smell of desperation mixed with industrial cleaner. A bead of sweat dripped down his back. He took a breath and stepped into the room. He felt the tall blonde man step in behind him. As if to say he felt the same way about the room, the Agent touched his back.

Rodney glanced at the young man. The agent took off his dark glasses. In the Homeland Security Agent’s blue eyes, he saw the shadow of deep suffering. He nodded to acknowledge what he saw in the man.

“Let’s sit down,” Daniel White, the Reverend’s son, said.

The agent glanced at the lawyer.

“I’d prefer to stand,” Rodney said.

“Then we stand,” the agent said. “Colin Hargreaves, sir. General Hargreaves sends his best regards for a speedy resolution to this matter.”

Colin’s eyes flicked to the mirrored window. He’d said the words evenly, as if he was comforting Rodney. The movement of his eyes indicated the threat. General, once Senator, Hargreaves must have orchestrated the agent’s presence. For the first time since hearing Alvin wanted to take Yvonne, Rodney felt like there might be a slight chance she wouldn’t have to go.

Rodney pulled out a chair and sat down. His lawyer did the same. Colin put on his dark glasses and moved to the corner of the room.

They settled in to wait.


Friday morning — 9:45 a.m.

Yvonne followed her short, pregnant lawyer into the depths of the Denver Police Department. They twisted this way and that way until they came to a small conference room. Two impossibly young women and an equally young man dressed in street clothing were sitting around the conference table. Reading copies of her journals, their heads were down.

“She’s here,” the uniformed police officer said when they entered the conference room.

The young people stood from their chairs. One at a time, they introduced themselves. But the bigger they smiled, the more uncomfortable Yvonne felt. Her caramel colored Homeland Security agent shifted toward her. She, her lawyer, and the Agent stood in the doorway.

They’d been duped.

These young people had neither the experience nor the rank to do anything about the crimes reported in her journals. The Denver Police weren’t planning on doing anything with the information in her journals.

“Not a damn thing,” Yvonne said under her breath.

Samantha grabbed Yvonne’s forearm.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Samantha said. “We’ll be leaving.”

They turned in place to see the door close.

The lock clicked.

They were trapped.

When they turned back, the young man had a handgun pointed at them.

“Your weapon, Agent Rasmussen,” the young man said.

Yvonne watched the fight work its way across the agent’s face. When he looked down to take a gun from his side holster, his eyes flicked to her.

He’d known this was going to happen.

He set a gun on the table.

“Your telephone,” the young woman closest to them said. “Ms. Hargreaves, we need yours too.”

“You will open this door immediately or I promise you, you will suffer the consequences,” Samantha said.

There was something about the depth of power of her lawyer’s voice that made Yvonne look at her. Samantha hadn’t known this was going to happen, but she’d expected it anyway. Her lawyer might be pregnant. She might be small. But she was clearly tough as hell.

“We’re terrified,” the other woman said. “Telephone?”

The first woman grabbed Samantha’s briefcase and the second woman took her purse. The women rifled through her briefcase. They gave her telephone and laptop to the young man. One at a time, he took out the batteries to disconnect the GPS and stomped on the phones.

“Now what?” the Agent asked.

“We wait,” the young man said.

The lights flickered. It was almost imperceptible. In fact, Yvonne didn’t think Samantha noticed. Since her brain injury, Yvonne was very sensitive to changes in light. She knew the lights had flickered. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the Agent’s eyes shift to look at the clock. He knew the lights had flickered as well.

They might not have their phones and gun, but they were not alone.

“May we sit down?” the agent said. “Ms. Hargreaves is pregnant and Mrs. Smith has had a difficult few days.”

“Have a seat,” the young man smiled. “It’s going to be a while. I’m sure he’d want you rested.”

The young people looked up at someone beyond the glass wall of the conference room. The young man held up a thumb. Samantha turned in her seat to look.

“Police Chief,” she said under her breath.

“Interim.” The Agent dragged a chair out from the table to cover his voice. “Mrs. Smith?”

Yvonne sat in the chair. He helped her lawyer into a chair next to her.

“I’ll stand,” he said.

“Suit yourself, you stupid fucker,” the young man laughed. The women chuckled.

“It’s going to be a while,” the woman closest to them said.

The Agent nodded in acquiescence.

“We don’t mind waiting,” Samantha said.

The young people’s attention turned to her. She gave them a bright smile. Yvonne’s looked from her lawyer’s smug smile to the young people’s confused faces. She glanced at the agent. He was staring straight ahead as if he was watching something outside the window. Yvonne swallowed hard.

“Anyone mind if I crochet?” She asked in her sweetest, most nonthreatening voice.

The young man gave her a “stupid woman” look. The young woman snorted a laugh and sat down across from her. The other woman gestured for her to go ahead.

Yvonne smiled. She took a ball of yarn and a crochet hook from the back pocket of her borrowed jeans. Humming a tuneless song, she joined her lawyer and the agent in their pretense.

She only hoped they knew what they were doing.


Friday mid-day — 12:05 p.m.

Rodney leaned back in his chair and looked at Colin Hargreaves. So far, they had met a few detectives. A man came in from something called the National Security Agency. Another man came in from another agency, introduced himself and promptly left. Every hour or so, another set of people shuffled in and out of the room.

He’d tried to be patient.

He’d told himself it had really only been a couple of hours.

But the sinking feeling in his stomach said something was very wrong.

He’d felt this feeling before. In prison, he always knew when Aaron Alvin was coming to taunt him or when he was likely to be beaten or worse. As a child, growing up in the cotton fields of Alabama, he always knew when his father was going to drink their wages or when to take his mother to NeNe’s house to hide from the old man’s rage. He had this very same feeling the night they’d come to get him for the murder he didn’t commit.

The sinking feeling came with the words his father said every time he dragged Rodney to the wood shed for a whooping:

“You ain’t nothing. You’ll never be nothing. You’re just a stupid pawn in another man’s game.”

Rodney wiped his brow with his handkerchief. His father’s voice was getting so loud he wondered if the lawyer and the agent could they hear him.

And then he knew.

He had to get out of this room.

He’d spent many days and nights in solitary confinement. He knew this track to insanity. First, the sinking feeling brought his father’s voice to remind him that he was nothing; then, as if they were lying right in front of him, he saw Aaron Alvin screwing his precious Yvonne while she screamed for his help; and then he lost his mind.

Standing from his seat, he went to the door and found it locked. He looked at Agent Hargreaves. He could tell by the dull look in the Agent’s eyes that the young man was reliving some nightmare of his own. He glanced at the lawyer. The young man looked confused and frustrated. Too young to know what to do, the boy had become uselessly overwhelmed.

It was up to Rodney to get them out of this situation.

He did the only thing he could think of. He picked up a chair and threw it at the mirrored window. The chair glanced off the glass. The window bowed, but didn’t shatter.

“Give me your gun,” Rodney said.

“It’s bullet proof,” Colin licked his lips.

The agent was nearing full scale panic.

“At least now we know there’s no one on the other side,” Rodney said. “Empty your pockets.”

He and Colin put the contents of their pockets on the table. There was nothing useful there. He touched Daniel White’s shoulder.

“Son, can I take a look at what’s in your briefcase?” Rodney asked.

“There’s nothing. I have nothing. Not a damned thing. I…”

“Let me be the judge of that,” Rodney smiled. He looked up at Colin. “You military?”

Colin nodded. The attorney set his briefcase on the table and opened it.

“Good,” Rodney said. “I need you to think about how we’re getting out of the building.”

“I can’t get us out of this room…”

“I have that covered,” Rodney leaned over to look in the briefcase. He saw a cup of yogurt and a plastic spoon. “You mind if I take your spoon?”

“It’s plastic.” Panicked, the attorney stated the obvious.

“I see that.” With practiced ease, Rodney broke the rounded end off the spoon. He held up the shaft of the plastic spoon. Using his house key, he shaved the spoon down so that the two outer edges of the spoon stuck out. He held it up to the light. From the pile from Colin’s pockets, he took out two rubber bands and wrapped them tight around the spoon.

“Are we going to kill someone?” the young man whispered.

“Am I under arrest?” Rodney asked.

“No,” the attorney said.

“Then I have a right to come and go as I please,” Rodney said. “Is that correct?”

“That’s correct,” the attorney said.

“Did you come up with a plan?” Rodney asked Colin.

Colin nodded.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Rodney said. “We’re getting out of this room. Once out, I’m going to find Yvonne and you gentlemen are going to raise the alarm. There is something ugly going on here and Yvie is smack dab in the center of it.”

Rodney walked to the door.

“Get right behind me,” he said. “There’s no way to know what’s on the other side of this door.”

The men did what they were told. Rodney jammed the modified spoon handle into the lock and turned it. The knob twisted.

“Here we go.” Rodney pulled open the door.

Seeing no one, he took a step out of the room. Colin followed him. Once outside the room, the young agent seemed to regain his composure. Colin nodded to Rodney that he was ready.

“Is it clear?” the attorney asked.

Rodney nodded and the attorney left the room. As if he was escorting a prisoner, Colin grabbed Rodney’s arm and marched him in the direction of the lobby. The attorney followed close behind. They were almost to the lobby when a heavy set, middle aged police Captain stepped in front of them.

“Colin! Rodney!” the Captain said. “I didn’t know you were here.”

Rodney squinted at the man. He remembered meeting him at Seth’s house. He was…

“Oh come on, you remember me,” the man’s voice was jovial but his eyes shot sparks. “I’m Ferguson.”

Rodney nodded. He did remember the man. The Captain put his arm around Rodney’s shoulder and launched into a long story of the last time he’d been fishing. With Colin latched onto his other arm, and the attorney following close behind, the Captain maneuvered them through the station. When they reached the loading dock, the man stopped talking.

“Did you bring them?” Ferg asked.

Rodney nodded.


“Copies,” Rodney said. “That woman Delphie told me to bring copies. I made them last night at Kinkos. My daughter was asleep in the car, but her husband came in with me. He can vouch for the photos.”

“And the originals?”

“Safe,” Rodney said.

“And Yvonne’s books?”

“More than safe,” Rodney said.

The big man took a digital recorder from his pocket.

“I just came on shift,” Ferg said. “I heard about your… situation in my shift change. My team and other cops, agents, good men, have been trying to get to you all morning. I was coming to get you.”

“Thanks,” Rodney said.

“You all right, Colin?” Ferg asked.

“Froze up,” Colin said. “Hasn’t happened in years, but in that room… the hopelessness… We have a new baby and…”

“It happens to all of us,” Rodney said. “Next time, it might be me.”

Colin nodded.

“I’m going to interview you here,” Ferg said. “Is that all right?”

Rodney nodded. Captain Ferguson turned on the digital recorder. He stated his name, the date, and who he was speaking with.

“Where did you get these photos?”

“Assistant District Attorney Aaron Alvin came to see me once a month the first few years I was in Canon City,” Rodney said.

“Why did Mr. Alvin visit you?”

“He wanted to let me know he was having sex with my wife,” Rodney said. “He described what he did in vivid details and brought these photos to prove what he said was true. I was in solitary confinement. They would cuff me, shackle me, and march me up to see him. He would tell me his sick stories and give me the images as something to think about. I went back to solitary.”

“With the images?”

“Yes,” Rodney said. “I sat in that cell all by myself with his pictures to look at.”

Colin made a sympathetic sound and Rodney’s head jerked to look at him.

“Why didn’t you refuse to see him?” Ferg asked.

“Because if I saw him, I got a phone call and my letters,” Rodney said. “Yvonne wrote me every day. Sent pictures she drew of her life, of our daughter.”

“But you couldn’t have them in your cell.”

“No sir,” Rodney said. “Just the pictures he gave me. But I could hear her voice for a few minutes and read her letters. It was worth it to me.”

“You refused to see him after your call to her mother. Is that correct?”

Rodney gave the Captain a long look. Only a handful of people knew he called his mother-in-law to save Tanesha. The Captain nodded toward the tape.

“He gave me a photo of him with my daughter,” Rodney said. “He wanted me to hurt. I hurt. He wanted me to be angry. I was angry. He wanted me to be helpless. I was helpless. He’d even stopped Yvie from writing to me, no phone call either. He wanted to defeat me, but as long as I draw breath, I will not be defeated by that man. I used my last call to call my mother-in-law. She spoke to my friend Dr. Bumpy Wilson. He arranged for a friend of his to keep an eye out for Yvie and my baby. His friend was able to get my wife and daughter away from Alvin. But… my daughter, Tanesha, she wasn’t safe from him and Yvie, she… made some arrangement to keep Tanesha safe. She sacrificed herself to keep my baby away from that man.”

“But your wife?”

“She remained trapped in his web,” he said. “She told me this morning that she focused every single day on survival. She knew in her heart we’d be together again; she’d be happy again. So she survived one day and then the next, adding one day onto another until the years passed.”

Rodney wiped his eyes.

“She’s much braver, stronger, than I,” he said.

“Did you ever have any indication that you were charged with the murder and rape of the young girl because Mr. Alvin wanted… your wife?”

“Yes sir,” Rodney said. “He told me so every time he came to see me.”

“Told you what?”

“That he rigged the trial, paid off a couple jurors to get the guilty verdict so that I would go to prison for… what happened to that poor girl,” Rodney said. “The warden kept copies of the tapes of our interactions. Held them in case Alvin came after him. I got a letter, a year or so after I was out, from the warden; he’s retired now. He still has ‘em.”

The Captain turned off the recorder.

“Thank you,” the Captain said. “You didn’t have to come. You didn’t have to do this. It’s going to help.”

“What’s happening?” Colin asked.

“Alvin has already signed for immunity against the charges stemming from his prostitution business. He gave up the man who killed the women who lived in his building. The killer is in custody,” the Captain said.

“The killer he hired,” Colin said.

“He doesn’t tell it that way, nor does the suspect,” the Captain said. “The suspect says he had a beef with one of the girls and took it out on everyone.”

Not sure of what to say, Rodney shook his head.

“Gives you an idea of what you’re dealing with,” the Captain said. “Alvin’s being moved into witness protection right now. Some of his people have intercepted Yvonne. They hoped to keep you here long enough to move her.”

Rodney felt a wave of futility overcome him.

“Don’t worry,” Captain Ferguson said. “She’s in good hands. You were the one that was the hostage today. They’re going to talk about your escape for a long time to come. And this information?”

Captain Ferguson gave him a big smile.

“He didn’t get immunity from fixing a trial so he could get another man’s wife,” Captain Ferguson said. “You’d be surprised at how much evidence has turned up. Since he’s in Witness Protection, he may never go to trial. But he’s not going to live happily ever after either.”

“And Yvonne?”

“He’ll never see her again.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure,” Captain Ferguson said. “You ready to lead the charge?”

Captain Ferguson nodded toward Colin.

“You remember how to get to the meet up?”

Colin nodded.

“Better get going,” Captain Ferguson said.

Captain Ferguson turned in place and walked back into the station.

“I’m not leaving without Yvonne,” Rodney said.

“Our best chance of helping her is by getting to the meet up,” Colin said.

“He’s right,” the lawyer said. “The only reason they would have kept us in that room is if that’s where they wanted… no needed us to be stuck right there. We can do more if we’re out of here.”

Rodney thought for a moment. He looked from Colin to the lawyer and then nodded.

“Let’s go,” Colin said.


Friday mid-day — 12:05 p.m.

“Delphie?” Her voice slurred by her wired jaw, Tanesha wasn’t sure if Dephie had heard her.

“Tanesha,” Delphie yelled into her cell phone.

“Are you yelling?” Tanesha asked. “Is everything all right?”

“Oh.” Delphie chuckled. “I always forget how these things work.”

“I thought I would call you first this time instead of… worrying,” Tanesha said. “Are my parents home yet?”

“No,” Delphie said.

“Are they in trouble?”

“At this moment?” Delphie sighed. “No.”

“But they’re going to be?”

“They might be,” Delphie said. “This is another one of those situations Tanesha where things can go one way or the other. Your mom and dad have roles to play here. They have to do their part. No one knows what will happen.”

“Oh,” Tanesha said.

“I’m sorry, I know it’s not what you want to hear.”

“Are they going to be all right?” Tanesha asked.

“I hope so,” Delphie said. “And you should too. Those words, the ones in a traditional marriage ceremony, ‘What the Goddess had joined together, let no man tear asunder.’ They fit for your parents. We must trust the Goddess to avenge their love.”

“Trust,” Tanesha said. “I’m not very good at that.”

“I know,” Delphie said. “Me too. Anyway, finish up. Jeraine will meet you at your last class. Try not to dilly dally and come straight to the Castle.”


“I don’t know,” Delphie sounded amazed. “Honestly, I don’t have any idea.”

“Sounds like things have turned for the better.”

“I think they have,” Delphie said. “Gosh, I need to get going. So much to do! See you soon.”

Tanesha looked at the phone when the woman hung up. Shaking her head slightly, she went to find a place to lie down before her next class.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week

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