Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Nine : The Spider


Wednesday night — 9:19 p.m. PT/10:19 p.m. MT

Seth’s phone lit up the dark room. It vibrated twice and lit up again. He slipped his arm out from under Ava’s head and eased of bed.

“Who is it?” Ava leaned up.

“Sandy,” he mouthed and answered the phone. “O’Malley.”

“Seth, it’s Sandy,” she said. “I’m sorry to bother you. I’m sure Ava’s a wreck and I know you’re upset about the music and…”

Seth walked toward the sliding glass door then realized he was naked. Ava threw his shirt at him. He put it on and sat at the table.

“You sound upset.” Seth said. “Bumpy texted me to tell me that Yvonne is safe. What happened?”

“It’s Tanesha,” Sandy said. “She saw some old photos of that jerk Alvin? I guess they were running a special on his political life on TV. You know, Jeraine has that thing on all the time.”

Seth’s eyes drifted to Ava.

“She recognized him,” Sandy said.

“I think I know what you mean,” Seth said. “But, I’m sorry to make you do this, but you have to say it.”

“He’s was raping her when her mom hurt herself to get him to stop. You know when Yvonne hurt her brain?”

“Is she sure?” Seth asked.

“That’s the weird thing,” Sandy said. “She’s absolutely sure. She remembers the whole thing. He used to incapacitate Yvonne – drug her or tie her up or lock her in the bathroom or other horrible things - then hurt Tanesha so Yvonne would do whatever he wanted. Tanesha even remembers you and Dad. She remembers Dad’s sideburns. I don’t even remember his sideburns. I’ve only seen them in pictures.”

“He didn’t have them when you knew him,” Seth said.

“Anyway, she said that she remembers you taking her bear,” Sandy said. “She said to check the bear. Her mother stole some pictures he took. I guess he used to take pictures of hurting Tanesha and leave them to remind Yvonne what happened when she didn’t do what he wanted. Tanesha said there’s a zipper in back of the bear. Yvonne hid the pictures under the plastic voice box in the back of the bear.”

“She remembers all of this,” Seth said.

“Clear as day,” Sandy said.

“She’s sure,” Seth said.

“She’s positive,” Sandy said.

“And she’s willing to come forward?” Seth asked.

“That’s the weird thing,” Sandy said. “She wants to. I think knowing Yvonne is finally safe, and with Jeraine and med school, she’s ready to close this chapter of her life.”

“Okay,” Seth said. “I’ll make some calls. And Yvonne?”

“She’s asleep at the penthouse,” Sandy said. “Rodney’s with her.”

Seth let out a breath.

“You okay?” Sandy said.

“Just relieved,” Seth said. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but… I’m glad Yvonne is finally home.”

“Me too,” Sandy said. “I’m off to bed.”

“Sleep tight,” Seth hung up the phone. He stared off into space.

“What was that?” Ava asked.

“The end of a long day,” Seth said. “Yvonne is home and safe with Tanesha. Would you like to go dancing?”

“Not really,” Ava said. “I was thinking about starting the whole thing over again – swim, make love, dinner in bed…”

“I need to make some calls,” Seth said.

“About my dad?”

Seth nodded.

“It’s bad?

“Worse,” Seth nodded.

Ava shook her head at him. She got out of bed, went into the bathroom, and closed the door.

Seth dialed the phone, “Ferg?”

“Hey Seth,” Captain Ferguson said. “Are you living the life we all envy?”

“I spent a couple hours getting my blood filtered today,” Seth said.

“I’m sure the care package I sent you helped warm you right up when you were done,” Ferg laughed. “Not that I meant anything unsavory or…”

Seth laughed.

“What’s up?” Ferg asked.

“I know you’re getting ready to arrest Alvin tomorrow,” Seth said. “Can you pull up an old case for me?”

“Sure,” Ferg said. “What’re you looking for?”

“Just a second,” Seth said. He got his reading glasses and went through his phone where he kept a database of all his old case files. He gave the number to Ferg.

“We have that up from the warehouse already,” Ferg said. “Interim chief said make sure the ducks are in a row for tomorrow. We’re reviewing every case he’s been involved with.”

“Is there a Teddy bear in there?” Seth asked. “I remember one but…”

“Uh…” Ferg said. “Let me get the box.”

Seth waited. Ava came out of the bathroom. She pulled on a pair of shorts and a fleece sweater and went out to the deck off their bedroom. She pulled the sliding glass door closed.

“Ok go,” Ferg said. “I see a blood stained chocolate brown bear.”

“Is there a zipper on the back?”

“Uh…” In the background, there was a sharp “snap” as Ferg putting on latex gloves. “Sure. It’s one of those talking bears.”

“Unzip it,” Seth said. “There’re some photos under the plastic voice box.”

“Doing bear surgery,” Ferg said. “I have the zipper open. I see a pink plastic box. I am lifting the pink box through the zipper and… Holy mother of God. I have to go.”

Seth hung up the phone.

“You look grim,” Ava said.

“Some things about your father… came to light,” Seth said.

“Should I go home?” Ava asked.

“I’d rather you stayed here,” Seth said. “This is going to blow back pretty hard.”

“But my mom… shouldn’t I be with her?”

“To comfort her?”

“Yeah, I’m never much comfort to her,” Ava said.

Seth watched her closely.

“They’ll say I’m selfish.”

“They say that anyway,” Seth said.

“The blow back starts tomorrow?” Ava asked.

Seth nodded.

“Let’s go dancing,” Ava said. “Take me out on the town.”

Overwhelmed by her capacity to live in the face of life’s awful moments, he could only stare at her. When she blushed at his intense attention, he got up, dressed, and took her out.


Thursday early morning — 2:37 a.m. MT

Rodney was a very light sleeper. He was wide awake the moment she moved from the bed. He watched the dark shadow of Yvonne get up to use the restroom. She walked back across the room to the door. She picked something up from the dresser near the door.

“Strawberry,” she said in a soft voice. “I do love the strawberry pens.”

She moved back to the bed and turned on the bedside table lamp. Yvonne sat down on the bed with her back to him and opened what seemed to be a notebook.

Dear Mom.” The sound of her sweet voice made him smile. “You’re at my house. You met Bumpy’s son Jeraine last night… I wondered how I got here,” she went back to reading. “You remember he’s my husband… I didn’t remember but this is a nice place and he’s Bumpy’s son. He was the cutest little boy… Your keeper has left Denver and you are finally home… That’s just fine, like a dream come true… Dad’s sleeping on the floor of your room…”

Yvonne chuckled.

“This whole thing must be some joke,” Yvonne said. “Tanni, your Dad is in prison. I might not remember much but I remember my Rodney gets out of prison on June 14, 2020. I’ve counted every day for a very long time.”

Rodney sat up from the floor.

Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow when I get home from school,” Yvonne read. “Tanni is in med school. I remember that because I wrote it down. She started this week. There’s something else I’m supposed to remember, but I don’t know what that would be.”

“Yvonne,” Rodney said.

Yvonne gave a little scream and clutched the book to her. She turned toward his voice.

“Rodney?” she whispered.

He smiled at her. She closed her eyes tight.

“This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream,” she whispered. “When I open my eyes, I’ll be at the apartment and…”

She opened her eyes. Rodney smiled and she closed her eyes.

“Somebody gave me drugs. I’m having a hallucination,” she whispered. “My Tanni’s going to be so mad. She said she’d stop seeing me if I did drugs anymore and I’ll loose my Tanni and she’s the very best thing in my whole life and I can’t lose my Tanni and…”

Tears sprouted from Yvonne’s tightly closed eyes. Rodney got up from the floor and went to her side. He sat down on the bed and touched her shoulder.

“This isn’t a dream, Yvie,” he said. “I’m right here with you.”

She opened one eye to look at him. The eye blinked a few times.

“Prove it,” Yvonne said.

He touched her back. Her other eye opened.

“Did you break out of prison?” she whispered. “Was I supposed to remember that?

He shook his head.

“Do you have to go back?”

“Lord, I hope not,” he said.

She looked him up and down. He could almost see her mind working.

“You’ve been out a while.” New tears ran down her lovely face. “How come you didn’t come get me?”

“Because I’m a fool,” Rodney said. “I thought you were where you wanted to be.”

“You’ve been talking to my mother,” Yvonne shook her head. “That woman is mean.”

“I didn’t know until… too late that you were caught…”

“By a spider,” Yvonne whispered. “You know, he would tell me that if I didn’t… he would put you in solitary or in a cell with some mean man who would violate you in the middle of the night or get someone to gouge your eyes out or…”

Yvonne gasped. Her hand went to her mouth.

“Oh Rodney, I’ve broken our marriage vows,” Yvonne said. “I haven’t been a very good wife.”

She was so sincere and so sweet that Rodney could only smile.

“You know what?” Rodney held out his hand to her. She looked at his big hand and put hers in its palm. He smiled. “I’ve broken our marriage vows too.”

“You have?”

“I have,” Rodney nodded. “And I didn’t come to save you. I’ve not been a very good husband.”

“What are we going to do?” Yvonne asked.

Rodney kissed the back of her hand. In his wildest dreams, he’d never imagined he would ever have a chance to be with her again. Of course, Yvonne had never considered that they wouldn’t be together.

“You might not want to be married to me,” he said. “I didn’t come get you. I left you there and…”

Yvonne’s dark eyes watched him intently. He stopped talking.

“What?” he asked.

“I’ve only ever wanted to be married to you,” Yvonne beamed a smile at him. “Do you want to be married to me?”

He laughed.

“You should be really mad at me,” Rodney pointed to the book she clutched to her chest. “In fact, write that down – Rodney didn’t come get me. Rodney failed me – so you’ll remember.”

“I’m not going to write that down,” Yvonne pulled the book away from his finger. “I’ve waited for years and years for you to come home. If I write that down, I might get mad. If I get mad, I’ll have to live in a prison of anger like my mean mother. Then I would have to live my life in my anger prison and you would be free and we wouldn’t be together. That would be awful.”

He smiled at her wisdom.

“Do you want to be married to me?” she asked. “I’ve done… a lot of not very good things while you’ve been gone. I mean, my mother won’t speak to me and…”

“Your mother wasn’t speaking to you when we got married the first time,” Rodney laughed. She smiled at his joke.

“What do we do?” Yvonne whispered.

“You know what I think?” Rodney asked.


“I think we should get married again,” Rodney said. “Make a new vow.”

“And this one we won’t have to break?” Yvonne asked.

“This one we won’t have to break,” Rodney said.

“What about the… spider?” Yvonne’s face flashed with fear. “He tried to kill Tanni, always says he’s gonna do it…”

Yvonne’s body shook with fear. When Rodney shifted to put his arm around her, she threw herself into his arms. Her whispered words were lost in their tight embrace. When he pulled back, she was whispering what she’d said when they came to take him to prison.

“Don’t go, please don’t go, don’t go, please don’t leave me, don’t go…”

As if time bent in his mind, they were standing in the worn kitchen of their old house. This time, no police officer pulled him away. No police car waited to take him to jail. No phony trial was set up to convict him of a crime he didn’t commit. No solitary confinement and prison abuse was going to keep him from the only woman God put on this planet for him to love. As if all of the time between then and now had never passed, he was holding his Yvonne while she begged him not to leave her.

This time he was able to say: “I’m not going anywhere.”

Stunned, she jerked back to look at him. Her eyes scanned his face for a lie. He nodded his head.

“Now that’s something worth writing down,” she said.

She took off the cap of her strawberry pen and wrote with her left hand:

Rodney and I are getting married again and he’s not going anywhere.

She looked up and smiled at him.

“Smells like strawberry,” she said. “Tanni gets these for me like I’m a child. They always remind me of her so I don’t tell her that they’re a little… silly.”

Rodney smiled.

“Do you want to…? You know,” Yvonne said. “It’s okay.”

“I think we should wait until we’re married again,” Rodney said.

“We weren’t very good at that the first time,” Yvonne smiled.

“We were kids,” Rodney said. “We should wait until you want to. Do you want to?”

“Not really,” Yvonne said. “Is that okay?”

“That’s okay.”

“When are we going to get married?”

“Tomorrow?” Rodney laughed.

“We can’t get married tomorrow,” Yvonne said. “I don’t have a dress or flowers or… anything. Plus Tanni has school. I want her to be there. And her friends. Have you met them?”

Rodney nodded.

“She has some really nice friends,” Yvonne said.

“How ‘bout Saturday?” Rodney asked.

“That’s perfect!” Yvonne said. “Should we wake Tanni to tell her?”

“We should let her sleep,” Rodney said. “She had a terrible day yesterday.”

“Why? What happened?” Yvonne asked.

“She spent the day looking for you,” Rodney said.

“Huh,” Yvonne said. “One good thing about having a bad memory is that I don’t have to remember the bad days.”

“But you know yesterday was bad?”

“Yesterday was really horrible,” Yvonne sighed. “But it ended well. Look, you’re here and we’re in this nice place and…”

Yvonne scowled.

“Do you have a girlfriend I need to kick out of your house?” Yvonne asked.

“No,” Rodney said. “I mean except you.”

“I’m not your girlfriend,” Yvonne tapped his shoulder with the back of her hand. “I’m your wife.”

“Even better,” Rodney smiled.

“We should rest,” she said.

She set her book down on the table, shut off the light, and laid down on the bed. He got up to go back to the floor.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Sleeping on the floor,” he said. “Until we’re properly married.”

“Don’t be silly,” she flipped the covers back on the other side of the bed. “You belong with me.”

He got into the bed. Uncomfortable, he laid on his back as stiff as a board. Yvonne rolled onto her side and nestled into him. As if it had a mind of its own, his arm held her close. She sighed and he smiled.

He knew there would be trials ahead of them that he couldn’t imagine. But one thing he learned in prison was to hold onto the bright moments because life always held plenty of dark.

This was the best and brightest moment of his entire life.


Thursday morning — 8:35 a.m. MT

“That’s him?” the Denver Police Detective’s Captain looked through the one way glass at State Attorney General Aaron Alvin. Alvin wore a smug expression and a matching designer suit. His lawyer looked like a well groomed pit bull ready to bite.

“And his lawyer,” Captain Ferguson said.

“You ready?” the Captain asked. He turned to two Denver Police Detectives. The older, taller detective nodded.

“Go get him,” the Captain said.

The younger detective went through the door first.

“It’s about time,” the lawyer said. “The Attorney General has a full schedule today. We’d like to get this matter settled so he can return to serving the state.”

The younger detective looked at the lawyer and blinked. He didn’t move to sit down nor did he say anything.

“We understand that you need to follow up on one of your detective’s lead,” the lawyer pulled a folder from his briefcase. “But you must know that Detective O’Malley bears a grudge against my client. The Attorney General solved one of the most egregious crimes in the state, something Detective O’Malley was unable to do.”

“Detective Seth O’Malley no longer works for the Denver Police Department.” The young detective kept his face blank.

“We are prepared to file a harassment suit against the Denver Police Department and Mr. O’Malley,” the lawyer said.

The older, taller detective entered the room and closed the door. He was wearing gloves and holding a small stack of Polaroid photos.

“Finally someone with some experience to tell us what’s going on,” the lawyer said.

One at a time, the detective set the photos Captain Ferguson found in the bear on the table in front of State Attorney General Aaron Alvin. For the briefest moment, the room was silent.

“You can’t possibly believe the word of a thoughtless whore,” Aaron Alvin said. “These photos were manipulated to…”

“We thought you’d say that,” the younger detective said. “I met with our witness this morning.”

“And your witness is?” the lawyer asked.

“The child,” the older detective said. “She’s grown up.”

He took a set of photographs out of his pocket.

“Here’s a photograph of her arm where you burned it,” the young detective set down a photo of a scar on Tanesha’s arm. “You’ll see that her scar is in the exact location as your lighter in this photo.”

The young man set down photo after photo to match the older pictures.

“All except this one,” the older detective said. “But that doesn’t leave a physical wound.”

As if he’d been switched on, the lawyer began spewing legaleze. The detectives watched Aaron Alvin’s entire being focus on the photographs. In one picture, there was a side view of Yvonne’s face as she fought to get Tanesha away from him. His thumb stroked her face. He looked up at the older detective.

“I want to make a deal,” he said.

Stunned, his lawyer stopped talking. The lawyer turned to stare at Alvin.

“Find someone who can make me a deal,” Aaron Alvin said. “I can give you names, dates, times, audio recordings, and some video of how business is really done in this state. Your Chief will become the man known for cleaning up the city and county of Denver, hell, the state.”

“You’re willing to give up all of that?” the older detective asked.

“For what?” the younger detective asked.

“Witness protection and…” Aaron Alvin leaned over the photos. He pointed to Yvonne. “Her.”

The Denver Cereal will continue next week

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