CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and THIRTEEN
Friday early morning — 5:35 a.m.
Sitting near the end of the table, Tanesha looked around the Castle dining room. The room was full of excited people. While she had slept, everyone had met to make a plan to fight for her mother. Heather told her that Blane had said that they were up almost all night ironing out “something good.”
Her mother wasn’t going to be trapped by Alan Alvin again.
And the men in blue suits had found some “very interesting” things in Yvonne’s journals.
She glanced at her parents. She had no memory of these two people ever being in the same room. This morning, her mother was tucked up against her father. His left arm around her, she ate with her left hand and he with his right. Occasionally, he fed her rather than himself. She would nod and smile and continue eating as if nothing had happened. They moved with practiced ease, as if they were one body with four arms.
Katy ran into the dining room. Mike, with Jill in his arms, came in after her. Jill gave everyone the back-handed princess wave as she passed. Mike deposited her near the empty chair next to Tanesha. She leaned over to kiss Jacob and sat down between him and Tanesha. Katy sat next to her Dad.
“That was quite an entrance,” Jill said.
“I’m glad it worked,” Tanesha mumbled through her wired jaw. “Jake said you were ready to cast your hair down for a new prince.”
“I’ll tell you, sometimes I hate my meddling family,” Jill said.
“Even though you’re the chief meddler?” Tanesha asked.
“Even though,” Jill smiled. “I don’t hate them today.”
“They’ll be here in a moment,” Delphie said.
“Noelle,” Sandy said from the chair on Tanesha’s right.
Noelle came over to Sandy.
“You remember what you’re supposed to do?” Aden asked.
“I’m supposed to tell them that no one is awake and I don’t have the gate code,” Noelle bit her lip. Her eyebrows crumpled in and she shook her head. Leaning forward, she whispered to Sandy, “But that’s a lie.”
“I know,” Sandy said.
“I can’t lie,” Noelle’s eyes threatened tears.
The buzzer to the gate rang.
“I just can’t lie,” Noelle said.
“It’s not a lie, it’s acting,” Sissy said from her seat next to Aden.
“No it’s not,” Noelle said. “It’s a lie.”
“The child shouldn’t have to lie for me,” Yvonne put her napkin on the table and stood up. “I’ll just…”
“No you won’t,” Rodney said.
“I’ll do it,” Sissy jumped up. “I’m going to be a great ballerina. Great ballerina’s are great actresses.”
“But the child…” Yvonne said.
“Stay here,” Sandy said. “Sissy will buy us some time.”
The buzzer rang again. Sandy walked with Sissy to the door. She mussed Sissy’s hair so it looked like she’d been sleeping. Aden gave her a big T-shirt that looked like a night shirt. She kicked off her shoes.
“Charlie?” Sandy turned around to find him standing behind her.
“I got this,” Charlie said.
The buzzer rang for the third time.
“Go on, Sissy,” Sandy said. “We’ll be right here.”
Sissy puffed up her cheeks a few times, jumped up and down, and yanked the door open. She trotted out into the cool morning to the two irritated Federal Marshalls.
“Oh. Oh. Oh,” Sissy said when she got near them. “No one is awake and… I don’t know the code… and I…”
“I don’t know… I don’t know… Um…”
“Sissy!” Charlie yelled from the side door. “What the hell are you doing? Mom’s gonna be pissed.”
“They want to get in,” Sissy said. “Do you know the code?”
“No,” Charlie said.
“Sorry!” Sissy spun in place and ran back to the house. Half way to the door, she turned around and said, “I’ll wake up my mom and see if she knows the code.”
“Thanks,” the Marshalls gave a kind of annoyed wave.
Sissy slipped into the house. Noelle was there to hug her and everyone gave a quiet cheer.
“Val?” Delphie asked.
“Samantha is on her way,” Valerie said.
“And the rest?”
“They landed twenty minutes ago,” Mike said. “I think they are in the…”
“We’re here…” a man’s voice came from the kitchen.
Having come through the coal tunnel entrance, a group of soldiers moved through the Castle kitchen. In the center of the group was Alex Hargreaves. Her team was helping her dress into a blue suit while she walked. She was on the phone. One team member held her blue shoes so she could step into one and then the other. She waved to everyone in the dining room then stopped so Margaret, MJ’s partner, could zip her skirt. Her brother Colin and her partner Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen were the next focus of her teams efforts.
“Where are the Feebs?” Alex asked as she hung up her phone.
“Behind you,” a man’s voice came from the kitchen.
“Do not be late,” Alex pointed to the first man He laughed and pointed to her misbuttoned shirt. She swore and rebuttoned it. The men who’d combed through Yvonne’s journals last night moved into the living area.
“They are so cool,” Charlie said to Tanesha under his breath.
“We only think we are,” MJ said as he passed behind Charlie to get to Honey. Honey squealed at how ripe he smelled.
“Just a warning…” Alex said. “We stink.”
“Uh, Mike?” The big guy who took care of Teddy in the summer said. “Where’s the bacon?”
As if it was a magic word, the soldiers and FBI agents fell silent. All eyes turned on Mike. The air tightened with hostility.
“I thought you were here to see that justice was served,” Mike said.
“You thought wrong,” The big guy said.
“We’re here for bacon,” Alex laughed.
Laughing, Mike went to the kitchen. Sandy followed him. They returned with an extra platter of bacon and a plate of muffins.
“NSA?” Alex asked. She picked up a piece of bacon from the platter as it passed.
“They’re outside,” an older, thickset member of Alex’s team said. “And they are pissed. I guess the papz are starting to arrive.”
The tall brown-haired soldier who served as Alex’s second in command turned to Valerie.
“Did you release the baby pictures?” he asked.
“No,” Valerie said.
“Perfect,” Alex clapped. “Where’s Jeraine?”
“He’s outside,” Tanesha mumbled.
“Sorry, what?” Alex asked.
“He’s outside,” Jill the chief meddler repeated. “Waiting for the signal.”
“I do love this kind of thing! Team?” Alex pointed to the kitchen.
The big guy grabbed the platter of bacon, another soldier took the muffins and they retreated to the kitchen.
“Ready?” Alex asked the FBI agents. They nodded. “Where is…”
Her eyes scanned the table until they found Rodney and Yvonne. She smiled at them.
“Claire told me you were gorgeous. Nice to meet you, Yvonne. I’m Alex, General Hargreaves daughter.”
“One of his crazy twins?” Yvonne asked.
“Mom!” Horrified, Tanesha shook her head. “She’s here to help you!”
“I am the crazier one,” Alex smiled. “You remember Samantha?”
“The pretty one.”
“Yes, the pretty one,” Alex smiled. “She’s your lawyer. She’ll be here in a few minutes.”
“Tell her what’s going to happen,” Raz said.
“We’re here to ensure that you, Yvonne, aren’t whisked away somewhere. Those guys at the gate called us when they got the order last night. I’m an old friend of Mike’s. I knew this was going on, but we couldn’t really do anything until we heard from the Marshalls. They don’t want to have to take Yvonne anywhere against her will. But they have orders. We…” She gestured to herself, Colin and Raz. “We’re Homeland Security. These guys are FBI and some NSA agents are outside. We’re going to go out there and argue over who has jurisdiction over Yvonne. If we have to, we’ll pull out the big guns.”
“But…” Tanesha furrowed her brow. “Why would you help us?”
“Bacon?” Alex smiled.
“There’s a group of people, a group of men, who have used their power and influence to prey on people,” Raz said. “They’re dinosaurs and, with your mom’s help, for the first time in a long, long time, we have a chance of really stopping them. A meteor called Yvonne is about to change their world.”
“This morning, they thought they could get here early and make your mom disappear. We’re going to make a big fuss over who has jurisdiction over you. We’re mostly stalling and making a public stink so the Denver Police have to step in. Rodney, you ready?”
“Yes ma’am,” Rodney said.
“All right,” Alex said. “Who wants to get the Marshalls?”
“Why don’t we all go?” the FBI Agent in Charge said.
“Let’s watch from upstairs!” Charlie said.
Mike picked up Jill and everyone trotted up the long stairway to Jacob’s old apartment; leaving Yvonne, Rodney, and Tanesha downstairs with Delphie and Sam.
“Ready?” Alex called up the stairs.
“Ready!” Mike called back.
“Yes sir,” Alex’s team called down to her.
“All right,” Alex smiled. “Feebs first.”
The men in blue suits went out the door. Alex raised her eyebrows at Colin and Raz. They put on dark sunglasses and went out into the driveway. From her spot next to the door, Tanesha saw two men in blue suits move through the paparazzi to the Marshalls. The men outside the gate spoke to the US Marshalls. For a split second, Tanesha thought she saw the Marshalls’ faces wash with relief.
And then they started to protest.
The FBI agents took up the challenge from inside the fence while Alex, Colin, and Raz stood back looking sinister. In a few minutes, all of the Federal Agents where entertaining the paparazzi by yelling at each other. When Jeraine walked to the front gate, the photographers pressed forward.
“Let’s let them do their thing,” Sam closed the door. “Come on. Breakfast is getting cold.”
Tanesha looked at Delphie’s worried face. Sam put his hand on her back.
“There’s nothing we can do now,” he said. “We have to trust that everyone will do their part.”
“Come on everyone,” Sam called upstairs. “Let’s eat.”
Tanesha followed her parents back into the dining room. As people began to fill the room, Alex’s team came out of hiding to join them. Tanesha leaned over to her father.
“Do you know what’s going to happen?” Tanesha asked.
“Only what she said and what you witnessed,” Rodney said. “It won’t keep us out of the police station.”
“At least this time, we’re not alone,” Yvonne said.
“Alex, Raz and the Feebs will be with your parents the entire time,” MJ said. “No secret deals in back rooms. Everything up front and documented. Your mom will be home for dinner.”
“We have to trust the players,” Sandy reached for Tanesha’s hand and squeezed it.
“It’s going to be another long day,” Delphie said.
Friday morning — 9:35 a.m.
Yvonne held out her hand and Rodney took it. They walked hand and hand into the main Denver Police Station together. Coming in from the bright day, the waiting area seemed dark. Yvonne felt, more than saw, a man move toward them.
“Rodney,” the man said. “I just heard and…”
Yvonne gasped. He was the father of the girl Rodney was supposed to have hurt. The last time she’d seen that man, he’d threatened to cut out Rodney’s heart. Yvonne jumped in front of her husband.
“Stay away!” Yvonne said. “Get away from him.”
“You must be Yvonne,” the man smiled or grimaced. Yvonne was so fierce she couldn’t tell which. The big caramel colored Homeland Security Agent walked over to her.
“What’s going on here?” Agent Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen asked. “Yvonne?”
“He’s going to kill Rodney,” Yvonne said.
“Kill him?” The man looked surprised. He shook his head. “No, we came to…”
“But you said…” Yvonne looked up at Rodney. She saw a mixture of sorrow and remorse on his face.
“We have a lot to catch up on,” Rodney said. “Yvonne just got home and we haven’t had a chance to catch up on everything.”
“It’s finally over?” The man looked to the heavens. “Thank the Lord.”
The man took Yvonne’s hands into his own.
“Welcome home,” he said. “I’m Reverend White.”
“Yvie, Reverend White is the man who led the group that got me out of prison,” Rodney said. “He… and I…”
“We worked it out,” the Reverend said. “I went to see Rodney every month, just to stare at him, and then… The Lord came to me. Sounds stupid, but that’s the only explanation that makes sense. On the thirtieth visit, more than two years after I started going up to Canon City, I ask Rodney if he killed my daughter. He said no and he didn’t know who did. What concerned Rodney was that a man like that was still on the street while he was in prison. And for the first time in my life, the Lord spoke to me.”
The man looked at Rodney and Yvonne watched as a kind of love passed between the men.
“Rodney was there,” the Reverend said. “If he hadn’t been there, really been present with me when the Lord spoke and I broke down, well, I don’t know what would have happened. My whole life changed in that one moment. I haven’t been the same since.”
A younger man walked up to the Reverend. He glanced at the younger man and smiled at Yvonne.
“I have prayed every day that you would be able to make it home,” the Reverend said. “Praise be to God.”
Unwilling to move from her protective place, Yvonne gave the crazy man a mild smile. The Reverend turned his attention to Rodney.
“I heard on the radio they pulled you in,” the Reverend said. “My son is a defense lawyer now. We came down to help if we can.”
“Daniel White, sir,” the young man said. “I cleared my schedule when my father called. If I can be of any assistance, I’m here for you.”
“He may not want your help,” Samantha Hargreaves waddled over to them. “But I do.”
She smiled at the Homeland Security agent and he nodded. Yvonne smiled to herself. She knew what passed between a man and a woman when she carried his baby. Catching her smile, the Homeland Security agent raised his eyebrows in a kind of nod.
“They are going to separate you,” Samantha plowed on.
“But…” Rodney started.
“I know it’s not what you wanted, but it’s what we’re going to have to do,” Samantha said. “There’s a host of people who need to watch these interviews, your interviews. Many of them have flown in from around the country and the world.”
Yvonne shifted back until she felt Rodney’s hard body behind her. Everything seemed so overwhelming, so terrifying. When he slipped his big hands over hers, she knew she could handle it all.
“Mr. White,” Samantha said to the young lawyer.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
“If it’s all right with you, I’m going to ask that you help Mr. Smith,” Samantha said to the lawyer. “Do not agree to anything. Make them direct their questions to you.”
She leaned in close to the young man, but Yvonne could still hear her.
“Don’t give them an inch,” Samantha said. “This is a railroad job that none of the alphabet soup wants any part of. We’re playing our parts so that they can hone in on the men behind this. It’s up to us to make sure Yvonne and Rodney aren’t collateral damage in this train wreck.”
“I always liked the idea of being a train robber, ma’am,” the young lawyer smiled.
Samantha gave him a tight smile.
“Is that all right with you, Mr. Smith?” Samantha asked.
“Yes ma’am, but I’m not leaving here without Yvonne,” Rodney said.
“I’m not leaving here without both of you,” Reverend White said. “If they even think about keeping you here, I’ll raise a stink so loud they’ll think Joshua himself was standing out here.”
The man crossed his arms across his chest and gave a firm nod.
“Good. But if the walls don’t crumble…” She nodded to the Homeland Security agent. He held out a note with a list of phone numbers on it. “Call these numbers.”
“Will do,” Reverend White said. “In an hour?”
“We’ll be lucky if we’ve gotten through the introductions in an hour,” Samantha smiled. “If it’s six o’clock and you haven’t seen us, get on the phone.”
“I’ll do it,” he said.
A police detective came to the counter and gestured toward Rodney. The young lawyer went to the counter to speak to the detective. He turned around to them.
“They’re ready for us,” the lawyer said.
Yvonne turned to hold him. For a moment, he rested his head in the crook of her neck. When he looked up, his big right hand cradled her head.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
She smiled. His lips brushed hers and he followed his young lawyer and the tall blonde Homeland Security agent back into the office.
“Are you ready?” Samantha asked.
“I guess so,” Yvonne said.
The older Denver Police detective Yvonne had met and drawn a picture of last night was waiting for them near the door. As they approached a tall man in an expensive stepped into the doorway.
“Ah shit,” Samantha said under her breath. “The Federal Prosecutor is here.”
“Why Jeremy,” Yvonne smiled at the man. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”
The Federal Prosecutor cleared his throat.
“Of course, I don’t have to attend to your… needs today,” Yvonne smiled at him. “I’m a free woman.”
Yvonne looked up into the Federal Prosecutor’s face. His face drained of color. For a second. he looked like he was going to faint.
“Excuse us,” Samantha said as she passed.
The Federal Prosecutor lunged at Yvonne and hit the Homeland Security Agent they called Raz instead. Powerfully built, the Homeland Security Agent picked up the Prosecutor by the shoulders and set him down in front of the uniformed Denver Police officers.
“Will you take out this trash?” he asked.
“Be glad to.” The uniformed police officer took out his handcuffs to place on the prosecutor.
“Ma’am,” the Homeland Security Agent offered her his arm.
Her heart beating like a drum, she took his arm and forced herself to walk past the prosecutor. They were near the back when she sagged. The tall Agent leaned down to her.
“Don’t let them break you now,” the agent said. “There are a lot of people, women, even children, who need you to be strong for them today. You can do this.”
She looked up into his handsome face.
“You’re in the home stretch.”
He nodded and she copied his gestured. They walked into the interview room together.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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