Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty-Seven : Pinch Thinker

Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty-seven

Pinch thinker

Friday night — 7:49 p.m.

“Rodney!” Pete screamed over the wind and snow. “Rodney!”

Surrounded by moving equipment and mud, Rodney stood like a dark pillar in the whirling snow.

“Rodney!” Pete yelled.

Rodney looked up. Pete ran through the mud and snow to bring Rodney a cell phone.

“It’s Yvonne,” Pete said.

Rodney’s eyes scanned the construction site. They were still digging earthquake survivors out of the mud. They’d lost Jacob and Sam over an hour ago. The firemen and police said they had no heat signature; no heat signature meant Sam and Jacob were dead. Colorado Emergency Rescue told them that when all of the living people were retrieved, they could go back and bring Sam and Jacob’s bodies back to the families. Distraught, the Lipson crew focused on doing what they knew Sam and Jacob would want them to do — save as many people as possible.

No one had the nerve to tell their family that Sam and Jacob were dead. Rodney’s eyes flicked to Pete.

“It’s Yvonne,” Pete yelled over the wind. He thrust the phone in Rodney’s direction. “She says Jake and Sam are fine, not to worry about them.”

“What?” Rodney wasn’t sure what he’d heard.

“Yvonne wants you to call Jake,” Pete said. “She says she has the number.”

“Call Jake?” Rodney raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “In Heaven?”

“No idea,” Pete said. “I’m just relaying the message.”

Pete pushed the cell phone into Rodney’s hands and ran back to the tent, where he was helping to identify people.

“Yvie?” Rodney spoke into the phone.

“Hello precious,” Yvonne’s voice purred. Rodney couldn’t help, but smile. “I need you to do something for me.”

“Jake and Sam, they . . .” Rodney started.

“I hear your sorrow; I hear it,” Yvonne said. “Would you do something for me?”

“Anything,” Rodney’s mouth said the words out of habit. His eyes scanned the destruction around him.

“Will you call this number?” Yvonne asked. “I need to relay some information to you and have you relay it to Jake.”

“We lost Jake, Yvie.” Rodney felt the full weight of his sorrow. “Sam too.”

“Now, I know you did,” Yvonne said. “I’m going to help you find them.”

“But . . .”

“Do you trust me?” Yvonne asked.

“Yes, but . . .”

“Try it; what do you have to lose?”

Yvonne’s voice was light and lovely. Rodney remembered her saying the same thing to encourage him to take that pastry cooking class in Paris. When she laughed, he felt as if the light of angels had lifted his despair.

“Well?” Yvonne’s voice was light and flirty. He smiled.

“You haven’t given me the number, woman.” Rodney imitated his father’s gruff meanness. Yvonne laughed.

“You ready?” Yvonne asked.

“Go ahead,” Rodney said.

She gave him the number. Of course, he’d forgotten to get his cell phone from his pocket. He fumbled with the phone at his ear while he dug around in his pockets. He finally found his phone in the bottom of his front pants pocket. His frozen hand chaffed against the cuff of the pocket as he pulled the phone out.

“Ok, can you say it again?” Rodney asked.

Yvonne said the number in the sassy way she would have when she was eleven. He smiled.

“Old age’s made me daft,” Rodney said.

As if that was the funniest thing she’d ever heard, Yvonne laughed.

“Here goes nothin’,” Rodney repeated what he always said when she’d dared him to do something new.

The phone rang and rang. He had pulled the phone away from his ear to hang up when he heard, “Hello?”

Jacob had answered the phone.

Overcome, Rodney dropped to his knees.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 7:56 p.m.

Ring!

“What the hell is that?” Sam asked.

“Sounds like a phone,” Jacob said.

Sam jumped to his feet and started looking around. Jacob watched him walk around the large sewer junction.

“Your cell phone?” Sam asked.

“No, remember, we tried those,” Jacob said.

Ring!

“We did?” Sam asked.

“You were asleep,” Jacob smiled. “I tried both of our phones.”

“Did the walkie-talkie-thingy-or-another work?” Sam asked.

“The Lipson intercom? On our phones?” Jacob shook his head. “No, that didn’t work either. I assumed it was because we were down here.”

“Huh,” Sam said. “They worked when we poured this.”

Ring!

“You think that’s God calling?” Sam looked up at the ceiling.

“Gargoyle’s more like it,” Jacob said.

Sam smiled. Jacob got to his feet.

“The sound is coming from over . . .” Jacob pointed to a 1950s era wall telephone. Sam guffawed at the sight. Jacob chuckled and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” Jacob asked.

He heard a human grunt followed by the sound of wind and rain. In the background, he heard the warning beep of an excavator in reverse. A diesel engine revved and the sound got closer.

“Hello?” Jacob tried again.

He heard the sniffing sound of someone pulling back strong emotion.

“It’s Rodney, Jake,” Rodney said. “I . . . We thought you were dead.”

“No,” Jacob said. “I can’t explain it now, but we’re all right.”

“Yvie called and . . .” Rodney remembered that Yvonne was on the other phone. “Can you hang on?”

“Sure,” Jacob said. He turned to Sam and said, “It’s Rodney. Yvonne told him to call.”

“The wall phone?” Sam chuckled.

Jacob raised an eyebrow and grinned.

“How is it up there?” Sam asked.

“No idea,” Jacob said. “He answered then disappeared.”

“Wish we were there to help,” Sam said.

Jacob nodded.

“Jake?” Rodney asked.

“I’m here,” Jacob said.

“Yvonne’s with Tanesha in your loft,” Rodney said.

“How’s Jill?” Jacob asked.

“Fine, fine, everyone’s just fine,” Rodney said. “Yvonne was trying to explain it to me, but I don’t get it. Would you mind if I just repeated what she said?”

“Why doesn’t she call?” Jacob asked.

“She said it would ‘create a psychic link,’” Rodney said.

“And that’s bad?”

“Apparently so,” Rodney said. “This all sounds crazy to me, but . . .”

“Just tell me what she said,” Jacob said.

“She said that you can break the curse,” Rodney said. “The, uh, gargoyles know how to do it. You know, Jake, she’s got brain damage, and . . . I made Tanesha get on the line to confirm about the . . . you know, gargoyle thing.”

“She’s perfect,” Jacob said. “Does she know how to break the curse?”

“She’s going to tell me and I’m going to tell you,” Rodney said. “But . . .”

“We’ll just do our best,” Jacob said.

“Yes,” Rodney said.

“What is it?” Sam asked.

“Is that Sam?” Rodney asked. “Sam made it too!”

“He’s here,” Jacob said. “Yvonne called Rodney to tell him that we can break the curse.”

“That’s very good,” Sam said. “But what about the people dying up above?”

“What about the people trapped up where you are?” Jacob asked Rodney. “They’re more of a priority than some ancient curse.”

“Yvie says that if we fix this curse, the gargoyles will save everyone that’s still . . . savable,” Rodney said.

“We should get going, then,” Jacob said.

“You ready?” Rodney asked.

“I’m ready when you are,” Jacob said.

“All right,” Rodney said. “Here we go. How do we break the curse?”

The line went silent for a moment.

“What?” Rodney’s voice became indignant. “Put him on.”

Jacob heard Rodney argue with someone.

“Listen,” Rodney said when he came back to the phone. “This fool says that he doesn’t know how to break the curse, and those ‘foul creatures’ don’t know how.”

“Who does?” Jacob asked.

“They said you have to figure it out,” Rodney said.

“I do?” Jacob asked.

“Listen, I need to . . .”

“Sure,” Jacob said. “Get back to saving people’s lives. I’ll call you from this phone if I need something.”

“Done,” Rodney said. “And Jake?”

“Yeah?” Jacob asked.

“Glad you made it,” Rodney said. “And sorry about the curse and all.”

“Sounds like there’s nothing anyone can do,” Jacob said. “Thanks for your help.”

“We’ll talk later,” Rodney said, and hung up.

Jacob looked at the phone receiver for a moment before setting it back on the cradle.

“What is it?” Sam asked.

“We’re supposed to figure out how to break the cure,” Jacob said.

“Who is?” Sam asked.

“I guess just me,” Jacob said. “I was kinda hoping you would help.”

“Of course,” Sam said. “What are the rules here?”

“Seems like we can have anything we ask for,” Jacob said.

“Is Celia here?” Sam asked.

“I haven’t called her,” Jacob said. “But I can.”

“Call your mother,” Sam said. “I’m going to sit down and think for a while.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Jacob said.

Sam nodded and went to sit down along the wall. When he arrived, a copy of his recliner appeared. Absent mindedly, Sam sat down and leaned back. Jacob paced back and forth along the sewer junction. After a while, Sam sat up.

“What are the rules?” Sam asked.

“We can have whatever we want,” Jacob said. “We’re safe here. We just can’t have contact with Jill or anyone at the Castle.”

“We can’t talk to them, but we can talk to anyone else, right?” Sam asked.

“Probably,” Jacob said. “We’d have to try it. Why?”

“We need a pinch thinker,” Sam said.

“A what?”

“Someone who’s good at thinking through puzzles,” Sam said. “A Celtic one at that.”

“O’Malley,” Jacob said.

“That’s right,” Sam said. “We need O’Malley.”

“Know his number?” Jacob asked.

“It’s in my phone, but . . .” Sam held up the useless device and shook his head.

“I guess we’re on our own,” Jacob said.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 8:05 p.m.

“You have to be kidding me!” Jill jumped to her feet. “After all of that, he doesn’t know how to break the curse!”

“It wasn’t created by him,” Bruno said.

“Celt magic created the curse,” Otis said.

Jill glared at the gargoyle. The gargoyle held her eyes in a dare.

“Do not fuck with me,” Jill said. “I’m pregnant and mean.”

Heather and Tanesha laughed. Sandy went to Jill’s side to try to calm her down.

“What can we do to find out what the curse is?” Valerie asked.

The gargoyle smiled at Valerie’s question and spoke.

“He says the father must figure it out,” Bruno said.

“Can he have help?” Valerie asked.

“Of course,” Bruno replied.

“Any help at all?” Sandy asked.

“Of course,” Bruno said.

“Then I’m calling Seth,” Sandy said. Everyone watched Sandy take her cell phone from her purse. Noticing their staring, Sandy said, “What?”

“I think we’re wondering, honey, why Seth?” Yvonne asked.

“He can figure anything out,” Sandy said. “He knows people everywhere. He’s traveled all over the world. Hell, he’s probably played a concert in this kingdom of Marle.”

Sandy dialed the phone.

“He has Celt name,” Bruno said.

“If he’s a Celt, then I’m a Celt,” Sandy said. “But the gargoyle said . . .”

Bruno nodded.

“He’s not Celt?” Sandy asked.

“He is Jew,” Bruno said. “Gargoyle say so.”

Unable to deal with this information, Sandy called Seth.

“Now what?” Jill asked.

“I want to go,” Valerie said. “My brother and father are stuck somewhere. I want to go.”

Still holding Jackie, Valerie stood up.

“Val, I . . .” Jill started.

“Don’t try to talk me out of it,” Valerie said. “I lost Jack, my son, me, I lost him because of this crap.”

“I thought that was because of that guy,” Jill said. “Johansen.”

“He did kill Jack, but . . .” Valerie seethed with frustration “This affects Jackie and . . . me. I should be there.”

Valerie nodded.

“Will you . . .” Valerie’s eyebrows pinched with worry as she gestured to Jackie.

“Of course.” Anjelika stood up.

“We’ll all help.” Heather took Jackie before Anjelika could. “You do what you have to do.”

Valerie nodded. Realizing what she was asking, Valerie gave an involuntary shudder.

“Jill, will you ask that thing to . . .” Valerie said.

Before Jill could say the words, Valerie disappeared. They gasped. Jackie let out an angry scream. Sandy looked up from her phone call with Seth. She nodded and hung up.

“Well?” Jill asked.

“He’s going to call them,” Sandy said.

“I guess we wait,” Yvonne said.

“Or get on with our lives,” Tanesha said. “Jake is gone. If Jill has the babies tonight, everything is all right. If he figures out the curse, and Jill has the babies tonight, everything is all right. We can’t let these weird creatures or some ancient bullshit control our lives.”

“Tanesha’s right,” Jill nodded. She glanced at Anjelika and Otis. She was about to say something when Charlie jumped up.

“Where’s the cake?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, let’s have cake,” Sandy said. “Sissy, you know where it is, don’t you?”

Sissy hopped up and went to get the cake. Charlie followed her.

“You sure you’re all right?” Sandy asked Jill.

“Sure,” Jill said. “Why?”

“Because all of this is about you having the babies,” Sandy said. “Are you in labor?”

Jill shook her head.

“Did your water break?” Sandy asked.

Jill shook her head.

“You’ll let me know?” Sandy asked.

Jill nodded. Sandy hugged her.

“I just hope they fix this curse thing,” Jill said.

Unsure of what to say, Sandy nodded.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 8:25 p.m. MST

Ring!

Jacob looked at Sam before getting up to answer the ancient wall phone.

“Marlowe,” Jacob said.

“Jake?” Seth asked. “It’s O’Malley. Sandy called. She told me you’re in trouble and need some help.”

“It’s weird and complicated,” Jacob said.

“I specialize in weird and complicated,” Seth said. “I have to have my blood filtered, so I’m going to be lying here for the next three hours. I’m all ears, as it were.”

“Blood filtered?” Jacob asked.

“From the St. Jude thing,” Seth said. “I was going once a week. Now it’s three times a week. I thought I’d be fit to work again, but I couldn’t pass the physical. There’s still too much crap in my blood.”

“Crazy,” Jacob said.

“What’s crazy is that earthquake,” Seth said. “Are you there?”

“Sort of,” Jacob said.

“But you’re safe now?” Seth asked.

“Me and Dad,” Jacob said. “We’re sucked out of time.”

“Ok, that’s weird,” Seth said. “Just a second. They have to hook me up.”

Jacob held on the line while Seth was hooked up to a machine. He heard a woman’s laugh and the rumble of a man’s. After a few moments, there was a soft whirring sound.

“Ok,” Seth said. “I’m set.”

“Sounds like you’re making friends,” Jacob said.

“Ava’s right here with me,” Seth said.

“Hi Jake,” Ava said in the background.

Ava and Seth talked for a moment, and then he heard the sound of Ava kiss him.

“She’s gone,” Seth said. “She thinks the doctor’s a little too nice, if you know what I mean.”

Jacob laughed.

“What’s the mystery?” Seth asked.

“Wait, can you help me?” Jacob asked. “Isn’t O’Malley an Irish name?”

“The name is,” Seth said. “But the gargoyles say I’m a Jew.”

“Oh?”

“It’s news to me,” Seth said. “But whatever. My mother had one great love in her life; she named me after him. I thought he didn’t come home from the war, but maybe he did. Anyway, explains why my father was such a prick to me.”

Not sure what to say, Jacob chuckled when Seth did.

“I’m all yours, Marlowe,” Seth said. “Tell me your story.”

“I’m going to get my Dad,” Jacob said. “It’s kind of his story.”

Jacob waved to Sam, and he stood up.

“But the curse is on me,” Jacob added. “And my boys and Jill.”

“A curse?” Seth asked. “This gets weirder and weirder.”

“Here’s my dad,” Jacob said.

He gave the phone to Sam. His father laughed at something Seth said, and then launched into the story of the kingdom of Marle. When he’d finished the story, Sam nodded as Seth asked him something.

“He wants to know if we can get on speaker phone,” Sam asked Jacob.

Jacob shrugged. Sam pointed to an ancient speaker hanging on the wall. Jacob went to the box. It looked like an old-fashioned intercom. He pressed the button on top and instantly heard the whirr of the machine that was filtering Seth’s blood.

“Seth?” Jacob asked.

“I can hear you,” Seth said. “Can you hear me?”

“I can,” Jacob said.

“Ok,” Seth said. “The first thing that occurs to me is that we need to figure out where the kingdom of Marle was located.”

“It was only a story, Seth,” Sam said.

“These old stories are usually grounded in some truth,” Seth said. “Especially when we have a situation that’s still going on in the present.”

“Okay,” Jacob shrugged and Sam shook his head. “Any ideas?”

“I do, actually,” Sam said. “I’m going to call Sandy and find out if she knows anything else. Do you mind holding on?”

“No,” Jacob said.

He heard Seth speak to Sandy in the background. It was a few minutes before Seth was back on the line.

“Ok,” Seth said. “Sandy told me the rest of the story.”

“How . . .?” Jacob started.

“I guess the gargoyle’s told the story,” Seth said. “Did you know they speak Latin? Amazing.”

“What did you learn?” Jacob asked.

Seth told Jacob about the queen saving the baby. He grew into a man who, in turn, killed his child and hanged himself. He explained how the queen made an agreement with the gargoyles to protect the children.

“Why not include the mothers?” Jacob asked.

“Didn’t occur to her, I guess,” Seth said. “I guess you thought the babies killed the mothers?”

“Right,” Jacob said. “Mom thought male babies used their psychokinesis to push their way out.”

“The mothers are killed,” Seth said. “To honor their oath, the gargoyles scratch the babies out.”

“That’s going to happen to Jill?” Jacob’s voice rose with panic. “I thought we were past all that. We . . .”

“The girlfriends are there,” Seth said. “Have you met them? They scare me. I mean, let’s face it. They got the gargoyles to share the story of their secret curse. Even your mother, who was the most powerful woman I’ve ever met, couldn’t pull that off.”

Jacob chuckled.

“Nothing’s going to happen to Jill,” Seth said.

“I hope so,” Jacob said. “I feel so . . . helpless trapped down here.”

“I bet,” Seth said. “Anyway, I think I’ve got it.”

“What?” Jacob asked.

“Where the kingdom of Marle is located,” Seth said.

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