Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven: In the pit

Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-seven

In the pit

Friday night — 11:00 p.m. MST

Construction site near airport

Rodney landed on his rear on a pile of mud in the bottom of the sink hole at the earthquake-shattered construction site. His landing jarred every bone in his body. He had to take a moment to get his bearings.

It was very dark. On the opposite side of the pit, the methane fire glowed yellow and orange. The light from the helicopter shone on the military people, who were digging out their dirt-covered team member. He heard one of Jerry’s sharp whistles. He looked up to see what was happening. They must have found MJ and connected his safety rope to a wench. There was a low whine and MJ rose out of the mud in front of him. There was another sharp whistle and Colin was hauled out of the mud. MJ and Colin swung on their safety ropes until they were just above the upended construction trailer. Jerry and his team dropped them on top of the trailer. The military people cheered.

Rodney groaned as he got to his feet.

“For a tough man,” Abi said, “you complain a lot.”

“Me? What did I say?”

“In your head.” Abi pointed to her head and Rodney grinned.

“Why am I . . .?”

There was a whoosh and a whomp when something heavy dropped near him. Rodney instinctively moved toward the sound.

“Wait!” Abi flew beside him. She held a headlamp out to him. “Put this on.”

He grabbed the headlamp. In the circle of light, he saw something strange. He squinted.

“Honey?” Rodney ran to her side. “What . . .?”

“I know, right?” Honey shook her head. “Let’s throw the girl in the wheelchair into the mud pit. Damned fairies.”

A bedraggled-looking pink fairy appeared next to Honey. The little fairy must have said something, because Honey laughed.

“Never trust a fairy,” Honey said. “That’s what MJ’s dad used to say.”

The fairy laughed so hard that even Rodney heard it.

“That’s Mari,” Abi said. “She likes to harass people. She thinks it’s funny.”

“She’s met her match in Honey,” Rodney said.

Abi crossed her arms and nodded.

“Any idea why we’re down here?” Honey asked.

Rodney glanced at Abi. She pointed to the side of a trailer.

“I think we’re here to help get people out,” Rodney said. “But don’t quote me.”

“Why us?” Honey asked.

“We’re tough?” Rodney raised his eyebrows to see if he was right. Abi smiled. “She needs a light.”

A headlamp appeared on Honey’s head.

“Can you move your chair through all this mud and muck and rubble?” Rodney asked.

“Mari says I can,” Honey said. “But who knows?”

Rodney smiled when he saw how offended her fairy acted. Abi pointed straight in front of them.

“Abi says we need to go this way,” Rodney pointed.

“Good as any,” Honey said.

They started down the mound of mud. The landscape in front of them seemed like another planet. The vibrating earth had caused mud to pool in places and large boulders to appear out of nowhere. They moved as fast as they could, while the fairies flew next to their ears.

“It’s like a video game,” Honey said, and ducked under a low beam.

“Honey?” MJ leaned off the construction trailer so that he could see. “What . . .?”

“Hey look, it’s MJ!”

Honey pointed above where MJ was working. She waved.

“What are you doing?” MJ asked.

“I’ll explain everything later,” Honey said.

“Rodney?” MJ asked.

“I’ll take care of her,” Rodney said. “I swear it on my Yvonne.”

“Get back to work.” Honey blew him a kiss. He gave her a worried nod and went back to work.

“Up here!” Abi pointed up a mud hill near where MJ was working.

“Over here!” Rodney yelled to Honey.

Honey took off up the hill and Rodney had to run to catch up with her. He was halfway up the hill when he heard a tired voice say, “Help me.”

“This way!” Rodney yelled.

Rodney waved Honey to the left side of the hill. Near the top they found the old site manager for Lipson Construction. The mud had trapped him against the construction trailer.

Honey and Rodney skidded to a stop. This man was despicable. When Jake, Aden, and Sam weren’t around, he would call the young men who worked for Rodney “monkeys.” He had regularly called Rodney “that gorilla” in site manager meetings and always implied that Honey only had a job there because she was Jacob’s lover. He’d blasted hate-filled talk radio on the job site even after Sam had ordered him to stop. It was no surprise that his child was cruel to Noelle. As if stuck into the mud, Rodney and Honey stared at the man.

“You have to help him.” Abi flew in front of his face.

“Why?” Rodney sneered.

“Because that’s who you are,” Abi said.

“He doesn’t deserve it,” Rodney whispered.

He must have spoken loudly enough for Honey to hear, because she looked up at him.

“He doesn’t,” Honey said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help him.”

Rodney looked down at this little pixie of a woman in the big wheelchair.

“You know I’m right,” Honey said. “But I won’t help him until we agree.”

“Why would you help this man?” Rodney asked. “He told Jacob he should pull your health insurance when you were in the hospital the first time!”

“I know,” Honey said. “But I’m not the kind of person who lets someone die just because they’re different from me. You’re not either.”

Rodney looked at Honey for a long time before looking up the hill again.

“If he were a stranger, would you help him?” Honey asked.

“I would.”

“A stranger could be just as reprehensible,” Honey said.

A corner of Rodney’s mouth raised in a smile.

“What?” Honey asked.

“Just something Yvonne said while we were in Paris,” Rodney said. “She keeps pressuring me to forgive Alvin.”

“Big task,” Honey said. “But you’re a big man.”

Rodney’s head moved in a slight nod.

“Ready?” Honey asked. He nodded.

They went the rest of the way up the hill.

“You’re a lucky man.” Rodney kneeled down next to the man.

The man looked at Rodney and then at Honey. Honey slipped out of her chair to sit next to him.

“Can you feel your feet?” Honey asked.

The man shook his head. Honey grabbed his arm to check his pulse.

“Are you bleeding?” Honey asked.

The man was either ignoring her or dazed by his injury. When he didn’t respond, she looked at Mari.

“He was halfway out of the window when one of those big earthquakes hit,” Mari said. “The glass in the window broke and sliced through his right leg. The pressure from the dirt is what’s keeping him alive.”

“If we move you from where you are, you’ll easily bleed to death,” Honey said.

“Don’t leave me here,” the man said.

Honey looked up at Rodney. He nodded and turned to Abi.

“I need a shovel, round-tipped, long-handled,” Rodney said.

He held out his hand and the shovel appeared.

“How’d you do that?” the man asked.

“Gorilla magic,” Rodney said. He turned to Honey to ask, “You don’t happen to have medical supplies do you?”

“Sure. Water, too.” Honey scooted back to her chair and grabbed her medical kit. “We’re going to have to treat you here.”

Rodney watched Honey for a moment. He took a gallon water jug from her chair and poured some into a plastic cup that appeared in his hand out of nowhere. He helped the man drink.

“I need a tourniquet,” Honey said. One appeared on top of the medical kit. She took anti-coagulant and pain killers out of her kit. “Ready?”

She looked at Rodney and he nodded.

“Here we go,” Honey said. “Wiggle your fingers the second you feel the pressure ease.”

The man nodded, and Rodney started to dig. He made a quick and easy semi-circlular moat around the man and then carefully scooped the dirt closer to him. He wanted to leave enough dirt to keep the pressure on his wound, but not so much that they couldn’t get him out.

“Give me a lift,” Honey said. “When he’s out, you know what to do?”

Rodney nodded. He lifted Honey into her chair.

“Rope,” Rodney said.

A long stretch of bright red rope appeared in his hand. He dropped to his knees and wrapped the rope around the man’s chest, just under his shoulders, and tied it tight. He tied the other end of the rope onto Honey’s chair.

“Try it,” Rodney said.

Honey started her rugged mechanical chair. It moved an inch and was stuck. Rodney removed more mud and rocks from around the man.

“Go,” Rodney said.

Nothing happened.

“We’re pretty close.” Rodney dug out another inch of dirt. “Okay, try it now.”

Honey jerked forward, and the man slipped toward her. Rodney used his shovel to remove as much dirt as possible. Honey slowly pulled the man from the mud. Rodney ran to the man.

“Where’s your injury?” Rodney asked.

“Don’t touch me, you animal!” the man said.

Abi dazed the man with a flash of light from her wand. Rodney looked up at her.

“He’s gross,” Abi said.

Rodney turned the man onto his left side and found his wound. The window had all but cut his leg off at the knee. Shaking his head, Rodney tied the tourniquet and applied the anti-coagulant. He was almost done when a National Guard medic dropped down from the wire.

Rodney stepped back.

“Great job!” Abi said.

“But?”

“There are more,” Abi pointed.

“Honey?” Rodney yelled.

“On my way.” Honey took off toward the next person. Rodney grabbed Honey’s gallon of water and ran to catch up.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 11:17 p.m. MST

Denver, Colorado

“Hey,” Bumpy said.

Jill gasped and sat up. She looked around the room. Camille was standing near her head. Bumpy rubbed her back. Camille gave her a glass of water.

“You’ve been given Pitocin to induce labor,” Bumpy said. “You’re too far along into labor for us to back out now.”

“What happened?” Jill asked.

“According to Jeraine, you were gassed by some men saying they were going to take the boys,” Bumpy said.

“I know he’s your son and all,” Jill said. “But, Jeraine isn’t the best judge of what’s going on.”

“I heard that,” Jeraine yelled from the waiting room.

Bumpy chuckled and Jill smirked.

“Where is everyone?” Jill asked. “My family. The kids. Mike. When I passed out, Mike was right there.”

She gestured to her right.

“They’re in the waiting room,” Camille said. “They were tied up and drugged. Tink and Jeraine are the only ones who were able to shake off the drugs. Everyone else is completely out.”

“Practice has its privileges.” Jill smiled.

“Damn straight,” Jeraine laughed from the waiting room.

Jill laughed and grimaced with pain.

“Dionne’s out there assessing them. A couple of them might need to go to the hospital,” Bumpy said. “Jeraine is helping her.”

Jill nodded. Tink stuck her head into the room. Mack was sucking his thumb from his vantage point on Tink’s hip.

“I’ve checked on the babies,” Tink said. “They seem scared, but all right. Jackie, Maggie, and Rachel need to eat. Do you think it’s safe for me to get some of the breast milk here?”

“I wouldn’t risk it,” Bumpy said.

“There’s breast milk in the refrigerator in the room at the end of the hallway,” Jill said. “It’s for Maggie and Jackie. We brought it when we came down. There’s enough for all of them. Do you know how to warm it?”

Tink nodded. Jill smiled to encourage her, and the girl disappeared from the doorway.

“Are the police here?” Jill asked.

“Your father and his friends,” Bumpy said. “They wanted us to wait before calling the police.”

“Why?” Jill asked.

“They’re concerned that this looks too weird,” Bumpy said. “Don’t quote me. That’s just what I think.”

“Do you know where Katy is?” Camille asked. “We haven’t been able to find her.”

“What do you mean?” Jill asked. “She’s in the compartment in the wall.”

Camille gave a slight shake of her head.

“What do you mean?” Jill’s voice rose with panic.

Her anxiety brought a wave of contractions. She gasped at the contractions and grabbed her belly. Camille coached her through deep breathing. For a moment, it was all Jill could do to keep from screaming. When the contractions eased, Jill looked at Bumpy.

“Where’s my Katy?” Jill asked.

“Jeraine remembered her going in there.” Bumpy pointed to the wall. “The fairies came to check on you and her. He said they looked into the cabinet and saw her. There was one who said Katy had a fairy with her to protect her.”

“Maybe she’s there, and the fairy made her invisible,” Jill said.

“We thought you should take a look,” Bumpy said. “Maybe she’s visible to you and not to us.”

Bumpy helped Jill off the table. When her feet hit the floor, she crumpled. He caught her before she hit the ground. Camille came around to hold her up. They shuffled over to the compartment in the wall. Bumpy and Camille helped Jill kneel down to look in the compartment.

The space was empty.

“Katy-baby?” Jill felt a wave of overwhelming sadness. “Katherine Anjelika Roper-Marlowe, you show yourself this instant.”

Nothing. A fat tear slid down Jill’s cheek.

“Katy?” Jill asked.

She put her hand in the upholstered bottom of the cabinet.

“Still warm,” Jill said.

“We think she was there until just a moment ago,” Bumpy said. “We heard a noise . . .”

Bumpy looked at Camille.

“We’ve been trying to wake you,” Camille said. “Then we heard a whoosh, or maybe a scrape, like ice from a windshield — you know, shkkratch.”

Jill couldn’t take her hand off the spot where Katy had been. She saw crumbs. She swept them out of the compartment.

“Brownies,” Jill said. “We made brownies last night.”

She picked up a tiny piece of blue taffeta.

“Hey Jeraine,” Jill yelled.

“What?” Jeraine’s surly voice came from the other room. “I’m kind of busy here administering to your family.”

“Were any of the fairies wearing blue taffeta?” Jill asked.

“Baby-blue, sure,” Jeraine said. “There were these tiny fairies. They weren’t bigger than a dime.”

“She has a fairy with her,” Jill said to herself.

“That’s got to be good,” Bumpy said.

Jill looked at him. Although his voice was reassuring and confident, his eyes betrayed his belief that Katy was in real trouble. Jill gave him a curt nod. She felt the boys move and put her hand to them.

They told her that Katy was safe for now.

For now.

Jill swallowed hard.

“There’s nothing we can do now,” Camille said. “Your father knows all of this. He can take care of it. Let’s get you back up on the table. We’ll have two healthy baby boys soon.”

Jill nodded. She let Bumpy and Camille help her onto the table.

“The dogs?” Jill asked.

“They’re in with the babies,” Bumpy said.

Scooter didn’t go with Katy. Jill bit her lip to keep from sobbing.

“Hey.” Jeraine stood in the doorway. “Julie’s on the phone. She wants to see if we have Paddie. She put him to bed and now he’s missing.”

Jill’s heart lifted as she recognized the truth.

“Paddie’s with Katy,” Jill said.

“Any idea where? They’re ready to call the army,” Jeraine said.

“I don’t know where my baby is,” Jill shook her head.

Camille helped her lie down.

“I’ll call Seth and see if he knows anything,” Bumpy said. He left the room.

“Come on,” Camille said. “Let’s pray for Katy.”

Jill nodded. Even as her mouth moved with the words, her heart filled with despair. Her precious Katy was gone. She began to weep.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob was fairly certain he’d never been as tired as he was at this moment. On any normal day, he would have made a joke about being tired, but today, Valerie had given him a lecture about “the pain and suffering of childbirth,” and how “this was the least he could do since Jill was having twins,” and “why did he have to be such a selfish bastard?” and . . . He wasn’t sure what else because he’d glanced at James. James was rolling his eyes at Valerie.

Jacob grinned.

“I think it’s up here.” Delphie pointed to a small hill.

Jacob groaned. James fell in beside him.

“Come on, super-hero,” James said. The more tired he became, the more of James’s Irish accent came out. He was beginning to sound like his brother, Cian, the baker. “What’s one more hill?”

“Any idea what ‘raising Manannán’s army’ means?” Jacob asked.

“Sure,” James said. “What’s he say?”

James nodded toward Gilfand.

“He just gave me a thoughtful look and said he’d get it done,” Jacob said. “Oh, and when did we need it?”

“What did you say?” James asked.

“As soon as we put the bones in place,” Jacob said. “If the goal is to reverse the curse, we need Manannán.”

“And you’re sure the book says to raise Manannán’s army,” James said.

“There are pictures of ghost-like figures on horses,” Jacob said.

“More ghosts,” James said. “Lovely.”

“My thought too,” Jacob said. “Any ideas?”

“There’s an ancient burial site called Meayll Hill or Rullick-y-lagg-shliggagh,” James said.

“Uh, what?” Jacob asked.

“It literally means the graveyard of the valley of broken slates,” James said. “Dates back to 3500 BC. It’s near the very tip of the south end of the island. Just west of where we were at Balladoole.”

“That’s got to be it,” Jacob said. “According to Seth, Manannán’s army is located just west and south of where we found the first bones.”

“At the Viking ship?”

“I guess the book predates the Viking ship,” Jacob said.

“Interesting,” James said. “There’s supposed to be a ghost cavalry at Meayll Hill. I’ve never seen it.”

“Gilfand?” Jacob asked the gargoyle flying near them. “Is that it?”

“Yes,” Gilfand said. “It can only be raised under the right conditions.”

“What are those?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not actually sure,” Gilfand said. “Once we restore the queen, I believe the army will appear to the challenge of Celtic born. But I’m not sure. I will have to consult with Delphie about the images, and then with our librarian. I’m wondering if we have a copy of this book in our library.”

“You have a library?” James asked.

“Of course we have a library,” Gilfand said. “We’re not barbarians!”

James looked at Jacob, who shrugged.

“False alarm,” Delphie yelled up ahead. “But I think we’re on the right track.”

They continued hiking up the hill for a while.

“There’s a stone circle at Meayll Hill,” James said.

“Like Stonehenge?” Jacob asked.

“Very much like Stonehenge,” James said. “There are twelve burials in the stone circle. Most people say the army is protecting the people in the circle.”

“I can assure you that it’s Manannán’s army,” Gilfand said.

“How do you know?” Jacob asked.

“I was there when they swore an oath to spend all eternity waiting and watching for his return,” Gilfand said, and flew off to where Brigid and Delphie were talking.

“Who knew?” James asked. Jacob laughed.

“Jacob!” Valerie yelled from up ahead. “Hurry up.”

“Yes, do hurry up,” James said in a low tone. “Older sisters. They are so . . .”

Jacob nodded and started to jog.

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