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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY
Tuesday mid-day — 12:40 P.M.
“No,” Jacob said in an irritated voice. “That’s simply not possible that there are other ghosts in this building. Not in Brighton where we found the building and most certainly not here.”
Jacob was frustrated with himself, but he glared at Jill. She shook her head and scowled at him. He knew he shouldn’t take it out on her. This knowledge didn’t stop him from wanting to spew his frustration out on her. He turned his back to her scowling face.
“Ask Delphie!” Jacob said, and walked away from her.
They were sitting in a small sitting room converted from a large closet into a waiting room for families and parents. Jill’s idea behind the room was so that parents would have a private place to talk to school officials in case of an emergency. She hadn’t realized that she and Jacob would be the first parents to use the room the second day of school.
“Why didn’t you…?” Jacob spun in place to look at Jill. Seeing her face, he shook his head. “Don’t answer that.”
“You’re usually in the middle of this type of adventures,” Jill said. “This horrible feeling is how I feel every time you disappear. I know the Sea of Amber was not treat for you but I lived with this bone crushing panic and despair, and then the Isle of Man, and…”
Jacob hugged her tight. In her ear, he whispered, “I’m so sorry.” They held each other for a moment before Jill moved away.
“I won’t have her live in fear,” Jill said with a nod that was fiercer than she felt. “She has to be…”
“Strong,” Jacob said with a nod. “Capable.”
Nodding, Jill dropped into a brand new armchair. The armchair exhale was pure chemical newness reminding Jill that she never imagined she’d ever use this room. There was a knock at the door and Delphie stuck her head into the room.
“There you are,” Delphie said.
Jill got up to hug Delphie. She let go to allow Jacob to hug his mother’s best friend.
“How are you holding up?” Delphie asked.
Jill shrugged and Jacob shook his head.
“What do we know?” Delphie asked.
Jacob opened his mouth to talk. Before he said anything, he nodded to Jill.
“Jill knows more than I do,” Jacob said.
“Start at the beginning and don’t leave any detail out,” Delphie said.
“I guess… well…” Jill glanced at Jacob. “You took Katy and Paddie on a tour here, right?”
“They came with me while I finished the last details,” Jacob said. “I had a list of ten or so things. They like to come to houses with me so I brought them here.”
“Did you go through the whole building?” Delphie asked.
“Everything,” Jacob said. “Even the basement. Katy pointed to where some of the more creepier things had been. She said the building remembered.”
“That evil has lingered in the building?” Jill asked.
“No, no, sorry, that’s what I said, not what she said,” Jacob said. “She just said that the building was excited for a new start. I asked her if the building remembered and she told me not to be silly. Buildings can’t remember anything.”
“Why did you ask whether Jacob toured the children?” Delphie asked.
“Yesterday, when I brought Katy to school, she wouldn’t get out of her booster,” Jill said. “When I asked her about it, she was vague and kind of weird.”
“Which is how she is when it’s something to do with Paddie,” Delphie said.
“That’s exactly what I thought,” Jill said. “I figured Julie would be here with Paddie soon so I just waited. Julie drove into the parking lot just a few minutes later. Paddie was pressed against the window. He looked terrified. Katy told me that he was afraid of ghosts after their time with Maughold on the Isle of Man.”
Jacob groaned and turned away from them.
“I told you this,” Jill said. “Katy told you all about it.”
“I thought it was the female ghost,” Jacob said with his back to them.
“So did I,” Jill said. “I’m pretty sure Katy did, too.”
“That’s what I know,” Jill said. “Anyway, I got a call today around noon. The school said they couldn’t find Katy or Paddie. They didn’t say anything about Noelle. I don’t know why.”
Aden stuck his head in the room before coming inside. Jill nodded to him. Knowing he’d want the same information, she pressed on.
“So I called Katy,” Jill said.
“Called her?” Aden asked.
“I made Katy carry a cell phone,” Jill said. “After the Isle of Man, I mean. My mom put it on her plan because our phones are through the company and…”
Jill shook her head.
“It’s a kid’s phone,” Jill said. “Colin got one for Paddie, too, but Paddie broke his.”
“Intentionally?” Julie said as she came in the door.
“It’s not your fault,” Julie said. “My child is a menace!”
“Colin is in New York,” Julie said. “Do you mind if I wait with you?”
“Of course,” Jill said.
Jill held out her arms and hugged Julie. The men waited impatiently for Jill to finish greeting Julie.
“What did Katy say?” Aden asked.
“When?” Jill asked.
“When you called her?” Aden asked.
“Oh right, sorry,” Jill said with a nod. “Katy said they were in the wall behind Paddie’s classroom and they were trying to help some kids.”
“Some kids?” Delphie asked.
“Kid ghosts,” Jill said. “She said something about the kid ghosts hiding from adults. Only kids can see them.”
“Is that possible?” Julie asked in Delphie’s direction.
Delphie took a moment to think about it before she shrugged.
“I don’t know,” Delphie said with a shake of her head. “Jacob?”
“No,” Jacob said. “It is not possible for a ghost to hide from me.”
Unafraid of Jacob’s moods, Aden pressed forward.
“If that’s the case, where did the ghosts come from?” Aden asked.
Used to Aden pushing him, Jacob took a few quick steps toward him. Aden stood his ground.
“Are you saying I left these ghosts in the building to torture poor Paddie like Maughold did?” Jacob asked.
Aden grinned. Jacob shook his head and looked up at the ceiling. A moment later, Jacob laughed.
“What just happened?” Julie whispered to Jill.
“What just happened is that I heard my own insanity,” Jacob said. “I’m sorry. I’ve felt so guilty that…”
“I haven’t been looking at solutions,” Jacob said. “So, to your question, Julie, there’s no way these ghosts were here in the building.”
“Could they have come from around Denver?” Jill asked.
“No,” Jacob said and Delphie shook her head. “Delphie and I worked for a month at least to make sure that nothing could enter the building. We put it in the walls themselves.”
“That’s where Katy is,” Jill said under her breath. “In the walls.”
“I…” Jacob started.
“Listen, not to get in the middle of your self loating, but we’re builders,” Aden said. “It’s what we do best, and if need be, we can get the building team here.”
“They’re on another job,” Jacob said with a nod. “But they could be here in ten minutes if call them.”
“Do we have the plans?” Aden asked.
“I left them at home,” Jill said.
“Sandy’s bringing them,” Aden said. “She should be here any minute.”
“These children are so loved,” Delphie said with a smile. “That could have brought the ghosts.”
“How so?” Julie asked. Her face pinched with the look of someone asking a question they didn’t really want to ask.
“Spirits are like people,” Delphie said. “They are drawn to warmth, kindness, and love. This school is a safe place. That could have brought them as well.”
Julie’s head bobbed up and down in a nod as she thought about what Delphie said. After a moment, her face contorted with confusion.
“Are you saying the school is on an old Indian burial ground?” Julie asked.
“No,” Jacob said. “In the first place, it’s not on any burial ground. In the second place, the whole Indian burial ground thing is a way of saying Indians aren’t Christians. Since heathens can’t get into heaven, they must be evil.”
“That’s just not true,” Delphie said.
“I never thought about it,” Julie said. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry,” Jill said. “Ghosts, burial grounds — it’s not like the knowledge is taught in school.”
“Do you remember Paddie’s classroom?” Aden asked. He looked at Jill and then Jacob. “I didn’t pay that much attention to the younger grades classrooms.”
“You don’t have any kids there,” Jill said with a smile.
“Rachel will be there soon enough,” Aden said. “I guess I was focused on making Nash and Teddy’s return to the Marlowe School a positive experience for everyone.”
“They’re going to thrive here,” Jill said. Aden gave her a vague nod. Smiling, Jill continued, “And, as for Paddie’s classroom, I remember it, but I don’t have any idea where Katy’s talking about.”
“Hi,” Sandy said as she came in the door. “Sorry I’m late. I was with a client when you called.”
“Sorry you have to come,” Jacob said.
“Hi Julie,” Sandy said.
“Did you bring the plans?” Jacob asked.
For a moment, everyone looked at Sandy. She blushed at their attention and took a roll of paper from the cotton bag over her shoulder. Jacob smiled his thanks and took the building plans. He and Aden went to the table and rolled out them out. Jill went around to the other side. Jacob flipped through the plans until he came up with the floor Paddie’s classroom was on.
“Ugh!” Jacob said with groan.
“What is it?” Jill asked.
“We put a utility space there.” Jacob pointed to a square box that ran the entire height of the building. “Remember, Jill, we put a ladder from floor to floor.”
“And an access panel,” Jill said. “We were going to wire the school for the Internet but found that WiFi was more effective.
“Is this access panel in Paddie’s classroom?” Julie asked.
“Probably,” Jill said. “I’d have to check with Heather to be sure but…”
“That’s where they are,” Delphie said with a confident nod.
“And where did the ghosts come from?” Aden asked.
Jacob slowly moved his head back and forth in “No.” Then he stopped. He stared straight ahead for a brief moment before looking at Delphie.
“We sealed the building,” Jacob said.
“Every wall, door, floor, ceiling,” Delphie said.
“From the inside,” Jacob said.
“Oh,” Delphie said before giving an embarrassed laugh.
Jill, Julie, Aden, and Sandy gawked at Delphie and Jacob.
“What’s going on?” Aden asked.
“We sealed the building from magic, ghosts, really anything paranormal,” Jacob said.
“Dark energy, too,” Delphie said.
“But we just sealed the inside,” Jacob said. “Our thinking was that we wanted to ensure the children were safe.”
“The building is just exterior wall, insulation, sound deadening, interior wall,” Delphie said.
“Except in this utility space,” Aden said with dawning awareness.
“The kid ghost could have come from anywhere and just collected there,” Jacob said with a nod. “I see what Katy means by saving the kids. These souls are stuck here and would need help moving on.”
“Especially if they’re kids,” Delphie said.
Jacob nodded. Sandy watched him for a moment before glancing at Jill.
“I’m kinda missing something here,” Sandy said. “Our children are stuck in the walls of this school with a bunch of dead kids’ ghosts, right?”
“In this utility space,” Jacob said.
“What are we going to do to get them out?” Sandy asked.
“Good question,” Jill said.
The women looked at Jacob. He put his hands on his hips and looked down.
“I need to think it through,” Jacob said.
“You do that,” Sandy said.
Tuesday mid-day — 12:45 P.M.
“We’ve been in here a long time,” Noelle said. She stood up. “I know we can see the ghosts in the sword, but are you sure they …”
Noelle stopped talking when Katy and Paddie’s heads turned in unison to look at her. Paddie’s big blue eyes and Katy’s large dark eyes gave her a tired blink in near unison. Their faces were smudged and they looked very young. Noelle realized that if she gave up, the kids would do something to appease her and then do it on their own. Noelle nodded and changed tack.
“I think we need help,” Noelle said.
“What kinda help?” Paddie asked.
“Mike said that Val said that there’s a lady ghost here,” Noelle said. “She was really nice to Val when she snuck in here and saw the painting Mike and I worked on. Mike said that if I see her, I should pay attention to what she looks like. He’d like to make a painting of her to say thanks.”
“I don’ like ghosts,” Paddie said.
The boy’s bottom lip showed a glimmer of a vibration before he realized he shouldn’t be afraid. In an imitation of his fierce grandfather, Paddie scowled which only made him look younger. Katy instinctively kissed his cheek and he blushed.
“I think Noelle is right,” Katy said. “My daddy said that he left the ghost here because she was nice and protective of children. I bet she would help us.”
“Okay,” Paddie said.
“You belong to the Sword of Truth, right?” Noelle asked. “And the Sword of Truth belongs to you, right?”
“So you’re like a living extension of the sword,” Noelle said.
Paddie and Katy nodded in unison.
“You should be able to see the children’s ghosts,” Noelle said.
Paddie looked down at the sword.
“With your eyes,” Noelle said.
Paddie’s big eyes blinked at Noelle for a moment as he gathered his courage. He nodded.
“Just say I want to see,” Katy said in his ear.
“But I don’t,” Paddie whispered.
Katy reached for his hand and he grabbed hers.
“We’ll do it together,” Katy said.
Paddie looked at her and then nodded.
“I want to see,” Paddie said.
Katy and Noelle watched Paddie’s face.
“Oh,” Paddie said.
“Oh?” Katy asked.
“They’re just kids,” Paddie said. Looking straight ahead, he said, “Does anybody talk English?”
There was silence.
“What’s happening?” Noelle whispered Katy.
“I don’t know,” Katy said.
“Can you make it so we can see too?” Noelle asked.
With a blink of Katy’s eye, they were surrounded by thousands of child ghosts.
“Eep!” Noelle said with surprised scream.
Noelle jumped back and hit the wall. Katy and Paddie looked at her.
“I’m okay. I’m okay,” Noelle said. “Just surprised. Good job, Paddie.”
Paddie bit his lip and forced himself to nod.
“Do any of you speak American English?” Noelle asked the vast horde of spirits.
No one said anything.
“I speak some Irish,” Paddie said helpfully. “Dia duit?”
Paddie saw a few heads look up when he said “Hello” in Irish.
“I don’t think they speak English,” Katy said in a low voice.
“Could one of you go find the female ghost who lives in this building?” Noelle asked.
The ghosts shook their heads. The ghosts nearest to them pressed on the walls indicating that they couldn’t get through.
“They can’t go in the school,” Paddie said.
“She can’t get in either,” Noelle whispered.
“My dad made a barrier so we wouldn’t have more ghosts,” Katy whispered.
“What do we do next?” Paddie asked. “We can’t talk to them. They can’t get out.”
“They don’t know how to move on,” Katy said. “That’s what my dad says about ghosts. They either don’t want to move on or they’ve lost the light.”
“The light?” Noelle asked.
“The way to the other side,” Paddie said.
“Oh,” Noelle said. “Do we think these ghosts want to stay here?”
“They look really sad,” Katy said.
Noelle looked at Paddie and he nodded in agreement.
“I think they’d want to be with their families,” Noelle said.
Katy and Paddie’s heads turned to look at her.
“When Charlie almost died, he saw his father,” Noelle said. “I bet these kids moms and dads have been worrying about them. Their parents are probably waiting for them.”
“Like my mommy?” Paddie asked with a sniff.
“I have an idea,” Noelle said. “Well, actually, it was Katy’s idea.”
“What did Katy say?” Paddie asked.
“Katy said I could draw our way out of here,” Noelle said. “What if I draw their way out of here?”
Katy and Paddie visibly brightened.
“Do you know how?” Paddie asked.
“Nope,” Noelle said. “But I do know how to draw. I bet you and Katy can do the rest.”
Katy looked at Paddie and he nodded.
“I only have my black pastel,” Noelle said with a nod. “And there’s not much left, but …”
With that, she started climbing up the ladder closest to her.
“Here goes nothing,” Noelle said.
She stopped at the second floor and looked down at Paddie and Katy.
“Can you get some more pastels, Katy?” Noelle asked. “Maybe from home because we can’t get stuff from inside the school.”
Katy nodded. In a flash, Noelle’s entire pastel kit was sitting on the floor.
“Great!” Noelle said. “You guys can help color it in.”
She climbed down to the bottom floor and began to draw. After Noelle made a few sweep strokes, Katy clapped.
“It’s a sunflower!” Katy said.
“Grab a pastel!” Noelle said without stopping.
Katy and Paddie picked up a color and looked at her.
“We’re going to do this together,” Noelle said.
“What if we don’t color in the lines?” Paddie asked. He bit his lip with anxiety.
“Who cares?” Noelle laughed. “I’m pretty sure these kids don’t.”
The children set to work.
Tuesday afternoon — 1:15 P.M.
University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
Tanesha stepped off the bus and was immediately surrounded by the paparazzi. Twenty or more sweaty men pressed against her. Her only option was to move forward. She pushed and “excuse med” her way out of the center of the circle. Once free, she took off running.
Screaming at the top of their lungs, the photographers followed her onto campus.
They wanted to know about Jeraine.
They wanted a photo of her that could prove that she was struggling.
They wanted to hear how angry she was at Jeraine.
They called her “weak,” “stupid,” or worse for staying with him.
They thought Jeraine should divorce her because she was such an idiot.
On and on they went. Tanesha ran toward the 500 building where her next class was located. She got within ten feet of the building when University of Colorado security ran to meet her. They ushered her into the building.
She bent forward with her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath. As she stood there, passing by students muttered their own thoughts. She was destroying the school. She was a drama queen and on and on.
If she hadn’t invented this drama, she would have been really crushed by the students comments. She waited for a moment for Cody. Her co-conspirator was supposed to videotape the paparazzi for Jeraine’s big conference. He came through the door.
“Did you get it?” Tanesha asked.
She stood up to walk off her sprint.
“Every word,” Cody said. He held out the smartphone Schmidty had given him. “Did that guy really punch you?”
“Punch me?” Tanesha asked.
“In the ribs,” Cody said. “I think it was to slow you down.”
Tanesha pulled up her fleece sweater and her shirt. Her side was red and a welt was rising.
“I’m going to take a picture,” Cody said.
Tanesha nodded. Cody took a picture with his phone. Tanesha waited while he sent all the files to Schmidty.
“Did you study?” Tanesha asked.
“Are you ready?” Tanesha asked.
“Can you be ready for this kind of thing?” Cody asked.
They were taking practice exams for their year-end finals.
“You know, this should only show your weaknesses so you can strengthen them,” Tanesha said.
“I liked the whole ‘holes in the dike” metaphor,” Cody said.
“Where’s Fin?” Cody asked.
“He said he’ll meet us there,” Tanesha said with a shrug.
“Did his wife have her baby?” Cody asked.
“Not yet,” Tanesha said.
Cody nodded. He gestured to the stairs and they ran up to their class.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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