CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and FORTY-FOUR
“Sir,” MJ said. “May I say something?”
The Lieutenant Colonel nodded.
“I wanted to say,” MJ cleared his throat. He glanced at Honey and she smile to encourage him. “I’m sorry, Gracie.”
Gracie scowled at him.
“I wasn’t a very good friend to you,” MJ said. “I’m sorry for it. You deserved a lot better. But I wasn’t… that.”
“And I suppose you are now?” Gracie sneered.
“I’ve changed a lot since we were friends, Gracie,” MJ said. “I don’t treat people like I did. Not because of my job, but because I realized that people matter. I don’t have fighting relationships anymore – not with anyone; I even made up with my mom.”
“Fighting relationship,” Gracie nodded. “That’s what we had.”
“You’re a great girl, Gracie. You probably think I’m just saying this because,” MJ gestured to the officers in front of them. “But you are. I’d like to be your friend now, if we can. Honey does too, I think.”
“You broke my heart,” Gracie said.
“I did,” MJ said. “You’re right. I’m really very sorry. I was good at breaking hearts, took great pleasure in it. I don’t break hearts anymore.”
“Why?” Gracie asked. “I get that you were injured and in the hospital. And I get that you didn’t remember us and everything. I understand that. I don’t get why or how you’re so different. I mean, you were never ever going to be in the same room with Honey and now you have a baby and…”
Gracie gestured to Honey.
“And you’re nice, so nice,” Gracie said. “You made sure last night that I was taken care of and a part of the whole Hollywood thing. You even brought me a blanket so I wouldn’t be cold. You weren’t nice like that before.”
“What happened to you?” Gracie asked. “And what happened to Honey? Did you do that?”
“I think that’s our cue,” the Lieutenant Colonel stood up. “Captain Holden, I believe I promised you a good cup of coffee.”
“And a pastry,” Captain Holden followed her out of the room. “You promised pastry.”
“That I did,” the Lieutenant Colonel came around her desk. She touched Honey’s shoulder and winked at MJ before leading Gracie’s superior officer out of the room. “We have pastries, not Parisian, you understand. They are good, though.”
They waited until they were gone.
“What was that?” Gracie looked at MJ.
“Second Lieutenant, this matter is not resolved,” Captain Mac Clenaghan said.
“Yes, sir,” Gracie said and swallowed hard. She hadn’t realized that the Captain was the hard ass in the room.
“Sergeant Scully, I believe the Second Lieutenant asked you a question,” Captain Mac Clenaghan said.
Gracie gave a partial smile. At least, he was a hard ass to MJ, too.
“I know death,” MJ said. “That’s the easiest way to say it. Me, Honey, we both almost died; by all rights, we should be dead, both of us. I used to keep death over there some place.”
He gestured with his hands to the far corner of the room.
“Death was something I mocked, cheated, played with,” MJ said. “It was all just a game, one I wanted to win at all costs. Then, I was on assignment and Honey got stabbed and…”
He glanced at Honey and she smiled.
“She almost died on the kitchen floor,” MJ said. “And I realized that life isn’t a game that you ever win. And I realized that by not valuing death, I didn’t value my life or anybody’s life. I was playing a game with everything that mattered. At first, I just wanted her to live and then…”
MJ shrugged and looked at Honey.
“She’s the love of your life,” Gracie nodded. “I always knew that. I guess I…”
“You broke my heart,” Gracie’s eyes welled. “I… thought you were dead.”
“I’m sorry,” MJ nodded.
“What do you need to make this right, Second Lieutenant?” Captain Mac Clenaghan asked.
Looking down at the desk, Gracie crossed her arms across her heart and shook her head.
“I understand that two years ago, you requested through your command a training day with the Jakker, then again last year, and this year,” Captain Mac Clenaghan said. “I assume you’ll be putting the request in again in January?”
Gracie looked up at him. Her hand instinctively went to her throat. She glanced at MJ and he smirked.
“Sergeant Scully has arranged for the Jakker to be available to you for the rest of the day,” Captain Mac Clenaghan said. “When you’ve finished here, you may begin.”
The Captain gave Gracie and MJ a nod and walked out of the room. Gracie turned to MJ.
“Did you love me so much?” MJ asked. “Was I the love of your life?”
“I…” Gracie shook her head.
“What can we do to make this right with you?” Honey asked.
“Spending the rest of the day with the Jakker?” Gracie smiled.
“How do you pull that off?” Gracie asked.
“He flies the Fey,” MJ said. “You met his son last night. The kid with the great eyes and black hair, boyfriend of Noelle?”
“Teddy,” Gracie nodded.
“His son,” MJ said.
Gracie looked down at the ground for a moment. When she looked up, she gave MJ a long look. She glanced at Honey and then back at MJ.
“It’s different,” Gracie said. “Here. In country. People have kids. The Jakker has kids.”
“Four,” Honey said.
“Who knew?” Gracie asked. “It’s like my heroes are real people. You’re a real person, MJ – not a monster or victim or a hero or anything. Just a person. It’s… different.”
“War,” MJ said. “All you think about is your next mission. There’s a lot more to think about here.”
Gracie nodded. She looked at MJ and then at Honey.
“I’m kinda glad you found each other again,” Gracie nodded.
“Do you mind if I…” Gracie pointed to the door.
MJ smiled and glanced at Honey.
“He’s an asshole,” MJ said.
“Rapist?” Gracie asked.
“No,” MJ said. “Just an ass. He’s only nice to the LC. She’s the only one who holds the end of his chain.”
“He’s an amazing parent,” Honey said.
Gracie nodded. She had the impatient look of a child waiting for permission to eat their special treat.
“Go,” Honey said.
Gracie looked at her. Her face broke into a smile and she ran out of the room. MJ looked at Honey and she smiled.
“Good idea to ask Zack,” MJ said.
“I thought so,” Honey said. “She’s happy. You?”
MJ took her hand and they started toward the door.
“I feel bad,” MJ said.
“Sure,” Honey said.
“But not that bad,” MJ said.
“Sure,” Honey said.
“Wanna get our baby and go home?” MJ asked.
“Sure,” Honey said.
He grinned at her and they went to get Maggie.
Sunday morning – 5:22 a.m.
Jacob let the dogs out the front door of the farm house. He watched them wander, sniff around, and eventually settle into doing their business. Scooter came right back to him. Jacob rubbed the old dog’s ear and he looked up at Jacob. Scooter did not want to miss out on a chance to snuggle with Jill and Katy in bed.
“I hear you boy,” Jacob said.
Jacob opened the door to let Scooter in the house. Scooter raced up the stairs. He heard Jill open the door to the room they were staying in and Katy giggle. He smiled and close the door to the house. He put a leash on Sandy, his yellow Labrador, and Buster, the ugly dog. He started running on the dirt road that ran along the back of the property. Used to this morning activity, the dogs fell in beside him.
He couldn’t be happier. The weekend had been a fun. The kids didn’t argue. Charlie and Tink didn’t end up putting on a show. Everyone had a great time. Sam and Delphie showed up early Saturday morning from LA and made the weekend with their stories of their red carpet adventures. Last night, the adults stayed up long after the kids were asleep watching the stars under thick wool blankets and drink cocoa.
He loved having everyone together.
He loved it when everyone laughed and enjoyed each other.
He loved that Ivy had a chance to enjoy his father.
He loved that Delphie got to be with everyone at the farmhouse and go to the premiere.
The problem was that right now, he hated people.
Right now, he wanted to be left alone.
For the briefest moment, he imagined never coming back. He would run to the airport, take a plane to somewhere foreign, and never return.
Relief coursed through his veins. No more Lipson. No more people telling him what an asshole he was. No more Jill?
That was always about as far as he got with this little fantasy.
He stayed because he couldn’t imagine taking even one breath without Jill in his life.
He stayed because his sons were coming and his daughter was amazing.
He stayed because that’s who he was.
He plod on down the road.
“The problem is that no one believes you,” Wanda’s father Erik had said. “I mean who gives away their business these days? Especially to their employees. Today, it’s all about grab what you can and stick it to the next guy. I mean think about it, would you believe it?”
The words made Jacob so angry that he sped up. He wanted to throttle the cynical world that would rather believe in their own misfortune that see the bounty presented to them. The conversation continued to play in his head.
“What do they think we’re doing?” Sam had asked.
“What rich people always do,” Erik had said. “Shift the burden onto little guy while they run away with all the goodies. I mean look around you? You don’t think people notice the roads are falling apart? The schools suck? People like me drive those roads. Our kids go to those schools. But rich people, they drive on perfect roads and send their kids to schools where the teachers know their kids name.”
Jacob wanted to hate the man. He wanted to blame him for his words. But every cell in his body told him that Erik was honest to a fault. The plumber was telling him what no one else would. He was telling him the truth.
Jacob ran for a while. Erik had gone on to tell them what they already knew. The men Sam had fired had told everyone that he was selling Lipson Construction because it was broke. The rumor was that the employees were buying at prime rates but the company was worth only a third of that.
Jacob snorted. Since taking the larger contract, Lipson Construction was worth almost double what the employees were paying.
Why didn’t anyone believe him?
He just couldn’t fathom it. He never lied. He never cheated. And still no one believed him!
He had come full circle.
He hated people.
He wanted to run away.
He increased his pace to do some speed work. The dogs loped along beside him.
“Don’t let it get to you, Jake,” Aden had said. “No one believes those jerks.”
His father had just looked at him. He hadn’t said a word. He’d just watched him with worried eyes.
Jacob reached a bend in the road and took it to the right.
He should take the company back. It wouldn’t be hard. He already had the figures from Tres. He’d say he changed his mind. He was allowed the change his mind, wasn’t he?
He nodded at his reasoning and kept running. Up ahead he saw the towering building of the Brighton home Valerie had purchased for the Marlowe School. Out of curiosity more than anything else, he ran up to the doorstep. He used his psychokinesis to open the door and went inside.
This was a gorgeous house.
The morning son filtered through dusty window to show off gorgeous wood work and antique features. Jacob went to the spot where Aden and Seth and the police officers had stood while he and Delphie had fought the demon.
He couldn’t get over what a pretty building this house was. Feeling something behind him, he turned around. He was standing face to face with an apparition of a woman. She wore a Victorian dress. Her hair was up in the style of the time. She had a pleasant face and pretty eyes. When she realized he could see her, she smiled.
“Who are you?” Jacob asked.
“I own this home,” she said.
“Why aren’t you…?” Jacob gestured to where they had laid the family to rest.
“I love this home,” she said. “You were going to fill it with children and I didn’t want to miss it.”
“Are you stuck here?” Jacob asked.
“No, thanks to you, we are all free,” she smiled. “Thank you.”
“I don’t have a lot of time for ghosts,” he said. “And I’m pretty grumpy.”
“Good to know,” she said. “Why are you here?”
“I was just out for a run,” he said.
“Yes, the dogs told me,” she said. “But why are you here? You dropped off the house and probably haven’t given it another thought. Suddenly, you’re grumpy and here. Why is that?”
He shrugged. Everywhere he looked he saw things he could improve. A little buffing here, some color there, sand the floors and…
“You’re making a list of how to improve the house,” she said.
“If I am?” Jacob asked.
“I just wondered – does wood like it when you sand the floor?” she asked.
“No idea,” he looked at her.
“Walls appreciate the feel of wet cold paint?” she asked.
“Walls and floors are made of the same stuff as people,” she said. “Why would people appreciate the transitions any more than the floors appreciate being sanded?”
His eyes flicked to her.
“Maybe Mr. Tough Guy, you should tell your employees why you’re selling,” she said.
“So they won’t believe me?” Jacob asked.
“What if they do?” she asked.
Jacob squinted at the woman.
“No, your mom didn’t put me up to this,” she said. “She told me about your situation. I guess…”
She gazed at him and he felt her eyes kiss his sweaty skin. It was such a weird sensation that he shivered.
“There was so much I never said,” she said. “To my love, my children, my brothers, my sisters, my darling parents. You can hear people’s thoughts. You can read their energy. But people cannot read your thoughts. They can’t read your energy. They can only believe what they hear and they hear less than half of what they are told.”
“Why didn’t you tell your family what you thought?” Jacob asked.
“I wasn’t supposed to,” she said. “When I was alive, women were weak and stupid creatures who didn’t have feelings or thoughts. At least that’s what I was told all my life. It never occurred to me to tell my family how I felt or what I thought. Like you, it never occurred to me that they would care.”
“Why are you telling me then?” Jacob asked.
“Your mother asked me to,” she said. “People will die if you do not move the project. And this… problem is nonsense compared to that.”
“Nonsense?” Jacob asked. “You’re dead and you’re here telling me my problems are nonsense?”
“For an honest man, you tell very few people your truth,” she said. “It’s time to tell your company everything. They know you. They’ll listen.”
“You’re sure you’re not my mother?” Jacob asked.
“She is with your sister,” the woman smiled. “But you knew that.”
The woman faded. Jacob watched her for a moment before moving toward the door. His hand was on the door knob when she reappeared in front of him.
“Yes?” he asked.
“Tomorrow, you must run with the dogs in the afternoon,” she said. “The little painter needs you in the park.”
“I’ll be there,” he said.
“Good,” she said and disappeared.
“Thanks Mom,” he whispered.
At the bottom of the steps, he stopped to look at the house again. Nodding to himself, he ran back to the farmhouse and his life.
Sunday night – 9:42 p.m.
“Yo,” the voice on the phone said.
“Yeah? Whatchu want?” he responded.
“Tomorrow, just after the start of b-ball practice, we’re gonna take care of our On-Line problem.”
“We all gonna be there,” the voice said. “You?”
“I’ll be there.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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