Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty : Huge Risk


Tuesday afternoon — 1:05 p.m.

Samantha pulled her car up to the Castle gate. Charlie gave her the code and she punched it into the keypad. The gate opened.

“Those photographers would get old, fast,” she said as she parked the car.

“You get used to it,” Charlie said. “If they get a photo of Jackie, they can make hundreds of thousands of dollars. And look at them.”

Samantha turned to look at the photographers.

“They’re just trying to feed their families,” Charlie said.

Samantha smiled at him.

“Are you going to be all right?” Samantha asked.

“I think so,” Charlie said. “Before you say it, I will be careful.”

Samantha smiled at him.

“Why are you doing all of this?” Samantha asked. “When I was your age, all I cared about was getting nicer clothes, and what boys would ask me out, and why, oh why, was I related to the weirdo twins?’

Charlie smiled.

“I don’t know if I would do it,” Samantha said.

“If you had the chance to maybe save someone’s life, would you have done that?” Charlie asked.

Samantha turned to look at him.

“I mean, Aden always says, ‘Run the tape, Charlie. Where’s this gonna go?’ Mostly he means on using drugs and being an asshole, but when I run this tape… These guys… they’re gonna kill someone. Maybe they won’t mean it; maybe they’ll want to kill that person; maybe that person will be me. But sooner or later, they’re gonna kill someone. They almost killed Tink. I was there at the hospital. She was mostly dead.”

Charlie shrugged.

“What would you do if you knew that?” Charlie asked. “And you were my age?”

Samantha looked out the windshield. She didn’t say anything for a while.

“That’s what I thought,” Charlie said.

“I’ll do anything I can to help you,” Samantha said. “And my anything is pretty big.”

Charlie gave her an impish grin and she laugh.

“Come on,” Charlie said. “Mrs. Valerie told me to make sure you came in when you dropped me off and I don’t want to make her mad.”

“Val? She’s a sweetie.”

“She’s really scary when she’s mad,” Charlie gave an exaggerated shiver.

Samantha laughed. They got out of the car and went into the house. They heard muffled laughing and loud thumps.

“What’s going on here?” Samantha asked.

“Oh, Delphie’s got everyone cleaning out a room downstairs,” Charlie smiled.

“I thought work and teenagers didn’t mix,” Samantha said.

“You haven’t worked with Delphie or this house,” Charlie said. “There’s always something spooky, something weird, in this house. Or beautiful. So many people have lived here. We cleaned out one room downstairs that some vagrants had stuffed all their possessions in before they died. It was sort of gross and sort of great. Delphie was able to send families photos and even an old pocket watch. I wanted to keep the watch, but Delphie was sure the family would want it back. And they did.”

Charlie shrugged.

“You should join us,” Charlie said. “We have lots of pregnant clothes here.”

They heard a loud boom and a loud laugh.

“Honey and MJ are helping,” Charlie smiled. “This is going to be fun. Let’s take a look.”

Charlie waved Samantha to the stairs to the basement. They went down the long stairwell, turned the corner, and were confronted with a cloud of black dust. Charlie stepped back. They heard a high pitched girl’s laugh.

“That’s Ivy,” Charlie smiled.

“You really like her,” Samantha said.

“She’s just a kid,” Charlie said. “She’s wild and very fun. I bet she’s scaring the crap out of Noelle.”

“No she’s not!” Carrying a box, Noelle appeared right in front of him. She punched his shoulder and walked past him. “I like her.”

Noelle was down the hall before she yelled back, “Nash really likes her.”

“Of course he does,” Charlie said. “Are you game?”

“Sure,” Samantha said.

“Sandy!” Charlie yelled.

For all his maturity, in this moment, Charlie was every bit a sixteen year old boy. Samantha scowled at him, but Sandy appeared from a room along the hall.

“Charlie!” Sandy hugged him. “Welcome home! Samantha! Thank you so much for helping us.”

Samantha smiled at Sandy.

“You need to change,” Sandy said to Charlie. “Go now before you see the girls.”

“But…” Charlie’s entire posture shifted. The strong, thoughtful young man was gone, leaving a grouchy child in his place.

“Now!” Sandy pointed up the stairs. “You better hurry because Tink and Ivy are leaving in a bit and I know you want to see them.”

Charlie scowled at her. He opened his mouth; Sandy shook her head. He slunk up the stairs.

“That’s impressive,” Samantha said in a low voice.

“He wants to see his girlfriend,” Sandy laughed. “It’s all about leverage.”

“He said you might have some clothes I could wear?” Samantha asked. “I thought I’d stay for a while. It would be good for me to see how Charlie and the girls interact.”

“Sure. You’re taller than I am, but just as huge,” Sandy pointed down another hall. “Some of my old clothes are down here in the community closet.”

“I got big right away,” Samantha said.

“Me too,” Sandy said. “Have you seen Jill?”

Samantha shook her head.

“She’s having twins,” Sandy laughed. “She’s taller than I am. I mean, who isn’t? Right? But she looks… I mean, she could pass for just being heavy around the middle.”

“Not me,” Samantha smiled.

“Me either,” Sandy said. “Jake let her out of her house arrest, that’s what she calls bed rest. She traipsed down the stairs. Incredible. She’s due in less than two months!”

Samantha laughed.

“She was that way with Katy. She waited tables until the day she had Katy and then was back up a couple days later. Of course, necessity drove some of that,” Sandy pushed open a swinging door. She turned on the light and four long closet rods full of clothing appeared. “Jake made this room for all our old clothes. It’s great for the kids because they can swap. Honey’s smaller than I am, but she wore some of my maternity clothes. She can even wear some of the kids’ clothes. Val is really generous. She leaves all her designer clothes here when she’s done. Except the dresses, of course.”

“Where are her dresses?” Samantha asked.

“They have their own special climate controlled closet,” Sandy said. “It’s above Mike’s studio.”

“That’s right,” Samantha smiled. “I was there helping Val find something to special to wear when she had Jackie.”

“When she was crazy?” Sandy nodded.

Samantha nodded.

“You’re a good friend. Now, let’s see…” Sandy waded into the closet. “Everything is set up by size so it’s easy for the kids. Katy’s just starting to grow so she’s wearing some of Noelle’s old clothes. Tink and Ivy are going to look through the closet before they go. They’re welcome to anything we have, of course.”

“There isn’t a lot of boys’ stuff here,” Samantha said.

“Our boys destroy clothing,” Sandy said from somewhere in the closet. “Plus, Noelle went through and took all the men’s shirts. She uses them when she paints. Are you having a boy?”

“I’m not supposed to say,” Samantha said.

“Here,” Sandy brought out a huge muumuu looking thing. “This should work. It’s one of Delphie’s old house dresses.”

“This is huge!” Samantha held it up. “Delphie wore this? She’s not that big.”

“When she was cleaning up the house,” Sandy said. “It’s actually really great. It has lots of pockets that hold stuff. You’ll like it.”

Sandy helped Samantha put the dress over her clothing. Sandy grabbed a belt to tie up the dress.

“Voila!” Sandy said. “I can assure you, Val or Delphie will want the dress when you’re done.”

“Oh look,” Samantha said. “My purse fits right here.”

“Exactly,” Sandy turned to leave the room.

“Before you go…”

Sandy turned back to Samantha.

“I wanted to ask you…” Samantha’s eyes scanned Sandy’s face. “Is it hard for you that Charlie’s taking this big risk? I mean Sissy and the girls are too, but Charlie…”

“It’s hard,” Sandy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to let them leave the house.”

“That’s what I mean,” Samantha said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way, but now…”

She gestured to her baby and Sandy nodded.

“I see a lot of parents clutch onto their kids,” Samantha said. “They have to eat this specific thing and do these after school programs. Everything is scheduled and structured and just so. Then I come over here and your kids…”

“We’re kind of wild,” Sandy smiled.

“Paddie loves it here,” Samantha said. “He’s one of those kids. Julie has him on a special diet for his allergies and he doesn’t cheat. That’s not what I mean…”

“We have a lot of space,” Sandy said. “They can be kids and still do what’s best for them.”

“You trust them,” Samantha said.

“I don’t know about that,” Sandy said. “You haven’t seen the epic battles between Charlie and Aden.”

Samantha smiled.

“To answer your question, yes it’s hard for me that Charlie and Sissy and Noelle and Nash and Teddy are taking this huge risk,” Sandy said. “But they really want to do it. I feel like it’s my job is to help them test themselves while they’re here in our house. Someday, they’ll be on their own. If they don’t test themselves now, how will they know what they can do?”

“My Dad was kind of like that,” Samantha said.

“Did it work?”

“I still hate him for it,” Samantha smiled. “But yes, I know what my capabilities and my limits, especially in the wilderness.”

“I have to let Charlie try to help,” Sandy said. “I want to nurture his better instincts. At the same time, I’m willing and able to pick up the pieces if it all falls apart.”

Samantha nodded.

“Auntie Sami?” Paddie’s voice came from the other side of the door. “Mrs. Valerie is looking for you.”

Samantha smiled at Sandy. She nodded and Samantha left the room. Sandy closed her eyes. She thought she was the only one who was worried about Charlie. Samantha’s worry made her own concerns seem all the more valid and worrisome. Sandy scowled at herself and turned off the light.

“Pan!” Ivy’s high pitched voice came down the hall.

“Look it’s Charlie!” Honey said.

Sandy groaned to herself. She’d better get over there before it got to wild. She trotted past Samantha and into the fray.


Tuesday afternoon — 1:35 p.m.

“I think that’s about it,” Jacob said as he walked into the kitchen of the yellow house. “I have to get back to Lipson.”

Jeraine looked up. He had been working at the kitchen table. He pulled off his reading glasses and stood up.

“I made a list of the things we need to finish,” Jill gave Jeraine a copy of the list. He looked at it, smiled, and set it down. Jill took Jeraine’s hand that was holding his reading glasses and put it up to his face. She gave him the list again. He looked embarrassed but put on his glasses and read the list. “Most of it will be done by contractors but things like those storm windows? Jake or Sam will need to put them on when they come in. Jake or I will be back to check everything when we’re done.”

“When do you think that will be?” Jeraine asked.

“We’re going to do some planting, but we’ll wait to finish things like sprinklers until the spring,” Jacob said. “So we won’t be totally finished until sometime next year.”

“It looks nice though,” Jeraine smiled. “Miss T is so happy. She slept like a baby last night. This house… It’s a really big deal to us.”

“Yea!” Jill clapped her hands.

“What were you reading?” Jacob asked.

“It’s some stuff my dad asked me to take a look at,” Jeraine said. “Our family has some land in Dearfield.”

Jacob leaned over the table to take a look. Jill sat down at the table to look at the map.

“Where you got kicked by the Donkey?” Jill smiled.

“I’m gettin’ my teeth fixed tomorrow,” Jeraine said.

“I didn’t say anything about your teeth,” Jill said.

“Hmm,” Jeraine gave her a sour look. She had to look away to keep from laughing.

“This is a geological survey,” Jacob said and stood up.

“That’s right,” Jeraine said. “Dad thinks there’s something fishy about it. Well, actually, don’t tell Miss T, but her dad thinks there’s something going on out there. He talked to my dad about it and my dad requested this stuff. ‘Course it’s all print, no digital. I can’t make heads or tails of it either way. And I’m not stupid. I certainly don’t need no white man explaining nothing to me.”

Jeraine looked Jacob up and down. Jacob raised an eyebrow at him.

“How about a friend?” Jacob asked.

“Since when are you and I friends?” Jeraine scowled.

“Since you’re standing in a house I own and fixed up for you?” Jacob asked.

Jeraine nodded. He thought for a moment and then laughed at himself.

“Would you take a look?” Jeraine asked.

“Sure,” Jacob leaned over the maps. “I don’t know if I can help…”

“Just another pair of eyes…” Jeraine said.

“Would you look at that…” Jacob pointed to a deep underground fault zone that ran down the center of Lipson Constructions’ large project.

“They say here…” Jeraine picked up a book and put on his reading glasses. “They say they use those fissures to…” Jeraine’s changed his voice to a geek voice. “… to promote the expansion and release of petrochemicals.”

Jeraine took off his glasses and looked at Jacob.

“What the hell does that mean? Any fool who looks at this can see that you put pressure in over here…” Jeraine pointed to where the current fracking sites.

“It’s going to come out over here,” Jacob pointed to the underground fault.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Jeraine nodded. “Isn’t that where Rodney’s been working?”

Jacob nodded.

“What’s this?” Jill put her finger on the map.

Jacob leaned over to look.

“Isn’t that the outline of the project?” Jill said. “I mean, it looks like it. It’s configured here – road, buildings, area for a subdivision.”

Jacob groaned.

“That isn’t it,” Jeraine leaned over to take a closer look. “I’ve gone out there to meet with my… uh… friend, Pete. Where you’re pointing is about thirty miles…”

“Northeast,” Jacob said. “Right. I wonder how it got moved.”

“Probably couldn’t get this land,” Jeraine said.

“No, that’s not it,” Jacob said.

“How do you know?” Jeraine scowled. “It could be it.”

“It’s not,” Jacob said.

“Now how do you know?” Jeraine asked.

“I own this piece of land,” Jacob said. “I bought it a few years ago along with some neighboring farms.”

“Jake transferred all his property holdings into Katy’s name when we got married,” Jill said. “The land belongs to her and the boys.”

She gestured to her belly.

“Why would you buy some farms in the middle of no where?” Jeraine asked.

“Dad took a contract for a sewer project out there,” Jacob said. “It was before I came back to Colorado. I was helping him finish up these projects. We were working out there and…”

Jacob blushed. Jeraine raised an eyebrow in the same look Jacob had just given him.

“You can tell a friend,” Jeraine said.

Jacob pointed to the map.

“There were three houses, pretty close together, on three farms,” Jacob said. “The houses are… gorgeous. Original fixtures, hand crafted, gorgeous wood, lead windows, everything in perfect condition… The families had fallen onto hard times and they were going to lose the land to the bank. I bought them to save them from a….”

Jill and Jeraine looked at him. He flushed.

“They wanted to build a subdivision on them,” Jacob said.

“You mean this subdivision,” Jeraine pointed to the one Jill found on the map.

“Probably,” Jacob nodded.

“So why didn’t they build it?” Jill asked.

“The owner wouldn’t sell?” Jacob wrinkled his nose.

Jeraine and Jill laughed at Jacob.

“Hey, thanks,” Jacob held his hand out to Jeraine. “This is very helpful.”

“You bet,” Jeraine shook his hand. “Any idea what I should tell my dad?”

“Hold off for now,” Jacob said. “Let me see what I can figure out.”

Jacob helped Jill to her feet.

“Let us know if there’s anything else you need fixed,” Jill said.

“You know I’m going to buy this house,” Jeraine said.

“Never doubted it,” Jacob said.

Jeraine walked them to the door and they left.

“This is really a great house,” Jill said.

“It is,” Jacob nodded. He opened the passenger door and helped her into the jeep. He checked the back to make sure his tools were there and got in the driver’s seat.

“So what’s going on?” Jill asked.

“What do you mean?” Jacob asked.

“Why didn’t they use your land?” Jill asked. “I mean it’s funny to think you didn’t sell but…”

“They never asked,” Jacob said.

“What the hell?” Jill asked.


Denver Cereal continues next week…

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