CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and THIRTY-SEVEN
Wednesday evening — 5:19 p.m.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Aden said.
He was standing in the living room of their apartment. The kids, scowling and surly, were begrudgingly standing with him.
“There will be no drama from you,” Aden said.
“But Dad!” Noelle whined at the same moment Sissy said, “She’s my best friend!”
“No drama,” Aden said.
“Yeah, whatever,” Charlie said. “You just want to get laid.”
“I’ve said this before, but you’re not listening,” Aden said. “Sandy is exhausted. She was up all night with each of you, all week! Today, she’s been running to work to help Heather help you Sissy with your big ballet day. She was up all night with Rachel.”
“Sandy’s fine,” Nash grumped from the couch.
“How would you know, Nash?” Aden asked. “You haven’t pulled your head out of that stupid computer in months.”
Nash looked up at him.
“It’s not like you’re any better,” Charlie said.
“Yeah!” Nash said. “You’re always whining about your company and stuff.”
“Fair enough,” Aden pointed his finger at himself. “No drama tonight. See that was easy.”
Sissy grinned at him, but the boys sneered. Noelle looked heartbroken.
“Do you remember what happened the last time Sandy was this tired?” Aden asked. The kids all looked at the ground. “Anyone?”
The children were painfully silent.
“Do we want that to happen again?” Aden asked.
“No but …” Noelle started. “This is really big!”
“Bigger than last night? Or last weekend? How about when you ran out of paint and the world was going to end?” Aden asked. “Sandy ran all over town to get you exactly the right paint from precisely the right place. That was Monday!”
None of the kids would look him in the eyes.
“All I’m asking for is one night of no drama,” Aden said. “I’m taking Sandy to a nice dinner. We need to look at her apartment and decide what we want to do about with it. Boring stuff. We’ll be back to tuck you in.”
The kids were so quiet that he looked at each of their faces to make sure they were even awake.
“We can’t go if any one of you goes off the deep end again,” Aden said. “Okay? No drama!”
“How’s dinner going to make it better?” Charlie sneered.
“She needs time to talk about herself,” Aden said. “She needs to get dressed up, eat food that’s way too expensive, and unwind. She’ll relax and feel better. You’ll see.”
“Why does she need that, Dad?” Noelle asked.
“I don’t know why,” Aden said. “I just know that she does.”
“How do you know?” Sissy asked.
“I’ve known Sandy a long time; I’m her husband,” Aden said. “Plus, I’ve received no less than ten texts from the girlfriends informing me that Sandy’s near breaking point.”
Aden smiled and the kids laughed.
“This is Valerie and Mike’s last night here,” Aden said. “They want to spend some time with you tonight.”
“Is Ivy coming over?” Nash asked.
“Tink?” Noelle asked because Charlie was too cool to ask.
“As you know, Tink had a seizure today,” Aden said. “She’s at home resting. Ivy is staying with them until they work out where she’s going to live.”
“So they’re coming over?” Charlie asked.
“No,” Aden said. “You’re stuck here with a world famous actress and her incredibly talented painter husband. He and Jake are taking you and Nash to play hockey, by the way.”
“Oh,” Charlie said.
Aden laughed to himself. They heard movement on the stairs.
“Let’s go over this one more time,” Aden said. “What’s going to happen?”
The kids wouldn’t look at him.
“Anyone?” Aden asked. “Sissy.”
“No drama,” Sissy grumped.
“Noelle?” Aden asked.
“No drama, but …” Noelle started. She caught the look on her father’s face and confirmed, “No drama.”
“Boys?” Aden asked. “Charlie?”
“No drama,” Charlie said. “I’ll take Rachel.”
“You can’t take Rachel!” Noelle said. “I’m taking Rachel.”
“Kids!” Aden growled.
“Ok, we’ve got it,” Nash said. “No drama.”
“Good,” Aden said.
“I’m taking Rachel,” Nash said.
The girls started screaming. Charlie snatched Nash’s computer away and he started screaming. Aden looked up to the heavens for help.
The door opened. Sandy came in the apartment with Rachel on her hip.
The kids stopped moving.
“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.
The kids scattered like mice.
“Wait, what just happened?” Sandy asked. “I could hear them yelling downstairs.”
“They’re fine,” Aden hugged Sandy. “How would you like to go to a quiet dinner with me?”
“Quiet dinner?” Sandy asked. “What about homework? What about …”
Sandy leaned forward.
“Drama,” Sandy whispered.
“We’re practicing our no drama skills,” Aden said with emphasis.
“Why don’t you get dressed?” Aden smiled. “We have reservations in an hour.”
“Beatrice and Woodsley,” Aden smiled.
“Oooh!” She was almost to the bedroom when she said, “Are we taking Rachel?”
“Rachel is staying with her friend Jackie tonight,” Aden said in a loud tone. “It’s Val’s last night and she wanted some quality Rachel time.”
A general moan came from the direction of the kids rooms.
“Val brought a dress up for you,” Aden followed her to their bedroom. Sandy had set Rachel on the bed and was holding a dress. “She said her French dressmaker made it. She made it for some curvy mistress in Paris, but the lady got dumped. The dress is paid for, but the lady couldn’t ‘possibly wear it’ and the man who paid for it doesn’t want his wife to find it. They sent it here because it matches your hair or something like that.”
“It’s mine?” Sandy squealed and clapped. “I have just the shoes!”
“I know,” Aden smiled.
“Out!” Sandy pushed him out of the room.
“We only have an hour,” Aden said.
“I’ll be ready in time,” Sandy said. “You’ll see.”
Aden smiled. When he looked down the hall, the kids heads were sticking out of their bedrooms. He gave them some silent applause.
When he turned to go into the living room, he heard their bedroom door open. He crept into the hallway. When Sandy waved the kids into their bedroom, he pointed at them. They nodded and crept into her bedroom to talk to her while she got dressed. Smiling, he left the apartment to arrange the rest of their evening.
Wednesday evening — 6:59 p.m.
“Wha …” Tink sat up and looked around. She was lying on some kind of a table in the basement of the house she was living in.
“You had a seizure,” Blane said. He came to the side of the table. “Lie back. We’re almost done. How do you feel?”
“Awful,” Tink said. “Why are there all these needles in me? Are you torturing me?”
“Do they hurt?” Blane asked.
“No,” Tink said.
“It’s acupuncture,” Blane said. “I’m a doctor of Chinese Medicine.”
“How come you work as that guy’s secretary?” Tink asked.
“That’s a long story,” Blane said. “And I’d like to know about you.”
“What do I do?” Tink asked.
“Just lie there,” Blane smiled.
He picked up her wrist to listen to her pulse.
“You seem better, stronger,” Blane smiled. “What do you remember about today?”
“Um, I woke up here, at your house,” Tink said.
“Our house,” Blane corrected. Tink smiled.
“We had breakfast and Heather took me to school,” Tink said. “Wanda texted me that she was sick and I knew Sissy was at a ballet thing. She’s probably going to leave in January.”
“Nothing’s happened yet,” Blane said.
“If she doesn’t go soon, she’ll be too old,” Tink nodded. “They’re coming from all over the world to check her out. That’s where she was today.”
“How was school?” Blane asked.
“Okay, I guess,” Tink said. “Just school. I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
“I think I’m going to do okay this term,” Tink said. “That feels kind of unbelievable. Of course, I couldn’t do it without Sissy’s tutoring. But even she says I’m starting to get it.”
“Do you remember meeting up with Heather?” Blane asked.
“No,” Tink said. “Did I have a seizure then?”
“It was a little more complicated than that,” Blane said.
“What did I screw up?” Tink asked.
“Nothing,” Blane said. “Let me take these out.”
He started taking the needles out. Tink lay very still to be the best patient she could possibly be, but her heart raced and her stomach turned over.
What if they wouldn’t let her stay anymore?
Did they figure out what a horrible girl she was?
“Huh, that’s weird,” Blane picked up her wrist. “You’re pulse is racing.”
He looked at her face.
“What’s going on Tink?” Blane asked.
“You’d tell me,” Tink said. “You’d just be straight, right?”
“About what?” Blane asked.
“About whether I get to stay or not,” Tink said.
“Stay … here?” Blane asked. “Why wouldn’t you be able to stay here?”
“I had a seizure and … whatever happened that I don’t remember … and … whatever’s wrong with me …”
“What?” Tink asked.
“I get what you’re saying, that’s all,” Blane said. “I’ve felt like that for a … for a long time. I know there’s nothing I can say that will make it better. I know that you feel this way because you feel this way. I can tell you Tink that someday you won’t feel like this.”
Tink snorted and Blane smiled.
“I probably would have responded the same way,” Blane said.
He kept pulling needles out. In his warm compassionate company, Tink began to calm down. He snuck a few needles in while he was taking a few out.
“What changed it?” Tink asked.
“How I felt?” Blane asked.
“A couple of things,” Blane said. “One was connecting to people who loved me no matter what – like Jake, Sam, and eventually Heather and Mack. Loving them, caring for them, it changed me. Probably the next thing was learning that bad things happen.”
“Everybody says that,” Tink artificially lowered her voice and added, “Bad things happen to everyone, Tiffanie. Stop whining.”
“Stepdad?” Blane asked.
“I’m not saying give up your own suffering,” Blane snorted. “If I’d given up mine, you wouldn’t be here. We wanted to adopt a teenager because of my suffering.”
“Wha’j you mean then?” Tink’s eyes drooped.
“I think what’s hard is feeling like I suffered because of something inside of me, like it was personal,” Blane said. “Seeing that so many people suffer made me realize that suffering isn’t personal. My suffering is mine, belongs to me, and I can do whatever I want to with it. I can feel bad about myself. I can hate the world. Or I can accept that it happened and move on to a better life.”
“How do you move on?” Tink asked.
“I think first, you have to get through it,” Blane smiled. “You’re still in the middle of it all.”
He squeezed her arm.
“Why don’t you rest for a minute?” Blane asked. “I know Heather wants to see you. Mack’s been trying to get in the whole time we’ve been down here.”
“Ivy?” Tink slurred.
“She’s upstairs,” Blane said. “She wants to tell you all about meeting her aunt, but she scared you might be too sick. She’s a wreck. I guess we’ve all been.”
“We love you and were worried about you,” Blane said.
Tink was asleep. He touched her shoulder and left the room. He found Heather playing with Mack in the den.
“How’s Tink?” Heather asked.
“She doesn’t remember anything,” Blane said. “She got upset so I put her out. She’ll wake up in a few minutes.”
“They told us she might not remember,” Heather said.
“Where’s Gracie?” Blane asked. “Ivy?”
“Gracie went to get settled in her hotel,” Heather said. “She’ll be back for dinner. Ivy went with her to get a little a little time together.”
“Is that all right?” Blane scowled.
“It was either that or dissolve into a puddle while waiting for Tink,” Heather said.
“Do we know what …?” Blane asked.
“The boy’s parents and their lawyer are meeting with Max and Samantha right now,” Heather said.
“Max too?” Blane asked.
“Max does civil law; Sami does criminal law,” Heather said. “We’re keeping her pretty busy.”
“I guess,” Blane smiled. “What are the police doing?”
“The police confiscated his phone. He had the video as do all of his friends. They are preparing to charge them with possession of child pornography.”
“They’re pretty mad,” Heather said. “The parents, I mean. Tink’s taser is considered a concealed weapon. They’ve asked the district attorney to charge her and the school to ban her from the premises.”
“Well, I’m pretty mad,” Blane held out his arms and Heather stepped into them. “It’s going to be all right.”
“How do you know?” Heather asked.
“I don’t,” Blane said. “I just know you and you will not rest until this is worked out.”
“Ta! Ta! Ta!” they heard in the basement.
They stepped back from their hug.
“Forgot to put the baby gate back up?” Heather asked.
“I’ll get him,” Blane said.
“I’ll go,” Heather said. “You can shower. It’s going to be a long night.”
Blane nodded. Heather jogged down the stairs where her baby boy was jumping at the door knob to the acupuncture room. She picked him up and went inside.
“Oh great, you’re awake,” Heather said. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Tink said.
Heather took out Tink’s last few needles and set Mack on the table.
“Ta!” Mack smiled.
“Mack!” Tink said.
“Is everything okay?” Tink asked.
“It will be,” Heather smiled. “Are you ready for some dinner?”
“What are we having?” Tink asked.
“I thought you were making it,” Heather said.
“Me?” Tink looked so surprised that Heather laughed.
“Crockpot soup, homemade bread, and some cake for dinner,” Heather said. “How’s that sound?”
“Great,” Tink said. “And …”
Heather turned to look at her.
“Thanks,” Tink nodded.
“Come on,” Heather said. “We can’t hide in the basement forever.”
Tink picked up Mack and followed her up the stairs.
Wednesday evening — 7:59 p.m.
Aden’s phone buzzed.
“You can check,” Sandy smiled over her glass of red wine.
“I’d rather just be here in this fairy tale of calm and beauty,” Aden said.
He looked around at the Aspen tree trunks which marked the edges of the room. Sandy smiled.
“Did you notice every eye was on you when we came in?” he asked.
She smiled. He leaned forward and kissed her.
“You should look,” Sandy said. “Find out what’s waiting for us at home.”
He gave her a slight smile and took out his Blackberry. He’d received an email.
“I’m going to freshen up,” Sandy said.
He nodded and clicked the email icon.
I have been informed by the Denver Police Department that there is a video or possibly a series of videos being distributed to mainly boys in the Denver Public School District. These videos depict girls being physically attacked and violently sexually assaulted by multiple assailants.
Possession of these videos is a Federal Crime.
The videos are extremely violent. These assaults have led to at least one death and long term health consequences for more than one girl. For your reference, the youngest girl assaulted was nine years old and the oldest was sixteen years old.
The Denver Police is cooperating with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in this matter. The District Attorney has made it clear that he will not hesitate to prosecute any individual who has any of these videos in his or her possession.
The Denver Police have asked us to ask you to check your child’s computer, phone, and mobile device for this video. Should you find the video, please contact the Denver Police at (303) XXX-1234. They are willing to work with any family that voluntarily turns in a device with this video on it. They will confiscate the device and interview your child. The devices will be returned to you. The District Attorney’s Office assures me that they will not prosecute the children and families who voluntarily come forward to assist this investigation.
Starting tomorrow, the Denver Police will confiscate any phone, computer, or mobile device entering our schools. If your child’s device contains this video, you and your child will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Denver Police have informed me that they can detect the video if it has been deleted. Those who have deleted the video will have the additional charge of obstructing a criminal investigation.
If your child was assaulted or knows someone who was assaulted, please contact the Denver Police as soon as possible. If you or your child have any information on this matter, please contact the authorities, your teacher, principal, or counselor.
This is an active police investigation. Any information will help the police bring these criminals to justice.
Please join me in supporting the victims and their families and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Thank you for your help.
Superintendent of Schools
Denver Public School District
Aden put his Blackberry back in his pocket. Like every man in the restaurant, he watched Sandy walk back from the bathroom. The fabric of the dress clung to her full breasts and round hips. Her step was jaunty and inviting, but her eyes focused only on him.
“What was it?” Sandy asked.
“Superintendent has asked every parent to check for the videos,” Aden said.
Sandy’s relaxed face pinched with worry. He put his hand over hers.
“We still have a couple hours,” Aden said. “I thought we could stop by your old place …”
Sandy beamed at him.
“We need to figure out what to do with it,” Aden said.
“You mean now that Lizzie’s in LA?” Sandy asked.
“Sure,” Aden lifted his coffee cup to cover his sly smile.
“We’d probably have to check my bedroom and maybe the shower,” Sandy said.
“To make a good decision, we should probably try the kitchen and living room too.”
Sandy giggled and he smiled.
“I’m not missing out on an offer like that!” Sandy stood up.
Aden dropped money on the table and followed her out of the restaurant.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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