Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Twenty-Eight : If you do this thing


Tuesday morning — 7:56 a.m.

Handcuffed, Charlie nodded good-bye to his family. Nash and Teddy gave him a two-fingered salute off the nose. Charlie smiled and got in the back of a Denver police cruiser. The officer closed the door.

“Bye Charlie!” Noelle yelled at the top of her lungs.

The officer looked at her and got in the car. They were already on Colfax when the officer cleared his throat.

“You’re Mitch’s son?” the officer asked.

“So?” Charlie asked.

“He’s the reason I became a cop,” the officer said. “He and O’Malley came to talk to my senior class after one of our classmates was killed.”

The officer glanced at Charlie in the rearview mirror.

“And that made you want to be a cop?” Charlie asked.

“I guess it sounds pretty dumb,” the officer said. “But yeah. Your Dad was so… cool, smart… such a man. My dad was a real tool. He left us when I was about ten and I only saw him on the weekends because we had to. He moved away when I was thirteen. Never saw him again. But Delgado, man, he was so… tough and responsible.”

“He was mostly sick when I knew him,” Charlie said.

“Nah, that’s not true,” the officer said. “He used to bring you and your sister around. Man, he loved you guys. Sandy too.”

They pulled to a stop at the light on Pennsylvania. The officer turned around to look at Charlie.

“What I’m trying to say is that I know you’re a great person because your father was a great person,” the officer said.

“He’s dead and my mom’s a psycho. They kind of cancel each other out.”

“When I heard that you were this Pan everybody’s been looking for?” the officer turned back around and drove through the intersection. “I thought, ‘Of course he is.’ So what I’m trying to say is that you have your father inside you and you have a lot of people rooting for you because your dad rooted for us.”

The officer turned the cruiser left onto Broadway toward the downtown police station. They were in the downtown garage when the officer cleared his throat again.

“Don’t feel like you’re alone,” the officer said. “There are lots of people around to help you, even me. You have a nice family and a lot of people who’d do anything to help.”

“What are you saying?”

The officer shook his head as if he’d said too much. He came around to get Charlie from the back. Walking him into the station, the officer stuffed something into Charlie’s back pockets.

“My number,” the officer said in a low tone. “I’ll come with an army if you need it. Any time. Any place. You’re doing a really good thing, an important thing. You don’t have to do it alone.”

The officer gave Charlie a rough shake and pushed him into the station. As planned, Charlie howled and the officer dragged him into booking. Another uniformed officer grabbed Charlie’s other arm. They dragged him kicking and screaming into an interview room where Detective Red Bear and Sergeant Aziz waited. Charlie stood in the doorway for a moment before Samantha Hargreaves came in behind him. A uniformed guard unlocked his handcuffs.

“Let’s go over this again,” Detective Red Bear said.

There was a tap on the door and a man in a suit came in.

“Deputy DA Consuelo,” the young man said.

He held out his hand to Samantha; she dismissed him with a nod.

“You’re Pan?” the deputy DA asked. “We’ve been looking for you for a long, long time.”

Before Charlie could say anything, Samantha gestured to the document on the table. The Deputy DA nodded and took a seat at the table.

“My client agrees to wear an ankle monitoring device,” Samantha said. “He agrees to check in every day with a designated parole officer who will do a urine and breath test on him.”

“Your client agrees to provide us intel on his basketball team,” Detective Red Bear said. “He agrees to keep track of names, times of day, attempt to determine who purchases this crap from these monsters.”

“He agrees to testify to all his knowledge regarding each of these cases,” the deputy DA said.

“Pardon me,” Samantha gave the men across the table a kind of scary sneer. The men leaned back a tiny bit. “It is still not clear what my client gets for all of the risk he and his family are taking.”

“Attorney fees,” the deputy DA said.

“Which he would need pay if he wasn’t helping you,” Samantha said.

“He gets to participate in the justice system,” Sergeant Aziz said.

“Lucky Charlie,” Samantha said. “Come on, Charlie. These guys are jerking us around.”

Charlie stood up when she did and followed her out of the room. Samantha took his arm and they marched down the hallway. Charlie would have freaked out if she hadn’t told him she was going to do this when they met earlier this morning.

They were almost to the door when the deputy DA caught up with them. They walked back down the hallway to the room.

“I guess we’re unclear on what exactly Mr. Delgado wants,” Detective Red Bear said.

“Shall I go over the email I sent you?” Samantha gave the man a smile that indicated just exactly how stupid she thought he was. He swallowed hard.

“For the record, Ms. Hargreaves,” the deputy DA said. “Can you repeat your request?”

“All pending charges on all of the children are removed. All prior judgments, including Mr. Delgado’s, are vacated. Mental health support for the victims prior to deposition, during the case, and continuing until resolution. This includes the two girls currently in inpatient treatment,” Samantha said. “Salary for the time my client spends working for you to be held in a fund available to my client when the case is resolved.”

“Too steep,” Detective Red Bear said.

“Too bad,” Samantha got up to leave again. “If you’re trying to play hardball, I can assure you that my client’s demands will only increase. He is a sixteen year old child who is risking his life and well-being for this case. His family is also at risk due to their involvement in this case. That’s not to mention the effect on the girls who you’d like to testify and…”

“Justice is always a sacrifice,” Detective Red Bear said.

“You can spare the canned speech about justice,” Samantha said. “You’re talking about kids who lived on the streets for years. You remember that a good half of these kids were toyed with by Saint Jude as well as raped and tortured by these boys. They know more about justice, and who gets justice, than you ever could.”

“In this economy, no one can afford these demands,” Sergeant Aziz said.

“Fair enough,” Samantha said. “Here’s my card. Call me when you change your mind.”

Charlie stood up and followed her out the door. This time they made it to her car. When they reached the guard station, the guard gave Samantha a phone. Charlie heard a man’s voice through the phone.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you our new requirements,” Samantha glanced at Charlie.

A man’s voice seemed to curse in return.

“Charlie gets to pick his parole officer,” Samantha said. “Oh? That’s all right too.”

Samantha gave the phone back to the guard and they drove out.

“You have to be strong Charlie,” Samantha said. “I’m not going to let them railroad you into taking all the risk.”

“What about the girls?” Charlie asked. “Will they get good lawyers too?”

“We’re working on that with the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center,” Samantha said. “I know a few people there. They’re scrambling to make sure every one has first-rate representation.”

“Even the rich girls?” Charlie asked. “I mean, I know their families have money and stuff but…”

“Even them,” Samantha said.

Charlie nodded.

“Are you hungry?” Samantha asked.

Charlie was hungry but he felt too embarrassed to say anything since Samantha had been at breakfast at the Castle. He shook his head.

“You’re not a very good liar,” Samantha said. “Plus, I have brothers.”

“Are you married to that Raz guy?” Charlie asked.

“He’s my partner,” Samantha said. “But we’re not married. Why?”

“Oh, nothing,” Charlie said. “I like him. I like the way he talks to people. He really looks at them. I mean Jake and Sam, they see me. Mike and Aden too. But… I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s like Raz knows everything good and everything bad about me all at once, no pretending. Steve, um, Jill’s brother, does that too. Plus he helped Nash and Teddy come up with all of this.”

“He did?”

“Oh sorry, I thought you knew,” Charlie said.

“I didn’t,” Samantha said. “But now that you tell me, it makes sense. I wondered how Nash and Teddy came up with such a complicated plan and how they knew so much about how police departments work.”

Charlie nodded. Samantha’s phone rang. She looked at the caller ID but didn’t answer. She drove down Market Street and pulled over at a meter across from the bus terminal.

“Let’s go here,” Samantha said.

They got out and she put money in the meter. They went into the Delectable Egg and found a table.

“You used to spend a lot of time that bus terminal,” Samantha said, as she sat down.

“Begging for money,” Charlie nodded.

The waitress came up to the table and took their order. Samantha ordered decaffeinated coffee and Charlie ordered a full meal. Samantha’s phone rang again. She didn’t answer it.

“Is that them?” Charlie asked.

“Who?” Samantha smiled at him. “Is it weird to be back here?”

“I wondered why you picked this place,” Charlie said.

“If you do this thing, collect information for the police and everything, you effectively change sides,” Samantha said. “Forever. There’ s no going back. You won’t be able to go back to this terminal and beg for change or…”

“I know.”

“And your friends?”

“They won’t either,” Charlie said. “We’ll have to join the normies.”

“Do you know what usually happens when kids give depositions?”

Charlie shook his head.

“They don’t follow through. They go back on drugs or back to the streets or change their minds or get pregnant or move,” Samantha said. “Especially street kids. So they’re asking you to make their case for them and make sure everyone shows up. It’s a lot to ask.”

Charlie nodded. His breakfast arrived and he started shoveling food in his mouth. He glanced at Samantha and she gave him a smile. He slowed down a little bit. Samantha seemed lost in thought. The waitress came by a few times, but otherwise, Charlie ate in peace. When he was done, Samantha paid the bill. They went across the street to the bus terminal.

Charlie’s eyes scanned the open area. People were moving in and out of the terminal. Right in front of them, a panhandler with a sign saying he wanted to go to Boulder got a dollar from a guy in a suit. Over there, a kid pocketed another guy’s wallet.

“What do you think?” Samantha asked.

“I think this seems like a long, long time ago,” Charlie said.

“You, of all people, know how brutal these boys have been,” Samantha said. “If they find out you’re involved, they could come after you, or worse, Sissy or Noelle or…”

“I know,” Charlie said. “They know the risks too. They still think it’s a good idea.”

“And you? What do you think?”

“I think that sometimes, to become the man you want to be, you have to let go of the man you have been,” Charlie said.


“Oddly, it’s something my father said to me on my first day of Kindergarten,” Charlie said. “I didn’t remember it until the guy who drove me downtown talked about how much my dad loved me. I don’t know, Delphie would say that he was with me now. But…”

Charlie shrugged.

“He must have loved you very much,” Samantha said.

“I wish he was here,” Charlie said.

“Here they come.”

She nodded toward Detective Red Bear and Sergeant Aziz. They were walking fast in their direction. The deputy DA ran to catch up. The three walked to Samantha and Charlie.

“Before you say a word,” Detective Red Bear said. “We agree to your terms as stated.”

“Great,” Samantha said. “You have that in writing?”

The detective gave her a document. Samantha read the document and nodded to Charlie.

“We’re a go,” Sergeant Aziz said into his communication device.

Two police cruisers pulled up to the bus terminal. With bit too much showy swagger, the officer who’d come for him this morning arrested him again. The officers were loud, in case anyone was watching. Charlie played his part by resisting a little bit. In the end, he was in the backseat of the police cruiser he’d started the day in.

“Good job, Charlie,” the officer said when he got in the car. “I’ll take you to probation. Did you pick an officer?”

“Aden has a friend who used to work there,” Charlie said. “They’re going to meet us there.”

“Great,” the officer said.

Charlie looked out the window. After the fuss of the arresting, the bus terminal returned to the ebb and flow of people. Samantha gave him a little wave. Charlie watched the terminal fade away.

He closed his eyes for a moment to mark the end of his old life.

When he opened them, he was at the parole office. Aden and an elderly black man were walking toward him.


Tuesday morning — 9:56 a.m.

“How are you feeling?” Valerie asked Blane as she approached Jacob’s office.

“Okay,” Blane smiled.

“Liar,” Valerie said.

“Actually, my numbers have improved,” Blane said. “Your generous gift has changed my life.”

Valerie smiled. Blane nodded.

“You didn’t ask about my numbers,” Blane said. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Tink came home last night and brought a friend.”

“I heard,” Valerie said. “Congratulations.”

“We’re pretty excited,” Blane smiled “And before you tell me, I’m going home early.”

“We’re having another party, I think,” Valerie said.

“Just the kids,” Blane said. “Delphie offered to take all the kids for the day so we could rest. I think they’re going to start cleaning out some of the basement rooms, but don’t quote me.”

“They are,” Valerie said. “I’m going to help go through stuff this afternoon. You’ll go home?”

“In a couple hours,” Blane said. “Honestly, it’s nice to just be here at my familiar desk.”

“Sure,” Valerie said.

She looked up when a tall thin, graying man came out of Jacob’s office. Jacob followed him.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” the man said.

“I will,” Jacob said.

Jacob shook the man’s hand. He turned to Valerie and winked. Blane got up to escort the man out of the building. Valerie followed Jacob into his office.

“Do you know who that is?” Valerie asked. “That’s the guy who’s building an Old West Town in the middle of the woods. You know what his family does?”

“They donate large sums of money to politicians to get what they feel like they need,” Jacob sat down in his office chair. “Yes, I know what they do.”

“What did he want?” Valerie stood on the other side of his desk. “Are you going to do the rehab on his Old West Town?”


“Did he want you to donate to his political agenda? I hope you said ‘no.’ Mom would seriously haunt you if you started putting buckets of money into the stuff she fought to change.”

“He didn’t ask for money,” Jacob said.

“Then what?” Valerie put her hands on her hips. “Why was he here? And why do you look so tired?”

“Just have a lot going on, Val,” Jacob said.

“Are you doing your meditations?” Valerie asked.

“Meditations?” Jacob gave her his best confused look. “What meditations?”

“Very funny,” Valerie said. “You’d better do them or you’ll get all backed up. You have that look.”

“What look?”

“Like you’re all backed up,” Valerie said.

“Good to know,” Jacob said. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Why was that guy here?” Valerie asked.

“He wants to open the Marlowe mine,” Jacob said.

“That’s a great idea,” Valerie said. “We could really make a difference in Leadville. It would…”

“Stop,” Jacob said. “We’re not opening the mine.”

“Why not?”

“You know why not,” Jacob said.

“There’s got to be some kind of new technology so you don’t have to use your… skills,” Valerie said.

“I don’t have time to run another business,” Jacob said.

“I could help,” Valerie said.

“No you can’t,” Jacob said. “You just want to start something and let me take care of it.”

“What? I…!”

“You’re leaving soon, right?”

“Uh… How did you know?”

“Because this is what you do right before you leave,” Jacob said. “You start a lot of work and then wander off.”

“Hey!” Valerie sounded indignant.

He scowled at her.

“Well, so what if I do?” Valerie grinned. “You miss me when I’m gone.”

“Right this moment, I’d like to miss you some,” Jacob gave her a sly smile.

Valerie chuckled.

“When do you leave?” Jacob asked.

“End of the week,” Valerie said. “Are you coming to my opening?”

“No,” Jacob said.

“What?” Valerie’s eyes welled with tears.

Jacob scowled and Valerie laughed.

“Jill can’t travel. Lipson is at a precipice, blah, blah,” Valerie said. “I liked it better when I had you all to myself.”

Jacob laughed.

“Okay, I didn’t,” Valerie grinned.

“What’s the schedule?” Jacob asked.

“Premiere next weekend,” Valerie said. “I’m in LA for two weeks to work on that animated thing and then back home for a month to train for the next movie. And…”

She looked up at him and laughed.

“You knew all of that,” Valerie said.

“You’ve sent me ten updates,” Jacob said.

“I’m going to miss you,” Valerie said.

“I’ll miss you too,” Jacob said. “But you need to follow your dreams. You’ll be miserable if you stay here much longer.”

Valerie nodded.

“You’ll take care of Delphie and everybody?” Valerie asked. “Watch out for Charlie?”

Jacob nodded.

“We should be home when Jill delivers,” Valerie said. “I’d never leave if I didn’t think I would be home for…”

“I know,” Jacob said. “Can I help you at all?”

Valerie shook her head. Their eyes met for a brief moment in silent acknowledgement of their bond.

“Ok, well, glad we got that settled,” Valerie said.

She flipped her head and did her best flounce out of his office. She pulled his door closed because she knew it would bug him, smiled at Blane, and walked toward the entrance. She was almost to the front, when she remembered that she forgot to remind him to meditate. Not wanting to give up one of her last chances to boss him around, she turned around and went back to his office.

She heard their CFO, Tres Sierra, call Blane. He got up from his desk and went to talk to Tres. She went past his desk to Jacob’s office.

She opened the door.

No Jacob.

She glanced at Blane’s back and went into the office. Jacob was passed out on the floor. He was laying on his side behind his desk. He looked like he had fallen out of his office chair.

Valerie closed the door and sat down near his head. She rolled him on his back. He made the low guttural noise he made when he was having a powerful psychic episode. Having never had one herself, Valerie always saw these as attacks of vision. She hated that her brother went away from her. She lived in terror that some day, he wouldn’t come back.

“I told you to meditate,” Valerie said in a low voice. She put his head on her lap. “You get backed up and…”

She looked up to see Blane looking in the office.

“He’s having a vision,” Valerie said. “A bad one.”

“I’ll cancel his appointments,” Blane said.

Valerie nodded. Blane closed the door.

“Okay, little brother, I’m here,” Valerie said. “Don’t get lost coming back.”

Valerie settled in to wait.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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