Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two hundred and Twenty-five : Get out of here


Monday night — 6:52 p.m.

Charlie felt like he’d been alone in this room forever. Every once in a while, he thought he could hear whispers and felt like someone was watching him. But he couldn’t figure out where they were. He wasn’t in one of those rooms with a mirrored glass wall like they show on T.V. He was just in a small room; by himself; all alone.

He’d just remembered that Yvonne and Rodney were stuck in this station. He knew the whole thing was a set up to catch some bad guys. He even knew that all the police involved were just acting. Still, he couldn’t get over the feeling that he’d never leave this room alive.

The hair stood up on his neck and he had the same creepy feeling that someone was looking at him. He got up, looked around the room again, and sat on the table. He put his feet on a chair. He decided he could last another half hour before he had to pee. He wondered if it was better to pee in the corner or bang on the door and beg for help.

He was trying not to think about peeing when he heard a noise outside the door. The door moved and he jumped to his feet. A small person ran into the room and threw her arms around him. He looked down and saw filthy blonde hair. His nose picked up the distinct odor of alcohol, cigarettes, grease, and street filth.

“Ivy?” Charlie asked.

“Pan,” the girl’s voice came from his chest.

Charlie looked up to see a stocky policewoman standing next to the door with her hand on her weapon. With his eyes on the policewoman, Charlie pushed the girl off him.

“Ivy,” Charlie had to almost bend over to see her face. Her eyes were squeezed closed. “Ivy.”

He gave her a little shake and she opened her eyes.

“You have to get out of here,” Charlie said. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s not good. This lady will take you away from here and…”

“Oh Pan, I miss Jeffy so much,” Ivy started to cry.

Charlie hugged the girl again.

“You helped them get the killer, right?” Ivy said. “At least that’s what Tink said.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Charlie said.

“Did you really kill Saint Jude?” Ivy asked. “You’re sure he’s dead and not just gone somewhere.”

“He’s dead,” Charlie said. “I saw it myself.”

“Pan, why did Jeffy…?”

Ivy pushed away from him and stepped back. She started picking at her fingers. When she did, Charlie saw that she was high.

“Ivy, you have to get out of here before they…” Charlie leaned close, “…figure out you’re high.”

“I can’t do it anymore,” Ivy slowly closed and opened her blue eyes. She was bone thin and the landmarks on her face looked like peaks and valleys. “I wish he had taken me. Saint Jude, you know. Why didn’t he take me instead of Jeffy? No one would miss me but I… I really miss Jeffy.”

“Me too,” Charlie said. “But I’d miss you just as much.”

“Tink said you live with that psychic woman,” Ivy said. “Did you talk to Jeffy?”

Charlie blushed and nodded.

“I keep having this dream that he’s being tortured, like Saint Jude, only worse, a lot worse, and Jeffy…,” Ivy said. “I have it every time I sleep. He’s calling for me, Pan, to help him. I don’t sleep anymore.”

Ivy raised her eyebrows to indicate she used methamphetamines to keep from sleeping. Charlie’s stomach tightened with anxiety. He had to get the tiny girl out of there.

“Listen,” Charlie put his hands on Ivy’s shoulders like Aden did when he tried to talk sense to Sissy. “My sister’s husband is in the waiting room. Go out there and tell him you saw me and you want to talk to Delphie. She’s nice. You can trust her. She’ll give you dinner and a place to sleep. She’ll even let you talk to Jeffy.”

“She will?”

“I swear,” Charlie said. “If you can talk to Delphie…”

“She’s in the waiting area,” the policewoman said. She gave Charlie an doubtful look.

“You’re sure?” Charlie asked.

“Medium-sized white woman with a crazy flower skirt,” the policewoman said. ”Red hair.”

Charlie nodded.

“She’s out there with Sam Lipson,” the policewoman said. “Plus, I’ve known Delphinium for a long, long time. She’s good people. You can trust her.”

“Go with her,” Charlie said. “She’ll take you to Delphie.”

“But Pan…” Ivy hugged him. “I miss you too.”

“Ivy, I don’t know what’s going on here,” Charlie said. “I’m in some kind of trouble and…”

“There’s a bunch of chicks,” Ivy said under her breath so the policewoman wouldn’t hear. “I saw four chicks. Nobody I recognize, but I saw Fawn in the parking lot. She’s not on the streets no more.”

“Good for her,” Charlie said.

“She’s in foster care,” Ivy said. “Tink said she might have a forever home.”

“One of my sister’s best friend’s,” Charlie said.

“I heard you’re dating,” Ivy said.

Charlie knew the girl was trying to extend her time with him. But the more she talked, the more anxious he got.

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “It’s new.”

“Tink’s always loved you Pan,” Ivy said. “You guys are good together.”

“You ready to see Delphie?” Charlie asked.

“Who?” Ivy looked up at him with a blank face.

“The psychic, you remember, to talk to about Jeffy?”

“I miss Jeffy, Pan,” Ivy said.

Charlie’s eyes shifted to the policewoman. The policewoman moved toward them to take Ivy.

“Me too,” Charlie said. “Go with this woman, Ivy. She’ll take you to the waiting room.”

The policewoman maneuvered Ivy toward the door.

“Bye Pan,” Ivy turned to look at him. “I love you!”

“Love you too, Ivy,” Charlie said.

When the door opened, he saw a man he recognized, but couldn’t place. The man had dyed dark hair and a big matching mustache. He wore a deep rust colored cowboy sports jacket, boots, and jeans. He wasn’t as tall as Charlie, or Aden, or even Uncle Seth. But he looked tough. The man gave Charlie a hard, assessing look. His stare was broken by the door closing.

Charlie was alone. He stared at the door for a moment and then went back to sitting on the table.

He hoped he didn’t have to pee in the corner.


Monday night — 7:12 p.m.

“How did it go?” Blane asked Heather when she came in the house.

“It was hell to drop her off at the shelter,” Heather said. “Just hell. I cried the whole way home.”

Blane hugged her and she sighed.

“I already feel like she’s our daughter,” Heather said.

“She is,” Blane nodded and held her tight. “How was therapy?”

“Good,” Heather said. “We talked about the night terrors. Her therapist thinks Tink is re-experiencing her assault in those dreams. He thinks there’s something in Tink’s daily life that makes her remember what happened to her. ‘Triggers her.’ Those where his words.”

“God, how awful,” Blane said.

“I guess they’ve talked a lot about it,” Heather said. “Tink has no idea what might be affecting her. She’s excited about Charlie and us. Her therapist, well really a counselor, is through the shelter. We’d have to find a new one when she comes home.”

“Did you eat?” Blane asked.

“I got fast food for Tink,” Heather said. “She loves the shakes. I didn’t eat there because of the baby and I knew you’d give me hell.”

“I would have,” Blane smiled. He went around the bar in the kitchen and started getting her dinner together. “I waited to eat in case you wanted to talk. Plus, you know, I’m eating for two.”

Blane patted his stomach and Heather laughed.

“How’s Mack?” Heather asked.

“He wanted to stay up to see you and Tink,” Blane said. “But he crashed around five.”

“Did you call our social worker?” Heather asked.

“I forgot,” Blane set out a plate of herbed chicken, rice, and vegetables.

Heather didn’t say anything. She let the silence pressure him.

“Okay, okay, I give!” Blane laughed. She smiled. “She said that she’ll get a report from Tink’s counselor, talk to Tink, and we’ll see. She said that everything looked really good when she stopped by at the Castle on Sunday. She felt like Tink had found a ‘nice village’ to live in.”


“That’s just what she said,” Blane said.

“Mmm,” Heather said because her mouth was full. “I’d hoped she would say that Tink could move right in.”

“I think they like to move really slow,” Blane said. “It’s funny though?”


“She asked if Tink said anything about her assault,” Blane said. “She said the police think they have a break in the case. They called her to ask if Tink could come down to the station, but she wouldn’t let Tink go.”

“Oh? Why?”

“She thought it was too much,” Blane said. “Especially if she’s triggered. She said when they had a firm lead and a real case, she’d let Tink talk to them. She wasn’t going to let Tink be dragged through it again on a ‘maybe.’”

“I like her,” Heather said.

“I do too,” Blane said.

“Do you think she likes us?” Heather asked.

“I don’t know,” Blane said. “I hope so.”

Heather nodded. As if on cue, Mack began to wail.

“Finish up,” Blane said. “I’ll get him ready for our run. Do you want to come?”

“Just ate,” Heather said.

Blane just looked at her. Most nights, Blane and Mack ran while Heather walked the running path. Never getting out of her sight, her boys ran away from her and back again. Mack loved it. She really liked the walks but now that she was pregnant again, she was harder than usual to get going.

“Sure,” Heather said. “I’ll get dressed.”

“That’s my girl,” Blane said. “We’ll have cake when we get back.”

“Bribes! I love bribes!”

Heather yelled after him as he ran up the stairs. For a moment, she stared off into space. She had the feeling that things were changing. She nodded to herself and got ready for her walk.


Monday night — 7:32 p.m.

The door opened and Charlie jumped to his feet. The guy Charlie had thought was a friend of Uncle Seth’s was standing in the doorway.

“I have to pee,” Charlie said.

The guy nodded and gestured for Charlie to come out. The guy didn’t say anything as they walked down the hall, but Charlie had the distinct impression he was protecting him, not keeping him captive. Just for a little privacy, Charlie went in a stall and closed the door. He stayed there long after he finished just because the stall was familiar and safer than the little room.

“Come on, son, we can’t delay the inevitable,” Uncle Seth’s friend said. “Just no point.”

Charlie blinked. MJ always said something like that. He always said, “You know what the LC always says? There’s no point in delaying the inevitable.” Charlie got up, flushed, and opened the stall. Uncle Seth’s friend gave him a kind look and a nod. Charlie was going to just leave, but then he remembered that Aden was trying to get him to wash his hands after he used the toilet. He stopped near the door and went back to a sink. If he was going to get in trouble, he may as well have clean hands.

They walked back down the hallway. Uncle Seth’s friend opened the door to the room he’d been in. There were two men, cops, sitting on one side of the table. Uncle Seth’s friend moved Charlie into a seat on the opposite side of the table. Then he did something weird. He stood near the door.

The guy with the mustache, the one Charlie remembered but couldn’t place, didn’t like that Uncle Seth’s friend was there, but clearly couldn’t do anything about it. He cleared his throat as a way of indicating that this was his show. Charlie squinted.

He innately liked the guy with the mustache. He wasn’t sure why, but he did. The man had dark eyes and the brownish skin of someone from Mexico or maybe one of the tribes. His teeth were a little snaggled, like Charlie’s had been before he started braces. He looked smart.

Maybe more than anything, he had a really great haircut.

Charlie leaned back in his chair. The man’s eyes seemed to laugh.

“You seem to be at the center of a lot of my problems,” Mustache Cop said.

“You sure that’s not some kind of projection,” Charlie said. “Freud said that we project our anxiety and anger onto other people as a mechanism of defense against our own emotions. Are you anxious? Angry?”

Mustache Cop looked at Charlie and blinked.

“I knew your father,” Mustache Cop said.

“Oh yeah?”

“Never liked the man.”

“Well, he’s been dead a long time,” Charlie said. “Maybe it’s time to get over it.”

Mustache Cop gave Charlie a steely look.

“Therapy works,” Charlie said.

Mustache Cop laughed. Charlie smirked.

“I’ve had a number of threatening calls about you.” Mustache Cop raised his eyebrows to ask Charlie what he thought of that. Charlie shrugged. “O’Malley might not invite me to his next party, which I don’t care about but my wife loves those music things. General Hargreaves told me if I didn’t go easy on you, he wouldn’t sign the recommendation for my next promotion. I got a call from your coach who told me if you’re injured, he won’t let his kid mow my lawn anymore.”

“Sounds rough,” Charlie said.

“You know what hurt the most?”

“Sandy won’t cut your hair anymore?”

“That’s just mean,” the man said. “Dirty.”

Uncle Seth’s friend covered a laugh with a cough. Charlie leaned forward.

“What do you want?” Charlie said in a low intimate tone. “My family must be crazy with worry. The little kids have been through a lot. They can’t handle this kind of thing. And that police lady said Sam was in the lobby. He’s not young and they go to work early. Can we just get this over with? And…”

The man looked up at Charlie.

“Don’t I get a lawyer?”

“Yes, actually, you get another threatening Hargreaves,” the man smiled. “She’s in the lobby making the desk Sergeant’s life hell. I wanted to talk to you first.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“How is it that you know both Freud and the law and…? I heard you were a drugged out street kid.” Mustache Cop put on some half-glasses to read from a file in front of him. “Can’t read. Hep C positive. Uses meth, pot, tends to avoid opiates.”

“I had a tutor all last summer,” Charlie said. “Anjelika Roper.”

The man raised his eyebrows as if Mrs. Anjelika’s name was a threat.

“She’s in Costa Rica right now,” Charlie said. “Or she probably would have called you too.”

Mustache Cop cleared his throat and pulled on his collar. He nudged the younger cop sitting next to him. The younger cop started to lay pictures on the table. Charlie didn’t dare look in case it was something horrible like pictures of Saint Jude’s victims or worse.

“I wonder if you know these girls,” Mustache Cop said.

Charlie glanced down to see the outlines of photos. He instinctively counted. Eleven photos. He looked up at the man.

“Can I touch them?” Charlie asked. “I don’t have my glasses.”

“Reading glasses?” Mustache Cop raised his eyebrows.

“I’m kinda blind,” Charlie said.

“You look like the man and have his same eye problems,” the man said.

“My Dad?” Charlie asked. “Yeah.”

Mustache Cop raised his hand to Uncle Seth’s friend. He stepped forward with glasses that looked like Charlie’s.

“These belonged to your father,” Mustache Cop said.

Charlie raised his eyebrows in surprise. Mustache Cop shrugged. Charlie put on the glasses and looked down. The prescription wasn’t perfect but it worked pretty well. For a moment, he debated whether to be honest. Then he remembered how what he knew could have saved Jeffy if he’d come completely clean with Uncle Seth when he’d asked. He started to organizing the photos.

“I’ve never seen these girls,” Charlie pushed four photos toward the man. “They look rich.”

“That’s good,” Mustache Cop said.


“They’ve never seen you either,” Mustache Cop said.

Charlie nodded. There had been someone looking at him.

“How many of these other girls have you had sex with?” Mustache Cop asked.

“Uh…” Charlie squirmed.

Uncle Seth’s friend stepped forward to the table. Mustache Cop looked up.

“I’ll get his lawyer now,” Uncle Seth’s friend said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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