“Are we ready?” Jacob asked. “We can get past the paparazzi through the tunnels.”
Standing by a locked door in the main Castle kitchen, he looked from Val to Mike. After years of preparation, he had no idea if they could get away from the photographers that stalked his sister. Today would be the first time they tried the tunnels. Jill slipped her arm around him. He smiled at her. Today was a first for a lot of things.
“Mike and I have cleaned the tunnels but they are old coal tunnels. There’s only so much we could do,” Jacob said. He pointed to the long overcoats with hoods on hooks by a locked bead board door. “As long as Delphie isn’t going out, there’s one for each of us.”
“I’ll stay here Jake,” Delphie said. “I don’t like those tunnels. Too many sad spirits down there.”
“I’m so sorry.” Val hugged Delphie. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t let the driver take me home the paparazzi would have never found us.”
“Honey, I’d rather be stuck here because you and Mike are back together than be stuck here because it’s snowing or the doors won’t open or Jake blew something up or I’m sick or….”
“Thanks,” Val said. “I’ve missed you.”
“We’ve all missed you, Val,” Delphie said. “It’s nice to have you home.”
“We need to go!?!”
Jacob’s impatience and worry echoed through his voice. Delphie made her usual cutesy face at Jake’s frustration.
“Is he always like this?” Val mock whispered to Delphie.
“YES I’M ALWAYS LIKE THIS!” Jacob said in a terse voice
Mike looked from Delphie’s smile to Jacob and burst out laughing. Everyone laughed and Jacob gave in to a smile. Jacob passed out the overcoats.
“If Val’s staying, we’ll have to get some more of these coats.”
“Just one?” Jill asked.
“Well, Katy too.” Jacob beamed at her.
“Sheez, now who’s wasting time? Explain the locks,” Mike commanded.
“There are two locks,” Jacob pointed to a modern dead bolt and a refurbished antique lock. “You can unlock this deadbolt with a key from both sides of the door. This old lock can only be opened from the inside.”
“Which is why I have to stay,” Delphie said.
“We usually leave the old lock open when we go out through the tunnels, but with all this attention.” Jacob pointed toward the growing crowd and paparazzi outside the Castle’s metal fence. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving it unlocked. There are two locks at the workshop. Those are regular key bolts. There’s also a security system in the tunnels that’s connected to both doors. You can turn off the system from inside the Castle or inside the workshop. It goes back on when either the door is closed at the other end or thirty minutes passes.”
Jacob opened the door. Pointing to key padded lock box, he said, “This box has the key to the deadbolt in it. It will open to each of our birthdays. Our birthdays are the security code as well.”
“Except mine,” Jill said.
“Right, but you know Mike’s right?”
“We’ll add yours,” Jacob said. Jill kissed his lips.
“I thought we were late?” Mike asked.
“Nervous?” Val asked.
“No, I’m torn between bashing his teeth in and puking.”
Mike pulled Jacob away from Jill and Jacob laughed. He flicked a switch and a dim thread of lighted appeared in the darkness.
“There’s a switch at each end,” Mike said. “There’s also flashlights and head lamps if you need them. Just toss them in the baskets at each end. Since we’re so late, we should probably skip the headlamps and hold hands.”
“There’s a series of stairs - eight stairs and three landings - on this and twelve stairs on the other end.”
Jacob pulled an overcoat over his Armani suit then flipped up the hood. He held his hand out for Jill. Hand in hand, they entered the ancient tunnel. Created in the 1800s, the tunnel were used to move heating coal from the train tracks throughout Denver.
“How far is it?” Jill whispered after they had been walking a while.
“It’s about a half mile,” Mike said. “You don’t have to whisper.”
“I just feel… like I should whisper,” Jill said.
“Me too,” Val whispered in response. “Maybe we just feel all the sad souls Delphie was talking about.”
“It’s a dark place,” Jacob said. “We’re almost there. You can see the stairwell up ahead.”
They climbed the stairwell. Jacob pointed to another lock box with a key pad. He punched in his birth date and opened the box. He used the key to open both locks. Holding the door for Jill, Val and Mike, Jacob set the key back on it’s hook and re-engaged the security system.
He walked through the door to an open warehouse space. One end of the warehouse was a wood shop. Tidy stacks of wood, windows, woodworking tools and work tables filled half of the space. Toward the front, opposite of where they stood, there were four aging cars - a Jeep wrangler, an old Bronco, a 1960s mustang and an ancient silver Mercedes and garage doors. The cars were clean and clearly well maintained. Jacob added his overcoat to the line of hooks near the door.
“This box has keys to the door as well as key to the cars. I thought Mike would take his Bronco.” Jacob threw the keys to Mike. “Val? Are you Ok with the Jeep?”
“Why are all of our old cars here?” Val asked. “That’s Mom’s old Mercedes, and that….” She pointed to the mustang. “That’s mine!”
“I thought no one would expect the famous Valerie Lipson to drive an old clunker. Delphie drives Mom’s Mercedes. I can’t bring myself to….”
“Thanks Jake.” Val’s eyes brimmed with tears. “You really thought of everything.”
Jacob smiled. He pressed the garage opener and they peered out at Detroit Street. The residential street was silent. No helicopters. No photographers. Just a few high school kids walking along the back of East High School.
“Yes!” Mike said. “I knew we could do this!”
Val laughed then pulled him to her. They kissed and whispered back and forth by the Jeep.
“We’ll catch up with you at the hospital,” Jacob said to Jill. “But don’t wait for us. We’re not exactly sure how long we’ll be. If you can take Katy home, you should do that. I’ll find you when we’re done.”
Jill hugged Jacob. She whispered in his ear, “Thanks. I….”
“God damn it. Can we go?” Mike asked opening the driver’s side of his Bronco.
Jill blushed and stepped away. Jacob walked her to the passenger side then closed the door after she got in.
“I remember this car,” Jill said to Mike.
Jacob heard Mike laugh. He revved the Bronco’s engine.
“Ready?” Jacob asked Val turning on the Jeep.
“I feel a little… nervous, I guess,” Val said.
“About?” Jacob asked.
Backing out, he waited until the garage doors to completely closed before pulling out onto Detroit Street. He drove a half block, then turned right on Colfax.
“Just being here, I guess,” Valerie said. “You must think I’m an idiot, but it’s very scary for me to make these changes and take these steps.”
Stopping at the light, Jacob looked at Valerie.
“I think you’re very brave.” Jacob smiled. “You’re also not alone Val. I’m here. Delphie’s a trip but she loves us.”
“And Dad,” Val said. “Will he be there this morning?”
“Just for a bit,” Jacob said. “Are you ready for…”
Valerie stared down Race Street when they passed. The paparazzi surrounded the Castle and news helicopters buzzed overhead. The Denver Police were containing a growing crowd of fans around their home. Valerie felt like she was watching a feeding frenzy. Everyone wanted a piece of her.
“Hey,” Jacob said. He touched her thigh to get her attention. “Max is waiting for us in the parking garage at his office. He’ll escort us to his office. Our step-sister and her Trevy-toy are already there working on the prenuptial agreement.”
Valerie nodded, “I always call her the step-whore.”
“You do? I thought Mike made that up,” Jacob said.
“He got that from me,” Val said.
“After the ‘Val worked pornography’ thing?”
“After she told 5280 that ‘you caught AIDS at the bath houses’,” Val said.
“Ah yes, how could I forget my slutty gay life?”
“You must tell Jill about being gay, little brother. Not telling her is really cruel.”
Val looked at Jake and they cracked up laughing. They were laughing so hard that Jacob almost missed his turn onto Lincoln Street. Jacob turned into the parking garage and drove deep into the bowels of the Cash Register building. They were met by their friend, and lawyer, Max Hargreaves.
“We have to do something before we go to the hospital,” Mike said.
“Mike, I want to get to my baby! I’ve been trying to get to Katy all morning!”
“Do you want to get to Katy or keep her safe?”
“What do you mean safe? Katy’s not safe?”
Stopping at a traffic light at Eighteenth Street, he turned to Jill.
“Trevor came to the hospital last night.”
Dread settled over Jill like a bad thunderstorm.
“He came some time around midnight. He was there for a while before he found Katy. He told everyone at the hospital that he was going to take Katy from her hospital bed. He tried to get the doctor to say that this proved that you were a bad mother.”
Jill bit her lip to keep from crying. Mike shook his head and continued toward downtown.
“Jill, you cannot possibly believe him.”
Jill’s eyes filled with tears.
“I… I’m not a very good mother. I try. I really try. I love her so much. But she gets sick or hurt…. That doctor? Dr. Drayson? He gave me an Epi-Pen for myself and one for Katy when she gains some weight. I… I didn’t even know they existed. And they’re like a hundred dollars… a piece! And….”
Mike face flushed.
“That’s just bullshit, Jill. My God!”
Mike hit his hand against the steering wheel. Jill began crying into her hands.
“Ah Jilly,” Mike said. “I’m sorry.”
“I can barely afford to feed her…. Trevor should have full custody. At least he can take care of her…”
“Stop it,” Mike said. “Just stop it. Katy freaked out when Trevor came into her room. They had to sedate her. The hospital social worker called Social Services. They came out to investigate.”
“They’re going to take her? My Katy? She’s in custody of Social Services?”
“No. Jill, stop it. You’re freaking out for no reason,” Mike said. “You need to hear what happened. Stop the hysterics and listen.”
Jill bit her lip and nodded. She took a deep breath to calm her horror then nodded. “Ok. I’m Ok. What happened with Social Services?”
“They filed a report against Trevor. The hospital social worker said she’d never seen a person so angry and out of control around his hospitalized kid. She felt that he was an imminent threat to Katy… and to you. He said he was going to kill you.”
“He went to your apartment to find you. I called the cops and he was cited but let go. Jill.” Mike put his hand on her shoulder. “Look at me.”
Jill looked up at her brother.
“I left a message for Diane Radman last night. Remember your lawyer? She’s already been to the hospital. She’s going to meet us at the courthouse. Diane was able to get a couple people to testify this morning. She thinks you’ll finally get that restraining order.”
“You don’t think it’s better for Katy to be with Trevor? At least he’s rich now.”
Mike laughed. “No. I don’t think that. No one thinks that. Look Diane’s right there waiting for you. I’ll drop you and park.”
Mike pulled up the curb where a fit woman with curly red hair stood. Wiping her eyes, Jill got out of the Bronco. Diane gave Jill a hug, then began preparing her for court.
“We have to be in the courtroom, all documents ready, and witnesses ready to roll at 7:30 a.m. to get on the 8:00 a.m. docket,” Diane said. “If we miss the 8:00 a.m., we’ll try to get on the 3:00 p.m. docket.”
Standing in line for security, Jill took a breath to steel herself for another restraining order hearing. Every day - from the moment Trevor asked for a divorce to today - had been like a terrifying roller coaster. She couldn’t remember a more difficult and horrifying seven months.
Remembering this morning’s warm, loving conversation with Delphie, Jill smiled.
“I think we’ll get it this time,” Diane said. “Just tell the truth about what he’s really like. Enough people have seen him now that he’s going to have a tough time getting out of it.”
Jill nodded and followed Diane into the courtroom. Sitting in the crowded court, her mind lingered on the “best not to waste time” morning shower with Jacob just a half hour ago. By the time Mike sat next to her, she felt happy again.
Life was terrifying and getting so much better.
“Dad,” Val said as quiet exhalation.
“Hi baby,” Her father replied.
They stood in front of each other for the first time in almost ten years. Similar in coloring and feature, their eyes scanned each other’s faces in hesitant longing and mistrust.
“I….” They both started.
Her father smiled at Val then nodded. He touched her arm.
“It’s nice to see you, Val.” Turning to Jacob, their father said, “I’ve done my part. I’ll be with your mother.”
“See you later, Dad,” Jacob said.
Jacob and Valerie watched their father walked toward the suite’s exit. At the door, he turned to raise his hand to them then walked out.
“What does he mean be with Mom?”
“He reads Mom the paper every day. Remember he used to do that when we were kids. After the job sites are up and running, he spends the morning at the cemetery.”
“Guilty conscience,” Valerie sneered.
“Or something,” Jacob said. “You know Val, not everything is as it seems.”
“Thank you, Buddha,” Val said following him into a conference room.
“What? What are YOU doing here?” their step-sister asked in horror.
She hopped to her feet then pulled at a seated Trevor. Trevor slowly stood as Jacob and Valerie sat down across from the couple. They sat in silence for a moment.
“My Daddy will be so mad when he finds out you are here to ruin my life AGAIN,” the vicious blond screeched at them. “And the week of my wedding.”
“Actually, your Daddy is still in prison,” Val said in an even tone.
Their step-sister launched herself across the table at Valerie. Jacob blocked Valerie from the attack while Trevor held their step-sister back.
“Now kitten, you can’t to get too upset,” Trevor said. “Remember what the doctor said. Getting upset is bad for the baby.”
As the couple made dreamy eyes at each other, Jacob and Valerie leaned back in their chairs. Jacob looked at Max who nodded. Jacob raised an eyebrow.
“I hate to break up the love here. But we have a lot of ground to cover,” Max Hargreaves said. “Will you please return to your seats?”
“I will do what I like around my… employees,” the step-sister said with a dismissive flip of her hand.
“Actually, I am employed by Jacob and Valerie,” Max said. “Please sit down.”
The couple plopped down holding hands. When their step-sister noticed Jacob again, she squinted her eyes. Her lip curled with disgust.
“We’ll see how you act when I run the company,” she spit at him.
“Ah, that’s exactly why we wanted to be here today,” Valerie said.
Max gave Valerie a stern look. She shrugged her apology.
“Before we start,” Max said, “I will remind you that you signed a confidentiality agreement. You are restricted from mentioning any detail from this meeting, including who is present at this meeting. Is that clear?”
The step-sister and Trevor nodded their heads. Max laid a document in front of the couple.
“You’ll see from these documents that Lipson Construction is owned in it’s entirety by Jacob and Valerie Marlowe-Lipson,” Max said. “You’ll note the date of purchase.”
Max pointed to a date on the paper.
“Four and a half years ago, Jacob and Valerie Marlowe-Lipson purchased the remaining shares of Lipson construction from their father for ten million dollars.”
“But….” Their step-sister’s oft pouting lip began to vibrate.
“Please let me continue,” Max said. “At that time there was a seven year plan was set into motion converting Lipson Construction from private owner to an employee owned company. The initial transfer of ownership began at the beginning of this year and should finish within the next three years.”
After a moment of stunned silence, their step-sister flipped her hair.
“I’ll just inherit from Daddy,” she said.
Valerie wanted to slap her smug little face. This wicked woman had nearly destroyed Valerie’s life by selling Valerie’s personal information, hacked from her father’s accounts, to the press. From photos to lies, the press paid thousands of dollars for Valerie’s tidbits. Every time Valerie moved or changed her phone number, this little witch sold Valerie’s private life to the highest bidder. When Jake put a stop to her antics, she came after him.
But of course, Jake could care less.
Valerie was about to scream at the step-whore when Jacob reached for her hand. They had agreed to let the lawyers discuss the details then follow up with options. Valerie held Jacob’s hand with both of her hands. She could do this.
“At the time of the Lipson Construction purchase, six trusts were set up.” Max retrieved the corporation sale documents and presented another document. “Each of your mother’s children received a one million dollar trust payable on their twenty-fifth birthday. In the event that Mr. Lipson does not remain married to your mother, she will receive a two million dollar trust. You will also notice that only Mr. Lipson’s children will inherit wealth or possessions from Mr. Lipson. You’ll notice your mother’s signature here… and here.”
“But… but… that’s just them,” the step-sister said pointing to Valerie and Jacob. “What about my little sisters?”
“That’s an interesting point of discussion for another time….”
Denver Cereal continues on Monday….
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