“Homeland Security is saying that we need to clear the street,” the Denver Police Chief said. “That entire neighborhood is on top of the coal tunnels. No one can get in so I don’t see why this is suddenly a problem.”
“What did you come up with?” The Denver Mayor asked the City Attorney.
“A constitutional amendment. Freedom of the Press.”
“God damn it! This isn’t news. Its harassment… stalking at best! We’re talking about Celia Marlowe’s daughter and her husband. You remember Val? She waited tables at the Wynkoop.”
“I know Val. She interned with us in high school,” the editor of the Rocky Mountain New replied. “What did the other mayors say?”
“They feel powerless against the hoard of press. I’ll tell you this, though. At least one mayor said that it’s good for business.”
“Of course, that’s what the Los Angeles Police Chief said. He said that every time they get rid of the paparazzi, the business owners complain.”
“Anyone complaining?” The Mayor asked.
“Dean, Pete’s son, called a couple times. He’s had their vehicles towed from his lot. He would be very happy if they left and never came back,” The Police Chief paced the office. “The LA chief said the best we could hope for was that Miss Lipson would leave town.”
“I’m not going to kick my dear friend’s child out of town,” the Mayor said. “God damn it. Valerie grew up here. She’s one of us. That’s not to mention what her parents have done for the city of Denver! Why don’t we let Homeland clear them out?”
“That’s like telling the world: ‘NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT RIGHT HERE!’ They come in with Black Hawks and soldiers. No fucking around,” the Police Chief said. “With the convention in a month, we don’t want Homeland involved.”
“There is one thing we could do…. When is the City Council meeting on this issue?”
“Tomorrow morning,” the Mayor said.
“Let’s call immigration. That’ll fuck with them for a while,” the City Attorney said.
“Curfew’s at 11 p.m.,” the Police Chief volunteered.
“Do it,” the Mayor said.
“He… he fired me,” Jill said. “He just called me in to f-f-fire m-m-me. He said that I… I…”
Her words were lost in her sobs. Jacob stroked her hair until she was breathing again.
“I thought you worked for Mabel,” Jacob said.
“He… he… t-t-tricked her out of t-t-the company. T-they have a c-court date this w-w-week. I was just holding on until… until… Oh God Jacob, I lost my job!”
Jill buried her head in his shoulder. He returned to stroking her hair.
“She got the company in the divorce but he… he…” She wept into his shoulder.
“You work for Ashforth Pipe Supply?” Jacob asked.
“Your Mom got me the job right out of high school,” Jill said. “N.. n… now I… I… I’ll never be able to pay you back…. Katy will starve…. I’ll lose her for sure. Oh my God, where’s Katy?”
Her tears evaporated the moment she realized she didn’t know where her daughter was.
“She’s with Delphie. Don’t worry. Delphie’s really good with kids. Val and I spent a lot of time with her when our parents were working.”
“I left Katy’s meds in the refrigerator at the office,” Jill said. “I can’t go back in there.”
“Let me. Did you get the stuff from your desk?”
Jill shook her head.
“He’s s-so awful. He used to j-j-just work the w-w-warehouse. The last three months have been h-h-hell. I just… He lost an email. He deleted it from his personal email box and then couldn’t find it. He does that all the time. If I tell him, he deleted it? He gets furious. So I found the email then he fired me. He… he threw me out.”
Jill lifted her shirt to show the developing bruise on her elbow where her boss grabbed her. Jacob kissed her elbow. She threw her arms around his neck in a tight embrace.
“I’m so sorry,” Jacob whispered. He shifted and she released him to look at his face.
“I should probably get off your lap,” Jill said. “What about the Bronco?”
“I’ll call someone to get it. We have a job a couple blocks from here. They can pick it up and I’ll get it tomorrow.”
“You saved me again. Second time in two days,” Jill said.
Jacob shrugged, “Fixing messes is my specialty.”
Jacob crushed her mouth with his mouth. He tasted her soft lips and delicate tongue. Jill felt a rush of passion overcome her senses. Pulling back, he took a breath.
“I better stop or this might get a little… public.” He nodded to the police cruiser. “Are you all right here?”
“Jill? Don’t say you’re mess. You’re the very best thing that has ever happened to me. Things are messy. That’s true. But life is like that sometimes. We’ll sort all of this out. Promise.”
Jill nodded and slipped off his lap. Jacob gave her the box of Kleenex. She kissed his cheek and he slid from the car. Jill leaned her head back against the leather seat. Smiling to herself, she closed her eyes.
How did she get so lucky?
Katy opened her eyes and started to look around Jacob’s apartment. Delphie was sitting near the bed knitting.
“Hello Katherine,” Delphie said.
“I know you,” Katy said.
“Yes, you do,” Delphie said.
“But I don’t know your name,” Katy replied. Her small brow furrowed in concentration. “Did I meet you before?”
“A long, long time ago,” Delphie said.
“Are you a friend of my Jacob?”
“I am a friend of your Jacob. I’m Delphinium. People call me Delphie.”
Delphie set her knitting down and came to the bed to shake Katy’s hand. After shaking hands, Delphie sat next to Katy on the bed.
“I thought your name might start with an ‘r’,” Katy said.
“Yes,” Delphie said. “Your Mommy is having a little bit of trouble. Your Jacob went to help her. So we have to carry on without her for a while.”
“Ok,” Katy said. “I’m glad Mommy has someone to help her now.”
“Me too,” Delphie said. “Would you like to go meet your Aunt Valerie?”
Katy nodded. “Will you help me go potty?”
Delphie helped Katy off the bed and they walked hand in hand toward the bathroom.
“I like you, Delphie.”
“I like you, Katherine.”
“Of course, Mr. Marlowe,” the receptionist said. “I can escort you back.”
“That’s all right. I know the way,” Jacob said. “Thanks for your help.”
As Jacob walked through the office, he could feel the tension crackle around him. The women office workers stood in clusters whispering to each other. As he approached the owner’s office, a dirty dishwater haired woman darted in front of him.
“Mr. Marlowe! I didn’t realize you were here,” she said in a deep Wisconsin accent. Nervous, she pulled at her light pink sweater set.
“Hi Darla,” Jacob said. “Mabel’s not here.”
Darla startled then shook her head.
“I need to speak with him. Is he in?”
“You have to forgive us. We’ve had a challenging day,” Darla smiled.
Smiling, Jacob let the silence drag.
“Really, sir. Today’s not a very good day to….”
Just then the owner’s office door opened.
“Jacob! How the hell are you?”
“Great. Do you have a moment?” Jacob asked.
“I was just leaving for a meeting but I always have time for my best customer.”
“This will only take a second,” Jacob said.
“Please, come in,” the owner said. “Darla, you stupid cow. I’m paying you. Can you work?”
Darla jumped and raced back to her desk.
Jacob followed the owner into his office. Ashforth indicated a chair in front of the desk but Jacob continued to stand. A glance around the tiny office told Jacob that Ashforth was moving out. Ashforth shut the lid of a toolbox stuffed full of large pipe wrenches with a flip of his foot.
“I’m here to tell you that Lipson Construction will no longer need your services.”
Jacob turned to leave but the owner said, “It’s because of that stupid incompetent bitch. You should pay ME for keeping her lazy ass here for so long.”
Jacob spun in place and moved toward the owner. Catching himself, he stopped walking. He backed to the door.
“You don’t want to make this personal,” Jacob said.
“Why should I listen to a little twerp like you?” The owner sneered. “Did you ask your Daddy first?”
“I am Lipson Construction, you stupid fuck. DO NOT MAKE THIS PERSONAL OR YOU WILL UNLEASH A SHIT STORM THAT YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR.”
Jacob stalked to the door. He felt the owner follow him but he refused to turn around. In his mind, he longed for the owner to touch him so that he could unleash his rage and indignation at this pathetic excuse of a man. But the owner never laid a finger on him.
“You make sure your last invoice is on my desk by the end of the week,” Jacob said. “You will hear from my lawyers.”
Yanking the door open, Jacob saw the office employees clustered around the door. He pulled a stack of cards from his pocket and gave them to the women.
“Give me a call when you need a job,” Jacob said. “Now, can someone show me the kitchen?”
“I’ll take you,” Darla said.
“Thanks. Oh, I hate to ask, but would someone mind boxing up Jill’s desk. She didn’t get a chance to do it.”
“Mr. Marlowe, I was doing that when you came in. I was going to drop it by her place tonight.” Another woman shrugged. “She sits next to me.”
Jacob smiled, nodded to the women, then followed Darla to the kitchen.
“Did you just terminate your contract?” Darla asked. She bent into the refrigerator to retrieve Katy’s medication.
“Yes,” he said. “We were unaware of the ownership change.”
“That was intentional. We wanted to keep every customer for when Mabel comes back. I’m sorry.” Darla gave a weak smile. “Guess I should get my resume together.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “Keep me in the loop, Darla. We can always use good people at Lipson.”
“I heard you had another business. Molly does your books?”
Jacob nodded. “Send me your resume.”
He shook Darla’s hand and took the medication from her. Walking through the office, he picked up a box of Jill’s possessions from the other women. He waved to the ‘girls’ and went out into the bright day.
Seeing Jill in the car, he smiled. Some messes were easy to clean up.
“What’s happened?” Mike asked Delphie.
“As far as I can tell? Nothing,” Delphie said. “Maybe Jake was wrong.”
“He’s never been wrong before,” Valerie said. “He’s better than Mom was. Between the two of you….”
Valerie jumped from her arm chair to pace the Castle living room. Mike held his arms out in case she wanted a hug but she shook her head. She was too anxious for comfort. For the billionth time, she wished she had even a twinge of her mother or brother’s skill.
“Go over again what he told you,” Valerie said.
“He said that Jill was going to get fired and that the owner was going to attack him.”
“What about the blood?” Mike asked.
“He saw a lot of blood. Lots of blood,” Delphie said. “That’s what he said.”
“What do you see?” Valerie and Jacob’s father walked into the room from the kitchen.
“Lots of blood,” Delphie said. “Just lots of blood.”
Jill remembered what happened like this:
She was spacing out, listening to jazz and enjoying the cool air on her skin. If she thought of anything, it was that she had never been in such a nice car. With the air conditioning on and the music playing, she couldn’t hear the street noises. She felt enclosed in a cozy bubble. She even slipped off her shoes and her torn nylons. Holding the Kleenex box in one hand, her fingers played with the torn nylons in the other hand.
Out of the corner of her eye, she notice Jacob come out of the office. He winked at her. He held up Katy’s medication and a box as if to say, ‘That was easy.’ Their eyes caught and he smiled.
Mostly, she remembered his beautiful smile. His teeth were so white against his sun kissed skin. Yes, his smile was something she would always remember.
A second later, his face flashed in horror then went slack. He fell forward toward the cement. As he fell, his right shoulder seemed to disintegrate. Blood sprayed from his neck. Jacob’s fall to the ground revealed Ashforth behind him. Ashforth jerked the head of a twenty-pound straight pipe wrench from Jacob’s shoulder.
Jill screamed, “NO!”
Fumbling with the locks, she somehow managed to get the door open. Jacob’s body bounced on the sidewalk until he landed on his left side. Blood began to mist into the warm day. With both arms, Ashforth swung the pipe wrench over his head to bash in Jacob’s head.
“NO!” Channeling Megan, Jill screamed in her bossiest voice. “DON’T YOU DARE.”
Hearing Jill, Ashforth lowered the pipe wrench to step over Jacob’s body. He spit on Jacob before moving his rotund body across the sidewalk toward Jill. Jill ran forward toward Jacob. They met in the middle of the sidewalk.
Ashforth hefted the pipe wrench over his head.
“LOWER THE WEAPON.”
Ashford swung at Jill. Jill avoided the arching pipe wrench as if she was playing champion dodge ball.
“THIS IS THE DENVER POLICE. LOWER YOUR WEAPON.”
Time shifted into slow motion.
Ashforth’s pipe wrench bashed into the open passenger door and caught the roof of the Aston Martin. The window shattered in tiny pieces. Amidst the mist of Jacob’s blood, the tiny pieces of glass floated through the air to the sidewalk.
As Ashforth lifted the pipe wrench over his head for another swing, the police officers stopped running and lift their handguns. Ducking the pipe wrench, she continue toward Jacob. The glass tore at her feet. She felt, more than saw, bullets pass over her.
Ripping apart the cardboard Kleenex box, she slid on her knees next to him. She jammed a wad of tissue into the river of Jacob’s blood coming from where his collarbone had been. The spray of blood stopped. Using her torn nylons, she tied the tissue in a neat pressure dressing. Yanking off her cotton work shirt, she pressed the fabric into his oozing, destroyed shoulder. Hoping to slow his bleeding, she pressed her weight into his shoulder.
Jacob opened his eyes.
“I love you, Jill.”
He jerked and went slack.
Time returned to a normal pace.
She felt Ashforth lumber toward her then fall to the sidewalk.
One Denver Police officer ran past her to her ex-boss. Another police officer, a Hispanic woman, came to Jill.
“I have a weak pulse,” the policewoman screamed into the microphone at her shoulder, “We need ambulance NOW.”
“He’s still alive?” Valerie whispered.
“For now,” Delphie said.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow….
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