“That’s because she didn’t save Mom,” Tanesha said.
“Good reason, I think,” Sandy said.
“What did she want down here?” Jill asked.
“She wanted to know where the serpent was killed.”
“Saint Jude?” Jill asked.
“No, I thought that too,” Tanesha said. “She wanted to know where the creature inside Saint Jude exploded.”
Tanesha pointed to the rafters.
“She held her hands out like this,” Tanesha said. “And …”
A mist like liquid came off the beams.
“Oh creepy,” Heather said.
“I washed that!” Sandy said. “Myself! Jill even decontaminated it and …”
“Quick,” Tanesha said. “Do you have a clean container?”
Jill ran to the recycling bin in the corner and found an empty plastic juice bottle. Sandy took it from her and washed it in the sink in the hidden room.
“Did she ask about in here?” Sandy asked as she came back with the bottle.
“No.” Tanesha held the bottle up to the mist and it went inside. “She didn’t ask about the babies either.”
“Maybe she doesn’t know about them,” Heather said.
“Maybe,” Tanesha said. “She said this space was infamous. I didn’t ask her but I got the impression it was famous because of us killing the serpent. She said that everyone was in the amber because of Delphie and that it had to do with all of this.”
Her friends gave her skeptical looks.
“I know!” Tanesha said. “It all sounds like bullshit.”
“We should ask Edie,” Jill said.
“Where is Edie?” Heather asked.
“She’s on a date with James Kelly.” Jill rubbed her hands together. “She was really excited.”
The women smiled at the idea that Edie and James Kelly would start a relationship.
“What do I do with this?” Tanesha asked.
She held up the sludge from the beam. The girlfriends shrugged.
“What if you …” Heather started. Tanesha turned to look at her. “Nah …”
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“What if you did that, you know, with your hands on the floor where we killed the babies?” Heather asked.
“Why?” Jill asked.
“I don’t know,” Heather shrugged. “Maybe something will happen.”
Dionne turned her head to look at Yvonne from her position near the door. The overhead sprinklers continued to shower them with frigid water. Dionne was somewhat shielded from the onslaught by the ornate door molding. Yvonne was sitting under a folding chair from the supply closet. They had arranged folding chairs over Agent Angie. Those horrible men came in right after Yvonne hung up the phone. They told them to get ready because a helicopter on its way.
“She’s waking up,” Yvonne pointed to Agent Angie.
Dionne belly-crawled to the spot behind the table where Agent Angie lay. She shooed Yvonne away and Yvonne leaned back. Dionne took Agent Angie’s hand and leaned over her.
“What happened?” Agent Angie asked.
“You were shot,” Dionne said. “Just under your vest.”
“Through the girl,” Agent Angie nodded. “And she’s …?”
“Dead,” Dionne said.
“How bad am I?” Agent Angie asked.
“Depends,” Dionne said.
“On?” Agent Angie asked.
“When you get to the hospital,” Dionne said. “And what these so and so’s do.”
Agent Angie didn’t say anything. Dionne leaned into Yvonne.
“Aren’t you supposed to call again?” Dionne asked.
“In one more minute,” Yvonne said.
“Who …calling?” Agent Angie asked.
“Seth O’Malley,” Yvonne said.
“Why?” Agent Angie’s voice was more air than sound.
“It’s the only number we know,” Dionne said. “Now shush, you need to save your strength.”
They heard a noise in the hallway and Dionne peered around the corner.
“They’re coming,” Dionne said. She looked at Yvonne. “You’d better call.”
Yvonne picked up the phone and dialed Seth again. The phone clicked and clicked again.
“Yvie?” Rodney’s voice came on the line.
“Rodney?” Yvonne felt a surge of power just hearing his voice.
“Ne Ne is here, honey,” Rodney said. “She came to help save you.”
“Ne Ne …” Yvonne said under her breath. “But what can she do?”
“She’s helping Miss T,” Rodney said. “Seth gave the police the information you told him.”
“About the helicopter?” Yvonne asked.
“Exactly,” Rodney said.
“Can I talk to her?” Tanesha asked.
“Here’s Miss T,” Rodney said. “I love you.”
His words made her glow all over, but he was gone before she could reply.
Tanesha walked toward the wall where Saint Jude had lain. She pointed to the floor. Ne Ne shook her head.
“Not there,” Ne Ne said.
“The serpent kind of exploded,” Tanesha pointed to a spot near the front of the basement, “ … there.”
Ne Ne went to the spot. She took a photograph and carefully put her camera away. Then, without ceremony, she opened her hands so they faced the spot where the serpent was destroyed. Tanesha saw a kind of dark mist or fog come off the wood. Ne Ne held out a vial and the liquid went into the vial.
“Now we can save them,” Ne Ne said.
“Who?” Tanesha asked.
“Those caught in the sea of amber,” Ne Ne smiled. “Of course.”
Tanesha’s mouth dropped open.
“You don’t give a crap about my mom,” Tanesha’s voice held her disbelief. “She’s in terrible danger, like she was the entire time you lived here. And once again, you’ll do nothing.”
“Oh?” Ne Ne’s voice was mild. “You didn’t mind it before.”
“I was a child!” Tanesha said.
“Maybe you should remember that,” Ne Ne said.
“It’s you that holds the whole mess against yourself,” Ne Ne said. “You blame yourself for what happened to your mother. You blame yourself for not doing more.”
“You were a child,” Ne Ne said. “And the rest of us, we did as much as we could. Was it perfect? No. But your parents are here, alive, in love, and happy. Do you have any idea how unusual that is?”
“They have extraordinary love for each other, that’s true. But even that kind of love is not enough in most cases,” Ne Ne said. “If you want to know what I did, I made it so that could happen.”
“But …” Tanesha started. “Who’s going to save her tonight?”
“The same person who saved her last time,” Ne Ne said.
“No one saved her last time,” Tanesha said.
“That’s not entirely true,” Ne Ne said.
“Fine,” Tanesha said. “Who saved her last time?”
“Why you, of course,” Ne Ne said.
“Wh …?” Tanesha started.
“Wasn’t it you who negotiated to purchase her from that horrible man?” Ne Ne asked. “Didn’t you do the year in and year out work of making her keeper trust you so that when the chance was available, he called you? Wasn’t it your husband who actually bought your mother’s freedom? Why did he do that?”
“We should get back,” Ne Ne said. “Your friend Jill is half Titan. They get a little hostile when they’re in a time lock. And Hedone … Well, let’s just say I’m glad it wasn’t me who locked her down. Shall we?”
With that, Ne Ne went up the stairs, leaving Tanesha to stare at her back. In a moment, the music and noise returned to upstairs. Tanesha saw Heather at the top of the stairs.
“Fairy crap?” Heather asked.
“Thought so,” Heather said. “Should I come down?”
“I’ll come up,” Tanesha said.
There was a cheer for someone else joining the party, and Heather turned to look.
“You don’t trust what she’s going to say,” Rodney said.
“All I can say is that she’s here and my mother’s in danger,” Tanesha said. “Again. Mom was fine a little while ago. Fairy shows up, and Mom’s in trouble. That can’t be a coincidence.”
Tanesha watched Sandy answer her cellphone. Sandy gestured to turn the music down.
“What is it?” Rodney asked.
“It’s Mom,” Tanesha said.
“Tanesha!” Sandy said.
Sandy waved Tanesha over to her. Everyone watched as Tanesha moved in her direction.
“Seth says that your mom called him,” Sandy said. “I guess she knows his number from before her head injury.”
“She’s trapped in the office with the guys who …” Sandy nodded. “They are saying they will trade your Mom and Dionne, you know Jeraine’s mom …”
“I know who Dionne is!” Tanesha said.
Sandy hugged her. Under her breath, Sandy said, “It’s going to be okay.”
“What do they want?” Tanesha asked.
“They have told the FBI that they will trade them for me.” Sandy gave a quick nod and swallowed hard. “The FBI called ages ago.”
Tanesha scowled at Sandy’s bobbing head and the phone.
“Your mom says they don’t plan on trading them,” Sandy said. “They plan on using and killing them.”
Tanesha felt a wave of rage rise up from her belly.
“Oh, and your mom set the building on fire,” Sandy said.
Tanesha felt rage rush through her. Tink must have said something funny because Charlie, Ivy, Jill, and her sister burst out laughing. Tanesha glanced over to them. When she glanced back at Sandy, she realized that time had stopped. She looked for her father. He was standing with his ear close to Maresol’s mouth and his arm over her shoulder.
“It’s unnerving, isn’t it?” a voice asked.
Tanesha turned in a circle. She saw Ne Ne standing near the stairwell to the basement.
“Whatever is going on here, I’m not doing a damned thing without my girls,” Tanesha said. “Not a damned thing.”
“Of course,” Ne Ne said.
“Put everything back then,” Tanesha said.
“I didn’t do this,” Ne Ne said.
“If you didn’t, who did?” Tanesha asked.
“You did,” Ne Ne said. “That doesn’t mean that I won’t use it for my purposes. I am a fairy after all.”
“And what might that be?” Tanesha asked.
“Would you show me around the basement?”
“What do you want from the basement?” Tanesha asked.
“I’m not sure,” Ne Ne said. “Mostly, I figured while you quieted everything, you could give me a tour.”
“A tour?” Tanesha asked.
“This space is quite infamous, you know,” Ne Ne said.
Ne Ne started down the basement stairs. Tanesha had to move fast to keep up. Tanesha clicked on the light at the bottom of the stairs. Ne Ne moved to stand in the middle of the room.
“Do you mind?” Ne Ne took out a camera and took a dozen or more digital photos of the basement. “It’s for our library.”
She walked from one burnt rafter to the next, only to kneel at a spot on the floor.
Tanesha was so agitated and angry that she jumped out of her father’s truck as it rolled to a stop in front of Sandy’s salon. She stalked toward the salon. Seeing what looked like a party inside, Tanesha stopped a few feet from the salon.
“That looks fun,” Ne Ne said as she walked up behind Tanesha.
Scowling at Ne Ne, Tanesha walked to the door. She pressed the code and open the door.
“Tanesha!” Heather yelled from across the way.
“You’re having a party?” Tanesha asked. Her voice reeked with irritation.
“It just happened,” Sandy said. She hugged Tanesha. “Honey forced Charlie out of Seth’s house. They came here because it’s safe. Heather, Tink, and Ivy were going to Seth’s for dinner.”
“We ended up here,” Maresol said. She held out her arms and hugged Tanesha. Under her breath, she said, “I see the wicked witch is here.”
“Mm-hmm,” Tanesha said.
Maresol gave Ne Ne a dark look and moved away.
“I see some people remember me,” Ne Ne said in a light voice.
Tanesha glanced at her grandmother.
“I did what I could,” Ne Ne said.
“You …” Tanesha started.
She stopped talking when she saw Jill and her sister Candy outside the salon. She gestured toward the door and Rodney let them in. In the welcome of Jill and Candy, Rodney took Tanesha’s elbow and moved her to a quiet corner of the salon.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“I just want you to know that I understand how you feel,” Rodney said.
“But?” Tanesha asked. “Just spit it out.”
“No buts,” Rodney said. “I understand.”
“What do you understand?” Tanesha crossed her arms in front of her.
“I understand that I went to prison,” Rodney nodded. “I made my own choices. I took my own chances. I lived the hand that I was dealt. It wasn’t fair or right or just or anything like that, but I was a grown man. Your mother was in the same boat. But you …”
“What about me?” Tanesha asked.
“You had to live with the consequences of what happened to us and our choices,” Rodney said.
Tanesha scowled and looked away from him.
“I get it, Miss T, I do,” Rodney said. “It’s all fine and well for me to say that you shouldn’t be hard on Ne Ne, but I wasn’t there.”
Tanesha shifted to look at him.
“I get it,” he said. “And she’s …”
“A fairy,” Tanesha said. “I hate them.”
“You and Fin are close,” Rodney said in a mild tone.
“Fin doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what he is,” Tanesha said. “He knows he’s got it good; he’d tell anyone that.”