CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT (part three)
“That’s my daughter,” Heather said in a warm voice. “We call her Tink but her name is Tiffanie. Before I knew her, she lived on the streets. But then, I did too.”
Cody looked up with surprised.
“Tanesha had to put her first year of medical school on hold because she had to work four jobs to save her Gran’s house,” Heather said. “Her Gran raised her.”
“Why?” Cody asked.
“You can look it up online,” Heather said. “I’m just trying to say that we understand your situation, just not your choices.”
Cody nodded. He glanced at Tanesha.
“What’s the deal with that guy Fin?” Cody asked. “Is he your boyfriend? He just reeks of sexuality. And that pseudo-not-quite-English accent. All the girls in our class want to get with him.”
“He’s family,” Tanesha said. “And he can be a real prick.”
“He acts like he’s royalty or something,” Cody said.
“Or something,” Tanesha said with a laugh.
“I’m all Brian has,” Cody said. “The social worker comes every month to see if they can take him away from me. We’re barely scraping by and then I broke my leg in lab that day. Your phone number and address will pay my rent for the next six months.”
Heather glanced at Tanesha.
“So I’d like to say I’m sorry,” Cody said. “But I’m not.”
“You know, Jeraine lost everything,” Heather said.
“IRS,” Cody said. “I heard that. Serves him right.”
Heather and Tanesha scowled at him.
“He’s a lying, cheating, asshole,” Cody said. “He’s treated you like garbage.”
“Jeraine?” Tink yelled from inside the apartment.
“He has,” Tanesha said with a nod. Heather nodded.
“What can you possibly see in that guy?” Cody asked.
“Why do you care?” Tanesha asked. “You going to sell the exclusive to some stupid magazine?”
“Fair enough,” Cody said with a nod.
They stood in uncomfortable silence for a few moments before Cody cleared his throat.
“Listen, if you tell school, they’ll kick me out.”
“They sure will,” Tanesha said.
Cody swallowed hard. For a moment, Tanesha and Cody just looked at each other.
“I have another idea,” Tanesha said. “Why don’t we use you to sell the information we want people to know?”
“The dirt makes more money,” Cody said.
“How would you know?” Tanesha asked.
Cody sucked his teeth for a second before he nodded.
“I’ll give you an exclusive,” Tanesha said. “You and only you will tell the world who Jeraine was kissing.”
“Really?” Cody asked. “Why would you do that?”
“You need the money and have the contacts,” Tanesha said. “It seems like a win-win to me.”
“I’ll think about it,” Cody said.
“Think fast,” Heather said. “We have to be somewhere.”
“I have to go to school,” Cody said.
“We can take Brian for the morning,” Heather said. “You and Tanesha can go study.”
“What would Brian do?” Cody said with a scowl.
“Hang out with Tink and her boyfriend,” Heather said. “We’re working on the garden this weekend. He can help if he wants to or play video games with them. They’re nice kids. He’ll like them.”
“You’d do that?” Cody asked.
“Only if you stop calling me a n…” Tanesha started and then shook her head. “You know.”
“One word vs a whole day of studying,” Heather said. “Plus, Brian will have a blast.”
“And a ride to school,” Tanesha said.
“Done,” Cody said.
He hopped away from the door. Tanesha and Heather waited for a few minutes before Cody arrived back at the door wearing a shirt and his backpack.
“Time to go, Brian,” Cody said.
In what was clearly a daily ritual, Brian took his jacket from a hook by the door and picked up his backpack.
“Did you remember lunch?” Brian asked Cody.
“It’s in your backpack,” Cody said.
“Thank you, Cody,” Brian said.
“They’re going to take us,” Cody said.
“Okay,” Brian said with a smile.
He looked at Tanesha and gave her a bright smile.
“Shotgun,” Brian said.
Tink squealed and laughed. They went down the hall and out of the apartment building.
“Someday, we’re going to have a real house,” Brian said.
Tanesha glanced at the young man. She remembered a time when she’d said those very same words over and over again. She had that house and that life now. She smiled to herself and got in the driver’s seat. She could afford to be generous today.
“First stop, the biggest house you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” Tanesha said.
CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT (part two)
“Who do you think you are?” Tanesha asked.
“I… I…” Cody said.
“You sold my phone number and address to the paparazzi,” Tanesha said.
Cody’s eyes went wide and his mouth hung open. He took a breath to respond.
“Don’t deny it,” Tanesha said. “I know you did it. What I don’t know is why? Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you?”
“I… uh…” Cody said.
“He’s going to pass out,” Heather said in a low tone to Tanesha. She nodded.
“I don’t hate you,” Cody said. “I don’t. No. That’s not it. I know you think that’s it, but it’s not.”
“You call her the n-word!” Tink said.
Cody’s panicked eyes flicked to Tink. Tanesha raised her eyebrows, and Cody swallowed hard.
“Well… I….” Cody started.
“So far, I haven’t told the school that you took my phone number off the confidential class list and sold it to the vultures,” Tanesha said with a sniff. “What do you think they’re going to do?”
Cody shook his head.
“What do you think Fin’s going to do when I tell him?” Tanesha asked.
“I…,” Cody swallowed hard. “You don’t have to…”
“Cody?” asked a male voice with the distinctive accent of someone with a mental challenge. “Who is it?”
“No one,” Cody said.
“It sounds like some body. Did they come to play video games with us?” the young man asked. A teenaged young man with Down’s Syndrome appeared in the hallway. “That’s Miss T. “
Cody glared at Tanesha.
“Hi, Miss T!” the young man said. “Hi Miss T’s friends. Are you famous too?”
Heather glanced at Tink.
“Hey dude,” Tink said. She pushed by Cody. “I’ll play video games with you.”
“Great!” the young man said. “Hi! I’m Brian.”
“Hi Brian,” Tink said with her usual giggle. “I’m Tink.”
Tink followed Brian into the living room area of the apartment. Tanesha watched at Brian give Tink a video game controller. She settled in and they started to play.
“My parents died when I was in high school,” Cody said. “Car accident. On the way to watch me play my last football game. The state wanted to put Brian in this home. I was…”
“You needed the money,” Tanesha said with an understanding nod.
“I…” Cody swallowed hard. “You always seem like you’ve got it all together. Rich, famous husband, and Fin hanging on your every word.”
Cody’s resentment came forward with an angry glare.
“What do you care if anyone knows stuff about you?” Cody asked. “Just more fodder for the your pathetic ego driven tragedy.”
Locked in the laser beam of his rage, Tanesha took a step back. Heather touched Cody’s arm. Surprised, he looked at her. After a moment, he let out a breath. Tink laughed at something Brian said and they turned to look.
CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT (part one)
Saturday morning — 8:35 a.m.
“Is this it?” Tanesha asked.
She peered at a rundown apartment complex in Glendale from driver’s side window of Jeraine’s car. She glanced at Heather, who shrugged. There was a blonde brick path separating two sides of a sun-browned lawn. It was a warm day and all of the windows were open. At least one infant was screaming at the top of his lungs.
“That’s what the GPS says,” Tink said.
Tink held out her cell phone from the back seat. Tanesha turned around to look at it.
“This is the place,” Heather said.
“It’s a dump,” Tanesha said.
“Losing your nerve?” Heather asked.
“Oh, hell, no,” Tanesha said. “This prick sells my phone number and address to the highest bidder. He’s going to get a piece of my mind.”
“We’d better get moving, then,” Heather said. “They’re expecting us at the Castle, and you need to study.”
Nodding, Tanesha got out of the driver’s seat. Heather met her on the sidewalk and Tink followed close behind. By the time they were a few feet from the building, they could smell a mixture of grease, cigarette smoke, and food.
“Brings back memories,” Heather said.
Tanesha nodded. She paused at the front door. At one time, there was a security system that kept the front door locked unless someone buzzed you in. Some time ago, someone had unloaded a handgun into the box and pried it from the wall. The metal plate dangled from the wall by electric wire. Heather pushed open the door and they stepped onto a dirty, peeling linoleum floor. Tanesha pointed to the half flight of stairs down.
They went down the threadbare, filthy carpeted stairs to a basement hallway. They continued along the dark hallway past the open doors where scantily clad women watching television were in full view.
“Looking for some fun?” A woman said from the doorway of the first apartment. She tugged on Tink’s forearm to keep them from going anywhere.
“We’re looking for Cody,” Tanesha said.
The woman looked Tanesha up and down before pointing to the last door on the hallway.
“When you finished up, come back and see me,” the woman said. “I’ll give you an early bird discount.”
“Gross,” Tink said and pulled her arm away from the woman.
The woman gave her a creepy smile.
“No offense meant,” the woman said. “Just trying to be friendly.”
Tink gave Heather a disgusted looked.
“Can’t you do something?” Tink asked.
Heather raised an eyebrow. She clapped her hands together. One at a time, as they passed, the women closed their doors. They slowed at the last door on the hallway.
“What did you do?” Tink asked in a whisper.
“Boosted their self-respect,” Heather said.
Tanesha touched Heather’s arm in approval. Tink nodded. Tanesha pounded on Cody’s door.
“Just a sec,” a young man yelled from inside the apartment.
They waited a few minutes before the door opened a little bit. Cody wore baggy shorts over his full leg cast. His chest was bare and his hair wet as if he’d just stepped out of the shower. He took one look at Tanesha and tried to slam the door closed. Tink held it open.
Announcing the release of Fort Lupton, Denver Cereal Volume 11
You’ve asked for it.
And now, finally, Fort Lupton, Denver Cereal Volume 11 is available at
Amazon and Smashwords. (It should be available at the iBookstore and Kobo in the next few days.)
With the chaos in my (Claudia here) life at the end of last year and this year, we’ve gotten woefully behind in editing and releasing these books. Our goal is to have two additional Denver Cereal books (Fort Morgan and Fort Collins) available by the end of the year.
Over the next few months, you can expect that we will be announcing the release of these additional books.
Thank you for reading the Denver Cereal and buying books when you can. We know that money is tight all over. That’s why we will always have the Denver Cereal available for you to read daily and weekly.
CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN (part six)
“Why is that funny?” Nash asked.
“Because they think that some mix-up could possibly be worse than Mike going off to war or getting captured,” Valerie said. “They have no idea what military families live with every single day.”
Valerie gave them a nod.
“What do you want to do?” Nash asked.
“I think we take it to the papz,” Valerie said. “We release a statement that says that Nadia is a dear family friend. And that my greatest pain was losing Mike as a casualty of war. Whatever happens, Mike and I will work it out. He’s alive and breathing. We’ve proven that so far. But our military families deal with the greatest pain imaginable. To say this mix-up is my ‘greatest pain’ only serves to diminish their tremendous sacrifice.”
Valerie gave Nash a nod. She smiled at Nadia.
“Sami will be here around noon,” Valerie said. “Are we still on?”
“I… I…” Nadia gave vigorous nod. “Are you sure you want to go… with me?”
“Of course,” Valerie said. “Sami’s already mapped out our afternoon — shopping, snack, spa. But first, we help Delphie with the fruit trees.”
“I would love that,” Nadia said.
“Great,” Valerie said and went upstairs to Jill and Jacob’s loft where Jackie was playing.
“One good thing,” Nadia said.
Mike lifted an eyebrow at her and Nash turned to look at her.
“The matchmaker left a message saying that since I was with a ‘good Russian man’ she would back off,” Nadia said with a smile.
“Mike?” Nash asked.
Nadia nodded. Mike grunted.
“I’m ready,” Noelle ran into the kitchen. She stopped short, and said, “Did I miss something?”
“I’m having an affair with Nadia,” Mike said with a glare.
“Oh?” Noelle asked. “Nash will kill you.”
“Mmm,” Mike said.
He nodded to Nash and turned in place. They grabbed their jackets at the door and went down into the tunnels.
“Are they angry?” Nadia asked in a quiet voice.
“Not at all,” Delphie said as she came in from the backyard.
Nadia’s eyes flicked to Nash and he shook his head.
“Why not?” Nadia asked.
“It’s happened before,” Nash said. “They’re always trying to make it seem like something’s wrong between Mike and Valerie.”
“Sells papers,” Ivan said.
“I think they’re jealous,” Delphie said. She washed her dirty hands before turning on the electric kettle.
“What can I do to fix this?” Nadia asked.
“Did you make up the story?” Ivan asked.
“No, but…” Nadia said.
“Then there’s nothing to do,” Delphie said. “Valerie will call her people and they will release a statement.”
Nadia dropped down into a chair at the kitchen table.
“You seem upset,” Delphie said.
“I’m just…” Nadia’s began to softly cry. Ivan pushed Nash forward to her. He knelt down beside her. He put his arm over her shoulder. “This is… And she…”
Nadia gestured up the stairs.
“I don’t have… female friends,” Nadia said. “And she… and Sami… They… and all of this. It’s like a dream. Everyone so dear…”
“You’re welcome here,” Delphie said. She put her arm around Nadia. In a low voice, she said, “Welcome home.”
Nadia glanced at Nash, who nodded. She looked up at Delphie before starting to weep in earnest.
CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN (part five)
Saturday morning — 8:05 a.m.
“Oh no,” Nadia said. “No. No. No. No.”
The sound of her voice launched Nash in her direction. From the main Castle kitchen, he ran through the living room. Passing Ivan on the way, he raced down the stairs to the suite where Nadia was staying. He tapped on the door. While he waited for an answer, Ivan caught up to him. Ivan gave him a nod.
“She is almost never naked,” Ivan said. “You can go in.”
Ivan pressed open the door. When Nash lingered in the hallway, Ivan grabbed the front of his shirt and dragged him into the room.
“Chto proizoshlo?” Ivan asked. Nash’s pigeon Russian translated to “What happened?”
Nadia held up her phone to him. Ivan took the phone. He scowled and gave the phone to Nash. There was a picture of Mike helping Nadia into the limousine. From that angle, it looked like Mike was Nadia’s date. The headline read… something Nash couldn’t translate. He held it out to Ivan with a questioning look on his face.
“Valerie’s greatest pain,” Ivan said. “Implies Mike and Nadia…”
He waved his hand in Nadia’s direction. Nash blinked at Ivan. Nash looked at Nadia for a moment.
“I’ll take care of it,” Nash said.
He sped out of the room. He jogged down the hallway and took the stairs two at a time. Valerie had been standing in the kitchen when he’d left. He sped through the living room and slid into the kitchen.
“Nadia,” Nash said. He had to stop to pant. He bent over, his hands hitting his knees.
“Nash?” Valerie went to him. She put her hand on his back.
“There’s a…” Nash panted.
“What’s happened to Nadia?” Valerie asked.
“Picture,” Nash panted. “Reason… paparazzi.”
“We were just talking about how crazy they seem today,” Valerie said with a shrug. “Are they after Nadia?”
Although a small woman, Valerie was a force to be reckoned with. She glared toward the front of the Castle.
“What did they do to Nadia?” Valerie asked. Her voice threatened rage.
“They took a photo of Mike helping Nadia into the limo,” Nash said, swallowing hard. “It’s in some Russian paper.”