CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FORTY-TWO
“Amelie?” Dale asked.
“I care about Amelie, Dale. But it’s been maybe three months since we met in a forensics meeting. We’ve been dating maybe six weeks? Seven? Everything is brand new. Now she’s lost the person who made her world whole. Her compass. She’s undergone an unspeakable horror. She needs to find her footing before anything else happens. It’s going to take time. Whether I love her or she loves me or we work… All of that will be determined with time.”
“Army buddies,” Seth said.
“You’ve knew there were tunnels in Vietnam?”
“I used to go down them ,” Seth said. “Miles and miles of wretched, filthy, bug infested, human waste filled, God forsaken tunnels under the jungle. We think the guy that killed Beth and hurt Amelie is in a tunnel under Denver. The guys went over some ancient maps. They have more experience in tunnels than anyone in the world. And we…”
Seth shook his head. They’d gotten nowhere. Tomorrow morning, he was meeting with Jake, Mike, and Delphie. Seth sighed. At this moment, he felt less ‘magic’ and more desperate.
“Most of those guys think I’m living in my Daddy’s house because I’m a boozer,” Seth said. “They don’t know my heart and can’t speak for me. But they will show up any time, anywhere, ready and willing to kill for me. I’d do the same for them. I bet you have friends like that.”
“No,” Dale shook his head. “I had Beth. And that was enough…”
“I wanted you to know…” Dale said.
Seth stopped playing and went to Ava. He lifted her head to his lap and settled in to listen.
“I was going to hang myself tonight,” Dale said. “I had this whole plan. Then I got here and Maresol had my favorite food ready. Even a warm berry pie. I figured it was my last meal. So I was going to hang myself after dinner then I met Bumpy. And…”
Seth stroked Ava’s bald head to comfort her tears.
“I don’t want to die,” Dale said.
“But you don’t want to live without Beth,” Seth said.
“I understand,” Seth said.
“My Mom wants me to come home to Fort Collins… get on with my life… put this behind me…”
“What do you want?” Seth asked.
Dale raised a shoulder in a drunken shrug.
“Can I stay here until I figure it out?” Dale asked.
“Of course,” Seth said.
“Is there something I can do?”
“As repayment?” Seth asked. “You don’t have to.”
“I need something to do. Sitting around is making me crazy,” Dale said.
“Lost your job?”
“Not showing up for a week does that,” Dale nodded.
“Maresol has a long list of crap that needs to be done around the house. It’s enough to keep any dozen men busy for months,” Seth said. “Why don’t you see if you can make a dent in her list?”
“I worked building tract houses every summer through high school and college,” Dale said.
“That should help,” Seth said.
“Can I stay inside?” Dale asked.
“I thought Maresol set you up in a room upstairs,” Seth said.
“You can stay there or over the pool with your stuff from the apartment,” Seth said. “Whatever feels right.”
Dale gave a partial smile.
“But don’t hang yourself,” Seth said. “That’s just dumb.”
“Selfish, childish,” Dale said. “That’s what Bumpy said. He told me I would dishonor Beth if I killed myself.”
“What?” Dale asked.
“I’ve heard that speech,” Seth said. “Did he say you were acting like a spoiled child?”
“He’s right, you know,” Seth said.
“I know,” Dale said.
“I’m going to play for a while,” Seth said. “You’re welcome to stay or head up. We’ll be up in an hour or so. Maresol’s off on Sundays. You’ll need to be ready to work on Monday around seven.”
“I can do that,” Dale said.
Dale got up from the chair. He nodded to Seth then moved to leave the room. Seth kissed Ava then went to the piano. Dale was at the door when he turned.
“Thanks,” Dale said. He raised a hand in ‘good bye’ and was gone.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…