CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY-FOUR
Wednesday evening — 6:07 p.m.
Nelson was standing outside his home when he remembered that they were having dinner at the Castle tonight. Jeraine had returned from Atlanta to host another concert. Everyone wanted to get together to support him and Jabari in their loss of Annette. Nelson looked longingly at his quiet wonderful home with his quiet, comfortable bed inside. Looking across the street, he saw that the crowd of paparazzi had doubled due to Jeraine’s concert tonight. Sighing to himself, he pulled on the knot of his tie and started across the street.
As he reached the gate, a limousine pulled up at the curb. Two burly dark skinned men pushed the paparazzi aside.
“Who are you?” one of the body guards asked Nelson.
“Dr. Nelson Weeks,” he said.
“Can you let us in?” the body guard asked.
“Of course,” Nelson said.
The body guy turned around and nodded at the limousine. Nelson used his body to cover the keypad and opened the gate. The sound of camera shutters was nearly deafening as a stream of musicians went through the gate. Nelson sighed when the rapper and his girlfriend stopped to let the paparazzi take photos.
Nelson was really too tired for this. As if the rapper heard Nelson speak, he looked up and nodded to Nelson. He held out his hand.
“Dr. Nelson Weeks?” the rapper asked.
“Nice to meet you,” Nelson said.
When he looked at the rapper and the rapper’s girlfriend, they both had tears in their eyes. The rapper held up his shirt. There were two scars from bullet holes on his stomach. The rapper turned to show his back. There were surgical scars and two other bullet holes.
“Shot four time,” the rapper said.
“Those are nasty,” Nelson said. “How are you feeling?”
“Strong,” the rapper said. “Good.”
“We told the doctor that we were coming here,” the girlfriend said. “That doctor said that if we saw you to thank you.”
“We had to check in with the docs before flying,” the rapper said. “Your technique saved my life.”
“Thank you,” the girlfriend said.
She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. Embarrassed, Nelson nodded and let them into the Castle compound. Jeraine came out of the house. The rapper and Jeraine slapped hands for a while and hugged. The group headed toward the Castle entrance where they were directed to the backyard. Jeraine saw Nelson looking out of place and held an arm out to him. Nelson let Jeraine put his arm around him.
“You okay?” Jeraine asked softly to Nelson.
“Exhausted,” Nelson said. “Crazy dreams about gorgons and Templars brought on by too much whiskey.”
“Damn, that’s awful,” Jeraine said.
“How was the funeral?” Nelson asked.
“Nothing happened,” Jeraine said. “We got there, waited an hour, and left.”
“Did you hear from them?” Nelson asked.
“Jammy did,” Jeraine said. “Some cock and bull story. The usual unorganized bullshit.”
“Do you have to go back?” Nelson asked.
“I don’t plan to,” Jeraine said. “Jabari hates it there. Plus, I went to the cemetery, left our flowers, and said some prayers; Jabari wouldn’t get out of the limo. The studio took film and photos of me there.”
Nelson nodded. They started walking toward the Castle.
“That Tres is something else,” Jeraine said.
Nelson nodded at the memory of Tres Sierra’s fantastic skills at playing pool.
“You think that’s because his love is a goddess?” Jeraine asked.
“He says that he learned to play from his older brothers and sisters,” Nelson said.
“Did you ever meet that Enrique?” Jeraine asked.
“And?” Jeraine asked.
“He’s truly a horrible human being,” Nelson said.
“Seems like,” Jeraine said. “Everyone’s in back.”
“Barbecue?” Nelson asked.
“You or Blane?” Nelson asked.
“Blane,” Jeraine said. “He roasted an entire pig under the ground. I guess he did it today while he was working. I tried some and it’s. . .”
Jeraine mock swooned. Nelson grinned.
“I was thinking of mentioning Annette tonight at the show,” Jeraine said. He glanced at Nelson. “What do you think?”
“I think that it’s a very kind thing to do,” Nelson said. “But. . .”
“Yeah, yeah, better make sure Miss T is there to keep the rumors down,” Jeraine said with a grin.
“Good luck with that,” Nelson said. “They have to sell those magazines somehow.”
Jeraine snorted a laugh. They walked past the greenhouses to the backyard.
“I never get over this backyard,” Nelson said. “It’s like an oasis.”
“It is an oasis,” Jeraine said.
Nelson scanned the crowd. Everyone, including the rapper and his entourage, were wearing facemasks. The kids were playing.
“Just so you know. . .” Jeraine said.
“New dog?” Nelson asked.
“Our new dog,” Jeraine said.
A fit, black dog with sharp upright ears and a long nose ran toward them with Buster the Ugly dog, and Sarah, Jacob’s yellow Labrador right behind him.
“That’s Anubis,” Nelson said under his breath.
“I’ve been told that it’s just a dog,” Jeraine said. “It is a Pharaoh Hound. Heather adopted it from the Denver Dumb Friends League.”
“Then it must be just a dog,” Nelson said.
The men turned to look at each other.
“Nah,” they said in near unison and laughed.
Nelson dropped to his knees to pet the dogs. The Pharaoh Hound licked Nelson’s face causing him to laugh.
“You are beautiful,” Nelson said.
The dog seemed to say “Thank you” with a nod of his head.
“He’s just a puppy,” Hecate said, as she jogged up.
“What’s his name?” Jeraine asked.
“Anubis?” Hecate asked.
Nelson and Jeraine laughed.
“I’ve got to. . .” Jeraine said. He pointed to where the rapper and his friends were sitting.
“Go ahead,” Nelson said.
Jeraine walked toward to his guests. Nelson watched as Jeraine began to introduce them to the other people of the Castle.
“I heard that you met a gorgon,” Hecate said.
“Three,” Nelson said. “They all had their heads.”
Hecate turned to look at him.
“I read up on them today,” Nelson said.
“What did you learn?” Hecate asked.
“Three sisters,” Nelson said. “And a whole bunch of nasty stuff. The one who was closest to me actually spoke to me. She was shockingly honest and clear.”
“They are that,” Hecate said. “You could say that they don’t care a rats ass about anyone except each other. But that’s not true either.”
Nelson turned to look at her.
“I. . .” Hecate started.
“I was driven to work and back home by the one who spoke to me in my dream,” Nelson said.
“That is interesting,” Hecate said.
“Why?” Nelson asked.
“They never go anywhere alone,” Hecate said. “They travel in groups of three.”
Hecate looked at Nelson.
“They are very interested in you,” Hecate said. “Any idea why?”
“I was told that the head of their sister. . .” Nelson said.
“Medusa,” Hecate said with a nod.
“Yes, Medusa’s head is in the Templar hoard,” Nelson said. “Or so they said.”
“That makes sense,” Hecate said, seeming relieved.
“Why?” Nelson asked. “What did you think?”
“They can get oddly obsessed with things and people,” Hecate said. “Medusa can grow another head or ask for one from a myriad of goddesses and gods. But they don’t do that. They want her original head back.”
Nelson shrugged. He leaned into the Titan.
“They are terrifying,” Nelson said. “Even when they look human.”
Hecate just nodded.
“What do you know about them?” Nelson asked.
“Let’s see. . .” Hecate sighed. “They were ancient before I was born. There weren’t a lot of them. Ever. But enough to have survived all this time. I have never seen a male but my father says that they breed.”
“How would you know male or female?” Nelson asked.
“True,” Hecate said. “Perseus was sure that Medusa was female.”
“The guy who cut her head off?” Nelson asked.
“You should ask Athena about him,” Hecate said. She looked at Nelson and continued sharing what she knew about the gorgon. “They’ve never been all that interested in me or my parents. I guess that’s because my dad is the God of Destruction. For all their power, they do love being alive.”
“Medusa is still alive without her head?” Nelson asked.
“I believe so, but I’ve never seen her,” Hecate said with a shrug. “Abi gave you a ring?”
“It doesn’t come off,” Nelson said.
Nelson held out his hand for Abi to see the ring. She lifted his hand and looked at the ring.
“Huh,” Hecate said. “What do you think it does?”
“It’s supposed to make me immune to magic,” Nelson said.
“You were already protected,” Hecate said. “I wonder what Abi is thinking.”
Nelson shook his head.
“I wonder. . .” Hecate said. “This word. . .”
She looked at Nelson and smiled.
“I bet it’s the password to your hoard,” Hecate said.
“Password?” Nelson asked. He winced. “I need a password.”
Hecate grinned at him.
“Any idea how to pronounce this word?” Nelson asked.
Hedone grinned at him.
“We’re going to have so much fun,” Hecate said.
Nelson made a sound that was something between a grunt and a growl. Hecate laughed.
The new dog ran toward them.
“That’s the God Anubis, isn’t it?” Nelson asked.
“I’ve been told that he’s just a dog,” Hecate said.
“But?” Nelson asked.
“He’s a beautiful puppy,” Hecate smiled. “The animal doctor. . .”
“Veterinarian,” Nelson said.
“What is that?” Hecate asked.
“Animal doctor?” Nelson grinned.
“Yes, that’s it,” Hecate smiled and continued, “She said that the dog is not quite a year old.”
“Not quite seven hundred years old?” Nelson laughed.
The dog jumped up at the sound.
“Any legends of the Templar and Anubis?” Hecate asked.
“Not that I know of,” Nelson said.
“We’re going to have so much fun,” Hecate repeated.
Shaking his head, Nelson laughed. Blane and Mike came out of the kitchen with a platter of pig parts and the dogs ran to see what was happening. Valerie called everyone to eat. Tanesha came out of the Castle with plates. Soon, everyone fell silent while they enjoyed their dinner.
They were almost done with dinner when Tanesha came out of the Castle. She was wearing black pants, a black jacket and a silk top. She’d even put on makeup. Jill, Heather, and Sandy came behind her wearing similar black outfits. Jeraine got up from where he was sitting and went to her.
“What are you dressed for?” Jeraine asked.
“I thought we could hold a little memorial for Annette during your time of the show,” Tanesha said. “Jill contacted the television show and they’ve lined up thirty people to tell funny anecdotes about Annette. I think they have it all set up. I talked to the casino owner and he said that he would donate the money for this event for Annette’s other kids.”
“Why them?” Jeraine asked.
Dressed in clean black T-shirts and pants, Jabari, Maggie, Mack, Wyn, and Eddie ran past them.
“I guess they are destitute,” Tanesha said. “They can stay with their fathers. . .”
“They don’t have any money,” Jeraine said. “They’re just dudes. I thought Annette was. . .”
Tanesha shook her head.
“Everything’s mortgaged to the hilt,” Jill said. “It was a matter of days before the house was foreclosed.”
“She really needed that child support,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha leaned forward. Pulling back her face mask, she kissed his cheek.
“We’re all nearly ready,” Tanesha said. “Valerie is going to introduce the program. Jammy spoke with the management of your musical guest. I guess he had a relationship with Annette. He was all for celebrating her life.”
“But he’ll go on after we’re done, right?” Jeraine asked.
“Exactly,” Tanesha said. “I’ll be notified when they have everyone on the line. You should go get changed.”
Nodding, Jeraine went into the house. Jacob was standing in the kitchen tying his tie. His boys were sitting on the kitchen counters waiting for their father to tie their tie.
“Your suit’s over there,” Jacob pointed. “Tanesha said to just change your pants and jacket. Your tie is fine.”
“What do you think?” Jeraine asked. “I think I need another tie.”
“I’m just reporting on what she said,” Jacob said.
Bladen started to fall over. Jeraine caught the child. The boy reached up to Jeraine’s face.
“I like you,” Bladen said.
“I like you, too,” Jeraine said to the child.
Jeraine tied the boy’s tie.
“Thanks,” Jacob said. “You can set him down. They want to go find Jabari, anyway.”
Jeraine lifted the boy from the counter. Bladen hugged Jeraine. Surprised, Jeraine wasn’t sure what to do. He set the child down. Bladen waited for his brother. The twins ran out of the house.
“Come on,” Jacob said. “Let’s get you dressed.”
Jeraine nodded to Jacob. He went into the bathroom and changed into a black silk suit. When he came out, his father, Bumpy, was standing in the kitchen. Bumpy held out a black silk tie to Jeraine.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” Jeraine said.
“Miss T said you needed it,” Rodney, Tanesha’s father’s voice came from around the corner.
Rodney came into the room with Yvonne and Jeraine’s mother, Dionne. Jeraine’s mother hugged and kissed Jeraine’s cheek.
“How are you holding up?” Dionne asked.
“I’m okay,” Jeraine said.
She kissed his cheek again.
“You ready?” The technology person leaned out from the stairwell to the ballroom. “We should start.”
“On my way,” Jeraine said. He turned to his mother, “Can you round up Tanesha and everyone?”
“Got it,” Jacob said. “Why don’t you let your parents go with you?”
Jeraine gave him a nod and went down the stairs. His parents and Tanesha’s parents followed behind him. He heard Tanesha and her girls at the top of the stairs. Jabari and his friends ran down the stairs. They brushed past him. He heard the children laugh. Katy and her best friend, Paddie, ran down past him.
Jeraine stood on the edge of the room as it began to fill with people. The doors were open and the fans were on. Everyone in the room was wearing a face mask. The rapper and his crew had set up on the stage while he was getting dressed. The rapper’s girlfriend was introducing herself to Tanesha.
The room became silent and Jeraine turned to look at who had entered.
Valerie. She looked absolutely radiant in her floor length black dress with long sleeves and pockets. The simple dress showed off her big hazel-blue eyes, long dark hair, and curves from baby Grace. While Jeraine had never been attracted to Valerie, he could see why she was a popular actress. Valerie checked in with Jammy and then came over to speak with Jeraine.
“How are you?” Valerie put her hand on his arm. “How’s your head?”
“Good,” Jeraine said with a nod. “I’m okay. Hecate’s here. She does something that makes it okay.”
“I’m glad,” Valerie said. “Jammy says that they’ve announced this would be a fundraiser for Annette’s children on social media. I guess the concert was sold out. They decided to open it up.”
“Lots of people?” Jeraine asked.
Valerie nodded, “Just a heads up.”
“It’s cool,” Jeraine said. “We’ll be okay.”
“Good,” Valerie said. “They want us to be ready to go in five minutes. Can you do that?”
Jeraine looked and saw that his father had set up his standup base. Jeraine saw Seth O’Malley’s father zip down the stairs faster than Jeraine would have thought a 90-something year old could go. Bernie headed to the piano. The rapper’s drummer was ready to go.
“They’re waiting for you,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine hugged her and went to the stage.
“I, 2, 3. . .” Jeraine said.
The band began to play a soft jazz melody. Jeraine nodded to the camera man. They turned the camera onto Valerie.
Their service for Annette started. The band played soft jazz while Valerie began the service.
“Welcome,” Valerie said. “I’m Valerie Lipson. You probably know that Jeraine and Jabari went to the memorial for Annette. We wanted to really celebrate Annette’s life. We have a few people who will be with us online to talk about Annette. Her television show created a wonderful tribute to her. Jeraine, Jabari, and Miss T are here. . .”
Valerie gestured to where Tanesha was holding Jabari. They waved. She gestured to where Jeraine was playing the guitar.
“We’ll take an hour or so and then our musical guest will perform,” Valerie said. “All the proceeds to this event will go to help support Annette’s children. If you can spare even a dollar, we ask that you help out. The link will be on your screen.”
“Thank you for your generosity in time and spirit,” Valerie said.
“Okay,” the cameraman said. “They are rolling the reel. Nicely done.”
Everyone cheered for Valerie. The band continued to play under the direction of Jeraine. The adults danced while the children played. For the next hour, they danced, listened to story, laughed, and even cried. By the time the rapper started his set, they had raised nearly a million dollars for Annette’s children.
They all stayed until the end, even the children. They cheered when Jeraine and the rapper said “goodbye” to the audience. Slowly, they thread their way through the Castle and to bed.
Denver Cereal continues next week...