Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-four - Friend in need
Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-six - Change of plans

Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-five - The Loot


Friday night — 11:12 p.m.

“Colin wanted to take the sword away from Paddie,” Tanesha whispered to Heather as they crept into Seth O’Malley’s house.

“I’d like to see him try,” Heather said.

“Exactly,” Tanesha said. “Jill said it was a big mess, but that Colin finally settled down. Today, Colin practiced some martial arts with Paddie and Katy and their swords.”

In an attempt to be quiet, Heather didn’t respond. They slipped off their shoes.

“So Katy really has the Vanquisher?” Heather asked in a low tone.

Tanesha nodded. Heather raised her eyebrows. Tanesha pointed the way around the kitchen and the part of the den where the teenagers were sleeping. They crept past the dining room and went to the hall near the “healing room.” The door to Sandy’s room was slightly ajar. Heather followed Tanesha inside. Heather closed the door behind them.

Sandy waved to her friends. She pointed to where Rachel Ann was sleeping.

“Can you. . .?” Sandy asked Heather.

Heather created a bubble around the child so that she would feel enclosed in love, and also unable to hear anything. Sandy grinned.

“Did you talk to Jill?” Tanesha asked in a low voice.

Sandy nodded.

“The stuff with the kids sounded really hard,” Sandy said. “Jill said she was sure that Colin was going to take Paddie and Katy would never see him again.”

“So hard,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“Where is. . .?” Heather started.

Hecate appeared next to Sandy’s bed.

“Sorry,” Hecate said. “He wanted to talk and talk and talk.”

“Ganny?” Tanesha asked.

“He’s a wonderful man,” Hecate said. “But he likes to talk in bed.”

Hecate shrugged.

“I’d rather. . .” Hecate sighed. “Well, you know. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had a human male companion that I feel a great need which he usually obliges. But not until after a long chat.”

The women grinned at her.

“I am here now,” Hecate said. She grinned at Heather. “Hedone, do tell Sandy how powerful I am. I am afraid that she isn’t sure.”

“She’s sure that you’re powerful,” Tanesha said with a laugh. “She just doesn’t care.”

“There’s the truth,” Sandy said with a laugh.

Heather approached Hecate. She put her hands on Hecate’s shoulders.

“You can just be you,” Heather said before hugging and kissing her friend.

“Well, okay,” Hecate said with a grin. “I will give it a try.”

The women grinned at Hecate. Embarrassed, the Titan looked away.

“Why are you here tonight?” Hecate asked.

“Since going to Poland, Pierre has been acting weird,” Heather said. “His weirdness has spilled over Nelson. Now, Nelson is more brooding than normal. I thought we’d take a look at the swords and maybe take some pictures of the swords in case they are affecting Pierre.”

“My father knows swords,” Hecate said.

“Yes, but. . .” Tanesha started.

“Perses,” Hecate said.

In a breath, Perses appeared in front of them. Hecate lowered her head in a kind of bow.

“None of that,” Perses said. He hugged his daughter tight. “In this modern time, we bow to no one.”

“Sir,” Hecate said.

Perses kissed his daughter’s cheek. Cleo the cat jumped into his arms. He greeted the cat with great affection. After a few cuddles, Cleo climbed up onto his shoulder where she perched for the rest of the night.

“What can I do for you?” Perses asked.

“We have some swords to look at,” Hecate said. “I thought you might help us determine what they are.”

“Why isn’t Ares here?” Perses asked, looking around. “He knows every sword. He’s also your grandfather. If he’s not invited, I will never hear the end of it.”

“He’s working with Edie and the fairies,” Heather said.

“Ah, so I am second string,” Perses said. “Well, I’m. . . surprised to find that I’m not offended.”

Perses laughed as if it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. The women grinned at him.

“Are we looking at the hoard from this salt mine?” Perses asked.

“Only part of it,” Tanesha said. “Some of it has to be climate controlled. This can withstand the atmosphere.”

“Where’s the rest of it?” Perses asked.

“It’s being held in New York,” Sandy said. “Seth is trying to figure out what to do with it.”

“You were able to get everything from the mine,” Perses asked.

Tanesha, Heather, and Sandy nodded.

“That is good luck,” Perses said.

“It was Nadia,” Sandy said. “Her people went to work cataloging and moving what could be moved. It was amazing. They were amazing. They happily worked 24 hour shifts to get things crated and moved before the Polish authorities realized anything was leaving the country. Just amazing.”

“This government — they didn’t become violent?” Perses asked.

“They threatened to sue,” Sandy said. “But we said that we would include them in giving the art back to its original owners. That seemed to appease them.”

“How much goes back?” Perses asked.

“Little more than half,” Sandy said. “We’re talking about giving the rest to museums for study.”

“You won’t keep any?” Perses asked.

“I. . . I’m not sure,” Sandy said. “Seth has a painting that he wants. And a piano, of course. I. . .”

Sandy shrugged.

“I’ll be happy giving people a chance to see all of it,” Sandy said.

“The Denver Art Museum has agreed to create a show out of everything, including the art that’s going back to people,” Tanesha said.

“We have agreement from almost every family,” Sandy said. “We just have a few and Seth’s meeting with them this week. So the world will have a chance to see it all.”

“It’s a remarkable situation,” Heather said. “It’s like these artists reached out from the grave, past the pain and horror of the Holocaust, to share their work. Have you seen the tapes of the salt mine?”

Perses nodded.

“I can’t imagine what it was like to be there,” Tanesha said.

“Incredible,” Sandy said.

“We get to see it first,” Hecate said, rubbing her hands together.

Grinning, Heather and Tanesha helped Sandy from the bed and into the nearby wheelchair. They wheeled Sandy to the door of the room.

“Teddy sleeps really lightly when his father’s working,” Sandy said. “Can we. . .?”

Heather put up a barrier to keep the children from hearing them rummage through the finds from the salt mine. They slipped past the children to the alcove where the art had been laid. Tanesha gravitated to the books. Hecate and Sandy went to the paintings, while Heather and Perses went to the crate with the swords.

“I think the swords are in these crates,” Heather said.

“Don’t touch that,” Perses said. “Not in human form.”

Irritated at the Titan, Heather sighed and gestured to the crate. Titans have only one body which they could move through time and space with ease. Greek Gods had to wear a human body to function as a human.

“I am happy to help, my dear,” Perses said. “You just have to ask.”

“Meow,” Cleo said.

Heather laughed. Perses’s head jerked up at her laugh.

“Did she say something?” Perses asked. “Do you speak cat?”

“I’m not repeating it,” Heather said.

Perses grinned at her before turning to open the crate. The crate stood about five feet tall. It was a square foot in diameter. With flare, Perses opened his hand and a small crowbar appeared in his hand.

“Oh Papa, you need a crowbar?” Hecate asked with a laugh.

“I’m being delicate,” Perses said.

Laughing, he stuck the crowbar under a corner of the top of the crate. He started to open it when the crate lid blew off.

“Get down!” Perses yelled. “Watch your heads.”

The wooden lid of the crate flew up into the air, bounced through the sliding glass door with a crash, and landed out on the lawn. They looked up to see that Hecate’s hands were up. She had controlled its movement.

“Sorry about the door,” Hecate said. “I was trying to keep it from killing you.”

“Thank you,” Sandy said. “You think Jacob will. . .”

“He’s in Dillon,” Tanesha said.

“We’ll find someone,” Heather said. “Don’t worry.”

“Not worried,” Sandy said. “Just happy not to be brained.”

“Indeed,” said Perses at the same time Tanesha and Heather said, “Me too.”

“We love you, Hecate,” Heather said.

Heather went over to give her friend a hug. Hecate grinned at them.

“Oh, come on!” Hecate said. She waved her hand toward the glass and it miraculously healed. “Fixing the door? Pfft. Easy.”

The woman cheered and Perses laughed. Hecate’s cheeks flushed as if she were embarrassed. Smiling, she looked down.

“What’s in that crate?” Hecate asked.

“Two things that should never be put together,” Perses said.

Everyone gathered around as Perses pulled two swords out of the crate. Holding one in each hand, he moved them together and sparks began to fly.

“You’re sure Pierre packed these crates?” Perses asked.

Sandy nodded.

“We watched him do it on video,” Tanesha said.

“He should know better,” Perses said.

“What’s the story with those swords?” Sandy asked.

“You’ve heard of the Trojan War?” Perses asked. Hecate groaned, and the women nodded. “Artifact one — this is Paris’s sword. He used it to steal Helen and decimate all in his path. It’s incredibly powerful, but you can see it’s plain. No detailing. No precious stones or scroll work. This is a warrior’s blade.”

“That sword Katy has is much more beautiful than this one,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“The Vanquisher?” Perses asked. He and Hecate nodded. “Now, Artifact two. . .”

“That looks much fancier,” Sandy said.

“It is ornate,” Perses said. “A real King’s sword.”

“That’s Menelaus’s sword?” Tanesha askd.

Nodding, Perses laughed.

“They say it’s a story about a woman,” Perses said. “But watch. . .”

He held the swords together. They sparked and fizzled. Heat radiated from them.

“I am diffusing the power to keep it from exploding,” Perses said. “And still. . .”

An arc of electricity sparked between the blades.

“Why is that?” Sandy asked.

“It’s hard to know,” Perses said. “Maybe that Templar knows. I will tell you this — neither man knew that his sword was behind the war. Each believed that the other had aggrieved them. They were responding in kind. They died in ignorance. Even historians had no idea.”

“You think someone set it up?” Tanesha asked.

“Someone made the swords, gave one to each man, and slipped back into the shadows,” Hecate said with a nod.

Perses shrugged.

“What I think is that we should be very careful with all of these objects,” Perses said. “We aren’t certain who made them or for what purpose.”

“Or how they got into this hoard,” Heather said.

The women nodded.

“I will say that if this Templar is who you say he is, he must have been quite bamboozled to pack these two together,” Hecate said, taking Paris’s long blade from her father. She looked at the sword for a long moment. “What’s in the other crate?”

“Any ideas?” Perses asked.

Sandy rolled over to where the copy of the ledger of items was stored. She flipped through the list until she got to the page about swords. She looked around the space.

“There’s another crate of swords,” Sandy said.

The woman looked searched until Tanesha found another crate. Strong as Tanesha was, she was unable to pick up this crate. She shook her head.

“Odd,” Perses said. “Let me.”

Perses touched the crate. He shook his head.

“You’re saying that a human touched the swords in this crate,” Perses said.

“He wore leather gloves,” Sandy said. “He said it was to keep from being cut.”

Perses shook his head.

“What is it, Papa?” Hecate asked.

“I haven’t felt that since. . .” Perses looked from one woman to the next, finally settling in Sandy. “Tell me again how these things got into your mine. And it’s your mine?”

“Uh. . .” Sandy said.

“I need the entire story,” Perses said. “I’m sorry, I know it’s an invasion of your privacy. I can just take it from you but my daughter, Candy, says that’s very rude.”

“She’s right,” Sandy said. “Thank you for asking.”

Perses rolled his hand over for her to move on.

“I was used as a prostitute as a child,” Sandy said in an even, unemotional voice. “My ‘father’ would give me a portion of the profits in Krugerrands. Gold coins. He would say that it was my college fund. Sometimes, he would say that he gave me the profit because he was ‘fair.’”

Hecate put her hand on Sandy’s shoulder for support ,and Perses’s eyes reflected the horror of her plain words.

“I have jars of Krugerrands,” Sandy said.

“Pickle jars,” Tanesha said, gesturing to the size of the jars.

Sandy nodded.

“They smell like pickles when you open them,” Sandy said, still nodding. “I need to. . . Uh. . .”

“She needs to clean the money,” Heather said.

“Ah, yes,” Perses said. “This is an issue for my daughter and myself, as well. Live a long time, you end up with money that needs to be cleaned.”

Hecate nodded. From Perses’s shoulder, Cleo the cat meowed in agreement.

“Seth and Bernie have been helping me exchange these coins for something worthwhile,” Sandy said. “Bernie was approached by the son of the woman, the writer, who’d owned the mine. We bought his mother’s journal and eventually bought the land that his family had owned for a hundred years or more. It’s taken us years to put it all together.”

“Did you know these items would be there?” Perses asked.

“No,” Sandy said with a shake of her head. “We’d hoped that her second and possibly third novel would be in the mine. The journal referenced friends showing her their work, so we knew that it was possible that there was more in the mine.”

“I did most of the research into the writer,” Heather said. “We knew that she knew a lot of artists and authors. We didn’t expect this.”

“No,” Sandy said with a shake of her head. “Never.”

“That explains why you are ambivalent about keeping the art,” Perses said.

“Ill-gotten gains,” Sandy said.

“I understand, now,” Perses said. He gestured to the crate. “You wanted me here because your friend Pierre was acting weird?”

“I wanted to see if there was something in these swords that might cause him to change so dramatically,” Heather said.

“Change how?” Perses asked.

“His family has always been the weapons masters for the Templars and others,” Heather said. “When Nelson was growing up. . .”

“You’ve met Nelson?” Tanesha asked Hecate.

She nodded as did her father.

“. . . Pierre had believed that the Templars time had passed,” Heather said. “Because of this, he was ostracized by his siblings and had to go into hiding from his in-laws.”

“His in-laws wanted Nelson, too,” Tanesha said. “Tried to steal him.”

The women nodded.

“Pierre is now the head of the order,” Hecate said. “Isn’t that correct?”

“He is,” Heather said. “Pierre has been fighting with the few remaining members. He said all along that he wanted to close the order, give the land to the government, and any relics to the museum for study. After his trip to Poland, he’s saying that Nelson must give up his life and take the helm of the order. I went to talk with Pierre and. . .”

Heather shrugged.

“He looked like he had a bad headache,” Heather said. “He most certainly wasn’t the man I met less than a year ago.”

Heather nodded toward the crate.

“What’s in that box?” Heather asked.

“Nothing good,” Perses said. “In fact, I will not open it. We need to get Abi here.”

“Why?” Heather asked while Hecate said, “What?”

“There is an item in this crate that was supposedly destroyed,” Perses said. “Smelted down.”

Perses nodded as if he was saying something significant.

“What are you telling us?” Heather said.

“The last I heard, this item was in the possession of the Nazis,” Perses said. “Part of their bid to control the supernatural and win the war.”

“They wanted to find and control us,” Hecate said, gesturing to herself, her father, and Cleo.

Perses nodded.

“How did it get mixed in with this collection?” Sandy asked.

“That’s a very good question,” Perses said.

“Who could answer that question?” Tanesha asked.

“The one it was created to kill,” Perses said.

“If it’s what I think it is, you mean Apollo,” Hecate said.

Perses nodded.

“My father,” Perses said. “It was created to kill my father and mother, but it was used to wound Apollo and his sister.”

Cleo the Cat meowed. Perses looked at Heather.

“What did she say?” Perses asked.

“She says that it killed her mother,” Heather said.

“Your mother isn’t Abi?” Tanesha asked. “Father isn’t Gilfand?”

Perses shook his head.

“There’s nothing literal about the designation of what we are,” Hecate said. “His father was killed by Zeus. Mother, too.”

“Wounded so deeply that they may as well be dead,” Perses said.

“Yes, Papa,” Hecate said.

“Using this thing?” Sandy asked.

“Yes,” Perses said.

“And the Nazi’s owned it, but it somehow made its way into the mine?” Sandy asked.

“It seems to have,” Perses said. He looked around. “It makes me wonder. . .”

“What else is here?” Sandy asked, her voice laced with horror.

“A good question, my dear,” Hecate said.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


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