Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-five - The Loot
Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-seven - Make it go away

Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-six - Change of plans


Friday night — Midnight

“Everything okay?” Jacob asked in a soft voice.

“I thought I heard the kids cry out,” Jill said.

He flipped the covers open so that she could climb into the fold out bed. They had swapped beds with Colin and Julie since this bed was way too small for tall, muscular Colin.

“Are the kids okay?” Jacob asked.

“Seem to be,” Jill said. “Maybe it was just a bad dream.”

“Katy and Paddie have been through so much, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Jacob said.

“Me either, except that I think it was Conner,” Jill said. “Leslie says that he has night terrors sometimes.”

“Poor baby,” Jacob said. “Did you. . .?”

“Not that you’d know of,” Jill said with a smile.

He chuckled. They had a specific agreement that Jill wouldn’t use her healing powers on children too often. Since “too often” was open to interpretation, Jill used her skills when she thought it was necessary.

“What do you think he’s upset about?” Jacob asked.

“I think. . . well, he’s Seth’s grandchild, right?” Jill asked.

“Mmm,” Jacob said. “You’re freezing. Come over.”

Shivering from the cold, Jill scooted over to Jacob.

“Music,” Jill said. “I think he’s musical. Seth and Bernie are in New York so. . .”

She fell silent, and he spooned her until she was warm again.

“You know, I was thinking. . .” Jacob said in a low voice.

“Mmm,” she said. Warm and comfortable, she was sliding into that delicious state between sleep and awake.

“I don’t think I need to be here,” Jacob said. “In Dillon, I mean. Not here on Earth.”

“What?” Jill asked wide awake. “We’ve worked really hard so that you could have this time and space.”

“I know. I know,” Jacob said. “And I appreciate it. I really do.”

“But?” Jill asked.

“You’ve been so generous and so kind to create this opening for me,” Jacob said. “And, I’ve had a great week.”

“But?” Jill asked.

“But, I’m not sure that I need more of it,” Jacob said. “I’ve slept ten and fourteen hours a night and taken long naps in the afternoon. I’ve stared at the sky and gone running and fished every single day. It’s been. . .”

He sighed against her neck.

“Wonderful,” Jacob said.

“I’m still waiting to hear what you’re talking about,” Jill said.

“I miss you,” Jacob said. “I miss the kids. I feel. . . I don’t know, Jill. It’s just time to come home.”

“Oh,” Jill said. “Is that because you intuit something?”

“You mean like something awful’s going to happen?” Jacob asked.

Jill nodded.

“No,” Jacob said. He kissed the back of her neck. “Nothing awful. I’m just. . .”

He sighed.

“It’s time,” Jacob said. “I think. . .”

He fell silent. Jill turned over to look at Jacob. She touched his face.

“I live in a community,” Jacob said. “I need to heal within that community.”

“You’re sure?” Jill asked.

“I think so,” Jacob said. He sighed. “I’ve done this. I’d like to try to do it at home, with you and the kids.”

She kissed his lips.

“You can always come back,” Jill said.

“I can always come back here,” Jacob said. “Blane talked about spending every Wednesday here fishing. We could keep that up.”

“Let’s talk so more about it tomorrow,” she said with a sigh.

“Of course,” Jacob said.

She closed her eyes. He watched her face until she was sound asleep. Smiling to himself, he rolled onto his back and fell asleep.


Saturday morning — 7 a.m.

Denver, Colorado

“What did you do?” Seth asked. His voice was fast and rushed. “What happened?”

His hand went to his chest as if he was having a heart attack.

“You okay?” Sandy asked, evenly.

They were talking via video chat over the Internet. Sandy wore a headset so the sound was less at this early hour. So far, the children were still asleep.

“No,” Seth said. “I’m not okay. I’m. . .”

“Panicking?” Sandy asked.

“I just. . . you. . . the kids. . .” Seth blew out a breath. “Give me a minute to get a grip.”

Sandy laughed. When she was a teenager, she used to tell him to “get a grip” anytime he expressed any concern for her.

“Okay,” Seth said after a minute. He smiled at her. “Lay it out for me.”

Sandy smiled at him. He gave her a wide grin and a chuckled.

“Who is it?” Maresol asked as she came into his bedroom in the New York apartment.

“Sandy,” Seth said. “There’s something wrong with the stuff from the mine.”

“Something’s wrong?” Maresol shifted Seth’s laptop so that she could see Sandy. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Sandy said. “Heather put a barrier around everything so it can’t get out.”

“What can’t get out?” Maresol asked.

“The Titans think it’s some of that Nazi supernatural crap,” Seth said.

Maresol cursed in Spanish.

“What is it?” Claire, Seth’s childhood friend, asked in the background.

Sandy waited patiently while Maresol caught up Claire.

“Is she okay?” Claire asked.

Claire moved the computer so that she could see Sandy.

“You okay, hon?” Claire asked.

“I’m okay,” Sandy said. “We’re safe. My friend Heather put up a barrier so that it can’t hurt us until we figure out what’s going on.”

Claire, Maresol, and Seth spoke quietly for a moment.

“But you think this is Nazi stuff?” Seth asked.

Sandy nodded.

Seth, Claire, and Maresol spoke quietly together. Since Sandy had met Seth, these three people had acted as the committee that was had parented her and been her friend. They were the three people in the world who cared the most about her. The women nodded to Seth and he got back on the call.

“We think we should get Bernie,” Seth said.

“He has actual experience with Nazis,” Maresol said.

Claire nodded.

“Okay,” Sandy said.

Maresol walked out of Seth’s room.

“How’s my baby Rachel Ann?” Claire asked.

Sandy angled the laptop so that Claire could see Rachel Ann asleep on her bed.

“The kids are sleeping in,” Sandy said.

“She’s growing so fast,” Claire said.

“Aden’s tall,” Seth said.

Sandy nodded. Maresol came in Seth’s bedroom with Seth’s father, Bernie. Maresol was speaking in fast Spanish, too fast for Sandy to interpret. Bernie was nodding to everything Maresol said.

“Hello, beautiful girl,” Bernie said when he was close to the laptop.

Seth shifted the laptop camera so that Bernie was in the frame.

“How are you feeling?” Bernie asked.

“I’m okay,” Sandy said. “Tired. Sore. The usual.”

Bernie grinned at her.

“You’re healing,” Bernie said. “Now what is this that’s going on?”

Sandy scowled. Sometimes Bernie strung words English words together that were more suited to other languages.

“Just lay it out there,” Seth said. Turning to the women and his father, Seth added, “We’ll listen to everything she says and only then ask questions.”

Seth shot the stink eye at Maresol, who usually interrupted. Maresol put her hand on her chest and mouthed “Me.” Seth pointed at her and laughed. She grinned at him.

“Shut up, old man,” Maresol said in a good natured ribbing. “Sandy has something to tell us.”

“Here’s what happened,” Sandy said.

She told him blow by blow about what happened late last night. She made sure not to leave any detail out. Whenever Maresol took a breath to start interrupting, Claire put her hand on Maresol’s forearm to remind her to listen to everything.

“Do I need to get the movers back?” Maresol asked. “Get that out of the house? We can get a storage unit or. . .”

“We’re safe for now, but we may need to move it,” Sandy said.

“Don’t do anything until we get back,” Maresol said.

“I won’t,” Sandy said. She cleared her throat. “I called this early because I wanted to let you know what’s going on. I also. . .”

Sandy shifted a piece of hair behind her ear.

“You have the journal, right?” Sandy asked.

“I do,” Seth said. “Should I get it?”

Not waiting for an answer, Maresol left the room to get the journal that had started this whole thing.

“It’s okay,” Sandy said. “I just need you to check if she talks about these items in her journal.”

“Why do you ask?” Claire asked.

“Well. . .” Sandy said.

Sandy nodded to Maresol, who was coming in the room with the journal.

“I have it,” Maresol said. “What do you need?”

“Look up those swords,” Seth said. “Paris and. . .”

“Menelaus,” Bernie and Seth said in unison.

Maresol flipped through the journal. She stopped at a page.

“There’s a mention of swords, but. . . uh. . .” Maresol shook her head. “Not those. They’re not in here.”

“But everything is accounted for, right?” Claire asked. “My eldest was the scribe for this project. She checked everything against the inventory. Everything in the inventory was in the tunnel. There were no discrepancies.”

“Then we should probably look at that,” Sandy said. “Is Joy home?”

“Joy’s at her home,” Claire said.

“We have the inventory, Sandy,” Seth said.

“We needed it for authenticity,” Bernie said.

“We should look there,” Sandy said. “I mean. . .”

Sandy paused to collect her thoughts. Her father, his friends, and her grandfather waited patiently for her to speak.

“We watched the raid,” Sandy said. “We went to Alex’s super secure office and watched it in the middle of the night.”

Bernie and Seth nodded. They were there, as well.

“It looked to me like the Nazi’s never made it in,” Sandy said. She shook her head. “We assumed they never made it into the mine because the scientist and his detonator was still stuck in the door to the tunnel.”

She made a gesture with her hands to indicate that the scientist was clutching the detonator. Bernie started shaking his head. His movements were slow at first and grew in fervor. Sandy stopped talking.

“What is it?” Maresol touched Bernie’s arm to get his attention.

“I can’t believe how stupid we’ve been,” Bernie said. “Of course, she’s right.”

He continued to shake his head.

“About what?” Seth asked.

“What?” Bernie asked.

“What have we been stupid about?” Seth asked. “This time?”

Bernie grinned at his son before nodding.

“What Sandy was saying,” Bernie said gesturing to Sandy. “She’s saying that the Nazis put stuff inside the tunnel to hide it. Store it. We assumed they never made it, but. . .”

Bernie shook his head.

“I should have thought of it,” Bernie said.

Maresol moved in front of the elderly man. He looked at her.

“You’re talking in riddles,” Maresol said.

“I am?” Bernie asked.

“Slow it down,” Seth said.

“Oh, right,” Bernie said. He grinned. “Sorry Sandy, I’ve spent too much time alone.”

Bernie had spent the more than thirty years living on his own.

“Okay,” Bernie said. “Sandy is right. We made an assumption. Because the scientist and his detonator was not on the interior of the mine, we assumed that the Nazis had never been into the salt mine. But. . . I mean, it’s certainly possible.”

Bernie nodded like he’d completed a sentence. He looked at Maresol and she shook her head.

“What’s possible?” Maresol asked.

“Oh, sorry,” Bernie said. “What if the Nazis got a key to the front door of salt mine?”

“He has a point,” Seth said. “They could have gotten it from our author before she was killed.”

“Or after,” Bernie said. “Given how much art is in this mine, much given by Jewish people before they went to the camps. . .”

“Oh, I see,” Claire said. “You’re saying that the Nazis knew about the mine. They got a key to the front entrance. Stored their own stuff there.”

“Things they couldn’t control or felt needed protection,” Bernie said.

“Or things they felt like they needed protection from,” Seth said with a nod.

“Anything’s possible,” Sandy said with a shrug.

“Exactly,” Bernie said.

“The coroner said that the bodies in the tunnel — you know the Nazis. He estimated that they died at the same time as the scientist,” Sandy said. “He said that he thought it was near the end of the war.”

“The papers those boys had on them indicated that they were killed around the time that the Nazis were hiding their nuclear program. 1945,” Claire said. She looked at Sandy. “I’ve been trying to find their families so their families will know what happened to them. I have a copy of everything from their pockets.”

Seth nodded to indicate that he and Claire were doing this together.

“The resistance could have changed the locks,” Bernie looked away from the camera. He stared off into space. “They could have snuck in there and changed the lock so that the scientist had to go around.”

“The Nazis followed and died in those tunnels,” Sandy said.

“Do you know anyone in the Polish resistance?” Maresol asked Bernie.

“I think so,” Bernie said with a smile. “It’s always hard to know who’s still alive.”

He looked at Sandy and said, “I’ll make some calls.”

“I will too,” Seth said.

“I want that stuff out of my house,” Maresol said.

“We can deal with this when you get home,” Sandy said.

“Don’t you touch it again,” Maresol said.

“I won’t but. . . I mean, I hate to bring it up, but the items in special storage could also. . .””

The four people in New York gasped at the idea. Seth shook his head and then stopped.

“I was going to say that it’s not possible,” Seth said. “But of course it’s possible. The art in the special storage could also have magical properties. Those bastards melted into the background.”

Bernie nodded.

“We’ll find out, Sandy,” Bernie said. “Is there anything else?”

“Perses said that you should call him,” Sandy said. “He’ll come to help. But he said that. . .”

Sandy shrugged.

“I don’t really know what it is,” Sandy said. “Perses wouldn’t let us open the crate. He said that Abi needed to be there to destroy it.”

“It’s that bad?” Seth asked.

Sandy nodded.

“He wouldn’t let us open the crate!” Sandy said. “He was like, ‘We need to leave this alone.’ He kind of dragged us out of the area. Hecate and I had a great time going through the paintings, but he told us to stop. It was. . . intense.”

“Sounds intense,” Seth said.

“Well, we’re safe now,” Sandy said. “We’re going to head to soccer games and all of that soon. Do you want to talk to the kids?”

“We’ll call later,” Maresol said.

Sandy watched a look pass between Maresol, Claire, Seth, and Bernie. They all nodded in unison. Seth moved the computer so he was the only person in the frame.

“Don’t worry about this stuff,” Seth said. “We’ll do what we can. That’s all we can do.”

“Okay,” Sandy said. “Thanks, Seth.”

“Of course,” Seth said. “Don’t overdo it today. You’re doing a great job of mending. That’s got to be your priority.”

“I won’t,” Sandy said. “Tanesha and Heather are coming over to help with soccer and stuff. Blane, too.”

“Good,” Seth said. “Love you!”

“Yeah,” Sandy said. “Me too.”

Seth hung up the video call. Sandy sat for a long moment before she shook herself. She noticed the time and realized she needed to wake the kids. She rolled out into the den to wake the teenagers.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


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