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November 2019

Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine : A new home

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and NINETY-NINE

Sunday night — 8:11 p.m.

“Okay,” Jacob said.

He looked out to Blane, Nelson, Tres Sierra, Tanesha, and Jeraine. They were meeting in the television room in the basement.

“Just admit it,” Nelson said, up front. “Your construction is delayed and we are going to have to wait for fucking ever to move in.”

“Sort of?” Jacob said at the same time Jill said, “Not really.”

“How much is it going to cost us?” Tres Sierra asked.

“Anyone else with their predictable questions or complaints?” Jacob asked.

“Do the kids have their own rooms?” Blane asked.

“What’s the garden space look like now?” Tanesha asked. “Am I going to be able to grow anything?”

Tanesha exaggerated the “anything” to a whine. Everyone laughed.

“Jeraine?” Jacob asked.

“I’m just waiting until you tell us what’s going on,” Jeraine said. “Then, I’ll complain.”

Everyone laughed. Blane pushed Jeraine and Jeraine laughed. Heather slipped into the room.

“What did I miss?” Heather asked.

“A lot of complaining,” Blane said with a snort.

“I missed out on complaining?” Heather asked. “About what?”

“The house,” Nelson said glumly.

Everyone turned and looked at him. For a moment, the room was silent and then everyone laughed. Nelson grinned at the attention.

“Okay, let’s get on,” Jacob said. “I don’t know when the next hockey game will be hoisted upon me.”

They grinned at him.

“I never liked this design,” Jacob said.

“What?” Blane asked at the same time as everyone in the room.

“I know! I know,” Jacob said. “I should have said something. I just. . .”

When they settled down, Jacob looked at Jill and gave her a nod.

“Jill was right,” Jacob said. “I was exhausted. Just exhausted.”

He nodded.

“I had a chance to think about it while I was in Dillan,” Jacob said. “I talked to Jill yesterday and this is what we came up with.”

Jacob gestured to the screen on the wall. A house came up on the screen. Everyone fell silent trying to absorb what they were seeing.

“I’ll walk you through this,” Jacob said. “What I realized what that you. . .”

Jacob stopped talking. He shook his head. Jill stood up and went to the screen.

“From the street, everything looks the same,” Jill said. “That’s what you’re seeing here.”

“I’d like to point out that, this doesn’t look any different,” Jeraine said, pointing at the screen.

“Thank you,” Jill said.

Everyone laughed. Jacob grinned.

“I don’t know how to use this program,” Jacob said, shrugging. “Jill set this up.”

Jill clicked the computer and they were zooming around the building.

“Jacob’s idea was to dig out the basement,” Jill said. “To create this.”

The image showed a walled in sunken garden with raised beds and a place for the children to play as well as tables and chairs for people to sit. The view zoomed to looking back at the house. Everyone made a noise of surprise.

“We thought we’d make this basement wall a glass wall,” Jill said. “It’s a supporting wall, so it will be a little bit of a trick, but we called the Engineer yesterday and he said he thought we could make it work.”

“We’ll put the kitchen down here,” Jacob said. “This will be your open living space. We’ll make window wells around every window so that it’ll have lots of light. There will be a space for watching television, for the kids to play, and a few computer stations for homework and work.”

“Where will I stay?” Tanesha asked. “The last plan had me in the basement.”

“And my recording studio,” Jeraine said.

“Ah, exactly,” Jacob said. “Hold onto the recording studio. Tanesha, we have a couple of options for you. Jill?”

“Jake realized that the only thing that would work was if each of you had your own room and a sitting room,” Jill said. “We put the adult rooms on the second floor.”

“Where the kitchen was?” Nelson asked.

“Where the original entrance was,” Jill said. “So the original first floor.”

Everyone nodded.

“There are four adults — Heather, Blane, Nelson, and Tres,” Jill said. “We fit them here.”

“First,” Jacob said, “we thought of putting them in a line, but it makes all of the rooms kind of small.”

“And not very private,” Jill said.

“We put two on each side of the hallway,” Jacob said. “Each room is not as long but each one has its own outside space. They will each have sitting room for when the kids stay with you. The ones in the front have a patio with actual land. The ones in the back have private patio space.”

“We’ve reshaped the front yard a bit, but not much,” Jill said. “It should help sound proof the front rooms and give more privacy to the front space.”

“We thought that you could keep your own garden here,” Jacob said. “Nelson could stargaze in the back.”

“Perfect,” Nelson said.

“We put the kids rooms on the top floor,” Jacob said. “While they are young now, they will be sixteen sooner than later.”

“If they’re up here, they can’t creep out?” Blane asked with a laugh. “What are you going to do with yours?”

“Lock them up,” Jill said without missing a beat.

Everyone laughed.

“If you have more kids,” Jacob said. “We made four rooms upstairs with a play room. Each room, like the ones on the first floor, has a full bath with a shower and a bath.”

“We can make the other rooms into offices,” Jill said. “Or whatever you think you might want.”

“My recording studio?” Jeraine asked.

“Ah yes,” Jacob said. He looked at Jill.

“That,” Jill said.

“Well. . .” Jacob said.

They laughed when Jeraine looked offended. Realizing they were teasing him, Jeraine grinned from ear to ear.

“You told me, more than once, that your dream was to have a place for people to stay while they worked for you,” Jacob said.

“Like the guy on the coast,” Jeraine nodded. “People come there and stay. They hang out, relax, and come up with great music. There isn’t anything like that for people like us.”

“What are people like you?” Nelson asked.

“He means, African-American,” Blane said.

“I thought he might have an additional eye or something,” Nelson said, looking Jeraine up and down.

Jeraine laughed.

“But I get what you mean,” Nelson said. “There is no place for prejudice in my life. If this is your dream, it’s my dream too.”

Everyone nodded.

“We realized that we don’t have a real privacy on this side of the house,” Jacob said. “The houses are getting taller and we’ve dropped the backyard. So I realized that sunlight comes from the right side of the property.”

“So together, we designed this,” Jill said.

She looked at the screen and clicked. A three story extension to match the house pressed up against the boundary of the property. It was not very wide, but it fit the 1900s feel of the original house.

“We put the recording studio on the floor so that there’s a straight wall along the garden,” Jacob said. “There is a nice apartment on the second floor and another on the top. There’s space in each to hang around and get inspired. They are narrow.”

“They look like storage containers,” Jeraine said.

“They’re a little narrower than that,” Jacob said with a nod. “But! Jill has made them beautiful.”

“These apartments will be gorgeous,” Jill said. “Two bedroom. Modern elegance, but warm and comfortable. They will be beautiful places to hang out.”

“If you decided you don’t want people to stay here, you can always rent them out,” Jacob said.

“Will they be able to see into the house?” Nelson asked. “The backyard?”

“No,” Jill said. “There are lots of windows but they won’t have a view of the backyard or into the house.”

“Why would my clients ‘lure at children’?” Jeraine asked.

“Because they’re music people?” Tanesha asked. “Drugs, drinking. Seems like a no brainer.”

“We can insist that people are sober here,” Jeraine said.

“You won’t get a lot of clients,” Tanesha said.

“Good question,” Jeraine said with a thoughtful nod. “Good question.”

“What do you think?” Jacob asked.

“I like it,” Jeraine said. “Looks great.

“What about me?” Tanesha asked.

“Because your needs are a little different,” Jacob said, “we wanted to give you a few options. The first is one of these apartments off the recording studio. This would give you quiet for studying and a lot of space for when Jeraine is here.”

“I like being with everyone,” Tanesha said.

“We can either put a bedroom for you in the basement,” Jacob said. “Or give you a space with the other adult bedrooms.”

Tanesha shook her head.

“I want to stay out of that mess,” Tanesha said with a laugh.

“We can put you in the attic,” Jacob said.

“With the kids?” Tanesha asked shaking her head. “I’d worry all the time about waking them up. Especially when I study all night or. . .”

Tanesha looked at Jeraine.

“She thinks that I am loud,” Jeraine said. “I’m quiet as a mouse!”

Everyone laughed.

“What’s happening with Nelson’s carriage house?” Tanesha asked.

“I’m moving into the house,” Nelson said with a nod. “You’re welcome to it.”

“We’re moving the gym to the basement, so you’ll have plenty of space,” Jill said.

“You’ll redo it for me,” Tanesha said.

Jill gave her a firm nod.

“Done!” Tanesha said. “That is if I can still eat at the house? Study there? Sleep over?”

“As long as I can escape to your house,” Heather said.

“Of course,” Tanesha said.

“What about Tink?” Tres asked. “Where will she go?”

“She’s asked to stay in the Castle,” Jill said. “We are making a place for she and Charlie.”

“She’s eighteen,” Heather said with a shrug. “It’s what they both want. We can fight it but. . .”

“That’s never going to work,” Tanesha said.

Everyone nodded.

“We’re making a bedroom for her in the basement,” Jill said. “She said that she wanted her own place. It will be against the glass wall.”

Jill moved the cursor so that they could see the small bedroom and bath.

“If things go well with them, this will be a nice guest room,” Jill said. “If she needs a place, she will have a safe, lovely place to grow.”

“It’s likely that she’ll do a little bit of both,” Heather said.

“She likes to be with the family a couple days a week,” Blane said. “In the basement, she will be in the middle of everything, which she likes.”

“We can set up a room for you, just like this, on the other side of the basement,” Jill said to Tanesha.

“Can we add it later? If the other doesn’t work?” Tanesha asked.

“Of course,” Jill said.

“We’d planned on making a room for Jabari on the top floor,” Jacob said.

“Can we have one in the carriage house and one in the house?” Jeraine asked. “He loves being with his friends but. . .”

“Of course,” Jacob said at the same time Jill said, “That’s what we thought too.”

No one said anything for a long moment.

“I like it,” Nelson said. “How long will it take?”

“It’s going to put the schedule back,” Jacob said. “But not by much — maybe a week or two. And. . .”

Jacob pointed to Tres.

“It won’t cost much more,” Jacob said.

“If we rent out even one of the apartments, we can make enough for some of these bathrooms,” Tres said.

“Exactly,” Jacob said.

“Awesome!” Tanesha said.

Heather began to clap. The others joined suit. Jacob grinned and Jill nodded. They got up to leave, but Jacob had one more thing to say.

“One more thing,” Jacob said. “I’ve secured first right of purchase of the property to the east of this. That opens the possibility of expanding if you need to do it or. . .whatever makes sense.”

Not sure what to do with the information, they hugged and congratulated Jill and Jacob, as well as each other, and left the room.

“That went well,” Jill said.

“Yea,” Jacob said. “I think it did.”

Jacob put his arm around Jill and they left the room. In the hallway, they saw Heather stop to talk to Nelson. Nodding to them, Jill and Jacob went back upstairs.

“I just wanted to check in with you,” Heather said to Nelson.

Blane came up behind Heather. He looked at Heather, and they nodded.

“What can I do for you?” Nelson said, a little too formally.

“We wanted to talk to you about your father,” Heather said.

“My. . . what?” Nelson asked, clearly irritated. “What does he have to do with anything?”

“That’s some of our question,” Blane said.

There was a noise in the hallway and they all turned to look. A yellow tennis ball bounced down the stairwell. Buster and Sarah raced after the tennis ball. Buster pulled up at the last moment to let Sarah grab the ball. They raced off up the stairwell.

When they turned back to each other, Nelson looked down at the ground.

“I can’t really talk about this,” Nelson said.

“Here’s the thing,” Heather said, “Jill and I went to see your father.”

“You what?” Nelson asked, his voice rose with indignation.

“He’s not himself,” Heather said.

Nelson looked at Heather for a long moment before he blinked. His indignation evaporated and he looked confused.

“What?” Nelson asked.

“Your father is not himself,” Heather said. “It was my opinion that he was under the influence of a substance or possibly an object.”

“What?” Nelson repeated.

Nelson was so confused that Blane put his hand on Nelson’s arm.

“Why don’t we find a place to sit down?” Blane asked. “Our apartment is over there.”

Nelson gave Blane a nod. They walked to the apartment. Nelson sat down on the couch. Blane took a chair from the table and set it near the couch. Heather stayed standing.

“You can sit down,” Nelson said.

“I wanted to show you,” Heather said.

“Show me?” Nelson asked.

“I wanted to show you what I see when I look at your father,” Heather said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve showed a few individuals and they don’t have any idea either.”

“Who did you show it to?” Nelson asked.

“My friend Hecate,” Heather said. “My grandfather, Perses, Hera, my grandmother.”

Nelson nodded.

“My grandmother was birthed from the sea,” Heather said. “She can be brutal, but she knows a hell of a lot about of hell of a lot. She is also immensely powerful and knows about powerful objects.”

“No question,” Nelson said. “I’m not doubting, I just. . . I guess is never occurred to me that the problem with my father wasn’t me.”

“It’s not,” Blane said.

Nelson’s head jerked to look at Blane, who gave Nelson an affirming nod. Nelson fell forward so that his elbows hit his knees. He looked up at Heather.

“You’re sure?” Nelson asked.

“I am,” Heather said. “Let me show you.”

Heather held her hands together for a moment before pulling them apart. An image appeared when her hands were nearly a foot apart.

“You can see your father’s physical outline,” Heather said. “And his energetic outline.”

Heather pointed to a five inch radius of energy that exists around all people.

“Now. . .” Heather pointed to an odd darkness around Pierre’s head and what looked like a dark hand over his heart.

“What’s that?” Nelson asked.

“We’re not sure,” Heather said.

“How do we find out?” Nelson asked.

“I went to see the hoard from the salt mine,” Heather said. “I brought Perses and Hecate with me — and Sandy and Tanesha — well, you know how I do things.”

“And?” Nelson asked.

“We looked in the crates your father packed,” Heather said. “Until we got to one that Perses wouldn’t let us touch.”

“What?” Nelson asked. “I’m sorry. I feel like I keep saying ‘what’ over and over again. I’m just. . .”

He made a gesture like his mind was blown. Blane and Heather nodded.

“To cut to the chase, we now think that the Nazi’s stored some of their ‘dark art’ objects, art, and other materials in the salt tunnel,” Blane said. “These are things they knew that they could not contain and used the salt mine to hide it from the world.”

“Sandy talked to Seth and he confirmed this with some experts,” Heather said.

“My father’s been polluted by these Nazi objects,” Nelson said.

“That’s what we think,” Heather said.

Nelson didn’t say anything for a long moment. Then he sighed. He shook his head and sighed again.

“Why?” Nelson asked. “Why did you do all of this?”

“You are our family,” Heather said. “It’s our right and job to support and help you.”

“You’ve been upset,” Blane said. “Distracted. Angry. Heather could see that there was something fairly seriously wrong with your father.”

“It’s what family does,” Heather said.

Nelson’s eyes welled with moisture, but he just shrugged.

“Thanks,” Nelson said with a nod of his head. “I. . . uh. . . It’s hard for me to imagine that. . .”

He looked up at Heather.

“You’re sure it’s not me?” Nelson asked.

“It is not you,” Blane said. “As I said, Seth spoke to someone with a list of known Nazi occult items and, right now, some of them are sitting in Seth’s house or in the special containment in New York.”

“Wow,” Nelson said.

“What has your father been asking you to do?” Heather asked.

“He’s adamant that we need to ‘acquire’ the hidden treasure of the Templars,” Nelson said. “Just last night, he ranted at me for over an hour about the items said to be in the cache.”

“Like what?” Heather asked.

“The Chalice of Christ, of course,” Nelson said. “Adam’s apple.”

“What’s that?” Blane asked.

“No one is sure,” Nelson said. He shook his head. “Who is the expert in Nazi occult?”

Heather said the name.

“One of them,” Nelson said. He closed his eyes for a long moment. His hand went to his chest. “I am the foremost expert on Nazi occult objects. It’s well known among the experts that the Templars have their own dark object expert. That’s me.”

“What?” Blane asked at the same moment Heather said, “I wondered.”

“It was something my father made me study,” Nelson said. “Not just Nazi. All dark objects, including ones the Nazi’s missed.”

“Why?” Blane asked.

“He wanted me to be prepared to deal with the lost treasure if I was forced to,” Nelson said.

He sighed.

“What can we do for my father?” Nelson asked.

“Nothing,” Heather said. “We can only remove it by destroying the object that caused it.”

“How do we do that?” Nelson asked.

“Good question,” Heather said with a nod. “The answer lies with Abi and she’s stuck with the fairies.”

“But we have a plan,” Blane said.

“Oh, good,” Nelson said. “A plan. What could possibly go wrong?”

No one said anything for a moment and then they all laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-eight - Just Silly

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and NINETY-EIGHT

Sunday morning — 6:04 a.m.

Mike jogged down the stairs from the second floor and into the main Castle kitchen. The kitchen was dark and quiet. No one had made coffee. No pot of tea sat under the tea cozy. Everything was exactly the same as he’d left it when he’d cleaned up last night.

“Oh Jake, when will you return to breathe life into this house?” Mike asked out loud.

He laughed at his joke. He switched on the drip coffee maker and set the kettle on the stove. No electric kettle for Mike Roper. He wanted his water slowly heated over a natural gas fire. Nodding to himself, he turned to go back upstairs. His kids were sleeping over with MJ and Honey’s daughter, Maggie. Valerie was sleeping in.

He looked at the kettle on the stove and wondered if he could hear the squeal from the kettle from upstairs. He did not want Jake to come home and find that Mike had burned down the Castle.

“Electric kettle it is,” Mike said.

He grinned at his brilliant pre-thinking, he turned off the stove, and clicked on the electric kettle. He was walking away when he realized that he’d forgotten to check to see if the electric kettle had water inside. He jogged back to the kettle and opened the lid.

“Oh shit,” Mike said.

The kettle was empty.

He filled the electric kettle with water and started back toward the stairs. He could cuddle with Valerie for at least another hour before the kids came back. Passing the windows to the garden, he glanced out the window into the backyard.

Delphie was pacing off the grass strip between the flagstone path and the fruit trees with one straight leg and then the other. She looked like a toy soldier or something out of the Christmas parade. Mike glanced up the stairs and then out the window again.

“Valerie’s asleep anyway,” Mike said.

He squinted as Delphie turned around on the grass. Delphie stopped short and stared at the grass. He looked up at the ceiling and groaned.

He couldn’t resist. He had to know what Delphie was doing.

He walked out of the kitchen and into the backyard. He was almost to Delphie before she looked up at him.

“What are you doing?” Mike asked.

“Nothing,” Delphie said.

“Nothing?” Mike asked.

“Standing here?” Delphie shrugged.

Mike stuck his leg straight out and did a straight legged marched along the stretch of grass.

“What’s it to you?” Delphie said, saucily with a hand on her hip.

Her attitude was simply too much for Mike. He laughed out loud. Delphie grinned with satisfaction.

Valerie opened the window from their apartment.

“Hey!” Valerie yelled. “Keep it down out there! Some people are trying to sleep.”

This caused Delphie to laugh. As if they’d heard the funniest joke, Delphie and Mike stood on the grass laughing.

Wearing only her dressing gown, Valerie appeared at the kitchen door. She ran across the deck and down the stairs.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow,” Valerie said as her feet touched the frost hardened grass. Still laughing, Mike took a few steps and picked her up in his arms. He carried her back to Delphie.

“What are we doing?” Valerie asked.

“I was just asking Delphie that,” Mike said.

Valerie and Mike looked at Delphie. She grinned.

“I want to take out this stretch of grass,” Delphie said.

Mike groaned.

“I knew you would complain!” Delphie said. She raised her eyebrows. “I’ll just wait until Jake comes home.”

Mike shook his head at Delphie’s manipulation.

“Jake will do any thing for me,” Delphie said.

Mike gave her a firm look.

“Why exactly do you want to get rid of this lovely grass?” Mike asked. “Grass, I might add, that I’ve spent years busting my ass to grow and nurture. For you.”

“Oooh the big man and his grass,” Delphie said.

“Did you miss the ‘for you’ part?” Mike asked with mock indignation.

Valerie laughed.

“Are you going to plant it here?” Valerie asked from her perch in Mike’s arms.

“I think so,” Delphie said to Valerie.

“No,” Mike said. “No. You cannot plant your pot plants here. No. I won’t take care of them. Jake will freak out. For heaven’s sake, the Castle is full of little kids! You elderly stoners are going to have to grow your plants somewhere else.”

Valerie and Delphie laughed.

“What?” Mike asked. “Why are you laughing?”

“She wants to plant a grain here,” Valerie said. “What’s it called?”

“Kernza,” Delphie said. “It creates deep roots. It’s perennial so we don’t have to replant every year. Captures carbon. Good for the climate and. . .”

“What does it taste like?” Mike asked.

“It’s great,” Valerie said at the same time that Delphie said, “It’s okay.”

“You have to mix Kernza flour with wheat flour,” Delphie said with a shrug. “I think it’s a good idea. And we have the space.”

“The kids like playing on the grass!” Mike said.

“We have plenty of grass,” Delphie gestured to the patches around the garden. “But the kids can’t play on them now because no one’s picked up after the dogs.”

“Jake!” Mike said. He raised a fist and shook it at the sky.

The women laughed. He gave Delphie a nod and turned in place. Still carrying Valerie, he walked across the yard. He’d just reached the door when Delphie yelled, “You’re going to help me, right?”

“Let’s wait for Jake,” Mike said, wrenching open the kitchen door. “I have something else to take care of this morning.”

Delphie grinned at them and began pacing off the space again. Valerie laughed. He carried her up the stairs and back to bed.

~~~~~~~~

Sunday mid-day — 11:25 a.m.

“Oh hey, you’re home,” Mike said, coming out into the driveway. “There’s some dog poop for you to pick up in the backyard.”

Jacob’s eyebrow lowered in exaggerated irritation at Mike. He opened the back door to the SUV and Sarah jumped out. Sarah ran passed Mike and barked at something about a foot behind Mike. His eyes following Sarah, Mike turned to find a wall made out of individual pieces of dog excrement.

Mike squeaked with surprise. Jacob laughed. Mike’s eyes moved to Jake and back to the wall. Mike pointed to the wall. Jacob gave a simple nod. Mike began to laugh until he was bent over laughing.

Sam came out from the backyard to see what was going on. When he saw the wall of excrement, he grabbed the trash bin and dragged it under the wall.

Sam cleared his throat.

Jacob looked over at his father. Mike stopped laughing.

Sam gave Jacob the Universal “You’re in trouble” fatherly look. He opened the trash bin lid. Sam pointed into the trashcan.

Jacob made the poop drop into the trash bin. The poop made a loud drumming sound as each individual piece hit the bin.

When the poop was done, Sam nodded his head. Sam dragged the bin back to its place and walked back to the backyard without ever saying a word.

Jacob and Mike burst out laughing again. Jacob gave Mike two heavy suitcase bags. Mike took them and started toward the house.

“Good to have you back, man,” Mike said. Just before he got to the door, he turned around and said, “Hockey today at two.”

“Hockey?” Jacob asked.

“We’re in the big leagues now,” Mike yelled as he opened the side door.

Sarah slipped into the Castle in front of Mike.

“Why?” Jacob asked.

The door closed before Mike responded. Shaking his head, Jacob pulled out the rest of the gear from SUV and piled it in the driveway.

Jill came out of the Castle by the side door.

“They don’t have any either,” Jill said to Jacob.

Jacob nodded.

“I can carry this stuff in,” Jill said. She winced. “Can you get some baby wipes?”

“Do we need a case or just some for the night?” Jacob said.

“Some,” Jill said. “Heather’s going to the bulk store tomorrow.”

“Rotisserie Chicken?” Jacob asked with a smile.

Jill grinned at him as she waited for him to agree to go get the baby wipes.

“I can always go,” Jill said mildly.

“Go?” Jacob scowled as he placed the last bag on the stack.

“Baby wipes?” Jill said, her irritation rise.

He shook his head.

“I’ll go,” Jacob said. “Sorry, I thought that was a given. Are you okay with the convenience store?”

He gestured to the 7-11 at the end of the block.

“The Sev is fine,” Jill said. “Just get a bunch because we’re all out.”

“Got it,” Jacob said.

“I can carry this stuff inside,” Jill said.

Jacob clapped his hands and the bags disappeared.

“What? Where. . .?” Jill asked.

“Inside,” Jacob said. “Dirty laundry downstairs. What can be put away is put away.”

“Oh,” Jill said. “Nice hat trick?”

Jacob laughed.

“I do not want my bride to worry herself over such trivialities,” Jacob said. “I, Knight Jacob, will slay the dragon and get the baby wipes.”

“And be home in time for hockey?” Jill asked.

“I have no idea what Mike is talking about,” Jacob said.

Jill raised her eyebrows.

“I will figure it out when I get back,” Jacob said.

He closed the SUV door and tucked the keys into his pocket.

“When do we pick up Katy?” Jacob asked.

“Five,” Jill said. “While you’re at hockey.”

She turned in place and walked toward the door.

“Do I have no free will?” Jacob asked.

“No,” Jill said, turning around.

Laughing, she went inside the Castle. He grinned at her back and went through the front gate. He walked to the end of the block where he went inside the convenience store.

The clerk turned to look at him when he came in the door. The man had two heads. Well, not two heads exactly. The creature had one transparent head that hung two inches to the creature’s left side and another human looking head.

“Hello, Demon,” Jacob said.

The creature gave Jacob a Halloweenish horrifying smile.

“Hello, Jacob Marlowe,” the demon said. “Come to give me your soul.”

“Nah,” Jacob said. “I just need baby wipes.”

Jacob pointed to where he knew the wipes were usually shelved. Ignoring the demon, Jacob walked to wipes. His hand was on the packages when the demon appeared in all of his terrifying form. The creature stood at least ten feet tall. He had a shell like deep-red skin similar to a lobster or a beetle. His face was human-like with large round eyes in sunken sockets and long pointed teeth. Its hands were huge but human-like. He had two legs that extended to large feet.

“Why are you here, Jacob Marlowe?” the demon asked.

“Baby wipes?” Jacob asked as he slid the entire stack of packages of wipes into his hand.

“On this planet!” the demon’s voice rose in irritation. “Why are you here on this planet?”

“Good question,” Jacob said. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

The demon leaned forward and exhaled a stream of fire. Jacob held up his free hand. A shield of energy repelled the fire back at the demon.

“You’re melting the chocolate,” Jacob said, gesturing to a wilting display of chocolate candy.

The demon stared at Jacob for a long moment. The sound of dripping chocolate could be heard over the smooth jazz playing on the store speakers.

“Turn,” Jacob leaned forward, “Off. The. Flame.”

The demon screamed with rage at Jacob.

“Are we having a bar-be-que?” Mike asked from the door of the store.

The demon turned toward Mike. It took a deep breath and blew fire in Mike’s direction.

“Be gone,” Mike said.

Mike waved his hand dismissively and the demon exploded. Bits of demons blew all over the store. Jacob quickly ducked but the bulk of it blew all over a shocked Mike.

“Wha. . . Wha. . . Wha. . .” Mike said.

Grinning at Mike, Jacob dropped the money for the baby wipes on the counter and walked toward the door.

“What just happened?” Mike asked.

“You blew up a demon,” Jacob said.

Mike followed Jacob out of the store.

“But. . .” Mike said. “You’re sure you didn’t. . .”

“It wasn’t me,” Jacob said with a shake of her head.

They started walking down the sidewalk. They were almost at the Castle when Mike shook himself from head to toe.

“How?” Mike asked.

“I think you’ve found your Titan skill,” Jacob said. He patted Mike on the shoulder. “You are, after all, the eldest son of the Titan of Destruction. Congratulations. May it serve you well.”

Laughing, Jacob went through the gate leaving Mike on the other side. Jill met Jacob at the door. She took the stack of baby wipes from Jacob. She picked a piece of red shell off Jacob’s shoulder.

“Lobster?” Jill asked.

“Demon,” Jacob said.

“I killed a demon!” Mike said with great pride in his voice.

Jill slapped a package of baby wipes into his arms.

“Val’s waiting for you, demon slayer,” Jill said.

“I,” Mike put his hand on his chest, “killed an actual demon! Blew him apart!”

“Good for you,” Jill said.

“I have to tell Val,” Mike said. “She’ll freak!”

Mike pushed passed them to head through the side door. Jill and Jacob laughed.

“Do you think he knows that he’s covered in red muck?” Jill asked as they head into the Castle.

“I don’t think he cares,” Jacob said.

Jill laughed. They’d reached the landing of the long stairway when Jill turned.

“A demon?” Jill asked.

“Annoying,” Jacob said. “He melted all of the chocolate in the 7-11.”

“Asshole,” Jill said.

“That’s got to be a sin,” Jacob said.

She stared up the rest of the stairwell and looked back at Jacob.

“You weren’t afraid?” Jill asked. “I think I would be terrified.”

“One thing I learned from Levi Johanssen. . .” Jacob said.

“Delphie’s abuser?” Jill asked. “The one who tried to kill her?”

Jacob nodded.

“I learned from Johanssen is these kinds of creatures only care about power. What they want is power over you,” Jacob said. “By being afraid or angry, you give them power over you. You give up your time on this earth to read about them, think about them, or even worry about them. What you focus on grows. Nothing annoys the power hungry more than ignoring them. It’s the best way to hold onto your own power.”

Jacob shrugged.

“I seemed to irritate this one,” Jacob said.

Jill gave him a slight nod and headed up the stairs.

“Did he want your soul?” Jill asked as she entered the loft.

“It’s what he said, but how likely is that?” Jacob asked, with a snort.

They laughed as they entered the loft.

“We have them!” Jill said.

Heather and Tanesha laughed and cheered. Jill passed a package to Jacob.

“Since you’re already a mess,” Jill said.

Laughing, Jacob went into the twin’s room to find all of the toddlers in need of a change. Blane came in after him.

“You’re not ready for Hockey!” Blane exclaimed.

“After he finished up,” Jill said.

Heather and Tanesha laughed. Jacob gave Blane a package of wipes and they got started. They finished in almost no time.

“I need to shower,” Jacob said.

“Well make it fast!” Blane said. “We’re almost late.”

“Will do,” Jacob said

He went to the shower wondering what else could possibly happen on this silly day.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-seven - Make it go away

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and NINETY-SEVEN

Saturday morning — 10:10 a.m.

“Hey,” Nash said, coming into the laundry room.

“Hey,” Heather said, looking up from a basket full of folded clean clothing.

Heather turned and pulled a load of towels out of the washer and shoved it into the gas dryer.

“What’s up?” Heather asked, when Nash hadn’t said anything.

“I was looking for you,” Nash said.

“You have found me,” Heather said, turning on the dryer.

“I thought Valerie ran the laundry when she was home,” Nash said.

“She and Mike had a doctor’s appointment this morning,” Heather said. “I thought I’d get in here and work through some of the bigger loads so she’d have less to do.”

Heather gestured to what looked like a load of toddler clothing. Each piece of clothing had some kind of spill on it.

“Can I help?” Nash asked.

“Sure,” Heather said. “Grab a garment. Check the spill and. . .”

“Yeah, I know the drill — dab or soak or brush but never ever wipe or scrub or you push the stain into the fibers,” Nash said.

Heather grinned at the young man. They worked in silence until the basket was about half full.

“Did you bring your laundry?” Heather asked.

“Maresol does it,” Nash said. “I think.”

“You think Maresol does it?” Heather asked with a grin. “Or Maresol does it?”

“It’s weird,” Nash said. “I take off my dirty clothing, put it in a pile ready to carry to the laundry, and it disappears. Then it shows up clean. I know that Sandy’s not doing it. Dad’s certainly not.”

“Your Dad does a lot of laundry,” Heather said in mild reproach.

“Dad folds things weird,” Nash said. “And anyway, some of my clothes are ironed. The rule is always, ‘If you want it ironed, do it yourself.’”

Heather grinned.

“What?” Nash asked.

“Ava loves to iron,” Heather said. “They’ve been working on a tough case. She’s probably up late ironing.”

Nash grinned at Heather.

“Good to know,” Nash said, grinning.

“Dale loves to iron too,” Heather said. “He and Ava have ironing contests.”

“Oh, Dale. Yeah, that makes more sense,” Nash said. “Ava’s been in Grand Junction.”

There was a shuffling sound and a grunt. Buster, the ugly dog, arrived in the doorway trailing Blane.

“Buster!” Nash yelled and dropped to his knees.

The next moments were filled with boy giggles and dog slobber. Blane gestured to Buster and Nash.

“Mystery solved,” Blane said, gesturing to Nash and Buster. “He started running in this direction at East High!”

“True love.” Heather grinned. “He’s really missed the kids.”

Blane pointed upstairs, and Heather nodded. He jogged up the stairs. Heather kept working on the toddler clothing while Nash and Buster caught up. When Nash stood up, he was grinning from ear to ear. Heather chuckled. They settled in to work on the toddlers clothing.

“Did you want to talk to me about something?” Heather asked.

Nash cleared his throat.

“I wanted to ask you. . .” Nash started.

He looked at Heather and stopped talking. He shook his head and dropped back down to pet Buster. Heather gave a quick shake of her head and went to put all of the pre-treated toddler clothing into a free washer. Mike appeared at the doorway.

“Hey,” Mike said to Nash.

Heather looked over at Mike after she turned on the washer.

“Val is coming down to dominate,” Mike said. “Or at least that’s what she told me to tell you. She said to leave the toddler clothing.”

Heather pointed to the washer.

“Already going,” Heather said.

“Thanks, that’s a big job,” Mike said. “I’m supposed to help but. . .”

Mike pointed upstairs. Heather nodded, and Mike disappeared.

“You have about five minutes before Val and a whole lot of chaos arrives in this room,” Heather said. “What did you want to talk about, Nash?”

“I wanted to know if you could take off the Black Arrow,” Nash said. “You know, the one that hit me and Nadia. I know that it’s worked out great for Sissy and Ivan — they are very happy and all — but I think you should take the arrow away.”

Heather looked at Nash for a long moment. She picked up a basket of dry clean laundry and hefted it out of the room.

“Get the towels,” Heather said.

Nash grabbed the basket of warm, dried towels. He followed Heather down the hallway to her apartment. Buster came along at Nash’s side. She gestured for Nash to take a seat on the couch. He set the basket of laundry on the coffee table and sat down. Heather set the basket of laundry onto the table. She filled a bowl of water for Buster and set it on the ground before sitting next to Nash on the couch. The dog jumped up on the couch between them, pushing Heather and Nash up against the armrest. They sat in companionable silence for a few minute as they began to fold.

“I can’t,” Heather said finally.

“You can’t what?” Nash asked, completely forgetting what he’d asked.

“I can’t remove the arrow,” Heather said.

“What do you mean you can’t remove it?” Nash’s voice rose with anger and panic. “You’re a full goddess now! You can do all kinds of amazing things.”

“I can,” Heather said. “I just can’t do that.”

Nash’s hands dropped into his lap. His head dropped.

“Why can’t you do it?” Nash asked, his voice high and whiney. “Is this one of those stupid Olympia rules?”

“I can’t do it because I can’t,” Heather said, keeping her voice even. “And, you’re right. Those rules in Olympia are mostly stupid. Archaic. From a time when humans were barbarians.”

“Can someone else do it?” Nash asked. “What about that Hecate? She seems powerful and not as crazy as her father.”

Heather snorted a laugh which made Nash grin.

“Well, can she?” Nash asked.

“No,” Heather said. “I’m sorry, Nash, what has been done cannot be undone.”

As if he’d just received a death sentence, Nash stared straight ahead. Heather touched his arm.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?” Heather asked.

Somewhere between angry and sad, Nash simply shook his head.

“Do you not like Nadia?” Heather asked.

“No, Nadia’s perfect,” Nash said. “I think about her all the time. When I see her, even on the computer screen, it’s like the whole world stops. Everything I thought of before I see her simply vanishes. It’s like what people say about wearing glasses. Everything gets clearer, easier, when she’s there. And, then she’s gone and I. . .”

Nash shook his head.

“And you?” Heather asked.

“I’m just some dumb kid,” Nash said. “Don’t say something otherwise. I really am a dumb kid. I haven’t done anything with my life. I don’t know anything. I haven’t even had that much life! And she. . .”

Nash shook his head.

“I understand,” Heather said.

“You do?” Nash asked. “Could you explain it to me?”

Heather chuckled and put her arm around him. He leaned over the dog and into her. Buster panted happily.

“No really,” Nash said. “Explain it to me. I really need. . . something to. . .”

Heather gave him a sideways look for a long moment before given a slight nod.

“I have actually been your age a number of times,” Heather said.

Surprised, Nash pulled back to look at her. Heather nodded.

“My mother would let me age until I was in my twenties or so, and then yank me back to being ten again,” Heather said. “She thought that if I could just grow up the right way, we wouldn’t need my father or grandmother. Particularly my grandmother. We hid from Olympia for more than a thousand years until my grandmother figured it out.”

Heather sighed.

“I think that my grandmother went looking for us because my father was really losing it,” Heather said. “The Black Arrows were part of him losing his mind.”

Heather shook her head.

“I’m losing the point,” Heather said. She sighed. “My point is that I know what it’s like to be on the verge of adulthood, but still be a child. I’ve done it in almost every human time. It’s always hard. Very hard. You don’t know what you’re going to be or do, but you feel like there’s something you need to do, something you were born to do.”

To contain her stronger emotions, Heather reached for a towel. Mimicking her, Nash began folding the warm towels with her. She didn’t say anything for a moment.

“In some eras, sixteen is an adult age,” Heather said.

“Some countries right now,” Nash said.

Heather nodded and continued.

“In the 1930s, we’d start working when we were three or four years old. . .” Heather said.

“What?” Nash asked.

Heather nodded.

“By the time we were sixteen, we were so old and tired that. . .” Heather sighed. “It was a really different world. Sixteen was an adult. But now, kids go to school. They have a chance to grow up. It’s a mark of the growth of human civilization that most countries have ended this kind of child labor, that kind of extreme poverty.”

Nash had so many questions, but he knew that Heather was saying something he should listen to. He also knew that this friend of his Sandy would listen to all of his questions when the time was right. He held his tongue.

“None of this has anything to do with you,” Heather said. “You’re sixteen now. You’re in this relationship that’s uncomfortable and raises a lot of eyebrows. You want to take care of yourself, grow up right, and also move forward with great speed.”

Nash nodded.

“These things — having people judge you, being uncomfortable, wanting to be true to yourself, grow up, and move forward — these are the things that can only be resolved through love,” Heather said. “Your love for Nadia will resolved every bit of this. Her love for you will help you and also help her. Love is more powerful than you can even imagine.”

Heather fell silent. Nash waited to see if she would say anything else. Heather sighed.

“My father was retired because of these Black Arrows,” Heather said. “I was assigned the task of researching the Black Arrows. I’ve spend the last year or so looking at each arrow, who it affected, and what was the outcome. The arrows are. . . almost cruel. They demand more than any person should be asked to do or achieve.”

Heather shook her head ruefully.

“I. . .” Heather sighed again. “I know that you don’t want to hear this but, from my study of these arrows, my father shot them at souls who needed them. You need this. Your very soul needs to grow in this specific manner. Yes, without the Black Arrow, your soul would slowly and eventually grow into where you would start a relationship with Nadia. This life, next life, another life. . . You will eventually get there.”

“And if I reject it?” Nash asked. “Push Nadia away? Insist that she get on with her life?”

“Do you want to do any of that?” Heather asked.

“That’s not the point!” Nash said, his frustration rising so high that Buster sat up and licked Nash’s face. Nash pressed his face into the dog. Heather waited until he was calmer.

“Okay, what happens if you push Nadia away?” Heather asked.

“To people who’ve done that,” Nash said.

“Oh, I see, what’s happened to people who’ve done this?” Heather asked. “It is true that not everyone has been successful in their Black Arrow. Some have lived their entire lives longing for the person they didn’t know existed. With the wars, many people left for war rather than have the relationship.”

Heather nodded.

“What happened to them?” Nash asked, his mouth an inch from his dog’s ear.

“It’s an interesting question,” Heather said. “Let’s see. As I said, some of them spent their lives longing and lonely. Other’s got married to someone ‘more appropriate.’”

“What happened to them?” Nash asked.

Heather shrugged.

“They lived their lives,” Heather said.

“Were they miserable?” Nash asked.

“Not all of them,” Heather said. “They didn’t grow. They lived a safe, secure life until it was over.”

Heather looked at Nash.

“You don’t strike me as someone who wants to live a safe life,” Heather said.

Nash didn’t respond.

“I might be able to help better if you tell me what’s going on,” Heather said.

Nash shook his head but didn’t say anything.

“Pretend that I’m a Goddess and you are talking to me in my shrine,” Heather said, her grin obvious in her voice.

Nash chuckled and looked at Heather.

“It’s complicated,” Nash said.

“I am a Goddess,” Heather said. “I’ve lived thousands of year, experienced thousands of lives.”

“Someday I’m going to write a book called ‘The Goddess who folded the towels,’” Nash said.

Heather grinned at him. After a moment, he sighed.

“Okay,” Nash said. “You won’t tell Sandy?”

“I won’t keep a secret if you’re in danger,” Heather said.

“Fair enough,” Nash said. He thought for a moment before nodding. “Okay. Nadia and I are at this place where what we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We spend all of this time talking about stupid stuff and not enough time really getting to know each other. It’s like standing in place on a treadmill. Nadia says it’s like treading water in the ocean but I’ve never done that. She says you keep going under water and then popping back up. Mostly what you remember is being battered by the waves and your time underwater.”

He glanced at Heather and saw that he had her full attention.

“Nadia talked to Bernie on the way back from Poland,” Nash said. “Bernie said that he told Nadia that we needed time together. He’s willing to buy a place — an out of the way place — for Nadia and I to meet that’s away from the press and spotlight. This would give us real time together.”

Nash nodded.

“The next thing I know, I’m hearing from Jake that we can go to his place back East. You know, the one on the lake,” Nash said. “He said that he’s transitioning it into a high end hotel.”

“So it’s empty,” Heather said.

“Right,” Nash said. “It needed some serious repairs — roof and plumbing and stuff. So he closed it to do the repairs and then Jill decided to redo it. Most of the big structural repairs are done. The remodeling continues. Otherwise it’s empty for now.”

“It certainly is beautiful there,” Heather said. “Quiet.”

“Right,” Nash said. “We just have to agree to do it and then do it. I can bring someone with me. Seth has all of these nice people around him. Maresol, Claire, even Dale or Bernie — they’ve offered to go with me as a chaperone or whatever. Sam and Jake said they would too.”

“Blane would go with you,” Heather said.

“I know!” Nash said. “I know! I am not without helpful people who want to support me.”

“Oh the curse,” Heather said.

Nash rewarded her with a laugh.

“And the problem is?” Heather asked.

“I. . .” Nash sighed. “If things go well, and Nadia and I get married, or whatever, my mother is going to want money from me and. . . that’s not really it.”

“What is really it?” Heather asked.

“I. . . uh. . .” Nash rubbed his head in such a way that his hair stood up on end. “I kinda want to stay a kid. I mean, Sandy’s became my mom like a minute ago and Rachel Ann’s still little and Noelle and. . .”

“You’ve always been a man in a boy’s suit,” Heather said.

“Right, but. . .” Nash said.

“You don’t want to give up what you have for some fantasy,” Heather said.

Nash nodded.

“Why would you have to give up being a kid?” Heather asked.

Nash looked at Heather as if he’d never thought of it.

“Sandy’s not going to push you,” Heather said. “Your father either. I can’t imagine Nadia cares. She’s so busy with her businesses and career, why would she mind? And anyway, most kids in functional families never really leave the nest. Look at Jake and Val. Sam’s right here with them.”

“I don’t know any functional families,” Nash said.

“Isn’t that what your father and Sandy have built?” Heather asked. “I mean, Sandy’s living at her father’s house while she heals.”

Nash looked at Heather for a long moment. He sighed.

“What if it doesn’t work?” Nash asked. “What if she hates me or I can’t stand her or. . .?”

“What if it doesn’t work?” Heather asked with a shrug. “I thought I’d found my prince charming when I met Mack’s father. Turns out he was a jerk. If I hadn’t met him and gotten pregnant, Blane and I wouldn’t have moved into together. Everything that happened after that — having Mack and Wynn, Blane’s treatments and now health, becoming a Goddess, our old home, adopting Tink, Tanesha living with us, Tres and Nelson joining our family — none of that would have happened. But you’re right.”

“About what?” Nash asked.

“I would have stayed safe,” Heather said.

Nash threw himself at Heather, and she held him tight. After a minute, he jumped up and ran out of the room.

“You are so welcome,” Heather said with a laugh.

“Talking to yourself?” Tres Sierra asked at the doorway.

“Nash,” Heather said.

“I just saw him go,” Tres said. “Everything okay?”

“It will be,” Heather said. “What is going on upstairs?”

“You mean our man-meeting?” Tres asked.

Heather nodded.

“Hockey,” Tres said. “We’ve decided that Jake’s boys are old enough for him to return to hockey.”

“What does Jake say?” Heather asked.

Tres shrugged.

“He’s fishing,” Tres said. “Mike says that if we decide to reform the team, Jake will go along with it.”

“Does Jake go along with anything?” Heather asked.

Tres laughed.

“Hey, can you help me put this laundry away?” Heather asked.

“Anything,” Tres said with a grin.

Heather smiled at him. He picked up the basket of folded towels and they left the apartment.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-six - Change of plans

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and NINETY-SIX

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...


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-five - The Loot

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and NINETY-FIVE

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...