Chapter Six Hundred and Sixteen: Guys guys and Tough Broads
Chapter Six Hundred and Eighteen: Funnies

Chapter Six Hundred and Seventeen: Bigwig friends


Tuesday night — 9:15 p.m.

“Where have you been?” Jill demanded the moment Jacob came through the side door to the Castle. “Blane’s been back for hours. Aden’s still gone. Tres. . . I’ve been. . .”

Jill sighed.

“You suck,” she said.

“You’re absolutely right,” Jacob said. “I’m so sorry. Are the kids asleep?”

Jill nodded.

“I was. . . terrified,” Jill said. “What happened?”

“I will tell you everything,” Jacob said. “But first. . .”

“Jake?” Delphie asked, looking behind him. “Where’s Sam?”

She looked around and back at Jake.

“Where’s Sam, Jake?” Delphie asked.

“I’ll tell you everything,” Jacob said. “I need to pee and wash my hands and. . .”

Tres came in behind Jake. He raised his eyebrows at the women and headed down to the basement.

“Let Jake through,” Valerie said.

Delphie and Jill moved out of his way. Jacob jogged to the nearest bathroom. Jill, Dephie, and Valerie went into the kitchen. Delphie turned on the electric kettle and Jill got out a box of Cap’n Crunch, some milk, and a bowl. She set them at the table and returned to the kitchen for a spoon. Delphie made tea for herself and Valerie. Jill got two glasses of water. The women were seated when Jacob returned.

Mike came down the stairs. He looked at the women and then at Jacob. He grabbed a bowl from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer. Jacob took an empty chair at the table and Mike took the chair opposite him.

Jill slid the glass of water to Jacob and he drank it down. Mike took Jill’s other glass of water. She groaned and Mike gave her a goofy grin.

“Thanks,” Jacob said for the water and the cereal.

He poured a bowl of cereal. For a few minutes, the only sound was the crunching of cereal.

“What. . .?” Jill started at the same time Delphie said, “Where’s. . .?”

Jacob held up a finger. No one said anything until he swallowed.

“What. . .? Jill started again as Delphie said, “Where’s. . .?”

“Give the man some room to talk,” Mike commanded.

The women turned to glare at him. He shrugged as if what he was saying was obvious.

“What’s going on?” Mike asked.

“We sent the lists, you know for job share, to the site managers,” Jacob said. “We talked them through it for more than an hour. When everyone agreed to our conditions, Tres told them that if they didn’t turn in their lists, they and their teams wouldn’t work. They agreed. I mean, everyone agreed. Even laughed.”

Jacob swallowed down the rest of the water. Jill got up to fill his glass and get another for herself.

“So Dad says, ‘Let’s go fishing,’” Jacob said when Jill sat down again. “After all of the late nights and pressure, we all thought that it was a great idea. Even Tres came. Blane had to leave early so he drove in a separate car. I took our new car. . .”

“The one we don’t have phone chargers for,” Jill said, mildly. “I bought them today.”

“I didn’t even think about it,” Jacob said. “It was going to be a quick trip up, fish for a while, then head home. The cabin is vacant so we went to Deckers. The plan was for Blane to head home around noon so that he could be there when Nelson got out. We’d stay until three or so and head home. Barbecue outside.”

Jacob swallowed hard.

“We all wore our masks because we want to see what it would be like for our employees and owners,” Jacob said.

“Lipson has a mask requirement,” Valerie said to no one in particular.

“But Sam. . .” Delphie said.

“I’m getting there,” Jacob said. “We were in the river fishing — six feet from each other. Dad was in his favorite spot. I was next. Aden behind me. Tres was on the bank because Heather had texted him about getting Nelson home.”

Jacob nodded.

“I. . .” Jacob stopped talking for a long moment. He cleared his throat. “Dad was laughing one minute and the next he just fell over. I was able to keep him out of the water with. . . well you know how. If I hadn’t seen him or been there, he would have drowned!”

Jacob’s eyes welled with tears.

“I ran to his side and he. . . He couldn’t catch his breath,” Jacob said. “I thought he’d had a heart attack but he. . . So I carried him to the car. Tres was on the bank, as I said. He was able to get the car doors open. Aden ran after us.”

“I told them. . .” Jacob stopped at if to catch his breath. “I told them that I would come back for them. I threw Tres the keys to the cabin and told them to go there if I was long. They wanted to come with me but if it was the virus they would be at a greater risk. So, they finally agreed because we didn’t know what was going on with Dad.”

“I thought he’d had a heart attack,” Jacob said, “but I could feel his heart beating fast and strong. No blockages or issues. But his lungs. . . So I raced to the nearest Urgent Care. They told me it was altitude sickness, but I knew it wasn’t that. When they saw him, they realized that it was. . . that it looked like. . .”

Jacob shook his head rather than finish the sentence.

“So I drove like a madman down to the hospital in Castle Rock,” Jacob said. “By the time he was there, he couldn’t move on his own. I didn’t want to risk getting him inside with my. . . talents. So, I ran inside and. . . My phone ran out of juice at the Urgent Care and. . .”

Jacob looked at Delphie.

“Dad’s in the hospital in Castle Rock,” Jacob said. “Their ventilators were full from all those people infected at the ski resorts. They think they’ll have to airlift him to Denver. For now, he’s in a drugged sleep and on oxygen. I told them about John Drayson, you know. . .”

Jacob did all of the remodeling work for Dr. John Drayon and his wife, Alexandra Hargreaves. Max, Alex’s twin, was also a good friend and client of Jacob’s. Now that Jill knew them through going to school with them.

“He’s been working like crazy since this thing has happened,” Jill said.

“They said they’d call him to see if he can help,” Jacob said. “They told me not to tell anyone that dad was there because they can’t handle the people. The waiting rooms are full of people who are sick. It took. . . forever. I was tested. I had to get Aden and Tres and get them back to the hospital in Castle Rock for them to be tested.”

“Then we came home,” Jacob said.

“So we’re all on quarantine?” Valerie asked.

“Exactly — fourteen days. Masks all the time, even in the house,” Jacob said. “They want everyone to be tested. Right now, you need a doctor’s note to get tested.”

“That’s not a big deal,” Jill said. “I’ll call our doctor’s office.”

Jacob nodded.

“Can we visit?” Delphie asked.

“No,” Jacob said.

“You mean he’s on his own to deal with this. . . thing?” Delphie asked as she began to cry.

Jacob nodded.

“I’m down as his contact,” Jacob said. “I told them to call — day or night. But my phone. . .”

Jacob reached in his pocket but his phone wasn’t there. He groaned. His shoulders rolled forward and he looked up at the heavens in defeat.

“I took it,” Heather said, as she and Tres entered the kitchen. “It’s on the charger over there.”

Heather nodded to the counter where Jacob’s phone was plugged in. As if on cue, the phone rang.

“Jacob,” Heather said. “Before you answer it.”

“What?” Jacob asked, holding the phone in his hand.

“You need to know that your new body is very vulnerable,” Heather said. “More vulnerable than any human you know.”

Jacob gave her a look of pure misery and answered the phone. They watched in anxious impatience until he set the phone down.

“Dad’s on a helicopter to Denver Health,” Jacob said. “Drayson guaranteed a ventilator either in the hospital or in the overflow at the Colorado Convention Center, you know, on Arapahoe. He should be here in Denver in a half hour or so.”

The women swallowed hard and nodded.

“But we still cannot visit him,” Jacob said. “We have to trust that Drayson will keep us updated.”

“Jill?” Heather asked.

Jill looked up at her dear friend.

“Can you check everyone?” Heather asked. “Especially the kids.”

“They say kids can’t get it,” Jill said.

“They are wrong,” Heather said.

“Are you sure?” Jill asked.

“I’ve seen this before,” Heather said. “Before you check people, you need to ask Abi for the virus signature.”

“She has it?” Jill asked.

“She has everything,” Heather said. “You can get the signature from Jill, Mike.”

Shrugging, Mike nodded.

“Abi’s standing behind you,” Mike said, pointing behind Jacob.

Everyone turned to look at her.

“Is it Sam?” Abi asked in her strong Isle of Man accent.

Jacob nodded.

“I will help,” Abi said with a nod. “I cannot stop a virus. I can take them away. Sometimes, only sometimes. That’s all. Viruses are a part of you as much as they are ‘invaders.’”

“Can you take this virus away?” Delphie asked.

“I don’t believe so,” Abi said. “It’s too young. Too new.”

Although they didn’t understand what she was saying, they nodded at her care and sincerity.

“Do you need a sample of the virus?” Jacob asked.

“No,” Abi said. “Jill, give me your hands.”

Jill walked to Abi and held out her hands.

“Palms down,” Abi said.

Jill turned over her hands. Abi took Jill’s hands. Their eyes locked. As everyone watched, something undefinable seemed to move from Abi to Jill. After a few long minutes, Abi nodded and moved her hands away.

Jill stood in place for a moment before nodding.

“We have work to do,” Jill said.

“No,” Abi said. “Your best defense is to get good sleep. A full eight hours or more. Every single night. This will keep you healthier than anything else.”

“I don’t think I can sleep,” Jacob said. “I’m too wound up and heartbroken. I mean my dad is. . .”

The next thing Jacob knew, he was lying in his own bed with Jill sound asleep beside him. The sun peaked in through the front windows of the loft. He looked at the clock. Ten hours had passed.

He was wearing his pajamas and his pillow was wet from a shower. He had no memory of any of this. He used the toilet and called the hospital from the bathroom.

His father was in an induced coma with a ventilator keeping him alive.

“He is still alive,” the nurse said. “Strong. Fit. Very healthy. Don’t give up hope.”

“Thank you,” Jacob said.

He ended the call so that the nurse wouldn’t hear him crying. When he came out of the bathroom, Jill was holding out a mask to him.

“How is he?” Jill asked.

“Alive,” Jacob said. “The nurse said to not give up hope.”

“Then we won’t,” Jill said.

They put on cloth masks and went to wake their children.


Wednesday morning — 9:15 a.m.

“Tanesha!” Jill said as Tanesha entered the Castle. “I’m sorry but. . .”

“Jabari’s in Children’s,” Tanesha said. She took a clean mask out of her pocket and put it on. “They think he has it, too. Who has it here?”

“Sam,” Jill said. “Did you get a test?”

Tanesha nodded. Jill was sitting on the floor in front of the couch with her toddlers. They were playing with blocks and running around the room.

“Shit,” Tanesha said. “I just came here to change and shower. They’re asking for everyone to show up at the ED, even students.”

“Shit,” Jill said.

“Right,” Tanesha said. “I wish I could join you. Where’s Maggie and the rest? I have to tell them that they need to be tested.”

“Everyone is at the doctor to be tested,” Jill said. “M.J. is hoping to get some of their military tests, but for now it’s through the doc.”

“Did you go?” Tanesha asked.

“We went this morning, first thing,” Jill said. “Jake was up because their state sites opened this morning. He also has to tell every employee owner that Sam is in the hospital. They all need to be tested because of that big meeting.”

“I bet that’s tough,” Tanesha said.

“He checked in after the first site,” Jill said with a nod. “The employees were crying — men and women. It’s made this whole thing very real for everyone.”

Tanesha nodded.

“You heard about Jabari?” Tanesha asked.

“How his mother abused him?” Jill asked. “Yes. Any news from the producers?”

“That’s where Jeraine is,” Tanesha said with a sigh. “He and his lawyers are talking to the producers. Everyone on their own computer.”

“We’re going to need more Internet service,” Jill said.

“Jeraine’s working something out with one of the suppliers,” Tanesha said. “They approached him as a sponsor for some concerts with him. It’s a good opportunity and it will mean better Internet for us. Maybe.”

Tanesha shook her head.

“It’s a lot,” Jill said.

Tanesha nodded.

“Are they keeping Jabari?” Jill asked.

“Just until they know what’s going on with him,” Tanesha said. “They won’t let us visit him or even wait in the waiting room.”

“That’s really hard,” Jill said.

“That’s Covid,” Tanesha said. “You know that kid? He was watering plants and planting seeds with Dale before we took him to Children’s. We had no idea that he was sick along with beaten! Now O’Malley’s house is on quarantine because of us.”

“Or us,” Jill said. “Sandy’s been here. We helped pick her up from the hospital. It could have come from her.”

Tanesha gave an irritated shake of her head.

“Should you be working?” Jill asked.

“I asked that,” Tanesha said. “My mentor just laughed. He said that they’d all been exposed. ‘As long as we don’t have a fever and wear our PPE, we work.’ So. . .”

Tanesha shrugged.

“I should go shower,” Tanesha said.

Jill nodded. Tanesha turned to head downstairs. There was a flower floating in front of her. She took the flower and turned back to the boys.

“Thank you, Tanner and Bladen,” Tanesha said. “I’ll keep it with me.”

The toddlers giggled.

“Hey, do you mind if I take a couple cloth masks with me?” Tanesha asked, gesturing to the stack on the hall table.

“Take what you need,” Jill said. “We’re making more masks at nap time. Jake and Aden have asked the Lipson crews that are off cycle to make masks. Since the word went out about Sam, our pattern has been downloaded more than a thousand times. We should have lots.”

“Good,” Tanesha said.

She raised her hand to wave and jogged down to their apartment.


Wednesday morning — 11:15 a.m.

New York City, New York

Seth O’Malley was seated at a Grand Piano in a recording studio. The lights were low. He was playing through the last of five concertos for the last movie. Like the other four movies, he had created an entire orchestral score for the movie. The orchestra, which had won awards for the first four movies, had worked tirelessly to help create this score.

The movie executives didn’t like it. They wanted the last film to have a simpler, bare bones piano score.

He had less than a week to finish this piece. The movie’s music editor was working in the room next door to match what he was playing with the movie. They had been working long hours to get this done.

He had been playing for more than an hour. He was hot and sweaty. A drop of sweat rolled down his back. The piece he was playing was not only technically challenging but also physically difficult. At this point in the piece, he always felt the sharp pain of his recent gunshot wound.

“Seth?” the movie studios lead engineer asked over the speaker.

Seth stopped playing. Irritated, he turned in his chair to look at the man. Standing next to the lead engineer, the second engineer shrugged.

“I told him not to interrupt you,” she said.

Seth grinned at her moxie. He never really got over this young generations dedication to speaking the truth no matter what.

“What’s up?” Seth asked, grabbing the towel from on top of the piano.

He used the towel to mop the sweat from his head and neck.

“Your friend, Claire, called,” the man said. “She said, ‘He’s kicked them all out. She said to emphasize ‘All of them.’”

“Wow,” Seth said.

He shook his head in disbelief.

“You want me to tell you the rest?” the lead engineer asked.

“Please,” Seth said.

“She said, and this is a quote, ‘We’ve made fifty spots, but there are hundreds in the streets.’ She said that you’d know what that means.”

Seth grimaced. His hip ached where the bullet had wedged itself in the bone. He shifted uncomfortably.

“What should I tell her?” the engineer asked.

“Tell her that he’s a fucking asshole,” Seth said.

“She seems aware of that, O’Malley,” the second engineer said,

Seth laughed.

“She said that he’s asking again to buy the building,” the lead engineer said. “I don’t really get it, but she said something about you stealing the building out from under his grandfather? I don’t know what that means.”

“Do you know who?” Seth said the name of someone.

“He’s married to the daughter of . . .” the lead engineer said the name of a famous New Yorker.

“His grandfather sold me the building at twice the asking price,” Seth said. He grinned. “Of course, I was ten years old then. He laughed at me and told me that I was a fool. I told him that I was ten and I would keep the building long enough for him to beg me to sell it back to him.”

Seth wiped his face with the towel.

“They’ve been begging for the last five years,” Seth said.

“Why?” the lead engineer asked.

“Junior’s decided that he wants to own all of Hell’s Kitchen,” Seth said. “My little building is on a corner. It has a permit for a restaurant on the bottom and apartments on top. Very hard to get that kind of permit in those new buildings. We registered the building as historic, which really pissed him off. But now, he thinks it’s a great selling point. You know, ‘Live in historic Hell’s Kitchen.’ The building’s up to code which nothing he owns really is.”

Seth shook his head.

“What is happening?” the second engineer asked.

“He’s evicting people from the buildings that surround my building,” Seth said. “We expected it and asked the people who rent from us if they could spare a room. That’s what Claire was talking about. I had the engineers in last summer to check the roof. We can set up twenty small tents on the roof. It’s just. . .”

Seth shook his head.

“What kind of an asshole evicts people in the middle of a pandemic?” Seth asked, his disgust apparent.

“Claire said that you should call the governor,” the second engineer said.

“We’ve stopped,” the music editor said as he flung the door open. “Have we stopped? Why have we stopped?”

“O’Malley has to call the governor,” the second engineer said.

“Oh well, if it’s something important,” the music editor said, sarcastically. “What the fuck, O’Malley? I have a life too, you know. You want to socialize with your bigwig friends, do it on your own time. Not on mine!”

“Some jerk is evicting hundreds of people in Hell’s Kitchen,” the lead engineer said.

“You mean. . .” the music editor said the name of the person.

Seth and the two engineers nodded.

“He’s using the press focus on the pandemic to stay under the radar,” the second engineer said. “Doesn’t your wife work at the New York Times?”

“She does,” the music editor said. “I’ll call her.”

“I am calling a break,” the lead engineer said officiously.

Everyone looked at him. There was a long moment before they laughed.

“I need my phone, another towel, and some water,” Seth said. “Food. Asprin.”

“Got it,” the second engineer said.

She came into the recording studio. She gave him the towel, a plastic cup of fruit at the bottom yogurt, and his phone while taking the empty pitcher of water to be refilled.

Seth started making calls.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


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