CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY-THREE
Wednesday early morning — 5:30 a.m.
In their new home, Blane turned the corner and stopped short. They had said they would install the large kitchen yesterday and, like magic, he was looking at kitchen cabinets. He blinked and looked down. The floor people must have put this floor in sometime earlier this week.
Where had he been?
He’d come through here three times a day but he never saw a thing.
His head jerked up at his name. Nelson was sitting in a chair at a small round table set next to the window. Nelson wore pajamas and a thick bathrobe. He was framed in early morning blue light reflected through the windows to the courtyard..
“Nelson?” Blane asked. “Are you. . . I mean. . . Uh. . .”
“I’m okay,” Nelson said. “Or okay-ish.”
“How?” Blane asked.
“Mari stopped by with Otis last night,” Nelson said. “With the acupuncture and Abi and Jill. . . well, everything. . . I’m okay.”
Blane walked across the wide open, now oak floored space, to Nelson. He picked up Nelson’s left wrist and then his right.
“Tongue?” Blane asked.
Nelson stuck out his tongue. Blane read Nelson’s tongue. He shook his head.
“Wow,” Blane said. “You’re so much better. So much. It’s amazing.”
“Otis said that I was nearly there,” Nelson said. Nelson reached up to hold Blane’s hand. “Thank you. Without your help, I would be lingering in a hospital — alone and. . . “
“You’ve saved me,” Nelson said. “Again.”
“It sounds like Otis and Bathsheba saved you,” Blane said.
“Don’t do that,” Nelson said. “If I didn’t have you to come home to, Bathsheba would never have been able to reach me. Otis told me that the acupuncture had detoxified me. That’s mostly what’s been wrong with me. I took in so much toxic shit being at war for years. Your work flushed all of that way, healed me, so that I could use what he gave me. He said that.”
Blane blushed. He started taking breakfast out of the reusable bag he’d brought.
“I’m so grateful for you,” Nelson said. “You and this weird and wonderful family you’ve included me and my father in.”
“Breakfast burritos,” Blane said, setting down a burrito for Blane and one for himself.
“Jake’s?” Nelson asked.
“It was kind of a group effort,” Blane said. “Children keep showing up at the Castle. There’s a gang of teenagers and about a billion kids under 10 years old.”
“Really?” Nelson asked, with a laugh. “A billion?”
“I kid you not,” Blane said. “Jake got up and made about a hundred breakfast burritos. You know Troy?”
“Olivas?” Nelson said. “The genius?”
“Him,” Blane said. “His boys are here. With Charlie and Nelson, they eat like locusts. You would notbelieve the number of eggs we use. Yesterday, Delphie raided their chickens for eggs. She’s decided that we need our own flock.”
“Please sit down,” Nelson said.
“Where’s the nurse?” Blane asked.
“The doctor dropped by this morning and sent her home,” Nelson said. “I’ll have a nurse tonight but if I’m better than I don’t need it. Today, I’m to read and rest. Ava and the team are video calling me at noon to talk about cases.”
Smiling, Blane sat down in a chair across from Nelson.
“I feel almost normal,” Nelson said. “This place looks amazing. Everything will be all set very soon. It’s exciting.”
“What?” Nelson asked.
“What do you mean ‘What’?” Blane asked.
“You look like you’re not asking me something,” Nelson said.
“When do you leave again?” Blane asked.
“For the treasure?” Nelson asked.
“To save your father’s life,” Blane said, softly.
“I don’t know,” Nelson sighed. “I. . .”
Nelson shook his head.
“I can only do one day at a time,” Nelson said. “Right this moment, it feels great to just be here with you. I’m excited to see my work team. I can’t wait to see the boys, Hedone, even Tres. I. . .”
Blane watched Nelson closely.
“I don’t want to go,” Nelson said. “When I sit here, as the sun rises, I never want to leave. But then I remember my father and I. . .”
Nelson shook his head.
“What if you do it differently this time?” Blane asked.
“I’m listening,” Nelson said.
“Alex’s biological father is hooked into the French government,” Blane said. “I bet she could connect you with someone in antiquities. You could raise this fortune in full view of the public.”
“What?” Nelson asked.
“What do you mean ‘What’?’ Blane asked.
“I never thought of it,” Nelson said.
“Huh,” Blane said.
“It’s so obvious when you say it,” Nelson said. “If I knew where it is.”
“The group of goddesses came up with ten possible sites. Alex and her team used them to figure it out,” Blane said. “Fin said that his father went there to check it out.”
“And?” Nelson asked.
“It’s definitely there,” Blane said.
“Where?” Nelson asked.
“When you’re better, we’ll talk,” Blane said. “Right now, you just have to decide if you want to go public with your situation and ask the French to get involved.”
“I do,” Nelson said. “I definitely do. Public means resources, modern resources. No more creeping around in cold, dark Castles.”
“Okay,” Blane said. “I’ll tell Alex.”
“Isn’t she somewhere secret?” Nelson asked.
“I can always call her,” Blane said. “I leave a message and she calls me back.”
“Shall we?” Blane asked.
Nelson took the top off the insulated traveling mug that Blane had given to him. He groaned.
“Hot chocolate,” Nelson sighed. He took a drink. “Perfect.”
“Help you put back on some weight,” Blane said.
Nelson nodded. They ate in silence for a few minutes.
“If I get well enough, I want to help out at the ERs,” Nelson said. “When summer comes, the virus will likely slow down or that’s what the nurse said.”
“And?” Blane asked.
“I can work this spring, head out in the summer,” Nelson said. “I’ll be back by the time the Fall surge happens.”
“You’re planning your life around a virus,” Blane said. “A new virus, none-the-less.”
“I’m planning my life around what I love to do,” Nelson said. “Be with you, the kids, Hedone. . .”
“Heather,” Blane corrected.
“Right, sorry,” Nelson said. “Heather and Tres. Work with Ava on some mysteries. Get some hours in the ER. Help people. I really want to help people and love. I want to immerse myself in love.”
“Don’t you dare laugh at me,” Nelson said.
“I’m not laughing,” Blane said. “I’m anticipating the spring of love, the summer at sea, and the fall fighting the virus.”
Nelson laughed. Blane looked at his watch.
“I have to go,” Blane said. “Today’s my day in the office to help Aden. I’m job sharing with the secretaries to give everyone a break. With the Marlowe School closed, the kids are home so everyone is stretched.”
“Nice of you,” Nelson said.
Blane got up. He pointed at Nelson.
“Your job right now is to heal,” Blane said. “You cannot do any of the things you talked about if you’re one-hundred percent.”
“Will do,” Nelson said.
“You have your phone?” Blane asked.
“Phone, laptop,” Nelson said. “Television, radio. Mostly, I need sleep. That’s what you always tell me.”
“True,” Blane said. He leaned over and kissed Nelson. “Get well. That’s hard enough.”
Nelson grinned at Blane.
“I’ll check on you tonight,” Blane said as he left the downstairs.
Nelson watched him go before getting up and returning to bed. He fell into a sound sleep.
Wednesday early morning — 5:30 a.m.
“So it is,” Delphie whispered.
She was kneeling at the altar in her chapel. She felt a longing to stay there all day. The world certainly needed her prayers right now.
But today was not a day to be spent in worship. There was simply too much to do. With Sam in the hospital, she needed to recruit new help. She went up the stairs to the hallway where Sam’s Birch room and Honey’s apartment was located. She then went down the padded stairs to the basement.
Hearing the washers going, she glanced in to see Valerie washing a load of children’s clothing. There were so many little kids that they had to keep up with all of the laundry. Valerie waved to Delphie as she passed. Delphie turned down the hallway.
She knew the meditation room was now where some of the teenagers were sleeping — two more arrived last night. Delphie had been too tired to meet them. She thought that they were in the mediation room.
The study room was in the middle of a remodel for online school. She peered in to see boxes of computers that hadn’t been unpacked. Sam had been working on this room before. . .
How had Sam gotten sick and she hadn’t?
She felt a well of sorrow but refused to give in. She stopped walking in the middle of the hallway.
Which one was Charlie and Tink’s apartment?
She went to a door and started to knock but hesitated.
This wasn’t it.
There were so many new people, new souls, that it was hard for Delphie to keep them all straight.
“No Delphie,” she said, softly to herself. “You can keep them straight. There’s nothing wrong with you. You just have a lot on your mind.”
A door opened to her left.
“Tanesha!” Delphie exclaimed. “How are you?”
“A little tired but okay,” Tanesha said. “Are you okay?”
“I’m looking for Charlie,” Delphie said. “I thought he and Tink were living down here but I can’t. . .” I can’t. . .”
Tanesha’s heart tore in two to see Delphie cry. Delphie was so generous with her home and her life. It was no wonder she was confused.
“How about this?” Tanesha said.
Delphie gave Tanesha a watery look.
“Why don’t you head down to your chapel?” Tanesha asked. “I’ll get Charlie and Tink. Do you need anyone else?”
“Jeraine?” Delphie asked.
Tanesha opened the door to the apartment.
“Jer?” Tanesha called into the apartment.
Jeraine was there in a moment.
“We were just finishing breakfast,” Tanesha said. “Can you help Delphie?”
“Absolutely,” Jeraine said. “I need to get Jabari ready for the day. Can he come?”
“We’ll be outside,” Delphie said. “I think that’s safe.”
Jeraine turned back and then came to the door.
“You know, your dad’s not working the rest of this week,” Jeraine said to Tanesha.
“Can my dad help?” Tanesha asked. “He’s driving my mom crazy at home.”
“Would you?” Delphie looked on the verge of weeping.
“We’ll get this together,” Tanesha said. “Don’t you worry. Would it be okay if my mom came over?”
Looking relieved, Delphie nodded. Yvonne was one of Delphie’s best friends. If she came over, Maresol and Dionne wouldn’t be far behind. Looking at Jeraine, Tanesha gestured with her head toward Delphie. He pushed past her to Delphie’s side.
“Why don’t I help you down to your chapel?” Jeraine said. “I heard Tanesha say that she’ll get Charlie and Tink. We’ll get her dad here and I’ll help with whatever you need.”
“I would really like that,” Delphie said.
Still wearing pajama bottoms and a tank top, Jeraine helped Delphie down to her chapel. She returned to praying. He jogged back up the stairs and down the stairs.
“What’s going on?” Valerie asked Jeraine.
“I’m not sure,” Jeraine said. “Seems like Delphie needs some physical labor in the back.”
“I’ll tell Mike,” Valerie said as she pulled a load of laundry out of the dryer. “These are almost done.”
Jeraine nodded and jogged back to his apartment.
Wednesday morning — 6:35 a.m.
Tanesha’s parents, Yvonne and Rodney Smith, arrived less than fifteen minutes after Tanesha has called. Even at the crack of dawn, they looked like models and had gorgeous African print masks over their mouths and noses. Of course, Yvonne was such a beautiful woman that people stepped back when she walked through. They found Delphie sitting in the kitchen.
“Delphie?” Yvonne asked.
“I have to figure this out!” Delphie exclaimed.
Yvonne looked over at Valerie, who was standing behind the counter. Valerie gave a slow shake of her head. Clearly other’s had tried to help.
Yvonne knelt down to her dear friend, Delphie. She covered Delphie’s hands.
“Why don’t you tell my Rodney what you want?” Yvonne’s voice was soothing and low. “You know how good he is at that kind of thing.”
Yvonne’s eyes gestured to a chair. Rodney pulled a chair from under the table and moved it closed to Delphie.
“Usually Sam helps her with this,” Yvonne said to Rodney.
“That looks like a good picture of your backyard,” Rodney said. “What’s this?”
“That’s the new grass we planted last fall,” Delphie said. “It’s a grain and it had long roots.”
“We had some of that nice bread you made,” Rodney said.
“Better days,” Yvonne said.
“What’s box?” Rodney asked.
“That’s the big bathroom Erik and those boys made for us,” Delphie said.
“Now I remember,” Rodney said. “This is Mike’s studio.”
Delphie nodded. In the company of her dear friends, and grounded in talking about her own backyard, Delphie began to calm down. She took a breath and sighed.
“I. . .” Delphie said, her emotions rising again.
Yvonne took Delphie’s hands again.
“Why don’t you just tell me what you want?” Rodney asked.
“We need chickens,” Delphie said. “But if we get chicks now, they won’t be able to lay until next year! We can’t wait that long. We have so many people in the house that we need to be able to feed them and ourselves and. . .”
She looked up and saw only interest and concern on Rodney’s face.
“There’s a guy who works for me that has some chickens to sell,” Rodney said. “He raised them from chicks last fall. He thought people would want them when they’re ready to lay rather than get chicks now.”
“Don’t those boys at your facility have chickens?” Valerie asked. “I forgot what it was called.”
“You’re right,” Rodney said. “They did the same thing. They’ve got thirty or forty extra chickens to sell.”
“We can get you chickens,” Yvonne said, nodding. “Both Rodney and I have taken care of chickens. It’ll be easy for us to set this up for you. Get everything you need.”
“Maresol raised chickens for the State Fair,” Delphie said with a nod.
“That’s right, she did,” Yvonne said. She put her arm around Delphie. “You have the best friends.”
“I do,” Delphie said
She looked at Yvonne and then at Rodney before giving them a watery smile.
“Come on, Delphie,” Yvonne said. “Let’s get some coffee and talk.”
She guided her friend out of the room. Seeing the kids in the living room and the side room, Yvonne guided Delphie into the dining room and closed the doors.
“Just left you here?” Valerie asked with a smile.
“Gives me a chance to fix this,” Rodney said. “I love Delphie. You know, she used to visit me in prison? When I first got there, I had a pretty hard time. Delphie started coming. She used her gift to charm to guards and grant them free readings, helped them with their lives, you know how she is. The guards started protecting me and. . . “
Rodney sighed and nodded.
“She’s a great woman,” Valerie said.
“She is,” Rodney said. “But she can’t draw for shit.”
“You have any idea what she wants?” Rodney asked.
“I do,” Charlie said appearing at the door to the kitchen. “She told me and I went to get dressed and wake the other guys.”
“Just guys?” Valerie asked.
“And girls,” Charlie said, shooting Valerie and annoyed look.
She gave him her beautiful smile. He laughed.
“Nice to see you, Charlie,” Rodney said. “Let’s head out and see what we can do.”
Rodney got up. Charlie started toward the back door.
“Mike’s here?” Rodney said.
“I’ll get him,” Valerie said.
Rodney nodded to her and headed out into the garden. With Charlie’s help, Rodney walked through the practicality of what Delphie wanted. Mike and Charlie conferred and they talked to Rodney. It took over an hour, but the men put together a plan for the backyard.
“Let’s have breakfast,” Rodney said.
“Delphie’s pretty anxious about this,” Charlie said. “She woke me up at five-thirty!”
“She and Yvonne will be talking for hours,” Rodney said. “Maresol will show up any moment. They’ll cheer Delphie up.”
“Oh,” Charlie said. “When do we need to work?”
“Ten?” Rodney looked up at the sky to judge the sky. “Eleven?”
“I’m going back to bed,” Charlie said. “If you need us, we’re in our old apartment. We moved back when Noelle and Nash, Rachel, came home.”
“Thank you, Charlie,” Rodney said.
Mike pointed to his studio and wandered away. Rodney headed up the outside stairs to the deck. He settled in on a bench. The mountains were on full display from this spot. He took the fancy phone that Tanesha forced him to buy out of his back pocket and settled in to read. His mind relaxed and he began to enjoy his morning.
Around 10:30 a.m., Yvonne came out the back door. He whistled to her and she waved him down. He put his phone away and went to greet her. She rewarded him with a kiss, which made him grin like a 10 year old.
“How’s Delphie?” Rodney asked.
“Better,” Yvonne said. “This thing with Sam is really messing her up. She doesn’t know why she didn’t get it. She thinks that she should be sick and he should be here.”
Yvonne shook her head.
“You know what that’s like,” Yvonne said.
“I sure do,” Rodney said.
“Maresol’s here,” Yvonne said. “She’s already had those kids cleaning up the living room. She made a game out of it and it’s all done. Everyone’s laughing.”
“That’s really good,” Rodney said.
“You ready to get to work?” Yvonne asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Rodney said.
“You have a bunch of little helpers,” Yvonne said.
“Sounds fun,” Rodney said.
“They’re so cute in their little masks,” Yvonne said.
Rodney smiled and kissed her forehead.
“Where’s yours?” Yvonne asked.
“Uh.” Rodney patted his pockets and came up with one from his back pocket.
“Where’s yours?” Rodney asked.
“I just took mine off to kiss you,” Yvonne said. “if you’d rather. . .”
Rodney kissed her one more time. They hugged.
“Are you ready, Mr. Smith?” Tink asked. “Delphie said that she wanted to see what you came up with. Mike won’t show it if you’re not here.”
“Of course,” Rodney said.
He put on his mask and Yvonne put hers on. They went inside to lay out the plan for the changes to the backyard.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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