Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Seven: Where is this?
Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Nine: As if there wasn't enough going on... (part one)

Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Eight: Ahead. Or maybe A Head?

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY-EIGHT

Saturday morning — 9:02 a.m.

“Oh, no way,” Sandy said. “Jeraine had a poster of himself with his thumb in the front of his pants?”

“Kinda pulling them down,” Tanesha said as she slowly walked by Sandy’s side.

“How did we miss that for our dart board?” Sandy asked.

Tanesha laughed. Sandy had greeted Tanesha at the door of Seth O’Malley’s house. They were moving into the house.

“You know what he told me?” Tanesha asked.

“I’m not sure if I do,” Sandy said with a laugh.

“‘I am very sexy,’” Tanesha said.

They broke down laughing. Sandy stopped rolling and Tanesha bent over with laughter.

“What are you girls laughing about?” Bernie asked, poking his head out of the front room.

“Tanesha’s husband,” Maresol coming from the kitchen. She patted Bernie’s chest. “You remember that Tanesha’s married to Dionne’s son.”

“R and B star,” Bernie said, with a nod. “Jeraine.”

“That child never knew any shame,” Maresol said. “Remember when he decided that ripped shirts were his style? He’d tear them so that you could see just his little boy belly.”

“‘Shows off my hotness,’” Sandy said in an imitation of Jeraine.

“He was ten!” Tanesha said.

The woman laughed again.

“He is very handsome,” Bernie said.

“Don’t defend him,” Maresol said. “He’s done many, many, many cruel things to our Tanesha. He would be in prison if Seth hadn’t saved him. That was enough of an effort from your male kindship.”

Bernie scowled and looked at Maresol. Catching Sandy’s expression, he nodded.

“I acquiesce to your greater wisdom,” Bernie said.

“Smart man,” Maresol said.

Bernie chuckled and went back into the front room. In a few minutes, they heard him playing the grand piano that lived in that room.

“Where’s O’Malley?” Tanesha asked.

“He’s in New York,” Maresol said. “He has to finish that fourth movie. Plus. . .”

Maresol raised an eyebrow.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“That jackass wants to own all of Hell’s Kitchen,” Maresol said.

“And remake it in his image,” Sandy said. “He owns the building around O’Malley’s and is trying to pressure O’Malley to sell his. If O’Malley caves, he thinks the rest of Hell’s Kitchen will cave.”

“It’s a real stand-off,” Maresol said. “They’re harassing the tenants of O’Malley’s building. They tried to steal the food trucks in O’Malley’s parking lot last night.”

“How did they stop that?” Tanesha asked.

“O’Malley and Claire told the tenants that this was coming,” Maresol said. “They were ready for the assault. One of those music guys was coming back from a gig and found them trying to break into the trucks.”

“What happened?” Tanesha asked.

“He called the police,” Maresol said. “The men said straight out that they were paid by that asshole.”

“Awful,” Sandy said.

“What about the other buildings?” Tanesha asked. “Will they cave?”

“Probably not,” Maresol said. “They are owned by Tafoya Industries.”

“Isn’t that your name?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy and Maresol laughed.

“O’Malley bought it about a year ago when it was clear what was coming,” Sandy said. “It’s this weird deal where he owns the property but the original owner manages the buildings and collects rent. After ten years, we can get control if we want it. Those idiots haven’t figured it out yet. They keep calling Maresol.”

Sandy nodded to Maresol.

“I answer: ‘Que?’ and just keep repeating it until they hang up,” Maresol said.

The women laughed.

“Frankly, it would be a bigger deal if O’Malley wasn’t wealthier than they are,” Maresol said. “They owe on everything. If O’Malley holds out for even just another month, they’ll likely default.”

“How did O’Malley get wealthier than them?” Tanesha asked.

“Look around you,” Maresol said. “This is his father’s home. The man doesn’t spend money.”

Maresol set a cup of coffee in front of Tanesha, who took a long drink. Maresol filled the cup again.

“Suits, planes,” Sandy said.

“He rents planes. But he does spend on people,” Maresol said. “But all of it is a lot less than spending money on failing business projects, lawyers, and federal penalties on your crimes.”

“Should he invest more?” Sandy asked with a scowl.

“That’s your department. I just answer the phone,” Maresol said with a smile. “Now, what are we doing today?”

“I was hoping to get back to organizing the crap from Poland,” Tanesha said. “I’ve been working at the hospital so much that I’ve fallen behind my schedule.”

“As long as you realize the schedule exists only in your head,” Maresol said. “That junk sat in a tunnel in Poland for decades. It can sit here a while longer.”

“I know,” Tanesha said. “I just like to finish what I start.”

Maresol nodded in understanding.

“What are you up to?” Maresol asked Sandy.

“I was going to hang out with Tanesha,” Sandy said. “She found a crate that she thought we could start with.”

“Don’t overdo it,” Maresol said.

“I’ll be careful,” Sandy said. “I should be out of the wheelchair by Monday.”

Maresol gave Sandy a worried nod.

“What are you up to?” Tanesha asked Maresol.

“I was going to help Delphie,” Maresol said. “You know their cleaner, Rosa?”

Sandy and Tanesha nodded.

“She said that Delphie has too much on her plate,” Maresol said. “You know — with the kids and the new greenhouses. . .”

“And Sam,” Tanesha said. “I found her with Sam when I got home yesterday. She’d clearly been there since he got home. She was exhausted. Overwrought.”

“She needs her friends around her,” Maresol said. “Just like we all do sometimes.”

“What will you do there?” Tanesha asked.

“I was going to teach a little cooking class,” Maresol said. “Get that Charlie and his teens working in the kitchen. I can’t believe they aren’t cooking!”

“Quanshay’s there,” Tanesha said.

“She’s the woman you were talking to your mom about?” Maresol asked.

“She’ll be a big help,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“Blane’s around too,” Maresol nodded. “Sounds like we’ll have a fun day. You girls will be all right here?”

“Of course,” Sandy said.

“We’ll avoid any creepy objects,” Tanesha said. “Dark energy and all of that. I’m pretty good at picking up on that stuff. I have lots of practice.”

“I bet you are good at it,” Maresol said. She nodded. “Well, I’ll get ready to go.”

In turn, Tanesha and Sandy hugged Maresol and the older woman headed back to her rooms.

“What did you see?” Sandy asked.

“When?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy gestured toward the stack of crates, boxes, and other precious antiquity junk.

“Oh, I have to show you,” Tanesha said.

They went over to where the crates were stacked. Tanesha pointed to one near the bottom.

“Do you see this stamp?” Tanesha asked.

“Looks like a rose,” Sandy said.

Tanesha dropped to a crouch and Sandy bent over. Tanesha brushed dust off the imprint.

“I think so too,” Tanesha said.

“What is it?” Sandy asked.

“Have you ever heard of the ‘White Rose’?” Tanesha asked. She continued when Sandy shook her head. “It’s kind of complicated but this woman, girl really, called ‘Sophie Scholl’ and her brother ‘Hans’ were involved in Hitler Youth, but became disgusted with it. Hans fought for the Nazi’s in Poland and saw the atrocities for himself. They started printing and distributing leaflets around 1942. It was kind of a college group.”

Sandy reached out to touch the rose.

“Should I continue?” Tanesha asked.

“Please do,” Sandy said. “There was a core group of students and professors. They only published six pamphlets. And remember there wasn’t printing like there now.”

“Typewriters and mimeographs?” Sandy asked.

“And the mail,” Tanesha said with a nod.

Tanesha stopped talking. Sandy nodded.

“Killed by the Nazis?” Sandy asked.

“Beheaded by guillotine,” Tanesha said. “At least Sophie and her brother were. Hans. There was a gruesome mock trial and long interrogations. They never gave up their friends. But they were arrested anyway. The last question asked her was if she thought that she’d committed a crime against her community.”

Tanesha sighed. She glanced at Sandy and saw Sandy’s rapt attention.

“I memorized it when I was in college,” Tanesha said.

“What did she say?” Sandy asked with a nod.

“‘I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.’”

Tanesha gave Sandy a soft smile.

“She was so brave,” Tanesha said. “I wished for her surety and courage so I could. . . You know, because my mom was trapped and my dad in prison and gran. . . Jeraine. . . I mean, things have turned out really great, just then. . .”

“You needed courage and surety,” Sandy said.

Nodding, Tanesha sighed. She nodded to the box.

“The sixth leaflet was smuggled into the UK,” Tanesha said. “It was reprinted and dropped from planes just months after she and her brother were killed.”

“Wow,” Sandy said.

“Yeah,” Tanesha said. “Anyway, this crate could have leaflets or. . .”

“Let’s find out,” Sandy said. “Whatever is here — we will celebrate a life well lived. Depending on what it is, we’ll send it on to a museum or start one ourselves.”

Tanesha took the top crate off the stack. Setting it to the side, she took the next crate and stacked it on top of the other. She took the crate that was stamped with the rose. Using the small crowbar for leverage, she broke the seal on the top of the crate. The lid opened just an inch.

A musty smell filled the area.

“No,” Ava O’Malley, Seth’s wife, said running in their direction. “Leave it. Back up.”

“What is it?” Tanesha asked as she and Sandy backed away.

“That’s the smell of death,” Ava said. “Decay.”

Ava was a forensic scientist who ran a lab at the Denver Crime Labs. She pressed her way passed Tanesha and Sandy, effectively blocking them from the crate.

“Do you mind if I take a look?” Ava asked. “Sorry. I heard you talking about Sophie Scholl. She’s a hero of mine. I. . .”

Ava looked at the crate and saw the Rose stamp.

“Oh,” Ava said.

She turned her back to Tanesha and Sandy in such a way that she covered what she was doing with the crate. They saw only her back and rear end. After a long moment, they heard the top of the crate close. There was a pounding sound as Ava resealed the crate. Ava stood up holding the small crowbar.

“I’m sorry,” Ava said. “I have to report this.”

“Wha. . .” Sandy asked but didn’t finish.

“What is it?” Tanesha asked.

“A decaying head,” Ava said.

Sandy and Tanesha gasped.

“I’m telling you this because you’re strong,” Ava said. “You can handle this. There’s no way to know why this is here. It could be the Nazis. It could also be her friends and family keeping these remains away from being shown off by the Nazis.”

Sandy gave Ava a vague nod. Tanesha stood gawking at Ava.

“What will you do?” Tanesha asked.

“I have to call this in to the Denver Police,” Ava said. “So they don’t think we’re killing people and saving the heads. They will call my friend at Colorado History. She’ll come out to check to see if it’s a criminal matter or archeological. We also have to check with the Council on Indian Affairs so that they know these remains aren’t theirs. In all likelihood, it will go to Dr. Quincy. You’ve met her, Sandy.”

“Joan,” Sandy said.

Ava nodded.

“She’s a bone specialist,” Ava said. “Why don’t I call her so that she can have a look before all the chaos starts? I’ll call my friend from Colorado History as well.”

“That sounds great,” Sandy said. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” Ava said, as she moved toward the landline phone.

“It’s Sophie,” Tanesha said softly.

“Probably,” Ava said. “I’m sorry.”

Ava touched Tanesha’s shoulder as she passed. Sandy and Tanesha watched her go. Tanesha sighed.

“What do you want to do now?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy chuckled.

“Why don’t we work over on the end here?” Sandy asked. “I think maybe, just maybe, there’s one of those missing art works in these big crates. We’ll be out of the way of whatever chaos comes, but we’ll also be right here to watch.”

“Do there are more bodies?” Tanesha asked.

“Since we’ve only found one, I bet we’re safe,” Sandy said.

“We live on hope,” Tanesha said.

Grinning, Sandy rolled over to the stack of crates against the wall.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning — 10:35 a.m.

Quanshay was laughing at something Maresol had said when she realized that the pocket of that cozy robe was buzzing. She was sitting in the beautiful garden drinking tea when Maresol had stopped by to ask for her help in the kitchen.

“Your phone?” Maresol asked.

“I lost my phone,” Quanshay said. “Turns out it was here in this pocket. Ugh!”

“He’ll understand,” Maresol said.

“It’s really the worst sin a military spouse can do,” Quanshay said.

“He’ll understand.” Maresol nodded.

“I’ll see you there,” Quanshay said as Maresol left her to her call.

“Hello?” Quanshay asked.

“Where have you been?” her husband Chief Petty Officer Royce Tubman asked.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” Quanshay said. “I am not someone you get to boss around.”

Royce was silent for a long moment.

“And, no, I wasn’t messing around with Jeraine,” Quanshay said. “But today is a new day.”

When she heard Royce’s low chuckle, she laughed.

“How are you holding up?” Quanshay asked.

“I’m okay,” Royce said. “I’m sorry for barking at you.”

“I understand,” Quanshay said. “It’s the longest we’ve gone without talking since you were a SEAL.”

“Hard days,” Royce said.

“It was hard on us,” Quanshay said. “I’ve missed you. I just lost my phone.”

“How are you?” Royce asked. “Honey said that you’ve been sleeping a lot. Are you sick?”

“We called Dr. Bumpy,” Quanshay said. “Did you remember that he was Jeraine’s father?”

“I did not,” Royce said.

“I didn’t either,” Quanshay said with a snort of a laugh.

“What did he say?” Royce asked.

“He said that they don’t have a lot of tests,” Quanshay said. “If I don’t have fever or a cough, then they can’t really give me a test.”

Royce sighed.

“I think that I’m just tired,” Quanshay said. “That son of ours has been creeping around with some girl. This virus. The business. Everything. I haven’t been sleeping very much. Then I got here and. . . It’s like everything just slipped away.”

“That sounds good,” Royce said.

“I talked to John Drayson,” Quanshay said. “He came by here to check on Julie Hargreaves and Margaret’s uncle, Gando. They both have had Covid. Bad. So does Jake and Val’s father, Sam.”

“That’s a shame,” Royce said.

“They’re getting better, slowly,” Quanshay said. “You remember that kid Paddie? White hair?”

“Colin’s eldest,” Royce said.

“That’s right,” Quanshay said. “He was really sick but he’s better. He was at dinner last night. I guess he’s been quarantining by himself. He was kind of shy at first. After a bit, he was playing with the other kids.”

“And Katie?” Royce asked. “Isn’t that his best friend in the world?”

“She was there,” Quanshay said. “They are really cute. Our youngest played with all of the kids they call the ‘Wild Bunch.’ He’s there now. I think.”

“You haven’t seen him?” Royce asked.

“Not today,” Quanshay said with a little laugh. “They are giving me a break since I kind of freaked out.”

“I saw,” Royce said.

“I bet you did,” Quanshay said with a laugh. “Do you remember Rodney Smith?”

“The name is familiar,” Royce said.

“He was wrongly charged with murdering someone and got out?” Quanshay asked. “We went to see him speak when we first got here.”

“Uh-huh,” Royce said doubtfully.

“He’s Tanesha’s father,” Quanshay said. “And you know who Tanesha is?”

“Miss T?” Royce asked.

“Miss T!” Quanshay said. “This place is like a resort. I sleep in late. The food is good. My kids are taken care of. I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Royce chuckled.

“What did John Drayson say?” Royce asked.

“He said that we should worry about the loan or the business,” Quanshay said. “I told him that I didn’t want to put them out. You know what he said?”

“He told me they save for rainy days,” Royce said.

“And it’s pouring!” Quanshay said with a chuckle. Royce laughed. “When did you talk to him?”

“He’s married to the LC,” Royce said.

“Oh, that’s right,” Quanshay said. “You probably talk to all these people more than I do.”

“You’ve been asleep,” Royce said.

She could hear the smile in his voice. He never resented the time she spent caring for himself. When he was home, he would insist on it. She smiled.

“Today, I’m going to help teach the teenagers how to cook,” Quanshay said. “Maybe I’ll figure out who J’Ron’s dating.”

“Or see our youngest?” Royce asked.

“Maybe even that,” Quanshay said.

Royce chuckled.

“I’m glad that they are taking such good care of you,” Royce said.

“They are caring for everyone,” Quanshay said. “It’s amazing. The kids are having a great time. The teens aren’t as sneering or surly. It’s like a miracle.”

“Someone else’s house,” Royce said.

“Exactly,” Quanshay said. “Kallyn told me that no one wants to go home to their boring house so they are on their best behavior.”

“I bet,” Royce said.

“I think she has a crush on Alexander,” Quanshay said. “They’ve been practicing fighting with those sticks.”

“Bokkens?” Royce asked.

“That,” Quanshay said. “He’s become so handsome.”

“He has,” Royce said. “I saw a picture of his parents once. They were gorgeous. So it’s not much of a surprise.”

They were quiet for a long moment.

“You’all ’re going ta be home when I get there?” Royce asked.

“We’ll be there waiting,” Quanshay said. “I just needed a break.”

“I understand completely,” Royce said. “I’ll be home soon.”

“You’d better,” Quanshay said.

Chuckling, Royce hung up. Quanshay looked at the clock. Maresol said that they would work with the kids at 11:30 am. She just had time for a bath.

Smiling to herself, Quanshay started the water for a bath.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

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