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Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part six)

“That’s interesting,” Noelle said. “Did you find anything?”

“It’s tricky,” Nelson said. “The ballroom was an illegal speakeasy, so it’s not like they would have called the police if something happened.”

Noelle nodded. The electric kettle clicked off and Noelle set about making the pot of tea. Nelson followed her with his eyes.

“I haven’t found anything,” Nelson said. “But that doesn’t mean that, when we find someone who will talk to us, I won’t be able to track their story through official channels. At least that’s how it usually works.”

Noelle nodded. She set the full teapot on the kitchen table.

“What are you up to?” Nelson asked.

“It time for me to do art,” Noelle said. “I can just go out there, but Joey’s still here and Mike was working with him. Mike will be mad if Joey and I work, but it’s art time so we have to do something. Have you seen Mike?”

“I haven’t,” Nelson said.

“Hmm,” Noelle said. “They had a baby yesterday.”

“I heard,” Nelson said. “Baby girl?”

Noelle nodded. She squinted her eyes and looked at the second floor stairs.

“I should go check,” Noelle said. “He just might get annoyed, and I don’t want to annoy him.”

Nelson looked up at her.

“You don’t have any special powers do you?” Noelle asked. “You know, like Jacob and Katy do?”

“Other than being a Templar?” Nelson asked with a laugh. “No.”

“Well, here goes nothing,” Noelle said and went up the stairs. “Good luck with your stuff.”

Nelson nodded and went back to his computer. A few minutes later, Ava O’Malley came in with the state archeologist, Dr. Heidi Miller, trailing behind her.

“This is a great place,” Dr. Miller said. “Do you live here, Nelson?”

“I lived here while our house was being finished,” Nelson said. “We live across the street.”

“Can we have the muffins?” Ava asked.

“Sure,” Nelson said, shifting the plate toward here. “We have a fresh pot of tea, too.”

“Where’s O’Malley?” Ava asked.

“He’s not here,” Nelson said. “I mean, he was here. Then he left to drop off Dr. Bumpy.”

“That’ll take a while,” Ava said.

Ava pulled out a seat for Dr. Miller and took one across the table. Nelson got up to get plates and mugs. They had just poured tea when Mike and Noelle came running down the stairs. Mike’s hair was wet and he was pulling on a long sleeved T-shirt. Noelle was talking so fast that none of them could catch a word. Joey Drayson flew down the loft stairs and ran after them. They left the building together.

“Any idea what that was about?” Ava asked.

“Art time?” Nelson shrugged. “Val had her baby yesterday so Mike’s not on the ball. They have this complicated schedule. If they get behind, then everything’s a mess.”

“Wow,” Dr. Miller said. “Can I bring my kids here?”

“Ours are with Heather upstairs,” Nelson said with a grin. “It’s toddler play time.”

They ate muffins and drank tea until Seth came running into the building.

“Come on,” Seth said.

He waved at them and ran down the stairs.

“You guys go ahead,” Ava said. “I’ll clear.”

Nelson picked up his bag and gestured for Dr. Miller to head down the stairs in front of him. Ava picked up the cups. She set them in the dishwasher and followed them down into the ballroom.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

Wednesday morning — 5:05 a.m.

Jill heard a soft knock on their loft door. She pressed the “On” button to their coffee maker and trotted to the door, which she opened just a crack.

“I’m so sorry to wake you,” Tanesha said.

“What are you doing?” Jill asked, stepping back to let her friend into the loft. “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“I know,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“But?” Jill asked.

Jill gestured to the kitchen where the coffee was brewing.

“There’s a guy at the door,” Tanesha said.

“A guy?” Jill asked with her head in the freezer.

Jill came up with a bag of lemon-blueberry muffins.

“An old guy,” Tanesha said. “Really, really old. Somehow, he got past the fences and knocked on the door. Honey heard them and sent Jabari to get us. Jer’s with him now.”

Jill stuck a plate of muffins into the microwave. The coffee maker beeped and Jill poured Tanesha an inch of coffee. Tanesha hated coffee but since she’d started medical school, she needed a tiny bit of a boost. Tanesha grinned at Jill. While Jill doctored her own coffee, Tanesha drank the coffee down like bitter medicine.

“Thanks,” Tanesha said.

Jill nodded.

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked.

His hair wet, Jacob came out of his bedroom with his work clothing on. Jill poured him a cup of coffee.

“There’s a guy here,” Tanesha repeated.

“Super old,” Jill said with a nod.

“Why is he here?” Jacob asked.

“He came to see the ballroom,” Tanesha said.

Jacob laughed.

“I know,” Tanesha said. “This guy is someone Jer’s dad knows.”

“Jeraine can take him down there,” Jacob said.

Tanesha smacked her lips and gave him the “You’re an idiot” shake of her head that he often got from Jill’s friends.

“What?” Jacob asked. “What did I do now?”

“Jeraine has a head injury,” Jill said over her cup of coffee. “I doubt that he can remember where it is. Especially after no sleep.”

“Ah,” Jacob said. “Sorry.”

Tanesha raised an eyebrow as if to say, “You should be.” Jacob laughed. His mother had great female friends so he was used to, and rather enjoyed, this kind of treatment from Jill’s friends.

“Do you have time?” Tanesha wrinkled her nose with the request.

“I always have time for you, Tanesha,” Jacob said.

Jacob nodded to Jill — who grinned at his right response. He grabbed a face mask, and followed Tanesha out of the loft. They jogged down the stairs to the Castle kitchen.

Anxious, Jeraine was standing in the kitchen and staring off into space. Jabari was sitting on the table in front of an elderly man. The man wore a lovely blue with white dots face mask and was sitting at the kitchen table. He was thin with age and his skin was the color of almonds. The corners of his eyes showed a web of wrinkles as he grinned at Jabari chatting away.

They all looked up when Jacob and Tanesha arrived. The elderly man stood up.

“Hi,” Jacob said. “I’m Jacob Marlowe. You probably know my father, Sam Lipson.”

“Know him, like him,” the elderly man said. “But not as much as I loved your mother. She was. . .”

The elderly man shook his head.

“She was,” Jacob said.

“This one reminds me so much of his grandfather at this age,” the elderly man laughed.

“Dr. Bumpy?” Tanesha asked with suprise

She picked up Jabari from off of the kitchen table and set him on her hip.

“That boy could talk the paint off the walls,” the elderly man said. “What a delight.”

The elderly man turned to Jacob and sized him up.

“My name is Wretched Jones,” the man said.

“Wretched?” Tanesha asked. “Really?”

“My mother gave me this name,” Wretched said. “And I wear it with pride. Although, honestly, I think it’s the biggest word she’d ever heard.”

He snorted at that.

“You’re Rodney Smith’s daughter,” Wretched said.

“I am,” Tanesha said. “Do you know my mother, Yvonne?”

“Never a finer person than your mother,” Wretched said. “Not ever did I meet one.”

Teary at the compliment, Tanesha could only nod.

“You’re waiting for O’Malley,” Jacob said.

“I’m waiting for O’Malley,” Wretched laughed. “Bumpy said he’d be here too. But I wanted the first look.”

“Oh,” Jeraine said. His mind snapping back to the present. “Dad and Seth are coming here?”

“O’Malley is not going to like you calling him,” the man’s voice changed to tease Jeraine, “‘Seth.’ Especially when music is on the line.”

Jeraine smiled at the man. Jacob turned to Jeraine.

“Can you make us a pot of coffee?” Jacob asked.

“Coffee?” Jeraine asked.

“Maybe some of those muffins?” Tanesha asked.

“Muffins?” Jeraine gave a slow nod. “I can do that.”

Setting Jabari down, Tanesha went into the kitchen to help get Jeraine started. Jabari ran back to Honey’s apartment to be with his friends.

“Where’d the boy go?” Wretched asked.

“His best friend is my sister Honey’s daughter,” Jacob said.

“They were having a sleep over,” Tanesha said. “He doesn’t want to miss out on the wake up part of the sleep over.”

“Makes sense to me,” Wretched said. “All this belong to you, Marlowe?”

“It belongs to. . .” Jacob said.

“Me,” Delphie said, turning the corner from the second floor stairs.

“Oh my Lord,” Wretched said. “Delphinium.”

“Wretched,” Delphie said with a grin.

They went to hug but remembered the pandemic and stopped.

“In the middle of a pandemic, I find the finest blue flower,” Wretched said.

They laughed. Through his mask, he kissed her cheek.

“Are we going to the ballroom?” Delphie asked.

“Why don’t you take them down?” Jacob asked. “I’ll stay here and wait for O’Malley.”

“Hmm,” Delphie said. “I’d bet that Wretched has a few things to show you.”

Jacob gave Delphie a long look. She waved him downstairs. Jacob unlocked the door.

“Can you make the stairs?” Jacob asked.

“I’ve got two new knees and two new hips,” Wretched said. “I can do anything.”

“After you,” Jacob said.

They started down the stairs into the dark. Midway, Jacob turned on the light switch to the ballroom stairs.

“I never been down that stairway before,” Wretched said.

“Oh?” Jacob asked.

“That’s how the whites came in,” Wretched said. “We negroes had to go through the back.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to go in any door in this house,” Jacob said.

“I thought it belonged to Delphie,” Wretched said with a twinkle in his eye.

Grinning, Jacob opened the door to the ballroom.

Wretched took two steps inside and stopped walking. His hand went to his heart.

Jacob turned to look to see if the man was sick, and saw tears stream down his face. Jacob turned away from Wretched and went to turn on the lights. When Jacob returned, Wretched was walking with confidence toward the stage.

“I never thought I’d ever see this place again,” Wretched said. “I dream about it. In fact, I doubt my son thinks it actually exists.”

“Did you spend time here?” Jacob asked.

“Son,” Wretched said. “I cleaned floors and took out the trash here when I was ten; played bass in the band here when I was fifteen; met my wife here when I was twenty; she ran off with a guy she met here when I was 22, and then. . .”

Wretched’s hands opened as if letting something go.

“Prohibition ended,” Wretched said. “The economy was better. We were playing bigger and better places. I had kids to raise. By the time I had a chance to get back here, this place had vanished. Bumpy looked for it.”

Wretched shook his head.

“I left my stuff here,” Wretched said. “You know, how you do when you go somewhere so often. A suit, in case I had to change here; even an old bass I’d bought at a pawn shop. I always thought that I’d be back here. The next thing I knew, no one had heard of the ballroom. Everyone involved was dead or were chased out of town by the racists after that Grand Dragon was convicted.”

“Grand Dragon?” Jacob asked.

“Klan. Man named Dr. Locke,” Wretched said. “Ben Stapleton was mayor, too. Now-a-days you’d call them ‘white supremacists.’ But in my day, they were the law. Deadly to anyone they didn’t like. Met a lot of racists in my life, but none of them as mean and loathsome as that Stapleton. He had all that power too. He hated Jews and blacks and anyone he could get away with. And. . .”

Wretched shook his head.

“I could talk all day,” Wretched said. “I came here to look. This was a golden place where people of all colors could come to dance. Most of the bands were Negroes but so were lots of the dancers. People had fun — laughing and dancing. Outside, racism was the law of the day; but in here, it was nearest to race-free I ever experienced. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

The elderly man sighed.

“And then it was gone,” Wretched said. “Like it never happened. I think those boys of mine don’t think it ever did.”

“Let’s see if we can’t find your stuff,” Jacob said. “That might give you some proof.”

“Good thinking,” Wretched said with a grin.

“I’ll tell you, there wasn’t much here when I found it,” Jacob said.

“Did you go in the back?” Wretched asked.

“I found some casks of rum and gin,” Jacob said.

“No, the employees side,” Wretched said. “Over here.”

Wretched gestured to the other side of the stage. Jacob followed him. They were standing in front of a blank wall.

“There was a door here,” Wretched said, shaking his head.

The elderly man walked back to where they came inside. He went around the other way and ended up back at the blank wall. He backed up and went the other way.

While Wretched tried to figure out where the door might have been, Jacob looked at the wall. He felt around the wall itself.

If there had been a door here, it was one of the best covers that Jacob had ever seen. He felt around the wall until he thought that he’d found a seam. He turned to look for Wretched. The elderly man was talking to himself in another area of the ballroom, Jacob reached out with his senses.

He took a step backward and shook his head. He was taking out his cellphone when his father entered the ballroom. He watched Sam greet Wretched. While the phone dialed, he saw Wretched explain his dilemma.

“O’Malley,” Seth’s voice came from the phone. “We’re in the car. Bumpy needed some coffee. Not my coffee. Not Maresol’s coffee. But special coffee from the special place.”

Bumpy’s laughing voice came from the background.

“We have a body,” Jacob said. “At least one. Likely two.”

“What?” Seth asked. “In the ballroom.”

“Yes,” Jacob said. “Behind a wall.”

“So it is true,” Wretched said.

Jacob jerked with surprise. The elderly man was at his elbow.

“I’ll take care of it,” Seth said.

“Thanks,” Jacob hung up the phone. Turning to Wretched, Jacob asked, “What’s true?”

The elderly man shook his head and walked away from him. Jacob shot a worried look after the man. He glanced at his father.

“Why don’t you head up?” Sam asked. “I know you have a lot on your plate today.”

“You’re still recovering!” Jacob said.

“I’m okay to sit here,” Sam said. “You do have a chair down here, right?”

“In the back,” Jacob said, pointing to the door.

“Perfect,” Sam said. “I’ll pull out a few chairs and a table. We’ll wait for the police and whoever shows up.”

“You’re sure?” Jacob asked.

“Absolutely,” Sam said. “I can do this.”

“You’ll be careful?” Jacob asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Sam said.

Jacob gave him a worried nod. As he was leaving, Wretched was showing Sam where the tables were stored. Jacob jogged up the stairs to the kitchen.

“Where’ve you been?” Blane asked. “We have to go.”

Aden gave Jacob an annoyed look. Jacob followed them out of the Castle.

~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday morning — 10:25 a.m.

“Hey Uncle Nelson,” Noelle said as she came into the kitchen.

Nelson looked up from his laptop and smiled at the girl. She grinned back at him.

“How are you feeling?” Noelle asked.

“Good,” Nelson said. “Better than I was when I got home.”

“That’s awesome,” Noelle said. “We were really worried about you. We tried to track you as long as we could but everything went out.”

“I was kind of out of time,” Nelson said. “I guess. I don’t really know.”

“I bet. What are you doing here?” Remembering her manners, Noelle added quickly, “Can I get you anything?”

“What do you have?” Nelson asked.

“Looks like Jeraine made some muffins,” Noelle said. “Coffee? Tea? We have some fruit. I don’t know, you’ve lived here. We always have about the same stuff.”

Nelson grinned at the girl.

“You look. . .” Noelle held her arms out like she had big biceps.

“I gained some weight while I was gone,” Nelson said.

“Killing infidels is a lot of work,” Noelle said.

Nelson sputtered with surprise.

“We’ve been on homeschool since we were all sent home,” Noelle said. “We decided to read about the Templars, you know, because of you. We each took a book to read and then we told each other what they said. You look thin, too.”

“No food,” Nelson said. “Water. Soap. Many infidels.”

“Ew,” Noelle said.

“Exactly,” Nelson said. “To answer your question, I would love a muffin and a cup of black tea.”

“I’ll make a pot,” Noelle said with a nod. “Milk or alternative?”

“Milk,” Nelson said.

Noelle set the plate of muffins on the table and turned on the electric kettle. 

“I’m here because Jacob found a body,” Nelson said.

“In the ballroom,” Noelle nodded. “What does that have to do with you?”

“I work for Ava O’Malley in her forensic lab,” Nelson said. 

“That’s right,” Noelle said. “Sorry, I forgot. I knew that you were working in the ER since you’ve been feeling better.”

“Just to help out at the ER for the pandemic,” Nelson said. “I work for Ava.”

“Really?” Noelle asked. “One of my topics is to see what it would be like to be a forensic artist. Ava’s setting me up with someone to talk with them about it.”

“That’s interesting work,” Nelson said.

“What do you do?” Noelle asked.

“I have a lot of experience in ERs,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen a lot of violent crime, so I know what violence can do to a body. I can tell by looking at someone’s remains what’s happened. Sometimes, not all the time, but that’s what I bring to the table. Also, I handle all of our computer research, forms, stuff like that.”

“Is there a lot of computer stuff?” Noelle asked.

“You’d be surprised,” Nelson said. “I’ve been sitting here trying to see if I can find a missing person’s report from the 1930s. Or a report of a riot or some kind of violence in this area.”

“That’s interesting,” Noelle said. “Did you find anything?”

“It’s tricky,” Nelson said. “The ballroom was an illegal speakeasy, so it’s not like they would have called the police if something happened.”

Noelle nodded. The electric kettle clicked off and Noelle set about making the pot of tea. Nelson followed her with his eyes.

“I haven’t found anything,” Nelson said. “But that doesn’t mean that, when we find someone who will talk to us, I won’t be able to track their story through official channels. At least that’s how it usually works.”

Noelle nodded. She set the full teapot on the kitchen table.

“What are you up to?” Nelson asked.

“It time for me to do art,” Noelle said. “I can just go out there, but Joey’s still here and Mike was working with him. Mike will be mad if Joey and I work, but it’s art time so we have to do something. Have you seen Mike?”

“I haven’t,” Nelson said.

“Hmm,” Noelle said. “They had a baby yesterday.”

“I heard,” Nelson said. “Baby girl?”

Noelle nodded. She squinted her eyes and looked at the second floor stairs.

“I should go check,” Noelle said. “He just might get annoyed, and I don’t want to annoy him.”

Nelson looked up at her.

“You don’t have any special powers do you?” Noelle asked. “You know, like Jacob and Katy do?”

“Other than being a Templar?” Nelson asked with a laugh. “No.”

“Well, here goes nothing,” Noelle said and went up the stairs. “Good luck with your stuff.”

Nelson nodded and went back to his computer. A few minutes later, Ava O’Malley came in with the state archeologist, Dr. Heidi Miller, trailing behind her.

“This is a great place,” Dr. Miller said. “Do you live here, Nelson?”

“I lived here while our house was being finished,” Nelson said. “We live across the street.”

“Can we have the muffins?” Ava asked.

“Sure,” Nelson said, shifting the plate toward here. “We have a fresh pot of tea, too.”

“Where’s O’Malley?” Ava asked.

“He’s not here,” Nelson said. “I mean, he was here. Then he left to drop off Dr. Bumpy.”

“That’ll take a while,” Ava said.

Ava pulled out a seat for Dr. Miller and took one across the table. Nelson got up to get plates and mugs. They had just poured tea when Mike and Noelle came running down the stairs. Mike’s hair was wet and he was pulling on a long sleeved T-shirt. Noelle was talking so fast that none of them could catch a word. Joey Drayson flew down the loft stairs and ran after them. They left the building together.

“Any idea what that was about?” Ava asked.

“Art time?” Nelson shrugged. “Val had her baby yesterday so Mike’s not on the ball. They have this complicated schedule. If they get behind, then everything’s a mess.”

“Wow,” Dr. Miller said. “Can I bring my kids here?”

“Ours are with Heather upstairs,” Nelson said with a grin. “It’s toddler play time.”

They ate muffins and drank tea until Seth came running into the building.

“Come on,” Seth said.

He waved at them and ran down the stairs.

“You guys go ahead,” Ava said. “I’ll clear.”

Nelson picked up his bag and gestured for Dr. Miller to head down the stairs in front of him. Ava picked up the cups. She set them in the dishwasher and followed them down into the ballroom.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part five)

Wednesday morning — 10:25 a.m.

“Hey Uncle Nelson,” Noelle said as she came into the kitchen.

Nelson looked up from his laptop and smiled at the girl. She grinned back at him.

“How are you feeling?” Noelle asked.

“Good,” Nelson said. “Better than I was when I got home.”

“That’s awesome,” Noelle said. “We were really worried about you. We tried to track you as long as we could but everything went out.”

“I was kind of out of time,” Nelson said. “I guess. I don’t really know.”

“I bet. What are you doing here?” Remembering her manners, Noelle added quickly, “Can I get you anything?”

“What do you have?” Nelson asked.

“Looks like Jeraine made some muffins,” Noelle said. “Coffee? Tea? We have some fruit. I don’t know, you’ve lived here. We always have about the same stuff.”

Nelson grinned at the girl.

“You look. . .” Noelle held her arms out like she had big biceps.

“I gained some weight while I was gone,” Nelson said.

“Killing infidels is a lot of work,” Noelle said.

Nelson sputtered with surprise.

“We’ve been on homeschool since we were all sent home,” Noelle said. “We decided to read about the Templars, you know, because of you. We each took a book to read and then we told each other what they said. You look thin, too.”

“No food,” Nelson said. “Water. Soap. Many infidels.”

“Ew,” Noelle said.

“Exactly,” Nelson said. “To answer your question, I would love a muffin and a cup of black tea.”

“I’ll make a pot,” Noelle said with a nod. “Milk or alternative?”

“Milk,” Nelson said.

Noelle set the plate of muffins on the table and turned on the electric kettle. 

“I’m here because Jacob found a body,” Nelson said.

“In the ballroom,” Noelle nodded. “What does that have to do with you?”

“I work for Ava O’Malley in her forensic lab,” Nelson said. 

“That’s right,” Noelle said. “Sorry, I forgot. I knew that you were working in the ER since you’ve been feeling better.”

“Just to help out at the ER for the pandemic,” Nelson said. “I work for Ava.”

“Really?” Noelle asked. “One of my topics is to see what it would be like to be a forensic artist. Ava’s setting me up with someone to talk with them about it.”

“That’s interesting work,” Nelson said.

“What do you do?” Noelle asked.

“I have a lot of experience in ERs,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen a lot of violent crime, so I know what violence can do to a body. I can tell by looking at someone’s remains what’s happened. Sometimes, not all the time, but that’s what I bring to the table. Also, I handle all of our computer research, forms, stuff like that.”

“Is there a lot of computer stuff?” Noelle asked.

“You’d be surprised,” Nelson said. “I’ve been sitting here trying to see if I can find a missing person’s report from the 1930s. Or a report of a riot or some kind of violence in this area.”

“That’s interesting,” Noelle said. “Did you find anything?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part four)

The elderly man sighed.

“And then it was gone,” Wretched said. “Like it never happened. I think those boys of mine don’t think it ever did.”

“Let’s see if we can’t find your stuff,” Jacob said. “That might give you some proof.”

“Good thinking,” Wretched said with a grin.

“I’ll tell you, there wasn’t much here when I found it,” Jacob said.

“Did you go in the back?” Wretched asked.

“I found some casks of rum and gin,” Jacob said.

“No, the employees side,” Wretched said. “Over here.”

Wretched gestured to the other side of the stage. Jacob followed him. They were standing in front of a blank wall.

“There was a door here,” Wretched said, shaking his head.

The elderly man walked back to where they came inside. He went around the other way and ended up back at the blank wall. He backed up and went the other way.

While Wretched tried to figure out where the door might have been, Jacob looked at the wall. He felt around the wall itself.

If there had been a door here, it was one of the best covers that Jacob had ever seen. He felt around the wall until he thought that he’d found a seam. He turned to look for Wretched. The elderly man was talking to himself in another area of the ballroom, Jacob reached out with his senses.

He took a step backward and shook his head. He was taking out his cellphone when his father entered the ballroom. He watched Sam greet Wretched. While the phone dialed, he saw Wretched explain his dilemma.

“O’Malley,” Seth’s voice came from the phone. “We’re in the car. Bumpy needed some coffee. Not my coffee. Not Maresol’s coffee. But special coffee from the special place.”

Bumpy’s laughing voice came from the background.

“We have a body,” Jacob said. “At least one. Likely two.”

“What?” Seth asked. “In the ballroom.”

“Yes,” Jacob said. “Behind a wall.”

“So it is true,” Wretched said.

Jacob jerked with surprise. The elderly man was at his elbow.

“I’ll take care of it,” Seth said.

“Thanks,” Jacob hung up the phone. Turning to Wretched, Jacob asked, “What’s true?”

The elderly man shook his head and walked away from him. Jacob shot a worried look after the man. He glanced at his father.

“Why don’t you head up?” Sam asked. “I know you have a lot on your plate today.”

“You’re still recovering!” Jacob said.

“I’m okay to sit here,” Sam said. “You do have a chair down here, right?”

“In the back,” Jacob said, pointing to the door.

“Perfect,” Sam said. “I’ll pull out a few chairs and a table. We’ll wait for the police and whoever shows up.”

“You’re sure?” Jacob asked.

“Absolutely,” Sam said. “I can do this.”

“You’ll be careful?” Jacob asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Sam said.

Jacob gave him a worried nod. As he was leaving, Wretched was showing Sam where the tables were stored. Jacob jogged up the stairs to the kitchen.

“Where’ve you been?” Blane asked. “We have to go.”

Aden gave Jacob an annoyed look. Jacob followed them out of the Castle.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part three)

“Can you make the stairs?” Jacob asked.

“I’ve got two new knees and two new hips,” Wretched said. “I can do anything.”

“After you,” Jacob said.

They started down the stairs into the dark. Midway, Jacob turned on the light switch to the ballroom stairs.

“I never been down that stairway before,” Wretched said.

“Oh?” Jacob asked.

“That’s how the whites came in,” Wretched said. “We negroes had to go through the back.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to go in any door in this house,” Jacob said.

“I thought it belonged to Delphie,” Wretched said with a twinkle in his eye.

Grinning, Jacob opened the door to the ballroom.

Wretched took two steps inside and stopped walking. His hand went to his heart.

Jacob turned to look to see if the man was sick, and saw tears stream down his face. Jacob turned away from Wretched and went to turn on the lights. When Jacob returned, Wretched was walking with confidence toward the stage.

“I never thought I’d ever see this place again,” Wretched said. “I dream about it. In fact, I doubt my son thinks it actually exists.”

“Did you spend time here?” Jacob asked.

“Son,” Wretched said. “I cleaned floors and took out the trash here when I was ten; played bass in the band here when I was fifteen; met my wife here when I was twenty; she ran off with a guy she met here when I was 22, and then. . .”

Wretched’s hands opened as if letting something go.

“Prohibition ended,” Wretched said. “The economy was better. We were playing bigger and better places. I had kids to raise. By the time I had a chance to get back here, this place had vanished. Bumpy looked for it.”

Wretched shook his head.

“I left my stuff here,” Wretched said. “You know, how you do when you go somewhere so often. A suit, in case I had to change here; even an old bass I’d bought at a pawn shop. I always thought that I’d be back here. The next thing I knew, no one had heard of the ballroom. Everyone involved was dead or were chased out of town by the racists after that Grand Dragon was convicted.”

“Grand Dragon?” Jacob asked.

“Klan. Man named Dr. Locke,” Wretched said. “Ben Stapleton was mayor, too. Now-a-days you’d call them ‘white supremacists.’ But in my day, they were the law. Deadly to anyone they didn’t like. Met a lot of racists in my life, but none of them as mean and loathsome as that Stapleton. He had all that power too. He hated Jews and blacks and anyone he could get away with. And. . .”

Wretched shook his head.

“I could talk all day,” Wretched said. “I came here to look. This was a golden place where people of all colors could come to dance. Most of the bands were Negroes but so were lots of the dancers. People had fun — laughing and dancing. Outside, racism was the law of the day; but in here, it was nearest to race-free I ever experienced. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part two)

They all looked up when Jacob and Tanesha arrived. The elderly man stood up.

“Hi,” Jacob said. “I’m Jacob Marlowe. You probably know my father, Sam Lipson.”

“Know him, like him,” the elderly man said. “But not as much as I loved your mother. She was. . .”

The elderly man shook his head.

“She was,” Jacob said.

“This one reminds me so much of his grandfather at this age,” the elderly man laughed.

“Dr. Bumpy?” Tanesha asked with suprise

She picked up Jabari from off of the kitchen table and set him on her hip.

“That boy could talk the paint off the walls,” the elderly man said. “What a delight.”

The elderly man turned to Jacob and sized him up.

“My name is Wretched Jones,” the man said.

“Wretched?” Tanesha asked. “Really?”

“My mother gave me this name,” Wretched said. “And I wear it with pride. Although, honestly, I think it’s the biggest word she’d ever heard.”

He snorted at that.

“You’re Rodney Smith’s daughter,” Wretched said.

“I am,” Tanesha said. “Do you know my mother, Yvonne?”

“Never a finer person than your mother,” Wretched said. “Not ever did I meet one.”

Teary at the compliment, Tanesha could only nod.

“You’re waiting for O’Malley,” Jacob said.

“I’m waiting for O’Malley,” Wretched laughed. “Bumpy said he’d be here too. But I wanted the first look.”

“Oh,” Jeraine said. His mind snapping back to the present. “Dad and Seth are coming here?”

“O’Malley is not going to like you calling him,” the man’s voice changed to tease Jeraine, “‘Seth.’ Especially when music is on the line.”

Jeraine smiled at the man. Jacob turned to Jeraine.

“Can you make us a pot of coffee?” Jacob asked.

“Coffee?” Jeraine asked.

“Maybe some of those muffins?” Tanesha asked.

“Muffins?” Jeraine gave a slow nod. “I can do that.”

Setting Jabari down, Tanesha went into the kitchen to help get Jeraine started. Jabari ran back to Honey’s apartment to be with his friends.

“Where’d the boy go?” Wretched asked.

“His best friend is my sister Honey’s daughter,” Jacob said.

“They were having a sleep over,” Tanesha said. “He doesn’t want to miss out on the wake up part of the sleep over.”

“Makes sense to me,” Wretched said. “All this belong to you, Marlowe?”

“It belongs to. . .” Jacob said.

“Me,” Delphie said, turning the corner from the second floor stairs.

“Oh my Lord,” Wretched said. “Delphinium.”

“Wretched,” Delphie said with a grin.

They went to hug but remembered the pandemic and stopped.

“In the middle of a pandemic, I find the finest blue flower,” Wretched said.

They laughed. Through his mask, he kissed her cheek.

“Are we going to the ballroom?” Delphie asked.

“Why don’t you take them down?” Jacob asked. “I’ll stay here and wait for O’Malley.”

“Hmm,” Delphie said. “I’d bet that Wretched has a few things to show you.”

Jacob gave Delphie a long look. She waved him downstairs. Jacob unlocked the door.

“Can you make the stairs?” Jacob asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-six - Enter Wretched (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX

(part one)

Wednesday morning — 5:05 a.m.

Jill heard a soft knock on their loft door. She pressed the “On” button to their coffee maker and trotted to the door, which she opened just a crack.

“I’m so sorry to wake you,” Tanesha said.

“What are you doing?” Jill asked, stepping back to let her friend into the loft. “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“I know,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“But?” Jill asked.

Jill gestured to the kitchen where the coffee was brewing.

“There’s a guy at the door,” Tanesha said.

“A guy?” Jill asked with her head in the freezer.

Jill came up with a bag of lemon-blueberry muffins.

“An old guy,” Tanesha said. “Really, really old. Somehow, he got past the fences and knocked on the door. Honey heard them and sent Jabari to get us. Jer’s with him now.”

Jill stuck a plate of muffins into the microwave. The coffee maker beeped and Jill poured Tanesha an inch of coffee. Tanesha hated coffee but since she’d started medical school, she needed a tiny bit of a boost. Tanesha grinned at Jill. While Jill doctored her own coffee, Tanesha drank the coffee down like bitter medicine.

“Thanks,” Tanesha said.

Jill nodded.

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked.

His hair wet, Jacob came out of his bedroom with his work clothing on. Jill poured him a cup of coffee.

“There’s a guy here,” Tanesha repeated.

“Super old,” Jill said with a nod.

“Why is he here?” Jacob asked.

“He came to see the ballroom,” Tanesha said.

Jacob laughed.

“I know,” Tanesha said. “This guy is someone Jer’s dad knows.”

“Jeraine can take him down there,” Jacob said.

Tanesha smacked her lips and gave him the “You’re an idiot” shake of her head that he often got from Jill’s friends.

“What?” Jacob asked. “What did I do now?”

“Jeraine has a head injury,” Jill said over her cup of coffee. “I doubt that he can remember where it is. Especially after no sleep.”

“Ah,” Jacob said. “Sorry.”

Tanesha raised an eyebrow as if to say, “You should be.” Jacob laughed. His mother had great female friends so he was used to, and rather enjoyed, this kind of treatment from Jill’s friends.

“Do you have time?” Tanesha wrinkled her nose with the request.

“I always have time for you, Tanesha,” Jacob said.

Jacob nodded to Jill — who grinned at his right response. He grabbed a face mask, and followed Tanesha out of the loft. They jogged down the stairs to the Castle kitchen.

Anxious, Jeraine was standing in the kitchen and staring off into space. Jabari was sitting on the table in front of an elderly man. The man wore a lovely blue with white dots face mask and was sitting at the kitchen table. He was thin with age and his skin was the color of almonds. The corners of his eyes showed a web of wrinkles as he grinned at Jabari chatting away.

They all looked up when Jacob and Tanesha arrived. The elderly man stood up.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-five - In the ballroom

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE

“Promise?” Jeraine asked.

Nodding, Jacob poured another bowl of Cap’n Crunch. Jeraine shot a scowl at Jacob and jogged out of the building. He drove to Denver Heath and found Tanesha standing outside the Emergency Department.

“Sorry,” Jeraine said, as she got in the vehicle. “I was talking to Jacob.”

Tanesha leaned over to kiss him.

“Eating Cap’n Crunch,” Tanesha said with a grin.

Jeraine smiled.

“I was just waiting a minute or so,” Tanesha said. “Did you. . .?”

Jeraine gestured to the travel mug. She grinned and took a drink of her tea.

“How was tonight?” Jeraine asked.

“Hard,” Tanesha said. “But. . .”

Tanesha sighed.

“I’m doing okay,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Me, Chad, Fin — we’re getting great clinical experience but most of the people in our class are at home sitting on their hands.”

Tanesha paused as she took another drink.

“It’s criminal to me,” Tanesha said. “Doctors and hospitals need help. We show up on time and ask what we can do. We get to work doing what needs to be done. It’s not glamorous but I think we help. It’s good experience too.”

Tanesha shook her head.

“I guess, that’s really because of John Drayson,” Tanesha said, correcting herself. “I shouldn’t be so petty.”

“You’re making a good point,” Jeraine said. “But really — you asked John if you could help and he told you who to contact.”

“I asked John because I know him,” Tanesha said.

“Could you have gone through school?” Jeraine asked.

“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “Chad said that he talked to someone in our class who said that if he didn’t get course credit, he wasn’t interested. Course credit.”

Tanesha snorted.

“People are dying from a once in a lifetime pandemic,” Tanesha said. “And all he cared about was being the best in his class.”

Jeraine glanced at her sideways. She smiled at him.

“I sound more annoyed than I am,” Tanesha said. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Jeraine said.

“Jabari?” Tanesha asked.

“He’s with Maggie and Mack,” Jeraine said.

“Sleep over at Honey’s ,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine nodded.

“Listen,” Jeraine said. “Jake and I were talking before I left to come get you. You know how I’ve been upset about the Las Vegas thing?”

“You feel cursed,” Tanesha said. “I understand. It’s been really hard. You were so excited when you got the first one and then crushed when that jerk only signed you to a contract to make sure you didn’t perform.”

“Round number one,” Jeraine said. “We were so close this time.”

“You could still do it,” Tanesha said.

“Yeah, and kill everyone,” Jeraine said. “Annoy my wife.”

“There’s that, too,” Tanesha said.

“Jake was saying. . .” Jeraine turned off of Colfax into the new car lot. He pressed the keys to open the gate. “. . . that we should be more flexible.

He waited until the gate closed to move the car.

“Why are you. . .?” Tanesha asked.

Jeraine pointed to the crowd of paparazzi running in their direction.

“Oh,” Tanesha said. “I completely forgot. Did Val have her baby?”

“Yes, it’s a girl,” Jeraine said, perfunctorily. He only had a moment before they were confronted by the paparazzi waiting to catch a glimpse of Valerie and her baby. “Jake said that there’s a ballroom in the Castle.”

“Ballroom?” Tanesha asked. “I think I remember being there at Jill’s wedding but. . .”

Tanesha shrugged.

“Do you want to go?” Jeraine asked.

Tanesha nodded.

“Ready?” Jeraine asked.

Drinking her tea, Tanesha nodded. Jeraine waited a moment and got out of the vehicle. The flashes and screaming was overwhelming. Jeraine waved, and they jogged up the stairs. They were inside the Castle side door in no time.

“Uh, crazy,” Tanesha said. “Should we call the police?”

“They’ll be back as soon as they are cleared,” Jeraine said. “Best not risk someone getting shot.”

“Good point,” Tanesha said.

They went into the Castle living room to find Jacob staring into the fire.

“What are you doing?” Tanesha asked.

“Talking to my mother,” Jacob said.

“Of course you are,” Tanesha said. “Congratulations on a new niece!”

“She’s very beautiful,” Jacob said.

“All of Val’s kids are lovely,” Tanesha said.

“No child is cuter than Jabari,” Jacob said with a grin.

“Maggie,” Jeraine said.

Jacob, Tanesha, and Jeraine nodded in agreement.

“Does she have a name?” Tanesha asked.

“They haven’t announced,” Jacob said. “I think they’re going to name her after my mom or maybe Delphie. But they aren’t talking about it.”

“Sounds like they have some good choices,” Tanesha said. “Jer said that you were going to show him the ballroom?”

“I thought maybe he could run his show from the ballroom,” Jacob said.

“You mean, have the bands here and broadcast over the Internet?” Tanesha asked.

“Something like that,” Jacob said. “I don’t know how we’d sort out keeping people from getting infected by the virus but I’d guess that Jammy could figure it out.”

“Does it have outside access?” Tanesha asked.

“It did,” Jacob said. “It was a speakeasy. I haven’t opened up access because I thought it made us more vulnerable to people entering from there unnoticed.”

“Good thinking.” Tanesha said. She looked at Jeraine, who was oddly quiet. “What’s up with you?”

“Just wondering what Jake’s got to say,” Jeraine said.

“Come on,” Jacob said. “I’ll show you.”

Jacob stood up. They started moving toward the wall next to Abi and Fin’s apartment. As they neared, Abi came out carrying her two toddlers.

“Where are we going?” Abi asked.

“To see the ballroom,” Tanesha said. “Jake thinks that Jer can have his show here.”

“That would be a good thing,” Abi said with a nod. “As long as it didn’t infect the rest of the house.”

“Exactly,” Jeraine said.

“Carry on,” Abi said.

Tanesha took a sleeping child from Abi. Jacob neared the wall. He pressed hard on the corner where the wall met the adjacent wall and a door opened on a spring.

“That’s cool,” Tanesha said.

“It was here when we moved in,” Jacob said. “Now, listen carefully — you can get in this way but you cannot get out. The door swings closed automatically. If it’s blocked there’s a siren that I haven’t figured out how to turn off.”

“Got it,” Jeraine said. “We can get to the ballroom from here but not go out from here.”

“Right,” Jacob said.

They went along a narrow hallway with doors on one side.

“What’s in there?” Tanesha asked.

“I’m not sure,” Jacob said. “I wasn’t ever able to get the doors open. We haven’t needed the space, so I have just left them for another time.”

Jacob patted the wall on his left hand.

“This is Abi and Fin’s apartment,” Jacob said. “It’s pretty large — larger than most of the second floor apartments.”

“We like it,” Abi said.

“I’m glad,” Jacob said.

They continued down the hallway until they reached a cross hallway.

“This is mostly for maintenance,” Jacob said. “It runs under the second floor hallway.”

“And the doors there?” Tanesha asked.

“No idea,” Jacob said.

“I always wondered what was under the second floor wing,” Jeraine said. “Why didn’t you develop this first?”

“We didn’t find it until recently,” Jacob said. “Val loves to find new rooms and clean them out. Now that she’s had her baby, she’ll probably start that project again.”

“I thought she had a film,” Tanesha said.

“Right,” Jacob said with a shrug. “Let’s see how she is.”

Jacob gave a sincere nod. Tanesha stopped on the hallway below the second floor.

“Oh,” Tanesha said.

Jacob came back to where she was standing.

“I get it,” Tanesha said. “This was a two story apartment building. What’s that?”

Tanesha pointed to the end of the hallway.

“The kitchen,” Jacob said. “Before you ask, on the other side of the kitchen is likely one of the original buildings. It’s more like a mansion or a very big house. On the other side is another two story apartment building. That’s Honey’s apartment and what’s our basement. The building was built in a hill.”

“So the basement is actually just at the bottom of the hill,” Jeraine said.

“Right,” Jacob said. “Our basement is at the level of where our cars are parked now.”

“Huh,” Jeraine said with a nod.

“And the living room?” Abi asked. “Where we first came from?”

“It was built to combine the buildings,” Jacob said. “When Mom bought the building, the hallway with Honey and Dad’s rooms was closed off. The only thing open was what was built to combine them. Delphie says that the buildings were combined more than a hundred years ago. There’s at least another building here. We haven’t found them yet.”

Tanesha gave him a long look.

“What?” Jacob asked.

“What is this place?” Tanesha asked.

“Good question,” Jacob said.

“But you have built out much of what we live in now,” Abi said as a statement.

“Right,” Jacob said. “I made the loft out of the top of Dad and Honey’s rooms and the original house. Abi’s apartment was just open space. The second floor apartments were rented out when mom bought the building. We had a heck of a time getting everyone out.”

“I bet,” Tanesha said.

“Let’s take a look at the ballroom,” Jacob said. He sighed, “Tomorrow is going to be a crappy day. I need to get some rest before dealing with everything.”

“Got it,” Jeraine said. “Where do we go?”

“Take the hallway all the way to the end,” Jacob said. “There’s a stairwell.”

Jeraine reached the end of the hallway.

“There’s a light switch on your left,” Jacob said.

Tanesha and Abi reached the end of the hallway.

“I remember this,” Tanesha said. “This is a long stairwell. The door’s under the stairs down from the second floor. There was something here — a table with flowers on it. I didn’t even notice the hallway”

“I don’t think anyone did,” Jacob said. “We could have come this way, but you’ve been asking about the building. I think it’s cool that there’s all of this uncharted space.”

“It is cool,” Abi said with a nod.

“And more than a little creepy,” Tanesha said.

“Right,” Jacob said. “Let’s head down to the ballroom.”

They continued down the stairs until they reached a door. Jeraine tried to turn the door handle.

“Just push,” Jacob said.

Jeraine pushed the door open and went into the space. Tanesha stopped at the door as she passed.

“This wasn’t here,” Tanesha said.

“The door at the top is locked,” Jacob said. “We don’t really need a door here. I just put the door here because I had an extra door and it fits.”

“Makes sense,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha and Abi past Jacob on the stairwell and went into the ballroom. Jacob followed them inside. The room was partially lit by the waning moon shining through the windows high on the wall. Jeraine was standing in the middle of the room. Jacob opened a panel in the wall and turned on the lights.

“Whoa,” Jeraine said. He turned in place. “Whoa.”

The space was cavernously big. The ballroom’s gleaming pale wood floors reflected the light of the brilliant crystal chandelier overhead. The walls were wallpapered a pale pink. The ceiling was split into square panels with gold leaf on the seams. Inside the panels were painted cherubs and angels.

As if intimidated by the space itself, they stood close to each other.

Jacob walked across the floor to the end.

“Can you help me here?” Jacob asked.

Tanesha and Jeraine jogged to his side.

“These are panels,” Jacob said. “They are very old so we have to be super careful.”

“What happens with them?” Tanesha asked.

“They fold on hinges,” Jacob said. He touched what she’d taken for a line in the wall and pointed to the end. “These were made when the room was made. They go into that cabinet. It closes behind them. When they are folded up, you’d never know that they were here. When they’re out like this, you’d never know that there’s a stage behind them. It’s very clever.”

Tanesha gave Jacob a worried nod.

“Stand here,” Jacob said, pointing to where he was standing. “Jeraine? Can you go here? I’ll work the hinges. Ready?”

Jacob pulled on the hinges while Tanesha and Jeraine pushed on the panels.

“They’re heavy,” Tanesha said.

“They are solid mahogany,” Jacob said. “I think that’s why they’ve lasted.”

They pushed and Jacob pulled until the wall stood like a zig zag.

“Okay, push,” Jacob said.

Together, they pushed the panels until they were nestled in their cabinet. Jacob pulled the cover closed.

“Wow,” Jeraine said. “That’s. . .”

Jacob pointed toward Jeraine’s right. Jeraine turned to look. His mouth fell open in shock.

“Oh my goodness,” Tanesha whispered.

They were looking at a gorgeous stage with a white scalloped band shell behind it.

“What is this place?” Jeraine asked.

“Good question,” Jacob said.

“You said that it was a speakeasy?” Jeraine asked.

“It was,” Jacob said. “There are bars along the walls under the windows there and across the hall over there. When we found this hall, there were casks of ancient bourbon in the back and some foul other stuff.”

“Do you still have the bourbon?” Abi asked.

Jacob gave a slight nod. Tanesha and Abi laughed.

“Would you like some?” Jacob asked.

“Yes,” Abi said.

Jacob glanced at Tanesha, who looked at Jeraine.

“Not for me, man,” Jeraine said. “I’m. . . I think I’m in love!”

Everyone laughed.

“Give me a minute,” Jacob said.

He disappeared behind a door in the wall.

“How are you doing?” Tanesha asked Jeraine.

“I’m. . .” Jeraine put his hands to the side of his head and moved them away. “Boom. Mind blown.”

“Do you think it will work?” Abi asked.

“I. . . I don’t know,” Jeraine said. “I’ll take some pictures and send them to Jammy to see what he thinks. We have a contract so we’d have to do it through the Casino, but I’d bet we could. . .”

Jacob came out carrying three glasses with a small layer of brown liquid along the bottom. He gave one to Abi and another to Tanesha. They took a sip.

“This is really good,” Abi said.

“Weird, isn’t it?” Jacob asked.

“How many casks do you have?” Abi asked.

“Six,” Jacob said. “There’s a couple with gin, but I don’t drink it. I wouldn’t know if it had turned or not.”

“It’s likely worth a fortune,” Abi said.

“That’s why I keep it a secret,” Jacob said with a shrug. “If we ever need a booze fortune, we have it.”

“I like that about you,” Abi said.

Jacob grinned at her compliment.

“You think we can get people in here from outside?” Tanesha asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said. “I guess it depends on how many people we’re talking about.”

“We can’t have a crowd,” Tanesha said. “That would be ridiculously irresponsible.”

“No super-spreader events,” Jacob said. “That would just be embarrassingly stupid.”

“But we could get the bands in here?” Jeraine asked.

“We could,” Jacob said. “We get WiFi down here, so you could broadcast from here.”

Jacob shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’ll need,” Jacob said. “But it might work. Maybe.”

“Why is it so clean?” Tanesha asked.

“Rosa and her team come down here every quarter or so,” Jacob said. “Last week was their yearly deep clean. In fact, that’s how it occurred to me that Jeraine might be able to use it. Rosa asked for help moving the screen.”

Shrugging, he sighed.

“I’m sorry to cut this short,” Jacob said. “It’s probably the bourbon, but I’m just wiped out. You can stay down here if you’d like. Just take the stairwell straight up to the kitchen. I’ll unlock the door.”

“One more question,” Abi asked.

Jacob looked at her.

“Where are we?” Abi asked. “By my estimation, we are no longer on the property.”

“Good guess,” Jacob said. “We’re under the land between the Castle and the house to the north.”

“But. . .?” Tanesha asked.

“You own that one as well?” Abi asked.

“Delphie,” Jacob said. “My mom bought it for me, Val, or Blane. She thought if something happened — economic crash or whatever — we could move in there.”

“Who lives there now?” Abi asked.

“We’ve rented it out to the same family since I was in high school,” Jacob said. “They do a great job keeping it up. I doubt Delphie’s raised the rent. I go in every six months or so and fix something that’s broken. Delphie’s been giving them eggs.”

Jacob shrugged.

“I always wondered why they never complained about the paparazzi,” Tanesha said.

“Now you know,” Jacob said. “I’m off to bed.”

“I’ll go with you,” Tanesha said.

“I’ll stay,” Abi said.

“Is it okay if I stay?” Jeraine asked. “Take some video and send it to Jammy?”

“Of course,” Tanesha said. “I just need to shower and get some rest before Jabari wakes up.”

“Good point,” Jeraine said. “I’ll be up by then.”

Tanesha kissed him, and followed Jacob out of the ballroom. They went up the stairwell. At the hallway, Jacob clapped his hands and a wooden screen appeared. He pulled it into place so that it would be unmovable for Jeraine.

“That’s handy,” Tanesha said.

“It’s better than losing Jeraine down here,” Jacob said. “I’m so busy that I’d likely forget about him until the weekend. You’d miss him but figure he was off in his usual bullshit.”

“You know me so well,” Tanesha said. “And Abi?”

“It’s Abi’s world,” Jacob said.

“We just live in it,” Jacob and Tanesha said together as they reached the kitchen.

They laughed. Jacob raised a hand in goodbye to Tanesha. She went to their apartment in the basement. She showered and went to bed. When Jeraine arrived two hours later, she was sound asleep.

Jeraine slipped into bed. Lying on his back, he whispered a quiet prayer that this actually work out for him. The last thought he had before he went to sleep was that he hoped that Hecate wouldn’t show up so he could sleep.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-five - In the ballroom (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE

(part six)

“We could,” Jacob said. “We get WiFi down here, so you could broadcast from here.”

Jacob shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’ll need,” Jacob said. “But it might work. Maybe.”

“Why is it so clean?” Tanesha asked.

“Rosa and her team come down here every quarter or so,” Jacob said. “Last week was their yearly deep clean. In fact, that’s how it occurred to me that Jeraine might be able to use it. Rosa asked for help moving the screen.”

Shrugging, he sighed.

“I’m sorry to cut this short,” Jacob said. “It’s probably the bourbon, but I’m just wiped out. You can stay down here if you’d like. Just take the stairwell straight up to the kitchen. I’ll unlock the door.”

“One more question,” Abi asked.

Jacob looked at her.

“Where are we?” Abi asked. “By my estimation, we are no longer on the property.”

“Good guess,” Jacob said. “We’re under the land between the Castle and the house to the north.”

“But. . .?” Tanesha asked.

“You own that one as well?” Abi asked.

“Delphie,” Jacob said. “My mom bought it for me, Val, or Blane. She thought if something happened — economic crash or whatever — we could move in there.”

“Who lives there now?” Abi asked.

“We’ve rented it out to the same family since I was in high school,” Jacob said. “They do a great job keeping it up. I doubt Delphie’s raised the rent. I go in every six months or so and fix something that’s broken. Delphie’s been giving them eggs.”

Jacob shrugged.

“I always wondered why they never complained about the paparazzi,” Tanesha said.

“Now you know,” Jacob said. “I’m off to bed.”

“I’ll go with you,” Tanesha said.

“I’ll stay,” Abi said.

“Is it okay if I stay?” Jeraine asked. “Take some video and send it to Jammy?”

“Of course,” Tanesha said. “I just need to shower and get some rest before Jabari wakes up.”

“Good point,” Jeraine said. “I’ll be up by then.”

Tanesha kissed him, and followed Jacob out of the ballroom. They went up the stairwell. At the hallway, Jacob clapped his hands and a wooden screen appeared. He pulled it into place so that it would be unmovable for Jeraine.

“That’s handy,” Tanesha said.

“It’s better than losing Jeraine down here,” Jacob said. “I’m so busy that I’d likely forget about him until the weekend. You’d miss him but figure he was off in his usual bullshit.”

“You know me so well,” Tanesha said. “And Abi?”

“It’s Abi’s world,” Jacob said.

“We just live in it,” Jacob and Tanesha said together as they reached the kitchen.

They laughed. Jacob raised a hand in goodbye to Tanesha. She went to their apartment in the basement. She showered and went to bed. When Jeraine arrived two hours later, she was sound asleep.

Jeraine slipped into bed. Lying on his back, he whispered a quiet prayer that this actually work out for him. The last thought he had before he went to sleep was that he hoped that Hecate wouldn’t show up so he could sleep.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-five - In the ballroom (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE

(part five)

“Stand here,” Jacob said, pointing to where he was standing. “Jeraine? Can you go here? I’ll work the hinges. Ready?”

Jacob pulled on the hinges while Tanesha and Jeraine pushed on the panels.

“They’re heavy,” Tanesha said.

“They are solid mahogany,” Jacob said. “I think that’s why they’ve lasted.”

They pushed and Jacob pulled until the wall stood like a zig zag.

“Okay, push,” Jacob said.

Together, they pushed the panels until they were nestled in their cabinet. Jacob pulled the cover closed.

“Wow,” Jeraine said. “That’s. . .”

Jacob pointed toward Jeraine’s right. Jeraine turned to look. His mouth fell open in shock.

“Oh my goodness,” Tanesha whispered.

They were looking at a gorgeous stage with a white scalloped band shell behind it.

“What is this place?” Jeraine asked.

“Good question,” Jacob said.

“You said that it was a speakeasy?” Jeraine asked.

“It was,” Jacob said. “There are bars along the walls under the windows there and across the hall over there. When we found this hall, there were casks of ancient bourbon in the back and some foul other stuff.”

“Do you still have the bourbon?” Abi asked.

Jacob gave a slight nod. Tanesha and Abi laughed.

“Would you like some?” Jacob asked.

“Yes,” Abi said.

Jacob glanced at Tanesha, who looked at Jeraine.

“Not for me, man,” Jeraine said. “I’m. . . I think I’m in love!”

Everyone laughed.

“Give me a minute,” Jacob said.

He disappeared behind a door in the wall.

“How are you doing?” Tanesha asked Jeraine.

“I’m. . .” Jeraine put his hands to the side of his head and moved them away. “Boom. Mind blown.”

“Do you think it will work?” Abi asked.

“I. . . I don’t know,” Jeraine said. “I’ll take some pictures and send them to Jammy to see what he thinks. We have a contract so we’d have to do it through the Casino, but I’d bet we could. . .”

Jacob came out carrying three glasses with a small layer of brown liquid along the bottom. He gave one to Abi and another to Tanesha. They took a sip.

“This is really good,” Abi said.

“Weird, isn’t it?” Jacob asked.

“How many casks do you have?” Abi asked.

“Six,” Jacob said. “There’s a couple with gin, but I don’t drink it. I wouldn’t know if it had turned or not.”

“It’s likely worth a fortune,” Abi said.

“That’s why I keep it a secret,” Jacob said with a shrug. “If we ever need a booze fortune, we have it.”

“I like that about you,” Abi said.

Jacob grinned at her compliment.

“You think we can get people in here from outside?” Tanesha asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said. “I guess it depends on how many people we’re talking about.”

“We can’t have a crowd,” Tanesha said. “That would be ridiculously irresponsible.”

“No super-spreader events,” Jacob said. “That would just be embarrassingly stupid.”

“But we could get the bands in here?” Jeraine asked.

“We could,” Jacob said. “We get WiFi down here, so you could broadcast from here.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...