Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-eight - Mysterious (part five)
Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-eight - Mysterious (part six)

Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-eight - Mysterious


Thursday early-morning — 2:15 a.m.

James “Jammy” Schmidt V pushed open the door to the Castle’s ballroom and stepped inside. He held the door open for his college friend, fraternity brother, and casino owner, Matt Weinreich. They stood in the dark for a moment until Jeraine stepped past them and into the ballroom. Jeraine went to the wall compartment and turned on the lights.

“Whoa,” Matt said.

Matt moved to the middle of the ballroom and began slowly spinning around in place.

“Who built this place?” Matt asked.

“There’s a name but I’m afraid it doesn’t mean anything now,” Jammy said.

“He signed it over there.” Jeraine pointed to up to the North ceiling where they could just make out a scrawl in white paint.

“And. . .” Matt stopped talking. Awed by the ballroom, he seemed to run out of words. “I. . . We. . .”

Jammy and Jeraine watched in silence as the man took in the room.

“Bars?” Matt asked.

“There are two,” Jeraine said. “They push into the walls on either end with a panel covering. That’s why you can’t see them now. That way the entire floor can be used.”

“Makes sense,” Matt said. “Is there a stage?”

Jeraine looked at Jammy, and he nodded.

“It takes all three of us,” Jeraine said.

“To pull out?” Matt asked with a snort. “Like bleachers?”

Jammy gestured for Matt to follow him to the screen. Jeraine unlocked the first set of hinges.

“Push,” Jeraine said.

“On what?” Matt asked.

Jammy gestured to the hand holds. Matt took a set of hand holds, and the men pushed. Section by section, the screen folded. Jeraine pushed the folded screen into the wall and closed the cover.

“How ingenious!” Matt said. “But where is the. . .”

Jammy pointed to Matt’s right.

“Whoa,” Matt said. “It’s a. . .”

“Full stage,” Jammy said. He pointed to the roof. “There’s a set of lights. We replaced a few old bulbs but otherwise it works. The sound system is ancient.”

“Easily upgraded.” Matt took his phone out of his pocket.

“Are you taking pictures?” Jeraine asked. “Jake didn’t want this going out because. . .”

“Not a chance,” Matt said, cutting Jeraine off. “I’m making notes of who I need to talk to and what we need to fix.”

“Good,” Jammy said. “They found four bodies here last night. The police want to keep a lid on the place so that they can conduct their investigation. They’ve closed off the area so as not to disturb it. Plus, Jake doesn’t want to draw unnecessary attention.”

“What about when we start broadcasting?” Matt asked.

“We thought we could call it the ‘Secret Ballroom’ or something like that,” Jeraine said.

Matt pointed at Jeraine and looked down to keep typing into his phone.

“How much is all of this?” Matt asked. “I assume we’re buying this right?”

“It’s not for sale.” Jacob’s voice came from the entrance to the ballroom.

The men turned to look at him. Jacob held Tanner and Bladen on his shoulders.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jacob said. “I’ve been working so much that. . . The boys needed a little attention.”

“Who are you?” Matt asked.

“Jacob Marlowe,” Jacob said. “I can’t really shake your hand. . .”

“Jacob Marlowe,” Matt said. “Jacob Marlowe.”

Matt looked at Jammy. Jacob continued across the ballroom floor.

“We stayed at a lodge. . .” Matt said. “In Maine? Friend of Jammy’s dad’s. . .”

“I own a few properties in Maine,” Jacob said. “Worked on them when I was in college.”

“The place was gorgeous,” Matt said. “I think that’s why it stands out to me. I kept asking who did this or that. . . how. . .”

“My mother bought this building when I was in high school,” Jacob said, moving on embarrassed by this strangers accolades. “We found this a few days before she died.”

Jacob nodded.

“My mother’s best-friend Delphie owns the entire property now,” Jacob said. “She’s not selling.”

“Fair enough,” Matt said. “Did you do all of this?”

“I’ve made it serviceable,” Jacob said. “Replaced this or that. Repaired a few things. But honestly, it was and is spectacular.”

“There’s bourbon in the storage area,” Jeraine pointed to the door.

“Is that where the bodies were found?” Matt asked. “Can we have some?”

“That’s this side of the stage,” Jacob said. “I didn’t know that it was a room until Wretched Jones arrived.”

“You know Wretched Jones?” Matt asked. “He’s alive?”

“He is,” Jeraine said. “I jammed with him for an hour or so this afternoon.”

“Damn,” Matt said. He looked at Jammy. “He’s coming here?”

Jammy nodded.

“We can work out the cost of getting this ready,” Jammy said.

“We don’t believe that it will take too much,” Jacob said. “I’m sure that you have people that you prefer.”

“I do,” Matt said.

“We are prepared to handle the upgrades,” Jacob said. “We will need help figuring out how to make it feasible and how to keep it a secret.”

“We think that the whole thing will be more. . .” When he ran out of words, Jeraine looked at Jacob.

“Special,” Jammy said, rescuing Jeraine. “Mysterious. Jeraine’s in the middle of building a new career so cryptic fits the bill. It will be good for us, and, we think — sell more tickets.”

“We have an online team,” Matt said. “They run our poker and gaming site. I’ll let them know that this is what we’re thinking. They’re all, like, twelve years old. They will geek out at this. I’ll have a list of what we need by the end of the day.”

“Good,” Jacob said. “I know that Jeraine is anxious to get moving on this.”

“What do we owe you for rental of the hall?” Matt asked.

“You keep asking me what you need to pay,” Jacob said with a shake of his head. “Jeraine’s family. He lives here. We’re his family and happy to help him. In any way.”

Matt gave a nod of his head and looked at Jammy.

“We’ll negotiate on the ticket prices,” Jammy said. “Get Jake 1% of ticket sales.”

Matt looked relieved and looked at Jacob.

“I hear what you’re saying about family,” Matt said. “But you’re underestimating how much money this thing is going to make. I want to be sure that, a month or six from now, you’re not going to be pissed that you bear the costs, and we make the profits.”

“Better to work this out up front,” Jammy said.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “Honestly, I’m just too tired to. . .”

“Yeah,” Matt said, cutting Jacob off. “You look it.”

“What’s got you?” Jammy asked.

“Oh, we have two underground sites funded and running,” Jacob said. “The governor made us essential and wants to dig out the funding for two other sites. We have all this pressure from the state to get things moving but we can’t get the money flowing. The bankers are just. . .”

Jacob shrugged.

“Terrified,” Jacob said. “They. . . well, no one knows what’s going to happen with this pandemic and all of. . . everything.”

“Why don’t I make some calls?” Jammy asked.

“I’m sure the money will free up at some point, we just have employees who want to work and. . .” Jacob shook his head. “We have money, but. . . No one has that kind of money and. . . Of all the things I was prepared for — this was not it.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Matt said. “You agree to 1% of ticket sales.”

Jacob nodded.

“Jammy and I will work out your money problems,” Matt said.

“How?” Jacob asked.

“My father owns a few banks and more than a few bankers,” Matt said. He pointed to himself. “Casino owner. Money is our business.”

Jacob nodded.

“Go, get some shut eye,” Matt said. “I’ll have a list for you when you get up.”

Not one to be told twice, Jacob started for the door.

“Wait,” Matt said.

Jacob turned back to him.

“Bourbon?” Matt asked.

“Feel free to have a glass, but it belongs to me,” Jacob said.

“Got it,” Matt said. “Outside entrance.”

“There is one,” Jacob said. “But it’s under six feet of dirt and gravel right now.”

“You can open it?’ Matt asked.

“I closed it,” Jacob said. “I can open it.”

“Good,” Matt said with a wave.

“Good night,” Jeraine said.

Jammy gave him a nod. Jacob left the ballroom.

“Now,” Matt said grinning at Jeraine. “Let’s take a look at this stage.”

Jacob made his way up the stairs through the kitchen and up the loft stairs. Jill met him at the door. They put Bladen and Tanner in the nursery. Jacob went through the motions to shower and went to bed.

He slept ten hours.

He woke with a start. Groggy, he grabbed his bathrobe and went out into the loft. No one was there. He went back into their bedroom to actually shower and dress. He left the loft in search of Jill. He could hear people talking in that distinctive way through masks. He followed the sound into the Castle living room.

Jill, Heather, and Sandy were in the living room with Blane, Aden, and Jeraine. Jill came over to hug him.

“What’s happened?” Jacob asked.

“We have the funding,” Blane said. “What did you do?”

“Some Vegas guy said that he owned banks, bankers. . .,” Jacob said with a shrug. “I don’t know, I was dead on my feet.”

“Matt Weinreich,” Jeraine said. “Family has owned a Vegas casino since Vegas was built. Friend of Jammy’s.”

“I don’t care who he is,” Aden said. “He worked it out. I woke up this morning to money in our accounts. We’re ready to start.”

Shaking his head, Jacob blew out a breath.

“If that’s the case, I’m going back to bed,” Jacob said.

He turned in walked out. He retraced his step and was back to bed in minutes. When he woke next, it was late afternoon.

“Drink this,” Delphie said, giving him a cup of water.

She sat back down on a chair near his bed.

“What. . .?” Jacob asked.

“We thought you might be ill,” Delphie said. “So I told them I would keep watch.”

“Where are the kids?” Jacob asked.

“In the backyard,” Delphie said. “It’s our first really nice day. They wanted to be outside.”

Jacob nodded and sat up.

“It seems like this thing with the ballroom is going to work out,” Delphie said.

“It’s hard to believe,” Jacob said.

Delphie nodded.

“A friend of mine told me that this was a dark time where things could get even darker,” Jacob said. “It was time to think creatively and share all of our resources.”

Delphie grinned.

“Are you sorry you’re sharing your ballroom?” Jacob asked.

“Glad that those bodies were found,” Delphie said. “Their families have been waiting and wondering about them for a long time.”

Delphie nodded.

“We’re going to have so fun,” Delphie said with a grin. “As long as we don’t get sick, wear our masks, wash our hands, you know. . .”

Jacob grinned at her.


Thursday morning — 10:00 a.m.

New York City, New York

Maresol Tafoya looked Bernie up and down before nodding. Bernie wore a brown wool suit and shoes that cost so much that she hadn’t told him the price. She straightened his silk tie and smoothed his starched white shirt.

“You look great,” Maresol said.

“I do look snazzy,” Bernie said with a big grin. “If I may say so myself.”

“Seth knows his suits,” Maresol said.

“It’s that gangster Big Daddy,” Bernie said. “Always wore the best suits.”

“One like this one,” Maresol said.

“Just like this one,” Bernie said.

Smiling to give him confidence, Maresol nodded. They were standing outside a tall high-rise building in Manhattan.

“You remember where to go?” Maresol asked.

Bernie nodded. Maresol grinned at him. He gave her a quick nod. Without another word, he turned in place and went inside the building. He nodded confidently to the security guard and took an elevator. He marveled that he was the only one on the elevator. He looked at himself in the shining mirror. The brown suit matched his brown eyes. His tie and face mask matched.

He silently wished he had one of those old fedoras. A brown one that matched this suit. He grinned.

“You’ll look like one of those hipsters,” Maresol had commented when he’d brought it up. “Kids. You are not a child.”

“But I am hip,” Bernie had said.

She and Seth had laughed, but they hadn’t disagreed. Children — they were both children compared to him. He stepped off the elevator on the 21st floor. He twisted and turned through the building until he reached the correct door. He went inside.

Being careful to stay six feet away, he told the young receptionist his name. He thought that she might have smiled at him, but he couldn’t see it behind her mask. She got up and walked him back to an office in the corner of the suite. She opened the conference room door, and Bernie went inside.

“Seth Bernbaum,” the man said. “I. . .”

“You can’t believe I’m still around,” Bernie said.

“That too,” the man laughed.

The man got up and gestured to a seat on his side of the table. Bernie passed the man.

“I would shake your hand, but they say we’re not supposed to,” Bernie said.

“So true,” the man said.

Bernie looked at the man. This man was the son of Erik Bearn, his old lawyer. Bernie remembered when the son of Erik Bearn was born. From where he sat, he noticed that the son had deep crow’s feet and little hair on his head, now.

The son’s name was. . . Bernie drew a blank. He tried to remember this middle aged man as a child. He remembered that his father had been deeply scarred by the Nazis, concentration camps, and the horrors of World War II. After changing their family name to Bearber, he’d given all of his children good English names.


The lawyer’s name was William Bearber.

The phone rang and William picked it up. He spoke for a moment.

“They are here,” William said.

“They?” Bernie asked.

“He brought his son,” William said.

Bernie groaned which caused William to chuckle.

“The son’s worse than the father,” William said under his breath.

“And the father’s been to prison,” Bernie said.

William gave a slight nod. The men waited a few more minutes before the receptionist let two men into the office. The father had a full head of white hair. The son had the smooth face of a teenager, brought by an easy life, plastic surgery, and Botox.

Catching sight of Bernie, the father stopped short at the door. The son looked at his father and then, unable to squint, he gave Bernie an open eyed, gaping look. The son immediately dismissed Bernie as an old man. The son pulled out a seat at the table for his father. The father paused for a moment before moving to sit the chair offered by the son. The son sat next to his father.

“You asked us to be here,” the son said. He turned over his wrist. “We only have ten minutes. If you could get to the point.”

“We’re calling in your loan,” William, Bernie’s lawyer, said.

The father sucked in a breath. The son glanced and leaned back in his chair.

“You know who I am?” the son asked with a sniff.

“Do you know who I am?” Bernie replied in Hebrew.

The son’s eyes jerked to Bernie. After giving him another open eyed fish look, the son turned to look at his father.

“This. . .” the son said.

His father nodded.

“You may not be aware of this but I am the father of Seth O’Malley,” Bernie said, in clear English.

“No,” the father said. “No. No. That’s not possible. He is Catholic!”

“I was his father when you asked for a loan to buy those buildings around his little apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen,” Bernie said. “I am his father still. In fact, it’s his money you borrowed all those years ago to buy those buildings.”

“Our annual assessment of your financial situation has determined that you are unable to pay on the loan,” William said. “We’re requesting either full payment on the loan or possession of the buildings as stipulated in our agreement.”

“You promised that you would never do this!” the father said.

“I said it would take a lot for me to call in this loan,” Bernie said. “I held on when you went to prison. But throwing people out of their homes in the middle of winter while a deadly pandemic is killing people left and right? That kind of cruelty is. . .”

Bernie shook his head. Switching to old German, he said, “worthy of the Nazis you are in bed with.”

Unable to translate the language, the son looked at his father. The father gave Bernie a rueful shake of his head.

“It is perfectly legal,” the son said with a trace of righteous indignation.

Denver Cereal continues next week...



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