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Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part six)

“Is Wretched angry?” Whitestone asked.

“Sad,” Seth said. “This entire thing is so sad. I spent an hour with your kids while they wept for their mother. They knew that she wasn’t cheating around. They knew what she was doing. You never asked them?”

“Never thought to,” Whitestone said. “They were kids.”

Whitestone shrugged.

“It was different then,” Whitestone said. “When their mother died, they went to live with her people. I sent money every month. They grew up in California. I didn’t see them again until they were long grown.”

“A couple of them live here now,” Seth said.

“To be near their kids,” Whitestone said. “Not me. They didn’t move here for me. But I’ll tell you, I gave them all I had left from the ballroom — more than $100,000. Those kids went to college on that ballroom. Made good lives for themselves.”

“I bet they would have rather had their mother,” Seth said.

Whitestone’s head jerked up to look at him. Seeing no judgement in Seth’s eyes, Whitestone nodded.

“You’re probably right,” Whitestone said. “Truth of the matter is that I would have had a better life if I hadn’t. . . I spent my life boozing and. . . doing nothing. That ballroom was the best of me. I killed the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“That’s likely,” Seth said.

“What happens now?” Whitestone asked.

“Your kids are asking for compassionate release,” Seth said. “Because of the cancer. That’s really up to the judge.”

Seth looked at Whitestone for a long moment.

“Jeraine is planning on having concerts in the ballroom,” Seth said. “Over the Internet. They think that they can manage the airflow and keep people healthy.”

“That’s good thinking,” Whitestone said. “That boy is smart.”

“He is,” Seth said nodded.

He waited for a moment and then looked at Whitestone.

“Is there anything else I should add?” Seth asked.

Whitestone shook his head.

“I’ve been waiting for this day since the day I kill them,” Whitestone said. “In some ways, it’s a relief to be here.”

Seth nodded and got up.

“I’ll get this typed up and get it to you,” Seth said. “I’ll have it for your signature later today.”

“Thanks, O’Malley,” Whitestone said. “Big Daddy would be proud of you.”

Seth snorted a kind of laugh and left the room. He closed the door and stood behind it for a long moment.

He couldn’t help but feel sad. At the peak of his success, this man had killed his wife and destroyed his family because he believed a cruel liar. That man was long dead. Yet there sat the man who’d acted on the liars words. Whitestone would spend his last days on this earth in prison for acting on the lie.

Sighing, Seth left to go find someone who could help him type up this statement.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part five)

“You’re right,” Whitestone said. “My wife was a Christian woman. She drove me crazy with all of the praying and church going. I wanted. . . Well, I don’t know what I wanted.”

“You were relieved when you could justify killing her,” Seth said.

“Now where do you come off. . .” Whitestone started.

“Big Daddy told me that a very long time ago,” Seth said. “It’s taken me all of these years to realize it was this speakeasy — you — he was talking about.”

Whitestone looked away from Seth, and Seth waited. After a moment, the elderly man’s eyes flicked back to Seth.

“Big Daddy,” Whitestone said with a shake of his head. “The guy before him gave us the capital to start the club. First time I saw Big Daddy, he was traveling with his parents. Huh. The kid had my number the whole time.”

“Big Daddy had everyone’s number,” Seth nodded. “That’s how and why he was able to be who he was for such a long time.”

Whitestone nodded.

“Your children would like to bury their mother,” Seth said. “I guess there’s a plot already purchased for the both of you?”

Whitestone didn’t move.

“We’ll make arrangements,” Seth said.

“They still okay with me going in the ground there?” Whitestone asked.

Seth gave a slight nod.

“They’ve always known that you killed your wife,” Seth said. “At least that’s what your eldest daughter said.”

Whitestone gave Seth a slow nod.

“Out of curiosity, were you involved in building the ballroom?” Seth asked.

“No,” Whitestone said. “That place been around since the 1890s. Build by some guy named Marlowe. I’ll tell you — he built places all over the city. Secret places where people of all colors could meet up. You know. . .”

Whitestone leaned forward onto the table.

“It’s owned by a guy named ‘Marlowe’ now,” Whitestone said. “That family is an old, old Colorado family. They built places all over. Own a mine in Leadville that’s supposed to be filled with blue diamonds, but I don’t know that for a fact.”

“He found the ballroom,” Seth said.

“I bet he’d find them all,” Whitestone said.

“I’m not sure he knows about them,” Seth said.

“He will now,” Whitestone said. “You’ll tell him.”

Chuckling to himself, Whitestone nodded.

“The Feds want me to about the Phosogene,” Seth said. “Did you fight in Europe in World War I? There’s no record of it.”

“My big brother from my Daddy’s first family. Brought that back from the war,” Whitestone said. “You have to understand — most blacks believed that white people would wipe us out. My brother used to say, ‘There’s going to be a race war and we need to be prepared.’ I used the club to organize our people. Take a stand. Many of the more recent black politicians came out of our movement.”

“And now?” Seth asked. “Do you have any more gas canisters? Bomb? Anything lurking in your storage shed?”

Whitestone shook his head.

“At least I don’t think so,” Whitestone said. “My brother was alive when I. . . Well, you know. He told me to use the gas. I did just what he said. He helped me close up the wall. We left the ballroom and never went back.”

Seth nodded.

“Is Wretched angry?” Whitestone asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part four)

Whitestone leaned back in his chair. Sitting in silence, the men looked at each other for a long moment. Whitestone sighed.

“You waiting for me to confess?” Whitestone asked.

“No,” Seth said. “You did that last night.”

“That’s right,” Whitestone said. “There’s nothing wrong with killing a cheating woman. Not one thing.”

“That’s what I was thinking about,” Seth said.

Whitestone looked up at him.

“According to Wretched Jones, your wife wasn’t cheating on you,” Seth said.

“What about that man?” Whitestone asked indignantly. “She spent a powerful lot of time with him.”

“According to Wretched, the man was a teacher,” Seth said. “He was teaching your wife, and his, how to read.”

Whitestone made a “tsk” sound and shook his head in disbelief.

“Your wife was also learning basic accounting,” Seth said. “I guess you were having trouble with people stealing?”

“That’s just it,” Whitestone said. “I couldn’t tell.”

“She wanted to surprise you by doing all of the books,” Seth said.

“Nah,” Whitestone said. “She was cheating. I knew it the moment it started. Heard it from a guy who said he saw them together kissing and carrying on.”

“This guy,” Seth said. “He wouldn’t happen to be tall, lanky white guy?”

“Jeramiah Simons,” Whitestone said with a nod.

“You mean Sergeant Jeramiah Simons,” Seth said. “Soon to become Captain? Spent his nights and weekends in a white hood?”

Seth gestured with his hands to indicate a pointed hood.

“He the klan?” Whitestone asked. For a moment, his mouth dropped open. “Po-lice?”

“Feds,” Seth said.

“I’ll be God-damned,” Whitestone said with a slow shake of his head.

“They set you up,” Seth said pointing to Whitestone. “They didn’t care if you killed your black wife or Wretched’s, for that matter. They wanted to get rid of the teacher who was giving good hardworking black people an education. And they wanted to get rid of places where black people could congregate, enjoy themselves.”

Seth picked up a piece of paper and read.

“Reducing the native population was the cat’s meow,” Seth read. Seth looked up at Whitestone. “This is a letter he wrote to his superior.”

“How did you get that?” Whitestone asked. “That for real?”

Nodding, Seth set the sheet down. Whitestone picked up the paper and read the letter for himself.

“I. . .” Whitestone started and then stopped. “He. . .”

Seth nodded.

“It’s easy to get led astray when you want to believe it,” Seth said. “You had mistresses? It says here that you have three kids by three other women besides your first wife.”

“Sure,” Whitestone said.

“You thought your wife was behaving like you were,” Seth said.

Whitestone gave Seth a long look. After a moment, his head went up and down.

“You’re right,” Whitestone said. “My wife was a Christian woman. She drove me crazy with all of the praying and church going. I wanted. . . Well, I don’t know what I wanted.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part three)

Thursday morning — 9:00 a.m.

Denver, Colorado

Seth O’Malley knocked on the interview room with his foot. A uniformed officer opened the door and nodded. Seth went into the room carrying two cups of coffee.

“Coffee?” Seth asked.

The man in the interview room looked up at him and then nodded. Seth sat down across from the man. For a minute, they both took long drinks from their coffee cups. Seth set his down and looked at the man across from him.

In his day, this man — Gerald Whitestone — must have been a giant. Well into his 90th year, he still held himself with the powerful look of someone to be reckoned with. Thick chest and biceps pushed through the man’s tailored suit. His skin wasn’t quite brown and wasn’t exactly black. His eyes were on the brown side of hazel. What hair the man had left was combed back across his dome.

They had both been tested for Covid-19 before they entered this room. Neither was seemed to have the disease.

“The detectives tell me that you’ve made it through a physical and psychological evaluation,” Seth said.

Gerald Whitestone nodded.

“You’ve had your Miranda Rights read,” Seth said. “Any questions?”

Gerald Whitestone shook his head.

“We’re taping this interview,” Seth said. “Audio and video.”

“Got it,” Gerald Whitestone said.

“What would you like me to call you?” Seth asked.

“Whitestone,” Gerald Whitestone said. “You mind if I call you, O’Malley?”

“Most people do,” Seth said with a grin.

“You know ’bout the cancer?” Whitestone asked.

Seth nodded.

“I’ve got about three months to live,” Whitestone said.

“That’s why I’m here,” Seth said.

“You aren’t po-lice anymore, are you?” Whitestone asked.

Seth shook his head.

“I work special investigations, cold cases,” Seth said with a shrug. “They let me talk to people like you.”

“Why’s that?” Whitestone asked.

“They think that you’ll talk to me,” Seth said with a shrug. He held the cup to his lips. “Two old men in a room.”

Whitestone laughed. The men finished their coffee. Seth replaced his facemask and waited for Whitestone to do the same.

“That detective is older than you,” Whitestone said.

“More miles,” Seth said.

Seth gave Whitestone a long look.

“When I was a kid, I used to spend my weekends playing at the swing clubs in New York City,” Seth said.

“Big Daddy,” Whitestone said, softly, as if he didn’t want anyone to hear.

“I took jazz lessons from his father-in-law,” Seth said, not willing to give up the name of his mentor to the police detectives behind the mirrored glass.

Whitestone’s indicated that he knew who Seth was referring to.

“I spent a lot of my youth in those clubs,” Seth said.

“You can’t charge me for the swing club,” Whitestone said. “Or selling alcohol. They aren’t crimes any longer.”

“Murder,” Seth said. “You’re here for murdering your wife as well as another male, Mrs. Jones and a child.”

“Fair enough,” Whitestone said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part two)

William’s thumb moved over the engraving as if he were caressing soft skin.

“It’s on the rings, too,” Bernie said.

When William looked up, tears were streaming down his face. Bernie nodded.

“We may have more of your possessions. It will take some time,” Bernie said. “But I wanted to get this to you as soon as we knew they was yours.”

William had opened the watch again.

“Your great-great-grandfather made that watch,” Bernie said. “He signed it inside the instrumentation. We had it cleaned and a new timing coil put in so that it will work. I thought you should have it, especially during this challenging time.”

William gave Bernie a nod. Bernie grinned at the son of his old lawyer.

Bernie stood up from his seat and left the room. He nodded to the young woman at the front and left the office. He was in the elevator when his cellphone rang.

“Thank you,” William croaked. “My father is crying his eyes out. Right now. These are his parents’ rings.”

“Yes,” Bernie said. “They are.”

“Your granddaughter is Sandy Delgado?” William asked.

“Seth’s child with Andy Mendy,” Bernie said.

“I was going to say that she looks so much like Andy,” William said. “I looked her up. Your granddaughter. What a beautiful person.”

“She’s amazing,” Bernie said. “This effort of hers could use some help.”

“Donations?” William asked.

“Assistance distributing the items, determining their authenticity,” Bernie said. “And, between you and me, more than a few of your father’s friends are acting like jackasses. One of his friends is suing her for not giving him his item long before he or she knew it even exited! Is that how we deal with people now? No patience, no trust — just bring in the lawyers to harass someone who’s done you a favor.”

“I’ll take care of it,” William said. “You can’t imagine what this means to us. Thank you.”

“And it’s our pleasure,” Bernie said.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” William said. “Anything at all. As it is, you’ll take possession of the buildings by five tonight.”

“Thank you,” Bernie said, but William had gone.

Grinning at himself, Bernie left the building. He found Maresol where he’s left her.

“How did it go?” Maresol asked, standing.

“Much screaming,” Bernie said.

“Yes, I saw that,” Maresol said, as she tucked her hand into his arm. “How do you think he keeps his face so still while he spews such hate?”

“No idea,” Bernie said.

“I think he’s the devil,” Maresol said. “A demon at the very least.”

“Could be,” Bernie said. “We did just give him a very, very bad day.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-nine - Building (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

(part one)

“It is perfectly legal,” the son said.

“So is this,” William said. “We’ll file by end of day today to take control of the buildings. Unless, of course, you have the money to pay off the loan?”

“You’ll give us a month?” the son asked.

Bernie looked at his lawyer.

“How long did they give their tenants?” Bernie asked.

“Twelve hours,” William said.

“I’ll give you twelve hours from the time we notified you about this meeting,” Bernie said.

“That would be. . .” William looked at his watch, “. . . ten minutes from now.”

The father’s head continued to shake back and forth. The son started spewing words. His flawless, unlined face made every effort to twist around the cruel, rage-filled word. It was odd to watch the plasticity of the skin, so smooth and blemish free, bend around the rage. Bernie and William watched in fascination.

After a few minutes, two security guards arrived at the office and dragged the shouting son and his shocked father out of the conference room.

Bernie and the son of his old lawyer, his current his lawyer, William, sat in silence for a moment.

“That was. . .” William said.

Bernie started laughing.

“Satisfying,” William said. “Yes, yes, it was most satisfying. You have balls of steel, old man.”

“As do you,” Bernie said.

William’s face was covered in a face mask but Bernie was pretty sure he was grinning.

“We become what we hate,” Bernie said, gesturing to the door. “The boy reminded me of the Nazis — then and now.”

“If I’m honest,” William said.

Bernie gave a slight nod.

“He terrified me,” William said. “You’ve seen this before?”

“During the war,” Bernie nodded. Rather than spend time talking about Nazi evil, he said, “Did you know that it was my granddaughter who found the trove of Jewish art?”

“In Poland?” William was either surprised or was polite enough to act surprised. “Salt mine?”

“My Seth helped get it,” Bernie said.

“O’Malley is an incredible man,” William said. “Why do you bring this up?”

“My granddaughter gave me something for you,” Bernie said.

William’s hand flew to his heart.

“You. . .” William started. Overcome, the man’s eyes welled with tears. “You. . .”

“Is your father here?” Bernie asked.

“I won’t let him come into the city,” William said. “It’s too dangerous for the elderly.”

Bernie gave a quick nod. He reached into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a tissue paper wrapped packet. He set it on the table and pushed it over to William.

William’s eyes held Bernie’s for a long moment before he looked down at what was in front of him. His fingers picked at the tissue until it began to unfold.

A shiny gold pocket watch the size of a quarter and two gleaming rings were nestled inside the tissue. He opened the ornate pocket watch cover to reveal a beautiful face. In an effort to control his emotions, William snapped the lid to the watch closed. Bernie pointed to a set of initials engraved in the watch. William’s thumb moved over the engraving as if he were caressing soft skin.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


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

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT

(part six)

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 on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-eight - Mysterious

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT

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.

William.

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...

 


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

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT

(part five)

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.

William.

The lawyer’s name was William Bearber.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-eight - Mysterious (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT

(part four)

“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.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...