CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY-SEVEN
Friday midday — 11:34 a.m.
“They’re out there again,” Xanda, one of the med techs, said to Tanesha.
Xanda was a quiet African American young woman. She rarely spoke to anyone until Fin and Tanesha showed up in the ER. Now, she only spoke to them.
“Who?” Tanesha asked.
“Those jerks,” Xanda gestured outside the windows. “They say that we’re lying — that the ICU isn’t full. They show up with their weapons and. . .”
Tanesha turned to look at the young woman.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“Someone’s going to get killed,” Xanda said. “You know — you, me, your cousin — it’s usually us.”
“What is this?” Fin demanded in his princely voice.
Xanda shook her head and walked away.
“She says that there are people outside with weapons,” Tanesha said. “They believe that we’re lying that the ICUS if full. They demand to come inside and. . .”
There was a shout at the door.
“I will take care of this,” Fin said.
“Fin!” Tanesha said, but he was gone.
She watched as Fin walked outside the ICU. Two of the guards bowed to Fin and moved to stand around him. Tanesha started toward the door.
“This is a place of healing.” Fin’s voice boomed over the chants of these armed protestors. “You are not welcome here.”
“Get him on camera!” someone yelled.
The guard standing at Fin’s right raised her hand. All of the electric devices burst into flames, including the hospital’s surveillance camera.
“What the. . .?” the leader of the protest asked.
Fin and the guards transformed into their new Fairy military uniform, complete with gleaming broad swords.
“You will leave here and never come back,” Fin said, in a low threatening voice.
The protestors were so surprised that one of them jerked his machine gun and shot off a round. Fin easily deflected the series of bullets with his broad sword. The bullets flew through the crowd.
The protestors began screaming and complaining that they were being fired at. A few of them ran toward their cars.
“Leave now,” Fin said.
There was a snap and the people disappeared.
Fin nodded to the guards. The guards held their broad swords to their foreheads and bowed to Fin. As he walked back into the ICU, his armor and sword transformed into the personal protective gear they wore in the ICU.
“Subtle,” Tanesha said.
“Look around you,” Fin said. “No one saw a thing.”
“That’s not the point,” Tanesha said. “Those guards are here to guard you?”
“I am a prince,” Fin said. “They are here to defend me, should I need them. You cannot ask me not to be exactly what I am as you deny what you are.”
Irritated, Tanesha squinted at Fin. He gave her a bright smile.
“And the people? Well, I assume you sent them home?” Tanesha asked. “You did send them home, didn’t you?”
“I may have,” Fin said with a grin. “They won’t remember that they were ever here.”
“Smart,” Tanesha said.
Fin gave her a nod and went back to work. More than an hour later, a doctor came up to Tanesha.
“Did you see that protest this morning?” the doctor asked. “They showed up with their machine guns!”
Tanesha made a non-committal sound.
“They just disappeared,” the doctor said. “One moment they were there and the next they were gone.”
“Weird,” Tanesha said.
The doctor sighed.
“This job. . .” The doctor shook her head at Tanesha.
“You make it look easy,” Tanesha said with a smile.
“If I were you, I’d never become an ICU doctor,” the doctor said.
A siren screamed indicating another patient’s oxygen level was dropping fast. Their conversation forgotten, the doctor and Tanesha ran to help the patient.
Friday midday — 12:05 p.m.
“Ava?” Delphie asked as she answered the side door.
Delphie held her arms out. Ava showed her an elbow, and Delphie nodded. They touched elbows. Ava was wearing an African print mask while Delphie was wearing one with delicate flowers on the front.
“What are you doing here?” Delphie asked.
“I’m here to talk to Jake,” Ava said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “The Evil Wizard wants us to get the Crime Scene Unit in here to see if we can get forensics. You know, what the Evil Wizard wants, he gets. Were you here this morning?”
“When those detectives were here?” Delphie nodded. “They were very unpleasant.”
“So I heard,” Ava said. “‘Complete a-holes.’ That’s what the Evil Wizard said: ‘Just because the detectives were complete a-holes, doesn’t mean that we don’t need forensics.’ Anyway, he knows that we’re friends so he’s hoping to get forensics.”
“For those detectives?” Delphie asked, wincing.
“That’s the hard thing,” Ava said. “Since they claimed these cases, they cannot be reassigned without big drama. You’d have to file against the department which is a big pain in the rear.”
“They thought that we could do the work, get answers for the families, and you don’t have to deal with assholes,” Ava said.
“No a-holes?” Delphie asked. Her eyes crinkled as if she were grinning.
“That’s why I’m not the head of the Denver Crime Labs,” Ava said with a laugh.
“Come in, come in,” Delphie said. “Is your team here?”
“They’re waiting in the SUV,” Ava said. “I wanted to get permission first and talk to Jake.”
“You know that I own this house, right?” Delphie asked.
“I’m sorry, Delphie,” Ava said. “I forgot. Would you mind if we took forensics from a few sites.”
“You’re most welcome, Ava,” Delphie said. “Nelson, Leslie, and Fran, too.”
“But not Bob?” Ava asked with a grin.
“I do love Bob,” Delphie said. “And Joan. Is she here too?”
“Of course,” Ava said. “But. . .”
“Yes, dear,” Delphie said.
“Isn’t this Harvest Weekend?” Ava asked.
“It is,” Delphie said. “The way I figure, if you get what you need, you can help!”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ava said. “Have you met Leslie’s husband?”
Delphie shook her head.
“We’ll volunteer him,” Ava said with a grin. “He loves gardening. He’s asked about your Harvest Weekend before.”
“Good,” Delphie said with a clap of her hands. “The more the merrier.”
“First, I need to talk to Jake,” Ava said. “Will you sign something saying that you’ll let us in?”
“Of course,” Delphie said. “Jake’s just in the kitchen. Samantha Hargreaves is here, too. They are starting to cook down tomatoes for tomato sauce.”
“Fabulous,” Ava said.
Delphie stepped back, and Ava walked into the Castle. Ava followed Delphie through the living room and into the kitchen.
“Ava!” Valerie said from the stove where she was stirring a large pot filled with pureed heirloom tomatoes. “I’d come give you a hug, but. . .”
Valerie gestured to the baby on her chest.
“Hi Gracey,” Ava waved to the baby. “Love the little mask.”
“Isn’t she cute?” Valerie asked with a smile. “Eddie and Jackie are at school. You should see how cute their masks are.”
“I bet,” Ava said. “Hey, Sami.”
“Ava,” Samantha said, in a guarded tone, from her spot at the kitchen table. Samantha was cutting up tomatoes from a large basket.
Ava raised her hand as if Samantha was pointing the knife at Ava. Samantha laughed.
“Did you get sent here?” Samantha asked.
“By my boss,” Ava said. “I know that there was some trouble this morning. My boss thinks that we can get the Crime Scene Unit in here and between us, we could get whatever forensics.”
“None of that Detective Stone?” Samantha asked while chopping a tomato.
“Stone?” Ava asked her voice laced with disgust. “That’s who was here?”
“She’s horrible,” Ava said. “To everyone. I’ve never met an unhappier person. She makes everyone miserable. She gave Seth so much crap about dating me. You wouldn’t believe the stuff she said. Karaowski is the only person who can tolerate her and that’s just because he’s oblivious to everyone.”
“I love how you know everyone.” Samantha nodded.
“I was a cop before. . . you know. . .” Ava stumbled on words.
“Saint Jude?” Samantha asked.
Reading Ava’s discomfort, Samantha changed the topic.
“What do you need from us?” Samantha asked.
“I have a form for Delphie and Jake to sign agreeing to let us poke around,” Ava said.
“Can you set it so I can read it?” Samantha asked.
“Where’s Jake?” Ava asked.
“He’s harvesting tomatoes,” Delphie said. “With Alex and John.”
“Mike’s out there, too,” Valerie said.
“Mike’s harvesting from the fruit trees,” Delphie said. “John too, now that I think of it.”
Ava nodded and started toward the door. Samantha patted a dry spot on the table. Ava set a copy of the form on the table. Samantha waved Ava away, and Ava went outside to the backyard.
“Jake?” Ava asked from the deck.
“Here!” Jacob said from his spot in the tomato plants. “Ava! What do I owe the privilege? Is Seth with you?”
“Seth’s in New York,” Ava said. “That guy is still trying to evict his tenants so he can build a ‘better’ — whatever that means — Hell’s Kitchen. Seth and his dad are in court today.”
“Some people are such jerks,” Jacob said.
“This is bad business that goes back to when Seth bought his building when he was 10 years old,” Ava said.
Jacob shook his head.
“What do you need from me?” Jacob asked.
“My boss sent me and my team to see if we could facilitate the Crime Scene Unit to come in and get forensics,” Ava said. “I’ve worked with those guys for as long as I’ve been at Denver Crime Labs. They are really great guys. Not an asshole among them. Really.”
“What did Sami say?” Jacob asked. “Did she tell you that she kicked the detectives out?”
“My boss did,” Ava said with a shrug. “I would have thrown them out too.”
“I left the form with her,” Ava said. “My boss wanted me to give you my assurances that the department is very sorry for the misunderstandings this morning.”
“I’m sure he is sorry,” Jacob grimaced.
“I’ll tell you,” Ava said, nodding, “I’ve had run-ins with Detective Stone, most recently over our project to process all of the Native people’s rape kits. In short, she thinks that it’s a waste of our time and slowing down forensic work. She filed a complaint with the police board. We had to go through an investigation and everything.”
“Didn’t you open a separate lab?” Jacob asked.
“We did,” Ava said. “We even got separate funding for it. She’s just an asshole.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that there were cases here,” Ava said. “Which means that we might get forensics and bring some relief to the victims’ families.”
Tipping his head back, Jacob groaned.
“Too much?” Ava asked with a smile.
“No,” Jacob said. “You’re right. I just. . . I mean, how is it my fault that there were crimes in this building? Many of them happened before I was even born!”
“I know,” Ava said. “I understand.”
“But, you’re right, it doesn’t change the need to look into it,” Jacob said. “And before you say it, people should be caught and, if we can help bring peace to families of the dead, we’re happy to.”
“I was kind of hoping you and Delphie could help, you know, using your. . .” Ava waved her fingers in front of her forehead.
“My. . .” Jacob waved his fingers in front of his forehead, mimicking Ava, “. . . is all yours.”
“We’re okay, Jake,” Alex said, standing up from the tomato plant. “Finn and my sister, Helene, will be here in a few minutes. They can help me.”
“You’re sure?” Jacob asked.
“Jake, I can call and have a dozen burly guys and gals here,” Alex said with a grin. “They’re not here because I thought that so many people will get in the way. People are no problem.”
“Thanks, that’s very generous,” Jacob said.
“This is not generosity,” Alex said. “It’s delightful to spend a day harvesting and hanging out with friends.”
Jacob gave her a nod. Standing up, he wiped his hands on his jeans.
“I’m all yours,” Jacob looked at his hands. “I should clean up.”
“Sure,” Ava said. “Would you mind if I call the Crime Scene Unit? Bring my team into the building?”
“Of course,” Jacob said.
“I need you to sign the form,” Ava said.
“I’ll sign it if Samantha says that I can,” Jacob said.
“Deal,” Ava said.
They walked together into the kitchen. Samantha gestured to the paper.
“What do you think?” Jacob asked.
“I think that this is the easiest way,” Samantha said. “We should be grateful to Ava for helping us with this situation.”
“You mean, we’d have to deal with it at some point?” Jacob asked.
“At some point, someone will give them a warrant,” Samantha said. “I would guess that they tried for one?”
“Was it for the entire building? Every room?” Samantha asked.
“They will dump everything out of any drawer or closet, all of those boxes you haven’t gone through, everything in this house will end up on the floor. Then start making up crimes,” Samantha said. “We don’t want that.”
“I don’t,” Jacob said.
“Then sign here,” Samantha said. “This is limited to the spaces that are indicated in the original documents on the original crimes.”
Samantha looked at Ava.
“Did you designate these areas?” Samantha asked.
“Good to know,” Samantha said. “Delphie’s already signed. You need to sign, as well.”
Jacob signed the document.
“Now go shower,” Samantha said. “You smell.”
Jacob looked up. Valerie nodded in agreement. Ava shrugged.
“You’re going to smell by the time we’re done,” Ava said. “At least we always do.”
“I’ll go shower,” Jacob said.
“I’ll call CSU and get my team,” Ava said.
Jacob nodded and jogged up the stairs. Fifteen minutes later, he came back down wearing clean clothing. His hair was wet from the shower. Delphie was standing in the kitchen talking to Ava’s teammate Dr. Leslie McClintock. Nelson Weeks and Fran DeKay were sitting in the living room drinking tea. A tall burly red-haired man was standing next to them. He wore a black mask with the white block letters “CSU” on the front.
“Ferguson,” the man said when Jacob came into the room. “I understand that you had a run in with Detective Stone.”
“Sorry about that,” Ferguson said. “My team is filled with only nice people. I make sure of it. We just want to catch some bastards and get out of your hair.”
“Good to know,” Jacob said.
“We’ve been informed that you and Delphie have the gift of sight,” Ferguson said.
“I know that you’re a good friend of Seth O’Malley’s and Ava used to work for you — if that’s what you mean,” Jacob said with a smile.
“Did you get that. . .” Ferguson made the same gesture that Ava had.
“I know that from when we were in the middle of Saint Jude,” Jacob said. “Your team was here for a couple of weeks retrieving the bodies and collecting samples.”
“Oh fuck, that’s right,” Ferguson said. “I knew this place look familiar. Sorry. This whole thing has been a fiasco.”
“No problem,” Jacob said. “If Delphie’s ready, we can start.”
“Good, that’s real good,” Ferguson said. “I’ll get my men.”
“Any idea where we need to go?” Jacob asked. “What we’re talking about?”
“I pulled the last plan for the house,” Nelson said. “We printed it out and matched the map to where these crimes were committed.”
“Can I take a look?” Jacob asked. He held up the large map. “This is a little behind the times but it will do.”
He looked around.
“Everyone ready?” Jacob asked.
Delphie nodded. Ava’s team nodded. Ferguson and two other younger people nodded.
“The first one is. . .” Jacob said, looking at the map.
“I think it’s one in that section by the ballroom,” Nelson said. He pointed to the “secret” door off the Castle main living room. “Through that door? Blane took me through there. If I remember correctly, there are a few apartments still there? The closest incident to where we’re sitting happened there.”
“Good thinking,” Jacob said. “Do we know what happened there?”
“We have it on our tablets,” Ferguson said. “Let’s walk through the site first.”
“Okay,” Jacob said.
He went to the wall.
“You can get through this door,” Jacob said. “You have to push on it twice to open the latch. There’s a hallway behind. You can also get there from the stairway off the kitchen. The stairway off the kitchen is a little wider if you need to get equipment in. We also opened the door from the outside to the ballroom. They needed a wider space to get the video equipment and the aeration equipment inside.”
“Let’s just take a look first,” Ferguson said. “Ava, your team can leave their stuff here. We’ll walk through and figure out what we need. There’s no reason to second guess anything.”
“Okay,” Ava said.
She nodded to Leslie, Fran, and Nelson. Dr. Bob Parrish came in from the backyard.
“I hope you’re all wearing. . .” Bob held a handful of N95 masks. “Oh.”
“We wear masks in this house,” Jacob said. “Science. You know. It’s big with us.”
Ava and her team grinned while Ferguson laughed out loud.
“Very funny,” Bob said. “Dr. Joan is going to stay with Valerie and Samantha until we need her.”
Dr. Joan Quincy was recovering from colon cancer.
“I’m ready!” Delphie said.
Jacob opened the door off the living room. He let Nelson go first since he seemed to know where he was going. Ava’s team followed Nelson. Ferguson and the two younger technicians came in after them. Delphie and Bob went inside.
Sighing to himself, Jacob followed them into the dark hallway.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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