CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-FIVE
Sunday morning — 9:05 a.m.
“Where are we going?” Fran asked Jacob as she, Ava, Leslie, and Nelson followed him across the main Castle living room.
“Down here again,” Jacob said.
They turned down the hallway where MJ and Honey’s apartment was located.
“Just a second,” Jacob said.
He jogged down the basement stairs and returned a few minutes later with a cordless power drill.
“We were already here,” Ava said, irritably.
“There’s another area,” Jacob said.
“Where?” Nelson asked, standing in front of the door of the apartment they’d already collected samples from.
“Good question,” Jacob said with a grin.
Jacob waved his hand so that Nelson would move. Jacob gave Nelson the power drill and took a screw driver out of his pocket. The wall to the right of the door to the apartment on the end of the hallway was covered in Fir paneling with small four inch squares of wainscoting covering the wall. The squares covered the entire wall.
Jacob went to one of the squares near the edge of the basement stairs. Using the screwdriver, he carefully pried up the wood to uncover a screw. Jacob held out his hand for the power drill. Nelson gave him the drill and he unscrewed the screw part way. Then, Jacob uncovered three other screw panels and unscrewed the panel. With Nelson’s help, Jacob took the entire paneling down revealing a short stairwell going up.
“More apartments?” Leslie asked. “The roof line is only a few feet above us.”
“It’s more like a storage area or an attic,” Jacob said. “The ceiling is at about five feet so we’ll have to bend over to get around.”
“Shall we?” Jacob asked before heading up the stairs.
They reached a bend in the stairs and then went up two more stairs. There was a door with a deadbolt and a padlock on it.
“This area was full of junk,” Jacob said.
“What kind of junk?” Ava asked.
“Trash,” Jacob said. “We got rid of what we thought was just trash and left everything else.”
“Are there belongings?” Ava asked.
“Some,” Jacob said. “You’ll just have to see it. If I had my way, I would have just opened the wall and chucked everything. But Delphie thought that this might someday mean something to someone.”
“You might want to put your N95 masks on rather than the cloth ones,” Jacob said. “It was pretty gross the last time I was here. I can’t imagine a few years have changed it much.”
Ava dug into her backpack and passed out N95 masks for the team. They took a moment to get the masks on. When everyone was ready, Jacob unlocked the padlock and the deadbolts.
“We had a hard time keeping people out of this area,” Jacob said. “Even after Mom and Delphie lived here full time, people would creep up here.”
Bent at the waste, the team moved into the storage area.
“To do what?” Leslie asked.
“Drugs,” Fran said. She pointed to a glass crack pipe on the floor next to a bookshelf.
“It was kind of a shooting gallery,” Jacob said. “I tried to get all of the syringes, but be careful. I may have missed some.”
“Good to know,” Nelson said under his breath.
Nelson handed out latex gloves to everyone before putting a pair on herself.
“Any idea where Detective Stone’s mother died?” Ava asked.
“Like the reason we’ve spent the weekend here?” Leslie asked under her breath.
“Over here,” Jacob said, pointing to a beanbag chair. “She’d clearly been here a while.”
“Do you or Delphie have any idea how her mother was killed?” Ava asked.
“Drugs, I think,” Jacob said. “I can go ask Delphie. She may remember.”
“What about ghosts?” Fran asked.
“We cleared them out,” Jacob said. “None of them had a connection to this place. They were just here to feed their addiction.”
“So no one was murdered here?” Leslie asked, irritably.
“I guess it depends on what you think of as murder,” Detective Karowski, Detective Stone’s partner, said. “Someone used this place to sell and distribute drugs which ended up killing people.”
“That’s not murder,” Ava said. “It’s drug distribution with intent to sell. You know that the DA will never prosecute something that’s not clear cut murder.”
Detective Karowski gave Ava a strong look.
“Why are we here?” Fran asked.
“My partner wants to know who the drug dealer was,” Detective Karowski said.
“And if it was her mother?” Jacob asked.
Detective Karowski’s head jerked to look at Jacob, who shrugged.
“It’s a good question,” Ava said.
She nodded in Nelson’s direction. Nelson walked out of the storage area. Sitting on the top step, he opened his laptop. He poked around on his computer for a moment before typing.
“She was arrested three times for prostitution and four for drug distribution,” Nelson said. Turning his head to look into the area, he added, “Rock cocaine and meth.”
Detective Karowski shrugged.
“You knew this?” Jacob asked.
“Let’s say that I guessed,” Detective Karowski said. “I don’t know what to tell you. These deaths are as unsolved as the others in the building.”
“But they are all from the same cause!” Nelson said, gesturing to the computer. “Death by misadventure — drug overdose.”
Detective Karowski winced.
“Okay,” Ava said. “Here’s what I think we should do. . .”
Everyone turned to look at her.
“Let’s get obvious samples,” Ava said. “And get out of here. I’ll call Ferguson to see if he and his team want to come here. My guess is that he’s been here before.”
“Jake?” Nelson asked. “Can you show us where you think we’ll find something useful?”
Jacob pointed to five or six areas on the floor and on the walls, and then shrugged.
“Really, I don’t know,” Jacob said. “It all looks like garbage to me.”
“Okay,” Ava said. “Let’s just dig in. Get what we can. We can come back or send CSU in.”
They got to work. Ava asked Jacob to point out areas again. She placed evidence cones at each spot. Leslie, Fran, and Nelson took swab samples of the areas. They kept working until they felt like they had covered the entire area.
“You can’t be done,” Detective Karowski said.
“Why not?” Ava asked.
Detective Karowski gave Ava a guilty look, and she shook her head.
“We’ve gotten what we need to,” Ava said. “We can always come back.”
“What if he gets rid of everything?” Detective Karowski asked.
“He’s not going to do it today,” Ava said. “Look out the window. This is Harvest Day. Jake’s not going to have time to clear it out today.”
They turned to look at Jacob. Nodding, he shrugged.
“She’s right,” Jacob said. “We have a lot going on today. That means that next week is going to be filled with cooking and canning. It takes at least another week to get everything wrapped up after a big week this week.”
“So, you see!” Ava said. “We have plenty of time to come back.”
“We’ll process all of this. . .” Leslie held up a few evidence bags. She looked at the bag and lifted her lip in a sneer. “. . . stuff.”
“We’ll find your precious drug dealer, even if it’s Stone’s mother,” Fran said. “And that bitch. . .”
Nelson jumped up from where he was sitting and hugged Fran.
“It’s okay,” Nelson said.
Fran looked up at him.
“She doesn’t have anything to do with us,” Nelson said.
“She. . .” Fran said. “My girls and. . .”
Detective Karowski winced and walked out of the storage area.
“Come on,” Jacob said. He leaned in to Fran and said softly, “She’ll get hers. Don’t worry.”
He touched Fran’s arm and said, “Time to go.”
“It’s about time,” Leslie and Ava said in near unison.
“Do stay for lunch,” Jacob said. He nodded to Detective Karowski. “Join us.”
Leslie and Fran left the storage area. Nelson picked up his backpack. Ava waved him out of the storage area. Standing in the center of the storage area, Ava looked around. She saw something tucked behind the bookshelf. Ava took out a large tweezer with long tynes. She carefully pulled the object from behind the bookshelf.
It was some kind of paper. Not sure what she’d found, Ava put the object into an evidence bag. She sealed the bag, tucked it into her backpack, and left the storage area. Jacob followed Ava down the few stair. It took a few minutes, but with Nelson’s help, Jacob was able to get the panel back on.
“You gonna do something with that?” Nelson said to Jacob, softly.
“I’m taking the wall out and clearing everything into a roll off,” Jacob said.
They laughed. They turned into the living room and stopped short. The living room was full of people standing six feet apart from each other.
“But not today,” Jacob said.
Nelson patted Jacob’s arm and followed Ava, Leslie, and Fran out of the house. Detective Karowski watched Jacob thread his way through the crowd before turning toward to the door to leave.
“Hey, man, you gonna dig with us?” Nash asked in his best “stupid teenager” voice.
Surprised, Detective Karowski took a step back from the young man. He shook his head and nearly ran out the door.
Nash chuckled. He turned to Mike, who was standing behind him.
“That was fun,” Nash said.
Sunday night — 10:15 p.m.
“Ugh,” Valerie said, plopping down on the couch in the living room.
Mike scooted over and gestured to his lap.
“Will you rub my feet?” Valerie asked.
“Absolutely,” Mike said. “I love your feet.”
“They’re probably stinky,” she said, placing her feet on his lap.
“In that case. . .” Mike pushed her feet off his lap.
Their laugh brought Delphie out from the kitchen. Valerie leaned forward and Mike kissed her. He picked up Valerie’s feet and began to rub them. Delphie stepped into the kitchen and then turned back to the kitchen.
“Jake,” Delphie said.
“Yeah,” Jacob said, in a more surly voice than he’d intended. “Sorry. Just beat.”
“Can you light the fire?” Delphie asked.
Jacob dried off his hand and pointed up. A spark flew out of his finger. The tiny light circled Delphie and then flew into the living room. The spark wrapped around Valerie and then Mike, before landing on the kindling in the fireplace.
“Thanks for cleaning and refilling the fireplaces, Nash and Charlie,” Delphie said. “Wherever you are.”
Jacob turned back to the sink full of soapy water and pans.
“Fuck,” Jacob said. He threw the microfiber cloth into the sink. Walking to the living room entrance, he said, “These are going to have to wait. Beer?”
“Yes,” Mike said. “Cold.”
“Wine,” Valerie said.
“The spark didn’t impress you?” Jacob asked. “You want magic?”
The air filled with a cloud of cold beverages and wine bottles. The caps on the beer flew off at the same time the corks popped out of the wine bottles. The beer and wine flew across the living room only to land softly on the table in front of the couch.
“I need a. . .” Valerie said.
A glass was hanging in the air in front of her.
“I won’t pour your wine because I’m not sure how much you’re drinking,” Jacob said.
“Thanks,” Valerie said. “Can I have some cake too?”
A whole frosted cake flew across the room to hover over Valerie’s head. She didn’t notice until Mike pointed to the cake. Valerie burst out laughing. Chuckling, Jacob made the cake land on the table as well. A stack of plates, napkins, forks, and even a knife to cut the cake landed on the table.
“Anything else?” Jacob said.
“Can you turn on the water for tea?” Delphie asked.
“I can just make you tea,” Jacob said.
“Really?” Delphie asked.
“Pfft,” Jacob said. “It’s not even. . .”
A mug floated off the shelf. It filled with water and hung in the air in front of Jacob. He put his hands around the mug. A teabag of Delphie’s favorite green tea came out of the pantry to land in the mug.
“Hard,” Jacob said.
Mike looked at Valerie and said, “We’ve been practicing.”
“Obviously,” Valerie said.
Sam came into the living room.
“What’s going on?” Sam asked.
“Jake’s showing off,” Delphie said. “Did you know he can make tea with just his hands?”
“Me, too,” Sam said. “It’s a family trait.”
Sam walked into the kitchen and turned on the pot. Everyone laughed. Sam grinned.
“Just leave those, son,” Sam said.
Jacob just looked at him.
“You’ve done enough, Jake,” Sam said. “We all have. It’s time to be done for the night. Whatever we don’t get to, we can do tomorrow or never. Rosa’s team is coming again tomorrow. They don’t mind a few dishes.”
Sam hugged Jacob. They walked into the living room and took seats in the chairs. Exhausted, Nash, Charlie, Tink, Noelle, and Teddy shuffled past everyone from the backyard. Sandy and Aden followed them in.
“I will take some wine,” Sandy said.
She gestured to Valerie, who moved her feet to the floor and scooted over on the couch. Sandy was so tiny that she only needed a little space on the couch. Sandy lifted her feet to put them on the table, but a foot stool appeared under her feet.
“Perfect,” Sandy said. “Thanks, Jake. My ankle’s killing me.”
“Not a problem,” Jake said.
“There’s a beer here for you,” Mike said.
“Great,” Charlie said, veering toward the couch.
“Go. Now,” Aden said. “Upstairs. You all have school tomorrow.”
“You can’t have beer,” Charlie whined.
“It’s non-alcoholic,” Mike said. “Jake magicked it from the kitchen.”
“Upstairs and to bed,” Aden pointed.
Yawning, Charlie stumbled out of the room and up the stairs. Jill came in from the backyard.
“Where are our children?” Jill asked Jacob.
“We have children?” Jacob asked.
“You said you were going to put them to bed!” Jill said.
Jillian Roper was not amused. She shot him a look worthy of her Titan father.
“Sorry,” Jacob said. He stroked her arm. “They are in bed. I have the baby monitor. They are completely out.”
“Paddie, too?” Jill asked.
“He’s in with Katy,” Jacob said. “They aren’t even whispering.”
Jill looked at the grouping of furniture and didn’t see a seat.
“I’ll just go up. . .” Jill started.
A couch appeared from somewhere and settled next to the armchair Delphie was sitting in.
“Oh thank God,” Jill said and collapsed on the couch. “I want wine, but why are we drinking this swill?”
“Swill?” Delphie asked. “It’s pretty good, I think.”
“Heather?” Jill asked.
Heather and Tanesha walked in from the backyard.
“We need wine,” Jill said.
Heather’s eye went to the wine bottles on the table and gave Jill a slight nod. Two unlabeled bottles of wine appeared in Heather’s hands.
“Can I have champagne?” Tanesha asked.
“Of course,” Heather said. “French okay?”
Heather set the bottles on the table in the living room, and Jacob made the corks fly out of the bottles. A pitcher of water appeared on the table with a few glasses. Aden poured himself a glass of water and drank it down. He poured another.
“Try this,” Jill said to Valerie.
Valerie passed her wine glass to Mike, who emptied the glass. Jill gave her a dash of the wine.
“Heather gets it from her Grandfather,” Jill said.
“Would you like some champagne?” Tanesha said. “It’s really more like mead. . .”
“Champagne from honey,” Heather said. “Drink of Dionysus. There’s even a batch named after me!”
Tanesha sat next to Jill on the couch. Armchairs appeared in a line next to the one Sam was sitting in. Jeraine, Blane, and Tres came in a few minutes before Nelson come in. Jeraine sat on Tanesha’s lap. They kissed. Tres cozied up with Heather. Blane sat next to Jacob in an armchair. Not one for close contact or public affection, Nelson took a spot in his own armchair.
“I’m so freakin’ tired,” Valerie moaned.
“We have weeks of cooking to come!” Sandy said.
“But not tonight,” Jacob said.
“Or tomorrow,” Valerie said. “I’m sleeping all day.”
Everyone laughed at the idea of Valerie sleeping all day.
“Hey, it could happen,” Valerie said, taking a sip of the wine from Ares’ wine cellar. “This is amazing. Oh wow.”
She held out the wine to Mike, who took an actual drink.
“That’s delicious,” Mike said.
“Greek wine made traditionally,” Heather said. “I think we can still get this brand, but . . .”
“He did say that we should drink his wine cellar,” Tanesha said.
“He did,” Heather said. “Where are Ivan and Sissy?”
“In bed,” Sandy said. “Sissy danced at City Park last night. With everything, she’s pretty worn out. How’s Ivan, Blane?”
“Better than he should be,” Blane said.
“What does that mean?” Mike asked.
“It means that he’s very sick, but somehow, his body seems to rebound against the cancer,” Blane said. “I’ve never read about anything like this. He has an incredible ability to heal. I mean, he’s been a professional dancer all of his life, so it’s not too shocking. Still, it’s weird.”
“So there’s hope?” Jill asked.
“Lots of hope,” Blane said. “I’m glad they’re here. We can help Ivan while Sissy goes back to dance.”
“Do you think they will marry this week?” Heather asked. The only one not completely exhausted, she gave a happy clap. “Won’t that be fun? We haven’t had a wedding in a while!”
In near unison, everyone in the room turned to look at Heather. Their exhausted faces made Heather laugh.
“Oh my God,” Sandy said with a groan. “I can’t even think about it.”
“Did you take your meds?” Aden asked. “Or Ibuprofen? Tylenol?”
“Not until I’ve had my fill of this wine,” Sandy said with a shake of her head. She gestured to the glass. “Medicine.”
Aden grinned at her.
“I have something to say,” Delphie said.
Everyone turned their eyes on Delphie.
“I wanted to thank each of you for all of your hard work,” Delphie said. “That goes for everyone who’s not here, too, like Alex and John.”
“Those Afghan people were amazing,” Tanesha said. “They made the most wonderful food. Perfect.”
“They were amazing with our kids, too,” Jill said. “I ran out of diapers. A woman — I guess Joey and Maire’s aunt? I don’t really know — gave me extra diapers and even managed to get a twin changed.”
“What a weird and wonderful series of days,” Tres said. “I feel honored to have been able to attend and participate.”
“Me, too,” Nelson said. “Thank you for including us.”
“Absolutely,” Delphie said. Raising her glass, she continued, “To a successful Harvest Day!”
“Harvest Day!” Everyone said in return and took a drink of their beverages.
“Here! Here!” Jacob said.
They raised their glassed and clinked their own glass against everyone else’s glass. They were silent while everyone’s focused turned to their beverages.
“You know what I liked?” Delphie asked.
With that, everyone laughed and shared stories about Harvest Day well into the wee hours of the night.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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