“Are we ready?” Jacob asked. “We can get past the paparazzi through the tunnels.”
Standing by a locked door in the main Castle kitchen, he looked from Valerie to Mike. Even after years of preparation, he had no idea if they could get away from the photographers that stalked his sister. Today would be the first time they tried the tunnels.
Jill slipped her arm around him. He smiled at her.
Today was a first for a lot of things.
“Mike and I have cleaned the tunnels, but they are old coal tunnels. There’s only so much we could do,” Jacob said. He pointed to the long, hooded overcoats that hung on hooks by a locked beadboard door. “As long as Delphie isn’t going out, there’s one for each of us.”
“I’ll stay here, Jake,” Delphie said. “I don’t like those tunnels. Too many sad spirits down there.”
“I’m so sorry.” Valerie hugged Delphie. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t let the driver take me home, the paparazzi would have never found us.”
“Honey, I’d rather be stuck here because you and Mike are back together than be stuck here because it’s snowing, or the doors won’t open, or Jake blew something up, or I’m sick, or …”
“Thanks,” Valerie said. “I’ve missed you.”
“We’ve all missed you, Val,” Delphie said. “It’s nice to have you home.”
“We need to go!”
Jacob’s impatience and worry echoed through his voice. Delphie made her usual cutesy face at Jake’s frustration.
“Is he always like this?” Valerie mock-whispered to Delphie.
“YES. I’M ALWAYS LIKE THIS!” Jacob said in a terse voice.
Mike looked from Delphie’s smile to Jacob and burst out laughing. Everyone laughed. Even Jacob gave in to a smile. Jacob passed out the overcoats.
“If Val’s staying, we’ll have to get some more of these coats.”
“Just one?” Jill asked.
“Well, Katy too.” Jacob beamed at her.
“Sheez, now who’s wasting time? Explain the locks,” Mike commanded.
“There are two locks.” Jacob pointed to a modern deadbolt and a refurbished antique lock. “You can unlock this deadbolt with a key from both sides of the door. This old lock can only be opened from the inside.”
“Which is why I have to stay,” Delphie said.
“We usually leave the old lock open when we go out through the tunnels, but with all this attention,” Jacob pointed toward the growing crowd and paparazzi outside the Castle’s metal fence, “I don’t feel comfortable leaving it unlocked. There are two locks at the workshop. Those are regular key bolts. There’s also a security system in the tunnels that’s connected to both doors. You can turn off the system from inside the Castle or inside the workshop. It goes back on when either the door is closed at the other end or after thirty minutes.”
Jacob opened the door. Pointing to the lockbox, he said, “This box has the key to the deadbolt in it. It will open to each of our birthdays. Our birthdays are the security code as well.”
“Except mine,” Jill said.
“Right, but you know Mike’s, right?”
“We’ll add yours,” Jacob said. Jill kissed his lips.
“I thought we were late?” Mike asked.
“Nervous?” Valerie asked.
“No, I’m torn between bashing his teeth in and puking.”
Mike pulled Jacob away from Jill, and Jacob laughed. He flipped a switch, and a dim thread of lights appeared in the darkness.
“There’s a switch at each end,” Mike said. “There are also flashlights and headlamps if you need them. Just toss them in the baskets at each end. Since we’re so late, we should probably skip the headlamps and hold hands.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow...
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