“There’s a series of stairs — eight stairs and three landings — here and twelve stairs on the other end.”
Jacob pulled an overcoat over his Armani suit and flipped up the hood. He held his hand out for Jill. Hand in hand, they entered the ancient tunnel. Created in the 1800s, the tunnels were used to move heating coal from the train station in throughout Denver.
“How far is it?” Jill whispered after they had been walking a while.
“It’s a half mile,” Mike said. “You don’t have to whisper.”
“I just feel … like I should whisper,” Jill said.
“Me too,” Valerie whispered in response. “Maybe we feel all the sad souls Delphie was talking about.”
“It’s a dark place,” Jacob said. “We’re almost there. You can see the stairwell up ahead.”
They climbed the stairwell. Jacob pointed to another lock box with a keypad. He punched in his birth date and opened the box. He used the key to open both locks. Holding the door for Jill, Valerie, and Mike, Jacob set the key back on its hook and reengaged the security system.
He walked through the door to an open warehouse space. One end of the warehouse was a wood shop. Tidy stacks of wood, windows, woodworking tools, and worktables filled half of the space. Opposite from where they stood, there were four aging cars — a Jeep Wrangler, an old Bronco, a 1960s Mustang and an ancient silver Mercedes — lined up in front of the garage doors. The cars were clean and clearly well maintained. Jacob added his overcoat to the line of hooks near the door.
“This box has keys to the door as well as keys to the cars. I thought Mike would take his Bronco.” Jacob threw the keys to Mike. “Val? Are you okay with the Jeep?”
“Why are all of our old cars here?” Valerie asked, noticing the cars for the first time. “That’s Mom’s old Mercedes and that …” She pointed to the Mustang. “That’s mine!”
“I thought no one would expect the famous Valerie Lipson to drive an old clunker. Delphie drives Mom’s Mercedes. I can’t bring myself to …”
“Thanks, Jake.” Val’s eyes brimmed with tears. “You really thought of everything.”
Jacob smiled. He pressed the garage opener and they peered out at Detroit Street. The residential street was silent. No helicopters. No photographers. Just a few high school kids walking along the back of East High School.
“Yes!” Mike said. “I knew we could do this!”
Valerie laughed and pulled him to her. They kissed and whispered back and forth by the Jeep.
“We’ll catch up with you at the hospital,” Jacob said to Jill. “But don’t wait for us. We’re not exactly sure how long we’ll be. If you can take Katy home, you should do that. I’ll find you when we’re done.”
Jill hugged Jacob. She whispered in his ear, “Thanks. I …”
“God damn it. Can we go?” Mike asked. He opened the driver’s side of his Bronco.
Jill blushed and stepped away. Jacob walked her to the passenger side, waited for her to hop in, and then closed car door.
“I remember this car,” Jill said to Mike.
Mike laughed and revved the Bronco’s engine.
“Ready?” Jacob asked Valerie, turning on the Jeep.
“I feel a little … nervous, I guess,” Valerie said.
“About?” Jacob asked.
Backing out, he waited until the garage doors closed before pulling out onto Detroit Street. He drove a half block then turned right on Colfax.
“Just being here, I guess,” Valerie said. “You must think I’m an idiot, but it’s very scary for me to make these changes and take these steps.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
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