They were halfway through a pitcher of Fat Tire before Jacob realized Steve wasn’t just killing time. Steve wanted to check out his sister’s new potential boyfriend. After chatting with their waiter, Dustin Kidder, about Katy, Steve ordered a couple of Pasquini’s calzones and another pitcher of beer. And Jacob waited for Steve to get around to what he wanted to say.
After Dustin brought the calzones and beer, Steve’s demeanor shifted. Steve was ready to talk. Jacob shifted back in his seat to give Steve space to unfold his story, the story of his parents’ death.
The entire family was on vacation in Costa Rica when his parents and Jill went out for groceries. At nine years old, Jill went everywhere with her mother. As usual, they left Megan and Mike in charge.
But there wasn’t anything to take charge of.
The family had a cottage right on the beach of a small, private cove. Steve and Candy were in the ocean when their parents left. Mike made a complicated sand castle complex and Megan read a romance novel in the sun. The afternoon slipped away.
No one noticed that their parents hadn’t returned until it was getting dark.
Terrified, the siblings went to the police. Nothing. They called the consulate. Nothing. When news came, it was bad. The Costa Rican national police arrived near dawn. Their parents’ car had been hit by a tractor-trailer. The truck driver was swatting at a mosquito and swerved into their lane. Their parents’ rental car was destroyed. His parents were dead and Jill was missing.
Desperate for help, they called the father of a school friend, Senator Patrick Hargreaves. After the senator’s intervention, the police reluctantly agreed to show Mike the wreckage and let him identify the bodies. To this day, Mike refused talk about what he saw.
Jill was just gone. Kidnapped? Killed? No one seemed to know.
Senator Hargreaves told them to return to Denver. He would continue to put pressure on the consulate to find Jill. Grief-stricken, they returned to their empty house in Denver.
Mike and Megan were in charge of the family. Their parents’ life insurance paid off the house, but not much more. Megan had just graduated from high school. She turned down her full scholarship to Regis University and went to work. Mike quit high school, took his GED, enlisted in the army, and sent every paycheck home. Steve and Candy continued at Machebeuf on a family tragedy scholarship.
“All the luxuries of a Catholic education,” Steve smirked.
“What about Jill?” Jacob asked.
“We were just getting our feet under us when Senator Hargreaves called,” Steve said. “Some friar found Jill among the congregation of a church in Costa Rica.”
“Yeah, he called it ‘angelic intervention,’” Steve said. “This guy remembered meeting the whole family at an ordination in Denver. Through Catholic Charities, he was able to get Jill home in two days.”
“Wow,” Jacob said. He set cash in the bill folder and handed it to Dustin. He said to Dustin, “I don’t need change.”
“I’ll bring the rest of your food when it’s ready,” Dustin said.
“Thanks,” Jacob replied. Looking over to Steve, he asked, “Where was she?”
“Honestly? We don’t know,” Steve said. “She was healthy … seemed fine. The friar said that a farmer found her in his field. The farmer and his wife had other kids so they just cared for her.”
“Was she all right?” Jacob asked. “Did they hurt her?”
“No, she was healthy. She has a scar on her leg and the doctor says her leg had been broken and set. She wasn’t malnourished. Except for the leg thing, she wasn’t hurt … in any way,” Steve said. “She was kind of blank. She still gets like that when she gets really freaked out.”
“She went blank today,” Jacob said.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
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