forgive the past with me

Chapter 7: The Music Will Know What We've Found

August 21, 1957

"Danny! I did it! And you need to see this." Brian jumped up from the table.

Dan sat up straight. "The code? The music?" He had been dozing off, dreaming about dancing with Honey again, this time with no interruption from his parents or anyone else.

"Yes. Trixie was right. The numbers that would normally be used for the beat are the key. They give the offset and character set being used." Brian grinned.

"Huh? What?" Dan shook his head. He was still trying to wake up from his nap.

"Depending on the second number, the alphabet and characters are spread out over a range of notes. It seemed to be pretty consistently between two and five." Brian handed over one of the pages of music that had previously been deciphered. "And the offset is where the first letter of the alphabet starts in relation to the 'c' note, but sometimes going down instead of up, opposite the direction that musical notes would. You can tell by if that first number is bigger than nine. I tried it out on this and two others. I get the same results as whoever originally solved these."

Dan looked around the room. He was still in Mr. Whitney's kitchen, where the boys had gathered after the dinner at Arendt's. The girls had come over as well, and they had all concentrated on the musical mystery that had them baffled for three days now.

Dan didn't remember the girls leaving, but he was sure they must have. Mart had his head on the table and was sleeping. Everyone else had appeared to have gone to bed earlier. He looked over at the clock on the wall. It was almost four in the morning. He blinked his eyes once more. "Have you had any sleep?"

"Me?" Brian shook his head. "No. Haven't bothered."

The older boy looked wide awake, and Dan figured he might as well be, too. "Want some coffee?" He got up from the chair and ambled slowly over to the coffee maker, stretching his legs as he walked. He filled the pot part way with water, and, with a yawn, he then pulled out the coffee and placed a few scoopfuls into the percolator basket. Once he had it set on the stove to start brewing, he headed back over to Brian.

"So you think you've actually solved this?" Dan was relieved, although he wasn't sure it would give him any answers.

Mart stirred in his chair, but then put his head back down on the table and snored softly.

Dan and Brian both chuckled. Brian then pointed to some of the other messages they had found. "This short one here hadn't been deciphered yet. I tried my theory on it and came up with this." He slid a piece of paper over to him.

Dan looked at the paper and then back at Brian. "That makes no sense." He looked at the paper once more.

Brian shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know what it means exactly, but if I decoded it correctly, it does mostly make sense."

Dan looked at it again and read silently, "Ar took out b." On the second line it read, "U trying to get in." He looked at Brian again. "A R? Could those be initials?"

"They could be. Do you know anyone with those initials?" Brian stared steadily at Dan.

Dan sighed. "Antonio Reyes. Tony."

"Yes, that's right. You told us that name one night before you got all worked up and ran over here. I think it was that night you snuck out with Neil and Mart." Brian grinned.

"We didn't sneak. Well, at least I didn't." Dan grinned back. Then he turned serious. "I need to go back to Minton's soon. Talk to Teddy Hill some more. I have a feeling he knows something about all this, but he didn't want to tell me back at the apartment. At least I'm pretty sure there was something he wanted to tell me." He frowned. "Maybe it had nothing to do with this at all."

"Teddy Hill? Oh right, the guy that came over while I was stuck in the secret room." Brian looked over at the stove where the percolator was spurting gently.

Dan's frown deepened. "And then here's 'U' again. I really want to know who this U person is. The initial keeps popping up on everything."

Brian took a deep breath. "I'm almost scared to show you this one." Brian put his hand defensively on the stack of papers. He hesitated, and then finally picked up two of them.

"Why?" Dan's eyes grew bigger. He tried to lighten the mood. "Should I wait for the coffee for that one?"

"No. I think the sooner you read it the better." Brian passed the two pieces of paper over to Dan. "This is the original message I found and the translation I ferreted out. But I think you really should sit down first."

Dan felt his heart racing as he sat down and took the sheets from Brian. The sheet music was covered in musical notes; he turned to the other paper with Brian's neat handwriting.

T damn it you cant be dead. I need you to be
alive. I need you to come home. Your wife has
been murdered your son ran away and I cant
find the book. Everything has gone to hell.
On the off chance you find this you know
where to contact me.

Well, he could be sure it was written sometime after April 14, 1955. "U again. 'Give those papers to U or H.'"

"I know you don't know who U is but do you have any idea about H? Could H be Hank, that neighbor from the other building? Or could it be a last name, like Hill?"

Dan gazed at Brian. The other boy's voice was calm and soothing and his brown eyes were filled with sympathy. Suddenly, Brian got up and walked over to the stove. He turned off the burner and Dan realized the percolator had stopped its constant noise. The coffee must be ready.

Dan stood up as well and pulled a cup from the cupboard. "Did you want some?" He realized Brian had never answered him earlier.

"I probably shouldn't. I already haven't had enough sleep. But yeah." Brian went to the refrigerator, Mr. Whitney's fridge, not Harvey's, and pulled out some milk.

Soon they had their cups filled and were back at the table, with Mart still snoring softly in his chair.

Dan looked over at the blond boy and his mouth turned up into a half-grin. "For someone who wakes up early all the time, I'm surprised he's such a heavy sleeper."

Brian chortled. "He's an extremely heavy sleeper; pretty much nothing will wake him. But he's also always been a morning person; wakes up at dawn and wakes up quickly. It's odd alright, just like him."

Dan took a sip of his coffee and then wrapped his hands around the warmth of the mug. "I can't even imagine who U is or why my mom would think I'd know who H is either. I suppose it could stand for either Hank or Hill but then it could stand for almost anyone or anything."

"I suppose the same is true of U. It could be almost anyone. There isn't anyone you remember with a first or last name that starts with U, or maybe even a middle name or nickname?" Brian tapped his pencil against the table as he was looking at another note. Then he jotted down a letter.

Dan closed his eyes, trying to remember. Nothing. Why wouldn't his mom have just talked to him about those papers and what to do with them instead of leaving some cryptic message? He briefly opened his eyes and saw Brian gazing at his cup of coffee. "I don't know."

"Don't know what?"

Dan turned to see Mart, his blue eyes wide awake, sitting up at the table.

"Don't know anything." Brian frowned.

Mart glanced at the cup in Brian's hand. "What're you drinking?"

"Coffee. Want some?" Brian held the cup out so Mart could see for himself.

Mart quirked an eyebrow. "When did you start drinking coffee?"

Brian's cheeks flushed slightly. "At Loyola's, back in May."

Mart waggled his eyebrows. "I see. So I take it the lovely Loyola drinks coffee? And therefore you now drink coffee."

Brian nodded, still blushing. "Not that I drink it just because she does. But I tried it at her house, and I liked the taste. Only, I can't drink it black like Dan does; there's milk and sugar in mine."

Dan snorted. "Milk's not something you can really keep around when you're living on the streets."

Mart sniffed at the cup. "Can I try?"

"Sure." Brian passed the cup to his brother.

Mart took a tentative sip, made a small face, and put the cup back down on the table. "I'll stick to orange juice." He stood up, but instead of heading to the fridge for juice, he left the kitchen and wandered down the hall toward the bathroom.

"So when did you start going over to Loyola's?" Dan grinned. "I thought you said she wouldn't go out with you."

Brian blushed again and frowned. "At the end of the school year. It was just to study. Nothing else."

"Really?" Dan raised an eyebrow. "Did you try to do anything else?"

"If you mean kiss her, I didn't have the nerve. Her grandfather was always hovering around us." Brian grinned. "But she did let me come over to study with her at least."

"Just the one time, or have you had more than one study date?" Dan waggled his brows suggestively.

Brian put his elbow on the table and rested his forehead against his hand. He sighed. "Worry about your own love life, not mine. I'm a bit surprised Mr. Wheeler hasn't said anything to you about staying away from his daughter."

"Why?" It was a stupid question, and he could think of a half-dozen answers. He wasn't the right class, not rich enough, not rich at all, came from a bad part of town, had been in a gang, he was older than her, and she was too young.

Mart came back into the kitchen and, after pouring himself a tall glass of orange juice and grabbing a banana from the bowl on the counter, sat back down at the table. "Are you two still working on the code?"

"No and yes." Brian glanced up at Mart, looking slightly smug. "We're no longer working on how to decipher the code. I'm now working on actually deciphering what we have here."

"Right." Dan finished off his coffee with a gulp. "So show me how to do this stuff." He'd worry about Mr. Wheeler some other time.

"You figured it out?" Mart let out a soft whoop. "Hallelujah!"

Brian spread some papers out and showed Mart and Dan the trick to it. Dan thought it was still quite confusing. He picked up one of the messages found among his writing and started working on it. He wasn't sure he was ready to try the ones he had been carrying for so long.

"Oh!" Forty minutes had passed in silence as the boys worked. Dan looked down at the message he had, with some difficulty, just deciphered. "I did it. But look at this." He shoved the note over to Brian and Mart.

Mart read it. "The place is bugged dont destroy they will know." He raised an eyebrow. "Someone bugged your home? As in a listening device?"

"I guess so." Dan frowned.

"And maybe rather than remove the device, they switched to writing messages in code. That way whoever was listening on the other end wouldn't know his bug had been compromised?" Mart raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. But why in code?"

"How are you two doing?" Dan looked over at the other boys' work.

"This is a list of names or addresses or something, if I'm doing this right." Mart passed over his page. It was one of Dan's original sheets.

"This one, too." Brian showed Dan. "But there are a couple of names on here that are standing out to me. I think you'll find this very interesting."

"Really?" Mart tried to read the page. "What names?"

"Here." Brian pointed to the first one. "Antonio Reyes."

Dan scowled. "Okay. I expected that. What's the other?"

"Potter Reynolds."

Dan gazed at Brian. "As in Officer Reynolds?"

"As in the Officer Reynolds that let those three villains get away when they had Trixie in that fake hamburger joint? And the same Officer Reynolds that then basically dismissed her statement as an excuse not to arrest Tony and Blinky later?" Mart looked disgusted. "What's his name doing on this list along with Tony's?"

"That's what we'll need to figure out." Brian frowned. Then he bent his dark head back over the paper and continued to work.

Dan thought for a moment. "Hey, Brian?"

"Hm?" Brian looked up at him.

Dan studied the papers in front of the other boy. "Do you think you could write a message in this code?"

"I guess so. Sure." Brian stared at him, his brown eyes wide with curiosity. "What were you thinking?"

"I need to know what Teddy Hill knows about this mess. But I don't know how to just come out and ask him without raising a lot of questions if he doesn't know anything." Dan looked back down at the papers on the table.

"So if you gave him a note, coded, and he deciphered it, then ...." Mart raised an eyebrow. "What would you say in this message?"

"I'm not sure. I want to keep it something simple, but also get his attention if he does get it." Dan shrugged.

"How about just asking if he knows who H and U are? I could probably do that." Brian chewed on the end of his pencil.

Mart frowned. "Don't you want to know why there'd be a list of names that includes both Tony and Officer Reynolds? I'd want to know that."

"Oh, I do." Dan grimaced. "But I don't want to reveal too much either, just in case. Asking who H and U are seems specific enough without saying anything about me having the papers."

"Wise move." Mart finished up his juice. "I think I saw a ruler over in the office. Let me go get that for you."

Dan watched as Mart left the room, and then looked back down at the papers on the table. "This is a mess."

Mart came back with paper and a ruler and meticulously drew groups of five lines down the page. Then he handed it to Brian.

Brian glanced over at Dan. "Do you know where to find Mr. Hill to give him this, once I'm done?" Brian began tapping his pencil along the paper as if counting out lines.

"Minton's, of course." Dan stood up and stretched. He wandered back to the stove, wondering if there was any more coffee or if he'd have to make a fresh pot. "My only concern is getting there, alone, without worrying Uncle Bill."

Brian stopped his work. "Do you have to go alone?"

"If I expect Mr. Hill to talk to me, then yes, I really should." Dan sighed. "To be honest, though, I'd rather not."

"He's never met me. Maybe I could come along but act like I'm not with you?" Brian quirked an eyebrow, questioning.

"Maybe." Dan was doubtful. "What do you know about jazz music? Because they will probably question a white kid going in by himself, if they even let you in at all."

"They let you two in." Brian pointed to Mart and him. "Why wouldn't they let me in?"

"They only let us in because Dan dropped a name and he is Timmy Mangan's son." Mart shook his head. "But I also don't like the idea of any of us doing anything alone."

"We'll see." Dan looked around the kitchen. "But I'm not so worried about getting to Teddy, alone or not. I think the tougher part will be getting away from the rest of this group without them questioning us or following us."

chapter 8: the world is so tough