forgive the past with me

Chapter 9: Worry All Day 'Bout Who They Can Trust

August 21, 1957

"Wow." Bob slapped his hand to his forehead. "I may be slow, but I just realized something. Is the Mr. Whitney whose apartment we're staying in related to the Whitney museum at all?"

Honey smiled. "Yes, I believe so. I think his father was a cousin or nephew or something of the same Mr. Whitney that married the founder of this museum, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney."

"Neat!" Barbara grinned. "So I can say that I've been in the Whitney's apartment and act like I'm one of the rich and famous?"

Harvey snorted. "I'm not sure which family is more rich and famous: the Wheelers or the Whitneys."

"Oh, it's no contest. The Whitneys," Honey answered easily. Any tears she'd had from the earlier talk were gone. Honey had pasted on the sunshine smile she was known for, but Dan could tell it wasn't quite genuine. She was always saying he could trust her and all the Bob-Whites and open up to them; he wondered how he could convince her that she could trust them with her past, too.

Dan glanced over at Jim, noticing that while he seemed to be okay again, his eyes were cold and there was not even the faintest smile on his face. He felt guilty, again, for making both Honey and her brother feel so miserable.

He pushed his thoughts aside and fingered the note in his pocket. He was supposed to meet Brian around one. He glanced at the clock in the museum's entry way. It was just a little past eleven. Nearly two hours in an art museum seemed like torture. Immediately, he felt guilty for thinking that. He remembered what his mom had gone through in the orphanage and what Jim had just revealed to him in the park. Two hours in a museum was a cake walk.


"I took a nap." Brian yawned. "Not sure if it helped."

Dan smirked. "Not sure if anything would help. We can stop for some coffee on the way if you want." He had left the others behind at the Whitney Museum, claiming, honestly, to see if Brian was up and at their meeting spot. Only, the meeting spot was not in front of that museum, but rather all the way across the park in front of the Museum of Natural History.

"No, no. Had enough coffee this morning already." Brian shook his head.

Dan led him down to the subway turnstiles and they were soon on a train headed back up toward Harlem.

Brian raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "Do you think he'll be home?"

Dan shrugged. "Dunno. But it's too early in the day to try to find him at Minton's." He started to pull out the note in his pocket and then changed his mind. "Should I leave it in his mailbox if he's not?"

"Up to you." Brian glanced at his watch. "What time do we need to get back?"

"It would be good if we can make it back before three, but Jim said he'd try to stall them at the Met if we're late." Dan frowned. "I don't like sneaking off. Really."

"You get used to it. I've done it a few times since Trixie started getting us involved in mysteries." Brian grinned. "So we have at least an hour and a half, maybe more?"

Dan nodded. "It shouldn't take long. Hand him the note, head back."

The subway ride itself took nearly half an hour, and it was an eight minute walk from the subway stop to Mr. Hill's street. Dan felt relaxed walking through this neighborhood. The houses that lined the block were so much nicer looking than Dan's old neighborhood less than half a mile away, and the people on the street looked nicer, too. The men and women walking along the sidewalks were well-dressed and clearly affluent. He wasn't at all worried about running into any gang members—or anyone else, for that matter.

They had almost reached Teddy Hill's home when Dan spotted them.

"Quick," he whispered roughly to Brian, pulling him behind some stairs leading up to one of the houses. He put his finger to his lips and poked his head out slightly. The two men had their backs to them.

Using the cars on the street for cover, he and Brian crept closer to the men until he was able to hear some of their conversation.

"... find out ...." He couldn't hear all of Blinky's words, but his tone was somewhat threatening.

"After all these years?" Teddy laughed scornfully and shook his head. "You're outta your mind."

Beside him, Brian crouched lower. "Who's that man with Blinky? Is he Mr. Hill?" he whispered.

Dan put his finger to his lips again. He was not at all happy with what he was witnessing.

Blinky peered nervously up and down the street, as if he'd heard them. Teddy, in contrast, seemed quite calm and unconcerned about any possible eavesdroppers.

He and Brian stayed as still as possible. He really hoped they hadn't been spotted.

"Listen, Hill." Blinky seemed satisfied no one was around. "You know how important this is." He reached into his jacket and started to pull something out.

"Put that damned thing away." Teddy's words were harsh. He lowered his voice and Dan could no longer hear what he said.

Blinky nodded in response. He started to speak again, but Teddy cut him off. "And get out of here already. I told you I don't have it."

Blinky quickly surveyed the neighborhood again, and Dan was almost sure the villain had seen Brian and him this time, but the scar-faced man turned back to Teddy Hill. "He trusts you, not me."

"Go." Teddy said the word forcefully.

Blinky nodded again and turned to leave.

"And be more careful." Teddy muttered the words to the man's back. "Damn fool, that one." Then he turned, whistling, to walk back toward his home.

Of course, that meant walking right by Dan and Brian. Dan wasn't sure where they could go without being seen by him. He started to inch around the car, knowing that at least Brian wouldn't be recognized.

"Daniel Mangan." Teddy Hill stared at the car. "I know you're there."

Dan slowly stood up. He suddenly didn't know what to make of this man. He'd been one of his dad's closest friends, and he'd just seen him talking with the enemy. What the hell was going on? "Mr. Hill."

"Fancy running into you, here." Mr. Hill smirked. "How much of that fool conversation did you hear exactly?"

Dan shrugged.

Mr. Hill gazed inquisitively at Brian. "And who's this? Another friend?"

Dan nodded.

"You have a lot of friends, Danny. More than you realize. That's a good thing." Teddy started walking up the stairs to his home. "Come on in, boys."

"I don't know." Dan shook his head. "Maybe it'd be better to stay out here."

Teddy Hill reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a pipe. He sat on the steps leading up to his door. "Suit yourself. But like I was telling that fool, talking out in public isn't such a good idea sometimes."

He reached into another pocket for some tobacco and started tapping it into the pipe. Soon he had the pipe lit, although Danny watched him warily each time he had reached into his jacket. Brian stood beside him, and when Dan glanced at him, he could tell the other boy wasn't the least bit worried. He wondered why not, or, if he actually was, how he managed to mask it.

"So, boys, why did you come to see me?" Teddy smiled at the two of them. The smile seemed genuine, even the corners of his eyes crinkled. This was the Teddy Dan remembered. But now he wasn't so sure of anything.

Dan thought quickly. "I was wondering if you knew where all my parents' things went."

Brian nodded, but kept quiet.

"Sure. Most of the stuff went to charity. Sarah would've wanted it that way. I kept a few things though. They're up in my attic." Teddy turned around and glanced up to the roof of his house. He frowned. "I don't suppose you trust me anymore, but do you want to go up there and look around?"

Dan shook his head. The old man was right. He didn't trust him anymore. "What's your business with Blinky?"

Teddy raised a thin graying eyebrow. "And just how exactly do you know ... Blinky?"

"I asked first." Dan crossed his arms and leaned against one of the posts at the bottom of the steps.

"This isn't grade school, but fine." Teddy took a long series of puffs from the pipe before answering. "He's looking for something your father used to have. And I don't have it."

Dan remembered that night in Central Park and how Blinky didn't seem to know anything about the papers Tony wanted. He wondered if Tony had mentioned anything to him, and would they kill Teddy thinking he had those papers? But Teddy hadn't seemed the least bit threatened by the scar-faced man.

"What's he looking for?" Brian asked, a hint of surprise in his voice.

Teddy studied Brian. "What's your name, son? We haven't been properly introduced."

"Nicholas." Dan tried not to smile as Brian gave the false name.

"Hmm." Teddy shook his head. "Teddy Hill." He reached up and shook Brian's hand before turning back to Danny. "So, how exactly do you know Blinky?"

"He's given me and my friends some trouble." Danny frowned.

Both of Teddy's eyebrows rose in surprise. "What kind of trouble exactly?"

Danny glanced at Brian. The older boy nodded slightly. "He was trying to steal my friend's purse."

"Blinky? Snatching purses? That's not like him." Teddy shook his head. "Was there something special about the purse?"

Brian snorted. "There was a diamond in it."

"A diamond, you say." Teddy seemed to be studying the tobacco in his pipe. After a few moments he finally put it to his mouth and took a few more puffs. "A diamond," he repeated, clearly astounded by the news.

"A little Incan idol, actually. A wooden idol with a diamond hidden inside it. Do you know anything about that?" Dan studied the man, waiting for him to answer.

Teddy shook his head. "Who knows what kind of fool business that man has gotten into lately? No, I don't know anything about any idols or diamonds." He smoked some more of the tobacco in his pipe. "You say he tried to steal the purse? He missed, then?"

Dan grinned; he couldn't help it. "He tried and missed. Three times."

Brian shrugged. "He didn't even get close to it the second time because we spotted him before he could."

"Seriously?" Teddy grimaced. "I didn't think he was that sloppy." He motioned for Danny and Brian to sit down. "And your friend—the one with this purse—have you talked to her lately?"

Brian sat on the step next to Dan, leaning against the concrete wall on the side of the stairs. Dan still didn't quite trust him and remained standing, but he did relax slightly and leaned back against the wall. "Every day."

"You didn't happen to mention my name, did you? Maybe last night ... or this morning?" Teddy peered at him curiously.

Dan thought back to what he'd said to Trixie over the last couple of days. "Not this morning, no, but you met her at my old apartment yesterday."

Teddy nodded. He glanced at Brian and then gazed at Dan for a long time. "This is just a hunch, but do me a favor, will you?"

"Depends on the favor," Dan replied evenly.

Teddy grinned. "When you see your friend again, the one with the purse," he said kindly, "tell her to look through it very carefully. If she finds something unusual, get rid of it."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "Get rid of it?"

"Sure. Step on it, flush it down the toilet, throw it in the river. Just get rid of it." He frowned.

"Okay." Brian shook his head and then yawned. "'Scuse me."

"Partying too late?" Teddy winked.

Dan shook his head. "I'm still not sure if I trust you, but I—" Dan reached in his pocket for the note Brian had written. "I came by to give you this." He handed it to Teddy.

Teddy took it and unfolded the paper carefully. He gazed at it a good long while, and Dan thought he saw moisture in the older man's eyes. Dan exchanged a glance with Brian, but the two boys stayed silent while Teddy studied the coded message.

"This is an interesting piece of music," Teddy said, finally.

Dan nodded. "I thought so."

"Are you writing music now?" Dan was sure Teddy Hill was trying to blink back some tears. "Is this yours?"

He wasn't sure how to answer that. "Yes and no. I don't know how to write music. A friend of mine wrote it for me."

"I see." Teddy studied the paper some more. "And this friend—where did they learn to write like this?"

Dan shrugged. "Just kind of figured it out."

"We really should get going." Brian stood up and started to walk down the stairs.

Dan sat down on one of the lower steps and looked up at Teddy. He wondered why Brian suddenly wanted to leave. "I'm in no rush."

Brian raised his eyebrows, but then sat back down again. He glanced at his watch. "Your uncle is going to flip."

"Hmm. It's a pretty unique style." Teddy glanced at the paper and then turned to Dan; his dark eyes almost looked as though he was trying to see through him.

Dan turned his head and peered up and down the street. It was a very quiet neighborhood. Nobody else had walked past in all that time. He turned back to Teddy. "So, what do you think?"

Teddy focused his stare on Dan directly. "I know who these two people are." He carefully refolded the paper in his hand and then handed it back to Dan. "And you do, too."

Dan took it, and then looked down at the ground and sighed. It was a very definite answer, but could he really have translated the message in just the seven or eight minutes he had stared at it? And without writing anything down? He peered at the older man, looking him in the eyes. "Who are they?"

Teddy shook his head. "A retired fool and an even bigger fool. What do you want with them?"

The answer wasn't much help; Mr. Hill called everyone a fool. "My mom ...." Dan frowned. "My mom left me a message. It mentioned both these people."

"Your mom? Hmm." Teddy furrowed his brow. "What do you want with them?"

Dan considered the question carefully. He still didn't want to say anything about the papers his father had left with him, whatever those turned out to be. "I found a note that one of them wrote. The note said something that I've known is true, but no one else seems to believe."

Teddy nodded his head slowly. "I think quite a few people would believe the truth, if only they could see it."

"Well, this is all nice and cryptic." Brian yawned again and stretched. "Are you going to tell us anything helpful or are you in cahoots with Blinky?"

Teddy grinned, another very genuine grin. His whole face lit up. "I think you've hit the nail on the head, young man." He turned back to Dan. "I don't think you should get involved in this mess, but, apparently, you already are. I suppose you want to meet these two gentlemen?"

Dan raised an eyebrow. "I suppose. But can't you just tell me their names?"

"I doubt that would help you much, at least where one of them is concerned." Teddy put his pipe to his mouth and then looked at it, noticing it had gone out. "Name the time and place. I'll make sure they're there. At least one of them, anyway." He relit his pipe and took a few puffs of the fragrant tobacco.

"I get to choose?" Dan hadn't thought of that ahead of time. He had focused on getting their names, and not beyond that goal. Apparently Teddy wasn't going to tell them, but meeting the men would be even better. Where would he want to meet them? Somewhere public would be best. "There's a pizza parlor on West 125th Street, at Eighth: Al's. Seven tonight."

Teddy nodded. "I know it. Kind of a hangout for the high school kids, right?"

Brian smiled. "We are high school kids."

"Okay. Seven tonight." He stood up. "You boys should probably be going, then."

Dan stood up. "Yeah. Okay."

"Your other friends know where you are?" Teddy asked suddenly.

"Yes. Of course." Dan stared curiously back at the other man.

"Good. Good. Make sure they know where you are tonight, too." Teddy frowned slightly. "I ... I guess I'll be seeing you. Let me know if you want to go through your parents' belongings some time."

Dan nodded. He still wasn't sure what exactly to make of Teddy Hill. His gut said to trust him. His head remembered this was the same guy that had been talking calmly to Blinky. And he sure hadn't denied it when Brian suggested they were working together; in fact, he practically confirmed it.

chapter 10: you treat me like someone that you've never known