forgive the past with me
 

Chapter 10: You Treat Me Like Someone That You've Never Known

August 21, 1957

"Brian! Glad you could join us." Jim winked at him.

Dan felt relieved to see that he was apparently feeling better since their talk earlier in the day.

Harvey wasn't feeling so jovial. "What took you so long? I thought we'd have to send a search party after you, Danny."

Dan tried to keep his expression neutral. He started to answer his brother, and realized he couldn't. Not there, in front of everyone. Or could he? "Ran into Teddy Hill outside." Well, it wasn't exactly a lie.

"Fancy that." Bob grinned. "That man seems to pop up everywhere all of a sudden."

Brian grunted. "You're telling me."

Regan's eyes narrowed. "That's quite a coincidence, running into him around here."

"The man likes art, I guess." Brian shrugged his shoulders.

Dan noticed that Brian hadn't exactly lied either. "Where's the rest of the group?" Dan had looked all around the room, but the girls, Ned, and Mart were nowhere to be seen.

"They went to look at some African antiquities display," Neil stated calmly.

Jim nodded. "Let's go join the others now that you're back."

"Sounds good," Dan answered.

The seven of them wandered down some halls and were soon in a room full of Egyptian artifacts. Dan spotted Mart and Di staring at a vase. Trixie and Honey were close to them, admiring a bronze statue of a cat. He and Brian approached them quietly, his uncle right on their heels.

He tapped Mart on the shoulder. "Mission accomplished," he whispered.

Trixie and Honey both turned around at the same time.

"That's great." Honey smiled. She turned to Brian. "Glad you could join us, sleepy-head."

Dan felt guilty. He was sure Honey thought the mission was retrieving Brian. Then he noticed Trixie was still carrying that purse the Mexican woman had given her and thought about what Teddy had suggested. "You wouldn't happen to have any chewing gum in there, would you, Trixie?"

"Gum?" Trixie looked at him puzzled.

Brian nodded. "Gum would be good. Why don't you look through your purse? Never know what you might find in there." He was obviously on the same page as Dan; the sooner they checked out the possibility of that purse being bugged, the better.

"I probably have some gum." Honey slipped the strap of her handbag off her wrist and started to open it.

Dan cleared his throat. "That's great, Honey. I was really hoping for another piece of that flavor Trixie had the other day. What was that exactly?"

Trixie looked at him like he had clearly lost his head. She was about to say something when Brian put his finger to his lips.

Dan pantomimed dumping out her purse.

Mart turned toward them to see what was going on. He waggled his eyebrows. "Are these two fellows acting sleep deprived or something?"

Regan nodded. "Quite."

Di peered over Mart's shoulder. "What's going on?"

Dan reached for Trixie's purse, and she quietly handed it over. He pulled out the well worn pieces of paper that contained the prophecy and its translation. "You're still carrying these around?" He grinned. He set the papers down on top of a glass display case near them.

"What are you looking for?" Honey whispered. When he didn't answer, she repeated her question to Brian. "What is he looking for?"

"Gum?" Brian shrugged, with a wink for the girls.

Dan continued to take the contents out of the purse one-by-one: a pen, a lipstick, a small hair brush, and one gaudy earring. The earring had been stuck to the side of the bag,. He held it up in front of Trixie. There was something odd about it. He glanced at Trixie's ears; they were bare. "This isn't yours, is it?"

Trixie shook her head wordlessly.

"Well, no gum. I guess I'll take a piece of yours after all, Honey." Dan grinned at the other girl as he dropped the earring on the tiled floor and stomped on it, grinding and twisting his foot to make sure it was completely damaged. "Think that's what he meant?" he asked Brian. He put everything else back in Trixie's purse and handed it to her.

"I'd say so." Brian looked at the squashed piece of jewelry on the ground.

Honey looked at him wordlessly and then stared down at the item he had destroyed.

"Gleeps." Trixie pointed to what was left of the earring. Two small wires were coming out of the fake, and now smashed, pearl covering.

Regan whistled softly. "Is that what I think it is? Or should I say was?"

"I think this is something that Blinky may have slipped into your bag at some point." Dan frowned as he picked up the remains of the small listening device. Trixie held her hand out for it, so he dropped it in her palm.

"Slipped in?" Mart's eyebrows shot up. "He slipped a bug in during one of his purse-snatching attempts?"

Di's face paled. "He's been listening to us?"

"Apparently." Dan was disturbed by the thought of Blinky eavesdropping on them, as well. "I'd bet it was on the Observation Deck of the Rockefeller Center. He hadn't gotten close enough to Trixie at Battery Park. And there was something odd about the way he had taken your purse, Trixie, but still let Jim grab it back from him. At the time, I thought he was just inept. Now, I'm sure he did it on purpose."

Regan shook his head in disbelief. "And what made you think there was a bug in Trixie's purse to begin with? Teddy Hill?"

"I think you'd better fill us in on whatever the two of you have been up to for the last couple of hours." Trixie's blue eyes sparked with energy. "Because this is pretty crazy." She held up the smashed earring. "You're sure this doesn't work anymore?"

Dan shrugged. "As sure as can be. But you could flush it down the toilet to be certain."

"Or toss it in the river." Brian grinned.

"I am so confused, I actually agree with my sister." Mart winked at her. "And I thought I genuinely knew what you two were up to, but what did happen out there?" He waved his hand vaguely toward the front of the museum.

"I have a feeling I'm not going to like this story, but you had better tell me everything." Regan spoke sternly.

Dan nodded. He looked around the room where the rest of their group was occupied studying various Egyptian displays. "When we're all together. Okay?"

 

"Wait, what? You said you hadn't made any progress on the code." Trixie glared at Mart and then Dan and then Brian in turn. They were back at the apartments and had gathered in Mr. Whitney's living room instead of the Wheelers'. Brian was seated on the couch and had just explained how he had deciphered the coded messages. Dan stood next to him, feeling too restless to sit.

"I never said any such thing." Mart stood behind the couch, leaning with his hands on the back of it. He looked smug despite the daggers Trixie was shooting at him with her eyes from across the room. "I merely said we should do something fun today."

"You shook your head," Honey turned around in her seat on the couch so she could face him. "Trixie asked if you made progress on the code and you shook your head. That's the same as saying you hadn't."

"Well, technically, I hadn't. Brian had." Mart no longer looked so smug.

"I didn't know you had cracked the code." Ned was disappointed. He stared down at the plush carpet, mumbling. "You could've told us."

"I didn't mean to keep it from all of you. Not really. I just didn't want Miss Trask or Mr. Wheeler or, well, even you, Uncle Bill, to find out." Dan frowned as he turned from Trixie to his uncle.

His uncle stared back at him, his eyes filled with sadness. He stood in front of the teens near the entry way, his arms crossed. "Why did you want to keep it from me?"

"Tony's name is in there, and his initials, although we can't be sure the initials refer to him." Dan sighed. "I was afraid you'd think we should take all this stuff to the police."

Barbara let out a little squeal and clutched Trixie's arm. The two of them were standing by a window overlooking the park. "Tony? So that proves these are the papers he wanted, right?"

"We probably should take this to the police." Regan's brow creased. "What does it say about Tony in those papers?"

"Nothing, really." Brian frowned slightly. "Just his name and some numbers. Same with Officer Reynolds."

"Wait, the policeman's name is in there, too?" Trixie's blue eyes widened. "Why?"

"I wish I knew." Dan looked around the room. Most of the teens had just listened quietly and they all seemed a bit surprised at the news.

"I don't like this." Bob frowned. "But maybe the policeman's name is there because he's the good guy, not necessarily because he's in league with Tony."

"You really think so?" Jim didn't seem to agree. He leaned forward in the arm chair he occupied. "If both their names are listed on there, that makes me suspicious of the officer now, too."

"What other names are included?" Neil asked.

"None I recognized." Dan turned to Brian. "Do you remember any other names?"

Brian nodded. "But I didn't recognize them either. There was a William something-or-other, and a David, I think. I'd have to get the paper to tell you all of them."

Honey started to get up from the couch, but then changed her mind and settled back into the cushions. "Let's do that later, but it doesn't sound like anyone of us would recognize those names."

"Well, what happened with Teddy Hill earlier?" Mart asked after a short period of silence.

Regan nodded. "I'd also like to know that. Was it a coincidental meeting or pre-arranged?"

"Umm ... well, pre-arranged on mine and Brian's part, not on Mr. Hill's." Dan gave a half-smile to his uncle.

"We went to his house." Brian admitted nervously.

"Without us?" Honey's disappointment was obvious.

"I'm sorry. But I knew he wouldn't talk as openly if there were a lot of us there." Dan hoped she understood.

Surprisingly, Di nodded. She was perched on the arm of the couch next to where Honey was seated. "I agree. I mean, I know I didn't meet him. But if he did have anything to tell you, it seems like he would be more willing to tell you things without a big crowd of people around listening in."

Regan scowled. "And did anyone else know where you were going? In case you didn't make it back?"

Jim nodded. "Yes, Mart and I both did."

Trixie glared at Mart yet again. Dan found it somewhat amusing that she didn't glare at Jim even though he also knew.

Ned shook his head and then glanced out the window from where he was standing. "So you didn't run into him in front of the Met?"

Dan shrugged. "We didn't lie. We ran into him outside, and he may like art for all we know."

"Dan." If he had thought Honey was disappointed, that was nothing compared to how Regan sounded. "Dan ...."

"Yes, Uncle Bill?" Dan stared at his uncle, trying to figure out what it was he wanted to say.

"You and I need to have a talk." Regan frowned. "Alone."

Dan nodded, but neither left the room, nor did anyone else.

Trixie ended the silence that had ensued. "So, that fake earring you found in my purse ... did Mr. Hill tell you about that?"

"Yes. Well, he wasn't certain. He said it was a hunch when I told him about Blinky's purse-snatching attempts." Dan shrugged.

Harvey looked over at him from his spot by the terrace door, curious. "Why were you talking to him about Blinky? How did he come up in the conversation?"

Brian frowned. "Mr. Hill's friends with our pal, Blinky. At least, that's what it looked like."

"Wait ... what?" Neil had been leaning casually against the wall, but at that information he stood straight.

Trixie stared at the two boys in disbelief. Actually, pretty much everyone in the room was staring at them with some mixture of shock and disbelief. "Blinky?" Her voice was weak.

"Mr. Hill was having a not-unfriendly sort of talk with Blinky." One corner of Dan's mouth lifted up in a kind of smirk. "And he knows how to read that code."

"Who? Blinky?" Bob frowned. "How do you know?"

"Not Blinky." Dan quickly corrected that misunderstanding. "Teddy Hill can read the code."

Regan sank into a nearby chair that had been pulled into the room from the kitchen.

"He seemed so nice." Mart shook his head. "I'm having a hard time believing all this. I mean, not the code, that part makes sense if he was a friend of your parents. But that he'd be friends with Blinky."

Brian let out a breath of air. "It's hard to say for sure. But I don't trust him."

"You didn't sit and talk with him for over an hour the other night." Neil stared at Brian. "He really was nice and he seemed like such a ... mensch."

"Mensch?" Di repeated.

"A good guy. An upstanding sort of fellow," Harvey supplied. "Someone worthy of respect."

"Maybe. But when I asked him if he was in cahoots with Blinky, he said I'd 'hit the nail on the head'." Brian frowned.

Regan glared sharply at Brian and then back at Dan. "He's working with Blinky?"

Dan shrugged. "I don't think so."

Brian seemed like he was about to say something but then pressed his lips shut. He glanced up, his dark eyes sending a wordless warning to Dan.

"But you just said ...," Jim started, but never finished his sentence.

Dan shrugged again. "He didn't seem that friendly with him. I have a hard time believing he could be. He must have meant something else."

"What else could he have meant?" His uncle stared at him incredulously.

Brian sighed. "I suppose it's possible he meant that reply to the other part of my question."

Neil narrowed his eyes at his good friend. "Which was?"

"That he didn't have anything helpful to offer us." Brian frowned.

Once again, silence filled the room.

"Okay, let's get back to the code. So, you say Mr. Hill knows how to read it, right?" Barbara looked at Brian and then Dan. "Did you bring some of the papers you found over to him?"

"No." Dan shook his head.

"Brian wrote him a message ... in the code." Mart glanced down at the top of his brother's head.

"Neat. I didn't even think about you being able to write the code now that you can decipher it." Bob grinned.

Honey turned to Brian, both of them still sitting on the couch, and smiled. "I'm impressed. But then you are really smart."

Dan glanced at her and reminded himself that he didn't need to be jealous. Did he?

"Say, I don't suppose it's something we could all learn and use as some sort of secret language for our club, is it?" Jim looked over at Brian.

"Oh, please no! It's way too complicated." Di protested Jim's suggestion. "I think it'd be worse than trying to learn those stick figures from the magazine."

"Right. It is pretty complicated. Anyway, we didn't give Mr. Hill any of the other messages, only the message I wrote him for Dan to deliver." Brian kept frowning.

"What did the message say?" Regan's voice was quiet and calm, which worried Dan more than if he'd been angry.

"We asked him if he knew who H and U were." Brian smiled for a second. "Thing is, he deciphered the code in his head, in just a matter of minutes. He's that familiar with it."

"So does he?" Ned grew excited again. "Did he say who they were?"

"Yes, he knows who they are. But no, he didn't say." Dan glanced at Brian. "Well, not exactly. I think his exact words were something like 'a retired fool and an even bigger fool', and then he said that I knew both of them but giving me their names wouldn't help me."

Harvey rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. "And what does that mean?"

"We're going to meet them tonight. At least, I am, and I hope the rest of you will be there. I have this feeling the more of us there, the better." Dan looked around the room.

"No. We'll call the police and have them deal with those fellows. When and where are you supposed to meet?" Regan was serious.

"Uncle Bill." Dan did not want to argue with his uncle. "Please?"

"Danny. You and I are going to have some serious trust issues if you don't—" Regan began.

"I already have serious trust issues. Why do you think I didn't tell you all this in the first place?" Dan gazed steadily at his uncle, his jaw set.

Trixie spoke up, albeit timidly, once again being the one to break the awkward silence. "If one of those police officers' names was on the list, maybe Mart and Dan are right not to trust them. And there are so many of us. I think it would be safe, Regan." Trixie's blue eyes pleaded with his uncle. "Not like when I went to meet Pedro."

Mart drummed his fingers quietly on top of the back of the couch. "Who set the meeting place?"

"Dan did," Brian answered quietly.

"Then we'll be there." Neil didn't even ask, he just stated it.

His uncle spoke coldly, with a calmness that was frightening. "This vacation is over for you. You can go upstairs and pack your bags."

"Uncle Bill? You realize my home isn't that far from here? If you send me, Neil, and Harvey home, the three of us will just turn around and go tonight anyway. And if you keep us from going tonight, I'll just call Mr. Hill and set another meeting time." Dan hoped telling him the facts would help him see reason. "I was hoping to have a bit more support, especially from you."

Dan had never seen his uncle angrier. Regan stood up and walked slowly to the front of the apartment. The look he shot back to Dan before he stepped through the doorway to the foyer nearly broke Dan's spirit. This was family, and they were tugging at him from both sides. How could he choose between finding out the truth about his parents' past and keeping the trust and respect of his uncle? He hoped the choice he made didn't completely destroy his relationship with his only living blood relation.


chapter 11: take me wherever I choose