forgive the past with me

Chapter 12: Made Me Trust Somebody Else

August 21, 1957

Blinky moved around the room, still holding the gun, looking under tables and behind furniture to make sure no one else had stayed behind. Satisfied it was only the five of them left in the restaurant, he went to the windows facing the street and lowered all the blinds.

"Why?" Dan repeated his question to Teddy. His heart was racing. He was sure Blinky would just kill them all. His uncle would die, Honey and Jim would lose their father—Jim for the second time—and it was entirely his fault. Why did I have to be so stubborn? Why didn't I just listen to Uncle Bill?

Teddy turned away from him. "Nice going, Blinky." His voice was filled with disdain as he stressed the other man's name. "Did you really have to do this? How many minutes before the police get here?"

The scar-faced man chuckled as he turned away from the windows. "I half-expected the police to be here already." He glanced at Dan. "Thanks for not calling them in on this."

Dan seethed.

"They'll be on their way by now," Regan stated, no emotion in his voice at all.

Blinky shook his head as he walked towards them. "No, Mr. Regan, they won't. Reynolds is patrolling nearby; he'll respond to the call. And Halverson's just around the corner as backup. They're not on Tony's payroll for nothing." His voice had lost all trace of any accent as he stated this piece of news. He was neither threatening nor gloating; he simply stated the facts.

He grabbed a chair from a neighboring table on his way over, and sat with them. "We have all the time we need, gentlemen." He placed his hat on the table, followed by his gun. Then he pulled the ashtray that was sitting on the table closer to him and reached into his jacket for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. After lighting one, he leaned back in his chair.

"What do you want with us?" Mr. Wheeler's voice came out strong and calm. Dan could see why he was such a successful business man; nothing seemed to faze him. And he didn't miss the way the older man glanced at the gun sitting on the table, easy enough for anyone to grab.

"I'm not the one who set up this meeting, Mr. Wheeler." Blinky followed the other man's gaze and glanced at the gun himself. "Go ahead and take it if it makes you feel better. I'm not planning on using it." He pushed it closer to Honey's father and then turned to Dan, not waiting for a reaction from the other man. "So, young Mr. Mangan, or may I call you Danny? It's been a ... short time, I suppose." He winked. "Do you actually have the book? Or some papers maybe?"

"What book?" Regan asked. "What papers?" Since his uncle knew exactly which papers, Dan appreciated his evasive answer. He definitely didn't want to tip Blinky off that they knew about the coded sheets.

"Settle down, Unay. Be human for a minute, if you remember how." Teddy returned his gaze to Dan. "Why, Danny? Because you asked me to."

Great. It was bad enough wondering if my parents were spies, but now it seems like they might have been crooks. But he knew that couldn't be true. It just couldn't. He stared long and hard at Unay. "You? You're U?" He felt like his head was spinning. U is trying to get in. U is in. Give the papers to H or U. "You're U."

"Unay Huaman. And the last time I saw you—before last week, anyway—you barely came up to my shoulders, and I'm not exactly tall." Unay smiled, and then he frowned. "I didn't have this scar, then, either." He traced the white line running across his forehead, over his eye, and down one cheek.

Dan must have been too young to remember him, if he was even telling the truth. "You could have warned me. You could have told me it was him." He spoke to Teddy but glanced at Unay.

"No, I couldn't," Teddy answered him. "I wouldn't blow his cover. That had to be his decision. I'm not sure why the grand entrance, though." He scowled slightly.

Unay shrugged. "That's the way it goes sometimes, Hill. It seemed the easiest way tonight." He turned his head slightly to the side to avoid blowing smoke on the group and then spoke again. "I am sorry about that incident at the park, Danny. Tony spotted you and knocked you out, even though I'd tried to talk him out of it. But he was determined to get that diamond. And then, once he realized who you were, he almost didn't listen to reason."

"And Trixie?" Regan sounded extremely angry in that cold, calm way of his. "Are you sorry you hurt her?"

"That blonde girl with the curly hair? Yes, I am. I didn't mean for her to stumble so hard in the park. I hope she didn't scrape her knee too badly." Unay really did look remorseful.

"You hurt that pretty girl with the curly blonde hair? Whatever for?" Teddy obviously hadn't known anything about that. He turned to Dan again. "Was she your friend with the purse? The one that was carrying around a diamond?"

Dan nodded.

"Hm. I thought for sure you were talking about Honey." Teddy shrugged.

"He didn't just hurt her. He held her at gunpoint." Mr. Wheeler's face was hard as granite, but his voice was rock-steady.

Unay shook his head at the older red-haired man. "No, I didn't. Not her." He turned back to Dan, not explaining his answer. "I was actually going to take the idol that day in Central Park and be done with it. Let Tony have his stupid diamonds. Use it as a way to get closer to him. And then I saw you two in one of the other cabs." Unay paused, taking another drag from his cigarette. "You look a lot like your father, Danny; I knew it had to be you." He jerked his head in Regan's direction. "And you look so much like Sarah. It threw me. I completely forgot about the idol." He flicked some ash off into the ashtray. "Tony was damned mad about that. And that redheaded kid throws a mean punch." He rubbed his jaw.

"Serves you right," Mr. Wheeler stated.

Unay glanced at him and grinned. "I suppose so. You should be proud of your son."

"Why did you drop that bug in Trixie's purse?" Regan was obviously angry with this man.

"I hoped Dan would talk to his friends about the book or the papers. But I guess you don't know about those after all." Unay frowned. "It was a bit of a long shot."

Teddy scowled at the scar-faced man. "I still can't believe you did that. You really have changed."

Unay ignored the older man and gazed at Dan inquisitively. "So why did you suddenly want to meet me?"

"Are you—Were my parents spies?" Dan's question came out in a whisper.

Teddy frowned. "Your parents both worked for the government. Different agencies. Your father worked for the I.R.S. and your mom for the F.B.I. Does that help?"

"No. It doesn't help anything. But it's good to know." Dan swallowed. He glanced over at Regan.

"So that cockamamie idea about her being a spy was actually true?" his uncle asked. His green eyes were glistening with tears.

"Sarah? A spy? No." Unay shook his head and stubbed out the cigarette butt.

"What about Tim?" Regan asked.

"I guess it depends on your definition of spy. But, no, I certainly wouldn't call Tim a spy, either." Unay picked up his pack of cigarettes and Dan thought he was going to smoke another straight away, but he just turned it around in his hand over and over again.

"Spy. Agent. Investigator." Teddy tried to smile. "Not sure what the difference is sometimes."

"What exactly did my dad do, and when did he ever find the time to do it?" Dan was able to speak again as more and more questions seemed to crowd his mind. The I.R.S. was that agency that collected taxes, from what he could remember. He didn't understand what that meant exactly, and it didn't seem to have anything to do with whatever else was going on.

"He did what all investigators do. Kept his eyes open and his ears to the ground and did whatever was asked of him." Unay sighed.

"Investigator?" Dan tried to wrap his head around that. He imagined his father wearing a long trench coat, his hat down over his eyes. The image didn't fit.

Regan drummed his fingers on the table. "And where does Tony come into all this? What does he have to do with my sister?"

"Tim and Sarah were both engaged in an investigation that involved Tony, among others, but from different angles. Tim came across some information that would not only put Tony in jail but would help bring down the entire crime ring." Unay frowned. "But that information seems to be lost, and even though I've gotten close to him, I'm still not close enough to do more than get him some sort of slap on the wrist. He's very careful."

"Sarah was investigating Tony?" Regan shook his head and then reached for his half-full glass of ginger ale. "I didn't even know women could work for the F.B.I."

"Sarah wasn't a special agent, but yes, she did work for the F.B.I. and she was ... helping with a case," Teddy clarified.

"Helping how?" Dan asked, his voice sounding somewhat squeaky in his head. He could barely imagine his father as some sort of investigator. Trying to imagine his mother as one was near impossible.

"That book, those papers I mentioned? I think she knew where those were. I think she might even have written those papers." Unay's dark eyes gazed at Dan's intently, as if the older man was trying to read his mind.

"And you two? Do you both work for the F.B.I., too?" Matt Wheeler shot the question out, glancing first at Teddy and then letting his gaze rest on Unay, scrutinizing the newcomer.

"I keep trying to convince everyone I'm retired." Teddy laughed. "But I feel like I've done more work since hanging my hat than ever before."

Unay shook his head slightly. "I'm not sure who I'm working for these days."

"Just what does that mean?" Regan glared at him.

"I should say that if I tell you I'd have to kill you, but that's a bunch of malarkey. Just know that if you breathe a word of this and it gets back to Tony— he will kill me." Unay grimaced.

Dan wondered, rather uncharitably, why that would be such a bad thing.

The room was silent for a few seconds as everyone waited for Unay to continue speaking. "You haven't actually answered us yet," Regan finally stated.

Unay shook his head slightly and then sighed. "I work for a division of the Internal Revenue Service, and Tim was my partner."

Mr. Wheeler peered at him inquisitively. "Don't try to tell me you're a tax collector. You have an odd way of collecting taxes if that's the case."

"I work in the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division. The I.R.S. does more than just collect taxes." Unay finally opened his pack of cigarettes and pulled out another one. He still didn't light it, though.

"And what does the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division want with Tony?"

Dan was glad Mr. Wheeler was asking all these questions. He himself had no idea what all these different agencies did, and he was still thinking about his dad being some kind of tax man in a trench coat. But the news that he had been Unay's partner of some kind was beyond unnerving. He didn't even know what that meant, exactly.

"That's classified." Unay tapped the filter-end of the cigarette on the table a couple of times, took out his lighter, and finally started smoking again.

The room grew silent once more. Outside, a police siren could be heard.

"They're not coming here." Unay seemed to know no one would bother them in the restaurant.

Dan reflected on all the information that had been thrown at him. He still felt like he had more questions than answers. He watched as Unay smoked his cigarette quietly. A glance at the other three men at the table did nothing to assuage his nervousness.

"What about my mom?" he finally asked. He tried to keep his voice calm as he asked the question. He still didn't believe that his dad and this man could have been partners in anything. "Did you help Tony kill my mom?"

"No." Unay said the word forcefully and Dan actually saw something in his eyes akin to pain. "No," he repeated, a bit more calm. He took one last drag from his cigarette and then stubbed it out in the ashtray. "And I hope like hell that one day I can make him pay for that."

"You know that your mom was killed? By Tony?" Teddy's thin, gray eyebrows jumped up, and then he squinted his eyes. "Is that what you were referring to earlier today?"

Dan nodded slightly. He thought about everything he had just learned. He did trust Teddy, instinctively somehow. Maybe it was because he'd known the man pretty much all his life. But Unay was something else. And yet Unay was the one who had written that odd message. "We—my friends, actually—found this and managed to translate it this morning." Dan reached into his jacket, pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper, and held it out to Unay. "I wanted to know who you were because I thought I was the only one who knew that my mom had been murdered."

Unay gazed at Dan intently. "I don't even know if I'm relieved to hear that or not. By the way, how do you know?"

Dan met his gaze with the same intensity. "How do you know? Did Tony admit it to you?"

Unay shook his head. "Tony didn't know me back then. And he trusts me only so far now. He'd never admit something like that to me." He took the paper from Dan and peered at it. His tan cheeks took on a bit of color as he studied the musical notes. "I think I must have been pretty drunk when I wrote this. I was at my wit's end." He handed the paper back to Dan. "You deciphered this?"

Dan shook his head. "Not me. I mean, I can now, but I'm not the one that figured out the code." He glanced at his uncle again, hoping for some kind of intangible support. "You haven't answered me yet. How did you know?"

"I knew as soon as I found out the cause of death the coroner had listed. There was no way that she would have started taking drugs. It was just completely unbelievable." Unay shook his head. "I suppose you realized the same way? But how did you know it was Tony that did it?"

"Because I was there." Dan surprised himself with how loudly he was able to say those words.

"If you were there, Tony would have killed you, too. He doesn't leave witnesses, no matter how young. I'm sure of—" Unay broke off and his eyes grew wide. The effect was unnerving because of the way the scar ran across the one eye. "You were hiding in that room?"

Dan nodded and swallowed again. He was determined not to cry.

"You witnessed the whole thing?" Teddy's voice was full of sorrow. "Oh, my God, Danny." He sighed. "Oh my God." He picked up his empty tumbler as if to drink from it, and then put it down on the table again.

Mr. Wheeler got up from the table and Dan watched as he strode purposefully toward the kitchen. Moments later, he emerged from the kitchen doors with a bottle of scotch and a couple of glasses in his hands. He plunked the items on the table with some force. "So Tony has no qualms taking the lives of innocent children? Then that business with Trixie over at Jake's ... what part did you play in that?"

Unay looked up at him in surprise. "Very little. I tried to stay out of it. It was really small stuff compared to other things he's involved in." He shook his head sadly. "But I have no regrets about dropping that bug in Trixie's purse. It was only because of that I even knew she was in danger. When Pedro managed to call Trixie and set up that little rendezvous, I made sure I was there." He looked at the gun still sitting on the table and his voice went steel hard as he spoke. "If they had dared to hurt her, I would've gladly put a bullet in both of them and not worry about my job or taking Tony down the proper way."

Mr. Wheeler stood, looming over the scar-faced man. "I'm supposed to believe you would have protected her?" His eyes were cold.

Teddy took the bottle of scotch and poured double shots for Mr. Wheeler, Unay, and himself. "Mr. Regan?" he offered, holding up a clean glass. His uncle shook his head.

"No. You're supposed to believe whatever the hell you like," Unay answered evenly, and then picked up the glass of scotch and tossed it back, neat.

Mr. Wheeler leaned against the edge of the table, apparently not wanting to sit back down. He said nothing, but kept glaring at the I.R.S. agent.

Regan waited for Unay to set the glass back down. "How do we get Tony the proper way, as you put it?"

Unay frowned. "From the inside. He has too many people in his pockets. But he slipped up once, and eventually he will again. Hopefully I'll be able to catch him at it." He grabbed the bottle and poured himself another shot but didn't bother to drink it. "And from the outside. Person by person as we can. He replaces 'em almost as fast as we bring 'em in, but we still manage to stay ahead."

"If you had the book and the papers you were talking about, the ones my mother worked on, would they still help now?" Dan tried to phrase the question casually but was still struggling to come to terms with his mother's role in all this. He nearly choked over the word. Not only had she known about the papers, she had been investigating Tony. He suddenly remembered something his father had told him. "She is my partner in everything." What did that make Unay?

"Immensely," Teddy answered. "The statute of limitations has not run out on any but the pettiest of his crimes."

Dan didn't have to think long. Maybe these people were pulling his leg, maybe it was all an elaborate set up, but in his gut, he trusted them. Even Unay. The pieces were starting to fit together. "I have the papers."

Unay looked at him, his eyes opening wide again. Then he downed his scotch and pounded the glass on the table. "You have the papers?!"

"Yes." Dan bit the inside of his lower lip. "But not on me."

"What about the book?" Teddy asked, pouring himself another two fingers of scotch, as well. Dan had lost count of how many the man had drunk.

"No. I don't have any kind of book." He frowned. "I wish I did."

"Will you give us the papers?" Unay eyed Dan cautiously.

"Do I have a choice?" Dan stared back at him.

Teddy nodded. "Yes, of course you do. You always have a choice." He put the bottle of scotch back down in the middle of the table. "If you don't give them to us, though, I would request that you destroy them, thoroughly. Burn them maybe."

"Why? I know Tony wanted them. What happens if he gets them?" There was no question in Dan's mind that he would never let Tony have those papers. But he still didn't understand why they were so important.

"I guess it depends what's on them, exactly. I know Sarah wrote some kind of key to finding the ledger. It's that book, that ledger, Tony really wants. And that I want. If it has the proof Tim said it did, we can nail him, finally." One side of Unay's mouth turned down in a half-frown. "To be honest, though, I don't even know what exactly is on those pages."

"It's just a list of names and some kind of numbers. They look like they might be addresses." Dan tried to picture the list in his mind.

"You deciphered them, too? Of course you did." Teddy chuckled. "Did it make any sense to you?"

"The first two pages kind of did, but I still don't understand what it all means. The last page made no sense whatsoever. I'm not even sure we deciphered it correctly." Danny frowned. "I really don't understand why Tony was so desperate to get them."

"The list is probably all the people involved in Tim's investigation, and if that fell in Tony's hands, he'd be able to warn them ... or kill them to keep from ratting him out. And Tony somehow knew that among those pages was some kind of key to where your father had hidden his ledger." Unay scowled. "I don't know how he found that out, but if he knew you had the papers, he wouldn't have given two cents about Trixie and that diamond. And he sure wouldn't have let you go that day in the park."

Regan shook his head in disbelief. "Why would she write that down? That list of people? That seems ... I don't know ... like a dangerous thing to do."

Unay nodded. "I can see why you'd say that. But Tim was about to leave and he might have wanted to make sure another investigator—namely me—could pick up anything he had been working on with the case, or he might have just wanted it logged somewhere ...."

"So, now what? Should I bring the papers to you two, and you'll find the book?" Danny looked at the two gentlemen.

"So much for retirement." Teddy sighed. "You can't exactly be bringing them straight to Blinky here. That wouldn't do."

"I could break into your apartment." Unay smiled. It was a mischievous sort of grin, enhanced by the scar running partway down his cheek.

Mr. Wheeler raised an eyebrow. "Why haven't you?"

"What? Broken in? I had no reason to. And Tony didn't know which apartment until last Friday. Tony and Pedro, they had no idea these kids they were following around were with the Wheelers." Unay frowned.

Mr. Wheeler grimaced. "Let's keep it like that, shall we?"

"A bit late for that. They sure know now. Reynolds told Tony that night." Unay must have noticed the look of worry crossing Dan's face. "Tony doesn't care much for kidnapping schemes, anyway. Too risky and too messy."

Regan drummed his fingers on the table. "No break-ins. Bad publicity for the building and for the Wheelers. We've met you once; can't we just arrange another meeting?"

Unay shook his head. "We could, but it's risky. I had to come up with an excuse for being here tonight already and hope Tony doesn't look too closely into it. Besides, do you really want me to have to pull a stunt like this again?"

"Just drop them off at Minton's, with me." Teddy reached for the bottle of scotch again. "Or come by my house. Your choice."

"What was your excuse?" Mr. Wheeler asked, his green eyes regarding the investigator inquisitively.

Unay peered at Teddy and winked. "Had to settle a score with an old friend."

"Great." Teddy smirked.

"Haven't you had enough?" Unay regarded the glass in Teddy's hand.

Teddy glared at Unay. "I'll stop drinking when that bastard's dead."

chapter 13: on the street of unknowns