forgive the past with me
 

Chapter 13: On the Street of Unknowns

August 22, 1957

Dan heard the soft knocking on the door but didn't bother to move from the bed. When the knock repeated, he rolled over and opened his eyes. Mart was no longer in the neighboring bed. He leaned up on his elbows and looked around. Jim wasn't anywhere in the room either.

He sighed and sat up completely, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "Come in."

The door opened and his uncle came in slowly, holding two coffee cups by their little handles in one of his large hands. He shut the door, careful to keep his hand steady, and then grabbed one of the cups and handed it to Dan. "Thought you could use some coffee this morning."

Dan grunted. "Uh huh. Thanks." He took a sip gratefully. "I overslept?"

Regan shook his head slightly. "No. It's not even eight yet, but everyone else is up, I think."

Dan nodded. "I'll hurry and get ready. I want to get those papers over to Teddy as soon as possible."

His uncle started to say something but hesitated. He leaned against the wall and then took a sip of his own coffee, and it was only then it registered in Dan's mind that his uncle wanted to stay and talk.

Dan, however, didn't feel much like talking. "You gonna give me some privacy so I can get dressed?" he asked, staring pointedly at the door.

"Yeah." But his uncle didn't move. "I just, I'm still not sure if I trust Teddy or Unay. That whole story last night was just too improbable. Are you sure it's a good idea to give them those papers?"

"Right. They must be crooks. That's why they were arguing with Mr. Wheeler over who was going to reimburse Al for the business he lost last night." Dan gave a quick roll of his eyes and shook his head slightly. "Sorry, Uncle Bill, but I do trust them. I'm going to do this." He took a sip of his coffee, staring into the steam coming from it for a moment. "I wish you understood."

"I ... yeah, I wish I did." Regan frowned. "Okay then," he said, standing up straight and turning toward the door. "We'll be across the hall when you're ready."

 

It didn't take Dan long to get dressed and he was soon in the Wheeler's apartment with the others.

"You're going to hand all this stuff over to Mr. Hill?" Trixie sounded disappointed. "I was hoping we could figure out what it all meant."

"We can." Brian pointed to the small sheaf of papers he had gathered together. "These are all the translations. We're just giving him the original messages."

"I told Mr. Hill I'd stop by there and drop these off. He'll know how to figure out what it means." Dan glanced over at his uncle, who was sitting on the couch reading a newspaper. He agreed with Trixie, though. He'd hoped they could figure out the message themselves.

Trixie took Brian's translations and was poring over them. "You said some of these names sounded like street names to you, Danny? Do we have a map of New York City?"

Honey nodded. "In Daddy's office. I'll go get it."

"And you really can't tell us who Mr. U is?" Mart studied Dan curiously.

"There was no Mr. U." Danny sighed. No one's last name had started with a U, but he hated being so deceitful. He thought about what Unay had, somewhat jokingly, said. "I should say that if I tell you, I'd have to kill you ...."

"You do realize we all know you're holding back on us, right?" Harvey shook his head, exasperated.

"Yes. But I can't tell you. Really." Dan frowned. "I would if I could."

"Your parents were spies, right?" Trixie's blue eyes glinted mischievously. "And now you need to take their secret to the grave."

Dan nodded. "Yeah. That's it," he said with no excitement in his voice. He sighed again, and was grateful when Honey returned to the room, two maps in her hand.

"Here's the Manhattan one, and this one has all of New York City." Honey held the two maps out.

"You are joking, right?" Neil studied Dan quietly. "About them being spies?"

"They weren't spies," Dan stated firmly. "Can we just drop it?"

Jim nodded and then peered at the two maps in his sister's hand, pointing at one of them. "Let's start with the Manhattan one."

"Right, Jim." Trixie took it from Honey and spread it open on the floor. "What are some of those names you thought were street names?"

"Dyckman and Post." Dan looked over her shoulder. "They're up in Inwood." He pointed to the northern tip of the island.

"Yes, I see them here." Trixie smiled. "What are some of the other names on that paper?"

Ned took the sheet of paper that she had left on the coffee table. "Nagle. And Ver-Vermillee-ay."

"Ver-mil-yuh." Neil automatically corrected the pronunciation of Vermilyea.

"Those are also in Inwood." She pointed to the names she had already spotted. "So it seems where ever that paper is supposed to lead us is also here. Do you think we could go there?"

"Do we have time?" Ned frowned as he glanced at his watch. "Our flight leaves at four this afternoon."

Harvey shook his head. "I doubt we can figure it all out before then."

"It's only eight-thirty now. That gives us six hours at least before we need to leave for the airport." Barbara looked at the others. "How long will it take to get to Inwood?"

"About 45 minutes by subway." Dan wished he could make the trains travel faster somehow.

"What's the neighborhood like?" Brian asked.

"Mostly Irish, I think." Neil looked at Dan for confirmation.

He nodded. "It is mostly Irish, as far as I know. I think my dad originally came from there."

"Then it makes sense he would lead us back there." Honey smiled. "I say we go for it."

She. Dan mentally corrected Honey. It was his mom who had put together these clues. Then again, it was probably his dad who had actually hidden the ledger.

"But is it safe?" Bob grinned. "Because the only Irish people I know are you and Regan, and you're both kind of, well, hot-tempered."

"I'm Irish." Di smiled. "And I don't think I'm hot-tempered."

Dan smirked. "I'm pretty sure the temper is a Regan trait, not an Irish one. My dad was full out Irish and one of the calmest people I ever knew." He looked over at his uncle again. If anyone else had noticed that Regan hadn't flipped a page even once, and that he hadn't cracked a single smile at any of the comics on the page he was purportedly reading, they didn't say anything. "Is it okay with you, Uncle Bill, if we go up there and see if we can figure this out?"

Regan put the paper to the side. "What's the crime like in that neighborhood? Is there any chance of running into Tony or anyone who might be connected with him?"

Dan shook his head. "I've never heard much about the neighborhood, to be honest. But that's probably a good thing. If there were a lot of crime there, I'm sure I'd have heard something."

His uncle seemed to be contemplating his answer and Dan was pretty sure he'd say no. Regan surprised him. "Only if we all stick together."

"That's fine with me." Dan just hoped it really was safe.

 

The teens and Regan crowded together at the subway station although they weren't yet in Inwood. There was still the matter of bringing Teddy the original coded pages.

"We'll be back in twenty minutes." Dan gestured for Ned to follow him.

"That long?" Regan asked, his green eyes narrowing.

Dan nodded. "This is the closest stop to his house, but it's still nearly ten minutes' walk from here."

"Okay. We'll wait here." Regan and Dan had made an agreement on the train that when Dan took the papers to Teddy Hill, the rest of them would wait at the subway station. They were all anxious to get on their way and continue up the line to Inwood and see if they could make sense of the street names and other numbers and letters on one of the lists.

When Regan insisted that Dan not go alone, anywhere, Ned had asked if he could go with Dan to Mr. Hill's house since he still hadn't met the man and might not get another chance.

They had walked quietly for a few minutes when Ned hesitantly asked a question. His eyes studied the buildings and the people along the street. "This is Harlem?"

Dan chuckled. "This is a very affluent neighborhood in Harlem. But, yes, this is Harlem."

"I thought all of Harlem was ...." Ned let his thought trail off.

"Like they portray it in the movies? No, not exactly. Although there are certainly some very sketchy parts of the neighborhood even I wouldn't want to wander through." Dan grinned.

 

From the outside, Mr. Hill's home looked like any other Harlem neighborhood brownstone. The main difference was that his four-story home had not been converted into separate flats, but was all still one unit. And Dan remembered the inside of that home being every bit as luxurious as the Wheeler and Whitney apartments.

Teddy answered the door quickly after Dan had rung the bell. "Danny, I see you've brought another new friend with you again."

"Kind of a rule we have right now. Can't go anywhere alone." Dan rolled his eyes but also grinned. "This is Ned."

"Hi, Sir. Nice to meet you." Ned shook the older man's hand.

"Well, come on in boys." Teddy raised an eyebrow toward Dan.

Dan waited until they were inside the house with the front door closed. "I just came to drop these off." He reached into the inside pocket of his sport coat and produced the three papers he'd been holding on to for so long.

Teddy took them and looked them over, one by one. "I see. Clever, that Mangan. Sometimes too clever. Thank you, Danny."

Danny peered at Teddy curiously. "Why didn't my father just give these straight to you before he left?"

Teddy shrugged. "He may not have had a chance. There was ... a lot going on. Everything seemed to be happening quickly at that time." He noticed that Ned was looking around curiously. "Care for a tour of the place, young man?"

Ned nodded eagerly. "I'd love one. Thank you, sir."

"We can't stay too long," Dan reminded him. "My uncle and the others are waiting for us."

"The quick tour, then." Teddy walked toward the stairs, stopping to place the three pages on a small table that was likely meant to hold the day's mail. Ned followed right behind, and Dan went along. It had been a long time since he'd last been inside the house; he had visited often with both his parents and later with just his mother. He knew the house as well as his own home. Teddy seemed to sense Dan's restlessness. "You can run up to the attic if you like and look around."

"Thanks." Dan did want to do that. Teddy had mentioned that some of his mom's and dad's belongings were up there. Teddy and Ned lingered on the main floor's spacious living room; the polished hardwood floor practically reflected the light coming in from the bay window.

Dan ran ahead to the next set of stairs and continued to climb up to the top floor of the house. He knew where the attic was and pulled over one of the two wooden chairs at the landing underneath the attic entrance. Standing on the chair, he vaguely recalled sanding something similar in style in the B.W.G.s' clubhouse and wondered if this chair was also an antique. He unlatched the opening in the ceiling and carefully pulled down on the thick cord to reveal the stairs that led to the attic space.

The attic wasn't dark like one would normally expect. The series of three small windows just under the roof's eaves actually let in quite a lot of sunlight and Dan didn't even need to reach for the ceiling light that had been installed.

The first thing he saw shocked him. It was the orange and white striped arm chair from his father's office. He had never figured that for one of the items that Teddy would keep. But the thick, clear plastic sheet draped over the chair also had a note pinned to it: "Hold for evidence." He was afraid to touch it and quickly turned away from the chair.

He noticed a neat stack of boxes, each labeled for a room in the old apartment. Next to those was a sturdy leather trunk that he recognized as belonging to his father. He removed the items sitting on top of the trunk and pulled it out into a shaft of light. It was a smallish trunk, about one foot tall, a foot and a half wide, and two and a half feet long.

He opened the lid and peered inside. One of his dad's jackets was folded over the top, protecting the contents underneath. He removed that and saw that there were some photos, still in their frames, but not many of them. One was his mom and dad's wedding photo. It had been a simple wedding in the priest's rectory. The lack of family had made an elaborate church wedding both unnecessary and unaffordable, but they had both dressed in their Sunday best. He felt a bit stunned at how young his mother was in the photo.

Another photo was of the three of them in Central Park enjoying a picnic. He looked to be about six or seven years old. It was a small picture, and he could easily fit the photo in his coat pocket if he removed it from the frame. He smiled as he gazed at the photo, studying it closely. A skyline of Central Park West was visible in the background. Unfortunately, it did not show Honey's building. He put his finger in the air next to the photo, where her apartment would be, and sighed.

Below him, he heard Teddy and Ned talking. They had already made it to the top floor. He knew his uncle would get nervous if they were late. He could come back some other day and look through all the other things. He put everything back except the picnic photo and headed down the creaky attic stairs.

Teddy and Ned were standing there, waiting for him. "I see you found something." Teddy indicated the photo in Dan's hand.

"Can I keep this, please?" He held the photo out for Teddy to see.

"Of course. As far as I'm concerned, all that stuff belongs to you." Teddy took the photo and gazed at it briefly before handing it back to Dan. "Come back some other day when you have more time. I have some other things that are rightfully yours, too."

"I will. Thanks." Dan smiled gratefully.

They jogged back down to the entrance and, as they left, Dan noticed the papers were no longer on the table. He glanced from the empty table to Teddy.

The older man winked. "All's fine, Danny. All is fine."

Dan nodded and left.

"What did that mean?" Ned asked after they were back outside.

He shrugged. "I guess we'll find out some day."

Ned shook his head. "You will. I have to fly home today. And I don't think we can extend our vacation this time."

 

It didn't take long for the subway to deposit the crowd of thirteen in Inwood at the northeastern corner of Fort Tyron Park and just a few blocks from Inwood Hill Park, right on Dyckman Street. Even with the side-trip to Mr. Hill's home, it was only around ten thirty.

"Okay." Trixie took charge, looking at the list Brian had translated. "The first line says '27 Dyckman missing'. Could 27 be an address near here?"

Bob pointed to a nearby store. "Look at that building there. It's number 219. But I don't know if we should turn right or left." He looked at Dan.

"Without an East or West in the street names, neither do I. Let's just pick a direction and see if the numbers get higher or lower," he suggested.

"Sounds like as good a plan as any." Jim started walking toward the park.

The next number was 223, and then 227.

Brian stopped walking. "We should turn around and head the other way."

"We should. But I'm hungry. I barely had any breakfast. Can we stop and eat first?" Mart gazed hopefully at one of the café windows nearby.

Trixie looked as if she was about to disagree, but then nodded. "Okay."

"Oh, good. I'm kind of hungry, too." Di smiled.

A passer-by on the street stopped. She looked friendly enough, young, around his uncle's age, with wavy brown hair. "Sorry to eavesdrop, but if you're looking for a good place to eat, there's a restaurant on the next block." Her voice had a definite Irish lilt. She pointed to the direction she had come from. "Three Angels. Best food around here."

"Thank you." Regan tipped his hat to her and grinned.

Dan noticed his uncle's eyes watching the young woman as she continued on her way. "We'll be fine on our own if you'd rather follow her," he teased.

Almost as if she'd heard, the stranger turned around briefly and smiled back at Regan before turning again and walking away.

Regan sighed. "Let's go, kids." He reluctantly walked in the opposite direction of the departing beauty. "Let's check out Three Angels."

Dan reached for Honey's hand as they walked to the corner to cross the street. They saw the green awning for the restaurant and quickened their pace. But when they got there, Honey suddenly stopped. On the brick, painted in black on a yellow background, was the address, 2-7. Whatever number was supposed to be between the two and the seven was missing. The brick had been gouged out between the two numbers somehow. She pointed up at it. "Trixie?"

"27 missing." Trixie looked back at her partner. "That can't be it, can it?"

Dan shrugged. "Knowing my dad, yes, it could. And it could just as likely not. But what is the missing number?"

"Let's just go inside and ask," Barbara suggested rather sensibly.

"I'm all for that plan." Ned rubbed his stomach.

"I don't suppose there's anything kosher around here," Harvey grumbled.

Neil shook his head. "I doubt it in this neighborhood."

 

They'd nearly finished their meal, a mixture of breakfast and lunch, when Honey pulled out the map. They were still sitting in Three Angels at a large wooden table, benches on either side. They could all easily fit at one table and still add ten more on the other end of it. This place had obviously been designed with large families or parties in mind.

"Four." That was the missing digit in the address; they were at 247 Dyckman. Barbara jotted the number down on the side of the paper. "The next line reads, 'cooper church', no numbers."

"There's a Cooper Street. Maybe there's a church along here somewhere?" Di pointed to the street on the map. Her finger followed it up to the top where there was a symbol for a church according to the legend.

Dan pulled the piece of paper toward him and read through all six lines. He was eager to get to the next destination on the paper.

"Are we ready to go?" Trixie was just as anxious.

Mart grabbed one last fry out of the basket in front of him and they all hurried back outside. It wasn't long before they were standing in front of The Church of the Good Shepherd. They looked around but didn't see anything unusual, and there was no other hint on the paper.

Bob looked at the doors of the church. "Maybe we need to go inside?"

Brian nodded. "Let's check it out at least."

They entered, but nothing stood out to them inside the church either.

Once outside again, Neil turned to Dan. "You know your father better than any of us. Is there something here that makes you think of him especially or that you think he might have meant?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders. "This is a side of my dad I knew nothing about. I do know he liked all kinds of puzzles, so it doesn't surprise me that he'd turn this into one, too, but I don't know what exactly he meant." Then he spotted a sign by one of the side doors of the church. "My mom might have helped with this though, and she was very much into charity. It couldn't have anything to do with that, could it?" He pointed to the sign that read simply, "Give Here".

"I don't know. It feels like we're just grasping at straws, here." Ned shook his head. "At least the last clue said something was missing. This one doesn't tell us what to look for."

"It is a bit of guess-work." Trixie frowned slightly. "But if it's the only thing that reminds Dan of either of his parents, it's worth noting."

"Works for me," Barbara said. "Let me write it down."

Jim shook his head. "Would she really want to give back to the church when the church ran that orphanage that mistreated her?"

"I don't think she blamed the church." Dan looked at his uncle for his thoughts.

Regan frowned. "I don't know how she felt about it."

"So we have the number four and 'give here'. Could it be 'forgive her'?" Honey's eyes swept over the streets around them. "Or is it too early to start trying to understand what we're supposed to be doing here?"

"I think you're on to something, Honey! Maybe all these clues point to words and, once we have them all, we'll be able to understand what we're supposed to do." Trixie took the paper from Barbara's hands. "Let's hurry to the next one. 'Post academy 142.'" She looked at Di. "Are either of those street names?"

Di had the map folded up to show just the Inwood section. "Here's Post." Her finger drifted over the map. "And there's a street named Academy, too. They intersect, and it looks like that isn't too far from here."

The group trudged their way over to Post and Academy, about a ten minute walk from their current location. The addresses in the area where nowhere near number 142.

"Maybe something around here has the number 142 on it." Brian looked all around the street.

Harvey shook his head. "They're all apartments or houses. I don't see how we'll find anything on this corner."

Neil frowned. "We can always come back here later and see if it makes more sense when we have some of the other pieces in place."

Regan shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe. What do you think, Dan?"

Dan looked around the neighborhood carefully. Nothing about it seemed unusual. "I don't have any suggestions for here. What's the next clue?"

"204 Vermilyea." Jim read the clue from over Trixie's shoulder. "Where's that?"

"Up that way, according to this map." Di pointed west.

They reached the street, but the numbers were too low. They walked all the way to the end of the street and the highest address was still nowhere near 204.

"Could there be something in the school here? A classroom number?" Harvey pointed to the brick building in front of them.

Dan shook his head slowly. "Maybe. But the school's on West 211th, not Vermilyea." He eyed the heavy blue doors, wondering how they would get in to check anyway.

"So much for that." Ned sounded very disappointed.

Bob snapped his fingers. "Wait. 211th Street? Didn't we pass a 204th Street?"

"You may be right." Mart pointed back down the street. "I guess we were so busy paying attention to the address numbers, I didn't even notice the street signs."

They walked back three blocks to West 204th Street. The only thing there was a post office. If nothing else, they were getting very familiar with the neighborhood of Inwood, but the intersection left them just as confused as the last clue.

Honey gazed at Dan sympathetically, and he smiled back at her. She turned around again to talk to Trixie when Dan heard something.

"Psst!"

Dan turned around, surveying the nearby buildings to see who had called out. Unay was half hidden inside a doorway, his hat pulled low over his head. He waved two fingers, signaling Dan to come to him.

"Uncle Bill?" Dan shrugged a shoulder in the direction of the I.R.S. investigator.

Regan looked up, and glanced in the indicated area. His eyes narrowed slightly. "Go on. I'll cover for you."


chapter 14: bring home my name