forgive the past with me
 

Chapter 17: Tell Your Story, I'll Be Listenin'

August 22, 1957

"This will just take a few minutes. I wanted to talk to you about your parents." Teddy's mouth turned down at the corners in sadness and his already dark eyes seemed to darken more.

Dan stared at Teddy Hill. Nothing made sense. He'd had very little time to think, time to try to make sense of anything, and he wasn't sure if more time would have helped. He really hoped he could get the answers he so desperately needed from this man.

He turned to Regan, who was sitting next to him in one of the dining room chairs that had been brought into Mr. Wheeler's study. It was just the three of them, and the door to the study was closed.

"Why can't we talk in front of everyone else?" Dan finally asked, worried over what other secrets his parents had that Teddy didn't want to share with his friends and family.

"It's about money," Mr. Hill stated. "I thought it would be best if I kept this between you and your uncle."

Dan looked at him askance. "Money? What about money?"

Mr. Hill leaned forward in his chair. "Your parents had some savings set aside for you. Sarah added to that with the additional payments she received from the military and the I.R.S. after Tim ... was declared dead."

Dan stared at him blankly. He didn't even know what to make of that.

"It's not a huge fortune or anything, but it's enough to help see you through college later." Teddy sighed. "I just want to turn it over to your rightful guardian."

"Uncle Bill isn't my guardian." Dan glanced at his uncle.

Teddy's eyebrows raised slightly in surprise. He turned to Regan. "You're not?"

Regan shook his head. "No. You probably want to have this conversation with Akeeba Diamond."

"I'm sorry. I thought ... I didn't realize that." Teddy's eyes darted back and forth between the two of them. "I have a feeling there's a story to tell that I should hear, but I'm also afraid that story will fill me with guilt. Who is Akeeba Diamond?"

Dan shook his head slightly. "My story's not important right now. But—" He glanced at his uncle again.

Regan nodded. "We still have a lot of questions about my sister and Tim."

"Fair enough." Teddy leaned back in the chair again. "I don't know that I'll be able to answer, but ask away."

Dan swallowed.

Teddy smiled kindly. "Feel free to ask me anything, Danny."

"My mom ...? How did she end up with a job in the F.B.I.?" Danny gazed at the corner of Mr. Wheeler's desk, not wanting to look at anyone else in the room.

"Oh." Teddy's voice sounded a little relieved at the question. "You know she went to college after you were born, right?"

Dan shook his head. "No."

Teddy glanced at him. "I thought I mentioned it earlier. Anyway, she had wanted to go to college but didn't think she could, especially with a baby on the way." The older man smiled at Dan. "But Sarah was ... driven. And far too restless to stay at home and be a nice little housewife. She did great at college. She's very smart." He picked up a pen and started tapping it against the edge of the desk.

Dan tried to remember her being gone from the house for any length of time. He couldn't, not besides the job—or what he thought was her job—at the A&P. He glanced back at Mr. Hill. "So, she was smart. That still doesn't answer how she got the job with you."

"When did she find time to go to college? How did she manage that with a baby?" Regan asked.

"The same way most people do, I guess." Teddy shrugged. "She went during the day. She must have left you, Danny, with one of the neighbors or something. I know you weren't old enough for school, yet. And I do remember your dad taking you to gigs and jam sessions sometimes." He smiled as if remembering a fun time, causing those little lines to appear around his eyes. "Unay might know more about that. He and your father started working together while she was in school."

Regan nudged Dan with his elbow. "How old was your dad? Doesn't seem like he could have been working all that long, himself."

Dan shrugged. "He could. He was a little over four years older than Mom."

"Oh." His uncle sat back in his chair again.

"Even before Sarah got her degree, she wasn't sure what she was going to do with it." Teddy's eyes misted over. "We talked about it a lot. She said the only reason she'd pushed to get a degree at all was because she realized Tim's job was pretty dangerous, and she wanted something to fall back on to support her and you—" he looked at Danny "—if needed."

"So she got an equally dangerous job?" Regan frowned. "That doesn't make much sense."

"Well, I don't think that's how she thought of it." Teddy started to frown again, too. "I had some connections in The Bureau, of course, and I knew we could use some help in the office." He shook his head sadly. "Your mom applied for a secretary position. Seemed safe enough at the time."

Teddy glanced out the window and Dan followed his gaze. He wondered what the older man was remembering. He wished he had more memories of his mother, himself, but he still found it painful to even try thinking of her.

"Anyway," Teddy continued the story. "We worked pretty closely together for a couple of years. I was already too old to do field work when she started, so I'd see her at the office daily. It wasn't long before her aptitude became well known. She would help us on some of the cases. Not out in the field or anything, but just thinking things out. She'd look over notes and evidence, and she just had a knack for noticing things someone else might have missed."

Regan's forehead was furrowed in confusion. "But she wasn't an agent, right?"

"Nooo ...." He drew the word out slowly. "But if Hoover had allowed women to apply, I'm sure she would have put in her application to be a field agent." He paused, deep in thought. His eyes had a dreamy look as he reminisced about the past. "We'd talk about it sometimes. Tim was all for it, of course. He couldn't have been more proud of his wife or more in love with her. We both thought it pretty unfair that she couldn't become a special agent. It's not like the Bureau hadn't had female agents before. I don't know what the hell Hoover has against women." Teddy sighed.

Dan didn't care about F.B.I. employment policies; he still had questions. "What about Mom's job at the A&P in Queens?"

Teddy raised an eyebrow. "She had a job at the A&P?"

"Yes. She'd come home from work shortly after I got home from school. Was that real?"

"I don't know anything about that. I can try to find out for you, if you want." He frowned. "I left the F.B.I. right around the time you were just starting second grade, so I haven't been 'in the know' for close to a decade now. I only know whatever your mom told me in passing when we'd talk, and she didn't tell me much about work. Understandably, of course."

Dan nodded. "Could you find out? I'd really like to know." He didn't know why it seemed so important to him, but it suddenly was.

The room grew silent, everyone lost in their own thoughts. Dan took a deep breath. His mind was trying to file away all this new information, but he couldn't quite process it. Switching gears might help. "What about my dad? He was a musician. He really was. I know that. He studied with Harry Volpe and even did some recordings with some other musicians. So what's with the I.R.S. Investigator thing?"

"He was a fine musician. But it was a pastime, not his job." Teddy stared downward. "I remember times when we both wished we had more time to enjoy music, to play, to listen, to write ...." The older man rapped his fingers on the desk. "But Tim had a gift. Often, I'd think it was a shame he didn't just quit his day job so he could play his guitar and write music as much as he would've liked." He smiled again.

"You managed Minton's, didn't you?" Regan asked. "Wasn't that a job?"

"I did. After I left the F.B.I. That was quite some time ago, just a couple of years after Sarah joined. I reached the mandatory retirement age, so I had to find something else to do. I tried that office job at The Bureau for a while, but an office job was not my thing." He smiled. "I was happy to have a chance to try some other type of work, something that didn't involve chasing down criminals but also didn't mean sitting behind a desk all day." His smile widened into a grin as he ran his hand across Mr. Wheeler's desk. "Of course, our desks weren't this nice."

Regan stood up and started pacing.

"But you're not working at Minton's anymore either?" Dan asked.

"Minton's was a nice escape from things, for a while." Teddy scowled deeply. "It sounded fun, relaxing, so when the opportunity popped up, I took it. But managing those fools? I didn't realize what a headache that would actually be. I needed to get out of that environment, out of all the behind the scenes foolishness."

Dan glanced at his uncle as he walked back and forth in front of the door. He thought back to something Teddy had told him earlier in the week. "What about the apartment? You said my parents couldn't make the rent for a time, but if Dad worked for the I.R.S., wouldn't he have made enough money?"

Teddy nearly laughed. "Nothing gets by you, does it?" He sighed, and then peered at Dan. "Tim had only been working there a year or two at the most when he was put on what they call an unpaid administrative leave, pending an internal investigation. The investigation took longer than expected, and your mom was still in school at that time. Their savings ran out, and Sarah wanted to drop out of school and take a low-paying job just to make ends meet. Tim and I didn't want her to give up on her degree—she was so close to getting her Bachelor's—so I helped them out." He smiled. "And, just so you know, they paid me back every penny, even though I told them they didn't have to."

Dan sat back in his chair. "Unpaid ... internal investigation? Are you saying that someone thought my dad was involved in something ... illegal?"

"Yes, I guess you could say that." Teddy grimaced. "He was eventually cleared of all suspicions and reinstated with full pay, plus a portion of back-pay for the time he was out."

"What about those papers, that ledger, all of that?" Regan asked suddenly.

Teddy leaned further back in the chair. "What about them?"

"Why did Tim give those papers to Dan?"

The anger in his uncle's voice resonated with Dan. It was that same anger that he was trying very hard not to feel. "I don't understand that, either." Dan shook his head slightly. "Why couldn't he just turn the ledger into someone? Why hide it?"

Teddy didn't answer right away. Dan didn't think he would answer at all, but then Teddy leaned forward. His voice was low when he spoke. "It was a matter of knowing who to trust." He sighed. "I wish it weren't so, but corruption crops up in all sorts of places. Back then, it was the A.T.U."

"The A.T.U.?" Dan asked.

"Alcohol and Tobacco Unit," Teddy clarified. "I guess they go by A.T.T.D. now."

Regan stopped his pacing and regarded Teddy. "Is that the people Tim worked for?"

Teddy nodded. "And it hit very close to home. Tim's boss had just been arrested for embezzlement, the department was in a bit of turmoil, and Unay was already undercover on another assignment. Add to that the unexpected call to Korea, and it was a perfect storm of events. I imagine Tim just didn't know what to do in the short time he had before he shipped off."

"So he had no one he could readily give that damned ledger?" Regan glowered. "No one?"

"I think the only people he really trusted at that time were Sarah, Unay, and me. He hadn't turned it into the B.I.R. because, with his boss just arrested, he didn't really know who to turn it in to. And I'm guessing he didn't want to leave it with Sarah. He probably figured it was too dangerous to leave it with her or anywhere in the apartment."

Regan nodded, although Dan didn't think he was actually accepting that explanation.

"B.I.R.?" Dan asked. "What's that?"

"Sorry for all these acronyms ... and the fact they keep changing." Teddy let out a derisive snort. "I have to agree with Unay when he says he isn't even sure who he works for."

"What did he mean by that, anyway?" Dan frowned. "I thought he meant he might actually be working for Tony."

"No. Unay is very much a 'by-the-books' guy. Or at least he used to be. Planting a bug on your friend, Trixie? That's not something I would have ever expected of him." Mr. Hill took a deep breath. "But he meant within the U.S. government. There's been a lot of stir in the departments, a few scandals, and when things finally settled down, both the B.I.R. and the A.T.U. suddenly had new names."

"And what did B.I.R. mean?" Regan asked.

"Bureau of Internal Revenue. Now the I.R.S." Teddy leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.

"So Tim and Sarah were both involved in investigating Tony?" Regan shook his head. "I don't get that."

"Hmm. A lot of that stuff is classified so I can't tell you too much. But Tim's investigation was centered on Tony and gun smuggling. Sarah was helping out with a murder case, from what I learned, and that ended up also being tied to Tony, although no one knew that going in to it." He grimaced.

Regan put his hands on the desk and leaned in toward Mr. Hill. "How did Tony find out about Sarah?"

Teddy shook his head. "I don't know. He must have had a connection inside, someone working for him, someone he bribed."

"Unay might know." Dan glanced at his uncle. "It might have been one of those names on the list I had."

Regan stood straight and started his pacing again. "We really should talk to him. Get back to the ledger and why Tim hid it instead of turning it in."

"Yes, you should talk to Unay. You'll have to confirm a lot of this with him, anyway, since I didn't actually work with them. But I'm guessing he couldn't leave Tony's book with Unay because Unay was undercover and it would have been too dangerous to hand it over to him at that point." The retired agent sighed and then frowned. "I think the plan was that he'd hide it somewhere secure and let Unay pick it up when he was able to, or he'd retrieve it himself when he came back from Korea. I don't think either of them thought it would take years before they could get it."

"And you?" Dan asked. "Why couldn't he leave it with you?"

Teddy took another deep breath. "I was in the hospital."

"Why?" Dan wondered if he'd been injured or ill.

Teddy raised an eyebrow. "I had some health complications at the time."

The words slipped so easily from Teddy's tongue that Dan was almost certain he'd said that sentence a hundred times in the past, as if it had been rehearsed. He wondered why Mr. Hill was being evasive about being in the hospital. What he was hiding now? "What kind of health complications?"

"That's ... personal." Teddy stared at him briefly and then let out a small laugh. "I can see you're not going to trust me unless I come clean with you." He stared down at the desk. A small sigh escaped his lips. "I had—have—a drug problem, Danny. I'm an addict."

"Oh." Dan frowned. "Oh," he repeated. Any drug addicts he had known, or drug users even, were nothing like Teddy Hill. He pictured some of the less desirable people he had met while living on the streets. It shocked him that someone who seemed so put together could have a drug problem.

"Yes, oh." A pained smile spread across his face. "A friend of mine from the Bureau ...." He paused and stared intently at Dan. "Not just any friend. It was your mom, Dan. She got me into an experimental rehabilitation program." He tapped his fingers on the desk. "It worked, I guess. Mostly."

Dan gazed at Teddy, bewildered. "Mostly?"

"I couldn't give up the alcohol. I had to keep that one vice." Teddy gazed out the window again. "I was supposed to give that up, too, but ... that just hasn't worked out as well." Teddy shifted his gaze to meet Regan's. "Anyway, let's not focus on that right now. What else can I try to answer for you about Sarah or Tim?"

Dan picked up on Mr. Hill's reluctance to continue down that path of conversation and let the topic go, but he hoped he could talk to him about it some other time. He wasn't sure what to think of his mom being the friend who helped him, and he really wanted to learn about that.

Regan nodded. "Didn't Sarah know where the ledger was hidden?" he asked after a moment, frowning. "Why couldn't she have picked it up? Or sent someone else to get it? Why keep it hidden for years?"

"She might not have known where it was." Teddy sighed deeply. "I don't know if she knew, Mr. Regan. And I don't know why she didn't get it or send anyone for it if she did."

"She had to know. Didn't she write out the code that gave the clues to where it was? But she couldn't have retrieved it herself. No. Not from ...." Dan shuddered at the thought of his mom going to Patrick Mangan's house. Or maybe she would have just let loose on him with her temper. His father may not have known who to turn to, but why him?

Teddy's head tilted inquisitively toward Dan. "Your dad never told me much about his father except that they didn't get along. Is he that bad?"

"Yes." Dan felt bile rising up in his throat at the very thought of ever having to deal with Patrick Mangan.

"If you're wondering why he left the evidence with his father, I have a theory." Teddy grimaced, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "It was something Sarah said to us once."

Regan glanced at him curiously. "What was that?"

"She said if she ever had to hide some important evidence, she'd leave it with someone she hated." Teddy glowered. "She reasoned no one would expect it and she'd rather put an enemy in danger than a friend. Of course, she was only joking at the time, or so I thought."

Regan grunted lightly. "I can't imagine my big sister even thinking about putting people in danger. I can't even imagine her working with an F.B.I. agent, much less wanting to be one. But it's not like I knew her very well."

The room went silent again for a few minutes.

"Can I ask you something, Danny?" Teddy's voice startled Dan.

He nodded. "I guess."

"How did the papers end up in your hands?" Teddy gazed at him steadily. "Did you say your dad gave them to you?"

Dan nodded and then frowned. "Yes, Dad gave them to me."

Teddy sat up straighter. "He did? Hmm. When?"

"The morning he left for Korea. He told me not to show them to anyone." Dan lowered his eyes, staring at a spot on the floor as he spoke. "I thought it was just music. But it was the last thing I had of his, so I never really let them go."

"Uh huh." Teddy stood up slowly. "I wonder what he was thinking in giving them to you." He sighed again. "I guess there are a few questions none of us will ever have the answers to."

Dan shrugged. "Maybe. Do you think Unay would know more?"

"He might." Teddy started to walk toward the door and then paused. "He'll definitely know more about your father's relationship with his own father. You might want to talk to him about that some time."

Dan mulled over that tidbit of information and then stood up, too. It had been pretty obvious that Unay and Patrick Mangan had known each other, but Unay hadn't known where the old man lived. He started to wonder how, exactly, they were acquainted.

"I'll give you his phone number—the one he will actually answer as Unay, not Blinky." Teddy winked.

"And if you have any more questions for me, you know where to find me." He gave Dan a warm smile. "You know you're welcome to come over to my home any time, or to Minton's. And I'll talk to you and," he paused in thought, "Akeeba Diamond—is that right?"

Dan nodded. "I'll give you our phone number."

"Thank you," Teddy said. "I'll talk to him about the savings from your parents. And the boxes with your parents' belongings. Those really should go to you."

"Thanks." Dan followed Teddy and his uncle out the door. "Actually, about Unay, where's he from?" He figured he could at least solve that one small mystery easily.

"Bolivia," Teddy answered simply. "But if you want to know more than that, you really should ask him."


chapter 18: I forgave your small deceptions