there's a gleam in your eye
 

Chapter 3: Half Remembered and Half Remembered

August 10, 1957

"We want to admire the lights some more," Bob said, walking ahead of the rest of the group.

"Around Central Park, not through it!" Regan cautioned.

The entire group had enjoyed the movie, and when the theater lights came up, they had piled out onto the city streets with the other movie-goers.

The crowd on the streets was very different from the crowds they had seen earlier. When they first left the apartment, everyone was rushing along, anxious to be somewhere. Now, the streets were filled with people enjoying a night on the town.

"It doesn't look the least bit dangerous," Ned commented. "Look at those people climbing in to that Mercedes-Benz over there."

"Look at those two couples over there. They must have gone somewhere fancy the way they're dressed." Mart pointed to two couples who were laughing as they walked down the sidewalk. The men were wearing tuxedos and the women were dressed in very fancy evening wear.

"I wonder if they're heading over to that Rolls-Royce where that chauffeur is standing." Barbara sighed dreamily.

Dan couldn't help thinking how quickly someone could push aside the driver of the Rolls and take off in it. He had never stolen a car, but he had been tempted to more than once. He noticed a number of ladies being careless with their clutches and handbags and knew it would be fairly easy to grab them. Purse-snatching had been his preferred way of earning – no, he had to correct himself; he hadn't earned any of that money. He had simply taken it.

His thoughts were interrupted by a tug on his sleeve. Neil had pulled him back, letting the others get ahead. "You okay?" he asked.

He shrugged. "Yeah." In truth he was anxious to get back to the apartment and write. He wanted to get all his thoughts down and make some sense of the tumultuous feelings he'd been having all day. What was it Mama Rose had said to him once? "So young, and you've already lived two lifetimes." And now he felt like he was finally living his third, but the memories from the other two kept coming at him, clashing with each other, fighting to determine which of those lifetimes was the real Dan Mangan.

Neil's voice momentarily crowded out his thoughts. "We're well north of Cowhand territory." He glanced around the neighborhood, gesturing at the surrounding buildings.

"So was the public library. But yeah, they should all be down in Bowery right now." Dan gave his brother a small smile. "I shouldn't worry, right?"

Neil nodded in acknowledgement. "No worrying. Let's just keep our eyes open."

The group rounded the park and all too soon they had approached a side street of small shops not far from their own apartment.

"This is where I found my little statue," Trixie announced. "You can't see a thing in there now. Just a dim light way in the back."

Dan watched as a few of the teens pressed their noses to the window.

Mart shook his head as he stepped away from the window to let someone else peer in. "I can't see a thing in here except a bunch of old junk. You must have picked the only thing anyone would want to carry away when you chose that Incan idol."

Jim answered him but Dan didn't really pay much attention to what the red-head was saying, until suddenly Jim dropped his voice to a whisper. "Say, get a load of those characters at the next window."

Brian turned his head to look. "On the move!" he ordered quietly. His voice was calm and authoritative. "Quick."

They walked quickly up the street, but Dan managed to get a better look at the two men that had the Bob-White boys worried. One of them was short with a scar running down the side of his face. The other one was taller and, even in the dim light of the street lamps, Dan recognized him.

He heard the others hurrying ahead and felt Neil and Regan pulling him along, but he couldn't really focus on trying to get back to the apartment. He couldn't focus on anything at all. His eyes blurred and every sound was drowned out by a buzzing in his head. One of his lifetimes had just caught up to him.

 

"Now what do you think of that?" Trixie asked as they stood in the living room. "Does anyone believe me now when I say something mysterious is going on?"

Now that they were safe inside the apartment, he was able to listen to the words, but still not quite comprehend what they were saying.

"I do!" Barbara said quickly. "Isn't it exciting?"

"I don't." Mart went to the window, pulled back the curtain, and looked down at the street below.

"Those men definitely followed us," Jim pointed out.

Yes, those men had followed them. No, they had followed him. Dan felt lightheaded again. He leaned forward into the back of the couch he was standing behind just to keep his balance.

"True," Brian admitted. "But who's to say why? Maybe they thought they could rob us. They were probably just a couple of common thieves."

"It's clear they had nothing to do with the Mexican woman at the airport, in any case," Ned added, teasing Trixie.

Harvey yawned, blatantly making a show of being tired. "It's nearly midnight. I don't really care if the guys following us were related to that Mexican woman or not. Anyone else ready to hit the sack?"

"I think we all are." Jim opened the door that led to the hall and to the boys' apartment.

Dan felt someone pull at his arm and somehow he made his feet move.

He managed to make it to the apartment, still finding every moment, every breath, difficult.

Once they were in their own place and had safely closed and locked the door behind them, the boys all said goodnight. Most of them went upstairs to the bedrooms they were sharing, but Regan and Neil stayed behind.

Dan let the two of them lead him to the kitchen. He gratefully sank into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, and Neil went back to the entrance and pulled the double doors closed. He turned back around to Dan. "You're not okay."

Dan didn't respond; he wasn't okay. His eyes followed Neil as he walked around the spacious kitchen. He didn't want to face his uncle.

"Something about those guys has you shaken up." Regan started pacing back and forth.

Somehow Neil put a glass of water in his hand. "Drink."

Dan nodded and brought the glass to his lips. The water seemed to help. He took another sip. The lump in his throat started to fade.

Regan sat down across from him. "Will you be okay?"

Tears started to form in Dan's eyes. He blinked them away and nodded.

"Can you talk?" Regan's tone sharpened and his eyes were dark with obvious fear.

"Yeah," Dan whispered.

"Did you know those guys?" Neil asked. "I didn't recognize them."

"You don't know everyone I know," Dan answered vaguely.

"But you recognized them," Regan concluded.

He felt his uncle and his brother staring at him while they waited for him to answer. It took him a couple of minutes before he did. "I don't know. It was pretty dark. I couldn't possibly say for sure." He lied. He was certain he knew one of them.

Neil took a third chair and turned it around before sitting in it backwards, his arms crossed and his elbows leaning on the chair back. "They looked Mexican. You don't honestly think they had something to do with Trixie's airport woman, do you?"

The ridiculousness of the statement helped bring Dan out of his stupor. He couldn't help but snort. "No." He shook his head. "No," he repeated more quietly.

"Were they Cowhands?" Regan asked bluntly.

Dan shook his head again. "No, they weren't Cowhands." He had told his uncle earlier in the year about his relation with the street gang. "We're not anywhere close to their territory."

"What's a cow hand?" Mart's voice from the doorway rattled Dan. How had he not noticed the door opening? He was always alert, always aware of what was going on around him.

"A cow hand is someone who works on a cattle ranch." Ned walked in behind Mart.

Regan sniffed at Ned's response. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Came down for a midnight snack," Mart answered. His tone was light but Dan knew his friend was also lying. For a fleeting moment, Dan latched on to the idea that other people cared about him.

Regan peered behind Ned where Harvey was snickering quietly. "Just the three of you, or are the other three boys still up, too?"

"Just the three of us," Harvey answered.

Mart walked over to the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of milk. "So, really, what's a cow hand and where is their territory?"

Dan sighed. Regan was looking at him, his green eyes full of emotion: worry, sympathy, and unconditional love.

Harvey wandered over to the small refrigerator he had brought over from the Armen household and pulled out a sweet cherry kugel.

Ned opened a cupboard to grab some plates. "I can't wait to try this kugel you've been going on and on about."

"I have my plate here," Harvey said. "Kosher." He grinned at the other boy.

"Oh." Ned put one plate back up. "So why are we talking about cattle at just past midnight? Do you guys read those Western novels, too?"

"I do. I like westerns. I read them, watch them, and listen to them," Harvey revealed. "Do either of you listen to Gunsmoke on the radio?"

"Not me." Mart shook his head.

"Me neither." Ned put the stack of plates on the table. "I don't think they play it on our Des Moines station."

"That's too bad. It's a great show. Very realistic, I think," Harvey commented.

Neil smirked. "Like you've ever been out in the Old West to know."

Dan was grateful for Harvey trying to change the subject. As much as he and Neil picked on the straight-laced, do-gooder, younger brother, they both thought he was cool.

He watched Harvey serve the kugel. "Marshall Dillon doesn't always win. I like that he arrives too late sometimes, or that he can't always save everyone. And he's got some depth to his character. He's not just the good guy in the white hat; he has a troubled past."

"Serve me up a piece, too, please," Neil called to his brother. He was still sitting backwards on the chair.

Mart was staring at Dan, a knowing look in his eyes. They hadn't been talking about westerns before the other three arrived. Mart had become one of his best friends over the last few months, but he still hadn't told him about his days in the gang.

"We weren't talking about cattle," Dan divulged. He wasn't sure why he had said that. He should have kept quiet. Harvey had given him a way out, and he really just wanted to get to his room, take out his notebook, and write.

Harvey turned around and raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Want some?" he asked casually.

"No, thanks," Dan answered.

Regan shook his head as well, indicating to Harvey that he didn't want any either.

Since he couldn't write, he might as well talk. "The Cowhands are a street gang. They operate mostly down in the Bowery district, not around here." He grimaced. He felt like he was being dishonest, but it was easier to talk about the Cowhands than to think about the man that had followed him.

Ned took his plate from Harvey, grabbed some forks from a drawer, and sat down at the table. "A real street gang? Like the kind you always hear about when people talk about New York City?"

Neil turned his chair around so he could sit and eat as well. His mouth turned up in a sarcastic half-grin as he reached for a fork. "Yeah, they're real all right. And they're a gang. On the streets."

"And you think those two thugs we saw were part of this gang?" Mart asked.

Dan shook his head again. "No. No, I don't." Shut up! His head began to pound.

"I asked him if he thought they were. But he pointed out that we're not anywhere near where that gang hangs out." Regan drummed his fingers on the table.

Mart squeezed another chair in between Ned's and Neil's, while Harvey sat down at the end of the table near Dan. "So those two weren't Cowhands?" Harvey asked. "I wondered about that myself. I didn't think the Cowhands would let any Mexicans into their fold. So, some other rival gang or just some thieves like Brian thought?" He looked at Dan in question.

"I don't know." Dan lied again. He had to keep the subject on gangs. That was easier than remembering that day, that man. He recalled something he had read in the newspaper recently. "The Viceroys and the Dragons are mostly Puerto Rican, or maybe Cuban, but they’re all fighting the Red Wings for turf up in East Harlem. I can't see them hanging out in Midtown either."

"Harlem? As in where you're planning on taking us later this week?" Ned grinned, excitement evident in his eyes.

Dan glanced over at Regan and noticed the deep scowl forming on his face. "Don't worry." He looked back to Ned. "Those gangs operate near Jefferson Park. I wasn't going to take you anywhere near there. That's clear across town from ... " He stopped the words from coming out. He no longer wanted to think about his father, about his childhood. "From where I was thinking of earlier."

Mart quirked an eyebrow in interest, but rather than respond to this bit of news he took a bite of the kugel. "Delicious. I would've never thought noodles and cherries and cinnamon could taste so good together."

"Mmm hmmm." Ned nodded his dark-haired head in agreement with the blonde boy.

Mart gazed from Dan to Regan and back. "I'm sure it's none of my business, but how do you know about all these gangs, and why would you think those two men were part of the Cowhands?"

Regan looked at his nephew to answer. Dan raised his eyes to Neil, and Neil in turn looked at Harvey. "Uh-uh," Harvey mumbled around a mouthful of his kosher treat. "Don't drag me into your mess."

Ned dropped his fork on to his plate, having already polished off his portion. "Have you guys had run-ins with this gang?" His dark eyes were wide with interest.

"Yeah," Dan answered truthfully.

"You're worried." Regan continued to drum his fingers on the table.

"So are you." Dan smirked at his young uncle.

"Well, we'll probably never see those two guys again, anyway." Mart looked at his friend inquisitively. "It doesn't seem like there's anything to really worry about."

"No, probably not," Neil agreed. He finished up his last bite of the noodley-goodness, and then got up to gather the other empty plates.

Ned joined him at the sink, and the two made short work of washing and drying the handful of dishes. When they were done, Harvey washed his own dish and fork. Once everything was put away, Ned, Mart, Harvey, and Neil went up to bed.

Regan and Dan stayed at the table. Dan decided the other boys must have sensed that the two wanted to talk more privately.

"You recognized them," Regan stated again.

"Yes." He put his arms down on the table and buried his head in them.

"So who were they?" He heard the worry in his uncle's voice.

He was afraid to say, he didn't want to say, but his uncle needed to know. He lifted his head and stretched his arms out in front of him. The table top felt smooth and cool.

"Danny?"

He forced himself to whisper the name. "Tony."

Regan pounded his fist on the table. Dan half expected some of the other boys to come running back into the kitchen with the noise it made. No one did. Dan glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall above the stove. It was nearly one in the morning.

Regan stood up, placing his hands on the back of his chair. "If you think for even one second that you're in danger, we pack up and I take you back to Sleepyside. Understood?"

Dan wasn't used to seeing such intense fear in his uncle's eyes, but he met the gaze evenly. "No. I'm not going to keep running. Besides, my home is in Brighton Beach."

Dan saw the tears in his uncle's eyes as he spoke. "Danny, I will not let you be Tony's next victim. He's already taken my sister from me. I won't let him take you, too."

"Uncle Bill." Dan took a deep breath, forcing his voice to remain steady as he talked to his uncle. "Tony has seen me in the past and not bothered me at all. I doubt he even knows that I was there."

"Then why did he follow us just now?" Regan challenged.

"I don't know," Dan admitted. "Maybe... maybe he recognized me and..."

"And what? Just wanted to say hello?" Regan started pacing again next to the small kitchen table. "Those guys weren't being friendly."

"I don't want to leave." It was stupid. He should run far away. Leave Manhattan; leave New York.

Regan gazed at his nephew, that piercing gaze that always tore at Dan's walls. "We'll stay. For now."

Somewhere in his mind he heard his mother's screams as Tony stuck the needle in her arm. He tried to block the memory, but it rushed at him, unstoppable. The image was like a motion picture. The dark-haired boy held the red-headed woman tightly, crying and screaming at her to stop her uncontrollable shaking. And then, rather suddenly, she did stop. Dan flinched. He had to keep his emotions buried if he hoped to act like nothing was wrong, especially in front of Tony. But it was time to confront this. It was time to find out why she died.


chapter 4: the last words she said