there's a gleam in your eye
 

Chapter 14: The Night and the Right Kind of Music

August 13, 1957

When they entered the Wheeler's kitchen, Miss Trask was sitting at the table, a book in one hand and a mug of hot tea in the other.

"What is that delicious aroma emanating from the oven?" Mart rubbed his belly.

Miss Trask grinned. "Lasagne. And there's some salad already prepared also."

"Don't tell me you came home early and cooked all day!" Honey hugged the older woman. "You didn't have to do that."

"Don't worry, I didn't." Miss Trask laughed. "I passed by a fantastic Italian deli on the way here and picked up two ready-to-heat lasagnes; one traditional, and one with spinach and zucchini and carrots. All I had to do was put them in the oven."

"Ooh … wonderful!" Di put her purse down and went to the sink to wash her hands. "I can help set the tables."

"I think I could kiss you," Dan teased, winking. "Lasagne is one of my favorites."

"Lasagne with vegetables? Whose crazy idea was that?" Mart stuck his tongue out.

"I think it sounds delicious! I know our mother has put spinach and carrots in one of her lasagnes before and it tasted wonderful." Barbara grinned. "I've never had it with zucchini, though."

"I'll go over to the other apartment and warm my own dinner." Harvey turned to leave. "Enjoy the lasagne! I will enjoy my braised chicken with potatoes and carrots and bell peppers."

"That sounds yummy, too!" Ned exclaimed.

"Do you have enough to share?" Bob asked. "Or can you do that?"

"Sure!" Harvey grinned. "I'll warm up the food and bring it over. Just don't mix serving utensils, and you know I have to have my own dishes. I'll be back in a jiff."

Everyone pitched in to help put the kitchen and dining room tables together and gather chairs as well as place settings.

"How is your sister doing?" Neil asked.

"Much better, thank you," Miss Trask answered. She had put her book away but set her tea mug down at the table where she would sit. "She had some sort of bad reaction to a new medicine that they thought might help her. But she'll be fine now."

Brian brought a stack of plates to the table. "That's a relief. We were wondering if it would be okay if we stopped by to see her, or if she'd get overwhelmed with all of us there."

"She does get timid around strangers and there are a lot of you. But it might cheer her up, too." Miss Trask paused to think. "Honestly, I don't know. Why don't I ask her tomorrow how she feels about it?"

It was just over thirty minutes later before everything was ready, including Harvey's braised chicken dish, and the large crowd was soon happily eating. When the food was finished and the dishes were cleaned and put away, the crowd gathered back in the large living room.

"If we're still going to visit the Empire State Building tonight, we should probably get going soon," Jim said.

"I don't think I'm up for that right now." Dan sat on the floor, leaning against the couch where Bob, Barbara, Di, and Ned were seated. "But I don't mind missing out if the rest of you want to go."

"You know how I feel about heights," Di said. "I'm not sure I want to go at all."

Regan laughed. "I'm with you on that one. The statue earlier today was about as high as I ever want to be."

"Honestly, I think we had so much excitement today already." Honey combed her fingers through her hair absentmindedly, in contrast to the excitement she spoke of. "Between that guy at Battery Park trying to take Trixie's purse, and that gang on the subway, and then the other man at the museum, I really just want to stay home."

Miss Trask grew concerned. "What men are you speaking of?"

"Oh, it's nothing, Miss Trask." Trixie spoke quickly. "It was just those same men that have been trying to take my statue. Nothing really happened. They didn't hurt us, really, and we still have the idol." Trixie left the room and quickly returned with the multi-colored purse in one hand and the little wooden guy with the big head in the other.

"The prophecy!" Honey shouted. "The place of the dead beasts. That had to refer to the museum."

"Of course." Bob leaned forward on the couch. "That makes a lot more sense than the veterinary hospital."

"Do you have the translation, Trixie?" Barbara asked. "What else does it say?"

Trixie put down the idol and reached back into her purse. She took out the waitress tabs with the translation scribbled on the back. "Let's see. The verse that talks about thieves says 'Thieves and murderers are everywhere: in home, on the island, in the place with dead beasts, on the rooftops, on the stairs.'"

"That has to be the two men from today. The first after we left Bedloe Island and the second at the Museum of Natural History," Jim said.

"And the 'in home' part must refer to that man coming here earlier posing as your uncle, Trixie." Di's violet eyes grew wide. "It's all coming true."

Dan wasn't sure he agreed, but he knew it would be hopeless to convince Trixie otherwise. "There is something I should tell you about those guys."

"Do you know them, too?" Jim asked. "They don't seem to be related to the gang on the subway at all."

"What gang on the subway?" Miss Trask's blue eyes widened.

Regan frowned on one side of his mouth. "Dan used to be in a gang, Margery. It was a long time ago, and he has nothing to do with them now. When we were heading over to get something to eat, we ran into a few of them on the subway. Nothing happened, just some talk."

"Just talk?" Ned burst out excitedly. Dan gave him a small warning, shaking his head slightly, and he clamped his hand over his mouth.

"Right; just talk." Regan continued telling the story. "They tried to pick a fight with us, but we kept our cool, or – I should say – Dan kept his cool. He pointed out to those kids that we outnumbered them, and they left peacefully."

"Dan handled the situation really well." Honey beamed at him. "I, on the other hand, made a fool of myself."

Jim patted his sister on the arm. "You did nothing of the sort. And I still wish I could've punched that kid for what he said." His face turned red with anger.

"See here! The verse about the secrets; that must have been about Danny." Brian had picked up the scraps of paper.

Mart raised an eyebrow. "Right. The so-called prophecy said something about secrets of the past being revealed. Secrets that weren't needed." He nodded his head.

"I told you they haven't been necessary." Neil had been standing by the couch near where Dan was seated on the floor. He bopped Dan on the head lightly. "You should've just told them ages ago."

"So, are you finally buying into this prophecy being legit, dear brothers?" Trixie waggled her eyebrows at the two Belden boys.

"I still think you're reading too much into it." Miss Trask smiled kindly at Dan. "But tell us, what do you know about these other men?"

"Well, I only know about one of them." Dan gulped. "The taller one."

"He was one of the ones that followed us from the antique store," Mart mentioned. "And he and his scar-faced friend attacked the hansom cab in the park. But I don't think we've seen him since."

Dan shook his head. "No, I haven't either. But we know Scar-Face is working with him. Then there's the third guy, the one from the United Nations and the museum. I don't know if he's with them, also, or acting independently."

"Wait, there are three of them?" Bob seemed surprised. "I thought we only had two of those ruffians to deal with."

"There are definitely three," Jim affirmed. "But tell us what you know about the tall one, Dan."

Dan nodded and swallowed again. Regan came over and sat beside him. "Go on," he said softly.

"The tall guy's name is Antonio Reyes. Most people call him Big Tony, or just Tony." Dan blinked back some tears. "He is a killer and a thief."

Honey gasped, and repeated the words on the original note. "'Ladrones y asesinos!' Thieves and murderers."

Dan looked seriously at the others. "He will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Sometimes I feel like we should just give him the statue and sometimes I feel like we should do everything we can to keep it from him."

Neil shook his head. "I wouldn't give him anything."

"Ix-nay on letting that creep have the idol," Brian agreed.

"That would be like aiding and abetting a criminal." Harvey shook his head. "No way he gets the statue. We've dealt with dangerous people before, right?"

Dan looked up at his younger brother and smirked. "What dangerous people have you dealt with?"

"Well, you, for one." Harvey winked. "No, I suppose I haven't, but I know Trixie has, and I know you have."

Trixie nodded. "I agree that we keep it from him."

"Maybe we should call the police." Miss Trask looked concerned. "Let them deal with it."

Regan shook his head. "What will the police do? They're not going to do anything about this because no crime has actually been committed. At least, not yet, as far as we know."

Mart got up from his seat. "I know we've dealt with pickpockets and thieves, and maybe Dick or Tilney would have killed us. They both had guns, but Tilney was more concerned with getting away with his loot." He shook his head as he paced.

Regan scowled. "Ever since I barged in on Dick waving his gun in Trixie's face, I've kept my rifle loaded. He probably would have killed her without a second thought."

Dan noticed a look of dread cross Jim's face. He hadn't heard the full story about the pickpocket, but it sounded like Trixie had had a very close call.

Bob spoke up, breaking the short silence. "Still, to call someone a murderer … how do you know this Tony fellow is a thief and a killer?"

"I suppose you know Big Tony from when you were in the gang." Ned sounded excited. "Imagine!"

Ned's excitement made Dan angry and it made him want to vomit. He didn't want to talk anymore. Without excusing himself, he got up, left the apartment, and walked across the hall to where the boys were staying.

 

He didn't bother to turn on any lights even though the sun was low in the sky and it was getting harder to see. He went up to the room he was sharing with Mart and Jim and shut the door. The sky was that deep brilliant shade of blue that only happens after dusk. It beckoned to him and he slid the window open but the air was still. He had been hoping for some sort of cooling breeze at this height. There usually was.

He went back to the lower level of the apartment and out onto the terrace. He sank down onto the tile and leaned against the iron railing. He turned and ran his hands across the Vs in the art deco design. The metal felt cool to his touch and helped calm him.

He wasn't sure how long he had been out there, when he became aware of the sound of footsteps coming from inside the apartment. One of the other boys, no, two others, were walking around. He hoped they weren't looking for him. He slowly stood up and inched over to the edge of the wall so he wouldn't be seen from the window. He really didn't feel like being with anyone at the moment.

When he peered back in the window, he saw Neil walking up the stairs. Then he heard Mart call down, "He's not here."

Dan froze in place, willing the two boys to leave.

The door to the patio slid open, and Neil walked through it. "Hey, Danny."

"Hmm." Dan leaned against the wall, arms crossed.

Mart pushed past Neil onto the terrace. "You okay?"

"Yeah, that's why I left the room and came out here." His voice dripped with sarcasm.

"Look, I can see why you would get mad at Ned. He's an idiot to think being in a gang is fun and exciting." Neil shook his head.

"Don't be too hard on Ned." Mart glanced at Neil and then at Dan. "He doesn't know anything about gangs. He's just excited about being here in the big city."

Neil shrugged one shoulder. "I guess you're right. I still want to smack him on the head, but I don't know him well enough."

Dan laughed. "That's never seemed to stop you before."

"Oh, come on … I knew you fairly well before I slapped you the first time." Neil grinned.

"You want to join us again? Our excuse to Regan for coming over here and 'bothering' you was to get Neil's guitar and go play some music over there." Mart pointed his thumb back at the other apartment.

"No, thanks. I just want to be alone." Dan just wanted to get away.

"Okay, suit yourself." Mart shrugged. "Come on, Neil. Let him brood a bit. I'm sure he'll be fine tomorrow morning."

Neil nodded. "Yeah." But instead of leaving, he sat down in one of the six chairs at the oval patio table, another piece of iron molded in the art deco style.

"You can never just leave well enough alone, can you?" Dan sighed in exasperation and joined the older boy at the table. He pointed to a third chair. "You may as well stay, too."

Mart grinned and sat down.

Neil started. "So, what's the story about Tony? Where do you know him from?"

Dan could barely see Neil's face as the sky got darker. The moon was not out, and the lights of the city streets were far below them. He looked at both boys briefly, and then started tracing patterns in the table. "I knew him when my parents were alive." He swallowed hard.

Neil waited all of two seconds. "This is going to be like pulling teeth, isn't it?"

Dan shook his head. "Sorry, I can't talk about this right now."

"Why not?" Mart tapped his fingers on the table. "Do I get to start guessing again?"

Dan groaned. "I think I'm going to go for a walk." He got up and headed for the sliding door.

"At night? Alone? I don't think so." Neil stood up and stepped toward him. He grabbed him by the collar, stopping him.

"I'll be fine. It's not like I haven't done it a hundred times before." Dan shrugged out of the hold, took a couple of steps, and then turned around. "I know where I need to go. You can come with, if you want."

Neil nodded. "We should tell Regan and Miss Trask."

"Where are you going?" Mart stood up.

"Minton's," Dan answered simply. "It's the closest place I can think of, and there's sure to be something happening there tonight."

If Mart was confused, he didn't show it. "Regan will never let us go."

"Leave him to me." Neil headed to the front door of the apartment. "And don't take off without me," he called as he opened the door.

Dan grinned. After all this inner turmoil he'd been going through, seeing Tony, running into the gang, not to mention just visiting his mother's grave and their old apartment, he needed this. He needed the connection to the music, to that whole jazz scene, to his dad.

Mart followed Dan inside the apartment and closed the sliding door behind him. "So, what's Minton's?"

"It's a jazz club up in Harlem. It's not too far from here, but we should either plan on taking the subway or grab a bus." Dan reached into his pocket to check his wallet.

"And you 'need' to go to this jazz club?" Mart scratched the back of his head.

"Yeah, I do. You don't have to come." Dan opened the front door of the apartment and the two boys stepped out.

"Oh, I wouldn't miss this for anything. It's just not what I expected. If you don't let me come, I'll follow you anyway." Mart winked. "And let's just hope Trixie and Honey don't follow us."

"Why not? They can come if they like." Dan thought Honey being there would be great.

Mart didn't answer the question and asked his own instead. "So, why a jazz club?"

"You know my dad was a musician, right?" Dan checked his watch. It was already past nine. His uncle had better let them go. He was going either way.

"Do you think this Tony guy will be there?" Mart raised an eyebrow.

"No. At least, I sure hope not. I just need … I don't know. The music helps remind me who I am." Dan tried to explain. "It keeps me grounded, if you know what I mean?"

Mart nodded. "I think I understand."

The Wheelers' apartment door opened, and Dan could hear conversation and laughter coming from the living room. Neil stepped out and closed the door. "Let's go."

"He was okay with it?" Even Dan was surprised.

"Mmm hmmm." Neil nodded and jabbed the button for the elevator repeatedly.

"Wait. What exactly did you tell him?" Dan grinned. "You didn't say anything about the library, did you?"

"The library?" Mart raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"Inside joke," Dan whispered.

Neil chuckled. "No. No libraries were mentioned in the making of this little white lie."

Mart's eyes narrowed. "So what did you tell him then?"

"I didn't tell him anything. He was lying on the couch, snoring." Neil grinned. "Miss Trask was already up in bed. I just asked Jim and Brian to cover for us."

"And they didn't wonder where we were going?" Dan looked askance at the older boy.

"Of course they did. I told them you were pretty upset, and we were just going to go for a walk. They were worried at first, but I reminded them that we can take care of ourselves. And that Mart and I would rather go with you than let you wander off alone." The elevator door finally opened, and Neil entered and pushed the button for the lobby.

 

When the trio arrived at West 118th, the front of Minton's Playhouse was crowded. Well-dressed men and their lady friends stood outside to get some fresh air away from the smoke-filled room. Dan led the way through the crowd to the front entrance.

The bouncer at the door shook his head at the three of them. "Go home, kids," he told them.

"This is home," Dan replied. He grinned. "Is Teddy Hill working tonight?"

"Teddy? He retired, kid." The doorman beckoned to some people behind the three teens, and let them in after they paid the cover charge.

"Retired or not, is he here? He'll let me in." He hoped the old man was there. He hadn't been to this club since his mother had been killed, but he couldn't imagine Mr. Hill being anywhere else.

The bouncer turned back to Dan who was waiting there patiently. "Wait just a second. You really know Teddy Hill?"

"Yes, sir. I'm Danny Mangan. Timmy's son." This was one of the reason's he didn't much care to go to Minton's. Everyone knew his dad here. It really had been like a second home, and just like his first home, coming back wasn't something he actually liked to do, but rather something he sometimes felt like he needed to do.

"Mangan, huh?" The man nodded his head a bit. "Wait a sec. I gotta check out your story." He turned to the crowded room and called another person over to cover the door before heading inside.

A few minutes later, the bouncer was back, gesturing to join him inside the door. "Go on in, kid. Free for you and your friends." He pointed over to a man sitting at a back table whose face Dan recognized immediately. "And make sure you say hi to Teddy."

Mart looked around the room and nudged Dan gently with his shoulder. "You realize we're the only white people in this place, right?" he whispered.

Dan raised an eyebrow at him. "Yeah. Well, maybe." He looked around. "Nope, there's a few." He pointed with his chin to a couple of musicians near the stage. "It doesn't actually matter though, does it?"

Neil nodded. "Not to me. The music is great, that's all that I care about. Is this where your dad got his start?"

"Natch." Dan shrugged. "Let me introduce you to the manager. Well, former manager, I guess."

"How famous was your dad?" Mart asked. "I didn't realize you could just drop his name and get free entrance to a place like this."

Dan frowned. "He wasn't that famous. He was still just getting started before he had to go off to war. Besides, it was Mr. Hill's name I dropped to get us in." He led his two friends through the room to where Mr. Hill was sitting with some others at a small booth in the back corner. "This place used to be different, then, too. A lot of nights there would just be these open jam sessions and back when I was just a baby, according to my dad, Dizzy and Bird would play here all the time."

"Dizzy Gillespie? And Charlie Parker?" Dan had never heard Neil sound so excited. "Seriously?"

Mart grinned and pointed a thumb at Neil. "I don't even know who those people are, but I think you just stepped up a notch on his cool-o-meter."

Dan laughed. "That's hard to do." He walked up to the table and suddenly became nervous. Teddy Hill had been one of his dad's close friends, almost like a father figure to the young musician. It had been over two years since Dan last saw him. "Mr. Hill?"

The older man smiled at the kids. "Max, Dex, make some room for them. That's Timmy Mangan's son."

One of the men at the table stood up. He had to be at least six and a half feet tall. He walked over to another table, grabbed a chair, and brought it over.

Meanwhile the other man scooted further into the booth. He grinned, revealing a few gold-capped teeth. "Never met another white man could play guitar like Mangan could. Brought a whole new sound to the scene."

"Thanks," Dan muttered, taking a seat next to him on the bench.

"I haven't seen you in a long time." Teddy's voice was raspy from years of smoking and drinking. He smiled. "Don't tell me you're starting to play?"

Dan shook his head. "No. I just came to listen." He nodded at the other two boys. "These are my friends, Neil and Mart."

"I hope no one gave you a hard time out there. Things ain't so friendly between black and white now." The tall man's voice was a deep baritone. He picked up a shot glass filled with some amber colored alcohol and gulped it down.

Neil shook his head. "No trouble."

"Well, be careful. I know Timmy was always talking about an America where skin color didn't matter none. One day …." Teddy left the thought, the dream, unspoken.

"Some day soon, I hope," Mart said. Dan wondered if he was thinking about Brian and Loyola.

A waitress hurried by, and Teddy called out to her to bring colas for the three boys and another round of drinks for the men.

"So how've you been, Danny?" Teddy asked. He looked at the boy curiously. "You look all grown up."

Dan shrugged. "I've been okay, I guess."

Teddy took a sip from his drink. "I got worried for you when I heard about your mom. That was quite a shock."

Dan wondered why he thought coming here was a good idea. With those words, he realized just why he had avoided this place for so long.

Neil snorted. "We all worry about him."

"When we don't want to strangle him, anyway." Mart grinned.

Teddy laughed. "Just like your dad, Danny. Just like your dad." He peered at Dan inquisitively. "Where did you run off to after …?"

Dan wasn't sure how to answer that. "Went to a friend's at first, well, this kid I knew, anyway."

Teddy raised an eyebrow.

"Brooklyn." Neil added. "That's where he was when I found him. In a jazz club near Prospect Park."

Teddy nodded, apparently satisfied with that information. He took another sip from the glass in front of him before turning to Dan's friends. "You boys play any music?"

While Neil talked to him about learning guitar, Dan sat back and listened to the guys on stage. He recognized quite a few of the musicians, both on stage and in the crowd. Every once in a while one of them would stop by Teddy's table, stare curiously at the three white boys, and then, if they remembered Dan, they would smile and say something nice about his dad. If they didn't recognize Dan, they would just move on without saying anything about the former manager's unusual guests.

Dan only half-listened to the conversation around him. Mart, Neil, Max, Dex, and Teddy were talking about all sorts of things, from music to cars to school and careers, but Dan immersed himself in the music, letting it soothe his nerves and calm his soul.


chapter 15: some other time you'll enjoy the view