there's a gleam in your eye
 

Chapter 20: Say That I'm a Fool

August 15, 1957

"Did you buy that story about the phone call Trixie got?"

Dan had just finished laying out his sleeping bag on the floor and was grabbing his pillow from the bed. He looked over at Jim who had asked the question and was noticeably worried. Dan didn't blame him.

The day had been pleasant enough. After they had split up in Brooklyn, they had gone to Yankee Stadium and enjoyed a baseball game. There had been no trace of Tony or Blinky or the man from the U.N. Nothing happened to any of them; no confrontations, no mishaps.

But when they had returned to the apartment building in the evening, the doorman stopped Trixie. She had a phone call and had decided to take it there in the building's lobby. When she had come upstairs after the call, she had said it was someone calling her about something she bought, but had evaded giving any further details.

"Not me," Mart replied. He sat on the lone chair in the room, next to the large mahogany desk. He was leaning to one side, his right elbow on the chair's arm and his chin resting on his palm.

"Now that you mention it, it didn't sound quite right to me, either." Dan stopped trying to shape his bed and pillow into something comfortable and looked at his two roommates.

Jim pulled back the cover on the bed nearest the window. "The strangest part of it all is that the person called the lobby, not the apartment directly. We have a direct line up here."

"No, the strangest part is that the person called right as we were walking into the building." Mart's blue eyes were filled with suspicion.

Dan sat cross-legged on his makeshift bed. "Almost as if they were watching us. There is a payphone not too far from the building." He glanced over at the door. "Everyone's going to bed now. She wouldn't go out in the middle of the night on her own, would she?"

"Yes. She would." Jim put his hands behind his head and leaned back against the headboard. "But maybe not this time. Not after that scare she and Di had."

Mart made a guttural noise in the back of his throat. "Even Trixie wouldn't be that daring. I hope."

"Should we camp out in the hallway? Make sure she doesn't sneak out?" Dan was serious.

Mart shook his head. "That may be difficult to explain to the others when they find us all asleep out there."

"No it wouldn't. 'Why were you guys sleeping out in the hallway?' 'Trixie.' It's that simple." Dan impersonated Regan when he asked the question.

Jim mimicked Regan as well, complete with trying to place his hands on his hips even though he was still seated on the bed with his legs stretched out. "'Without alerting me? What were you thinking?!' No thanks."

"Is there a doorman overnight, Jim?" Mart asked. "Maybe we should just tell him not to let her out without waking us first."

"Or we could just tell Regan what we suspect," Dan suggested.

The three boys looked at each other and all spoke at once. "Nah ...."

Jim frowned. "There isn't a night watchman or anything. There's usually only someone there from around eight in the morning until ten at night."

"Honestly, I don't think Trixie would go out alone at night. If we were home in Sleepyside, then yes, for certain. But here, she doesn't know the city well enough." Mart shook his head again, as if convincing himself as well as Jim.

"I hope you're right." Dan lay down on his bed on top of the heavy sleeping bag. It was there for padding, not warmth. Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance.

Jim snorted. "I'd say the weather would stop her, but we all know that's not true either."

Mart yawned and got up from the desk chair. He walked over to the other bed and practically collapsed down on it. "I'm betting she won't do anything before morning. Let's just confront her about the phone call at breakfast."

 

Dan walked down the stairs quietly. He had to use the banister; it was pitch dark and he did not want to trip. He tiptoed to the entrance way and very slowly unlatched and opened the front door.

"Up to your old tricks?" Neil's voice was low, concerned.

Dan turned around. He could just make out Neil standing there, arms folded across his chest. "Not exactly." A creak from the stairs caught his attention and he saw Jim, still in his pajamas, walking slowly down.

Neil shook his head. "Is it a party?"

Jim put his finger to his lips. "You were still worried, too?" he whispered to Dan.

Dan nodded.

The three boys slipped into the hall.

"Where are we going?" Neil asked, still whispering.

Jim raised an eyebrow curiously at the other boy.

Dan took two steps over to the girls' door. "Does it feel wrong to be breaking into your own place?" Dan grinned at Jim.

"Actually, I broke into my own place once before, the summer I met Trixie and Honey." Jim slipped a key out of his pajama pocket and unlocked the neighboring apartment. "And it's not actually breaking in when you have a key." Jim winked.

The three boys walked quietly into the Wheelers' home.

At the bottom of the stairs, the boys stopped and looked at each other.

Neil looked at the two roommates curiously. "What are you two creeps doing? You two are too young to be doing ... this." Neil gestured with his hands ambiguously.

Dan frowned. "I am going to feel like a creep if Honey catches me."

"Honey's a sound sleeper. And if Trixie catches us, it will only prove she was planning something all along anyway." Jim led the way up the stairs.

"What are you bozos talking about?" Neil held them back. "You're not going to watch them or ... do stuff to them while they're asleep?" He was no longer whispering.

"What?!" Jim almost did shout, but managed to keep his volume to a harsh whisper. "No. No, no, no, no, no." Dan couldn't tell in the dimness, but he imagined Jim's face was redder than his hair.

"We think Trixie might sneak out," Dan explained. "We just want to make sure she hasn't. That's all. Really."

"Ohhh." Understanding dawned on Neil's face, and was then replaced with a new confusion. "Why?"

Dan just put his finger to his lips. Someone in one of the bedrooms was stirring. The boys stood motionless on the stairs for a minute.

"Go on, Jim, you check," Dan encouraged. "Neil and I will stay here."

Jim nodded and continued up the stairs.

Dan glanced at his brother suspiciously. "And why were you up at this time of night?"

Neil shrugged. "I was just heading to the kitchen for a snack."

It felt like it took Jim a long time to check on the girls, but he soon came back down. "They're both asleep."

Dan let out a sigh of relief, and the boys quickly left the apartment and returned to their own.

 

"She's gone!" Someone was shouting at Dan. "Wake up!! She's gone!"

Dan suddenly bolted up. "When? Where?"

"I don't know." Jim was shaking. "She's gone."

Dan grabbed his slacks.

Mart was already up and pulling his clothes on hastily. "Trixie?" Guilt filled his eyes as Jim nodded.

The three boys were out the door and in the elevator even as Regan was still trying to wake the rest of the apartment.

"Sam!" Jim ran to the older man in the lobby as soon as the elevator door opened. "Did you see Trixie leave? Do you know where she went? What time?" Jim fired off the questions without even giving the man a chance to answer.

Sam shook his head. "I'm sorry, son. No one has come or gone since I got here. If your friend left, she did so before eight this morning."

The others joined them in the lobby of the grand apartment building. "The front door to our apartment was unlocked when I went downstairs," Miss Trask said. "I've already called the police. And I left a message for Mr. Wheeler."

Honey was crying. "Do you think someone came in and kidnapped her? One of those horrible men?"

Dan looked at Jim and saw the guilt flood his face. "You locked the door behind you. I remember."

Neil nodded. "I do, too. I'm certain of it."

Regan put a comforting arm around Honey's shoulders. "Those guys may know which building we're in, but there are hundreds of apartments in this building. They couldn't possibly have known which was ours." At the same time he looked at Jim, Dan, and Neil curiously.

Dan watched Mart go over to the telephone in the little booth by the lobby desk. A phone book lay there beside a pen attached to a chain.

"The phone book!" Brian shouted. "Check inside the phone book. Maybe she wrote something down after that phone call she took here last night."

Mart opened the phone book and the cover was filled with scribbles. Brian and Jim crowded over him, looking over the page.

"This is hopeless." Brian sounded broken.

"No. Wait. Look here!" Jim pointed to something. "That's Trixie's handwriting. See the way the four has two loops? And the tail on the nine?"

Mart looked as well. "Yes, you're right. Here, write this down: '4059 Broadway'. And then she wrote 'Jake's'." He shut the book and stood up.

"Let's go!" Brian was already heading out the door.

"I'm sorry boys, but we should wait for the police. We don't know what kind of trouble she might be in." Miss Trask's words were firm, but her voice trembled.

"No, we don't. And that's exactly why we can't wait for the police." Regan followed Brian outside.

Dan left with him, but not before hearing Jim say, "Sorry. You can wait, but I'm going to find her now."

Sam was outside calling over a cab for Regan and Brian, and Jim and Mart were both right behind Dan.

"I can't take but four," the cabbie complained, but Sam slipped him a bill and he was suddenly changing his tune. "Squeeze in."

Dan gave him the address. The cab driver started to protest again. "Are you sure? That's a really bad neighborhood."

"We're sure. And step on it," Regan added.

"I'm going to lose my license." The driver shook his head, but rushed to the given destination.

"I know the place," Dan said quietly. "It's not good."

The four boys were uncomfortably snug in the back seat. "We'll get there in time." Jim said the words, but it was clear he didn't believe them.

"What kind of place is it?" Brian needed to know.

"It's a burger joint. Only they don't serve burgers. It's a front." Dan was rocking back and forth in the tight space, praying silently with every motion. "It's Tony's hang out."

"Tony again." Mart nearly spit the words out.

Dan tried to blink back the tears.

They sped by buildings opening their doors for business; sidewalks were crowded with the blurry outlines of people heading to work; the sky was a sun-filled shade of light blue. But nothing was sunny or good.

Somewhere behind them Dan heard the sound of police sirens. The cab driver was pulling over to let the squad car pass.

"They're going the same place we are. Step on it!" Regan took out his wallet, promising the driver a big tip if he could keep up with the cops.

The cab driver griped again, but the gas roared and the car seemed to go faster. "I'm going to lose my license for sure."

 

It seemed to take forever, but in reality the ride had only been ten minutes. Regan, Jim, Mart, Brian, and Dan tried to follow the burly police man as he burst through the door, but his partner stopped them.

Inside, Dan heard Trixie call out for Jim. He felt a flood of relief just at hearing her voice. She was still alive. Thank you, God!

There was a lot of commotion. Heavy footsteps and slamming doors could be heard. Dan looked at the other boys with him and wondered, ever so briefly, if Honey would call out for him instead of her brother if she were the one in danger.

The policeman who had gone inside earlier opened the door, allowing the five spectators to view the scene. Regan, Jim, and Mart managed to go inside the establishment before anyone stopped them, but Dan waited at the doorway, unwilling to enter the dingy room. He glanced briefly at the name on the officer's uniform: Reynolds. From his vantage point, he saw that Trixie was huddled on a chair at a dim table at the back of the place, alone. Jim and Mart rushed to her and lifted her to her feet.

"Get her out of here into the air," Brian commanded.

Outside, Brian rubbed his sister's hands vigorously while Jim gently stroked her head.

"Did you get ... those men? Blinky, Pedro, Tony?" A shudder ran through Trixie's body. "Blinky was going to shoot me." She started to shake and cry. "Did you get them?"

Dan noticed she said three names. He knew who Tony and Blinky were, but the other name wasn't familiar to him.

"Is Pedro the third man?" Jim asked, still stroking her hair.

Trixie nodded. "He was the man from the gift shop and the museum. They're all working together."

Dan took in the information. In all their encounters, Pedro had been alone, and he hadn't been sure if two groups were after the statue or if they were collaborating.

One of the officers, Nicholsen according to the nametag pinned to his shirt, pushed his way toward them. "Blinky, you said? Big Tony? Pedro?" The officer turned to Regan, clearly the one in charge of the teens. "It's a miracle she's alive. Do you know who they are?"

"Yes." Regan offered no further explanation.

All the same, the officer continued, as if Regan had replied in the negative. "Those men are three of the slipperiest and most ruthless criminals in the City. We've been trying to nab Tony Reyes on multiple charges, but we can never get the proof we need. And Pedro Sánchez—he's considered one of the cleverest jewel thieves in the world."

"And Blinky?" Mart asked.

But the officer didn't respond. He wanted to question Trixie, and Regan wouldn't hear of it. "We're staying at the Wheeler residence. You can send someone by to question her later. Right now, we just want to take her home. We have lots of worried friends waiting for us."

The officer nodded, getting the address from Regan.


chapter 21: the truth just doesn't make any sense