there's a gleam in your eye
 

Chapter 21: The Truth Just Doesn't Make Any Sense

August 16, 1957

"Oh, Trixie, why ... why ... why?" Honey clutched Trixie's arm, distraught and relieved at the same time.

"Sit down in this big chair, Trixie." Miss Trask handed the trembling girl a glass of warm milk. "Try to relax."

"Yes, do." Mr. Wheeler put a pillow behind her back. He perched on the accompanying ottoman and looked at the girl with love and concern, treating her as if she was his own daughter.

Honey's father had arrived at the apartment only minutes after Dan and the others had returned with Trixie. Dan wasn't sure how he had gotten there so quickly. It had hardly seemed possible, but a man with a private jet could apparently manage it.

"Why did you ever go there, Trixie?" Brian tried not to scold, but he—all of them—had quite a scare. He stood next to her chair, unwilling to leave her side.

"They said they'd pay me a thousand dollars if I'd return the idol to them." Trixie hung her head. "I was so dumb."

"When did anyone say that to you?" Honey asked, tears staining her cheeks. "We've been with you every place you've gone." She leaned into Miss Trask, whose arm was around her shoulder.

"It was that phone call last night," Mart said. "I knew I shouldn't have believed you."

"None of us should have," Bob admitted.

"Yes, it was the phone call." Trixie sniffed. "It was Pedro. He told me the idol belonged to a nobleman in Peru and that it had been stolen from him. They just wanted to return it."

"What else did he tell you, Trixie?" Mr. Wheeler's voice was gentle.

"He said I wouldn't be in any danger. He said I should meet him in a restaurant in daylight." She looked around the room at the others. "And when he gave the address on Broadway, I thought it would be the other end of Broadway, where there are always so many people around."

"I would've thought the same." Barbara nodded her head.

"But we promised we'd never go anyplace by ourselves," Diana reminded her.

"I forgot about that," Trixie reluctantly admitted. "I was so anxious to get the reward money. I didn't know it would be a dingy old place in a horrible neighborhood. Honest."

Brian reached for his sister's hand. "How are you feeling now?"

"I feel all right physically, if that's what you mean. But I sure do feel awful otherwise." Trixie brought her knees up to her chest in the big chair. "Moms and Dad are going to kill me when they find out how foolish I've been." She fished the wooden statue out of the pocket of her skirt.

"I'll take the idol now," Mr. Wheeler said firmly, reaching out for it.

The room was quiet as Mr. Wheeler studied the carving.

"Honey, show your dad the prophecy." Trixie handed the colorful purse over to her best friend.

Honey took the purse and opened it. "He's not going to believe it, you know. He'll say it's all coincidence."

"What prophecy, Honey?" Mr. Wheeler looked at his daughter.

Honey handed him first the original note in Spanish, and then the smaller pieces of paper that held the translation. "A Mexican woman at the airport gave this to Trixie on the first day we got here."

Mr. Wheeler put the idol in his pocket and took the papers. "Well, let me read this and make up my own mind on whether I believe in it or not."

Everyone waited almost patiently for the older man to read the poem.

"Well?" Trixie's patience had run out.

"Hmm. About the only bit of this I believe is 'silly girl'." Mr. Wheeler looked at Honey and Trixie. "You think this has something to do with the idol?"

Honey nodded, biting her tongue. "It seems like everything has come true so far."

"Really, it has!" Ned shouted excitedly. "Even this was part of the prophecy, wasn't it?"

"I tried telling them that they could twist things around to fit the words, so of course they think it came true." Miss Trask frowned.

Mr. Wheeler handed the pages back to his daughter. "Seems like harmless nonsense. No point getting worked up over that." Mr. Wheeler looked over at Mart, who was visibly upset about something.

"I want to know why those cops didn't go after them. They just let them get away." Mart was beyond agitated.

"It would have been useless. They slipped through the trap door and up a ladder. From there they could choose any of a dozen escape routes. The whole place up there is a rat run." Dan frowned.

Neil's head shot up, his eyes questioning, but he didn't say anything. Dan was glad for that.

Brian glared at him. "How do you know there's a trap door in that place?"

"And a ladder?" Jim added, although he didn't look that upset about Dan's knowledge.

"It sounds like you're familiar with the area." Mr. Wheeler's tone was not accusatory in the least, but Dan immediately felt guilty just for knowing so much about the place.

Mart looked over at Dan, and his tone did hold a note of blame in it. "I think it's time you told us everything you know about Tony and his gang."

Mr. Wheeler's shrewd eyes sized Dan up from head to toe, and he became apprehensive under the scrutiny of his host.

Regan's voice came from behind him, and Dan could hear anger in it. "The only thing Dan knows is that Tony killed his mom, my sister. He was there when it happened. There's no need to make him relive that."

Mr. Wheeler's gaze changed from one of inquiry to one of sympathy. "I'm sorry to hear that, Dan."

"I ... I was ... I know ...." Dan started to talk, but the words got stuck in his throat.

"No, it's okay." Mr. Wheeler held up a hand. "You don't need to explain anything. Regan's right." He turned back to Trixie. "And you should get some rest, young lady. I'll be staying with you from now on to make sure you don't get in any further trouble."

 

"I'm ... I'm at a loss for words." Mart sat at the iron table on the terrace.

Dan leaned over the railing, looking down at the park. "'S okay."

"I should have learned by now that you have your personal reasons for not revealing much." Mart did not sound like he understood, but that didn't bother Dan. He didn't need Mart to understand. "It's just so frustrating," Mart continued.

"Mm." Dan had nothing to say.

"You're so secretive all the time, and you know things that maybe could help us catch these guys or at least figure out what they want, but you won't tell us anything." Mart sounded hurt.

Dan looked at the street below. He had no answers; nothing that would help them. "What do you want me to say?"

Mart let out a breath of air. "I don't know. But say something. Tell us things. Let us in."

"You make it sound easy." Dan liked being high over the ground. Everything was so distant, it couldn't touch him. From this far, all he could see of the city was beautiful. The grittiness that could be found far below was obscured.

"Because it is easy."

Dan grunted.

Mart sighed.

"What do you want to know?" Dan still wasn't sure what to say, and he was even less sure he'd be able to answer any questions.

"Why didn't the cops go after those guys?"

Mart's question took Dan by surprise. He was expecting a question about his past, about what he knew about Tony. "I don't know."

"They didn't even make an effort; they didn't bother to run after them. It's like the police didn't want to try, in spite of saying they've been after those crooks for so long." Dan heard Mart's fingers tap against the table as he spoke.

"Yeah." Dan reflected on that momentarily. "It's almost as if they don't really want to catch Tony or his gang."

"How is it that man's not in jail already?" Mart thumped the table and the iron leg rattled on the stone pavers.

Dan turned to look northward as much as possible, but neighboring buildings obstructed the view.

"I'm serious. How did he get away with it, with murdering your mom?" Mart was worse than Neil in being insistent, probing, just plain nosy.

But Dan had invited him to ask. "The cops wouldn't believe my story. They wouldn't even call it a murder." Dan turned around, facing the freckled boy, leaning with his back against the iron railing.

Mart gazed at him, puzzled. "Did they call it a suicide, then?"

Dan shook his head. "No. They called it an 'accidental overdose'. Case closed." Dan kicked at the stone floor with his shoe.

The door to the terrace slid open and Regan stood there, clutching the door frame. "Dan?"

Dan looked over at his uncle in answer.

"Could you step away from that rail, please?" Regan asked nervously. "Actually, could you just come here?"

Dan walked across the terrace and entered the apartment, aware that his uncle was too afraid of heights to venture out on the patio. "Yeah?"

"Sit down for a minute." Regan pointed to the couch.

Dan felt like he must be in trouble. "What is it Uncle Bill?"

"Mr. Wheeler and I were talking. The police are going to come by later to get Trixie's statement." Regan sat on the opposite end of the couch, but turned sideways to face him. "I was wondering if there's anything else you can tell me about Tony that might help. Where you may have seen him in the past, where he hangs out?"

Dan nodded. "I followed him a few times, those first few weeks after ...." He knew of an apartment building that Tony would go to frequently; where he probably lived. But then he thought about how the cops had dismissed the murder of his mom before, and how they hadn't bothered to chase him from Jake's earlier today. He really didn't want the police knowing that he knew anything. He didn't trust them. "He never went anywhere but to Jake's place a couple of times."

The right side of Regan's mouth turned down in a half frown. "Do you want to tell the police about the incident at the park, too?"

Dan shrugged. "I don't know what good it will do. Even if they do get Tony and his pal, they'll just say I tripped and fell, and they were helping me up."

Regan sighed.

 

"I can't believe tonight is your last night here." Trixie pouted at the thought of Bob, Barbara, and Ned leaving the next day.

"Golly, it looks like we won't ever find out why that little idol is worth so much to those thieves." Barbara was extremely disappointed.

"School's starting in just two weeks. We have to go back home sometime." Bob winked at the blonde-haired girl. "But I wish we could stay, too."

"We'll let the police deal with it from now on." Mr. Wheeler patted his pocket. "And I'll keep this little guy safe."

Mart and Dan exchanged a glance. Neither of them trusted the police to handle the matter at all.

Dan looked around the table. As usual with their large crowd, multiple tables had been pushed together in order to accommodate the group of thirteen. They were missing two of their party tonight; Miss Trask was having dinner with her sister, and Harvey had elected to spend Shabbat with the Armens, who also lived in Manhattan.

It was noisy in the popular bar and grill. The Friday night crowd was a mix of men in suits having business dinners and the weekend crowd starting their evenings.

"I thought you were going to give the idol to the police, Dad." Jim looked at his adopted father quizzically. "Why didn't they take it when they came to take Trixie's statement?"

"I just forgot at the time." Mr. Wheeler pulled the idol out of his pocket. "I'm surprised they didn't ask to see it when Trixie was talking to them."

Dan snorted. He wasn't at all surprised. Leaving it with the teenagers seemed like the right move if his suspicions were correct.

Mart was seated next to him. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Probably," Dan admitted.

"Do you know how hard it is to get something out of police evidence?" Mart tried to make the question seem casual, but most of their crowd looked back at him inquisitively.

"What are you driving at?" Brian asked.

"I was just thinking—"

Trixie groaned. "Please, not that!"

Mart stuck his tongue out at his sister. "I was thinking that if the idol was in evidence, we wouldn't be able to study it any more or try to figure out its mystery."

"But we've studied it over and over." Ned stared at the little wooden man sitting on the table beside Mr. Wheeler's plate.

Mr. Wheeler picked it up again. "No, it wouldn't be at all easy to get it back if we turned it in for evidence. Once something is marked as evidence in a case, I believe even the police aren't allowed to take it out without proper authorization, in case it ever gets used in court. But it's still the right thing for us to do."

Mart and Dan exchanged another glance. Dan was becoming more and more convinced that there was a rotten apple or two on the police force in Manhattan. Things were actually starting to make sense.

A waiter walked by and jostled Mr. Wheeler's elbow. He had been reaching for the idol and it fell to the floor.

Dan reached down to grab it, but it looked like Mr. Wheeler had already picked it up.

"Who grabbed it from me?" Mr. Wheeler looked at Dan. "Was it you ... for a joke?"

"What do you mean?" Dan shook his head, bewildered. "I don't have it. When I bent over after it fell, I saw you pick it up. At least, I saw somebody pick it up."

"Jeepers! Does anyone have it?" Ned looked around at the entire group.

"I saw an arm reach for it," Mr. Wheeler insisted. "I felt someone push me."

"There, somebody, stop that man!!" Trixie was pointing and screaming.

Almost everyone at the table got up to run after the man. Other diners were screaming and trying to get out of the way of the runners, but the chaos helped slow down the man trying to make his getaway. From the back, Dan couldn't tell if it was Pedro or Blinky. Jim caught up to him first and tackled him.

The idol fell from the crook's hands and rolled across the tiled floor, resting face down at the foot of an angry maître d'. "What's all the commotion about?"

Dan had been right behind Jim, and the other boys had quickly caught up to them. Neil was helping Jim keep Pedro down. Dan quickly picked up the statue. "I'll take this."

"You should phone the police." Mr. Wheeler spoke quietly to the maître d'. "This man is a wanted criminal." Neil and Jim were now leaning calmly on top of the squirming Peruvian gentleman.

"Oh, good, you have it." Trixie had run over, along with the rest of their table. She pointed to the idol.

Dan handed it over to her. "It's broken." It was cracked, and something inside the statue caught the light and reflected it back. "What was that?"

Trixie gingerly pried the statue apart where it had split. A brilliant stone rested inside the idol's head and the two of them stared at it in awe. "I think it's a diamond."


chapter 22: to then begin again