Online Mystery: Team Dan & Di

Part #5

"This is a bad idea, Di. A really bad idea." Dan paced in front of the car.

"What's so bad about it?" Diana leaned casually against the car door.

"What's wrong with it? Are you serious?" Dan stopped in front of her, his hands on his hips in unconscious imitation of his uncle Regan. "It wasn't enough to go knocking on his door in broad daylight? Now you want to hang out in the alley after dark, waiting for Snipe Thompson to come home? This is crazy!"

"Okay," she conceded. "Maybe it's not the best idea, but do you have anything better?"

He was struggling for an answer, she could tell. Finally, he gave in with a sigh. "No. No, I can't think of anything better. But promise me this: Promise you'll follow my lead and keep quiet. Promise?"

She smiled her sweetest smile. "I promise."

"Fine. Let's go." Dan grabbed her hand tightly, and she let him lead her down the now dark street and into the alley that ran opposite the Sleepyside Apartments. Dan scrounged around and found a couple of milk crates near the dumpster. He set them down in the shadows, and invited Di to sit down. And then they waited.

Dan was asleep with his head back against the brick of the building. Diana had her head resting against his shoulder, her eyes focused on the front of the apartment building. It had been four hours since they had taken their seats in the alley, and her back ached. She wondered briefly how Dan could sleep in his current position, but then she remembered his time spent on the New York streets and decided not to ask. It was enough that the heat from his larger body was keeping her warm as the temperature dropped. She looked at her watch. It was nearly midnight. Her parents were in the city for the evening and thought that their daughter was spending the night with Ruthie Kettner. A very confused Ruthie had agreed to the ruse after some gentle persuading from Dan.

A car engine caught Diana's attention, and she leaned forward, peering into the street. Two figures, one large and one small, emerged from the vehicle, and Diana caught her breath. Dan woke instantly. "What?" he whispered.

"It's him!"

"Snipe?" Dan squinted into the darkness. "Where?"

"No!" Diana whispered excitedly. "It's Britten. The short one. There."

Without thinking, she rose from the crate, her numb legs causing her to stumble. Dan grabbed for her before she hit the ground, but his foot caught the crate and sent it skidding into the street with a lot more commotion than he would have liked. The two men turned at the noise, and Dan turned away, pulling Diana close against him. "Pretend to kiss me," he hissed. "Keep your face hidden. Britten doesn't know me."

Diana complied, wrapping her arms around Dan's neck and keeping her face in the shadow of his arms. "Get a room!" the larger of the two men shouted, and Dan turned to look at them, keeping Diana in his shadow.

"Good idea!" he shouted back in a tone Di didn't recognize. "Youse wanna gimme da dough?

The man sneered an expletive, and Diana assumed Dan returned the sentiment with a gesture before tucking her tightly against the side of his body and hurrying her down the street.

Once they were safely in the station wagon, Dan locked the doors and turned to her. "Di, what part of stay quiet was that?" He tugged at his hair. "I swear my heart just about stopped back there."

"Mine, too," Diana admitted, "but we did find out something important. Tilney Britten is definitely in Sleepyside."

"Yeah," Dan grumbled. "Britten's in Sleepyside, and he's doing business with Snipe Thompson."

*****

"Why are we sleeping in the clubhouse, again, Di?" Dan asked as he rolled out his sleeping bag in front of the door.

"Because I didn't think things all the way through," she told him in an irritated voice. "I know that, okay. Besides, you don't have to stay. I'm more than capable of camping on my own. You can go home to your comfy bed." She slid down into her own sleeping bag on the opposite side of the room.

"Nope. You're stuck with me." Dan crawled into his bag. "Besides, this way when Mr. Maypenny asks me where I was all night, I can tell him I fell asleep in the clubhouse without lying."

"I'll make it up to you," Diana promised. "I don't know how, but I will."

"Just no more dark alleys at midnight, okay?"

"That's a promise." Diana shuddered. "I haven't been that scared in a long time. If it hadn't been for your quick thinking..."

"You're fine, Di. We both are. Just get some sleep. We'll figure it out in the morning." Dan closed his eyes. "I have a good feeling about tomorrow."

*****

After running home to the cabin to shower and change, Dan drove Diana home. Harrison met them at the door. "Miss Diana," he said solemnly, "Mr. Tad Webster has called the house four times already. Would you please return his call? He seemed very excited about something." He handed her a message slip.

Diana and Dan exchanged a perplexed glance. "Of course, Harrison," she replied, "Would you ask the cook to make us a little breakfast? I dragged Dan out early to pick me up, and I'm sure he's starving." As Harrison nodded and disappeared into the kitchen, Diana turned to Dan. "Why would Tad be calling?"

"I don't know, Di. Why don't you call him and find out?"

Nervously, Diana dialed the number on the note. As the phone began to ring, she held the receiver so Dan could also hear. Tad answered, with a "Hello?"

"Hi, Tad. This is Di. Dan's here with me. Harrison said you wanted to talk to me."

"And how!" Tad was indeed very excited. "Snipe Thompson is dead!"

"Dead?" The phone trembled in her hands, and Dan grabbed for it. Taking over, he barked, "Dead? How? When?"

"Last night," Tad answered. "Probably a little before midnight. He was shot. Bull... I mean Beau found him when he went to work."

"When he went..." Dan frowned. "He was at the garage?"

"No," Tad corrected. "At the other place he works. The Ballroom. You know, the paintball arcade down on Treasury, next to the Coin-Op laundry. Beau went in to start cleaning and he found his uncle's body in the Ballroom."

*****