Third Season Round Robin ~ Chapter 3

by Rhonda Collins

 

After leaving Devin, Diana headed toward the subway. Her head was spinning with everything she'd learned today, and it was nagging at her about all the things she hadn't learned. The arson case was bugging her; she'd never handled them before, and didn't know squat about . . . well . . . about just about anything she should know. It irritated her that Maxwell had insisted she take it, when he would be better off with the arson squad. “And what am I going to do if all the sites do have access to the tunnels?” she muttered to herself. “And then there's Jacob Wells taking unexplained excursions to the Financial District, and his look-alike, this Andrew Devin Wells, who has the same birth date as the old man. What the hell is going on?” Just having Devin here would've been enough excitement for the day, and right now, he was barely a blip on the radar.

Diana stopped and scanned the streets, looking for the Helpers who usually hung around this area, but she didn't see anyone. Fortunately, it was also a good foraging area, and she did spy Jamie, with another, older kid Diana didn't know. The “Don't Walk” sign was up, and when it didn't change after a couple of moments, Diana jaywalked hurriedly (with cars honking at her angrily and a cabbie giving her the finger) and trotted up to the kids.

Jamie looked surprised to see her, but smiled and motioned Diana over. “Hey, look, Diana! Evan found me a lamp for my chamber!” Diana looked. The lamp was cute, but there was no telling if it worked or not, and she said so. “No big deal,” Jamie quipped. “Mouse can fix anything.” The girl hugged the lamp under her arm and peered at Diana. “So, what'cha need?” she asked. “I'm sure you must need something—jaywalking isn't safe, so you must have needed to see me pretty bad.”

“Yeah, I need you to do me a favor.” Fumbling with her carryall, Diana came up with a pen and a scrap of paper. She jotted a note for Vincent.

Need to see you.

Come to the Loft

tonight. Early, if

you can. - D

 

Diana folded the note a couple of times and handed it to Jamie. “Can you see that Vincent gets this as soon as you can?”

“Is it about Father?” Jamie stage whispered conspiratorially, leaning forward.

“Yes. And no. I really gotta see him. Tonight. There's . . . well, there's a lot going on.” She watched as Jamie pocketed the note. “Thanks, Jamie. I appreciate it.”

“Sure thing.” Jamie gestured to the other kid. “C'mon, Evan. “Let's get this lamp to Mouse and find Vincent.” She waved. “Bye, Diana.”

“Bye, Jamie.” Diana watched the two teenagers vanish down the alley and smiled. She always felt a little like a spy, with all the secret messages, secret tunnels... it was kind of fun.

* * * * *

It took Diana the rest of the afternoon to visit a couple of the other arson sites. At one of them, she did find an entrance to the tunnels, but with the second one, she came up empty. She'd have to give Vincent the address and see if he knew anything. Maybe the case wasn't tied in any way to the tunnels after all, which would be good—but then, if that were so, she still had absolutely zilch toward solving the case. She'd tried opening herself up and trying to put herself in the shoes of the arsonist, but all she could pick up was rage. Such unbridled anger! Shaking herself a little to clear her mind, Diana realized she couldn't wait to get out of there and back into the sunlight.

After picking up some Chinese take-out, Diana headed home. She ate while doing some research on arson accelerants, and reviewed the arson reports on the various fires. According to the reports, in all the fires, the arsonist had been very careful, highly efficient and methodical. What fascinated Diana was the fact that in the subway fire, the steel of the subway car actually began to melt, which meant a fire of about 1535 degrees C, or 2750 degrees F. Apparently in that one the arsonist had used jet fuel as an accelerant. For the other fires, gasoline had been used. She scratched her head and began taking her braid down. The different accelerants normally indicated a different MO and possibly a different arsonist, but the care, precision, and expertise exhibited in all the fires seemed to indicate the same person. The comments that Breon had made about someone possibly with a score to settle also sounded right. “So, what ties all the buildings and the subway together? What could possibly be the motive?” She began a search on the addresses; who owned them, when they were built, whether they had ever been sold, and if so, who'd bought them.

Diana brushed her hair as she stared at the photos of the arson sites that she'd tacked up on her board. Vincent's soft knocking at the clerestory windows startled her, and she had to switch her concentration off of one problem to another. Tossing her brush onto the desk, she gestured to Vincent for him to come on down. As she hastily bundled up the arson files into a pile, she could hear his soft tread on the steps.

Vincent waited for her in her living room, and when Diana came in, he gave her one of his small smiles. His eyes, though, were what showed he was glad to see her, and Diana's heart gave a quick skip. She drew a deep breath to center herself, then greeted him casually. “Hi. Glad you're here.”

“You indicated it was important. Is it... about Father?” He looked both hopeful and apprehensive.

At that moment, the buzzer went off to indicate that someone was at the elevator. Vincent immediately tensed. “I need to go,” he stated.

“No, you don't. Don't you move an inch! It's okay.” She walked to the elevator and pushed the button. “Devin?”

“Yeah,” came the tinny response.

“Come on up.”

“Devin?” Vincent asked. “Devin is here?”

Diana grinned and nodded. “In the flesh.” She enjoyed the look of astonishment on Vincent's face. She didn't often get to surprise him.

When the lift stopped and Devin stepped out, he and Vincent embraced enthusiastically. “When did you get here?” Vincent asked. “Why didn't you contact us?”

“Long story, Little Brother. I'm playing lawyer again, I'm afraid.” Devin gave his brother a wicked grin.

“What are you up to this time, Devin?”

“Tell you what,” Diana said, breaking in. “You guys go sit on the couch and catch up, and I'll make some tea.”

Both men took her advice, and as Diana puttered around the kitchen, putting water on and getting everything together for tea, she could hear their soft voices as Devin told Vincent about his Bryan Sprague identity and about the attorney, Andrew Devin Wells, with the same birth date and face as the man Vincent called 'Father'. The teapot screamed, and Diana put everything on a tray, carried it into the living room, and set it on the coffee table. “We all caught up?” she asked.

Vincent shrugged and said softly, “I suppose so. I was expecting an update on what you found out about Father, but this is certainly not what I anticipated. Devin's information about this 'Andrew Devin Wells' must be related to Father's odd behavior. I just don't understand; Father has harbored secrets that we've found out decades later – I never even knew his real name until recently.”

“I never even knew he was my biological father until recently,” Devin stated in a rather annoyed tone. “So it doesn't exactly surprise me that dear old Dad could have a twin brother he never bothered to mention.”

“Pretty strange, if you ask me,” Diana muttered, then sighed. “Since we're talking 'strange', I have to go off on a bit of a tangent, here.” She told them about the arson case, and about her suspicion that there might be entrances to the tunnels in each of them. She gave Vincent the address of the site where she couldn't find a tunnel entrance.

“I know that building,” Vincent stated. “And yes, it does have a tunnel access, although it hasn’t been used in many years, and I thought it was closed off.” He seemed very disturbed. “Diana, surely you are not seriously thinking that this arsonist is one of our community . . . are you?”

“I don't know, Vincent. It's just a thought . . . a . . . possibility. Something I have to consider. Can you think of anyone who might be in some way connected to these places? Someone who might have a grudge?”

Vincent thought a moment, then shook his head. “I can’t imagine anyone living with us Below who could possibly have done these things, or who might have a connection to the sites. However, we still don’t know who owns the buildings, or how that subway station would be connected to the buildings. That information might shed some light on the situation.”

“You know, Vincent,” Devin said quietly, “our people are not the only ones who are aware of the tunnel entrances. I assume the remnants of Paracelsus' people are still down there, and they would have that knowledge, and it's not impossible that some of the homeless living in those upper tunnels are aware of them.”

Vincent rose from the sofa and paced across the room. After a moment, he faced Devin and Diana. “What Devin says is true, Diana. That opens up other avenues to explore.”

“Who the heck is Paracelsus?” Diana asked, totally confused.

Vincent put a hand to his head as if it pained him. “Someone who is long dead, Diana. He and Father built the tunnel community together, but then, John Pater, who called himself Paracelsus, became unstable and did some unpardonable things. He was exiled from our tunnels but remained Below, moving to tunnels much deeper than ours and collecting followers of his own.” Vincent sat again, with a huge sigh. “He had a vendetta with Father—about me—and returned a few years ago and threatened Catherine. I almost killed him then, but he later returned, and in the end, I did kill him. He was a very dangerous man; but now that he is gone, most of his followers have dispersed.”

“Great,” Diana commented dryly. “This arson investigation is getting impossibly complicated. Maybe you could do some checking Below and see what you can find out for me? I'm really at a loss here. I'm spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.” Diana poured herself some tea and sweetened it, and after a few moments, Vincent and Devin followed her example. A tense silence fell over them as each of them thought of the various problems they were dealing with.

Finally, Vincent set his teacup down and stated quietly, “We must confront Father about his unexplained forays Above and about this Andrew Devin Wells. There is no other way.” Vincent looked to his brother. “Devin, will you come Below with me to speak with Father?”

“I guess there's no other way,” Devin agreed, a little reluctantly, then gave an odd chuckle. “I'm used to Father confronting me for something I've done wrong. You'd think that turning the tables on the old man would be something to look forward to; instead I find the whole idea just as daunting.”

“While you two are doing that, I guess I'll finish finding out who owns those buildings and see if there's any way to tie them to the subway site. If I don't come up with something to give to Joe Maxwell pretty soon, it won't be very comfortable for me around here.”

Vincent and Devin made plans as to where to meet for Devin to go Below, and Diana took the tea tray to the kitchen. When Diana returned to the living room, they said their goodbyes. Vincent left by way of the roof, Devin took the lift down to the street, and Diana decided a long, hot bath was in order before bed. It had been one very strange and confusing day.

 

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