Third Season Round Robin ~ Chapter 5

by T'Mara

 

When Diana returned home, she noticed immediately that Devin had been there and taken the copy of the list she had left behind. She smiled. She had obviously been right about him. He had acted exactly as she had expected him to.

Since she had nothing better to do for the time being, she decided to work a bit more on her case. She went to her cork board, staring at all the information that she had so far collected on the arson case. She had a nagging feeling as if she had overlooked something really important; but no matter how many times she read the small notes she had attached to the pictures of the arson sites, inspected the map of the locations where the fires had occurred, or studied the timetable she had established, she could not figure out what was bothering her.

“I know there is something,” she whispered. “There must be. Whenever I have this particular feeling, it always means that I need to give my evidence a closer look, that there is some bit of information that I need to pay more attention to; but what can it be?”

She sat down in front of the board, a notebook in hand, and began scribbling down her thoughts.

Arsonist: angry, hateful, revenge? Methodical, efficient, proficient – motive?

Arson sites: all either belong to or are somehow connected to AJW Realty, all have tunnel access

Tunnel access . . . Diana frowned. There was one building that had not seemed to have access, but Vincent had said there was one, which had not been used for years; and he thought it had been closed off.

“Why?” she murmured to herself. “Why has it been closed off and is no longer used? And when exactly did they stop using it, barred it? Could whatever caused this entrance being closed have something to do with this case? Is maybe the arsonist's motive somehow connected to what happened at this place many years ago?”

She made a mental note to ask Vincent again about this particular address, knowing full well that this might be a dead end. It was an angle she had not looked at yet, though, and therefore well worth exploring.

“But I don't think this is what gives me this uneasy feeling of overlooking some vital piece of information,” Diana groaned. “There must be something else, another clue, the true importance of which I have not realized yet.”

And she once again gazed at her board, absorbing the pictures and facts, trying to get a feel for the crime. Suddenly something caught her eye and she inhaled sharply.

“Oh my God!” she breathed. Then she shook her head. Surely she was seeing things? There could not be a connection, or could there? It did make sense, though, in a certain way at least; and if she were right, it could probably explain a few things. Then she wondered again, was there really more to it than a coincidence? But what if not? What if this was the lead she had been looking for?

“That must be it!” Diana smiled. “That's what has been bugging me. How could I not realize at once the importance of those three letters?”

She quickly made a few phone calls, then left the building. After checking with the commercial register and a lengthy visit to the library, where she perused issues of business papers from decades ago, Diana finally stopped by at the registrar's office.

“I knew it,” she whispered. The documents in front of her were the last piece of the puzzle, the final proof of what she had suspected all along. She quickly copied all the relevant data into her notebook, still shocked at what she had found out.

It was getting late, and Diana felt thoroughly exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to go home, have a long, soothing bath, some herbal tea and a snack, and a good night's sleep. There was no time for such luxury, though. She needed to see Vincent and share her latest discoveries with him. Her bed would have to wait.

Diana sighed and hailed a cab to go to Central Park, where she quickly headed for the culvert. As soon as she had entered the tunnels she banged a message onto the pipes, announcing her arrival and her need to talk to Vincent – regarding an important, urgent matter. She was about halfway to the chambers Below, when she was met by Vincent, who had obviously dropped whatever he had been doing the moment he got her message, and had hurried to meet her.

“What is it?” he asked, still slightly panting. “I was working in the lower tunnels, repairing the handrail on one of the more narrow passages next to the abyss, when I heard your message. What is so urgent? Are you in danger? Are we?”

Diana blushed under his scrutinizing gaze. There was obvious worry in his eyes, and despite the tension she felt after the long, exhausting day behind her and the discovery she had made, she felt elated. He did care for her, maybe not quite the way she wanted him to, not yet, but clearly his concern was too deep to be for just a friend. Was it possible that he was beginning to see her in a different way, as something other than a friend and ally?

Diana shook her head. “No,” she mumbled, trying hard to compose herself. If she was right and Vincent was developing deeper feelings for her, then he needed time to get to terms with those feelings. Rushing him would do no good.

“There is no danger, neither to me nor to the tunnel community,” she elaborated. “At least I don't think so. But there is something really important I found out today, something I need to discuss with you.”

Vincent nodded, understanding in his clear, blue eyes.

“Tell me,” he encouraged Diana, offering her his arm so that they could walk the remaining distance to his chamber together.

“The two cases are somehow connected,” Diana blurted out. “Though I am not quite sure yet, how. Maybe you or Mary or some of the older community members, who have been here from the beginning, can shed some more light on this.”

Vincent stopped and looked at her. “Two cases?” he asked. “Are you working on more than one case right now? And why do you think Mary or some of the other founding members can help you – and not Father?”

“Oh, Father is probably the person most likely to know anything about all of this,” Diana replied, “I just don't think we will get anything out of him, since he is apparently right in the middle of it.” She paused, then looked Vincent in the eyes. “Father's unusual behavior and the existence of Andrew Devin Wells is the second case I was referring to, the arsons being the first one.”

Vincent stared at her. “Father's trips Above and to the Financial District are connected to these fires?” he asked incredulously.

Diana nodded. “Yes, and obviously this Andrew Devin Wells as well. You see, all the buildings that have been targeted so far, including the block above the subway tunnel, where the train was set on fire, either belong to or have recently been sold by AJW Realty.”

Vincent cocked his head. He obviously was not seeing the connection yet.

“And how exactly does this involve Father?” he asked softly. “He has no ties with this company.”

Diana nodded. “I didn’t see it at first either,” she confessed. “But I had this nagging feeling that I had overlooked something. I was brainstorming and gazing at my cork board and suddenly it hit me. An A, a J and a W. All letters connected to members of Father's family. A – Andrew Devin Wells. J – Jacob, Father's first name, and W – Wells, the family's last name. This combined with the fact that all the fires had taken place at buildings with tunnel access.... “

Vincent nodded. “That is a rather strange coincidence,” he agreed.

“Yes,” Diana confirmed. “So I investigated. The company changed ownership a lot over the past decades, and it was not easy to compile a complete list of owners. But fact is, that it was founded about 80 years ago by one Andrew Jacob Wells.”

“AJW,” Vincent murmured. “A relative of Father's?”

“His grandfather,” Diana explained. “Apparently he was a very talented business man and the company flourished in the 1920s, but when his only son Devin Wells took over at his father's death, the company got into trouble and Devin had to sell it. He was apparently more interested in chemistry than real estate, and later worked for a pharmaceutical company. AJW Realty went through dozens of different owners from then on, but since its name had a good reputation, none of the new owners ever thought of changing it.”

Vincent gave her a curious look. “But if the company was sold by this Devin Wells – who I assume must have been Father's father – then there surely cannot be a connection between Father or his family with the current cases of arson?” he inquired.

Diana shook her head. “That's what I thought at first, too,” she admitted, “but there is more. As you know from Devin,” she smiled at the thought that Father had named his son after his own father, “Andrew Devin Wells is a wealthy man, making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. A person with that kind of money is constantly looking into ways to invest his wealth. To make a long story short, Andrew Devin Wells, who by the way is Father's twin brother, bought the company back last spring. About a month and a half before the fires started.”

Vincent nodded. “Yes, that certainly would be a connection,” he admitted, then frowned. “When exactly did these cases of arson start?” he asked.

“The first incident happened on May 22nd,” Diana replied without having to think about it. She had spent enough time on this case already that she knew the dates of those fires by heart.

“That was almost four months ago,” Vincent mused, “but Father started going Above only a few days ago.” He sighed. “He didn’t come back last night,” he added. “And we have been worried, even though it happens every now and then that a member of our community stays away for a day or two. Even Father has done that before, and considering his strange behavior lately, and our discovery of his having a twin brother . . . .” Vincent paused. “It is possible, after all, that he might have gone to see his brother and stayed there overnight, but still . . . .”

Diana nodded. She was not quite sure what to say. Father's disappearance certainly worried her every bit as much as it did Vincent, not to mention the fact that it put her under considerably more pressure to solve the arson case sooner rather than later.

“There can be no doubt anymore that there is a connection,” she murmured.

“Devin came Below last night,” Vincent continued after a short pause, “hoping to meet Father; but we waited and waited, and Father didn’t come home. Devin finally had to leave. I have alerted all the Helpers, asking them to look out for Father and let him know that we are worried; and I was planning to have a look around Above later, once it is dark, but I wanted to wait for Devin before doing so. He promised to come back tonight.”

They had reached Vincent's chamber. Diana sat down in the armchair, while Vincent kept pacing up and down. “Something must have happened to him,” he murmured. “Now that I know that there might be a connection to the arsons, I’m even more concerned about Father. Especially since it’s not like him to stay away without giving us notice.”

“Something has happened, but what? Is it possible that Father was aware of the fact that the fires were targeting buildings that either belonged to or had recently been sold by his grandfather's former company?” Diana said, more to herself than to her restlessly pacing companion. “And that the company now belonged to his brother? Is that why he started going Above, maybe trying to investigate on his own? Did he have a suspicion of who could be behind all this?”

Vincent shrugged. “I have no idea,” he admitted. “He started going Above after he got a note from Todd Hallerby, one of our Helpers.”

“Have you talked to this Todd?” Diana inquired. “Surely he would be able to tell you what was in the note he sent to Father?”

“No,” Vincent admitted. “And Todd would most likely not have told me anything. He is a very old man, and he has strong moral principles. A private message is a private message and nobody else has a right to see or hear it.”

“But under the circumstances, with Father missing since last night, he might be willing to change his mind on that,” Diana suggested.

Vincent had to admit that she had a point. “Maybe I should stop by Todd's place and have a talk with him before I go looking for Father tonight,” he acknowledged.

“There is something else,” Diana remembered. “That office building I mentioned the other day, the third one in chronological order that was hit by a fire, the one where I couldn’t find a tunnel access, but you said there was one, or at least had been at one point, that had been closed off many years ago.”

“What about it?” Vincent asked.

“That's what I wanted to hear from you,” Diana retorted. “Why was it closed off, and when? And could this have anything to do with the current situation?”

Vincent nodded. “I see what you mean,” he told Diana, “but it was many years ago, maybe thirty or so. I was still a boy at that time, and I don’t remember it clearly. Father would know, of course . . . .”

“Yes, but he’s not here, and would he be willing to tell us?” Diana interrupted him. “Considering that he hasn’t told you anything about why he is going Above on a daily basis now, or that he has a twin brother, or any of the other things that he must be aware of that could be of vital importance in order to solve this case?”

“That's why you said you might want to talk to some of the members of our community that have been here since the beginning?” Vincent guessed.

Diana nodded. “Yes, that, and I also wanted to learn more about Paracelsus and his people. Since it now seems that the fires are an act of vengeance against AJW Realty, a company with ties to Father, I don't think any of your people here are involved. But since tunnel access obviously is one of the elements of these crimes, that points to either the Paracelsus group or the homeless ones, does it not? I somewhat doubt that the homeless group has the means and the knowledge to start these fires, the followers of somebody named Paracelsus, on the other hand . . . .” She let her voice trail.

“If they have anything to do with this, then Father may be in grave danger.” Vincent sounded really worried now. “I should already have gone looking for him last night, when he wasn’t home by midnight . . . .”

“You didn’t know any of that then,” Diana tried to comfort him. “And if you talk to this Helper, Todd, now and tell him all we have found out so far, confront him with the facts, he may be willing to tell you what his note to Father contained . . . which might give you a clue to where to look for him.”

Vincent restlessly paced up and down his chamber for a few more minutes. “I'd like to discuss this all with Devin, before I go,” he finally decided. “What time is it? He should be here any moment!”

Diana gazed at her wrist watch. “It's nearly nine,” she announced, surprised at how time had flown by.

“Nine?” Vincent stopped cold in his track, his leonine features weary with concern. “Devin said he'd be here by eight at the latest! Don't tell me, he went missing too?”

* * * * *

Devin stopped for a moment. He should have been in the office hours ago and yet he was still following the stranger in the tan overcoat. Devin began to question the wisdom of his action. It was clear that the stranger was not going anywhere; he was just wandering around, seemingly aimlessly. Devin was sure that he had been shadowing the man for at least five hours, probably longer, and he had a feeling as if they were somehow going in circles. Twice they had made a short ride on the subway, which might have been the stranger's attempt at getting rid of Devin; but while Devin was still on his quarry's heels, he had not learned anything new. They were kind of at an impasse. Obviously the stranger could not shake off Devin, but Devin was not going to find out the other man's destination either.

Devin sighed. He had no clear idea where exactly he was right now, the street he was heading down in pursuit of his target was a rather narrow side street, and Devin noticed that the neighborhood was one of the less savory ones of New York.

He cursed under his breath. What had he gotten himself into? Was he deliberately being lead into a more deserted part of the city? Should he abandon this wild-goose-chase that did not seem likely to produce any results anytime soon anyway and try to get back into a more populated street where he might be able to hail a cab and go home? A distant church clock struck the hour. Devin cursed again. Four o'clock already! There was no point in going to the office. He would have to make excuses the next day. Vincent was expecting him in a few hours, though, and he was planning on keeping that appointment. He had to go Below and make sure Father had returned home in the meantime. Despite their rather tense relationship he was worried about the “Old Man”.

I'd better give up on this, Devin finally decided. It’s clear he won't lead me anywhere. I’m exhausted, too, and would love a chance to sit down and rest. I should look for a way back into more familiar areas and get Below as quickly as possible. I need to talk to Vincent, see if Father is okay, maybe talk to Diana . . . .

Devin turned, determined to head back, and suddenly found himself staring into the barrel of a gun. “I would not do this if I were you,” the dark-haired woman pointing the gun at him hissed.

 

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