Third Season Round Robin ~ Chapter 8

by Stace Burroughs

 

Devin and Diana briskly walked back to his office, where he sat down and began to rummage around in his desk.

“It’s funny, when I came in for my interview, Andrew Wells was there,” said Devin as he continued to hunt for something. “I knew it wasn’t the old man, because I could tell that he didn’t recognize me. He was sitting down, but I think I remember him having a cane beside him.” He handed a small package to Diana. “So they coincidentally both need to use a cane, for whatever reason.”

“Well, that’s possible,” she began as she took the package, “but I do know that was Jacob – he recognized us by the elevators.” Her brow furrowed in thought. “Did you recognize the man he was with? Is he one of the partners?”

Devin shook his head. “I don’t think he was one of the partners. I don’t recognize him, but I really didn’t see his face, either.”

“Damn. Me either.” Diana glanced at the clock, scribbling on a note pad from the office.  “I’ve got to get going. I know you have work to do. See if you can find anything else out around here.” She held up the package. “I’ll drop this with a helper, along with a note to Vincent. Maybe he’s learned something from Todd Hallerby.”

 “I’ll see what I can do, considering a junior lawyer wouldn’t be chummy with Mr. Wells,” he said with a smirk. “But maybe I can follow the old man when he leaves. Hopefully it’ll turn out better than last time, since we’ve got little Miss Shifty McDangerous in the clink. I don’t think she’s going far, assault with a deadly weapon is pretty serious.”

“Let’s hope it’ll buy us some time to figure out what her angle is. Whether you find anything or not, we’ll meet below at Vincent’s chamber tonight around 10, and we’ll all compare notes then.”

Diana straightened her jacket and headed back to her loft to change into more practical clothing. On the way she stopped at a small shop run by a helper and dropped off the package from Devin, along with the note. She noticed beautiful blues music and saw a musician, playing to the passing foot traffic outside a plaza on her way. He nodded to her as the sweet, sad music flowed from his saxophone.

“It’s nice to see a lovely young lady enjoy my music. I wouldn’t have taken you to be a blues girl.” He winked. 

“You’d be surprised. How could anyone not enjoy a little blues?” she replied to him with a smile. “Without blues, would there be any rock and roll?”

He laughed and his eyes sparkled. “Depends on who you ask.”

She squatted down, placed a few dollars in the open sax case, and then continued on her way.

When she finally got home, she got on the phone to leave messages with a couple of her old colleagues at the NYPD for them to give her a call with what they ended up finding on the mystery woman who nearly shot Devin. Then she got right to changing into more comfortable clothing that’d be more flexible for whatever was going to happen the rest of the day. It was nice to get out of that stifling suit and let her hair down.

* * * * *

On the Lower East Side, Vincent arrived at the forgotten cellar beneath an old, rent-controlled apartment building. An older gentleman in his 70’s soon met him, accompanied by a younger man who looked vaguely familiar. Vincent greeted the old man with a hug.

“Todd, how have you been? We missed you at Winterfest last year, but I’m glad you’re doing better. Thank you for coming to speak with me.” He gestured to the younger man with the old helper. “Who is this young man?”

“That is my youngest son, Scott,” smiled the old man. “Although, I think you were kids last time you saw each other.”

“Scott. You look well!” Vincent exclaimed.

“Look at you,” grinned Scott, shoving his hands in the pockets of his tan overcoat. “Well, I’m not taller than you anymore,” he teased.

Vincent vaguely smirked. “I remember when you were. I was catching up to you when your family went above.”

“I expect to be at Winterfest this year. I’m settled in a job that allows a bit more free time now. The train is longer, and passing message drops on my commute doesn’t make it any quicker.”

Todd cleared his throat. “Well, I know you’re not here to catch up on old times. What did you need?” He tugged his sweater tighter around him.

Vincent shifted his weight. “I’ve come about the note you sent to Father.”

“Well…” Todd began.

“I know, it’s between you and Father,” Vincent finished for him.

“But?” asked Todd, as his youngest son ducked out of the passage, fumbling at the pager buzzing in his pocket.

“We are concerned for his safety. We know he has dealings that are his own business with the establishment he’s been frequenting all week, and that he’s been in contact with his brother. There is some tie between AJW Realty and the arson attacks in the past 4 months, which Diana is investigating. She has found that the burned properties are – or were – owned by AJW Realty. Which was purchased by Father’s brother,” replied Vincent, “and all of the properties have tunnel access.”

“And?”

“Well,” Vincent continued, “one of them had tunnel access 30 years ago that was intentionally closed off, and I’m here to ask why it was sealed, to try to figure out if it has to do with Diana’s case. It seems that Father was contacted after that particular fire, and we’re trying to determine if he is in any danger, and if its sealing might have any connection with the fires.”

Todd nodded. “It isn’t my place to tell you kids what Jacob’s business is. But I will tell you what I know about that building.” Todd began as he ran his hand thru his thinning silvery hair. “But it’s not much.”

“Anything you can tell me will help,” offered Vincent earnestly.

“All right. That building was originally one that his father acquired in the early 50’s. Was trying to teach Andrew about real estate, for all the good that did; so he was responsible for managing that property. When Jacob was blacklisted and eventually fled to the tunnels, he met John and they slowly built the tunnel community. You remember hearing about John, before he became Paracelcus, yes?”

Vincent nodded. “I remember.”

“Well, Jacob wrote a message to his brother to let him know he was alive, safe.” Todd recalled wistfully as Scott entered the passage again, handing him a velvet pouch. The old man pulled out a pipe and packet as he talked. “They wrote back and forth for a while.”

“Then they’d meet in the basement of that old building a couple times a month, and sometimes we’d get supply drops from Andrew there. But at some point, Andrew was concerned the government might be monitoring him because of  Jacob. We all agreed it was too risky for everyone involved if any of it was discovered.” The old man shrugged, lit his pipe and took a thoughtful drag. “So they sealed off that entrance.”

“Seems drastic,” stated Vincent.

“It was a different time Vincent, everyone was filled with fear, and times were frantic during the trials and McCarthy’s witch hunts.” Todd puffed on his pipe, and shot a glance at Vincent. “Frightening, actually. People did drastic things to keep their families safe. Below was the sanest place back then, and often it still is.”

“Some things never change,” sighed Vincent. “Thank you.” It was good information, yet it wasn’t helpful. “It seems unrelated to the events happening above. Or Father. Or Andrew. But why these fires in these places, then?”

Todd shrugged and took a puff off his pipe. “Could be pure coincidence.”

“Perhaps. Will we see you both at Winterfest this year?” Vincent asked before the old man turned to leave.

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world. I owe Jacob a lesson at chess.” The old man winked and headed back to his apartment.

“Steven buzzed me earlier,” Scott began as he pulled a note and a small package out of his coat pocket and handed them to Vincent. “Hopefully it’s good news.”

Vincent slipped the package into a concealed pocket and opened the scrawled note, wondering if it was anything enlightening from Diana or Devin. Scanning the note, it didn’t seem particularly useful, but it was interesting to hear they ran into Father in the firm’s lobby. Maybe there would be more details when they all came together at evening. “Thank you for your help.”

Scott patted Vincent’s shoulder and smiled. “You’re welcome. I’d better get going. Great to see you again – maybe as a helper, I’ll be in better contact with everyone more often.”

* * * * *

Diana had just barely started descending in the loft elevator when she heard the phone ring. Thank God for the answering machine. She had no choice but to slowly descend down to the first floor, then ride back up. Seemed like the slowest elevator ever. She saw the blinking light on the answering machine as she was unlocking the gate.  It was then that the phone started ringing again. Diana slammed open the scissor-door and jogged across the room to the phone.

“Bennett here.”

“Heya girl, it’s Daniel! How are ya?” sang the familiar voice from the receiver.

“I’m doing all right, how’s things at the office? Same ‘ol, same ‘ol?” she laughed over the phone. “Is James still a self-important so-and-so?”

“Jimmie? Pfft, you know it!” the voice laughed on the other end of the phone. “For real, he’s still all butt-hurt about those ash-man murders.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Diana smirked. “To be fair, we never did get the guy.  So that’s still not a win, but he never killed again.”

“Can’t win them all, just as many as we can. One out of two ain’t that bad, that could have went a lot worse you know.” The voice on the other end of the phone practically grinned. “He still thinks that what you do is hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo.”

“Only to someone unwilling to look at all the possibilities. C’mon Danny, you know the Ouija board doesn’t lie!” she smirked.

“Ha! Jimmy still refers to you as the Oracle, even though this process you have is starting to become a thing now. You ought to come back and put on a seminar.”

“Well, that’d be interesting at the very least, but I think James might have a stroke.” She replied dryly.

Daniel’s laughter turned into coughing, and then he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, I got a little off track. Some of us miss your wit around here. Anyway, I called to let you know what we came up with on Miss Dangerous from yesterday.”

Diana grabbed a notepad and a pen and slid into a chair. “Talk to me, what’d you find out?”

 

Return to the 3S Round Robin Index

WFOL logo, return to the Great Hall