Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland - Chapter 15


I was trying to hide the evidence of a sleepless night with makeup when the phone rang. “I just wanted to thank you for last night,” Mitch Langworth said.
“It was nice while it lasted,” I said. “Someone broke into my hotel room while I was gone.”
“What? Are you all right? What did they take?”
“I’m fine, I guess, and nothing was missing as far as I could tell, but the room was a mess.”
“What did the police say?”
“Not a damn thing, excuse my language.”
“Chief Everton sent two wet-behind-the-ears rookies, and when he showed up himself, he basically told me to sell my building and go home.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“I didn’t like it much either. Then Rudy James showed up and suggested I ask for a new room, which I did.”
“If whoever broke in didn’t take anything, then he was looking for something.”
“The information Candace gave you.”
“Strange. Really strange. Listen, Trixie, call Candace and tell her what happened. Better still, just go see her.”
“I’m not sure. It’s something to do, and I want to think about this new development. Why don’t you call me later? I’ll be in the office all day.”
“I can do that.” I didn’t stop to consider my next question. “Do you think your father had anything to do with this?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Just go downstairs and check to be sure the envelope is still in the hotel safe. Then go talk to Candace. And then call me back.”
     Candace introduced me to her sister Anne Aiken, who was working in what she called the ‘records room’. They looked a lot alike—slender and fashionable, though Anne was taller and obviously the older sister. “I hear you’ve tangled with my husband,” she said. The word ‘husband’ sounded almost like a joke.
     I nodded.
     “Well, don’t let him bluff you. He’s a wimp.”
     “A wimp?”
     “He’ll turn tail and run if he thinks things aren’t going his way.”
     “That’s good to know, I guess.”
     Anne nodded. “I put up with him because it’s financially prudent, that’s all.”
     “Oh, I see.”
     She laughed. “He’s all bark and no bite, but Guy Langworth…” She cut her eyes toward her sister.
     Candace didn’t laugh. “You wanted to see me about something, Trixie?”
     “Yes, I…”
     She gestured toward her office, and once we were inside, she closed the door and turned on a cd player near the wall of the records room. “I trust my sister,” she said when I looked confused. “But she doesn’t know anything about this, and it’s safer that way.”
     Anger boiled up in me and something clicked on in my mind. “Safer? You told me…gave me that envelope…and someone broke into my room last night looking for it!”
     She didn’t appear surprised. “Did they find it?”
     “Of course not! It was locked up in the hotel safe like you suggested.”
     She sat back in her desk chair. “Go on.”
     Suddenly my mind cleared. “You set me up! You knew someone would come looking…”
     “Just cool down, Trixie.”
     “You set me up!” I repeated.
     “Yes and no. I knew you were driving to Benton to meet Mitch last night. I wouldn’t have put you in harm’s way.”
     “What else could you call it?”
     “I had to check things out,” she said. “I’m sorry, Trixie, but there didn’t seem to be any other way. I was trying to figure out how to find out if my theory was correct, and when you showed up here yesterday, it seemed fortuitous.” She waited, and when I didn’t say anything, she continued. “Someone broke in here a couple of weeks ago and tried to get into the safe. Of course, they couldn’t do it.”
     “How did you know they’d been in here?”
     “I purposely didn’t turn on the alarm system and set up a little trap like the Drake sisters did.”
     “Theirs didn’t work.”
     “Mine did.”
     “I need a better explanation than that.”
     She smiled. “Yes, you do, and I’m going to give it to you. Did you ever hear about Al Capone’s vault?”
     “I’ve barely heard of Al Capone.”
     “How about a latte?”
     Apparently I was in for another long story.
     Only slightly mollified, I curled up on the sofa with the steaming mocha latte and listened to Candace spin a totally unbelievable tale.
     “In 1928, Capone moved his headquarters from the Metropole to the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, where he ran things until he was arrested for income tax evasion in 1931. In 1980, during some renovations, surveyors discovered a shooting range and a network of secret tunnels, basically for use in case of a police raid. A researcher then came up with the idea that Capone had hidden some of his fortune in a vault under the hotel.”
     “It sounds like a lot of hype to me.”
     She nodded. “It was, but in 1986, a television journalist Geraldo Rivera hosted a live broadcast in which the vault was opened. It was a big deal. There was a coroner, in case some bodies turned up, and even an IRS agent to take possession of any money lying around. Unfortunately, the only things lying around were some old bottles and a lot of dirt.”
     “So what does all this have to do with anything?”
     Candace’s smile reminded me a great deal of the proverbial Cheshire cat. “Rumors of a hidden fortune have persisted to this day.” She paused to see if I was following her, but I wasn’t. “Your great-grandfather was one of Al Capone’s insiders, and supposedly Capone was spotted here in Dreamland before he was arrested.”
     I sat forward so quickly my latte splashed over the edge of the cup. “You think there’s something hidden in the Quimby Building?”
     She smiled again. “I think somebody does.”
     “That’s…that’s insane!”
     “If you read all the documents I gave you, you know your great-grandfather left an estate in excess of two million dollars, Trixie.”
     “I know. It went to my grandmother--great-grandmother-- with the provision it would pass on to my mother, and it did.”
     “Didn’t you ever wonder why he didn’t leave you more than a building?”
     I stared at her. “Not really. He knew Ned had inherited from his grandparents, and we’d never want for anything.”
     Candace shook her head. “Not good enough. Why wouldn’t he have sold the building when he moved out and earmarked the money for you? Why would he have left you to deal with it?”
     “Then why didn’t he leave me a treasure map…X marks the spot and all that? How was I supposed to even know there was something to look for?”
     “He left a clue somewhere.”
     “You’ve read too many Victoria Holts or Mary Stewarts.”
     “And I’ve loved them.”
     “But this isn’t a book.”
     “Just go home and think about what I’ve told you, and if you come up with anything and want to bounce it off me, you know where I am.”

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