Thursday, April 11, 2013

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland - Chapter 28


            Despite what I’d said over the phone, Stella was waiting up for me. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Is there any news about the Jefferson boy?”
            “No and no,” I replied.
            “That wasn’t Mitch’s car,” she observed.
            “Rudy James dropped me off. Mitch had to…had something to do.”
            “I see.”
            “Thanks for waiting up for me, Stella. I think we should both go to bed now.”
            She hesitated, as if she had more to say, but then she  nodded. “All right. Goodnight, Trixie.”
            In my room, I undressed and got into bed holding my cell phone. I’d dozed off before its ringing jolted me away. “Mitch?”
            “It’s me,” he said.
            “And I reported the murder, and Chief Everton gave me the third degree. As far as he knows, I was the only one in the building.”
            “Was she shot like your father?”
            “Yes, and the gun was left behind again.”
            “I don’t guess you know who it belonged to?”
            “No, and I’m not likely to find out. But Everton hauled me down to the historical society with him, and I spotted a deputy bagging a gun for evidence.”
            “Should I expect him to coming knocking on the door to arrest me?”
            “I doubt it. You didn’t have any connection to Anne Aiken.”
            “Did you mention Danny Jefferson to him?”
            “I thought about it, but I didn’t. He was in a foul mood. But I remember Rudy said he found Danny’s bicycle in a vacant lot on the edge off town. If the lot was over the county line, they can get the sheriff’s department involved after he’s been gone twenty-four hours. I’ll call Rudy and mention it.”
            “Maybe I should call my mother.”
            “Absolutely not. Leave it alone for now. Let her find out in the newspaper or from the gossip mill. She doesn’t even need a hint you were anywhere around last night.”
            “You’re right. I wasn’t thinking.”
            “Get some rest, Trixie. I’m headed back to Little Rock, and I have a couple of appointments tomorrow morning, but I’ll call you after lunch.”
            “Be careful on the road, Mitch.”
            “Thanks, I will.” He hung up.
            Then I remembered the missing drawer and that I hadn’t mentioned it to Mitch. I also didn’t have any idea where to start looking for it.
            At breakfast the next morning, Stella didn’t mention my late night, but she and Letha did speculate on Danny’s disappearance. “I’m not surprised Chief Everton wasn’t interested in helping find him,” Letha said. “He certainly wasn’t interested in helping us find out what was going on at our shop.”
            “You’d think he’d care about a missing boy,” Stella said.
            “I don’t know what’s happened to him,” I said.  “When I left here ten years ago, he was a different person.”
            “Perhaps Dreamland was a different place,” Letha suggested.
            “I’d agree with that. This place depresses me.”
            “It seemed to go down almost overnight,” Stella said. “When we moved here, we thought we’d found paradise.”
            “What was the building like when you rented it?” I asked.
            “What do you mean?” Stella countered. “It was empty, that’s all.”
            “Well, for example, was my grandfather’s desk still downstairs? Did you have to move it?”
            “No, it was already upstairs,” Letha said. “Under that bank of windows on the front.”
            “Did you ever look at it closely?” I asked.
            Stella nodded. “It reminded us of our father’s desk.” She smiled. “I can still him sitting there.”
            I took a deep breath. “Did you notice anything missing?”
            “Missing?” Letha asked.
            “Like a drawer.” I held my breath.
            “Now that you mention it,” Letha said, “there was one missing. In the top, you know, where all the little cubbyholes are.”
            “That’s where Grandfather used to keep candy for me. When I was up there the other day, the day Danny came in, I noticed it was gone.”
            “That’s odd,” Stella said. “Why would it not be there?”
            “So I don’t guess you found it hanging around anywhere, like in one of the back rooms?”
            “I’m afraid not,” Letha said. “I wish we could tell you more. Do you think it’s important?”
            I gave them a shortened version of what Candace King had told me about my grandfather and Al Capone—minus the personal information on my mother’s origins--and her question as to why, when he had a couple of million dollars, he’d only left me a building.
            “She thought Al Capone left buried treasure somewhere?” Stella’s animated face made me smile.
            “Well, it was a thought,” I said. “I’m not sure I believe it. Before all this happened, Mitch and I were going to go treasure-hunting.”
            “I’m not sure you should tinker around in that building right now,” Letha said.
            I laughed. “Ghosts?”
            The sisters laughed, too. “No, of course not,” Stella said, “but whoever was trying to run us out might go after you, too.”
            “They did run us out,” Letha said.
            “My offer still holds,” I said. “Re-open your shop, and I’ll turn the upstairs into two loft apartments. That way, you’ll have some company. And I’ll cut the rent in half.”
            “You can’t do that,” Letha said.
            “Sure I can. It’s my building.”
            The two sisters exchanged a long look. “We’ll consider it,” Stella said. “But we’re making no promises. Right now, let’s just wait for all this trouble to blow over.”
            While I was waiting to hear from Mitch, my mother called—hysterical—and alternately blamed me for causing all her problems and cursed Guy Langworth for the same offense. “Guy and now Anne,” she blubbered. “I’m next.”
            “Why do you think that, Mother?”
            “There are things you don’t understand, Beatrice. You never understood them.”
            “I don’t think I ever had much chance to understand anything about you, Mother. But if you feel your life is in danger, why don’t you ask for police protection?”
            “Doug Everton would never…” Her voice trailed off.
            “And by the way, what do you know about Candace King and her daughter and Danny Jefferson?”
            “What about them?” I heard a definite edge to her voice.
            “They’re all missing.”
            “Come on, Mother, don’t tell me you don’t know.”
            “I…they…” She hung up.
            I was debating whether or not to call her back when Mitch’s number came up on my cell. “How are you this morning?” he asked.
            “I’m not sure. What about you?”
            “My second appointment for this morning rescheduled for next week. I’ve got to make a few phone calls, and then I thought I’d head your way. Any news on Danny?”
            “Not that I’ve heard. My mother called though. She thinks she’s the next murder victim.”
            “Why would she think that?”
            “Either she knows something, or she’s past being able to think straight about anything.”
            He made a non-committal noise.
            “I’ll call Rudy and Dee in a few minutes. And then I’m going over to the Quimby Building. I have an idea.”
            “Don’t go alone, Trixie. Wait for me. I won’t be much past noon.”
            “All right, I’ll wait.”
            “Good girl. See you soon.”

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