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    Herr D
    [Chapter 12 continues]

    It took twelve in all. Jennifer opened packages of deodorizers as Tony and Mike duct-taped garbage bags into a makeshift sluice-way from the tile section to the drain and placed the buckets. Mike stacked up two tables to elevate the extension cord for the drill, plugged everything in, and double-checked sight-lines for the camera while Jennifer, from her chair, helped duct-tape two aprons and six garbage bags over Tony. Then Tony stepped onto the rubber mat, poked the drill through the placemat, and began drilling as Mike hung deodorizers on the screens. Sure enough, the mortar dust from the drill stopped abruptly as an ugly gray-brown stream of water started spraying Tony.
    “WaHA!” he shouted. Mike handed him a bucket, which filled very quickly. Mike rolled the buckets to the drain and carefully poured them down, walking back and forth to swap them. When the water slowed to a drip, Tony drilled two more holes an inch from the first and pounded a crowbar between the tiles with the heavy mallet. He took off the makeshift splash shield, wiped his hands, and helped Mike up to stand on the crowbar. Mike carefully hopped twice and fell on Tony as most of the tile section collapsed, breaking into five large pieces. They fell in a heap on the floor. Laughing, Tony heaved Mike to his feet and struggled up. He pulled a flashlight from the toolkit and shone it through the hole in the wall.


    Herr D

    Chapter 13: The Smaller Box

    Is THAT what rotten moonshine and stagnant water smells like? That’s just how I imagined it–
    “Thank you both,” said Tony, very quietly.
    Are you CRYING? “What’s wrong?”
    “I finally will know why my mama and papa died. I will be sure. No more doubt. Of course you realize I must keep this quiet until the right time.”
    “Of course.” said Mike.
    “I don’t mind keeping quiet till you’re ready, Tony,” said Jennifer. “But you probably want to call Backington Studios very soon. I could write your information release, and you could get some very good advertising out of this . . . “
    “You two can break this story. But not till I say. I don’t care about the publicity. Mr. Crowe is my friend, but his father Tommy ‘The Claw’ was probably the one who killed my parents. I need to — to think about this for a while. Here. Let’s clean up for dinner. This room will take a while to dry out and be safe to sort through.”
    Not a mob boss at all. Poor guy. Wait. Tommy was David’s granddad. He went missing the day David turned five. No wonder David is so rotten. His granddad was a $^#@ing hit man! I hope he’s in a shallow grave under the SEWER somewhere.
    Both men cleaned up and then wordlessly, automatically put on aprons and garbage bags on one side of their bodies. Then each put on one of a pair of elbow-length rubber dishwashing gloves that Henri brought on a covered tray between the soup and salad. Just as wordlessly, Jennifer slid their steak plates to herself one at a time–I’ve never seen such grateful smiles. All I’m doing is cutting up their steaks so the boys can keep working on their buried treasure.
    Jennifer sliced both of Mike’s steaks and two of Tony’s so they could continue taking turns bailing water from the flooded, formerly hidden alcove with the glass dressing sampler basket and a cracker bowl. Even with her hands aching slightly, she couldn’t hold in the smile. Young Mike and Ballast Tony after the treasure–arrrrr! I guess that makes me Long Jennifer with two wooden legs instead of one.

    A twitching, greedy, murderous eye on a red-haired face screaming about gold in a small wooden box–

    Where did THAT come from? Am I falling asleep at dinner?
    “What’s wrong?” said Mike.
    Jennifer pointed into the dark alcove. The three visible crooked stacks of wooden crates barely fit in the space had obviously settled as the bottom crates rotted to pieces over time. All the crates were the same size except for a smaller, darker wooden box on the very top of the middle stack. “I’m thinking the murders weren’t just about some overdue moonshine.”


    Herr D

    Chapter 14: Testimonials

    Mike sprang up and went to the camera. He very carefully did not move it as he looked through the viewer. He walked back into view of the camera slowly, picking up a chair and placing it right in front of the hole in the wall. Tony, getting up from the two chairs he’d dined in, went up to him and handed him a pair of silver bread tongs and his own cloth napkin. Mike half-turned to the camera. “This box, as it may contain stolen property, I am moving with permission of the owner of the building only for the purposes of discovering its contents. As you can see from this non-digital footage, we worked out the placement of this hiding place and broke into it with no knowledge of the small box I am removing.” He turned back and bent forward. He stepped onto the chair. He put one foot against the rickety crates, gingerly testing his weight, and stuck the handle of the bread tongs under the smaller box. He lifted. His surprised expression was visible in profile to Jennifer as the tongs bent under the weight of the box. He turned to Tony. “Help me with this.”
    Tony took the tongs, tossed them on the floor, grabbed Mike’s waistband, and nodded. Mike, looking a little surprised, carefully lifted the surprisingly heavy box and slowly bent to pull himself past the broken mortar shards still sticking out of the wall. He handed the box to Tony, who obviously strained to hold it at shoulder height till Mike jumped down from the chair and took it back. Mike lowered it down to the chair and moved Tony’s two chairs to behind Tony. Tony sagged into them and pulled out a screwdriver. He pried up the lid. He stared openly down into the box. “I would never have guessed in all my life that this was here.” He looked up suddenly at the camera. “I, Antonio Roberto Olmec Machiavelli, have the full intention of obeying all laws of America and all its jurisdictions. For that reason I am going to examine each and every one of these coins to make sure that none of them is dated 1933.”
    “Why does the date matter?” said Mike, stepping forward.
    “How much time is left on the tape?” said Tony.
    “About an hour.”
    “Run go get Henri. Bring him right in here. Right now.”
    Mike hesitated, but Jennifer could only just tell. He dashed off, hurtling the camera cord, knocking over the closest screen.
    [to be continued]


    Herr D

    [chapter 14 continues]
    Jennifer leaned forward, sipped her wine, looking concerned. BaBUMP. BaBUMP. BaBUMP. HHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh She shook her head to clear it. Too much wine, maybe? No. I don’t believe that. “Are you okay, Tony?”
    He turned and beamed at her, all at once eighty plus and a little boy just given his favorite dessert. “There’s only one thing better than resolving past issues and putting grief and uncertainty to rest, Jennifer.”
    Well, you don’t SEEM to be having a heart attack. “What’s that, Tony?”
    “Doing all that and having a great meal and getting rich near a pretty girl all at one time.”
    Jennifer failed to hide almost looking over her shoulder for the pretty girl. Tony clutched his ponderous middle and laughed so loud it hurt Jennifer’s ears. “You are a prize; you know that, right?” said Tony, wiping his eyes with the back of his dirty hands. “And don’t even know you’re pretty? No wonder Michael hasn’t brought anyone else here.”
    “He’s a young man and doesn’t have the money to dress up nice. But the older ladies, the ones who know what they missed, they follow him with their eyes. I see this when he walks through my restaurant, and it makes me smile. If he wasn’t a distant relative I’d send him toward one of my grand-daughters. He’ll make some woman very happy. See that it’s you!
    Mike and Henri burst in and came trotting up to Tony as he leaned back in his two chairs. Henri looked, aghast, at the hole in the wall and the mess on the floor, eyes repeatedly drifting back to the cut carpet. “I will be needing three staff to guard this on the way to the safe,” Tony said, rapidly picking up each coin, studying it, and putting it back. “Go and get them.” Henri’s eyebrows went up, he nodded, turned, and left. “An’ donna forget the whipped cream on the pie!” Tony bellowed after him.
    “Five minutes!” Henri’s reply was barely audible from outside the room.
    Tony looked at Mike and Jennifer sternly. “Now THIS is an even bigger story. Fewer than ten people know that these doors are supposed to close next month. I’ve put all my grandchildren through college with remortgaging this place. The bank is planning to take possession in fifteen days. The paperwork is half done. I was going to rent banquet halls to continue the business and move staff to the Cafe Raison Du’ Etre as I could. The owner there, he likes me and wants some of my people. Now I don’t have to close at all.”
    What? “Because of a box of coins?” Jennifer asked. He’s definitely not too young to go senile.
    “These are gold Double Eagles. Very good condition. They were worth twenty dollars when minted. Most of these fetch ten thousand dollars apiece. The 1933 is illegal to own.”
    Jennifer choked, “Illegal?”
    Tony smiled. “None of these are 1933. Doesn’t look like there’s a complete set either. But this is enough to get me out of debt and then some. The 1933’s not destroyed were stolen from the U. S. mint long ago. My banker will be very happy to get these. He loves the rare coins, he does. And this is the largest number found at one time in a good many years. The bootleggers must have been using this stop for moving money, too.”
    [chapter 14 continued next block]


    Herr D

    With the forums being down over a month, I’ve traveled far from this story a second time. Expect new chapters beginning late October. Sorry for the additional delays.


    Herr D

    <span style=”font-family: ‘Helvetica Neue’, Arial, Helvetica, ‘Nimbus Sans L’, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20.3999996185303px;”>[chapter 14 continues]</span>

    It was exactly five minutes later that Henri brought the dessert tray, followed by two other waiters. Tony had the wooden crate closed and wrapped in torn plastic packaging by that time, so the coins weren’t visible. Mike had wheeled over a homemade tape dubber and dubbed the tape. “Henri? These two will guard you on the way to the safe, but stand outside while you put it in. One more thing–” He pulled Henri by the lapel all the way down to whisper in his ear. Henri, face studiously wooden, nodded. The other two waiters stared, dumbfounded, at the broken wall.

    Mike added the dubbed tape to the already heavy package in Henri’s arms.

    As the waiters left, Tony turned to Mike and Jennifer. “Now, the issue of payment. We agreed I’d pay you a small amount plus food for helping me with research and filming.” He turned to Jennifer. “You I’ve already agreed to have the exclusive on this story. But both of you helped me find peace, and a treasure that will pull my restaurant back from the brink of bankruptcy.” He reached into his back pocket, pulled out a wallet, and reached inside. He counted out ten slips of expensive-looking paper. “Use them fast,” he said, “I could die any day now, and who knows whether the new owner will honor them. I’m going to insist you take some takeout home too. I’ll send Henri for your order.” He stood up, seized the dessert tray, pulled three absolutely beautiful dessert plates off and placed them in front of Mike and Jennifer, and carried his three out of the room. The whipped cream was just beginning to melt against the steam escaping the mincemeat pie.

    “I’ve never seen him like this,” said Mike. He picked up the ten slips. “Coupons for a romantic dinner for two, here at Machiavelli’s!”

    [end of chapter 14; chapter 15 will begin in about two weeks.]



    Herr D

    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Chapter 15:  Belle Notte, Being Naughty, Not Being Noble But–
    Jennifer wondered for just a moment whether the van would get t-boned, or her apartment building would be on fire when they got there, because things were going just too well.
    “So, you’re coming up to split the order, right?”
    Mike raised his eyebrows. He glanced down at the large brown paper bag. He blinked. “Well, I could just ask you–yes, that would be best, I think. I’ve seen what you do with to-go bags at work.” He grinned.
    Hey! “What does that mean?”
    Mike smiled so hard it looked like it hurt. “I could tell you’ve been trading desserts for writing copy for Shelly. Her writing isn’t as good as yours.”
    She was only mildly annoyed, and highly complimented, at how much he’d caught on to. She was so distracted by the conversation that she didn’t remember to tell him the elevator was okay until he had carried her halfway up to her room, canes, bag, and all. Tarzan? I just don’t mind at all. She got the bag to the refrigerator while he borrowed her bathroom. Good grief, that’s heavy! How much food did he GIVE us? Not even Tarzan could lift me up if I eat all that!
    She heard him flush, turn off the sink, and open the bathroom door. She barely had time to half-turn before he was gently closing the refrigerator door, pushing her up against it, and nearly smothering her with a long, enthusiastic kiss.
    Wh-? Ooohhhhhhh.
    “Oh, Mike, let’s not do that TONIGHT.” Oh, that’s good–
    “Oh, Mike, let’s not do that.” Who am I kidding?
    “Oh, Mike, let’s not.” What am I saying?
    “Oh, Mike, let’s–” Ooohh!
    “Oh, Mike!”
    [next installment, continuing Chapter 15, in 1-2 weeks]


    Herr D

    [chapter 15 continues]

    Pull and cry of high winds. Dizzying pull straight up. The city below, lit but mostly asleep, like a drunken, sated lover. Aimless and violent, but somehow content, a warm, westerly gust of wind arced outward away from Jennifer’s apartment building . . . aimless, spinning bits of paper around and around . . . aimless . . .

    Jennifer stirred a bit, opened one eye. She felt hot, almost feverish, and yet so, just, GOOD. She turned her head slightly to look at Mike, tangled in the sheet. A small, sad half-smile curled her lips. “Mike?” she whispered.

    He made some small sound then, and moved his head a little.

    “You’re a good guy. If you could do amazing things, what would you do?”


    “It’s important Mike. What would you do if you could do things no one else could?”

    A long pause followed. Then he said, only slightly sleep-slurred, “Superhero.” His breathing became shallow and regular. Jennifer saw double, suddenly, and closed her eye.

    Just a few more shades darker in the pure air, just a few shades lighter through dark smoke. Look at me in that window. Mass of hair and generic face, waif body–Zephyr? Sounds playful, humorous. On a rooftop, the dust spinning and settling into the rough form of a ‘Z.’  How do you fight crime if you can’t FIND crime? Drifting outward, two familiar figures on a rooftop–what ARE you two doing? Dave with a camera on a tripod, making adjustments. Tia staring at a thermometer and a cheap pinwheel. Tia turned to the camera and put her show-smile on.

    “As expected, from the data I’ve gathered, Zephyr is due to appear here sometime tonight. I have several questions prepared for it. ‘What do you want?’ ‘Why are you killing some peoples’ pets?’ ‘Why are you plaguing downtown Backington?’ ‘What ARE you?’ ‘Can you leave?'” Tia’s eyes went comically wide, and reflected briefly the large fist made of smoke that smashed in her irritatingly perfect little nose. Dave stood up, wordless, perfectly poised, while the only trash can in the alleys below that smelled of bad fish, peanut butter, rotten eggs, spoiled milk, dirty diapers, AND pet dung came down over him. He screamed like a girl as the camera smashed to bits against the trash can. Big letters made of gutter sludge, smeared on the inside of Tia’s raincoat, laying to one side, ‘No press, you #$%^!’

    [chapter 15 will continue in January]





    Herr D

    The virus that trashed my computer was beyond what the techs had ever seen. This far behind on everything fun AND work related, I’ll not project my next installment. Stay tuned!

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