D Is For Damien: Chapter 20
A Search For The Truth
THANKFULLY, DAMIEN HAD no bad dreams that night.
That surprised him when he awoke. He'd dreamt, but not what he usually did. Instead he remembered dreaming about living in a big house in the country. He recognized the field the house was in; it was the same field in which his family had made its escape from Scorpio so long ago. He did not dream of the fiery blazes which had surrounded them on all sides and how they'd had to jump through the fire to escape. Instead it was peaceful and sunny out, and the only blazes were the bright golds and yellows of the grasses. He was a boy again, and was living there with his whole family. His mother and father were there; his mother was making breakfast and his father playfully pulled him and his brothers and sisters out of bed, starting a pillow fight. Yes, sisters--Lilu was there as well, as she'd looked when she was about eight or nine, and she was as bright and happy as ever, running down the stairs to be first in line to eat. His uncle was coming to visit that morning, so everyone had to be up early. He ran downstairs himself to meet his favorite uncle--in fact the only one that he knew of--and ran right into him. Father Damien--he was still a priest in this dream--picked him up and smiled at him, then set him back down and went to talk with his sister. Damien smiled also, then turned to the stove to see what was cooking--and set eyes on a tiny blue flame.
That was when he awoke. It hadn't really been a bad dream, but he'd forced himself awake at that moment to avoid having it turn into one, as he knew it would after seeing that flame. He hated fire. Ever since that day... Just thinking about fire was enough to make him uneasy. It wasn't as bad as he figured it must be with Scorpio and water, since you ran into water almost everywhere you went; fire wasn't as common but it was enough to unnerve him. He'd told only a few people about the other dream he sometimes had, though not as frequently as the one at the bridge, in which he was trapped within a ring of fire with nowhere to turn--in fact, the dream he'd expected to have which took place in that same field. The dream went on but he didn't want to think about it right now. It made him a little ashamed and embarrassed. Some people were afraid of heights, some of things like spiders or snakes; he had pyrophobia. And a pretty bad case of it too. And he'd only told a few people, among them--
"Let's tell our deepest, darkest secrets."
He flashed back, to a thundering night when he, Lilu, and Luther had been crouched in the near darkness of the old house near the bridge. Luther had had a flashlight aimed at his face and was trying to look evil (Damien didn't know whether to laugh or cry now that he'd gotten his wish), and they were scaring each other with ghost stories. The light had shone in his eyes, and when he shook his head, in Lilu's. Lilu had said something, something which he'd give anything to remember now but couldn't, since she had nearly been drowned out by the thunder. But Luther had heard, and said something of his own. Then again came Damien's turn, and of course he knew what his secret was--he was deathly afraid of fire. Luther had laughed to hear that--and had remembered. He always remembered. For on a later occasion he had startled Damien by thrusting a candle in his face. They hadn't spoken for several days after that. It was not very long after when Luther had his near accident at the bridge, and acquired a fear of his own.
With all of this and more running through his head, he got out of bed and looked at the clock. It was only five-thirty in the morning. But he knew he would never be able to get back to sleep, not with these thoughts careening around his brain. So he left his room and decided to go outside for a morning walk. This time, however, he'd be sure to watch his back.
It was still mostly dark out, of course, and a little cold and wet from the rain. Damien shrugged his shoulders up to keep warm from the wind that was blowing. He usually didn't go out walking, but today was an exception. Heck, everything lately had been an exception. He was trying unsuccessfully to sort things out in his head when he heard a noise behind him and off to the left, in the woods alongside the highway where he was walking. He stopped and tensed, thinking it might be trouble with a capital T, but relaxed when he saw it was only with a capital W. Wolfgang, the Gypsy he'd met earlier, stepped out of the woods.
"Hi, Wolfgang," he greeted, as if this meeting were the most normal thing in the world. "What've you been up to lately?"
NOTHING IN PARTICULAR, Wolfgang wrote on his slate. Damien had to squint to read it in the dim light. He shrugged again.
"Well, ask a stupid question," he said, half to himself, half to the Gypsy boy, turning to continue his walk. Then he stopped.
Maybe he knows something about the tunnels?
The thought popped unbidden into his head, and he saw no reason for it, but it was worth a try.
He turned back. "Speaking of asking, I'd like to ask you something else. Do you mind?"
Wolfgang shrugged this time.
"It's about these tunnels," Damien said, crouching and putting his hands on his knees. "There's this story about there being these tunnels under Cheboygan. Copper mines. Do you believe that?"
Another shrug. OF COURSE.
Damien sat back on his heels, surprised. "You do? Have you ever heard of them?"
Wolfgang gave him a "Pshaw, of course I have!" look, waving his hand at nothing in particular.
Damien felt the slightest bit of hope rising in his throat. "Do you know where they are?"
A thoughtful look, and a third shrug.
Damien stood. "How did you ever find out about these tunnels?" he asked, trying for a more definitive answer.
WE HEAR THINGS, Wolfgang wrote.
The singer kneeled this time, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Listen, Wolfgang--how old are you, anyway?"
"Nine? Boy, that's young--listen, Wolfgang, I need your help. You see, my uncle and I have to find these tunnels before someone else does--there's something down there we need to get. Do you think your people could help us find them?"
Wolfgang stared at Damien seriously for a moment or two, as if deciding if he were trustworthy or not. Finally he shrugged once more, then nodded. I'LL ASK, he wrote.
Damien smiled faintly. "Thanks, Wolfgang," he said.
Without replying, the Gypsy turned and ran away into the woods, back to wherever he'd come from.
Damien was left alone on the highway again. With a slight shiver he clasped his forearms in his hands and started back toward home.
It was a little later that day when Damien met with his uncle and Mabarak in Washington Park to tell them what he'd found out. When he got there Father Damien was talking about something to Mabarak, who just sat and listened, occasionally taking a sip from a Misty he'd gotten from Dairy Queen. They both looked up when he approached.
"Anything new?" Mabarak asked, without even the slightest bit of sarcasm in his voice. He might as well have been asking the weather.
Damien sat down next to his uncle and took the proffered slushie. "I think we might have a lead as to where the tunnels are," he replied, taking a sip.
"What?" the lieutenant asked, craning forward.
"Wolfgang, the Gypsy," Damien said. He looked at his uncle. "You remember him, don't you? You never met him, Mabarak, but he says that his people have heard of the tunnels and might know where they start."
Mabarak snorted. "A Gypsy? For goodness' sake--how can you ever trust one of them? Did you check to make sure he didn't swipe anything off you while you talked?"
Damien shot him a look. "I know Wolfgang and we can trust him. Unlike some people, of whom I'm not too sure."
Mabarak got the point, and shut up. He instead looked somewhat skeptical and continued drinking.
"Anyway," Damien continued, deciding to ignore him, "I've heard that Gypsies have a way of finding things out--I really don't know how they do it but that's what I've heard--so I think Wolfgang really might have some sort of lead that could help us."
"Then we'll have to meet with the Gypsies," Father Damien said. "But how do we go about doing that? Do you have any idea where they live?"
Damien shook his head. "No. I never thought to ask him that. But I suppose he'll contact us, if he feels like lending us a hand."
"Just hope he does," Mabarak muttered, turning his attention back to his Misty.
Damien stood up and stretched, then grabbed his Misty and downed it almost immediately. The other two glanced up at him with disbelief.
"Well," he said, tossing the empty cup into a nearby trashcan, "in the meantime I think I'm going to go over to the library and check something out."
"Such as?" Father Damien asked.
"Such as what exactly these tunnels are--if there's anything about them."
"If there is, it would have to be on microfilm," Mabarak offered. "Any news of them should be so old because I've never heard of them."
Damien looked down at him and cocked his head. "Well," he said. "You interested?"
Mabarak looked up at him, still dubious. He frowned as if sensing that Damien was up to something, but Damien only shrugged innocently.
"I'm just trying to find some information on them, just to make sure I'm not being put on," he said.
The stare continued for a few more seconds, then Mabarak shrugged too and tossed his Misty away. "Sure, whatever you want. Your car or mine?"
"Mine, if you don't mind leaving yours here for a while."
Mabarak gave a strange smile. "I'm a cop," he said. "I won't get any parking tickets."
"Are you so sure?" Father Damien murmured at the air, stirring his Misty.
Mabarak only glanced at him, then back at Damien. "You ready?"
"Sure," Damien replied. He went over to his car and got inside. "Hop on in," he called.
Mabarak did so--only he didn't exactly "hop"--and they were on their way.
They arrived at the library shortly, as it was in town, and parked out front and got out. Damien hopped the steps two at a time while Mabarak just followed, not hopping, skipping, jumping, or anything. Instead he just flipped his knife, but put it away when they got to the porch.
"I hope you know those things are illegal," Damien commented as he pulled open the outside door, nodding at the disappearing switchblade.
"As if you have a working definition of 'legal,'" Mabarak said.
"Not exactly, but then again, I guess you can get away with it 'cause you're a cop, right?"
"You're finally catching on," Mabarak said as he squeezed ahead and pushed the inside door open.
The interior of the library was done up in light earth tones, and so everything was cozy looking, even for the summer. Damien made his way up to the front desk and leaned on it, waiting for assistance. A librarian came up to him almost immediately. Damien turned to Mabarak and smiled sweetly.
"You see, that's what I like about this place," he said. "Such courteous assistance."
The lieutenant rolled his eyes and snorted, walking away to the card file.
"How may I help you?" the librarian asked.
"I'm looking for old Cheboygan newspapers," Damien started, then stopped. He wasn't exactly sure how to put this. The last time he'd visited the library--last summer, in fact--he'd had a rather unpleasant experience with curious librarians, and he really didn't wish to repeat that. "Uh--I'm trying to find some information on tunnels."
"Tunnels?" the librarian asked, puzzled.
Damien smiled crookedly. "Yeah. But the newspapers would probably be really old."
She still looked puzzled, but Damien decided he couldn't clarify it any more so she stepped out from behind the counter and led him over to a microfilm machine, where Mabarak was already waiting. "We have all old newspapers on file here," she said. "You'll find them in this cabinet. All you have to do is look up the date you want and put the film in here, like so--" she demonstrated for him "--and look through the files until you find your--tunnels." This last word she said with that same confused air.
"Thanks," Damien said, sitting down at the machine and looking at it as if it were some kind of high-tech robot. Mabarak started rifling through the microfilm files. "This should help us a lot."
"You're welcome," the librarian replied, going back to the desk. "Hope you find your--tunnels."
Damien ignored her last remark and snatched a box of microfilm from Mabarak's hands, taking the first one out and sticking it in the machine. Mabarak stood nearby, looking insulted somehow.
"All right," Damien said. "Now that I've got the thing in, what do I do?"
"You look at the screen, moron," Mabarak replied.
"Like this?" Damien flicked a switch and the screen lit up, covered with tiny letters.
"Yes. And then you move the film around till you get it where you want."
"Whoa!" Damien shook his head as if stunned. "How do they fit all that on this little piece of film?"
"How should I know! Just skim through it until you see anything about tunnels. I'll use this one over here. This should take a while."
Damien continued scanning the film while Mabarak took over the machine to his left and started looking as well. It was going to be a long day.
For several hours they pored over roll after roll of microfilm, finding lots of stories about boats and logging and such but nothing about tunnels. Damien started rubbing his eyes frequently and looking at the clock. The librarian at the counter kept shooting them strange looks, as if they were a couple of maniacs to be commandeering the microfilm machines for so long. Mabarak only sighed every time he finished with a roll and moved on to the next. They'd been at it for so long that Damien was certain all he'd be dreaming about that night would be row after row of tiny letters when Mabarak finally exclaimed, "Ha!" and waved Damien to his machine.
"You find anything?" Damien asked tiredly, still rubbing his burning eyes.
"Yeah," Mabarak said, not moving until Damien was practically on top of him. "Take a look. Second column, very bottom." He pointed.
Damien glanced at the screen. The first thing he looked at was the date of the newspaper: 1899. "Pretty old," he commented.
"Just look at the bottom."
He did so; near the bottom, in the space Mabarak had described, was a small headline; it was so small it could barely even be called a headline, except he couldn't think of any other terms for it.
CHEBOYGAN, MI--Workers in the Cheboygan "copper mine" are finally abandoning their project as little copper has actually been found so far.
Miners state their disappointments to this paper, saying that all their hopes of finding the "mother lode" were unfounded at best and unprofitable at worst. The Cheboygan copper mining project began several years ago when a substantial ore deposit was found near the shores of Lake Huron in Cheboygan County. Workers undertook a massive mining operation in search of more copper, only to find, at the present, that it was only a false alarm.
"We were hoping to find a lot of copper," one miner says, "and all we found was hardship. We dug out all those mines for nothing."
Funding for the project has now been cut, and so far there are no plans to fill in the mines. They are instead being closed down until further notice, and warning signs are being placed at all open entrances.
"What do you know," Damien murmured.
"That still isn't to say there's a network of tunnels under the city of Cheboygan," Mabarak returned. "They could have filled in--they did say one opening was near Lake Huron. And they might not be as big as the paper makes them seem."
Damien looked up at him. "After all this, you're still going to be a skeptic?"
Mabarak shrugged. "I'm just stating the possibilities."
Damien looked back at the screen and sighed. "I just wish it said where near Lake Huron. It says there's more than one entrance. The one Miss Clare described didn't sound like it was on a lakeshore. There must be another one nearby. If only we knew where it was."
"Well, there's always that Gypsy boy," Mabarak said with a sneer.
Damien got up, turning off the machine and pulling out the film. "Listen, you," he said, jabbing it in Mabarak's face, "I've had just about enough of your snide remarks. If you don't agree with anything I do, then you can just go back to the cop shop and wait till I find the tunnels. Then maybe I'll consider letting you in on this."
Mabarak held out his arms in a gesture of submission. "Sorry. Maybe it's just that I want to get to the bottom of this just as much as you. Whoever's after the D doubtlessly killed Morris too."
Damien sighed, subdued. He picked up the stray rolls of microfilm and put them back in their respective boxes, stashing them away in the file cabinet and flicking off the other machine. "Yeah, I'm sorry too. I think I've been reading too much microfilm. This is just getting to be so roundabout. I wish something would come along right now for once."
Mabarak snorted again, only this time it wasn't as loud as before, and it wasn't exactly at Damien. "Be careful what you wish for," was all he said. "You just might get it."
Damien ignored him and stretched again, heading for the door. "Bye!" he called to the librarian who'd helped them out earlier. "See you later!"
"Goodbye," she called back, waving her hand as if happy to be rid of him. As soon as they were out the door she sighed with relief and turned to one of the other librarians. "Marta, you'd better order some more lightbulbs for the microfilm machines. I think we're going to need them."
Outside Damien and Mabarak jogged down the steps to Damien's car. It was a little after four-thirty in the afternoon by now; they'd been at the library for over three hours. They got in and slammed the doors shut, Damien pulling out into the road and driving off.
Mabarak was still fumbling with the seatbelt as Damien drove along. "Damn thing!" he snapped. "Why don't they make them like any other seatbelt?"
Damien gave him a look. "Like any other what seatbelt? That car of yours from the Fifties or something?"
"No, it isn't," Mabarak shot back, finally getting done up and flinging himself back in his seat, crossing his arms and shooting daggers at the windshield.
There was a brief moment of silence.
"You know what," Damien finally said, "I think maybe we'll go for a little ride."
Mabarak turned to look at him blankly. "Huh?"
This statement was just about cut off as Damien abruptly turned a corner, the tires squealing horrendously and Mabarak screeching as he was thrown sideways. At that moment Damien turned another corner and Mabarak was tossed in the opposite direction, slamming into the door.
"Whee!" Damien exclaimed gleefully, grinning and gripping the steering wheel.
"Holy--my--" Mabarak got out, clutching at the doorhandle and gasping, his eyes practically bugging out. "What--the hell--"
"Hold on!" Damien replied, and Mabarak did so with a scream as the Lamborghini squealed around another corner and into the street. Several vehicles going by honked and swerved out of the way of the speeding car, trying to avoid getting hit. Damien laughed at the air, obviously enjoying himself.
"Slow DOWN!!" Mabarak screeched.
"What?" Damien yelled over the roar of the engine.
He was cut off again as the car veered around another vehicle, going momentarily into the left-hand lane and nearly causing an accident. Mabarak yelped and covered his eyes as a pickup just missed hitting them head on.
"You crazy son of a--"
"Now now!" Damien had to shout over the noise. "Compliments will get you nowhere."
"I could have you arrested!"
Damien threw back his head and laughed. "Yeah! Like I've never heard that before!"
"Watch where you're going!!"
"What, like this?" Damien covered his eyes with one hand.
"No!" Mabarak howled, trying to grab the steering wheel from his other hand.
Damien only laughed again. "Look Ma! No hands!" And he removed the other one.
Mabarak finally managed to get the wheel and veer sharply to the right, back into the right lane and over the curb into the Lincoln Bridge Plaza parking lot. He gawked out the windshield at the parked cars and pedestrians crossing by, glancing at the car with surprise as it careened toward them.
"GET OUT OF THE WAY!!"
"I swear, Mabarak, if you're going to be a backseat driver--"
Shouts and screams; everyone managed to jump out of the way in time to avoid being run over. Mabarak found the brake pedal with his foot and the car screeched toward the Papa J's pizza place plate-glass window.
The front tires bumped up onto the sidewalk. The nose of the car stopped just short of total catastrophe.
The only sounds were the scattered pat-pat-pat of people still running across the pavement, the thrum of the engine, and Mabarak's panting. The lieutenant stared out the window, directly into Papa J's at the people within who were gaping back out. About four inches separated the Countach from the window.
"Are we there yet?" Damien uncovered his eyes and looked around him with a large smile.
Mabarak could only stare out the window, his breath coming in short gasps.
Damien faked a pout. "Darn! So close." He put the car in reverse and backed away from the restaurant, pulling out of the parking lot and back in the direction of Washington Park.
"Gee, Mabarak," he said as he continued through rush-hour traffic, as if nothing had ever happened, "I hope nobody stole your car."
"I--hope not--either," Mabarak finally managed to stammer.
Damien smiled at him. "And why is that?"
"Be-because--I'm never riding with--with you--again."
Damien laughed out loud. "Great idea! Y'know, everybody says that after riding with me. I wonder why that is?"
Mabarak could say nothing, but very slightly shook his head.
They arrived back at the park; Father Damien was still there, on his third Misty. He got up to meet them as they pulled in, Mabarak stumbling out of the car and to his own before the singer decided to go on any more joyrides. Father Damien looked at him as he crawled in and started the engine, shaking so badly he actually dropped the keys several times before finally getting it right. He frowned, puzzled.
"What's wrong with him?" he asked.
Damien shrugged. "I don't know. All I did was take him for a little ride."
"Oh." Father Damien well knew of his nephew's "little rides." He'd had to refuse many of them himself for the sake of living a little longer. "What did you learn at the library?"
"Y'know, there actually are tunnels. Or at least there were. I don't know if they're still there. But we found an article from around 1899 that said there was a copper mining project going on in Cheboygan, and they had to give it up because they weren't finding anything. It said one of the entrances was near Lake Huron. But it didn't say where, or where the other ones were."
Father Damien frowned again and nodded, thinking. "Plus that doesn't fit the description Miss Clare gave us."
"That's what I thought exactly. So Wolfgang must know where that one is."
"Let's hope so, or else we might just have to go sloshing along the lakeshore trying to find it."
"Yeah," Damien agreed, staring off down the street. "Let's hope so."
So they waited.
By about seven that evening Damien was growing irritated, pacing around the front room of the house while Harvey and Ez looked on, wondering what was up. Father Damien sat on the couch, occasionally sighing and looking at the clock.
"Hey Dami, what're you waitin' for?" Harvey finally asked.
"Wolfgang," Damien said. "You know Wolfgang? The Gypsy kid. Is he gonna come here or do we go find him?"
"You've been waiting long enough," Ez suggested, "so why don't you go find him?"
Damien threw up his hands, forgetting it was kids he was talking to. "Well, I'd try, but don't you think it's kind of hard to go visit somebody when you don't even know where he lives?"
Harvey snorted, again imitating an adult. "Well," he said.
Damien finally stopped pacing and leaned against the wall, the same wall which had been smeared with blood only days before, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You're right. I'm getting ticked. But just where is it that Gypsies like to live?"
"Well, they live in trailer homes, duh," Harvey said. "That way they can roam around and do whatever it is that they do."
"That's what Wolfgang said," Damien replied, with an "Oh sure, you know so much" look. "But just where is this trailer home?"
"In a trailer park!" Ez exclaimed. "Duh!"
Damien threw up his hands again. Father Damien tried to speak but couldn't get a word in edgewise. "Yeah!! But WHICH ONE?!"
"That's easy!" Harvey shot back. "One without many people in it! Gypsies don't like having lots of people around so they can do--" he looked puzzled, then finished, "--well--Gypsy things!"
"Can I say something?" Father Damien put in quietly. "Please?"
Damien heaved a sigh and sat down. "Yeah, sure," he muttered.
Father Damien sat forward and started to explain. "The Gypsies come through Cheboygan almost every year around this time," he said. "And I've seen a couple places where they camp several times. One's out on the edge of town near the swamps. The property they're on was once a trailer park so you two are partially correct. If I'm not mistaken they're probably in the same place, and Wolfgang's probably waiting for you there."
Damien stood. "Well, show me the way," he said, and they left the room.
Harvey and Ez were left sitting on the floor, staring after them. "Adults," Ez sighed, shaking her head.
"Yeah," Harvey agreed. "Go fig."
Dusk had arrived by the time the two cars pulled up near a small encampment of trailers parked outside the city. Damien got out, slamming the butterfly door shut as he examined the homes, one of which was decorated with a sort of embroidered rug which read FORTUNES TOLD HERE--HAVE YOUR PALM READ in large gold letters. He indicated it with a nod and snorted when his uncle joined him.
"Fortunes, phooey," he muttered.
"Be careful what you say," Father Damien replied quietly. "I've heard strange things about these people."
There was a blur of movement off to their right. Wolfgang ran up to them, almost silently, with a big grin on his face. He took Damien's hand, pulling on it and pointing to the bedecked trailer.
"There?" Damien exclaimed with surprise. "Uh-uh, no thank you."
Wolfgang stopped tugging and gave him a questioning look, cocking his head like a confused puppy. "If you want to tell me, tell me here," Damien said. "I'm not going in there with some wacko palm reader."
The Gypsy suddenly looked as if he understood, then tugged on his arm again.
"Let's go in," Father Damien suggested. "What can it hurt? This palm reader might know something."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Damien muttered, but they went to the trailer anyway.
As soon as Wolfgang opened the door and pulled them in they could smell it--incense. The air was thick with it. There were electrical lights and the modern conveniences, of course, but along with them a beaded curtain hanging near the back and lots of weird statues and herbs hanging from the ceiling. Damien noticed his uncle gingerly reach out and touch one before a noise caught his attention, and he drew his hand away quickly as an old man appeared from the back.
"Who's this? Visitors? Ha!" he said, then howled with laughter. Damien cringed at the sound. It was harsh and barky, like a sick dog. He felt like turning around and leaving but could feel his uncle's hand pushing him back.
"Come on in, sit down, sit down right here," the Gypsy said, gesturing toward a small table to their left. Wolfgang grinned again and pulled Damien to it. "I'll be with you in one moment!" And he vanished.
Damien sat down, still suspicious. His uncle and Wolfgang joined him. Father Damien started closely examining the weird candle in the middle of the table, and Damien wondered just how long he'd been interested in this sort of stuff.
The old Gypsy returned with a tray in his thin hands. He set it down and Damien saw four cups of tea. "Here, here, take one, don't be shy, ha ha ha!" he crowed, revealing his nearly toothless mouth. "My best. A recipe from the old days, handed down through the family. Don't you love it? That's the way it always is!" And he laughed again, throwing his head back.
Damien was about to ask him if mental illness ran in the family, but Father Damien cut off this train of thought by taking a cup of tea and offering him one. The look in his eyes told Damien he wouldn't take no for an answer, so he accepted the cup, taking a small sip as he watched the Gypsy out of the corner of his eye.
"This is a nice place you have here," Father Damien complimented him. Damien wasn't sure but it certainly sounded sincere. Could his uncle be that good a liar after all? The old Gypsy merely nodded.
"I'm glad you like," he said. Then, as if suddenly remembering who they were, he held out his arms. "Look at this, what Wolfie drags in now--a priest! Tell me, Father, what brings you and your nephew here?"
They both started, Damien nearly choking on his tea. "How did you know he's my uncle?" he demanded.
The Gypsy chuckled and waved his hand at the air. "Well, it's obvious," he said. "You're most certainly not his son! Ha ha!" Damien cringed again at that horrid laugh. "And you look alike, so you're related, no? I'm right?" He looked at Father Damien almost eagerly.
The priest nodded, taking another drink of tea and peering at the Gypsy over the rim of his cup. "You're right. He's my nephew." He put the cup down. "Actually--excuse me, but I didn't get your name--?"
The Gypsy waved it off again. "I forget my old name, don't use it much anymore, you just call me Keemo, is that good?" He chuckled again.
"All right, Mr.--Keemo--actually, we came here to ask you if you know where this certain place is. It's very important," he added.
"Ask away," Keemo said, drinking his own tea.
"Tunnels," Father Damien said. "We're looking for tunnels under the city. Do you know of them?"
"Know of them?" Keemo scoffed. "Of course we do! Know of them, indeed." He took another drink. Damien was surprised to find that half of his tea was already gone, though he couldn't recall drinking it.
"So where are they?" he said, unable to prevent the edge of sarcasm that crept into his voice. Father Damien looked at him disapprovingly, but Keemo only examined him carefully. Finally he set his cup down.
"You follow me," he said, getting up and heading toward the back. He looked over his shoulder toward Wolfgang. "Wolfie, stay out near the door, keep an eye out for anybody, is that good?"
Wolfgang nodded, downed his tea, and left the trailer.
Damien got up, still dubious, but followed, Father Damien close behind. Keemo led them to the back part of the trailer covered up by the beaded strings, brushing them aside as he entered. The two ducked slightly, as they were taller than he was, then stared with dumb amazement at what lay before them.
Everything Damien had ever seen in the movies, or heard about, or seen in those silly phone ads for psychics on TV--it was all true. At least, in this case. The back was adorned with even more bizarre things than before, and right in the middle of the table there was a crystal ball with a stand. On a shelf were several decks of tarot cards and runes, along with other things he couldn't--and didn't--wish to name. Keemo gestured toward the table with the ball in the middle, and though he didn't want to, Damien felt his knees bend automatically, making him sit down. He was starting to think that the Gypsy had put a spell on him, but shoved that ridiculous thought out of his mind. Spell, indeed! he found his thoughts echoing Keemo's words.
Keemo sat down across from him, Father Damien to his side. Keemo tapped the crystal ball with one finger, then grinned at Damien and said, "You know what this is?"
"It's a crystal ball," Damien said, having to refrain from saying, "Duh."
Keemo cackled and waved both his hands. "No no no! This is not a crystal ball. This is a gateway! A gateway to other worlds. You know that?" he asked, looking at Father Damien.
Father Damien shrugged, not wishing to speak.
"Just answer our question, okay?" Damien cut in, growing irritated.
"That I will." Keemo put his hands over the ball and drew it toward him, as if hoarding it so they couldn't see whatever it concealed. "Let me look! You don't believe this," he said to Damien, "but it shows things. You know that? I see things in here. Things no one else can see. Unless they're like Superman!" He cackled again.
"If you're going to be that way, I think we'll go now," Damien said, starting to stand up. But Keemo held up a hand and he felt himself sit back down. He frowned, trying to unbend his knees. He couldn't get up! He was willing his legs to move but nothing happened. He glared at Keemo, half out of anger, half out of fright.
"Stay put," Keemo reassured him with a kindly smile. "I'm looking, is that good? Tunnels--let me see--tunnels." He waved his hand over the ball, then squinted into it and nodded. A grin spread across his face. "Aha! You're looking for something--something of great value." He peered closer. "Diamond. Am I right? Is it diamond?" He looked up at Father Damien.
Father Damien nodded, transfixed. Damien snorted, but was just as amazed.
"Not ordinary diamond, either," Keemo murmured, his hands still moving. "This is shaped like something--a letter. Like that." He traced a figure in the air.
"Yes," Father Damien said softly, "that's it."
"In a tunnel." Damien could swear that the light in the room was growing dimmer, if that were possible. "Under the city." He covered the ball again, then sat back suddenly with a jerk. The other two jumped in their seats.
"I see the color orange," Keemo said, staring as if entranced, "and wood--lots of wood. It's wet--the air smells oddly. Plants. Trees. Water. A sign. KEEP OUT. This looks like a mine."
"But where is it?" Damien prodded.
"I see a bridge," Keemo continued. "Two bridges. One is very old.... I see black, bars stretching everywhere, wooden planks and metal...."
An image of the old railroad bridge formed in Damien's mind, and he remembered falling down to the river, and seeing the spot of orange....
"A swamp," Keemo suddenly said, shattering this thought. "Not too far away from this bridge. Off to the south. In the woods. I see a tree, a long black gash in its side; just a few yards away. This is where it is."
"A lightning-struck tree," Father Damien said, filling in what his nephew was thinking.
"There can't be too many of those around," Damien said, trying to stand again. To his relief, he found that his legs were now working. He stood.
"Well, thanks a lot for your help," he said, but Keemo cut him off with a wave.
"I'm not done yet," he insisted.
"That's really all we need to know," Damien replied, feeling his jaw clench. "We've got to get going now."
As if on cue, Father Damien stood, but he didn't look like he wanted to go anywhere at the moment.
Keemo sighed. "All right," he said, giving up, "if you want to leave, you leave. Good luck finding your tunnels. I hope you find your diamond, is that good?"
"Yeah," Damien said, heading for the door, "that's good." Keemo twisted around them to get there first, opening it for them. Father Damien turned to him before going out, and started to ask a question.
"Excuse me," he said, "but how much do you--"
"Oh, no, no, no," Keemo said with a chuckle, once more waving his hand. "This time it's free. I'll no charge for something this important. Not when Someone upstairs is watching! I know you have to find that D. I just wish you good luck, and tell Wolfie when you find it, so I can know. Is that good?"
Father Damien smiled at him and nodded. "That's good. All right, then, if you insist. Goodbye, Mr. Keemo."
"Goodbye, Father! Good luck!"
The priest exited the trailer first, then Damien, who was more than happy to leave that place behind. As he was going down the steps and heading back toward the cars, however, Keemo called after him.
"Best to be careful, you know? Your sister, she was right--look out or they'll get you, too."
That stopped them both in their tracks. Damien whirled around, an exclamation ready in his throat, but the door was already closing. It clicked shut and they were both left outside in the darkening air.