“What?” Dino leaned over the desk, taking out a pair of reading glasses as he did so.
“Right there. Look!” There was a dotted line on the floor, indicating a small trapdoor. “At one time, the theater and the florist were part of the Army base. They each had a passage to a bomb shelter. The shelter extended from the playhouse to the florist shop, all one long structure. Did you know about it?”
“No, never. If my aunt and uncle knew, they never said anything to me.”
“We know how they got in now. Not that it makes any difference, but that’s been bugging me.”
“It explains how they had such easy access all this time. No amount of locks could keep them out. That’s how they lured the security men inside.”
Deacon’s phone rang. It was Kacy and she sounded rather frantic.
“It’s Ev and Nancy,” she told him, her tone somewhat pinched and annoyed. “Nancy’s in one of her moods, and to placate her, they took the early flight to Daytona. They just called me from up there and said they were renting a car to drive down. If Nancy’s in that state, I’d rather Ev didn’t drive. I know it’s a bit of an imposition, but do you suppose you and Dino could get them? I can’t possibly leave right now.”
“Of course, Kacy. Where are you?”
“About to talk to Madame about a wedding cake. She’s dragging out her photo albums now. Did you know she also does catering?”
“Can you manage? You know she refuses to speak English.”
“Darling, my French is fluent. My gran’s from Marseilles. Ta, love.”
“Ta.” He hung up, glanced at his friend, and reddened slightly. He hated asking Dino for another favor. “Uh, Dino? Fancy a ride to the airport?”
The drive to Daytona was devoid of conversation. Dino was playing music by a German industrial metal band. It was loud, with heavy handed drums and guitar riffs that would have obscured any conversation. Although it was like getting pounded with a bag of wet cement, Deacon liked the hard hitting guitar and growling vocals. It helped him zone out, and forget his worries for a while.
Feeling surprisingly relaxed, he stretched languidly as they pulled into the parking lot at the airport. Nancy and Ev were supposed to be waiting for them in the lobby. Deacon started hobbling toward the building, but a golf cart stopped and picked them up. A gray haired retiree was driving.
“Are you okay, honey?” she asked, her New Jersey accent strong. “What did you do to yourself?”
“I had a bad fall,” he told her slowly in his best Southern drawl. “My wife got a little too excited during sex, and threw me right out the bed.” He made a soaring motion with his hand, whistling like a bomb dropping.
The old woman burst out laughing, swerving slightly as she crossed the street. “Oh, my God! I’ve heard some good ones, but that’s the best! Now what really happened?”
“It’s not nearly as good. I slipped and fell off a water fountain, when I climbed out of the ceiling, after getting locked in the bathroom at work.”
The lady blinked at him as she stopped the cart by the front doors. “You know, I think I liked the sex story better. More believable.”
Deacon shrugged, winking at her. “I really got hit by a golf cart at the airport,” he lied. “A lady from New Jersey was driving.”
Giggling, the old woman started up the cart as soon as they got off. “Bye, boys! I’ll try not to hit you when I come back.”
Dino’s phone rang as they were walking into the airport. Deacon walked in and sat in one of the chairs in the lobby, waiting for him to finish. The color drained from Dino’s face. He pocketed the phone absently, staring straight ahead.
“That was Reyes,” he said quietly. “Stevens didn’t get off the plane in Miami. They have reason to believe he never left Daytona at all.”
“What? Oh, God! There’s Nancy and Ev.”
Dino nodded, putting on his best smile. Deacon struggled to his feet as Pete’s parents walked over to him. Nancy threw her arms around him, hugging him in a bear-like embrace. She nearly knocked him over, but Dino’s hand on his elbow supported him.
“I’ve been so worried! There are police all over the airport! They were checking everyone extra carefully, as we got off the plane. We even had to show identification to get our luggage!”
“It was crazy, Deacon. They had a huge group come in with us for a convention. The entire airport is crawling with paunchy, middle aged lawyers! Can you believe? They all look alike—balding heads, handlebar mustaches, and glasses. Just like Hannibal Hix!”
“A lawyer’s convention?”
“From all over the country, apparently.”
“What a perfect blind. He could be anywhere.” Deacon swore softly, trying not to offend Nancy.
She eyed him reprovingly, but didn’t correct him. In fact, she looked as if she shared his opinion of Mr. Fergus J. Stevens.
Dino and Deacon brought them up to date on the latest on Mr. Stevens. Ev’s face clouded and Nancy looked ready to cry.
“He’d just have to lie low and bide his time, until he could join a group of them. He’d slip out and no one the wiser!” It was Dino’s turn to curse now.
©2021 Dellani Oakes