The only thought that kept jumping around in my head was, who would live down this way and how could they possibly help me? We continued to walk for what felt like hours in that hot black tunnel even though in reality it was a couple of minutes. But in that dark every second went by like a lifetime. I had no distractions from my own mind. And as we continued to move deeper and deeper into the darkness with no signs of light or life on either side I realized the silence had done something to my thinking. I finally got it across to myself to let go of my idea of what was normal. It was obvious that I found myself in a situation not too many chumps end up in and my constant bellyaching over what should or shouldn’t be just didn’t apply down in this place. So what if there were miles upon miles of tunnels under the city I knew so well? So what if a whole society of people can exist without the world knowing about them? And more importantly, so what if there was a beautiful woman who was just as dark and twisted as they tunnels leading me around on an invisable leash? I just needed to accept that this was how life was going to be down here in “The City” while I was on this case.
“You can’t imagine what it was for a little girl to grow up down here.”
“I can’t imagine what is was like to grow up as a little girl. Period. End of story.”
“No I guess you wouldn’t. You are very much a man.”
That my friends, is what we in the business call a loaded statement. “Last time I checked I was. Although it’s been awhile since there’s been a woman to tell me so.”
“I find that a little hard to believe.”
“Well find it cause it’s true.”
“A fast talking detective like you?”
“Doll face, poor slob detectives like me are a dime-a-dozen up in the real world.”
“Well down here you’re one-of-a-kind.”
So I guess I was going to start being coy cause it felt good: “To you or to all your cavemen down here?”
”Mr. Finch, any man who spends his life in the daylight is one-of-a-kind to me. The good-looking face is just gravy.”
“Good looking? Sister, you must not see alot of men.”
She laughed. “And humility to boot.” Out of nowhere, we stopped and she grabbed me tightly with both of her strong hands. “I want you to trust me. Can you do that?” I knew her lips were getting closer to mine because her breath was starting to bounce off of my face. It felt cooler than the air in that tunnel. So cool it started pushing away the sweat on my cheeks.
“Why? What are you hiding that I should’t see?”
“Nothing! It’s just- well- I’ve never really cared if anyone trusted me down here. Not poppa, not Joseph no one. But I want your trust. I need it! Everyone down here will tell you how dark and disturbed I am because I’m not one of poppa’s minions. Going around doing what’s best for the City. But I have my own thoughts.”
This was an unexpected turn of events. “Miriam, you’ve known me for 20 minutes. Stop acting like a crazy school-girl.”
With her entire body, she threw me up against the wall. This broad was not as frail as she acted. “What does that matter? I’ve heard about you for far longer than that. Poppa’s spoken about you. Tommy’s son, the accomplished detective. I wondered if you’d ever come.”
“Stop it! I’m not a fairy tale prince looking to be your meal-ticket up to the real world. I have a job to do and when it’s done, I’m outta here.”
She didn’t say anything. My guess was she hadn’t thought this whole exercise through. She knew she was beautiful, she knew her dark charms could make her even more seductive to someone from the outside. But she didn’t come up with a plan B when her sucker didn’t take the bait. She was a lost soul amongst lost souls and to me, those where the most dangerous kind, even if she never laid a hand on her brother. Truth-be-told, I wouldn’t have had blood pumping in my veins if I didn’t fancy the look of her. And with the way she was going on, the thought of kissing her right then and there was hard to resist. “Come on. We’re almost there.” And for now, my opportunity had passed. I heard her footsteps start up again, but this time she wasn’t guiding me.
There was a little less urgency in her voice now: “To Daisy’s.”
“Now who in the hell is Daisy?” Almost on cue, I started to see some blue light ahead of me. It looked like it was sitting over a door. The closer we came the more sounds I could hear on through the other side. It sounded like a couple of people talking, but there was something distant about their voices. Like they weren’t really in there.
“Daisy, will need a little explaining. But I think she should meet you. She might be able to help.”
The closer we came, the clearer the sounds became. I heard a man’s voice, saying something about… Sherlock Holmes.
“There sits Sherlock Holmes with his violin under chin.” And then the music of a violin was heard floating through the dark of the tunnel.
Then there was a knock on the door and the sound of a stuffy English guy saying, “Come in. Oh Watson, my dear.”
And then another guy, “How are you Holmes?”
“I say, I’m delighted to see you, just delighted, although I know it’s because your wife isn’t with you.”
“How did you know…?”
I looked over at Miriam who didn’t seem to care that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were having a conversation in a little underground room at the end of a long dark tunnel. “Is Daisy in cohoots with an English gumshoe?” Now I could see some of her in the blue light.
“That’s a radio show.” She said swishing her hand over at me like I was an idiot. “She’s always listening to the radio.”
“How in the name of Moses does she get reception down here?”
Miriam walked up to the door and stopped. “We don’t know. But be warned, Daisy is… different.”
“Compared to the other ducks who swim around in this pond?”
“We found her here years ago. Well, Poppa did. She says she’s always been down here.”
“Finch, she can help. She knows things. We don’t know how, but she knows them.”
I could hear Holmes in the background saying “I’m only doing it for your amusement until we pass on to more serious matters.”
“Then why didn’t your daddy hire her to solve the damn murder?”
“She only speaks prophecy to those she chooses to and no one else. She wouldn’t say anything to poppa about Joseph’s murder. I think she means only to speak to you.”
Prophecy? What in blazes did that mean? “What gave you that cock-and-bull idea?”
Without warning Miriam pounded her fist on the metal door. Holmes and Watson continued to blare over the shrill sounds of a woman yelling out “Is it the detective?”
Miriam smiled like she had this whole affair planned out from the start. “Yes Daisy, the detective is here.”
And the oddities continued: The door flew open and standing on the other side was a black woman with hair the size of a California tumble-weed. I didn’t even know a woman’s hair could do that. Like it was growing to be a hedge on the front lawn. But her face was beautiful. Like Miriam her skin was soft and smooth. How could she have been down here before Jasper? By the looks of her, she couldn’t have been no more than 25 years old. She was dressed in tattered slacks and a large gray sweater that was just aching with holes. Why a sweater in the heat of this place was beyond my deductive abilities.
The look in her eyes were as wild as they come. Like everyone else’s down there they were all pupils, but hers were a touch stranger. I couldn’t tell if it was the light or natural, but hers were almost a dark blue all the way through. “I turned on the box and the detective was on. So I knew.” She grabbed my arm and yanked me inside her room. Miriam followed.
“Daisy this is Tobias Finch.”
She looked me over once or twice. Then three times. “Yes, Tom’s boy.”
I chalked that one up to Jasper telling her about me. “My father was Tom. But that was a long time ago.”
That strange bird shot me a glare that had me more dead in my tracks than if a .42 was pointed at my heart with the barrel cocked. “Tom is still your father Mr. Finch! No matter where he is. Now sit!” She pointed at a group of pillows on the floor.
I leaned over to Miriam, “You people don’t believe in furniture down here?”
“It’s hard enough moving around through these tunnels. Imagine lugging furniture.”
That was a good point. Before following orders, I stepped back to take in the amazing site of Daisy’s lair. It was covered with burning candles from floor to ceiling. They were nestled in cracks through the wall and on top of crates that were serving as shelves and tables and anything else a crazy broad would need vegetable crates for. To add to the off-putting nature of the place the walls were plastered with hundreds upon hundreds of faces all drawn by the same hand and all staring right at us.
Both Miriam and Daisy sat on the pillows in the center of the room. I noticed they were arranged in a circle and in the center of that circle was a thick candle on an fancarved wooden pedestal. To say that I was already set with the hocus pocus would have been an understatement. Mind you, through all of this, Holmes and Watson were still going on about a drawing room over a wash room and some lady named Alice.
“Come sit!” Daisy barked at me.
I wanted to resist her little bossy barbs, but something else compelled me to just sit without even thinking about it. And soon as I did, the radio switched off with no help from any of us.