“What happened to the radio?” I shouted.
Miriam crinkled her nose in disgust, “It’s not important! Concentrate!”
“On what?” I didn’t know what was going on. My brain was still trying to wrap itself around this loon getting reception so deep underground. Meanwhile the loon in question was distracting me by swinging herself over that candle. Her unruly hair nearly caught fire every time she dipped her head towards it. I was never one for the showmanship of ghosts and ghouls or the people who claimed to talk to them but she was certainly earning an A for her effort. Of course I had no idea what was going on with this little ritual but from the way she started groaning, it was a pretty safe bet she was trying to make contact with something.
“He has come here to the navel. To the navel of this earth to seek guidance!” Her voice had changed into something deep and guttural and even though she was sitting, the top half of her body was whirling on the hinge of her waist like a fly strip flapping in the breeze. “Who is the one who murdered the son Joe?” Miriam had closed her eyes and it was looking like she had fallen into a trance. I’m not going to lie, it was a let-down that she bought into this hooey. For me? Out of a detective’s curiosity, I forced myself to watch Daisy’s every move. The flailing arms, the tossed hair, the eyes rolling in the back of her head were all obviously part of the show and this lady considered herself a star. ”Who is the one who murdered the son Joe?” Her voice was getting louder with every swirl of her head and I was still worried about was her damn hair catching fire. “WHO IS THE ONE WHO MURDERED THE SON JOE?”
“Is all this necessary?” I shouted out to Daisy. She paid no mind to me.
Then she stopped. Her body was frozen stiff and her deep blue pupils were wider than two full moons. “I see the image. I see the image!” The radio switched back on with the dial turning in all directions. The frequencies were reeling out of range as fast as they were coming in. And it only got faster. It turned into a mish-mosh of voices overlapping with each other and that started sounding like a bunch of crazies speaking in tongues.
Now this is where the hair stood up on the back of sweaty neck: Daisy’s voice began to perfectly mimic the garbled radio voices. It was as spooked out as I’ve been in a good long time. Without a warning she screamed: ”LISTEN!”
Instinctively I flinched like I was about to be shot or knifed. I admit, I closed my eyes out of fear. The sense of immediate danger felt very real to me, but I couldn’t see it. Just as quickly, an image of my father flashed in my head. It was him just sitting in the dark with a bottle in his hand. He was wearing a sad face like the one I always remembered as a kid. I wanted to call out to him but my voice was stolen by Daisy’s. I couldn’t explain it, but he was somewhere in that room. I just knew it. Then he was gone with the next frequency.
“CANCER!” She shouted out into the mess of noises coming from the radio.
I pried my eyes open and saw Miriam’s lifeless body passed out on the floor over the pillows. Daisy had turned herself to me and was looking into my eyes with the icy stare of death, “Tobias Finch, there is a cancer in the earth and it has spread. It has spread to these tunnels and it has taken the son Joe from us. And it will take again. And again. It lurks in a hidden place. You must go there and you will find it. To the hidden place, go and find the killer.” She stayed frozen in that trance for a moment and then her head plopped down into her chest like someone switched her off. The radio had stopped its temper tantrum and landed on the evening news:
“The U.S. government, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, ordered the seizure of Nazi German banking operations in New York City that were being conducted by Prescott Bush. The U.S. Alien Property Custodian seized Union Banking Corp.’s stock shares, all of which were owned by Prescott Bush, Avrell Harriman, three Nazi executives, and two other associates of Bush…”
I looked at Miriam and shuffled over to get her up. She wasn’t budging.
Daisy came to and lifted her bushy head, “She’ll be fine. She’s easily excitable.”
“I have a feeling she’s a lot more than that.” I said.
Then the woman, who had been giving me the stink eye since I walked into her rabbit hole, smiled at me. “I like you, Tobias Finch.”
“Yes. You trust your guts.”
“Lady in my line of work you have to trust your guts.”
“I know it. That’s why I said it. So many people, especially the Joe’s down here, they hide from their guts.” She smiled wider. “That one down there has her guts are hanging all about. A broken flower.”
Daisy was fixing up to be a different lady now that her show was over. And my guts were starting to like her, “Where did you come from?”
“Me? I’ve been here forever. As long as I can remember.”
“You have no memory of being anywhere else?”
She started laughing, “I have more memories than you could ever imagine. Different places. Different times.”
Maybe she was hooked on opium or something. “I don’t doubt it.” The radio was continuing to spew out the news and I realized I had a million and one questions to ask this crazy dame. “How does that radio work down here?”
“…Allied aircraft start a four-day battle to smash Axis air power and gain air superiority over the El Alamein area in preparation for Montgomery’s long awaited offensive…”
“The box? It always tells a story to me.”
“But how do you get such clear signal down here?”
She laughed again like the absolute loon she was, “I listen, that’s all. I listen and the box tells me stories.”
“Or the news?”
“The news is just a story that’s real. Yes?”
“That’s a way to look at it, I guess.”
Miriam started squirming around on the floor. “What happened?” She was rubbing her temples like a gal who had one too many the night before, then slowly sat herself up. She grabbed my arm for a little support: “Did she say anything?”
“When did you check out?” I asked her with the thought of a cigarette sitting on my brain.
“Right after she asked who killed my brother?”
Daisy stood up and moved toward the door. “She was not meant to hear. Only Finch could hear.”
“I guess I’ll tell you later then.” I said under my breath as the sound of men yelling came into my ear shot. This time it wasn’t the radio. These were actual men in the tunnels. “What’s that fuss all about?”
I made out the voice of that kid Joshua, my personal runner: “Mister Finch? You down here?”
“This is more bad news.” Daisy said to me solemnly. She opened the door right as Joshua was about to knock. “Little Joe!” She smiled.
“Hiya Daisy, sorry to barge in like this but we need Mr. Finch.”
I shot up and climbed over the pillow, “What’s up kiddo?”
He looked over at his aunt who was trying to put herself back together again after fainting. I have a feeling that was a sight he had seen a couple of times in his life. A whole group of guys, all different ages but with the same ragged look that Jasper had, gathered behind the kid. I noticed one had blood all over him. “Jeb’s been murdered.”
“Your perimeter guy?”
“Yeah. Stabbed just like my father. We brought the body to my grandfather. Come.”
Now I had something to work with. A real honest-to-goodness stiff was in the picture and no more tall tales to lead my chase. There was a body I could lay my own eyes on and that made me feel more at home down in this crazy place.