Bobby caught up with Celine and for about a hundred yards failed to make his point. She was determined to storm back to the office and do some work, any work, all night. He didn’t like her being mad at him, but Bobby knew she was more worried than upset. She just didn’t understand the danger, he had tried to explain, without actually giving away too much. The length of her stride made it hard for Bobby to avoid running, which would have looked odd at that hour. The last thing he wanted was to be noticed.
She had to wait for a couple of cars to pass, before she could cross the street. Bobby tried one more time, “Please, it is a bad idea to be here. They might be watching.”
“Nobody’s watching, Bobby.”
It was true, after the cars had passed the street was empty and Celine crossed to the front of the Flatiron building. Henry’s office was dark. Nobody was around and Bobby started to relax when they got to Henry’s door. Celine put in the key, but the door was open. ”That’s strange she said, why woudl the door be unlocked?”
The hair on Bobby’s neck stood up. ”Wait, let me go first.”
Celine ignored him and walked in. Bobby pushed past her to see why she had suddenly stopped in the doorway. ”What in the world?”
Buttons was pacing on Celine’s desk, he turned and let out a long “Meow”.
Celine flipped on the light and they both stared at the man hand cuffed and to her desk chair. The chair was tied to the desk, so that he was immobilized against it. A handkerchief had been stuck in his mouth and tape put over it. Celine, unfazed, “Buttons, it seems you’ve caught yourself a prowler.”
“Meooow,” buttons said, as he sat down. Buttons looked back at the guy. He carefully reached out and swatted they guys nose. The man just sat there, defeated.
Celine rubbed Button’s belly, as she picked him up. He purred.
“How did you end up here, buddy?”
The man in the chair mumbled something.
Bobby walked over and removed the gag. ”What’s going on?”
“I was just minding my own business and these crazy guys with guns forced me in here and tied me up.”
Celine laughed, “You and I should play poker.”
“Okay, I got caught leaving the some package.”
Everyone jumped, starteled, when “Big” Mike walked in and said, “Where’s Henry?”
Bobby threw up his arms, “No idea. Celine stormed off, though I told her it was a bad idea. There are people trying to hurt Henry and they could be anywhere. I’m not just the guy who picks up the rent check, you know. I have contacts, people who hear things, and none of it is good. I mean, I do pick up the checks and I like that part of my job. Henry is the nicest tenant, but…”
Mike held up his hand, “Slow down, lets start with the guy in the chair.”
Celine said, “He is a liar and a delivery guy. So, what’s your story? These are not our normal business hours.”
Mike said, “I got a call from Luna, she said Henry was in trouble and needed me to get down here. I thought he’d be here.” Mike turned on the desk lamp and held it near the guy’s face, “You’ve had a rough night, from the look of things. Who did this?”
“The tall one.”
“What was his name?”
“He didn’t have a name.”
“You didn’t get his name?”
“No, they called each other 2 and 3.”
“What are you talking about?”
Bobby stepped forward, panicked, “What do you mean, 2 and 3?”
Beyond caring anymore, he said, “I’m tired of this crap. I’m done talking.”
Bobby grabbed his collar and yelled, “What do you mean 2 and 3, did they say anything else? Was Henry here, did they take him? Why did they rough you up?”
The man starged to cough as Bobby shook him. Mike watched. Celine took Buttons into the other room. ”Okay, stop, please.” Bobby eased up and the man continued, “I dropped off a package for some guy they called the Major. I never knew who sent it. After they rearranged my face, they believed me. Your man, Henry, he got the drop on the two guys, just as they caught me coming ouf of the office. They thought I was him. They talked a while and the two guys said they would help Henry. They called each other Associate 2 and 3, but I’m not sure which one did this to me. That is all I know. Let me go or call the cops, please.”
Celine came back out of the back, sans cat, but with an empty box. ”What was in the box?”
“No idea,” the man said.
She gave him a stare and he added, “I heard them say it was a clue, and easy clue, and something about a dragon thingy.”
Celine asked, “A dragon thingy?”
“A cockatrice, the mythical rooster dragon.”
Mike started to untie the man and said, “You’re in luck, buddy, I am the police.”
The man sighed, “Thank god.”
The Major had nodded off. No, matter, the fun wouldn’t start until 8:15. Two more hours, he thought. The coffee in the thermos was still warm and he watched the city humming along. The park was still dark, but the streets along the edges sent up the din of busses, taxis and NY commuter angst. He thought about what he would do next, after he played his final move. He can’t imagine anything.
When he was a boy he remembered wanting to build a log cabin in Montana and have chickens, sheep, and some dogs, but that seemed like several life times ago. The Major tried to remember why he wanted to do it, but couldn’t think of a single reason. It was probably something I read in magazine, he guessed.
It was probably too dark, but he grabbed the binoculars anyway. He had planned ahead, knowing that seeing such a small tile from that distance might be tough if it was smoggy or overcast, and looked for the boxes he had set on the bench under the window. Nobody could stand on the bench and get to the tile, without removing the boxes. The biggest danger was someone from the park picking them up, so he would have to keep a close eye on it after 7:00 am, when the first shift started. He dialed in the focus. ”What the hell!”
The Major stood up. The boxes were sitting on the ground at the side of the bench. Somebody had moved them. Damn, probably some bum want to sleep there. I should have thought of that. Damn it, he thought and tried to see if the tile was still there. He couldn’t tell, but it just had to be. Henry was never in the office at this hour. It must still be there.