At Providence's Gate
Home | Providence Gate Chat | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven | Chapter Twelve | Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen | Chapter Fifteen | Chapter Sixteen | Chapter Seventeen | Chapter Eighteen | Chapter Nineteen | Chapter Twenty | Chapter Twenty One | Chapter Twenty Two | Chapter Twenty Three | Chapter Twenty Four | Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Eighteen


     Ina and I continued to enjoy various cultural events together.  While I was beginning to feel strong emotions for her, it was obvious she considered me to be just a good friend.  And throughout the second month after the diamond exchange was robbed, Chris Manning displayed an attitude that could only be described as jealousy, as if he considered Ina to be his rival for my affection.  The few times their paths crossed during this period there was so much animosity in Chriss body language, demeanor and even conversation that I had the distinct impression that Ina thought Chris and I were lovers.

     No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to interest Ina in me in a romantic or sexual way.  This was very frustrating to me because I genuinely felt a definite attraction bordering on true love for her.  One day I decided to confront Chris about his behavior after a particularly uncomfortable encounter he had with Ina.

     We had finished our evening shift at Cosmo News and he was driving me to the Yellow Rose.  What is it between you and Ina, anyway, Chris, I said, you were incredibly rude to her today when you stopped by the Taco Cabana while we were eating lunch.  Nick, whenever you are with her you act as if I dont exist, like Im a second class citizen, he said, And I know its because she thinks Im an immature kid and you should not be hanging with me.

     Chris, theres a lot you dont know about my relationship with Ina, I told him.  What, are you having sex with her? he asked bluntly.  No, Id like to, but it has nothing to do with our relationship, per se, I told him.  What is it then, Nick? he asked.

     You and I are friends, right? I asked.  Yes, of course, he said.  Well friends come to friends for advice sometimes and I want to ask you for some, if you really think you are a friend, I finally admitted.

     Go ahead, Chris said.  Well it does have to do with Ina in a way, I told him.  Chriss entire demeanor suddenly turned cold and he said, Yes, its always about Ina.  You know she rubs me the wrong way, dont you.  You know she hates me, right?

     I know, its almost as if she doesnt trust you or like you, I said. I think its because I take up too much of your time, Chris opined, Time you could be spending with her.

     Chris, I said, Often Ina complains I spend far too much time with you, as if we are in an unnatural relationship and she has said that you are at times impudent towards her.  Impudent. Impudent! IM IMPUDENT!! he shouted loud enough for pedestrians and even other driver to hear.  Whats that supposed to mean?

     Well, it sort of means that she thinks you dont know your place, I finally told him.  Hey, that really hurts Nick, he said to me, After everything Ive done for you. I thought we are friends,

     We are Chris, thats why Im bringing this up, I said, I need your advice as a friend. He looked at me and I paused to give Chris time to respond to me.  He just pulled into a nearby parking lot, turned off the ignition and said, How can I help you, Nick?

     Do you remember the Diamond Exchange robbery? I asked.  He shook his head in the affirmative and kept looking right into my eyes.  Okay I said, here goes, Chris, what would you say if I told you I know where the diamonds are?

     Id say youd better go to the cops so they can recover them.  He talked as if ice water ran through his veins rather than blood.  I cant go to the cops, Chris, I am part of the problem, I said.

     How so? Chris asked.  Because I found them after the guy who stole them tossed them at the dumpster I was sleeping behind, I blurted out.  The Key to the Treasure! Chris shouted, confirming my suspicion that he had an ulterior motive for befriending me.

     How did you know about that? I asked in a cautious voice.  Well Nick, he began, choosing his words carefully, When I went through your pockets, collecting your personal belongings at the hospital, I found your note.

     And decided to become my friend to get to my treasure, right?  Yes, at first, but we became friends, true friends, he said desperately, I dont want any part of those diamonds.

     Good, because I am going to turn them in.  Im going to just leave them in a locker at the bus station, then Ill call Ina, disguise my voice and tell her where they are, I said with determination in my voice.

     Wait a minute, Nick, Chris said, almost pleading, think about this.  You could use half a million dollars couldnt you?  Yeah, who couldnt? I answered.

     Well, thats the reward offered by the insurance company for return of the diamonds, no questions asked, he said, You can turn them in anonymously and get a check in return.  Ina gets her diamonds, you get your money and everybody is happy.

     I guess that wouldnt hurt, I said. And Ill help you.  Lets do it tonight, Chris said.  Not tonight, I replied, Ina and I are going to the symphony.

     Chris Manning had revealed what I had suspected all of the time.  He pulled out of the parking space and we continued on to my hotel in silence.  When we arrived, Chris looked at me and said, Okay, after work tomorrow evening, well go and get the diamonds.  Lets wear all black so well be hard to see.  Ill put a spade in my trunk so well be ready.  I agreed and told Chris Id see him at work.

     It seemed Jeff Begley had been a busy beaver in the months since he robbed the exchange.  By now he had a full beard and his naturally dirty blonde hair touched his shoulders, replacing the jet black tresses he had sported when he worked for Abe.

     Well aware that the diamonds had not been found, he clung to the hope that they were still in San Antonio and that I was the person that had them.  At the same time Chris and I had decided to dig up the diamonds, Begley began searching for me by checking public records.  Unfortunately, a police report existed about my accident the night the exchange was robbed. 

     Now the young thief became excited when he read that, but fortunately the report had me listed as homeless.  However, it only caused Begleys pursuit to become that much more intense. 

     The next morning I decided to go to a mall on the far northside to purchase some bed linens.  I wasnt scheduled to work until 5 pm this day and I was in my third month at the Yellow Rose Hotel. The hotels dingy sheets and ratty bedspread left a lot to be desired.  My thin pillow and its case were worse than no pillow at all.

     The bus dropped me about the length of a football field away from the store that had advertised a big sale.  As I was walking toward it, one of my co-workers from Cosmo News spotted me.  Nick, Nick Soto, she shouted.  I didnt hear her at first, so she honked her horn and repeated, Nick, Nick Soto!  Unfortunately a young man who was going by the name of Jeff Begley was standing nearby and got a good look at me.

     The young sociopath could hardly contain his glee.  He was reluctant to make a move on me however because it was possible I was like the four other Nick Sotos who he had already discovered and found to be the wrong ones.  So instead he sat in his car and waited for me to get into mine.

     After making my purchase, I made my way to the bus bench and the closer I got to it the more agitated Begley became.  I didnt have a car and he found this fact very disconcerting.  He had to make a decision and make it quickly.  As I sat on the bench, he left his car and made a dash for the bus stop arriving just as I was boarding it.

     Since I was loaded down with light but bulky bags, I chose to sit in the front of the bus.  Jeff Begley paid the driver the fare and moved to the back of the bus.  Without my beard, he was unable to recognize me from the old photo he had of me.  Unfortunately, since he now sported a beard and long blonde instead of black hair, I didnt recognize him.

     I transferred to the VIA 91 Limited Stop bus at the Medical Center Transit Station as did several other people from the bus I arrived on.  Although I didnt notice him, Jeff Begley did as well.  When I got off at Travis Park, so did the man who had been pursuing me these many weeks.  I walked the two blocks to my hotel, entered and took the elevator to my fourth floor room.

     Apparently Begley attempted to follow me in the next car, however the wary desk clerk stopped him.  You see, the only people allowed past the lobby are residence or their guests.  If a resident wants to take a guest up, he must accompany him and clear it with the desk first.  Another rule is that residents must pay $20 if their guest is of the opposite sex.  These rules keep the riff raff and hookers out and I didnt mind them at all.

     Begley was irate at the desk clerk and I am told he made quite a scene.  He waited outside the hotel for three hours, but I decided to take a nap and he left disappointed.  After observing the quality of my digs, the cagey young criminal decided I must be the right Nick Soto.  He returned by bus to the north side mall where his car sat waiting for him.  On the ride, he developed a plan of action which was quite simple really.  He rented a room at the Yellow Rose Hotel.