At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Nineteen


     I took a nap in the afternoon in preparation for the work Chris and I had ahead of us after we finished up at Cosmo News.  Although I already had in memorized, my wrinkled and well-read copy of The Key to The Treasure fell to the floor as I jumped out of bed.  When I returned from my shower I thought I recognized the man moving into Room 7, just across the hall from my room, but I paid him little attention.  Running late for work, I quickly dressed and left the hotel, hurrying to catch the Number 8 bus that would take me practically to the telemarketers front door.

     Jeff Begley was the newest resident of the Yellow Rose Hotel.  When he heard me leave, he opened his door a crack.  Then he sat and waited for me to return.  When I had not come back by the time the day turned into night, he became antsy, thinking maybe I had recognized him.  He decided to break in to my room to check it out.

     The doors were not very secure, especially when not latched and deadbolted from the inside.  Shoving his weight against my rooms door, it opened quite readily with a sharp crack Begley hoped had not been noticed by any other residents.

     But one did notice and she lived next door to my room. Her name was Kira and she was the 22-year-old daughter of the owner.  As soon as she heard the illegal entry through the paper thin walls of the old hotel, she called the desk to alert her father who was filling in for a cousin who had an evening class at the University of Texas Downtown San Antonio campus.

     And as Jeff Begleys misfortune would have it, two San Antonio Police Department detectives were at the front desk when the call came in.  They were inquiring about a murder suspect who had been seen in the neighborhood earlier in the day.

     The detectives, Mike Cortez and Lannie Michaels, two young turks who lived to interrupt crimes in progress, told the owner to dial 9-1-1 and report it and went flying up the stairs after they were told the floor and room number.  Arriving on the fourth floor, Cortez and Michaels, Glocks drawn, approached room 3s closed door, Michaels stopping on its left, Cortez crossing to its right.

     Michaels held a fist up and then revealed one finger at a time until when the third showed, Cortez busted in the door. Dont move scumbag! shouted Cortez, Glock pointed directly at Jeff Begleys surprised face.  On the floor, face down, he ordered.  Michaels cuffed the bewildered mastermind of the San Antonio Diamond Exchange robbery.  Once cuffed, they each grabbed him under an arm and put him in the one chair that was in the room.

     What are you doing in here? questioned Michaels. Begley simply sat there staring at the detectives in total shock.  Finally Cortez asked, Whats your name?  Before he finished fully answering the question, Begley knew he had fucked up royally, Jason Biggs, uh, er, I mean Jeff Begley, Im Jeff Begley.

     Cortez looked at his partner and silently mouthed Jason Biggs?  Michaels only said, Ill be right back.

And quickly left the room.  A few minutes later he returned, two uniforms in tow.  He had a wanted poster in his hand that showed Jason Biggs, AKA John Boucher. 

     Michaels grabbed Begley by the shoulder and pulled him out of the chair.  When he did, he noticed a wadded up piece of paper fall to the floor from his hand.  As he put the poster next to an obviously frightened Jeff Begleys face, Cortez said, Hey, he dropped a piece of paper.  He picked it up, carefully opened it, and said, Hey, its called The Key to the Treasure. 

     You dont think, said Cortez and Michaels replied, Wed better call Sergeant Hammond.  Michaels pulled his little mobile phone from his pocket and speed dialed the Diamond Exchange Team Supervisors pager number then dialed in his cell phone number.  Closing the cell phone, he pushed Begley back down into the chair.

     His phone rang and Michaels answered it on the first ring.  Detective Michaels, he said. Michaels, Hammond here, what have you got for me? came the crisp concise words of Detective Sergeant Matt Hammond.  I think weve got Jason Biggs, Michaels replied.  You think, you THINK, well what makes you think that? said Hammond who had nearly resigned himself to retiring before being able to solve the most baffling case of his career.

     Obtaining all the information he needed, Matt called Maggie Wong at home.  The case had hit a series of dead ends in the past couple of weeks.  She agreed to pick the detective up at his house because it was on the route shed be taking to the downtown fleabag hotel. 

     Arriving at the hotel, Hammond and Wong went to the front desk in the lobby and showed their ID to the owner who was being relieved by his student cousin.  Curious about the entire situation, he volunteered to show them to Nick Sotos room.  When they arrived, they found the perp handcuffed from behind and seated on the one chair in the tiny room.  All he says is he wants a lawyer. We havent done anything but Mirandize him and he still tells us he wants a lawyer, he wants a lawyer, said Michaels.  Well Lannie, it might just be this young man needs a lawyer, answered Matt.

     As the supervisor of the case, Sergeant Hammond was the senior officer on the team and was also the senior one present in the room this evening.  He had less than three months before retirement and had seen a lot in his 28 years as a San Antonio cop.  But the end of the hunt was always exciting to Matt Hammond and this in all probability being the last hunt of his career, he was practically giddy and was having trouble containing it.

     The old detective bent down and put his face just a few inches from Jasons.  Jason Biggs, John Boucher or, what is it today, Jeff Begley, whoever you are, we dont need you to talk, Matt said softly, You want to know why we dont need you to talk?  Weve got one of your guys, Mel Dixon, and hes doing enough talking for both of you and you know what?  We didnt even offer the pathetic guy a deal.

     As Hammond rose from the bent position he assumed during his very intimate pronouncement to the would-be master criminal and Detective Michaels motioned for Matt to join him in the hall.  Matt, look at this, Michaels said handing him the Key to the Treasure.  He read the cryptic message contained on the wrinkled sheet of paper and then he read it again and a third time and looked at Maggie who had not seen the one-page document yet.

     Here, read this, he said handing the paper to Maggie.  Maggie spent a full two minutes studying the scribblings of Nick Soto.   When she handed the page back to Matt, he looked at her and said, Is it possible this guy doesnt have the diamonds?

     Maggie looked at the paper in Matts hand, looked at his face, then turned to see Jason Biggs staring directly at her.  She stared at him for what seemed to be five minutes, but was no doubt less than two and the boy finally blinked and lowered his eyes.  It seems the person who lives in this room has the diamonds, she said softly to Matt.

     But what do we know about this Nick Soto guy? Hammond pondered. Is he another accomplice that double crossed Boucher and the rest of them? Or did this guy come across the diamonds by accident and then hide them?  Maggie piped in, That would explain why Biggs would stick around.  He had to locate the property he stole. 

Biggs was dejected and defeated.  The handcuffs had held his arms behind his back for nearly three hours and but he had not complained once.  In fact aside from I want a lawyer, he had said nothing at all.

Matt thought for a moment and finally turned to Jerry Ramirez, one of the two uniformed cops in the hallway, Come with me, he said.  They entered Nick Sotos small room and Matt asked Michaels and Cortez to go out into the hall, closing the door behind them.

Officer Ramirez, this piece of human excrement no doubt is the perpetrator of the last case I will ever be assigned to in San Antonio, Matt began.  By all rights, the collar belongs to Cortez and Michaels.  But I need them to stay here until this Soto character returns.  They turned the suspect over to me as supervisor of the team that has been on the case from the beginning.  Im turning him over to you.

Dang, thanks Detective, the young officer said. I havent finished yet, Jerry, Matt said peevishly.  Take him downtown, to the county jail, not the city lock up.  Book him in on one charge of capital murder in the death of Officer Jaime Bravo, two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Alfred Bateman and Franklin Carr, and felony theft of property valued in excess of 100,000 dollars. That ought to hold him until the DA comes up with about a hundred more charges.  I see death row in our silent stupid young friends future.

Jerry listened closely to Matts instructions.  He had been in the same class at the police academy as Jaime Bravo and he replied to Matt, Ill gladly take this dirtbag in and hope during the entire ride he tries, just once to escape.

Jerry! Matt shouted loud enough for those standing in the hall to open the door to see what was wrong. Close that goddamned door, Matt commanded without turning around to see who had opened it.

Hammond walked over to the young uniformed officer and put his arm around his shoulder.  Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, he said softly.  This suspect will arrive at the county lockup in the same condition he left here or you will wish you never made that last statement.  He is my prisoner, you are transporting him as a favor to me, understand?

The young street cop looked at the old grisly soon-to-pull-the-plug detective and said, Sorry sergeant.  Jaimie and I were friends, classmates at the academy.  But I will be professional, no matter how much it hurts.

I dont need to get Dan Foley to come in all the way from home to do this do I, Jerry.  Or maybe get you a chaperone? asked Matt very seriously.  No sir, Ive got him, Ramirez said, Ill guard him as if hes my brother.

The chastened young officer, gently assisted Biggs to his feet and Matt opened the door.  Go on, he said and Jerry took his prisoner around the corner to the elevator.

Before Michaels and Cortez could object about the young uniformed cop stealing their collar, Matt said You two, go in there and sit on the bed, Ill be in in one minute.  Closing the door Matt called the other uniformed officer over, Officer Washington, I want you to stand outside this door until Mr. Soto returns.  Detectives Michaels and Cortez will be waiting for him in the lobby, but you need to be alert in case he comes in another way or somehow gets by them, got it?  Yes, sir, replied Sam Washington.

Maggie, Ill be right out, Ive got to talk with Lannie and Mike for a minute, okay?  Maggie shook her head, and said, I know, police business.

Entering Sotos room Matt told the two younger detectives why he used Jerry Ramirez to transport Biggs.  Bottom line, he needed to non-uniforms in the lobby waiting for Nick Soto to return.  He said that Officer Washington would be up here in the room as their backup if needed.

Matt then accompanied the two detectives downstairs with Maggie tagging along behind.  Then he and the insurance investigator went out to the street and got into her car.  Where to, Boss, Maggie said sarcastically.

Look Maggie, Matt said, It was police business.  I thought those two were going to be pissed that a young street cop got to take their collar to jail and I didnt want you to witness the encounter.  Turns out they were more professional than I gave them credit for.

I understand, said Maggie, Now where to.  Lets go to the IHOP on Broadway he said.  Not home, James? Maggie quipped.  Definitely not home, replied Matt, Weve got a long night ahead of us Im afraid. 

Matt told her he had a feeling about the Key to the Treasure that he couldnt shake and he needed some coffee and a Belgian waffle to keep his brain active.  When they went into the restaurant, Matt asked the manager if they could be seated in a far corner table and if the two tables closest to them could remain empty.  He agreed.

Matt had brought in a yellow legal pad and when they sat down he asked Maggie if shed be the secretary.  Its not a sexist request, he said jokingly, You happen to be the only other team member here right now.

Write this down, Matt said, Pray to the mother of Mary 1200 times.  Now what are we looking for? A church? A statue?  Maybe a statue inside a church.  So under the heading Mary Maggie wrote church and statue.

Turn your back on Providences Gate, what could Providence be?  The silence that followed that question was interminable.  Finally Maggie said, Well theres a hospital in New Orleans called Providence and if I remember correctly there is a big black wrought iron gate at the

Ive got it! Matt shouted, causing other diners to stare and the waitress to nearly drop his order of waffles.  Youve got what? asked an amused Maggie Wong. I know exactly where the diamonds are, whispered the detective, a big grin on his face.

Matt went on to tell her about his mother who insisted that her Baptist son and three daughters attend Catholic Parochial schools.  His sisters both attended Providence High School and he Antonian Academy.  He spent many an afternoon waiting for his sisters to come down the big steps and out the wrought iron gate. 

The field where those diamonds are is right across the street from the school, Matt said in a confident voice.  Well, what are we waiting for? said an excited Maggie, already spending the bonus she was expecting for the recovery of the diamonds.  Were waiting until I finish my waffle, replied Matt, still unable to wipe the grin off of his face.