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 Twenty


     While Matt and Maggie were sitting in the IHOP attempting to decode my cryptic Key to the Treasure, my young friend, Chris Manning, and I were leaving the Cosmo News office and driving down St Marys Street toward Providence High School.  It was only a three minute ride, but both of us were more than a little nervous about someone detecting us digging in the field so early in the evening.

     Arriving at the spot, Chris turned left and parked his car in the tree line where it absolutely could not be seen from the street.  He asked if I had my note and I told him I didnt need it.  In fact, I said, I know exactly where the diamonds are.

     He wanted to take off over there right away and start digging.  I held back, after all, there still were a lot of cars passing by on St. Marys Street.  But Chris convinced me that since we both were in black and it was a cold and cloudy night with a light rain was falling, no one would be looking off into the field and if they were the drops of rain on their side view windows would make seeing us difficult at best.

     Chris then turned a switch on the overhead light so it would not come on when he opened his door.  We both got out at the same time, I went to the front of the car while Chris went to the trunk to retrieve the U.S. Army surplus entrenching tool he had bought earlier in the day.  It was a neat little spade that folded in on itself.  Soldiers used it to dig deep foxholes so Chris reasoned we could easily dig up a box that was less than 10 inches under the surface.

     I led the way over to the spot I knew the aluminum case rested.  Right here, I said, and Chris began to dig.

The earth was relatively easy to go through, softened by a soft rain that had been falling a good part of the day.

Finally, after removing around eight or ten shovelsful of dirt, Chris struck something metallic.

     There it is, he told me, Pull it out.  I foolishly complied with his order by kneeling down, removing some dirt from around it with my hands and grabbing the case and pulling it from the hole.  I looked up and was about to give Chris the hi sign when a feeling of foreboding enveloped me. 

Chriss eyes were wickedly slanted and the last things I saw as he drove the shovel end of the entrenching tool against my unprotected forehead.  I immediately fell back down, rivulets of blood rushing down my face.  I was actually rendered unconscious and my young friend left me to bleed or freeze to death in temperatures that were predicted to fall drastically near the 32 degrees Fahrenheit by early morning.

     While I lay unconscious, my lifeblood slowly seeping out of the gash in my head, Detective Hammond and Maggie Wong, the insurance investigator were finishing their meals.  Matt, so cool after deciphering my note, was not as calm once they were leaving the parking lot of the IHOP.  With Maggie at the wheel, he barked instructions like some addled backseat driver whose goal was to send the actual driver completely over the edge.

Okay, turn right onto McCullough, no this is too far, its okay, its okay, well come St. Marys in a minute, turn right, no left, right, he shouted nervously until Maggie stopped the car in the middle of the street, got out and told Matt to get in the drivers seat, she couldnt take it anymore.  Matt silently complied with the angry insurance investigators wishes.  Less than a minute later, he made a right hand turn onto St. Marys, came to a Pik-Nik convenience store and parked Maggies car against the fence of Providence High Schools parking lot.

With Nick Sotos note and a penlight in hand, Matt got out of the car.  The night clerk at the convenience store opened the door and shouted, Hey buddy, you cant park there.  Police business, shouted the preoccupied detective.  Let me see a badge, buddy, he yelled and Matt held up his shield and said, Im Detective Sergeant Matt Hammond, SAPD, well be right back. 

With Maggie in tow, Matt went to the wrought iron gate that kept unwanted vehicles from parking in the high schools lot during the hours school was not in session.  This is where I used to wait for my sisters.  The aging detective closed his eyes and seemed to be reminiscing on a happier more carefree time, then just as suddenly as he went into it, Matt came out of his self-induced trance and shined his little light on the map.

He was facing the gate when he read the words out loud, Turn your back on Providences Gate and trod until the two become one.  Executing an about-face any Marine drill instructor would have been proud of, Matt came  around 180 degrees.

Again he pulled out his penlight and shined it on the paper he held in his left hand, trod until the two become one.  He looked up and down St. Marys Street trying his damnedest to figure out what Soto meant about the two becoming one.  He repeated the phrase out loud as he thought, the two become one, the two become one, I dont get it.  Maybe I was wrong.

No, said Maggie, you were right.  Look atop of the Marriott Hotel.  There are two radio towers, one on each end of the building.  If we walk across the street and into the field, the two towers will line up.

Maggie, you are a wonder! Matt said giving his partner of the past nearly three months a big bear hug.  They moved across the street and walked to the point where both radio towers were lined up perfectly.

Facing the two, that must be the two towers, go towards the light, that must be the light of the city, until the one that leans intersects with the second of the Trinity, weve got to walk that way Maggie, he said already stepping out.  Then he stopped.

I see the leaning one, but what did he mean by the second of the trinity?  Matt asked in a puzzled voice.  Maggie said, It must be some landmark over on the far east side of the field, one of those trees perhaps, As she was talking, Maggie was moving toward the Marriott, but looking to her left for the second of the trinity.  She nearly tripped over my inert body and let out a scream loud enough to wake the dead.

What is it Maggie? Hammond shouted, drawing his Glock at the same time. A body, she shouted, over here, a body!  Matt ran the scant 15 yards to where the terrified insurance investigator was standing and looked down at her feet where I lay, not dead, but seemingly close enough to it to prompt the police detective to radio in a request for an ambulance and backup.

Bending over the body, Matt ascertained that I was breathing and beginning to regain consciousness.  I tried to get up but could not.  Im blind! I shouted, I cant see.  Matt put his face near my ear and said , Youve got a lot of dried blood over your face, thats why you cant see.  Ive called for an ambulance.

With a fire station less than two blocks away, city EMS personnel. Arrived from that location with a rescue truck before the ambulance did.  Empathetic Emergency Medical Technicians did a cursory examination and wrapped my head and face in roller gauze.

Matt pleaded with the senior EMT to give him a few minutes to talk with me.  He asked me if I was Nick Soto and I told him I was.  He then asked if I had the diamonds from the San Antonio Diamond Exchange robbery.  He said he did, until a young man who befriended him the morning of the heist hit him over the head and took the aluminum box they were hidden under the earth in.

Does this young man have a name? the detective asked in a soothing voice.  Chris Manning, was my response then I lost consciousness again.

Did you write that name down? Matt asked Maggie and she said that she could remember a name like Chris Manning. I awoke to the sound of a distant ambulance and my groaning let Detective Hammond know my slumber had been interrupted by pain.

Soto, I need to know one other thing, Hammond asked.  He had not read me my rights so I was not the least bit bashful in answering him. Go ahead, lieutenant, I replied, Ask away.  How did you come into possession of the diamonds? he asked.

The guy who stole them threw them at me, was my unlikely response and it took Hammond back a bit.  Come on man, tell the truth, he ordered angrily.  Then I explained about the dumpster I was sleeping behind and how the young guy with the aluminum case literally threw it at me, striking the corner of the dumpster.

As the ambulance was coming to a stop about 20 feet from where I lay, I was compelled to say something else, I want you to know I have the utmost respect for the law and for Ms. Walstein, I told Detective Hammond.  In fact, I said, the reason I came here tonight was to turn the diamonds in and collect the half million dollar reward.

Ill bet Chris Manning offered to give you a hand, right, Nick.  Right again, Captain, I proffered, right again.