Nothing From Nothing
Thanksgiving week arrived and I was feeling good. I had finished my big paper for the term that was due on Wednesday, I did well on a Microeconomics exam that I had on Monday, and Tuesday night was the cafeteria's big Thanksgiving meal. Well, two out of three ain't bad. Still, what was good was being together with my floormates one last time before the holiday. You get to know people pretty well when you live close to them and have to use the same bathroom as they do. Needless to say, we couldn't discuss something more uplifting than some of the more disgusting dissections that some of the pre-med guys on the floor had had to do in Biology class, but that's what happens when you're a college guy, and the main thing was that we were all together.
We did have a reasonably interesting discussion over dessert about Legionnaire's disease, which had made its first appearance over the summer at a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia. One of the professors at Loyola was among the many scientists and researchers who were trying to figure out exactly what had happened to make the victims of the disease so sick in such a short amount of time. Eddie had a theory. Eddie always had a theory.
"I'll bet it was Idi Amin that caused it," he stated with some authority.
"Idi Amin?" I must have looked confused.
"Yeah, you know, that guy in Libya..."
"That's not Idi Amin," one of the other guys said. "That's Moammar Khadafi. Idi Amin is the guy in Uganda."
"Yeah, whatever. One of those guys. I'll bet one of them is involved with it."
"How do you figure?" Now I was interested.
"Well, you know, they hate everybody in the world, especially us. Maybe they're trying to figure out a way to kill us off, and they decided that they'd try something new out there. You know, germ warfare."
"Why would they do it at a hotel in Pennsylvania?" someone else asked.
"That's easy. It was the American Legion. Those guys are veterans. Maybe they were trying to send a message or something."
"OK," I said. "So, what's next, are they going to try to do it in New York or something?"
"Maybe. Maybe they go to a big hotel in New York and do it there. Or maybe they do something here in Chicago, maybe let it loose in the subway or something."
"Gee, thanks, Eddie. I ride that subway every day."
"So? You could take the bus, right?"
"That's true." Now I was wondering if I should. "OK, so let's just say for the sake of argument that's what Khadafi is doing."
"Well, I mean, not him personally."
"Yeah, I know. Someone working for him. How would he get the stuff over here?"
"He wouldn't have to. He'd have guys here making the stuff and transporting it around."
"You mean, they'd have a lab or something, and they'd be brewing this stuff up there."
"Yeah! They'd make it close to where they were going to let it out, and then they wouldn't have as far to carry it."
"I see." I really didn't want to talk about it anymore. "You guys want some coffee?"
The next morning, I crossed Sheridan Road to go to the train station, and stopped. What if Eddie was right? I could see the 146 bus coming, which passed right in front of the Water Tower, and decided to try it out. I managed to get a seat in the back of the bus, and there was plenty of room for my small bag of stuff that I was bringing home for the holiday. I had a suit at home that I could wear to work over the weekend, and really, who cared if I wore the same suit three days in a row? Certainly not my manager.
The bus ride took a little bit longer than the train ride, especially at the point where Lake Shore Drive ran into Michigan Avenue and traffic came to a dead halt. I decided at some point to get off at the first stop after the junction and walk the rest of the way. It was a few blocks, but I had time, and it was a pretty nice day outside.
I walked past the Hancock Center and stopped for a minute to watch the people walk in and out of the building. I didn't think that I'd see Rosalie there, but somehow I still had to look. I had to admit, I was feeling a little bit upset at the way that things had gone between us. I mean, I had something better going with Kate, I knew that, but still, I had been hoping that things would have been a little more...I didn't know what I was thinking. As far as the world was concerned, Rosalie Jakubauskas didn't exist. Detective Johnson had said that there was no one living in her apartment, and I had pretty well given up on the idea that she worked for the Police Department. I checked my watch and saw that I only had a few minutes to get to class, so I turned and walked quickly toward the Water Tower, thinking about her.
I Do This For Nothing
I sat on the bus to the train on the day after Thanksgiving, feeling woozy. A combination of turkey and trimmings, about a dozen cans of beer, and a couple of glasses of wine were still having their effect on me, even though I had slept well the night before and had a big breakfast with lots of coffee before leaving for work. I didn't know how I was going to make it through the day, but, as Eddie always said, if you're man enough to party, you're man enough to get up the next day and go to work.
The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest days in the retail business, and it was one of those days where it was "all hands on deck". The boss had asked all of us to make an effort to let him know when we were available, so that he could schedule as many of us as possible throughout the week to help the full-time people. He seemed disappointed when I told him that I would be available on the weekends only, but that I would be able to help out today. I tried to explain to him that I was paying a lot to get an education, and wanted to concentrate on that, particularly since this was the time of the year when many of my professors had scheduled exams and assigned papers to be done. He was not impressed, and when I thought about it, I realized that he was downright nasty to me, telling me that if I were as good in school as I was at work, perhaps I should consider a job in manual labor. I resented his saying that to me, but figured that it was only a part-time job, and it was better than working at the Jewel. Maybe.
I stood on the train platform at 95th Street, huddled behind a glass partition, smoking a cigarette. It was colder than a well-digger's ass outside, with a nasty wind that cut right through my heavy overcoat and slapped me across the face whenever I faced into it. Needless to say, the train was late, and a good sized crowd was forming on the platform. I was hearing predictions that this winter would be even colder than last year's, and if today was any way to judge, we were in for it this year.
A southbound train finally made it to the platform, and I knew that it would only be a few minutes before I would be on my way. I had to be at the store by 9, and it was only 7:30, so I wasn't too worried. It took forever for the train to turn around, but at last we were all loaded aboard, and headed slowly toward the Loop. It wasn't much warmer aboard the train, but at least we were out of the wind, and I managed to get a window seat beside one of the heaters.
Around 35th Street, the train stopped for no reason and sat for ten minutes. The longer we sat, the more nervous I got that I wasn't going to get to work on time. When we finally got moving again, I checked my watch and saw that it was quarter after eight. That meant that I had just enough time to get to the store if we didn't have any more delays and if the subway was running on time. I said a silent prayer to St. Christopher that I'd make it all right.
I transferred to the subway a couple of stops before I normally do, just to be sure that I got on a train that was moving. I got into the subway station in plenty of time, and made it to the platform just as a northbound train was pulling out. I lit a cigarette and hoped that the next train wouldn't be delayed by too much. I had twenty minutes to get to the store before I was considered tardy, and before the boss would dock me for the half hour. A train arrived almost immediately, and I got on board.
At Grand and State, the doors opened, and the conductor made an announcement that, due to delays, the next stop would be Fullerton. I cursed loudly, causing a couple of older women to glare at me, and got off of the train. Now, I'd be late for sure. I knew that I should call, and found a quarter in my pocket and saw a public phone just down the platform. Just as I got to it, someone picked it up and tried to put money into it. He pounded on the buttons a few times, then slammed the phone down. "It's busted," he said.
I shrugged and lit another cigarette. There wasn't anything that I could do about it now.
I made it to my station at ten after nine, and tossed my coat under the counter. The boss walked up immediately. "Late again, Mr. Reardon."
"I know, sir. I left home in plenty of time to get here, but had trouble with the trains. One of them stopped for a good ten minutes, then..."
"I know, I've heard it all from you before. You do seem to have more than your share of troubles with the transit system. Well, go hang up your coat and clean up this area. We'll be open in ten minutes, and this will be a very busy day. You'll be working with Joe."
"OK, not a problem." I had never met Joe, and had only heard about him in passing. "Where is he?"
"He's back in the stock room, getting ready to restock the shelves. Perhaps you should concentrate on working the floor, and let him take care of the stock."
"I'll do that."
Before long, Joe emerged from the stockroom, pushing a trolley stacked high with wine cases. I walked up to him and extended my hand. "You must be Joe. I'm Tony Reardon."
The middle-aged gentleman pushing the trolley regarded my hand, and looked at me. "Oh, so you're the guy who works here on the weekends."
"Right! And, you must be the guy who works during the week."
"Yeah, and cleans up after you." With that, he launched into a litany of my shortcomings as an employee of the Wine Shop. He complained about how I stacked the boxes under the counter, about how I rearranged the bags and boxes so that he couldn't find them. He went on about my inability to arrange the bottles in the various bins. He mentioned the one time that I left a case of wine on a trolley at the end of the day, how it was dangerous and people could get hurt. He criticized the way that I moved things around in the stock room, and how he could never find what he was looking for. He told me that my hair was too long, my tie was too wide, and my suit was too fancy.
I tried to explain myself to him, but he would hear none of it. "From now on, you leave things where you find them, you don't monkey with the stock room, and you stay the hell out of my way. You work the floor, I've got plenty to do in the back."
With that, he turned his back to me and began restocking the bins, muttering to himself. "And you might consider dusting off some of these bottles on the shelves every once in a while," he said.
I retreated to behind the counter and stood there, determined to stay out of his way as much as possible for the day. That didn't suit him much, either. "Well, you want to give me a hand here? For Christ's sake, you're supposed to be helping."
By the middle of the day, the boss told me to work with the others in the Gourmet Food department. That was fine with me. I was only too happy to leave Joe and his foul mood behind.
"I see you've met Joe," Carol, one of the regulars in the Gourmet Food department, said when I came over. "A real piece of work, that one."
"Yeah, well, it's his department," I said.
"That doesn't give him the right to yell at you the way that he just did. Don't feel too bad. He comes in late at least twice a week, comes back late from lunch at least once a week, yells at anyone who doesn't do things his way, and Pepe doesn't say anything."
"Yes," Carol said, smiling. "As in Pepe le Peu." I giggled. "He's got the accent, too."
"I thought that was German."
"He's from some town along the border. It's a little bit of both."
The day moved quite rapidly after that. I spent most of the day working the floor, helping to restock shelves, and got a chance to learn something about the Food department. I didn't leave the floor except for breaks and lunch, and pitched in wherever I could to help. At the end of the day, the boss came up, and I thought he was going to compliment me on not having any voids, and for working so hard.
"We won't be needing you tomorrow," he said.
"What?" I was shocked. I was certain that Saturday would be at least as busy as today had been, even more so considering that more people were off for the day.
"You heard me. You're off tomorrow. Joe will be here to handle the wine department, and we have enough people for gourmet. I'll see you Sunday."
"I'll see you Sunday, Mr. Reardon," he said. He turned on his heel and left me standing there, mouth agape.
Nothing To Do
Mom could tell that something was wrong when I came home. I told her about my day at work, and she was all sympathy. "What in the world did you do to lose a day from work?" she demanded.
"Mom, I don't think I did anything. He said that he had enough people for tomorrow, and asked me not to come in. The guy who usually works in the Wine Shop is going to work there, and he doesn't want me around. Evidently he doesn't like the way I work, not that he would know anything about it, because until today I've never worked with the guy."
"He probably has an in with your boss," she said. "I bet he gets overtime for working the extra day."
"Probably," I said. "So, I go back to work on Sunday, and I'll just head home from there."
Mom gave me a funny look. "Honey, this is your home. You're going back to the dorm."
"Well, I kind of think of it as home, too. It's where I spend my time while I'm in school."
"Yes, honey, but this is home. All right?"
I didn't want to argue with her. "All right."
I called Kate later that night, but her father told me in no uncertain terms that it was too late to be calling their house, and hung up on me before I had a chance to apologize. It was only eight o'clock, so his complaint didn't make much sense, especially not on a Friday night, but I wouldn't argue with him. As nice as he had been to me earlier in the week, I didn't want to force the issue. I couldn't think of anything that I wanted to do. I really had no homework to do, I had nothing else to read, TV sucked, and my radio and all of my music was at school. I decided to take a walk to the drug store and buy some cigarettes, and maybe stop for a cup of coffee at the all-night place around the corner. I went to the entrance hall and put on my coat.
"Where are you going, Tony?" Mom asked from the living room, where she and Francis were watching "Donnie and Marie".
"Just down to the drug store, then maybe over to the Olympus for a cup of coffee."
"We have coffee here."
"I know, but I want to take a walk."
"Honey, it's freezing out."
"That's OK. I'll bundle up."
She shrugged theatrically. "Well, OK. Be careful now, honey, you've had a couple of close calls."
"I will, Mom. Want me to bring you anything?"
"No, I'll be fine. Have a good time."
I walked out into the freezing cold night and immediately felt less claustrophobic. I had been inside most of the day, and it felt good to be breathing the relatively clean air. So good, in fact, that after I bought my cigarettes, I took a long walk around the block before going to the Olympus. I passed by the house of Tim O'Riley, a guy I had gone all the way through grammar school and high school with, and saw him standing outside having a smoke.
"How you doing, O'Riley?" I asked.
"That you, Reardon?"
"Yep, it's me. What's happening?"
"Not much." He walked down his path and we gave each other the "soul brother" handshake. "How's things with you?"
"They suck, but then, that's normal. How about you?"
"Same here. Just hanging around outside, getting away from in there." He pointed toward his house. "Mom and Dad are doing their usual, 'you should go to school and get a degree' BS routine. I can only take it for so long, then I have to get out of there. How's Loyola?"
"You're living in the dorm, right?" He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and offered me one. I took one from him just to be sociable.
"What's it like?"
"It's OK. Not great, but it's a lot closer to school, there's more girls around and it's nice not being home most nights. Gives me a chance to get away from home for a while, even though I'm right on the other side of town. On the down side, there's the roommate thing, the food's not that great, and sometimes it's not quiet there when you're trying to go to sleep. On the whole, it's pretty good. Hey, you want to get some coffee? I was on my way to Olympus."
"Sounds like a plan, my man," Tim said.
We walked down the street toward 95th. "So, what are you doing these days?" I asked.
"Working at Dominick's, taking some classes at Moraine Valley, hanging out. You working?"
"Yeah, I got a job at Field's in Water Tower. I work in the wine shop."
"Do you get to sample anything?" He grinned.
"Nah. Nothing there that I'd really want, to be honest. I'm not much of a wine fan. Plus, my boss is a real jerk. I was supposed to work tomorrow, he told me to take the day off."
We went inside and Georgia, the daughter of the owner, seated us. We both knew Georgia from grammar school, but she didn't seem to remember us, maybe because she didn't have to. She was always the prettiest girl in school, and she had gone from pretty to gorgeous to stunning since graduating from eighth grade. She was wearing a diamond the size of a baseball on her left hand.
"You getting married, Georgia?" Tim asked.
"Yeah, next June. I don't think you guys would know him, he's not from around here." She smirked, turned her back and walked away.
Tim made a face as she was leaving, which got me giggling. "He's not from around here," he said, mocking her, and I nearly embarrassed myself laughing.
"How you guys doing tonight?" Our server was one of the older ones, whose name I could never remember. She was brandishing a coffeepot. "Coffee?"
"Yes, please," I said, and flipped my cup over. She poured us both coffee, and we both ordered a piece of pie.
We talked for a while about where everyone was and what they were doing, then when our pie came, we ate. Over at a table not too far away, we could hear two people having a heated discussion about Legionnaire's disease.
"You know, Tim, I'll never figure out why it is that people have to discuss things like Legionnaire's disease while people are eating."
"I know what you mean. It's pretty freaky, though, they've never figured out where it came from or what caused it."
"I thought they said something about it growing in the air conditioning system, or at least that's the way it got distributed."
"Personally, I think it was probably someone who had it in for those guys. I mean, it came out of nowhere, no one knows what it is or what caused it, I'll bet someone was growing it in their basement and decided to try it out."
"You'd be surprised. We had a discussion about this at school the other day, and someone else thought that."
"What, are you telling me I'm nuts?"
"No. I'm saying that it's interesting that you're the second person that's come up with that idea. Maybe that's what it is, I don't know."
"It's all that makes any sense to me."
"One of the guys said that one of the professors at Loyola is working on it, trying to figure out where it came from and how it can be prevented. It's kind of scary, isn't it, something like that can come out of nowhere?"
"What scares me even more is that it can come from somewhere, and you're like a sitting duck."
"Yeah. Listen, let's talk about something else." The subject was giving me the creeps.
I got home about ten, just in time for the news. Mom was already in her nightgown. "Where were you?"
"I ran into Tim O'Riley."
"Really? How are his parents?"
"Oh, they're fine."
"I see him all the time at the Dominick's. You might want to consider working there, Tony, I'll bet the pay is better than where you are."
I sat down on the couch and stared at the TV. "I suppose so." Especially if you get some hours.
Nothing To Do, Noplace To Go
With no other plans for the day, I got up later than usual on Saturday morning. Mom was already in the midst of her weekly cleaning when I went down to the kitchen.
"Good morning, dear. It's good that you're home. You can help me change the shelf paper in the pantry," she said.
So much for hanging around the house doing nothing. "Uh, sure, Mom, can I have some breakfast first?"
"I've got cereal. If you want anything else, you can make it yourself..."
"No, that's all right." My culinary abilities were the source of many jokes around the family. I went into the pantry and tried to decide which of the boxes of cereal were the least stale. All of them seemed to have been around the last time I visited home several weeks before. I decided I'd have toast instead. I found half of a loaf of white bread on the bottom shelf, looked through the wrapper for any signs of mold, and took it and the butter over to the table, where the toaster sat. I put two slices of bread into the ancient machine and they slid automatically inside. I poured myself coffee from the pot on the stove and waited for what seemed an eternity. Eventually the bread popped out; one slice was slightly burned, while the other was barely warm.
"The toaster's not working very well," Mom said. She did have a flair for the obvious.
Mom and I worked together on the pantry. She insisted on changing the paper on every one of the shelves, even the ones at the top where the big roasting pans were kept. I did manage to convince her to throw out the old boxes of cereal, over her complaints that Francis might want them. I knew better; she was up every morning to make his breakfast for him. He was "the baby", after all. He was finishing his last year at Leo, which would probably be his last year in school, as his grades were barely in the passing range and his test scores were a little below average. He was already planning for a life of work in a factory, even looking forward to it in a way. Not that I looked down on him for it. Sometimes I wish that I was as sure of where I was going as he was.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we finished the shelf paper project, and neither Mom nor I had had any lunch. I suggested that we go to the Olympus for a big meal, but she didn't like that idea. "I have roast beef for dinner, dear. I don't think that I could eat a big lunch, then have a big dinner." Instead, she sent me to the store to pick up "a few things".
I went upstairs to get cleaned up and put on a fresh shirt, and by the time I came downstairs she had prepared a lengthy list of things to get from the store. I'd have to take the shopping cart with me; it was going to be too much to carry. I always hated dragging that wire contraption around the neighborhood when I was younger. Every kid in the neighborhood knew where I was going and why I was going there, and teased me relentlessly for doing what they considered a girl's job. Now, it didn't bother me much. I didn't know if that was a sign that I was growing up or a sign that most of the kids who teased me about it were no longer living in the neighborhood, but it didn't bother me much.
An hour later, I was on my way home from the store. Mom's list had been surprisingly easy to decipher. I felt like the great hunter, dragging my kill for the day behind me in our old Dennis Mitchell shopping cart. OK, so it was cold cuts, frozen pizza, Cokes and a twelve-pack of beer, but I had bagged it. I wheeled it down 95th Street toward our block, turned the corner and was ready to cross the alley when I heard a car revving its engine. Instinctively I stopped and braced myself against the building, praying to God that it wasn't starting again. The noise stopped, and I peeked around the corner to see where the car was. It was parked in the middle of the alley, with half a dozen guys standing around its open hood. I took a deep breath and wheeled the groceries home. So much for my status as the great hunter.
I dragged the cart in through the front door and took off my coat. Mom came out of the kitchen. "Honey, you got a phone call from someone at work. They left a number. Help me with the groceries first, then call him back."
A few minutes later, I found the note. Mr. Schwartz had called. The number wasn't one of the numbers for the store, and I wondered why he was calling from a different one. I dialed it, and he answered.
"Hello," he said.
"Mr. Schwartz, it's Tony Reardon."
"Yes, thank you for calling. I'm calling to let you know that you needn't come in tomorrow."
"What's going on? First, you tell me not to come in today, now you're telling me not to come in tomorrow..."
"If you'll let me, I'll explain. The store is closed until further notice."
I was shocked. "What?"
"The store was closed down by the Board of Health. I have no idea why. They told us to go home about an hour and a half ago. In any event, you won't need to come in tomorrow. Enjoy your day." He hung up.
I looked at the receiver for a couple of minutes before setting it onto its cradle. I lit a cigarette and stood there for a minute.
Mom came into the room. "Everything all right, dear?"
"That was my boss on the phone. He told me that the store's closed until further notice by the Board of Health."
"No!" Mom was aghast. "My goodness! Why?"
"I have no idea. He didn't know, either. Not that he would have told me if he knew, but he said that everyone was sent home about an hour and a half ago."
"Maybe you can call someone else that you work with."
I thought about that for a minute, then shook my head. "My phone list is at the dorm. The only person's number that I know is Kate's, and she hasn't been to work in a few weeks, so she wouldn't know. Unless someone called her."
"Well, maybe there'll be something about it on the news tonight."
We watched the news at six, flipping frantically between channels 2, 5 and 7, but none of those newscasts had anything to say about the store being closed. In a way, it didn't surprise me; the store was owned by one of the richest and most powerful families in Chicago history, and it had a reputation to uphold. The same family owned one of the newspapers, and was said to control a lot of what was reported. I was pretty sure that nothing would be said anytime soon, and I would have to wait for the rumor mill to crank up.
I was surprised when, in the middle of the Saturday night movie, there was a teaser for the news, saying that a store at Water Tower Place had been closed, with details at 10. I made sure to stay awake for the newscast, which used the story as its lead.
"Our top story tonight: The Board of Health has closed the Marshall Field's store at Water Tower Place after it was discovered that the water supply had become infected with Legionnaire's disease. Here's Kim Johnson with the report." The story went on to talk about how several people had turned up ill with the disease, the only possible link being that they had been at the store. They went on to talk about the disease, that they weren't sure how it was transmitted just yet, but that its incuabation period was two to ten days.
Now I was really scared. Was I now infected with Legionnaire's disease?
I Didn't Do Nothing!
In a way, I was glad that the store was closed on Sunday. It meant that I lost a few hours' pay, but at least I didn't have to deal with the boss, who was showing signs of complete nervous breakdown by late Friday afternoon. On the other hand, I was afraid that the loss of revenue for the store might mean that they'd have to let some of us go, and I really didn't want to lose the job, crappy as it was. Business majors worry about those sorts of things, even if they're not accounting majors.
The one drawback to not having to go to work on Sunday was that I no longer had a convenient excuse for leaving home and going back to the dorm. Every time I would get ready to leave, Mom would come up with something that she wanted to do, or would want to talk about something, or would have a suggestion for something to do to keep me there. Finally, at about three, I said, "I'd really like to get back to the dorm, Mom. I think I'll take off."
"You could stay here tonight, honey," she argued.
"I know. I'd just like to get back into a routine. Everyone else is going to be back this evening, and usually we all have dinner together on Sunday night."
"You can have dinner with them tomorrow night," she insisted. "Please, can't you stay just one more night? I really miss having you at home, Tony."
I wasn't about to argue with her. I was too tired, and worried that I might have contracted Legionnaire's disease while I was at work on Friday, or on the weekend before, and if I was going to be that sick, I wanted to be home with Mom. It took about twice as long to get to school from home as it did from the dorm, but I was willing to make the sacrifice to keep peace with my mother. "OK, Mom, I'll stay. I should give Eddie a call and let him know that I'm going to be here tonight, so he and the other guys aren't waiting for me."
I called Eddie's number in the room, and he didn't answer. I hung up and called the switchboard at Mertz Hall and asked for the suite. Will answered the phone and told me that Eddie hadn't gotten back from his parents' yet, and that he'd give Eddie the message. I hung up and figured that would be the end of it.
At about eight, the phone rang. I answered. "Reardon residence, this is Tony."
"Hey, mo, it's me." Eddie didn't sound like his usual jocular self.
"Uh, I just got back, and someone tossed the room."
"Someone tossed the room. Someone was in here while we were gone, opened all the drawers, tossed all of our clothes and stuff out onto the floor, turned the beds over. Place is a fucking mess. I told the RA, he told the house managers, they called the cops."
"Did they take anything?"
"I don't know, man. I haven't had time to go through all my shit, and I wouldn't have any idea about yours."
"Geez. Aw man, I don't believe this."
Mom came into the kitchen. "Is everything all right?"
I covered the receiver. "No. Someone broke into our room while we were gone and ransacked the place. Eddie came back a little while ago and all of our stuff was all over the floor. I'm going to have to go home."
Mom gave me a look. "Tony..."
"I know, Mom. I mean, I have to go back to the dorm."
"That's not the problem. The problem is that it's late and I'm worried about you taking the train at this hour."
"I'll take the bus."
"Honey, the Cicero bus doesn't run as often at night."
"Well, then, I'll take my chances with the train. Mom, someone broke into my room. I have to go back and find out if anything's missing or destroyed, because the police are going to want to know."
Mom shook her head and turned to leave. "All right, do what you want, Tony."
I went back to the phone. "Eddie, I'll be there as soon as I can be."
The ride to the North Side was a little spooky. I was pretty much the only person on any of the buses or trains that I took, and when I was joined by other passengers, they did little more than to stare at me. They didn't scare me nearly as much as what was waiting for me at Mertz Hall when I got there. Someone had actually broken into our room and gone through all of our stuff. That, combined with everything else that had happened to me in the last month, had me really scared. I tried to convince myself that whoever had broken in was interested in Eddie's porno and my cigarettes, but the more I tried, the less I believed it. Something was going on, and it involved me, and now it involved Eddie and Kate. Where was it coming from? why was it happening? What had I done to piss someone off so badly that they were after me?
The subway pulled into the station at Chicago and State. The station where I got off the train to go to school in the morning, the station where I got off the train to go to work, and the station that I got on the train to go back to the dorm after work, or school, or visiting Rosalie. Suddenly, it occurred to me that all of my problems seemed to start happening when I started seeing her. As the train pulled out of the station, I looked, and could swear that I saw her just coming onto the platform. She seemed to disappear the more I looked for her.
I calmed down a little bit when the train came out of the subway and stopped at Fullerton. My surroundings were a little more familiar now, the faces of my fellow passengers a little more friendly. By the time we got to Belmont, I was feeling much better. Everything was going to be all right. I'd be home within the next half hour, I'd be able to see what the damage was, and I'd be able to calm Eddie down. I settled back into my seat and watched the back porches of Chicago go past as we headed to Loyola.
I got off of the train at Loyola, and left through the exit on the east side of Sheridan Road. As I came through the revolving gate, two men dressed in dark overcoats over suits, white shirts and ties came up to me and stood on either side of me, forcing me to stop.
"Tony Reardon, right?" the taller of the men said.
"Y-yeah," I said.
"Come with us. We need to talk." Each man took one of my arms.
"Where are you taking me?" I demanded.
"Don't worry, we'll bring you back," the other man said. "We just have a few questions."
I was put in the back seat of a white Galaxie 500 between the two men who had accosted me. There were two men in the front seat, the driver and another man. Once the doors were closed, we drove north toward Evanston.