Chapter Twenty-three

          “You a vegetarian or something?”
           “No, uh, not really. I just like mushrooms and this sounded good. Well, actually, I am a vegetarian most of the time. I’m trying to be, anyway, but don’t always stick to it, especially when I’m around meat eaters. Like yesterday at Sileo’s Bar, I was going to just have a salad, but Dale and Bob practically forced me into eating chili dogs with them.”
           “Well, I’m not going to force you, but why don’t you get some bacon or something. You’re giving me the creeps. You need some meat on your bones. I think you’re skinnier now than you were in high school.”
           “No thanks, not now; it’s too early for me. I prefer not to gnaw on animal flesh first thing in the morning.”
           “There you go; same old Ryan attitude. I’m just concerned about you and trying to offer some nutrition advice and you have to get philosophical with me.”
           Mike Prizza and I are talking over breakfast at Duval’s restaurant. Duval’s is located only a few blocks from Saint Mathew’s school and has been in operation for as long as I can remember. These days, I rarely eat much in the morning, but I enjoy a good old-fashioned breakfast when I’m out in the world, and I don’t have to cook it. The fare at Duval’s fits the bill perfectly. I’m enjoying a delicious cheese and mushroom omelet with biscuits and gravy on the side. Booker is working on pancakes and sausage links, with hash browns.
           “Okay, forget it. If you’re going to get touchy, I’ll change the subject. Let’s get down to business. What’s the story you got on Duke?”
           “You remember Carmen the janitor?”
           “Yah, how could I forget him. How about the time he threw his mop at me?”
           I laugh and nod; I remember well. Carmen had just mopped a section of the cafeteria floor near the entranceway when Booker and I burst in with the intention of taking a shortcut through the cafeteria. Carmen yelled at us to stop and I did, but Booker kept walking. Carmen yelled again, but Booker didn’t even turn around or acknowledge him.
           Carmen flew into a rage and hurled the mop at Booker like it was a spear. Fortunately, a mop isn’t a spear, and Booker wasn’t in any real danger. He did get hit in the back of the legs, which tripped him up a little and surprised him even more, but he kept walking while Carmen vented on me. Those were the good old days, when an irate janitor could get away with throwing his mop at a kid.
           “Carmen died a couple days ago.”
           “No kidding. I didn’t hear that. What did he die from?”
           “I don’t know; lots of things, I would guess.”
           “Well that too bad. He was an old curmudgeon, but he was alright sometimes. I’d never wish him dead.”
           “Neither would I, but the reason I brought Carmen up is that he imparted some interesting information about Father McGee before he departed from the world.”
           I tell Mike of the recent encounter with Carmen at Mutt’s place, starting with Bob’s first interaction with him. By the time I fill him in on Carmen’s final tirade against the bartender, I can see that Mike is excited. After I tell him of the information I garnered from Lenny Bryson last evening and tie it all together with Paul Grimm’s conspiracy theory, Mike is grinning.
           “What the hell, Duane, we got some dirt on the Duke here. There’s something he’s hiding in the boiler room, and now he want’s to cover it up with a parking lot. For him to go to that much trouble, destroying an architectural landmark and bumping off poor, old Carmen, it must be big. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hiding a body in there.”
           “C’mon Mike, I don’t like the guy either, but that’s jumping to conclusions, don’t you think? It could be something like asbestos. Brittany said that happened once where she lived. A bunch of old asbestos was found in a buried basement when they were digging a foundation for a new building.”
           “I don’t care if it is something like asbestos, that’s still something. I just want an angle on this guy, some leverage. We got to find out what’s in that room somehow.”
           “The bartender at Mutt’s suggested that we break in.”
           “That’s not a bad idea. After all, the school’s going to be torn down anyway. It’s not like we’re out to steal something or vandalize the place. I’m all for it.”
           “I thought you’d like that approach, but there’s another plan in the works. Bob and a coalition of respectable alumni are going to meet with the Bishop and ask permission to break down the wall to see the boiler room again, for old times sake.”
           “Hmm, I don’t know what I think about that. Why show your hand when you don’t have to?”
           “I think it’s worth a try, because whether Duke gives his permission or not, his reaction will tell a lot.”
           “Yah, that true; I guess it’s worth a try. But if Duke doesn’t grant Bob’s request, which my guess is that he won’t, do you want to go ahead and break in, you and me?”
           “I don’t know about that. Are you serious?”
           “Hell yes, why not?”
           “Well, for one thing, it’s a crime.”
           “Life’s a crime, Ryan. Besides, I’ve got a good lawyer, and if we get caught, he’ll pin it all on you. I don’t want the old school to come down, and I promised my mother I’d try to stop it, so I’ll do whatever it takes.
           And think about it, how hard would they come down on two old alumni like us, upset over the fact that our alma mater is going to be destroyed, who have a little too much to drink at their class reunion and just have to see their old hangout one last time. We would be totally vindicated in the court of public opinion and probably just get a slap on the wrist in a court of law.”
           “I don’t know, Book, I . . .”
           "C’mon, where’s that old Duane Ryan insanity I used to know and love? Aren’t you the guy that drove down the church steps in the jeep that night after we beat Greensburg Central Catholic for the diocese title?”
           “Well, yes, I did, but . . .”
           “And what about the time I went flying out Route 40 in the parents station wagon and you were on the roof, half drunk, hanging on to the luggage rack. You told the cop that you were superman.”
           “Phew, that’s right. He didn’t think that was funny, either. Well, with that resume, I’m definitely qualified for the job. Alright, I guess I’m in. When should we do it?”
           “Almost has to be tonight.”
           “Might as well be. Nobody would expect good Catholic boys to stage a break-in on a Sunday, would they?”
           “Nah, and if we aim for sometime after ten, the campus should be deserted. Hey, I think this will be fun, Duane, whether we find anything or not. I haven’t done something like this in a long time. Let’s hit Corky’s this evening to plan it out. How about for dinner about seven? I think the cook can come up with something vegetarian for you.”
           "Sounds like a plan, Booker."

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