Chapter 7: Commonalities
Chapter 1 <- Chapter 6
“You know I think the fact that I’m not even questioning the giant projector screen with Alexander Hamilton’s face on it in the living room means that I’ve been living with you guys way too long” I muttered, tossing my bag on the couch as I entered the house.
“Hello Abby” Uncle C greeted with a chuckle as he looked over the screen and began to mark one of the two versions of Hamilton’s face on the screen.
“Whattcha doing?” I inquired.
“The FBI is working on a counterfeiting case and I’m helping determine the differences between some old fake bills and new fake bills made by the same counterfeiter” he explained, pointing out which one of the Hamiltons was which.
I looked over the image “check in the center of his brow” I advised.
Charlie looked up and quickly circled the defect. “Thank you” he murmured, circling another difference on the treasurer’s nostril.
“Hello” Don called in greeting as he entered the house.
“Hello” Charlie muttered in response.
“Hi,” I greeted.
“What are you doing?” Don asked, eyeing the projector.
“I’m running a comparison between the counterfeit bills you found earlier today and the older bills that that secret service agent lady gave us.” Charlie explained “there’s a possibility that the small differences may yield some data about their current operation. By the way, I did not mean to cause a problem earlier.“ He added the apology in right along with his sentence.
“You don’t have to apologize for anything” Don objected “I mean Agent Hall and I are- are- I mean, we worked it out. So…” Don dismissed the issue with a sigh. “You know if I left a box of stuff here?”
“What kind of stuff?” Charlie inquired.
“It’s just this one box in particular.” Don explained “when I moved back from Albuquerque. I thought I got everything, but it’s not in my apartment. I can’t remember where I put it” he turned to me “have you seen a box of my stuff”
I shook my head “I wouldn’t know what it was if I had”
Don nodded “you check the garage?” Charlie suggested.
“Yeah” Don replied then the front door opened “that you Dad?” he called heading over. “Hey let me get the door” he offered, helping Alan whose arms were full of groceries.
“You must have some kind of sixth sense.” Alan declared “I buy rib-eye and you just materialize”
“Well actually…” Don started then paused “you say rib-eye?”
“Yeah” Alan nodded.
“With, like, a baked potato?” he asked Alan just chuckled then he spotted Charlie’s set up.
“Oh, very nice, Charlie” Alan sighed “so how long is this going to be?”
“This is just for a few days.” Charlie assured as Don took a seat. “I needed to look at this as soon as I possibly could” Uncle C knelt at his computer and changed the screen to the upper right hand corner of the bills “Now the spiral patterns in money are based on a technique called guilloche. It’s like a wheel within a wheel within a wheel; a pattern created by the additions and multiplications of nested sine waves. Same was used by Faberge to create those little famous eggs”
“Oh well that explains it” Alan muttered and I chuckled.
“What does this have to do with the case?” Don questioned.
“I think they have a new artist,” Charlie declared, “in fact, I’m sure of it.”
“How can you tell that?” Don asked
“I’ve been running a wavelet analysis of these spirals I’m talking about.” Charlie informed “mathematicians at Dartmouth use a similar process to test authenticity of masterpiece paintings. Here, look it..” Charlie reached into his pocket and pulled out a real ten “alright ten dollars. Now we don’t often think about it, but someone must’ve drawn this design, right?”
“You’re right?” Don nodded.
“I want you to think of that artist as a runner on the beach” Charlie gave the visual “he’s leaving footprints which record every decision he makes; faster, slower, closer to the water, farther away. Now these,” he gestured to the screen “are counterfeit bills, a second artist trying to copy the original. A second runner. Now, when that second runner tries to follow the exact same path as the first, it’s impossible. Even if he’s being careful he can’t match the footprints without leaving evidence of himself. Different foot size, different stride, that’s how you spot a forgery. And when a third runner tries to match the footprints, he’ll leave evidence as well, but in a different way than the second runner.” Charlie explained “these two counterfeit bills have two different footprints.”
“Hence the new artist.” Don inferred.
“You find that artist..”
“Charlie we can’t find the counterfeiter,” Don objected “let alone the artist”
“You keep on saying he’s an artist, this guy.” Alan spoke up “he’s not really an artist is he? He’s more like a copier”
“Well he has to have some skill to draw something so detailed” I commented.
“It’s actually, it’s more like being able to draw, you know say, the Mona Lisa. freehand.” Don supplied.
“Oh I see” Alan muttered picking up the grocery bags and heading toward the kitchen.
“What I can do now, Don,” Charlie continued “is to take this initial comparative analysis and…”
Don was no longer listening to Charlie instead he got up and pulled out his phone. “Hey David it’s Don. Look, I want to expand the search, okay? Not just counterfeiters, but art forgers. Yeah alright” he hung up the phone and turned to his brother “good work” he declared before heading after Alan into the kitchen.
“I think we gave him an idea,” I told Charlie.
“I think you’re right,” the man agreed.
The cafeteria was probably my least favorite place in school. At least in the back of the classroom I could tune people out and it was mostly quiet. In the cafeteria everything was loud, people were moving and cliques ran rampant.
I took my tray and headed toward a booth in the corner that was empty. I was almost there when something caught my foot and I fell to the ground, my tray clattering and spraying the chicken noodle soup I had been about to eat everywhere.
“Watch where you’re going reject!” A girl who had been splashed by my food snapped standing straight up.
“Really making a habit of this huh street rat?” the girl who had made it a habit to trip me asked from behind as I got to my knees.
“You could really stand to come up with better insults” I voiced casually keeping the anger out of my voice “you know I’ve been called some pretty creative things and you just ain’t cutting it”
The girl who’d tripped me scoffed. “This shirt was designer” the girl I had gotten soup on screeched.
I looked at the blue and white striped top “sorry but I think you got ripped off” I pointed out without thinking.
“Hey you trying to pick a fight?” a boy asked standing up behind the girl.
“No, I’m just trying to eat lunch,” I replied cautiously, starting to stand.
“Yeah well if I were you I’d scram” he told me. I held up my hands in a defensive gesture and reached down to collect my tray. A hand grabbed my bicep yanking me back “I said scram”
I was tossed back into the girl who had tripped me who launched me forward back toward the guy who was stepping forward fists clenched. “A street rat like you shouldn’t be here” the girl behind me snapped.
“Yeah and a bitch like you shouldn’t be gifted vocal chords looks like nobody wins” I countered looking back at her.
“Why you little-” she threw a punch that caught me in the jaw. I started to go down but grabbed her down with me.
People had started chanting and gathering as we wrestled on the ground pulling hair, punching, and kicking. I had the upper hand by the time I was being grabbed and pulled off her by a pair of teachers.
“Enough!” Clive yelled, stepping between us. As the other girl got helped to her feet all I could think was that I shouldn’t have taken Don’s deal.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Don murmured. The group began to disperse heading to fill out reports and gather more information connected to this new finding. Don was about to follow when he got a call.
He glanced at the phone and was surprised to see it was the number of his daughter’s school he sighed before answering “hello”
“Hello Mr. Eppes this is Mrs. Clive I’m your daughter Abby’s teacher. We’ve talked before” the woman on the other side answered.
“Yes I remember” Don replied already getting a bad feeling “is she okay?”
“For the most part” The woman sighed, sounding tired from what Don could tell and slightly annoyed? “She was involved in a fight today at school during lunch”
“She what?” Don asked immediately, agitated. “What happened?”
“It was an altercation incited by some other students in the cafeteria” Clive explained “witnesses and video confirmed that the other girl threw the first punch but she’s still going to be having detention for all of next week”
Don let off a breath his initial anger cooling “do I need to come pick her up?”
“No she’ll be finishing out the day as normal but I would suggest talking to her about it” Clive stated “she’s right here”
Don shook his head “yeah put her on”
“Hello Donald” Abby muttered into the phone.
“You alright?” he asked first.
“Yeah I’m fine. Bloody lip some bruising, girl wasn’t that tough” Abby replied and he could visualize her shrugging as she said it.
“What happened to making friends?” Don inquired.
“I tried. I got punched” Abby muttered bluntly “does this negate the deal?”
Don sighed “we’ll negotiate the finer points of the deal later” he paused “how’d the other girl turn out?”
“Worse then me” Abby muttered and he heard the slight pride in her voice.
“I don’t want to get more calls at work about you getting in fights” Don stated “but good job defending yourself”
“Thanks Don” Abby replied a smile in her voice.
“Yeah kid see you later” he told her.
He hung up and pocketed the phone. “What was that about?” Don turned surprised to find Kim looking at him from where she had been gathering files. He hadn’t realized she was still in the room.
“My daughter got in a fight at school,” he explained.
“Daughter?” Kim questioned straightening in surprise.
“Uh yeah” Don muttered realizing how odd this was going to be to explain. “She’s sixteen. Me and her mother were together in college. I didn’t know until her mom died and she was sent to live with me two months ago. Her names Abby”
“Abby” Kim nodded “you’re a dad. That’s uh that’s not really something I expected to find out”
“Yeah me neither” he joked lightly there was an awkward silent moment between them and he took the moment to retreat from the room.
“You got in a fight at school?” Alan asked the minute I walked through the front door.
I sighed “I didn’t start it.”
“Don called and told me” Alan explained “what happened?”
“Girl punched me. I punched back. She got suspended. I got detention” I muttered tossing my backpack on the couch.
“Well why’d she punch you?” Alan pressed.
I shrugged “she likes to trip kids she doesn’t like going through the halls and call them names I called her one back and she couldn’t take it”
Alan sighed “Abby, you have to be the better person. Turn the other cheek”
“My innate ability for sarcasm doesn’t really lend to that” I told him. “Where’s Uncle C by the way. I want to ask if I can help on the case”
“I think he went downstairs,” Alan explained then looked at me closer. “Is your lips bleeding?”
I brought a hand up to my lip and touched it causing a little sting. “It’s nothing serious” I assured and headed past him toward the basement steps.
Alan was right behind me. I descended the steps and looked to see Charlie pilfering through a box. “You sure you want to be looking through that stuff?” Alan spoke up behind me.
The younger man straightened over the box slightly, pictures in his hand “Dad, do you recognize this lady?” he asked, holding up the picture as me and Alan reached the bottom of the steps. Alan passed me and took the photo looking at it and I peered over his arm at it. The image was of my Dad and a woman with long brown hair. She was on his shoulders as he held up his arms proudly.
“Uh, yeah, it’s Kim, isn’t it?” Alan voiced.
“That’s Kim Hall,” Charlie agreed.
“Who’s Kim?” I asked.
“She and Don lived together in New Mexico” Charlie explained “and, uh, he never told me about it.”
“Well you know your brother.” Alan sighed.
“Why do I get the feeling my dad has a lot of ex’s” I muttered.
Alan made a face and nodded slightly as Charlie packed up the box. “You know we’d never heard your mother’s name until you showed up” Alan explained “Don’s just a very private person”
“I guess everyone has a right to be private” I conceded knowing there were things I hadn’t told them about me.
“Even to family?” Charlie sighed.
“Alright I’m back” Alan decreed, sitting down across from me and setting a bowl of popcorn on the table. “You didn’t move any of these when I wasn’t here did you?” he gestured to our chess game.
“No of course not” I replied annoyed as I grabbed a couple pieces of popcorn from the bowl.
“Alright what’s bothering you?” Alan inquired, moving one of his rooks on the board.
“What do you mean?” I replied sliding my bishop a couple squares.
“Well normally a comment like mine would have initiated a snarky response” Alan explained “remember your innate ability for sarcasm? Instead I got a short response. So what is the matter?”
“Nothing” I replied as he moved one of his pieces and I quickly countered him.
“Yeah right does this have something to do with the fight at school?” Alan inquired.
“No” I gave him a look “you might not want to hear this but this isn’t my first fight”
“Yeah I didn’t want to know that but somehow it’s not really a surprise” Alan sighed “check” I quickly countered the check. “Does it have something to do with Don and this woman?”
“I just don’t get it,” I voiced. Alan gave me a look and I sighed “It’s just, my mom and me we had this agreement that I wouldn’t lie to her and she wouldn’t keep secrets from me” I explained. “But it’s like with Don” I ended with a huffed breath.
“Donnie doesn’t really understand that when you have kids you have to talk to them.” Alan explained “now there are somethings that kids don’t need to know about but this woman coming back into his life I do think is something you need to talk to him about”
“He didn’t even mention her when we talked on the phone earlier” I commented.
“Well when you talked on the phone there was a more pressing matter” Alan pointed out. I let off a breath and nodded eating some more popcorn. “Abby, I have the feeling communication will never be your and Don’s strong suit but just ask him about it alright?”
“Alright” I muttered.
“Oh checkmate” Alan informed.
“Damn” I sighed “again?”
“Sure” Alan agreed and started resetting the board.
I looked into the bowl of popcorn before turning to my grandfather. “Do you have any peanut butter?”
“That’s the good part” Kim commented coming up to Don as they watched the woman who had been held hostage reunite with her husband.
“Yup” Don agreed.
“I forgot how much I missed that.” Kim voiced.
“It’s a good thing, right?”
“Yeah” Kim sighed “everyone’s already at Kinsella’s” she explained “Figure the Secret Service owes the FBI a few rounds if you want to come.”
“Well, actually, I got a bit of work to do here,” Don objected. “And I have to go get Abby from my dad’s house so”
“Okay,” Kim agreed “we are going to trip over each other again, Don.” she pointed out “if you and Terry can be partners, we can at least try to..”
“Yeah definitely” Don agreed.
“Okay. well” Kim sighed “first rounds on me.” She started to walk away but paused glancing back at the man “you know that kid of yours is pretty lucky to have you as her dad. I’m sure you’re great at it”
Don nodded and smiled as the woman left passing Terry as she went. “More interagency politics?” the man’s partner commented in passing.
Don unlocked the apartment door and headed inside followed by Abby. “so you basically had three kids ready to fight you and you still made a snarky comment?”
Abby shrugged “the one girl was too prissy to throw down and I wasn’t sure the jock would hit a girl”
“Yeah well” Don muttered, getting into the fridge to get a beer. Abby paused leaning on the counter.
“So this Kim lady” she began and Don turned to her. “You guys were serious in the past right?”
“Yeah” Don nodded “we were”
“Okay” Abby bit her lip which stung a little since it was still cut and shifted on her feet. “You know me and my mom had this pact where we stopped keeping things from each other. And I don’t expect you to tell me everything. I mean I get not wanting to share but if anything comes up or like you know ex-girlfriends appear can you just clue me in. Please?”
Each word was specifically chosen, Don could tell. She’d been thinking about this. She must have found out from Charlie or Alan. Part of Don felt annoyed at the idea that his relatives had told her about this but he knew she needed to know things. Her life was dependent on his now.
“Okay” he agreed. Abby nodded with a slight smile. “Still you might want to put a lid on that attitude of yours or next time you might deserve to get punched” Don advised lightening the mood.
“Hey I got it from you” the girl pointed out with a smirk before heading up the stairs to her room. Don sighed but a small smile came to his face.
The man headed over to the couch and clicked on the tv. He watched it as he heard Abby moving around upstairs and eventually settle before there was a knock on his door. “Don?”
He turned confused at his brother’s voice “Charlie?” he got up and headed to the door “you alright?” he opened the door to see his brother holding a box in his arms.
“Hey, I found this box. I thought I’d” he shuffled into the apartment.
“What? Bring it over at 2:00 in the morning?” Don questioned.
“Yeah” Charlie muttered looking around the apartment.
“Well keep it down Abby’s asleep” Don advised then he got a look at the box “what did you do? You opened it?” he took it away from his brother heading for the coffee table “what is with you, man? Even when we were kids, you were always going through my stuff.”
“You always had cool stuff” Charlie defended as Don sat down to look through the box’s contents. His pace slowed as memories started to drift through his mind “seems like you left a lot of good friends back there, huh?”
“Yeah, well, family first. Right?” Don muttered looking in the envelope his search had really been pointed toward.
“Right” Charlie murmured, still hanging near the doorway. Don pulled the ring from the envelope and shifted it in his fingers. Then he remembered Charlie was there looking up, they locked eyes and then quickly looked away. Don dropped the ring back in the envelope.
“Look, I was going to tell you. I just..” Don trailed as he tried to gather his thoughts “I don’t know. I mean, we were in two different worlds. You know how it is.” Don sighed looking at a couple photos now “and mom got sick and… I don’t know.”
“I understand” Charlie murmured.
“Yeah?” Don looked for confirmation.
“Yeah.” Charlie nodded “I agree we’re from, uh from two different worlds”
“Well not so much lately” Don encouraged when he saw his father’s face fall
“Yeah” a small smile appeared on Charlie’s face to match his brother’s.
“See me all the time now.” Don pointed out.
Charlie nodded “I’ve learned a lot from you, actually” he confessed.
“Thanks” Don smiled.
“Okay,” Charlie shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
“You want to watch the rest of the movie” Don suggested pointing to the tv.
“Okay sure” Charlie agreed, easily coming to sit in the chair next to the couch.
“It’s a great flick” Don explained moving the box off the coffee table “it’s about baseball”
“The most statistically driven sport in the world” Charlie commented.
“You want a beer?” Don offered.
“No thanks” Charlie objected politely, eyes on the screen.
Abby smiled from her place hidden on the steps. She could tell from the beginning that her uncle and father were from different worlds and she wasn’t sure which she understood more. Still she was glad they could find their common ground, maybe it held hope for a future where her own world made a bit more sense.
Chapter 8 ->