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DANCING WITH DARKDOUGH
A Noir New Year's Mystery
By Tim Wintermute

I hadn’t planned on ringing in the New Year three thousand miles from Times Square.  The only similarities between this place and New York City are that they’re both on rivers and next to an ocean.  True, there is an Astoria in New York, but it’s in Queens and it’s less than an hour by subway from my home in Manhattan, while this Astoria required five hours on a plane, although the first class plane ticket sure beat the no class subway. After landing in Portland, Oregon I still had a two hour drive in rental car. My rental was a whale size SUV that swallowed me and my bag and seemed to gulp gas like it was Kool-Aid. Why had I agreed, I asked myself as I sat nursing a coffee at a place called Coffee Girl, which is in an old cannery at the end of a pier on the Columbia River?  Maybe the hefty fee plus expenses had something to do with it. I try to avoid missing person cases, because the person usually doesn’t want to be found, especially by the person who hired me to look for them.  That wouldn’t be the case this time since the person who’s missing hired me.  

I wasn’t sure who to expect but it wasn’t the tall, slender, and very attractive woman who sat down opposite me.

“Have you been waiting long, Frank?” She asked in a soft voice, almost like a cat purring.

“No, and how do you know I’m the person you’re supposed to meet?”

“You stick out like a sore …” she raised the thumb with its manicured nail painted bright red.

“I guess if I go undercover, I’ll have to get some different clothes to cover me.  What do they wear around here?”

“Just look around,” she said. I looked around at the patrons.  They were wearing fleece vests, hoodies, jeans, baseball and knitted caps, and assorted rain gear. “There’s a store in town called Big River Outfitters where you can get some clothes that will help you blend in. Here’s some cash.” She reached into her purse, pulled out a billfold and extracted a wad of fifties, peeled some off and handed it to me. “Consider it an expense.”

Someone at the counter called Lucy and she got up, went over to the counter and retrieved a cup with a lot of froth on top. After she brought it back and sat down, I said, “Well, Lucy, now that we’ve met in person, you’re no longer missing so the case is closed.”

“You don’t know if that’s my real name.”

I pointed at the cup, “Does that belong to someone else?”

“I mean, I’m Lucy now, but I don’t think that’s always been my name. Same with the last name I go by.”

“You mean Nielsen,” I said, and then added, “I read it on your driver’s license when you opened your billfold.”

“Pretty good eyesight.”

“That’s why they call me a private eye,” I said and took a sip of coffee. I had the urge to smoke a cigarette, but the place was nonsmoking, and outside on the deck there seemed to be some sort of gale going on, and besides, my New Year’s resolution last year was to stop smoking for a year. Unlike all the other resolutions I’d ever made I was only a couple days short of actually keeping this one.

“I love this place,” she said.  “You know it’s called Coffee Girl because this used to be the Bumble Bee Cannery, which was the last cannery in Astoria, and the women who served coffee to the workers were called coffee girls. Most of the workers in the cannery were women as well. Apparently, they were better than men at fileting fish.”

“Were the men better at catching them?” I asked.

Lucy grinned, “You mean catching the fish or the women?”

“Both.”

She laughed. “Maybe that’s why I’m missing, I got away.” It was easy to imagine that a lot of guys had tried to hook her, and it wasn’t hard to imagine that a lot of them were still trying.

“So, tell me your story.”

“That’s why I hired you, to tell me. I woke up in a hotel here in Astoria a year ago on New Year’s Day and didn’t know who I was or how I got here. I didn’t have a bump on my head or anything, so I hadn’t been knocked out, at least not with a blunt instrument. There was a purse and billfold.  There was a photo ID that said I was Lucy Nielsen.  There was also a Wells Fargo debit card. When I went to the Wells Fargo branch in town I found out Lucy had a couple of accounts with hundreds of thousands of dollars in them. The address on the ID turned out to be for a slip where boats are docked in what’s called the West Mooring Basin. When I went there I found there was no slip with that number.  When I asked at the office and other people at the Basin, nobody recognized me or knew anyone by the name of Lucy Nielsen.” 

“It does sound fishy,” I said. “Looks like the only thing real about the ID is your photo.”

“I rented an apartment and got an Oregon driver’s license – fortunately I remembered how to drive.  That gave me a real ID, but I couldn’t remember who Lucy Nielsen was or even if that was my actual name before I had amnesia. After a year passed I decided to hire a private detective.”

 “Why hire a private eye from New York instead of here?”

“There aren’t many private detectives around here and I didn’t know if they would keep what they found private. New York City has a lot of private detectives and it’s on the other side of the country ...”

“So they wouldn’t be tempted to tell any of the locals what they found,” I nodded. “Why did you pick me?”

“After a lot of searching online I found the Discreet Detective Agency.  I thought that someone discreet is what I needed.”

“Discreet is my first name,” I deadpanned a reply. “I have to admit I don’t usually take on missing person cases, but when you told me you were the person who was missing I changed my mind.” That and her offer to pay me a thousand dollars a day with five thousand upfront, as well as my expenses including a first class plane ticket.

“Since I called you I found out that someone has been asking around about me, I mean the person who was before I got amnesia.” 

“How do you know someone is looking for you?”

“Because a stranger asked Eve if she knew a female dancer who arrived in Astoria around this time last year.”

“Who’s Eve?”

“She a friend of mine who works at a nonprofit arts center where I volunteer.”

“How do you know this guy was looking for you?”

“Because I’m a dancer and I arrived a year ago.”

“Wait, if you don’t remember anything about your past how do you know you’re a dancer?”

“Not had been, but still am.  Apparently once you’re a dancer you’re always a dancer,” she said. “You see, about a week after I woke up as Lucy Nielsen I went to a dance performance at the Astoria Performing Arts Center and was surprised to find out that I could follow everything they were doing and even critique their performance. Not superficially, but like I knew the dances they were performing and all of the movements. The next day I went back to the Center and asked if I could just watch one of the dance classes.  It was an advanced class in modern dance and before I knew it I was out of my chair and dancing along as if I’d done it all my life, which may be the truth. When she saw me dancing Eve stopped the class and called a break.  Then she came over and told me that based on what she’d just seen, I should be the instructor and she should be one of the students. Apparently my body remembers I was a dancer, even if my brain doesn’t remember anything. Eve asked me if I’d volunteer there as a dance instructor and I said yes.  It’s not like I need a paid job with all the money in Lucy Nielsen’s bank accounts. I hoped that through dance I’d recover the rest of my memory, but I haven’t.”

“I take it Eve didn’t tell this guy anything?”

Lucy shook her head. “She was suspicious when he told her we’d met in a bar called the Sea Hag, which is a dive bar.  Eve couldn’t imagine me going there and also didn’t believe I would give some guy I met in a bar my phone number, which he claimed he’d lost. She’s right, of course, and that’s why I don’t want this guy to find me, even if he knows who I was in my previous life.” 

“Did she describe the guy?”

“Eve told me he had a broken nose that made him look like a boxer, but it would be better if you ask Eve directly.” She took out a pen and wrote on a napkin.  “This is the Astoria Performing Arts Center address. I’ll call her and tell her you’re coming by and that she should tell you everything.”

“Hopefully she can help me find this guy.”

“So you can find out why he’s looking for me,” she replied, nodding her head. 

“That, and because, like you said, he probably knows who you were before you got amnesia.”

I found Eve in her office at the Astoria Performing Arts Center, which was located in a building next to a church on Eleventh Street. She was in her fifties with long, gray streaked hair that seemed to explode like she’d done a headstand on a land mine, large round glasses and an easy smile. She told me she’d never seen the man who’d asked about Lucy before. He hadn’t come out and said he was looking for her, but said that he’d met her at the Sea Hag, that’s a dive bar in town, and lost her phone number.  He said that he’d heard she was a dancer and taught at the arts center. 

“Of course, I didn’t give him her phone number, but I told him if he gave me his I’d pass it on to her.  He said never mind and that he was sure he’d run into her again. When I told Lucy she said she’d never been to the Sea Hag and she certainly wouldn’t have given her phone number to some guy she had just met.” 

Eve described the guy as having a broken nose, about six feet tall, and being muscular like he worked out with weights. “He said he was into dance,” Eve laughed.  “But based on his broken nose the only dancing I thought he was into was inside the ropes of a boxing ring.” 

After I thanked Eve she invited me to the New Year’s Eve celebration that night at the Liberty Theater.  “It’s a benefit for the Arts Center.  There will be musicians and dancers performing, including Lucy.”  I told her sure and she gave me a ticket in return for a fifty dollar bill. 

At Big River Outfitters I bought a Pendleton plaid shirt, a pair of 501 Levi’s with the button fly, a Carhartt fleece vest, Wolverine boots that had steel toes in case I dropped a log on my foot, Wigwam wool socks, a Helly Hansen raincoat and topped off my outfit with a black wool stocking cap. After paying for my undercover outfit with the cash Lucy had given me, I walked out of the store wearing them with my city slicker clothes stuffed in a shopping bag feeling like I should break them in by chopping down a tree. I dropped the shopping bag in the SUV next to my suitcase.

 

I assumed that since Eve said the guy mentioned a dive bar called the Sea Hag he must have been there at least once. It was on the waterfront just a block from Big River, so I walked there in my undercover outfit. It was at the end of a pier like Coffee Girl, but unlike that place nobody was gazing out the window at the mighty Columbia; the patrons seemed interested in staring at the bottle or shot glass in front of them. In any case, they wouldn’t have been able to see the water through all of the grime on the glass.  I ordered a beer.  It was a local beer called City of Dreams. I told the bartender at least it didn’t taste like a bad dream. He didn’t laugh at the joke, but he grinned when I slipped him a twenty in exchange for some information on the guy who’d asked Eve about Lucy.

 

After I described the guy, the bartender said, “Yeah, I remember him. He came in here about a week ago, just before Christmas. We’re not exactly a tourist attraction, so you notice when some stranger walks in. He told me this place had plenty of ambience. I wasn’t sure if that was an insult or what, but he ordered a Rob Roy instead of a beer or shot of whiskey and I appreciated the opportunity to exercise my mixology skills.”

“Did he mention his name?”

“Nope, and I never asked. This isn’t like that television bar Cheers -- nobody cares what your name is here.”

“How about where he was staying?”

“As a matter of fact, he did mention a place,” he replied, then stopped and tapped his right index finger on the bar.  I pulled out another twenty and pushed it across the bar toward him. At this rate I’d have to use the ATM machine next to a couple of ancient video games and a pinball machine from the stone age. Pocketing my twenty, he continued without skipping a beat. “He said he had a room at the Grand Astoria. I was surprised, because it’s the best hotel in town, so I wondered why someone staying there would want to drink here. A few years ago things would have been different, because it was a dump, but then some rich folks from Portland bought it and did what they call an historic renovation.  Got a brass plaque next to the front door that tells you some of the famous people who stayed there before it fell on hard times.”  He chuckled. “Maybe we should put up a plaque listing some of the nobodies who’ve drank here … and still do.”

 The Grand Astoria did look pretty grand.  It was on Commercial Street, which seemed to be the main drag of Astoria.  Across the street from it was the Liberty Theater where the big New Year’s Eve bash that I now had my fifty dollar ticket for was going to happen. It looked like it was built in the nineteen twenties in an architectural style that was supposed to make people think they were going to see an Italian opera instead of a silent movie or vaudeville.  Not having booked a place to stay and since my expenses were being covered, I went back to my rental car, took out my suitcase, leaving the shopping bag of big city clothes I’d worn before I’d bought my flannel and fleece wardrobe. They must have cut down a lot of trees for the hotel’s wood paneled lobby, although logging being a big business in this part of the country, that was probably cheaper than wallpaper.

 

While I registered I made small talk with the woman desk clerk. “I’m probably the only person from New York who’s stayed here in a long time,” I said. 

 

She replied exactly as I hoped. “As a matter of fact we have another guest from New York City staying with us.”

“Maybe I know the person.  New York may be a big city, but we might be neighbors.” I said, giving her a Mister Rogers welcome to my neighborhood smile.

She tapped on the computer keyboard and looked at the screen.  I leaned over the desk and caught a glimpse of the screen, which displayed the person’s name and address. I resumed my position just before she turned and faced me.  “According to his registration he lives in another zip code than yours.”

I thanked the clerk. I knew he lived in Manhattan on the Upper Eastside and his name was Ray Dempsey. After dumping my bag in my hotel room, I went downstairs to the lobby. There was a bar and a couple of people were drinking cocktails. I ordered coffee and picked up a copy of the local paper that was in a stack at the end of the bar, then took a seat in a leather wing chair in the corner. Unlike a cell phone, a newspaper can hide your face when you’re staking someone out.  An hour and two refills later, I’d read everything in the paper including the advertisements, the personals, and, my favorite, the Police Report. Nothing tells you more about a place than reading the nefarious activities its not so upstanding citizens engage in. In the case of Astoria it was entertaining to read about the ingenious ways people can get themselves in trouble. One report was of someone dressed as Santa Claus who was caught shoplifting on Christmas Eve.  I guess even Santa had a supply chain problem this year. I was about to start on the paper’s crossword puzzle when Dempsey walked out of the elevator and out the front door.  

I followed Dempsey as he walked west on Commercial Street and then turned right on Eleventh. He stopped at a coffee shop and took a seat next to one of the windows. Although I was already over caffeinated, I went to the counter and ordered another coffee. I could have ordered decaf, but that might have attracted attention.  Just as I was trying to figure out where I could sit and watch him without him noticing me, Dempsey jumped out of his chair and rushed out the door. I ran after him, my coffee still in my right hand. Outside, he took off across Eleventh toward a man and a woman.  The man was trying to wrestle the woman into a car and the woman was Lucy. Dempsey grabbed the man and slugged him, then pulled Lucy away.  The man jumped in the passenger seat of the car as it quickly took off. Now this was an interesting development to say the least.  If Dempsey was after Lucy then he wasn’t the only one. “Hold it right there!” I yelled as if I was holding a gun instead of a cup of coffee in my hand. 

Both Dempsey and Lucy turned to look at me. “Who the hell are you?” He asked.

“Frank,” Lucy said.

“Yeah,” I answered, lowering my tough guy tone a fraction. “I’m Frank and I’m here to protect her.”

“So am I.”

“Did you hire this guy as well?” I asked Lucy.

“I’ve never seen him before in my life, at least that I remember, but I’m glad to see him now.”

“Why don’t we go some place and talk?” I suggested.

“There’s a place called the Inferno Lounge a block away on the waterfront,” Lucy said. “It’s not a dive bar despite the name. We can talk there.”

“I could use a drink other than coffee,” I said, pouring the contents of the cup on the pavement. 

It reminded me of Coffee Girl except for a view of a bridge that resembled a giant erector.  Lucy told us it was called the Megler Bridge although the locals call it the ‘bridge to nowhere,’ nowhere being the mist shrouded shore of the State of Washington. The bridge’s corkscrew ramp ended with an arch over the shipping channel before descending onto a long causeway reminding me of a roller coaster and made me queasy just looking at it.  The Inferno specialized in cocktails, but I ordered a beer instead. Lucy ordered a vodka and tonic.

 

Ray Dempsey turned out not to be a boxer.  His nose was flattened by an elbow when he was a wrestler in college and he never had it straightened out.  “My college girlfriend said it made me look like the actor Liam Neeson.  Before that I looked like nobody in particular,” he explained as he ordered a Rob Roy, which was apparently his signature drink and coincidentally was named for the guy that Neeson played in the movie. I didn’t see the resemblance to Neeson but had to agree that his face wasn’t one you’d forget, which was actually a liability if you were tailing someone. On the other hand, my face is so forgettable that I have a hard time describing myself even when I’m looking in a mirror.

“Why are you here to protect Lucy?” I asked.

“And who am I?” Lucy said.

Dempsey seemed surprised. “You don’t know?”

“A year ago I woke up in a hotel here in Astoria and had no memory of who I was or how I got here.”

“That explains some things.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like why I had a hard time finding you. I looked for you in Astoria, Queens in New York City but couldn’t find you, so I figured that when you mentioned Astoria you meant some other Astoria. Fortunately, there are only five other places in the country with that name. I worked my way west through Astorias in Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and South Dakota.  This was the last one. I took a chance that you’d be involved in dance, so I went to the Performing Arts Center and described you to the woman who runs the place. She confirmed you volunteered there but wouldn’t give me any contact info.  I decided to hang around and see if I could spot you.  I mean, Astoria isn’t that big a place. Then I saw you walking down the street and that guy jump out of a car and grab you. I had to stop him.”

“Lucky for me you did. But why would someone want to grab me?”

“Because you’ve got a lot of dough that they want to get their hands on.”

“Me?  But how?”

“From what you told me when you hired me …”

“Hired you?” 

“Yeah, I’m a private detective. Sole proprietor of RD Detective Agency. You called me.” 

“What did I, Lucy, if that’s my real name, tell you on the phone?”

“That someone you had been dating had given you a password to open the wallet for a cybercurrency called DarkDough where he had deposited millions of dollars.  He told you some people he used to work with are after it, but they need a password that’s called a key code to unlock it. He gave you the code and told you to change it to one that you made up and then memorize it.”

“I guess I didn’t do a good job, because I don’t remember any code, or anything else for that matter,” Lucy said. “Did I tell you anything else?” 

“You told me this guy said he was going to disappear for a year.  He would meet you again in Astoria on the next New Year’s Eve and you would give him the new code.   You also said that he had paid you a lot of money and that you wanted to hire me to protect you until you met up with him the following New Year’s Eve, which is tonight. Being paid to protect you for a year sounded pretty good to me, so I agreed. Right after I gave you the info on where you could wire my retainer, we agreed to meet at a coffee shop near my office. You described yourself so I would recognize you when you walked in. Then you said you had to hang up because there was someone who looked suspicious. You never showed at the coffee shop. However, the money for my retainer had been wired to my bank account.  It was even more than I’d asked for.  As far as I was concerned, you’d hired me to protect you, which meant that I had to find you. All I had to go on was that you were a dancer, your description, and that you were going to meet this guy in Astoria. Fortunately, I found you in time to protect you and earn my fee.”

“Since I hired you then you must know who I was before I got amnesia? I don’t even know if my real name Lucy Nielsen.”

“I don’t know if that’s your real name or not,” Dempsey said with a sorrowful shrug. “You didn’t give it to me before you hung up.  All you had time to tell me was to describe yourself and that you were a dancer.”

“You could have traced her phone number.”

“I tried but no dice,” Ray said and looked at Lucy. “You probably were using a ‘burner’ phone that can’t be traced.”

“It sounds like the only people who know who you were in your previous life are the guys who tried to grab you so they can get this code from you,” I said.

“But I already told you I don’t remember any code.”

“Right, I forgot that you have amnesia,” I said, then took a sip of beer.  

“And you don’t have any idea as to what caused this amnesia of yours?” Dempsey asked. 

“When I woke up here, I didn’t have any injuries like a bruise on my head or anything, so I don’t think I was knocked out.” 

“If it had been a knock on the head you would have recovered by now,” I said.

“Maybe I was drugged,” Lucy offered. 

“I think it’s more likely that it was caused by some sort of traumatic event,” Dempsey said.

“Something that scared the wits or, in this case, your memories out of you.”

“Whatever caused it, the only thing I remember from my past is my dancing.  In fact, tonight I’m going to perform a dance I remember quite vividly.”

“You know these guys who are after you know who you are and they also know you’ll be performing,” I said.

“Good thing you now have two detectives to protect you,” Dempsey assured her.

“To go with your two identities,” I deadpanned.

“Then the show must go on,” Lucy declared.

  

That night Lucy performed a solo dance on the stage of the Liberty Theater.  I don’t know anything about dance, but I liked what I saw and so did the audience, because they gave her a standing ovation. After she finished taking her bows and exited stage left, the guy who had tried to kidnap her appeared from a dark corner, followed by another guy, who must have been the driver of the car. Before they could grab her, Dempsey jumped on one of them and immobilized him with a wrestler’s half nelson while I took off one of my steel toed boots and clubbed the other guy over the head with it. Although it left me with a bare foot it was worth the sacrifice. As two men in fisherman rain slickers and rubber boots took the stage and belted out sea shanties, we dragged the two guys into the shadows offstage where no one would disturb us. 

The guy Dempsey had in a half nelson struggled to escape, but quickly gave up. I fished the pistols out of their pockets and put them in my own. Given the choke hold he was in, Dempsey’s guy was in no position to talk, so I shook the guy I’d knocked out with my steel toed boot until he came to. “Who put you up to this?” I asked him when his eyes fluttered open.

“It was just us. We went in on a scam with another guy to manipulate the value of a cyber currency called DarkDough and now we want to collect what’s due us. The guy we went in with gave the code that unlocks the DarkDough wallet to this woman he met.  She changed it so we couldn’t unlock it. He gave us her name before we … let’s just say he agreed that we could have his share then he disappeared with a little assist from us.  Since we knew the woman’s name and address, we went there and broke into her apartment.  She was on the phone and we scared the crap out of her, but she got away. Somehow scooted past us and out the door and disappeared. That woman has got some moves, I’ll give her that. No wonder she’s a dancer. We looked at the burner phone she’d dropped, and it said that she made a call to a private dick named Dempsey …”

“That’s me,” Dempsey said, tightening his grip on the guy he was holding for emphasis. “What did you do then?”

“She changed her name and we hoped you might lead us to her,” the guy continued.  “So, we followed you to all these places named Astoria until we got to this one. We tailed you in our car to that coffee shop on Eleventh and then we saw her walking down the street. You came running up just as we were hustling her into our car and you know the rest. All we want is for her to tell us the code. We weren’t going to hurt her.”

“So the pistols you were carrying are for recreational use,” I said, then patted my coat pocket.

“You can pick them up later, but your recreation will be diving to the bottom of the Columbia River to get them.”

“You wasted your time, because she doesn’t have the code,” Dempsey said.

“What do you mean?”

“When you guys jumped her it apparently scared her into a bad case of amnesia.  She ended up here but doesn’t know how she got here or anything about the past, including her name and definitely not this code you’re talking about.”

“What do you mean she forgot the code?”

“You have nobody to blame but yourself for that,” Dempsey growled. “If you two bozos hadn’t traumatized her, she wouldn’t have forgotten.”

“Maybe she wrote it down somewhere?”

“Nope,” I said, shaking my head. Then I asked Dempsey for his phone, which he gave me while not releasing his hold on the guy. I took a picture of both of them. “If you two don’t back off, this is going to be all over Facebook and Twitter. I’m pretty sure a lot of people will be looking for you, including whoever you scammed.”

“It’s called X now,” Dempsey said.

“Yeah, whatever,” I growled.

 

You think they believe I don’t have the code” Lucy said as we sat in the Pig N Pancake with cups of coffee, the only place that we could find that wasn’t full of drunks waiting to ring in the new year.

“I think they believe it and if they don’t they’re not going to try anything after the warning we gave them,” Dempsey said.

“But I think you might remember the code,” I said.

Startled, Lucy said, “What do you mean?”

“I think that dance you performed that you said you remembered vividly might contain the code. Is there any way to put the dance in writing?”

Lucy nodded. “Dance steps can be written as a form of notation. As a matter of fact, when I remembered the dance, I also remembered how to write it down. Here, I can show it to you.” She pulled a notebook from her purse, opened it and showed us a page. Dempsey and I both looked at it. What she had written on the page was 8 I O J L C P X. “Each of these numbers or letters represent a dance move.  For example, the 8 means the dancer, me in this case, creates figure eight with their arms and sustains it as they perform darting, turning run across the stage floor.”

“Okay, let’s see if it works,” Dempsey said.  He pulled out his iPhone, went to the DarkDough home page and punched in the key code. 

“It worked!” Dempsey said, then held the screen up for us to see. “Here’s your DarkDough wallet.”

“There’s only 500 dollars in it,” Lucy said.

“Not 500 dollars, but 500 DarkDough,” Dempsey quickly replied. “And 500 in DarkDough is worth …” He took the phone, thumbed the tiny keyboard and then showed us the screen again.

“But that’s millions,” Lucy gasped. 

“And it makes you a very wealthy woman.”

 “Not me. It belongs to the guy my former self was dating and those two thugs …”

  “All of whom got it through a scam,” Dempsey said. “Which means it belongs to whoever has the key code to access the wallet.”

 “Can we change the key code?” Lucy asked.

 

“Sure,” Dempsey said. “You can come up with another code if you want.  Maybe another dance, or we can use a random password generator.”

“Random is what I want.”

“Okay,” Dempsey tapped the iPhone and a long alphanumeric code appeared on the screen. “You sure you want to replace your existing key code with this one?”

“Yes,” Lucy replied without hesitation.

“You need to write it down before I press finished,” he said. 

“Why?”

“Because without it you won’t be able to access the DarkDough wallet.  Unless you can somehow dance to this string of letters and numbers I don’t see how you’ll be able to remember it.”

“I don’t want to remember it because I don’t want anybody to access the DarkDough wallet … ever,” Lucy said. “Including me.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want,” Dempsey shrugged, then moved the cursor. “But I’m not going to be responsible, so you need to do it yourself. Just click the button the cursor is on and it will be cast into cyberspace forever.”

Lucy clicked the cursor, then sighed in relief and said, “You’ll both get a bonus in addition to your fees.  I, Lucy Nielsen, have plenty of money in my bank account.” Lucy’s sigh turned into a smile, “It seems appropriate that it took both of you, one hired by my present self and one by my former self, to help me out of this mess.”

“Speaking of your former self,” I said. “Before we let those two thugs go, I asked one of them to tell me what your name was before you became Lucy Nielsen. He told me it was …”

Lucy put her hand up to stop me.  “I don’t want him to know who I was and I hope I never remember.  I’m happy being Lucy Nielsen, who lives in Astoria, Oregon and volunteers as a dance teacher.”

 There was a loud bang followed by a series of explosions.  All of us turned and looked out the plate glass window. Fireworks were lighting up the sky over the waterfront. The ball had dropped in Times Square three hours earlier, but the new year in Astoria was just in time.

 

THE END

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