WHEN DORTMUNDER woke up he was stiff as board. He sat up, creaking in every joint, and discovered that his air mattress had developed a leak during the night. In order to have something for them to sleep on, without having to cart half a dozen beds out here from New York, Murch and his Mom had bought a bunch of inflatable air mattresses, the kind that people use in their swimming pools. And Dortmunder’s had sprung a leak during the night, lowering him slowly to the dining room floor, on which he had done the rest of his sleeping. The result being that he was now so stiff he could barely move.
Gray-white daylight crept through the boarded windows, showing him the empty room, the black hole in the center of the ceiling where a chandelier had been removed, and the other two air mattresses. Murch’s was empty, but a blanketed mound breathed slowly and evenly on the other one; Dortmunder felt fatalistic irritation at that. Kelp’s air mattress had not leaked, he was over there sleeping like a baby.
Last night, after the movie, the kid had been put back up in his room with the door locked, for whatever good it might do. But he’d been asleep by then—Dortmunder had had to carry him upstairs—so maybe he was still around. In any event, mattresses had been blown up for the ladies in the living room and for the gentlemen next door in the dining room, and to the pity-pat of rain on the floor—the roof leaked—they had all gone off to sleep.
Speaking of pitter-pat, there wasn’t any. Dortmunder frowned at the windows, but the boards were too close together for him to see out or even to tell what kind of day it was; though this light did seem too pale to be direct sunshine. Anyway. the rain had apparently stopped.
Well, there was nothing for it but to get up, or at least to make the attempt. Also, there was the smell of coffee in the air, which made Dortmunder’s stomach growl softly to itself in anticipation. Last night’s Lurps had been better than nothing, but they weren’t exactly the kind of meal he was used to.
“Urn,” he said, when he leaned forward, and, “Oof,” when he stretched one hand out on the floor and shifted his weight over onto it. “Aggghh,” he said, when he heaved his body heavily over onto one knee, and, “Oh, Jee-sus,” when at last he struggled to his feet.
What a back. It felt as though somebody had pounded a lot of finishing nails into it last night. He bent, twisted, arched his back, and listened to his body creak and snap and complain. Moving a lot like Boris Karloff in that movie last night—in fact, he looked a bit like that character—he staggered out of the dining room and into the living room, where he found May, Murch’s Mom and the kid sitting at the card table, playing hearts. May said, “Good morning. There’s hot water on the hibachi, if you want to make yourself some coffee.”
“I don’t want to make myself some coffee,” Dortmunder said. “My mattress leaked, I slept on the floor, I’m too stiff to bend over.”
“In other words,” May said, “you want me to make it.”
“That’s right,” Dortmunder said.
“After this hand,” May said.
Dortmunder grunted, and went over to open the door and look out at the world. The sky was very gray and the ground was very wet and there was still a damp chill in the air.
“Shut that door,” Murch’s Mom called. “It’s nice and warm in here, let’s keep it that way.”
Dortmunder shut the door. “Where’s Stan?” he said.
Murch’s Mom said, “He went to get some groceries.”
May said, “Jimmy says he’s an expert at scrambled eggs.”
“I always make my own breakfast,” Jimmy said. “Mrs. Engelberg is hopeless.” Looking slyly at Murch’s Mom he said, “You wouldn’t be shooting the moon, would you?”
“Of course not,” Murch’s Mom said. “With this hand?” Dortmunder walked slowly around the room, bending this way and that, shrugging his shoulders, twisting his head around. Everything hurt. His wrists hurt. He said, “Isn’t that hand over?”
“Not quite,” Murch’s Mom said.
Dortmunder went over and looked at the hand. They each had two cards left and it was Murch’s Mom’s lead. Dortmunder, kibitzing over her shoulder, saw that she had the ace of clubs and the ten of diamonds left. “Well, I might as well get rid of my last winner,” she said, and tossed out the ace of clubs.
Dortmunder walked around to kibitz May’s hand, while Jimmy said, “I thought you weren’t shooting the moon.”
“I’m not,” Murch’s Mom said. “I just don’t want to get stuck with the last lead.”
“Sure,” Jimmy said.
May had to play second, on Murch’s Mom’s ace of clubs, and she had the ace of hearts and the jack of diamonds. Dortmunder watched May’s hand hover over the jack of diamonds, which would beat Murch’s Mom’s final ten of diamonds lead, then hover over the ace of hearts.
Then it hovered over the jack of diamonds again. Then the ace of hearts again.
Dortmunder’s stomach growled. Loudly.
“Oh, all right,” May said, and threw the jack of diamonds, holding back the ace of hearts.
“I didn’t say anything,” Dortmunder said.
“Your stomach did,” May told him.
“I can’t help that.” Dortmunder went on around the table to look at Jimmy’s hand. The kid had the king of hearts and the queen of diamonds, and he barely hesitated at all before throwing the king of hearts. “If you want to shoot the moon,” he said, “I might as well help.”
Murch’s Mom, drawing in the trick, looked at the kid with sudden sharp suspicion. “What have you done, you bad boy?” she asked, and tossed out the ten of diamonds.
“Oh, dear,” May said, and dropped the ace of hearts on it.
“I kept a stopper,” Jimmy said calmly. He dropped the queen of diamonds and said, “That’s twenty-five for you and one for me.”
“And coffee for me,” Dortmunder said.
“Yes yes,” May said.
Murch’s Mom, who was well-known as a poor loser, wrote down the scores and said, “You think you’re pretty cute, don’t you?”
“I’ve learned over the course of years,” Jimmy told her, “that defensive play is much more profitable in the long run.”
“The course of years? Are you kidding me?”
His face as innocent as a choirboy’s, Jimmy said, “What’s the score, anyway?”
Murch’s Mom tossed the pad across the table to him. “Read it yourself,” she said.
Dortmunder got his coffee from May, who then went back to her game. Dortmunder walked around and around, drinking coffee and trying to limber up, and after a while Murch came in, with eggs and milk and butter and bread and a newspaper and a frying pan and a pale blue flight bag that said Air France on it and God knows what else. Dortmunder said, “We gonna live here?”
Murch’s Mom said, “There’s things we need. Don’t complain all the time.”
Dortmunder said, “What’s with the Air France bag?”
May was pulling clothing out of it: sweater, socks, trousers, all boy-size. “Jimmy doesn’t have anything to wear,” she said. “It’s too cold for what he had on, and that’s all dirty now anyway.”
Murch said to Jimmy, “I’m sorry, kid, they didn’t have an avocado.”
“That’s okay,” Jimmy said. ‘We can make a fine salad without it.”
Dortmunder said, “Avocado?” Things, it seemed to him, were getting out of hand: Air France bags, avocados. However, nobody else in this room seemed to think things were getting out of hand, and he knew better than to raise the question with any of them, so he went back to the dining room.
Where Kelp was wide awake, sitting up, reading Child Heist. “Morning,” Kelp said, grinning from ear to ear. “I slept like a top. How about you?”
“Like a bottom,” Dortmunder told him. “My mattress leaked.”
“Oh, that’s a shame.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of that book?”
‘Well, we got the money switch coming up this afternoon,” Kelp said. “I thought I ought to refresh my memory, read that chapter again. You oughta take a look at it, too.”
“Absolutely,” Kelp said. “Chapter twelve. Page a hundred and nine.”