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22

AT EXACTLY five minutes after four Murch’s Mom, in a pay phone at a Mobil station in Netcong, New Jersey, made the second call.

“Hello?”

“Let me talk to Herbert Harrington.”

“Speaking.”

“What?”

“This is Herbert Harrington speaking,” the voice said in her ear. “Aren’t you the kidnapper?”

“Wait a second,” Murch’s Mom said. She was trying to turn the page of a paperback book one-handed.

“Oh, dear,” the voice said. “Have I made a mistake? I’m expecting a call from a kidnapper, and—”

“Yeah yeah,” Murch’s Mom said, “that’s me, it’s me, only hold on a second. There!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Do you have the money?”

“Yes,” Harrington said. “Yes, I do. I want you to know it wasn’t easy to assemble that much cash in so short a period of time. If I didn’t have some some personal friends at Chase Manhattan, in fact, I don’t believe it could have been done.”

“But you’ve got it,” Murch’s Mom said.

“Yes, I do. In a small suitcase. I do have a question on that.”

Murch’s Mom frowned, scrinching her face up. Why couldn’t it ever go smooth and simple, like in the book. “What kind of question?”

“This suitcase,” Harrington said. “It cost forty two eighty-four, with the tax. Now, should that come out of the hundred fifty thousand, or is that to be considered my expense?”

“What?”

“Please don’t think I’m being difficult,” Harrington said. “I’ve never handled a negotiation like this before, and I simply don’t know what’s considered normal practice.”

Shaking her head, Murch’s Mom said, “You pay for the suitcase. We don’t pay for it, you pay for it.” She was thinking, There’s nothing cheaper than a rich person.

“Fine, fine,” Harrington said. “I merely wanted to know.”

“Okay,” Murch’s Mom said. “Can we get on with it?”

“Certainly.”

“I want you to get into your car with the money,” Murch’s Mom read. “Use the Lincoln. You can—”

“What was that?”

Murch’s Mom gave an exasperated sigh. “Now what?”

“Did you say a Lincoln? I don’t have a—”

“The Cadillac!” She’d meant to make a pencil change to that effect, and she’d forgot. “I meant the Cadillac.”

“Yes. Well, that’s the only automobile I have.”

Murch’s Mom gritted her teeth. “So that’s the one you’ll use,” she said, and this time she was thinking, If I could get my hands on him, I’d strangle him.

“Very well,” Harrington said. “Am I to meet you somewhere?”

“Let’s not rush me,” Murch’s Mom said. “So you’ll use the Cadillac. You can bring your chauffeur along, but—”

“Well, I should think so,” Harrington said. “I don’t drive.”

Murch’s Mom was completely speechless. She had never in her life met anybody who didn’t drive. She had been a cabdriver herself for a hundred years. Her boy Stan was always either in a car, driving it, or under a car, fixing it. Not drive? It was like not walking.

Harrington said, “Hello? Are you there?”

“I’m here. Why don’t you drive? Is it some religious thing or something?”

“Why, no. I’ve simply never felt the need. I’ve always had a chauffeur. And in the city, of course, one takes cabs.”

“Cabs,” Murch’s Mom said.

“They’re perfectly satisfactory,” Harrington said. “Except that recently, to tell the truth, I think the quality of the drivers has gone down.”

“You’re absolutely right!” Murch’s Mom stood up straighter in the phone booth, and even jabbed the air with her finger two or three times, to emphasize a point. “It was the Seventy-one contract,” she said. “It was a sellout to the owners, it screwed the cabby and the riding public both.”

“Oh, is that the time the fare went up so drastically?”

“That’s right,” Murch’s Mom said. “But I’m not talking about the fare, that was realistic, your New York City cabdriver had not been keeping up with inflation. It was a big jump, but it was just to get the cabby up where he used to be.”

“It seemed a large leap somehow, almost double or something. I did notice it at the time.”

“But where the cabby was screwed,” March’s Mom said, “and where the riding public was screwed, was in the split. They changed the formula on the split.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

Murch’s Mom was only too happy to explain; this whole union problem was a big hobbyhorse with her. “You work for a fleet owner,” she said, “you split the meter take with him. You get maybe fifty-two percent, fifty-five, whatever.”

“Yes, I see. And they changed the split?”

“They changed the formula,” Murch’s Mom said. “They fixed it so the owner has to give a bigger percent to a driver with more seniority.”

“But surely that’s only right. After all, if a man drives a cab for years and years, he—”

“But that’s not what happens,” Murch’s Mom said. “What happens is, if the owner pulls in some bum off the Street, can’t find his way to the Empire State Building, gives him a job, puts him in a cab, the owner gets to keep a higher percentage of the meter!”

“Oh!” Harrington said. “I see what you mean; the contract makes it more advantageous to the owner to hire inexperienced drivers.”

“Absolutely,” Murch’s Mom said. “So that’s why you had all them potheads, them beatniks, driving around, playing cabdriver.”

“I did have one last summer,” Harrington said, “who didn’t know his left from his right. At first I thought it was only because he didn’t speak English, but in fact he didn’t know left from right in any language. It’s very hard to give travel directions to someone who doesn’t know his left from his right.”

Northward, a block from the Harrington estate, Dortmunder and Murch sat in a freshly stolen Mustang and waited. And waited. Murch said, “Shouldn’t he come out pretty soon?”

“Yeah, he should,” Dortmunder said.

“I wonder what he’s doing,” Murch said.

He was talking taxis with Murch’s Mom. They were trading horror stories—the hippie driver fresh from Boston who didn’t know there was a section of the city called Queens, the Oriental who didn’t speak English and who drove at twelve miles an hour to the wrong airport— until finally it was Harrington who said, “But I’m sorry, I’ve changed the subject. I do apologize. We were talking about the ransom.”

“Oh, yeah,” Murch’s Mom said. She looked at her watch, and it was almost quarter after four. “Right. Okay, let me start again. You’ll get in the Cadillac with your chauffeur, but no other passengers.”

“Yes.”

“You’ll drive to Interstate 80, and get up on it westbound. Drive at a steady fifty. We’ll meet you along the way.”

“Where?”

Murch’s Mom frowned again. “What?”

“You’ll meet me where along the way?”

“I don’t tell you that now. You just get up there, and we’ll contact you.”

“But I don’t understand. Where is it I’m going? What’s my destination?”

“You just get on 80,” Murch’s Mom told him, “and travel west at fifty miles an hour. That’s all you do, and we’ll take over from there.” The sense of camaraderie she’d felt with him over the issue of New York taxicabs had vanished; once again, what she really wanted to do was wring his neck.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Harrington said. “No destination. I don’t know anyone who travels that way.”

“Just do it,” Murch’s Mom said, and hung up in exasperation. Going outside, she got into the Roadrunner her son had stolen for her this morning, and headed for the other phone booth. She had originally objected to this move, saying she didn’t see why she couldn’t make both calls from the same booth, but Kelp had showed her where in Child Heist it was explained the cops might be tracing the first call, and might show up pretty soon at the phone booth where the call was made. So okay, she’d go to the other phone booth.

Northward, Dortmunder and March continued to sit in the Mustang and wait. March said, “Do we have the number of the phone booth where Mom makes her first call?”

“No. Why should we?”

“I thought we could call her, see if anything went wrong.”

“The smart guy that wrote the book,” Dortmunder said, “didn’t say anything about that.”

On the Harrington estate, Herbert Harrington stood beside his Cadillac and argued with the head FBI man. “I don’t see,” he said, “why I can’t have my own chauffeur. I like the way he drives.”

“Kirby’s a good driver,” the head FBI man said. He was being patient in a way to show how impatient he really was. “And he’s along just in case anything happens. Like they decide to kidnap you, too.”

“Now, why on earth would they kidnap me? Who’d pay the ransom?”

“Your wife,” the head FBI man said.

“My what? Oh, Claire! Hah, what a thought! She doesn’t even know Jimmy’s been stolen. She won’t answer my calls.”

“For your own protection,” the head FBI man said, “we’re going to insist that Kirby drive you. Believe me, he’s a competent driver, he’ll bring you back safe and sound.”

Harrington frowned at the man in the front seat of the Cadillac, sitting there with Maurice’s hat on his head. The hat was too large. “His hat is too large,” Harrington said.

“It doesn’t matter.” The head FBI man held the door open. “You ought to get moving now, Mr. Harrington.”

“I just don’t like anything about this,” Harrington said, and reluctantly slid into the back of the car. The suitcase full of money and his attach'e case with some business papers were already in there, on the floor.

The head FBI man shut the door, perhaps a trifle more emphatically than necessary. “Okay, Kirby,” he said, and the Cadillac slid forward over the white gravel of the driveway.

“Son of a gun,” March said. “Here it comes.”

“Damned if it doesn’t,” Dortmunder said.

The silver-gray Cadillac came purring around the curving blacktop road, scattering dead leaves in its wake. The right car: WAX 361, whip antenna. The chauffeur was at the wheel, and the father was in the back seat. As it was disappearing around the far curve—there were no straight streets in this wealthy section of New Jersey—Murch started the Mustang, and they moved off in its wake.

It was two miles to Interstate 80. While March and Dortmunder hung well back, Kirby steered the big car around the bends and through the dales. It was fun driving a Caddy; maybe on the way back he could really open it up.

In the back seat, Harrington picked up his attach'e case, opened it on the seat beside him, and riffled through the sheaves of documents. He hadn’t been able to get to the office at all today, naturally, with all this mess going on, and the work was piling up. He picked up the phone and called his office in the city; his secretary had already been alerted to expect a late-afternoon call. At least he’d be able to get some of this accumulation cleared away during the drive.

Murch’s Mom reached the other phone booth. It was next to a Burger King on route 46. She parked the Roadrunner and went over to stand in the booth and wait. Outside, a group of juvenile delinquents showed up on motorcycles.

The Cadillac reached Interstate 80. Murch stopped at a Chevron station by the on ramp and Dortmunder phoned Murch’s Mom at the other phone booth. When she answered, there was such a loud buzzing noise, hoarse and raspy, that he could barely hear her. “You got trouble on your line,” he said.

She said, “What?”

“You got trouble on your line!”

“I can’t hear you with all these stinking motorcycles!”

“Oh. He’s up on 80!”

“Right!”

Dortmunder got back into the Mustang, and Murch took of! again in the wake of the Cadillac. They went up on the Interstate, Murch put the Mustang up to sixty-eight, and soon they passed the Caddy, moving obediently at fifty in the right lane. “Mom’s already talking to him,” Murch said.

They could see the father on the phone in back. The chauffeur glanced at them out of his reflecting sunglasses as they went by. Look at that Mustang, Kirby thought, and hated the frustration that he couldn’t lean into this Caddy and run a couple rings about that little beast. Later; on the way back.

At the Burger King, Murch’s Mom dialed the operator, and yelled, “I want to call a mobile unit in a private car!”

“Well, you don’t have to yell about it,” the operator said.

“What?”

“You have trouble on your line,” the operator said. “Hang up and dial again.”

“What? I can’t hear you with all these motorcycles!”

“Oh,” said the operator. “You want to call a mobile unit?”

“What?”

“Do you want to call a mobile unit?”

“Why do you think I’m putting up with all this?”

“Do you have the number?”

“Yes!”

Harrington was saying, “Now in the matter of that prospectus. I think our posture before the SEC is that while the prospectus did speak of homesites, it does not at any point say anything about a community. A community would necessarily imply the existence of available water. A homesite would not. Country retreat, weekend cottage, that sort of thing. Have Bill Timmins see what he can root up by way of precedents.”

“Yes, sir,” said the secretary.

“Then call Danforth in Oklahoma and tell him that Marseilles crowd just will not budge on the three-for-two stock swap. Tell him my suggestion is that we threaten to simply bow out on the railroad end of it and carry our venture capital elsewhere. If he approves, try and arrange a phone conference with Grandin for nine-thirty tomorrow morning, New York time. If Danforth has a problem, give him my home number, and tell him I should be there in, oh, two hours at the very most.”

“Yes, sir,” said the secretary.

“But the line’s busy!” the operator 8aid.

“Well, try again!” Murch’s Mom said.

Murch reached the off ramp for the Hope exit, and slowed for the curve. In all of New Jersey, this was the closest Interstate 80 exit to the one described in the book. There was one small commercial building down on the county road, just north of the off ramp, but that was all. As for a main highway exit with no buildings or population around it, there was no such thing on Interstate 80 in New Jersey, and Dortmunder doubted there was any such thing along Northern State Parkway on Long Island, the site of Child Heist. The writer had just been making things easy for himself, that’s all.

Murch pulled to a stop next to the wall of the overpass. Interstate 80 made a humming roof over their heads. “It won’t be long now,” Murch said.

Dortmunder didn’t say anything.

“The line’s still busy!” the operator said.

“Hold on a minute!”

“What?”

“I said hold on! Wait! Don’t go away!’"

“Oh!”

Murch’s Mom, leaving the phone off the hook, stepped out of the booth and went over to the Roadrunner. She had seen tools on the back seat; yes, there was a nice big monkey wrench. She picked it up, hefted it, and went over to stand in front of the motorcyclists, who were sitting on their throbbing machines, filling their faces with whoppers. She didn’t say anything; not that it would have been possible in any event. She stood looking at them. She thumped the monkey wrench gently into the palm of her left hand. She lifted it, thumped it gently again, lifted it, thumped it, lifted it, thumped it.

They became aware of her. Their eyes followed the small movements of the monkey wrench. They looked at one another, and they looked at Murch’s Mom’s face. Methodically, without any appearance of undue haste but nevertheless efficiently, they stuffed their mouths with the rest of their whoppers, packed their pockets with french fries, tied their Cokes to their gas tanks with little leather straps, and drove away.

Murch’s Mom went back to the phone booth. She put down the monkey wrench and picked up the phone. “Hello,” she said. “You still there?”

“I’m still here!”

“You don’t have to yell,” Murch’s Mom said. She was being very calm.

“I don’t?”

“No. But you have to call that goddam car!”

The Cadillac breezed past the tomato juice bottle with the instructions in it; milk doesn’t come in bottles any more, it comes in plastic cartons. Harrington, on the phone, said to his secretary, “Tell him our client’s feeling is he can loan him the seventeen, but he’ll need some form of security other than the department store. Tell him, off the record, our client is quite frankly worried about that marital situation of his.”

“Yes, sir,” said the secretary.

“Should be any second now,” Murch said.

Dortmunder twisted around and looked back. No suit. case came falling through the air.

The Cadillac sailed past the Hope exit, over the overpass and on, toward the Delaware Water Gap.

Back at the deserted farmhouse, May and Kelp and Jimmy sat at the card table. “Knock with two,” Jimmy said, and spread out his rummy hand.

“Ouch,” said Kelp.

“I have to get through to that car!”

“When Fm in Washington, we can arrange the meeting with Congressman Henley and then perhaps get a little action.”

Murch said, “I think maybe something went wrong.”

Dortmunder didn’t say anything.

“And if anything else comes up,” Harrington said, “you should be able to reach me at home certainly by six o’clock.”

“Yes, sir,” said the secretary.

Harrington hung up. He said to Maurice, “Nothing’s happened yet, eh?”

“No, sir,” said the man, who wasn’t Maurice at all. That’s right; it was the FBI man, Kirby.

“What’s that up ahead?” Harrington asked.

“The Delaware Water Gap.”

“Oh, really?” Harrington said, and the phone rang. Expecting his secretary to be calling back, he picked it up and said, “Hello?”

Some woman screamed gibberish at him.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What the hell are you doing on the goddam phone!”

“What? Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s the kidnapper!”

Kirby slammed on the brakes, and the Caddy slued all over the road. Kirby shouted, “Where? Where?”

“Don’t drive like that!” Harrington cried. “Maurice never drives like that!”

“Where’s the kidnapper?” Kirby had become calmer again, was driving forward, was looking all around without quite acknowledging the glares of the other drivers passing him, the ones he’d just barely missed when he’d braked so abruptly

“On the phone,” Harrington said. The woman was babbling away on the phone, rancorous and belligerent, and Harrington said, “I am sorry. I had no idea. If you’d told me, of course, I would have—”

“Where are you?”

“Where am I? Where you told me to be, on route 80.”

“But where?”

“Just crossing the Delaware Water Gap,” Harrington said. “Isn’t that strange. I’ve lived so close to it for so many years, and I’ve just never had occasion to travel this way before. It’s really quite—”

“The Delaware Water Gap?” You’ve over—you’re way the hell and—you went too far!”

“I did?”

“You’ve got to come back. Listen, what you do, you turn around and come back, and I’ll go get a road map. Come back, don’t drive too fast, stay off the goddam phone and I’ll call you again.”

“All right,” Harrington said, and leaned forward to say to Kirby, “We have to go back.”

Kirby said, “Do you have a quarter? It’s a toll bridge.” Murch’s Mom left the phone booth and went over to the Roadrunner. She tossed the wrench on the back seat and went through the glove compartment, looking for a road map. Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Utah. Utah? No New Jersey.

There was a Mobil station across the highway from the Burger King. Murch’s Mom risked life and limb to run across route 46, get a New Jersey map, and run back again. She studied the map, and then called Harrington again. This was costing a fortune; she’d brought almost ten dollars in change, and it might not be enough.

“Hello?”

“Look,” Murch’s Mom said. “This is very simple, so just do it and don’t screw up.”

“I really don’t think you have to take that tone with me,” Harrington said. “If you’d told me earlier that you meant to contact me on this phone, I would have made sure the line was kept open.”

“So you and the cops could set up some sort of trap,” Murch’s Mom said. “That’s what we didn’t want.”

“The authorities have assured me they will do nothing to endanger—”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s get on with it, all right?”

“Certainly. The ball’s in your court.”

“The what?”

“You’re in charge,” Harrington said.

Murch’s mom sighed “Sure,” she said. “Do you have a New Jersey map in the car?”

“I’ll check with Maurice. I mean Kirby. I mean Maurice!”

Under the overpass, Murch said, “What the hell do you suppose is going on?”

“I suppose,” Dortmunder said, “I suppose I let myself get talked into another Kelp special, that’s what I suppose. You notice he isn’t here.”

“Somebody had to watch the kid.”

Dortmunder opened the car door and got out.

“Where you goin’?”

“Look things over,” Dortmunder said. He walked along the verge of the road, out from under the overpass and far enough away so he could look up at the highway. He stood there looking at cars go by in both directions. He stood there, trucks and cars going by. The Cadillac went by, in the wrong direction. It was too far away to see the license plate, but it was the right color and it had the whip antenna and that was definitely somebody in a chauffeur’s cap at the wheel. And somebody else in the back seat.

Harrington leaned over the New Jersey map. “Yes,” he said. “Hackettstown. I see it.”

Dortmunder walked back and got into the Mustang. “It just went by the wrong way,” he said.

Murch stared at him. “The Cadillac?”

“I think something’s wrong,” Dortmunder said. “That’s my personal opinion.”

“We better go talk to Mom,” Murch said. He started the Mustang and headed south on the county road.

It was ten miles south on the county road to route 46. Then they had to turn left and travel five more miles to get to the Burger King, where they found Murch’s Mom sitting morosely in the Roadrunner, eating a whopper. They stopped beside her, and Murch got out and said, “Mom, what—”

Murch’s Mom sprayed whopper in all directions. Leaping out of the Roadrunner she cried, “What are you doing here?”

Dortmunder said, “They went by the wrong way. What’s going on?”

“They’re on the way back! I just went through the whole thing with them, they’re turning around at the Hackettstown exit. They’re on the way!”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” said Dortmunder. “What happened the first time?”

“He was on the phone, I couldn’t get through. Will you hurry? He’ll get there, somebody else’ll pick up the suitcase.”

Murch and Dortmunder jumped back into the Mustang and took off. Murch’s Mom watched them go, and shook her head. “I swear to God,” she said aloud. “I just swear to God.”

At the Hackettstown exit, the Cadillac took the off ramp onto county road 517, turned left, took 517 north for about a hundred feet, took the westbound on ramp, and got back up on Interstate 80. Kirby said, “I suppose I can step it up a little bit now.”

“I should think so,” Harrington said. “We’re terribly late, apparently.”

Kirby, grinning a little, tipped the chauffeur’s cap back on his forehead and hunched a bit over the wheel. His foot became heavy on the accelerator. The Cadillac tires began to dig in. Harrington, feeling the pressure of the seat back against his spine, began to regret his acquiescence.

State Trooper Hubert L. Duckbundy, driving in an unmarked patrol car which made it possible for him to catch speeders but impossible for rape or robbery victims to contact him in their moment of travail, cruised along at sixty-one, eleven miles an hour above the speed limit, enjoying the fall scenery and waiting for somebody else to do sixty-two, when he suddenly was passed. A silver gray Cadillac, New Jersey plate number WAX 361, chauffeur driven, was abruptly out front, and going like hell.

Well, well. Trooper Duckbundy accelerated and started the clock. There was nothing more pleasing in the life of a man who brought fifteen thousand, two hundred eighty-seven dollars and ninety cents a year home to his wife and three children than slapping a speeding violation on the operator of a luxury car. There, you bastard, was the general theme of the encounter, and for Trooper Duckbundy its satisfactions never palled.

Let’s give this one a full mile on the clock, Trooper Duckbundy thought, just to be sure he doesn’t wiggle out. Ninety-two miles an hour. Oh, my, yes.

But within half a mile the Cadillac’s brake lights suddenly went on. Had the driver noticed he was being paced? The Hope exit was near here, maybe the Cadillac meant to leave the Interstate there. If so, Trooper Duckbundy would have to pull him over now, with less than a mile on the clock.

But the Cadillac was more than merely slowing down. Its right directional was on, it was angling over onto the shoulder of the road. Trooper Duckbundy slowed to a crawl, watching the events occurring ahead of him. There’s something funny about that, he thought.

The Cadillac stopped. A well-dressed man hopped out of the back seat, picked up a piece of trash from the highway verge, and hopped back into the car again. Trooper Duckbundy’s gray Fury II was almost even with the Cadillac when the Cadillac suddenly surged forward again, spraying gravel out behind itself and shouldering itself out onto the highway directly in Trooper Duckbundy’s path.

Well, enough is enough. As the Cadillac tore away along the highway, tires screaming, Trooper Duckbundy switched on the red flasher light mounted on his dashboard, hit the siren, and gave chase.

“Damn,” Kirby said, looking in the rearview mirror. They were just passing the off ramp for the Hope exit.

Harrington, struggling against the acceleration to get the message out of the tomato juice bottle, said, “What’s wrong?”

“State trooper,” Kirby said. “One of those goddam unmarked cars.” He braked reluctantly, angling over toward the shoulder again.

Harrington at last got the paper out of the bottle. Then he looked around, saw the flashing red light and saw the siren, and said, “State trooper? But there aren’t supposed to be any police around!”

“I’ll get rid of him,” Kirby said. “No problem.’

The Cadillac came to a stop next to the railing of the overpass. The patrol car stopped in front of it, angled across to block it from getting away. The siren was turned off, but the flashing light remained on. Trooper Duckbundy, adjusting his hat and his belt and his trousers and his tie, came walking slowly back to the Cadillac, where Kirby pressed the button that slid the window down. “Going a little fast there, fella,” Trooper Duckbundy said.

Kirby flashed his FBI ID card. “It’s okay,” he said. “A special situation.”

Trooper Duckbundy saw that it was an ID card, but that was all. “License and registration is all I need,” he said. He saw the prosperous-looking fella in the back seat. Mm-hm.

“You don’t understand,” Kirby said. “I’m FBI. This is a special situation here.”

“Oh, yeah?” Trooper Duckbundy knew about this stuff, too. “And I guess that’s a Senator or something in the backseat, is it? Well, let me tell you, we don’t like you people thumbing your noses at New Jersey.”

“No, you’ve got it wrong. This—”

“No, I don’t have it wrong,” Trooper Duckbundy said. “We get a lot of this over on the Turnpike—diplomats, political big shots, going from the UN down to Washing. ton, do eighty, ninety, a hundred miles an hour down through the chemical plants.”

“It isn’t—”

“You think you got immunity,” Trooper Duckbundy said. “Just say a tire blows at ninety miles an hour, what kind of immunity you got then? And how many innocent people are you endangering, you ever think of that?”

Another police car, this one very well marked indeed, pulled to a stop behind the Cadillac, and the trooper got out to join the action. Harrington said to Kirby, urgently, “They’re not supposed to be here!” He’d read the note from the tomato juice bottle by now. “This is where we leave the money!”

“Oh, hell,” Kirby said.

The second trooper arrived. “We got a problem here?”

“What we have here,” Trooper Duckbundy said, “is some sort of politico, a big shot. Thinks he’s immune to blowouts.”

“Is that right?”

“Now look,” Kirby said.

The second trooper said to Kirby, “Just a minute there. I’m speaking with the other officer.”

Coming like hell, Murch roared toward the intersection of the county road and Interstate 80. As they neared the overpass Dortmunder said, “Isn’t that police cars?”

But he’d only had a quick glimpse before the angle was wrong. Murch said, as he braked to a stop under the over. pass, “I don’t think so. What would they have police cars for?”

“Some sort of trap.”

“Be a dumb kind of trap,” Murch said, “with police cars.” Stopped, he shifted into park but left the engine running. “Better go see if it’s there already.”

“Right.”

Dortmunder got out of the car and went walking over to the other verge of the county road, where the suitcase would land. There wasn’t anything there. He walked farther from the overpass, looked up, and saw the Cadillac sandwiched between police cars. The one in back looked like a police car. The one in front was unmarked, but it had a flashing red light revolving behind the windshield.

“Uh huh,” Dortmunder said, and walked back to the Mustang and got in next to Murch. “Two police cars,” he said. “Also the Cadillac.”

Murch shifted into drive.

“No,” Dortmunder said. “We can’t leave.”

“Why not?”

“If it’s a trap, they’ll spring it when we try to get away. If we stay here after we’ve seen them, it could be a coincidence, we could be just two guys that stopped to look at a road map. We got a road map?”

Murch shifted into park. “I don’t know,” he said.

Dortmunder looked in the glove compartment and found a road map. He looked at it. “Illinois?”

“Don’t ask me,” Murch said. “I just took this car out of a parking lot. The plates I took off it were Jersey, same as the plates I put on.”

“A road map is a road map,” Dortmunder said. He opened it up, and he and Murch spent some time studying the highways of Illinois.

Up above, Kirby had managed finally to get the word kidnap spoken and heard. The second trooper had gone off to radio the barracks for confirmation. Trooper Duckbundy stood frowning at Kirby in a welter of uncertainty. Kirby was angry for more reasons than he could name. And Harrington was hopping up and down on the back seat, saying, “Get them away from here! Get them away!”

“As soon as I can,” Kirby said, through gritted teeth. “As soon as I can.”

The second trooper came back. “It’s okay,” he said. He nodded and gave Kirby a Clint Eastwood smile; tough, manly, distanced. “Sorry to horn in,” he said.

“Just get the hell away from here,” Kirby said.

Both troopers were offended. They went off to their respective cars, both checking their hats, belts, trousers, and ties. They got into their respective cars, switched off their respective flashing lights, and finaly drove the hell away from there.

“At last,” Kirby said. “Okay, Mr. Harrington.”

“I haven’t tried to throw my weight around,” Harrington said. “I’ve done what you people asked, because you’re the professionals. But I’m telling you right now that I do have influential friends in Washington, and I expect to be chatting with them very soon.”

“Yes, sir,” said Kirby.

Down below, Dortmunder opened the door of the Mustang and said, “I’ll go check it out again. See are they still there.”

“Sure,” Murch said.

Harrington got out of the Cadillac, carrying the money, and approached the railing. Behind him, Kirby called from the car, “Mr. Harrington!”

He turned around, exasperated beyond endurance. “What now?”

“That’s the wrong case,” Kirby said.

Harrington looked at the case in his hand, and it was the wrong case. It was his attach'e case. “My God,” he said. “Good thing I didn’t throw that over, it has some rather important documents in it.” He hurriedly made the switch in the back seat of the car, getting the suitcase and leaving the attach'e case. Then he went back to the railing.

The woman on the phone had emphasized that they shouldn’t hang, around, they shouldn’t be nosy, they should just toss the suitcase over the side and be off. So Harrington just tossed the suitcase over the side and was off. He turned at once, not even looking to see where it landed, and got back into the Cadillac.

As Dortmunder came out from under the overpass, the suitcase hit him on the head and knocked him cold.

“Ouch,” said Murch, when he saw that through the windshield. Dortmunder and the suitcase lay side by side next to the blacktop road. Neither of them moved.

Murch shifted into drive, steered the car over there, and shifted back into park. He loaded Dortmunder into the car, tossed the ransom on the back seat, and drove away to the hideout.


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