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23

I R E A L L Y am sorry, Jimmy said. Im sure my father didnt do it on purpose.

Yeah, okay, Dortmunder said. Just forget it, okay? Ouch!

Well, hold still, May told him. Let me wash the blood off.

They were back at the farmhouse. There was a fire again in the fireplace; that, and the three kerosene lamps, gave the room its illumination. Dortmunder sat in a folding chair while May patted his cut head with a damp cloth, preparatory to putting on it the bandage Murch would soon be bringing back from the drugstore. At the card table, Kelp and Murchs Mom were counting the stacks of bills in the suitcase; Kelp was chortling.

Jimmy said, My father is really very nonphysical. Really.

I said forget it.

Its all right, Jimmy, May said. Nobody blames your father. It was an accident.

By golly, Kelp said, its all here!

It ought to be, Murchs Mom said, after all we went through.

Murch came in then, revealing a quick view of late afternoon daylight on a rural autumn scene. He closed the door on all that, returning the room to fire lit night, and brought a package to May, saying, No trouble. Theyre getting to know me in town. He seemed pleased by that.

Kelp said, Stan, its all here, every penny.

Murch nodded. Good, he said, but he didnt sound particularly enthusiastic. Neither success nor failure surprised him; he had the born drivers belief in the task being its own reward. Getting there is half the fun. It isnt whether you win or lose, its how you play the game.

Murchs Mom said, You know what Im getting sick of? Im getting sick of living in this lousy farmhouse. This place is a landlords dream come true: no heat, no hot water, no electricity, no phone, and the john doesnt work. I can get the same thing in New York, and be close to the cultural conveniences.

Well be leaving tonight, Kelp said. We unload the

No, we wont, Dortmunder said, and winced while May put the neat white gauze bandage on his forehead.

Kelp was astonished. We wont? Why not?

Well leave tomorrow morning, Dortmunder said, and drop the kid in the city.

Hold still, May told him.

Well, take it easy, he said.

Kelp said, Wait a minute. Thats not what we do with the kid. In chapter nineteen it says we-

Id hate to tell you, Dortmunder said, what you can do with chapter nineteen. In fact, with the whole book.

Kelp was astounded and hurt. How can you argue with it? he demanded. He gestured toward Jimmy, temporarily out of earshot over by the fireplace, adding a piece of shelf to the fire. We got the kid, didnt we? He gestured toward the money on the card table. We got the cash, didnt we?

Dortmunder gestured at his new bandage. I got this, didnt I?

Thats not the books fault, you cant blame the

I can blame anybody I damn well want to blame, Dortmunder said. That book goes in for too much detail, it makes everything too complicated. You want to know how were going to give the kid back? Ill tell you how were going to give the kid back.

Kelp waved his hand in front of himself, then pointed toward Jimmy, who had come back over from the fireplace. Not in front of the boy.

It dont matter what he hears, Dortmunder said. What I got in mind is neat and simple. No school busses, no phone calls, none of that razzmatazz.

I dont know, Kelp said. His brow was grooved with worry. I dont think we oughta deviate from the plan, he said. Its been working out, it really has.

I dont care, Dortmunder said. This part we do my way.

Behind Dortmunders bandaged head, May waggled a hand at Kelp not to argue. Shrugging, Kelp said, Youre the boss, John, I always said that.

All right. Dortmunder seemed to shrug his shoulders, to sit a little straighter in the chair. Now, he said. We dont let the kid go around here, because that leaves us the whole long run to the city with every cop in New Jersey looking for us. So we take him to New York, and we give him a subway token, and we let him out of the car in midtown. With a token he cant make a phone call to turn the law loose on us right away. All he can do is take a subway or a bus. That gives us time to fade out.

Murchs Mom said, Why cant we do that tonight? Take him to the city, drop him off, I get to sleep in my own bed, cook a meal, flush a toilet.

Dortmunder said, Wheres the kid go at night? Youre gonna leave a kid in midtown at night? Some sex maniac comes along and kills him and we get blamed. Tomorrow he can go to his fathers office, or he can go up to that place on Central Park West, he can go wherever he wants.

Sure, Jimmy said. That sounds fine to me.

Dortmunder pointed at him. I dont need any help from you, he said.

May said, John, the boy was just agreeing with you.

Well, I dont need it. Dortmunder knew he was being grumpily unfair, and that just made him grumpier. Where was I? he said. Right. We drive him in tomorrow, let him off, get rid of the car, and we all go home. Finished. Done with.

Kelp shook his head. It just doesnt have the scope of Richard Stark, he said.

Ive had all the scope I need, Dortmunder said. Ive been scoped enough.

Wonderful, Murchs Mom said. Another night in the Antarctica Hilton.

Murch said to Dortmunder, What if we just let him off near his house? Tonight, I mean.

No, Dortmunder said. He immediately gets the law on us. We have sixty miles to get to New York, and they know thats where were headed, and we never make it.

We can give ourselves an edge, Murch said. I happened to notice that for the last half mile on the county road to the kids place there isnt any phone booth at all. No gas stations, no stores, no bars, nothing, just a couple farms, a couple private estates. And you know the way those places are set up for protection from strangers. The kid wouldnt dare just walk in some driveway after dark. Hed get eaten up by a dog first thing, and he knows it.

Thats true, Jimmy said. On Halloween, when I used to go trick or treating, Maurice had to drive me.

You keep out of this, Dortmunder told him. To Murch he said, That still only gives us maybe fifteen minutes head start. In Jersey I cant disappear. In New York I can fade away like that. And he snapped his fingers.

Murchs Mom said to her son, Its okay, Stan. Hes really right, and I can put up with this place one more night. Im almost getting used to it.

May said, What about the boys father? Dortmunder said, What about him? Hell be expecting Jimmy back. I think we should call him, so he wont worry all night.

Youre right, Dortmunder said. Stan, you and your mom and Andy take the kid to a phone. Let him talk to his father, but make sure he doesnt say too much.

Oh, good, Jimmy said. Ill go get my jacket. They watched the boy trot upstairs. May said, You know, Im going to miss that kid.

Me, too, Murchs Mom said.

Hes an okay kid, Kelp said.

Dortmunder said, I dont intend to make any big issue of this, but I just want to say one thing. This is not what I had in mind when I decided to go in for a life of crime.


| Jimmy the Kid | c