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4

DORTMUNDER just sat there. The others, as they began to catch hold of Kelps idea, starting making exclamations, asking questions, making comments, but Dortmunder just sat there, heavily, and thought about it.

Murch said, I get it! You mean we do everything they do in the book.

Thats right!

May said, But its a book about a kidnapping. It isnt a robbery, its a kidnapping.

It works the same way, Kelp told her. What difference does it make, its still a caper, and every detail is laid right out there for us. How to pick the kid, how to get the kid, how to get the payoff

May said, But, you cant kidnap a little child! Thats mean. Im surprised at you.

Kelp said, No, it isnt. We wouldnt hurt the kid. I mean, we wouldnt hurt him anyway, but they make a whole big point about that in the book, how if they give the kid back unhurt the cops wont try so hard to get them later on. Wait, Ill find the place, Ill read it to you.

Kelp reached into his hip pocket and pulled out a copy of the book. Dortmunder watched him, saw him leafing through it looking for the place, and still didnt say any. thing. He just sat there and thought about it.

Dortmunder was not a natural reader, but his times in. side prison walls had shown him the usefulness of reading when youre waiting for a certain number of days to go by. Reading can speed the days a little, and thats all to the good. So all in all it had been a fairly familiar experience for him, reading a book, though strange to be doing it in a place with no bars over the window. And also strange to be doing it for some other reason outside the act of reading itself. All the way through he had kept wondering what Kelp had in mind, had even distracted himself from the story here and there while trying to guess what the purpose of it all could be, and the truth had never occurred to him. A blueprint. Kelp wanted them to read the book because it was a blueprint.

Now Kelp was leafing back and forth through his copy, trying to find the part where it had said not to kill the child they were kidnapping. I know its here somewhere, he was saying.

We all read it, Murchs Mom said. Dont start reciting it to us, like some Traffic Court judge.

Okay, Kelp said, and closed the book again. Standing there, holding it, looking like some kind of paperback preacher, he said, You all agree with me, dont you? You see what a natural this is, what a winner this is.

Theres a lot of driving in it, Murch said. I noticed that right away.

Plenty for you to do, Kelp told him eagerly.

And they got the roads right, Murch said. I mean, the guy that wrote the book, he got all the roads right.

May said, But youre still talking about kidnapping a child, and I still say thats a mean, terrible thing to do.

Not if you do it like this book says.

Murchs Mom said, I suppose youd want May and me to take care of this brat, like the women in the book.

Kelp said, Well, were not talking about a baby or anything, you dont have to change anybodys diaper or anything like that. Were talking about a kid maybe ten, twelve years old.

Thats very sexist, Murchs Mom said.

Kelp looked blank. Hah?

Wanting May and me to take care of the kid. Role-assumption. Its sexist.

Goddammit, Mom, Murch said, youve been off with those consciousness-raising ladies again.

I drive a cab, she said. Im no different from a man. Kelp said, You want me to take care of the kid? He seemed honestly bewildered.

Murchs Mom snorted. What does a man know about taking care of a child?

But

I just wanted you to know, she said. It was sexist, and I wanted you to know it was sexist.

And I still say its mean, May said. Beside her, Dortmunder took a deep breath, but he didnt say any. thing. He was watching Kelp, listening to everybody and thinking.

Kelp said to May, How could it be mean? With you and Murchs Mom to take care of the kid, whos gonna treat him mean? We follow what the book says, hell never be in any danger, and he wont even get scared. Hell probably be glad he doesnt have to go to school for a couple days.

Dortmunder rose slowly to his feet. Kelp, he said.

Kelp looked at him, alert, bright-eyed, eager to be of assistance.

You and me, Dortmunder said, weve worked together a few times over the years, am I right?

Kelp said, Now, youre not gonna start dredging up the past, blaming me for

Im not talking about blame, Dortmunder said. Im just saying we worked together.

Well, sure, Kelp said. Thats right, sure, were longtime partners.

Now, Stan, here, Dortmunder said, hes worked with us, too. What his job is, he drives, am I right?

Im the best, Murch said.

Thats right, Kelp said. He seemed a little confused, but still bright-eyed and eager to please. Stan drives, and hes the best.

And what do I do? Dortmunder asked him.

You? Kelp moved his hands vaguely. You know what you do, he said. You run it.

I run it. I make the plan, isnt that right?

Well, sure, Kelp said.

Now, Dortmunder said, and his voice was beginning to rise just a little, are you saying all those things that went wrong in the past are my fault?

What? No no, I never

Youre going to bring in a plan?

But

You dont like the way I do plans, is that it? You think theres something wrong with the plans I work out?

No, I

You think some book writers gonna do you a better plan than I am, is that what you come here to say?

Dortmun

You can get right out of here, Dortmunder said, and pointed a big-knuckled finger at the door.

Just let me

You and that Richard Smart or whatever the hell his name is, Dortmunder raged, the two of you can get the hell out of here, and dont come back!


| Jimmy the Kid | c