WHEN DORTMUNDER escorted May into the O. J. Bar and Grill, Rollo the bartender was in the process of separating two customers who had come to blows during a statistical discussion of the New York Mets. Stools and chairs were being kicked as the customers thrashed around on the floor with their arms around one another. Rollo, avoiding their feet, circled them looking for an opening. Dortmunder gestured for May to move off to the left, and the two of them got in behind the cigarette machine, in the front corner of the room.
“So this is the O. J.,” May said, as a stool went crashing over on its side. The seat part of the stool separated from the chrome legs and went rolling away toward the rear, making metal noises on the floor. The three other customers in the place were all straining toward the television set, trying to make out what George Peppard was saying to Jill St. John.
“It’s usually quieter than this,” Dortmunder said.
Out there on the floor, Rollo had gotten hold of a shoulder and was shaking it. Then, with his other hand, he got hold of a different shoulder and tried throwing it away. The shoulders, though wearing different colored jackets, didn’t want to separate at first; Rollo had to do a lot of shaking with his left hand while making three strong throwing gestures with his right before they popped apart. Then the one customer went skidding away on his back under a booth, and Rollo picked the other one up by his shoulder and hair and carried him to the front door. Ort his way by the cigarette machine he nodded to Dortmunder and said, “How ya doin?”
“Fine,” Dortmunder said.
Rollo pushed the door open with the customer’s head, and ejected the customer. Then he turned and went back for the other customer, who was scrambling out from under the booth. Rollo picked him up by his belt, in the middle of his back, and half-carried half-ran him across the floor and through the door and out onto Amsterdam Avenue. When he came back in, he nodded again to Dortmunder, who was escorting May out from behind the cigarette machine, and said, “When he asked for white cream de mint I knew there was gonna be trouble.”
“Rollo,” Dortmunder said, “this is May.”
“How ya doin?” Rollo said.
“I’m fine,” said May. “Does that happen a lot?”
“Not so much,” Rollo said. ‘We mostly got beer drinkers in here. Beer drinkers got a low center of gravity, they don’t like to fight much. They just like to sit there, mind their own business.”
“I like a nice beer myself,” May said.
“I seen you were a good person when you walked in,” Rollo said. To Dortmunder he said, “The other bourbon’s in the back. I give him your glass.”
“Expecting anybody else?”
“The draft beer and salt,” Dortmunder said. “And he’ll be bringing his mother.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember her. She’s also a draft beer, right?”
“That’s nice,” Rollo said. “I like ladies in the place, it makes for a better atmosphere.”
“Thank you,” May said.
“You go on back,” Rollo said, “I’ll bring you your beer, little lady.”
Dortmunder and May went to the back room, and Kelp was sitting there with the bottle of bourbon and two glasses. He got to his feet and said, “Hi, May. Sit down. What was all the noise out there?”
“That was Rollo,” Dortmunder said, “cutting back on his services.”
“He’s very gallant,” May said.
Kelp, looking at his watch, said, “Murch and his Mom are late.”
Dortmunder nodded. “I know. And the worst of it is, he’ll tell us why.”
“And,” Kelp said, “what route he should of took.” May said, “Maybe he couldn’t find a deserted farmhouse.”
Kelp said, “Why not? We found the kid, didn’t we? We followed the book and we found the kid. So now the book says we want a deserted farmhouse, we’ll find a deserted farmhouse?’
Dortmunder said, “You know, there are these little moments when that book gives me a swift pain in the ass.”
“It’s been right so far,” Kelp said. “You got to give credit where credit is due.”
May said, “Tell me about this boy. John says you found out about his family and all.”
“Right,” Kelp said. “His name is Jimmy Harrington. His father’s a lawyer on Wall Street, in the firm of McIntire, Loeb, Sanderson and Chen. He’s a partner there.”
Dortmunder said, “He’s a partner? I thought his name was Harrington.”
“It is,” Kelp said.
“There isn’t any Harrington in the company name. Just those other people.”
“McIntire,” Kelp said, “Loeb, Sanderson and Chen.”
“Right,” Dortmunder said. “That bunch. If Harrington’s a partner, where’s his name?”
“They got a whole bunch of partners,” Kelp said. “I saw a piece of their stationery, there’s this whole line of names down the left side, they’re all partners. I think maybe McIntire, Loeb, Sanderson and Chen are maybe the first partners.”
“The founders,” May suggested.
“I get it,” Dortmunder said. “Okay, fine.”
“Anyway,” Kelp said, “Harrington is maybe fifty-five, he’s got four grown-up kids and grandchildren, the whole thing. He’s also got a second wife, and she’s got grown-up kids. But when they got married they had a kid together, and that’s Jimmy. The father’s name is Herbert and the mother’s name is Claire.”
“I feel sorry for the mother,” May said. “She’s going to feel terrible.”
“Maybe,” Kelp said. “She and Herbert broke up six years ago, she lives down in Palm Beach, Florida. From what I found out so far, she hasn’t been north in six years, and I don’t think Jimmy travels south. Jimmy lives out on the family estate in New Jersey, way over by Pennsylvania.”
Rollo came in with May’s beer while Kelp was saying that; he put it on the table, looked around, and said, “Everybody set?”
“We’re fine,” Dortmunder said.
“The beer and salt and his mother didn’t show up yet,” Rollo said.
“They’ll be along,” Dortmunder said.
“I’ll send them back,” Rollo said, and went out front again.
May said to Kelp, “How did you find out all this?”
“There’s a little town out near the estate,” Kelp said. “I went out there and hung around in a bar and talked to a couple guys. The guy that drives the oil truck that makes deliveries there, and a carpenter that did some work on the estate, and a bulldozer operator that worked there when they put in their swimming pool a couple years ago.”
“They didn’t have a swimming pool before?” May asked.
“No. The estate’s on the Delaware River. Only I guess the river isn’t so hot for swimming any more. Anyway, these guys told me the story. Workmen like to talk about their rich clients, it’s one of their fringe benefits.”
“Sure,” May said. “So the mother left six years ago, and the boy lives on the estate with his father.”
“Sometimes,” Kelp said. “The father has an apartment in town. The kid comes in three afternoons a week, Monday and Wednesday and Friday, and sees some specialist in that apartment building on Central Park West. Fridays, after he’s done there—”
‘What specialist does he see?”
“I can’t find out,” Kelp said. “There’s all kinds of medical people, and specialty therapists, and I don’t know what in that building. And it’s tough to hang around in there. And the maintenance people don’t know Jimmy Harrington from a special delivery letter. Anyway, when he leaves there on Fridays, he goes down to Wall Street in the limousine, and his father rides out to the estate with him. The father stays there all weekend, and rides in with him on Mondays. But Monday to Friday the father stays in town.”
“The boy’s all alone out in the estate?” May was truly shocked.
“There’s four servants that live in,” Kelp said. “The chauffeur, and the—”
The door opened and Murch’s Mom came in, followed by Murch. They were both carrying beers, and Murch was also carrying a saltshaker. May looked up and said, “So there you are.”
“It’s real nice out there,” Murch’s Mom said. She sat down at the table, placing the beer in front of her. “Especially at this time of year, with the leaves all turning.”
“We thought you got lost,” May said.
“Naw,” Murch said. “It’s simple. You go out 80, you get off at the Hope interchange, you take county road 519. Our big problem was, we had a hell of a time finding an abandoned farmhouse.”
“I knew it,” Dortmunder said. He gave a triumphant glare toward the book lying on the table in front of Kelp.
Kelp said, “But you did find one, huh?”
“Yeah, finally.” Murch shook his head. “All the abandoned farmhouses out there, people from the city already went out and found them and bought them and filled them up with fancy barn siding and cloth wallpaper and made country houses out of them.”
“They’ve all got Great Danes,” Murch’s Mom said. “We went out some of those driveways pretty fast.”
“But the point is,” Kelp said, “you did find an abandoned farmhouse.”
“It’s a mess,” Murch said. “There isn’t any electricity, and there isn’t any plumbing. There’s a well out back, with a handle thing that you pump.”
Murch’s Mom nodded. “It’s not like anything in the twentieth century,” she said.
“But it’s isolated,” Kelp suggested. “Is it?”
“Oh, yeah,” Murch said. “It’s isolated, all right. Way to hell and gone isolated.”
“Well, that’s the important part,” Kelp said. Primarily speaking to Dortmunder, he said, “We’ll only be there for a couple days, and the more abandoned and isolated it is the better.”
Dortmunder said to Murch, “How far is this from where we grab the kid?”
“Maybe twenty miles.”
“And how far from the kid’s house?”
Dortmunder nodded thoughtfully. “It’s kind of close,” he said.
Kelp said, “That’s got a big advantage, when you think about it. The cops won’t be looking in that close.”
“The cops,” Dortmunder told him, “will be looking everywhere. A rich man’s son is gone, they’ll look for him.”
“If they find that abandoned farmhouse,” Murch said, “I’ll be surprised.”
“We’ll all be surprised,” Dortmunder said. “Unpleasantly.”
“I’ll tell you something else,” Murch said. “Last night I started reading again the chapter where they do the kidnapping. You know, where they go and grab the kid.”
“Chapter eight,” Kelp said. “Page seventy-three.”
Dortmunder gave him a look. “You memorized it?”
“I’m just careful, that’s all,” Kelp said.
“Anyway,” Murch said, “we got a hell of a lot of stuff we’re supposed to put together for that job. Not just the abandoned farmhouse and the side road and all that, but a lot of stuff, you know.”
“Not that much,” Kelp said. “Just a couple things.”
“Not that much?” Murch started counting them off on his fingers. “A big tractor trailer rig. A school bus. A car. Guns. Mickey Mouse masks. A detour sign.”
“None of that is tough,” Kelp said. “I can get the car myself, I’ll borrow one from a doctor.”
“The tractor-trailer? The school bus?”
“We’ll pick them up,” Kelp said. “Don’t worry about it, Stan, we can do it. The detour sign I’ll paint myself and bring it along.”
“It’s a lot of stuff,” Murch said.
“Just don’t worry about it,” Kelp told him.
May said, “Let’s get back to the boy. How old is he?”
“Twelve,” Kelp told her. “That’s the adventurous age, May. The kid’ll have a ball, it’ll be like living out one of his favorite television shows.”
“I’m beginning to feel sorry for him anyway,” May said, “even if we don’t take him. Living all alone with nobody around but servants, hasn’t seen his mother since he was six years old. That’s no life for a little boy.”
Kelp said, “So this’ll make a nice change.”
May stared at him. “To kidnap him? A nice change?”
“Why not?” Kelp seemed perfectly sincere about it. “A break in the routine, everybody likes that.”
“I just wish I knew,” May said, “what kind of specialist he goes to when he comes to the city.”
“Maybe it’s a speech therapist,” Kelp suggested, “like the kid in the book.”
Dortmunder plunked his glass down on the table. Exasperated, he said, “How many coincidences you want out of that book?”
“Well, what difference does it make anyway?” Kelp shrugged. “The point is, he comes to the city on a regular schedule.”
May said, “I was just thinking about special medicines or treatments or something that we might have to have.”
“He looks healthy, May,” Kelp said. “Besides, we’ll only have him a day or two. He probably won’t even miss a session.”
“I’d still like to know who he sees,” May said. “Just what kind of specialist. Just to know.”