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15

The thing is, Dortmunder said.

Washington, May suggested.

Thats it. Thats it right there.

They were walking home from the movies in the rain. May liked the movies, so they went from time to time, though Dortmunder couldnt see what they were all about, except people who didnt need a lucky ring. When those people in the movies got to a bus stop, the bus was just pulling in. When they rang a doorbell, the person they were coming to see had to have been leaning against the door on the inside, thats how fast they opened up. When they went to rob a bank, these movie people, there was always a place to park out front. When they fell off a building, which they did frequently, they didnt even bother to look, they just held out a hand, and somebodyd already put a flagpole sticking out of the building right there; nice to hold onto until the hay truck drives by, down below.

Dortmunder could remember a lot of falls, but no hay trucks. Washington, he said.

Its just a city, John, May pointed out. You know cities.

I know this city, Dortmunder told her, pointing at the wet sidewalk between his feet. In New York I know what Im doing, I know where I am, I know who I am. In Washington I dont know a thing, I dont know how to go, to do this, to do that, I dont know how to talk there.

They talk English in Washington, John.

Maybe, Dortmunder said.

What you need, May said, is a partner, somebody who knows that place, can help you along.

I dunno, May. What do I give him? Half the ring?

This Fairbanks is very rich, May pointed out. A place he lives, theres got to be other stuff around. Look how much you got from his place on the Island.

Well, thats true, Dortmunder said. But on the other hand, who do I know in Washington? Everybody I know is from around here.

Ask, May suggested.

Ask who?

Ask everybody. Start with Andy, he knows a lot of people.

The thing about Andy, Dortmunder said, as May unlocked them into their apartment building, is he likes knowing people.

They went up the stairs in companionable silence, Dortmunder thinking about a nice glass of bourbon. Spring rains are warm, but theyre still wet.

May unlocked them into the dark apartment. Switching on the hall light, Dortmunder said, Andy isnt here. Think of that.

Andy isnt here all the time.

He isnt?

May concentrated on relocking the door. Dortmunder said, You want some bourbon? A beer?

Tea, she said. Ill make it. Probably something shed picked up in one of the magazines she was always reading.

Ill stick to bourbon, Dortmunder decided. And Ill make it.

They headed to the kitchen, switching on lights along the way, and Dortmunder made himself a bourbon on the rocks that just looked warm; even with the ice cubes floating around in there, you knew that drink would warm your insides.

May was still waiting on her tea. Ill be in the living room, Dortmunder said, and left the kitchen, then turned back to say, Here he is. I told you, remember?

Not looking up from her tea, May called, Hi, Andy.

Andy, just entering, shut the hall door and called, Hi, May.

Dortmunder headed again for the living room, saying to Andy, You might as well come along.

Long as Im here.

Thats it.

Andy was carrying some kind of leather shoulderbag with a flap, like a scout on horseback in a western movie. Dortmunder wasnt positive he really wanted to know what was inside that bag, but he was pretty sure hed be finding out. In the meantime, Andy shifted this bag around on his shoulder, indicating it was fairly heavy, and said, Ill just get a beer first.

Dortmunder thought. He looked at the glass in his own hand. Rising with some difficulty to the responsibilities of host, he said, You want a bourbon?

Thanks for asking, John, Andy said, but Ill just stick to beer.

So they went their separate ways, Dortmunder settling himself into his own chair in his living room, tasting the bourbon, and finding it every bit as satisfying as hed hoped. Then Andy came in with his beer, sat on the sofa, put the beer and the shoulderbag on the coffee table, reached for the shoulderbags flap, and Dortmunder said, Before you do that, whatever it is, lemme ask you a question.

Sure, Andy said. His hand, en route, made a left turn and picked up the beer instead.

Who do you know in Washington?

Andy drank beer. The president, he said. That senator, whatsisname. An airline stewardess named Justine.

Dortmunder tasted bourbon; that was still good, anyway. Who do you know, he amended, that isnt a civilian?

Andy looked alert. You mean, somebody in our line of work? Oh, I see, to be the local for when you do the Watergate.

May says, probably therell be enough stuff in the guys place to make it worth somebodys while.

Thats true, judging from last time. Lemme think about it, Andy decided, and leaned forward, putting down his beer. In the meantime, he said, reaching again for the shoulderbag, heres the reason Im here.

Uh huh. Dortmunder held tight to his bourbon.

Andy flipped back the shoulderbags flap, and pulled out a smallish black metal box with a telephone receiver on one side of it. Im gonna have to unplug your phone for a few minutes, he said.

Dortmunder glared at the box. Is that an answering machine? I told you before, Andy, I dont want

No no, John, I told you, I gave up on you with technology. Grinning in an amiable way, Andy shrugged and spread his hands, saying, I understand you now. The only reason youre willing to travel in cars is because theres no place in an apartment to keep a horse.

Was that sarcasm, Andy?

I dont think so. What this is, Andy said, is a fax. Youve seen them around.

Well, that was true. A fax was something you picked up and carried to the fence. In the straight world, they were yet another way to tell people things and have them tell you things back. Since telling people things and hearing what bad news they had to impart had never been high among Dortmunders priorities, he didnt see where the fax figured into his own lifestyle. If he had a fax, who would he send a message to? What would it say? And who would send a message to him, that they couldnt send by telephone or letter or over a beer at the O.J. Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue?

Andy carried this black box of his over to the telephone on its end table, hunkered down beside it, and briskly unhooked the phone from the wall outlet so he could hook up his fax instead, while Dortmunder said, Why do I have this, all of a sudden? And how long am I gonna have it?

The thing about a fax, John, Andy explained, its harder to bug. It isnt impossible, the feds got a machine that can pick up a fax and it still goes on to the regular party, without anybody being the wiser, but it isnt routine, not yet, not like a phone call. Just a minute. Andy picked up the phone part of the fax and started tapping out a number.

Dortmunder said, Is that a local call?

No, it isnt. Andy listened, then said, Hi, its Andy. Go ahead, and hung up.

Dont mind me, Dortmunder said. His bourbon glass was almost empty, except for ice.

Hunkering beside the fax, Andy swiveled around to Dortmunder and said, Wally called me. Hes got news, but none of us wants him to tell me on the phone. So hes

The phone rang. Dortmunder said, Get that, will you? Youre right there.

No, no, this is Wally, Andy said, and the phone rang a second time, and May appeared in the doorway with a mug of tea. She looked around at everything and saw the black box and said Whats that? just as the box suddenly made a loud, high-pitched, horrible noise, like a lot of baby pigeons being tortured to death all at once. Mays eyes widened and the tea sloshed in her mug and she said, Whats that?

The pigeons died. The box chuckled to itself. Dortmunder said, Its a fax. Apparently, this is the only way Wally likes to talk now.

Here it comes, Andy said.

Dortmunder and May watched in appalled fascination as the box began slowly to stick its tongue out at them; a wide white tongue, a sheet of shiny curly paper that exuded from the front of the thing, with words on the paper.

Andy smiled in paternal pleasure at the box. Its like a pasta machine, isnt it? he said.

Yes, Dortmunder said. It was easier to say yes.

The white paper, curling back on itself like a papyrus roll, kept oozing from the box. Then it stopped, and the box made a bell bing sound, and Andy reached down to tear the paper loose. Straightening, he went back to the sofa, sat down, took some beer, unrolled the faxhe looked exactly like the herald announcing the arrival in the kingdom of the Duke of Carpathiaand said, Dear John and Andy and Miss May. Smiling, he said, What a polite guy, Wally.

Hes a very nice person, May said, and sat in her own chair. But, Dortmunder noticed, she didnt sit back and relax, but stayed on the edge of the chair, holding the mug of tea with both hands.

Andy looked back at his proclamation, or whatever it was. I just picked up an internal memorandum of Trans-Global Universal Industries, which is Max Fairbankss personal holding company, and his plans have changed. Instead of going to Nairobi, hes coming to New York

Good news, Dortmunder said, with some surprise, as another person might say, Look! A unicorn!

Hes going to be arriving tomorrow night

Wednesday, May said.

Right. because he has an appointment with his Chapter Eleven judge on Thursday. Then hell leave for Hilton Head on Friday and go back to the schedule the way it was before.

Hes going to be here, Dortmunder said, tinkling the ice in his empty glass. Staying here. Two nights. Where?

Were coming to that now, Andy said, and read, In New York, Fairbanks stays with his wife Lutetia at the N-Joy Theater on Broadway. I hope this is a help. Sincerely, Wallace Knurr.

Dortmunder said, The what?

N-Joy Theater on Broadway.

He stays at a theater?

It isnt Washington, at least, John, May pointed out. Its New York. And you know New York.

Sure, I do, Dortmunder said. The guy lives in a theater. Everybody in New York lives in a theater, am I right?


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