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17

I dont think I like this much, Dortmunder said.

Why not? Andy asked, and pointed at the bright color photo of the main reception room, with its working marble fountain and deep maroon plush sofas. I think its snazzy.

I dont mean the look of it, Dortmunder said. I mean the getting into it.

Oh, well, Andy said. Sure, that.

Years ago, Dortmunder and his friends had discovered what a great help in their line of work the architectural magazines could be, with their glossy photos of rich peoples residences, room after room of what would or would not be worth the picking, plus blueprints of houses and gardens, plus visible in the backgrounds of many of the pictures this or that exterior door, with its hardware in plain sight.

The Max and Lutetia Fairbanks apartment in the new N-Joy had been given this treatment, of course, several months back, in one of the high-toned interiors magazines, and Andy had found a copy at a used-magazine store this afternoon and brought it over to Dortmunders place, where they sat with beers side by side on the sofa, the magazine open on the coffee table in front of them, turning back and forth over the six pages of photos and copy. And Dortmunder didnt like what he saw. The problem is, he said, time.

Not much lead time, Andy said.

You could say that.

I did say it.

Hes gonna be there tonight, Dortmunder said, and hes gonna be there tomorrow night, and then hes going down to somebodys head.

Hilton Head, its an island down south.

An island down south Im not even gonna think about. So its tonight or tomorrow night, if were gonna get him at home in New York, and it sure as hell isnt gonna be tonight, so that leaves tomorrow night, and that isnt very much lead time.

Like I said, Andy pointed out.

And first, Dortmunder said, theres the question of how do you get in. A private elevator from inside the theater lobby that doesnt go anywhere except to that one apartment, thats how they get in.

And it has an operator, Andy said, a guy in a uniform inside the elevator there, that pushes the button. Suppose we could switch for the operator? Take his place?

Maybe. Not much time to set that up. What if we bought tickets and went into the theater? It doesnt say here, but dont you figure theyve got some window or something, they can look out and see the stage, watch the show if they feel like it?

Well, the problem there is, Andy said, I went by the place this morning, and its got some musical playing there, and its sold out for the next seven months.

Sold out? Dortmunder frowned. What do you mean, sold out?

Like I said. It isnt like going to the movies, John, its more like taking an airplane. You call up ahead of time and say this is when I wanna fly, and they sell you a ticket.

For seven months later? How do you know youre gonna feel like going to some particular show seven months from now?

Thats the way they do it, Andy said, and shrugged.

So switch the elevator operator, Dortmunder said. Except the ushers and people in the theater probably know the real guy.

Probably.

Lemme think, Dortmunder said, and Andy sat back to let him think, while Dortmunder read through the article in the magazine all over again, the round sentences about volumes of space, and tensions between the modern and the traditional, and bold strokes of color, all rolling past his eyes like truck traffic on an interstate. Says here, he said, after a while, the apartment is serviced by the hotel staff. Thatd be maids and like that, right?

Right, Andy said.

Hotel maids, with those big carts they have, clean sheets, toilet paper, soap, all that stuff, and the dirty laundry they take away. Are they gonna go down to the lobby with all that and take the elevator from there up to the apartment?

Theyd look kind of funny, Andy agreed, pushing one of those hotel carts around a theater lobby.

And a hotel lobby, Dortmunder said. And the street, because the hotel and the theater are different entrances. So thats not the way they do it, is it?

A service elevator, Andy said.

Has to be. An elevator down from somewhere in the hotel. Probably one of the regular service elevators, except the elevator shaft goes down those extra floors.

And it wont have any operator, Andy guessed. The maids can push those buttons for themselves.

Dortmunder at last reached for his beer, then quickly straightened it before much spilled. Weve got today and tomorrow, he said. When May comes home, well pack some stuff and go check in at the hotel. Ill have to go over to Stoons place and buy a credit card, something thats good for a few days.

Once youre in, Andy said, you give me a call and tell me what room youre in.

And you come over late

Around one in the morning, right?

And we toss the hotel.

And we find the elevator.

And I get my ring.

And a couple other little items along the way, Andy said. Smiling at the photos in the magazine, he said, You know, a fella could just take a truckload of that stuff there and go downtown to Bleecker Street somewhere and set up an antique shop.

Dortmunder drank beer. You do that, he said. And I get my ring.


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