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18

The concept of horizontal expansion in the corporate world is that the elements, if carefully chosen, will increase one anothers business and therefore profit. It was estimated that 23 percent of the guests registered at the N-Joy Broadway Hotel took in the show at the N-Joy Broadway Theater while they were in town, and that in fact 67 percent of those had chosen that particular hotel because theyd come to New York expressly to see that specific show. Conversely, 19 percent of non-hotel-guest theatergoers chose to dine in the hotels main dining room before or after seeing the show, a respectable number, but one which management thought could be increased. They had a good show, a good hotel, and a good restaurant; the combination had to be a winner.

As for that show, it was Desdemona!, the feminist musical version of the world-famous love story, slightly altered for the modern American taste (everybody lives). Hit songs from the show included Oh, Tell, Othello, Oh, Tell, and Iago, My Best Friend and the foot-stomping finale, Heres the Handkerchief!

There were statistics also, known to management, as to how many Europeans stayed at the hotel and/or attended the show, how many South Americans, how many Japanese, how many Canadians, how many Americans, and (show attendance only) how many New Yorkers (eleven, so far). There were statistics about income levels and education levels and number of family members in party, and all of that stuff, but so what? What it came down to was, the N-Joy had, according to plan, quickly established itself as a destination for amateurs, vacationers, not very worldly world travelers of moderate income and education. Except for TUI employees, who had no choice, the hotel got almost no business trade, a market they wouldnt be starting to tap into until five years down the line, when the top-floor conference center was completed. In the meantime, they knew their customers and were content with their customers, and business was ticking along pretty much as anticipated.

Of course, not every customer exactly matched the statistics and the demographics. For instance, most hotel guests who arrived by taxi had come from one of New Yorks three principal airports or possibly one of its two railroad stations or even, more rarely, its one major bus depot; none had ever come here from Third Avenue and Nineteenth Street before, as John and May Williams with a home address in Gary, Indiana, had done, late on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 10; though of course there was no way for the scarlet-uniformed doorman to know where this particular taxi had come from nor what a short journey had been taken by that scuffed and mismatched luggage Mr. Williams was wrestling the bellboy for until Mrs. Williams kicked Mr. Williams a mean one in the ankle.

Most of the hotels guests lived more than a hundred miles from New York City, whereas the Williamses, who had never been in Gary, Indiana, in their lives, actually lived a mile and a half from the hotel, downtown and then across to the east side. Most hotel guests used credit cards, as did Mr. Williams, but usually they were the guests own cards, which had not recently been stolen, ironed, altered, and adjusted. And most hotel guests used their own names.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams, enjoy your stay at the N-Joy, the desk clerk said, handing Dortmunder two of the magnetized cards theyd be using instead of room keys.

We will, Dortmunder said. Im sure of it.

New York! breathed May, with a dazzled smile. She gazed around at this lobby in the sky, a four-story-tall Greek temple to the goddess of costume jewelry. So this is New York!

Dortmunder thought she was overdoing it, but the desk clerk seemed pleased.


19


Andy Kelp was disappointed. Hed come to the N-Joy early, hoping to pick up an item or two en passant, since John and May would have luggage with them anyway and you might as well put something in it, but there was just nothing here to attract his acquisitive eye.

Not that there werent shops, stores, boutiques. The lobby was ringed by them, like a necklace of paper clips, each with its own display windows to show the enticements within, each with the names of other cities in gold letters down at one corner of the display window, to suggest that this shop had branches in those cities. But why? Why have a store full of this stuff in Milan, in London, in Paris, in Beverly Hills? Well, okay, Beverly Hills. But in those other cities, what these citations must mean is that theyve got a shop like this in a hotel like this in those cities. So the argument was, why travel?

With the shops closed and foot traffic in the lobby sparse, Kelp eased himself into boutique after boutique, hoping there might be something toward the rear of the place different from what was visible through the window, but it was always more of the same, and the key word was shiny. Shiny leather, shiny mens watches, shiny furs, shiny pink glass vases, shiny covers of shiny magazines, shiny purses, shiny shoes, shiny earrings. It was like being in a duty-free shop for magpies.

Midnight, and no score. Kelp knew John and May didnt like him to burst in unexpectedly, and he might maybe have been doing it a little too often lately, so he would definitely not go to their room before the 1:00 A . M . appointment, which meant, what now? Whereas the New York City outside this building was still jumping, just getting into its evening surge, the N-Joy was down and dark, all except for the cocktail lounge, tucked away in a far corner. So Kelp went there.

The cocktail lounge was a long low-ceilinged lunette curved around a massive bar. The principal color was purple, and the principal lighting was nonexistent. The candles that guttered on every table were encased in thick red glass. The main light source, in fact, was the shiny black Formica tops of the round tables, each of them surrounded by vast low overstuffed armchairs that to sit in would be like trying to sit in a jelly donut. Three of the tables were occupied, by murmuring, whispering, muttering couples, all dressed up with nowhere to go, drinking stingers or something worse. At the bar were two women, one of them a waitress in a black tutu, the other a customer with her elbows on the bar, her lumpy old shoulderbag on the stool next to her, and a tall glass in front of her that, judging by her bleak expression, was definitely half-empty and not half-full.

The bar stools were tall and wide, with soft purple vinyl tops. Kelp took one equidistant from both women, put one forearm on the bar, and watched the bartender, a dour workman with a mustache, finish building two stingers. The waitress took those drinks away, and the bartender turned his attention to Kelp. Yes, sir, he said, sliding a paper napkin onto the bar.

Bourbon, Kelp said.

The bartender nodded and waited, but Kelp was finished. Finally, the barman said, And?

Oh, well, a glass, I guess. And an ice cube.

Thats it? A faint smile appeared below the mustache. We dont get much call for that kind of thing here, he said.

Youve got bourbon, though, Kelp suggested.

Oh, certainly. But most people want something with it. Some nice sweet vermouth? Maraschino cherry? A twist? Orange slice? Angostura bitters? Triple sec? Amaretto?

On the side, Kelp said.

You got it.

The bartender went away, and the woman to Kelps left said, Hello.

He looked at her. She was probably in her midthirties, attractive in a way that suggested she didnt know she was attractive and therefore didnt try very hard. She was not in a holiday mood. The sound of her voice when shed said hello had made it seem as though she hadnt particularly wanted to speak but felt it was a requirement and so shed gone ahead and done it. And hello, Kelp said.

The woman nodded; mission accomplished. Where you from? she asked.

Cleveland, Ohio. And you?

Lancaster, Kansas. Im supposed to go back there ... sometime.

Well, Kelp said, if thats where you live.

I believe my husband has left me, she said.

This was unexpected. Kelp didnt see a second glass on the bar. He said, Maybe hes in the mens room.

I think he left me Monday, she said.

Ah; today being Wednesday. Kelp thought about that while the bartender placed a glass and an ice cube and some bourbon on the paper napkin in front of him. Thanks, he said, and said to the woman, Here in New York? Just disappeared?

Not disappeared, left me, she said. We came here Sunday, and on Monday he said, Anne Marie, it isnt working out, and he packed his bag and went away.

Thats rough, Kelp said.

Well, she said, its rough because its here. I mean, hes right, it isnt working out, thats why Ive been having an affair with Charlie Petersen for three years now, and is he gonna turn white as a sheet when he hears the news, but I do wish hed done it, if he was gonna do it, I do wish hed done it in Lancaster and not here.

More convenient, Kelp said, and nodded to show he sympathized.

What it was, she said, this trip was our last try at making the marriage work. You know how people say they wanna make the marriage work? Like they wanna give it a paper route or something. So we came here and we got on each others nerves just as bad as we do at home in Lancaster, only here we only had one room to do it in, so Howard said, it isnt working out, and he packed and took off.

Back to Lancaster.

I dont believe so, she said. Hes a traveling salesman for Pandorex Computers, you know, so hes all over the Midwest anyway, so hes probably with some girlfriend at the moment.

Any kids?

No, thank you, she said. This damn glass is empty again. Whats that youre drinking?

Bourbon.

And?

And more bourbon.

Really? I wonder what thats like.

Barman, Kelp said, I think we got a convert. Another of these for me, and one of these for the lady, too.

Yes, sir.

I hate to be called the lady.

Sorry, Kelp said. My mama told me pronouns were impolite.

The lady sucks.

Thats good news, Kelp said. From now on, Ill refer to you as the broad. Deal?

She grinned, as though she didnt want to. Deal, she said.

The barman brought the drinks, and the broad sipped hers and made a face. Then she sipped again, tasted, and said, Interesting. It isnt sweet.

Thats right.

Interesting. She sipped again. If you get tired of calling me the broad, she said, try Anne Marie.

Anne Marie. Im Andy.

How you doing?

Fine.

You see, what it is, she said, its a package, a tour, we paid for everything ahead of time. Ive got the room until Saturday, and I got breakfast until Saturday, and I got dinner until Friday, so it seemed stupid to go back to Lancaster, but in the meantime what the hell am I doing here?

Holding up the bar.

I certainly dont want to get drunk, she said. Ive been pacing myself. She frowned at the half-empty glass in front of her. Will this get me drunk?

Probably not, Kelp said. Unless youre one of those rare people with the funny chemistry, you know.

She looked at him as though she might begin to doubt him soon. She said, How long are you here for?

Oh, for a while, he said, and sipped from his own half-full glass.

She thought about that. You like this hotel?

Im not staying here, he said.

She was surprised. Why would you come in here, she asked, if youre not staying here? You couldnt have been just passing by.

Ive got an appointment in the neighborhood, he told her, and looked at his watch, and said, pretty soon. So Im killing time here.

So were ships passing in the night, she said.

Possibly, Kelp said. In this hotel, do they have that little refrigerator in the room full of stuff?

Beer, she said, and champagne, and macadamia nuts and trail mix.

Thats the one. Does it have bourbon?

She considered, then pointed at her empty glass. This stuff? Im not sure.

I could come around later, take a look, Kelp suggested. I figure, my appointment, Im probably done by three, maybe earlier, something like that.

Thats some late appointment, she said.

Well, you know, New York, he said. The city that never sleeps.

Well, I sleep, she said. Though not so much, actually, since Howard left. I suppose he isnt coming back.

Doesnt sound it, Kelp said.

Im in 2312, Anne Marie said. When your appointments done, you know, you could try, knock on the door. If Im awake, Ill answer.


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