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30

Im not even supposed to be here, Max complained to the detective. Running distraught fingers through rumpled hair, he said, Im supposed to be preparing for my testimony before Congress on Monday. I have to talk to Congress on Monday. I dont see what Im accomplishing here at all. I dont see it at all. What am I accomplishing? Im not accomplishing anything here, Im not even supposed to be here.

The detective calmly but disinterestedly waited for Max to run down. He was a thirtyish chunky fellow with bushy black hair and a long fleshy nose, and he had introduced himself as Detective Second Grade Bernard Klematsky. He didnt look much like a detective of any grade, but more like a high school math teacher, with his rumpled gray suit and rumpled blue tie. But he was the detective in charge of the burglary at the N-Joy apartment, he was laconic as hell, and he just had a few questions to ask.

Well, for that matter, so did Max. What the hell happened here? Its as though a tornado had been through, and cleaned the place out. Nothing large had been taken, not the grand piano or the antique armoire in the master bedroom or the medieval refectory table here in the reception room, or anything like that. But everything, everything, every item of any value at all small enough to fit into the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you was gone. Stripped clean, the one night Lutetia wasnt home.

Well, thank God she wasnt home, come to think of it. Horrible that would have been, to be actually present when they came breaking in. As it was, Lutetia was now asleep in her bedroomor, rather, unconsciousand had been so for many hours, heavily sedated by one of her doctors, leaving Max alone in the denuded reception room to deal with this rather thick-witted detective, who didnt seem to realize who he was dealing with here.

Max couldnt quite bring himself to utter the words Do you know who I am? but he was close. In fact, probably the main consideration keeping him from voicing that question was the suspicion that this slow-moving blunt-minded bored detective more than likely already had a smart-aleck answer waiting on the shelf.

Nevertheless, though, this was ridiculous, to sit here hour after hour at the whim of some detective. Certainly, when Lutetias screaming voice on the telephone last night had at last managed to communicate to him something of the enormity of what had occurred, he had at the earliest opportunity this morning reversed his travelcar to Savannah, private plane to JFK, limo to the N-Joyto be with her in this traumatic situation. And certainly hed been happy to see this detective, Bernard Klematsky, happy to answer his questions, happy to help in any way he could, happy to see the man so obviously earnest in his work, but enough was enough.

There should by now have come a point at which Max could shake the detectives hand, wish him well, give him a telephone number where Max could be reached if necessary, and leave. Back to Hilton Head, back to the extremely attractive secretary waiting there to help him prepare his testimony before Congress on Monday, back to his normal life.

Instead of which, this fellow Klematsky, this roadshow Columbo, was holding him here. Gently, yes; indirectly, yes; but nevertheless, that was what was happening.

If youll just give me a little of your time, Mr. Fairbanks. Im expecting some phone calls, then you can help me with one or two little details.

Why dont I help you with those details now, so I can leave?

I wish we could do it that way, Mr. Fairbanks, Klematsky said, not even trying to look sympathetic, but Ive got to wait for these phone calls before I know exactly what it is I need to ask you.

So here he was, hour after hour, all of Saturday going by, Saturday evening coming up, Lutetia unconscious in the other room, the apartment raped, and Detective Klematsky as bland as an ulcer dietwhich Max would be needing, if things kept on like this.

But what could he do? Hed called his New York office, told them to hold all messages for the weekendnothing else in his business life could possibly matter between now and Mondayand he remained hunkered down in this place, waiting, and every time the phone rang, which it did from time to time, it was for Klematsky. Who lives here, anyway?

But now at last Klematsky, having come back from yet one more phone call, seemed ready to get on with it. Hed always taken his calls in some other room, so Max could hear nothing but murmuring without words, so he had no idea what all this hugger-mugger was about, but he was glad that finally they might be getting down to it. Ask the bloody questions, and let me go. Its my plane, and my pilot, and hell fly whenever I say, whenever I get there, so let me get there.

And here came the first question: Your wife, Lutetia, lives in this apartment?

Well, we both do, Max said, though this isnt my legal residence, and I suppose shes here more than I am. Business keeps me traveling a great deal.

Shes here more than you are.

Yes, of course.

Shes here almost all the time, isnt she, Mr. Fairbanks? Klematsky had some sort of notebook, was riffling through it, looking at little handwritten notes in it. Shes something of a hostess in New York, isnt she?

My wife entertains a great deal, Max said. And what was the point of all this?

But Thursday night she wasnt here.

No. Thank God for that, too.

You and she went away together?

Yes.

Just for the one night?

That was all the time I had, as I say, Im supposed to be in Washington

And where did you go?

My corporation ownswell, it did own, were giving it up, selling ita house out on Long Island, weve used for management sessions, that sort of thing. I suppose we were saying good-bye to it. Sentimental; you know how it is.

You were sentimental about giving up the house on Long Island.

Wed had it for some years, yes.

And your wife was sentimental about giving it up.

Well, I suppose so, Max said, trying to find his way through the obscurity of these questions, not wanting to compromise himself with an outright lie either. I suppose she felt about it much the same way I did.

So you were saying good-bye to the house.

Yes.

And your wife was also saying hello to it, wasnt she?

Max gaped. What?

Wasnt that the first time your wife had ever been in that house, the first time shed ever seen it?

How on earth had the fellow found that out, and what in hell did it have to do with this burglary? Max said, Well, as a matter of fact, shes always wanted to get out there, but her own schedule, you know, so that was the last opportunity.

Before you sold the house.

Thats right.

Why are you selling the house, Mr. Fairbanks?

Be careful, Max told himself. This man knows the most unexpected irrelevant things. But why does he care about them so much? Its part of a court settlement, he said. A legal situation.

Bankruptcy, Klematsky said.

Ah hah; so he did know that. Were in, Max said, part of my holdings are in a Chapter Eleven

Bankruptcy.

Well, its a technical procedure that

Bankruptcy. Isnt it bankruptcy, Mr. Fairbanks?

Well yes.

Youre a bankrupt.

Technically, my

Bankrupt.

Sighing, Max conceded the point: If you want to put it like that.

Klematsky flipped a page. When did you and your wife decide to make this sentimental journey to Carrport, Mr. Fairbanks?

Well, I dont know, exactly, Max said. He was beginning to wonder if he should have an attorney present, any attorney at all, perhaps even a couple of them. On the other hand, what essentially did he have to hide from this fellow? Nothing. Hes here to investigate a burglary, nothing more. God knows why hes going into all this other stuff, but it doesnt mean anything. The sale of the house was decided ... recently, he said. So our going out there had to be a recent decision.

Very recent, Klematsky said. Theres nothing about it in your wifes datebook.

Well, she doesnt put everything in her datebook, you

Klematsky, surprised, said, She doesnt? You mean theres even more stuff she does than whats in there?

I have no idea, Max said, getting stuffy with the fellow, wondering if he dared just stand up and walk out on him, yet still curious as to what all this was about. I dont make a habit, he said, of studying my wifes datebook.

I have it here, you wanna see it?

No, thank you. And, to answer your question, I think the decision to go out there was quite spur of the moment.

It must have been, Klematsky said. Thursday night you had dinner with people named Lumley and some other people at the Lumleys apartment uptown.

You are thorough, Max said, not pleased.

Klematskys smile was thin. Thats why I get the big bucks.

Youre going to say, Max suggested, that Lutetia didnt mention to anyone at the dinner party that we were going out to Carrport later that night.

Well, no, Klematsky said. I was going to say your wife told Mrs. Lumley she felt overtired, felt shed been doing too much, and was looking forward to a good nights sleep that night here in her own apartment.

Max opened his mouth. He closed it. He opened it again and said, We made the decision in the car, coming downtown.

I see. Thats when you talked to her about it.

We talked about it.

Who brought the subject up?

Well, I suppose I did, Max said.

Klematsky nodded. He turned to another page in his damn notebook. He read, nodded, frowned at Max, said, Wasnt there a little something else about the house at Carrport recently?

Something else? What do you mean?

Wasnt there a robbery there?

Oh! Yes, of course, in all this Id completely forgotten

Funny how memory works, Klematsky said. You were out there during the robbery, werent you?

Well, no, Max said. Just before. He broke in again after I left. The police caught him once, when I was there, but then he escaped from the police and went back to the house, after Id left.

You mean the two of you were in the house

Good God, he even knows about Miss September. Yes, yes, all right, the two of us were there, for perfectly innocent reasons

Klematsky stared at him. You and the burglar were there for perfectly innocent reasons?

Max stared, lost. What?

Klematsky spread his hands, as though all this were obvious. The two of you were there, we agreed on that.

Not me and theNot me and the burglar ! I thought you were talking aboutWell, I thought you meant someone else.

And the police, Klematsky went on, as though Max hadnt spoken at all, came in because the house was supposed to be empty and they saw it was occupied, and

Not at all, not at all, Max said. I called the police. I captured the burglar, I held a gun on him, and I called the police. Check their records.

Well, I did, Klematsky said, and theyre very confusing. These small-town cops, you know. First theres a report that the police found a burglar and nobody else there. Then theres an amended report that the police found the burglar and two other people there, you and somebody else. And after that, theres another amended report that the police found the burglar and one other person there, meaning you. And theres also a 911 call, originally said to be by you, and then said to be by somebody else.

Now Max had truly had enough. Much of this was embarrassing, some of it was less than forthcoming, but none of it had anything to do with what had happened in this apartment right here on Thursday night. Detective, he said, putting on his stern manner, the manner that usually preceded somebody being fired, I applaud your enterprise in digging up all this irrelevant material, but thats what it is. Irrelevant material. Somebody broke into this place Thursday night. They took well over a million dollars worth of property. Im not sure yet how much they took. Why isnt this your concern? Why do you keep going on and on about Carrport ?

Theyre both burglaries, arent they?

Burglaries take place all the time! Are you saying these two are connected ? Thats absurd!

Is it?

Suddenly a suspicion entered Maxs brain. The burglar; the ring. Could it be the same man, come back looking for his ring, following Max around? Was that, in his bumble-footed fashion, what this clown of a detective was getting at? Max said, You think its the same people.

I dont think anything yet, Klematsky said. I see all sorts of possible scenarios.

He doesnt know about the ring, Max thought, that much he cant know about. So he doesnt know about the burglar, and could the burglar be chasing me, chasing the ring? It seemed impossible, ridiculous. Distracted, he said, Scenarios. What do you mean, scenarios?

Well, heres a scenario, Klematsky said. Youre bankrupt.

That again? Im technically

Bankrupt.

Max sighed. Very well.

Theres a house full of valuable possessions, that youre not supposed to be in, and you are in, while theres a burglary going on.

Is it possible the burglar could be hanging around now, somewhere nearby? A man batting too many gnats, Max said, Before. I was there before.

Before, during, after. Klematsky shrugged. Youre all around it. And now we come here, and at the last second you talk your wife into leaving this apartment, when she didnt want to, and all of a sudden the coast is clear.

Coast? What coast? Clear? Wait a second!

The absurdity of Klematskys suspicions, now that Max finally understood what they were, was so extreme that no wonder it hadnt occurred to him what horsefeathers filled the Klematsky brain. His own wealth and, in this instance, comparative innocence, combined with the distraction of thoughts about the burglar, had kept him from grasping Klematskys implications before this. Now, astounded, horrified, amused, pointing at himself, Max said, Do you think I committed these burglaries? Hired them done? For the insurance?

I dont think anything yet, Klematsky said. Im just looking at the scenarios.

You should be looking at a padded cell, Max told him. You think because Im in bankruptcy court? Do you really believe Im poor? YouYouI could buy and sell a thousand of you!

Maybe you could buy and sell a thousand, Klematsky said, unruffled, but they wouldnt be me.

From here on, Max said, getting to his feet, you may speak to me through my attorney, Walter Greenbaum. Ill give you his phone number, and a number where you can reach me if you have anything sensible to say.

As calm as ever, Klematsky turned to a fresh page in his notebook. Fire away.

Max gave him the numbers and said, Youve wasted far too much of my time, when you should have been out looking for the people who actually did this. Unless you think you have cause to stop me, I am now going back to Hilton Head.

Oh, I have no reason to hold you, Mr. Fairbanks, the unflappable Klematsky said. Not at the moment. Is your Congress thing going to be on C-Span?

Perhaps the congressmen were my partners in crime, Max said, sneering. Perhaps theyre the ones who did the actual breaking in.

Wouldnt surprise me, Klematsky said.


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