The first thing they couldn’t agree on was how they were going to get to Washington. Dortmunder wanted to take the train, Andy wanted to drive, and May and Anne Marie both wanted to fly. As Andy had earlier suggested, May and Anne Marie hit it off right from the start, liked each other fine, and were in complete agreement about taking the plane to Washington, DC. “It’s a hop and a skip,” Anne Marie said, and May said, “See? Not even a jump. It’s over before you know it, and you’re there.”
“Where?” Dortmunder demanded. “In some farmer’s field fifty miles away, at an airport, with taxis, and another hour before you get anywhere. I don’t wanna go to Washington by taxi. The train is door to door.”
This conversation was taking place Saturday evening in Dortmunder and May’s apartment, and now Andy stood and went over to the living room archway to look down toward the apartment entrance and say, “Door to door? John? You got a train runs down the hall out there?”
“Downtown to downtown,” Dortmunder said. “You know what I mean. It’s not even a hop and a skip, it’s just a hop from here over to Penn Station, take the train, you’re right there in Washington, right where you want to be.”
“Well, no,” Anne Marie said. “Where you are is at Union Station over on Capitol Hill. The Watergate is way across town by Foggy Bottom, the other side of everything. All of the monuments, all of the official buildings, all of the tourists, everything is inbetween Union Station and the Watergate.”
Which is where they were headed, of course. Since the Watergate was all things to all people—a hotel and an apartment building and a shopping mall and an office building, and probably also backup guitar in a garage band on weekends—it had been decided they might as well all stay right there in the hotel part while Dortmunder and Kelp visited Max Fairbanks in the apartment part. The Williams credit card that Dortmunder had used in the N-Joy surely having crashed and burned by now, he’d bought another card from Stoon the fence that had caused him to make his telephone reservation at the hotel—1-800-424-2736—in the name of Rathbone, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rathbone. Andy and Anne Marie, while in Washington, would be the Skomorowskis.
Anyway, “I still like the train,” Dortmunder grumbled, although this local expert’s report on the inconvenience of the Washington depot for their particular plans did have to be taken into account, and did dampen his enthusiasm a bit.
Which Andy now tried to dampen even more, saying, “John, you don’t want the train. The train’s Amtrak, am I right?”
“And Amtrak’s the government, right?”
“And the government’s Republicans right now, right?”
“And Republicans don’t believe in maintenance,” Andy explained. “Cause it costs money.”
“Well,” Dortmunder said, “I can’t wait for the Democrats to get back in.”
“Wouldn’t help,” Andy said. “The Democrats don’t know how to run a business. Forget Amtrak. I’ll get us a nice car, comfortable, an easy ride, we travel at our own pace, stop when we want for a meal or whatever, first thing you know, we’re there.”
The local expert chimed in again at that, saying, “Andy, you don’t want to drive in Washington. The traffic’s a mess, there’s no place to park—”
“Who’s gonna park?” Andy said. “When we get there, we leave the car someplace, when we go back I’ll get another one.”
Anne Marie frowned at him. “You’re talking about rental cars, aren’t you?”
“Not exactly,” Andy said.
“Oh,” Anne Marie said.
“So we’re gonna leave tomorrow morning,” Andy said. “I’ll pick us up a really nice car, I’ll go over to First Avenue, where the hospitals are.”
Anne Marie said, “Hospitals?”
“The thing is,” Andy explained, “when I feel I need a car, good transportation, something very special, I look for a vehicle with MD plates. This is one place where you can trust doctors. They understand discomfort, and they understand comfort, and they got the money to back up their opinions. Trust me, when I bring you a car, it’ll be just what the doctor ordered, and I mean that exactly the way it sounds.”
Looking dazed, Anne Marie said, “You people are going to take a little getting used to.”
“What I do,” May told her, sympathetically, “is pretend I’m in a bus going down a hill and the steering broke. And also the brakes. So there’s nothing to do but just look at the scenery and enjoy the ride.”
Anne Marie considered this. She said, “What happens when you get to the bottom of the hill?”
“I don’t know,” May said. “We didn’t get there yet.”
Andy said, “So it’s settled. Ten in the morning, in a first-rate grade-A automobile, some model good for highway touring, Anne Marie and I will come by, pick you two up, we’ll head south.”
“And I’ll get my ring,” Dortmunder said.
“And more towels,” May said. Smiling at Anne Marie, she said, “One nice thing about John following this man Fairbanks around is, we get a lot of very good hotel towels.”