“THEY AREN’T GONNA DO IT,” Os said.
This troubling possibility troubled Mark as well, but he was hoping against hope. “But it’s the right thing to do,” he insisted.
“They aren’t gonna do it,” Os said. He sounded pretty sure of himself.
The two were seated in the knotty pine rec room in the basement of Mark’s mother and stepfather’s home in Westport, the rec room being just next to the lumber room he was unfortunately bunking in these days. It was difficult enough to have to move back in with one’s parents at the age of forty-two—and a bit irritating to the old folks as well, as they had subtly but relentlessly made clear—but it was even worse to have to live in the basement.
That huge house above him contained room after room, yet not one of them was considered appropriate housing for a prodigal son. True, this was not the house in nearby Norwalk where he’d grown up, nor the Daddy he’d grown up with, so he wasn’t actually returning, but why couldn’t there be a comfy bedroom upstairs somewhere, with a view?
But, no. Mum had made that perfectly clear. “You’re not to clutter up my sewing room with your tubular socks, and Roger needs the library for his research as you well know, and the keeping room is out of the question, being right in everybody’s traffic pattern,” and on and on, till it began to seem, if they’d had a manger, there wouldn’t have been room for him there, either.
What was he to say? That he hadn’t worn tube socks in twenty years? What good would that do?
Besides, the unspoken recrimination in all this was that some of the money that bastard Hall had siphoned out of Mark had, in fact, come from Mum and Roger. So the basement lumber room, with its faint essence of heating oil, was not the extent of Mum’s beneficence; there was her silence, as well.
Mark sighed. When would he get his own place back, his independence back, his life back? “They ought to do it,” he insisted. “They’re a union. They’re a workforce.”
“Mac and the others won’t ask them,” Os insisted right back.
“But why not? Mac says they have over twenty-seven hundred members in their W-whatchacallit. How many would we need? Twenty? Less.”
“Fewer,” said Os, who was a stickler for the language. “And they won’t do it.”
“A tunnel,” Mark reiterated. “Way in the back where nobody can see anything. Late at night, along that dirt road by the cornfield. How long a tunnel would we need, just to get under the electric fence? A bunch of men with shovels, a few pickup trucks to carry in the shoring and carry out the excess dirt, and we’re into the compound.”
“They won’t do it.”
“Lickety-split across the estate,” Mark went on, not even caring that he was repeating himself, just loving the concept from beginning to end. “Into that white elephant of a house of his, truss him up like a Christmas tree, cart him back to the tunnel, pop him out of there like a champagne cork, and off to the hideout.”
“We don’t have a hideout,” Os said.
“We’ll have a hideout,” Mark said, brushing that off. “By then, we’ll have one. Os, twenty-seven hundred members! Working men, strong horny hands, powerful backs. I’ll bet you, they all have their own shovels.”
“They won’t do it.”
“It could be like one of those prisoner of war escape movies. Many hands make light work.”
“They won’t do it.”
“Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because it’s true. Because Mac is just a little too noble for our own good.”
“He is, Mark,” Os said. “And if you suggest this thing to him, we’ll lose the three of them, never mind the twenty-seven hundred. He’ll decide we just want to use them.”
“We do just want to use them.”
“Collaboratively,” Os said. “That was the agreement. Think about this, Mark. That fellow Mac and his friends are sacrificing themselves for their union mates. They will not take kindly to your suggestion that they lead those selfsame mates into a life of crime.”
“Crime, crime, we’re kidnapping Monroe Hall, that’s no crime, that’s poetic justice.”
“Poetic justice is often a crime. But this one they won’t do.”
“Then what’s your suggestion,” Mark demanded.
“I never said I had one.”
“No, all you do is rain all over my ideas. The agreement with those three was, we would combine forces, and we would all work at coming up with something we could do together to get our hands on Monroe Hall, and then we would get back in touch. But you don’t want to get back in touch, not with my idea. So why don’t you come up with something?”
“Well, if I have to come up with something,” Os said, “how about that green Subaru station wagon?”
Bewildered by the sudden change of topic, Mark said, “What about it?”
“It’s in and out of the estate all the time,” Os said. “Where we can’t go, it goes constantly.”
“So do the hired guards,” Mark pointed out. “So what?”
“But that fellow in the Subaru isn’t a hired guard,” Os said. “Who is he? Why does he have such frequent access to the estate? And why couldn’t he—think about this, Mark—why couldn’t he fit a few extra people into that big station wagon of his once or twice, once going in, once coming out?”
“Subarus aren’t that big,” Mark said.
“But could one be big enough?” Os did a maybe-so-maybe-not hand waggle. “Why don’t you and I,” he said, “do a little window-shopping at a Subaru dealer?”
“Well, I don’t know yet, do I?”
Mark considered. “It wouldn’t fit five extra people,” he said.
Os smiled, a thing he didn’t do all that often. “Oh,” he said, “agreements to one side, I don’t believe we need bother our union friends with this concept just yet, do you?”
Mark returned the smile. Over his left shoulder, the central air-conditioning thumped on.