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THEY WONT DO IT, Mac said.

Ace looked anguished, agonized, possibly seasick. But its perfect for them, he insisted. We couldnt do it, but they could.

They wont, Mac said.

But why not?

Because, Mac said, theyll say its a harebrained idea.

Why would they say something like that?

Mac was about to answer, because it is a harebrained idea, when he realized all he could do with that response was make Ace mad.

But he had to say something. He and Ace and Buddy were all gathered for late afternoon beers in Buddys rec room, in which the finished parts were really quite comfortable, and the unfinished parts, like the bar and the paneling and mounting the dartboard, Buddy would be getting around to pretty soon. In the meantime, the cast-off living room furniture from various of Buddys relatives made for a cozy little den that families were guaranteed not to enter, and that was pleasantly cool in the summer, and thoroughly warmperhaps a tiny bit too warm, given the presence of the furnace three feet awayin the winter.

It was here that Mac had to find an alternative to the simple truth that what Ace had come up with was a harebrained idea. In its stead, he said, We dont even know if one of them can fly a plane.

They dont have to fly a plane, Ace said. Did they drive that stretch limo? Thats what gave me the idea. That limo wasnt theirs, they rented it, I saw the little sticker on the back.

Mac said, Im not denying that.

Look, Mac, Ace said, these are guys lost a bundle to Monroe Hall, we know that, but these are also guys can go out and rent a stretch limo. You see what that means?

They still think rich, Mac said.

Theyre still connected, Mac, Ace told him. You and me, we couldnt go rent a limo like that unless our daughter was getting married, and maybe not even then. These guys, they got corporate accounts, they got little companies and things they can use instead of money. Lines of credit. These guys could rent a plane.

Buddy, who had not yet taken sides, said, They call it charter.

Fine, Ace said. These guys could charter a plane.

Mac said, But then what?

Theres no way to get through that electric fence, Ace said. But we could go over it, have the pilot land in a field far away from the houses, we go over, grab Hall, stick him in the plane, fly back out again.

Ace, Mac said, if you make that suggestion to those two guys, they wont have anything else to do with us. And were not getting anywhere on our own

I am!

No, youre not. Mac spread his hands. Follow this with me, he said. Youre over at Teterboro airport, youve got a airplane charter operation, these two upper-class guys come in, say we wanna charter a plane.

Thats what Im saying, Ace said.

The guy says, And whats the flight plan, sir? And these two upper-class guys, they say, Oh, we just wanna fly over to Pennsylvania at night and land in a darkened field there, and then the plane waits there a little while, and then well come back with this other passenger in a burlap sack, and by that time the charter guys already reaching for the phone.

They say theyre going to Atlantic City, Ace said. Once were all in the sky, we tell the pilot, Theres this change of plans.

They have radios in the planes, Mac said. Pointing a finger at Ace, he said, And dont tell me youre gonna point a gun at this pilot, youre gonna hijack this plane. The whole scheme you shouldnt tell our Harvard friends, but hijacking you shouldnt even tell me.

Buddy, who still hadnt taken sides, sighed and got to his feet and said, More beer.

Youre right, Mac told him.

Buddy went over to the refrigerator, which still worked almost as well as when it had been made, sometime in the Korean War, and brought out three more cans of beer. Meanwhile, Ace had gone back to looking anguished and agonized and even more seasick. Theres gotta be a way, he said. You just cannot get through that electric fence, so how else you gonna do it but go over it?

Maybe you wanna charter a catapult, Mac suggested.

Jeesis, Mac, Ace said. You dont have to insult me. Im trying to come up with an idea here.

Yeah, I know you are, Mac said. Youre right, I shouldnt be a wise guy. Im sorry.

Thank you.

Youre welcome.

Okay, then. Ace folded his arms. So you come up with an idea, he said.

Ive been trying to, Mac assured him. So far, nada.

Buddy, who maybe by now wasnt going to have to choose sides, delivered the beers, settled back into his very low armchair, and said, You know what I keep thinking about?

They both gave him their full attention. Mac said, No, Buddy. What?

That green Subaru station wagon, Buddy said.

They both considered that. Mac said, You mean, the one that the guy drives it looks like an action toy.

Like the hero of a video game, Buddy agreed. Only shorter.

Ace said, Shorter? How do you know hes shorter? You only seen him sitting down, inside his car.

All that chin of his, Buddy said, its the same level as the top of the steering wheel.

Mac said, All right, hes probably short. So what? What about him?

Hes in and out of there all the time, Buddy said. Its almost every day hes in and out, just him and all that station wagon.

Hmm, Mac said.

Ace said, Whadaya think he does? I mean, that he goes in and out all the time.

Maybe we should follow him, Buddy said. Not goin in, we couldnt do that, I mean comin out. Find out who he is. Find out if hed like some undercover passengers some day.

Buddy, Mac said, you just might have an idea there.

And this one, Ace said, we dont need to share with Harvard.

Ace, Mac said, now youre right.

Buddy said, You guys both think theyre Harvard? They seemed more like Dartmouth to me.

| The Road to Ruin | c