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41

IT WAS ALL FALLING APART, because nobody wanted to play Jay Gilly. Mac could see the way things were trending, and he just didnt like it at all.

They were all gathered in Flip Morriscones office, all except Flip, whod had to go off to tend to another client. Just pull the door shut when you go, hed told his new best friends. Theyd assured him they would, and hed grinned around at them all, said, Revenge is sweet, and left.

But revenge wasnt being sweet at the moment. Right now, it was turning more sour by the second, and all because nobody was willing to be Jay Gilly. We should have worked this out before Flip made the call, Mac told himself. But in that case, he pointed out to himself, he still wouldnt have made it, would he?

It was Buddys contention that Mark Sterling was the ideal Jay Gilly, vociferously backed up by Ace. Their argument was class: It has to be one of you guys, Buddy said. We dont look like horse people, us three, we look like what we are, which is working stiffs.

Thats right, Ace agreed. We couldnt hoity-toity if you held a gun to our head.

Well, Im not quite sure what hoity-toity might be, Mark snipped, giving a perfect example of the thing itself, but neither Os nor I could portray this Gilly fellow for a very good reason. Monroe Hall knows us.

Exactly, Os said. We were in business together, worse luck.

That stopped everybody for a second, but then Ace said, He knows you. Youre buddies all the time now? Or were you in an office here and there with a bunch of other guys, sittin around a table, robbin the widows and orphans together, ten guys in a room for an hour, hes gonna remember you?

Yes, Mark said.

Os said, Hell certainly remember me. Last time I saw him, I threw a golf trophy at him. If he hadnt ducked, Id have shot that upraised golf club straight into his left eye.

Well, thats you, Ace said. What about your pal here? Whats to make him stand out in Halls memory?

Im the one, Mark said, who wrestled Os to the ground, then wasted two or three minutes apologizing to the bastard.

Never apologize, Os said.

Ace said, You could go in disguise.

Mark looked revolted. Disguise? Some Santa Claus beards? Those false spectacles with the eyebrows and the nose?

Well, a better disguise than that, Ace said. Like they do in the movies.

We can contribute the horse trailer, Mark reminded them, and one horse, but thats the extent of our contribution.

It was true. It turned out that Mark had some cousin over in New Jersey who was connected with horse people, and had arranged for the loan of a horse trailer with horse. Tomorrow morning, Mark and Os would drive to New Jersey to get the thing. But in the afternoon, who would drive it to Monroe Halls place?

Mac said, Mark, I see the problem, we all do really see the problem. Monroe Hall would recognize you. But Buddys right, we three dont look like horse people.

Well, now, there youre wrong, Mark told him. Yes, its true, there are some upper-crust horse people. The Windsors come to mind. But mostly, you know, theyre arrivistes. And in any case, a riding instructor isnt part of the horsey set, any more than a trainer or a groom. These are people standing in horseshit every day of their lives, the ones who actually work with the beasts. The owners are well away somewhere, only to appear when its time to grace the winners circle. Mac, you know what you have to do.

This was the bad place where it had all been trending, and now here it was. Knowing there was no way out, no one else to whom he could hand off this intimidating task, he sighed, long and deep, and said, Mark, tell me you know enough about those people so you can teach me how to pass.

Done, Mark said.

Os, deadpan, said, Mac, you will look smashing in jodhpurs.


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