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DORTMUNDER WAS FURIOUS. He was so mad he forgot to be surprised. A bunch of clowns in funny faces boil out of a horse carrier and lay rough hands on Dortmunder (and also on whatsisname, Hall) and throw him into the horse carrier, which smells exactly like a horse carrier, and he doesnt even take a second out to marvel, to say, Wow, looka that! Guys jumping out of a horse carrier, with weird stuff on their heads!

No. From instant one, he knew what was going on, and it made him so mad he could bite through a phone book. What he was thinking, and what he wanted to shout, was, Geddada here! This is my heist! Youre busting into the middle of a serious operation here! Stand in line, take a check, wait your turn! Im not the butler, Im the car thief! Take a hike, will ya?

Fortunately, he didnt shout any of that, because it might have queered the deal if he did, if the deal wasnt queered already. But even if hed so forgotten himself as to voice his perfectly justified grievances, these people probably wouldnt have heard him, because they were all shouting already:

Tie him up! Tie him up!

He is tied up!

The other one!

Oh, for Gods

Rough hands grasped Dortmunder, followed by rough rope. It wasnt pitch black in here, but it was dim, and crowded, and filled with confusion. Also, the vehicle now bolted forward, which didnt help.

Put a blindfold on him!

We didnt bring another one!

Who knew we were gonna get a butler?

Im not

Cover his mouth, were coming to the guardshack! No, Ive got this one, the other one!

Rough hands spread over most of Dortmunders head. He felt the trailer go over the speed bump at the guardshack, and then it swung leftward, throwing everybody around, and the oofs, and ows this led to were music to Dortmunders ears. Also, it meant all those hands left his head in order to try to break various falls in various directions.

We gotta blindfold this guy!

Buuhhuhh, put that paper bag over his head.

Hell see me when I take it off!

Turn him around. Turn him around!

Several people in this crowded dark space with the horse blanket wafting gently and odoriferously at the back, like the curtain before a very bad play will start, grabbed Dortmunders arms and neck and rib cage and turned him to face away from the curtain. Now he couldnt see anybody clearly, not that he wanted to, but only the blank front wall, beyond which the truck would be rolling along through Pennsylvania.

A paper bag came down over his head. All the hands let him go. He started to turn.

Put the eyeholes at the back!

Oh! Right!

Hands grabbed him again, turned him again, the paper bag was turnednow theyre gonna give me a paper cut on the neck, he thought, but they didntand then he was released again, just in time to go flying when the trailer took another sharp turn.

Apparently everybody went flying; more satisfying oofs and ows. Dortmunder hit more people than wall, which was also good. Then one of the calmer voices said, We have to sit down. Everybody sit down. Help those two sit down.

More hands, encouraging him downward. Thump, he sat on a floor he doubted hed want to sit on if he could see it. Somebody shoved him and poked him, and there he was with a wall behind him. He braced his back against it.

They were all settling down now, calming down. The voice that had suggested they get off their feet now said, Weve got about two hours drive ahead of us, so you two try to get comfortable, but dont think youre going to pull anything, because youre not.

I know that voice. That was Monroe Hall talking.

Absolute silence. Dortmunder listened, and then heard whispering, and then another voice said, No, you dont.

Not you, Hall said. The other one.

There is no other one, the new voice said. Theres only me.

Clowns, Dortmunder thought. I knew they were clowns to begin with. And here they are messing up something I had put together and planned and worked for and even learned how to be a butler so I could pull it off, and these bozos come along.

Im gonna get them for this, Dortmunder promised himself. He didnt care what happened to Hall, theyd planned on dealing with the insurance company anyway and still would, but these guys couldnt just waltz into a perfectly planned and smoothly functioning heist and expect to get away with it. Im gonna get them, he vowed. Just as soon as we get somewhere and Im not all tied up and no paper bag over my head and its not five against one, whenever that happens, and its gonna happen, Im gonna get them. Just wait.

| The Road to Ruin | c