"I DON'T LIKE TO look a gift headquarters in the mouth," Tiny said, gazing around without love at the back room of the Twilight Lounge, where they were meeting for the second time in a week, "but I'm not warming up to this place."
"It's better than John's living room anyway," Stan said.
There having been general agreement that the O.J. should be left alone until it had completely recovered from its bout with organized crime — and until they were sure there would be no further activity from those people — the only alternative appeared to be Twilight again, so here they were, a little after ten in the evening, Dortmunder and Kelp and Stan and Tiny, hunkered around a table from which Tiny had removed the menu with prejudice, seated on chairs with dust ruffles.
Tiny called the meeting to order: "Could we get on with it here?"
"Sure," everybody said.
"Too many distractions," Tiny said. "So let's just do it."
"Exactly," everybody said.
Tiny looked around. "So what's the first step?"
"Open the garage," Kelp said. "Take out the BMW, put in the truck."
Stan said, "What truck?"
Surprised, Kelp said, "The truck we're gonna use to take stuff outa there."
"Yeah, fine," Stan said, "but where is this truck? What truck are we talking about?"
"I dunno," Kelp said. "I figure, we take one off the street."
Both Stan and Dortmunder shook their heads at that. "No," Stan said, while Dortmunder said, "Not a good idea."
Kelp nodded at them both. "Why not?"
With a graceful gesture to Dortmunder, Stan said, "You go first."
"Okay. We don't know," Dortmunder told Kelp, "is it empty, this truck. You can't go around back, figure out the locks, open it up, see is it empty, takes too much time, people looking at you. So whadaya do, just jump in and drive it outa there? Then we get where we're going, it's full of lawn furniture."
"That's another reason," Stan allowed. "My own reason," he said, "is that this is a truck we can't buy, because we can't afford it, but it's a truck we don't want the cops looking for, because first thing you know they'll find it, and I don't wanna be driving in it when that happens, so I got a suggestion."
"Tell it to us," Tiny said.
"I will." Stan spread his hands. "My automotive contact," he said, "where I will bring this BMW, and let's hope it's a little too old to have Global Positioning System, is Maximilian of Maximilian's Used Cars out in Queens."
Kelp said, "I know you've had a satisfactory relationship with him for some time."
"I have," Stan agreed. "So here's my suggestion. I drive out to see Max, I offer him a swap. We'll give him the BMW, straight up, flat out, and he gives me a truck clean enough we could drive it to the St. Patrick's Day parade. But what this means, first I go out to Max, we discuss, we agree, then I come back, you guys work your magic on the garage door, I take the BMW to Max, pick up the truck, bring it back."
Kelp said, "John and I had this idea, one of us—"
"One of us," Dortmunder said.
"— was gonna be on top of the truck to get at the alarm out there. But what you're saying, we don't get the truck until after we get at the alarm."
"That's right," Stan said.
Tiny said, "I like Stan's idea. It introduces a note of caution into the thing, and it's a good use of resources, the BMW for the truck."
"Elegance," Stan suggested.
"Like that," Tiny said. "Only the problem is, this means we're not doing this tonight."
"Well, I don't think we're ever doing it tonight," Stan said. "We don't wanna have to light up that penthouse all night, run that elevator up and down all night, when people got nothing else to see and hear."
Dortmunder said, "So how do you see the timing?"
"Tomorrow," Stan told him, "I go see Max, make sure we can get a deal. If we can get a deal, I bring back the truck, then late tomorrow night, because this first part we really gotta do at night, when there's less likely to be pedestrians all over the place, we do the alarm—"
"So we can do it with the truck," Kelp said.
"Yes, we can," Stan agreed. "We go in, and I take out the BMW and stash it down out of sight at my place in Canarsie, and then the next day—"
"Already we're at Thursday here," Tiny pointed out.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, Tiny," Stan told him.
"It was robbed in a day," Tiny said, "but I see the problem here, so okay. We're at Thursday."
"I take the BMW to Max, I make my way back, I meet you at the place, we go in, spend the day moving goods, then wait for night, drive away from there, turn it all over to Arnie."
Dortmunder said, "I think I see two more things we need."
Tiny lowered a brow at him. "Delay-type things?"
"I don't think so," Dortmunder said, "But one of them is, we need a long-term stash for that truck afterward. Arnie can't take delivery on everything the minute we show up."
"A garage, you mean," Stan suggested. "Another garage."
"Someplace we can keep the truck," Dortmunder said. "I don't know where, we have to think about that. And I think the other thing we need is Arnie."
Nobody liked that idea. Kelp said, "John? Now you wanna hang out with Arnie?"
"No, I don't," Dortmunder said. "But from what he says, this penthouse is full of valuable whatnots, a lot more than we can put in one truck down one elevator in one day. So if he comes along, he can point, and we take what he wants, and it's more profit for everybody."
"He won't do it," Tiny said. "Fences do not set foot on properties where the burglary is going on. It's like a rule they got."
"That's true," Kelp said. "I've known other fences, and it's always the same. We go, they stay home, wait for our call."
"Well," Dortmunder said, "I think it would be better if we brought Arnie with us, so if it's okay with you guys, I'll at least propose it to him."
"I've met Arnie," Stan said, and drank more than his usual amount of beer.
Kelp said, "Stan, the funny thing is, I think maybe the Club Med intervention did work after all. When John and I met him, he was less obnoxious than of old. I don't mean you want him for a roommate, but there was less of an urge to maneuver him toward an open window."
Tiny said, "Dortmunder, if you want to lay this on the guy, and he wants to go along with it, fine by me, I can see where it would help. But I still don't think he'll do it."
"I can only ask," Dortmunder said.
Tiny looked around the gay-nineties room and lifted his glass of vodka and red wine. "Next year," he said, "in the O.J."