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44

"COME ON UP," Arnie said.

Dortmunder, at the foot of the stairs, having just been buzzed into the building by Arnie, looked up at him and said, "Arnie, the idea is, you're coming down, I'm taking you to the place."

"I've been having second thoughts about that," Arnie said. "Come on up."

Not going on up, Dortmunder said, "Don't do that, Arnie. Never have second thoughts, they just ball you up. Come on, we don't wanna be late, Stan's gonna be there with the truck nine-thirty, got the remote opener and everything, he zaps the opener, zip, zip, everybody's in."

"This is where I'm having second thoughts," Arnie said. "What am I doing in? Come to that, what am I doing out? Look at me, I'm still the color of a roll of burlap."

This was true, but Dortmunder said, "Arnie, don't even think like that, it's fading away to nothing."

"And we got more sun today, I heard the warning on the radio."

"You'll be indoors, in an entire penthouse. Come on, Arnie, we can't stand here in the stairwell forever, some neighbor's gonna call the cops."

"So come up, we'll discuss it."

Dortmunder well knew, if he were to go up these stairs, he would never get Arnie down them, so, without moving, he said, "Arnie, come down, we'll talk it over while we walk through the park, you'll see where—"

"Walk?" Astonished, Arnie said, "I don't walk, Dortmunder! I don't even walk anyway, and you're talking through the park? It's all sun out there."

"Okay," Dortmunder said, "I'll meet you halfway. No walking, we'll take a cab. I'll buy."

"A cab. Over to the place, you mean, with the thing and the thing and everybody zips in."

"Sure. Come on."

"How's this meeting me halfway? You want the cab to go halfway there and come back?"

"Arnie," Dortmunder said, "I'm not coming up."

"I just don't see—"

"Preston Fareweather, Arnie."

Arnie shook all over and looked agonized. His hand clutched to the banister in front of him.

Dortmunder pressed his advantage. "Those guys were so brilliant, they even got the Seersucker."

"The what?"

Dortmunder said, "Didn't you say he had one of those?"

"I don't even know what the hell it is!"

"Well, we'll go look for it. Come on, Arnie, Preston Fareweather. Broadway's out there, Arnie, it's full of taxicabs, and every one of them has a roof. Don't let Preston Fareweather think we're bozos, Arnie."

"Preston Fareweather thinks everybody's bozos," Arnie said with disgust.

"Including you," Dortmunder reminded him. "And that's the mistake he made, that he's gonna find out what a mistake it is. That's the whole point here, isn't it? We're not gonna let Preston Fareweather forget what happens when he messes around with you."

Alarmed, Arnie said, "Wait a minute, I don't want him to know I had anything to do with it."

"Of course not, Arnie. Just some unnamed, unknowable genius he mistreated in the past. Can you see his face, Arnie? Picture it in your mind, Preston Fareweather's face, the next time he walks into that penthouse."

Arnie thought. "Let me get my hat," he said.


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