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51

PRESTON SLEPT through the first round of alarums and halloos, the phone-calling, the loud footsteps and louder voices, the general hullabaloo. Having been prematurely dragged to the surface of consciousness once, he had afterward burrowed in even deeper than before, so that he could be thought of now as hibernating rather than merely sleeping.

But when Alan Pinkleton burst open his bedroom door and cried, "Preston, wake up! You've been robbed!" Preston's eyes snapped open like searchlights. He stared at Alan and, though barely conscious he was doing so, cried out, "Arnie Albright!"

This stopped Alan's momentum. "What? Preston, burglars came"

"He was right there."

Preston struggled to a seated position, struggled to free his arms from the covers so he could point, then pointed at Alan and said, "He was right there, where you are."

"Preston," Alan said, "I'm not sure what you're talking about, but the police are here, and you have to come out and see them."

"Was it a dream?"

"Please, Preston."

Preston shook his head, clearing some of the fog from his brain. "A dream, I dreamed"

"Get dressed, Preston," Alan said.

"Yes," Preston agreed. "I'll be right there."

And ten minutes later he was, entering his stripped living room with a stunned stare at what was missing oh, so many things before even acknowledging what was present, which was a dozen police officers only the two over by the elevators in uniform, but all clearly police.

They hadn't noticed him yet, all busy together at the crime scene, Preston having entered with such astounded silence, but then Preston, in awe, said, "I've been robbed. I have been robbed," and they all turned toward him, everybody speaking at once and then all of them shutting up except one, a white-haired, bulky man in a short-sleeved white dress shirt, maroon tie, black pants, and badge attached to a strip of leather that dangled from the shirt pocket. This man said, "Preston Fareweather?"

"Yes, of course. How did this It wasn't like this last night."

"I'm Detective Mark Radik," the white-haired man said, and gestured at the eight-foot long golden sofa. "Let's sit down together a minute."

"Yes, of course. I'm sorry, I'm still stunned."

"Sure you are, anybody would be. Sit down."

Preston sat, and Alan appeared, to say, "Some coffee?"

"Yes," he said. "Thank you, Alan, that would be"

Alan left, and Detective Radik, sitting next to Preston on the sofa, said, "Mr. Pinkleton says you had a dream, or possibly saw one of the burglars?"

"I'm not sure," Preston said. It was so hard trying to think back into that sleep-drugged state. "I thought I woke up, and this fellow Albright was standing in my bedroom doorway. I'd met him a while back at a Club Med, he's from New York and I'd always had an impression of him as some sort of crook, I don't know exactly why. I mean, I just thought of him that way."

Alan appeared again to put a cup of coffee silently on the table beside Preston, who said, "Thank you, Alan."

"It would be nice," Detective Radik said, "to know which it was: a dream or the real thing. It's possible, in your sleep, you heard the burglars and put the face of this fellow you think of as a crook on it, but it's just as possible you really did see him. He might have been in that Club Med particularly to help background you for this eventual burglary. I take it he wouldn't have known you were coming back yesterday."

"No one knew it. Until yesterday, I didn't know it myself." Preston looked around the room. The astonishment didn't let up. "They took everything."

"Well," Detective Radik said, "give me this fellow's name, and we'll see if we can track him down. It could be a lead, Mr. Fareweather, so we'll certainly follow through on it."

"His name is Arnie Albright," Preston said. "One 'L, I think. I know he lives somewhere in Manhattan, the west side, I think."

Through all this, the other police in the room had been moving around, talking together, taking still pictures and videos, taking measurements, talking into telephones and radios, and now one of them came over to say, "Sir, they got them."

Detective Radik smiled. "That was quick."

"Two members of the security staff here," the other cop said, "saw their truck leaving, and recognized Mr. Fareweather's car's license plate on the truck."

Preston cried, "What! My license plate? My car? Is my car gone?

"We'll soon find out, sir," Detective Radik said, and to the cop he said, "Have you ID'd any of the perps? Is there an Arnie Albright among them?"

"No, sir," the cop said. "They were apprehended on Eleventh Avenue, with three escort cars. There were six guys, it turns out, they're all New Jersey mobsters."

"New Jersey?"

"All members of the Howie Carbine crew. They're not supposed to operate in New York."

Detective Radik offered a humorless brief laugh. "So they're not only in trouble with us," he said, "they're in trouble with the New York families. Good."

"The truck is being taken to the Fifty-seventh Street police garage."

"Sir," Detective Radik said to Preston, "after you've had some breakfast, I'd like you to come along and identify the contents of the truck. There'll have to be an inventory, and you can help us there, if you would."

"Of course," Preston said. "Just think, mobsters from New Jersey. Not Arnie Albright after all." Chuckling, Preston said, "I might have made some trouble for that poor man. I feel I owe him an apology."


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