WALKING THROUGH Central Park, away from Arnie's place and toward the potential harvest on Fifth, Dortmunder said, "Did you ever hear from Ralph Winslow again?"
"What, after the non-meet?" Kelp shrugged. "Believe it or not, I was three blocks from the O.J. when Stan called."
"There was no reason to hang around."
"I know that." Kelp ducked a passing Frisbee and said, "A couple days later, Ralph's brother called, he said Ralph talked himself out of the problem later that night, but then he decided to take his attorney's advice, which was to move to a location for his health, which happens to be not in New York State."
"So whatever Ralph had," Dortmunder said, "it's gone now."
"Seems that way. The brother didn't know what it was." This time, Kelp caught the Frisbee and tossed it back, then called, "Whoops. Sorry."
"The brother didn't know what it was."
"Well, the brother's a civilian," Kelp said, and nodded toward Fifth Avenue. "Maybe this'll make up for it."
The building, up ahead, taller than its neighbors, built in the real-estate flush of the 1950s, when details and ornamentation and style and grace were considered old-fashioned and unprofitable, hulked like a stalker over the park, a pale gray stone structure pocked with balconies. Dortmunder and Kelp studied it as they waited at the light, then crossed over to it and walked down the side street, past its hugeness. Then they stopped, in front of the smaller town house back there, and looked up at the tall black box running up the back of the apartment building.
"You can't get up the outside," Dortmunder pointed out. "No ladder rungs or anything."
"John," Kelp said, "would you want to go up seventeen flights of ladder rungs?"
"I'm just saying."
Deciding to let that go, Kelp turned his attention to the smaller building behind the big apartment house, the one either from which the elevator shaft rose like a postmodern tree trunk or into which it was sunk like a sword hilt, depending on your general view of life. This twenty-five-foot-wide building, on the wide side for New York City town houses, was four stories high, with large windows and with the lowest floor halfway below sidewalk level. It was faced with the tannish-gray limestone New Yorkers call brown-stone, and was probably older than the monster on the corner. In fact, the monster on the corner had probably replaced another half-dozen town houses just like this, from a lower-horizoned age.
The facade of this structure had a broad staircase centered, flanked by wrought-iron railings and leading up half a flight to an elaborate dark wood front door with beveled windows.
Under the staircase a more modest staircase led from left to right, down half a flight to the ground-floor apartment.
On the right front of the building, the symmetry was destroyed by a recent addition, a featureless metal overhead garage door, painted a little darker tan-gray than the building. A driveway indentation lay in the curb fronting this door, and there appeared to be two locks above the simple brass handle at waist height in the middle. Above the right corner of the door was an unobtrusive dark green metal box, one foot high, six inches wide, three inches deep.
"Pipe the alarm box," Kelp said.
Dortmunder said, "I see it. We seen boxes like that before."
"You just have to be a little careful, is all," Kelp said.
"On the other hand," Dortmunder said, "an alarm like that, you gotta get in there with foam, if you're gonna muffle the bell and short the wires."
"Which means a ladder."
"Not necessarily," Kelp said.
"Well, let's just say necessarily," Dortmunder said. "A ladder, in this neighborhood, whadawe gonna do? Wear Con Edison coveralls and helmets? To lean on an alarm box?"
"What I was thinking, John," Kelp said, "instead of a ladder—"
"No, John," Kelp said, not losing his patience. "I think Arnie's right, what we should do to begin with, and that's take the BMW outa there and put a truck in. Now, this truck's gonna be a little tall."
"Oh," Dortmunder said. "I get it."
"Drive around the corner with one of us on the roof—"
"One of us."
"We'll figure that out later," Kelp said, and did hand gestures to demonstrate his thought. "Back it up to the garage door, do the alarm box. Truck drives away, around the corner, time he's back, the BMW's outa there, truck goes in."
"Maybe," Dortmunder said.
"Everything's a maybe," Kelp told him, "until you do it."
"Well, that's true."
"Have we seen enough?"
Dortmunder looked up at the long elevator shaft one last time. "For now."
For protective coloration, by tacit agreement they walked to the corner and back across Fifth Avenue and into the park, this time strolling southward instead of back toward Arnie's place. In the park you were anonymous, just two other guys among all the other citizens enjoying the summer air: the joggers, the skateboarders, the bicyclists, the stroller pushers, the dog walkers, the Frisbee tossers, the unicyclists, the tree worshippers, the Hare Krishnas, and the lost Boy Scout troops. But back on Fifth Avenue in the Sixties, they couldn't have been anything but what they were, which was not a good fact to advertise.
Strolling along southward, they both contemplated what they had heard and seen today, until Kelp said, "So we need two drivers."
"You can be one of them."
"No, I don't think so," Kelp said. "How about we call Stan Murch?"
"He isn't two drivers. He's good, but he isn't that good."
"He has a mom," Kelp reminded him, "and she's been known to drive."
"Mostly that cab of hers."
"But for us, too, sometimes. Anyway, I feel my own talents, with locks and suchlike, would be better availed of inside the building."
"You may be right," Dortmunder said. "So us two and Stan and his mom. There's gonna be heavy lifting."
"You're talking about Tiny."
Kelp said, "You wanna call everybody? We'll make a meet at the O.J., tomorrow night."
They walked a bit more in the sunshine, among the happy crowds, and then Dortmunder said, "Who knew? That Arnie's intervention would turn out to have an upside."