12

Rollo had loaned them a portable radio, small, transistorized, Japanese, and on it they listened to the caper on WINS, the all-news station. They heard about the daring robbery, they heard about Murch having made his escape from the ambulance, they heard the history of the Balabomo Emerald, they heard about Alan Greenwood having been arrested and charged with complicity in the robbery, and they heard that the gang had managed to get away successfully with the stone. Then they heard the weather, and then they heard a woman tell them the price of lamb chops and pork chops in the city’s supermarkets, and then they turned the radio off.

Nobody said anything for a while. The air in the back room was blue with smoke, and their faces in the glare of the lightbulb looked pale and tired. Finally Murch said, “I wasn’t brutal.” He said it sullenly. The announcer on WINS had described the attack on the ambulance attendant as brutal. “I just popped him on the jaw,” Murch said. He made a fist and swung it in a small tight arc. “Like that. That ain’t brutal.”

Dortmunder turned to Chefwick. “You gave Greenwood the stone.”

“Definitely,” said Chefwick.

“You didn’t drop it on the floor someplace.”

“I did not,” Chefwick said. He was miffed, but they were all edgy. “I distinctly remember handing it to him.”

“Why?” said Dortmunder.

Chefwick spread his hands. “I really don’t know. In the excitement of the moment – I don’t know why I did it. I had the bag to carry and he didn’t have anything and I got rattled, so I handed it to him.”

“But the cops didn’t find it on him,” said Dortmunder.

“Maybe he lost it,” said Kelp.

“Maybe.” Dortmunder looked at Chefwick again. “You wouldn’t be holding out on us, would you?”

Chefwick snapped to his feet, insulted. “Search me,” he said. “I insist. Search me right now. In all the years I’ve been in this line, in I don’t know how many jobs I’ve been on, no one has ever impugned my honesty. Never. I insist I be searched.”

“All right,” Dortmunder said. “Sit down, I know you didn’t take it. I’m just a little bugged, that’s all.”

“I insist I be searched.”

“Search yourself,” Dortmunder said.

The door opened and Rollo came in with a fresh glass of sherry for Chefwick and more ice for Dortmunder and Kelp, who were sharing a bottle of bourbon. “Better luck next time, boys,” Rollo said.

Chefwick, the argument forgotten, sat down and sipped his sherry.

“Thanks, Rollo,” Dortmunder said.

Murch said, “I could stand another beer.”

Rollo looked at him. “Will wonders never cease,” he said and went out again.

Murch looked around at the others. “What was that all about?”

Nobody answered him. Kelp said to Dortmunder, “What am I going to tell Iko?”

“We didn’t get it,” Dortmunder said.

“He won’t believe me.”

“That’s kind of tough,” Dortmunder said. “You tell him whatever you want to tell him.” He finished his drink and got to his feet. “I’m going home,” he said.

Kelp said, “Come with me to see Iko.”

“Not on your life,” Dortmunder said.

PHASE TWO

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