EVERYBODY ON THE SUBWAY WAS READING THE
Dortmunder was not smiling. He hadn’t realized how big a deal this damn brooch would be. With pictures of the brooch in the hands of every man, woman and child in the greater New York metropolitan area, it was beginning to seem somehow less than brilliant that he should smuggle the thing into Brooklyn, disguised as a ham sandwich.
Over breakfast (sweetened orange juice, coffee with a lot of sugar, Wheaties with a
Only now he didn’t know. What was it about this brooch? Why was its recent change of possessor all over the
The train trundled and roared and rattled through the black tunnel beneath the city, stopping here and there at bright-lit white-tile places that could have been communal showers in state prisons but were actually where passengers embarked and detrained, and eventually one such departing passenger left his
300G BROOCH IN DARING HEIST
Well, that wasn’t so bad. Dortmunder couldn’t remember ever having been called daring before, nor had anyone before this ever categorized his shambling jog and wheezing exertions as that of a cat burglar.
Anyway, on to the story:
“In town to promote his new hit film,
‘”It was like something in the movies,’ Crumbie told cops. ‘This guy got through some really tight security, grabbed what he wanted and was out of there before anybody knew what happened.’
“The occasion was a private bash for the Hollywood-based superstar in his luxury suite on the 14th floor of Fifth Avenue’s posh Port Dutch Hotel, frequent host to Hollywood celebrities. A private security service screened the invited guests, both at lobby level and again outside the suite itself, and yet the burglar, described as lithe, in dark clothing, with black gloves and a black ski mask, somehow infiltrated the suite and actually managed to wrest the $300,000 trinket out of Felicia Tarrant’s hands just moments after Jer Crumbie had presented it to her to the applause of his assembled guests.
‘”It all happened so fast,’ Ms. Tarrant told police, ‘and he was so slick and professional about it, that I still can’t say exactly how it happened.'”
What Dortmunder liked about celebrity events was that they tended to snag everybody’s attention. Having seen, both on television and in the
The Port Dutch was a midtown hotel for millionaires of all kinds-oil sheiks, arbitrageurs, rock legends, British royals-and its suites, two per floor facing Central Park across Fifth Avenue, almost always repaid a drop-in visit during the dinner hour.
Dortmunder had decided he would work only on the floors below the 14th, where the happy couple held sway, so as not to pass their windows and perhaps attract unwelcome attention. But on floor after floor, in suite after suite, as he crept up the dark fire escape in his dark clothing, far above the honking, milling, noisy red-and-white stage set of the avenue far below, he met only disappointment. His hard-learned skills at bypassing Port Dutch locks and alarms-early lessons had sometimes included crashing, galumphing flights up and down fire escapes-had no chance to come into play.
Some of the suites clearly contained no paying tenants. Some contained occupants who obviously meant to occupy the suite all evening. (A number of these occupants’ stay-at-home activities might have been of educational interest to Dortmunder, had he been less determined to make a profit from the evening.)
A third category of suites was occupied by pretenders. These were people who had gone out for an evening on the town, leaving behind luggage, clothing, shopping bags, all visible from the fire escape windows, providing clues that their owners were second-honeymooners from Akron, Ohio who would repay an enterprising burglar’s attentions with little more than Donald Duck sweatshirts from 42nd Street.
Twelve floors without a hit. The not-quite-honeymoon suite was just ahead. Dortmunder was not interested in engaging the attention of beefy men in brown private security guard uniforms, but he was also feeling a bit frustrated. Twelve floors, and not a soul no bracelets, no anklets, no necklaces; no Rolexes, ThinkPads, smuggled currency; no fur, no silk, no plastic (as in credit cards).
OK. He would
Up he went. Tiptoe, tiptoe; silent, silent. Over his right shoulder, had he cared to look, spread the dark glitter of Central Park. Straight down, 140 feet beneath his black-sneakered feet, snaked the slow-moving southbound traffic of Fifth Avenue, and just up ahead lurked suite 1501-2-3-4-5.
The window was open.
Oh, now what? Faint party sounds wafted out like laughing gas. Dortmunder hesitated but knew he had to push on.
Inch by inch he went up the open-design metal steps, cool in the cool April evening. The open window, when he reached it, revealed an illuminated room with a bland pale ceiling but apparently no occupants; the party noises came from farther away.
Dortmunder had reached the fire escape landing. On all fours, he started past the dangerous window when he heard suddenly approaching voices:
“You’re just trying to humiliate me.” Female, young, twangy, whining.
Female: “It’s a pin. Anybody knows it’s a pin!”
Male: “It is, as I said, a brooch.”
Female: “A brooch is one of them things you get at the hotel in Paris. For breakfast.”
Male: “That, Felicia, sweetheart-and I love your tits-I promise you, is a
Most of this argument was taking place just the other side of the open window. Dortmunder, thinking it unwise to move, remained hunkered, half-turned so his head was just below the sill while his body was compressed into a shape like a pickup’s spring right after 12 pieces of Sheetrock have been loaded aboard.
“You can’t humiliate me!”
An arm appeared within that window space above Dortmunder’s head. The arm was slender, bare, graceful. It was doing an overarm throw, not very well; if truth be told, it was throwing like a girl.
This arm was attempting to throw the object out through the open window, and in a way it accomplished its purpose. The flung object first hit the bottom of the open window, but then it deflected down and out and wound up outside the window.
In Dortmunder’s lap. Jewelry, glittering. What looked like emeralds on the ends, what looked like diamonds along the middle.
Any second now somebody was going to look out that window to see where this bauble had gone. Dortmunder closed his left hand around it and moved. It was an automatic reaction, and since he’d already been moving upward he kept on moving upward, rounding the turn of the landing, heaving up the next flight of the fire escape, breathing like a city bus, while behind him the shouting began:
Male: “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”
Up and over the hotel roof and into the apartment building next door and down the freight elevator and out onto the side street, a route long known to Dortmunder. When he at last ambled around the corner onto Fifth, merely another late-shift worker going home, the police cars were just arriving in front of the hotel.
Newspapers tell lies, Dortmunder thought. He read on, to find a description of the thing in his ham sandwich. The things that looked like emeralds were emeralds, and the things that looked like diamonds were diamonds, that was why the fuss. Altogether, the trinket the bride-perhaps-to-be had flung ricocheting out the window last night was valued, in the newspapers, at least, at $300,000.
On the other hand, newspapers lie. So it would be up to Harmov Krandelloc, said to be an ethnic so different from anybody else that no one had yet figured out even what continent he came from, but who had recently set himself up in a warehouse off Atlantic Avenue where it crossed Flatbush as king of the next generation of really worthwhile fences, who paid great dollar (sometimes even more than the usual ten percent of value) and never asked too many questions. It would be up to Harmov Krandelloc to determine what the thing in the ham sandwich was actually worth, and what Dortmunder could hope to realize from it.
But now, on the BMT into deepest Brooklyn, surrounded by newspaper photos of his swag, realizing that the celebrity of its former owners made this particular green-and-white object more valuable but also more
More than a week. Maybe six years would have been right.
Roizak Street would be Dortmunder’s stop. While keeping one eye on his
Vedloukam Boulevard; the train slowed and stopped. Roizak Street was next. The doors opened and closed. The train started, roaring into the tunnel. Two minutes went by, and the train slowed. Dortmunder rose, peered out the car windows and saw only black. Where was the station?
The train braked steeply, forcing Dortmunder to sit again. Metal wheels could be heard screaming along the metal rails. With one final lurch, the train stopped.
No station. Now what? Some holdup, when all he wanted to do–
The lights went out. Pitch-black darkness. A voice called, “I smell smoke.” The voice was oddly calm.
The next 27 voices were anything but calm. Dortmunder, too, smelled smoke, and he felt people surging this way and that, bumping into him, bumping into one another, crying out. He scrunched close on his seat. He’d given up the
It was an announcement, over the public address system.
Some people kept shouting. Other people shouted for the first people to stop shouting so they could hear the announcement. Nobody heard the announcement.
The car became still, but too late. The announcement was over. “What did he say?” a voice asked.
“I thought it was a she,” another voice said.
“It was definitely a he,” a third voice put in.
“I see lights coming,” said a fourth voice.
“Where? Who? What?” cried a lot of voices.
“Along the track. Flashlights.”
“Which side? What way?”
“That’s not flashlights,
“What! What! What!”
“Not behind us, buddy, in front of us! Flashlights.”
“They’re gone now.”
“What time is it?”
“I do, knucklehead.”
“Who’s a knucklehead? Where are you, wise guy?”
Dortmunder hunkered down. If the car didn’t burn up first, there was going to be a first-class barroom brawl in here pretty soon.
Someone sat on Dortmunder. “Oof,” he said.
It was a woman. Squirming around, she yelled, “Get your hands off me!”
“Madam,” Dortmunder said, “you’re sitting on my lunch.”
“Don’t you talk dirty to
The car was rocking back and forth now; could it possibly tip over?
“The fire’s getting closer!”
“Here come the flashlights again!”
Even Dortmunder could see them this time, outside the window, flashlights shining blurrily through a thick fog, like the fog in a Sherlock Holmes movie. Then someone carrying a flashlight opened one of the car’s doors, and the fog came into the car, but it wasn’t fog, it was thick oily smoke. It burned Dortmunder’s eyes, made him cough and covered his skin with really bad sunblock.
People clambered up into the car. In the flashlight beams bouncing around, Dortmunder saw all the coughing, wheezing, panicky passengers and saw that the people with the flashlights were uniformed cops.
Oh, good. Cops.
The cops yelled for everybody to shut up, and after a while everybody shut up, and one of the cops said, “We’re gonna walk you through the train to the front car. We got steps off the train t here, and then we’re gonna walk to the station. It’s only a couple blocks, and the thing to remember is, stay away from the third rail.”
A voice called, “Which is the third rail?”
“All of them,” the cop told him. “Just stay away from rails. OK, let’s go before the fire gets here. Not
They all trooped through the dark smoky train, coughing and stumbling, bumping into one another, snarling, using their elbows, giving New Yorkers’ reputations no boost whatsoever, and eventually they reached the front car, where more cops-
A cop took hold of Dortmunder’s elbow, which made Dortmund instinctively put his wrists together for the cuffs, but the cop just wanted to help him down the stairs and didn’t notice the inappropriate gesture. “Stay off the third rail,” the cop said, releasing his elbow.
“Good thought,” Dortmunder said, and trudged on after the other passengers, down the long smoky dark tunnel, lit by bare bulbs spaced along the side walls.
The smoke lessened as they went on, and then the platform at Roizak Street appeared, and yet another cop put his hand on Dortmunder’s elbow, to help him up the concrete steps to the platform. This time Dortmunder reacted like an innocent person, or as close to one as he could get.
A lot of people were hanging around on the platform; apparently, they wanted another subway ride. Dortmunder walked through them, and just before he got to the turnstile to get out of here yet another cop pointed at the bag in his hand said, “What’s that?”
Dortmunder looked at the bag. It was much more wrinkled than before and was blotchily gray and black from the sooty smoke. “My lunch,” he said.
“You don’t want to eat that,” the cop told him, and pointed at a nearby trash can. “Throw it away, why don’t ya?”
“It’ll be OK,” Dortmunder told him. “It’s smoked ham.” And he got out of there before the cop could ask for a taste.
Out on the sidewalk at last, Dortmunder took deep breaths of Brooklyn air that had never smelled quite so sweet before, then headed off toward Harmov Krandelloc, following the directions he’d been given: two blocks this way, one block that way, turn right at the corner, and there’s the 11 paddy wagons and the million cops and the cop cars with all their flashing
lights and the long line of handcuffed guys being marched into the wagons.
Dortmunder stopped. No cop happened to be looking in this direction. He turned smoothly around, not even disturbing the air, and walked casually around the corner, then crossed the street to the bodega and said to the guy guarding the fruit and vegetable display outside, “What’s happening over there?”
“Let me get you a paper towel,” the guy said, and he went away and came back with two paper towels, one wet and one dry.
Dortmunder thanked him and wiped his face with the wet paper towel, and it came away black. Then he wiped his face with the dry paper towel and it came away gray. He gave the paper towels back and said, “What’s happening over there?”
“One of those sting operations,” the guy said, “like you see in the movies. You know, the cops set up a fake fence operation, get videotape of all these guys bringing in their stuff, invite them all to a party, then they arrest everybody.”
“When did they show up?”
“About ten minutes ago.”
I’d have been here, Dortmunder thought, if it wasn’t for the subway fire. “Thinka that,” he said.
The guy pointed at his bag: “Whatcha got there?”
“My lunch. It’s OK, it’s smoked ham.”
“That bag, man, you don’t want that bag. Here, gimme, let me-
He reached for the bag, and Dortmunder pulled back. Why all this interest in a simple lunch bag? What ever happened to the anonymous-workman-with-lunch-bag theory? “It’s fine,” Dortmunder said.
“No, man, it’s greasy,” the bodega guy told him. “It’s gonna soak through, spoil the sandwich. Believe me, I know this shit. here, lemme give you a new bag.”
A paddy wagon tore past, behind Dortmunder’s clenched shoulder blades, siren screaming. So did a second one. Meantime, the bodega guy reached under his fruit display and came out with a fresh new sandwich-size brown paper bag. “There’s plastic people,” he explained, “and there’s paper people, and I can see you’re a paper man.”
“Right,” Dortmunder said.
“So here you go,” the guy said, and held the bag wide open for Dortmunder to transfer his lunch.
All he could hope was that no brooch made any sudden leap for freedom along the way. He opened the original bag, which in truth was a real mess by now, about to fall apart and very greasy and dirty, and he took the paper towel-wrapped sandwich out of it and put it in the fresh, crisp, sharp new paper bag, and the bodega guy gave it a quick twirl of the top to seal 1 it and handed it over, saying, “You want a nice mango with that? Papaya? Tangelo?”
“No, thanks,” Dortmunder said. “I would, but I break out.”
“So many people tell me that,” the bodega guy said, and shook his head at the intractability of fate. “Well,” he said, cheering up, “have a nice day.”
A paddy wagon went by, screaming. “I’ll try to,” Dortmunder promised, and walked away.
No more subways. One burning subway a day was all he felt up to, even if it did keep him from being gathered up in that | sting operation and sent away to spend the rest of his life behind bars in some facility upstate where the food is almost as bad as your fellowman.
Dortmunder walked three blocks before he saw a cab; hang the expense, he hailed it: “You go to Manhattan?”
“Always been my dream,” said the cabbie, who was maybe some sort of Arab, but not the kind with the turban. Or were they not Arabs? Anyway, this guy wasn’t one of them.
“West 78th Street,” Dortmunder said, and settled back to enjoy a smoke-free, fire-free, cop-free existence.
“Only thing,” the Arab said, if he was an Arab. “No eating in the cab.”
“I’m not eating,” Dortmunder said.
“I’m only saying,” the driver said, “on account of the sandwich.”
“I won’t eat it,” Dortmunder promised him.
They started, driving farther and farther from the neighborhood with all the paddy wagons, which was good, and Dortmunder said, “Cabbies eat in the cabs all the time.”
“Not in the backseat,” the driver said.
“All’s the space we can mess up is up here,” the driver pointed out. “You eat back there, you spill a pickle, mustard, jelly, maybe a chocolate chip cookie, what happens my next customer’s a lady in a nice mink coat?”
“I won’t eat the sandwich,” Dortmunder said, and there was no more conversation.
Dortmunder spent the time trying to figure out what the guy was, if he wasn’t Arab. Russian, maybe, or Israeli, or possibly Pakistani. The name by the guy’s picture on the dash was Mouli Mabik, and who knew what that was supposed to be? You couldn’t even tell which was the first name.
Their route took them over the Brooklyn Bridge, which at the Manhattan end drops right next to City Hall and all the court buildings it would be better not to have to go into. The cab came down the curving ramp onto the city street and stopped at the traffic light among all the official buildings, and all at once there was a pair of plainclothes detectives right
The cab was jolting forward. It was not pulling over to the side, it was not obeying the plainclothesmen, it was not delivering Dortmunder into their clutches. The driver, hunched very low over his steering wheel, glared straight ahead out of his windshield and accelerated like a jet plane. Dortmunder stared; he’s helping me escape!
Dortmunder bounced into the bulletproof clear plastic shield that takes up most of the legroom in the backseat of a New York City cab, then stayed there, hands, nose, lips and eyebrows pasted to the plastic as he looked through at this cabbie from Planet X, who, when finished ricocheting off his steering wheel, reached under his seat and came up with a shiny silver-and-black Glock machine pistol!
Yikes! There might not be much legroom back here, but Dortmunder found he could fit into it very well. He hit the deck, or the floor, shoulders and knees all meeting at his chin, and found himself wondering if that damn plastic actually was bulletproof after all.
Then he heard cracking and crashing sounds, like glass breaking, but when he stuck a quaking hand out, palm up, just beyond his quaking forehead, there were no bulletproof plastic pieces raining down. So what was being broken?
Unfolding himself from this position was much less easy, since he was much less motivated, but eventually he had his spine un-pretzeled enough so he could peek through the bottom of the plastic shield just in time to watch the cabbie finish climbing
through the windshield where he’d smashed out all the glass, and go rolling and scrambling over the hood to the street.
Dortmunder watched, and the guy got about four running steps down the street when his right leg just went out from under him and he cartwheeled in a spiral down to his right, flipping over like a surfer caught in the Big One, as the Glock went sailing straight up into the air, lazily turning, glinting in the light.
It was a weirdly beautiful scene, the Glock in the middle of the air. As it reached its apex, a uniformed cop stepped out from between two stopped vehicles, put his left hand out, and the Glock dropped into it like a trained parakeet. The cop grinned at the Glock, pleased with himself.
Now there were cops all over the place, just as in the recurrent nightmare Dortmunder had had for years, except none of these came floating down out of the sky. They gathered up the former cabbie, they directed traffic and then arranged for the garbage truck-which now had an interesting yellow speed stripe along its dark green side-to back up enough so they could open the right rear cab door and release the passenger.
Who knew he should not look reluctant to be rescued. It’s OK if I seem shaky, he assured himself, and came out of the cab like a blender on steroids. “Th-thanks,” he said, which he had never once said in that dream. “Th-thanks a lot.”
“Man, you are lucky,” one of the cops told him. “That is one of the major bombers and terrorists of all time. The
Dortmunder said, “And that’s my luck? Today I hailed his cab?”
The cop asked, “Where’d you hail him?”
“And you brought him to Manhattan? That’s great! We never would’ve found him in Brooklyn!”
All the cops were happy with Dortmunder for delivering this major league terrorist directly to the courthouse. They congratulated him and grinned at him and patted his shoulder and generally behaved in ways he was not used to from cops; it was disorienting.
Then one of them said, “Where were you headed?”
“West 78th Street.”
A little discussion, and one of them said, “We’ll go ahead and drive you the rest of the way.”
In a police car? “No, no, that’s OK,” Dortmunder said.
“Least we can do,” they said.
They insisted. When a cop insists, you go along. “OK, thanks,” Dortmunder finally said.
“This way,” a cop said.
They started down the street, now clogged with gawkers, and a cop behind Dortmunder yelled, “Hey!”
Oh, now what? Dortmunder turned, expecting the worst, and here came the cop, with the lunch bag in his hand. “You left this in the cab,” he said.
“Oh,” Dortmunder said. He was blinking a lot. “That’s my lunch,” he said. How could he have forgotten it?
“I figured,” the cop said, and handed him the bag.
Dortmunder no longer trusted himself to speak. He nodded his thanks, turned away and shuffled after the cops who would drive him uptown.
Which they did. Fortunately, the conversation on the drive was all about the exploits of Kibam the terrorist-the name on the hack license was his own, backward-and not on the particulars of John Dortmunder.
Eventually they made the turn off Broadway onto 78th Street. Stoon lived in an apartment building in the middle of the block, so Dortmunder said, “Let me out anywhere along here.”
“Sure,” the cop driver said, and as he slowed Dortmunder looked out the window to see Stoon himself walking by, just as Stoon saw Dortmunder in the backseat of a slowing police car.
Stoon ran. Who wouldn’t?
Knowing it was hopeless, but having to try, Dortmunder said, “Here’s OK, this is fine, anywhere along here, this’d be good,” while the cop driver just kept slowing and slowing, looking for a spot where there was a nice wide space between the parked cars, so his passenger would be able to get to the curb in comfort.
At last, stopped. Remembering his sandwich, knowing it was hopeless, unable to stop keeping on, Dortmunder said, “Thanks I appreciate it I really do this was terrific you guys have been-” until he managed to be outside and could slam the door.
But he couldn’t run. Don’t run away from a cop, it’s worse than running away from a dog. He had to turn and walk, in stately fashion, rising on the balls of his feet, showing no urgency, no despair, not a care in the world, while the police car purred away down West 78th Street.
Broadway. Dortmunder turned the corner and looked up and down the street, and no Stoon. Of course not. Stoon would probably not come back to this neighborhood for a week. And the next time he saw Dortmunder, no matter what the circumstances, he’d run all over again, just on general principle.
Dortmunder sighed. There was nothing for it; he’d have to go see Arnie Albright.
Arnie Albright lived only eleven blocks away, on 89th between Broadway and West End. No more modes of transportation for today; Dortmunder didn’t think his nerves could stand it. Holding tight to the lunch bag, he trekked up Broadway, and as he waited for the light to change at 79th Street a guy tapped him on the arm and said, “Excuse me. Is this your wallet?”
So here’s the way it works. The scam artist has two identical wallets. The first one has a nice amount of cash in it, and ID giving a name and phone number. The scam artist approaches the mark, explains he just found this wallet on the sidewalk, and the two inspect it. They find a working pay phone-not always the easiest part of the scam-and call that phone number, and the “owner” answers and is overjoyed they found the wallet. If they wait right there, he’ll come claim the wallet and give them a handsome reward (usually $100 to $500). The scam artist then explains he’s late for an important appointment, and the mark should give him his half of the reward now ($50 to $250) and wait to collect from the owner. The mark hands over the money, the scam artist gives him the second wallet, the one with all the dollar-size pieces of newspaper in it, and the mark stands there on the corner awhile.
“Excuse me. Is this your wallet?”
Dortmunder looked at the wallet. “Yes,” he said, plucked it out of the scam artist’s hand, put it in his pocket and crossed 79th Street.
“Wait! Wait! Hey!”
On the north corner, the scam artist caught up and actually tugged at Dortmunder’s sleeve. “Hey!” he said.
Dortmunder turned to look at him. “This is my wallet,” he said. “You got a problem with that? You wanna call a cop? You want
The scam artist looked terribly, terribly hurt. He had beagle eyes. He looked as though he might cry. Dortmunder, a man with problems of his own, turned away and walked north to 89th Street and down the block to Arnie Albright’s building, where he rang the bell in the vestibule.
“Now what?” snarled the intercom.
Dortmunder leaned close. He had never liked to say his own name out loud. “Dortmunder,” he said.
“Cut it out, Arnie, you know who it is.”
“Oh,” the intercom yelled,
The buzzer, a more pleasant sound than Arnie’s voice, began its song, and Dortmunder pushed his way in and went up to
Arnie’s apartment, where Arnie, a skinny, wiry ferret in charity cast-off clothing, stood in the doorway. “Dortmunder,” he announced, “you look as crappy as I do.”
Which could not be accurate. Dortmunder was having an eventful day, but nothing could make him look as bad as Arnie Albright, even normally, and when Dortmunder got a little closer he saw Arnie was at the moment even worse than normal. “What happened
“Nobody knows,” Arnie said. “The lab says nobody’s ever seen this in the temperate zones before. I look like the inside of a pomegranate.”
This was true. Arnie, never a handsome specimen, now seemed to be covered by tiny red Vesuviuses, all of them oozing thin red salsa. In his left hand he held a formerly white hand towel, now wet and red, with which he kept patting his face and neck and forearms.
“Geez, Arnie, that’s terrible,” Dortmunder said. “How long you gonna have it? What’s the doctor say?”
“Don’t get too close to me.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
“No, I mean that’s what the doctor says. Now, you know and I know that nobody can stand me, on accounta my personality.”
“Aw, no, Arnie,” Dortmunder lied, though everybody in the world knew it was true. Arnie’s personality, not his newly erupting volcanoes, were what had made him the last resort on Dortmunder’s list offences.
“Aw, yeah,” Arnie insisted. “I rub people the wrong way. I argue with them, I’m obnoxious, I’m a pain in the ass. You wanna make something of it?”
“Not me, Arnie.”
“But a doctor,” Arnie said, “isn’t supposed to like or not like. He’s got that hypocritic oath. He’s supposed to lie and pretend he likes you, and he’s real glad he studied so hard in medical school so he could take care of nobody
“Huh,” Dortmunder said.
“But what the hell do you care?” Arnie demanded. “You don’t give a shit about me.”
“Well,” Dortmunder said.
“So if you’re here, you scored, am I right?”
“Sure,” Arnie said. “Why else would an important guy like you come to a turd like me? And so I also gotta understand Stoon’s back in the jug, am I right?”
“No, you’re wrong, Arnie,” Dortmunder said. “Stoon’s out. In fact, I just saw him jogging.”
“Then how come you come to me?”
“He was jogging away from me,” Dortmunder said.
“Well, what the hell, come on in,” Arnie said, and got out of the doorway.
“Well, Arnie,” Dortmunder said, “maybe we could talk it over out here.”
“What, you think the apartment’s contagious?”
“I’m just happy out here, that’s all.”
Arnie sighed, which meant that Dortmunder got a whiff of his breath. Stepping back a pace, he told him, “I got something.”
“Or why would you be here. Let’s see it.”
Dortmunder took the paper towel-wrapped package out of the paper bag and dropped the bag on the floor. He unwrapped the paper towels and tucked them under his arm.
Arnie said, “What, are you delivering for a deli now? I’ll give you a buck and half for it.”
“Wait for it,” Dortmunder advised. He dropped the top piece of Wonder Bread on the floor, along with much of the mayo and the top slab of ham. Using the paper towels, he lifted out the
brooch, then dropped the rest of the sandwich on the floor and cleaned the brooch with the paper towels. Then he dropped the paper towels on the floor and held the brooch up so Arnie could see it, and said, “OK?”
“On the news. The TV”
“Let’s have a look,” Arnie said, and took a step forward.
Dortmunder took a step back. It had occurred to him that once Arnie had inspected this brooch, Dortmunder wouldn’t be wanting it back. He said, “The newspaper says that it’s worth $300,000.”
“The newspaper says Dewey defeats Truman,” Arnie said. “The newspaper says sunny, high in the 70s. The newspaper says informed sources report. The news-“
“OK, OK. But I just wanna be sure we’re gonna come to an agreement here.”
“Dortmunder,” Arnie said, “you know me. Maybe you don’t
“OK,” Dortmunder said, and tossed it over, and Arnie caught it in his revolting towel. Whatever he offers, I’ll take, Dortmunder thought.
While Arnie studied the brooch, breathing on it, turning it, Dortmunder looked in his new wallet and saw it contained a little over $300 cash, plus the usual ID plus a lottery ticket. The faking of the numbers on the lottery ticket was pretty well done. So that would have been the juice in the scam.
“Well,” Arnie said, “these diamonds are not diamonds. They’re glass.”
“Glass? You mean somebody conned the movie star?”
“I know that couldn’t happen,” Arnie agreed, “and yet it did. And this silver isn’t silver, it’s plate.”
In his heart, Dortmunder had known it would be like this. All this effort, and zip. “And the green things?” he said.
Arnie looked at him in surprise. “They’re emeralds,” he said. “Don’t you know what emeralds look like?”
“I thought I did,” Dortmunder said. “So it’s worth something, after all.”
“Not the way it is,” Arnie said. “Not with its picture all over the news. And not with the diamonds and silver being nothing but shit. Somebody’s gotta pop the emeralds out, throw away the rest of it, sell the emeralds by themself.”
“I figure they might go for 40 apiece,” Arnie said. “But there’s the cost of popping them.”
“Arnie,” Dortmunder said, “what are we talking here?”
Arnie said, “I could go seven. You wanna try around town, nobody else is gonna give you more than five, if they even want the hassle. You got a famous thing here.”
Seven. He’d dreamed of 30, he would have been happy with 25. Seven. “I’ll take it,” Dortmunder said.
Arnie said, “But not today.”
“Look at me,” Arnie said. “You want me to hand you something?”
“I owe you seven,” Arnie said. “If this shit I got don’t kill me, I’ll pay you when I can touch things. I’ll phone you.”
A promissory note-not even a note, nothing in writing- from a guy oozing salsa. “OK, Arnie,” Dortmunder said. “Get well soon, you know?”
Arnie looked at his own forearms. “Maybe what it is,” he said,
“is my personality coming out. Maybe when it’s over I’ll be a completely different guy. Whaddya think?” “Don’t count on it,” Dortmunder told him.
Well, at least he had the $300 from the wallet scam. And maybe Arnie would live; he certainly
Heading back to Broadway, Dortmunder started the long walk downtown-no more things on wheels, not today-and at 86th Street he saw that a new edition of the
What the hell; Dortmunder could splurge. He had $300 and a promise. He bought the paper, just to see what had happened to the formerly loving couple.
“I remain married to my muse,” Jer was quoted as announcing. “It’s back to the studio to make another film for my public.” No experts were felt to be needed to explicate that statement.
Summing it all up, the