illustrated by roy dismas
click here for previous episode, here to begin at the beginning
he could murmur the name to himself forever.
angelina. mother thought it a common name. so did grandmother and aunt caroline. but conrad was twenty-three years old and he thought it was beautiful.
he took another sip of his coffee and looked around the automat. he was amazed at how bright it was and how he could just sit there for hours without being asked to leave. the young woman at the change desk seemed the closest thing to a person in charge of the establishment, and she hardly ever glanced up from her magazine to even look at the patrons.
a week ago he might have stolen a few glances at the young woman reading her magazine. he might have described her as "not half bad looking " to the other fellows at the brokerage house.
that was before he met angie.
where was angie? in his daydreaming he had lost track of the time. he took his watch out of his vest pocket, and looked up at the clock on the wall. they agreed that it was ten minutes past nine.
"nice watch." there were two elderly, and slightly seedy and sinister looking gentlemen sitting across from each other at the next small table but one beside his. the shorter of the two had spoken.
"i don't think the young man wants to sell you his watch, bill." the taller one turned to conrad and he realized with a slight shock that he wasn't actually that old - only a few years older than himself.
"you never know," the shorter one answered.
"bill doesn't want to buy your watch," the tall man continued. he gave conrad a thin-lipped smile. "no need for any big decisions here. it is a nice watch, though."
he took a sip of his coffee. "nice suit, too. you look like you stepped out of a john held junior drawing." he put his coffee cup down, and conrad noticed that they both had handkerchiefs placed in the saucers underneath their cups.
"or one of those new arrow shirt ads," said the shorter man.
conrad smiled weakly. he wasn't much for small talk, except with the other fellows at the brokerage house, or that he had gone to yale with.
where was angie? and he still had to deliver the package from mother to aunt caroline. he glanced at the small neatly wrapped package on the table beside his cup and saucer.
"i'm bill leighton, " said the tall man, now staring intently at conrad, almost like a hypnotist. "of the covington kentucky leightons. and this is bill gray."
"of the waycross georgia grays," the shorter man added.
should he ask them if they had gone to yale? they had probably gone to vanderbilt, or the university of georgia. but suddenly bill gray's attention was arrested by something he saw in the large window he was facing. he silently mouthed something to his companion - conrad thought it might be "law." they both got up unhurriedly without looking at conrad and headed for the coat rack.
conrad turned around.
"angie!" conrad got up quickly from his seat, almost knocking his empty coffee cup over. he noticed that angie was wearing a cheaper looking coat than he had ever seen her in - and no hat! she looked angry about something. she glared at him, her dark eyes - her beautiful dark eyes - flashing.
conrad noticed the two men who had come in right behind her, flanking her. they were unmistakably detectives.
angie pointed at conrad. "that's him! " she cried. "that's the lousy rat who brought me here from argentina!"
"angie, what are you talking about? what is going on here?"
one of the detectives put his hand on conrad's left arm and smiled genially. "no need to get excited, manny." the other one came up on conrad's right, with a broader smile, but didn't touch him.
"manny? what's this manny? angie, tell them who i am!"
angie broke into sobs and put her face in her hands. a muscular little woman with a moon face - a policewoman? - came up from behind her and led her back out the door.
the two detectives looked almost twins - except that one wore a brown suit with a red and blue tie, and the other a blue suit with a green and yellow tie. even in his confusion conrad couldn't help noticing how the tight knots on the two ties, although askew, seemed to perfectly complement each other.
"come on manny," sad the first detective, his hand getting a firmer grip on conrad's arm. "let's make like a visit to the dentist - as painless as possible."
"this is ridiculous. who is this manny i am supposed to be?'
"senor manuel garcia ibanez," answered the second detective. "wanted by the police of eight countries for transporting females across every line in the western hemisphere ."
"and beyond," added the first detective. "we heard you are branching out to places like morocco."
"but that does not concern us here."
conrad took a deep breath and looked around. the two bills had vanished without a trace. the few other patrons were assiduously ignoring the scene, as were the servers at the steam table and the young woman at the change desk, who was more intent than ever on the pages of her magazine. it was as if they saw such things every day!
the second detective spread his hands. "come on, manny, it's not so bad. you probably won't even spend the night in the jug. we'll just get you on the first banana boat back to buenos aires. we've already done the paperwork at the consulate."
the first detective smiled again. "the game is up. your old pal frisco johnny ramirez is ready to turn state's on you. you do know frisco johnny ramirez, don't you?"
"no officer," - it occurred to conrad that he hadn't asked the two detectives for any identification - "i do not know frisco johnny ramirez or any one with a remotely similar nomenclature."
"i ask you, do i look like an argentinian white slaver? my name is conrad collinson, and my grandmother is on the board of directors of the symphony."
"ohhh. did you hear that, hogan? his grandmother is on the board of directors of the symphony."
"i guess there isn't anything more to be said, then."
conrad tried to laugh. " look, i - i realize you are just doing your job, but there has been a ridiculous misunderstanding." his eye fell on the little package on the table. "look here. i suppose you will think that any i d i have is forged, but i know who can vouch for me. my aunt caroline - miss caroline charlton - is a resident of the hotel st crispian right around the corner. i was just going to deliver this package to her."
the detective called hogan picked up the package. conrad noticed that the package looked a little odd - the paper didn't look quite the right quality.
"mind if we open it?"
"no. no, of course not."
hogan tore the paper off with one thrust of his thick thumb. instead of the blue box with great-grandmother harrison's brooch in it, a plain brown box was revealed. hogan carefully opened it - tightly fitted inside was a solid rectangular object wrapped in more paper.
"do we really have to look at this, manny?"
conrad stared blankly at the little box.
"go ahead," said the other detective. "but gently, gently."
hogan peeled the paper back slowly, revealing a flash of white.
"i think we get the idea. diversifying, eh, manny? first unfortunate women, now dope. what next?"
"yeah what next, you rat? guns? you going to supply machine guns to every fifth columnist in the five boroughs?"
"i don't think the law-abiding patrons of this fine establishment need their peace of mind disturbed by any more of this, do you, hogan?"
"not at all." hogan's grip on conrad was now solid iron. "not at all."
conrad sighed. "my lawyer is - "
"whoever he is, you can call him from the consulate. let's go."
outside the street seemed darker than usual, as if all light had fled from the universe. as conrad was handcuffed and shoved into the unmarked car, he still was not that nervous on his own behalf. he knew who he was. this would actually be a great story to tell the fellows - except for angie!
how was angie - sweet, beautiful angie - mixed up in all this?
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