nolan and mortimer helped jasper up off the floor, where he had fallen during his coughing fit, and back on to his stool.
"are you all right, sir?" raoul asked, with perhaps a little less friendly courtesy than he might have when the night was younger.
"i am all right," jasper answered, " i just need to finish my drink."
"you have finished it , sir," raoul told him. "and now it is closing time."
"did not. there was plenty left. plenty. it was a double, after all."
"it looks like you spilled it when you fell over," nolan told him.
nolan let go of jasper's right arm. mortimer let go of his left arm and he managed to stay upright, slumping against the bar.
"then you should give me another," jasper answered. "another double rye please bartender."
"the bar is closed, sir." raoul turned around and announced to the bar and the room, "the bar is closed, ladies and gentlemen. the last round has been served. the prince hal room thanks you for your custom."
the place was almost empty. the only customers left at the bar were the young woman who had been quietly drinking alone, and the big salesman type guy who had ordered coffee. the young woman now put her change and cigarettes into her purse and got up.
"old overholt, remember," jasper announced. "make sure it's old overholt."
and nobody left on the floor except the actress miss wilde, now sitting alone at a corner table, looking smashed. no problem there, thought raoul, nolan or mortimer could help her up to her suite.
all in all, not a bad closing time. and there had only been one fight - the one involving young mr collinson - or had there been two? - all night.
and the green room - he had to remember to check the green room.
"where's my old overholt? what kind of service is this?"
"the bottle of old overholt will be waiting for you, sir, if you wish to oblige us with your custom tonight, or this afternoon when we reopen. we will keep it on hand especially for you."
"but i didn't finish," jasper protested. "it's not fair."
"look," said nolan. "suppose you went into a liquor store and bought a bottle. and when you came out you dropped it on the sidewalk and it smashed. would the store give you another bottle free?"
"i would hope so, " jasper answered. "why not?"
"they might if you bought a bottle there every day for ten years," mortimer told him.
sipping his coffee at the end of the bar, mack treacher took all this in with growing impatience. so the bar was about to close. already had pretty much closed. where were the aliens?
when jasper had entered the bar from the rear door, mack had thought for a few seconds he might be one of the aliens, but his sixth sense - the sixth sense he had depended on during all his missions and adventures traversing the centuries at the behest of the professor and the presidents of the united states - had quickly disabused him.
as it had, even more quickly, when mortimer had entered and mack had thought for a second he might be an alien.
he felt positive the bartender and the house detective were not aliens. or the girl who was leaving or the blonde woman still slouched at her table.
was he getting old? was his sixth sense deserting him? maybe these two really were the aliens.
were the drunk and little guy in the uniform shirt putting on some kind of elaborate act?
but for who and what?
mack wished the professor would contact him.
on cue, he felt his trans-time messager vibrate in his pocket.
he hesitated. could he take it out and answer it? did they have two-way devices here in 1950? even two-way wrist radios? he couldn't remember if the professor had told him.
he had not seen anyone use one - not that he had been here long. he decided not to take a chance.
now the bartender looked over at him. "closing time, sir."
"i understand," mack answered politely. "but do you mind if i use the mens room before i go?"
"of course not, sir. the mens room is behind you and way to the left."
"good night, sir."
mack got up and headed for the mens room as raoul had directed. the trans-time messager hummed impatiently in his pocket.
he passed a green door. suddenly the alien vibes washed over him. there they were!
he hurried into the mens room. it was empty.
mack pulled the trans-time messager out of his pants pocket. it was no bigger than a silver dollar. he pressed it, and the professor's unmistakable raspy voice came on.
"what's the problem, knucklehead? they are behind the green door."
"yeah, i know."
"you know? you could have fooled me."
"i just felt them, when i was coming in here to take this message." mack spoke in a low voice, with one eye on the door. he could have whispered, the messager was good over a thousand light years of distance and ten thousand years of time.
"then have at it, soldier boy. do your duty."
"i will," mack answered.
"i am glad to hear it."
"now what?" growled the professor.
"should i just go in and blast them - or wait outside the hotel or in the lobby for them?"
"that's up to you. as always, the less mess the better. how long have you been doing this?"
"roger." mack pressed the messager off.
he went back out into the corridor. as he passed the green door he felt the alien vibes again, and also heard a woman's laughter, and picked up the unmistakable effluvia of good gage.
really good gage. or pretty good anyway.
mack was tempted. to just go in, blast everyone in the room, grab the dope, and head back to the good old twenty-first century. share a little of the dope with the professor, show him there were no hard feelings for talking to him so disrespectful.
but he was still a professional. better to wait outside, see if the aliens came out. if they didn't come out, if they were guests in the hotel, he would have to come back in and find them, things might get a bit disharmonious.
wait. they would probably go out the back - most of the patrons had left that way - but what if they went out through the lobby?
mack decided to wait in the alley. that way, he should be able to pick up the alien vibes whether they went out the front or the back.
that was the plan anyway.
mack knew all about plans.
he wished he was back in his cabin, playing his blues violin.
"my name is mullihan. detective mullihan, of the new york police department, the 33rd precinct."
"yes, detective. i do not believe that is the local precinct here, but in any case how may i assist you?"
"i see you are an informed citizen. who am i speaking to? are you the butler?"
"my name is williams, detective. i am in fact the butler here."
"good. are either or both miss and mister collision available? i realize it is very late but i was told they might still be up."
"mister collision is definitely awake, and miss collision almost certainly so. might i enquire as to the nature of this call?"
"i have a couple of people here who are witnesses to a homicide."
mullihan waited a few seconds, but williams made no comment, so he continued. "they say they left your place between a half hour and forty-five minutes ago." mullihan briefly described fortescue and carol.
"oh yes, i called a cab for them myself," williams answered. "i'm afraid i can't give you the exact time, but forty-five minutes ago sounds about right."
"and they were there for about how long, can you tell me that? "
"oh, the gentleman for perhaps two hours, maybe a little less. let me think. the young lady for a bit longer than that, perhaps two and a half or three hours. they did not arrive together."
"but they left together?"
"yes, in a cab i called myself."
"thank you, you are very helpful." mullihan made a few notes on his pad of paper.
"do you still wish to talk to miss and mister collinson?"
mullihan hesitated. "i tell you what. i know it's late. i think i will send someone up during the day to take their statements. how's that?"
"i don't want to tell you your business, detective, but both are very late sleepers. very late sleepers indeed. you might be better advised to send someone now, or tomorrow night. as i say - "
"no, no, that's good. thank you. thank you very much. i will have someone come over now. let them know."
"i will do that, detective. thank you."
mullihan hung up. he looked at fortescue and carol, took a sip of coffee, then looked around. "where's dooley? he's here, isn't he?" he called over to the desk sergeant.
"yeah, he's back there," the desk sergeant answered, "probably reading one of his books."
"dooley!" mullihan shouted.
red looked at the napkin angie had just scribbled on.
"angela wilson from san francisco," he read, " central 5 - 2255 - hotel st crispian. the blue suite."
"that's it. just wanted to make sure you could read my writing."
"hotel st crispian, i know where that is, between washington square and seventh avenue, right?"
"yeah. now if you don't mind calling me a cab - "
"hey, i can give you a lift myself, if you want to wait a few minutes. i go almost right by there."
"you're closing up?"
"might as well. maisie or clyde can open the place up when they get here. they do it all the time."
"all right then. what about those two guys still playing in back?"
red shrugged. "they can go or stay and wait for maisie."
"cool." angie took her pack of cigarettes back out of her purse.
red went to get a jacket. "hotel st crispian - i knew that rung a bell."
"oh yeah? about what?"
"stan slade - the guy who just escaped from sing sing - he used to hang out there."
"you don't say."
"you see the papers?"
"no, i just got back in town tonight."
red came back with his jacket on. "let me just tell gus and whatshisname we're leaving."
red came back. "they say they'll wait for maisie or clyde. i'll lock them in."
red locked the door behind them and they walked over to his car on the pier.
"did you know slade?" red asked.
"i met him once or twice. i 'd know him if i saw him."
"tommy thought he was a pretty smart guy. went his own way."
"i thought he was kind of high hat. thought he was the devil's own gift to women."
they approached the car. "there's a pretty good reward out for him."
angie laughed. "rewards. does anybody ever really get paid off on them?"
"hey, rook, wake up!" detective nate goldsmith, twenty-five years on the force, took the stub of his william penn cigar out of his mouth. "can't you hear mullihan calling you?"
dooley, the newest and youngest detective in the 33rd precinct, opened his eyes. "what?"
"you weren't even reading that book, were you, rook? haw! haw! you was asleep."
"of course i wasn't asleep. i was just - engrossed." dooley closed the book in his hand - a thick tome entitled " principles of criminology, volume 5: the calculus of criminal types".
suddenly mullihan stood over him. "how about engrossing me, dooley? engross me just a little bit, if you'd be so kind."
"sure, sure." dooley got to his feet and put his book on the table beside the coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays.
mullihan picked the book up, looked at it, shook his head, and snickered. "i got a job for you. if you think you're awake enough."
"maybe you'll get to meet some real criminal types," goldsmith told him. "want me to go with him, hold his hand?" goldsmith asked mulligan.
"nah, this is as routine as it gets. if he meets any criminal types, they'll be the highest class criminal types he ever will meet."
the dread jasper mccarthy was surrounded by three or four people helping him after his coughing fit. had he fallen to the floor? she couldn't tell.
here was the chance to get up and out the back door without jasper seeing her.
it looked like closing time anyway.
if she could stand up and move her legs.
her great plan of getting hyacinth drunk enough to let something slip about stanley slade - or maybe something, anything, newsworthy slip out - had not worked out very well.
hyacinth was drunk all right - at this point she looked ready to pass out -
but flossie was even drunker. and hyacinth, when she hadn't been pouring the drinks down her throat- and at least she had paid for all the rounds after the first one which had been on the federal-democrat - had not let anything out of her mouth except chit-chat at first and gibberish later.
flossie took a deep breath. she would give it the old college try and stand up.
but could she leave poor hyacinth all alone like this? hyacinth was her best friend!
flossie should at least make sure hyacinth was conscious before abandoning her.
"hey," flossie said.
"hey, hyacinth!" she repeated.
"huh?" hyacinth finally answered.
"are you awake?"
"off course. what shelf would i be but a flake."
"i have to go now . it's closing time."
"yeah. closing time."
"but i love you. you're my best friend."
"i love you, too."
"friends forever. because we know the score."
hyacinth nodded. "the score. on a far distant shore."
"sisters. because we know the score. not like those stupid men."
"stupid men can't count to ten," hyacinth agreed.
"it's closing time, " flossie repeated. "i have to go file my story."
"story. time. at the new york times, " hyacinth agreed.
"no, no, not the new york times. the federal-democrat."
"these are the times - the times - these are the slimes that slice the limes- "
"i have to go now. will you be all right?"
"that drop the dimes on unspeakable crimes."
"you'll be all right. whats-his-name - the elevator operator - he's over there." flossie stood up. "and the bartender. they'll help you."
hyacinth nodded. "lemons go over the cliff. whether you slice them or not."
flossie got her coat on. "even though they're stupid men." buttoning the coat - forget it. "who don't know anything."
"you got that right," hyacinth agreed.
"you'll be all right."
"sure i will. this is my home."
"that's right, it is." it was. flossie felt this was a great revelation. she felt better already. she got her purse on her shoulder.
"good-bye. catch you later."
"home is where the heart is," said hyacinth. "where the stupid men are. like that jerk stanley." she put her hand to her mouth. "oops - shouldn't have said that."
hyacinth looked around.
but flossie was gone.
a couple of cabs went by but flossie didn't hail them. she decided to walk over to the office, to clear her head a little bit.
she had told hyacinth she was going to file a story.
that was a good question.
she thought of going back to the automat for a cup of coffee. but she didn't want to circle all the way back around the block.
there were a couple of little coffee shops on the way to seventh avenue that would be open.
she might grab a cup there.
seated near the door, in his "disguise" of a shave and a haircut and a new suit, stan slade sipped his cup of coffee, as cosette and jake conferred with lullaby lewinsky at the other end of the automat.
he was starving. after two cups of coffee he had a dollar and ninety cents left from the two dollars he had bummed from mortimer.
did he want to spend seventy-five cents of it on a "special"? he would rather save it in case he suddenly needed to grab a cab.
he hadn't really eaten anything now for about forty hours - since lunch time at the big house, because he had called sick that night - it seemed like a month ago - as part of his escape.
he couldn't stop thinking about the meal hyacinth had ordered - the chicken a la king, the beef wellington, the oysters rockefeller, the asparagus vinaigrette …
where was it now? was it still sitting up in hyacinth's suite, getting cold and greasy under the silver covers?
right now some chipped beef and mashed potatoes from the prison chow line would look pretty good…
where was hyacinth?
he decided to spend ten cents on a cream puff. or maybe a piece of cheesecake.
cream puff or cheesecake?
he was raising the cup to his lips and he almost spilled some. i got to be more alert, he thought. am i falling asleep here?
the only other person left in the place besides himself and jake and cosette and lullaby - and the change girl - was a derelict looking woman in an overcoat three tables down. a cat was sitting on the chair across from her and it turned and followed the woman's gaze to stan.
"yes, miss? what can i do for you?" his voice sounded too loud in the almost empty automat.