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.