carol watched as the big clock in the police station continued to move. very slowly.
mullihan finished his brief account, to fortescue, of the robbery on long island in which the dead man, mueller, had been suspected of involvement. his account was of course, short on details, as the police kept most of those to themselves to verify any tips or information that might come in.
fortescue shook his head. "i am afraid i can't help you, detective. much as i would like to. none of these names are familiar to me. nor have i been involved recently in any cases involving art or even jewelry."
"no, i am sorry to say that lust, rather than avarice, continues to provide the fuel that keeps the little light of the private detective's profession burning."
mullihan considered this. "you said 'recently'. do you have any experience with this type of crime?"
"a bit. back in england i was sort of apprenticed to a fellow named reg roper who was quite a renowned hand in that line. and i was able to put some of his contacts to good use when i arrived on these shores. but i'm afraid that that's all ancient history now. i would say i haven't worked an art or jewelry case for about three years now."
"right. so have you heard from your pal reg lately?"
"no. nor has anyone else so far as i know. reg went missing in the last months of the war. and as i say, no one seems to have heard from him since."
"mmm." mullihan suppressed a yawn.
"of course i could always get back in the game. look here, detective, do you know if by chance the householders involved are offering a reward in this case? or if they have retained any private assistance in it?"
mullihan laughed. "come on, limey, what are you trying to do? you know i'm not going to steer business your way. what would the chief think about that? or all your buddies up at al's? find these people yourself if you want."
fortescue smiled. "it was worth a try."
suddenly the phone at the front desk rang. they heard the desk sergeant answer it.
"police station. yes, dooley." the sergeant listened a while, and started to laugh .
"are you kidding me? what? no, no, you did right to call central." he laughed again. "i'll transfer you to mullihan. hey, mullihan, wait till you hear this!"
when sniffy returned from the ladies room to her booth in bob's bowery bar her new poet friend was still there. it looked like he hadn't touched his beer.
"thanks," she told him, as she slid into her seat.
"not a problem," he replied. "i guess the seat must be very important to you, " he added with a straight face.
was that some kind of smart crack? but sniffy just said, "i'm waiting for somebody."
"of course." he stared at her.
"so you're a poet, huh?" she asked him, just to break the silence.
"yes, of sorts."
"aren't all poets of sorts?"
"ha ha. yes, well, i dabble in poetry but it is not my primary avocation."
"no, my primary avocation is science. i am a scientist."
"bully for you."
"yes, i am engaged in a groundbreaking study which i believe will cause a revolution in human understanding in our time."
"double bully for you."
the poet - scientist stared intently at sniffy. "tell me, have you heard of doctor alfred kinsey?"
sniffy stared back. "heard of him? yeah, i've heard of him. and talked to him, too. me and my friend rooster were some of the first people he talked to when he started coming around." she laughed. "so, if you're trying to pass yourself off as kinsey, pal - "
"oh, no no! ha ha, what a thought! no, my name is morgenthaler - percival morgenthaler, and i assure you i am my own man. very much my own man, ha ha!"
"so what's kinsey got to with it?"
"i was just going to say that, like kinsey, i aim to explore a vast area of human experience too long neglected by respectable science. something far, far more fundamental than sex."
"and what, pray tell, might that be?"
"oh. yeah, that's pretty fundamental, i guess."
"i aim to produce the first truly comprehensive study of human desperation. based on exhaustive case studies, of course."
"say, it looks like i'm out of smokes. you wouldn't happen to have one, would you?"
"why, i certainly would."
suddenly sniffy knew the two bills were not going to show. and who knew where rooster would end up?
she might as well listen to dr percival morgenthaler. surely he was good for at least one drink.