pete palomine turned the key in the front door of his modest three story walkup (with loft) on spring street.
"hey, pete!" came a voice from the shadows.
pete was used to being braced at all hours by all sorts of people. for years he had encouraged it, made it his stock in trade.
now he was starting to get a little sick of it. he turned. two figures came toward him.
"bunchy. how it's going, old timer?"
"good, pete, good. hey, you don't seem so excited to see me."
"i've had a long night."
"all nights are long, pete. you don't mind if we come in, do you?"
"no, that's all right, come on in."
"this is my friend rooster. i don't know if you two have met."
pete took in the skinny red-haired young man with his black turtleneck. " i don't think so. you an artist?"
"rooster is a poet."
"that's even worse. but come in, come in." he opened the door and started up the dark stairs. bunchy and rooster followed him.
"there's not much light here, pete."
"you should learn to see in the dark."
when they got to the top of the stairs pete pulled the chain on an overhanging bulb. it shone a yellow light on the door of the loft and he opened the door with a large old-fashioned key.
inside the loft, there was a standing lamp beside the door and pete turned it on, then flopped down on a big stuffed couch.
"you two can make yourselves at home." pete looked up at bunchy. "but i'm not in the mood for much. i'm tired. " he took his jacket off and tossed it on the end of the couch. "were you looking to do some work for me?"
rooster looked over at bunchy. "work?" he asked him.
"you know," pete went on, "i got nothing against other artists - or even poets. but what i'm really looking for is just ordinary folks, you know? winos, junkies, bums - people who are innocent of artifice. the salt of the earth. maybe even people who work for a living."
bunchy laughed. "no, no. pete - you got it all wrong. we're not here about that at all."
"then what are you here for?"
"well, we thought you might have some dope we could buy."
"dope you could buy? buy? are you shitting me? you think i still sell dope? don't you read life magazine? i'm a world famous artist. well, almost a world famous artist. i'm not selling fucking weed."
bunchy laughed again. "hey, i thought you might have some. some good shit. but, listen, you should hear rooster's story here. it will be worth your while just to hear this cat's story."
"really. i almost didn't believe it myself, and that's my game. believing people's stories."
pete seemed to relax a little. "speaking of stories, i got quite a story myself. you wouldn't believe what just happened to me tonight."
"you read in the papers about this guy slade? the jewel thief. escaped from sing sing?"
"i might have. mostly i just look at the racing form."
"anyway, long story short, i'm in this automat up near washington square and slade's there and the cops come in and bust him."
"wow. sounds like excitement at its most intense."
"and they bust this chick with him and then they nab these two characters that i was sitting with. one of them a guy in drag."
"they sure did. which makes me think maybe i should start to be more careful about rubbing elbows with the flotsam of civilization. like you. nothing personal, you understand."
"but they didn't arrest you?"
"no, i just happened to be up getting myself another cup of coffee. so when all the excitement went down i just made like john dillinger or the artful dodger and slipped out the door. and somehow someway made my way back here."
"yeah, there's this little chick who works in the place. kind of cute in a librarian way, and she gives me the eye when i slip out but i guess she didn't blow the whistle because here i am."
"i guess it never hurts to be tall, dark and handsome."
"i guess not."
"that's a great story, pete, but wait till you hear rooster's. because your story is of this world and i don't think his is."
pete shrugged. "you can tell me. but i'm telling you right now i can't help you out because i don't keep any dope here."
detectives mullihan and goldsmith finally finished laughing about dooley's lucky exploit.
mullihan took a deep breath and looked at goldsmith. "but he isn't going to get up to 86th street now. so i guess that means you will."
"what! look at the time."
"you were ready to go before."
"that was forty-five minutes ago. now it's almost time for me to sign out."
"the butler said they'd be up."
"the butler! i bet he went to bed himself."
"yeah." mullihan yawned. then he yawned again. he looked over at carol. "excuse me, miss - ma'am."
mullihan looked at fortescue. "can i ask you a question, limey?"
"can i trust you?"
"if i get your phone number, can i trust you to come in if i call you?"
"absolutely. you have my word."
"and you, young lady?"
"oh, yes, sir - detective."
"i'm putting my whole career on the line for you two." mullihan yawned again.
"and we appreciate it," fortescue assured him. "here's my card."
"and her number?"
"ah - you can reach her through me."
"all right, get out of here."
"thank you, detective."
fortescue and carol jumped up from their seats and headed for the door.
fortescue looked back. "can i ask you one thing?"
"is there some place nearby still open where we could get some coffee?"
"still open? it's almost five o'clock. the places that are closed will all be opening up."