jake switched the light on in room 618 and walked over and put stan slade's suitcase down beside the bed . the suitcase was big but light. he knew stan wouldn't want him to open it so he didn't ask.
"that's pretty light, stan. you plan on filling it up before you go?"
stan ignored this. he took off his hat and overcoat and tossed them on the bed.
"a guy came in just before me. from the seventh avenue side. did you see him?"
"uh, yeah. there was a guy. collins took him up. i seen them when i was just coming down."
stan crossed over to the window. "did you get a good look at him?"
"uh, not really. just a quick look to see if he was somebody i knew. he was just - just some guy. kind of hard to describe."
"that sounds like georgie." stan looked out at the snow falling in the dark alley between the hotel st crispian and the building north of it on bedford st. big flakes swirled in the faint light from the all night automat on the ground floor of the building. "did he have a scar over his left eye?"
"huh? i didn't get that close to him."
"i was just kidding. but it sounds like the guy i'm looking for. think you can get his room number, without being too obvious about it?"
"sure, easy. i'll ask collins if he told him about the poker game."
"you want to get in the game? maybe this georgie guy will be in it."
stan shook his head. "georgie won't be getting into any game."
"he don't play poker?"
"i don't know if he plays poker or not, but he's not leaving what he's got in his room. and he's not taking it with him into some game where someone could pull a gun on him and stick him up."
"stan! this is the hotel st crispian! nothing like that's gonna happen here. this isn't dodge city or argentina or someplace."
stan laughed. "hey, i know that." he took his jacket off and draped it on a chair. "but maybe georgie don't. and he's a very careful individual." he sat down on the edge of the bed.
"anything i can get you, stan? that would give me a good excuse to come back up here."
"sure. get me a pack of old golds. get me a coke, a hershey bar, any damn thing. keep the change." he took a ten dollar bill out of his pocket and gave it to jake.
"thanks, stan." a sawbuck! but he knew stan didn't want to hear what a big deal it was. jake smoothed the bill between his fingers. "there's a new little deli around on morton, i can get you a good ham and cheese sandwich."
"sure, why not?"
jake backed toward the door. "hey, i almost forgot."
"what?" stan tossed his hat and overcoat on to the chair he had draped his jacket on and lay back on the bed.
"you'll never guess who showed up just before you. besides this georgie character."
"no, jake, i never will guess. why don't you just tell me."
"oh? what a coincidence. what - a coincidence."
"he said al maldonado's got some guy from out of town looking for him."
"yeah, right. and he comes here? no, it all sounds a little too coincidental to me." stan sat back up on the bed.
"tommy's got a couple of his guys with him, in another room. i didn't get a look at them."
"of course he does, he never goes anywhere by himself. he's like a little kid, or a king or something."
"tommy's going to be in the game. he said maybe, but that means he will. sure you don't want to get in?"
"let me think about it. let me think about it. right now, just get me that stuff - and georgie's room number. especially georgie's room number."
george paul wilson prided himself on his memory. it was one of his greatest assets as an international jewel thief. he could keep things in his head, not have to confide them to paper - paper which could be stolen or stumbled upon by his rivals, or used as evidence by the police of seven continents.
and yet - as he studied once more the piece of embossed notepaper with the elaborate combination to the traveling private safe of mlle cazotte - how distrustful the woman must have been - it must be terrible to live in such fear of one's fellow humans ! - as he verified once more that he had accurately memorized it, he could not help thinking how terrible it would be, if, after all his planning -
and outlay of expenses - his mind should go blank at the last minute, as it had on that terrible and never to be forgotten night at baden-baden a year ago - though of course that was a one time event -
there was a knock on the door.
his first impulse was to crumple the note in his hand but he controlled it. and he remained lying on the bed.
"i didn't order room service."
"it's about the poker game." the voice was barely audible.
"what!" he had told the bellhop he wasn't interested in a poker game - or any other amusement or pastime the bellhop could provide. he raised his voice. "i said i wasn't interested."
there was another knock, louder. "room service." the voice was gruff, like it was trying to disguise itself.
suddenly - of course! - george knew it wasn't really room service.
he considered calling down to the desk. and thought better of it.
he slipped the note back into its envelope and and got up and went to the door and looked through the peephole.
then he yanked the door open.
stan slade stood there. "hello, georgie."
george looked quickly up and down the corridor. slade had no accomplices - in view.
"what is this nonsense, slade? are you grown so desperate? can't you find your own sandbox to play in? do you think i haven't known you are following me?"
"are you going to invite me in?"
"why, so you can murder me? like the unscrupulous bloodthirsty hooligan that you are?"
"you think that of me? georgie, i'm hurt. come on, let me in, we don't want to disturb the neighbors."
"that's easy enough to remedy. just leave. and stop trying to look over my shoulder. do you think i have mlle cazotte bound and gagged and stuffed in the closet? that's the sort of thing you would do."
stan looked up and down the corridor again. "georgie, i was just lonely, i thought we could have a little chat about old times. you know, being an international jewel thief is a hard lonely game."
"maybe it is for some people. for people who aren't real gentleman jewel thieves, but straw-chewing freight-train jumping hooligans who would be better suited to holding up gas stations in tennessee."
"georgie, i don't know what hurts me more, that such slanders are abroad about me, or that you pretend to believe them."
"and stop calling me georgie."
"all right , george."
"mister wilson would be even better."
"ha, ha! georgie - george, we are not in lisbon or baden-baden, we're back in america where everybody is everybody's pal. start calling people mister, and they'll think you are some kind of red or anarchist."
george started to close the door. "right. so scram. get lost - pal."
stan shrugged. "all right, if that's how you feel. but if you change your mind and want some company, the poker game is in room 712. should start in about half in hour."
"i don't think i will be in attendance, thank you."
"you might be safer there."
"what! is that a threat?"
"not from me. there's one thing you might not know."
"oh? whatever it is, i am sure you are bursting to tell me."
"i heard - just heard, mind you - that frisco johnny ramirez is in town. nobody's really sure what he's up to."
"frisco johnny ramirez!"
"maybe it's one of those unfounded rumors. but you might want to drop by room 712. safety in numbers, you know? and just to see what's going on."