but jerry has intuited that roselle intends to kill him.
the tip of roselle's cigarette glowed red in the dark like the eye of a vengeful god having a little chuckle before sacrifice was offered to it.
jerry didn't even try to meet her gaze, or to pretend he was still asleep. he could never stare her down, or fool her.
"are you all right?" roselle finally asked him. as she blew a smoke ring.
"yeah, i'm fine." the paralysis of fear he had felt on waking started to fade. "i just - i just -"
"i just need some fresh air." jerry pushed himself up on his elbows. "i think i'll go out and get some."
"suit yourself. " roselle blew another smoke ring. "it's still raining out. we've got plenty of liquor in the cabinet if you just need some hair of the dog. i stocked it up for marge and chester. they are coming over at nine, remember?"
"oh, right. what time is it?"
there was a clock on the table right beside him. roselle did not point that out but just said " a little after seven."
jerry's head started to clear - except for his headache. what was he afraid of? roselle was going to murder him, but she wasn't going to murder him right now - not with marge and chester yardwell coming over. " plenty of time - they are always late anyway. i just need some air."
"do as you like. i can amuse marge and chester - they are easily amused."
"yes." jerry sat up. "yes, they are." he just wanted to get away. "how hard is it raining?"
"i don't know. how hard does it ever rain? rain is rain."
roselle blew another smoke ring. then she went over to the wall and switched the light on.
morris, the doorman who had carried him up to the apartment, had gone off duty, and jerry just nodded to his replacement as he stepped out into the rain.
it was raining steadily, but with no wind.
"would you like an umbrella, sir?" the new doorman asked.
"no, thank you." jerry smiled at him and headed downtown.
he didn't mind the rain. raindrops bounced off his hat. he probably should have worn his rubbers, but he was not going to go back to get them.
away from roselle, his panic had completely subsided. he felt a little foolish, but nobody passing him in the rain, even if they looked at him which they did not , would have any inkling of his pathetic cowardice.
he needed to think. once he had thought things through then he might stop in at some little bar and have one drink, just one, before going back to the apartment and the yardwells.
marge and chester yardwell - his friends. actually roselle’s friends.
what was a friend, anyway? did he really have any?
did anybody really have any friends?
he thought of asking his “friend”, chester yardwell, for help against roselle, and laughed out loud.
a woman with an enormous red umbrella over her head and walking a big dog, looked at him as she passed in the rain.
do you want to be my friend, lady, jerry thought, you or your dog?
but somebody must have friends, right? or there would not even be a word for it.
regular guys had friends. they even sang songs about them, like al jolson singing “my buddy”.”
“my buddy… my buddy… your buddy misses you…”
roselle was all right in her way - until she decided to murder him - but it wasn’t the same as having a real pal that he could go to hell and back with…
for the thousandth time, jerry thought about how tough and unfair it was to be born with tens of millions of dollars.
but he had been real pals with a regular guy once… almost… sort of…
funny, he had not thought of whitey wilson for a while…
whitey had been supply sergeant of the 973rd consolidation company at camp richard foster in louisiana when jerry, as a first lieutenant, had been the commanding officer.
whitey was a natural born businessman who knew how to seize his opportunities. like taking things that the army provided to the company that the g i’s had no real use for - like pork chops and potatoes that would just make them fat and lazy, or heavy clothes and boots unsuited for the steamy bayou climate - and selling them to people who could pass them on to the more needy and deserving. whitey would then take the money he got from these sales to purchase and sell to the g i’s what they really wanted - like moonshine or even real liquor in bottles with seals on them.
when jerry had learned of whitey’s dealings - because he was actually pretty blatant about them - instead of “bringing him to justice” or just turning a blind eye, he had teamed up with him and helped him, taking a cut of his profits and even going on “runs” with him into the surrounding bayou country to wheel and deal.
of course jerry had not needed the money, and only done it for fun. one of his first experiences, before he met roselle, of doing things just for fun. and it had been fun, and whitey had been his pal… sort of…
but it had only lasted for a few months. whitey had been transferred to a supply outfit in england, and jerry and the 973rd had gone to san diego to prepare for the invasion of japan.
now jerry wondered, as he had occasionally before, what had happened to whitey.
all he knew he about whitey was that he was from some small town in north carolina, that jerry could not remember the name of.
it was raining a little harder now. maybe he should have taken the umbrella the doorman had offered him.
it was raining too hard to light a cigarette.
jerry ducked into a little diner.
it was empty.
it was the littlest diner he had ever been in. if it even had a name jerry had missed it in the dark and rain.
the waitress behind the counter was the most bored looking waitress he had ever seen, and he had seen a lot of bored looking waitresses. she looked like she was asleep on her feet.
just the kind of person roselle and jerry liked to have fun with. but he wasn’t in the mood.
he sat down and shook himself a little bit and took his hat off and shook the rain off it and put it on the stool beside him.
the bored looking waitress just stared at him without speaking.
“coffee, please,” jerry told her.
she turned to get the coffee. was she a mute, jerry wondered , not that he cared. he took his cigarettes out.
the door opened, and a little rain came in, followed by a fat woman who took the seat right inside the door, as far from jerry as she could.
great. it probably meant she wasn’t going to start a conversation.
the waitress brought jerry’s coffee, still without speaking. he lit his cigarette.
out of the corner of his eye he saw the fat woman take her wet coat off and put it in the seat beside her.
she was wearing a fuzzy pink sweater.
that was whitey’s home town in north carolina. something pink.
pinkville. pinkerton. pinkerville.
pinkerville. that sounded right. pinkerville, north carolina.
jerry looked around. small as the place was, it still had a phone booth in the back.
the waitress was bringing coffee and a slice of apple pie to the fat woman in the pink sweater. who must have been some kind of regular, because no words had been exchanged.
“excuse me,” jerry said to the waitress after she served the fat woman. “ i want to use the phone. have you got two dollars worth of dimes?”
“if i do, i need them.” so she wasn’t a mute after all.
“i’ll give you three dollars for them. three dollars for two.”
the fat woman laughed.
so did the waitress. “you hear that?” she asked the fat woman. “we got a big spender here.”
“i guess he wants to call his pal bernard baruch at monte carlo,” the fat woman replied. she still hadn’t looked at jerry.
“do you want the three dollars or not,” jerry asked the waitress. “it’s my final offer.”
“oh, it’s your final offer. o k, j p morgan, i’ll take your three dollars. you in a hurry?”
“no, i’m not in a hurry.”
“then let me count out these and make sure i got them right.” she opened her cash register.
the fat woman laughed again - at what?
jerry finally got in the phone booth and asked the operator for long distance information.
“long distance information, can i help you?”
with a lot of back and forth jerry reached an operator in raleigh north carolina. as he waited between connections he looked through the glass. he had left his hat on the stool and wondered if the fat woman would steal it.
“i am looking for a william wilson in pinkerville.”
the fat woman lit a cigarette. she didn’t steal jerry’s hat or look in his direction. the waitress was out of sight somewhere.
no one else had come in to the diner. it was still raining.
“there is no william wilson in pinkerville. there is one wilson listed, a pearl wilson “
“i’ll take it.”
“the number, sir, or would you like me to connect you?” the operator had a drawly, southern belle voice.
“that will be one dollar and twenty cents.”
this is ridiculous, thought jerry, but i might as well go through with it. he started putting his dimes in.
“hello?” a woman’s voice, rough, on the end of a crackling connection.
jerry decided not to bother with any preliminaries. whitey was either there, or more likely, not. “hello, i’m looking for william wilson, whitey wilson -“
“whitey? you’re looking for whitey?” jerry could barely hear her.
“yes, yes, i’m a friend of his from the army, and i -“
“whitey ain’t here, mister, he moved away.”
“oh? do you know where?”
“up north. new york.”
“whitey is in new york?”
“he sure is. he’s a real big shot up there. he’s making enough money to burn a wet mule. he even sends his old mama some sometimes. “