but jerry has intuited that roselle intends to kill him.
after jerry had put his coat and hat on and gone out for a walk in the rain, roselle turned the lights off so that she could sit in the darkness, which she always preferred to the light.
chester and marlene yardwell were not due to arrive for a couple of hours.
roselle always did her best thinking in the dark.
what had jerry been so afraid of? he had seemed to be in a near panic.
could it be - roselle smiled at the thought - that he somehow suspected that roselle was planning to murder him?
that would be great fun if true. but, no, it was too good to be true.
maybe he was just losing his nerve. but about what? it wasn't like there was any real danger in any of the fun and pranks they had played so far.
the true explanation was likely the simplest one and the oldest one - that his nerves and brain had been rotted away by booze.
like most or all of his ancestors.
roselle had had some good pranks in mind - like perhaps murdering the yardwells - but it was obvious jerry just was not up to it.
she had decided to get rid of him just in time.
what a bore life was, if you couldn't spice it up a little.
roselle decided to have one drink - just one - well maybe two - before the yardwells arrived.
she got up and switched on a little lamp on a stand beside the bar. it gave her enough light to see what she was doing but left the room pleasantly dark and shadowed.
she had just reached into the bar and grasped the gin bottle when the phone rang.
who could that be? roselle wondered. surely not the yardwells already. maybe they were calling to say they couldn't come over.
the phone was conveniently right beside the bar. she picked it up.
"this is parker, mrs winfield." parker was one of the late shift doormen. his voice had the unmistakable note that doormens' voices had when they were announcing guests they were pretty certain the tenants would not wish to have sent up.
"there is a miss wilson here to see you, madam."
miss wilson? "i am not sure i know any miss wilsons. does she have a first name?"
roselle heard parker mumble something to the visitor.
"philomena wilson. she says she is - was - your old high school biology teacher."
roselle, who had attended a boarding school in luxembourg, did not have an old high school biology teacher named miss philomena wilson.
so it was somebody's idea of a gag. well, she had nothing better to do, so she would go along with it. she hoped "miss philomena wilson" approved of her selection of booze.
"send her up."
"certainly, madam." all trace of uncertainty or suspicion were gone from parker's voice.
jerry searched in his pockets for a piece of paper and something to write with. of course he did not have any.
“are you still there?” he asked pearl wilson.
“yeah, i’m here, mister.” jerry could barely hear the old woman’s voice on the other end of the long distance connection from pinkerville north carolina.
“hold on while i get something to write with. just hold on, all right? please.”
“i ain’t going nowhere, mister. you’re paying for the call.”
jerry pushed open the door of the phone booth.
the waitress had her elbows on the counter and was deep in conversation with the fat woman in the pink sweater. their faces were close enough to kiss.
“excuse me,” jerry shouted. he turned red, realizing he had spoken too loudly.
the waitress turned slowly and looked at him.
“i am sorry, i shouldn’t have shouted,” jerry muttered. in another part of his brain, he wondered, how did i come to this pass, apologizing to such a creature.
the two women just stared at him.
“i need something to write with,” jerry continued. “a pencil, a scrap of paper, anything. it’s - it’s urgent.”
the waitress and the fat woman stared at him.
“please. you have to help me.”
the waitress straightened up. she looked at jerry as if he had asked her to recite the encyclopedia brittanica, or take all her clothes off.
“no problem, mister. i think i got just what you need here.”
the fat woman laughed. “you’re a very demanding sort , mister. first you want dimes, then you want something to write with.“ she laughed again and stirred her coffee with her spoon. “”maybe you should come more prepared. like a boy scout.”
“thank you,” jerry stammered to the waitress, who was fishing in the pockets of her apron. “i wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t urgent.”
“you should be thankful willa here is such a compliant person,” the fat woman told jerry. she kept stirring her coffee. “com-pli-ant. that’s a nice word, don’t you think?”
“yes, it is.”
roselle went out and waited by the elevator for “miss philomela wilson”.
the figure that emerged was tall, wearing a long ratty-looking black coat and a flat black hat with a long veil covering its face. it clutched an enormous black purse in two bony hands.
is it a man? roselle wondered.
“hello, miss wilson. it’s such a pleasure to see you again, after all these years.”
“and it is so wonderful to see you, dear,” “miss wilson” answered, in a high, fluttery voice.
“are you still there?” jerry asked pearl wilson when he was safely back in the phone booth. the waitress had given him a tiny stub of a pencil and a small square slip from an ordering pad.
“i’m here, mister. and i got whitey’s address and phone number right here for you.”
“thank you.” jerry hoped whitey was located somewhere nearby, and not too far up or down town.
“the address is - 44 jefferson st, apartment 6. you got that?”
jefferson st? “yes, i have it. is it just new york new york? or brooklyn, or -?”
“rochester! that’s not new york!”
“the hell it ain’t. he gets my mail there. “
“yes, yes, of course it is . my mistake. sorry. do you have the phone number?”
the rain had let up somewhat, but was still falling steadily.
parker was dozing slightly watching it.
he heard the elevator open behind him. he turned and was mildly surprised to see young mrs winstead emerge with her unlikely visitor, the high school biology teacher.
the biology teacher’s face was covered by her veil.
mrs winstead was carrying a large black umbrella, large enough for the two of them.
“i should be back shortly,” she told parker. but i have a couple of guests arriving around nine o’clock, a mr and mrs yardwell. if neither myself nor mr winstead is back by then, please let them up. the door to the apartment is unlocked.”
“certainly, madam.” how trusting these rich people were! some of them, anyway. either too trusting or suspicious of everything.
parker watched roselle and “miss philomela wilson” disappear into the rain.
“i’m sorry, sir, but your party is not answering.” the long distance operator in rochester new york told jerry.
“all right. thank you.” with a groan, jerry hung the phone up.
now what? he had whitey’s address. did he want to wait until tomorrow, or try to get to rochester tonight?
he was wide awake, and was not getting to sleep any time soon. he could take a cab down to the port authority and get a bus to rochester.
or maybe he could get a cab all the way to rochester. did he have enough cash on him to do that?
he left the phone booth. the fat woman in the pink sweater was gone. the waitress was alone behind the counter, with the bored expression back on her face.
jerry retrieced his hat and walked past her.
“you got my pencil?”
“oh, sorry.” jerry fished in his pocket.
“i must have left it in the booth.” he looked back at the booth.
the waitress shrugged. “that’s all right, i’ll get it.”
jerry put a couple of dollars on the counter. “here. for all your trouble.”