and he seeks to locate his old army buddy "whitey" wilson to help him avoid this fate, perhaps by murdering roselle.
stopping outside of syracuse with his new acquaintance pandora wilson on his way to meet whitey in rochester, he buys a newspaper with a sensational headline.
a body identified as roselle's has been discovered in an alley in brooklyn.
suspicious of the mysterious stranger's motives, roselle escapes from her and enters a dark bar, where she encounters "blackie" bascomb, who spins a tale of skullduggery on two continents...
because who do you think i should run into just last week on sixth avenue?’
“surely not the countess?”
“no - tomo.“
“oh?” roselle laughed. “and did you recognize each other right away? and stop and have a nice little chat?”
“no,” blackie replied slowly. “not exactly. for my part i just felt my memory jogged a little bit. truth be told i was six sheets to the wind - and you know that feeling when you crawl out of a dark bar - like this - into the noonday sun - “
“only too well, “ roselle agreed.
“ - and it is all you can do to keep your eyes open and not to black out with the shock, and you have to look really carefully at everything so as not to bump into anything - and everything just seems to jump into your face -“
“ - well it was just in that state that tomo’s nasty mug leapt into view - and i thought - looks familiar - no it’s just the drink. i stopped and took a deep breath, and do you know even then nothing might have come of it -“ blackie paused.
“but ? - “ roselle prompted him.
“but for some reason i turned around. and there was tomo, four or five feet behind me, staring at me. like he knew i would turn around, like he had willed me to turn around. and he says, ‘ we meet again, captain bascomb’. and it all came back to me.”
“and this is where? somewhere on sixth avenue?”
“sixth avenue and 46th street! it couldn’t have been busier - floods of people! the whole city of new york going to lunch! but i felt as if i were a puppy on a desert island, trying to stare down a boa constrictor.”
“and did he swallow you? what did all the people going to lunch think of that?”
blackie continued his tale.
“i started to faint. tomo took me by the arm.
‘you look unwell, captain. here, let me help you.’
tomo signaled for a cab and one pulled over right away. the next thing i knew i was in the cab and it turned around and we were heading downtown…
i didn’t remember telling the driver where to go, so i started to open my mouth but then i realized that tomo was seated beside me.
‘where are you taking me?’ i cried.
‘taking you? we are just going for a drive, captain. isn’t that what americans do, go for drives? nice sunday drives?’
‘then we will go for a nice tuesday drive.’
‘are you taking me to see the countess?’ i asked.
he pretended not to hear me.
‘are you taking me to see the countess?’ i repeated. ‘what does she want with me? are you — are still in the countess’s service?’
‘the countess?’ he finally answered. ‘oh, yes, the countess. the countess was very grateful to you for the services you rendered - those services you were pleased to render. no doubt she wrote to you?’
i looked out the window. we were on seventh avenue and the traffic was slow. we were just crawling along. it was slow enough that i could just jump out of the cab, even in my condition. i tried the door.
it did not open.
“i feel fine,’ i managed to say, ‘i can make my own way.’
‘nonsense. it is a beautiful day for a drive. go down to the river, maxie, so that the captain can enjoy the lovely view.’
“maxie!” exclaimed roselle. “that was - “
“that was what?” blackie asked.
“that was the cab driver’s name?”
“yes, it was.”
roselle looked around. the bartender had not returned. there were still no other patrons, and the bar looked darker than ever.
“and the cab - what was the name of the cab company?”
“um - it was - “
“five city cab?”
“yes, it was, now that you mention it.”
roselle grabbed blackie’s arm. “we have to get out of here.” she tossed her cigarettes and lighter into her purse and stood up. “right now - let’s go.”
“but i just started my story.”
“you can finish it somewhere else.”
“you don’t want to hear my story,’” blackie whimpered.
“oh, i do, i do,” roselle assured him. “but not here. we have to get out of here.”
it was raining harder than ever when they stepped outside.
there was a cab parked in front of the door.
a five city cab.
two people with umbrellas over their heads were standing beside the cab.
a shadowy figure could be made out in the back seat of the cab.
“you didn’t think you could get away that easy, did you?” agnes asked roselle.