dick reached the desk and felt for the thin man’s pulse.
i’m not a doctor, dick told himself. i am just not doing this right.
he tried again. still no sign of a pulse.
taking a deep breath, he lifted mr sylvester mcdowell jefferson’s head from the desk.
he did not seem to be breathing.
dick felt under the thin man’s vest and shirt for a heartbeat.
nothing there either.
what time was it? it was time to face facts.
sylvester mcdowell jefferson, the very wealthy and quite mad “thin man” was dead.
in the middle of the very dicey undertaking dick was assisting him in.
leaving dick to pick up the pieces.
he just wished he knew what the pieces were, and where they were.
dick’s first thought was to try to get to angie ricardo. but was that really the best thing to do?
it might be too late to meet her anyway, and she might be on her way to - anywhere, to rio de janiero or paris or macao…
on the other hand, if somehow the police picked her up, then the consequences might be too awful to contemplate…
leaving the thin man’s body here might present problems too, if somebody came across it before he could return. did anybody know he had been here?
should he try to clean up after himself, clean up the ashtrays and glasses and such so that no one would know anyone had been here…? no, dick thought, that stuff is only for detective novels and the movies…
he just wanted to get away.
he came to a decision. he decided to try to meet angie.
on his way out the door he stopped. could he get back in to the thin man’s house, and this room?
taking another deep breath, he went back to the dead man and fished through this pockets.
he found a bunch of keys. no time to check them, they had to be what he needed.
when he got outside, the skies were just turning light. the air was cold and foggy, but felt good.
had he not been in tighter situations before? and come out of them like a champ?
he was on his way.
“how long are we going to wait for this friend of yours?” salome asked.
it was now fully light, but there was no sign of life around ronnie’s roadhouse. only a few cars had passed by, but none had even slowed down as they passed angie and the two girls parked in the desoto.
“not much longer,” said angie. “i tell you what. we will wait for two more cars to go by. if he doesn’t show up, we will move on.”
“to new york?” salome asked.
angie hesitated. “no. we will go back to the bus station, one more time.”
“what?! are we going to go back and forth all day?”
“no. here’s what you do. just go in, get your cokes or candy bars, and if you don’t see him in there, or somebody who looks like him, we will be on our way - to new york.”
two more cars went by in the next four minutes.
they headed back to the bus station, angie driving carefully. there were people on the street now, people at bus stops, kids going to school.
angie stopped two blocks from the bus station. she didn’t want to run into the cop who had questioned them before. thinking about him almost made her not want to check the bus station again, but she decided to risk it.
“all right,” angie told salome. “you remember what to do, right?”
“um - not exactly. what am i supposed to say to this person again?”
“just something like, excuse me. sir, are you looking for miss brown?”
“he calls you miss brown?”
“miss brown, miss jones, miss smith… if he’s the right guy he will know something is up. if he just looks at you and says, excuse me. little girl, i have no idea what you are talking about, just say sorry, and don’t push it. can you do that?”
“i can do it. and i wait how long?”
“don’t wait at all. just get your cokes and if he’s there, he’s there. and if he isn’t, come right back.”
“all right. you want a coke yourself?”
salome got out of the car.
when salome was one block away, another car, a shiny new green packard, came up behind the desoto and passed it.
“that’s him!” angie gasped. she started the car but before she could pull out, dick richmond pulled over about twenty yards in front of her.
he had seen her. he got out of the packard, and as casually as he could, walked back to the desoto.
angie reached over and opened the passenger side door for him.
“good morning, counselor. i can’t tell you how glad i am to see you.”
dick richmond did a double take when he saw pippi in the back seat.
angie turned to pippi. “honey, go follow your friend. both of you come back in ten minutes, but don’t get in the car until you see that this gentleman is gone. got that?”
“yes, ma’am.” pippi got out of the car and headed toward the bus station without looking back.
dick watched pippi walk away. “what was that all about?”
“nothing. just a couple of kids hitching to new york. i thought it might throw the cops off - who’s looking for a woman with kids, right?”
“you didn’t tell them anything?”
angie laughed. “what am i going to tell them when i don’t know anything myself?”
“that little girl - i thought she looked familiar.”
“really? forget it. i hope you have some good news for me - like telling me what’s going on - and i really hope you have some money for me. that forty dollars you left me just won’t do.”
dick cleared his throat. “i’m sorry, but i do not have good news.” he looked intently at angie. “in fact i have terrible news - the worst possible news.”
“oh. and what might that be?”
“the whole thing is off.”
“what do you mean, off?”
“ha, ha - i don’t mean you have to go back to prison. in fact, you come out of all this free as a bird - you can take the car and be on your merry way - with the whole blue world your oyster.”
“but what happened?”
“what happened is that the fellow who is bankrolling this whole thing is dead. he just up and died.”
“are you sure?”
“am i sure? yes, i saw the body - you could say i discovered the body myself. in fact, i have to get back and notify the authorities, so if you will excuse me -“ dick reached for the door. “it’s been a pleasure - “
angie grabbed dick’s arm. “hold on, counselor, hold on. let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”
“i’m sorry, but - “
“hear me out. somebody went to a lot of trouble to set this thing up - springing me the way you did. there has to be something here for us. if we just stay calm and don’t panic.”
dick stiffened at the suggestion he might be panicking. “that is all very well, but as far as i know one person set it up and he’s dead. and i really don’t know what he intended at this point.”
angie didn’t let go of dick’s arm. “listen. here’s what we’ll do. do you know where red’s west side diner is?”
dick started. “why, yes i do. i know it very well. in fact i have frequently attended the nightly card games there.”
“well, that’s good, counselor, that’s great - that’s a good sign. all right, today is thursday. on monday, let’s say monday at three in the afternoon, meet me at red’s. we’ll talk things over , see where things stand. how does that sound?”
“i suppose i could do that.”
“good. i might have altered my appearance. or i might not be there in person, but if i am not red or whoever is there will have a message from me. all right?”
“yes, that sounds good.” dick just wanted to get away.
“and just one more thing.”
“i could use whatever cash you can give me.”
dick sighed. “of course, that’s - that’s very reasonable.” he reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. without counting them, he took the greenbacks from it and gave them to angie.
angie quickly counted them. five double sawbucks, a sawbuck, an abe, and a deuce. one hundred and seventeen dollars.
“thank you, counselor.”
but dick was already gone.
salome and pippi sat in the bus station, sipping their cokes.
“what do you make of all this?” salome asked pippi.
“the lord seems to be working in mysterious ways,” pippi answered carefully.
“are we going to new york now?” salome asked again.
“maybe.” angie was watching the young cop in the rear view mirror as he got back in his squad car.
“maybe? what’s maybe?”
“we got one more place to check.”
“check for what?” salome asked.
angie started to say, what do you care? but said “ for my lawyer friend”.
“but he was supposed to be here!”
“i figured he might be here, but he might be at this other place, too. i already checked there once.”
the cop had pulled out. angie started the desoto and began pulling away from the curb.
“hey!” salome shouted.
“what about our cokes?”
“and my hershey bar?” pippi added.
“we haven’t got time for that. i don’t want to be here if that cop comes back.”
“you don’t. what about us?”
angie stopped the car. “girls, i am not kidnapping you. you invited yourselves into my life. if you want to stick with me, maybe we can be useful to each other. i’ll scratch your back, and all that. if not, you can just get out of the car right now, all right? with no hard feelings.”
salome thought for a few seconds. “if we get out, can we keep the two dollars you gave us?”
“yes! now make up your minds.”
salome looked over at pippi.
“it’s nice and warm in this car,” pippi said.
salome nodded. “we’ll stick with you for now,” she told angie.
“great.” angie started the car again and they headed down the street away from the bus station and back toward ronnie’s roadhouse. she checked the rear view mirror again for any sign of the police.
“now,” angie said, when had left the bus station behind, “do you know where the train station is? there must be one.”
“why do you want to know here the train station is?” salome asked.
“i just do. do you know where the train station is?”
“you are heading in the right direction,” pippi told her. “it’s on the other side of town.”
“thank you. that’s good.”
they were on streets with dark houses. angie slowed down.
the streets were quiet. the two girls were quiet, just watching the houses go by.
dick richmond was walking again, for the millionth time, through the endless corridors of the horace mann school. they were filled with water. then they turned into a beach.
pete jones, his old sailing instructor, was waiting at the end of the corridor/beach. he was selling salt water taffy at a little stand.
dick couldn’t reach him. he wanted to swim but was afraid of getting his argyle socks wet.
a woman’s voice - an old woman’s voice, as old as pete jones - his wife? - called out - “toonerville trolley! toonerville trolley! west 43rd street! get your hot fried chickens here!”
dick woke up. it took him him a few seconds to remember where he was, and a few more to remember who he was.
he wasn’t at horace mann any more. he was a grown man, a member of the bar. and he was working for a certifiably insane client.
he was in a chair, fully dressed except for his jacket, and his tie was loosened. he was hung over - though no more than on almost any other morning.
he was in the study - or library - of the home of sylvester mcdonnell jefferson - “the thin man” - his immensely wealthy but insane client .
the only light in the room came from a small desk lamp. sylvester mcdonnell jefferson was sprawled face down across the desk with cards from his endless game of solitaire scattered on the desk and on the floor.
was he dead?
dick forced himself up from his chair and approached the desk.
what time was it? was he supposed to be in yonkers meeting angie ricardo?
who hopefully had enough sense to figure out where to meet him? and had she been there and gone?
what time was it?
dick reached the desk and felt for the thin man’s pulse.
the sky was turning light.
the area around ronnie’s was still deserted. not a car or person in sight.
angie stopped about a hundred feet from it.
“now what?” salome asked.
“we wait. to see if my friend shows up.”
“and how long might that be?”
a good question, thought angie. a very good question. she had a feeling the whole thing was turning into a complete fiasco, and that she would be back in the prison in time for lunch - if somebody didn’t shoot her. “i don’t know . forty-five minutes, an hour. if the street gets busy we’ll probably split.”
“and then, finally, will we go to new york?”
“sure, we’ll go to new york. if nothing else happens, and we are still here to go to new york.”
“what else could happen?”
“a lot of things could happen. but like i said, i’m not keeping you here. get out any time you want.”
“it’s still nice and warm in the car,” said pippi. she yawned. “i think i am going to take a little nap.”
“it might get real warm,” angie told her. “that’s all i am saying. consider yourselves warned.”
maybe i can use these kids, angie thought. nobody will be looking for a woman with a couple of kids. and maybe i can use them to scout out some things.
“well, how about it, miss brown?” the black girl, salome, asked her from the back seat.
“how about what?” angie started to light another cigarette.
“are you going to new york or not?”
“i might. i have to try to meet someone first.” angie looked over her shoulder. “maybe you can help me out there. make yourself useful.”
“useful to you, you mean,” salome answered.
“well, of course it’s what i meant,” said angie. “do you think i showed up out of thin air to be useful to you?”
“ha, ha! no need to get snippy, miss brown. why don’t you just say what you want.”
angie hesitated. “i thought one of you might go over to the bus station and see if you can spot this individual i might want to talk to.”
salome looked out the window over at the station. “why not both of us?”
why not? angie thought. “maybe i will think of something else for the other one to do.”
salome considered this. “why can’t you look for this person yourself? don’t you know what he looks like?”
“what do you care?” angie was starting to get exasperated. “do you want to help me or not?”
“you mind if i say something, miss brown?”
“not at all, my dear child. what is on your sweet little mind?”
“you should just say what you think or at least sound like you are. you know why?”
“because if you’re always dodging around, people can tell you’re a person who’s spent some time in jail.”
despite herself, angie flushed.
“ha, ha, ha! got you there, didn’t i, miss brown? “ salome leaned over the front seat and patted angie on the shoulder. “come on, i didn’t mean nothing. you know people that’s been in jail can always spot other folks that have, it’s just nature’s way.”
salome looked over at the other girl, who had remained silent. “what do you think, pip? you think miss brown’s been a guest of the state somewhere?”
pippi considered this. “i thank the lord may indeed have tried her in that fashion.”
angie took a deep breath. “so you girls have been in jail. have you - uh - escaped, by any chance?"
salome leaned back and laughed. “oh, no, no. we served our time. we got the papers to show it, too. want to see them?”
“that won’t be necessary. look here.” angie dug into her pocket and took out a couple of the bills she had from making change back at ruth’s place. “here. get yourself a coke or something from the machine. wait and see if a guy who looks like a lawyer shows up.”
salome looked at the two one dollar bills. “a lawyer. what does a lawyer look like?”
“you’ve never seen a lawyer?”
“no, where would i? i never had one myself.”
“a lawyer looks - respectable. like he took a bath. like he shaved, even at six the morning. “
“i’ve seen lawyers,” pippi said. “i could go instead.”
“no, no,” angie said. “let her go, she looks older, they are more likely to chase you away.”
“i might get chased away because i’m black, “ said salome. “and not with a white person.”
can’t she just say yes ma’am to anything, angie thought. “well if they do, just come back and we’ll go from there. all right?”
“all right.” salome put the bills in her pocket. “and if i see this lawyer looking person, then what? do i say something to him?”
"no, no, no. just come back and tell me.”
“i guess i can do that. you want the change from your money.? a coke don’t cost no two dollars.”
“bring me back a coke. you want something?” angie asked pippi.
“a coke and a hershey bar.”
“a coke and a hershey bar,” angie repeated. “i see nobody’s bashful here.”
“ you asked if i wanted anything. i want a coke and a hershey bar. you don’t have to buy them for me,” pippi answered evenly.
“no, no, you can have both,” angie assured her. “were are all friends here.”
suddenly there was a sharp rap on the window. angie almost screamed. what now?
she turned and saw the face of a policeman in the window.
angie rolled the window down. “yes, officer?”
“what are you doing here, miss?” with the window down angie could see that the officer was young, maybe just out of high school. he glanced back at the two girls. he was obviously puzzled by the fact that one was black.
angie started to say, i’m waiting for my husband, realized he might notice she had no wedding ring. “my name is willa mason, officer, i am with the redemption church, it’s a little church in albany, we are waiting for our bishop to arrive on the bus from - from new york city.” there has to be a bus from the city, she thought.
the young man looked doubtful. “why not wait in the station?”
“i didn’t like the place, officer. i saw a man whose looks frightened me.”
“i see. and these two girls, who are they?”
“they are a couple of unfortunate children that the bishop saved from a life of sin.” angie handed the policeman the pamphlet pippi had given her. “we are here on a special mission to yonkers. look, here is a sample of our literature.”
the young man looked at the girls in the back seat. “saved from a life of sin?”
“they have just been released from - the reformatory. the reformatory.” angie turned to pippi. “dear, show the officer your discharge paper.”
expressionless, pippi took her time rummaging in her pants pocket but finally pulled out a piece of paper folded in eighths which she handed over to the policeman. he shone a flashlight on it and studied it for a full minute before handing it back.
salome cleared her throat. “i have one too, officer.”
“no, that’s all right.” the officer took his cap off, scratched his head, and put the cap back on. “all right, miss. but consider, there are some frightening people out here on the street too.”
“thank you, officer. but it seems to be getting light. finally.” angie gave him a little laugh, and a smile - not too big.
the officer moved off, and angie rolled the widow back up.
“that was very good, miss brown,” salome said. “very smooth. i see there’s no green bananas on the boat you just fell off. pretty impressive, don’t you think, pip?"
“yes,” pippi answered. “notice how she got us to show our i d so he forgot to ask for hers.”
“right. a most impressive performance.”
but angie was hardly listening to them. she was watching the policeman go back to his squad car, back it out and drive off. surely he would do some kind of checking on her story. she couldn’t take the chance that he would not.
salome put her hand on the door handle. “you still want me to look for your lawyer friend.”
“no, we are getting out of here. we’ll give our friend in blue half a minute to get away.”
back on the empty highway after her encounter with ruth barry and petey at the elite cafe, angie began considering her options.
she probably should not have spent as much time talking to ruth as she had. if the police were alerted to her escape - and she could not be sure they had not - every minute she was off the road counted.
but there was no sense worrying about it now. she still had plenty of time to reach yonkers at what she figured was the best time.
and she was determined not to speed, in case some state police came along. and to stay on the main highway and not venture down any country roads where the local gendarmes might stop her just for something to do.
the question was - should she even go to yonkers, try to meet up with dick richmond or whoever dick richmond had waiting for her?
where else could she go? if she decided to stiff dick richmond, just take his car and his forty dollars, where could she go?
al gordon - if she could even trust him - was in the pen. all her other old pals from those days, she couldn’t trust at all, and they would all know she was on the run and hot. and besides, dick richmond could almost surely find her through them.
she could never pick up the pieces of the caper she had been lining up when she got busted.
richmond’s proposition - such as it was - had to be legitimate and not some kind of joke. whoever was behind it had put too much time and effort into it.
the word would get around - even in europe and south america and hong kong - that she passed up a chance at a pretty good score. and must have lost her nerve. and that would be the kiss of death.
should she try to find the old, old gang - the commies and revolutionaries? like rose? or ambrose? she knew how they ended up - the ones that were still alive. and what could they do for her? get her a job washing dishes? hot as she was, they couldn’t even get her a job answering the phone at some union hall.
the only thing she could do besides try to meet up in yonkers would be to completely disappear - with about thirty-eight dollars - and start a whole new life.
doing - what? holding up banks? holding up gas stations?
she had always been determined to stay away from things like being a chorus girl or a stripper. and she was probably a little too old now to be starting out in such endeavors. the other girls starting out would be about sixteen or seventeen and laugh at her as an old lady.
find a nice guy - a nice chumpy guy - who worked in a factory and settle down and have four or five kids?
no, dick richmond had the hook in her and that was the way it was.
it was on to yonkers.
yonkers wasn’t that big. surely she could find “ronnie’s” without having to ask anybody.
and she did. on the outskirts of town, it was an old-fashioned “roadhouse” of the type going out of style.
the only other establishment within a hundred yards was a used car lot.
ronnie’s was closed - obviously. it was still short of six in the morning. but driving by, she couldn’t see any sign or anything in the window saying when it did open.
angie parked in front of the used car lot. she got out, locked the car, and walked up the road to ronnie’s.
what a dump. it was hard to tell if it was still open at all. there were some words painted in the bottom of the window, and they were faded.
open 1 p m to 2 a m. well, that took care of that. she couldn’t sit in the car waiting for seven hours.
she was probably meant to wait in or around the bus station all along.
she went back to the car, and drove slowly to the bus station which she had already passed.
now what? wait in, or outside, the bus station? she had seen a little coffee shop a block before, but that was too far away to actually watch the bus station from it.
angie thought, this is getting annoying. couldn’t they have just left a note in the car? was that really such a great risk?
couldn’t iron mask have told her something? a little hint? but she probably had not been told any more than she needed to know.
angie decided to make a quick reconnoiter of the station, to see if richmond was already there, or if she would be approached by anybody right away.
if not, she would come back and wait in the car for about an hour, or until it started to get light. if nobody approached her by then, maybe try the coffee shop.
it was a plan, at least. she lit a cigarette and smoked it down to her fingertips. she rolled the window down, fllcked the butt out, rolled the window back up and opened the door and got out.
the bus station was as deserted as it could be. there was a guy behind the ticket counter reading a magazine who did not look up when angie came through the swinging door.
the only people in the seats were a little old man and little old lady. they looked about ninety years old. unless they were very elaborately disguised, they were not emissaries of dick richmond.
there was a coke machine and a coffee machine. and an unlit little snack bar, with a sign saying “closed”.
but angie felt she was being watched.
she turned and looked out the large window . she did not see anything out there but darkness.
she went back outside to the car. she looked up and down the street but could not see anyone.
she got back in the car and lit another cigarette.
and heard a tapping on the window.
she rolled the window down.
a little girl with long pigtails was standing outside. at first angie thought she was about ten years old, but at second glance realized she was just small and was probably about fifteen.
the girl looked angie in the eyes. “do you want to hear the good news about salvation?”
“do i what?” angie asked. this kid can’t be from richmond, she thought.
the girl shoved some kind of pamphlet through the window at angie.
angie took it - a message from richmond? there was a cross on the cover and some words but before she could read them she noticed another girl standing behind the little pigtailed girl.
this girl was taller, maybe a little older, and black.
“want to give us a ride to new york, lady?” the black girl asked.
“um - i don’t know if i’m going to new york.”
“you don’t know?’ the girl raised her eyebrows. “what kind of answer is that?”
“can we sit in the car?” the little white girl asked. “it’s a little chilly out here.”
“why should i let you do that?” angie asked.
“because you’re a nice lady,” said the black girl.
“because the bible says, ‘ suffer the little children to come unto me’ said the little girl.
might police drive by and wonder what this was all about?
“yeah, you can get in.” angie reached back and opened the rear door.
the two girls settled into the back seat. “my name is salome, by the way,” said the black girl, “and this is pippi.”