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.