WITH A TABLE KNIFE, Dortmunder was trying to find a little more mayo at the bottom of the jar, but mostly finding it on his knuckles, when the phone rang. Licking his fingers, he ambled over to the phone and spoke into it: "Yar."
"I'm thinking," Andy Kelp said, "of giving up my answering machine."
Surprised, Dortmunder said, "You? You live for those gizmos. Call waiting, call forwarding, call lateraling, all those things."
"Maybe not any more. Anne Marie's out today," Kelp explained. "Some old friend of hers from Kansas is showing her New York."
"Right." Dortmunder understood. It's always the out-of-towners who know the real New York. "Statue of Liberty?"
"Empire State Building," Kelp agreed. "Grand Central Station. I think they're even gonna grab a matinee at Radio City Music Hall."
"Anne Marie," Dortmunder said, "has a very good heart."
"First thing attracted me to her. Anyway, I was out myself a little, you know how it is."
"I come back just now, there's three messages from Eppick. Three, John."
"Maybe he's tensing up," Dortmunder said.
"No maybe about it. Three messages that he wants me to ask you what's going on. They're not even my messages, John."
"Does he really think," Dortmunder wanted to know, "anybody's gonna tell him what's going on on the phone? You're not the only one with those gizmos, you know."
"You tell him that, John, it's you he wants to talk to."
"Maybe later. Listen, satisfy some curiosity."
"How come, when you were in there last night, you didn't go in there?"
"What? In where?"
"Maybe," Dortmunder decided, "we should talk in the open air."
Open air in March should not be approached unwarily. It was in a small triangular park in the West Village called Abingdon Square — sue me — that they huddled together on a bench near the southern apex, where some of the buses only slowed down, but others across Hudson Street stopped for a while, engines growling, to compete with the traffic going past the park south on Hudson then south on Bleecker Street, north on the other part of Hudson and then north on Eighth Avenue, and east on both disconnected parts of Bank Street. There wasn't much wind here, with fairly tall buildings all around except for the children's playground in the triangle just south of this one, so that, if Abingdon Square had been an hourglass, that would be the part with the sand. Not too cold, not too much wind, plenty of ambient noise — some children are louder than buses without even trying — and so a perfect spot for a tete-`a-tete.
Having called this conclave, Dortmunder went first: "You were ahead of me, last night, on that roof."
"You went out on that roof?" Kelp was surprised.
"I had to. The householder come home."
"I heard all the fuss," Kelp agreed. "I figured, it was somewhere else in the building and you took off back outa there, or it was the householder and you went through him and then back outa there. I didn't figure you for the roof."
"Neither did I," Dortmunder said. "But there I was. And you were already gone."
"That was the place to be."
"Oh, I know. So I went over and I found those rungs—"
Kelp was astonished, and said so. "John, I'm astonished."
"No choice," Dortmunder said. "Down the rungs, down the fire escape. What got me was how clean you went through that basement door."
"What basement door?"
"Into Perly's building. What other way was there?"
Kelp was now doubly astonished. "You went into Perly's building?"
"What else could I do?"
"Did you never turn around?" Kelp asked him. "Did you never see that humongous apartment house right behind you? You get thirty-seven windows to choose from over there, John."
Dortmunder frowned, thinking back. "I never even looked over there," he admitted. "And here I thought how terrific you were, you got through that basement door without leaving a mark, got through and out the building and not one single sign of you."
"That's because I wasn't there," Kelp said. "Where I was instead, I went into an apartment where there's nobody home but there's a couple nice de Koonings on the living room wall, so I went uptown to make them on consignment to Stoon, and then I went home. I never figured you to come down that same way. And wasn't that a risk, you go in there before we want to go in there? Did you leave marks, John?"
Insulted, Dortmunder said, "What kind of a question is that? Here I tell you how impressed I am how you didn't leave any marks—"
"It was easier for me."
"Granted. But then, back last night, you were like my benchmark. So what I left was what you left. Not a trace, Andy, guaranteed."
"Well, that's terrific, you found that way in," Kelp said. "Is that our route on the day?"
"We don't have to do all that," Dortmunder told him. "While I was in there anyway, I looked around, I picked up some stuff."
"Stuff they're gonna miss?"
"Come on, Andy."
"You're right," Kelp said. "I know better than that. Maybe I'm like Eppick, I'm getting a little tense. So what stuff did you come out with?"
"Their extra garage door opener."
Kelp reared back. "Their what?"
"That they don't remember they have," Dortmunder said. "Bottom drawer of the secretary's desk, way in back, under stuff, covered with dust."
"That's pretty good," Kelp admitted.
"Also some other stuff," Dortmunder said. "Perly's an organized guy, he made himself a lot of notes about the exact time the thing's coming down from the bank and all the extra security they're gonna lay on while it's there."
"He did. Also, he's got a copy machine."
Kelp laughed, in pleasure and amazement. "You got their garage door opener," he said. "You got their security plans."
"Right," Dortmunder said, going for modesty.
Kelp shook his head. "And all I got was a couple de Koonings."
"Well, we took different paths," Dortmunder said, now going for magnanimity.
"We sure did." Seated on the park bench, Kelp watched a bifurcated bus make the long looping U-turn around the triangle, to go from southbound on Hudson to northbound on Eighth. "So what do you think next?" he asked.
"I think," Dortmunder said, "we make a little meet. All of us. At the O.J."