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4

"DIDDUMS," DORTMUNDER SAID, and winced, because that was an alias he loathed that nevertheless bounced out of him at the most unfortunate moments, like his own private Tourette's.

Mr. Hemlow gazed on him. "Diddums?"

"It's Welsh."

"Oh."

Smoothly, Eppick said, "John uses a number of different names, it goes with his specialty."

Could a gourd on a medicine ball look grumpy? Yes. "I see," Mr. Hemlow said. "So what we know so far is that this gentleman's name is not Diddums."

"It's probably not even Welsh," Eppick said.

"It's definitely John," Dortmunder said.

Eppick smiled and nodded. "That's true. Something like me. You never been a Johnny, have you?"

"No," Dortmunder said.

"That's where the pizzazz is," Eppick assured him. "You saw it on my card. John Eppick' wouldn't have done anywhere near as much."

"I can see that," Dortmunder agreed.

"Of course you can. Johnny Eppick. It's something to aspire to. Johnny Guitar."

"Uh huh."

"Johnny Cool. Johnny Holiday. Johnny Trouble."

"Johnny Belinda," put in Mr. Hemlow, surprisingly.

Eppick didn't want to disagree with his employer, but he didn't want Johnny Belinda either. "That's a special case, sir," he said, and hurriedly turned back to Dortmunder, saying, "Johnny Rocco. Johnny Tremain. Johnny Reno."

"Johnny Mnemonic," suggested Mr. Hemlow, a man who probably didn't so much go to look at movies as have movies come to look at him.

"Sir, I don't think that one's up there with the others," Eppick suggested.

Dortmunder, who didn't go to the movies unless his faithful companion May insisted, nevertheless did have something of a grab-bag mind, which he now realized contained a movie title belonging to this crowd: "Johnny Got His Gun."

Neither of the others liked that one. Eppick said, "John, we are talking in the order of Johnny Yuma, Johnny Midnight, Johnny Jupiter, Johnny Ringo."

"Johnny Appleseed, " Mr. Hemlow added.

"Wel-ll," Eppick said, "that's a little far afield, Mr. Hemlow."

Dortmunder said, "Johnny Cash?"

"Johnnie Walker," announced Mr. Hemlow.

Dortmunder turned to him. "Red or Black?"

"Oh, Black," Mr. Hemlow said. "Definitely Black. But that isn't the point." Shifting his mass in the general direction of Eppick, he said, "The point is, you do vouch for this man."

"Oh, absolutely," Eppick said. "I have used the entire resources of the NYPD to research the kind of specialist we need and, of those not currently counting the days on the inside, John here is just about the best you can get. He's a thief when he wakes up in the morning, and he's a thief when he goes to sleep at night. An honest thought has never crossed his brain. If he were any more crooked, you could open wine bottles with him. In his early days he did some time, but he's learned how to avoid that now. I guarantee him to be the least trustworthy, most criminal scalawag you'll ever meet."

"Well," Dortmunder said, "that's maybe a little overboard."

Still talking to Mr. Hemlow, Eppick said, "You trust me, and I trust John, but it's even more than that. You know where to find me, and I know where to find John. He'd double-cross us in a minute if he—"

"Aw, hey."

"— thought he could get away with it, but he knows he can't, so we can all have perfect trust in one another."

"Excellent," said Mr. Hemlow, and nodded his head at Dortmunder a while, not in rhythm with his twitching knee, which was a distraction. "So far," he said, "I like what I see. It would seem that Johnny has chosen well. You keep your own counsel. You don't bluster, but you do stand up for yourself."

Dortmunder could not remember ever having been the center of attention to this excruciating a degree, not even in a court of law, and he was beginning to chafe under it. Itch. Not like it so much. He said, to try to shorten the interview if at all possible, "So you want me and somebody else to go get this chess set for you, so all you—"

Mr. Hemlow said, "Somebody else?"

"You said it was too heavy for one man to lift."

"Oh, yes." Mr. Hemlow did that nodding thing some more. "That's what my father told me, that impressed me at the time. I hadn't thought of the implications, but you're right. Or, could you do it in multiple trips?"

"When you're burglaring," Dortmunder told him, showing off a little expertise, "you don't do more than one trip."

"Yes, of course, I do see that." Turning to Eppick, he said, "How long will it take you to find a second person?"

"Oh, I think John could come up with somebody," Eppick said, and grinned at Dortmunder. "Your friend Andy, maybe."

"Well," Dortmunder said, "he'd probably have to look in his appointment book, but I could check, yeah." To Mr. Hemlow he said, "So it looks to me like there's only two questions left."

"Yes?" Mr. Hemlow cocked that puffy head. "Which questions are those?"

"Well, the first is, where is it."

"Yes, of course," said Mr. Hemlow, a little impatiently. "And the second?"

"Well, you might not think it to look at me," Dortmunder told him, "but I got a family crest."

"Have you?"

"Yeah. And it's got a motto on it."

"I am anxious to hear this motto."

"Quid lucrum istic mihi est."

Mr. Hemlow squinted; the red-headed hawk in flight. "I'm afraid my Latin is insufficient for that."

"What's in it for me," Dortmunder translated.


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