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53

IT WAS NICE the bath towel thing had worked, but other than that, this whole situation sucked. Dortmunder stood in the pitch-black bathroom, hand on the edge of the shower stall so he wouldn't get lost, considered his current position, and decided he didn't like it. He was still stuck in here with a guy outside to whom he would be unable to offer any conceivable explanation as to why this person he'd never seen before was suddenly walking out of his bathroom.

"It must be a space-warp kinda thing. I was just coming out of a bar in Cleveland." No.

Another problem with this place was that Perly himself wanted to make use of it, an experience Dortmunder had found not entirely pleasant. But the capper, and the reason he was standing out here in the dark with the bath towel over his shoulders, turns out, the showerhead had a leak. A slow insidious leak that you don't even notice until all at once the seat of your pants is soaking wet, and you wouldn't mind the opportunity to make use of this bathroom yourself. Which was also impossible.

What could he do to get out of here? What about the garage door opener? Would it work at this distance? If he hit the button, would the noise of the door lifting distract Perly and make him run from the room and otherwise behave in a way that would allow Dortmunder to get out of here?

It was worth a try. He took the opener from his pocket, aimed it at the door, and pressed the button.

Nothing. Too far away, or too many walls and doors in between.

What if he were to open the door, just a tiny tiny little bit, maybe while down low on the floor, and stick the opener out at ground level and try it from there?

Anything was better than to stay in here. Dortmunder let go of the shower stall, fumbled around, found the doorknob, and used it for support while he went down on his knees and very slowly, carefully, silently opened the door. He was just about to stick the opener out when he realized he could see Perly's desk out there, and Perly wasn't sitting at it.

So where was he? Was he standing or sitting somewhere that he'd have a fine clear view of an arm sticking out of the bathroom, holding a garage door opener?

The door opened inward. Dortmunder scooted over a bit on his knees until he could open it farther, a little farther, and there was Perly, walking away toward an open shelf-filled closet, his arms full of large binders and his back toward Dortmunder.

Out. Shucking off the bath towel, out he went, on his knees, pulling the door almost closed behind himself. Without a sound, over to the desk he went, down out of Perly's sight, and crouched low to look under the desk.

Over there, beyond the desk and across the polished wood floor, Perly's feet had turned around from that closet and were crossing the room. The feet stopped, then reversed and headed for the closet again, so that his back would be toward both Dortmunder and the doorway out of here.

Dortmunder's run was not graceful, but it got there. Out of Perly's office he galumphed, and paused at the closed outer office door to put the opener away. Then he eased open that door, slid through, admired the Lamborghini parked there for about a fifth of a second, and headed down the ramp.

How to get out of the building. He could just say the hell with it and open the noisy garage door and make a run for it. Or he could hope to get through that other door without attracting Perly's notice upstairs. Or he might go down to the basement and out the back way and see if he could find Kelp's apartment with all the art treasures. Get at least something to show for the night's work.

At the foot of the ramp, he decided the hell with it, let's just get gone, and was reaching in his pocket for the opener when, from his left, Kelp's voice did a loud whisper: "John!"

He turned. All four of his partners in alleged crime were over there, by the stairs that led down to the basement. Kelp gestured to him to come over, so he did and said, "I thought you people were long gone."

"I was," Tiny said. "Perly see you up there?"

"No," Dortmunder said. "But I left a towel on the floor, he might notice that."

Stan said, "Your pants are wet."

"I know," Dortmunder told him. "I'm well aware of that."

Judson said, "So does this mean it's a go again?"

Dortmunder looked around. Perly was upstairs and hadn't been spooked. Nothing else had changed. "Well, how do you like that," he said. "We go back to Plan A."


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