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5

MR. HEMLOW ROARED with laughter, or at least tried to, with various noises emanating from his head area that might, with redubbing, have added up to a roar. Then he said, "Well, what would be in it for you might be millions, I suppose, if you were to manage to elude Johnny here. A rather more modest sum if you do your part like a good boy."

"Plus continued life in the free world," Eppick added.

So they were cheapskates, these two, it had all the earmarks. Dortmunder had seen it before, guys with big ideas who just needed a little bit of his help, his knowledge, his experience, but didn't want to pay for it. Or didn't want to pay enough.

On the other hand, if he announced he wasn't going along with these birds, that alley photo could very well come back to bite him on the hind parts. So, at least for now, he would follow Mr. Hemlow's advice and do his part like a good boy. Therefore, he said, "Without knowing where this thing is, or how it's guarded, or anything about it, I don't know how much trouble I'm gonna have to get my hands on it, or what expenses I'm gonna run up, or if it's maybe more than two people needed for the thing, or whatever. So right now, I'm with you, but I gotta tell you, Johnny Eppick here says I'm the specialist you want, and if I decide, being the specialist, that it can't be done, or it can't be done without too much danger to me, then I'm gonna have to tell you now, I'm gonna expect you to go along with how I see it."

Eppick frowned, clearly not liking the broadness of this escape clause, but Mr. Hemlow said, "That sounds fair to me. I think you will find the task worthy of your skills, but not to include a level of peril that might incline you to forgo what would certainly otherwise be a very profitable endeavor."

"That's good, then," Dortmunder said. "So where is it?"

"I'm afraid I'm not the one who's going to tell you that," Mr. Hemlow said.

Dortmunder didn't like that at all. "You mean, there's more of you in on this? I thought everybody else died or got old or didn't care."

"Except," Mr. Hemlow said, "my granddaughter."

"Now a granddaughter," Dortmunder said.

"It is true," Mr. Hemlow said, "that the generation after mine took no interest in the stolen chess set, nor the ruined dreams of their grandparents. It was all just history to them. However, Fiona, the daughter of my third son, Floyd, takes a deep interest in the story of the chess set, precisely because to her it is history, and history is her passion."

Dortmunder, whose grasp on history was usually dislodged by the needs of the passing moment, had nothing to say to that, so he merely did his best to look alert.

Which was apparently enough, because Mr. Hemlow almost immediately went on, "Fiona, my granddaughter, is an attorney, mostly in estate planning for a midtown firm. She's the one who took an interest in the story of the chess set, came to me for what details my father might have given me, did the research and found, or at least believes she's found, the chess set."

"Believes," Dortmunder said.

"Well, she hasn't seen it personally, of course," Mr. Hemlow said. "None of us will, until you retrieve it."

Eppick said, "The granddaughter was just happy to figure she solved the mystery, there it is, case closed. It was Mr. Hemlow explained to her the lost dreams and alla that."

"She agreed, at last," Mr. Hemlow said, "to a retrieval of the chess set, for the future good of the family, to make up for the ills of the past."

"Got it," Dortmunder said.

"But she has conditions," Mr. Hemlow warned.

What have I gotten into here, Dortmunder asked himself, and was afraid he was going to find out the answer. "Conditions," he said.

"No violence," Mr. Hemlow said.

"I'm in favor of that," Dortmunder assured him. "No violence, that's how I like it every day."

"One of the reasons I picked you, John," Eppick told him, "is how you don't go in much for strong-arming against persons."

"Or property," Mr. Hemlow said.

Dortmunder said, "Property? Come on, you know, sometimes you gotta break a window, that's not violence."

Conceding the point, Mr. Hemlow said, "I'm sure Fiona would accept that level of mayhem. You can discuss it with her if you wish."

"Or not bother her about it," Eppick advised.

"So I'm gonna see this Fiona," Dortmunder said, and looked around. "How come I'm not seeing her now?"

Eppick said, "Mr. Hemlow wanted to vet you, wanted to reassure himself that I'd made the right choice, before sending you on to the granddaughter."

"Oh, yeah?" To Mr. Hemlow Dortmunder said, "So how am I? How do I vet?"

"That I have mentioned my granddaughter's name," Mr. Hemlow said, "means I have agreed with Johnny's judgment."

"Well, that's nice."

Mr. Hemlow said, "Johnny, would you phone her?"

"Sure." Eppick stood, then paused to say to Dortmunder, "You free this afternoon, if she can make it?"

"Sure. I'm between engagements."

"Maybe not any more," Eppick said, and grinned, and said, "You wanna write down the address?"

"I do," Dortmunder told him, "but I don't have anything to write with or on."

"Oh. Never mind, I'll do it."

Eppick went over to the desk by the front door, sat at it, played with a Rolodex a minute, then dialed a number. While he waited, he started to write on the back of another of his cards, then paused to punch out four more numbers, then finished writing, then said, "Fiona Hemlow, please. Johnny Eppick." Then another pause, and then he said, "Hi, Fiona, it's Johnny Eppick. Just fine. I'm here with your granddad and we got the guy we think is gonna help us with that family matter. I know you wanna talk to him. Well, this afternoon, if you got some free time." Cupping the phone, he said to Dortmunder, "She's checking her calendar."

"For this afternoon?"

Eppick held up a finger, and listened to the phone, then said, "Yeah, that should be long enough. Hold on, lemme see if he's clear." Cupping the phone again, he said to Dortmunder, "This afternoon, four-fifteen to four-forty-five, she can fit you in."

"Then that's good," Dortmunder said. "I happen to have that slot open." In truth, he himself did not live that precise a life, but he understood there were people who did.

Into the phone, Eppick said, "That's fine. He's— Hold on." Another cupping, and he looked at Dortmunder to say, "Do you really still wanna go on being Diddums?"

"No, do the name," Dortmunder said. "The only one I didn't wanna know it was you, so that's too late, so go ahead."

"Fine. Fiona, his name is John Dortmunder, and he will see you at four-fifteen. Give me a call after you talk to him, okay? Thanks, Fiona."

He hung up, stood up, and brought to Dortmunder the card he'd written on the back of, where it now read:

Fiona Hemlow

C&I International Bank Building

613 5th Ave

Feinberg, Kleinberg, Rhineberg, Steinberg, Weinberg & Klatsch

27

Dortmunder said, "Twenty-seven?"

"They got the whole floor," Eppick explained. "Hundreds of lawyers there."

"We're all very proud of Fiona," Mr. Hemlow said. "Landing at such a prestigious law firm."

Dortmunder had had dealings with lawyers once or twice in his life, but they mostly hadn't come with the word «prestigious» attached. "I'm looking forward," he said.


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