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Authors: Donald E. Westlake

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BOOK: Good Behavior
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“No good,” Kelp said. “Wally's in Brazil, without any extradition.”

“Without what?” Dortmunder asked.

“In Brazil?” Tiny asked.

“He was helping some people at Customs down in Brooklyn,” Kelp told them. “You know, people that didn't want to tie up the government with a lot of red tape and forms and stuff, so they were just going to get their imports at night and leave it at that, you know the kind of thing.”

“You said Brazil,” Tiny reminded him.

“Yeah, well, Wally, what Wally's problem is, he's just too good at his line of business.” Kelp shook his head. “You show Wally a lock, he just has to caress the thing, and poke at it, and see how it works, and the first thing he knew he went through a door, and then a couple more doors, and like that, and when he tried to go back the ship had sailed.”

“The ship,” Dortmunder said. It didn't seem to him there'd been a ship in the story up till then.

“That he was on,” Kelp said, “that he didn't know it. They were just leaving, and one of those doors he went through was into the ship from the warehouse, and it turned out they had some reasons of their own to leave in the middle of the night, so they didn't want to go back to let him off, so he rode along and now he's in Brazil without extradition.”


That
was the word,” Dortmunder said. “Explain that.”

“Well, most places in the world,” Kelp explained, “you find yourself broke and you don't speak the language and all, you go confess to a crime in, like, Duluth or St. Louis or somewhere, and then the governments get together and do a lot of legal paper on you and they extradite you and the government pays your air fare and you get to St. Louis or Duluth or wherever it was, and you say, ‘Oops, my mistake, I didn't do that after all,' and you're home. Only with Brazil, we got no treaty, they won't extradite, so Wally's stuck. And he says Brazil is so poor, most places don't have locks, so he's going crazy. So he's trying to get to Uruguay.”

“For the extradition,” Dortmunder guessed.

“You got it.”

Stan said, “How about Herman X?”

Tiny, who had been observing Kelp so carefully that Kelp was beginning to fidget, now swiveled his head around to look at Stan. “Herman what?”

“X,” Stan said.

“He's a black power radical,” Dortmunder explained, “but he's also a good lockman.”

“He was with us that time we took the bank,” Stan said.

“Now, the problem with Herman,” Kelp started, and everybody turned to look at him. “Don't blame
me
,” he said. “I'm just telling you the situation.”

“Tell us the situation,” Tiny suggested.

“Well,” Kelp said, “the problem with Herman is, he's in Africa.”

Dortmunder said, “Without extradition?”

“No, Herman doesn't need extradition. He's vice-president of Talabwo.”

Tiny said, “Is that a country?”

“For now,” Kelp said. “There's a lot of unrest over there.”

Dortmunder said, “Talabwo. That's the country wanted the Balabomo Emerald that time.”

“That's right,” Kelp said. “And you gave Major Iko the paste emerald and he brought it home and when they found out it wasn't real they ate him, I think. Anyway, there was trouble back and forth, and Herman was with his radical friends at the UN to steal some secret documents that proved the drought was a plot by the white people, and they came on this assassination attempt, and Herman helped the guy they were trying to kill, and it turned out he was the next president of Talabwo, which is why they were trying to put him out that window, so when he got home he invited Herman over as a thank you, and that's when Herman found out the
vice
-president was figuring on a coup, so now Herman's vice-president, and he says he enjoys it a lot.”

Dortmunder said, “He does, does he?”

“Yeah. Except he isn't Herman X anymore, now he's Herman Makanene Stulu'mbnick.”

Tiny said, “I am growing weary.”

“Well, that's all I know anyway,” Kelp said. He poured himself some more Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon.

Tiny said, “I know a guy, for the locks. He's a little unusual.”

Dortmunder said, “After
those
stories?
Your
guy is unusual?”

“At least he's in New York,” Tiny said. “His name's Wilbur Howey.”

“I don't know him,” Dortmunder said.

“He just came out of the slammer,” Tiny said. “I'll have a word with him.”

“Fine,” Dortmunder said. He hesitated, and cleared his throat.

“Here it comes now,” Tiny said.

Dortmunder gave him an innocent look. “Here comes what, Tiny?”

“The butcher's thumb,” Tiny said. “You know what I do with the butcher's thumb?”

“There's nothing
wrong
, Tiny,” Dortmunder said. “The deal is exactly as I said it was. Only, there's just one more little element.”

“One more little element.”

“While we're in the building,” Dortmunder said, “take no time at all, we go up to the top floor, handle one extra little piece of business. Nothing to it.”

Tiny viewed Dortmunder more in sorrow than in anger. “Tell me about this, Dortmunder,” he said. “What is this extra little piece of business?”

“Well,” Dortmunder said. He knocked back a little Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon, coughed, and said, “The fact is, uh, Tiny, while we're in there anyway, uh, it seems we have to rescue this nun.”

14

“How did it go last night?” May asked.

Dortmunder paused with a spoonful of Wheaties in midair. He nodded thoughtfully, pondering the question, and then said, “Well, there was a chancy minute or two when I mentioned the nun, but then it worked out.”

“What was the chancy minute?”

“Tiny. He didn't like it.”

May was making herself instant coffee, standing in a dapple of morning sunshine reflected twice before coming in the airshaft window. She said, “What didn't he like about it?”

Dortmunder had taken that load of Wheaties on board. He chewed and chewed and swallowed and said, “Nuns. Tiny says nuns remind him of a movie called
Come to the Stable
, and he's mad at that movie.”


Come to the Stable?
” May poured hot water over brown dust. “Why would he be mad at a movie?”

“Apparently, he was in an armored car job once, and it got screwed up, and he hid inside the air ducts in a movie house for a week. Late at night he'd come out of the ducts and go down and eat the candy and drink the soda, but he could never leave the building because the cops knew a couple guys in the job were still in the neighborhood somewhere, and they were doing a house-to-house search and maintaining a presence on the street and all that. So it was a revival house, and that week they were showing
Come to the Stable
, with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm as these two nuns that were very good to everybody all the time, and smiled a lot. Tiny saw that movie twenty-seven times that week, and he says he's never felt quite the same about nuns ever since.”

The phone rang, in the living room. Dortmunder said, “I'll get it,” and went away to the living room to get it. Andy Kelp kept wanting to give him a free extension phone in the kitchen, Kelp having access to a place with telephone equipment, but Dortmunder felt one phone was enough in a person's life and frequently too much. Besides, he needed the exercise.

It was Tiny Bulcher. “Yeah, hi,” Dortmunder said. “I was just talking about you.”

“You don't want to do that,” Tiny said. Even on the phone he sounded large, like an approaching cold front.

“Just with May,” Dortmunder told him.

“Okay, then. I got my lockman, I thought we'd come over look at those books you got.”

“Sure.”

“Half an hour.”

“I'll be here,” Dortmunder said, and hung up, and the phone rang. “Saves me steps,” he commented, and answered, and it was Chepkoff, the caviar man. “Oh, it's you,” Dortmunder said.

“About my three hundred bucks,” Chepkoff said. On the phone he sounded little and mean, which is also the way he looked in person.

“Don't be stupid,” Dortmunder said.

“I'm not letting this go, Dortmunder,” Chepkoff said. “I want my three hundred dollars.”

“Sue me,” Dortmunder said, and hung up, and went back to the kitchen, and told May, “Tiny's coming over pretty soon with a lockman he knows.”

May was drinking coffee and scratching herself through her cardigan pocket. She said, “Should I leave? I don't go to work till noon.”

“No, no, stick around,” Dortmunder said. “Listen, you got an allergy or something?”

“An allergy?” May looked bewildered. “Why?”

“The last few days, you've been scratching a lot.”

May looked at the hand in her cardigan pocket as though it belonged to somebody else. “Oh,” she said. “No, it's nothing. When is Tiny coming?”

Dortmunder placed himself in front of the Wheaties again. “Half an hour,” he said, and half an hour later the doorbell rang, and when Dortmunder went to answer in came Tiny Bulcher with a little shriveled-up wiry old geezer who looked as though somebody had crumpled him and then partly smoothed him out again.

“This is Wilbur Howey,” Tiny said.

Dortmunder looked at the doorway to see if there was any more to him, but apparently not. “How are ya?” he said.

“Terrific,” Wilbur Howey said, and cackled.

Dortmunder led the way to the living room, where May sat reading the latest issue of
Working Woman
. Howey tossed a salute in her direction, winked, and said, “Hi, Toots.”

“Hi,” May said, putting the magazine down and getting to her feet. “Hi, Tiny. Anybody want coffee? A beer? Anything?”

“Just an hour with you on a doubledecker bus, Toots,” Wilbur Howey said, and cackled again.

“Shut up, Wilbur,” Tiny said. “They ain't no more double-decker buses.”

“How about bunkbeds, huh, Toots?”

“Hey, wait a minute,” Dortmunder said.

Tiny took Wilbur Howey by the elbow and shook him a little, but Howey didn't seem to mind. He kept cackling and grinning and winking at May. Tiny said, “Take it easy, Wilbur, that's our host's lady friend.”

“Say, what's the dif?” Howey wanted to know, and winked at Dortmunder. “We're all just boys together, you know what I mean?”

“No,” said Dortmunder.

“I told you last night,” Tiny explained to Dortmunder, “Wilbur just got out. He was inside kind of a long while.”

“Forty-eight years,” Howey said, and winked at everybody, grinning and chirruping as though that was quite an accomplishment.

Dortmunder stared at him. “Forty-eight
years?
What did you
do?

“Well, it was just a nickel-dime to begin with,” Howey said, “for a lumberyard safe. But I kept escaping. That's me, the escape artist.”

“He's good with locks,” Tiny pointed out. “The problem is, he's not so good with anything else.”

Dortmunder said, “Meaning what?”

“Meaning,” Tiny said, “he'd bust out of someplace and go maybe half a mile down the road and then he wouldn't know what to do next.”

“It's a big world out there,” Howey said, and winked.

“Usually,” Tiny said, “when they sent the dogs out, they'd find Wilbur knee-deep in water in a culvert under some state highway somewhere.”

“That's where I got my arthuritis,” Howey said, and tossed another salute at May.

“Then they'd add a couple years on the end of the sentence,” Tiny said, “for the escape. Wound up, it took him forty-eight years to serve a ten-year sentence that he should of got out in three.”

“But I kept them on their toes,” Howey said, and cackled, and clicked his heels together.

“He's not used to the street yet,” Tiny said.

“Wimmin,” Howey said, and smacked his lips, and rubbed his hands together. “I got a lotta catchin up to do. Know what I mean, Toots?”

“Not with me, you don't,” May said. “I'll see you later, John, I'm going to work.”

“You can work with me anytime, Toots.”

May rolled her eyes for Dortmunder's benefit and left the living room. On her way by Howey, he gave her a friendly pat on the behind and cackled. She stopped, turned, and pointed a finger at him, saying, “If you do that again, you'll be very sorry.”

“Just here to have a good time, Toots,” Howey said, and clicked his heels.

“Brother,” May commented, and left the room.

Tiny said, “You're embarrassing me, Wilbur. If I didn't need your fingers, I'd put them in your nose. Sit down and be good.”

“You bet,” Howey said, and settled on the only uncomfortable wooden chair in the room. He sat there, very upright, feet dancing, fingers playing piano arpeggios on his knees, and grinned and winked in various directions.

Tiny said, “I told you he was unusual. You remember that?”

“I remember,” Dortmunder said. “I'll go get the books.”

In the bedroom, Dortmunder found May being furious and scratching herself. “They let him out too soon,” she said.

“No,” Dortmunder said, getting the two looseleaf books out from their hiding place in the closet. “Not too soon, too late.
Way
too late.” He went back to the living room, where Howey hadn't moved from the wooden chair but now Tiny was seated on most of the sofa. “Here's the stuff.”

“Say, let's have a look at that,” Howey said.

Dortmunder gave him the books, and watched dubiously as Howey began to leaf through one of them. “Well, uh,” Dortmunder said. “You know all this later stuff, huh?”

Howey gave him a scornful look. “Whadaya think we got in the pen? Thongs?”

BOOK: Good Behavior
3.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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