“Chances of surviving, you mean.”

“Right. On the other hand, if you want to look on the bright side, the bait’s chances of getting killed are not at all bad.”

“See,” he said, “that’s the part I don’t like. Throwing darts at a phone book.”

“Keller, you don’t throw darts at a phone book. You throw darts at a map.”

“How would that work?”

“It wouldn’t, unless you were looking for a place to go. You throw a dart and it lands on Wichita Falls, Texas, and you go there. Eat at a nice little Mexican restaurant, buy some stamps for your collection. Maybe get some real estate lady to show you houses.”

“Dot…”

“But if what you’re looking for is a person, you don’t use darts. You take a phone book and flip it open at random and jab with your finger.”

“That’s what I meant.”

“You said darts.”

“I know, but-“

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“Never mind, Keller. I knew what you meant. I’m stalling, see, because this is the part I don’t like.”

“That’s my point,” he said. “Playing God, choosing somebody at random…”

“Not at random.”

He looked at her. “ ‘Flip it open at random,’ you just said. What do you mean, Dot? It’s all karma? Written in the stars? Whatever seemingly random choices we make, they’re all in tune with the purposeful design of the Universe?”

“I suppose that makes as much sense as anything else,” she said, “which isn’t saying much for it. Keller, I already picked somebody.”

He considered this. After a moment he said, “Not at random.”

“Not at random, no. No darts, no phone books.”

“Some guy you know?”

“No and no.”

“Huh?”

“Nobody I know,” she said, “and not a guy.”

“A woman?”

“What are you, a sexist?”

“No, but-“

“Chivalry is dead, Keller. A woman has as much right to get killed as anybody else. You’ve had jobs where the mark was a woman. You went and did what you were supposed to do.”

“Well, sure.”

“It’s an equal-opportunity world,” she said. “I’ve even heard of women hit men, except I suppose the term would be hit women, but I don’t like the way that sounds. Female hit persons?”

“You hear stories,” he said, “but I don’t know if there really are any. Outside of the movies.”

“Then it’s a waste of time figuring out what to call them.”

He said, “No and no, you said. Not a guy and what? Not someone you know?”

“Right.”

“If it’s not someone you know,” he said, “then how come it’s not random?”

“Give it a minute, Keller. It’ll come to you.”

“It’s someone I know.”

“What did I tell you? It came to you.”

“Some woman I know…”

She sighed, reached for the pitcher of iced tea, filled both their glasses. “Keller,” she said, “maybe it’s this business with Roger, the stress of it, or maybe you’ve just been doing this for a long time. But lately you’ve been running risks and leaving loose ends.”

“I have?”

“I didn’t want to say anything,” she said, “because your life is your life.”

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Be specific, will you? What risks? What loose ends?”

She extended a forefinger and touched the tip of his thumb.

“My thumb’s a loose end? What am I supposed to do, cut it off?”

“I don’t see that your thumb’s the problem,” she said. “You lived with it all your life, and it was fine and so were you, and then some dame tells you it’s a murderer’s thumb and you go rushing off to another dame and she tells you you’re a Gemini with your temperature rising and your moon over Miami.”

“Cancer rising,” he said, “and my moon is in Taurus. The moon is exalted in Taurus.”

“And they probably don’t have to worry about hurricanes there, either. Keller, she told you all that crap, and you told her what you do for a living.”

“I didn’t exactly tell her.”

“She knew just by looking at your thumb.”

“And my chart. And I guess she more or less intuited it.” He sat up straight. “She’s the one you picked? Louise?”

“Keller-“

“Because they’re going to have a hard time finding her. She moved, and she must have left the area altogether, because her phone’s been disconnected. I suppose it’s possible she left a forwarding address, and there are other ways to track a person, but you wanted to bait the trap here in New York, didn’t you? If so, you can forget about Louise Carpenter.”

She didn’t say anything. He looked across the table at her and it dawned on him.

“No forwarding address,” he said.

“No.”

“She’s dead, isn’t she?”

“Either she’s one with the Universe,” Dot said, “or she’s been reincarnated as a butterfly. That’s how Louise herself would look at it, and who are we to argue?”

“But,” he stammered. “What… when? How?”

“Keller,” she said, “you sound like a training manual for newspaper reporters. Do you really want to know? Wouldn’t you be happier just figuring it was in the stars and letting it go at that?”

“I want to know.”

“You were on jury duty,” she said.

“And you got someone to-“

“No. Suppose you just let me tell it.”

“All right.”

She drank some iced tea. “I was thinking about this for a while,” she said. “Here’s a woman who knows something she’s not supposed to know, and how long before she says something to the wrong person? No, don’t interrupt. You were going to say it’s unethical for her to talk about her clients, weren’t you? That occurred to me, but what people are supposed to do and what they do aren’t always the same thing, or we’d both be in some other business.

“So what I did,” she went on, “is I called her up and made an appointment with her.”

“While I was on jury duty.”

“No, long before that. I don’t know where you were. At home in New York, probably, working on your stamp collection. I called her up and made an appointment, gave a phony name and date of birth, and took a train in and a cab to where she lived. Nice, if you like drapes and beaded curtains and overstuffed furniture. She sat me down with a cup of tea and we went over my chart.”

“But it wasn’t your chart.”

“Because I made up the date of birth. You know, I realized that, but by then I was stuck. I had to sit there pretending to be impressed by how accurate she was, and it wasn’t accurate, but then why should it be? It may have been right on the mark for somebody who happened to be born on the twenty-third of September. All in all, I was probably better off with a phony birthday, because it kept me from getting sidetracked by the chart, because I knew it was a lot of hooey. So I could focus on drawing her out.”

“About what?”

“About you. I talked about how I went to a palmist once, and she said she knew a little about palmistry and looked at my hand, and I told her about a girlfriend of mine in high school who had an unusual thumb, and before I knew it I was hearing all about a client of hers who had a murderer’s thumb.”

“She talked about my thumb?”

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” she said, “but in this instance the client with the murderer’s thumb did in fact have a very real dark side. I didn’t dig too deeply, but I had the feeling I could have walked out of there with your name and address if I’d really wanted to.”

“That’s a surprise,” he said. “I thought she’d be discreet.”

“She probably thought she was being discreet. She mentioned some things about your chart, but don’t ask me what they were. Your Saturn squares Uranus, ooga booga dooga. You know how they talk. Keller, the woman was a loose end. She had a client who killed people for a living, and she knew it, and it didn’t take a lot to get her talking about it.”

“You should have said something.”

“To you?”

“Of course to me. I would have…”

“What? Taken care of it?”

“Sure.”

“You liked the woman, Keller. You talked about how maternal she was.”

“I don’t remember saying that.”

“Well, I remember. Maybe you could have gone ahead and done it anyway, but it would have been tough for you, and it would have been a bad idea to begin with. You were a client of hers, there’s a connection, so if anything’s going to happen to her it should happen when you’re out of town.”

“So you’d have to bring somebody in,” he said, thinking out loud. “And while you’re at it, why not bring in Roger, too? Tie off a loose end and bait a trap for Roger, both at the same time. It makes sense.” He looked up, frowning. “But it’s too late for that, because she’s already dead.”

“I wasn’t thinking about baiting traps at the time. And I wanted to leave you completely out of it, and I didn’t want to wait too long, because loose lips sink ships, and who knows how long it would be before the fat lady sang to the wrong person?”

“But you waited a while after all.”

“That wasn’t my idea,” she said. “Remember that string of jobs you had where you were back the next day? They called it off or the guy killed himself or somebody else closed the sale for you? You kept coming back before I could set things up.”

“You wanted me out of town when she got taken out.”

“Of course.”

“So I’d have an alibi. Of course, if anybody wanted to know what exactly I was doing in Albuquerque or St. Louis or wherever…”

“I know, it’s not much of an alibi. ‘Your Honor, I couldn’t have killed her because I was in Sausalito killing him.’ I guess I had other reasons for wanting you out of town. I guess I didn’t want you to know about it because I knew you wouldn’t like it.”

“You were right.”

“You still don’t like it, do you?”

He thought about it. “You had to do it,” he said. “I would have tried to talk you out of it, or find another way, but it’s over now, and I have to admit you were right. Who’d you use?”

“What’s the difference?”

“No difference, I guess. When the Baltimore job came in, you figured I’d be out of town, so you booked the guy to do Louise. And then you found out I had jury duty, but that’s an even better alibi than being out of town, so you let it go according to schedule. Whoever he was, he did good work. ‘Death Was in the Stars’-it’s a story the papers would have played up, an astrologer getting murdered. But I didn’t see anything. You use this guy before?”