“On the one hand he’s Roger,” she said, “and on the other hand he’s not.”

“There you go,” he said.

“I had this thought,” he said.

“Care to share it?”

“I could just do them both, you know? Instead of waiting, because we could sit here forever. She’s out, and God knows when she’s coming back, and nobody can do anything until she does. Unless our hitter tailed her, but he wouldn’t do that, would he?”

“Two things I told him,” she said. “It has to be in her loft and it has to look like an accident.”

“So it won’t happen until she comes back, but what do we need her for? I go across the street and up four flights and take out the guy with the mustache. Then I come down and hit a few doorways until I bump into the guy with the windbreaker, and I do him.”

“Kill ’em both and let God sort ’em out.”

“We might never know which was which,” he said, “but what difference would it make? The thing is, I’d be killing an innocent man.”

“How do you figure that?”

“The guy you hired. He comes to New York to do a job and gets killed by the people who hired him.”

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“He’s here to kill a girl, Keller. Don’t you think it’s a stretch to call him innocent?”

“You know what I mean. I’d be killing him for no reason.”

“Suppose someone hired you to kill him.”

“Then I’d have a reason.”

“But this way you don’t.”

“Not in the same way, no. But it’s a waste of time talking about it. I mean, who even knows for sure that it’s narrowed down to those two guys? Maybe somebody else is Roger, somebody we haven’t even noticed yet.”

“It’s possible.”

“So it’d be nuts, taking them both out. Anyway, it was just a thought.”

“Keller, I had the same thought.”

“Really?”

“And the same objections, plus an extra. We’d still have that dame to worry about. Your girlfriend, and I’m sorry, I was going to stop calling her that.”

“Well,” he said.

“I suppose we could burn that bridge when we came to it,” she said, “but I think what we’ve got to do is stick with the original plan. I just wish I’d realized there was going to be so much waiting involved. I’d have set it up differently.”

Twenty-seven

“Keller!”

He was dreaming, and yearned to sink back into the dream, but she said his name again and he shook it off and got out of bed. “Quick,” she said, and he hurried over to the window in time to see a woman leaning against the side of a cab while her companion counted out bills and paid the driver. The cab pulled away and the two of them stood in the middle of Crosby Street. The woman was Maggie, but who was the man?

He wore jeans and a beat-up leather jacket, and for a minute Keller thought it was the locksmith, but this guy was bigger. Of course, he thought, the little man could have put on a few pounds by now. Boston cream pie will do that, but would it make you taller, too? Maybe if you stood on it…

Maggie pulled the man into an embrace, and Keller felt as though he shouldn’t be watching this. “Her latest superficial relationship,” Dot said dryly. “We haven’t seen him before, or have we? Help me out here, Keller.”

“He doesn’t look familiar.”

“He’s certainly getting familiar with her, though, isn’t he? Has he got his hand where I think he does?”

“I think she’s bringing him in the building.”

“I knew that when the cab drove off, Keller. Although for a minute there I thought they were going to do it in the middle of the street. No, don’t say anything. Just listen for a minute. There!”

“What?”

“They’re on the elevator. Noisy contraption, isn’t it? Slow, too. Now it stopped, they must be at her place. Did you get a good look at his face, Keller?”

“Not really.”

“Neither did I, and by now she’s probably sitting on it. Use the binoculars. Do you see either of our friends out there? The mustache or the windbreaker?”

“No.”

“See a cigarette in the usual window?”

“No.”

“The guy she was with. Could it be one of our two guys?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think so. She left earlier, she walked to the corner and caught a cab, and haven’t we seen both of our guys since then?”

“We saw Mustache. Did we see Windbreaker? I can’t remember.”

“You think one of them figured out where she was going and hooked up with her there and got to go home with her?”

“The hard part would be figuring out where she was going. Nobody tagged her to the corner, and she got a cab right away. I don’t see how she could have been followed.”

“It’s probably just some guy she picked up.”

“Met him at a party and dragged him home. That’s how you wound up with her, isn’t it?”

“It was a gallery opening.”

“Trees,” she said. “It all comes back to me. Maybe he’s Mr. Goodbar, maybe she picked him up and he’s a homicidal drifter and he’s gonna kill her.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Tell me it couldn’t happen, Keller.”

“It could,” he said, “but don’t count on it.”

“No, but if it did… He just lit a cigarette.”

“How on earth… oh, across the street.”

“Who did you think I meant?”

“The homicidal drifter upstairs. But if that’s Mustache puffing his way toward emphysema, then it couldn’t have been him in the cab with her.”

“Good thinking, Keller.”

“But it could still be Windbreaker. I wish we could see him.”

“The only reason we can see Mustache is he smokes. And we’re only guessing that’s him. He could have rigged up a night-light on a timer.”

“Just to fool us.”

“Right. Keller, nobody’s about to arrange an accident for her as long as she’s got company up there. By the time Mustache finishes his cigarette he’s going to come to the same conclusion. He’ll go to sleep, and I bet Windbreaker’s been asleep for hours already. Why don’t you go back to bed?”

“I don’t think so. You go if you want to.”

“I’m not tired. I should be but I’m not. You hungry?”

“No.”

“Because there’s some of that pizza left.”

“I’m not hungry.”

He stayed where he was and thought about the dream he’d been having. He rarely remembered dreams, but he’d been in the middle of this one when she woke him up, and it was still vivid for him. He’d bought someone’s stamp collection, picked it up cheap, and he kept finding things in it, valuable and desirable stamps he hadn’t known it contained. He drew out prize after prize, remounting his finds in his own albums, and he’d already taken out stamps worth ten or twenty times what he’d paid for the whole collection, and still there were more wonders to be found, and…

“Keller!”

“That was really strange,” he said. “I was remembering my dream, and all of a sudden I was back in it again.”

“Well, are you awake now? Because that’s the elevator.”

“Going up or down?”

“That’s all they do, they go up and down. I can’t tell which, all I can tell is it’s running. But since it was last on the top floor-“

“You think he’s leaving. But it could be somebody who rang for it downstairs, and in a minute we’ll hear it heading back up again.”

“It’s almost four in the morning, Keller.”

“So?”

“So it’s late for somebody to be getting home.”

“Or to be going out,” he said. “These people are artists, Dot. They don’t punch a time clock. They-“

She silenced him with a hand on his arm, pointed out the window. A man in a leather jacket emerged from the building and walked to the curb. It was the same man they’d seen a couple of hours ago, paying the cabdriver, then pulled into a public embrace by Maggie. But had they seen him earlier? In a windbreaker, say?

“He’s our guy,” he said, suddenly certain.

“He’s Roger?”

“No, he’s the guy we hired. Look at him, he’s looking to hail a cab.”

“Then he’d better walk to the corner. The only traffic on this street is the garbage truck, and it’s through for the night.”

“That’s the point, he doesn’t know the neighborhood. He picked her up, he came home with her, and he killed her. She’s dead and he’s on his way home. How am I going to follow him? He gave up on the cab, he’s walking away. If I miss him, and if Roger picks him up…”

“Harlan!”

He stopped in midsentence, even as the man outside stopped in midstride.

“She speaks up nicely for a dead girl,” Dot said. “I guess his name is Harlan.”

“You forgot this,” Maggie called down. Then something sailed through the air and landed at the fellow’s feet. He bent down and retrieved it.

“Thanks!” Harlan called out, and put it in his hip pocket.

“His wallet,” Dot said. “He forgot his wallet.”

“Why would he take it out of his pants in the first place?”

“Maybe it fell out,” she said, “when he took off his pants in a hurry. Or maybe there was something he needed up there, something a man might carry in his wallet.”

“Oh.”

“The whole thing,” she said, “was just what it looked like. She picked him up, brought him home, took him upstairs, and then sent him on his way. Go back to sleep.”

“I’m awake now.”

“What were you dreaming about, anyway?”

“My stamp collection.”

“You dream about it?”

“Evidently.”

“Well, maybe you can drift off counting stamps jumping off envelopes. She’s probably back in bed now, and he’s on his way home. Why didn’t she let him stay the night?”

“How do I know?”

“I was just making conversation, Keller. We’re the only two people in the world awake at this hour, I figured we could talk to each other. I thought-“

“We’re not the only two people awake.”

“You’re probably right, but-“ She broke off the sentence, looked where he was pointing. “You’re definitely right,” she said, “unless our friend learned to smoke in his sleep. There he is, puffing away.”

“Still up at this hour, and watching the street.”

“I think we should do the same,” she said. “I think something’s about to happen.”

The first thing that happened was that the man in the fourth-floor window finished his cigarette, or at least took it out of view. Then, a few minutes later, he stepped out of his front door. He was wearing the hat and the muffler, and it was hard to say whether or not he had the mustache.