"It's been a while since you and I met, my dear. I've been wondering when I'd hear from you."
He was aware of hesitation. "But Rossie, sweetie, you aren't on the list any more." "What list?"
Once more, uncertainty. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that." "No, please tell me. This is between the two of us."
"Well, it's a very confidential list which Supranational puts out, about who can be entertained at their expense."
He had the sudden sense of a cord around him being tightened. "Who gets the list?"
"I don't know. I know us girls do. I'm not sure who else."
He stopped, thinking nervously, and reasoned: What was done, was done. He supposed he should be glad he was not on any such list now, though found himself wondering with a twinge of jealousy who was. In any case, he hoped that back copies were carefully destroyed. Aloud he asked, "Does that mean you can't come here to meet me any more?"
"Not exactly. But if 1 did, you'd have to pay yourself, Rossie."
"How much would that be?" As he asked, he wondered if it were really himself speaking.
"There'd be my air fare from New York," Avril said matter-of-factly. "Then the cost at the hotel. And-for me two hundred dollars."
Heyward remembered wondering once before how much Supranational had paid out on his behalf. Now he knew. Holding the telephone away, he wrestled within his mind: Commonsense against desire; conscience against the knowledge of what it was like to be alone with Avril. The money was also more than he could afford. But he wanted her. Very much indeed.
He moved the telephone back. "How soon could you be here?" "Tuesday of next week." "Not before?" "Afraid not, sweetie."
He knew he was being a fool; that between now and Tuesday he would be standing in line behind other men whose priorities, for whatever reason, were greater than his own. But he couldn't help himself, and told her, "Very well. Tuesday."
They arranged that she would go to the Columbia Hilton and phone him from there. Heyward began savoring the sweetness to come.
He reminded himself of one other thing he had to do destroy his Investments share certificates.
From the 36th floor he used the express elevator to descend to the main foyer, then walked through the tunnel to the adjoining downtown branch. It took minutes only to gain access to his personal safe deposit box and remove the four certificates, each for five hundred shares. He carried them back upstairs, where he would feed them into a shredding machine personally.
But back in his office he had second thoughts. Last time he checked, the shares were worth twenty thousand dollars. Was he being hasty? After all, if necessary he could destroy the certificates at a moment's notice.
Changing his mind, he locked them in a desk drawer with other private papers.
The big break came when Miles Eastin was least expecting it.
Only two days earlier, frustrated and depressed, convinced that his servitude at the Double-Seven Health Club would produce no results other than enmeshing him deeper in criminality, the renewed shadow of prison loomed terrifyingly over him. Miles had communicated his depression to Juanita and, though tempered briefly by their lovemaking, the basic mood remained.
On Saturday he had met Juanita. Late Monday evening at the Double-Seven, Nate Nathanson, the club manager, sent for Miles who had been helping out as usual by carrying drinks and sandwiches to the card and dice players on the third floor.
When Miles entered the manager's office, two others were there with Nathanson. One was the loan shark, Russian Ominsky. The second was a husky, thick-featured man whom Miles had seen at the club several times before and had heard referred to as Tony Bear Marina. The "Bear" seemed appropriate. Marino had a heavy, powerful body, loose movements and a suggestion of underlying savagery. That Tony Bear carried authority was evident, and he was deferred to by others. Each time he
arrived at the Double-Seven it was in a Cadillac limousine, accompanied by a driver and a companion, both clearly bodyguards.
Nathanson seemed nervous when he spoke. "Miles, I've been telling Mr. Marino and Mr. Ominsky how useful you've been here. They want you to do a service for…" Ominsky said curtly to the manager, "Wait outside." "Yes, sir." Nathanson left quickly.
"There's an old guy in a car outside," Ominsky said to Miles. "Get help from Mr. Marino's men. Carry him in, but keep him out of sight. Take him up to one of the rooms near yours and make sure he stays there. Don't leave him longer than you have to, and when you do go away, lock him in. I'm holding you responsible he doesn't leave here."
Miles asked uneasily, "Am I supposed to keep him here by force?" "You won't need force."
"The old man knows the score. He won't make trouble," Tony Bear said. For someone of his bulk, his voice was surprisingly falsetto. "Just remember he's important to us, so treat him okay. But don't let him have booze. He’ll ask for it. Don't give him any. Understand?"
"I think so," Miles said. "Do you mean he's unconscious now?"
"He's dead drunk," Ominsky answered. "He's been on a bender for a week. Your job is to take care of him and dry him out. While he's here for three, four days your other work can wait." He added, "Do it right, you get another credit."
"I'll do my best," Miles told him. "Does the old man have a name? I'll have to call him something.'!
The other two glanced at each other. Ominsky said, "Danny. That's all you need to know."
A few minutes later, outside the Double-Seven, Tony Bear Marino's driver-bodyguard spat in disgust on the sidewalk and complained, "For Chrissake The old fart stinks like a shithouse."
He, the second bodyguard, and Miles Eastin were looking at an inert figure on the rear seat of a Dodge sedan, parked at the curb. The car's nearside rear door was open.
"I'll try to clean him up," Miles said. His own face wrinkled at the overpowering stench of vomit. "But we'll need to get him inside first."
The second bodyguard urged, "Goddam! Let's get it over with."
Together they reached in and lifted. In the poorly lighted street, all that could be distinguished of their burden was a tangle of gray hair, pasty hollow cheeks stubbled with beard, closed eyes and an open, slack mouth revealing toothless gums. The clothes the unconscious man was wearing were stained and torn. "You reckon he's dead?" the second bodyguard asked as they lifted the figure from the car.
Precisely at that moment, probably induced by movement, a stream of vomit emerged from the open mouth and cascaded over Miles.
The driver-bodyguard, who had been untouched, chuckled. "He ain't dead. Not yet." Then, as Miles retched, "Better you 'n me, kid."
They carried the recumbent figure into the club, then, using a rear stairway, up to the fourth floor. Miles had brought a room key and unlocked a door. It was to a cubicule like his own in which the sole furnishings were a single bed, a chest of drawers, two chairs, a washbasin and some shelving. Paneling around the cubicle stopped a foot short of the ceiling, leaving the top open. Miles glanced inside, then told the other two, "Hold it." While they waited he ran downstairs and got a rubber sheet from the gymnasium. Returning, he spread it on the bed. They dumped the old man on it.
"He's all yours, Milesy," the driver-bodyguard said. "Let's get outta here before I puke."
Stifling his distaste, Miles undressed the old man, then, while he was still on the rubber sheet, still comatose, washed and sponged him. When that was done, and with some lifting and shoving, Miles removed the rubber sheet and got the now cleaner, less evil-smelling figure into bed. During the process the old man moaned, and once his stomach heaved, though this time producing only a trickle of spittle which Miles wiped away. When Miles had covered him with a sheet and blanket the old man seemed to rest more easily.
Earlier, as he removed the clothing, Miles had allowed it to fall to the cubicle floor. Now he gathered it up and began putting it in two plastic bags for cleaning and laundering tomorrow. While doing so, he emptied all the pockets. One coat pocket yielded a set of false teeth. Others held miscellaneous items a comb, a pair of thick-lensed glasses, a gold pen and pencil set, several keys on a ring and in an inside pocket three Keycharge credit cards and a billfold tightly packed with money.
Miles took the false teeth, rinsed them, and placed them beside the bed in a glass of water. The spectacles he also put close by. Then he examined the bank credit cards and billfold.