“All right,” Dave said, “that was a cheap shot. I apologize. But there isn’t anything going on.”
“There’s something going on,” Dillon said.
“Bunch of the boys getting together to watch dirty movies?” Dave said.
“You want the truth?” Dillon said. “I don’t know what it is. People’re sort of avoiding me. But something’s going on. Guys calling up asking for guys that aren’t there. I don’t know what it is, but they got something going.”
“Here’s twenty,” Dave said. “Who’s calling up?”
“Remember Eddie Fingers?” Dillon said.
“Vividly,” Dave said. “Who’s he looking for?”
“Jimmy Scalisi,” Dillon said.
“Is that so,” Dave said. “And does he find him?”
“I dunno,” Dillon said. “I’m just a messenger boy.”
“They give you numbers,” Dave said.
“Telephone numbers,” Dillon said. “I got a liquor license. I’m a law-abiding citizen.”
“You work for a guy that’s got a liquor license,” Dave said. “Ever see him? You’re a convicted felon.”
“You know how it is,” Dillon said. “I work for a guy with a liquor license. I forget sometimes.”
“Want to forget this?” Dave said.
“I’d just as soon,” Dillon said.
“Merry Christmas,” Dave said.
Samuel T. Partridge, having heard his wife and children descend the stairs, their bathrobes swishing on the Oriental runner, the little girls discussing nursery school, his son murmuring about breakfast, showered lazily and shaved. He dressed himself and went downstairs for eggs and coffee.
In the family room beyond the kitchen he saw his children standing close together next to the Boston rocker. His wife sat in the Boston rocker. All of their faces were blank. Three men sat on the couch. They wore blue nylon windbreakers over their upper bodies, and nylon stockings pulled down over their faces. Each of them held a revolver in his hand.
“Daddy, Daddy,” his son said.
“Mr. Partridge,” the man nearest him said. His features were frighteningly distorted by the nylon. “You are the first vice president of the First Agricultural and Commercial Bank and TrustCompany. We are going to the bank, you and I and my friend here. My other friend will stay here with your wife and children, to make sure nothing happens to them. Nothing will happen to them, and nothing will happen to you, if you do what I tell you. If you don’t, at least one of you will be shot. Understand?”
Sam Partridge swallowed both his rage and the sudden gout of phlegm that rose into his throat. “I understand,” he said.
“Get your coat,” the first man said.
Sam Partridge kissed his wife on the forehead. He kissed each of his children. He said: “Don’t be afraid, everything will be all right. Do what Mummy tells you. It’ll be all right.” Tears ran down his wife’s cheeks. “Now, now,” he said. “They don’t want to hurt us, it’s money they want.” She started in his arms.
“He’s right,” the first man said. “We don’t get any kicks at all from hurting people. It’s the money. Nobody does anything silly, nobody gets hurt. Let’s go to the bank, Mr. Partridge.”
In the driveway behind the house there was a nondescript blue Ford sedan. Two men sat in the front seat. Each of them wore a nylon stocking over his head, and a blue windbreaker. Sam Partridge got into the back seat. The men from the house sat on each side of him. The driver said: “You sleep late, Mr. Partridge. We been waiting a long time.”
“Sorry to inconvenience you,” Sam Partridge said.
The man who talked in the house took charge of the conversation. “I know how you feel,” he said. “I understand you’re a brave man. Don’t try to prove it. The man you’re talking to has killed at least two people that I know about. I don’t say what I’ve done. Just keep calm and be sensible. It isn’t your money. It’s all insured. We want the money. We don’t want to hurt anybody. We