WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?! …….. PIET MONDRIAN, chapter 14
The telephone's ringing cut through the darkness ... no, no, no, that was another dream from a long time ago. How long ago was it? I thought about it. Yesterday? Could it have been only yesterday?
This time, the ringing was more like a dentist chiseling on a tooth. I had that happen once. I had an impacted wisdom tooth and I had been in the chair for one hour when the oral surgeon said, "This is taking longer than I expected. I'd like to continue this next week---" I replied, before he came to a full stop, "If I get out of this chair now, I never getting back into it." The agony would go on for another 55 minutes. In total desperation, he had resorted, towards the end, to using an hammer and a chisel to finish the job. Kid-you-not, just like in the movies. I never paid the bill. He never came after me for it nor handed it over to a collection agency. It had been a bad experience for the two of us.
Maybe all this went gone through my mind because when I struggled to get out of bed, everything that I moved sent a distress signal. Every and all joints reported trauma. Severe trauma. Each screamed at their own individual degree and level. It was a cacophony of discordant inputs into my central nervous system. I was tempted to check out my balls to see if they were still attached, but thought better of it. Didn't want to know.
I picked up the still jangling instrument and nearly screamed, "Cord!"
"Good morning, boss." Sassy's voice usually had a soothing effect on me when I was hurting, but, admittedly, that was when I heard it through the fog of a hangover. It did little to ease my pain on this particular morning.
"What the hell are you call me for at the break of dawn .... and on a ... what day is it?"
"Saturday, all day ... And, Wes, it's noon. That's certainly not the break of dawn, even in America."
"Yes, it is. It is now six in the morning on the east coast...But what' d'ya want."
"Boss, you may remember that I am putting up a guest for you---"
"Oh, yeah. That! Her! Mendocino....I mean, Mendocina."
"That's the lady---"
"That's no lady, that's my wife .... ooops, sorry that was an ol' Henny Youngman joke---"
"Forget it! Before your time ... And, listen, that is no lady. And I got the balls or---should I say---no balls to prove it. She's a maiming machine---"
"Be that as it may---and, please, don't be sooo risqué---anyway, she's in a agitated state. She forgot to pack her rosary and she is getting frantic about it. Do you know how emotional the Irish get over Jesus's mother? Never understood it myself. She says she always starts the day by saying the rosary and ticking off the beads---"
"Tell her to use her fingers----"
"First thing I said to her, of course. She says it's her lucky rosary. It's been kissed by the wee people! If she wasn't Irish, I'd say she's loony. But that's the Irish---loony. Does that explain it, Wes?"
My head was still somewhere else and my mind wasn't anywhere near the some-where-else, "What part?" I was lost.
"What part?" Sassy asked sounding confused. She was confused, hey, let me tell you about my----
"Yeah, the rosary part, I guess."
"She's going to take a taxi and go back to her flat for---"
"NO! Don't let her leave ... Stall her. I'll be there in 15 ... no, make it, 20 minutes. No more. Sit on her, Sassy."
"How big a raise are we talking about boss?"
"You made the offer first. I am just looking for a little clarification is all."
She had me there. I had been the one to make the offer. Clarification she wanted. I couldn't even clarify if I was living or dead! "Let's talk about it later, okay?"
"Well, okay. I'll make tea. A good cup of English Breakfast tea may calm her and slow her down some. See you soon, boss."
I toddled back to the bed. Sat on it, thought about life which reminded me I was hurting so badly I hadn't heard my nicotine alert alarm and reached for the pouch. Damn, I said aloud, 20 minutes. It would have to wait. A quick shower would help more ... and nature was calling. Actually, it was screaming. I had to piss!
Shit, shower, shave! I was in and out within five minutes, almost. My joints seemed a bit more loose for the experience; wasn't sure if it was the hot water part or the cold. I began to put on my clothes, that is, I slowly began to put on my clothes. Once dressed, I finally rolled my cigarette, forgot about coffee and headed for the door lighting the shaggie as limped to the exit.
The sun greeted me like a theater spotlight as if I walking unto a stage for my big dance number. I unlocked the bike, pointed it in the right direction and pedaled off down the Jan Pieter Heijestraat and made my way into Vondel Park. Sassy and David lived on the other side of the park on the Johannes Verhulsstraat. It was the old south. David worked for a London city bank and they paid the rent's heavy tariff. I now realized it wasn't far from Willem van den Valk’s home. That visit seemed like a long time ago. And what had I learned more about the Mondrian? Not a damn thing!
I cut through the park's rose garden so as to enjoy the aromas. There must be 50 independent circular and hedge enclosed gardens each with a different variety. Perhaps I should pluck one or two and take them to the waiting ladies. Nah, I wasn't Casanova besides one was married and the other a hooker and I was already running late.
I rang Sassy's bell then stepped back from the door and looked up to the very small balcony that extended from the front of the building. It held one chair and Sassy, on sunny days, like this one, would sit with her legs propped against the railing and soaking up the rays. Presently, I saw her look down, then throw a juggler's ball from her lofty perch. Attached to it was the key to the front door. There was no way to buzz open the door. The juggler's ball was not like an ordinary ball, it didn't have any bounce in it. When it hit the ground it just died in the space. I picked it up, opened the door and climbed the stairs to the second floor or the third floor depending on your country of origin.
The door, to her apartment, was standing ajar. I pushed it far enough to allow my entry. Both Sassy and Mendocina were sitting on a sofa with tea cups in hand. Sassy looked at me and that's when her jaw dropped to the floor. "What happened to you?"
"Ask her," and I pointed to the now fragile looking Irish waif ... or was it wench ... both, actually, and said, "Ask her?"
Sassy looked at Mendocina and she replied to the questioning look in her eyes with, "Well, they don't make private dicks the way they use to ..." She paused and looking now at me asked, "Which reminds me, how are your privates?"
"They feel like a piece of shit ... No, make that: they feel like two turds that have been stepped on with a stiletto high-heel shoe and ground to pulp---"
Sassy said disbelievingly, "She did this to you?"
"She has an unusual way of greeting her visitors ... But, hey, that was yesterday. Let's move on. What's this about a rosary?"
"You were in such a hurry yesterday, that I forgot it."
"Yeah, but, look, don't you see a dichotomy between your being a hoo...ah, sorry, your professional life and saying the rosary?"
"What's a 'dick-tommy?' Are you making fun of my Tom's dick and Harry's thingamabob?"
"No, I'm not! Forget it. Can't it wait? The rosary, I mean."
"No, it can't! It's my lucky charm and my sorta telephone connection to the Virgin ... talking to her get's me through the day."
"Okay, okay, but I'll go get it."
"Oh, that is very kind of you, my Lord."
"Yeah, sure. I guess. Gimme your keys." I put them into my pocket and said, "Sorry, I must be going---"
Sassy waved her hand at me and said, "You can wait a bit, I've made coffee for you."
She was right. I could wait a bit. I had forgotten to take my magical morning mocha potion; and saint's preserve us. Whatever. the wait served another purpose. I had Mendocina call the john, Bas, again. And, then, again: No answer. Sassy should tell him about answering machines; and she probably would if we ever made contact with him.
I was finding Mendocina to be pert, spontaneous, humorous and entertaining in the sense that she got my attention and was able to hold it. She might have stumbled over 'dick-tommy,' but she was no dummy. Without make-up, she was downright cute. The only thing that marred the illusion was her finger nails, well, actually, two finger nails, each of which were bitten to the quick. One finger on each hand. How strange. I made a mental note to ask her about it at some point.
As I was leaving, I told her I had to make a trip, to the edge of the city, before going to her place. I had remembered, somehow, in my rush to leave my flat, to take along the Mondrian photo. My intention had been to go to a self-copy shop and make twenty or so reproductions. But, after showing it to Sassy, she told me of a place, just past the RAI, on the Arent Janszoon Ernststraat, that had one of the new color copy machines. It was a trek, but why not? It’s not that my days were filled. It was the nights. I said I might be a couple hours. Mendocina frowned but said nothing.
It was an hour later when I locked my bike on the Brandewijnsteeg. When I approached the door and just as I was about to insert the key into the lock, something caught my attention. I could see marks along the edge of the door frame. I turned the door's knob and was able to push open the door. I was immediately on guard. I folded the envelope with the Mondrian photo and copies and stuck it into the inside pocket of my jacket. Then, slowly, I crept up the stairs trying to position each foot to the side of the stair which would lower the odds of making creaking sounds. These old houses had more creaks than caterpillar's had feet. It was slow going.
At her floor, I paused at the closed door and put my ear up to it. Couldn't hear anything. Again, I went to the knob and turned it slowly and, when I could turn it no more, I pushed it hard. It swung open and I saw a blur hurtling towards me. My reflexes went into active mode. I bent over just as the object---human or otherwise---was nearly on me. He was thrown off balance when he finally hit me and with his momentum---which was flinging his body over my back---I lifted up and sorta tossed him towards the railing in the hallway. He cleared it and hit the wall on the other side of the stairway with a loud bang and slid down the wall to the stairs themselves and continued his downward journey.
I didn't take time to watch the show, but began to look for the other one. Mendocina had said there had been two tough guys. But all was quiet. I checked out the bedroom and small kitchen and bathroom. Apparently he had been alone. I guessed that they felt that only one tough guy would be enough for one little Irish hooker. If only they knew. But it had made my job easier. I went back to the hallway and down the stairs to the next landing. He was still out cold. No one else was in sight; either they had been frightened by the noise or no one was home on a Saturday afternoon. I went back to Mendocina's room, found a pan in the kitchen, filled it with water and went back to my captive audience. I sat on a stair and threw the water into his face. It got his attention. One eye came open. It got sight of me and closed again. I was just thinking about getting more water, when the eye came open again and seeing that I was still there the blob against the wall said, "Lul!" which I translated to mean "prick," "dick" or "shithead." Yeah, well, from his side of the fence I guess I would have said the same thing. In English, there are a variety of terms for a moment like this. The Dutch language was sometimes limited in crass idioms. So I guessed that "Lul" would suffice.
I asked him what he was doing in Mendocina's apartment. For a few beats his faced showed confusion, "Nederlands?" he finally got out.
"Hey, ass hole, I'm a dumb American. I don't speak Dutch!"
"Prick!" Was his reply. I kicked him in the balls. See how it makes someone else feel. He was lucky, though, I didn't put a real effort into the kick. I wanted his attention and not for him to go all jelly on me. Hard to talk to jelly; even harder to get an answer. This time he said nothing, just groaned. I knew the sound.
Then I said, "I'll ask you, again; and nicely, what were you doing in Mendocina's flat."
"Yeah, that's what I said, Mendocina ... maybe you call her Mendocino---"
"I don't ... call her ... nothin.' She said ... she would get ... some information ... I need."
"Was that before or after you hit her?"
"What ... the fuck ... is it ... to you ...?"
I cocked my leg and said, '"Let's first answer my questions, tough guy."
He looked at my foot and said, "I didn't...hit her...Ko did."
"Ko? you? hey, makes no difference to me. You're the one that's here, so I'll take it out on you. Dig, ass hole?"
"Forget the 'ya, ya's' and let's cut to the chase. What information?"
"She has ... a john ... with some ... diamonds ..." And he grimaced. Hey, buddy, I know how it feels.
"Well, ass hole, you don't look smart enough to me to tell a diamond from a piece of glass. Who are you working for?"
He went into a silent mode and said nothing.
"Obviously, I'm not getting your attention. Or you’r just a poor student. They say the best way to learn and remember something is to do it by rote---"
"Yeah, rote ...that's mechanical repetition..."
"What the ... fuck .. you talkin' about?"
I kicked him in the balls again. But not too hard to really hurt him, just to get his wandering attention in focus. "That's rote. I do it over and over again until you know what we are talking about here." However, I wasn't sure how much of the lesson explanation had gotten through since he was now curled up in a ball and the groans were incessant. I told him to knock it off. That didn't seem to do any good. I told him if he didn't stop his goddamn whining I would kick him in his balls again. That helped. The groans subsided into short gasps. Hey, maybe I was finally getting ass hole's attention.
"Let's try twenty questions again. Who you workin' for?"
"Com'mon ... man ... you'll ... get ... me ... fired!"
"Yeah, well it's up to you. Fired or castrated. You know that word smart guy? They do it to pigs. So that makes you eligible. What's it goin' to be, boy...?"
"De Vet? What the hell kinda name is that?"
"He...it means...the fat...one...he owns...the...'Smokin'...coffee shops."
Does he indeed. This was getting interesting. I asked him where I could find De Vet? The answer came out without any pause. I told him not to go anywhere and went up the stairs to Mendocina's flat, closed the door and locked it. I went back to the inert body and told him, "The Irish hooker is with me so there's no reason for you to wait around or, for that matter, to come back." I stepped over him and said, "You can let yourself out."
The Smokin' coffee shop was one of the first to have opened back in, what was it, '75, '76? that sold marijuana and hashish in a quasi-legal way which was still the situation. Smokin' now had five Amsterdam locations. I didn't know this character De Vet, but I had the thought that it was now time to introduce myself. We seemed to have something of a common interest. My joints seemed to have more flexibility, it hadn't been much of a workout, but it had worked out fine. Never had asked the goon's name, pity, I could have sent him a "thank you" note.
I wasn't far from where De Vet had his office and was outside the door in less than five minutes. I rang the bell and waited. And waited some more. I rang again and put a little more energy into this time. Then waited. I was just about to ring a third time when I heard a tinny sounding voice saying something in Dutch that I took to be, "Who's there." How should I answer that? My name would mean nothing, so I tried that first, "Wes Cord." I waited. Then waited some more. Finally, "What do you want?" And the tiny voiced had asked now in English. "I want to talk to De Vet!" There was a pause, then, "No one calls Meneer Pol that."
"Sweetheart, I just did!"
There was another pause before I heard "Just follow the hallway to the stairs, at the back, and walk up two flights. Ring the bell, when you reach the door, at the top." There was a low level click and the door was ajar. Okay, I was getting somewhere. I did as I was told and when I rang the bell, at the top, another door clicked open. I walked into a small cubicle of a room. There were no windows and only cheap furniture. I took a plastic chair and noticed that just like a doctor's office there were magazines available: "High Times," "Chopper World," and a very old and well thumbed edition of "Hustler." Larry Flynn would be pleased at his international reach. I picked up "High Times" and looked at the index page. It had a small photo off the "Plant of the Month." I turned to the page indicated. Someone had torn it out. Damn. The "Hustler" fold-out-of-the-month was probably gone as well. No matter, it was probably a photo of some hermaphrodite in black lace bloomers. That mental image was gross enough for me not to take the trouble to look.
Shortly, a small door, opposite the entrance, opened and an attractive lady in her 40s, I guessed, and nicely dressed, appeared and said, "Meneer Cord, follow me ... And remember his name is Meneer Pol."
I assured her I would try to keep that in my mind. We walked down the hallway and came to a closed door. She rapped on it twice, discreetly. I heard what sounded like a belch and she depressed the handle, on the door, and pushed it open and stepped aside so I could enter. The man sitting at the desk came about his nickname honestly. There was no doubt about that. He was fat. He pointed to a chair. I walked over to it and sat. He said, very businesslike, "You wanted to see me?"
"Yeah, you could say that. I was recommended to you by one of your associates, actually, peon is the better term."
"I don't know what you’r talking about."
"Yeah, well, there's that! Look, I went to this address on the Brandewijnsteeg. It was ... for religious reasons. I was on a pilgrimage, you might say. I ran into, rather he, the peon, sorta ran into me. He was one of the ass holes that put muscle on a friend of mine---"
"Do you speak English, or only this gangster crap?"
"Yeah, sorta. But, you know, I'm a dumb American and our English isn't the King's English or should I say the Queen's...but, hey, whatever...A friend of mine---"
"Your friend got a name?"
"I was getting to that ... Mendocina..."
"Mendocina? What kind of name is that? I seem to remember a song called 'Mendocino' ... late 60s, by...aaah---"
"Sir Douglas Quintet!"
"That's the group! Great organ!"
"I keep hearing that ... Anyway, her name is Mendocina. She's a working girl---"
"Wait a minute...an Irish bitch? Red hair?" His pudgy face got almost sentimental and he closed with, "Kinda cute for a whore ... Now I remember, flat on the Brandewijnsteeg, Ya! But I thought it was Mendocino, like the song."
"Yeah, she is kinda cute...It was Mendocino yesterday, this is today...Anyway, your peons roughed her up---"
"Nah, they were only trying to get her attention. Shit happens."
He was so flippant about the whole affair that it got my dandruff up. I quickly came to a boiling point and forcefully said, "Shit happens, sure! and when it hits the fan it goes all over the pace. It has hit the fan, buddy boy, and I want ... no, I'll telling you to keep your pudgy fingers out of my pudding."
"This is my business, Mr American." And he scowled back at me.
"Hey, Mr Big, my business may have to do with your business and like your business may spill over into my lap..." I was out of my seat and poking my finger at his chest. "So what it all comes down to is, it's not your business anymore. Dig? We can do this easy ... or we can do it hard---"
He threw up his hands---palms turned towards me---and said, "Sit the fuck down or I'll call for some of my, what do you call them, ass holes? and we'll see whose business is what. Dig?" It sounded like good advice.
I withdrew the finger and sat back down in the chair and uttered my closing line, "Well, like I said, she's a friend."
He surprised me with being conciliatory, "Yeah, okay, my apologizes. Now how the fuck did you tie me to this and ... find me?"
"Again, you were the one that went looking for her. As to 'finding you,' your peon volunteered the information---"
"Yeah, like after I got his attention. You know? Like you were trying to get Mendocina's attention."
"Which one of my ... peons---as you refer to him---was it?"
"The one that limps!"
"I don't hire no fuckin' cripples. None of my ass ... boys limp!"
"This one does ... now!"
We continued to dance-the-dance. It wasn't cheek-to-cheek, more like the "Hustle." Who was that with the hit, Clyde McCoy? Around '75? But not the hustle-hustle like in moving fast but like in trying to screw your neighbor out of something. He had heard about the diamonds. He wanted to see more. He was ready to deal. I explained that that was pretty much my position as well. I could see how we could get in each other's way. He said, he saw that, too. He suggested, again, I forget the whole thing. I suggested that's what he should do! But during the foiling, I was giving some thought to the overall situation. I mean, this man obviously had a cash flow. Liquidity. He didn't have to play around with offering percentages. There was a definite value in his participation. And, as it stood, he needed me, too. He didn't know who had the diamonds nor did he know where the Irish hooker was stashed. I had him over a barrel, maybe. I decided it wouldn't hurt to foist and offer into the conversation. I told him I had the ace-in-the-hole. I could get to the diamonds. Finally, I said, "Look, we don't seem to be making much progress here. I and my associates might be willing to entertain a ... limited partnership, so to speak, you know? A joint venture. And no one gets hurt."
Well, it got his attention. He sat there with his rheumy and skeptical eyes staring at me like he was trying to see the percentages. Finally, he asked, "How many associates you got?"
That gave me pause. How many did I have? This little adventure was attracting "associates" like fly paper attracts flies. Well, there was the money part. If De Vet was in, I didn't need the Hog and his group, but I couldn't very well leave out Vic. He knew diamonds. That was important. Then there was Mendocina. It was her contact ... and I was growing fond of her in a fatherly way. Thinking of her reminded me that I had forgotten the damn rosary. I'd have to go back. Maybe the peon was still there. If I made the deal with De Vet we could commiserate like ol’ comrades working for the same ideals ... not to mention the same money man.
I gave De Vet the short list. And after dickering over how, what and which percentages would go where and to whom---for whatever reasons---we reached an amiable agreement. We shook hands. Exchanged telephone numbers and I said I would be in touch. Just before leaving, I said, "One last thing." I pulled out the envelope and took out the Mondrian photo and showed it to him, "I'm looking for this painting. It's by Piet Mondrian." His answer was short, "I don't know no Mondrian's and I don't see no pretty girls in that picture. Can't help you." I was outta there.
I went back to Mendocina's place and got the rosary. My "comrade" had checked out of the stairway. Probably didn't like the room service.
I went directly to Sassy’s house. Gave Mendocina the rosary and got an invite to dinner, "We're having Irish stew. Sassy, is interested to know if it is any different than the English style. I told her, sure is. In Ireland we cook it with Guinness and love. The English don't know nothin' about cooking with love."
A couple of times, Mendocina emerged from the kitchen and tried calling the john again. Still no one answered. David, I was told by Sassy, was having dinner at Dikker & Thijs, a swank Amsterdam restaurant at the corner of the Leidsestraat and Prinsengracht, and wouldn't be joining us. The stew was good! Sassy acknowledged that it indeed was better than the English variety. I explained my meeting with De Vet and that while I thought it was both safe for Mendocina to return to her flat and her working window, it might be more wise to wait another day. She said, "Okay by me. It's hard work laying on your back. Sure, the money is good---even after you pay the overhead---but not good enough that it makes you feel good about yourself. Besides, Sassy is sorta making me forget that I hate the English. Now ain't that something. Maybe we can package it and sell it to the folks in Northern Ireland." A few more tries were made to reach the diamond man, but to no avail. I told them I had to make the rounds and would be in contact the next day. "And don't go calling me so early, again, Sassy," was my parting reminder.
I got back to my flat and took a quick shower to wash away the adrenalin laced sweat, which had a pungent caustic odor, that I had come by at Mendocina's flat. It was not to my liking. I collected ten copies of the Mondrian photos and headed out the door. I thought I would check out the Quelle before venturing into the center. I assumed Augie would be there especially since it was a Saturday night and wanted him to have one of the prints to show to his critic friend.
Augie had his corner table, but wasn't alone. I went over and he introduced me to the man sitting with him. Again, the man was a head taller than me with sagging shoulders that only made his sport jacket look more out of shape than it already was. His pants looked like they had been slept in for a solid month. He shirt was spotted with grease marks. His face was dominated by large and unnaturally red lips, for a man that is. But, he had sharp eyes. He looked at you like he was painting your picture in his mind. Augie said he was an artist and told me his name was Ben.
Ben, immediately corrected Augie by saying that he wasn't an artist but a painter. I said, "So what's the difference?"
"An artist creates! I paint pretty pictures. And I'm a good painter! But you'll never see my work in a museum." His facial expression indicated he was comfortable with the fact.
Augie said he had caught a Cub's game on the American Forces Radio network which was now part of the Amsterdam cable line up. Until a year or so ago, it was necessary to fine tune one's radio to the Frankfurt West Germany broadcasting station. You could only pick up the signal after the sun had gone down; and the weather conditions had a big influence on the clarity of the sounds. Augie went on to say that this kid, a rookie, Ryne Sandberg appeared to be multi-talented, "He's scored over 50 runs, stole about 15 bases and he swings a decent bat for a third basement and the All Star break is still a couple days away ... But speaking of the All Star game, the Cubbies only have one representative, Leon Durham. Even Fergie Jenkins didn't make the cut this year." That reminded me of the last time I had seen Jenkins pitch. It was the opening game of the 1969 season. What a season that was ... well, it was until come September.
A thought popped into my mind and I turned to Ben and said, "I want to show you a photo of a painting. I reached into my inside jacket pocket and brought out the envelope. I took one copy out and handed it to him. He immediately exclaimed, "This looks like a Mondrian from his naturalistic period." I told him that was what I had been told. Then I said, "But is it an original Mondrian or someone else's idea of a Mondrian?"
He took his time and studied the photo closely turning it this way and that trying to pick up different angles of light. Presently, he said, "This is a good photograph, professional shot. But it is difficult to make a determination from a photo. A painting loses ... how to say, its glamour? But, it's a good painting! It's not a masterpiece, not by far. But it is very well painted. Good composition. I have seen about ten or more Mondrian's from this period, but they have all been in museums. They were masterpieces."
"Maybe you could explain to me what is a masterpiece?"
"Explaining is easy. Understanding is more difficult! In a good painted composition, nothing stands out. In a masterpiece, everything stands out ... I like the frame, too. Amsterdam School and it must be original. See where the sections come together, there is a gap? That's because the oak wood has been going through its drying process." His eyes remained riveted on the photo.
"But, masterpiece of no masterpiece, could Mondrian have painted it."
"Is it an original Mondrian? Well, not every painting a master paints---and Mondrian was a master---is a masterpiece. So, yes, it could be an original."
I handed the photo to Augie and told him to pass it on to the art critic. With that out of the way, I thanked Ben for his valuable input and told him it had been educational, but I had to move on. I bid them goodbye.
I got outside, unlocked my bike but, when I started to wheel it away, I felt something dragging behind me. I looked at the back wheel of the bike and saw that someone had locked their bike to mine. Shit! Why do these things happen to me? I'd have to flag down a gestapo-on-wheels, a taxi. Damn! But before doing so, I took out my pocket note book and tore a page of paper from it. I wrote the ass hole a note and then locked my bike to his. See how they like it, I thought.
I headed for the taxi stand at the Jan Pieter Heijestraat and Kinkerstraat. But just as I approached the corner, I saw a tram waiting for the light. Screw the gestapo, that's my motto. I ran for the tram.
To get to the Arti, I had to take two trams, but on Saturday night they ran frequently. I was there in nothing flat.
Arti was crowded and I was half way to the bar before the Hog spotted me and waved me towards him. He surprised me with, "Can I buy you a drink, Wes?" It was so unexpected that I stammered something completely incoherent because he said, "What was that you want? I didn't understand." I tried again, "Aah, just a beer." Once he had placed the order, I asked what the occasion was?
"Occasion? Need there be an occasion for me to buy you a drink?" And, believe it or not, he said it with complete seriousness.
I decided to shrug it off as one of those phenomena that occurs when the moon is bisecting Mars while Venus is in the eclipse of its conjunction with the planet Earth ... well, anyway, I didn't expect to live long enough to experience this incident again. I got out the photo and handed it to the Hog. "I'll start showing it around." Was all he said. He immediately moved on to the subject of the diamonds. He told me that he was close to finding the source of the booty. He wanted to know if I had made my decision in regard to the proposition he had made? Now it was dawning on me why he was buying me drinks. I stalled by saying some new elements had come into play and I would have to be back to him. I promised it would be soon. He replied to that with, "Make it snappy! ... Didn't Bogart say that in one of his films, Wes?" I assured Bert that he probably had. And I was out of there.
Fortunately, De Pels was a relatively short walk and I was there in under ten minutes. There were more people on the street and sidewalk than they had been the night before. I made my way through the crowd and after pushing and shoving----all very gently---found Vic in residence at the bar and with chatting up another bird. He introduced me and explained to the lady that we were business partners working in the cultural arts. It sounded so good that I made no effort to correct him. In fact, it was at that point that I took out the Mondrian photo and handed it to him. The female stared at it and said it looked "So dark!" I told her it was a night-painting. "Why would anyone paint a painting at night ... in the dark?" I told her it was a mystery to me, as well. Vic asked about the other "cultural" matter. I said, there had been no answer to the telephone calls. Then I mentioned that we might have a new partner. Vic raised his eyebrows to that. "How, so?" I told him that the man was in a solid liquidity position to make an investment. Vic looked at me and said, "What's he get?" I told him it was complicated and perhaps we should go through that part under better circumstances." Vic just shook his head and said, "Let's make it soon. Real soon. The pie is getting smaller!" I agreed and said I would be in contact.
Now where? With no bicycle, my mobility was slow and limited to what I could do and the time I had to do it in. I decided that De Koer and the Richter I could skip tonight. Both places would be packed and my contacts were, well, just contacts. Nothing was looking that good from either source. They weren't even on the level of the Hog. And I was tired. I still hurt. There was every reason in the book not to go. Hey, I'm weak, I take whatever excuse I can come up with. I walked to Mazzo.
The line was longer tonight, outside. As I, again, diplomatically, pushed and shoved my way to the main entrance I got lots of dirty looks. Yeah, well, you guys aren’t VIPs. Stick that up your wazoo!
Wim opened the door with the same expression that Mark had on his mug the night before, but the sullenness dissipated when he saw who it was and I got a nice greeting.
Another mystery confronted me as I walked through the door into the club and onto the dance floor: How could it be more crowded than the night before? It took me a good fifteen minutes of trying to navigate through the Mazzo looking for Kees. I found him with the same blond he had been talking to for the last few days. I got him to the side and we retired to the foyer. "Are you in love?" I inquired. He answered with, "I'm don't know about love, but I am in lust!" Good enough. He told me that Interpol didn't know anything about any big diamond thefts. He told me that the boys working the Wallen had only been hearing talk about diamonds. No names. No descriptions. They were beginning to think it was all whore talk. "They told me, some of the girls' clients like to talk big and pay little! They think this may be the case here." I didn't mention Mendocina nor the fact that she had held one of the rocks in her hand. He said he wanted to get back to the woman. I let him go.
When we got back to the bar, I looked at the crowd that separated me and the exit door and thought I might stick around for a while. Have a drink and soak up some atmosphere. Why not? It was Saturday night. It had been a long week. Next week didn't look any more promising.
When I finally did leave the place, there were no empty taxis. Everyone that streaked by, like a rocket on its way to a target, was engaged. I started to walk. Before I knew it, I was in my own bed and sawing wood and making saw dust.