I read for about twenty minutes, and then a knock sounded at the door. I was startled by it, and dropped the book. But then I felt like an idiot, too caught up in the fictional world of the book and in my own dramatizing of a situation in a town more sordid than dangerous. I got up from the bed and opened the door.
Jerry came in, moving fast, pushing me back out of the way. Ben came in after him, and another man, the one who’d been along on the first police trip here. They shut the door and Jerry looked at me with mock-sadness and said, “You know something, Paul? You’re the slowest learner I have ever come across, do you know that? First you ditch Ben and me, and then you go up and bother Mr. Fleisch. Now, when are you going to start getting some sense?”
“What’s this, another trip to Captain Willick?”
“Oh, no. No, indeedy. You got your last warning.”
The third man had come around to my left as Jerry was talking, and now he suddenly jumped at me and grabbed my arms. He stood behind me, holding my arms bent back, cupped inside the crook of his arms, and Jerry said to me, “You know where we are right now, Paul? We’re in the basement at headquarters, playing poker.”
Then he stepped aside, and Ben started hitting me.