The Busy Body
The Busy Body
Engel hung on. Archie came back a minute later, gave him the number, and Engel thanked him and broke the connection. Then he dialed the number Archie had just given him.
It was answered on the third ring by a female voice harsh with suspicion: "Yeah?"
"Is Bobbi there?"
"Al Engel. I'm calling for Nick Rovito, on urgent business connected with her late husband."
Again he hung on, and the next voice he heard belonged to Bobbi Bounds, saying, "Mr. Engel?"
"I rode in the car with you yesterday," Engel reminded her. "Up front."
"Yes, sure, I know who you are."
The tone of respect in her voice surprised him, till he remembered just how far down in the pecking order of the organization Charlie Brody had been. The grand send-off had tended to make him forget that.
He said, "Has everything been cleared out of the old apartment yet?"
"No, not yet. I've taken some of my own things, but Charlie's stuff is still all there."
"I want to meet you there, this afternoon. Are you free?"
"Sure, I guess so."
Engel looked at his watch and it was four-thirty. "At six o'clock," he said.
"Is there something wrong, Mr. Engel?"
"Not exactly. A little problem we got to get straightened out, that's all."
"I'll be there."
Next, Fred Harwell, who was in his office. Engel said, "Fred, has Nick told you the latest development?"
"Which latest development is that?"
"About Charlie Brody's suit."
"The last I heard about that was at the meeting, when Nick told you go dig it up. About which, Al, you know you could do me a big favor if you'd talk to Nick about that, how it wasn't really my fault about not remembering the suit. I mean, nobody-"
"Wait a second, Al, this is important. Because nobody remembered that suit, Al, not just me, nobody. Al, if you could-"
"Fred, will you-?"
"You're closer to him than anybody, Al. If you could just put in a good word for me, explain about how-"
"I will," Engel said, just to shut him up.
"It could have happened to anybody," said Fred, who apparently hadn't heard him, or couldn't adapt to Engel's having agreed so easily.
"Right," Engel said. "I'll talk to him."
"I will. If you'll shut-"
"I appreciate that, Al."
"Yeah. If you'll shut up and let me talk to you , I'll talk to him. If not, the hell with you."
"Al, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to monopolize the conversation."
"It's just been preying on my mind, that's all. Nick hasn't said anything to me since then, but I know-"
"Shut up, Fred."
"I said shut up, Fred."
Engel really didn't believe the silence that followed, and it stretched for maybe ten seconds before he understood that Fred had shut up and it was now possible to talk. When he got that straight he said, "I want to ask you about Charlie, Fred, because we don't have the suit yet, and we don't have the suit yet because we buried an empty coffin yesterday."
"We bur-Oh, I'm sorry."
"Yeah. Now, Nick's given me the job of finding out where the suit is now, which means find out where the body is now, which means find out who took him, and how they took him, and why they took him. But mostly who. I found out how, because the undertaker was bumped off today and-"
"Bump-! Oops, sorry. I'll keep quiet."
"Yeah. The way I figure it, the undertaker was in on the snatch, and whoever did it with him killed him to keep him from talking, or something like that. So that's how it was done, but that still leaves who and why. Now, you knew Charlie Brody, so maybe you can tell me who'd steal his dead body and why."
"What? Why would I-? Uhh, are you done?"
"Okay. So how would I know-I mean, why wou