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In the clubhouse Marius Tollman put down his binoculars. If Piper Boles couldn't ride better than that when he was supposed to be trying to win, what sort of a hash would he make of losing on Crinkle Cut?
Tollman thought about the $10,000 he was staking on Saturday's caper. He had not yet decided whether to tip off his contact in organized crime, in which case the mob would cover the stake at no risk to himself, or to gamble on the bigger profit of going it alone. He lowered his bulk into his seat and worried about the ease with which a fixed race could unfix itself.
Blisters Schultz fretted about the state of his trade, which was suffering a severe recession. Schultz picked pockets for a living and was fed up with credit cards. In the old days when he'd learned the skill at his grandfather's knee, men carried billfolds in their rear pants" pockets, neatly outlined for all the world to see. Nowadays smash-and-grab muggers had ruined the market: few people carried more than a handful of dollars with them, and those who did tended to divide it into portions, with the heavy dough in less accessible pockets.
Blisters had survived for 53 years, 45 of them by stealing. Several short sessions behind bars had been regarded as bad luck, but not as a good reason for not lifting the first wallet he saw when he got out. He had tried to go straight once but hadn't liked the regular hours. After six weeks he had left his well-paid job and gone back, thankfully, to insecurity. He felt happier stealing $2 than earning $10.
For the best haul at race meetings you either had to spot the big wads before they were gambled away or follow a big winner from the cashier's window. In either case it meant hanging around the pari-mutuels with your eyes open. The trouble was, too many Pinkertons had cottoned to this modus operandi and stood around looking at people who were just standing there looking. Blisters had had a bad week. The most promising wallet had proved, after half an hour's careful stalking, to contain little in money but a lot in pornography. Blisters, having a weak sex drive, was disgusted on both counts.
For two days' labor he had only $23 to show, and $5 of this he had found on a stairway. His meager room in Louisville was costing $8 a night and, with his air fare and meals to take into account, he reckoned he'd have to clear $300 to make the trip worthwhile. Always an optimist, he brightened at the thought of Derby Day. The pickings would be easier once the crowd arrived.
Fred Collyer's private Prohibition lasted through Friday. Feeling better when he woke, he took a taxi to Churchill Downs at 7:30 a.m., writing his expenses on the way. They included many mythical items for the previous day, on the basis that it was better for the office not to know he had been paralytic on Wednesday night.
The initial shock of the blackout had worn off, because during his day in bed he had remembered bits and pieces that he was certain were later in time than the fried chicken. The journey from dinner to bed was still a blank, but the blank had stopped frightening him. At times he felt there was something vital about it he ought to remember, but he persuaded himself that if it had been really important, he wouldn't have forgotten.
At the barns, groups of reporters had already formed around the trainers of the fancied Derby runners. Fred Collyer sauntered over to those surrounding Harbourne Cressie, and his colleagues made room for him, with no reference to his previous day's absence. It reassured him: whatever he had done on Wednesday night, it couldn't have been scandalous.
Notebooks were out. Harbourne Cressie, long practiced and fond of publicity, paused between sentences to give time for everything to be written down. "Pincer Movement should beat Salad Bowl, unless the track is sloppy." Smiles all round. The sky was blue, the forecast fair. Fred Collyer listened without attention. He'd heard it all before.