An emergency call came in at five minutes to eleven, just when I was getting ready to leave. If it had come in five minutes later I could have safely ignored it, but with still five minutes to go before official closing time, I was stuck with it.
The night telephone was hooked to a tape recorder that automatically began recording when the telephone bell rang. It was part of this Big-Brother-is-watching-you efficiency system we have.
I picked up the receiver.
“Lawrence Safes Corporation—night service,” I said.
“This is Henry Cooper.” One of those well fed, arrogant voices that come out of owners of vast incomes and super-deluxe penthouses. “How fast can you get a man to me? I’m in
trouble with my safe.”
I thought: here goes my evening with Janey. This makes the
third time this month I’ve had to stand her up.
“Where are you, sir?” I said, keeping my voice polite because the tape was recording, and I had already been in trouble for snarling at a customer.
“Ashley Arms. I want a man down here right away.”
I looked at the clock on the desk. It was two minutes to eleven. If I told him the night service had shut down, I would get the gate. The way I was fixed for money, that was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
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