Book: Ask the Right Question

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By the time I pulled myself out of bed, I’d finally figured out why I wasn’t running full speed to deposit the check.

The basic problem, the thing which kept me from walking the block and a half to the bank, was the transgression on, the usurpation of, my professional pride.

I try to avoid false pride in life. But I’ve spent some seven years establishing what I do and how I go about it. It may be something akin to scratching and pecking, but if I didn’t like what I do I wouldn’t do it. So when someone steps in and does it for me—and I haven’t asked—it doesn’t go down like a chocolate malt.

There were other things I wasn’t entirely satisfied about. Little inconsistencies—or possibilities of inconsistencies. The temptation to accept something as true because someone has told it to you is an occupational hazard in my line. To do something properly you’ve got to cross-check facts and try to see how implications play off against each other.

I missed the three o’clock closing for the bank

At 3:28 I got a call from Miller at Police HQ. He had just come on duty.

“What’s your trick?” he wanted to know. “That poky lawyer was here, dropped all charges and asked that all the film you shot be given to you.”

“It was just a little misunderstanding. The night watchman mistook me for the night maid and didn’t realize his mistake until after he jumped on my back. Then to make it look good he knocked me out and took lots of pictures.”

“The negatives and a set of prints are here when you want them. Sorry, I can’t chat. I’m on the verge of arresting a notorious trespasser.” He hung up.

It was a cool but pleasant day. I took a walk to the police station.

On the way I passed three banks, all closed.

Miller played it cute all the way.

He left the film and prints for “Donald Duck.” I was lucky—my boy Numb Nuts was on the desk and he pulled out the envelope as soon as he saw me.

But I had no time to stop and marvel.

The phone was ringing when I got back to the office. It wasn’t Eloise. It wasn’t anybody. It was a lawyer I work for asking if I would serve some papers for him. Without thinking I said no, that I was on a case. A concept which interested me, because it meant I was employing myself.

I read for a while. Around dinner time I decided that I couldn’t go on with this “I will go on; I won’t go on; I will cash the check, I won’t cash the check” stuff.

As a bold stroke. I decided to let the whole matter stew for a few days.

During dinner, canned lamb stew, I reflected on the fact that I now had two sets of prints from the film, and I considered cashing the check, sending the negatives and one set of prints to Crystal, and working from the other set of prints anyway.

I rejected that as unprofessional.

After dinner I started looking over the pictures again.

Twelve hundred and forty-one of them. That didn’t last long. It was just the sort of thing I hadn’t done with the medical records. But what expert could I send these to?

Then I thought about the medical records and checking notes. I wondered who Fleur’s doctor was, the new one after Fishman was dumped. I wondered if I should ask Crystal. He’d said I could.

But I decided definitely not to ask him. I either bought his story or I didn’t.

I mailed a letter to New York City, asking for a copy of Eloise Crystal’s birth certificate.

I considered asking my woman what I should do. I mean, what’s a woman for? I went to see her on the way to mail a letter to New York. But it would have taken a lot of explaining to bring her up to date. I couldn’t quite bring myself to force the explanation on her. What with the other things we had to talk about. Thanks to a great act of will, while I was with her the whole thing slipped my mind.

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