Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
Tom, my good friend,
You don’t know Harold Hollander. He is a computer specialist at General Electronics, where I work. Hal’s of average build and height, about fifty years old. He doesn’t have a lot of hair and has a rather homely face. He wears contacts, which often give him a disconcerting staring expression. Far and away, his most distinguishing features are an ugly, white mustache and a huge bushy beard. He likes to smooth down his mustache with the back of his forefinger when he wants to appear thoughtful.
HaHalHe and I had spent the last two weeks installing an automatic billing system at Grebbs Department store in New York City. Hal was the computer expert and I was the accountant whose job it was to make sure that the system worked properly. We would be returning to Schenectady on the evening of the next day.
I had heard that Hal was an egotist but had never had it proven as conclusively as it was on this trip. From the beginning, Hal kept harping on how important his position was and how insignificant was mine. Bean counter, he kept calling me. He declared repeatedly that his position requires the application of irrefutable logic while mine involves mere rote memory. His remarks began to aggravate me, but I tried to hide this. At work he was only one higher than me.
A couple of evenings ago, we were having dinner at the Bien Venu. He and I were seated at a small table in the crowded dining room and were discussing the successful completion of our mission. The waiter, in a tux, arrived to take our orders.
I chose steak without much hesitation and Hal selected a dish with an exotic French name which, even now, I couldn’t begin to remember.
“See what I mean about logic!” He sneered. “Why did you order steak?”
“Because I like it. What does that have to do with logic?”
“Simple,” he retorted. “This meal is on the company, isn’t it? How often do you get a chance to go to an elegant restaurant like this and order something exotic that you’ve never had before? It doesn’t matter much whether you like the dish or not. You should do it!”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Don’t you see?” He peered at me through steely green eyes. “When you go to a fancy place, maybe your wife is with you. Do you take a chance on a dish you’ve never tried? Of course not! You stay with the safe and familiar. You go through life never trying anything different because you’re scared. But on an expense account, you can try the unusual. If you like it, fine; if you don’t, well, you didn’t lose anything. You can always go out later and get a hamburger.”
“Y-yes,” I stammered. I see your point.” I clearly did, and almost wished I hadn’t ordered the steak.
“Logic,” repeated Hal. Do you remember what the manager said when you and I arrived at the motel two weeks ago?”
“No, not really.”
“Think, what were his first words?”
“Well, he said, ‘Good afternoon, Mr. Hollander. It’s good to see you again.’ Something like that.”
“Exactly!” Hal was almost ecstatic. “He remembered me even though I had been a guest at the motel only once before, and that was several years ago. Why do you suppose he recalled my name?”
“Probably that scraggly white beard,” I ventured.
“Of course! You see, it’s all a matter of logic. Cause and effect! People think I’m crazy because I ride a motorcycle to work every day. Sure, I make an odd sight – helmet, black leather jacket, cowboy boots. But I have an image! And people remember the image. Everybody knows who Hal Hollander is. How many people, do you suppose, know who Martin Grant is?”
I had to admit that Hal was much more widely known than I was. His arrogance had irritated me at times when we had taken trips together, but, now, he was arousing an anger that I could not control.
“Are you telling me that nothing ever gets done intuitively?” I exploded. “Are you saying that logic is always involved?”
He grinned mockingly. “Nothing important ever gets done!”
“That’s bunk,” I protested. “People do things every day without having logic enter into it at all.”
“One example!” He demanded. “Give me just one example where something important was ever done without the application of logic and I’ll back off.” He smirked derisively. “I’ll do better than that!” He added. “I’ll humbly apologize.”
“Balderdash,” was the only rebuttal I could summon to counter the look of supreme confidence that blanketed his face.
After lunchtime yesterday, Hal and I began a drive home in the company car. He didn’t let up. His prize statement during the long trip was that a person, skilled in the use of logic, could go through life without ever making a bad mistake in judgment. Or, at least, he could keep mistakes down to a bare minimum. He pointed out how far he had come, how well-educated he was, how beautifully his stocks were doing, and so on. The pressure in my head was rising to the bursting point.
Traffic was heavy and we decided to stay one more night at a motel. It was about six when we saw one and stopped. We parked the car, registered, and walked up to the second floor where our rooms were located. Hal’s room was 248 and mine, 246. I led the way and, by mistake, entered room 244. Still fuming over Hal’s arrogance, I hadn’t noticed that I had not needed a key to open the door.
I realized at once that it was the wrong room. There was an open briefcase on the bed, some articles of men’s clothing, a watch, some cuff links. Sounds of water came from the bathroom. The occupant of the room was evidently showering. I retreated hastily, bumping into Hal who instantly acquired an amused look. I eased the door shut behind me.
Wordlessly, we walked to my room. Hal followed me and disappeared into the bathroom. I knew that when he came out I’d be in for a scolding. Sure enough, Hal spent a quarter of an hour sarcastically explaining with phony mathematical principles how to distinguish one room number from another. It was all in fun, of course, but I was anxious to have him go. During his diatribe, I struggled to control the turbulence raging in my mind. Shaking with emotion, but with a great sense of relief, I closed the door after him when he left.
Half an hour later, he called and suggested we go next door to have some fish and chips. “Put on your jeans,” he ordered, “I have more to say!” I wanted no more of his abuse but agreed since he had pulled rank on me. Someone took a photo of us and sent us a copy. I’m the one on the left. There’s no doubt who the other guy is.
Later, I was in bed fully dressed mulling over the events of the day. “Logic, indeed!” I heard myself saying the words. God, Hal now had me talking to myself! There are times when events do not need to be controlled by reason, good sense, wisdom! There are times when actions are governed by nothing more than love, anger, fear, joy, hate. People aren’t robots. Hal had it all wrong!
There was a light, almost apologetic tapping on the door. I opened it and was confronted by the motel’s manager. A police officer stood at his side.
“I’m William Graham. We met when you and Mr. Hollander registered.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I hate to trouble you at this hour, Mr. Grant, but there’s been a robbery in room 244, the room next to yours and, well, we’re making some inquiries. Would you mind answering a few questions?”
No, certainly not.”
“Please understand, Mr. Grant, you are not a suspect. I only want to know if you heard or saw something that might help us find out what happened.”
During the next few minutes, Mr. Graham made it clear that he did, indeed, suspect me, but didn’t want to make it obvious. It seemed that the inhabitant of room 244, a Mr. Walter Diamond, had carried several thousand dollars in his wallet. While showering, someone had entered his room and relieved him of the wallet. The victim had discovered the loss and reported it.
On a purely voluntary basis, I allowed Mr. Graham and the officer to search my room. Finding nothing, they left. I had not mentioned my accidental blundering into Diamond’s room since I was sure the incident would not be accepted as being inadvertent.
This morning, Hal and I were having breakfast in the motel’s dining room. The events of the previous evening were, of course, the topic of conversation. Hal had also received a late evening visit by Mr. Graham and the police officer. They had questioned him briefly and searched his room. Hal had given permission to have the company car searched. From what I could gather, though, Hal had made himself perfectly obnoxious by offering to help solve the case.
Hal lectured, “I pointed out that, as a computer specialist, I am often called upon to apply mathematical logic to the solution of difficult problems. They listened to me with great attention and respect!”
“And I suppose you told them exactly who to look for, the person’s description, and all that?”
“I gave a description of the female that is involved,” Hal chirped. “It’s all a matter of logic, my dear Martin.” He noticed that I was smiling. “I see you find this amusing.”
“Tell me all about it.” My smile erupted into laughter. I tried to, but couldn’t hold it back. Hal hesitated, eyed me curiously, then continued.
“Listen to this,” he continued. “The victim, Mr. Walter Diamond, a Midwest furniture company executive, comes to New York about once a month, and he usually has several thousand dollars in cash with him. Now, who knows all this? Well, the bellhop might, but he wouldn’t dare rob Mr. Diamond since he would be suspected immediately. A co-worker? No, the furniture plant is too far from here. Diamond’s wife? No, there are other ways a wife can get money from a husband. The security people in the motel keep out suspicious-looking intruders. It has to be a mistress. I get this from a process of elimination.” Hal looked triumphant, obviously delighted with his analysis.
“A mistress? How could you possibly…?” There was still the hint of a grin on the edges of my mouth which, I’m sure, puzzled him.
“Of course, and I gave a probable description of her. Diamond is about fifty, so he obviously would be interested in a classy-looking woman of about thirty-five, pretty, well-dressed, someone who would get by security without any difficulty.”
“Hal, you’re out of your mind. It’s all guesswork. You’re not being logical!”
“Not being logical? Here’s where the difference between you and me is so glaringly apparent. What did you see when you bumbled into Diamond’s room?”
He saw the look of panic on my face. “Don’t worry, Martin, I didn’t tell the police anything about that.”
“Well, I saw some clothes laid out on the bed – surely Diamond’s, his watch, cuff-links,…”
“Right, and he was taking a shower. Would you say he was getting ready to go out?”
“No maybe’s about it. I can see it all as if I were there. Diamond arrived at his room and left the door open so that his mistress could come in. Shortly after you accidentally walked into his room, Diamond’s girlfriend went in and helped herself to his money. Diamond’s wallet was probably on the bed under his clothes.”
“Hal, there are too many holes in your theory. The police never mentioned a girlfriend. There simply isn’t any evidence that one exists.”
“Do you think Diamond would mention a girlfriend? Of course not! Infatuation causes blindness. He probably never even suspected the one person who had the best opportunity to take the money. I’ll bet you a dinner that, when the whole story comes out, I’ll be proven right.” Hal was very sure of himself.
Back at the plant, we parked the car in the company garage and decided to take the rest of the day off. We walked to the parking lot and got into our respective autos.
“Remember the dinner,” was Hal’s parting taunt. “It was the girlfriend!”
I drove a mile or two down the road toward my home, then turned and, muttering to myself, went back to the garage. With a screwdriver obtained from the toolkit in the trunk, I pried off the hubcap of the company car and retrieved a thick wallet filled with bills – Diamond’s money. Then I replaced the hubcap and went home.
Tom, that was the very first time I had ever done anything like that. I have no way of fully understanding why I took Diamond’s money. I did a purely on impulse. I simply wanted to prove to myself that Hal was wrong, that what he was saying about logic isn’t always true.
When I stumbled into Diamond’s room, I saw something that Hal had not seen – a bulge in the breast pocket of the coat that he that he had been wearing. I guessed correctly, that it was probably his wallet. Since his clothes were rumpled, I deduced that Diamond had just arrived at the motel, hot and tired and was taking a shower to refresh himself.
Before giving me his lesson on numerical principles, Hal had gone into the bathroom and closed the door. I estimated I had about sixty seconds. I hurried to room 244, fished out the wallet, and scurried back to my room. One minute had been more than enough.
After Hal left, I went to the garage and put the money in the hubcap of the company car. I felt sure the car would be searched, but guessed correctly that, since we were from General Electronics, the car wouldn’t be ransacked.
I was lucky, I guess. Shortly after coming back to my room, Mr. Graham and the officer arrived. By then, I was resting on the bed, and in the clear.
Tom, I need your help in giving back what I stole. As an attorney, you can probably handle the matter discreetly. As I said, there was absolutely no reason for my taking Diamond’s money. I did it illogically, on the spur of the moment. I wanted to prove that Hal was all wrong about everything being a matter of logic. I wanted to prove that Hal is not infallible, that sometimes I can be right too. But I failed in that! Did you notice, in my story, how often I’d do something logically? Hal was right all along. It is all a matter of logic! Tom, I don’t want a nickel of that money. And I don’t want Hal Hollander’s dinner either. I know I can count on you to set things right. Thanks, for your help old friend.
Hal was insufferable, always bragging about himself. Everything was a matter of logic, he claimed and I was not able to refute this. There was a robbery at a motel where we were staying and he and I were suspects. But Hal knew who had stolen the money, he said. It was the mistress! Nonsense, I claimed. No evidence. No proof. Oh, how I wished he could be proved wrong one time! Had that one time come?