"how did that police know your name?" monk asked.
"she didn't know my name. she called me slugger , you know like champ or big guy, not sluggo."
sluggo laughed. "not close at all." he took the three coins country girl had given him out of his pocket and looked them over. "these aren't that great. not bad for a few minutes work though."
monk looked out over the street. "we should have got more out of her. i think we missed a good opportunity there."
"we?" sluggo asked.
"yeah i know, i didn't do anything. i'm not saying i did." monk took a handkerchief out of his pocket, spread it on the sidewalk and sat down on it.
"it happened so fast," sluggo said.
"yeah but if we want to be master criminals we got to learn to think faster than that."
"hey i admitted i didn't do so good. i admit my full culpability, all right?"
outcast was still leaning against the wall in the shadows. "you guys are making a lot of noise over there," he called out.
"professor moriarty here is searching his soul," sluggo answered him. "he doesn't think we - we - got full value from that law officer."
monk looked straight ahead. "i'm not apologizing a third time."
one of the ragamuffins came over and sat down beside monk. he didn't spread a handkerchief on the sidewalk first. "that's right, you shouldn't apologize three times. st peter apologized three times and look what happened to him."
outcast pushed himself off his wall and came over. "you guys got any plans for tonight? sluggo here has made a nice score but what about the rest of us?"
monk shrugged. "that market over in the 53rd. it's been a while."
"too far away, what are we going to get , some cases of beets and pineapple drinks?"
"nothing wrong with pineapple drinks," monk retorted. "you can always sell pineapple drinks. there's an insatiable demand for pineapple drinks."
"underpriced pineapple drinks," sluggo added.
"you know what i heard?" the ragamuffin asked.
"no, ricky, what did you hear?" outcast asked him .
'i heard there's going to be riots over in the 57th."
"there's always going to be riots over in the 57th," said monk. "somehow they never come to pass."
"i heard tonight's the night," ricky insisted. "there won't be any police in the 56th or 58th."
guido, another ragamuffin, walked over to the group. "there's always police. they can always find police."
"they are like pineapple drinks," agreed sluggo. "you can always find them. there must be an insatiable demand for them."
ricky ignored both of them. "with no police in the 58th, they got some stores with refrigerators over there."
outcast laughed. "i can see you walking over to the 58th and walking back with a couple of refrigerators on your back." ricky was small and thin even for a ragamuffin.
'you can always sell refrigerators," ricky went on. "people like to keep their pineapple drinks cold. their strawberry and papaya drinks too."
"what are you going to load them on?" asked monk. "a spaceship?"
"i might have my ways," ricky insisted. "we have our ways, don't we?" he asked guido.
"what do you think about that police?" guido changed the subject. "not giving me a ride uptown. i asked politely."
"why didn't you just jump on the back of it?" sluggo asked. "i thought that was what you guys did."
"she was a mean one," guido answered. "you saw what she did to the poor robot. i didn't want to risk incurring her displeasure."
'that whole thing was just so strange." monk shook his head. '" i can't get over it."
"many strange things happen in this world," guido said. "you just happened to see one of them tonight."
"what about that funny looking girl she had with her?" monk asked. "what was up with her?"
"what about her?" sluggo asked.
"she didn't look like police. and she wasn't a prisoner. she was helping her trying to move the robot."
"who cares?" outcast started pacing restlessly.
"maybe she was a lost princess or something," monk said. "the officer was rescuing her." this got the biggest laugh of the night.
"where do you get that stuff?" sluggo asked. "romance novels?"
"yeah, i read some romance novels," monk answered. "my sister gets them sometimes." they all snickered. "they're are a break sometimes, a welcome break from talking to you guys all night. nothing personal, you understand."
"romance novels are illegal," said ricky.
"stealing stuff is illegal, knucklehead. we sit here all night talking about stealing, and you're worried about romance novels,"
"i didn't say i was worried, i was just making a statement."
"you can sell romance novels too," monk said. "if you know where."
'and you do?" ricky asked.
'i could learn."
"so monk," sluggo asked. "who's your favorite romance novelist?'
"jennifer broughton. you can't go wrong with jennifer broughton. she's the gold standard of romance novelists."
"gold!" said outcast. "i'd like to get my hands on some gold!" he was pacing up and down in the street. "i heard if you had some gold you could pack up and leave this whole universe - go to a better one." he looked up at the sky.
"what does gold even look like?" asked monk. "what color is it?"
"yellow," said guido.
'i heard it was black," said ricky.
"i heard it was pink," said sluggo. "and gave off translucent lime green sparks."
"you guys are hilarious," said outcast, still looking at the sky. "but if you had some gold you could forget coins, you could forget stealing cartons of beets and lima beans, and refrigerators and ice cold strawberry and orange drinks and romance novels. if you only had some gold."
they were all silent for a few minutes, and looked at the sky with outcast.
"you know what else i heard?" ricky broke the silence.
"you heard, you heard," said monk. "is that what you do all day, go around hearing things?"
"yeah. it's what i do. if i was a giraffe i'd eat the leaves off the trees. if i was an elephant i'd knock the trees down. but i'm a human so i go around all day listening to the other humans. it's what humans do."
'you're a human?"
"very funny," ricky rolled his eyes. "you know, monk, i don't think you are going to make it as either a comedian or a criminal. i see honest toil in your future, my brother."
'" gentlemen, please," said sluggo. "this is the 51st. we're all bros here."
"right," said outcast. "right." he paced further out into the street. "another exciting night in the fighting 51st."
"you know," said sluggo. "i've been thinking of getting a job."
nobody answered him. they all fell silent.
across the street mickey and mojo, two other ragamuffins, had been playing cards on the sidewalk. "hey!" mojo called to the quiet group. "you guys want to play?"
"sure," said outcast. "i'll play." he walked over to join them.
"what happened to the preacher?" said monk. 'he was here before."
"who knows?" sluggo answered. "he comes and goes."
he turned to ricky. "so what was it that you heard?"