Carl Peck said easily, “This is for you,” giving his waiter the last bill in his wallet.
Peck coughed politely a couple of minutes after that functionary was gone. The man at the next table in this restaurant, a hard looking fellow in the mid fifties, glanced up from a copy of Inventor’s News.
He was dressed as expensively as Peck, but his clothes weren’t nearly as loud, Peck noticed.
“I seem to have spent my last five dollars just now,” Peck smiled. “Could you lend me enough to pay my bill?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“If you lend me ten and walk to my cottage with me, I’ll give you ten dollars back.” He shrugged in the silence that followed. “I can give you twenty, if you’d rather. The amount makes no real difference to me.”
He wasn’t surprised to see quick interest lighting the older man’s face. Rich people, as Carl Pack had found out during ten years or so of making deals with them, will do almost anything at all for a few extra dollars.
“Well, I heard the waiter call you by name, so you’re obviously registered as a guest,” the older man said, brushing a hand at the dust motes that gleamed and whirled in the sun’s rays across the length of his table. The hard face didn’t change as he nodded. “I’ll be glad to accommodate you, sir. Your interest rates are excellent.”
Peck began walking a step or two ahead of the older man down the tree-shaded path to his rented cottage close to the year-’round luxury hotel; but the older man caught up and kept to Peck’s pace without making any complaint.
“I was a little startled when you said that thing about interest rates just before,” Carl Peck told him in a thoughtful tone of voice. “I hadn’t remembered about interest rates in years.”
“Apparently not,” the older man agreed rolling his copy of Inventor’s News into a horn and swatting a fly with it. “It you were an inventor, though, you’d have to-“
“But I am,” Peck said quickly, grateful because the point had been brought up by the hard-faced older man. Then he did his best to look confused. “That is, I-well, I did invent something once, but frankly I’d rather not talk about it.”