"They say only fruitcakes and winos inhabit Dupont Circle. Robson proved them wrong. Nice guy, this Robson. Nice first name, too -- Ernest. So nice that this Ernest Robson fella is about to cross into the circle on June 24 when he notices a wallet in the middle of New Hampshire Avenue. Yes, toots. Right there on the black pavement, coupla feet from the curb.

"This Robson figures some expense-account Galahad on a bender must have dropped it because some doll distracted him, the way only a doll can, if you catch my meaning.

"Or maybe it wasn't one of those three-piecers who rent the suites that keep the Washington Hilton in black ink. Maybe it was a different kind of operative. What else could this Robson think? This nice financial and regulatory consultant who works up the block and usually worries himself sick over tax policy and other bombastic Washington busywork -- hey, honey, this palooka was suddenly face to face with real money.

"Twenty-four hundred dollars worth of real money, sucker. Twenty crisp 100s, the rest 50s and 20s. The kind of stash that'll make a man's head turn. The kind of stash that isn't carried by your average Yuppie GS 12 or your third-rate bottlewasher or one of those tap-out cases who disappoints his Mama by spending his life playing chess in the middle of the circle.

"Now, this nice Ernest Robson could have stuffed the bread in his pinstripes and slamdunked the wallet in the trash and the world woulda been none the wiser. But he says to himself, 'Golden rule, you're still golden, right? Maybe the stiff who belongs to this money really needs it.'

"So this nice Robson calls the cops. And an officer Roland Brown comes over from the 2nd District toot sweet."

"This Brown, he's been on the force 17 years, and he's heard it all, Jack. But when he and Robson start counting the lettuce, Brown's eyes suddenly grow from a 36 medium to a 45 long. He tells Robson, 'You are the first person in my 17 years on the force who has ever turned in a wallet with money in it.' What Brown is really thinking is this (I know cuz I know cops): 'You are the first person in my 17 years on the force who has ever had a chance to pocket 24 century notes and didn't take full advantage of the opportunity.'

"And then they find the clue. Right there in the flap of the wallet where you usually keep the confirmation picture of little Katherine.

"Didn't look like a helluva lot at first. Just a card marked, 'Israeli State Railroad Workers Pass,' with somebody's illegible signature on it. Robson immediately figures the owner for a tourist. Brown, having busted a diplomat or two in his time, figures the owner for an attache at the Israeli Embassy.

"So Brown does the two things the book requires. He logs the wallet and the green stuff into the property office downtown. And he notifies the Israeli Embassy that one of their guys has lost 2,400 George Washingtons, and when he goes downtown to claim it, be sure to get on the first car of the Red Line and get off at Judiciary Square.

"And then the funniest thing happens.

"Nothing happens.

"For weeks, the property clerk's office is as calm as the water lapping the fish stands down on Maine Avenue. For fortnight after fortnight, it's as quiet as St. Theresa's in Hyattsville the morning after Easter. Day after day, Duffy, the property clerk, comes to work, all set, as Sgt. McSweeney taught him years before, to hand over the wallet and tell the lucky owner to go back to Judiciary Square up Fifth Street, not through the park, where the con men would jump on him like hungry crows.

"But Duffy's wishing couldn't make it so. To this day, the wallet sits locked up in the room behind him, gathering fleas and dust. The smart money says maybe the owner was, as they say, involved in a shady line of work. Hey, you doubt it? You must not read the newspaper, chump. Anybody carrying 2,400 patooties in this crash-case of a town is not on his way to buy a tube of toothpaste at Peoples Drug, take it from me.

"They tell me that after a year, the money goes to the city, which will use it for something brilliant like new light bulbs on Pennsylvania Avenue, like it always does.

"Angelface Robson could stop that. He could lodge a claim for the money. I ask him what he'll do with the bread if he gets it. I expect him to tell me how he'll buy 100 shares of some hotshot computer company in Tysons Corner. Or how he'll blow it on the dames that hang out at that bolshevik bookstore near his office.

"But Robson, he's some comedian. He says, 'I'll buy the regulars in Dupont Circle a couple of cases of Thunderbird, and give the rest to charity.'

"So I'm walking off down some foggy street in Adams-Morgan, thinking to myself, 'Ya know, this Robson, he's got his head glued on straight. That dipball who lost the money, I can't say the same for him. But a little wine and a little public spirit, hey, in this dog-eat-dog world, how can you beat it?' "