Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 8

“Walking out, huh?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way. I just have to work to earn a living.”

“Okey, pal. If that’s the way you feel about it, okey.”

“I don’t feel any way about it,” I almost yelled. “I just don’t have time to stooge for you or any other cop.”

“Okey, get sore,” Nulty said, and hung up.

I held the dead phone and snarled into it: “Seventeen hundred and fifty cops in this town and they want me to do their leg work for them.”

I dropped the phone into its cradle and took another drink from the office bottle.

After a while I went down to the lobby of the building to buy an evening paper. Nulty was right in one thing at least. The Montgomery killing hadn’t even made the want-ad section so far.

I left the office again in time for an early dinner.


I got down to Montemar Vista as the light began to fade, but there was still a fine sparkle on the water and the surf was breaking far out in long smooth curves. A group of pelicans was flying bomber formation just under the creaming lip of the waves. A lonely yacht was taking in toward the yacht harbor at Bay City. Beyond it the huge emptiness of the Pacific was purple-gray.

Montemar Vista was a few dozen houses of various sizes and shapes hanging by their teeth and eyebrows to a spur of mountain and looking as if a good sneeze would drop them down among the box lunches on the beach.

Above the beach the highway ran under a wide concrete arch which was in fact a pedestrian bridge. From the inner end of this a flight of concrete steps with a thick galvanized handrail on one side ran straight as a ruler up the side of the mountain. Beyond the arch the sidewalk cafe my client had spoken of, was bright and cheerful inside, but the iron-legged tile-topped tables outside under the striped awning were empty save for a single dark woman in slacks who smoked and stared moodily out to sea, with a bottle of beer in front of her. A fox tether was using one of the iron chairs for a lamppost. She chided the dog absently as I drove past and gave the sidewalk cafe my business to the extent of using its parking space.

I walked back through the arch and started up the steps. It was a nice walk if you liked grunting. There were two hundred and eighty steps up to Cabrillo Street. They were drifted over with windblown sand and the handrail was as cold and wet as a toad’s belly.

When I reached the top the sparkle had gone from the water and a seagull with a broken trailing leg was twisting against the offsea breeze. I sat down on the damp cold top step and shook the sand out of my shoes and waited for my pulse to come down into the low hundreds. When I was breathing more or less normally again I shook my shirt loose from my back and went along to the lighted house which was the only one within yelling distance of the steps.

It was a nice little house with a salt-tarnished spiral of staircase going up to the front door and an imitation coachlamp for a porchlight. The garage was underneath and to one side. Its door was lifted up and rolled back and the light of the porchlamp shone obliquely on a huge black battleship of a car with chromium trimmings, a coyote tail tied to the Winged Victory on the radiator cap and engraved initials where the emblem should be. The car had a right-hand drive and looked as if had cost more than the house.

I went up the spiral steps, looked for a bell, and used a knocker in the shape of a tiger’s head. Its clatter was swallowed in the early evening fog. I heard no steps in the house. My damp shirt felt like an icepack on my back. The door opened silently, and I was looking at a tall blond man in a white flannel suit with a violet satin scarf around his neck.

There was a cornflower in the lapel of his white coat and his pale blue eyes looked faded out by comparison. The violet scarf was loose enough to show that he wore no tie and that he had a thick, soft brown neck, like the neck of a strong woman. His features were a little on the heavy side, but handsome, he had an inch more of height than I had, which made him six feet one. His blond hair was arranged, by art or nature, in three precise blond ledges which reminded me of steps, so that I didn’t like them. I wouldn’t have liked them anyway. Apart from all this he had the general appearance of a lad who would wear a white flannel suit with a violet scarf around his neck and a cornflower in his lapel.

He cleared his throat lightly and looked past my shoulder at the darkening sea. His cool supercilious voice said: “Yes?”

“Seven o’clock,” I said. “On the dot.”

“Oh yes. Let me see, your name is — “ he paused, and frowned in the effort of memory. The effect was as phony as the pedigree of a used car. I let him work at it for a minute, then I said:

“Philip Marlowe. The same as it was this afternoon.”

He gave me a quick darting frown, as if perhaps something ought to be done about it. Then he stepped back and said coldly:

“Ah yes. Quite so. Come in, Marlowe. My house boy is away this evening.”

He opened the door wide with a fingertip, as though opening the door himself dirtied him a little.

I went in past him and smelled perfume. He closed the door. The entrance put us on a low balcony with a metal railing that ran around three sides of a big studio living room. The fourth side contained a big fireplace and two doors. A fire was crackling in the fireplace. The balcony was lined with bookshelves and there were pieces of glazed metallic looking bits of sculpture on pedestals.

We went down three steps to the main part of the living room. The carpet almost tickled my ankles. There was a concert grand piano, closed down. On one corner of it stood a tall silver vase on a strip of peach-colored velvet, and a single yellow rose in the vase. There was plenty of nice soft furniture, a great many floor cushions, some with golden tassels and some just naked. It was a nice room, if you didn’t get rough. There was a wide damask covered divan in a shadowy corner, like a casting couch. It was the kind of room where people sit with their feet in their laps and sip absinthe through lumps of sugar and talk with high affected voices and sometimes just squeak. It was a room where anything could happen except work.

Mr. Lindsay Marriott arranged himself in the curve of the grand piano, leaned over to sniff at the yellow rose, then opened a French enamel cigarette case and lit a long brown cigarette with a gold tip. I sat down on a pink chair and hoped I wouldn’t leave a mark on it. I lit a Camel, blew smoke through my nose and looked at a piece of shiny metal on a stand. It showed a full, smooth curve with a shallow fold in it and two protuberances on the curve. I stared at it, Marriott saw me staring at it.

“An interesting bit,” he said negligently. “I picked it up just the other day. Asta Dial’s Spirit of Dawn.”

“I thought it was Klopstein’s Two Warts on a Fanny,” I said.

Mr. Lindsay Marriott’s face looked as if he had swallowed a bee. He smoothed it out with an effort.

“You have a somewhat peculiar sense of humor,” he said.

“Not peculiar,” I said. “Just uninhibited.”

“Yes,” he said very coldly. “Yes — of course. I’ve no doubt. . .Well, what I wished to see you about is, as a matter of fact, a very slight matter indeed. Hardly worth bringing you down here for. I am meeting a couple of men tonight and paying them some money. I thought I might as well have someone with me. You carry a gun?”

“At times. Yes,” I said. I looked at the dimple in his broad, fleshy chin. You could have lost a marble in it.

“I shan’t want you to carry that. Nothing of that sort at all. This is a purely business transaction.”

“I hardly ever shoot anybody,” I said. “A matter of blackmail?”

He frowned. “Certainly not. I’m not in the habit of giving people grounds for blackmail.”

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