Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 18
“Hell, now. I just heard.”
“Oh. Who told you, Mrs. Florian?”
“Some hoofer. I forget the name right now. Maybe a good stiff drink might help some. I feel like Death Valley.”
“And you look like a dead mule,” I thought, but didn’t say it out loud. “There’s just one more thing,” I said, “then I’ll maybe run out for some gin. I looked up the title to your house, I don’t know just why.”
She was rigid under the bedclothes, like a wooden woman. Even her eyelids were frozen half down over the clogged iris of her eyes. Her breath stilled.
“There’s a rather large trust deed on it,” I said. “Considering the low value of property around here. It’s held by a man named Lindsay Marriott.”
Her eyes blinked rapidly, but nothing else moved. She stared.
“I used to work for him,” she said at last. “I used to be a servant in his family. He kind of takes care of me a little.”
I took the unlighted cigarette out of my mouth and looked at it aimlessly and stuck it back in.
“Yesterday afternoon, a few hours after I saw you, Mr. Marriott called me up at my office. He offered me a job.”
“What kind of job?” Her voice croaked now, badly.
I shrugged. “I can’t tell you that. Confidential. I went to see him last night.”
“You’re a clever son of a bitch,” she said thickly and moved a hand under the bedclothes.
I stared at her and said nothing.
“Copper-smart,” she sneered.
I ran a hand up and down the door frame. It felt slimy. Just touching it made me want to take a bath.
“Well, that’s all,” I said smoothly. “I was just wondering how come. Might be nothing at all. Just a coincidence. It just looked as if it might mean something.”
“Copper-smart,” she said emptily. “Not a real copper at that. Just a cheap shamus.”
“I suppose so,” I said. “Well, good-by, Mrs. Florian. By the way, I don’t think you’ll get a registered letter tomorrow morning.”
She threw the bedclothes aside and jerked upright with her eyes blazing. Something glittered in her right hand. A small revolver, a Banker’s Special. It was old and worn, but looked business-like.
“Tell it,” she snarled. “Tell it fast.”
I looked at the gun and the gun looked at me. Not too steadily. The hand behind it began to shake, but the eyes still blazed. Saliva bubbled at the corners of her mouth.
“You and I could work together,” I said.
The gun and her jaw dropped at the same time. I was inches from the door. While the gun was still dropping, I slid through it and beyond the opening.
“Think it over,” I called back.
There was no sound, no sound of any kind.
I went fast back through the hall and dining room and out of the house. My back felt queer as I went down the walk. The muscles crawled.
Nothing happened. I went along the street and got into my car and drove away from there.
The last day of March and hot enough for summer. I felt like taking my coat off as I drove. In front of the 77th Street Station, two prowl car men were scowling at a bent front fender. I went in through the swing doors and found a uniformed lieutenant behind the railing looking over the charge sheet. I asked him if Nulty was upstairs. He said he thought he was, was I a friend of his. I said yes. He said okey, go on up, so I went up the worn stairs and along the corridor and knocked at the door. The voice yelled and I went in.
He was picking his teeth, sitting in one chair with his feet on the other. He was looking at his left thumb, holding it up in front of his eyes and at arm’s length. The thumb looked all right to me, but Nulty’s stare was gloomy, as if he thought it wouldn’t get well.
He lowered it to his thigh and swung his feet to the floor and looked at me instead of at his thumb. He wore a dark gray suit and a mangled cigar end was waiting on the desk for him to get through with the toothpick.
I turned the felt seat cover that lay on the other chair with its straps not fastened to anything, sat down, and put a cigarette in my face.
“You,” Nulty said, and looked at his toothpick, to see if it was chewed enough.
“Malloy? I ain’t on it any more.”
“Nobody ain’t. Why? The guy’s lammed. We got him on the teletype and they got readers out. Hell, he’ll be in Mexico long gone.”
“Well, all he did was kill a Negro,” I said. “I guess that’s only a misdemeanor.”
“You still interested? I thought you was workin’?” His pale eyes moved damply over my face.
“I had a job last night, but it didn’t last. Have you still got that Pierrot photo?”
He reached around and pawed under his blotter. He held it out. It still looked pretty. I stared at the face.
“This is really mine,” I said. “If you don’t need it for the file, I’d like to keep it.”
“Should be in the file, I guess,” Nulty said. “I forgot about it. Okey, keep it under your hat. I passed the file in.”
I put the photo in my breast pocket and stood up. “Well, I guess that’s all,” I said, a little too airily.
“I smell something,” Nulty said coldly.
I looked at the piece of rope on the edge of his desk. His eyes followed my look. He threw the toothpick on the floor and stuck the chewed cigar in his mouth.
“Not this either,” he said.
“It’s a vague hunch. If it grows more solid, I won’t forget you.”
“Things is tough. I need a break, pal.”
“A man who works as hard as you deserves one,” I said.
He struck a match on his thumbnail, looked pleased because it caught the first time, and started inhaling smoke from the cigar.
“I’m laughing,” Nulty said sadly, as I went out.
The hall was quiet, the whole building was quiet. Down in front the prowl car men were still looking at their bent fender. I drove back to Hollywood.
The phone was ringing as I stepped into the office. I leaned down over the desk and said, “Yes?”
“Am I addressing Mr. Philip Marlowe?”
“Yes, this is Marlowe.”
“This is Mrs. Grayle’s residence. Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle. Mrs. Grayle would like to see you here as soon as convenient.”
“The address is Number 862 Aster Drive, in Bay City. May I say you will arrive within the hour?”
“Are you Mr. Grayle?”
“Certainly not, sir. I am the butler.”
“That’s me you hear ringing the door bell,” I said.
It was close to the ocean and you could feel the ocean in the air but you couldn’t see water from the front of the place. Aster Drive had a long smooth curve there and the houses on the inland side were just nice houses, but on the canyon side they were great silent estates, with twelve foot walls and wrought-iron gates and ornamental hedges; and inside, if you could get inside, a special brand of sunshine, very quiet, put up in noise-proof containers just for the upper classes.
A man in a dark blue Russian tunic and shiny black puttees and flaring breeches stood in the half-open gates. He was a dark, good-looking lad, with plenty of shoulders and shiny smooth hair and the peak on his rakish cap made a soft shadow over his eyes. He had a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and he held his head tilted a little, as if he liked to keep the smoke out of his nose. One hand had a smooth black gauntlet on it and the other was bare. There was a heavy ring on his third finger.
There was no number in sight, but this should be 862. I stopped my car and leaned out and asked him. It took him a long time to answer. He had to look me over very carefully. Also the car I was driving. He came over to me and as he came he carelessly dropped his ungloved hand towards his hip. It was the kind of carelessness that was meant to be noticed.
He stopped a couple of feet away from my car and looked me over again.
“I’m looking for the Grayle residence,” I said.