Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 25
“Maybe you would like to tell us why you wanted to see this guy,” Hemingway suggested politely.
“You mean while I still have part of my face?”
“Aw, we ain’t those kind of boys at all,” he said, with a large gesture.
“You know Amthor pretty well, don’t you, Hemingway?”
“Mr. Blane kind of knows him. Me, I just do what the orders is.”
“Who the hell is Mister Blane?”
“That’s the gentleman in the back seat.”
“And besides being in the back seat who the hell is he?”
“Why, Jesus, everybody knows Mr. Blane.”
“All right,” I said, suddenly feeling very weary.
There was a little more silence, more curves, more winding ribbons of concrete, more darkness, and more pain.
The big man said: “Now that we are all between pals and no ladies present we really don’t give so much time to why you went back up there, but this Hemingway stuff is what really has me down.”
“A gag,” I said. “An old, old gag.”
“Who is this Hemingway person at all?”
“A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.”
“That must take a hell of a long time,” the big man said. “For a private dick you certainly have a wandering kind of mind. Are you still wearing your own teeth?”
“Yeah, with a few plugs in them.”
“Well, you certainly have been lucky, pally.”
The man in the back seat said: “This is all right. Turn right at the next.”
Hemingway swung the sedan into a narrow dirt road that edged along the flank of a mountain. We drove along that about a mile. The smell of the sage became overpowering.
“Here,” the man in the back seat said.
Hemingway stopped the car and set the brake. He leaned across me and opened the door.
“Well, it’s nice to have met you, pally. But don’t come back. Anyways not on business. Out.”
“I walk home from here?”
The man in the back seat said: “Hurry up.”
“Yeah, you walk home from here, pally. Will that be all right with you?”
“Sure, it will give me time to think a few things out. For instance you boys are not L.A. cops. But one of you is a cop, maybe both of you. I’d say you are Bay City cops. I’m wondering why you were out of your territory.”
“Ain’t that going to be kind of hard to prove, pally?”
He didn’t answer. Neither of them spoke. I started to get out of the car and put my foot on the running board and leaned forward, still a little dizzy.
The man in the back seat made a sudden flashing movement that I sensed rather than saw. A pool of darkness opened at my feet and was far, far deeper than the blackest night.
I dived into it. It had no bottom.
The room was full of smoke.
The smoke hung straight up in the air, in thin lines, straight up and down like a curtain of small clear beads. Two windows seemed to be open in an end wall, but the smoke didn’t move. I had never seen the room before. There were bars across the windows.
I was dull, without thought. I felt as if I had slept for a year. But the smoke bothered me. I lay on my back and thought about it. After a long time I took a deep breath that hurt my lungs.
I yelled: “Fire!”
That made me laugh. I didn’t know what was funny about it but I began to laugh. I lay there on the bed and laughed. I didn’t like the sound of the laugh. It was the laugh of a nut.
The one yell was enough. Steps thumped rapidly outside the room and a key was jammed into a lock and the door swung open. A man jumped in sideways and shut the door after him. His right hand reached toward his hip.
He was a short thick man in a white coat. His eyes had a queer look, black and flat. There were bulbs of gray skin at the outer corners of them.
I turned my head on the hard pillow and yawned.
“Don’t count that one, Jack. It slipped out,” I said. He stood there scowling, his right hand hovering towards his right hip. Greenish malignant face and flat black eyes and gray white skin and nose that seemed just a shell.
“Maybe you want some more strait-jacket,” he sneered.
“I’m fine, Jack. Just fine. Had a long nap. Dreamed a little, I guess. Where am I?”
“Where you belong.”
“Seems like a nice place,” I said. “Nice people, nice atmosphere. I guess I’ll have me a short nap again.”
“Better be just that,” he snarled.
He went out. The door shut. The lock clicked. The steps growled into nothing.
He hadn’t done the smoke any good. It still hung there in the middle of the room, all across the room. Like a curtain. It didn’t dissolve, didn’t float off, didn’t move. There was air in the room, and I could feel it on my face. But the smoke couldn’t feel it. It was a gray web woven by a thousand spiders. I wondered how they had got them to work together.
Cotton flannel pajamas. The kind they have in the County Hospital. No front, not a stitch more than is essential. Coarse, rough material. The neck chafed my throat. My throat was still sore. I began to remember things. I reached up and felt the throat muscles. They were still sore. Just one Indian, pop. Okey, Hemingway. So you want to be a detective? Earn good money. Nine easy lessons. We provide badge. For fifty cents extra we send you a truss.
The throat felt sore but the fingers feeling it didn’t feel anything. They might just as well have been a bunch of bananas. I looked at them. They looked like fingers. No good. Mail order fingers. They must have come with the badge and the truss. And the diploma.
It was night. The world outside the windows was a black world. A glass porcelain bowl hung from the middle of the ceiling on three brass chains. There was light in it. It had little colored lumps around the edge, orange and blue alternately. I stared at them. I was tired of the smoke. As I stared they began to open up like little portholes and heads popped out. Tiny heads, but alive, heads like the heads of small dolls, but alive. There was a man in a yachting cap with a Johnnie Walker nose and a fluffy blonde in a picture hat and a thin man with a crooked bow tie. He looked like a waiter in a beachtown flytrap. He opened his lips and sneered: “Would you like your steak rare or medium, sir?”
I closed my eyes tight and winked them hard and when I opened them again it was just a sham porcelain bowl on three brass chains.
But the smoke still hung motionless in the moving air. I took hold of the corner of a rough sheet and wiped the sweat off my face with the numb fingers the correspondence school had sent me after the nine easy lessons, one half in advance, Box Two Million Four Hundred and Sixty Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Twenty Four, Cedar City, Iowa. Nuts. Completely nuts.
I sat up on the bed and after a while I could reach the floor with my feet. They were bare and they had pins and needles in them. Notions counter on the left, madam. Extra large safety pins on the right. The feet began to feel the floor. I stood up. Too far up. I crouched over, breathing hard and held the side of the bed and a voice that seemed to come from under the bed said over and over again: “You’ve got the dt’s . . . you’ve got the dt’s . . . you’ve got the dt’s.”
I started to walk, wobbling like a drunk. There was a bottle of whiskey on a small white enamel table between the two barred windows. It looked like a good shape. It looked about half full. I walked towards it. There are a lot of nice people in the world, in spite. You can crab over the morning paper and kick the shins of the guy in the next seat at the movies and feel mean and discouraged and sneer at the politicians, but there are a lot of nice people in the world just the same. Take the guy that left that half bottle of whiskey there. He had a heart as big as one of Mae West’s hips.
I reached it and put both my half-numb hands down on it and hauled it up to my mouth, sweating as if I was lifting the end of the Golden Gate bridge.