Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 31


A shiny black bug with a pink head and pink spots on it crawled slowly along the polished top of Randall’s desk and waved a couple of feelers around, as if testing the breeze for a takeoff. It wobbled a little as it crawled, like an old woman carrying too many parcels. A nameless dick sat at another desk and kept talking into an old-fashioned hushaphone telephone mouthpiece, so that his voice sounded like someone whispering in a tunnel. He talked with his eyes half closed, a big scarred hand on the desk in front of him holding a burning cigarette between the knuckles of the first and second fingers.

The bug reached the end of Randall’s desk and marched straight off into the air. It fell on its back on the floor, waved a few thin worn legs in the air feebly and then played dead. Nobody cared, so it began waving the legs again and finally struggled over on its face. It trundled slowly off into a corner towards nothing, going nowhere.

The police loudspeaker box on the wall put out a bulletin about a holdup on San Pedro south of Forty-fourth. The holdup was a middle-aged man wearing a dark gray suit and gray felt hat. He was last seen running east on Forty-fourth and then dodging between two houses. “Approach carefully,” the announcer said. “This suspect is armed with a .32 caliber revolver and has just held up the proprietor of a Greek restaurant at Number 3966 South San Pedro.”

A flat click and the announcer went off the air and another one came on and started to read a hot car list, in a slow monotonous voice that repeated everything twice.

The door opened and Randall came in with a sheaf of letter size typewritten sheets. He walked briskly across the room and sat down across the desk from me and pushed some papers at me.

“Sign four copies,” he said.

I signed four copies.

The pink bug reached a corner of the room and put feelers out for a good spot to take off from. It seemed a little discouraged. It went along the baseboard towards another corner. I lit a cigarette and the dick at the hushaphone abruptly got up and went out of the office.

Randall leaned back in his chair, looking just the same as ever, just as cool, just as smooth, just as ready to be nasty or nice as the occasion required.

“I’m telling you a few things,” he said, “just so you won’t go having any more brainstorms. Just so you won’t go master-minding all over the landscape any more. Just so maybe for Christ’s sake you will let this one lay.”

I waited.

“No prints in the dump,” he said. “You know which dump I mean. The cord was jerked to turn the radio off, but she turned it up herself probably. That’s pretty obvious. Drunks like loud radios. If you have gloves on to do a killing and you turn up the radio to drown shots or something, you can turn it off the same way. But that wasn’t the way it was done. And that woman’s neck is broken. She was dead before the guy started to smack her head around. Now why did he start to smack her head around?”

“I’m just listening.”

Randall frowned. “He probably didn’t know he’d broken her neck. He was sore at her,” he said. “Deduction.” He smiled sourly.

I blew some smoke and waved it away from my face.

“Well, why was he sore at her? There was a grand reward paid the time he was picked up at Florian’s for the bank job in Oregon. It was paid to a shyster who is dead since, but the Florians likely got some of it. Malloy may have suspected that. Maybe he actually knew it. And maybe he was just trying to shake it out of her.”

I nodded. It sounded worth a nod. Randall went on:

“He took hold of her neck just once and his fingers didn’t slip. If we get him, we might be able to prove by the spacing of the marks that his hands did it. Maybe not. The doc figures it happened last night, fairly early. Motion picture time, anyway. So far we don’t tie Malloy to the house last night, not by any neighbors. But it certainly looks like Malloy.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Malloy all right. He probably didn’t mean to kill her, though. He’s just too strong.”

“That won’t help him any,” Randall said grimly.

“I suppose not. I just make the point that Malloy does not appear to me to be a killer type. Kill if cornered — but not for pleasure or money — and not women.”

“Is that an important point?” he asked dryly.

“Maybe you know enough to know what’s important. And what isn’t. I don’t.”

He stared at me long enough for a police announcer to have time to put out another bulletin about the holdup of the Greek restaurant on South San Pedro. The suspect was now in custody. It turned out later that he was a fourteen-year-old Mexican armed with a water-pistol. So much for eye-witnesses.

Randall waited until the announcer stopped and went on:

“We got friendly this morning. Let’s stay that way. Go home and lie down and have a good rest. You look pretty peaked. Just let me and the police department handle the Marriott killing and find Moose Malloy and so on.”

“I got paid on the Marriott business,” I said. “I fell down on the job. Mrs. Grayle has hired me. What do you want me to do — retire and live on my fat?”

He stared at me again. “I know. I’m human. They give you guys licenses, which must mean they expect you to do something with them besides hang them on the wall in your office. On the other hand any acting-captain with a grouch can break you.”

“Not with the Grayles behind me.”

He studied it. He hated to admit I could be even half right. So he frowned and tapped his desk.

“Just so we understand each other,” he said after a pause. “If you crab this case, you’ll be in a jam. It may be a jam you can wriggle out of this time. I don’t know. But little by little you will build up a body of hostility in this department that will make it damn hard for you to do any work.”

“Every private dick faces that every day of his life — unless he’s just a divorce man.”

“You can’t work on murders.”

“You’ve said your piece. I heard you say it. I don’t expect to go out and accomplish things a big police department can’t accomplish. If I have any small private notions, they are just that — small and private.”

He leaned slowly across the desk. His thin restless fingers tap-tapped, like the poinsettia shoots tapping against Mrs. Jessie Florian’s front wail. His creamy gray hair shone. His cool steady eyes were on mine.

“Let’s go on,” he said. “With what there is to tell. Amthor’s away on a trip. His wife — and secretary — doesn’t know or won’t say where. The Indian has also disappeared. Will you sign a complaint against these people?”

“No. I couldn’t make it stick.”

He looked relieved. “The wife says she never heard of you. As to these two Bay City cops, if that’s what they were — that’s out of my hands. I’d rather not have the thing any more complicated than it is. One thing I feel pretty sure of — Amthor had nothing to do with Marriott’s death. The cigarettes with his card in them were just a plant.”

“Doc Sonderborg?”

He spread his hands. “The whole shebang skipped. Men from the D.A.’s office went down there on the quiet. No contact with Bay City at all. The house is locked up and empty. They got in, of course. Some hasty attempt had been made to clean up, but there are prints — plenty of them. It will take a week to work out what we have. There’s a wall safe they’re working on now. Probably had dope in it — and other things. My guess is that Sonderborg will have a record, not local, somewhere else, for abortion, or treating gunshot wounds or altering finger tips or for illegal use of dope. If it comes under Federal statutes, we’ll get a lot of help.”

“He said he was a medical doctor,” I said.

Randall shrugged. “May have been once. May never have been convicted. There’s a guy practicing medicine near Palm Springs right now who was indicted as a dope peddler in Hollywood five years ago. He was as guilty as hell — but the protection worked. He got off. Anything else worrying you?”

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