Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 33
“Yeah,” Hemingway said. “But Stillwood Heights is over the line, Chief. This just a personal favor to a friend of yours?”
“You might put it that way,” the Chief said, looking at his left thumb. “We wouldn’t want to do anything not strictly legal, of course.”
“Yeah,” Hemingway said. “No.” He coughed. “When do we go?”
The Chief looked at me benevolently. “Now would be okey,” I said. “If it suits Mr. Galbraith.”
“I do what I’m told,” Hemingway said.
The Chief looked him over, feature by feature. He combed him and brushed him with his eyes. “How is Captain Blane today?” he inquired, munching on a cardamon seed.
“Bad shape. Bust appendix,” Hemingway said. “Pretty critical.”
The Chief shook his head sadly. Then he got hold of the arms of his chair and dragged himself to his feet. He pushed a pink paw across his desk.
“Galbraith will take good care of you, Marlowe. You can rely on that.”
“Well, you’ve certainly been obliging, Chief,” I said. “I certainly don’t know how to thank you.”
“Pshaw! No thanks necessary. Always glad to oblige a friend of a friend, so to speak.” He winked at me. Hemingway studied the wink but he didn’t say what he added it up to.
We went out, with the Chief’s polite murmurs almost carrying us down the office. The door closed. Hemingway looked up and down the hall and then he looked at me.
“You played that one smart, baby,” he said. “You must got something we wasn’t told about.”
The car drifted quietly along a quiet street of homes. Arching pepper trees almost met above it to form a green tunnel. The sun twinkled through their upper branches and their narrow light leaves. A sign at the corner said it was Eighteenth Street.
Hemingway was driving and I sat beside him. He drove very slowly, his face heavy with thought.
“How much you tell him?” he asked, making up his mind.
“I told him you and Blane went over there and took me away and tossed me out of the car and socked me on the back of the head. I didn’t tell him the rest.”
“Not about Twenty-third and Descanso, huh?”
“I thought maybe I could get more co-operation from you if I didn’t.”
“That’s a thought. You really want to go over to Stillwood Heights, or was that just a stall?”
“Just a stall. What I really want is for you to tell me why you put me in that funnyhouse and why I was kept there?”
Hemingway thought. He thought so hard his cheek muscles made little knots under his grayish skin.
“That Blane,” he said. “That sawed-off hunk of shin meat. I didn’t mean for him to sap you. I didn’t mean for you to walk home neither, not really. It was just an act, on account of we are friends with this swami guy and we kind of keep people from bothering him. You’d be surprised what a lot of people would try to bother him.”
“Amazed,” I said.
He turned his head. His gray eyes were lumps of ice. Then he looked again through the dusty windshield and did some more thinking.
“Them old cops get sap-hungry once in a while,” he said. “They just got to crack a head. Jesus, was I scared. You dropped like a sack of cement. I told Blane plenty. Then we run you over to Sonderborg’s place on account of it was a little closer and he was a nice guy and would take care of you.”
“Does Amthor know you took me there?”
“Hell, no. It was our idea.”
“On account of Sonderborg is such a nice guy and he would take care of me. And no kickback. No chance for a doctor to back up a complaint if I made one. Not that a complaint would have much chance in this sweet little town, if I did make it.”
“You going to get tough?” Hemingway asked thoughtfully.
“Not me,” I said. “And for once in your life neither are you. Because your job is hanging by a thread. You looked in the Chief’s eyes and you saw that. I didn’t go in there without credentials, not this trip.”
“Okey,” Hemingway said and spat out of the window. “I didn’t have any idea of getting tough in the first place except just the routine big mouth. What next?”
“Is Blane really sick?”
Hemingway nodded, but somehow failed to look sad. “Sure is. Pain in the gut day before yesterday and it bust on him before they could get his appendix out. He’s got a chance — but not too good.”
“We’d certainly hate to lose him,” I said. “A fellow like that is an asset to any police force.”
Hemingway chewed that one over and spat it out of the car window.
“Okey, next question,” he sighed.
“You told me why you took me to Sonderborg’s place. You didn’t tell me why he kept me there over forty-eight hours, locked up and shot full of dope.”
Hemingway braked the car softly over beside the curb. He put his large hands on the lower part of the wheel side by side and gently rubbed the thumbs together.
“I wouldn’t have an idea,” he said in a far-off voice.
“I had papers on me showing I had a private license,” I said. “Keys, some money, a couple of photographs. If he didn’t know you boys pretty well, he might think the crack on the head was just a gag to get into his place and look around. But I figure he knows you boys too well for that. So I’m puzzled.”
“Stay puzzled, pally. It’s a lot safer.”
“So it is,” I said. “But there’s no satisfaction in it.”
“You got the L.A. law behind you on this?”
“On this what?”
“On this thinking bout Sonderborg.”
“That don’t mean yes or no.”
“I’m not that important,” I said. “The L.A. law can come in here any time they feel like it — two thirds of them anyway. The Sheriff’s boys and the D.A.’s boys. I have a friend in the D.A.’s office. I worked there once. His name is Bernie Ohls. He’s Chief Investigator.”
“You give it to him?”
“No. I haven’t spoken to him in a month.”
“Thinking about giving it to him?”
“Not if it interferes with a job I’m doing.”
“Okey, what is it you want?”
“What’s Sonderborg’s real racket?”
Hemingway took his hands off the wheel and spat out of the window. “We’re on a nice street here, ain’t we? Nice homes, nice gardens, nice climate. You hear a lot about crooked cops, or do you?”
“Once in a while,” I said.
“Okey, how many cops do you find living on a street even as good as this, with nice lawns and flowers? I’d know four or five, all vice squad boys. They get all the gravy. Cops like me live in itty-bitty frame houses on the wrong side of town. Want to see where I live?”
“What would it prove?”
“Listen, pally,” the big man said seriously. “You got me on a string, but it could break. Cops don’t go crooked for money. Not always, not even often. They get caught in the system. They get you where they have you do what is told them or else. And the guy that sits back there in the nice big corner office, with the nice suit and the nice liquor breath he thinks chewing on them seeds makes smell like violets, only it don’t — he ain’t giving the orders either. You get me?”
“What kind of a man is the mayor?”
“What kind of guy is a mayor anywhere? A politician. You think he gives the orders? Nuts. You know what’s the matter with this country, baby?”
“Too much frozen capital, I heard.”
“A guy can’t stay honest if he wants to,” Hemingway said. “That’s what’s the matter with this country. He gets chiseled out of his pants if he does. You gotta play the game dirty or you don’t eat. A lot of bastards think all we need is ninety thousand FBI men in clean collars and brief cases. Nuts. The percentage would get them just the way it does the rest of us. You know what I think? I think we gotta make this little world all over again. Now take Moral Rearmament. There you’ve got something. M.R.A. There you’ve got something, baby.”
“If Bay City is a sample of how it works, I’ll take aspirin,” I said.