Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 34
“You could get too smart,” Hemingway said softly. “You might not think it, but it could be. You could get so smart you couldn’t think about anything but bein’ smart. Me, I’m just a dumb cop. I take orders. I got a wife and two kids and I do what the big shots say. Blane could tell you things. Me, I’m ignorant.”
“Sure Blane has appendicitis? Sure he didn’t just shoot himself in the stomach for meanness?”
“Don’t be that way,” Hemingway complained and slapped his hands up and down on the wheel. “Try and think nice about people.”
“He’s human — just like the rest of us,” Hemingway said. “He’s a sinner — but he’s human.”
“What’s Sonderborg’s racket?”
“Okey, I was just telling you. Maybe I’m wrong. I had you figured for a guy that could be sold a nice idea.”
“You don’t know what his racket is,” I said.
Hemingway took his handkerchief out and wiped his with it. “Buddy, I hate to admit it,” he said. “But you ought to know damn well that if I knew or Blane knew Sonderborg had a racket, either we wouldn’t of dumped you in there or you wouldn’t ever have come out, not walking. I’m talking about a real bad racket, naturally. Not fluff stuff like telling old women’s fortunes out of a crystal ball.”
“I don’t think I was meant to come out walking,” I said. “There’s a drug called scopolamine, truth serum, that sometimes makes people talk without their knowing it. It’s not sure fire, any more than hypnotism is. But it sometimes works. I think I was being milked in there to find out what I knew. But there are only three ways Sonderborg could have known that there was anything for me to know that might hurt him. Amthor might have told him, or Moose Malloy might have mentioned to him that I went to see Jessie Florian, or he might have thought putting me in there was a police gag.”
Hemingway stared at me sadly. “I can’t even see your dust,” he said. “Who the hell is Moose Malloy?”
“A big hunk that killed a man over on Central Avenue a few days ago. He’s on your teletype, if you ever read it. And you probably have a reader of him by now.”
“So Sonderborg was hiding him. I saw him there, on a bed reading newspapers, the night I snuck out.”
“How’d you get out? Wasn’t you locked in?”
“I crocked the orderly with a bed spring. I was lucky.”
“This big guy see you?”
Hemingway kicked the car away from the curb and a solid grin settled on his face. “Let’s go collect,” he said. “It figures. It figures swell. Sonderborg was hiding hot boys. If they had dough, that is. His set-up was perfect for it. Good money, too.”
He kicked the car into motion and whirled around a corner.
“Hell, I thought he sold reefers,” he said disgustedly. “With the right protection behind him. But hell, that’s a small time racket. A peanut grift.”
“Ever hear of the numbers racket? That’s a small time racket too — if you’re just looking at one piece of it.”
Hemingway turned another corner sharply and shook his heavy head. “Right. And pin ball games and bingo houses and horse parlors. But add them all up and give one guy control and it makes sense.”
He went wooden on me again. His mouth shut hard and I could see his teeth were biting at each other inside it. We were on Descanso Street and going east. It was a quiet street even in late afternoon. As we got towards Twenty-third, it became in some vague manner less quiet. Two men were studying a palm tree as if figuring out how to move it. A car was parked near Dr. Sondeborg’s place, but nothing showed in it. Halfway down the block a man was reading water meters.
The house was a cheerful spot by daylight. Tea rose begonias made a solid pale mass under the front windows and pansies a blur of color around the base of a white acacia in bloom. A scarlet climbing rose was just opening its buds on a fan-shaped trellis. There was a bed of winter sweet peas and a bronze-green humming bird prodding in them delicately. The house looked like the home of a well-to-do elderly couple who like to garden. The late afternoon sun on it had a hushed and menacing stillness.
Hemingway slid slowly past the house and a tight little smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. His nose sniffed. He turned the next corner, and looked in his rear view mirror and stepped up the speed of the car.
After three blocks he braked at the side of the street again and turned to give me a hard level stare.
“L.A. law,” he said. “One of the guys by the palm tree is called Donnelly. I know him. They got the house covered. So you didn’t tell your pal downtown, huh?”
“I said I didn’t.”
“The Chief’ll love this,” Hemingway snarled. “They come down here and raid a joint and don’t even stop to say hello.”
I said nothing.
“They catch this Moose Malloy?”
I shook my head. “Not so far as I know.”
“How the hell far do you know, buddy?” he asked very softly.
“Not far enough. Is there any connection between Amthor and Sonderborg?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Who runs this town?” Silence.
“I heard a gambler named Laird Brunette put up thirty grand to elect the mayor. I heard he owns the Belvedere Club and both the gambling ships out on the water.”
“Might be,” Hemingway said politely.
“Where can Brunette be found?”
“Why ask me, baby?”
“Where would you make for if you lost your hideout in this town?”
I laughed. “Okey, will you do me a big favor?”
“Drive me back downtown.”
He started the car away from the curb and tooled it neatly along a shadowed street towards the ocean. The car reached the City Hall and slid around into the police parking zone and I got out.
“Come round and see me some time,” Hemingway said. “I’ll likely be cleaning spittoons.”
He put his big hand out. “No hard feelings?”
“M.R.A.” I said and shook the hand.
He grinned all over. He called me back when I started to walk away. He looked carefully in all directions and leaned his mouth close to my ear.
“Them gambling ships are supposed to be out beyond city and state jurisdiction,” he said. “Panama registry. If it was me that was — “ he stopped dead, and his bleak eyes began to worry.
“I get it,” I said. “I had the same sort of idea. I don’t know why I bothered so much to get you to have it with me. But it wouldn’t work — not for just one man.”
He nodded, and then he smiled. “M.R.A.” he said.
I lay on my back on a bed in a waterfront hotel and waited for it to get dark. It was a small front room with a hard bed and a mattress slightly thicker than the cotton blanket that covered it. A spring underneath me was broken and stuck into the left side of my back. I lay there and let it prod me.
The reflection of a red neon light glared on the ceiling. When it made the whole room red it would be dark enough to go out. Outside cars honked along the alley they called the Speedway. Feet slithered on the sidewalks below my window. There was a murmur and mutter of coming and going in the air. The air that seeped in through the rusted screens smelled of stale frying fat. Far off a voice of the kind that could be heard far off was shouting: “Get hungry, foks. Get hungry. Nice hot doggies here. Get hungry.”
It got darker. I thought; and thought in my mind moved with a kind of sluggish stealthiness, as if it was being watched by bitter and sadistic eyes. I thought of dead eyes looking at a moonless sky, with black blood at the corners of the mouths beneath them. I thought of nasty old women beaten to death against the posts of their dirty beds. I thought of a man with bright blond hair who was afraid and didn’t quite know what he was afraid of, who was sensitive enough to know that something was wrong, and too vain or too dull to guess what it was that was wrong. I thought of beautiful rich women who could be had. I thought of nice slim curious girls who lived alone and could be had too, in a different way. I thought of cops, tough cops that could be greased and yet were not by any means all bad, like Hemingway. Fat prosperous cops with Chamber of Commerce voices, like Chief Wax. Slim, smart and deadly cops like Randall, who for all their smartness and deadliness were not free to do a clean job in a clean way. I thought of sour old goats like Nulty who had given up trying. I though of Indians and psychics and dope doctors.