Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 36

His eyes looked at me without emotion. “Am I goin’ to have to pinch you, son? I’m posted along this stretch to maintain law and order.”

“Who’s dismaintaining it right now?”

“Your friend had a familiar look to me.”

“He ought to. He’s a cop.”

“Aw hell,” the beak-nosed man said patiently. “That’s where I seen him. Good night to you.”

He turned and strolled back the way he had come. The tall head was out of sight now. It didn’t worry me. Nothing about that lad would ever worry me.

I walked on slowly.


Beyond the electroliers, beyond the beat and toot of the small sidewalk cars, beyond the smell of hot fat and popcorn and the shrill children and the barkers in the peep shows, beyond everything but the smell of the ocean and the suddenly clear line of the shore and the creaming fall of the waves into the pebbled spume. I walked almost alone now. The noises died behind me, the hot dishonest light became a fumbling glare. Then the lightless finger of a black pier jutted seaward into the dark. This would be the one. I turned to go out on it.

Red stood up from a box against the beginning of the piles and spoke upwards to me. “Right,” he said. “You go on out to the seasteps. I gotta go and get her and warm her up.”

“Waterfront cop followed me. That guy in the bingo parlor. I had to stop and speak to him.”

“Olson. Pickpocket detail. He’s good too. Except once in a while he will lift a leather and plant it, to keep up his arrest record. That’s being a shade too good, or isn’t it?”

“For Bay City I’d say just about right. Let’s get going. I’m getting the wind up. I don’t want to blow this fog away. It doesn’t look much but it would help a lot.”

“It’ll last enough to fool a searchlight,” Red said. “They got Tommy-guns on that boat deck. You go on out the pier. I’ll be along.”

He melted into the dark and I went out the dark boards, slipping on fish-slimed planking. There was a low dirty railing at the far end. A couple leaned in a corner. They went away, the man swearing.

For ten minutes I listened to the water slapping the piles. A night bird whirred in the dark, the faint grayness of a wing cut across my vision and disappeared. A plane droned high in the ceiling. Then far off a motor barked and roared and kept on roaring like half a dozen truck engines. After a while the sound eased and dropped, then suddenly there was no sound at all.

More minutes passed. I went back to the seasteps and moved down them as cautiously as a cat on a wet floor. A dark shape slid out of the night and something thudded. A voice said: “All set. Get in.”

I got into the boat and sat beside him under the screen. The boat slid out over the water. There was no sound from its exhaust now but an angry bubbling along both sides of the shell. Once more the lights of Bay City became something distantly luminous beyond the rise and fall of alien waves. Once more the garish lights of the Royal Crown slid off to one side, the ship seeming to preen itself like a fashion model on a revolving platform. And once again the ports of the good ship Montecito grew out of the black Pacific and the slow steady sweep of the searchlight turned around it like the beam of a lighthouse.

“I’m scared,” I said suddenly. “I’m scared stiff.”

Red throttled down the boat and let it slide up and down the swell as though the water moved underneath and the boat stayed in the same place. He turned his face and stared at me.

“I’m afraid of death and despair,” I said. “Of dark water and drowned men’s faces and skulls with empty eyesockets. i’m afraid of dying, of being nothing, of not finding a man named Brunette.”

He chuckled. “You had me going for a minute. You sure give yourself a pep talk. Brunette might be any place. On either of the boats, at the club he owns, back east, Reno, in his slippers at home. That all you want?”

“I want a man named Malloy, a huge brute who got out of the Oregon State pen a while back after an eight-year stretch for bank robbery. He was hiding out in Bay City.” I told him about it. I told him a great deal more than I intended to. It must have been his eyes.

At the end he thought and then spoke slowly and what he said had wisps of fog clinging to it, like the beads on a mustache. Maybe that made it seem wiser than it was, maybe not.

“Some of it makes sense,” he said. “Some not. Some I wouldn’t know about, some I would. If this Sonderborg was running a hideout and peddling reefers and sending boys out to heist jewels off rich ladies with a wild look in their eyes, it stands to reason that he had an in with the city government, but that don’t mean they knew everything he did or that every cop on the force knew he had an in. Could be Blane did and Hemingway, as you call him, didn’t. Blane’s bad, the other guy is just tough cop, neither bad nor good, neither crooked nor honest, full of guts and just dumb enough, like me, to think being on the cops is a sensible way to make a living. This psychic fellow doesn’t figure either way. He bought himself a line of protection in the best market, Bay City, and he used it when he had to. You never know what a guy like that is up to and so you never know what he has on his conscience or is afraid of. Could be he’s human and fell for a customer once in a while. Them rich dames are easier to make than paper dolls. So my hunch about your stay in Sonderborg’s place is simply that Blane knew Sonderborg would be scared when he found out who you were — and the story they told Sonderborg is probably what he told you, that they found you wandering with your head dizzy — and Sonderborg wouldn’t know what to do with you and he would be afraid either to let you go or to knock you off, and after long enough Blane would drop around and raise the ante on him. That’s all there was to that. It just happened they could use you and they did it. Blane might know about Malloy too. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

I listened and watched the slow sweep of the searchlight and the coming and going of the water taxi far over to the right.

“I know how these boys figure,” Red said. “The trouble with cops is not that they’re dumb or crooked or tough, but that they think just being a cop gives them a little something they didn’t have before. Maybe it did once, but not any more. They’re topped by too many smart minds. That brings us to Brunette. He don’t run the town. He couldn’t be bothered. He put up big money to elect a mayor so his water taxis wouldn’t be bothered. If there was anything in particular he wanted, they would give it to him. Like a while ago one of his friends, a lawyer, was pinched for a drunk driving felony and Brunette got the charge reduced to reckless driving. They changed the blotter to do it, and that’s a felony too. Which gives you an idea. His racket is gambling and all rackets tie together these days. So he might handle reefers, or touch a percentage from some one of his workers he gave the business to. He might know Sonderborg and he might not. But the jewel heist is out. Figure the work these boys done for eight grand. It’s a laugh to think Brunette would have anything to do with that.”

“Yeah,” I said. “There was a man murdered too — remember?”

“He didn’t do that either, nor have it done. If Brunette had that done, you wouldn’t have found any body. You never know what might be stitched into a guy’s clothes. Why chance it? Look what I’m doing for you for twenty-five bucks. What would Brunette get done with the money he has to spend?”

“Would he have a man killed?”

Red thought for a moment. “He might. He probably has. But he’s not a tough guy. These racketeers are a new type. We think about them the way we think about old time yeggs or needle-up punks. Big-mouthed police commissioners on the radio yell that they’re all yellow rats, that they’ll kill women and babies and howl for mercy if they see a police uniform. They ought to know better than to try to sell the public that stuff. There’s yellow cops and there’s yellow torpedoes — but damn few of either. And as for the top men, like Brunette — they didn’t get there by murdering people. They got there by guts and brains — and they don’t have the group courage the cops have either. But above all they’re business men. What they do is for money. Just like other business men. Sometimes a guy gets badly in the way. Okey. Out. But they think plenty before they do it. What the hell am I giving a lecture for?”

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