Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 40

I stopped. She nodded and said: “Very interesting. If one knows what you are talking about.”

“And one does,” I said.

We stared at each other. She had her right hand in her bag again now. I had a good idea what it held. But it hadn’t started to come out yet. Every event takes time.

“Let’s quit kidding,” I said. “We’re all alone here. Nothing either of us says has the slightest standing against what the other says. We cancel each other out. A girl who started in the gutter became the wife of a multimillionaire. On the way up a shabby old woman recognized her — probably heard her singing at the radio station and recognized the voice and went to see — and this old woman had to be kept quiet. But she was cheap, therefore she only knew a little. But the man who dealt with her and made her monthly payments and owned a trust deed on her home and could throw her into the gutter any time she got funny — that man knew it all. He was expensive. But that didn’t matter either, as long as nobody else knew. But some day a tough guy named Moose Malloy was going to get out of jail and start finding things out about his former sweetie. Because the big sap loved her — and still does. That’s what makes it funny, tragic-funny. And about that time a private dick starts nosing in also. So the weak link in the chain, Marriott, is no longer a luxury. He has become a menace. They’ll get to him and they’ll take him apart. He’s that kind of lad. He melts under heat. So he was murdered before he could melt. With a blackjack. By you.”

All she did was take her hand out of her bag, with a gun in it. All she did was point it at me and smile. All I did was nothing.

But that wasn’t all that was done. Moose Malloy stepped out of the dressing room with the Colt .45 still looking like a toy in his big hairy paw.

He didn’t look at me at all. He looked at Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle. He leaned forward and his mouth smiled at her and he spoke to her softly.

“I thought I knew that voice,” he said. “I listened to that voice for eight years — all I could remember of it. I kind of liked your hair red, though. Hiya, babe. Long time no see.”

She turned the gun.

“Get away from me, you son of a bitch,” she said.

He stopped dead and dropped the gun to his side. He was still a couple of feet from her. His breath labored.

“I never thought,” he said quietly. “It just came to me out of the blue. You turned me into the cops. You. Little Velma.”

I threw a pillow, but it was too slow. She shot him five times in the stomach. The bullets made no more sound than fingers going into a glove.

Then she turned the gun and shot at me but it was empty. She dived for Malloy’s gun on the floor. I didn’t miss with the second pillow. I was around the bed and knocked her away before she got the pillow off her face. I picked the Colt up and went away around the bed again with it.

He was still standing, but he was swaying. His mouth was slack and his hands were fumbling at his body. He went slack at the knees and fell sideways on the bed, with his face down. His gasping breath filled the room.

I had the phone in my hand before she moved. Her eyes were a dead gray, like half-frozen water. She rushed for the door and I didn’t try to stop her. She left the door wide, so when I had done phoning I went over and shut it. I turned his head a little on the bed, so he wouldn’t smother. He was still alive, but after five in the stomach even a Moose Malloy doesn’t live very long.

I went back to the phone and called Randall at his home. “Malloy.” I said. “In my apartment. Shot five times in the stomach by Mrs. Grayle. I called the Receiving Hospital. She got away.”

“So you had to play clever,” was all he said and hung up quickly.

I went back to the bed. Malloy was on his knees beside the bed now, trying to get up, a great wad of bedclothes in one hand. His face poured sweat. His eyelids ifickered slowly and the lobes of his ears were dark.

He was still on his knees and still trying to get up when the fast wagon got there. It took four men to get him on the stretcher.

“He has a slight chance — if they’re .25’s,” the fast wagon doctor said just before he went out. “All depends what they hit inside. But he has a chance.”

“He wouldn’t want it,” I said.

He didn’t. He died in the night.


“You ought to have given a dinner party,” Anne Riordan said, looking at me across her tan figured rug. “Gleaming silver and crystal, bright crisp linen — if they’re still using linen in the places where they give dinner parties — candlelight, the women in their best jewels and the men in white ties, the servants hovering discreetly with the wrapped bottles of wine, the cops looking a little uncomfortable in their hired evening clothes, as who the hell wouldn’t, the suspects with their brittle smiles and restless hands, and you at the head of the long table telling all about it, little by little, with your charming light smile and a phony English accent like Philo Vance.”

“Yeah,” I said. “How about a little something to be holding in my hand while you go on being clever?”

She went out to her kitchen and rattled ice and came back with a couple of tall ones and sat down again.

“The liquor bills of your lady friends must be something fierce,” she said and sipped.

“And suddenly the butler fainted,” I said. “Only it wasn’t the butler who did the murder. He just fainted to be cute.”

I inhaled some of my drink. “It’s not that kind of story,” I said. “It’s not lithe and clever. It’s just dark and full of blood.”

“So she got away?”

I nodded. “So far. She never went home. She must have had a little hideout where she could change her clothes and appearance. After all she lived in peril, like the sailors. She was alone when she came to see me. No chauffeur. She came in a small car and she left it a few dozen blocks away.”

“They’ll catch her — if they really try.”

“Don’t be like that. Wilde, the D.A. is on the level. I worked for him once. But if they catch her, what then? They’re up against twenty million dollars and a lovely face and either Lee Farrell or Rennenkamp. It’s going to be awfully hard to prove she killed Marriott. All they have is what looks like a heavy motive and her past life, if they can trace it. She probably has no record, or she wouldn’t have played it this way.”

“What about Malloy? If you had told me about him before, I’d have known who she was right away. By the way, how did you know? These two photos are not of the same woman.”

“No. I doubt if even old lady Florian knew they had been switched on her. She looked kind of surprised when I showed the photo of Velma — the one that had Velma Valento written on it — in front of her nose. But she may have known. She may have just hid it with the idea of selling it to me later on. Knowing it was harmless, a photo of some other girl Marriott substituted.”

“That’s just guessing.”

“It had to be that way. Just as when Marriott called me up and gave me a song and dance about a jewel ransom payoff it had to be because I had been to see Mrs. Florian about Velma. And when Marriott was killed, it had to be because he was the weak link in the chain. Mrs. Florian didn’t even know Vehna had become Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle. She couldn’t have. They bought her too cheap. Grayle says they went to Europe to be married and she was married under her real name. He won’t tell where or when. He won’t tell what her real name was. He won’t tell where she is. I don’t think he knows, but the cops don’t believe that.”

“Why won’t he tell?” Anne Riordan cupped her chin on the backs of her laced fingers and stared at me with shadowed eyes.

“He’s so crazy about her he doesn’t care whose lap she sat in.”

“I hope she enjoyed sitting in yours,” Anne Riordan said, acidly.

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