Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Cinco
“Mrs. Atkinson, my name is Travis McGee.”
“Yes? Yes? What do you want?”
I tried to look disarming. I am pretty good at that. I have one of those useful faces. Tanned American. Bright eyes and white teeth shining amid a broad brown reliable bony visage. The proper folk-hero crinkle at the corners of the eyes, and the bashful appealing smile, when needed. I have been told that when I have been aroused in violent directions I can look like something from an unused corner of hell, but I wouldn’t know about that. My mirror consistently reflects that folksy image of the young project engineer who flung the bridge across the river in spite of overwhelming odds, up to and including the poisoned arrow in his heroic shoulder.
So I looked disarming. When they give you something to use, you use it. Many bank robbers look extraordinarily reliable. So you use your face to make faces with, play parts, pick up cues. In every contact with every other human in every day of your life, you become what you sense they want of you or, if you are motivated the other way, exactly what they do not want. Were this not so, there would be no place left to hide.
“I just wanted to talk to you about…”
“I won’t show the house without an appointment. That was the arrangement. I’m sorry.” They learn that voice and that diction in those little schools they go to before they go on to Smith and Vassar and Wellesley.
“I want to talk to you about Junior Allen.”
I could have listed maybe fifty possible reactions without coming close to the one I got. Her eyes dulled and her narrow nostrils flared wide and her mouth fell into sickness. She lost her posture and stood in an ugly way. “That’s it, I suppose,” she said in a dragging tone. “Certainly. Am I a gift? Or was there a fee?” She whirled and hurried away.
She skidded and nearly fell when she turned left at the end of the foyer. I heard an unseen door bang. I stood there in the silence. Then I heard a muffled sound of retching, tiny and far off and agonizing. The noon sun blasted down upon whiteness. I stepped into the relative darkness of the house, into the cool breath of air conditioning. I closed the formal door.
She was still being sick. I went swiftly and quietly through the house. It was as littered as Christine’s house, but a different sort of litter. Glasses, dirty ashtrays, food untouched, clothing, things broken in violence. But you could not mark that cold house. In thirty seconds with a fire hose you could have it dripping and absolutely clean. There was no one else there. She was living in this big house like a sick frail animal in a cave.
I could hear water running. I rapped on the closed door.
“Are you all right?”
I heard a murmur I could not interpret. It had a vague sound of reassurance. I roamed around. The place offended me. There was a giant dishwasher in the kitchen. I found a big tray and went through the house collecting the glasses and plates and cups. It took three trips. I scraped stale food into the disposer. Housewife McGee. After I set the dishwasher to churning, I felt a little better.
I went back and listened at the door. There was no sound.
“Are you all right in there?”
The door opened and she came out and leaned against the wall just outside the bathroom door. She had a ghastly pallor and the rings around her eyes looked more smudged. “Are you moving in?” she asked tonelessly.
“I just came here to…”
“This morning I looked at myself, and I thought maybe the process had to start somewhere, so I got terribly clean. I washed my hair and scrubbed and scrubbed, and stripped down the bed and even found a drawer with clean cIothing in it, for a wonder. So you’re in luck, aren’t you? Excellent timing, provided you wish to start clean.”
“Mrs. Atkinson, I don’t think you…”
She looked at me with a horrid parody of sensuality, a sick bright leer. “I suppose you know all of my specialties, dear.”
“Will you listen to me!”
“I’m sure you don’t mind if I have a drink first. I’m really much better after I have some drinks.”
“I’ve never seen Junior Allen in my life!”
“I hope he told you I’ve gotten terribly scrawny and…” She stopped the hideous parody of enticement and stared at me. “What did you say?”
“I’ve never seen Junior Allen in my life.”
She rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand. “Why did you come to me?”
“I want to help you.”
“Help me what?”
“You said it yourself. The process has to start somewhere.”
She stared at me without comprehension, and then with a savage doubt, and finally, slowly, with belief. She turned, sagging, and, before I could catch her, she fell to her knees, bare knees making a painful sound of bone against terrazzo. She hunched down against the baseboard and rubbed her face back and forth and began her howling, whooping sobs and coughings. I gathered her up. She shuddered violently at my touch. She was far too light.
I took her to her bedroom. When I stretched her out on her freshly made bed, the sobbing stopped abruptly. She became as rigid as dry sticks, her eyes staring at me with glassy enormity, her bloodless lips sucked in. I took her sandals off and covered her with the spread. I fixed the blinds to darken the room, as those helpless eyes followed me. I brought a stool over and put it beside her bed and sat down and took her long frail cold hand and said, “I meant it. What’s your name?”
“All right, Lois. Cry. Cry the hell out of it. Rip it all open. Let it go.”
“I can’t,” she whispered. And suddenly she began to cry again. She yanked her hand free, rolled over, rolled her face into the pillow and began the harsh sobbing.
I had to make a guess about what would be right and what would be wrong for her. I had to take a risk. I based the risk on what I know of loneliness, of the need of closeness in loneliness. I stroked her, totally impersonal, the way you soothe a terrified animal. At first she would leap and buck at the slightest touch. After a while there was only a tremor when I touched her, and finally that too was gone. She hiccuped and at last fell down into sleep, curled and spent.
I searched the house until I found her keys. I locked up and left her in the darkened room. I checked the bus schedules and went and got Cathy and took her to where she could catch the bus which would get her home in time. I told her a little of it. There was no question in her mind about my obligation to stay.
THE DOCTOR’S name was Ramirez. He looked like a Swede. He spent a long time with her. Then he came out and sat at the breakfast bar to drink some of the bad coffee I’d made. “How is she?”
“Where do you fit in this, McGee?”
“I just stopped to ask her some questions and she fell apart.”
He stirred his coffee. “Samaritan, eh?”
“I suppose so.”
“Her family should be notified.”
“Suppose there isn’t any?”
“Then she should be institutionalized. What’s the financial situation?”
“I haven’t any idea.”
“Nice house. Nice car.”
“Doctor, what’s her condition?”
“Several things. Malnutrition. That plus a degree of saturation with alcohol so she’s been having auditory hallucinations. But severe emotional shock is the background for both the other manifestations.”
He gave me a shrewd glance. “Fair. A little bit of nerve, a tiny bit of pride, that’s all she has left. Keep her tranquilized. Build her up with foods as rich as she can take. Lots of sleep. And keep her away from whomever got her into such a condition.”
“A man could do that to a woman?”
“Given a certain type of man and that type of woman, yes. A man like the man who was living with her.”
“Did you know him?”
“No. I heard about him. First he was with Catherine Kerr, then with this one. A different social level, eh?”