Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Seis

She slept then. I went out into the night. The tropical earth was steamy-fresh, bugs chirring and tree toads yelping, and the bay a moony mirror. I sat on the end of her dock and blew smoke at the mosquitoes and wondered why I should be so cynical about her.

It was true that she was a sensitive and introspective woman, and equally true that Junior Allen was a cruel crude bastard, but I could not quite comprehend how his use of her could have brought her to such a state. In the Victorian tradition, it was the fate worse than death, but she was an adult female, and regardless of the method of approach, he had become her lover and had, in time, induced sensuous response in her. I thought of the failure of her marriage and wondered if perhaps she was merely a neurotic headed for breakdown anyway, and Junior Allen had merely hastened the process.

I watched the running lights of a boat heading down the channel, and I heard the grotesque yammering of one of the night birds, and the faraway sobbing of a lovelorn cat.

I went in and checked her in her deep sleep, and went to bed in the neighboring room.


SHE TOOK a good breakfast in the morning and seemed well enough for me to leave her for a time. I went off in Miss Agnes and picked up the laundry and then I made a call on Jeff Bocka, the realtor whose sign stood in Lois Atkinson’s yard.

He had a face and head as round and pink as a beach ball. He had that total and almost obscene hairlessness that some diseases cause, a baldness of skull, brows and eyelids. He had amber eyes and small amber teeth.

“Of course I can move that house. I can move it if I can show it, buddy. But I can’t show it if that nutty broad screws it up. I made appointments. Twice. What happens? The place is a mess and she is a mess. The first time she is all right for ten minutes, then starts screaming at my clients. The second time she wouldn’t even let us in. She’s got the place free and clear. There’s a recent survey. No cloud on the title. A sound house in a good location. Waterfront. I can move it for forty-five tomorrow, but nobody buys a house if they can’t look at it, buddy.” He shook his head. “When I get around to it, I take my sign off that lawn.”

“When she moves out, if she still wants to sell, I’ll leave the keys with you.”

“How about the condition of it?”

“It will be okay.”

“What do you mean, if she wants to sell?”

“If, on second thought, she’s absolutely certain.”

“She better move away. She had some friends here. Nice people. Until that gas jockey moved in with her and she started hitting the bottle.”

“I guess that offends your sense of morality.”

He showed me his little teeth. “This is a decent place.”

“They all are, friend.”

I walked away and left him standing in the doorway of his cinderblock office, the sunshine making: silver highlights on his smooth pink skull.

Ramirez came in the afternoon and marveled at the improvement. She got dressed in the afternoon. She was very reserved. She looked sleepy and moved slowly. In the evening she had another bad spell. And again, in the darkness, she talked.

“I started to come back to life in spite of him, Trav. I seemed to realize that he was trying to destroy me, and I knew I would not be destroyed. I found a little quiet place way back inside myself, and no matter what he made me do, I could go back there and it didn’t seem to matter. I began to feel that he had done his worst, and I was in some sense stronger than he was, and I would survive him, and get over him, and get free of him. I began to be able to lift my head and to think of ways of ending it. But… he couldn’t let that happen, of course. He couldn’t let me escape.”

It was difficult for her to try to tell me how he had blocked all escape. It became incoherent. And there was much of it she could not remember, fortunately. He kept her drunk so she would be easier to manage, and lessen the chance of her going over the side when she was unguarded.

On that last cruise, Junior Allen had taken the boat over to Bimini. And there he had taken aboard a double-gaited little Haitian slut named Fancha, and from there they had gone to a remote bay in the Berry Islands and anchored and stayed there a week, and completed the corruption and destruction of Lois Atkinson. She remembered nothing of the trip back to Candle Key. And there, in June, he had left for good, at his option, knowing he had left that gentle woman with all the explosive images and fragmentary memories that would kill her.

I speculated about motive after Lois had drifted off into sleep. There are men in this world who are compelled to destroy the most fragile and valuable things they can find, the same way rowdy children will ravage a beautiful home. Look at me, they are saying.

Lois, shy, lovely, sensitive, a graceful and cultivated woman, merely by the fact of her existence offered a challenge to Junior Allen. And she had challenged him further by defying him. Even though it meant the stupidity of returning to Candle Key after finding and taking what Sergeant David Berry had hidden, he had to meet that challenge and totally subdue a more delicate morsel than Cathy Kerr could ever be.

The worst crimes of man against woman do not appear on the statutes. A smiling man, quick and handy as a cat, webbed with muscle, armored with money, now at liberty in an unsuspecting world, greedy as a weasel in a hen house. I knew the motive. The motive was murder. And this symbolic killing might easily be followed by the more literal act.

Sly and reckless, compulsive and bold. The goat-god, with hoof and smile and hairy ears, satyr at the helm of the Play Pen.

Love him, understand him, forgive him, lead him shyly to Freud, or Jesus.

Or else take the contemporarily untenable position that evil, undiluted by any hint of childhood trauma, does exist in the world, exists for its own precise sake, the pustular bequest from the beast, as inexplicable as Belsen.

I kissed her sweaty temple and tucked the blanket around her narrow shoulder. Symbol of weakness. Symbol of the beast. But I could find no symbol for myself. McGee as avenging angel was a little too much to swallow. I hoped to temper vengeance with greed. Or conversely. Either way, it does simplify the rationalizations.

She began to gorge like a wolf. The anticipated placidity came, bringing small sweet absent smiles, yawns and drowsiness. She dressed and we took walks, and as the edges of bone quickly softened with new flesh, the night talks dwindled. I was in charge of a vegetable woman, mildly amiable, unquestioning, softly remote, an eater and a sleeper, a slow walker. Ramirez was paid off, offering no thoughts for the future.

She phoned her sister-in-law, proclaiming that everything was peachy. With me she talked over the segments of a happy childhood. But she did not like the house and did not want the house, or the car. I organized her financial matters, and she signed the deposit slip and all the small checks for the anxious. She wanted to be elsewhere, but did not worry about where, or want the effort of planning anything. We packed. There was not much she wanted. Miss Agnes’ half truck, accommodated it readily.

I took the keys to Bocka, with the address where she could be reached. She signed the title and I sold her car, deposited the cash in her account. She signed the post office change of address card. I made the arrangements about the utilities. I took a last look through the house. She sat out in the car. I checked all the windows, turned the air conditioning off, slammed the front door.

As we drove away, she did not look back. She sat with a dreaming smile, her hands folded in her lap.

Other people go down to the keys and bring back shell ashtrays or mounted fish or pottery flamingos. Travis McGee brings back a Lois Atkinson. The souvenir fervor is the mainstay of a tourist economy.

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