Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Once
“He saw me.”
She was too upset to be very coherent, but I got it all out of her. She had gone down to the marine supply place to look for some kind of a small present for me. Just to give me a present. And she had wandered out onto the gas dock just beyond the offices and the tall control tower for the marina. And the Play Pen had been there, gassing up. Junior Allen had straightened up, stared at her, grinned at her, and she had fled.
“He didn’t follow you?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“Was he alone?”
“Who was with him?”
“I don’t know. Young people. Three or four. I don’t know. All I could see was him.”
“What time was all this?”
“A-about quarter after five, I think.”
WILLY LAZEER is an acquaintance. His teeth and his feet hurt. He hates the climate, the Power Squadron, the government and his wife. The vast load of hate has left him numbed rather than bitter. In appearance, it is as though somebody bleached Sinatra, skinned him, and made Willy wear him.
I knew he was off at six, and I knew it took him an hour of beer to insulate him against going home, and I knew where he would be loading up. I sat beside him at the bar. He gave me a mild, dim glance of recognition. His hour was almost up. I prodded his memory.
“Play Pen. Play Pen. Sure, I seen that today.”
“Forty-foot Stadel custom, white topsides, sray hull, blue line. Skippered by a rugged brown guy with white curly hair and small blue eyes and a big smile.”
“I was wondering where he’s docked.”
“How should I know, McGee? How the hell should I know?”
“But you do remember him?”
“He paid cash.”
“Stopped a little after five?”
“What kind of people did he have aboard, Willy?”
“Tourists, college kids?”
He stared through me for a moment. “I knew one of them.”
“One of the kids?”
“What the hell are we talking about? One of the kids. Yes. You know over the bridge on the right there, past where they’re building is a place called Charlie Char-Broil.”
“I know the place.”
“I seen her there as a waitress. Young kid. They got their names on little badges. Hers is a funny one. Deeleen. I ain’t seen her there a couple months. How come I remember her, she got snotty with me one time, bringing me the wrong order.”
It was as far as he could go with it.
I went back to Lois. She had a glass of bourbon that looked like a glass of iced coffee. Her smile was loose and wet and her eyes didn’t track. I took it away from her and took her into her stateroom. She made little tired singing sounds and lurched heavily against me. I tipped her onto the bed and took her shoes off. In three minutes she was snoring.
I locked up and went off on a Deeleen hunt. Charlie Char-Broil smelled of burned grease, and she didn’t work there any more. But a friend named Marianne did, a pretty girl except for a rabbit mouth she couldn’t quite manage to close. Nineteen, I guessed. Once she was convinced I wasn’t a cop, she joined me in a back booth.
“ Dee, she got fired from here when they changed the manager. The way it was, she did anything she damn pleased, you know? The manager we had, he was all the time taking her back in the storeroom, and finely somebody told the company. I told her it was the wrong way to act. She had a couple other jobs and they didn’t last and I don’t see her much any more. I did see her. But, I don’t know, some things can get too rough, you know what I mean? Fun is fun, but it gets too rough. What I found out, on a blind date she got for me, geez, it was a guy like could be my father, you know? And there was a hell of a fight and I found out she took money from him for me to show up. I ask her what she thinks I am anyhow. I think she’s going to get in bad trouble, and I don’t want to be around, you know?”
“Where does she live?”
“Unless she’s moved-she moves a lot-she’s in the Citrus Inn. It’s up like opposite Deerfield Beach, kind of an apartment-hotel kind of thing, sort of old and cruddy. In 2A up there, with a girl named Corry, that’s where she was last I knew, getting her unemployment.”
That was all the time she could spend with me. She slid out of the booth, patting at the blue and white skirt of her nylon uniform. She seemed to hear the total effect of her own words, and looked a little disconcerted. She was a strong-bodied girl whose rather long neck and small head made her look more delicately constructed than she was. Her fine silky hair was a soft brown with bleached streaks.
“Don’t get me wrong about Deeleen,” she said. “I don’t want you should think I’m trine to cut her up. The thing is, she had an unhappy love affair when she was just a kid.”
“How old is she now?”
“Oh, she’s twenty now.” She hesitated. She was obligated to end our little chat with a stylized flourish. The way it’s done in serial television. So she wet her little bunny mouth, sleepied her eyes, widened her nostrils, patted her hair, arched her back, stood canted and hip-shot, huskied her voice and said, “See you aroun‘, huh?”
“Sure, Marianne. Sure.”
Bless them all, the forlorn little rabbits. They are the displaced persons of our emotional culture. They are ravenous for romance, yet settle for what they call making out. Their futile, acne-pitted men drift out of high school into a world so surfeited with unskilled labor there is competition for bag-boy jobs in the supermarkets.
They yearn for security, but all they can have is what they make for themselves, chittering little flocks of them in the restaurants and stores, talking of style and adornment, dreaming of the terribly sincere stranger who will come along and lift them out of the gypsy life of the two-bit tip and the unemployment, cut a tall cake with them, swell them up with sassy babies, and guide them masterfully into the shoal water of the electrified house where everybody brushes after every meal.
But most of the wistful rabbits marry their unskilled men, and keep right on working. And discover the end of the dream. They have been taught that if you are sunny, cheery, sincere, group-adjusted, popular, the world is yours, including barbecue pits, charge plates, diaper service, percale sheets, friends for dinner, washer-dryer combinations, color slides of the kiddies on the home projector, and eternal whimsical romance-with crinkly smiles and Rock Hudson dialogue.
So they all come smiling and confident and unskilled into a technician’s world, and in a few years they learn that it is all going to be grinding and brutal and hateful and precarious. These are the slums of the heart. Bless the bunnies.
These are the new people, and we are making no place for them. We hold the dream in front of them like a carrot, and finally say sorry you can’t have any. And the schools where we teach them non-survival are gloriously architectured. They will never live in places so fine, unless they contract something incurable.
I went north of the mainland route, past an endless wink and sputter of neon, through the perpetual leaf-fall and forest floor of asphalt, cellophane, candy wrappers, Kleenex, filter tips, ticket halves, Pliofilm and latex. One of Junior Allen’s women lay wounded and the other lay drunk, and I was looking for a third.
The Citrus Inn was an old place, a three-story cube of cracked and patched Moorish masonry, vintage 1925, with three entrances, three sets of staircases, three stacks of small apartments. It was on a short, dead-end street in a commercial area. It was across the street from a large truck depot, and bracketed on one side by a shoestring marina and on the other by a BEER-BAIT-BOATS operation which had a tavern specializing in fried fish sandwiches. There was a narrow canal behind the three structures, sea-walled, stagnant.