Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Trece
“Dear God! She was waiting for me in my car. She should have run when she knew something had gone wrong.”
“He came out of nowhere and swooped her right up and jumped aboard with her. She started to scream and then she saw you and stopped. He let go of her and she just stood there, staring at you. While she wasn’t moving… he… he hit her. With his fist. It was such a terrible blow it made me sick to my stomach. She fell like a rag doll and he picked her up and put her in a bunk. I got off. But he caught me and brought me back. He threw the lines off and started up. When he got out of that little canal he went real fast out to the main channel and real fast for a little while south down the channel, then he slowed it down and fixed it to steer itself and came back and threw my glasses away and started… doing things to me. I guess… I could have jumped overboard. But I couldn’t think of anything… and then you…”
“Come on! Can you make it now? Come on, girl!”
We swam side by side. It all seemed so damned slow. I headed for the brightest clustering of lights. We ended up in the shells and shallows at the base of a five-foot sea wall. I got the top of it and wormed my way over it, reached down and got her wrists and yanked her up. She stumbled and fell into the damp night grass at the base of a coconut palm. I picked her up and herded her along with me, our rubber shoes squelching, breaths wheezing, strides unsteady.
I had to get to a phone. My face felt like a multiple fracture. I steered us around a rock garden before we fell into it. It was a motel complex, and for reasons which defy the imagination it was named The Bearpath. They were doing a nice little summer business. The dance instructors were BossaNovaing a clutch of tourists, all of whom looked as if they did each other’s hair for a living. Bidding was vicious in the cardroom. We came churning in, dripping and battered and winded.
Dapper little fellows came running toward us, wringing their hands, making shrill little cries of consternation.
“Phone!” I demanded.
“But you can’t come in here like this…”
I grabbed the nearest handful of silk blazer and lifted it onto its tippy toes, and he pointed a rigid arm at a salmon phone on a baby blue counter. When I asked the switchboard girl to get me the County Sheriff ’s office, she asked in voice wet with acid and post-nasal drip if I was a guest of the hotel. I told her that if she delayed the call one more second, I would start throwing their guests through their window walls, as a gesture of impatience. Patty stood docile beside me, chin down, shoulders rounded, and her little rump tucked humbly under.
I got a deputy who was so bright and so quick it helped me pull myself together. I was aware of all the silence behind me, the stilled dancers, the frozen card games, the fellows in pastel silk. I described the boat. I said it had left the Citrus Inn maybe forty minutes ago, and was headed south, A. A. Allen, Junior, possibly psycho, in command. Young girl aboard, drugged and unconscious. Deeleen. Last name unknown. And a Mrs. Lois Atkinson, taken aboard against her will, and slugged. May plan to head out from Lauderdale to the Bahamas.
“What’s your name and where are you calling from?”
“The Bearpath Motel. I have a girl who needs attention, and needs to be taken home. A Miss Devlan…”
“We have an alert on a Patricia Devlan, eighteen, dark hair, slender build…”
“The same. In her case it was attempted kidnapping and attempted assault. You can pick her up here.”
“What’s your name?”
I hung up and gave a brief glance at the forty or fifty pairs of bulging eyeballs, and turned and found a way out. I went through some hedges and a flower bed and a parking lot. I had a vivid little silvery grinding in my chest with each breath. I headed toward commercial lights and oriented myself. Better than a mile back to Miss Agnes. Scout pace, they call it. Run fifty steps, walk fifty. The car was there. No key. But the spare was up under the dash in a little magnetic box.
I headed her for home. I heard myself sob. It was like a big hiccup. A sad brave wonderful gal who had trusted me. She’d trusted me. She’d trusted reliable old McGee. They had to stop trusting me. Damn them for trusting me. I blinked and drove and cursed McGee.
A DRY shirt and pants made no remarkable improvement in my appearance. I trudged to the huge neighboring cruiser where my joyous friend, the Alabama Tiger, operates the world’s only permanent floating house party. He had some hundred proof for immediate medication, asked me who had dragged me down a flight of stairs by the heels, and offered me the temporary loan of my choice among several eager amateur nurses.
But I told him I would rather borrow the Rut Cry. He didn’t ask why. He told me to take it. He likes to get up and fly. The Rut Cry is twenty-one feet of white water hull with big tanks and two big Mercs astern. It was moored alongside, gassed and ready. A chattering flock of the Tiger’s girls helped me strip the weather canvas off it, and handled the lines and shoved me off, the fast motors burbling; then they stood and waved me their musical good-bys.
I belted myself down into the foam rubber seat, found the switch for the running lights, spun the boat and took it out and down, under the bridge, past the Navy and on out into the Atlantic. Once clear of the channel chop, I figured a rough heading for Bimini and let it go. At forty it began leaping clear, banging my teeth, collapsing my spine, cavitating, slamming, roaring. It was punishment for past sins, sticking knives in every bruise.
Once I put a bow corner under and came too close to tripping it over. I pulled it back down to thirty. When I was well clear of any possible traffic, I cut the running lights. Southeast wind. No chop in the Stream. Big long ones I could take on the quarter. I estimated his hull would give him a cruising speed of fifteen tops. I could run in one hour what he could run in two. So give him a two hour head start, right at the sea buoy. No. Make it an hour and a half from that point.
And I had cleared it at nine-fifteen. So at nine-fifteen I was twenty-two miles behind him. Forty-five minutes. Give him another ten miles by the time I got to that point. Twenty minutes more. By rough reckoning, if all the guesses were right, I could run up on him by ten-thirty. So I ran until ten-thirty, then cut to dead slow and headed directly into the long shallows swells. I undid the two straps and stood up, my hand braced on the top of the wheel.
Each time I was at the crest of a wave, I tried to sweep one segment of the horizon. Moonlight silvered the spill of water. I was too far off to pick up the Cat Cay light. My heart jumped when I saw lights east and north of my position, but after three good looks at them, I knew it was a southbound freighter staying clear of the Stream. I stared until I began to see things that weren’t there.
I sat down again and leaned my forehead against the top of the wheel. My tongue found an unfamiliar place where a corner of a tooth was gone. The valiant slob. Goof McGee. This was like trying to fill a straight with a three card draw. He could run without lights too. He was too canny to head this way. He had enough range for Cuba. Or he knew a nice little corner he could tuck it into, down near Candle Key.
The irony of the stars looked down at my grandstand play and dwindled me. One man in one small boat in the vast night. In my despair I let the boat swing and a small wave broke and slapped and sprayed my face. Tears and sea water taste much the same.
The authorities wouldn’t stoop to the idiocy of a night search. They would wait for dawn and bring the choppers out, along with some playmates from the C.A.P. And some of the reserve boys needing flight time.