Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Catorce

They came back on, and at their request, I took the flashlight and lifted her eyelids and looked at her eyes. I told them one pupil was tiny and the other was very large. They told me to stand by again.

I went topside to look around. I saw a glow of lights on the western horizon. I swung the flashlight beam around and spotted a little red gleam in the scupper. I picked it up. I found three more after that. Five all told, the only ones which hadn’t been washed into the sea.

They came back on and gave me a five-degree course correction, having spotted me in some mysterious way, and told me to make all possible speed for Lauderdale, and come right to Pier 66 gas dock where an ambulance would be waiting. I gave it all it would take. The marine engines roared. At full throttle they turned close to 4500. I backed them off a little. The tanks were half full, I slammed toward home, steering it by hand, the Tiger’s boat wallowing and swinging astern.

Red lights were revolving and blinking on the shiny vehicles parked at the gas dock. I laid it in close and a gang of people swarmed aboard with lines, yelling orders to each other. They came aboard and took the women off, giving them an equally gentle professional handling. I rode to the hospital with them. They stitched my mouth, X-rayed me, taped my ribs, eased my nose back to a reasonably central position.

While they were doing that to me, other people shaved her head and cut into her skull and released the cumulative pressure of the massive cerebral hemorrhage. The operation was a great success.

Three days later the patient died of pneumonia, under oxygen, with me sitting there, staring at her through the Pliofilm, willing every struggling breath she took, until finally she just did not take the next one. She settled smaller then, her face little and gray under the turban of gauze and adhesive.


WHAT DO you do when they turn all your lights out?

I guess you answer the questions. There were a lot of people and a lot of questions, because it was what they call an interesting problem of jurisdiction.

And though you do not really give a damn how much or how little you tell them, there is, after all, an instinctive caution which takes over and tends to simplify the answers you give. I had no idea where he had gotten his money. Cathy had no idea either. She just thought he might possibly be the same man who had beaten her up. I was her friend. I was just trying to check it out, and had gotten caught in the middle. And had had some luck.

Deeleen was as angry as a boiled squirrel for having slept through all the action. Patty made a resolute witness, precise, outraged and articulate.

I had a simple little story and told it forty times. Yes sir, I was pretty silly trying to find him in the dark out there in the ocean. He let me come aboard and then knocked me out. I was getting up when he was trying to climb into the other boat. I saw him lose his balance and fall in. I saw him swimming, trying to catch the other boat, but it was drifting as fast as he could swim. I was too weak and dizzy to do anything. I think I heard him call out once. I got the big boat started and I went looking for him, but when I found the other boat, it was empty.

I soon created a massive disinterest on the part of the reporters. I talked very freely and at great length. I could do twenty minutes on the characteristics of the Play Pen, and another twenty on the hull design of the Rut Cry. I could give an hour lecture on setting compensated compass courses, and what the weather had been like out there. They listened until their eyes glazed and their jaws creaked when they yawned. I did not tell them of my night visions of Junior Allen down there, his neck wedged into the anchor, his heels high, dancing slowly in vagrant currents.

There are some other things you do when they turn your lights out.

You learn how to use the darkness. Varieties of darkness. The darkness of hot sun on the beach, and intense physical effort. The small darkness of liquor. The small darkness of the Tiger’s girls. But these do not work in any lasting way. The body mends, but a part of it took its last breath behind that glassine barrier.

Once in a while they show up to ask some more questions, but you are amiable, slightly stupid, and very polite. The sister-in-law had come down and gathered up what was left of the lady and had taken the remains north, for suitable burial in the family plot.

One day I realized I was nearly broke. And I had gone into this thing for the money. It was to laugh. Somewhere behind my heart I thought I heard her small amusement, a faint melody. Who are we laughing at, darling, it said.

So I took some of the last of the funds and went up to New York and sat in a cheap hotel room and made contact with Harry. I showed him what I had. His eyes glistened even while he tried to tell me they were junk. I gave him the one that looked least valuable to me. We settled for seven per cent as his end. It took him a day and a half. He brought me back thirty-eight hundred and thirteen dollars. He got rid of two more the next day, one at a time, at a little over four thousand apiece for me. A full day for the next one. Five thousand and a bit.

When I turned over the last one, I had a hunch I would not see him again, so I told him I had been holding out the cream of the little crop. He wanted to see it. I told him he could see it when he came back with the money for the fifth one. It made a serious problem for him. He did not know just how to manage his own greed. So he came back, again with a little over five thousand.

He didn’t look sufficiently disappointed when I told him there wasn’t any more. So I knew he had covered all bets. I had covered mine too. Leaving Harry to batter his way out of the bathroom, I had the elevator boy, greased with a ten, take me to the basement where a slightly more expensive fellow, prearranged, let me out a back way into a narrow alley. Forty minutes later I was on a train to Philadelphia, and from there I arranged air transit to Florida.

On an afternoon in late September I had the brown-eyed, sad-eyed blonde come over to the Busted Flush. Draperies muted the light in the lounge. She wore a blue dress faded by many washings, and came shyly out of the blaze heat of the day into the coolness of the lounge, wearing her blue dress. and her humble company manners, moving well on those shapely, sinewy dancer’s legs.

“I call you and you trot right over, just like that, Cathy?”

“I guess so.”

“You’re a very humble gal, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know. I guess so. You tried to help out, Mister. I’m right sorry about that woman. I told you so before, I guess you remember. I’m sorry it had to come about that way.”

Her shy oblique glance caught me and moved away. She looked down at her hands. I guess she knew about drunken men. Maybe she could understand the reasons for the drinks I had taken. Maybe she had heard it all in my voice when I had called her to come over.

“Your sympathy touches my heart,” I said.

She sighed deeply. “You can talk ugly if it suits you. I don’t mind. Seems like nothing comes out right for any person any more these days.”

She was sitting on the yellow couch. I picked up a small table and took it over and put it down in front of her. I went and locked the door and then went into the master stateroom and came out with the money. As I had planned, I put it in three piles on the table. A big pile and two slender ones.

“During the fun and games,” I said, “Junior spilled the goodies. He got some back and went down with them. There was one time when I could have hauled him in, dead, and picked him clean, the wet money and what other stones he had, and let him sink again. I didn’t have the stomach for it. In fact, I didn’t even think of it. I got five stones. The rest went overboard. I sold them in New York. I got a total of twenty-two thousand six hundred and sixty-eight dollars for them. There’s sixteen hundred and sixty-eight dollars in this pile right here.”

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