Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Silence. I knocked again.

I peered through a side window. I could see shapes of furniture in midfloor, where there should be no furniture, and too many lamps, and rolled carpets.

I kicked the door and cursed and went to the middle of the street and was about to yell at every door when the Gypsy girl came quietly to touch my arm.

"I can go now," she said.


"Said okay."

"Where to?" Crumley nodded at his car.

She could not stop staring at Califia's home, the center of all California.

"I have friends near the Red Rooster Plaza. Could you-"

"I could," said Crumley.

The Gypsy looked back at the vanishing palace of a queen.

"I will be back tomorrow," she called.

"She knows you will," I said.

We passed Callahan and Ortega, but this time Crumley ignored it.

We were quiet on the way to the plaza named for a rooster of a certain color.

We dropped the Gypsy.

"My God," I said on the way back, "it's like a friend, years ago, died, and the immigrants from Cuernavaca poured in, grabbed his collection of old 1900 phonographs, Caruso records, Mexican masks. Left his place like the Egyptian tombs, empty."

"That's what it's like to be poor," said Crumley.

"I grew up poor. I never stole."

"Maybe you never had a real chance."

We passed Queen Califia's place a final time.

"She's in there, all right. The Gypsy was right."

"She was right. But you're nuts."

"All this," I said. "It's too much. Too much. Constance hands me two wrong-number phone books and flees. We almost drown in twenty thousand leagues of old newspapers. Now, a dead queen. Makes me wonder, is Father Rattigan okay?"

Crumley swerved the car to the curb near a phone booth.

"Here's a dime!"

In the phone booth I dialed the cathedral.

"Is Mister…" I blushed. "Father Rattigan… is he all right?"

"All right? He's at confession!"

"Good," I said foolishly, "as long as the one he's confessing is okay."

"Nobody," said the voice, "is ever okay!"

I heard a click. I dragged myself back to the car. Crumley eyed me like a dog's dinner. "Well?"

"He's alive. Where are we going?"

"Who knows. From here on, this trip is a retreat. You know Catholic retreats? Long silent weekends. Shut la trap. Okay?"

We drove to Venice City Hall. Crumley got out and slammed his door.

He was gone half an hour. When he returned he stuck his head in the driver's-side window and said, "Now hear this, I just took a week's sick leave. And, Jesus, this is sick. We got one week to find Constance, shield St. Vibiana's priest, raise the Lazarus dead, and warn your wife to stop me from strangling you. Nod your head yes."

I nodded.

"Next twenty-four hours you don't speak without permission! Now where are those goddamn phone books?"

I handed him the Books of the Dead.

Crumley, behind the wheel, scowled at them.

"Say one last thing and shut up!"

"You're still my pal!" I blurted.

"Pity," he said, and banged the gas.


we went back to Rattigan's and stood down on the shoreline. It was early evening and her lights were still full on; the place was like a full moon and a rising sun of architecture. Gershwin was still manhandling Manhattan one moment, Paris the next.

"I bet they buried him in his piano," said Crumley.

We got out the one Book of the Dead, Rattigan's personal phone pals, mostly cold and buried, and repeated what we had done before. Went through it page by page, with a growing sense of mortality.

On page 30 we came to the Rs.

There it was: Clarence Rattigan's dead phone and a red Christian cross over his name.

"Damn. Now let's check Califia again."

We riffled back and there it was, with big red lines under her name and a crucifix.

"That means-?"

"Whoever planted this book with Constance marked all the names with red ink and a cross, handed it over, and then killed the first two victims. Maybe. I'm running half-empty."

"Or, hoping Constance would see the red ink crucifixes, before they were killed, panic on that night she came running, and destroy them inadvertently with her shouts. Christ! Let's check the other red lines and crosses. Check St. Vibiana's."

Crumley turned the pages and exhaled. "Red crucifix."

"But Father Rattigan's still alive!" I said. "Hell!"

I trudged up the sand to Rattigan's poolside phone. I dialed St. Vibiana's.

"Who's this?" a sharp voice answered.

"Father Rattigan! Thank God!"

"For what?"

"This is Constance's friend. The idiot."

"Dammit!" the priest cried.

"Don't take any more confessions tonight!"

"You giving orders?"

"Father, you're alive! I mean, well, is there anything we can do to protect you, or-"

"No, no!" the voice cried. "Go to that other heathen church! That Jack and the Beanstalk place!"

The telephone slammed.

I looked at Crumley, he looked at me.

"Look under Grauman's," I said.

Crumley looked. "Chinese, yeah. And Grauman's name. And a red circle and a crucifix. But he died years ago!"

"Yeah, but part of Constance is buried there, or written there in cement. I'll show you. Last chance to see Jack and the Beanstalk*."

"If we time it," said Crumley, "the film will be over."


we didn't have to time it right.

When Crumley dropped me in front of the Other Church, the great loud boisterous romantic tearstained celluloid cathedral… There was a sign on the red Chinese front door, CLOSED FOR ALTERATIONS, and some workmen moving in and out. A few people were in the forecourt, fitting their shoes in the footprints.

Crumley dropped me and vamoosed.

I turned to look at the great pagoda facade. Ten percent Chinese, ninety percent Grauman's. Little Sid's.

He was, some said, knee-high to a midget, the eighth Dwarf Cinema Munchkin, all four feet bursting with film clips, sound tracks, Kong shrieking on the Empire State, Colman in Shangri-la, friend to Garbo, Dietrich, and Hepburn, haberdasher to Chaplin, golf buddy to Laurel and Hardy, keeper of the flame, recollector of ten thousand Pasts… Sid, pourer of cement, imprinter of fair and flat feet, begging and getting pavement autographs.

And there I stood on a lava flow of signatures of ghosts who had abandoned their shoe sizes.

I watched the tourists quietly testing their feet in the vast spread of cement prints, laughing softly.

What a church, I thought. More worshipers here than at St. Vibiana's.

"Rattigan," I whispered. "Are you here?"

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