Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 3
“Got me a sawed-off,” the barman said.
“Tsk. That’s illegal,” I whispered. “Listen, you and I are together. Got anything else?”
“Got me a gat,” the barman said. “In a cigar box. Leggo my arm.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “Now move along a bit. Easy now. Sideways. This isn’t the time to pull the artillery.”
“Says you,” the barman sneered, putting his tired weight against my arm. “Says — “
He stopped. His eyes rolled. His head jerked.
There was a dull flat sound at the back of the place, behind the closed door beyond the crap table. It might have been a slammed door. I didn’t think it was. The barman didn’t think so either.
The barman froze. His mouth drooled. I listened. No other sound. I started quickly for the end of the counter. I had listened too long.
The door at the back opened with a bang and Moose Malloy came through it with a smooth heavy lunge and stopped dead, his feet planted and a wide pale grin on his face.
A Colt Army .45 looked like a toy pistol in his hand.
“Don’t nobody try to fancy pants,” he said cozily. “Freeze the mitts on the bar.”
The barman and I put our hands on the bar.
Moose Malloy looked the room over with a raking glance. His grin was taut, nailed on. He shifted his feet and moved silently across the room. He looked like a man who could take a bank single-handed — even in those clothes.
He came to the bar. “Rise up, nigger,” he said softly. The barman put his hands high in the air. The big man stepped to my back and prowled me over carefully with his left hand. His breath was hot on my neck. It went away.
“Mister Montgomery didn’t know where Velma was neither,” he said. “He tried to tell me — with this.” His hard hand patted the gun. I turned slowly and looked at him. “Yeah,” he said. “You’ll know me. You ain’t forgetting me, pal. Just tell them johns not to get careless is all.” He waggled the gun. “Well so long, punks. I gotta catch a street car.”
He started towards the head of the stairs.
“You didn’t pay for the drinks,” I said.
He stopped and looked at me carefully.
“Maybe you got something there,” he said, “but I wouldn’t squeeze it too hard.”
He moved on, slipped through the double doors, and his steps sounded remotely going down the stairs.
The barman stooped. I jumped around behind the counter and jostled him out of the way. A sawed-off shotgun lay under a towel on a shelf under the bar. Beside it was a cigar box. In the cigar box was a .38 automatic. I took both of them. The barman pressed back against the tier of glasses behind the bar.
I went back around the end of the bar and across the room to the gaping door behind the crap table. There was a hallway behind it, L-shaped, almost lightless. The bouncer lay sprawled on its floor unconscious, with a knife in his hand. I leaned down and pulled the knife loose and threw it down a back stairway. The bouncer breathed stertorously and his hand was limp.
I stepped over him and opened a door marked “Office” in flaked black paint.
There was a small scarred desk close to a partly boarded-up window. The torso of a man was bolt upright in the chair. The chair had a high back which just reached to the nape of the man’s neck. His head was folded back over the high back of the chair so that his nose pointed at the boarded-up window. Just folded, like a handkerchief or a hinge.
A drawer of the desk was open at the man’s right. Inside was a newspaper with a smear of oil in the middle. The gun would have come from there. It had probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the position of Mr. Montgomery’s head proved that the idea had been wrong.
There was a telephone on the desk. I laid the sawed-off shotgun down and went over to lock the door before I called the police. I felt safer that way and Mr. Montgomery didn’t seem to mind.
When the prowl car boys stamped up the stairs, the bouncer and the barman had disappeared and I had the place to myself.
A man named Nulty got the case, a lean-jawed sourpuss with long yellow hands which he kept folded over his kneecaps most of the time he talked to me. He was a detective-lieutenant attached to the 77th Street Division and we talked in a bare room with two small desks against opposite walls and room to move between them, if two people didn’t try it at once. Dirty brown linoleum covered the floor and the smell of old cigar butts hung in the air. Nulty’s shirt was frayed and his coat sleeves had been turned in at the cuffs. He looked poor enough to be honest, but he didn’t look like a man who could deal with Moose Malloy.
He lit half of a cigar and threw the match on the floor, where a lot of company was waiting for it. His voice said bitterly:
“Shines. Another shine killing. That’s what I rate after eighteen years in this man’s police department. No pix, no space, not even four lines in the want-ad section.”
I didn’t say anything. He picked my card up and read it again and threw it down.
“Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. One of those guys, huh? Jesus, you look tough enough. What was you doing all that time?”
“All what time?”
“All the time this Malloy was twisting the neck of this smoke.”
“Oh, that happened in another room,” I said. “Malloy hadn’t promised me he was going to break anybody’s neck.”
“Ride me,” Nulty said bitterly. “Okey, go ahead and ride me. Everybody else does. What’s another one matter? Poor old Nulty. Let’s go on up and throw a couple of nifties at him. Always good for a laugh, Nulty is.”
“I’m not trying to ride anybody,” I said. “That’s the way it happened — in another room.”
“Oh, sure,” Nulty said through a fan of rank cigar smoke. “I was down there and saw, didn’t I? Don’t you pack no rod?”
“Not on that kind of a job.”
“What kind of a job?”
“I was looking for a barber who had run away from his wife. She thought he could be persuaded to come home.”
“You mean a dinge?”
“No, a Greek.”
“Okey,” Nulty said and spit into his wastebasket. “Okey. You met the big guy how?”
“I told you already. I just happened to be there. He threw a Negro out of the doors of Florian’s and I unwisely poked my head in to see what was happening. So he took me upstairs.”
“You mean he stuck you up?”
“No, he didn’t have the gun then. At least, he didn’t show one. He took the gun away from Montgomery, probably. He just picked me up. I’m kind of cute sometimes.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Nulty said. “You seem to pick up awful easy.”
“All right,” I said. “Why argue? I’ve seen the guy and you haven’t. He could wear you or me for a watch charm. I didn’t know he had killed anybody until after he left. I heard a shot, but I got the idea somebody had got scared and shot at Malloy and then Malloy took the gun away from whoever did it.”
“And why would you get an idea like that?” Nulty asked almost suavely. “He used a gun to take that bank, didn’t he?”
“Consider the kind of clothes he was wearing. He didn’t go there to kill anybody; not dressed like that. He went there to look for this girl named Velma that had been his girl before he was pinched for the bank job. She worked there at Florian’s or whatever place was there when it was still a white joint. He was pinched there. You’ll get him all right.”
“Sure,” Nulty said. “With that size and them clothes. Easy.”
“He might have another suit,” I said. “And a car and a hideout and money and friends. But you’ll get him.”
Nulty spit in the wastebasket again. “I’ll get him,” he said, “about the time I get my third set of teeth. How many guys is put on it? One. Listen, you know why? No space. One time there was five smokes carved Harlem sunsets on each other down on East Eighty-four. One of them was cold already. There was blood on the furniture, blood on the walls, blood even on the ceiling. I go down and outside the house a guy that works on the Chronicle, a newshawk, is coming off the porch and getting into his car. He makes a face at us and says, ‘Aw, hell, shines,’ and gets in his heap and goes away. Don’t even go in the house.”