Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 9
“Well, as a matter of fact, I’m a little afraid of something like that,” he said quietly, and his eyes twitched. “I suppose that’s really why I wanted somebody with me.”
“Did they put a flash on you when they pulled the stick up?”
He shook is head, no.
“No matter. They’ve had a dozen chances to look you over since. They probably knew all about you before that anyway. These jobs are cased. They’re cased the way a dentist cases your tooth for a gold inlay. You go out with this dame much?”
“Well — not infrequently,” he said stiffly.
“Look here,” he snapped. “Suppose we leave the lady out of this entirely.”
“Okey,” I said. “But the more I know the fewer cups I break. I ought to walk away from this job, Marriott. I really ought. If the boys want to play ball, you don’t need me. If they don’t want to play ball, I can’t do anything about it.”
“All I want is your company,” he said quickly.
I shrugged and spread my hands. “Okey — but I drive the car and carry the money — and you do the hiding in the back. We’re about the same height. If there’s any question, we’ll just tell them the truth. Nothing to lose by it.”
“No.” He bit his lip.
“I’m getting a hundred dollars for doing nothing. If anybody gets conked, it ought to be me.”
He frowned and shook his head, but after quite a long time his face cleared slowly and he smiled.
“Very well,” he said slowly. “I don’t suppose it matters much. We’ll be together. Would you care for a spot of brandy?”
“Uh-huh. And you might bring me my hundred bucks. I like to feel money.”
He moved away like a dancer, his body almost motionless from the waist up.
The phone rang as he was on his way out. It was in a little alcove off the living room proper, cut into the balcony.
It wasn’t the call we were thinking about though. He sounded too affectionate.
He danced back after a while with a bottle of Five-Star Martell and five nice crisp twenty-dollar bills. That made it a nice evening — so far.
The house was very still. Far off there was a sound which might have been beating surf or cars zooming along a highway, or wind in pine trees. It was the sea, of course, breaking far down below. I sat there and listened to it and thought long, careful thoughts.
The phone rang four times within the next hour and a half. The big one came at eight minutes past ten. Marriott talked briefly, in a very low voice, cradled the instrument without a sound and stood up with a sort of hushed movement. His face looked drawn. He had changed to dark clothes now. He walked silently back into the room and poured himself a stiff drink in a brandy glass. He held it against the light a moment with a queer unhappy smile, swirled it once quickly and tilted his head back to pour it down his throat.
“Well — we’re all set, Marlowe. Ready?”
“That’s all I’ve been all evening. Where do we go?”
“A place called Purissima Canyon.”
“I never heard of it.”
“I’ll get a map.” He got one and spread it out quickly and the light blinked in his brassy hair as he bent over it. Then he pointed with his finger. The place was one of the many canyons off the foothill boulevard that turns into town from the coast highway north of Bay City. I had a vague idea where it was, but no more. It seemed to be at the end of a street called Camino de la Costa.
“It will be not more than twelve minutes from here,” Marriott said quickly. “We’d better get moving. We only have twenty minutes to play with.”
He handed me a light colored overcoat which made me a fine target. It fitted pretty well. I wore my own hat. I had a gun under my arm, but I hadn’t told him about that.
While I put the coat on, he went on talking in a light nervous voice and dancing on his hands the thick manila envelope with the eight grand in it.
“Purissima Canyon has a sort of level shelf at the inner end of it, they say. This is walled off from the road by a white fence of four-by-fours, but you can just squeeze by. A dirt road winds down into a little hollow and we are to wait there without lights. There are no houses around.”
“Well, I mean ‘I’ — theoretically.”
He handed me the manila envelope and I opened it up and looked at what was inside. It was money all right, a huge wad of currency. I didn’t count it. I snapped the rubber around again and stuffed the packet down inside my overcoat. It almost caved in a rib.
We went to the door and Marriott switched off all the lights. He opened the front door cautiously and peered out at the foggy air. We went out and down the salt-tarnished spiral stairway to the street level and the garage.
It was a little foggy, the way it always is down there at night. I had to start up the windshield wiper for a while.
The big foreign car drove itself, but I held the wheel for the sake of appearances.
For two minutes we figure-eighted back and forth across the face of the mountain and then popped out right beside the sidewalk cafe. I could understand now why Marriott had told me to walk up the steps. I could have driven about in those curving, twisting streets for hours without making any more yardage than an angleworm in a bait can.
On the highway the lights of the streaming cars made an almost solid beam in both directions. The big cornpoppers were rolling north growling as they went and festooned all over with green and yellow overhang lights. Three minutes of that and we turned inland, by a big service station, and wound along the flank of the foothills. It got quiet. There was loneliness and the smell of kelp and the smell of wild sage from the hills. A yellow window hung here and there, all by itself, like the last orange. Cars passed, spraying the pavement with cold white light, then growled off into the darkness again. Wisps of fog chased the stars down the sky.
Marriott leaned forward from the dark rear seat and said:
“Those lights off to the right are the Belvedere Beach Club. The next canyon is Las Pulgas and the next afterthat Purissima. We turn right at the top of the second rise.” His voice was hushed and taut.
I grunted and kept on driving. “Keep your head down,” I said over my shoulder. “We may be watched all the way. This car sticks out like spats at an Iowa picnic. Could be the boys don’t like your being twins.”
We went down into a hollow at the inward end of a canyon and then up on the high ground and after a little while down again and up again. Then Marriott’s tight voice said in my ear:
“Next street on the right. The house with the square turret. Turn beside that.”
“You didn’t help them pick this place out, did you?”
“Hardly,” he said, and laughed grimly. “I just happen to know these canyons pretty well.”
I swung the car to the right past a big corner house with a square white turret topped with round tiles. The headlights sprayed for an instant on a street sign that read: Camino de la Costa. We slid down a broad avenue lined with unfinished electroliers and weed-grown sidewalks. Some realtor’s dream had turned into a hangover there. Crickets chirped and bullfrogs whooped in the darkness behind the overgrown sidewalks. Marriott’s car was that silent.
There was a house to a block, then a house to two blocks, then no houses at all. A vague window or two was still lighted, but the people around there seemed to go to bed with the chickens. Then the paved avenue ended abruptly in a dirt road packed as hard as concrete in dry weather. The lights of the Belvedere Beach Club hung in the air to the right and far ahead there was a gleam of moving water. The acrid smell of the sage filled the night. Then a white painted barrier loomed across the dirt road and Marriott spoke at my shoulder again.
“I don’t think you can get past it,” he said. “The space doesn’t look wide enough.”