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Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 14

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“You ought to have taken the case too,” I said quietly. “There was dust in it. And it being empty was suspicious.”

“I couldn’t — with you there. I — I almost went back and did. But I didn’t quite have the courage. Did it get you in wrong?”

“No,” I lied. “Why should it?”

“I’m glad of that,” she said wistfully.

“Why didn’t you throw them away?”

She thought about it, her bag clutched to her side, her wide-brimmed absurd hat tilted so that it hid one eye.

“I guess it must be because I’m a cop’s daughter,” she said at last. “You just don’t throw away evidence.” Her smile was frail and guilty and her cheeks were flushed. I shrugged.

“Well — “ the word hung in the air, like smoke in a closed room. Her lips stayed parted after saying it. I let it hang. The flush on her face deepened.

“I’m horribly sorry. I shouldn’t have done it.”

I passed that too.

She went very quickly to the door and out.


I poked at one of the long Russian cigarettes with a finger, then laid them in a neat row, side by side and squeaked my chair. You just don’t throw away evidence. So they were evidence. Evidence of what? That a man occasionally smoked a stick of tea, a man who looked as if any touch of the exotic would appeal to him. On the other hand lots of tough guys smoked marihuana, also lots of band musicians and high school kids, and nice girls who had given up trying. American hasheesh. A weed that would grow anywhere. Unlawful to cultivate now. That meant a lot in a country as big as the U.S.A.

I sat there and puffed my pipe and listened to the clacking typewriter behind the wall of my office and the bong-bong of the traffic lights changing on Hollywood Boulevard and spring rustling in the air, like a paper bag blowing along a concrete sidewalk.

They were pretty big cigarettes, but a lot of Russians are, and marihuana is a coarse leaf. Indian hemp. American hasheesh. Evidence. God, what hats the women wear. My head ached. Nuts.

I got my penknife out and opened the small sharp blade, the one I didn’t clean my pipe with, and reached for one of them. That’s what a police chemist would do. Slit one down the middle and examine the stuff under a microscope, to start with. There might just happen to be something unusual about it. Not very likely, but what the hell, he was paid by the month.

I slit one down the middle. The mouthpiece part was pretty tough to slit. Okey, I was a tough guy. I slit it anyway. See if can you stop me.

Out of the mouthpiece shiny segments of rolled thin cardboard partly straightened themselves and had printing on them. I sat up straight and pawed for them. I tried to spread them out on the desk in order, but they slid around on the desk. I grabbed another of the cigarettes and squinted inside the mouthpiece. Then I went to work with the blade of the pocket knife in a different way. I pinched the cigarette down to the place where the mouthpiece began. The paper was thin all the way, you could feel the grain of what was underneath. So I cut the mouthpiece off carefully and then still more carefully cut through the mouthpiece longways, but only just enough. It opened out and there was another card underneath, rolled up, not touched this time.

I spread it out fondly. It was a man’s calling card. Thin pale ivory, just off white. Engraved on that were delicately shaded words. In the lower left hand corner a Stillwood Heights telephone number. In the lower right hand corner the legend, “By Appointment Only.” In the middle, a little larger, but still discreet: “Jules Amthor.” Below, a little smaller: “Psychic Consultant.”

I took hold of the third cigarette. This time, with a lot of difficulty. I teased the card out without cutting anything. It was the same. I put it back where it had been.

I looked at my watch, put my pipe in an ashtray, and then had to look at my watch again to see what time it was. I rolled the two cut cigarettes and the cut card in part of the tissue paper, the one that was complete with card inside in another part of the tissue paper and locked both little packages away in my desk.

I sat looking at the card. Jules Amthor, Psychic Consultant, By Appointment Only, Stillwood Heights phone number, no address. Three like that rolled inside three sticks of tea, in a Chinese or Japanese silk cigarette case with an imitation tortoise-shell frame, a trade article that might have cost thirty-five to seventy-five cents in any Oriental store, Hooey Phooey Sing — Long Sing Tung, that kind of place, where a nice-mannered Jap hisses at you, laughing heartily when you say that the Moon of Arabia incense smells like the girls in Frisco Sadie’s back parlor.

And all this in the pocket of a man who was very dead, and who had another and genuinely expensive cigarette case containing cigarettes which he actually smoked.

He must have forgotten it. It didn’t make sense. Perhaps it hadn’t belonged to him at all. Perhaps he had picked it up in a hotel lobby. Forgotten he had it on him. Forgotten to turn it in. Jules Amthor, Psychic Consultant.

The phone rang and I answered it absently. The voice had the cool hardness of a cop who thinks he is good. It was Randall. He didn’t bark. He was the icy type.

“So you didn’t know who that girl was last night? And she picked you up on the boulevard and you walked over to there. Nice lying, Marlowe.”

“Maybe you have a daughter and you wouldn’t like newscameramen jumping out of bushes and popping flashbulbs in her face.”

“You lied to me.”

“It was a pleasure.”

He was silent a moment, as if deciding something. “We’ll let that pass,” he said. “I’ve seen her. She came in and told me her story. She’s the daughter of a man I knew and respected, as it happens.”

“She told you,” I said, “and you told her.”

“I told her a little,” he said coldly. “For a reason. I’m calling you for the same reason. This investigation is going to be undercover. We have a chance to break this jewel gang and we’re going to do it.”

“Oh, it’s a gang murder this morning. Okey.”

“By the way, that was marihuana dust in that funny cigarette case — the one with the dragons on it. Sure you didn’t see him smoke one out of it?”

“Quite sure. In my presence he smoked only the others. But he wasn’t in my presence all the time.”

“I see. Well, that’s all. Remember what I told you last night. Don’t try getting ideas about this case. All we want from you is silence. Otherwise — “

He paused. I yawned into the mouthpiece.

“I heard that,” he snapped. “Perhaps you think I’m not in a position to make that stick. I am. One false move out of you and you’ll be locked up as a material witness.”

“You mean the papers are not to get the case?”

“They’ll get the murder — but they won’t know what’s behind it.”

“Neither do you,” I said.

“I’ve warned you twice now,” be said. “The third time is out.”

“You’re doing a lot of talking,” I said, “for a guy that holds cards.”

I got the phone hung in my face for that. Okey, the hell with him, let him work at it.

I walked around the office a little to cool off, bought myself a short drink, looked at my watch again and didn’t see what time it was, and sat down at the desk once more.

Jules Amthor, Psychic Consultant. Consultations by Appointment Only. Give him enough time and pay him enough money and he’ll cure anything from a jaded husband to a grasshopper plague. He would be an expert in frustrated love affairs, women who slept alone and didn’t like it, wandering boys and girls who didn’t write home, sell the property now or hold it for another year, will this part hurt me with my public or make me seem more versatile? Men would sneak in on him too, big strong guys that roared like lions around their offices and were all cold mush under their vests. But mostly it would be women, fat women that panted and thin women that burned, old women that dreamed and young women that thought they might have Electra complexes, women of all sizes, shapes and ages, but with one thing in common — money; No Thursdays at the County Hospital for Mr. Jules Amthor. Cash on the line for him. Rich bitches who had to be dunned for their milk bills would pay him right now.

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