Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 16
A fakeloo artist, a hoopla spreader, and a lad who had his card rolled up inside sticks of tea, found on a dead man.
This was going to be good. I reached for the phone and asked the 0-operator for the Stillwood Heights number.
A woman’s voice answered, a dry, husky-sounding foreign voice: “’Allo.”
“May I talk to Mr. Amthor?”
“Ah no. I regret. I am ver-ry sor-ry. Amthor never speaks upon the telephone. I am hees secretary. Weel I take the message?”
“What’s the address out there? I want to see him.”
“Ah, you weesh to consult Amthor professionally? He weel be ver-ry pleased. But he ees ver-ry beesy. When you weesh to see him?”
“Right away. Sometime today.”
“Ah,” the voice regretted, “that cannot be. The next week per’aps. I weel look at the book.”
“Look,” I said, “never mind the book You ‘ave the pencil?”
“But certainly I ‘ave the pencil. I — “
“Take this down. My name is Philip Marlowe. My address is 615 Cahuenga Building, Hollywood. That’s on Hollywood Boulevard near Ivar. My phone number is Glenview 7537.” I spelled the hard ones and waited.
“Yes, Meester Marlowe. I ‘ave that.”
“I want to see Mr. Amthor about a man named Marriott.” I spelled that too. “it is very urgent. it is a matter of life and death. I want to see him fast. F-a-s-t — fast. Sudden, in other words. Am I clear?”
“You talk ver-ry strange,” the foreign voice said.
“No.” I took hold of the phone standard and shook it. “I feel fine. I always talk like that. This is a very queer business. Mr. Amthor will positively want to see me. I’m a private detective. But I don’t want to go to the police until I’ve seen him.”
“Ah,” the voice got as cool as a cafeteria dinner. “You are of the police, no.”
“Listen,” I said. “I am of the police, no. I am a private detective. Confidential. But it is very urgent just the same. You call me back, no? You ‘ave the telephone number, yes?”
“Si. I ‘ave the telephone number. Meester Marriott — he ees sick.”
“Well, he’s not up and around,” I said. “So you know him?”
“But no. You say a matter of life and death. Amthor he cure many people — “
“This is one time he flops,” I said. “I’ll be waiting for a call.”
I hung up and lunged for the office bottle. I felt as if I had been through a meat grinder. Ten minutes passed. The phone rang. The voice said:
“Amthor he weel see you at six o’clock.”
“That’s fine. What’s the address?”
“He weel send a car.”
“I have a car of my own. Just give me-“
“He weel send a car,” the voice said coldly, and the phone clicked in my ear.
I looked at my watch once more. It was more than time for lunch. My stomach burned from the last drink. I wasn’t hungry. I lit a cigarette. It tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief. I nodded across the office at Mr. Rembrandt, then I reached for my hat and went out. I was halfway to the elevator before the thought hit me. It hit me without any reason or sense, like a dropped brick. I stopped and leaned against the marbled wall and pushed my hat around on my head and suddenly I laughed.
A girl passing me on the way from the elevators back to her work turned and gave me one of those looks which are supposed to make your spine feel like a run in a stocking. I waved my hand at her and went back to my office and grabbed the phone. I called up a man I knew who worked on the Lot Books of a title company.
“Can you find a property by the address alone?” I asked him.
“Sure. We have a cross index. What is it?”
“1644 West 54th Place. I’d like to know a little something about the condition of the title.”
“I’d better call you back. What’s that number?”
He called back in about three minutes.
“Get your pencil out,” he said. “It’s Lot 8 of Block 11 of Caraday’s Addition to the Maplewood Tract Number 4. The owner of record, subject to certain things, is Jessie Pierce Florian, widow.”
“Yeah. What things?”
“Second half taxes, two ten-year street improvement bonds, one storm drain assessment bond also ten year, none of these delinquents, also a first trust deed of $2600.”
“You mean one of those things where they can sell you out on ten minutes’ notice?”
“Not quite that quick, but a lot quicker than a mortgage. There’s nothing unusual about it except the amount. It’s high for that neighborhood, unless it’s a new house.”
“It’s a very old house and in bad repair,” I said. “I’d say fifteen hundred would buy the place.”
“Then it’s distinctly unusual, because the refinancing was done only four years ago.”
“Okey, who holds it? Some investment company?”
“No. An individual. Man named Lindsay Marriott, a single man. Okey?”
I forget what I said to him or what thanks I made. They probably sounded like words. I sat there, just staring at the wall.
My stomach suddenly felt fine. I was hungry. I went down to the Mansion House Coffee Shop and ate lunch and got my car out of the parking lot next to my building.
I drove south and east, towards West 54th Place. I didn’t carry any liquor with me this time.
The block looked just as it had looked the day before. The street was empty except for an ice truck, two Fords in driveways, and a swirl of dust going around a corner. I drove slowly past No. 1644 and parked farther along and studied the houses on either side of mine. I walked back and stopped in front of it, looking at the tough palm tree and the drab unwatered scrap of lawn. The house seemed empty, but probably wasn’t. It just had that look. The lonely rocker on the front porch stood just where it had stood yesterday. There was a throw-away paper on the walk. I picked it up and slapped it against my leg and then I saw the curtain move next door, in the near front window.
Old Nosey again. I yawned and tilted my hat down. A sharp nose almost flattened itself against the inside of the glass. White hair above it, and eyes that were just eyes from where I stood. I strolled along the sidewalk and the eyes watched me. I turned in towards her house. I climbed the wooden steps and rang the bell.
The door snapped open as if it had been on a spring. She was a tall old bird with a chin like a rabbit. Seen from close her eyes were as sharp as lights on still water. I took my hat off.
“Are you the lady who called the police about Mrs. Florian?”
She stared at me coolly and missed nothing about me, probably not even the mole on my right shoulder blade.
“I ain’t sayin’ I am, young man, and I ain’t sayin’ I ain’t. Who are you?” It was a high twangy voice, made for talking over an eight party line.
“I’m a detective.”
“Land’s sakes. Why didn’t you say so? What’s she done now? I ain’t seen a thing and I ain’t missed a minute. Henry done all the goin’ to the store for me. Ain’t been a sound out of there.”
She snapped the screen door unhooked and drew me in. The hall smelled of furniture oil. It had a lot of dark furniture that had once been in good style. Stuff with inlaid panels and scallops at the corners. We went into a front room that had cotton lace antimacassars pinned on everything you could stick a pin into.
“Say, didn’t I see you before?” she asked suddenly, a note of suspicion crawling around in her voice. “Sure enough I did. You was the man that — “
“That’s right. And I’m still a detective. Who’s Henry?”
“Oh, he’s just a little colored boy that goes errands for me. Well, what you want, young man?” She patted a clean red and white apron and gave me the beady eye. She clicked her store teeth a couple of times for practice.
“Did the officers come here yesterday after they went to Mrs. Florian’s house?”
“The uniformed officers,” I said patiently.