Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 19
She got a lipstick out and touched her lips very lightly and then looked at me along her eyes. She tossed the mirror. I caught it and looked at my face. I worked at it with my handkerchief and stood up to give her back the mirror.
She was leaning back, showing all her throat, looking at me lazily down her eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. Ten o’clock at the Belvedere Club. Don’t be too magnificent. All I have is a dinner suit. In the bar?”
She nodded, her eyes still lazy.
I went across the room and out, without looking back. The footman met me in the hall and gave me my hat, looking like the Great Stone Face.
I walked down the curving driveway and lost myself in the shadow of the tall trimmed hedges and came to the gates. Another man was holding the fort now, a husky in plainclothes, an obvious bodyguard. He let me out with a nod.
A horn tooted. Miss Riordan’s coupe was drawn up behind my car. I went over there and looked in at her. She looked cool and sarcastic.
She sat there with her hands on the wheel, gloved and slim. She smiled.
“I waited. I suppose it was none of my business. What did you think of her?”
“I bet she snaps a mean garter.”
“Do you always have to say things like that?” She flushed bitterly. “Sometimes I hate men. Old men, young men, football players, opera tenors, smart millionaires, beautiful men who are gigolos and almost-heels who are — private detectives.”
I grinned at her sadly. “I know I talk too smart. It’s in the air nowadays. Who told you he was a gigolo?”
“Don’t be obtuse. Marriott.”
“Oh, it was a cinch guess. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be nasty. I guess you can snap her garter any time you want to, without much of a struggle. But there’s one thing you can be sure of — you’re a late comer to the show.”
The wide curving street dozed peacefully in the sun. A beautifully painted panel truck slid noiselessly to a stop before a house across the street, then backed a little and went up the driveway to a side entrance. On the side of the panel truck was painted the legend. “Bay City Infant Service.”
Anne Riordan leaned towards me, her gray-blue eyes hurt and clouded. Her slightly too long upper lip pouted and then pressed back against her teeth. She made a sharp little sound with her breath.
“Probably you’d like me to mind my own business, is that it? And not have ideas you don’t have first. I thought I was helping a little.”
“I don’t need any help. The police don’t want any from me. There’s nothing I can do for Mrs. Grayle. She has a yarn about a beer parlor where a car started from and followed them, but what does that amount to? It was a crummy dive on Santa Monica. This was a high-class mob. There was somebody in it that could even tell Fei Tsui jade when he saw it.”
“If he wasn’t tipped off.”
“There’s that too,” I said, and fumbled a cigarette out of a package. “Either way there’s nothing for me in it.”
“Not even about psychics?”
I stared rather blankly. “Psychics?”
“My God,” she said softly. “And I thought you were a detective.”
“There’s a hush on part of this,” I said. “I’ve got to watch my step. This Grayle packs a lot of dough in his pants. And law is where you buy it in this town. Look at the funny way the cops are acting. No build-up, no newspaper handout, no chance for the innocent stranger to step in with the trifling clue that turns out to be all important. Nothing but silence and warnings to me to lay off. I don’t like it at all.”
“You got most of the lipstick off,” Anne Riordan said. “I mentioned psychics. Well, good-by. It was nice to know you — in a way.”
She pressed her starter button and jammed her gears in and was gone in a swirl of dust.
I watched her go. When she was gone I looked across the street. The man from the panel truck that said Bay City Infant Service came out of the side door of the house dressed in a uniform so white and stiff and gleaming that it made me feel clean just to look at it. He was carrying a carton of some sort. He got into his panel truck and drove away.
I figured he had just changed a diaper.
I got into my own car and looked at my watch before starting up. It was almost five.
The Scotch, as good enough Scotch will, stayed with me all the way back to Hollywood. I took the red lights as they came.
“There’s a nice little girl,” I told myself out loud, in the car, “for a guy that’s interested in a nice little girl.” Nobody said anything. “But I’m not,” I said. Nobody said anything to that either. “Ten o’clock at the Belvedere Club,” I said. Somebody said: “Phooey.”
It sounded like my voice.
It was a quarter to six when I reached my office again. The building was very quiet. The typewriter beyond the party wall was still. I lit a pipe and sat down to wait.
The Indian smelled. He smelled clear across the little reception room when the buzzer sounded and I opened the door between to see who it was. Ho stood just inside the corridor door looking as if he had been cast in bronze. He was a big man from the waist up and he had a big chest. He looked like a bum.
He wore a brown suit of which the coat was too small for his shoulders and his trousers were probably a little tight at the waist. His hat was at least two sizes too small and had been perspired in freely by somebody it fitted better than it fitted him. He wore it about where a house wears a wind vane. His collar had the snug fit of a horse-collar and was of about the same shade of dirty brown. A tie dangled outside his buttoned jacket, a black tie which had been tied with a pair of pliers in a knot the size of a pea. Around his bare and magnificent throat, above the dirty collar, he wore a wide piece of black ribbon, like an old woman trying to freshen up her neck.
He had a big flat face and a highbridged fleshy nose that looked as hard as the prow of a cruiser. He had lidless eyes, drooping jowls, the shoulders of a blacksmith and the short and apparent awkward legs of a chimpanzee. I found out later that they were only short.
If he had been cleaned up a little and dressed in a white nightgown, he would have looked like a very wicked Roman senator.
His smell was the earthy smell of primitive man, and not the slimy dirt of cities.
“Huh,” he said. “Come quick. Come now.”
I backed into my office and wiggled my finger at him and he followed me making as much noise as a fly makes walking on the wall. I sat down behind my desk and squeaked my swivel chair professionally and pointed to the customer’s chair on the other side. He didn’t sit down. His small black eyes were hostile.
“Come where?” I said.
“Huh. Me Second Planting. Me Hollywood Indian.”
“Have a chair, Mr. Planting.”
He snorted and his nostrils got very wide. They had been wide enough for mouseholes to start with.
“Name Second Planting. Name no Mister Planting.”
“What can I do for you?”
He lifted his voice and began to intone in a deep-chested sonorous boom. “He say come quick. Great white father say come quick. He say me bring you in fiery chariot. He say — “
“Yeah. Cut out the pig Latin,” I said. “I’m no schoolmarm at the snake dances.”
“Nuts,” the Indian said.
We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did. Then he removed his hat with massive disgust and turned it upside down. He rolled a finger around under the sweatband. That turned the sweatband up into view, and it had not been misnamed. He removed a paper clip from the edge and threw a fold of tissue paper on the desk. He pointed at it angrily, with a well-chewed fingernail. His lank hair had a shelf around it, high up, from the too-tight hat.