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Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 22

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“The hundred dollars,” he said very softly, “was hardly enough.”

“That depends what you expect to buy with it”

“You have these cigarettes with you?”

“One of them. But they don’t prove anything. As you said, anybody could get your cards. I’m just wondering why they were where they were. Any ideas?”

“How well did you know Mr. Marriott?” he asked softly.

“Not at all. But I had ideas about him. They were so obvious they stuck out.”

Amthor tapped lightly on the white table. The Indian still slept with his chin on his huge chest, his heavy-lidded eyes tight shut.

“By the way, did you ever meet a Mrs. Grayle, a wealthy lady who lives in Bay City?”

He nodded absently. “Yes, I treated her centers of speech. She had a very slight impediment.”

“You did a sweet job on her,” I said. “She talks as good as I do.”

That failed to amuse him. He still tapped on the table. I listened to the taps. Something about them I didn’t like. They sounded like a code. He stopped, folded his arms again and leaned back against the air.

“What I like about this job everybody knows everybody,” I said. “Mrs. Grayle knew Marriott too.”

“How did you find that out?” he asked slowly.

I didn’t say anything.

“You will have to tell the police — about those cigarettes,” he said.

I shrugged.

“You are wondering why I do not have you thrown out,” Amthor said pleasantly. “Second Planting could break your neck like a celery stalk. I am wondering myself. You seem to have some sort of theory. Blackmail I do not pay. It buys nothing — and I have many friends. But naturally there are certain elements which would like to show me in a bad light. Psychiatrists, sex specialists, neurologists, nasty little men with rubber hammers and shelves loaded with the literature of aberrations. And of course they are all — doctors, While I am still a — quack. What is your theory?”

I tried to stare him down, but it couldn’t be done; I felt myself licking my lips.

He shrugged lightly. “I can’t blame you for wanting to keep it to yourself. This is a matter that I must give thought to. Perhaps you are a much more intelligent man than I thought. I also make mistakes. In the meantime — “ He leaned forward and put a hand on each side of the milky globe.

“I think Marriott was a blackmailer of women,” I said. “And finger man for a jewel mob. But who told him what women to cultivate — so that he would know their comings and goings, get intimate with them, make love to them, make them load up with the ice and take them out, and then slip to a phone and tell the boys where to operate?”

“That,” Amthor said carefully, “is your picture of Marriott — and of me. I am slightly disgusted.”

I leaned forward until my face was not more than a foot from his. “You’re in a racket. Dress it up all you please and it’s still a racket. And it wasn’t just the cards, Amthor. As you say, anybody could get those. It wasn’t the marihuana. You wouldn’t be in a cheap line like that — not with your chances. But on the back of each card there is a blank space. And on blank spaces, or even on written ones, there is sometimes invisible writing.”

He smiled bleakly, but I hardly saw it. His hands moved over the milky bowl.

The light went out. The room was as black as Carry Nation’s bonnet.


I kicked my stool back and stood up and jerked the gun out of the holster under my arm. But it was no good. My coat was buttoned and I was too slow. I’d have been too slow anyway, if it came to shooting anybody.

There was a soundless rush of air and an earthy smell. In the complete darkness the Indian hit me from behind and pinned my arms to my sides. He started to lift me. I could have got the gun out still and fanned the room with blind shots, but I was a long way from friends. It didn’t seem as if there was any point in it.

I let go of the gun and took hold of his wrists. They were greasy and hard to hold. The Indian breathed gutturally and set me down with a jar that lifted the top of my head. He had my wrists now, instead of me having his. He twisted them behind me fast and a knee like a corner stone went into my back. He bent me. I can be bent. I’m not the City Hall. He bent me.

I tried to yell, for no reason at all. Breath panted in my throat and couldn’t get out. The Indian threw me sideways and got a body scissors on me as I fell. He had me in a barrel. His hands went to my neck. Sometimes I wake up in the night. I feel them there and I smell the smell of him. I feel the breath fighting and losing and the greasy fingers digging in. Then I get up and take a drink and turn the radio on.

I was just about gone when the light flared on again, blood red, on account of the blood in my eyeballs and at the back of them. A face floated around and a hand pawed me delicately, but the other hands stayed on my throat.

A voice said softly, “Let him breathe — a little.”

The fingers slackened. I wrenched loose from them. Something that glinted hit me on the side of the jaw.

The voice said softly: “Get him on his feet.”

The Indian got me on my feet. He pulled me back against the wall, holding me by both twisted wrists.

“Amateur,” the voice said softly and the shiny thing that was as hard and bitter as death hit me again, across the face. Something warm trickled. I licked at it and tasted iron and salt.

A hand explored my wallet. A hand explored all my pockets. The cigarette in tissue paper came out and was unwrapped. It went somewhere in the haze that was in front of me.

“There were three cigarettes?” the voice said gently, and the shining thing hit my jaw again.

“Three,” I gulped.

“Just where did you say the others were?”

“In my desk — at the office.”

The shiny thing hit me again. “You are probably lying — but I can find out.” Keys shone with funny little red lights in front of me. The voice said: “Choke him a little more.”

The iron fingers went into my throat. I was strained back against him, against the smell of him and the hard muscles of his stomach. I reached up and took one of his fingers and tried to twist it.

The voice said softly: “Amazing. He’s learning.”

The glinting thing swayed through the air again. It smacked my jaw, the thing that had once been my jaw.

“Let him go. He’s tame,” the voice said.

The heavy strong arms dropped away and I swayed forward and took a step and steadied myself. Amthor stood smiling very slightly, almost dreamily in front of me. He held my gun in his delicate, lovely hand. He held it pointed at my chest.

“I could teach you,” he said in his soft voice. “But to what purpose? A dirty little man in a dirty little world. One spot of brightness on you and you would still be that. Is it not so?” He smiled, so beautifully.

I swung at his smile with everything I had left.

It wasn’t so bad considering. He reeled and blood came out of both his nostrils. Then he caught himself and straightened up and lifted the gun again.

“Sit down, my child,” he said softly. “I have visitors coming. I am so glad you hit me. It helps a great deal.”

I felt for the white stool and sat down and put my head down on the white table beside the milky globe which was now shining again softly. I stared at it sideways, my face on the table. The light fascinated me. Nice light, nice soft light.

Behind me and around me there was nothing but silence. I think I went to sleep, just like that, with a bloody face on the table, and a thin beautiful devil with my gun in his hand watching me and smiling.

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