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Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 23

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“All right,” the big one said. “You can quit stalling now.”

I opened my eyes and sat up.

“Out in the other room, pally.”

I stood up, still dreamy. We went somewhere, through a door. Then I saw where it was — the reception room with the windows all around. It was black dark now outside.

The woman with the wrong rings sat at her desk. A man stood beside her.

“Sit here, pally.”

He pushed me down. It was a nice chair, straight but comfortable but I wasn’t in the mood for it. The woman behind the desk had a notebook open and was reading out loud from it. A short elderly man with a dead-pan expression and a gray mustache was listening to her.

Amthor was standing by a window, with his back to the room, looking out at the placid line of the ocean, far off, beyond the pier lights, beyond the world. He looked at it as if he loved it. He half turned his head to look at me once, and I could see that the blood had been washed off his face, but his nose wasn’t the nose I had first met, not by two sizes. That made me grin, cracked lips and all.

“You got fun, pally?”

I looked at what made the sound, what was in front of me and what had helped me get where I was. He was a windblown blossom of some two hundred pounds with freckled teeth and the mellow voice of a circus barker. He was tough, fast and he ate red meat. Nobody could push him around. He was the kind of cop who spits on his blackjack every night instead of saying his prayers. But he had humorous eyes.

He stood in front of me splay-legged, holding my open wallet in his hand, making scratches on the leather with his as if he just liked to spoil things. Little things, if they were all he had. But probably faces would give him more fun.

“Peeper, huh, pally? From the big bad burg, huh? Little spot of blackmail, huh?”

His hat was on the back of his head. He had dusty brown hair darkened by sweat on his forehead. His humorous eyes were flecked with red veins.

My throat felt as though it had been through a mangle. I reached up and felt it. That Indian. He had fingers like pieces of tool steel.

The dark woman stopped reading out of her notebook and closed it. The elderly smallish man with the gray mustache nodded and came over to stand behind the one who was talking to me.

“Cops?” I asked, rubbing my chin.

“What do you think, pally?”

Policeman’s humor. The small one had a cast in one eye, and it looked half blind.

“Not L.A.,” I said, looking at him. “That eye would retire him in Los Angeles.”

The big man handed me my wallet. I looked through it. I had all the money still. All the cards. It had everything that belonged in it. I was surprised.

“Say something, pally,” the big one said. “Something that would make us get fond of you.”

“Give me back my gun.”

He leaned forward a little and thought. I could see him thinking. It hurt his corns. “Oh, you want your gun, pally?” He looked sideways at the one with the gray mustache. “He wants his gun,” he told him. He looked at me again. “And what would you want your gun for, pally?”

“I want to shoot an Indian.”

“Oh, you want to shoot an Indian, pally.”

“Yeah — just one Indian, pop.”

He looked at the one with the mustache again. “This guy is very tough,” he told him. “He wants to shoot an Indian.”

“Listen, Hemingway, don’t repeat everything I say,” I said.

“I think the guy is nuts,” the big one said. “He just called me Hemingway. Do you think he is nuts?”

The one with the mustache bit a cigar and said nothing. The tall beautiful man at the window turned slowly and said softly: “I think possibly he is a little unbalanced.”

“I can’t think of any reason why he should call me Hemingway,” the big one said. “My name ain’t Hemingway.”

The older man said: “I didn’t see a gun.”

They looked at Amthor. Amthor said: “It’s inside. I have it. I’ll give it to you, Mr. Blane.”

The big man leaned down from his hips and bent his knees a little and breathed in my face. “What for did you call me Hemingway, pally?”

“There are ladies present.”

He straightened up again. “You see.” He looked at the one with the mustache. The one with the mustache nodded and then turned and walked away, across the room. The sliding door opened. He went in and Amthor followed him.

There was silence. The dark woman looked down at the top of her desk and frowned. The big man looked at my right eyebrow and slowly shook his head from side to side, wonderingly.

The door opened again and the man with the mustache came back. He picked a hat up from somewhere and handed it to me. He took my gun out of his pocket and handed it to me. I knew by the weight it was empty. I tucked it under my arm and stood up.

The big man said: “Let’s go, pally. Away from here. I think maybe a little air will help you to get straightened out.”

“Okey, Hemingway.”

“He’s doing that again,” the big man said sadly. “Calling me Hemingway on account of there are ladies present. Would you think that would be some kind of dirty crack in his book?”

The man with the mustache said, “Hurry up.”

The big man took me by the arm and we went over to the little elevator. It came up. We got into it.


At the bottom of the shaft we got out and walked along the narrow hallway and out of the black door. It was crisp clear air outside, high enough to be above the drift of foggy spray from the ocean. I breathed deeply.

The big man still had hold of my arm. There was a car standing there, a plain dark sedan, with private plates.

The big man opened the front door and complained: “It ain’t really up to your class, pally. But a little air will set you up fine. Would that be all right with you? We wouldn’t want to do anything that you wouldn’t like us to do, pally.”

“Where’s the Indian?”

He shook his head a little and pushed me into the car. I got into the right side of the front seat. “Oh, yeah, the Indian,” he said. “You got to shoot him with a bow and arrow. That’s the law. We got him in the back of the car.”

I looked in the back of the car. It was empty.

“Hell, he ain’t there,” the big one said. “Somebody must of glommed him off. You can’t leave nothing in a unlocked car any more.”

“Hurry up,” the man with the mustache said, and got into the back seat. Hemingway went around and pushed his hard stomach behind the wheel. He started the car. We turned and drifted off down the driveway lined with wild geraniums. A cold wind lifted off the sea. The stars were too far off. They said nothing.

We reached the bottom of the drive and turned out onto the concrete mountain road and drifted without haste along that.

“How come you don’t have a car with you, pally?”

“Amthor sent for me.”

“Why would that be, pally?”

“It must have been he wanted to see me.”

“This guy is good,” Hemingway said. “He figures things out.” He spit out of the side of the car and made a turn nicely and let the car ride its motor down the hill. “He says you called him up on the phone and tried to put the bite on him. So he figures he better have a looksee what kind of guy he is doing business with — if he is doing business. So he sends his own car.”

“On account of he knows he is going to call some cops he knows and I won’t need mine to get home with,” I said. “Okey, Hemingway.”

“Yeah, that again. Okey. Well he has a dictaphone under his table and his secretary takes it all down and when we come she reads it back to Mister Blane here.”

I turned and looked at Mister Blane. He was smoking a cigar, peacefully, as though he had his slippers on. He didn’t look at me.

“Like hell she did,” I said. “More likely a stock bunch of notes they had all fixed up for a case like that.”

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