Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 29
I unlocked the door of my apartment and went in and sniffed the smell of it, just standing there, against the door for a little while before I put the light on. A homely smell, a smell of dust and tobacco smoke, the smell of a world where men live, and keep on living.
I undressed and went to bed. I had nightmares and woke out of them sweating. But in the morning I was a well man again.
I was sitting on the side of my bed in my pajamas, thinking about getting up, but not yet committed. I didn’t feel very well, but I didn’t feel as sick as I ought to, not as sick as I would feel if I had a salaried job. My head hurt and felt large and hot and my tongue was dry and had gravel on it and my throat was stiff and my jaw was not untender. But I had had worse mornings.
It was a gray morning with high fog, not yet warm but likely to be. I heaved up off the bed and rubbed the pit of my stomach where it was sore from vomiting. My left foot felt fine. It didn’t have an ache in it. So I had to kick the corner of the bed with it.
I was still swearing when there was a sharp tap at the door, the kind of bossy knock that makes you want to open the door two inches, emit the succulent raspberry and slam it again.
I opened it a little wider than two inches. Detective-Lieutenant Randall stood there, in a brown gabardine suit, with a pork pie lightweight felt on his head, very neat and clean and solemn and with a nasty look in his eye.
He pushed the door slightly and I stepped away from it. He came in and closed it and looked around. “I’ve been looking for you for two days,” he said. He didn’t look at me. His eyes measured the room.
“I’ve been sick.”
He walked around with a light springy step, his creamy gray hair shining, his hat under his arm now, his hands in his pockets. He wasn’t a very big man for a cop. He took one hand out of his pocket and placed the hat carefully on top of some magazines.
“Not here,” he said.
“In a hospital.”
“A pet hospital.”
He jerked as if I had slapped his face. Dull color showed behind his skin.
“A little early in the day, isn’t it — for that sort of thing?”
I didn’t say anything. I lit a cigarette. I took one draw on it and sat down on the bed again, quickly.
“No cure for lads like you, is there?” he said. “Except to throw you in the sneezer.”
“I’ve been a sick man and I haven’t had my morning coffee. You can’t expect a very high grade of wit.”
“I told you not to work on this case.”
“You’re not God. You’re not even Jesus Christ.” I took another drag on the cigarette. Somewhere down inside me felt raw, but I liked it a little better.
“You’d be amazed how much trouble I could make you.”
“Do you know why I haven’t done it so far?”
“Why?” He was leaning over a little, sharp as a terrier, with that stony look in his eyes they all get sooner or later.
“You couldn’t find me.”
He leaned back and rocked on his heels. His face shone a little. “I thought you were going to say something else,” he said. “And if you said it, I was going to smack you on the button.”
“Twenty million dollars wouldn’t scare you. But you might get orders.”
He breathed hard, with his mouth a little open. Very slowly he got a package of cigarettes out of his pocket and tore the wrapper. His fingers were trembling a little. He put a cigarette between his lips and went over to my magazine table for a match folder. He lit the cigarette carefully, put the match in the ashtray and not on the floor, and inhaled.
“I gave you some advice over the telephone the other day,” he said. “Thursday.”
“Yes — Friday. It didn’t take. I can understand why. But I didn’t know at that time you had been holding out evidence. I was just recommending a line of action that seemed like a good idea in this case.”
He stared at me silently.
“Will you have some coffee?” I asked. “It might make you human.”
“I will.” I stood up and started for the kitchenette.
“Sit down,” Randall snapped. “I’m far from through.”
I kept on going out to the kitchenette, ran some water into the kettle and put it on the stove. I took a drink of cold water from the faucet, then another. I came back with a third glass in my hand to stand in the doorway and look at him. He hadn’t moved. The veil of his smoke was almost a solid thing to one side of him. He was looking at the floor.
“Why was it wrong to go to Mrs. Grayle when she sent for me?” I asked.
“I wasn’t talking about that.”
“Yeah, but you were just before.”
“She didn’t send for you.” His eyes lifted and had the stony look still. And the flush still dyed his sharp cheekbones. “You forced yourself on her and talked about scandal and practically blackmailed yourself into a job.”
“Funny. As I remember it, we didn’t even talk job. I didn’t think there was anything in her story. I mean, anything to get my teeth into. Nowhere to start. And of course I suppose she had already told it to you.”
“She had. That beer joint on Santa Monica is a crook hideout. But that doesn’t mean anything. I couldn’t get a thing there. The hotel across the street smells too. Nobody we want. Cheap punks.”
“She tell you I forced myself on her?”
He dropped his eyes a little. “No.”
I grinned. “Have some coffee?”
I went back into the kitchenette and made the coffee and waited for it to drip. Randall followed me out this time and stood in the doorway himself.
“This jewel gang has been working in Hollywood and around for a good ten years to my knowledge,” he said. “They went too far this time. They killed a man. I think I know why.”
“Well, if it’s a gang job and you break it, that will be the first gang murder solved since I lived in the town. And I could name and describe at least a dozen.”
“It’s nice of you to say that, Marlowe.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong.”
“Damn it,” he said irritably. “You’re not wrong. There were a couple solved for the record, but they were just rappers. Some punk took it for the high pillow.”
“If I drink some, will you talk to me decently, man to man, without wise-cracking?”
“I’ll try. I don’t promise to spill all my ideas.”
“I can do without those,” he said acidly.
“That’s a nice suit you’re wearing.”
The flush dyed his face again. “This suit cost twenty seven-fifty,” he snapped.
“Oh Christ, a sensitive cop,” I said, and went back to the stove.
“That smells good. How do you make it?”
I poured. “French drip. Coarse ground coffee. No filter papers.” I got the sugar from the closet and the cream from the refrigerator. We sat down on opposite sides of the nook.
“Was that a gag, about your being sick, in a hospital?”
“No gag. I ran into a little trouble — down in Bay City. They took me in. Not the cooler, a private dope and liquor cure.”
His eyes got distant. “Bay City, eh? You like it the hard way, don’t you, Marlowe?”
“It’s not that I like it the hard way. It’s that I get it that way. But nothing like this before. I’ve been sapped twice, the second time by a police officer or a man who looked like one and claimed to be one. I’ve been beaten with my own gun and choked by a tough Indian. I’ve been thrown unconscious into this dope hospital and kept there locked up and part of the time probably strapped down. And I couldn’t prove any of it, except that I actually do have quite a nice collection of bruises and my left arm has been needled plenty.”
He stared hard at the corner of the table. “In Bay City,” he said slowly.
“The name’s like a song. A song in a dirty bathtub.”
“What were you doing down there?”