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Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 32

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“What do you know about Brunette — for telling?”

“Brunette’s a gambler. He’s making plenty. He’s making it an easy way.”

“All right,” I said, and started to get up. “That sounds reasonable. But it doesn’t bring us any nearer to this jewel heist gang that killed Marriott.”

“I can’t tell you everything, Marlowe.”

“I don’t expect it,” I said. “By the way, Jessie Florian told me — the second time I saw her — that she had been a servant in Marriott’s family once. That was why he was sending her money. Anything to support that?”

“Yes. Letters in his safety-deposit box from her thanking him and saying the same thing.” He looked as if he was going to lose his temper. “Now will you for God’s sake go home and mind your own business?”

“Nice of him to take such care of the letters, wasn’t it?”

He lifted his eyes until their glance rested on the top of my head. Then he lowered the lids until half the iris was covered. He looked at me like that for a long ten seconds. Then he smiled. He was doing an awful lot of smiling that day. Using up a whole week’s supply.

“I have a theory about that,” he said. “It’s crazy, but it’s human nature. Marriott was by the circumstances of his life a threatened man. All crooks are gamblers, more or less, and all gamblers are superstitious — more or less. I think Jessie Florian was Marriott’s lucky piece. As long as he took care of her, nothing would happen to him.”

I turned my head and looked for the pink-headed bug. He had tried two corners of the room now and was moving off disconsolately towards a third. I went over and picked him up in my handkerchief and carried him back to the desk.

“Look,” I said. “This room is eighteen floors above ground. And this little bug climbs all the way up here just to make a friend. Me. My luck piece.” I folded the bug carefully into the soft part of the handkerchief and tucked the handkerchief into my pocket. Randall was pie-eyed. His mouth moved, but nothing came out of it.

“I wonder whose lucky piece Marriott was,” I said.

“Not yours, pal.” His voice was acid — cold acid.

“Perhaps not yours either.” My voice was just a voice. I went out of the room and shut the door.

I rode the express elevator down to the Spring Street entrance and walked out on the front porch of City Hall and down some steps and over to the flower beds. I put the pink bug down carefully behind a bush.

I wondered, in the taxi going home, how long it would take him to make the Homicide Bureau again.

I got my car out of the garage at the back of the apartment house and ate some lunch in Hollywood before I started down to Bay City. It was a beautiful cool sunny afternoon down at the beach. I left Arguello Boulevard at Third Street and drove over to the City Hall.


It was a cheap looking building for so prosperous a town. It looked more like something out of the Bible belt. Bums sat unmolested in a long row on the retaining wall that kept the front lawn — now mostly Bermuda grass — from falling into the street. The building was of three stories and had an old belfry at the top, and the bell still hanging in the belfry. They had probably rung it for the volunteer fire brigade back in the good old chaw-and-spit days.

The cracked walk and the front steps let to open double doors in which a knot of obvious city hall fixers hung around waiting for something to happen so they could make something else out of it. They all had the well-fed stomachs, the careful eyes, the nice clothes and the reach-me-down manners. They gave me about four inches to get in.

Inside was a long dark hallway that had been mopped the day McKinley was inaugurated. A wooden sign pointed out the police department Information Desk. A uniformed man dozed behind a pint-sized PBX set into the end of a scarred wooden counter. A plainclothesman with his coat off and his hog’s leg looking like a fire plug against his ribs took one eye off his evening paper, bonged a spittoon ten feet away from him, yawned, and said the Chief’s office was upstairs at the back.

The second floor was lighter and cleaner, but that didn’t mean that it was clean and light. A door on the ocean side, almost at the end of the hall, was lettered: John Wax, Chief of Police. Enter.

Inside there was a low wooden railing and a uniformed man behind it working a typewriter with two fingers and one thumb. He took my card, yawned, said he would see, and managed to drag himself through a mahogany door marked John Wax, Chief of Police. Private. He came back and held the door in the railing for me.

I went on in and shut the door of the inner office. It was cool and large and had windows on three sides. A stained wood desk was set far back like Mussolini’s, so that you had to walk across an expanse of blue carpet to get to it, and while you were doing that you would be getting the beady eye.

I walked to the desk. A tilted embossed sign on it read: John Wax, Chief of Police. I figured I might be able to remember the name. I looked at the man behind the desk. No straw was sticking to his hair.

He was a hammered-down heavyweight, with short pink hair and a pink scalp glistening through it. He had small, hungry, heavy-lidded eyes, as restless as fleas. He wore a suit of fawn-colored flannel, a coffee-colored shirt and tie, a diamond ring, a diamond-studded lodge pin in his lapel, and the required three stiff points of handkerchief coming up a little more than the required three inches from his outside breast pocket.

One of his plump hands was holding my card. He read it, turned it over and read the back, which was blank, read the front again, put it down on his desk and laid on it a paperweight in the shape of a bronze monkey, as if he was making sure he wouldn’t lose it.

He pushed a pink paw at me. When I gave it back to him, he motioned to a chair.

“Sit down, Mr. Marlowe. I see you are in our business more or less. What can I do for you?”

“A little trouble, Chief. You can straighten it out for me in a minute, if you care to.”

“Trouble,” he said softly. “A little trouble.”

He turned in his chair and crossed his thick legs and gazed thoughtfully towards one of his pairs of windows. That let me see handspun lisle socks and English brogues that looked as if they had been pickled in port wine. Counting what I couldn’t see and not counting his wallet he had half a grand on him. I figured his wife had money.

“Trouble,” he said, still softly, “is something our little city don’t know much about, Mr. Marlowe. Our city is small but very, very clean. I look out of my western windows and I see the Pacific Ocean. Nothing cleaner than that, is there?” He didn’t mention the two gambling ships that were hull down on the brass waves just beyond the three-mile limit.

Neither did I. “That’s right, Chief,” I said.

He threw his chest a couple of inches farther. “I look out of my northern windows and I see the busy bustle of Arguello Boulevard and the lovely California foothills, and in the near foreground one of the nicest little business sections a man could want to know. I look out of my southern windows, which I am looking out of right now, and I see the finest little yacht harbor in the world, for a small yacht harbor. I don’t have no eastern windows, but if I did have, I would see a residential section that would make your mouth water. No, sir, trouble is a thing we don’t have a lot of on hand in our little town.”

“I guess I brought mine with me, Chief. Some of it at least. Do you have a man working for you named Galbraith, a plainclothes sergeant?”

“Why yes, I believe I do,” he said, bringing his eyes around. “What about him?”

“Do you have a man working for you that goes like this?” I described the other man, the one who said very little, was short, had a mustache and hit me with a blackjack. “He goes around with Galbraith, very likely. Somebody called him Mister Blane, but that sounded like a phony.”

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