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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Cuatro

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There were three of us left in the pot. By then they knew how I played, knew I had to be paired, or have an ace or king in the hole. I was looking at a pair of eights, and the other player had paired on the last card. Fours. Fours checked to the eights and I was in the middle, and bet the pot limit, six hundred. Pair of eights sat there and thought too long. He decided I wasn’t trying to buy one, because it would have been too clumsy and risky in view of my financial status.

He decided I was trying to look as if I was buying one, to get the big play against a flush, anchored by either the ace or king of hearts in the hole. Fortunately neither of those cards had showed up in that hand.

He folded. Pair of fours was actually two pair. He came to the same reluctant conclusion. I pulled the pot in, collapsed my winning hand and tossed it to the dealer, but that hole card somehow caught against my finger and flipped over. The black deuce. And I knew that from then on they would remember that busted flush and they would pay my price for my good hands.

And they did, for twenty more hours, and there were many many good hands, and there was a great weight of old time money in that little group. In the last few hours I loaned the big loser ten thousand against that houseboat, and when it was gone I loaned him ten more, and when that was gone I loaned him the final ten and the craft was mine. When he wanted another ten, with his little Brazilian mistress as security, his friends took him away and quieted him down and the game ended. And I named the houseboat in honor of the hand which had started my streak, and sold the old Prowler on which I had been living in cramped circumstances.

After the manual labor, I treated myself to a tepid tub and a chilly bottle of Dos Equis, that black Mexican beer beyond compare, and dressed for summer night life.

Just at dusk Molly Bea came a-calling, tall glass in hand, tiddly-sweet, pinked with sunburn, bringing along a dark lustrous giggler to show her my adorable little old boat. The giggler was named Conny, and she was from Gnaw-luns rather than Takes-us, but she was a similar piece, styled for romps and games, all a girlish prancing, giving me to believe-with glance and innuendo-that she had checked me out with Molly Bea, given her total approval, then matched for me and won. She was prepared to move in with me and send Molly Bea back to the Tiger.

After the inspection tour, I got rid of both of them, locked up and went off to a downtown place which sells tourist steaks at native prices and then went on out to the Mile O’Beach, to the Bahama Room, your host Joey Mirris, featuring for Our Big Summer Season, the haunting ballads of Sheilagh Morraine, and Chookie McCall and her Island Dancers. Closed Mondays.

Joey Mirris was a tasteless brassy purveyor of blue material and smutty sight gags. it was a pickup band, very loud and very bored. Sheilagh Morraine had a sweet, true, ordinary little voice, wooden gestures and expressions, and an astounding 42-25-38 figure she garbed in show gowns that seemed knitted of wet cob-webs.

But Chook and her six-pack were good. She planned the costumes, lighting, arrangements, routines, picked the girls carefully and trained them mercilessly. They were doing three a night, and the dancers were the ones bringing in the business, and Adam Teabolt, the owner-manager, knew it.

The room will take about two and a quarter, and they had about seventy for the eight o’clock show. I found a stool at the end of the raised bar, tried not to notice Mirris and Morraine, and then gave my full attention to the so-called island Dancers. The wardrobe for the entire seven could have been assembled in one derby hat.

Under the blue floods I saw Cathy Karr working in perfect cadence with the group, wearing a rather glassy little smile, her body trim and nimble, light and muscular and quick. There is no flab on good dancers. There is no room for it, and no time to acquire it. Effort coats the trained golden flesh with little moist highlights. As always, the bored band did its best for the Chook-troop, and part of the routine was a clever satire on all sea-island routines.

After the eight o’clock show I sent a note back to Cathy and then went to the hotel coffee shop. She joined me five minutes later, wearing a dreary little blouse, a cheap skirt and her heavy stage make-up. We had a corner table.

Through the glass wall I could see the lighted pool and the evening swimmers.

“I’m going to try to see if I can do anything, Cathy.”

The brown eyes searched my face. “I surely appreciate it, Mr. McGee.”

“Trav. Short for Travis.”

“Thank you, Trav. Do you think you can do anything?”

“I don’t know. But we have to make some kind of agreement.”

“Like what?”

“Your father hid something and Junior Allen found it. If I find out what it is or was and where he got it, maybe there is somebody it should go back to.”

“I wouldn’t want anything that was stole.”

“If I can make recovery of anything, Cathy, I’ll take any expenses off the top and split what’s left with you, fifty fifty.”

She thought that over. “I guess that would be fair enough. This way, I’ve got nothing at all.”

“But you can’t tell anyone we have this arrangement. If anybody asks you anything about me, I’m just a friend.”

“I think maybe you are. But what about those expenses if you don’t get anything back?”

“That’s my risk.”

“So long as I don’t end up owing. Lord God, I owe enough here and there. Even some to Chookie.”

“I want to ask you a few questions.”

“You go right ahead, Trav. ”

“Do you know of anybody who served with your father in the Army?”

“No. The thing is, he wanted to fly. He enlisted to try to get to fly. But he was too old or not enough schooling or something. He enlisted in nineteen forty-two. I was six years old when he went away. He trained in Texas someplace, and finally he got into the… something about Air Transit or something.”

“ATC? Air Transport Command?”

“That was it! Sure. And he got to fly that way, not flying the airplanes, but having a regular airplane to fly on. A crew chief he got to be. Over in that CBI place. And he did good because we got the allotment and after he was over there, those hundred dollar money orders would come once in a while. Once there were three of them all at once. Ma saved what she could for when he got back, and the way it turned out, it was a good thing she did.”

“But you don’t know anybody he served with?”

She frowned thoughtfully. “There were names in the letters sometimes. He didn’t write much. My mother saved those letters. I don’t know if Christy threw them out when she died. Maybe they’re still down at the house. There were names in them sometimes.”

“Could you ride down there with me tomorrow and find out?”

“I guess so.”

“I want to meet your sister.”

“Why?”

“I want to hear what she has to say about Junior Allen.”

“She’ll say she told me so. She didn’t like him much. Can I tell my sister what you’re trying to do for us?”

“No. I’d rather you wouldn’t, Cathy. Tell her I’m just a friend. I’ll find some way to get her to talk about Allen.”

“What can she tell you?”

“Maybe nothing. Maybe some things you didn’t notice.”

“It’ll be good to see my Davie.”

“Why was Allen sent to prison?”

“He said it was a big misunderstanding. He went in the Army and he was making it his career. He was in the Quartermaster, in the part that they have boats, like the Navy. But little boats. Crash boats, they call the ones he was on. And then he got into the supply part of it, and in nineteen fifty-seven they got onto him for selling a lot of government stuff to some civilian company. He said he did a little of it, but not as much as they said. They blamed it all on him and gave him a dishonorable discharge and eight years at Leavenworth. But he got out in five. That’s where he was a cellmate of my daddy, and said he came to help us because my daddy would have wanted him to. That’s the lie he told us.”

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