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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Siete

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But first I had to brief her. I had to make her understand why I was asking and what I wanted to know. She had heard village gossip about Junior Allen and the sisters. I gave her all of the facts, as I knew them.

For once her new placidity was impaired.

She stared across at me through the lamplight. “He had a lot of cash with him When he came back. I didn’t give him anything. So everything, the boat and everything, came from what he took from that place where he was living?”

“That’s the only answer.”

“But what could it have been?”

“Something he had to go to New York to get rid of.”

“Travis, why are you so interested in all this?”

I tried to give her a reassuring smile, but from the look on her face it was not successful. “I am going to take it away from him,” I said, in a voice not quite my own.

“I don’t understand.”

“And keep some of it and give Cathy her share.”

“She’s important to you?”

“As important as you are.”

She thought that over. “Is… is this the sort of thing you do?”

“It’s in the general area of the sort of thing I do, when I happen to need the money.”

“But… he seems to be such a dangerous man. And maybe he’s spent it all by now. And if he hasn’t, how could you get anything away from him? I don’t think you could, without killing him.”

“I would think of that as a normal business risk, Lois.”

The color she had regained drained out of her face. “How can you say such a terrible thing? You… you’ve been so good to me.”

“What has that got to do with it?”

“But don’t you see that…”

“I see that you are a damned fool, Lois. You took me at face value. You decided what sort of a person I am. If I can’t match that image, it isn’t my fault.”

After a long silence she said, “Isn’t it a waste?”

“Waste of what?”

“Of you! It seems degrading. Forgive me for saying that. I’ve seen those African movies. The lion makes a kill and then clever animals come in and grab something and run. You’re so bright, Tray, and so intuitive about people. And you have… the gift of tenderness. And sympathy. You could be almost anything.”

“Of course!” I said, springing to my feet and beginning to pace back and forth through the lounge. “Why didn’t I think of that! Here I am, wasting the golden years on this lousy barge, getting all mixed up with lame-duck women when I could be out there seeking and striving. Who am I to keep from putting my shoulder to the wheel? Why am I not thinking about an estata and how to protect it? Gad, woman, I could be writing a million dollars a year in life insurance. I should be pulling a big oar in the flagship of life. Maybe it isn’t too late yet! Find the little woman, and go for the whole bit. Kiwanis, P.T.A., fund drives, cookouts, a clean desk, and vote the straight ticket, yessiree bob. Then when I become a senior citizen, I can look back upon…”

I stopped when I heard the small sound she was making. She sat with her head bowed. I went over and put my fingertips under her chin. I tilted her head up and looked down into her streaming eyes.

“Please, don’t,” she whispered.

“You’re beginning to bring out the worst in me, woman.”

“It was none of my business.”

“I will not dispute you.”

“But… who did this to you?”

“I’ll never know you well enough to try to tell you, Lois.”

She tried to smile. “I guess it can’t be any plainer than that.”

“And I’m not a tragic figure, no matter how hard you try to make me into one. I’m delighted with myself, woman.”

“And you wouldn’t say it that way if you were.”

“Spare me the cute insights.”

She shivered and pulled herself together. “I’m grateful to you. I’ll try to answer questions.”

“What did he say about money?”

She tried. She sat as trim and obedient as a bright girl in class. He said he had all the money he would ever need. Yes, he had repeated that in different ways at different times. And said he would never have to use any of it to buy a woman. There was some hiding place aboard where he kept cash.

“And maybe something else,” she said in an odd voice.

“What?”

“Let me think,” she said. Her face was very still. She had that listening look people wear when they dig into small vague memories. “A crooked blue marble,” she said. “It was such a hot day. Sickeningly hot because there was no wind at all. And all that glare off the water. I’d drunk too much. I was trying not to be sick. Their voices were a blur. They were always arguing about something, shouting at each other. He was showing her something, and it fell to the deck, a blue marble, and it rolled toward her across the teak. It rolled crooked.

“She pounced on it and popped it into her mouth, like a child. I guess she wasn’t over eighteen, but she was as old as all the evil in the world. He was murderously angry and he went at her and she ran, laughing at him. He chased her all over the boat and when he had her cornered, she dived over the side. She floated, laughing and squealing at him. She was naked. She looked very dark in the water, and I could see her shadow shimmering on the white sand bottom. He ran and got a gun.

“It surprised me that it made such a small snapping noise, but the bullets spit the water up, close to her, and she came quickly to the boarding ladder and climbed aboard. He took her by the nape of the neck and she spat the blue marble into his hand. Then, still holding her, he beat her with his fist until she spent most of the rest of the day down in one of the bunks, whimpering.

“The marble was a very deep blue. He kept thinking about it and getting mad all over again. He would yell down there, cursing her. He went down once or maybe twice and struck her again.” She stared at me with dead eyes and said, “I think I remember it because that was the longest time that they left me alone. Afterwards I kept thinking of the gun. I tried to find it, but I couldn’t. When he caught me looking for it, he guessed, and he gave me to her and watched her beat me.

“She made it look as if she was beating me harder than she was. She wasn’t sorry for me. She just didn’t want to hurt me so badly I’d be of no use to her. She was terribly hard and chunky and strong. Her legs and thighs were like thick polished mahogany, and she laughed at nothing and she sang all the time in a hard screeching voice, in very bad French. In my empty house, before you came to me, Trav, I kept hearing her singing, as loudly as if she was in the next room.”

Some of the old mad light came back into her eyes. “Do you want to hear me sing like Fancha?”

“Take it easy, honey”

“Would you like me to laugh and dance like Fancha?”

She had begun to tremble violently. I hurried to get the pills and brought her one of the strong ones. She didn’t try to fight it. She was in bed and asleep in fifteen minutes.

After I had chased the ghastliness of Fancha out of my mind, I settled down to some planning. A trip out to Leavenworth had a deceptive plausibility. It is bad practice to try to question prison people. They live by the book. They need documentation and identification and proper authority. When you can’t present it, they immediately wonder if you are there to try to help somebody slip out. I decided that was the last resort. I would chase down, every other lead, and if they all dwindled to absolutely nothing, then I would go out there to Kansas and get the feel of it and try to con somebody.

Before I went to bed, I took a look at my ward. In the faint light she looked no more than nineteen, gentle, and unmarked by any ugliness.

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