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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Diez

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I had to be led around and I had to admire. Corridor walls scraped down and repainted a better color. New curtains in the head. A new set of stainless steel bowls for the galley. She said she would show me the topsides work by daylight when I could appreciate it.

I put my suitcase in my stateroom and came back into the lounge and told her she was a useful guest. We stood smiling at each other and then she leapt at me, clutched me, wailed once, and went away, snuffling, keeping her back toward me.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on now, Lois. What’s wrong?”

She pulled herself together quickly. “Does something have to be wrong? Maybe I’m glad to have you back. I don’t know.”

She had started to rebuild the woman things, the artifice, the indirection, the challenge. It was her pride at work. She was healing and I was glad to see it, and I did not want to nudge the structure too heavily. It was too new.

“I’ll fix your drink,” she said. “I sold the house.”

“Got the money?”

“Soon.”

“Sorry?”

“About the house? It’s just a house. I was hiding down there in that wretched little village because I thought I’d been a bad wife.” She brought me my drink and handed it to me.

“Aren’t you getting a little fat, dear?” I asked.

She beamed. “A hundred and seven this afternoon.”

“What’s right for you?”

“Oh, one eighteen, one twenty.” She patted her hip. “After one twenty it all goes here.”

“So if the hiding is over, what are you going to do?” It was a fool question, tangle-footed and unimaginative. And no way to take it back. It made her aware of obligation. She could handle day by day. If she kept her head down. I had rocked the fragile new structure. Those dark and pleasantly tilted eyes became haunted and she sucked at her lips and knotted her hands.

“Not right now,” I said, trying to mend it. “Some day.”

“I don’t know.”

“How was New York, Trav? New York was hot, Lois. How was Texas, Trav? Texas was hot, Lois. Did you have any fun, Trav? I wouldn’t call it fun, Lois. I wouldn’t know what to call it.”

She measured me out one half of a smile. “Oh, shut up.”

“Do I take you out tonight?”

“Oh, no! I cook, really.”

I looked at my watch. “I have a hospital visit to make. So schedule it after I get back. Say forty minutes after I get back. Time to shower and change when I get back.”

“Yes, master. Oh, I owe you six dollars and thirty cents on your phone bill.”

“Those pants are pretty sexy, Mrs. Atkinson.”

“I called Harp. I talked to Lucille. I didn’t tell her hardly anything. Just that I’d been sick and things were better now.”

“You’re blushing, Mrs. Atkinson.”

“Don’t talk about these pants then. I bought them today. I don’t feel very secure about them.”

Cathy was in a six-bed ward. I pulled a chair close, kissed her on the forehead and sat beside her. I hoped she hadn’t seen any dismay in my face. The sallow, thoughtful, rather pretty and fine-boned little face was gone. It was a stormy sunset, a ripe eggplant, a heavy mushroom. There was a single slit of brown eye to see with. Her left hand was splinted.

“Hello,” she said in a dead, fat-lipped voice. I stood up and yanked the curtains and sat down again and took her uninjured hand. It rested slack and warm and dry in mine.

“Junior Allen?” I said in a low voice.

“You don’t have to mind about me, Mr. McGee.”

“I thought it was Cathy and Trav… Why did he do it?”

There is no way to read the expression of bruised meat. She watched me, hiding away back in there behind pain and indignity. “This part of it has got nothing to do with you.”

“I want to know about it because you are my friend.”

The slit eye was closed so long I began to wonder if she’d fallen asleep. She opened it. “He come there to the bar at the Bahama Room, and I messed up a routine awful when l saw him watching us. I don’t know if it was an accident or he heard somehow or what. After, I hurried into my clothes and went out and he was gone. I went outside and saw him crossing the parking, and I ran after him. I caught him and said I wanted to talk with him. He said we didn’t have anything to talk about. I said we could talk about money. That made him wonder. We walked through to the beach. Then I said that if he could just give me a little money out of what he got, maybe even just a thousand dollars, then I wouldn’t make any trouble about any of the rest of it. He ask me what I would mean by trouble, and I said he found something that wasn’t his, didn’t he? He laughed once, short and nasty, and said I had no idea in the world what trouble was. So he reached quick and grappled holt of my neck with one hand, and pounded on my face with the other, and a couple of times he hit me in the belly. It all went dark while he was thumping on me, and I woke up in the ambulance. It… it doesn’t hurt much now.”

“Cathy, why didn’t you tell the police?”

“I almost did.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Not because I’m afraid of him beating on me again. But the whole thing might come out. And then I’d for sure never get a nickel back. And… it would have messed up what you’re fixing to do, Trav. It could have messed you into a police thing.”

What is there to do about one like that? I lifted her hand and kissed the roughened knuckles and said, “You are something, Cathy.”

“I feel next door to nothing at all.”

“Some good news anyway. There’s no way to find out who the money ever belonged to, and no way to get it back to them anyway.”

“What was hid there?”

“We’ll talk when you get out of here.”

“They won’t tell me when. But I was on my feet some today. Hunched up and dizzy, but walked all the way to the john holding onto a lady. So maybe it won’t be so long.”

When I said good-by to her she said, “It was nice of you to come to visit me. Thank you very much.”

I talked a long time with Lois that evening, giving her an edited version of my adventures. I went to bed. As I dropped off I could still hear her in the shower.

She came into my sleep and into my bed, awakening me with her mouth on mine, and strangely there was no shock or surprise in it. My subconscious had been aware that this would happen. A lady is a very special happening, so scented and delicate and breathless and totally immaculate. She wore a filmy something that tied at the throat and parted readily, presenting the warm length of her, the incredibly smooth texture of her, to my awakening embrace.

Her breath was shuddering, and she gave a hundred quick small kisses. Her caresses were quick and light, and her body turned and glowed and glided and changed in her luxurious presentation of self, her mouth saying darling and her hair sweet in darkness, a creature in endless movement, using all of herself the way a friendly cat will bump and twine and nudge and purr. I wanted to take her on her basis, readying her as graciously as she had made herself ready, with an unhurried homage to all her parts and purposes, an intimate minuet involving offer and response, demand and delay, until the time when it would all be affirmed and taken and done with what, for want of a better name, must be called a flavor of importance.

But suddenly it was not going well. She would fall away from sweet frenzy and then lift herself back up, but to a lesser peak. We were not yet joined. She was trying to hold onto all the wanting, but it kept receding, the waves of it growing smaller, her body becoming less responsive to each touch.

Finally she sobbed aloud and flung herself away, clenching her body into the foetal curl, posture of hiding, her back to me. I touched her. Her muscles were rigid.

“Lois, dear.”

“Don’t touch me!”

“Please, honey, you just…”

“Rotten, rotten, rotten!” she said in a small leathery howling voice, dragging the vowel sounds out.

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