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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Содержание - Catorce

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He went clawing and scrabbling after the end of the line as it moved on out over the starboard rail, and came within frantic reaching inches of it just before a wild roll to port rocked him back. In the moonlight I saw the white end of it yanked over the rail and off into the night as we rolled away from the slow pull of the drifting Rut Cry. I was kneeling, patting around in the water, reaching and feeling for the gun. His hands were empty, and I wondered if it had flipped overboard. He skidded on the seat of his pants, and for a moment the roll held him nailed against the port side. Water smashed in on him.

I knew that he knew what he had to do. He had to take care of me and get the Play Pen moving and go downwind and get the smaller boat. I was the problem. My fingertips brushed the gun and I grabbed at it just as he used the roll to starboard to come at me. If he had come crawling he would have made it in time. But he got onto his feet to drive at me, and it gave me time to bring the gun up and fire once into his leathery paunch, and yank the trigger twice more without effect before he got his hands on me. He had begun a strange screaming, a whistling sound with each exhalation. It was not pain or fear. It was just a violent exasperation. If he was trying to stomp something that wouldn’t lie still enough, he might make that same sound.

He grabbed me around the neck, but as I broke out of it, I realized the strength of his right arm was gone. He could use it, but it did not have that sickening power in it. I scuttled away from him and we were braced on hands and knees, nose to nose. The motion was too violent to risk standing up. We could not guard against each other. I had lost the gun. He used his left hand. I used my right. We traded blows as they do in cheap television, groaning with effort, a measured grunt-smack, grunt-smack, grunt-smack.

I knew that if I could keep it up, time was on my side. He had a bullet in him. Probably he realized he was losing ground. I saw him reach his left hand into the front of his shirt. Another gun? A knife? In sudden fright, I tried to hit him hard enough to finish it but he yanked his head back, catquick, and I missed and sprawled flat as I rolled, I saw him bring something down at my head, and I yanked away It struck me a glancing blow and hit the teak deck and burst. Then there were all the jelly beans, rolling and spilling, scattering and fleeing in the moonlight, the bright treasure from the cloth sack.

e gave a howl of dismay and began scrambling, pouncing, snatching at the round gem stones. Water smashed in, sweeping them inevitably toward the stern, out the scuppers, seeding the deep with riches. I think he forgot for a moment that he had to do something about me. I got low, as I had been taught, and timed the roll, and as he lifted up a little too far, I drove at him, shoulder into the pit of the belly, legs driving. I drove him back into the starboard rail as it dipped low, and he went over, grabbing at me, clawing at me. But I got hold of the rail and he missed it and went into the sea.

I don’t know why I expected him to go down like a stone. I clung to the rail, gasping and gagging, and saw him pop up, snap the water out of his eyes, orient himself, and turn and start churning his way toward the Rut Cry. With a sprained arm, with a bullet in his gut, I could still believe he would make it.

It was out there, rising and falling in the moonlight in a strange kind of panic, I groped for something to throw at him. The Play Pen was drifting in the same direction. He was not getting out of range very fast. There was a big Danforth anchor in the open storage locked in the center of the transom. I pulled it out, chain rattling on the shaft, got the shaft in both hands, braced myself, threw it out there as hard as I could in a high clanking arc. It landed on the back of his head and neck and shoulders just as a wave lifted him, and tumbled forward over his shoulder-and the sea was suddenly empty.

The line which had been bent onto the chain whipped at my ankle. By instinct I stepped on it. I bent weakly and picked it up. I didn’t have the strength to pull the anchor back in. I gave it a couple of turns around the starboard stern cleat. I kept looking for him. I couldn’t believe that anything had ended him. I took a step to catch my balance, and stepped on something like a pebble. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I pulled myself to the controls. I had to stop all that damned motion before I went out of my mind. I got the engines started, turned it into the wind and put it on dead slow, and jacked the Metal Marine pilot into gear. it took over the wheel, holding it there. My underlip was in two segments, and one was folded down, exposing my teeth on the left side. I put the running lights on. There was a flashlight in a bracket beside the instrument panel. I went below. The violent motion had spilled both women out of the bunks. They lay in the narrow aisle, both face down, Deeleen atop Lois. I heaved Deeleen back up onto the port bunk. She was deep in her sleep, long exhalations rattling in her throat.

I was gentler with Lois, kneeling, turning her, gathering her up. I put the light on her when she was on the bunk. Her face was the color of yeast. Her lips were blue and bloodless. The whole left side of her face was a dark bruise. I could not detect respiration, but when I lay my ear against her chest I thought I could hear a thin, small, slow sound, a thready struggle of the heart.

I covered them both with blankets, tucking them around their bodies, muttering to myself. My head seemed full of distances, of wraiths and, mists, a wide and lonely country encased in a papery fragility of bone.

Find the Tiger’s boat. Priority one. Look downwind. I went to the control and took it out of pilot and swung it to take the sea dead astern, and stepped it up a little. Suddenly I remembered the damned anchor. I wasn’t tracking well. It would be very clever to wind the line around a shaft. A towed anchor will swing up and bobble around in the wake. I put it back on pilot and went astern. I decided I would just release the line and let it go. I put the light back into the wake to see if I could see it. The wake made a smooth hump about forty feet back of the transom. Junior Allen rode that hump, face up out of the water, grinning at me.

Suddenly, as if to show off, as if to prove how well he had everything under control, he made a complete roll, exposing the metallic gleam of the anchor for an instant, then steadying again, face high, making little white bow waves that shot past his ears.

I could not move or think or speak. The known world was gone, and in nightmare I fought something that could never be whipped. I could not take the light off him. He rolled again. And then I saw what it was. His throat was wedged in that space between the flukes of the Danforth, and the edges of the points were angled up behind the corners of his jaw, the tension spreading his jowls into that grin.

I got to the cleat, and with nerveless stumbling hands I freed the line. He disappeared at once as the anchor took him down. I hugged the rail and vomited. When I looked forward, eyes streaming, I suddenly saw I was coming too damned close to running the Rut Cry down. I sprang to the controls, circled it, came up on it slowly, got its line with a boat hook and made it fast to the center cleat in the transom.

I made an estimate of the course, guessed it at two-ninety, and, watching the Rut Cry to see how it rode, I slowly put it up at 2800 rpm. I went down and looked at the women. Lois’s hands were limp and icy. I found a pulse in her throat with my lips. She was alive.

I turned on the ship-to-shore and transmitted on the Coast Guard emergency frequency. On my third try they came in loud and clear. I told them who I was and where I was, and something of the nature of the medical emergency. It was after midnight. My lip made my voice strange. I told them I did not think from the looks of the woman and the sea a copter pickup was feasible. They told me to stand by.

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