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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Страница 17

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“He would have the information on David Berry, then.”

“If he’s willing to talk. If he was in on it, on any cute money on the side, why should he talk to anybody about it?”

“I’ve leveled with you, Mr. Callowell, but I might try something else with Brell.”

“And use my name in vain, McGee?”

“It might occur to me.”

“I would advise against it. We have lawyers without enough to do. They get restless.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.”

“I don’t often do this much talking for so little reason, McGee. You have a nice touch. You’re an eager listener. You smile in the right places. It puts people on. And, of course, you haven’t leveled with me.”

“How can you say such a thing!”

He chuckled and pulled himself to his feet. “End of session, McGee. Good night and good luck.” At the door he turned and said, “I’ll have you checked out, of course. Just for the hell of it. I’m a careful and inquisitive man.”

“Can I make it easier by giving you my address?”

He winked. “Slip F-18. Bahia Mar. Lauderdale.”

“Mr. Callowell, I am impressed.”

“Mr. McGee, any reasonably honest man in the construction industry either sets up his own CIA or he goes broke.” He chuckled again and trudged toward the elevators, trailing fragrant smoke.


IN THE morning I placed a station call to the number listed for George Brell in Harlingen. I got a lazy-toned switchboard operator who put me through to a sharp-voiced secretary who said that Mr. Brell was not in his office yet. As she had no way of knowing it was a long distance call, I side-stepped her request for my name and said I would phone later.

Then I phoned my barge boat. After three rings, I heard her voice, small, tense, cautious. “Hello?”

“This is your night nurse speaking.”

“Trav! Thank God.”

“What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”

“Nothing in particular. Just… I don’t know… tension, I guess. I got so used to you being nearby. I hear sounds. And I jump. And I had bad dreams.”

“Cook them out in the sun.”

“I’m going to. On the beach, maybe. When are you coming back?”

“I’m going to Texas today.”


“There’s a man there I want to see. I might be back there by Friday, but I’m not certain. Take your pills, honey. Don’t agitate yourself. Eat; sleep and keep busy. You’re smack in the middle of hundreds of boats and thousands of people.”

“Trav, a woman phoned and she’s most anxious to get in touch with you. She said it’s an emergency. It sort of put her off stride to have a woman answer and say you’re away. I said you might phone and she said to tell you to phone her. Miss McCall. With a very strange first name. I don’t know if I have it right?”


“That’s it.”

I had her look in my book and give me the number. By the time I hung up, Lois sounded pretty good. I wondered if I had been a damn fool not to lock up the liquor supply or at least to arrange to have somebody stay with her. Hurry home, Mother McGee. People have their acquired armor, made up of gestures and expressions and defensive chatter. Lois’s had all been brutally stripped awy, and I knew her as well as anybody ever had or ever would. I knew her from filled teeth to the childhood apple tree, from appendix scar to wedding night, and it was time for her to start growing her new carapace, with me on the outside. I caught her raw, and did not care to be joined to her by scar tissue when healing began.

Chook’s phone went to nine rings before she answered in the gritty rancor of interrupted sleep. But her voice changed when she recognized mine. “Trav! I phoned you last night. Who is that Mrs. Atkinson?”

“One of your more successful rivals.”

“I mean really. Is she the one that whosis took on when he dropped Cathy?”


“Trav, I phoned about Cathy. She worked the first show last night. She seemed fine. And then they found her unconscious out on the beach there at the hotel. She’d been terribly beaten. Her face is a mess. Two broken fingers. They don’t know yet if there’s any internal injuries. She regained consciousness before they got her to the hospital. The police questioned her. She told them she went out to walk on the beach and somebody jumped her and beat her up. She couldn’t give them a description. I talked to her next, after they’d given her a sedative. She acted very strange about it. I think it was him, Trav. She won’t be able to work for two weeks anyway, maybe longer. She’s really a mess.”

“Does she want to talk to me?”

“She doesn’t want to talk to amybody. It’s in the paper today. Show girl assaulted on private beach. Mysterious assailant and so on.”

“Are you going to see her today?”

“Of course!”

“I might not get back before Saturday. Look in on Lois Atkinson if you get a chance. Our friend left her in pretty sad shape. She’s a lady.”

“Oh, really?”

“With ragged edges. You’ll like her, I think. Make girl talk. Then I’ll try to phone you tonight at the hotel, for a report on both of them.”

“McGee’s clinic?”

“The Junior Allen discard club. Take care.”

A travel office at the hotel helped me find the best way to get to the Rio Grande Valley. A direct 707 out of Idlewild to Houston, a two hour layover and then a feeder flight down to Harlingen with one stop at Corpus Christi. I had barely missed a better deal, and so I could take my time getting out of Idlewild.

The flight took off with less than half the seats occupied. The whole country lay misty-bright, impersonal, under a summer high, and we went with the sun, making noon last a long time. The worst thing about having a hundred and eighty million people is looking down and seeing how much room there is for more.

A stewardess took a special and personal interest in me. She was a little bigger than they usually are and a little older than the norm. She was styled for abundant lactation, and her uniform blouse was not. She had a big white smile and she was mildly-bovine, and I had the curious feeling I had met her before, and then I remembered where-in that valuable book by Mark Harris, Bang the Drum Slowly, the stewardess that “Author” runs into when he is on his way out to Mayo’s. My stewardess perched on the edge of the seat beside me, back arched, smiling.

“ Houston is going to be wicked hot,” she said. “I am going to get me into that motel pool as fast as I can, and come out just long enough every once in a while to get a tall cold drink. Some of the kids just stay in the rooms, but I think they keep them too cold. It gives me the sinus. I layover there and go out at ten tomorrow, and somehow Houston is always a drag, you know?”

The mild misty blue eyes watched me and the mouth smiled and she waited for my move. You can run into the Tiger’s Perpetual Floating House Party almost anywhere. At 28,000 feet, and at the same 800 fps muzzle velocity of a.45 caliber service pistol. Nobody leaves marks on anybody. You meet indirectly, cling for a moment and glance off. Then she would be that hostess in Houston and I would be that tanned one from Florida, a small memory of chlorinated pool water, fruit juice and gin, steak raw in the middle, and hearty rhythms in the draperied twilight of the tomb-cool motel cubicle, riding the grounded flesh of the jet-stream Valkyrie. A harmless pleasure. For harmless plastic people, scruff-proof, who can create the delusion of romance.

But it is a common rudeness to refuse the appetizer without at least saying it looks delicious.

“I’d settle for Houston,” I said with a manufactured wistfulness. “But I’m ticketed through too Harlingen.”

The smile did not change and the eyes became slightly absent. She made some small talk and then swayed down the aisle, smiling, offering official services. Most of them find husbands, and some of them are burst or burned in lonely fields, and some of them become compulsively, forlornly promiscuous, sky sailors between the men in every port, victims of rapid transit, each night merely a long arc from bed to bed.

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