Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Страница 19
I was too angry for polite usage, for the living room turn of phrase. “I walked in here to look at the painting. I thought the room was empty. This crotch jockey had his little girl all turned on and steaming and they resented the interruption, and she told him to deck me. But it didn’t work out.”
Brell turned on the girl, anguish in his voice. “Angie! Is this true?”
She looked at Lew. She looked at me. She looked at her father. Her eyes were like stones. “What do you really care who gets laid around here anyway!” She sobbed and brushed by him and fled. After a stunned hesitation, he ran after her, calling to her. A door slammed. He was still yelling. A sports car rumbled and snorted and took off. Rubber yelped. it faded, shifting up through the gears.
“God love us,” Gerry Brell said. She took a vase from the table and stood thoughtfully and dumped it on Lew’s head, flowers and all. The Hingdons and I were busy trying not to look squarely at one another.
Lew pushed the floor away and sat up. He looked like a fat sad baby. His eyes were not properly focused.
Gerry sat on her heels beside him and put her hand on that meaty shoulder and shook him gently. “Sweetie, you better haul your ass out of here right now, because if I know George Brell, he’s loading a gun right this minute.”
The eyes focused, comprehended, became round and wide with alarm. He jumped up and without a glance at anyone or another word went running heavily and unsteadily out.
Gerry smiled at us and said, “Excuse me, please.” She went off to find George.
Little Bess Hingdon stayed close to her big and rather solemn young husband as we went into the long living room. “Dear, I really think we should go.”
“Just leave?” Hingdon said uncertainly. There was a nice flavor about then, that scent of good marriage. Separated by a room of people, they were still paired, still aware of each other.
‘’I’ll find Gerry,“ she said and went off.
Sam Hingdon looked curiously at me and said, “That Lew Dagg is a rough boy. Linebacker. One more year to go, and the pros are watching him.”
“Like what did I hit him with?”
He grinned. “Something like that.”
“Maybe he’s out of condition. He should use the summer for a different kind of exercise. Is that Angie George’s eldest?”
“Youngest. She’s the onlly one left home. Gidge is the eldest. She’s married to a boy in med school in New Orleans. Tommy’s in the Air Force. They’re Martha’s children.”
Bess came hurrying in, carrying her purse. “It’s all right, honey. We can leave now. Good night, Mr. McGee. Hope we’ll see you again.”
I went out to the terrace and made myself a weak drink. I could hear Gerry and George yammering at each other. I could hear the music but not the lyrics. Fury and accusation. A pretty girl in dark braids and a uniform came onto the terrace and gathered up the debris of the cocktail snacks, gave me a shy glance and cat-footed away.
Finally George came out. He looked sour. He grunted at me, poured bourbon over one cube and downed it before the ice had a chance to chill it. He banged the glass down. “Trav, Gerry has a headache. She said to apologize. Jesus, what an evening!”
“Apologize to her for me. Tell her I didn’t stop to think that could be your daughter when I spoke so rough. I was still angry. And about hitting that kid, he gave me no choice.”
He stared at me with evident agony. “Just what were they doing, McGee?”
“I didn’t actually see them doing anything. He had her blouse unbuttoned and her bra unhooked, but she had her shorts on.”
“She doesn’t even start college until fall. Goddamn that ape! Let’s get out of here, Trav.” We went out and got into the Lincoln. He drove swiftly through a long maze of curving roads and then slowed as we passed a house as conspicuous as his. I caught a glimpse of the Triumph. He speeded up. “Gerry said that’s where she’d go. It’s her closest girlfriend.”
He didn’t speak again until we were on 77 heading south. “It’s a hell of a thing for something like that to happen, the first time you’re in my home.”
“Worse for you than for me.”
“How the hell am I supposed to keep an eye on her? That’s Gerry’s job and she’s goofing it. She says she can’t control her. She says Angie won’t listen to her. I’m a busy man, goddamn it. I’ve got to send the kid away, but where? Where can you send them in August, for God’s sake? There’s no relatives to park her with. Did you hear what she said to me?” He banged the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “What do you think, McGee? Do you think that ape is actually screwing my little girl?”
“I think you’re driving too damned fast, George. And I don’t think he is. Yet.”
“Sorry. Why don’t you think he is?”
“Because if he was, he would have had her off someplace where he could, without interruption. And from the look of her, that was the next step, George.”
He slowed down a little more. “You know, that makes sense. Sure. He’s probably trying to talk her into it. He’s been hanging around for about a month. Trav, that’s the second good turn you’ve done me tonight.”
“And she doesn’t care too much for the boy.”
“How do you know?”
“When she ran out, he hadn’t moved a muscle. She couldn’t know but that I’d killed him.”
“That’s right! I’m feeling better by the minute. McGee, you must have a very nice punch.”
“He’s very easy to hit. And you’re going too fast again.”
We came into Brownsville. He took a confusing number of turns and put the car in a small Iot on a back street. We walked half a block through the sultry night to the shabby entrance of a small private club, a men’s club, with a comfortable bar and a good smell of broiled steak, and a cardroom with some intent poker players under the hooded green light.
We stood at the bar and he said, “A key for my friend, Clarence.”
The bartender opened a drawer and took out a brass key and put it in front of me. “This is Mr. Travis McGee, Clarence. Trav, that key is good for life. Life memberships one dollar. Give Clarence the dollar.” I handed it over. ‘’Cash on the line here for everything. No fees, no assessments, no committees. And a good steam room.“
We picked up our drinks and I followed George over to a corner table. “We can eat right here when we’re ready,” he said. He frowned. “I just don’t know what the hell to do about that girl.”
“Didn’t Gidge and Tommy work out fine?” It startled him.
“Don’t worry about her. She’s a very lush looking kid, George. And probably as healthy as she looks. Probably if you knew everything about Gidge and Tommy at the same age, your hair would turn white.”
“By God, if you were twenty years older, McGee, I’d hire you to watchdog her for what’s left of the summer.”
“You wouldn’t be able to trust me.”
“Anyway, whatever you came to see me about, consider it done. I owe you that much.”
“I want information.”
“How much did Dave Berry steal overseas, how did he steal it and how did he smuggle it back into the States?”
It twisted him into another dimension so suddenly it was like yanking him inside out. His face turned a pasty yellow. His eyes darted back and forth as though looking for a place to hide. He opened his mouth three times to speak and closed it each time. Then he said, spacing the words, “Are you a Treasury Department investigator?”
“What are you?”
“I just try to get along, this way and that. You can understand that.”
“I knew a Sergeant David Berry once.”
“Is that the way you want it?”
“That’s the way it has to be.”
“What are you scared of, George?”
“You can’t be scared of Berry. He’s been dead two years.”
It startled him, but not enough. “Dead? I didn’t know that. Did they let him loose before he died?”