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Книга The Deep Blue Good-Bye. Страница 2

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Chookie said, “Cathy, you can go ahead and tell Travis McGee the whole bit, like you told me. I’ve finished up, so I’ll leave you alone and go back and take that bath, if it’s okay Trav?”

“Please do take a bath.”

She gave me a pretty good rap behind the ear and went off and closed the master stateroom door behind her.

I could see that Catherine Kerr was very tense. I offered her a drink. She gratefully accepted bourbon on ice.

“I don’t know what you can do,” she said. “Maybe this is silly. I don’t know what anybody can do.”

“Maybe there isn’t a thing anybody can do, Cathy. Let’s just start by assuming it’s hopeless and go on from there.”

“I drank too much one night after the last show and told her and I guess I shouldn’t have been telling anybody.”

In her light, nasal voice I could detect some of that conch accent, that slightly sing-song way the key people talk.

“I’m married, sort of,” she said defiantly. “He took off three years ago and I haven’t heard a thing from him. I’ve got a boy age of five, and my sister keeps him, down at the home place on Candle Key. That’s why it’s stinking, not so much for me as the boy Davie. You want a lot for a kid. Maybe I dreamed too much. I don’t know, rightly.”

You have to let them get to it their own way. She sipped her drink and sighed and shrugged. “The way it happened, I was nine years old. That was in nineteen forty-five. That was when my daddy came home from the war. Sergeant David Berry. That’s my maiden name, Catherine Berry. I named my boy after him, even though my daddy had been in prison a long long time when the boy was born. What I think happened, my daddy got onto some way of making money when he was overseas in World War Two. A lot of money, I think. And he found some way of bringing it back. I don’t know how.

“He was over there in India and Burma. He was gone over two years. He was a drinking man, Mr. McGee, and a strong man and he had a temper. He came back on a ship and got off it in San Francisco. They were going to send him to some place in Florida to get discharged, and he was coming home.

“But in San Francisco he got drunk and killed another army man, and because he thought they would keep him and he wouldn’t see us at all, he cut and ran. And he got all the way home. Running like that didn’t do him any good at the trial. It was a military trial, like they have. He came home in the middle of the night, and when we got up he was out there on the dock just looking at the water. It was a foggy day. He told my mother what happened. He said they were going to come and get him. I have never seen a woman cry like that, before or since. They came and got him like he said, and they put him in prison for life in Leavenworth, Kansas. It was an officer he killed.

“My mother took a bus out there to see him that Christmas, and every Christmas from then on until he died two years ago. When there was enough money, she’d take along me or my sister. I got to go twice. My sister went out there three times.”

She went off into dreaming and memories. In a little while she gave a start and looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. The way it was, he thought he would get out sooner or later. I guess they would have let him out, but there was always some kind of trouble coming up. He wasn’t a man to settle down to prison like some can. He was a very proud man, Mr. McGee.

“But here is the thing I have to tell you. Before they came and got him. I was nine. My sister was seven. He sat on the porch with his arms around us, and he told us all the wonderful things that would happen when they turned him loose. We’d have our own boats and our own horses. We would travel all over the world. We would have pretty dresses for every day in the year. I always remembered that.

“When I was older, I remembered it to my mother. I thought she might make fun. But she was serious enough. She told me I was never to talk about it to anybody. She said my father would work things out in his own way, and some day everything would be fine for all of us. But of course it never was. Last year a man came to us, name of Junior Allen. A smiling man. He said he spent five long years in that place and knew my daddy well. And he knew things about us he could only know if my daddy told him. So we were glad to see him.

“He said he had no family of his own. A freckledy smiling man, quick to talk and good with his hands at fixing things. He came in with us, and he got work over at the Esso station, and the money helped. My mother was started sick then, but not so sick she couldn’t care for the kids by day, when Christine-that’s my sister-and I were working. Her two, and my boy Davie, three little kids. It would have neatened out better if Junior Allen had took up with Christine, her husband being killed by the hurricane of sixty-one, when the cinderblock wall of the Candle Key Suprex blew over onto him. Jaimie Hasson his name was. We’ve had all this bad luck with our men.” She tried to smile.

“Sometimes it comes in bunches.”

“Lord knows we’ve had a bunch. It was me Junior Allen liked best. By the time we took up together, my mother was too sick to care too much. As she got sicker she seemed to turn inward like some people do, not noticing much. Christine knew what was going on between us, and she told me it was wrong. But Junior said the way Wally Kerr took off and left me, I was as good as divorced. He said I couldn’t even ask for a divorce until seven years went by without hearing from Wally. I since found out he lied.

“I lived like man and wife with Junior Allen, Mr. McGee, and I loved that man. When Mother died, it was good to have him close. It was near Christmas. She was washing greens, and she just bent over the sink and made a little kitten sound and slid down dying and she was gone. Christine stopped her job because somebody had to be with the kids, but with me and Junior Allen working, there was just enough to get by.

“There was one thing strange in all that time he was with us. I thought it was because he had gotten so close to my daddy in prison. He liked to talk about Daddy. He never stopped asking questions about him, about what things he liked to do and what places he liked to go, almost as if he was trying to live the same life my daddy had lived way before the war, when I was as little as Davie is now.

“Now I remember other things that didn’t seem as strange then as they do now. I remembered about the fish shack my daddy built on a little no-name island, and I told Junior Allen, and the next day he was off he was gone all day in the skiff, and he came back bone tired and grouchy. Little things like that.

“I know now that he was hunting, Mr. McGee. He was hunting whatever my daddy hid, whatever it was he brought back that was going to give us those dresses and horses and around the world. Using one excuse and another, he managed to dig up just about every part of the yard. One day we awoke and Junior Allen was gone. That was near the end of this last February, and both the markers by our old driveway were tumbled down.

“My daddy built them long ago of coquina rock too big and grand for such a little driveway, but built rough. Junior Allen tumbled them down and away he went, and in the ruin of the one on the left was something I don’t know what it was to start. Scabs of rust and some rotten cloth that was maybe once army color, and some wire like a big clip, and some rust still in the length of a little chain, and something that could have once been some kind of a top to something.

“He took along his personal things, so I knew it was just like Wally Kerr all over again. No good looking for him. But he showed up again three weeks later, on Candle Key. Not to see me. He came back to see Mrs. Atkinson. She’s a beautiful woman. She has one of the big new houses there, and I guess he met her when he was working at the Esso and putting gas in her Thunderbird car.

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