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Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHT

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in one hour, Crumley called.

But didn't call me William.

He said, "Crud, crap, crapola. You really know how to hook a guy. What is it with these goddamn Books of the Dead?"

"Why do you say that?"

"Hell, I was born in a mortuary, raised in a graveyard, matriculated in the Valley of the Kings outside Karnak in upper, or was it lower, Egypt? Some nights I dream I'm wrapped in creosote. Who wouldn't know a book that's dead when it's served with his beer?"

"Same old Crumley," I said.

"I wish it wasn't. When I hang up I'm calling your wife!"


"Why not?"

"Because— " I stopped, gasped, and then blurted out, "I need you!"


"Did you hear what I said?"

"I heard," he muttered. "Christ."

And at last, "Meet you down by Rattigan's. Around sunset. When things come out of the surf to get you."


He hung up before I could.


EVERYTHING by night, that's the ticket. Nothing at noon; the sun is too bright, the shadows wait. The sky burns so nothing dares move. There is no fun in sunlit exposure. Midnight brings fun when the shadows under trees lift their skirts and glide. Wind arrives. Leaves fall. Footsteps echo. Beams and floorboards creak. Dust sifts from tombstone angel wings. Shadows soar like ravens. Before dawn, the streetlights die, the town goes briefly blind.

It is then that all good mysteries start, all adventures linger. Dawn never was. Everyone holds their breath to bind the darkness, save the terror, nail the shadows.

So it was only proper that as dark waves were striking a darker shore, I met Crumley on the sand, out front of her big white Arabian-fortress beach house. We walked up and looked in.

All the doors still stood wide, bright lights burned inside while Gershwin punched holes in a player-piano roll in 1928 to be played again and again, triple time, with no one listening except me and Crumley walking through lots of music, but no Constance.

I opened my mouth to apologize for calling Crumley.

"Drink your gin and shut up." Crumley thrust a beer at me.

"Now," he went on, "what the hell does all this mean?" He thumbed the pages of Rattigan's personal Book of the Dead. "Here, here, and over here."

There were red ink marks circling a half-dozen names, with deeply indented crucifixes freshly inscribed.

"Constance guessed, and so did I, that those marks meant the owners of those names were still alive, but maybe not for long. What do you think?"

"I don't," said Crumley. "This is your picnic. I was all set to head for Yosemite this weekend, and you show up like a film producer who improves the flavor of screenplays by peeing on every other scene. I'd better run for Yosemite right now; you got that look of a wild rabbit with intuitions."

"Hold on." For he was starting to move. "Don't you want to prove or disprove which of these names are still kicking or which dropped dead?"

I grabbed the book, then tossed it back so he had to catch. It fell open at one page with a more-than-enormous crucifix by an almost-circus-banner name. Crumley scowled. I read the name upside down: Califia. Queen Califia. Bunker Hill. No address. But there was a phone number.

Crumley could not take his eyes off it, scowling.

"Know where that is?" I said.

"Bunker Hill, hell, I know, I know. I was born a few blocks north of there. A real free-for-all stewpot of Mexicans, Gypsies, stovepipe-out-the-window Irish, white trash and black. Used to go by there to look in at Callahan and Ortega, Funeral Directors. Hoped to see real bodies. My God, Callahan and Ortega, what names, right there in the middle of Juarez II, Guadalajara bums, dead flowers from Rosarita Beach, Dublin whores. Crud!" Crumley suddenly yelled, furious at listening to his own travel talk, half selling himself on my next expedition. "Did you hear me? Did you listen? God!"

"I heard," I said. "So why don't we just call one of those red circle numbers to see what's aboveground or below?"

And before he could protest, I seized the book and ran up the dune to Rattigan's outdoor pool, brightly lit, with an extension phone on a glass-top patio table, waiting. I didn't dare look at Crumley, who had not moved as I dialed.

A voice answered from long miles away. That number was no longer in service. Damn, I thought, and then, Wait!

I dialed information swiftly, got a number, dialed it, and held the phone out so Crumley could hear the voice:

"Callahan and Ortega, good evening," the voice said, a full rich ripe brogue from center stage of Abbey Theatre. I smiled wildly. I saw Crumley, below, twitch.

Callahan and Ortega," the voice repeated, louder now, its temper roused. A long pause. I stayed mum. "Who the hell is this?"

I hung up before Crumley reached me.

"Son of a bitch," he said, hooked.

"Two blocks, maybe three, from where you were born?"

"Four, you conniving bastard."

"Well?" I said.

Crumley grabbed Rattigan's book.

"Almost but not quite a Book of the Dead?" he said.

"Want to try another number?" I opened the book, turned, and stopped under the Rs. "Here's one, oh Lord yes, even better than Queen Califia."

Crumley squinted. "Rattigan, Mount Lowe. What kind of Rattigan lives up on Mount Lowe? That's where the big red trolley that's been dead half my lifetime used to take thousands up for picnics."

Memory shadowed Crumley's face.

I touched another name.

"Rattigan. St. Vibiana's Cathedral."

"What kind of Rattigan, holy jumping Jesus, hides out in St. Vibiana's Cathedral?"

"Spoken like a born-again Catholic." I studied Crumley's now-permanent scowl. "Want to know? I'm on my way."

I took three false steps before Crumley swore. "How the hell you going to get there with no license and no car?"

I kept my back turned. "You're going to take me."

There was a long brooding silence.

"Right?" I prompted.

"You know how in hell to find where the Mount Lowe trolley once ran?"

"I was carried up by my folks when I was eighteen months old."

"That means you can show the way?"

"Total recall."

"Shut up," said Crumley as he tossed a half-dozen bottles of beer into the jalopy. "Get in the car."

We got in, left Gershwin to punch piano-roll holes in Paris, and drove away.

"Don't say anything," said Crumley. "Just nod your head left, right, or straight ahead."


"I'LL be damned if I know why in hell I'm doing this," Crumley muttered, almost driving on the wrong side of the street. "I said, I'll be damned if I know why in hell-"

"I heard you," I said, watching the mountains and the foothills coming closer.

"You know who you remind me of?" Crumley snorted. "My first and only wife, who knew how to flimflam me with her shapes and sizes and big smiles."

"Do I flimflam you?"

"Say you don't and I'll throw you out of the car. When you see me coming, you sit and pretend to be working a crossword puzzle. You're maybe four words into it before I grab your pencil and shove you outta the way."

"Did I ever do that, Crumley?"

"Don't get me mad. You watching the street signs? Do so.

Now. Tell me, why are you heading this damn-fool expedition?"

I looked at the Rattigan phone book in my lap. "She was running away, she said. From Death, from one of die names in this book. Maybe one of them sent it to her as a spoiled gift. Or maybe she was running toward them, like we're doing, heading for one to see if he's the sinner who dared to send tombstone dictionaries to impressionable child actresses."

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