Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Содержание - CHAPTER NINE
"Rattigan's no child," Crumley groused.
"She is. She wouldn't've been so great up on the screen if she hadn't kept one heckuva lot of her Meglin Kiddie self locked up in all those sexual acrobatics. It's not the old Rattigan who's scared here; it's the schoolgirl in panic running through the dark forest, Hollywood, full of monsters."
"You whipping up another of your Christmas fruitcakes full of nuts?"
"Does it sound like it?"
"No comment. Why would one of these red-lined friends send her two books full of lousy memories?"
"Why not? Constance loved a lot of people in her time. So, years later, one way or another, a lot of people hate her. They got rejected, left behind, forgotten. She got famous. They were found with the trash by the side of the road. Or maybe they're real old now and dying, and before they go they want to spoil things."
"You're beginning to sound like me," Crumley said.
"God help me, I hope not. I mean-"
"It's okay. You'll never be Crumley, just like I'll never be Jules Verne Junior. Where in hell are we?"
I glanced up quickly.
"Hey!" I said. "This is it. Mount Lowe! Where the great old red trolley train fell down dead, a long time ago.
"Professor Lowe," I said, reading some offhand memory from the dark side of my eyelids, "was the man who invented balloon photography during the Civil War."
"Where did that come from?" Crumley exclaimed.
"It just came," I said, unsettled.
"You're full of useless information."
"Oh, I don't know," I said, offended. "We're here at Mount Lowe, right? And it's named for Professor Lowe and his Toonerville Trolley scaling its heights, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure," Crumley said.
"Well then, Professor Lowe invented hot-air balloon photography that helped catch enemy images in the great war of the states. Balloons, and a new invention, trains, won for the North."
"Okay, okay," Crumley grumbled. "I'm outta the car and ready to climb."
I leaned out the car window and looked at the long weed-choked path that went up and up a long incline in evening's gathering shadows.
I shut my eyes and recited. "It's three miles to the top. You really want to walk?"
Crumley glared at the foothill.
"Hell, no." He got back in the car and banged the door shut. "Is there any chance we could run off the edge of that damn narrow path? We'd be goners."
"Always the chance. Onward!"
Crumley edged our jalopy to the foot of the mostly blind path, cut the engine, got out, walked over, kicked some dirt, and pulled some weeds.
"Hallelujah!" he exclaimed. "Iron, steel! The old rail track, didn't bother to yank it out, just buried it!"
"See?!" I said.
His face crimson, Crumley plunged back in, almost submerging the car.
"Okay, smart-ass! Damn car won't start!"
"Put your foot on the starter!"
"Damn!" Crumley stomped the floorboard. The car shimmied.
"Double— damn smart-ass kids!"
the way up the mountain was a double wilderness. The dry season had come early and burned the wild grass to sere crispness. In the rapidly fading light the whole hillside up to the peak was the color of wheat, fried by the sun. As we rode, it crackled. Two weeks before, someone had tossed a match and the whole foothill had exploded in flame. It was headlined in the papers and lit the television news, the flames were so pretty. But now the fire was gone and the chars and dryness with it. There was a dead-fire smell as Crumley and I threaded the lost path winding up Mount Lowe.
On the way, Crumley said, "It's good you can't see over my side. A thousand-foot drop."
I clutched my knees.
Crumley noticed. "Well, maybe only a five-hundred-foot drop."
I shut my eyes and recited off my clenched eyelids.
"The Mount Lowe railway was part electric, part cable car."
Crumley, made curious, said, "And?"
I unclenched my knees.
"The railway opened July Fourth, 1893, with free cake and ice cream and thousands of riders. The Pasadena City Brass Band rode the first car playing 'Hail, Columbia.' But considering their passage into the clouds, they had shifted to 'Nearer My God to Thee,' which made at least ten thousand people along the way cry. Later in the ascension they decided to do 'Upward, Always Upward' as they reached the heights. They were followed in three cable cars by the Los Angeles Symphony; the violins in one car, the brass in a second, and the timpani and woodwinds in the third car. In the confusion, the conductor was left behind with his baton. Later in the day the Salt Lake City Mormon Tabernacle Choir ascended, also in three cars; sopranos in one, the baritones in another, and the bass in the third. They sang 'Onward, Christian Soldiers,' which seemed very appropriate as they vanished in the mist. It was reported that ten thousand miles of red, white, and blue bunting covered all of the trolleys and the trains and the cable cars. When the day was finally over, one semihysterical woman who admired Professor Lowe for what he had done to bring about the creation of the Mount Lowe railway and its taverns and hotels was quoted as saying, 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow and also praise Professor Lowe,' which made everyone cry again," I babbled on.
Crumley said, "I'll be damned."
I added, "The Pacific Electric Railway ran to Mount Lowe, the Pasadena Ostrich Farm, Seleg Lion Zoo, San Gabriel Mission, Monrovia, Baldwin's Ranch, and Whittier."
Crumley mumbled under his breath and drove on in silence.
Taking that as a hint, I said, "Are we there yet?"
"Cowardly custard," said Crumley. "Open your eyes."
I opened my eyes.
"I think we're there."
And we were. For there stood the ruins of the old rail station, and beyond that, a few charred struts of the burned pavilion.
I got out slowly and stood with Crumley surveying miles of land that went forever to the sea.
"Cortes never saw better," said Crumley. "View's great. Makes you wonder why they didn't rebuild."
"Always is. Now, where in hell do we find someone named Rattigan in a place like this?"
Some eighty feet away, behind a huge spread of pepper trees, was a small cottage half-sunk in the earth. Fire hadn't touched it, but rain had worn its paint and battered its roof.
"There's got to be a body in there," Crumley said as we walked toward it.
"Isn't there always a body, or else why come see?"
"Go check. I'll stand here hating myself for not bringing more booze."
"Some detective." I ambled over to the cottage and had one helluva time yanking its door wide. When it finally whined and gave way, I lurched back, afraid, and peered in.
"Crumley," I said at last.
"Yeah?" he said, sixty feet away.
"A body?" he said.
"Even better" I said in awe.