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

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"What's the forecast? Fair? Mild? Good day to start a garden or marry a sucker? Read it!"

" 'Happy week, happy day. Accept all proposals, large or small.' So, what's next?"

"We got to find Califia."


"Don't forget-she's got a red circle around her name, too. We got to see her before something awful happens. That red crucifix means death and burial. Yes?"

"No," said Crumley. "Old Tutankhamen up on Mount Lowe is still flopping around, and his name's red-inked, too, with a crucifix!"

"But he feels someone's coming to get him."

"Who, Constance? That knee-high wonder?"

"All right, the old man's alive. But that doesn't mean Califia hasn't already been wiped out. Old Rattigan didn't give us much. Maybe she can give us more. All we need is an address."

"That's all? Hey." Crumley suddenly swerved to the curb and got out. "Most people never think, Constance didn't think, we didn't think. One place we never looked. The Yellow Pages! What a goof! The Yellow Pages!"

He was across the sidewalk and into a public phone booth to scrabble through some beat-up Yellow Pages, tear out a page, and tote it back. "Old phone number, useless. But maybe a half-ass address."

He shoved the page in my face. I read: QUEEN CALIFIA. Palmistry. Phrenology. Astrology. Egyptian Necrology. Your life is mine. Welcome.

And the damned zodiac street locale.

"So!" said Crumley, as close to hyperventilation as he ever got. "Constance tipped us to the Egyptian relic and the relic names Califia who said marry the beast!"

"We don't know that!"

"Like hell we don't. Let's see."

He put the car in gear and we went fast, to see.


we drove up near Queen Califia's Psychic Research Lodge, dead center of Bunker Hill. Crumley gave it a sour eye. Then I nodded to one side and he saw what to him was a lovely sight: CALLAHAN AND ORTEGA FUNERAL PARLOR.

That raised his spirits. "It's like a homecoming," he admitted.

Our jalopy stopped. I got out.

"You coming in?" I said.

Crumley sat staring out the windshield, hands on the steering wheel, as if we were still moving. "How come," he said, "everything seems downhill with us?"

"You coming in? I need you."

"Outta the way."

He was halfway up the steep concrete steps and then the cracked cement walk before he stopped, surveyed the big white dilapidated bird cage of a house, and said, "Looks like the half bakery where they bake your misfortune cookies."

We continued up the walk. On the way we met a cat, a white goat, and a peacock. The peacock flirted its thousand eyes, watching us pass. We made it to the front door. When I knocked, an unseasonable blizzard of paint snowflakes rained on my shoes.

"If that's what holds this joint up, it won't be long," observed Crumley.

I rapped on the door with my knuckles. Inside I heard what sounded like a massive portable safe being trundled across a hardwood floor. Something heavy was shoved up against the other side of the door.

I raised my hand again, but a high sparrow voice inside cried, "Go away!"

"I just want-"

“Go away!”

"Five minutes," I said. "Four, two, one, for God's sake. I need your help."

"No," the voice shrilled, "I need yours."

My mind spun like a Rolodex. I heard the mummy. I echoed him.

"You ever wonder where the name California came from?" I said.

Silence. The high voice lowered to almost a whisper. "Damn."

Three sets of locks rattled.

"Nobody knows that about California. Nobody."

The door opened a few inches.

"Okay, give," the voice said.

A hand like a great plump starfish thrust out.

"Put it there!"

I put my hand in hers.

"Turn it over."

I turned it, palm up.

Her hand seized it.


Her hand massaged mine; her thumb circumnavigated the lines on my palm.

"Can't be," she whispered.

More quiet motions as she thumbed the pads under my fingers.

"Is," she sighed.

And then, "You remember being born!"

"How did you know that?"

"You must be the seventh son of a seventh son!"

"No," I said, "just me, no brothers."

"My God." Her hand jumped in mine. "You're going to live forever!"

"No one does."

" You will. Not your body. But what you do. What do you do?"

"I thought my life was in your hands."

She let out a breathless laugh.

"Jesus. An actor? No. Shakespeare's bastard son."

"He had no sons."

"Melville, then. Herman Melville's by-blow."

"Wish it were true."


I heard the great weight behind the door roll back on creaking wheels. The portal drifted wide.

I saw an immense woman in an immense crimson velvet queen's robe receding on roller wheels in a metal throne across the hardwood floor to the far side of the room. She stopped by a table on which rested not one, but four crystal balls, coruscant with light from a green-and-amber Tiffany lamp. Queen Califia, astrologer, palmist, phrenologist, past and futurist, sank inside three hundred mountainous pounds of too-too-solid flesh, her stare flashing X rays. A vast iron safe hulked in the shadows.

"I don't bite."

I stepped in. Crumley followed.

"But leave the door open," she added.

I heard the peacock scream in the yard and dared to hold out my other hand.

Queen Califia reared back as if burned.

"You know Greene, the novelist?" she gasped. "Graham Greene?"

I nodded.

"Wrote about a priest who lost faith. Then witnessed a miracle he himself had caused. The shock at his renewed faith almost killed him."


"So." She stared at my hand as if it were disconnected from my arm. "Lord."

"Is it happening to you?" I said. "What happened to that priest?"

"Oh, God!"

"Did you lose your faith, your power to heal?"

"Yes," she murmured.

"And now, just now, it all came back?"

"Dammit! Yes!"

I crushed my hand to my chest to blind it.

"How'd you guess that?" I said.

"No guess. Scares the hell out of me."

She saw the wedding invitation and the newspaper in my outstretched hand.

"You've been up to see him," she said.

"You looked. That's cheating."

That brought a half smile and then a snort. "People ricochet off him and end up here."

"Not often enough, I think. May I sit?" I said. "I'll fall if I don't."

She nodded at a chair a few feet away, a safe distance. I fell into it.

Crumley, ignored, looked peevish.

"You were saying?" I said. "People don't visit old Rattigan often. No one knows he's alive on Mount Lowe. But someone went there and yelled at him today."

"She yelled?" The great mountain almost melted in remembrance, "I wouldn't let her in."


"It's always a mistake"-Queen Califia cast a glance toward the crystal balls-"to guess futures and, damn fool, tell them. I give hints, not facts. I won't tell people what stocks to buy, what flesh to borrow. Diets, yes, I sell vitamins, Chinese herbs, but not longevity."

"You just did."

"You're different." She leaned. The rollers under her massive chair squealed.

"The future lies ahead of you. I've never seen a future so clear. But you are in terrible danger. I see all the time that you have to live, but someone could destroy it. Be careful!"

She paused for a long moment, closed her eyes, and then said, "You her friend? You know who I mean."

I said, "Yes-and no."

"Everyone says that. She's black and white and wild all over.”

"Who are we talking about?"

"We don't need names. I wouldn't let her in. An hour ago." I looked at Crumley. "We're catching up, getting close." "Don't," said Califia. "The way she yelled I thought she might have a knife. Til never forgive you!' she screamed. 'You gave us the wrong road maps, down instead of up, lost instead of found. May you roast in hell!' Then I heard her drive away. I won't sleep at all tonight."

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