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Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Содержание - CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

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"Connie, Helen, Annette, Roberta. Constance didn't show up for more lessons in changing lives! Last week. She was supposed to come back and didn't."

"I don't understand," I yelled.

"I had taught her things, dark, light, loud, soft, wild, quiet, some sort of new role she was looking for. She was coming back to me to learn some more. She wanted to be a new person. Maybe like her old self. But I didn't know how to help. Role-playing, Jesus, how do you get actors unhooked? W. C. Fields learned to be W. C. Fields in vaudeville. He never escaped those handcuffs. So here was Constance saying 'Help me to find a new self.' I said, 'Constance, I don't know how to help you. Get a priest to put a new skin around you.' "

A great bell rang in my head. Priest.

"Well, that's it," said Jean Harlow. "Did I confuse but amuse? Ciao." Bradford vanished.

"Quickly," I gasped. "Let's call Crumley."

"What's the rush?" said Henry.

"No, no, Alberto Quickly, the rabbit in and out of the hat, Hamlet's father's ghost."

"Oh, him," said Henry.


we dropped Henry off at some nice soft-spoken relatives on Central Avenue and then Crumley delivered me to the home of Alberto Quickly, ninety-nine years old, Rattigan's first "teacher."

"The first," he said. "The Bertillion expert, who fingerprinted Constance toenail to elbow to knees."

In vaudeville he had been known as Mr. Metaphor, who acted all of Old Curiosity Shop or every last one of Fagin's brood in Oliver Twist as audiences cried "Mercy." He was more morbid than Marley, paler than Poe.

Quickly, the critics cried, orchestrated requiems to flood the Thames with mournful tides when, as Tosca, he flung himself into forever.

All this Metaphor-Quickly said glibly, happily, as I sat in his small theater-stage parlor. I waved away the box of Kleenex he offered before he treated me to his Lucia, mad again.

"Stop," I cried at last. "What about Constance?"

"Hardly knew her," he said, "but I did know Katy Kelle-her, 1926, my first Pygmalion child!"

"Pygmalion?" I murmured, pieces falling into place.

"Do you recall Molly Callahan, 1927?"


"How about Polly Riordan, 1926?"


"Katy was Alice in Wonderland, Molly was Molly in Mad Molly O'Day. Polly was Polly of the Circus, same year. Katy, Molly, Polly-all Constance. A whirlwind blew in nameless, blew out famous. I taught her to shout, 'I'm Polly!' Producers cried, 'You are, you are!' The film was shot in six days. Then I revamped her to jump down Leo the Lion's throat. 'I'm Pretty Katy Kelly.' 'You are!' the lion pride yelled. Her second film done in four days! Kelly vanished, then Molly climbed the RKO radio tower. So it was Molly, Polly, Dolly, Sally, Gerty, Connie… and Constance rabbiting studio lawns!"

"No one ever guessed Constance played more than one part over the years?"

"Only I, Alberto Quickly, helped her to grab onto fame, fortune, and fondling! The golden greased pig! No one ever knew that some of the marquee names on Hollywood Boulevard were names Constance made up or borrowed. Could be she shuffled her tootsies in Grauman's forecourt with four different shoe sizes!"

"And where is Molly, Polly, Sally, Gerty, Connie, now?"

"Even she doesn't know. Here are six different addresses in twelve different summers. Maybe she drowned in deep grass. Years are a great hiding place. God hides you. Duck! What's my name?!"

He did a flip-flop cartwheel across the room. I heard his old bones scream.

"Ta— ta!" He grinned in pain.

"Mr. Metaphor!"

"You got it!" He dropped cold.

I leaned over him, terrified. He popped one eye wide.

"That was a close one. Prop me up. I scared Rattigan so, she ran." He babbled on. "It was only fitting. After all, I'm Fagin, Marley, Scrooge, Hamlet, Quickly. Someone like me had to be curious and try to figure out what year she lived in, or if she ever existed at all. The older I got, the more jealous I became of the gain and loss of Constance. I waited too long over the years, just as Hamlet waited too long to slay the foul fiend who killed his father's ghost! Ophelia and Caesar begged for slaughter. The memory of Constance summoned bull stampedes. So when I turned ninety all my voices raved for revenge. Like a damn fool I sent her the Book of the Dead. So it must be that Constance ran from my madness.

"Call an ambulance," Mr. Metaphor added. "I've got two broken tibias and a herniated groin. Did you write all that down?"


"Don't wait! Write it. An hour from now I'll be in Valhalla harassing the statues. Where's my bed?"

I put him to bed.

"Slow down," I said. "That Book of the Dead, you say you sent that to Constance?"

"There was a half-ass semi-garage sale of actors' junk at the Film Ladies' League last month. I got some Fairbanks photos and a Crosby song sheet, and there, by God, was Rattigan's thrown-away phonebook stuffed with all her cat-litter-box lovers. My God, I was the snake in the garden. Grabbed onto damnation for a dime, eyed the lists, drank the poison. Why not give Rattigan bad dreams? Tracked her down, dropped the Dead Book, ran. Did it scare the stuffings out of her?"

"Oh, my God, it did." I stared into Mr. Quickly's grinning face. "Then you didn't have anything to do with that poor old soul lost on Mount Lowe?"

"Constance's first sucker? That stupid old guy is dead?"

"Newspapers killed him."

"Critics do that."

"No. Tons of old Tribunes fell on him."

"One way or the other, they kill."

"And you didn't harass Queen Califia?"

"That old Noah's Ark, two of every kind of lie in her. High/low, hot/cold. Camel dung and horse puckies. She told Constance where to go and she went. She dead, too?"

"Fell downstairs."

"I didn't trip her."

"Then there was the priest…"

"Her brother? Same mistake. Califia told her where to go. But he, my God, told her to go to hell. So Constance went. What killed him? God, everyone's dead!"

"She yelled at him. Or I think it was she." "You know what she yelled?"


"I do."


"Middle of the night, last night, I heard voices, thought I was dreaming. That voice, it had to be her. Maybe what she yelled at that poor damn priest, she yelled at me. Wanna hear?"

"I'm waiting."

"Oh, yeah. She yelled, 'How do I get back, where's the next place, how do I get back?'"

"Get back to where?"

There was a quick spin of thought behind Quickly's eyelids. He snorted.

"Her brother told her where to go and she went. And at last she said, 'I'm lost, show me the way.' Constance wants to be found. That it?"

"Yes. No. God, I don't know."

"Neither does she. Maybe that's why she yelled. But my house is built of bricks. It never fell."

"Others did."

"Her old husband, Califia, her brother?"

"It's a long story."

"And you have miles to go before you sleep?"


"Don't wind up like this old mad hen that lays eggs any color you place me on. Red scarf. Red eggs. Blue rug. Blue. Purple camisole. Purple. That's me. Notice the plaid sheet here?"

It was all white and I told him so.

"You got bad eyes." He surveyed me. "You sure talk a lot. I'm pooped. Bye." And he slammed his eyes shut. "Sir," I said.

"I'm busy," he murmured. "What's my name?" "Fagin, Othello, Lear, O'Casey, Booth, Scrooge." "Oh, yeah." And then he snored.

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