Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Содержание - CHAPTER FORTY
"One more step would do it, Henry."
We looked down at the round hole in the cement. From below came sounds of winds blowing in from San Fernando, Glendale, and who knows where else-Far Rock-away? The light rain runoff was sliding below, a mere trickle, hardly enough to cool your ankles.
"Dead end," said Henry. "Nothing upstairs, nothing down. Clues to somebody gone. But where?"
As if in answer, a most ungodly cry came from the dark hole in the cold floor. We all jumped.
"Jesus!" Fritz cried.
"Christ!" I yelled.
"Lord!" said Henry. "That can't be Molly, Dolly, Holly, can it?"
I repeated that rosary in silence.
Fritz read my lips and cursed.
The cry came again, farther away, being carried downstream. Tears exploded from my eyes. I jumped forward to sway over the manhole. Fritz grabbed my elbow.
"Did you hear?" I cried.
"Nothing!" said Fritz.
"That's just the water," Fritz said.
"Fritz!" "You calling me a liar?"
"The way you say Fritz, I lie. No lie. You don't really want to, hell, go down there! Godammit!"
"Let me go!"
"If your wife was here, she'd push you in, dummkopf!"
I stared at the open manhole. Far away there was another cry. Fritz cursed.
"You come with me," I said.
"Afraid?" Fritz plucked the monocle from his eye. It was like pulling the spigot on his blood. His suntan paled. His eye watered. "Afraid? Of a damn dark stupid underground cave, Fritz Wong?"
"Sorry," I said.
"Don't be sorry for the greatest UFA director in cinema history." He planted his fiery monocle back in its groove.
"Well, what now?" he demanded. "I find a phone and call Crumley to drag you out of this black hole? You goddamn teenage death-wisher!"
"I'm no teenager."
"No? Then why do I see crouched by that damn hole an Olympic chump high-diving into a tide half an inch deep? Go on, break your neck, drown in garbage!"
"Tell Crumley to drive into the storm drain and meet me halfway from the sea. If he sees Constance, grab her. If he finds me, grab even quicker."
Fritz shut one eye to target me with fire from the other, contempt under glass.
"You will take direction from an Academy Award-winning director?"
"Drop quick. When you hit, don't stop. Whatever's down there can't grab you if you run! If you see her, tell her to try to catch up. 'Stood?"
"Now die like a dog. Or…"he added, scowling, "live like a stoop who got the hell through."
"Meet you at the ocean?"
"I won't be there!"
"Oh yes you will!"
He lurched toward the basement door, and Henry.
"You want to follow that idiot?" he roared.
"You afraid of the dark?" "I am the dark!" said Henry. They were gone.
Cursing Germanic curses, I climbed down into mists, fogs, and rains of night.
QUITE suddenly I was in Mexico, 1945. Rome, 1950.
The thing about darkness is you can imagine, in one direction, wall-to-wall mummies torn from their graves because they couldn't pay the funeral rent.
Or kindling by the thousand-bone-piles, polo heads of skulls to be hammered downfield.
And me caught between ways that led to eternal twilights in Mexico, eternity beneath the Vatican.
I stared at the ladder leading up to safety-Blind Henry and angry Fritz. But they were long gone toward the light and the crazies out front of Grauman's.
I heard the surf pounding like a great heart, ten miles downstream in Venice. There, hell, was safety. But twenty thousand yards of dim concrete floor stood between me and the salty night wind.
I gasped air because…
A pale man shambled out of the dark.
I don't mean he walked crazy-legs, but there was something about his whole frame, his knees and elbows, the way his head toppled or his hands flopped like shot birds. His stare froze me.
"I know you," he cried.
I dropped the flashlight.
He grabbed it and exclaimed, "What're you doing down here?" His voice knocked off the concrete walls. "Didn't you used to be—?" He said my name. "Sure! Jesus, you hiding? You down here to stay? Welcome, I guess." His pale shadow arm waved my flashlight. "Some place, eh? Been here horses' years. Came down to see. Never went back. Lotsa friends. Want to meet 'em?"
I shook my head.
He snorted. "Hell! Why would you want to meet these lost underground jerks?"
"How do you know my name?" I said. "Did we go to school together?"
"You don't remember? Hell and damn!"
"Harold?" I said. "Ross?"
There was just the drip of a lone faucet somewhere.
I added more names. Tears leaped to my eyes. Ralph, Sammy, Arnold, school chums. Gary, Philip, off to war, for God's sake.
"Who are you? When did I know you?" "Nobody ever knows anyone," he said, backing off. "Were you my best pal?"
"I always knew you'd get on. Always knew I'd get lost," he said, a mile away.
"I died before the war. Died after it. I was never born, so how come?" Fading.
"Eddie! Ed. Edward. Eduardo, it's got to be!" My heart beat swiftly, my voice rose.
"When did you last call? Did you get around to my funeral? Did you even know?"
"I never knew," I said, inching closer.
"Come again. Don't knock. I'll always be here. Wait! You searching for someone?" he cried. "What's she look like? You hear that? What's she look like? Am I right? Yes, no?"
"Yes!" I blurted.
"She went that way." He waved my flash.
"Just now. What's she doing here in Dante's Inferno?"
"What did she look like?" I burst out.
"Chanel No. 5!"
"Chanel! That'll bring the rats running. She'll be lucky if she makes it to the surf. 'Stay off Muscle Beach!' I yelled."
"'Stay!' I yelled. She's here somewhere. Chanel No. 5!"
I seized my flash from his hands, turned it back on his ghost face.
"Why?" He laughed wildly.
"God, I don't know."
"This way, yeah, this way."
His laugh caromed in all directions.
"Hold on! I can't see!"
"You don't have to. Chanel!"
I swiveled my flash.
Now, as he babbled, I heard something like weather, a seasonal change, a distant rainfall. Dry wash, I thought, but not dry, a flash flood, this damned place ankle-deep, knee-deep, then drowned all the way to the sea!
I whipped my flashlight beam up, around, back. Nothing. The sound grew. More whispers coming, yes, not a change of season, dry weather becoming wet, but whispers of people, not rain on the channel floor but the slap of bare feet on cement, and the shuffled murmur of quiet discovery, arguments, curiosity.
People, I thought, my God, more shadows like this one, more voices, the whole damn clan, shadows and shadows of shadows, like the silent ghosts on Rattigan's ceiling, specters that flowed up, around, and vanished like rainfall.
But what if her film ghosts had blown free of her projector, and the pale screens up above in Grauman's, and the wind blew and the phantoms caught cobwebs and light and found voices, what if, dear God, what if?
Stupid! I cut the light, for the rain-channel-crazed man was still mumbling and yammering close. I felt his hot breath on my cheek and I lurched back, afraid to light his face, afraid to sluice the channel a second time to freeze the floodwater of ghost voices, for they were louder now, closer. The dark flowed, the unseen crowd gathered, as this crazed fool grew taller, nearer, and I felt a plucking at my sleeves to seize, hold, bind, and the rainfall voices far off blew nearer and I knew that I should get, go, run like hell and hope they were all legless wonders!