Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Страница 16
I COULDN'T nap, I couldn't stay awake, I couldn't write, I couldn't think. At last, confused and maddened, very late I called St. Vibiana's again.
When at last Betty Kelly answered she sounded like she was in a cave of torments.
"I can't talk!"
"Quickly!" I begged. "You remember all she said in the confessional? Anything else important, consequential, different?"
"Dear God," said Betty Kelly. "Words and words and words. But wait. She kept saying you must forgive all of us! All of us, every one! There was no one in the booth but her. All of us, she said. You still there?"
At last I said, "I'm here."
"Is there more you want?"
I hung up.
"All of us," I whispered. "Forgive all of us!"
I called Crumley.
"Don't say it." He guessed. "No sleep tonight? And you want me to meet you at Rattigan's in an hour. You going to search the place?"
"Just a friendly rummage."
"Rummage! What is it, theory or hunch?"
"Sell that in a sack for night soil!" Crumley was gone.
"He hang up on you?" I asked my mirror. "Hung up on you," my mirror said.
THE phone rang. I picked it up as if it were red-hot.
"Is that the Martian?" a voice said.
"Henry!" I cried.
"That's me," the voice said. "It's crazy, but I miss you, son. Kinda dumb, a colored saying that to an ethnic flying-saucer pilot."
"I've never heard better," I said, choking up.
"Hell," said Henry, "if you start crying, I'm gone."
"Don't," I sniffled. "Oh God, Henry, how fine it is to hear your voice!"
"Which means you've milked the cow and got a bucket of I-won't-say. You want me polite or impolite?"
"Both, Henry. Things are nuts. Maggie's back east. I got Crumley here, of course, but-"
"Which means you need a blind man to find your way out of a cowshed full of cowsheds, right? Hell, let me get my hankie." He blew his nose. "How soon do you need this all-seeing nose?"
"I'm there now! Hollywood, visiting some poor black trash."
"You know Grauman's Chinese?"
"How quickly can you meet me there?"
"As quick as you want, son. I'll be standing in Bill Robinson's tap-dancer shoes. Do we visit another graveyard?"
I called Crumley to say where I was going, that I might be late getting to Rattigan's, but that I'd be bringing Henry with me.
"The blind leading the blind," he said.
he was standing exactly where he said he would be: in Bill Robinson's "copasetic" dancing footprints, not banished to that long-gone nigger heaven but out front where thousands of passing whites could see.
His body was erect and quiet, but his shoes were itching around in Bill Robinson's marks, ever so serenely. His eyes were shut, like his mouth, turned in on a pleased imagination.
I stood in front of him and exhaled.
Henry's mouth burst.
"Wrigley's Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun, with Wrigley's Doublemint, Doublemint Gum! Don't get it on me!" He laughed, seized my elbows. "Lord, boy, you look fine! I don't have to see to know. You've always sounded like some of those people up on the screen!"
"That comes from sneaking into too many movies."
"Let me feel you, boy. Hey, you been drinking lotsa malts!"
"You look swell, Henry."
"I always wondered what I looked like."
"The way Bill Robinson sounds is how you shape, Henry."
"Am I in his shoes here? Say yes."
"A perfect fit. Thanks for coming, Henry."
"Had to. It's one helluva time since we ransacked graveyards! I go to sleep nights running those graves ahead or behind. What kind of graveyard's here?"
I glanced at Grauman's Oriental facade.
"Ghosts. That's what I said when I snuck backstage when I was six and stared up at all those black-and-white things leering on the screen. The Phantom playing the organ has his mask yanked off and jumps thirty feet tall to kill you with one stare. Pictures tall and wide and pale and the actors mostly dead. Ghosts."
"Did your folks hear you talk like that?"
"With them? Mum's the word."
"That's a nice son. I smell incense. Got to be Grauman's. Real class. No chop-suey name."
"Here goes, Henry. Let me hold the door."
"Hey, it's dark in there. You bring a flashlight? Always feels good to wave a flashlight and look like we know what we're doing."
"Here's the flashlight, Henry."
"Ghosts, you said?"
"Seances four times a day for thirty years."
"Don't hold my elbow, makes me feel useless. If I fall, shoot me!"
And he was off, hardly ricocheting down the aisle toward the orchestra pit and the great spaces beyond and below.
"It getting darker?" he said. "Let me turn on the flash-light."
He switched it on.
"There." He smiled. "That's better!"
in the dark unlit basement, there were rooms and rooms and rooms, all with mirrors lining their walls, the reflections reflecting and re-reflecting, emptiness facing emptiness, corridors of lifeless sea.
We went into the first, biggest one. Henry circled the flashlight like a lighthouse beam.
"Plenty of ghosts down here."
The light hit and sank in the ocean deeps.
"Not the same as the ghosts upstairs. Spookier. I always wondered about mirrors and that thing called reflection. Another you, right? Four or five feet off, sunk under ice?" Henry reached out to touch the glass. "Someone under there?"
"You, Henry, and me."
"Hot damn. I sure wish I could know that."
We moved on along the cold line of mirrors.
And there they were. More than ghosts. Graffiti on glass. I must have sucked in my breath, for Henry swung his flashlight to my face.
"You see something I don't?"
"My God, yes!"
I reached out to the first cold Window on Time.
My finger came away smudged with a faint trace of ancient lipstick.
"Well?" Henry bent as if to squint at my discovery. "What?"
"Margot Lawrence. R.I.P. October 1923."
"Someone stash her here under glass?"
"Not quite. And over about three feet, another mirror: Juanita Lopez. Summer '24."
"Don't ring no bell."
"Next mirror: Carla Moore. Christmas, 1925."
"Hey," said Henry. "Silent film but a sighted friend spoke her to me one matinee. Carla Moore! She was something!"
I guided the flashlight.
"Eleanor Twelvetrees. April '26," I read.
"Helen Twelvetrees was in The Cat and the Canary?
"This might've been her sister, but so many names were fake, you never know. Lucille LeSueur became Joan Crawford. Lily Chauchoin was reborn as Claudette Colbert. Gladys Smith: Carole Lombard. Gary Grant was Archibald Leach."
"You could run a quiz show." Henry extended his fingers. "What's this?"
"Jennifer Long: '29."
"Didn't she die?"
"Disappeared, about the time Sister Aimee sank in the sea and arose, reborn, on the Hallelujah shore."
"How many more names?"
"As many as" there are mirrors."
Henry tasted one finger. "Yum! It's been a long time but-lipstick. What color?"
"Tangee Orange. Summer Heat Coty. Lanvier Cherry."
"Why do you figure these ladies wrote their names and dates?"
"Because, Henry, it wasn't a lot of ladies. One woman signed the names, all different."