Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Страница 17
"One woman who wasn't a lady? Hold my cane while I think."
"You don't have a cane, Henry."
"Funny how your hand feels things not there. You want me to guess?"
I nodded even though Henry couldn't see; I knew he'd feel the rush of my bobbing head. I wanted him to say it, needed to hear him speak that name. Henry smiled at the mirrors, and his smile beamed one hundredfold.
His fingers touched the glass.
"The Rattigan," he said.
AGAIN, Henry leaned to brush a reddish signature and then touch it to his lips.
He moved to the next glass, repeated the gesture, and let his tongue figure.
"Different flavors," he noted.
"Like different women?"
"It all comes back." His eyes squeezed tight. "Lord, Lord. Lots of women passed through my hands, through my heart, came and went unseen; all those flavors. Why do I feel stopped up?"
"Because I feel the same way."
"Crumley says when you turn on the faucets, stand back. You're a good boy."
"I'm no boy."
"You sound like you're fourteen, when your voice changed and you tried to grow a mustache."
He moved and touched, then looked with his sightless eyes at the ancient residue on his fingers.
"All these have to do with Constance?"
"You got a powerful stomach; I know from having your stuff read to me. My mama once said a powerful midsection is better than two brains. Most folks use their brains too much when they should be listening to that thing under their ribs. The gang-ganglion? My mama never called it that. House spider, she said. When she met some damn-fool politician, she always felt right above her stomach. If the spider was twitching, she'd smile: yes. But if the spider tightened into a ball, she shut her eyes: no. That's you.
"My mama read you. She said you don't write them weary stories (she meant eerie) with gray matter. You pull the spider legs under your ribs. My mania said, 'That boy will never be sick, never get poisoned by people, he knows how to upchuck, teasing that balled-up spider to let go.' She said, 'He don't stay up nights in a bad life, getting old while he's young. He'd make a great doctor, cut right to the pain and toss it out.'"
"Your mama said all that?" I blushed.
"Woman who got twelve kids, buried six, raised the rest. One bad husband, one good. She got fine ideas which side to use in bed so you untie, let your gut free."
"I wish I had met her."
"She's still around." Henry put his palm on his chest.
Henry surveyed the unseen mirrors, pulled his black glasses from his pocket, wiped and put them on.
"That's better. Rattigan, these names, was she crazy wild? Was she ever honest-to-God sane?"
"Offshore. I heard her swimming way out with the seals, barking, a free soul."
"Maybe she should have stayed out there."
"Herman Melville," I muttered.
"Took me years to finish Moby-Dick. Melville should have stayed at sea with Jack, his loving friend. Land? When he lived there, it tore his soul from his heart. Onshore, he aged thirty years, in a customs shed, half-dead."
"Poor son of a bitch," whispered Henry.
"Poor son of a bitch," I echoed quietly.
"And Rattigan? You think she should've stayed offshore, not in her fancy beach place?"
"It was big, bright, white, and lovely, but a tomb full of ghosts, like those films upstairs forty feet tall, fifty years wide, like these mirrors here, and one woman hating them all for unknown reasons."
"Poor son of a bitch," murmured Henry.
"Poor bitch," I said.
"LET'S see some more," said Henry. "Switch on the lights so I won't need my cane."
"Can you feel if lights are on or off?"
"Silly child. Read me the names!"
I took his arm and we moved along the mirrors as I read the names.
"The dates under the names," Henry commanded. "They getting closer to now?"
1935. 1937. 1939. 1950. 1955.
And with names, names, names to go with them, all different.
"One too many," said Henry. "We done?"
"One last mirror and date. October thirty-first. Last year.”
"How come everything happens to you on Halloween?"
"Fate and providence love wimps like me."
"You say the date, but…" Henry touched the cold glass. "No name?"
"She going to come add a name? Going to show up making noises just a dog hears, and no light down here. She-"
"Shut up, Henry." I stared along the mirrors in the cellar night where shadow-phantoms ran.
"Son." Henry took my arm. "Let's git."
"One last thing." I took a dozen steps and stopped.
"Don't tell me." Henry inhaled. "You're fresh out of floor."
I looked down at a round manhole. The darkness sank deep with no end.
"Sounds empty." Henry inhaled. "A freshwater storm drain!"
"Beneath the back of the theater, yes."
For suddenly a flood of water gushed below, a clean tide smelling of green hills and cool air.
"It rained a few hours ago. Takes an hour for the runoff to get here. Most of the year the storm drain's dry. Now it'll run a foot deep, all the way to the ocean."
I bent to feel the inside of the hole. Rungs.
Henry guessed. "You're not climbing down?"
"It's dark and cold and a long way to the sea, and if you're careless, drowning."
"You figure she came up this way to check those names?"
"Or came in through the theater and climbed down."
"Hey! More water!"
A gust of wind, very cold, sighed up out of the hole.
"Jesus Christ!" I yelled.
I stared. "I saw something!"
"If you didn't, I did!" The flashlight beam arced crazily around the mirrored room as Henry grabbed my elbow and lurched away from the hole.
"We going the right way?"
"Christ," I said. "I hope so!"
OUR taxi dropped us at the curb behind Rattigan's big white Arabian fortress.
"Lordy," said Henry, and added, "That meter ran overtime. From now on, I'm driving."
Crumley was not out front by the shoreline but farther up by the pool with half a dozen full martini glasses, two already empty. He gazed at these fondly and explained.
"I'm ready now for your numbskull routines. I am fortified. Hello, Henry. Henry, aren't you sorry you left New Orleans for this can-o'-worms factory?"
"One of those drinks smells like vodka, right? That will make me not sorry."
I handed a glass to Henry and took one for myself in haste while Crumley scowled at my silence.
"Okay, spill it," he said.
I told him about Grauman's and the basement dressing-room mirrors. "Plus," I said, "I been making lists."
"Hold it. You've sobered me up," said Crumley. "Let me kill another." He lifted a glass in mock salute. "Okay, read your lists."
"The grocery boy on Mount Lowe. The neighbors of Queen Califia in Bunker Hill. Father Rattigan's secretary. The film projectionist on high in Grauman's Chinese."
Henry cut in. "That gent in Grauman's…?"
I described Rustler, stashed among stacks of old film with the pictures on the walls of all the sad women with all the lost names.
Henry mused. "Hey now. Did you make a list of those ladies in the pictures up on high?"
I read off my pad: "Mabel. Helen. Marilee. Annabel. Hazel. Betty Lou. Clara. Pollyanna…"