Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Страница 27
"Madness!" I cried.
"Damn tootin'," said Crumley. "Goddamn!"
"I'm glad I can't see this," Henry said from the backseat, speaking to the wind in his face.
We raced up the flood channel, heading inland.
"Can we do it?" I cried. "How high is the flood channel?"
"Most places it's ten feet high," Crumley shouted. "The farther in we get, the higher the ceilings. Floods come down the mountains in Glendale, then the channel has to be really big to take the flood. Hold on!"
Ahead of us, Fritz's car had almost vanished. "Idiot!" I said. "Does he really know where he's going?"
"Yes!" said Crumley. "All the way to Grauman's Chinese then left to the goddamn marble orchard."
The sound of our motor was shattering. In that thunder we saw ahead of us a tide of those lunatics who had assaulted me. "My God," I cried. "We'll hit them! Don't slow down! Those crazies! Keep going!"
We raced along the channel. Our engine roared. The history of LA. streamed past us on the walls: pictographs, graffiti, crazed illustrations left by wandering homeless in 1940, 1930, 1925, faces and images of terrible things and nothing alive.
Crumley floored the gas. We plunged at the crazed underground mob who shrieked and screamed a horrible welcome. But Crumley didn't slow. We cut through them, tossed them aside.
One ghost rose up flailing, gibbering.
Ed, Edward, Eddie, oh Eduardo! I thought. Is that you?
"You never said good-bye!" the ghost raved and fell away.
I wept and we raced on, outpacing my guilt. We left all behind and the farther we went, the more terrified I became.
"How in hell do we know where we are?" I said. "There aren't any directions down here. Or we can't see them."
Crumley said, "I think that maybe, yeah, let's see." For there were signs on the walls, scribbled in chalk, some in black painted letters.
Crumley slowed the car. On the wall ahead of us someone had etched a bunch of crucifixes and cartoon tombstones.
Crumley said, "If Fritz is any guide, we're in Glendale."
"That means…" I said.
"Yeah," he said. "Forest Lawn."
He put on his high beams and swerved the car right and left as we moved slowly, and we saw a ladder leading up to a grate covered by a manhole in the tunnel ceiling and Fritz's car beneath it, and him out of the car and climbing the ladder. A series of crosses ran alongside the ladder leading up.
We got out of the car and crossed the dry wash and began to climb the ladder. There was a thundering clang above us. We saw Fritz's shape and the manhole shoved aside, and the beginnings of a gentle rain pelting his shoulders.
We climbed the ladder in silence. Above us, Fritz was directing and shouting. "Get the hell up here, you damn fools!"
We looked down.
Blind Henry was not about to be left behind.
the storm was over but the drizzle stayed. The sky was a loon sky-promising much, delivering little.
"Are we there yet?" said Henry.
We all looked in the gates at Forest Lawn Cemetery, a sweeping hillside covered with a cannonade of memorial stones embedded like meteors in its grass.
"They say that place," said Crumley, "has a greater voting population than Paducah, Kentucky, Red River, Wyoming, or East End, Azusa."
"I like old-fashioned graveyards," said Henry. "Things you can run your hands over. Tombs you can lie on like statues or bring your lady in late hours to play doctor."
"Anyone ever gone in just to check the boy Davids fig leaf?" said Fritz.
"I hear tell," said Henry, "when they shipped him over, there was no leaf, so he lay around the north forty a year, under canvas, so old ladies in tennis shoes wouldn't be offended. Day before the fig leaf was glued on to spoil the fun, they had to beat off a gloveless Braille Institute convention. Live folks doing gymnastics in midnight graveyards is called foreplay. Dead folks doing the same is afterplay."
We stood there in the drizzle looking across the way to the mortuary offices.
"Gone to earth," I heard someone murmur. Me.
"Move!" said Crumley. "In thirty minutes the rain from the hills hits below. The flood will wash our cars down to the sea."
We stared at the gaping manhole. We could hear the creek whispering below.
"My God!" said Fritz. "My classic car!"
"Move!" said Crumley.
We ducked across the street and into the mortuary building.
"Who do we ask?" I said. "And what do we ask?"
There was a moment of colliding looks, pure confusion. "Do we ask for Constance?" I said.
"Talk sense," said Crumley. "We ask about all those newspaper headlines and names. All those lipstick aliases on the basement dressing-room mirrors."
"Say again," said Henry.
"I'm talking pure circumstantial metaphor," said Crumley. "Double time!"
We double-timed it into the vast halls of death, or to put it another way, the land of clerks and file cabinets.
We did not have to take a number and wait, for a very tall man with ice-blond hair and an oyster complexion glided to the front desk and disdained us as if we were discards from a steam laundry.
He laid a card on the desktop and dared Crumley to take it. "You Grey?" he said.
"Elihu Phillips Grey, as you see."
"We're here to buy gravesites and plots."
A late— winter smile appeared on Elihu P. Grey's mouth and hung there, like a mist. With a magician's gesture, he manifested a chart and price sheet.
Crumley ignored it. "First, I got a list."
He pulled out all the names I had put together but placed it upside down in front of Grey, who scanned the list in silence.
So Crumley pulled forth a rolled wad of one-hundred-dollar bills.
"Hold that, will you, junior?" he said, tossing the wad to me. And then, to Grey: "You know those names?"
"I know all the names." Grey relapsed into silence.
Crumley swore under his breath. "Recite them, junior."
I recited the names, one by one.
Grey flicked through his file.
"She's here. Buried 1924."
Another quick run-through.
"How about Molly Circe?"
"All buried here, for sure?"
Grey looked sour. "I have never once in all my life been wrong. Strange, however." He rescanned the items he had drawn out of the file. "Odd. Are they all related, all one family?"
"How do you mean?"
Grey fixed his arctic stare at the names. "Because, see here, they're all entombed in the same aboveground Gothic stone hut."
"How's that again?" Crumley lurched from his boredom and grabbed the file cards. "What?"
"Odd, all those different surnames, put to rest in one tomb, a memorial dwelling with eight shelves for eight family members."
"But they aren't family!" said Fritz.
"Odd," said Grey. "Strange."
I stood as if struck by lightning.
"Hold on," I whispered.
Fritz and Crumley and Henry turned to me.
Grey lifted his snowy eyebrows. "Ye-e-ss." He made two long syllables out of it. "Well?"
"The tomb house? The family vault? There must be a name on the portico. The name chiseled in marble?"
Grey scanned his cards, making us wait.
"Rattigan," he said.
"Are you sure?"
"I have never-"
"Yes, I know! The name again!"
We all held our breath.
"Rattigan." His cold voice issued from a steel-trap mouth.
We let our air out.
At last I said, "They can't all be there in that one vault."
Grey shut his eyes. "I-"
"I know, I know," I said quickly. I stared at my friends.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Jesus Christ," murmured Crumley. "Goddamn. Can you give us directions to the Rattigan tomb?"