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Книга Let's All Kill Constance. Страница 26

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"Joan of Arc!"

"'Oh, my God,' she cried. 'Joan! If it's the only thing I ever do, I must do that!'"

Must do that! came the echo.


A voice cried in my ears. Rain fell. Water ran.

A dozen lighters took fire and were thrust out toward the sad, weeping woman.

"Only for my voices, I would lose all heart! The bells came down from heaven and their echoes linger in the fields. Through the quiet of the countryside, my voices!"

The subterranean audience gasped with: Joan.

Joan of Arc.

"Ohmigod, Fritz," I cried. "Say that again!"

"Saint Joan?"

I leaped back, my chair fell.

Fritz went on: "I said, 'Constance, it's too late.' She said, 'It's never too late.' And I said, 'Listen, I'll give you a test. If you pass, if you can do the scene from Shaw's Saint Joan… impossible, but if you can, you get the job.' She fell apart. She cried, 'Wait! I'm dying! Wait, I'll be back.' And she ran away."

I said, "Fritz, do you know what you've just said?"

"Gottdammit, yes! Saint Joan!"

"Oh, Christ, Fritz, don't you see? We've been thrown off by what she said to Father Rattigan. 'I've killed, I've murdered! Help me bury them,' she cried. We thought she meant old Rattigan up on Mount Lowe, Queen Califia on Bunker Hill, but no, dammit, she didn't murder them, she was out to get help to murder Constance!"

"How's that again?" said Crumley.

'"Help me kill Constance,' said Constance. Why? For Joan of Arc! That's the answer. She has to have that role. All this month she's been preparing for it. Isn't that it, Fritz?"

"Just a moment while I take my monocle out and put it back in." Fritz stared at me.

"Fritz, look! She's not right for the part. But there is one way she can be Saint Joan!"

"Dammit to hell, say it!"

"Dammit, Fritz, she had to get away from you, fall back, take a long, hard look at her life. She had to, one by one, kill all her selves, lay all the ghosts, so that when all those Constances were dead, she could come for her test, and maybe, just maybe, land the part. She hasn't had a role like that ever in her life. This was her big chance. And the only way she could do it was to kill the past. Don't you see, Fritz? That must be the answer to what's been going on during the last week, with all these people, with Constance appearing, disappearing, and reappearing again."

Fritz said, "No, no!"

I said, "Yes, yes. The answer's been lying right in front of us, but it's only when you said the name. Saint Joan is the motive for every woman who ever lived. Impossible dream. Can't be attained."

"I'll be gottdammed."

"Oh, no, Fritz!" I said. "Blessed! You've solved it! Now, if we find Constance and say to her, maybe, just maybe, she has a chance. Maybe, maybe-" I broke off. "Fritz," I said. "Answer me."


"If Constance should suddenly appear as the Maid of Orleans, if she were incredibly young, changed in some strange way, would you give her the job?"

Fritz scowled. "Don't push me, dammit!"

I said, "I'm not. Look. Was there ever a time when she could have played the Maid?"

"Yes," he said after a moment. "But that was then and this is now!"

"Hear me out. What if, by some miracle, she should show up? When you think of her, just standing there, don't think of her past at all. When you remember the woman you once knew, if she asked, would you give her the role?"

Fritz pondered, took his glass, downed it, refilled it from a frosted crystal pitcher, and then said, "God help me, I think I might. Don't press me, don't press!"

"Fritz," I said, "if we could find that Constance and she asked you, would you at least consider taking a chance on her?"

"Oh, God," Fritz rumbled. "Jesus! Yes! No! I don't know!"


"Don't yell, goddammit! Yes! A qualified yes!"

"Okay! All right! Wonderful! Now, if only-"

My eyes strayed, scanning the length of shore to the distant storm-drain entrance. Too late, I glanced away.

Both Crumley and Fritz had caught the look.

"Junior knows where Medea is, right now," said Crumley.

Yes, God, I thought, I know! But my yell had scared her away!

Fritz focused his monocle on that storm-drain entrance.

"Is that where you came out?" he said.

"No thanks to junior here," said Crumley.

"I rode shotgun," I said guiltily.

"Like hell! Shouldn't have been in that sinkhole to start with. Probably found Rattigan, then lost her again."

Probably! I thought. Oh, God, probably!

"That storm drain," Fritz Wong mused. "Maybe, just maybe, you ran the wrong way?"

"I what?" I said, stunned.

"Here in crazy Hollywood," said Fritz, "is there not more than one way to go? The storm drains, they head in all directions?"

"South, north, west, and-" I slowed down. "East," I said slowly. It's not easy to say "east" slowly, but I did.

"East!" Fritz cried. "Ja, east, east!"

We let our thoughts roam over the hills and down toward Glendale. No one ever went to Glendale, except…

If someone was dead.

Fritz Wong twisted his monocle in his fierce right eye and probed the eastern skyline, smiling a wonderfully vicious smile.

"Gottdamn!" he said. "This will make the great finale. No script needed. Shall I tell you where Rattigan is? East! Gone to earth!"

"Gone to what*. " said Crumley.

"Sly fox, swift cat. Rattigan. Gone to earth. Tired, ashamed of all her lives! Hide them all in one final Cleopatra's carpet, roll them up, deposit them in Eternity's bank. Fade out. Darkness. Plenty of earth there to go to."

He made us wait.

"Forest Lawn," he said.

"Fritz, that's where they bury people!"

"Who's directing this?" Fritz said. "You took the wrong turn toward open air, the sea, life. Rattigan headed east. Death called her by all two dozen names. She answered with one voice."

"BS!" said Crumley.

"You're fired," said Fritz.

"I was never hired," said Crumley. "What's next?"

"Go and prove I am right!" said Fritz.

"So," said Crumley. "Rattigan climbed down into that storm drain and walked east, or drove, or was driven east?"

"That," said Fritz, "is how I would shoot it. Film! Delii" cious!

"But why would she go to Forest Lawn?" I protested weakly, thinking perhaps I had sent her there.

"To die!" said Fritz triumphantly. "Go read Ludwig Bemelmans' tale of the old man, dead, put a lit candle on his head, hung flowers around his neck, and walked, a one-man funeral, to his own grave! Constance, she does the same. She's gone to die a last time, yes? Now, do I put my car in gear? Will someone follow? And do we go aboveground or take the storm drain direct?"

I looked at Crumley, he looked at me, and we both looked at Blind Henry. He felt our gaze, nodded.

Fritz was already gone, the vodka with him.

"Lead the way," said Henry. "Swear a little now and then to give me direction."

Crumley and I headed for Crumley's old jalopy, Henry in our wake.

Fritz, in his car ahead, banged his motor, blew his horn.

"Okay, you damn Kraut!" cried Crumley.

He thrummed his engine, exploding.

"Which way to the nearest road rage, dammit?"

We paused by the storm drain, stared in, then out at the open road.

"Which is it, smart-ass?" said Crumley. "Dante's Inferno or Route 66?"

"Let me think," I said.

"Oh, no you don't!" Crumley cried.

Fritz was gone. We looked along the beach and couldn't see his car anywhere.

We looked to our right. There, speeding off down the tunnel, were two red lights. "Christ!" Crumley yelled. "He's heading in on the flood channel! Damned fool!"

"What are we going to do?" I said.

"Nothing," cried Crumley. "Just this!" He rammed the gas. We swerved and plunged into the tunnel.


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