Выбери любимый жанр

Farewell, My Lovely - Chandler Raymond - Страница 2

Изменить размер шрифта:


The bouncer didn’t quite laugh. He studied the big man’s clothes, his brown shirt and yellow tie, his rough gray coat and the white golf balls on it. He moved his thick head around delicately and studied all this from various angles. He looked down at the alligator shoes. He chuckled lightly. He seemed amused. I felt a little sorry for him. He spoke softly again.

“Velma you says? No Velma heah, brother. No hooch, no gals, no nothing. Jes’ the scram, white boy, jes’ the scram.”

“Velma used to work here,” the big man said. He spoke almost dreamily, as if he was all by himself, out in the woods, picking johnny-jump-ups. I got my handkerchief out and wiped the back of my neck again.

The bouncer laughed suddenly. “Shuah,” he said, throwing a quick look back over his shoulder at his public. “Velma used to work heah. But Velma don’t work heah no mo’. She done reti’ed. Haw, Haw.”

“Kind of take your goddamned mitt off my shirt,” the big man said.

The bouncer frowned. He was not used to being talked to like that. He took his hand off the shirt and doubled it into a fist about the size and color of a large eggplant. He had his job, his reputation for toughness, his public esteem to consider. He considered them for a second and made a mistake. He swung the fist very hard and short with a sudden outward jerk of the elbow and hit the big man on the side of the jaw. A soft sigh went around the room.

It was a good punch. The shoulder dropped and the body swung behind it. There was a lot of weight in that punch and the man who landed it had had plenty of practice. The big man didn’t move his head more than an inch. He didn’t try to block the punch. He took it, shook himself lightly, made a quiet sound in his throat and took hold of the bouncer by the throat.

The bouncer tried to knee him in the groin. The big man turned him in the air and slid his gaudy shoes apart on the scaly linoleum that covered the floor. He bent the bouncer backwards and shifted his right hand to the bouncer’s belt. The belt broke like a piece of butcher’s string. The big man put his enormous hands flat against the bouncer’s spine and heaved; He threw him clear across the room, spinning and staggering and flailing with his arms. Three men jumped out of the way. The bouncer went over with a table and smacked into the baseboard with a crash that must have been heard in Denver. His legs twitched. Then he lay still.

“Some guys,” the big man said, “has got wrong ideas about when to get tough.” He turned to me. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s you and me nibble one.”

We went over to the bar. The customers, by ones and twos and threes, became quiet shadows that drifted soundless across the floor, soundless through the doors at the head of the stairs. Soundless as shadows on grass. They didn’t even let the doors swing.

We leaned against the bar. “Whiskey sour,” the big man said. “Call yours.”

“Whiskey sour,” I said.

We had whiskey sours.

The big man licked his whiskey sour impassively down the side of the thick squat glass. He stared solemnly at the barman, a thin, worried-looking Negro in a white coat who moved as if his feet hurt him.

“You know where Velma is?”

Velma you says?” the barman whined. “I ain’t seen her ‘round heah lately. Not right lately, nossuh.”

“How long you been here?”

“Let’s see,” the barman put his towel down and wrinkled his forehead and started to count on his fingers. “Bout ten months, I reckon. ‘Bout a yeah. ‘Bout — “

“Make your mind up,” the big man said.

The barman goggled and his Adam’s apple flopped around like a headless chicken.

“How long’s this coop been a dinge joint?” the big man demanded gruffly.

“Says which?”

The big man made a fist into which his whiskey sour glass melted almost out of sight.

“Five years anyway,” I said. “This fellow wouldn’t know anything about a white girl named Velma. Nobody here would.”

The big man looked at me as if I had just hatched out. His whiskey sour hadn’t seemed to improve his temper.

“Who the hell asked you to stick your face in?” he asked me.

I smiled. I made it a big warm friendly smile. “I’m the fellow that came in with you. Remember?”

He grinned back then, a flat white grin without meaning. “Whiskey sour,” he told the barman. “Shake them fleas outa your pants. Service.”

The barman scuttled around, rolling the whites of his eyes. I put my back against the bar and looked at the room. It was now empty, save for the barman, the big man and myself, and the bouncer crushed over against the wall. The bouncer was moving. He was moving slowly as if with great pain and effort. He was crawling softly along the baseboard like a fly with one wing. He was moving behind the tables, wearily, a man suddenly old, suddenly disillusioned. I watched him move. The barman put down two more whiskey sours. I turned to the bar. The big man glanced casually over at the crawling bouncer and then paid no further attention to him.

“There ain’t nothing left of the joint,” he complained. “They was a little stage and band and cute little rooms where a guy could have fun. Velma did some warbling. A redhead she was. Cute as lace pants. We was to of been married when they hung the frame on me.”

I took my second whiskey sour. I was beginning to have enough of the adventure. “What frame?” I asked.

“Where you figure I been them eight years I said about?”

“Catching butterflies.”

He prodded his chest with a forefinger like a banana. “In the caboose. Malloy is the name. They call me Moose Malloy, on account of I’m large. The Great Bend bank job. Forty grand. Solo job. Ain’t that something?”

“You going to spend it now?”

He gave me a sharp look. There was a noise behind us. The bouncer was on his feet again, weaving a little. He had his hand on the knob of a dark door over behind the crap table. He got the door open, half fell through. The door clattered shut. A lock clicked.

“Where’s that go?” Moose Malloy demanded.

The barman’s eyes floated in his head, focused with difficulty on the door through which the bouncer had stumbled.

“Tha — tha’s Mistah Montgomery’s office, suh. He’s the boss. He’s got his office back there.”

“He might know,” the big man said. He drank his drink at a gulp. “He better not crack wise neither. Two more of the same.”

He crossed the room slowly, lightfooted, without a care in the world. His enormous back hid the door. It was locked. He shook it and a piece of the panel flew off to one side. He went through and shut the door behind him.

There was silence. I looked at the barman. The barman looked at me. His eyes became thoughtful. He polished the counter and sighed and leaned down with his right ann.

I reached across the counter and took hold of the arm. It was thin, brittle. I held it and smiled at him.

“What you got down there, bo?”

He licked his lips. He leaned on my arm, and said nothing. Grayness invaded his shining face.

“This guy is tough,” I said. “And he’s liable to go mean. Drinks do that to him. He’s looking for a girl he used to know. This place used to be a white establishment. Get the idea?”

The barman licked his lips

“He’s been away a long time,” I said. “Eight years. He doesn’t seem to realize how long that is, although I’d expect him to think it a life time. He thinks the people here should know where his girl is. Get the idea?”

The barman said slowly: “I thought you was with him.”

“I couldn’t help myself. He asked me a question down below and then dragged me up. I never saw him before. But I didn’t feel like being thrown over any houses. What you got down there?”

“Got me a sawed-off,” the barman said.

“Tsk. That’s illegal,” I whispered. “Listen, you and I are together. Got anything else?”

“Got me a gat,” the barman said. “In a cigar box. Leggo my arm.”

Перейти на страницу:

Вы читаете книгу

Chandler Raymond - Farewell, My Lovely Farewell, My Lovely
Мир литературы