- زمان مطالعه 14 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
‘My Little Velma’
Red threw a rope up over the side of the Montecito and pulled himself up quietly to the two iron doors. There was a sound of metal over my head and then I started up the rope. It was the longest journey I’ve ever made. It finished inside the oily, bitter-smelling darkness of the ship with rats running across the boxes and ropes on the floor.
A voice next to my ear said quietly: ‘From here we go straight up through the engine-room. There’ll probably be one guy in there. Might have a gun, but that’s no problem. Then I’ll show you the way up to the gambling rooms. That’s where you’re going to find Brunette. I’ll wait for you in the engine-room. You may need some help up there.’
‘You got family on this ship or something?’ I asked, but he was already in front of me, the rats running away from his enormous feet in the darkness. The man in the engine-room was no problem, as Red had promised. He hit him hard, once, and caught him as he fell. Then he showed me the stairs up to the music and the people.
‘How long will you be?’ he asked.
‘Don’t know. An hour or less, I guess. But don’t wait for me. Get out now. I’m going to make some trouble on this ship.’ And I went away up the steps.
I came out on an open walkway on the ocean side of the ship. There was a man with a small machine-gun in the shadows there. I went up behind him silently and put my gun in his back.
‘I have a very loud gun,’ I said. ‘But it doesn’t have to go off. All I want is to talk to Brunette. Now why don’t you show me the way nice and peacefully?’
He took a moment or two to think about all that. Then he said: ‘OK. Follow me across to that door. We’re going down to the offices past the gambling tables.’
We went into the bright lights inside the ship and through the gambling rooms, where sixty or seventy people were trying not to lose their shirts. I put my gun away under my coat as we went.
Two quiet men in black dinner jackets came through a door on the other side of a bar and came towards us.
‘People round here don’t seem to follow their orders,’ the short one said.
‘You’re Brunette,’ I said suddenly.
‘Of course.’ He turned and opened a door behind him. ‘In here. We can talk more easily.’
I followed him through into a comfortable small office with photographs on the tables and a small private bar in one corner. He sat down.
‘He has a gun,’ Brunette said.
A hand took the gun away from me and put it down on Brunette’s desk.
‘Anything more, boss?’ a voice asked.
‘Not now.’ He turned to me and said: ‘Who are you and what do you want?’
‘My name’s Marlowe. I’m a private detective and I want to talk to a man called Moose Malloy. I’m investigating a murder, the murder of a man named Marriott. That murder has something to do with another one - of an old woman - which was done by Malloy. Malloy was staying at a hospital for drug problems over in Bay City, hiding from the law, and now he’s disappeared. I think he could be hiding here on your nice gambling boat.’
‘You’re simple,’ Brunette said. ‘Why should I hide gangsters here? I’m in another business. Sorry, but I can’t do anything for you. But I’d like to know how you got onto my ship.’
‘I just can’t remember.’
‘You do take some terrible chances, Mr Marlowe.’ He smiled a nasty, cold smile.
‘Just give this to Malloy first,’ I said, and I reached across his desk, took a card and wrote five words on it. ‘It’ll mean something important to him.’
‘OK,’ he said. ‘If I can get this to Malloy, I will. I don’t know why I’m doing it for you.’ He pushed my gun back across the desk to me and stood up. ‘But I promise nothing, Marlowe.’ He put out his hand and I shook it. I went back to Bay City the ordinary way, in a water-taxi. There was already a new man at the top of the steps - Blue Jacket was gone. I wondered if he was already dead or working down in the engine-room for letting me get onto his boss’s ship with my gun.
Back on the waterfront I found Red.
‘Get your man?’ he asked.
‘No. But I think Brunette will find a way to get a message to him for me. Could take hours; could take days. I might never find him - alive.’
I drove back to my apartment in Hollywood and called the Grayle number. Mrs Grayle agreed to come over to my apartment and go out somewhere for a drink. Then I lay down on my bed and tried not to go to sleep. I failed, though. I could have slept for a week.
I woke up slowly and stared at the light of the lamp on the ceiling. Something moved gently in the room. Moose Malloy, with a gun in his hand and his hat pushed back on his head. He saw me open my eyes.
‘Glad you came over,’ I said.
‘Your door wasn’t locked so I came on in. You waiting for visitors?’
‘A lady. She may not come. But I’d prefer to talk to you.’
A smile touched the corners of his mouth.
‘I’d like to talk about the killing of a woman. Jessie Florian. I think that was a bad mistake. You didn’t mean to kill her; you just wanted her to tell you something. That’s all, isn’t it? You wanted her to tell you where Velma was, but she didn’t even know. Velma was too clever for her.’
The smile had gone from his mouth. He kept quiet.
There was a knock on the door. I got up from the bed and went through to the living-room to open it. Malloy stayed in the bedroom, in the dark. She stood there half-smiling, beautiful, in a high-necked white evening dress with deep, red stones circling the creamy white of her neck. Her smile died when she saw me in my old work suit and her eyes went cold. I stood to one side and held the door open. She walked in past me and then turned quickly, annoyed.
‘Have a drink,’ I said. ‘Then let’s talk. Not about stolen diamond rings, but about murder.’
I went through to the kitchen and mixed some drinks, leaving her staring at my back. When I came back, she was sitting coolly in my best chair, blowing smoke from her cigarette up at the ceiling.
‘Personally, I don’t believe that Lindsay Marriott was the finger man for a jewel gang, though that’s what the police seem to think,’ I began. ‘And I don’t think he was a blackmailer either. Funny, isn’t it, Mrs Grayle? And I don’t think he was killed by any gang, or that he was going to Purissima Canyon that night to buy back a diamond ring for you. I don’t think a diamond ring was ever stolen, in fact. I think he thought he was going there to help someone with a murder, but in fact he was going there to die. Someone wanted Lin Marriott dead.’
Her smile was like broken glass now. Suddenly she wasn’t beautiful anymore; she was wild and very dangerous. All she said was: ‘And who did he think he was going to help murder, Mr Marlowe?’
‘Me. Philip Marlowe. And I’ll tell you why. Simply because I was trying to find a girl who used to sing at a nightclub over on Main Street, a place called Florian’s. Her boyfriend was looking for her too - an ex-prisoner named Moose Malloy. Perhaps I was helping Malloy find this girl, and I was starting to ask all the wrong questions, so he was told I had to die.’
She nodded and said, ‘Very interesting, if I knew what you were talking about.’
‘And you do,’ I said.
We stared at each other. She had her right hand inside her little white handbag now. I knew what she held in it but she wasn’t ready yet. These things take time.
‘Let’s stop playing games, shall we, Mrs Grayle? A girl who came up the hard way eventually married a very, very rich man and went to live with him at his place near the ocean. Aster Drive. But one day, an old woman recognized her and this old woman started to blackmail our beautiful young lady. The old woman had to be kept quiet. Marriott helped his beautiful friend by paying some money to the old woman on the first of every month, special delivery, but he and the old woman were the only two people who knew the secret. Some day, the young woman’s boyfriend was going to get out of prison and come looking for his girlfriend, and she didn’t want him to find her. So when this Private investigator started pushing his nose in and asking questions, Marriott had to die, even though he thought he was going to help murder me. He knew too much. He was the real danger, not me. So you killed him, didn’t you, Mrs Grayle?’
Her gun came out then. She pointed it at me and smiled. I did nothing. But Moose Malloy stepped through the door of the bedroom with a larger gun in his hand. He didn’t look at me at all. He spoke softly: ‘Thought I knew the voice. I tried to remember that voice for eight years while I was away. I liked your hair better when it was red, though. Hello, baby.’
She turned the gun on him.
‘Get away from me,’ she said.
‘And I just realized in there who it was that gave my name to the police after the Great Bend bank job. You. Little Velma. You sent me away for eight years. My little Velma.’
She shot him five times. He stayed standing, then he fell face down. She ran to the door and out. I didn’t try to stop her. I turned Malloy over carefully and put a pillow under his head, but after five shots in the body even Moose Malloy wasn’t going to live very long. Then I called Randall at his home and told him what had happened.
The police cars were there with a doctor a couple of minutes later and the doctor said he had a chance. I knew he wouldn’t want it. He didn’t. He died in the night.
It took three months to find Velma. Randall told me the details. She was hiding in the most obvious place. One night, a detective with a good memory walked into a nightclub in New York and heard a singer he liked there. But something about her face made him go back and look at the ‘Wanted’ photographs on the wall of his office. She was there, all right, so he went back to the club and showed her her name and picture on the list. But he was too careless. She pulled a gun out of her bag when he was taking her in, and shot him three times. Then she used her last two bullets on herself. Velma was tired of running away.
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