فصل 08

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Brains Behind the Business

I was half-sitting and half-lying in a deep chair in her comfortable living-room with its pleasant furniture and curtains. Anne sat opposite, her eyes dark and full of worry. She had made me three cups of black coffee and two eggs with some toast and I had told her some of the story, but not all of it. I had not told her the bit about Moose Malloy.

‘Amthor’s a nasty, hard guy,’ I said. ‘But I don’t think he’s clever enough to be the brains of a jewel gang. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my guess is that I wouldn’t have got out of his little hospital if he was boss of a gang like that. I’d be dead.’

‘But he’s frightened of something, isn’t he? He doesn’t like the questions you’re asking.’

I nodded. ‘I think Marriott carried Amthor’s card in his pocket that night exactly because he wanted it to be found if anything happened to him. So we know that the jewel robbery had something to do with Marriott’s murder and I’m beginning to think Amthor had something to do with the jewel robbery. But I don’t think he’s the top man.’

Her smile was warm but as sharp as a razor at the same time. ‘I forgot you were such a great detective. You get blood all over your face, you get yourself locked up in a hospital for two days, shot full of drugs, and after all that you arrive at the most obvious answer. Wonderful!’

I stood up. ‘Yeah. I’m a little slow and tired tonight. Would you be kind enough to drive me to a taxi stand? I need a good night’s sleep so that I can think out a better answer. And I don’t want to stay anywhere too near those guys in that hospital. People round there don’t seem to like me too much.’

She went quiet. ‘You could stay here and …’

‘You promise you’ll lock your door?’

She went red and stood up. ‘Sometimes I think you’re the greatest thing I’ve ever seen and sometimes I think you’re the worst, the lowest - you’re sick.’

She walked out of the room fast and came back with her coat on, her red hair looking as angry as her face. She drove me all the way home, silent and angry, and when she dropped me at the door of my apartment she said goodbye in a frozen voice. She drove away before I had my keys out of my pocket.

In the morning, I felt a lot better. My head still hurt and my tongue still felt dry and sticky inside my mouth, but I had known worse mornings. My left foot felt fine. It didn’t hurt at all. So I kicked the corner of the bed with it on my way to the bathroom. I was just calling myself some very rude names when there was a loud knock on the door.

Police Detective Randall stood there - brown suit, hat, very clean and tidy, and a nasty look in his eye. He pushed the door and I stood back. He came in and looked around.

‘Where’ve you been, Marlowe? Wanted to talk to you.’ ‘I’ve been sick. In a hospital.’ I lit a cigarette. ‘And I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. I’m not feeling too friendly.’

‘I thought I told you to keep out of this investigation, leave it alone, didn’t I? I could make trouble for you, but I haven’t. You know why?’

‘Yeah. You couldn’t find me.’

Very slowly he took a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, trying to control himself. His hand was shaking when he lit his match. I went out to the kitchen to make some coffee. He didn’t like that either but he followed me out.

‘This jewel gang has been around Hollywood for the last ten years,’ he said. ‘This time they went too far. Killed a man. I think I know why.’

I got the cream from the refrigerator, poured two cups of coffee and we sat down.

‘Was that a joke about being in hospital?’ he asked.

‘No. I ran into some trouble over at Stillwood Heights and some kind people put me in a hospital just over the line, in Bay City. Place for drink and drugs problems. Nice little place. Shot me full of drugs and kept me there for two days until I woke up and walked out to see a friend.’

‘Bay City?’ he said. ‘Man named Jules Amthor? Why did you take that card, Marlowe? You should have told me about it. You see, your friend over in Bay City, the redhead, she told me. She likes you. She was hoping to help you out of a tight corner with me. Her father was a police officer, remember.’

‘Ah, hell! Trying to help me. Nice girl. Not my type, though.’ He smiled his first smile of the day. He probably only let himself have four smiles a day. I could see he didn’t believe me, so I went on: ‘This is what I think, if it’s any use to you, Randall. I think Marriott was a blackmailer of rich women. Mrs Grayle told me so. But I think he was also the finger man for the jewel gang, the boy who could point them in the right direction, tell them where the really expensive pieces were and exactly when and where to move in on his lady- friends when he took them out to dinner. You see, in this Grayle robbery, Marriott had taken Mrs Grayle to the Trocadero and he was driving the car on their way home. He could choose the streets they took and the gang could follow. I think they killed Marriott because people were starting to put two and two together about him, and the answer was four. He wasn’t useful to them anymore, so this was his last job for them. But Marriott guessed something was going wrong and got frightened. He asked me to go along with him and he had the little trick of Amthor’s card in his pocket. He was trying to show us who the real brains behind the business were - a guy quite nasty enough and clever enough, and also a guy who could get information about rich women when they came to talk to him about their problems. A very friendly psychiatrist. And Marriott’s trick with Amthor’s card worked, too, didn’t it?’

‘I think your ideas about Marriott may be right,’ he said. ‘But you haven’t told me the whole story, everything you know, have you, Marlowe? Marriott had twenty-three thousand dollars in the bank. That’s a lot of money. But there’s also the little matter of that nice house he owned up on West 54th Place. Number 1644. That interest you at all?’ He picked up a spoon and started to turn it in his hand. I didn’t answer; just looked at him. He went on: ‘You see, I can put two and two together as well, Marlowe. And that brings a large ex-prisoner called Moose Malloy into the picture, doesn’t it?’

‘I’m listening,’ I said.

‘So I called up Detective Nulty, who I hear is investigating that one, and he told me you were trying to find a girl called Velma something, Malloy’s girl. He said you’d been to see a woman by the name of Jessie Florian. And her address was - guess where? - 1644 West 54th Place. The place Marriott I owned. So here I am, early this sunny morning, asking you a few questions and you’re not helping me much.’

I went over to my jacket, hanging on the back of a chair. I wondered if they’d taken my two photos out at the hospital place, but they were both still there: the one of Velma Valento from Mrs Florian’s box and the one of Mrs Grayle, which Anne Riordan had given me. I gave the one of Velma to Randall first. He studied it carefully. Then I put the one of Mrs Grayle next to it.

He looked at it and nodded. ‘For twenty million I’d marry her myself,’ he said.

‘There’s another thing I ought to tell you,’ I said. ‘This hospital I was in, down on Descanso in Bay City. They’re running a hiding place for gangsters there too. I saw Moose Malloy there last night. In a room.’

Randall sat very still, watching me. ‘Sure?’ he asked.

‘I didn’t make a mistake,’ I said. ‘Even though I was full of drugs. It was him all right.’

He stood up. ‘Let’s go and see this Mrs Florian together, you and me.’

I told him everything I knew about this business while we were on our way.

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