فصل 01

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter one

Where Is Crystal?

The man in front of me was tall and strong, with thick dark hair. He sat in an expensive chair behind an expensive desk, and looked at me with cold grey eyes. He didn’t have time to smile.

‘OK, Marlowe,’ he said. ‘So you’re a private detective. One of the best in Los Angeles, I hear. I have a job for you. I want you to find my wife. Think you can do that?’

I sat back in my chair and lit a cigarette slowly.

‘Yes, Mr Kingsley,’ I said. ‘I think I can do that.’

‘How much?’

‘Twenty-five dollars a day. Half a dollar a mile for my car. And a hundred in my hand now, before I do anything.’

He looked at me, and I looked back at him and waited.

Then he smiled. ‘OK, Marlowe, you’ve got the job. But don’t talk about it to the police. I have an important job here.’ He looked round his quiet, expensive office. The hot July sun didn’t get into this room. ‘I want to stay in this job, and I can’t have any trouble with the police.’

‘Is your wife in trouble?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know. Perhaps. She sometimes does very stupid things, and she has dangerous friends.’

He gave me a drink and told me the story. ‘I have a house in the mountains, near Puma Point. Crystal went up there in May. She often meets her men friends up there.’ He looked at me. ‘She has a lot of men friends… you understand? But there was an important dinner down here on June 12th, and Crystal didn’t come back for it.’

‘So what did you do?’

‘Nothing. Because of this.’ He gave me a letter and I read it.

El Paso, 14th June

I’m leaving you and going to Mexico. I’m going to marry Chris Lavery. Good luck and goodbye. Crystal.

‘I wasn’t very unhappy about that,’ Kingsley said. ‘She can have him, and he can have her. Then two weeks later I heard from the Prescott Hotel in San Bernardino. Crystal’s car was there and they wanted money for it. But yesterday I met Lavery, here in town. He didn’t know anything about Crystal, and he last saw her two months ago. So where is she? What happened to her?’

I thought about it for a minute or two, and then I asked him some questions. We talked for about half an hour. Kingsley gave me a photo of his wife with Chris Lavery - it was a good picture of Lavery, but not very good of the lady.

I finished my drink and stood up. ‘OK, Mr Kingsley, I’m going to talk to Lavery, and then go up to your house in the mountains.’

‘My house is at Little Fawn Lake,’ he told me. ‘A man works for me up there - Bill Chess is his name. And the girl at the telephone desk outside can help you. She knows a lot of my wife’s friends. Talk to her. And you can phone me any time - day or night.’ Outside Kingsley’s office I looked at the girl at the telephone desk. She was small and pretty, with short red hair and blue eyes. I like redheads. I gave her my best smile.

‘Hi, blue eyes,’ I said. ‘Your boss says you know a lot of people. Tell me about Chris Lavery.’

‘Chris Lavery? What do you want to know?’

‘Anything. Do you like him?’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘he has a beautiful body.’

‘And all the girls like a man with a beautiful body, eh?’

She laughed. ‘Perhaps. But I know nicer men than Chris Lavery. He knows too many women.’

We talked for about ten minutes. Kingsley was right. Redhead knew a lot of people and she liked talking. Perhaps her job wasn’t very interesting. I sat on her desk and listened, and smiled into her blue eyes. She smiled back.

Then I stood up. ‘Well, I must go. See you again, blue eyes.’ Redhead laughed happily. ‘Any time, Mr Marlowe.’

I started with Lavery. He was at home, at 623 Altair Street, down in Bay City. He didn’t want to talk to me, but nobody wants to talk to private detectives.

‘No,’ he told me angrily. ‘I didn’t go to El Paso with Crystal Kingsley. OK, so we sleep together. But I don’t want to marry her. She’s very rich, and money is nice, but Crystal’s a difficult lady. I last saw her about two months ago.’

I sat and watched him. ‘So why did she write that letter from El Paso?’

‘Don’t know. She likes playing games - stupid games.’

It wasn’t a very good story, and he knew it. I asked him some more questions, but his story stayed the same. I went out and sat in my car outside his house. I thought about Lavery. Perhaps he went away with Mrs Kingsley, and then they had a fight. But where did Mrs Kingsley go after that?

A big black Cadillac drove up and stopped at the house across the street. A thin man with a black doctor’s bag got out and went into the house. I looked at the name on the door - Dr Albert S. Almore. Doctors know a lot about people. Perhaps this one knew Lavery. I saw Dr Almore at the window. He watched me carefully, and his face was angry and afraid. Then he sat down and made a telephone call, but he watched me all the time.

Five minutes later a green car came along and stopped at the doctor’s house. The driver walked across the road to my car.

‘Waiting for somebody?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Am I?’

‘Don’t get clever with me,’ he said coldly. ‘I’m Detective Degarmo, Bay City Police. Why are you watching Dr Almore’s house?

I looked out of my car window at him. He was a big man with a square face and very blue eyes.

‘What’s all this about?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know Dr Almore, and I’m not interested in him. I’m visiting a friend. What’s the doctor afraid of?’

‘I ask the questions, not you,’ he said. ‘Go on - get out of here. Move!’ He walked away and went into Dr Almore’s house.

Back in Los Angeles, I phoned Mr Kingsley and asked him about Dr Albert S. Almore.

‘I don’t know him, but he was Crystals doctor for a time,’ he told me. ‘His wife died a year and a half ago - she killed herself. It was very sad.’

I got into my car again and started for the mountains. Dr Almore was afraid of something, but what?

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