فاصله میان دو فصل

کتاب: کتاب قبرستان / فصل 6

فاصله میان دو فصل

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  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
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متن انگلیسی فصل

INTERLUDE

The Convocation

A SMALL SIGN IN THE hotel lobby announced that the Washington Room was taken that night by a private function, although there was no information as to what kind of function this might be. Truthfully, if you were to look at the inhabitants of the Washington Room that night, you would have no clearer idea of what was happening, although a rapid glance would tell you that there were no women in there. They were all men, that much was clear, and they sat at round dinner tables, and they were finishing their dessert.

There were about a hundred of them, all in sober black suits, but the suits were all they had in common. They had white hair or dark hair or fair hair or red hair or no hair at all. They had friendly faces or unfriendly, helpful or sullen, open or secretive, brutish or sensitive. The majority of them were pink-skinned, but there were black-skinned men and brown-skinned. They were European, African, Indian, Chinese, South American, Filipino, American. They all spoke English when they talked to each other, or to the waiters, but the accents were as diverse as the gentlemen. They came from all across Europe and from all over the world.

The men in black suits sat around their tables while up on a platform one of their number, a wide, cheery man dressed in a morning suit, as if he had just come from a wedding, was announcing Good Deeds Done. Children from poor places had been taken on exotic holidays. A bus had been bought to take people who needed it on excursions.

The man Jack sat at the front center table, beside a dapper man with silver-white hair. They were waiting for coffee.

“Time’s a-ticking,” said the silver-haired man, “and we’re none of us getting any younger.”

The man Jack said, “I’ve been thinking. That business in San Francisco four years ago—”

“Was unfortunate, but like the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, absolutely nothing to do with the case. You failed, Jack. You were meant to take care of them all. That included the baby. Especially the baby. Nearly only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.” A waiter in a white jacket poured coffee for each of the men at the table: a small man with a pencil-thin black mustache, a tall blond man good-looking enough to be a film star or a model, and a dark-skinned man with a huge head who glared out at the world like an angry bull. These men were making a point of not listening to Jack’s conversation, and instead were paying attention to the speaker, even clapping from time to time. The silver-haired man added several heaped spoonfuls of sugar to his coffee, stirred it briskly.

“Ten years,” he said. “Time and tide wait for no man. The babe will soon be grown. And then what?”

“I still have time, Mister Dandy,” the man Jack began, but the silver-haired man cut him off, stabbing a large pink finger in his direction.

“You had time. Now, you just have a deadline. Now, you’ve got to get smart. We can’t cut you any slack, not any more. Sick of waiting, we are, every man Jack of us.” The man Jack nodded, curtly. “I have leads to follow,” he said.

The silver-haired man slurped his black coffee. “Really?”

“Really. And I repeat, I think it’s connected with the trouble we had in San Francisco.”

“You’ve discussed this with the secretary?” Mr. Dandy indicated the man at the podium, who was, at that moment, telling them about hospital equipment bought in the previous year from their generosity. (“Not one, not two, but three kidney machines,” he was saying. The men in the room applauded themselves and their generosity politely.) The man Jack nodded. “I’ve mentioned it.”

“And?”

“He’s not interested. He just wants results. He wants me to finish the business I started.”

“We all do, sunshine,” said the silver-haired man. “The boy’s still alive. And time is no longer our friend.”

The other men at the table, who had pretended not to be listening, grunted and nodded their agreement.

“Like I say,” Mr. Dandy said, without emotion. “Time’s a-ticking.”

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