Then something moved softly and Candy was standing at the end of the couch looking at me. He had his switch knife in his hand. He pressed the button and the blade shot out. He pressed the button and the blade went back into the handle. There was a sleek glitter in his eye.
"Million de pardones, se~nor," he said. "I was wrung about you. She killed the boss. I think I-" He stopped and the blade shot out again.
"No." I stood up and held my hand out. "Give me the knife, Candy. You're just a nice Mexican houseboy. They'd hang it Onto you and love it. Just the kind of smoke screen that would make them grin with delight. You don't know what I'm talking about. But I do. They -fouled it up so bad that they couldn't straighten it out now if they wanted to. And they don't want to. They'd blast a confession out of you so quickly you wouldn't even have time to tell them your full name. And you'd be sitting on your fanny up in San Quentin with a life sentence three weeks from Tuesday."
"I tell you before I am not a Mexican. I am Chileno from Vi~na del Mar near Valparaiso."
"The knife, Candy. I know all that. You're free. You've got money saved. You've probably got eight brothers and sisters back home. Be smart and go back where you came from. This job here is dead."
"Lots of jobs," he said quietly. Then he reached out and dropped the knife into my hand. "For you I do this."
I dropped the knife into my pocket. He glanced up towards the balcony. "La se~nora-what do we do now?"
"Nothing. We do nothing at all. The se~nora is very tired. She has been living under a great -strain. She doesn't want to be disturbed."
"We've got to call the police," Spencer said grittily.
"Oh my God, Marlowe-we have to."
"Tomorrow. Pick up your pile of unfinished novel and let's go."
"We've got to call the police. There is such a thing as law."
"We don't have to do anything of the sort. We haven't enough evidence to swat a fly with. Let the law enforce. ment people do their own dirty work. Let the lawyers 'work it out. They write the laws for other lawyers to dissect in front of other lawyers called judges so that other judges can say the first judges were wrong and the Supreme Court can say the second lot were wrong. Sure there's such a thing as law. We're up to our necks in it. About all it does is make business for lawyers. How long do you think the big-shot mobsters would last if the lawyers didn't show them how to operate?"
Spencer said angrily: "That has nothing to do with it. A man was killed in this house. He happened to be an author and a very successful and important one, but- that has nothing to do with it either. He was a man and you and I know who killed him. There's such a thing as justice."
"You're just as bad as she is if you let her get away with it. I'm beginning to wonder about you a little, Marlowe. You could have saved his life if you had been on your toes. In a sense you let her get away with it. And for all I know this whole performance this afternoon has been just that-a performance."
"That's right. A disguised love scene. You could see Eileen is crazy about me. When things quiet down we may get married. She ought to be pretty well fixed. I haven't made a buck out of the Wade family yet. I'm getting impatient."
He took his glasses off and polished them. He wiped perspiration from the hollows under his eyes, replaced the glasses and looked at the floor.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I've taken a pretty stiff punch this afternoon. It was bad enough to know Roger had killed himself. But this other version makes me feel degraded- just knowing about it." He looked up at me. "Can I trust you?"
"To do what?"
"The right thing-whatever it is." He reached down and picked up the pile of yellow script and tucked it under his arm. "No, forget it. I guess you know what you are doing, I'm a pretty good publisher but this is out of my line. I guess what I really am is just a goddam stuffed shirt."
He walked past me and Candy stepped out Of his way, then went quickly to the front door and held it open. Spencer went out past him with a brief nod. I followed. I stopped beside Candy and looked into his dark shining eyes.
"No tricks, amigo," I said.
"The se~nora is very tired," he said quietly. "She has gone to her room. She will not be disturbed. I know nothing, se~nor. No me acuerdo de nada… A sus 'ordenes, se~nor."
I took the knife out of my pocket and held it out to him, He smiled.
"Nobody trusts me, but I trust you, Candy."
"Lo mismo, se~nor. Muchas gradas."
Spencer was already in the car. I got in and started it and backed down the driveway and drove him back to Beverly Hills. I let him out at the side entrance of the hotel.
"I've been thinking all the way back," he said as he got out. "She must be a little insane. I guess they'd never convict her."
"They won't even try," I said. "But she doesn't know that."
He struggled with the batch of yellow paper under his arm, got it straightened out, and nodded to me. I watched him heave open the door and go on in. I eased up on the brake and the Olds slid out from the white curb, and that was the last I saw of Howard Spencer.
I got home late and tired and depressed. It was one of those nights when the air is heavy and the night noises seem muffled and far away. There was a high misty indifferent moon. I walked the floor, played a few records, and hardly heard them. I seemed to hear a steady ticking somewhere, but there wasn't anything in the house to tick. The ticking was in my head. I was a one-man death watch.
I thought of the first time I had seen Eileen Wade and the second and the third and the fourth. But after that something in her got out of drawing. She no longer seemed quite real. A murderer is always unreal once you know he is a murderer. There are people who kill out of hate or fear or greed. There are the cunning killers who plan and expect to get away with it. There are the angry killers who do not think at all. And there are the killers who are in love with death, to whom murder is a remote kind of suicide. In a sense they are all insane, but not in the way Spencer meant it.
It was almost daylight when I finally went to bed.
The jangle of the telephone dragged me up out of a black well of sleep. I rolled over on the bed, fumbled for slippers, and realized that I hadn't been asleep for more than a couple of hours. -I felt like a half-digested meal eaten in a greasy-spoon joint. My eyes were stuck together and my mouth was full of sand. I heaved up on the feet and lumbered into the living room and pulled the phone off the cradle and said into it: "Hold the line."
I put the phone down and went into the bathroom and hit myself in the face with some cold water. Outside the window something went snip, snip, snip. I looked out vageuly and saw a brown expressionless face. It was the once-a-week Jap gardener I called Hardhearted Harry. He was trimming the tecoma-the way a Japanese gardener trims your tecoma. You ask him four times and he says, "next week," and then he comes by at six o'clock in the morning and trims it outside your bedroom window.
I rubbed my face dry and went back to the telephone.
"This is Candy, se~nor."
"Good morning, Candy."
"La se~nora es muerta."
Dead. What a cold black noiseless word it is in any language. The lady is dead.
"Nothing you did, I hope."
"I think the medicine. It is called demerol. I think forty, fifty in the bottle. Empty now. No dinner last night. This morning I climb up on the ladder and look in the window. Dressed just like yesterday afternoon. I break the screen open. La se~nora es muerta. Frio como agua de nieve."
Cold as icewater. "You call anybody?"
"Si. El Doctor Loring. He call the cops. Not here yet."
"Dr. Loring, huh? Just the man to come too late."
"I don't show him the letter," Candy said.
"Letter to who?"
"Give it to the police, Candy. Don't let Dr. Loring have it. Just the police. And one more thing, Candy. Don't hide anything, don't tell them any lies. We were there. Tell the truth. This time the truth and all the truth."
There was a little pause. Then he said: "Si. I catch. Hasta la vista, amigo." He hung up.
I dialed the Ritz-Beverly and asked for Howard Spencer.
"One moment, please. I'll give you the desk."
A man's voice said: "Desk speaking. May I help you?"
"I asked for Howard Spencer. I know it's early, but it's urgent."
"Mr. Spencer checked out last evening. He took the eight o'clock plane to New York."
"Oh, sorry. I didn't know."
I went out to the kitchen to make coffee-yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. The lifeblood of tired men.
It was a couple of hours later that Bernie Ohls called me.
"Okay, wise guy," he said. "Get down here and suffer."