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Authors: James M. Cain

Rainbow's End (17 page)

BOOK: Rainbow's End
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Sid called about that time. When I answered, he talked quite friendly, as though he'd forgotten about our run-in or at least didn't hold it against me. Then I called her to the phone and she talked friendly too: “Sid, I have to see you! Something's happened. It's about Little Myra, but I can't tell you what on account of this phone. It's bugged, as we know, so I have to mind how I talk. But I have to see you, Sid. I'd rather you come out here.” She broke off then and listened, and he talked for some little time, apparently trying to find out what she was talking about. She kept coming back to how the phone was bugged, and after a while, told him very nice: “Thanks, Sid. I knew I could count on you. I wouldn't ask it if I didn't feel I had to.”

Pretty soon she hung up, but didn't come back, with me on the sofa. She started walking around the room, and I sat there admiring her shape and the way she walked, kind of limber-kneed, so she halfway floated, and you noticed it, how willowy she was. Suddenly I said: “You didn't tell him she was dead.”

“What he doesn't know won't hurt him.”

It didn't seem to be something she'd have to hold back on account of the bug on the phone—and especially not if there was no bug on the phone. Little by little I figured it out, that so long as he didn't know, he'd have to come to find out how things stood. I began to wonder if Sid was the guy she was after.


she asked me for paper, and I got her a tablet I had. She got a ballpoint out of her bag and began writing. Then she got up and stared out the front window. I looked, and a car was just turning in from the highway to the lane. She tore off the sheet she'd been writing on, put it in her bag, and handed the tablet to me. I put it back in the table drawer. The car was Uncle Sid's, and it came in to the loop in front of the house, then rolled halfway around it. Then it cut inside the loop, circled around my Dodge and my mother's car, and wound up parking in front of them. It was a funny thing to do, and I saw no reason for it, but the look on her face as she watched from the window showed that she did. Uncle Sid got out, and she opened the door herself to let him in. She took him in her arms, held him close and exclaimed, “Sid, Sid, Sid! At last, at last, you've come! I'm so glad to see you, so glad!”

He held her close too, said: “Myra, hi,” “Gee you're looking good,” and other dumb stuff. Then: “Myra, last I heard of my sister was a couple of nights ago, when I drove on up from Flint, after reading that stuff in the paper, and David said she had left—got in a row with that girl, or over that girl, whatever it was, and drove off. I supposed she was headed for home. Flint was where she'd naturally head for, and waited and waited and waited. But she hasn't come.” And then, after studying my mother's face: “Myra? What's happened?”

“Little Myra's dead. She drowned.”

“She—did you say drowned?”

The way he said it, I had the feeling he'd learned it by heart, that it was an act, that he'd known all along, she was drowned, or if he didn't know it, he'd guessed it. He sounded phoney. But my mother went over and touched him, as though he was really shook, and recited it all straight: “Drowned, Sid, that's right. They recovered her body today, where she was caught on a tree limb, in under the surface, somehow.”

He listened, occasionally shaking his head, dropping his face in his hands, and getting his handkerchief out to wipe his eyes, which weren't wet that I could see, but he wiped them away. “So,” she wound up, “it's been a blow, as you can easily understand, she being the only one besides Jody Howell, who knew the truth about David—we weren't too close before, but after she took him it brought us as close as two women ever get.
there's more. We got work to do, you and I.”

“Not so fast,” he whispered. “Give me a minute, Myra. I'm not used to it yet.” And then to me: “Can I borrow the phone?”

I told him to help himself and he went and picked it up, first putting a dollar down. He dialed, then talked, I couldn't tell who to. He mumbled what had happened, “Better tell them, better tell them all. It's going to come out anyhow. No use keeping it quiet. I'll be home, but late. Real late—may be some time before I can leave.”

He came back to his seat, and then at last, in a natural tone of voice, asked my mother: “Yes, Myra? What kind of work? What are you talking about?”

“That poke, Sid. That poke of money she took, Little Myra, I mean. The one the hijacker had.”

“She took that poke?”

“That's right, Sid.”

“Well, wait a minute. There was stuff in the papers about it, how the officers weren't satisfied, the whole story was told, but—how did she get in it? Who says she took the poke?”

“I do, Sid.”

“And what do you have to go on?”

“There were exactly three of them there—Dave, the girl, and her. It wasn't David. It wasn't the girl. So it had to be her.”

“How do you know who it wasn't?”

“I have David's word for it.”

“Which you'll take, I think,” I said, causing a terrific explosion. My mother turned on me and screamed: “Will you kindly keep your mouth shut? Will you let me talk without messing in? Will you for once in your life shut up?”

“Sure I will.”

I snapped it pretty mean and she came over and slapped my face. “And who says anyone took it?” asked Sid, as though nothing at all had been said. “The way the papers told it, that poke got dunked in the river.”

“It did not.”

“Once more, how do you know?”

“It's all been checked out—the officer, the one who stayed here last night, found the wrapper in the morning, the paper tape from the bank, from one of the packs of bills. She must have brought it here. If so, that poke didn't get dunked.”

“So, OK, but where do we come in? If she had the poke with her, if she had it when she left, then it did get dunked after all—when she did.”

“It did not get dunked, Sid.”

She told the rest, about Jill finding the money while trying to catch a fish, her putting it back, and what happened later—the fireman finding the boat and the rest. “Whoever that thief was, he rowed up in that boat after stealing it and grabbed that poke. And that's where we come in. We have to get it back—the poke and the money that's in it.”

“Why do we?”

“The day after it happened, after the hijacker got it, after David let him have it, the president of the company, Morgan I think his name is, deeded the girl that money, so it couldn't make trouble for her. So it's hers now. So she's going to be one of us, soon as she marries David.”

I opened my mouth once more to say it was off, that I had no interest in Jill—but after what had happened once when I put my mouth in, I decided to postpone my remark. Uncle Sid looked at me, said: “Yeah, I kind of thought it was something like that.” And then, to my mother: “I'd say OK, of course—there couldn't be any question, if there was something I could do. But I swear, I don't think of anything.”

“I do. There is something, Sid.”

She opened her bag and took out the sheet of paper, the one she'd torn from my tablet, with the stuff she'd written on it. “I suspect this man,” she said, “and here's what I want you to do: Get on his tail at once. Camp out on him where he lives, on the river road there near Huntington. Park up the street from his house and keep watch on this dirty rat—where he goes, what he does, most of all, how he spends the money. With $98,000 to play around with, he's bound to do some playing—on the horses, girls, booze. When you have something to tell me, let me know and I'll take it from there.”

He sat blinking, first at the paper, then at her, and then said: “Myra, you're asking something of me I don't in any way like—it's not in my line. I don't know the first thing about it, and it's on behalf of someone, that girl I'm talking about, who means nothing to me.”

“She's going to be one of us, Sid.”

“OK, then OK.
she is, when I get to know her, when I get to like her,
I get to like her—then we'll talk. Until then I have to say no.”

“Then could be too late—no use nailing him
he's stashed the money.”

“Myra, I still say no.”

She pulled her chair nearer to his, then talked a little lower, as though just for him, with me left out. “Sid,” she said, really friendly, “I haven't said all, not quite. I wouldn't have that much nerve, to ask something like this and expect you to pay for it, your meals, your room in one of those motels, your gas and oil and tips—so, of course, I equalize, I should have mentioned it sooner.” She opened her bag and began taking tens off a roll, laying them beside him, there on the sofa—quite a pile, maybe 10 or 12. She said: “I have some I can share, cash that was slipped me, and I'll be only too glad. ...”

I could feel she was up to something, and let her play it along, but at the same time, I was beginning to feel pretty nervous. Sid stared at the bills, and what went through his mind I don't know, maybe that if he picked them up, no one would ever know what he actually used them for. Anyway, he did, straightening them up in a little pack, neat. Then he took out his wallet to slip them in.

I've said she had moved in close, so she was now knee-to-knee. Suddenly she slapped that billfold, so it bounced on the table and landed on the floor, in front of the TV set. He jumped up and started after it, but I stepped in between. He wrestled me, but I dumped him back on the sofa. My mother, first smoothing her dress, picked up the wallet, then knelt by the table, and started counting what was in it. It seemed mainly to be $20 bills, and when she'd counted them all, she said: “OK, Sid, that says it, I flushed it out—100 twenties, exactly what she took with her, when she banged out of this house, and what must have been still in her bag when you went through it last night there at the other house, before walking down, stealing that boat, and taking the bag from that tree. OK, Sid, where is it?”

She looked up at last, and I looked up—into a blue .45 automatic Sid was leveling at her, holding it on his knee.


, he marched us back to our seats, to our chairs, on the other side of the table, beside the TV set. Then with one hand he picked up the twenties. Folding them, he slipped them in his coat pocket. He picked up the wallet and slipped that in. Still with his eyes on my mother, he bent both knees and pawed around on the floor, for the tens, which had slipped down there. He got them, stood up, and walked over to my mother, dropping them in her lap.

Then: “OK, you lying, thieving bitch,” he began, but I cut in: “Watch your language, Sid.”

He did a quarter turn with the gun, to point it at me. “I called her a lying, thieving bitch,” he said. “What do you call her?”

“I call her my mother,” I growled. “And you better.”

“I call her a lying, thieving bitch, and on top of that a filthy whore. And you don't say any different, do you?
Do you

His voice was pure bile, and I made no answer. I measured with my eye how far I was from him, and whether I could make it before he could shoot. But my eyes must have tipped him. He did another quarter turn, quick, so the gun was on me, to mean it. “Don't move!” he snapped. “Stay right where you're at, kid.”

He went back to the sofa, sat down, then suddenly ordered us: “Lock hands! Put them in front! On your knees, where I can see them!
And lock them

We did as he said.

“OK, where is it?” he asked.

“Where is what?” asked my mother.

“The poke! What do you think?”

“You have it, Sid. You tell
, why don't you?”

“You got the goddamn gall to sit there and tell me that? After you lined it out for me, word for word, after you all but owned up it was you who took that poke?”

I all but owned up
? Sid, I always thought you were crazy, but not that crazy, oh no! What do you mean, I all but owned up?”

“Last night, so you said, you were here and then you left. For God's sake, Myra, who knew about that boat? Where it was and how to get to it? Who knew about the tree? Where
was and how to get to
? Who do you think you're fooling?”

“OK, Sid, but the thing of it is, I'm not like you, thank God. I wouldn't go back on my kin, on a girl who will be my kin. I couldn't do that to her.”

“What do you mean, you're not like me?”

“You know what I mean, Sid. If you don't, drop the nose of that gun and I'll tell you.”

He angled the gun at the floor, and she said: “I'm talking about those boys, those two cousins of yours, that you turned on year before last and left to die in that mine you're caretaker of. They were your partners, weren't they? In that business of yours? You brought them over, didn't you? From Logan? To help out in that mine, share and share alike?”

Now his business, as I've said, was booze—moonshine, it used to be called, except the way they do it now, mixing corn and rye, and letting it color in charred kegs, it's more like regular bourbon, and the bars in Ohio grab it on account of the low price. “And suppose I did, what then?” he snapped. “What's that got to do with the bag?”

It was some time before she answered him. She sat staring at him, like trying to screw up her nerve to say whatever it was that was still on her mind. Outside a car drove up, then passed the three cars on the loop, my car, my mother's car, and Sid's car, then drove off again without stopping. I didn't pay much attention, remembering what she had said about people that wouldn't come in if they saw certain cars out front. Turned out that was the reason, but in a way different from what she had meant, and a lot more important.

BOOK: Rainbow's End
12.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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