Alan Hunter: Gently Go Man

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Alan Hunter Gently Go Man
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    Gently Go Man
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    Классический детектив / на английском языке
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Gently Go Man: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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He stroked the bark of the tree, stood looking down the straight road. It was nearly noon of an October day and there was plenty of traffic on the road. Every few moments came the buzz of a car separating itself from the anonymous stream, then dying back into it again to be replaced by another. There were trucks, too, heavy articulateds, groaning by like tall ships. And motorcycles, several of those: he counted eleven in fifteen minutes. All the long five miles the traffic was scuttling and burrowing and glittering. As far as the black line of Latchford Chase. As far as the cross on Setters’ sketch map.

He knocked out his pipe on the tree and glanced back at the road he had travelled. An Austin-Healey was shooting towards him, but after that was a break of half a mile. He got back in the car, started the engine, waited some moments for the road to empty. He eased the clutch, drew away, slid through the gears, gave her the gas. The Healey was well ahead now, too far for him to hope to catch it, but the road behind it was clear and he could let the 75 rip. It went up fast on the downward grade. He was into the eights very quickly. Soon he was flickering into the nines, which the 75 didn’t often reach. Her engine was straining a very little, the slipstream boomed in his ears. She was steering lighter than he liked it, but not enough to cause him worry. It was fast, very fast. She was right up in the nines. The Healey wasn’t losing him now, he was sitting tight at his distance.

Then the Healey slowed for an overtake, came leaping back down the road to him, and he felt a surge of disappointment as he was compelled to ease off. Still, he was drifting along in the sevens, he went through hard on the Healey’s tail. They were gunning again directly and pushing back to the nines. He felt the excitement spark in him, found himself wanting the extra ten. That line of trees was coming too leisurely, he would like it striding along to engulf him. But he sensed the recklessness in the excitement and he thrust it down under his usual phlegm. It wouldn’t do, he was here to register. The excitement was sought as a point of reference.

They came up on a line of traffic and had to kill it, this time for good. The Healey kept bobbing out impatiently but each time it was baulked. Back in the fives and sixes, padding along like town traffic. No more champagne. No more temptation. They reached the trees and passed a lane that came in diagonally from the left. Setters had marked it, and Gently drove now with one eye on the verge. And soon he spotted it: a violent welt that carved acutely through grass and earth, exploding into a ripped crater and continuing in dragging gashes and raw weals.

He stopped, reversed, and bumped on to the verge. He relit his pipe. He went to look.

‘What’s your first move?’ Setters asked, dropping sugar lumps in his cup of coffee.

‘I’ll see Elton’s people,’ Gently said. ‘Then I’ll talk to Lister’s mother.’

‘Elton’s people don’t know anything,’ Setters said. ‘I’ve got them covered in case he contacts them.’

‘I’d like to see them all the same.’

‘I’ll take you round,’ Setters said.

They were in the lounge of the old Sun, which was still the best hotel in Latchford. Gently had invited Setters to lunch after their conference at Police H.Q. The conference had lasted two hours and had been attended by the Chief Constable, and Setters had formed the private opinion that the proceedings had bored Gently. He was surprised to be asked to lunch. He didn’t know yet what to think of Gently.

He drank some coffee. ‘We thought the girl would’ve helped us,’ he said. ‘Might’ve remembered some point, like the way chummie was dressed. But no, not a thing she remembers. Only him boring in on them. We’re lucky at that, I suppose. Makes it open and shut when we get him.’

‘You asked her about Elton?’ Gently said.

‘Yes,’ Setters said, ‘I asked her. Seemed to worry her, talking about Elton. Said she’d done him wrong or something. But she won’t have that Elton did it.’

‘And she’d been doping.’ Gently said.

Setters nodded. ‘The doc soon tumbled to it. Reefers. Those damned kids get them from somewhere.’

‘Any other cases of that?’

‘Two. It’s the London kids who do it.’

Setters was a large-boned parrot-faced man with dark grey eyes and a bald, conical crown. He had long, sad lines down each side of his mouth which had no expression. He was sharp as a fish-hook.

‘Have you had much trouble with motorbikes?’ Gently asked.

‘Yes,’ Setters said, ‘since the overspills came. Not much before that. The local kids here are tame enough. You get a wild one now and then. But not the way it is now. Not with jeebies and that stuff.’

‘What’s this jeebie business?’ Gently asked.

Setters said nothing for a moment. ‘I get to hear,’ he said presently. ‘I get to hear what goes on. You know about the Beat Generation?’

Gently shrugged. ‘What I read.’

‘We’ve got it here,’ Setters said. ‘We’ve got the beatsters in Latchford. Only here they call themselves jeebies, don’t ask me what for. The teddy-boy stuff is right out. Now it’s jeebies and chicks.’

‘Yes.’ Gently nodded. ‘There’s a lot of it goes on in town. It was the name that puzzled me.’

‘Guess it’s local,’ said Setters. He lit a cigarette, lifted his head to puff smoke. ‘I’ve run across it a lot,’ he said; ‘it’s what this case is mostly about. And I don’t get it all, that’s a fact. I don’t get above a half of it. It’s not gangs any more, though there’s gang stuff in it. And it’s not them dressing all sloppy, and not washing or cutting their hair. Beards, that sort of caper, that isn’t it either. There’s something funny got into those kids. They just don’t figure like they used to.’

‘There’s still hooliganism,’ Gently said, ‘petty crime, and violence.’

‘Yes,’ Setters said, ‘that too.’ But he sounded as though it didn’t mean much. ‘I’ve talked to most of them,’ he said. ‘All the kids who’ve got bikes. If it wasn’t Elton I’m stuck, or there’s some damned good lying going on. But I don’t think so, that’s my hunch. I think they don’t know much about it. They don’t even believe that Lister was busted off. They think we’re cooking it to make it tough for them.’ He filled his lungs, drove the smoke out. ‘You know the angle they keep giving me? They think that Lister did it on purpose. Just for the kick. What do you make of that?’

‘It could be a smokescreen,’ Gently said.

‘Yes,’ Setters said, ‘it could be. But it isn’t, they really believe it. And they don’t know anything. That’s my hunch. ‘So you’re sticking to Elton,’ Gently said.

‘I’m sticking to him,’ Setters said. ‘Until I hear something different. Elton is chummie number one.’

They collected the 75 from the park and drove into the new town area. It lay south-east of the old town, which was mainly stretched along a narrow High Street. It looked raw and unsettled. It was like an exhibition job; it might have been run up for a season’s stand, not really intended to be lived in. It had all come out of an architect’s sketchbook; it was thrown there, not grown there. Maybe it photographed and took prizes, but it hadn’t character, only design. It was the design that stood out. It looked like ideas without finality. It had come easy, it could go easy, it didn’t mingle or take root. It was using local brick and pantile and making both look anonymous.

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