Joe Gores: Hammett

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Joe Gores Hammett
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Hammett: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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‘Where little girls come from.’

She leaned toward him and consciously wet her lips. ‘I know I’m a virgin, but I’m a big girl now, Sam. I know what I-’

‘You’re a brat.’ He jerked his head at a far corner of the room. ‘You were asking about gamblers. Here comes Fingers LeGrand.’

‘Why do they call him Fingers?’

‘Everything but the national anthem on a deck of cards.’

LeGrand was a cadaverous man who moved as if on rubber joints; his dolorous face, with dark-rimmed eyes, was thrust forward on a thin stalk of neck. He wore a very natty double-breasted diamond weave and a hand-tailored silk tie with a wicked purple stripe.

‘Miss Goodie Owens. Mr Harrison LeGrand.’

‘Charmed, ma’am.’ He turned back to Hammett. ‘Haven’t seen you around lately, Dash.’

‘I’m on the hog.’

He nodded. ‘When you get healthy, I’m banking a little game at twenty Prescott Court — upstairs above the wop speak.’

He bowed slightly and drifted away.

Hammett measured the piano player critically. Shaw looked drunk enough to start his special lyrics. Hammett put down their sixty cents with a dime tip, and stood up. On the wall behind his head was a sign reading:

1000 BEANS


Goodie began, ‘Why-’

‘I promised your mother I’d look after you.’

‘You’ve never met my mother!’

‘That’s why,’ said Hammett.

They caught a rattling little dinky up Powell to Sutter, transferred to a Number 1 Owl, and left that to walk downhill on Hyde.

‘Q is San Quentin, isn’t it?’ said Goodie abruptly. Hammett, busy with his keys as they crossed deserted Post Street, didn’t answer. She demanded, ‘Sam, what did you do before you were a writer?’

‘Lived in sin with a three-legged dwarf lady who liked to-’


Like so many postquake buildings, 891 Post had a lobby suggesting a Greek temple rather than an apartment house, with a huge square pane of mirror beside the elevator to reflect the faces and figures of anyone mounting the steps from the foyer. Hammett depressed the elevator lever.

‘I was a Pink,’ he said abruptly. He pulled open the door, slid back the inner iron grillwork. ‘A sleuth. A detective for the Pinkerton Agency. That waiter was a steward aboard the Sonoma when a hundred twenty-five thousand in gold specie disappeared from her strong room en route from Sydney back in twenty-one. I turned up most of the gold in a drainpipe aboard ship, but he got caught changing two missing sovereigns into paper money and did a little trick at Quentin.’

The elevator groaned its way toward the third floor. Goodie said thoughtfully, ‘I can never be sure I’m getting a straight answer out of you.’

‘You wouldn’t know a straight answer if it bit you on the nose.’

‘Bite me on the nose, Sam.’

Her face was cold against his lips, shiny with the night mist. He could feel the heat of her small firm body through her coat.

‘I guess you’re healthy.’

She giggled. ‘A cold nose only counts with dogs.’

‘A dog you ain’t, lady.’

Goodie reached around the doorframe to flip on the light.

‘Come in for a while, Sam? Please?’

The door opened directly into the living room, with the oversized closet that hid the wall bed just to the left.

Goodie dropped her coat on a sagging easy chair and headed for the kitchen. ‘Some dago red?’


Hammett waited in front of the couch, which was backed up against a davenport table with a Boston fern on it. Goodie came out of the kitchen carrying two water glasses half-filled with cheap Italian wine. The dim light aureoled her blond hair. She handed the writer a glass and sat down on the couch.

‘What do private detectives really do?’

‘Get enough on somebody down at City Hall to keep their clients out of jail.’

‘You’re a cynical man, Sam.’

‘Not in this town, lady. In this town I’m a realist.’

Goodie made a vague gesture. ‘I don’t know anything about politics.’

‘When I was a kid, my old man — who was a tobacco farmer then — switched from Democrat to Republican to get the cash to run for Congress. Instead, they just about ran him out of St Mary’s County, Maryland, on a rail. Just for changing party affiliation. But here.. ’

He put one foot on the cushion beside her and leaned forward so an elbow rested on the raised knee. He gestured with his free hand, his voice taking on a surprising intensity.

‘Every illegal activity in the book is going on right now in San Francisco — gambling, bookmaking, prostitution, protection. And without mob control. Why?’ He leaned closer to laugh unpleasantly. ‘Because your local government got here first. While our Mayor of All the People stumbles around with his eyes shut, City Hall, the cops, and the district attorney’s office own this town. And are owned in turn. Anything — anything — is for sale here. And anybody.’

Goodie’s small sure voice spoke to the bitterness in his words. ‘ You wouldn’t be, Sam.’

He set down his empty glass. The light had died from his eyes and the slight, almost consumptive flush had faded from his cheeks.

‘Don’t make book on it. Thanks for the wine, brat.’

‘Sam…’ Her voice was soft. She laid an inviting hand on the couch beside her. Under his steady gaze, she started to blush, but went on, ‘Sam, you don’t have to… I mean, you can…’

He tilted up her face with a lean sinewy hand, brushed her lips with his, and straightened up again.

‘I could have a wife and a couple of kids stashed somewhere.’

‘I’d… take my chances, Sam.’

‘Long odds, sister.’

He stopped outside her door for a moment before using his key on the one directly adjacent. He slapped an open palm lightly against the varnished wood. He wondered just how big a fool he was.

‘Too big a one to change now,’ he muttered aloud.


As Hammett’s typewriter clacked hesitantly in a vain attempt to do something about Felix Weber and the Primrose Hotel, a muscular Morris-Cowley bullnose was going by the dark empty oval of Kezar Stadium. Egan Tokzek leaned closer to the split windshield through which ocean air poked cold fingers. Sand hissed against the bonnet, almost overwhelming the bulbous headlamps as the stolen car ran west toward the ocean along the southern edge of Golden Gate Park.

‘Jesus Jesus,’ the big man chanted, as if making incantations over the terrible bundle on the back seat of the big saloon car. There was sickness in the white rim around his lips and in the frightened flash of his eyes.

Better not until he’d dumped it. But he had to. Better not. Well, Jesus, he had to.

He wrestled the big car over to the shoulder. He’d stolen it only half an hour before and still wasn’t used to the right-hand drive.

He fumbled in a pocket as the swirling fog paled the wide-spaced gas lamps. He used his coat sleeve to wipe sweat from his forehead, then thumbed open his snuffbox and snorted a generous pinch of the white C-and-M crystal. His face contorted as the potent mixture of cocaine and morphine bit into the tortured flesh of his inner nose.

Tokzek glanced over his shoulder at the bundle on the rear seat. The rough wool of the horse blanket was soaked through. With an angry curse, he stamped on the clutch and rammed the rigid central lever into low. The jerk slammed him back against the seat.

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