A. Fair: Owls Don't Blink

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A. Fair Owls Don't Blink
  • Название:
    Owls Don't Blink
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    William Morrow
  • Жанр:
    Классический детектив / на английском языке
  • Год:
  • Город:
    New York
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Owls Don't Blink: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The French Quarter of New Orleans — where everything happened, where anything happen... the exciting and colorful French Quarter — where the past is the present and there is no future. It was a long trail from New York to Los Angeles to New Orleans, but a girl had disappeared and the New York lawyer with the mouthful of teeth wanted her found — quickly. Donald couldn’t understand why he dragged a private detective all the way from California, but he soon found out. Donald and Bertha followed a devious path — into some lives that preferred anonymity. Bertha discovered pecan waffles and gumbo; Donald found a sprawling body in a quiet apartment — a gun and newspaper clippings behind an old desk drawer — a girl who might have been somebody else — a beautiful nightclub hostess who made the error of falling in love — and a trail that led back to an older, unsolved West Coast murder... And last but not least, he found the perfect answer to Bertha’s foray into war work.

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A. A. Fair

Owls Don’t Blink

Chapter One

I was awakened at three o’clock in the morning by the sound of a garbage-pail cover being kicked across the sidewalk. A moment later, a woman’s voice, harsh and shrill, shouted, “I am not going with you! Do you understand?

I rolled over and tried to drop back into the oblivion of slumber. The woman’s voice pursued me, tearing at my eardrums. I couldn’t hear the man with whom she was arguing.

The air was heavy with humidity. The bed was a big four-poster antique, placed in the back of a high-ceilinged bedroom. Huge French windows opened onto a balcony, lined with wrought-iron grillwork. This balcony extended out over the sidewalk. Directly across the narrow street was Jack O’Leary’s Bar.

When I had tried closing the windows, the heavy, muggy air had made the room stifling. When I opened the big windows, sounds from the old French Quarter of New Orleans came pouring in.

The screaming voice ceased abruptly, and I started drifting off once more into slumber.

Then a fresh disturbance broke out. Someone started playing little tunes on an automobile horn. After a little while, another horn chimed in.

I got up, kicked my feet into slippers, and walking over to the open window, looked across at Jack O’Leary’s Bar.

Apparently some roisterer had gone out to get the car and driven down to pick up the rest of his party. He leaned on the horn with a long blast, then a succession of short blasts to let his companions — and the world at large — know he was there. While he blocked the street, another motorist wanted to get by. Other cars rolled up. Soon the whole street was echoing to the din of repeated clamor. As the pressure behind the motorist who was blocking the road became more insistent, he tried to get action out of his own party by pressing the palm of his hand against the horn button and holding it there.

It was a one-way street, with parking permitted on both sides, leaving only a narrow lane down the center for the traffic. The congestion stretched back for a block now. The clamor was insistent, terrific.

Three people came straggling out from Jack O’Leary’s Bar: a tall, loose-jointed man in evening clothes who seemed to be in no particular hurry, two girls with long gowns trailing the sidewalk, both of them talking at once, looking back over their shoulders into the lighted bar.

The man waved his hand at the driver of the automobile. The horns pulsed into a cacophony.

The man walked leisurely across the sidewalk, stepped out into the street, and gallantly stood by the rear door, holding it open. After a few seconds, one of the women came over to join him. The other one turned back toward the bar. A fat man in a business suit, holding a glass in his hand, came out to talk with her.

The two people who were holding up the procession seemed completely oblivious of it all. They talked earnestly. The man pulled out a pencil, fished a notebook from his pocket, then looked around for a place to set the glass. When he could find none, he tried to hold glass and notebook in one hand while he scribbled.

Eventually it was completed. The young woman pulled up her long skirt, strolled leisurely across the sidewalk to the curb, and got into the car.

Then followed the slamming of car doors. The driver of the automobile seemed to feel that he could best minimize the delay he had caused by starting in low gear with the throttle wide open. He clashed into second gear at the corner. The stream of congested traffic started flowing by.

I looked at my wrist watch. Three-forty-five.

I stood by the window for half an hour because there was nothing else to do. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Bertha Cool was due to arrive on the 7:20 train. I’d told her I’d be at the station to meet her.

During the half hour that I stood, watching the breaking-up of the parties over at O’Leary’s Bar, I got so I could just about classify the potential disturbances before they exploded into noise.

There was the battling foursome that would stand out in front and argue at the top of their voices where they should go next. These usually divided into two people who wanted to go home, and two who insisted that it was just the beginning of the evening. There were the people who had made new acquaintances at the bar. Apparently it never occurred to anyone to try and get names, addresses, and telephone numbers until they reached the sidewalk. There the defect was remedied with much laughter, shouted farewells, and some last bit of repartee which could only be remembered when the parties were almost out of earshot. There were the parties-breaking-up-in-a-brawl type of thing — the women who wouldn’t be seduced — the wives who weren’t going to go home yet.

Quite evidently it was noisy inside the bar. People emerging to Stand on the sidewalk stood close and shouted at each other.

Following the New Orleans custom in the French Quarter, garbage pails were placed on the sidewalks near the curb. Everyone felt it was the height of wit to kick the covers off the garbage pails and listen to them make noise as they slid along the sidewalk.

After half an hour, I crossed over to a chair, sat down, and let my eyes drift around the half-illuminated apartment. Roberta Fenn had lived in this same apartment some three years ago, which would have been 1939. She had rented it under an assumed name; then she had disappeared into thin air. Cool and Lam — Confidential Investigations had been hired to find her.

Sitting there in the warm darkness, I tried to reconstruct the life Roberta Fenn must have lived. She must have heard the same sounds I was hearing. She must have eaten at the near-by restaurants, had drinks at the bars, perhaps spent some of her time at Jack O’Leary’s Bar across the street.

The heavy, semitropical air emphasized the warmth of the night. I dropped off to fitful sleep.

At 5:30 I wakened enough to stagger over to the bed. I felt I had never been so sleepy in my life. The persons who had been doing the celebrating had gone home. The street was enjoying an interval of quiet. I sank instantly into deep slumber and almost immediately the bell of the alarm clock pulled me back to wakefulness.


I was to meet Bertha Cool at 7:20.

Chapter Two

I felt certain the man with Bertha Cool would be the New York lawyer. He was a tall, rangy man in the late fifties with long arms. A dentist had evidently tried to lengthen his face when he made the dental plates.

Bertha Cool was still down to her conservative 165. She’d put on a coat of sunburn from her deep-sea fishing, and the tanned skin contrasted with her gray hair. She came striding toward me with a push of muscular legs that made the New York lawyer lengthen his stride to keep up with her.

I moved forward to shake hands.

Bertha gave me a quick glance from those hard gray eyes of hers, said, “My God, Donald, you look as though you’d been drunk for a week.”

“It was the alarm clock.”

She snorted. “You didn’t have to get up any earlier than I did. This is Emory Hale, Emory Garland Hale, our client.”

I said, “How are you, Mr. Hale?”

He looked down at me, and there was a quizzical expression on his face as he shook hands. Bertha interpreted the expression. She’d seen it before on other clients.

“Don’t make any mistake about Donald. He weighs a hundred and forty with his clothes on, and his jack-knife and keys in his pocket, but he’s got an oversize brain, and enough guts for an army.”

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