Elmore Leonard: 52 pickup

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Elmore Leonard 52 pickup
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    52 pickup
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    Криминальный детектив / на английском языке
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52 pickup: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Elmore Leonard

52 pickup


He could not get used to going to the girl's apartment. He would be tense driving past the gate and following the road that wound through the complex of townhouse condominiums. Even when it was dark he was a little tense. But once he reached the garage and pressed the remote control switch and the double door opened, he was there and it was done.

It was cold in the garage, standing in the darkness between his car and Cini's, feeling for the key on the ring that held all the keys he had to carry. He didn't like keys and wished there was another way to do it. He wished he didn't have so many doors that had to be kept locked.

It was warm in the kitchen, with a warm glow coming from the light over the stainless steel range. Shiny and clean, nothing on the sink or the countertop. She was neat, orderly, and for some reason that had surprised him.

The rest of the apartment was dark, though dull evening light was framed in the sliding glass door across the living room. To the right was the front entrance and a suspended stairway that made one turn up to the hallway and two bedrooms. Beyond the stairway the door to the den was closed.

He called out, "Cini?"

Usually music was playing and in the silence the place seemed empty. But she was here because her car was in the garage. Probably in the shower. He listened another moment before going back into the kitchen to the wall phone.

The sound of the plant came on with the voice answering and he said, "This is Mr. Mitchell, see if you can find Vic for me, will you?"

The ice bucket wasn't on the counter. Usually there were the ice bucket and two glasses, ready. Maybe at other times when he came in they weren't on the counter, but tonight he was aware of it.

"Vic, it's Mr. Mitchell. I'm not going to be back today… No, I'm tired. Son of a bitch has four vodka martinis, shish kebab, coffee and three stingers. We go back to his office and I have to listen to all this shit about delivery dates."

He was patient for almost a minute, leaning against the counter now, at times nodding, looking at the window over the sink where a stained-glass owl hung from the shade string.

"Vic, I'll tell you what. You call on the customers and eat the lunch every day, I'll run the shop… Victor… All right, you got a problem, but we know weeks ahead when we have to deliver, right? We take into account the chance of screw-ups, breakdowns and acts of God. But, Victor, we deliver. We deliver, we pay our bills and we always take our two-percent ten days. That's what we always do, as long as I've been in business. If you've got a machine problem then fix the son of a bitch, because I'll tell you something, I'm not going to go out every day and eat lunch, Vic, and run the shop too. You see that?"

He listened again, giving his plant superintendent equal time. "All right, I'll talk to you first thing tomorrow… Right… All right, Vic. Listen, if anybody wants me I'm there, I'll call them back, right… Okay, so long."

He hung up, took time to light a cigarette and dialed his home. Waiting, he was thinking he could have handled that a little better with Vic, not sounded so edgy.

"Barbara, how you doing?… No, I'm back at the plant. Finally. Spent the afternoon at the Tech Center… No, you better go ahead, I'll probably be late. Vic's got a problem I have to look into… I know it. That's what I told him. But getting somebody else doesn't turn out a job that's due tomorrow. Listen, if you want me for anything and my night line doesn't answer, I'm back in the shop somewhere. Leave a message, I'll call you… Okay, see you later."

He wasn't finished with the cigarette, but didn't need it now and stubbed it out as he hung up.

In the living room he turned on a lamp. He liked the furniture, all the orange-and-white stuff and abstract paintings and plants that were like trees. He had paid a decorator to pick them out and they were his. He was finally starting to get used to the place; though he still had the feeling, most of the time, he was in a resort hotel suite or someone else's house. At the foot of the suspended stairway he looked up and called the girl's name again.


He waited, "Hey, lady, I'm home!"

It sounded strange. He said it and could hear himself, but it sounded strange, not something he would say. He stood there, listening.

But the sound he heard, finally, did not come from upstairs. It came from the den, the faint, whirring sound of a motor, and he looked toward the closed door.

He identified the sound as he opened the door and there it was, the movie projector going, lamp on, illuminating a hot white square across the room; the screen, set up, waiting. There was the sound and the shaft of light. Nothing else, until the figure moved out of the darkness to stand in front of the screen: a man he knew immediately was a black man, though he wore a woman's nylon stocking over his face that washed out his features. At the same time he knew that the revolver in the man's hand was a.38 Colt Special.

Even with the stocking over his face the man's words were clear. He said quietly, "Take a seat, motherfucker. It's home movie time."

Later, he remembered saying, "What do you want?" and "Where is she?" and then half turning as he heard the sound behind him. Later, he tried to concentrate on what he saw in the moment before the living room lamp went out: two men, seeing them as a heavyset guy and a skinny guy with long hair, but not seeing their features or even their clothes, only remembering an impression, the contrast of a thin guy with bony shoulders coming toward him and the thick-bodied guy hunched over the lamp. That was all he saw of them. The black guy poked him with the revolver, moving him to a chair, and Mitchell said, "You mind telling me what's going on?"

The skinny guy, in the room now at the projector, said, "No talking during the show, man. Just watch, and listen."

The black guy pushed him into the chair and moved around behind him. Mitchell sat staring at the screen. He leaned back and felt the barrel of the revolver press against his head. In a moment he saw the countdown of numbers as the film started through the projector.

"You've seen some of this before," the skinny guy said. "Stuff your girlfriend shot. I want you to know what we know, so it'll be clear in your head. You dig?"

Mitchell saw himself on the screen in full color, green bathing trunks and suntan lotion shining on his arm. He was reclined in a lounge chair reading The Wall Street Journal. The projector hummed in the dark room. After a moment he saw himself lower the newspaper and look up and shake his head and then smile patiently. He remembered the moment. He remembered almost telling her for Christ sake, no. But he had not said anything because no one but the two of them would ever see the film.

As he watched himself the skinny guy's voice-over said, "Lucayan Beach. Grand Bahama, March seventeen through twenty-one, while your wife thought you were at a convention in Miami. You rascal. The broad's shooting you. Now here's you shooting the broad."

Cini came glistening out of the surf in the tan bikini he remembered very well, and from this distance, for a moment, she looked naked. Now she was closer, smiling, smoothing back her wet blond hair.

The voice-over said, "A nice body, but a little weak in the lungs. What do you think?"

He remembered Cini going over to the hairy bald-headed guy and talking to him and handing him the camera.

"Now you and the broad together. There he is, Mr. Clean. Member of the Urban Renewal Committee, Bloomfield Village Council, Deprived Children's Foundation and the Northwest Guidance Center. You don't mind my saying, for a successful businessman and generally active in all that community bullshit, I think you got fucking rocks in your head, man, to let yourself get put on film. I mean, as you can see it's plain fucking dumb.

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