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Raymond Chandler

Robert B Parker

Poodle Springs

1

Linda stopped the Fleetwood convertible in front of the house without turning into the driveway. She leaned back and looked at the house and then looked at me.

'It's a new section of the Springs, darling. I rented the house for the season. It's a bit on the chi-chi side, but so is Poodle Springs.'

'The pool is too small,' I said. 'And no springboard.'

'I've permission from the owner to put one in. I hope you will like the house, darling. There are only two bedrooms, but the master bedroom has a Hollywood bed that looks as big as a tennis court.'

'That's nice. If we don't get on together, we can be distant.'

'The bathroom is out of this world-out of any world.

The adjoining dressing room has ankle-deep pink carpeting, wall to wall. It has every kind of cosmetic you ever heard of on three plate-glass shelves. The toilet-if you'll excuse my being earthy-is all alone in an annex with a door and the toilet cover has a large rose on it in relief. And every room in the house looks out on a patio or the pool.'

'I can hardly wait to take three or four baths. And then go to bed.'

'It's only eleven o'clock in the morning,' she said demurely.

'I'll wait until eleven-thirty.'

'Darling, at Acapulco-'

'Acapulco was fine. But we only had the cosmetics you brought with you and the bed was just a bed, not a pasture, and other people were allowed to dunk in the swimming pool and the bathroom didn't have any carpet at all.'

'Darling, you can be a bastard. Let's go in. I'm paying twelve hundred dollars a month for this dive. I want you to like it.'

'I'll love it. Twelve hundred a month is more than I make being a detective. It'll be the first time I've been kept. Can I wear a sarong and paint my little toenails?'

'Damn you, Marlowe, it's not my fault that I'm rich. And if I have the damn money I'm going to spend it. And if you are around some of it is bound to rub off on you. You'll just have to put up with that.'

'Yes, darling.' I kissed her. 'I'll get a pet monkey and after a while you won't be able to tell us apart.'

'You can't have a monkey in Poodle Springs. You have to have a poodle. I have a beauty coming. Black as coal and very talented. He's had piano lessons. Perhaps he can play the Hammond organ in the house.'

'We got a Hammond organ? Now that's something I've always dreamed of doing without.'

'Shut up! I'm beginning to think I should have married the Comte de Vaugirard. He was rather sweet, except that he used perfume.'

'Can I take the poodle to work? I could have a small electric organ, one of the babies you can play if you have an ear like a corn-beef sandwich. The poodle could play it while the clients lie to me. What's the poodle's name?'

'Inky.'

'A big brain worked on that one.'

'Don't be nasty or I won't-you know.'

'Oh, yes you will. You can hardly wait.'

She backed the Fleetwood and turned it into the driveway. 'Never mind the garage door. Augustino will put the car away, but you don't really have to in this dry desert climate.'

'Oh yeah, the house boy, butler, cook and comforter of sad hearts. Nice kid. I like him. But there's something wrong here. We can't get along on just one Fleetwood. I have to have one to drive to the office.'

'Goddamn you! I'll get my white whip out if you're not polite. It has steel inserts in the lash.'

'The typical American wife,' I said and went around the car to help her out. She fell into my arms. She smelled divine. I kissed her again. A man turning off a sprinkler in front of the next house grinned and waved.

'That's Mister Tomlinson,' she said between my teeth. 'He's a broker.'

'Broker, stoker, what do I care?' I went on kissing her.

We had been married just three weeks and four days.

2

It was a very handsome house except that it stank decorator. The front wall was plate glass with butterflies imprisoned in it. Linda said it came from Japan. The floor of the hall was carpeted with blue vinyl with a geometric design in gold. There was a den off of this. It contained plenty of furniture, also four enormous brass candle holders and the finest inlaid desk I had ever seen. Off the den was a guest bath, which Linda called a lavatory. A year and a half in Europe had taught her to speak English. The guest bath had a shower and a dressing table and a four-by-three mirror over it. The hi-fi system had speakers in every room. Augustine had turned it on softly. He appeared in the door, smiling and bowing. He was a nice-looking lad, part Hawaiian and part Japanese. Linda had picked him up when we made a short trip to Maui before going to Acapulco. It's wonderful what you can pick up if you have eight or ten million dollars.

There was an interior patio with a large palm tree and some tropical shrubs, and a number of rough stones picked up on the high desert for nothing, but $250 apiece to the customer. The bathroom which Linda had not overstated had a door to the patio and this had a door to the pool and to the interior patio and the outside patio. The living room carpet was pale grey, and the Hammond organ had been built out into a bar at the end opposite the keyboard. That nearly threw me. Also in the living room were couches matching the carpet and contrasting easy chairs and an enormous cowled indoor fireplace six feet away from the wall. There was a Chinese chest that looked very genuine and on the wall three embossed Chinese dragons. One wall was entirely of glass, the others of brick in colors to go with the carpet up to about five feet, and glass above that.

The bathroom had a sunken bath and sliding-door closets big enough to hold all the clothes twelve debutantes could want to buy.

Four people could have slept comfortably in the Hollywood bed in the main bedroom. It had a pale blue carpet and you could read yourself to sleep by the light of lamps mounted on Japanese statuettes.

We went on to the guest room. It had matching single, not twin, beds, an adjoining bath with the same normous mirror over the dressing table, and the same four or five hundred dollars' worth of cosmetics and perfumes and God knows what on the three plate-glass shelves.

That left the kitchen. It had a bar at its entrance, a wall closet with twenty kinds of cocktail, highball and wine glasses, beyond that a top-burner stove without an oven or broiler, two electric ovens and an electric broiler against another wall, also an enormous refrigerator and a deep freeze. The breakfast table had a pebbled glass top and wide comfortable chairs on three sides and a built-in couch on the fourth side. I turned on the cowl ventilator. It had a wide slow sweep that was almost silent.

'It's too rich for me,' I said. 'Let's get divorced.'

'You dog! It's nothing to what we'll have when we build a house. There are things here that are a bit too gaudy but you can't say the house is bare.'

'Where is the poodle going to sleep, in the guest bed or with us? And what color pajamas does he like?'

'Stop it!'

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