Sergeant Brody was a Catholic and he looked bewildered.

Grave Digger explained, 'Saint John the Divine is the prophet who saw the seven veils and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The people here in Harlem have a great regard for Saint John. He was the only prophet who ever saw any winning numbers in his visions.'

'The Revelation is the fortune teller's Bible,' Coffin Ed added.

'It's not only just that,' Mamie said. 'Saint John saw how wonderful it was in heaven and how terrible it was in hell.'

'Well now, to get back to this murder, would Chink Charlie have any reason to try to kill Reverend Short?' Brody questioned. 'Other than the fact the Reverend was a prophet.'

'No, sir, absolutely not. It was just that Reverend Short had the sense knocked out of him by his fall and didn't know what he was saying.'

'But he and Chink had been arguing earlier.'

'Not really arguing. Reverend Short and him was just disagreeing about the kind of people I had to the wake. But it weren't neither one of them's business.'

'Is there bad blood between Dulcy and Reverend Short?'

'Bad blood? No, sir. It's just that Reverend Short thinks Dulcy needs saving and she just takes every chance to bitch him off. But I suspects he's carrying a secret torch for her, only he's shamed of it 'cause of him being a preacher and she being a married woman.'

'How was the Reverend with Johnny and Val?'

'They all three respected one another's intentions and that's as far as it went.'

'How long was it between the time Dulcy left the house and you went to the window and discovered the body?'

'It wasn't no time at all,' she declared positively. 'She hadn't even had time to get downstairs.'

He asked a few questions about the other mourners, but found no connection with Val.

The he came in from another angle.

'Did you recognize the voice of the man who telephoned you after the body was discovered?'

'No sir. It just sounded distant and fuzzy.'

'But whoever it was knew there was a dead body there in that bread basket?'

'No, sir, it was just like I told you before. Whoever it was wasn't talking about Val. He was talking about Reverend Short. He'd seen the reverend fall and thought he was lying there dead, and that's why he called. I'm sure of that.'

'How could he know he was dead unless he had come close enough to examine him?'

'I don't know, sir. I suppose he just thought he was dead. You'd think anybody was dead who'd fallen out a third-story window, and then lay there without getting up.'

'But according to testimony, Reverend Short did get up and come all the way back upstairs on his own power.'

'Well, I couldn't say how it was. All I know is someone telephoned and when I said he'd been stabbed-Val, I mean-they just hung up as if they might have been surprised.'

'Could it have been Johnny Perry?'

'No, sir, I'm dead certain it wasn't him. And I sure ought to know his voice if anybody does, as long as I've been hearing it.'

'He's your stepson? Or is it your godson?'

'Well, he ain't rightly neither, but we thought of him as a son because when he came out of stir-'

'What stir? Where?'

'In Georgia. He did a stretch on the chain gang.'

'For what?'

'He killed a man for beating his mother-his stepfather. At least she was his common-law wife, his ma, but she was no good and Johnny was always a good boy. They gave him a year on the road.'

'When was that?'

'It was twenty-six years ago when he got out. While he was inside his ma ran off with another man and me and Big Joe was coming North. So we just brought him along with us. He was just twenty years old.'

'That makes him forty-six now.'

'Yes, sir. And Big Joe got him a job on the road.'

'Waiting tables?'

'No, sir, helping in the kitchen. He couldn't wait tables on account of that scar.'

'How'd he get that?'

'On the chain gang. He and another con got to fighting with pickaxes over a card game. Johnny was always hotheaded, and that con had accused him of cheating him out of a nickel. And Johnny was always as honest as the day is long.'

'When did he open his gambling club here?'

'The Tia Juana club? He opened that about ten years ago. Big Joe staked him. But he had another little houserent game he used to run before that.'

'Is that when he married Dulcy-Mrs. Perry-when he opened the Tia Juana club?'

'Oh no-no-no, he just married her a year and a half ago-January second last year, the day after New Year's day. Before then he was married to Alamena.'

'Is he married to Dulcy or just living with her?' The sergeant gave her a confidential look.

Her back stiffened. 'Their marriage is as legal as whisky. Me and Big Joe were the witnesses. They were married in City Hall.'

The sergeant turned a bright fiery red.

Grave Digger said softly, 'Couples do get married in Harlem.'

Sergeant Brody felt himself on bumpy water and took another tack.

'Does Johnny keep much cash on hand?'

'I don't know, sir.'

'In the bank then, or in property? Do you know what property he owns?'

'No, sir. Maybe Big Joe knew, but he never told me.'

He dropped it.

'Do you mind telling me what you and Dulcy-Mrs. Perry-were talking about that was so important you had to lock yourself in the bathroom?'

She hesitated and looked appealingly toward Grave Digger.

He said. 'We're not after Johnny, Aunt Mamie. This has nothing to do with his gambling club or income taxes or anything concerning the Federal government. We're just trying to find out who killed Val.'

'Lord, it's a mystery who'd want to hurt Val. He didn't have an enemy in the world.'

The sergeant let that pass. 'Then it wasn't Val you and Dulcy were talking about?'

'No, sir. I'd just asked her about a run-in Johnny and Chink had at Dickie Wells's last Saturday night.'

'About what? Money? Gambling debts?'

'No, sir. Johnny's crazy jealous of Dulcy-he's going to kill somebody about that gal some day. And Chink imagines he's God's gift to women. He keeps shooting at Dulcy. Folks say he don't mean nothing by it, but-'

'What folks?'

'Well, Val and Alamena and even Dulcy herself. But there ain't no telling what any man means when he keeps after a woman unless it's to get her. And Johnny's so jealous and hot-headed I'm scared to death there's going to be blood trouble.'

'What part did Val play in that?'

'Val. He was always just a peacemaker. 'Course, he was on Johnny's side. He spent most of his time, it looked like, just trying to keep Johnny out of trouble. But he didn't have nothing against Chink, either.'

'Then Johnny's enemies are his enemies, too?'

'No, sir, I wouldn't say that. Val wasn't the kind of person who had enemies. He and Chink always got along fine.'

'Who's Val's woman?'

'He's never had a steady. Not to my knowledge. He just plays the field. I think his latest was Doll Baby. But

Вы читаете A night in a Moorish harem
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату