remember I saw it.”

“On what bureau did you see it? When?”

“In the bedroom. Earlier that same day it was found in the register. His hat badge.”

“That’s bad for him, Li.”

“Yes, bad.”

“What can we do, Li? They have the circumstances for Eugene, the knife for Charlie Burgos. Motive for both, and one killing proves the other.”

“You can do nothing, Dan.”

I heard something in her voice? What? Her voice that dismissed all effort to help Claude. Why?

“If Claude didn’t kill them, Li, he’s being framed. Who by, and why?”

For a moment she didn’t answer me. Then, “His uniform is in our closet. The image of France. I do not know why he kept it. For me, perhaps. I married him in it. Soon after we came here, Viviane asked him to wear it to the shop for Danielle. Once. With its medals, its boots, its beret, its elan. I remember how all the people stared. A French soldier.”

I waited, but that was all. I sensed that she was telling me something. What? I sensed that she was going to do something. What?

“Li? What are you going to do?”

“Wait,” she said. “I am going to wait.”

“Li,” I said, “I’ll go on trying. I’ll work on.”

“Yes,” she said.

The bedroom door was open, the bed ready. I had lost one woman this summer. We were both alone now, but somehow I knew that the bed was not ready for me this time.

“You want me to go, Li?”

She didn’t answer, fading away from me in the hot room, going from translucent to transparent, vanishing. Into another world, an alien world, where I couldn’t follow. Into an alien world where she would do something, but where I did not know what it would be. I sensed her slipping away, and her purpose, and there was nothing I could do except try to prove that Claude Marais was innocent. If he was.


I sensed that if I was going to help Li, I had to do it fast. Prove Claude innocent or guilty once and for all, and fast.

I looked for witnesses. All that evening and night. For anyone who might have seen someone else at the pawn shop on the night Eugene Marais died. For anyone who had seen someone else at the condemned house of Charlie Burgos this morning. I knocked on doors, buttonholed shopkeepers, and all I found was a woman who had seen a man at the condemned building around noon today. A shabby man with one arm. Me.

I couldn’t see Claude Marais until morning. I went home. My five rooms were hot and lonely. The extra loneliness of knowing that someone who had been there often would not be there again.

I sat with a beer and thought about what to do next. I could knock on more doors, ask more questions, go around it all again to see if I could have missed something.

I drank beer, and watched television, and went to bed.

Captain Olsen, Gazzo’s fill-in, was with Lieutenant Marx in his office the next morning. I could talk to Claude Marais at noon, not that it would do me any good.

“Even that lawyer Kandinsky isn’t saying much this time,” Captain Olsen said. “Marais’ll talk soon. They always talk in the end.”

“No confession yet?” I said. “That’s funny, if he wants to be locked up so badly. Leaving that knife and all.”

“You’re saying it’s a frame-up,” Marx said. A statement, not a question. “Marais isn’t saying it’s a frame-up. You’d think he’d be shouting it if he thought it was.”

“Unless,” Captain Olsen said, “you think he’s protecting someone. Maybe you think that, Fortune? Who could it be?”

I leaned on the wall of the office, but I was alert. Were they playing with me? Or did they know something?

“Who would he protect?” I said.

“Yeh, who?” Marx said. “We’ve booked Manet for not reporting. We’ll drop the robbery, make it obstructing in a murder. He’s going to know what it’s really like being a prisoner after all. The report came from Paris, it fits. They don’t much like it over there. The French won’t defend Manet this time.”

“We like our people all to be heroes,” I said.

Captain Olsen said, “The wife, maybe? Or the sister-in-law, Viviane Marais? Or the girl, Danielle? Claude might try to protect them. The trouble is, we can’t think of any motives for them to have killed Eugene Marais at all.”

“That knife,” I said, “it bothers you. So stupid.”

“We’ve got to believe it, though,” Captain Olsen said.

“A half-crazy killer,” Marx said. “War experiences.”

“You’ll convince a jury,” I said. “If it’s a frame-up, it’s a very good one.”

“We don’t want to convince a jury,” Marx said.

Captain Olsen was going to add something, maybe about who they did want to convince, but I never knew what it was. The telephone rang. Marx listened. First idly, then with a frown, then alert. He said, “Yes,” and hung up. He stood up.

“The wife,” Marx said. “That was some priest. Noyoda, or something like that. He says the wife, Li Marais, is down on the steps of his temple. She’s going to burn herself on his temple steps!”

I saw her, Li, from three blocks away. Lieutenant Marx cursed at his driver to go faster through the narrow Chinatown street that was clotted with traffic. The driver swore back, inched along the street blocked by the cars, pushcarts, and people of Chinatown.

I watched only Li Marais in the distance. Alone on the three steps of the Buddhist temple.

I could see her clear. The block of the temple as empty as the next block was crowded. A deserted street in front of the temple in the distance, the people gathered a hundred feet away on either side-from fear or respect I never would know.

She was a tiny, distant figure all in yellow. Saffron yellow. A kneeling doll in a saffron robe, her head down in prayer or meditation or both. What did it matter?

We were still two blocks away, blocked in the traffic and crowd, when I saw her tiny yellow figure move.

“Li!” I shouted. A shout into the wind.

The flames exploded around her. In the distance on those temple steps she was engulfed in flames in a second.

“Gasoline,” the driver said. “Christ.”

“God damn!” Marx said.

We got out and ran. The last two blocks. We ran, knocking people away, but even the last small flames were fading by the time we reached her.

Lieutenant Marx went to her. She was dead. Only the black, charred shape of what had been one small woman. A human being.

Marx went to her, I couldn’t. For her last words to me? What was Dan Fortune to her? There were no words anyway. There wouldn’t have been even if a spark of life had still been in her. Li Marais had said all that she had to say.

Marx cursed his driver, sent him for the ambulance. It couldn’t help, but Marx had to do something. She had done her work too well. Perhaps she had cheated just a little. She had been away from the Orient and Buddha a long time. A small poison pill to make it quicker? I hoped she had.

The priest, Noyoda, stood over her with us. Some of the people were down on their knees now. Marx swore

Вы читаете Shadow of a Tiger
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату