The Lemur

Benjamin Black



The researcher was a very tall, very thin young man with a head too small for his frame and an Adam’s apple the size of a golf ball. He wore rimless spectacles the lenses of which were almost invisible, the shine of the glass giving an extra luster to his large, round, slightly bulging black eyes. A spur of blond hair sprouted from his chin, and his brow, high and domed, was pitted with acne scars. His hands were slender and pearly-pale, with long, tapering fingers-a girl’s hands, or at least the hands a girl should have. Even though he was sitting down, the crotch of his baggy jeans sagged halfway to his knees. His none too clean T-shirt bore the legend Life Sucks and Then You Die. He looked about seventeen but must be, John Glass guessed, in his late twenties, at least. With that long neck and little head and those big, shiny eyes, he bore a strong resemblance to one of the more exotic rodents, though for the moment Glass could not think which one.

His name was Dylan Riley. Of course, Glass thought, he would be a Dylan.

“So,” Riley said, “you’re married to Big Bill’s daughter.”

He was lounging in a black-leather swivel chair in Glass’s borrowed office on the north-facing side of Mulholland Tower. Behind him, through a wall of plate glass, gray Manhattan sulked steamily under a drifting pall of April rain.

“Does that seem funny to you?” Glass inquired. He had an instinctive dislike of people who wore T-shirts with smart things written on them.

Dylan Riley snickered. “Not funny, no. Surprising. I wouldn’t have picked you as one of Big Bill’s people.”

Glass decided to let that go. He had begun to breathe heavily through his nostrils, hisss- hiss, hisss -hiss, always a warning sign.

“Mister Mulholland,” Glass said heavily, “is eager that I have all the facts, and that I have them the right way round.”

Riley smiled his goofy smile and swiveled the chair first to one side and then the other, nodding happily. “All the facts,” he said, “sure.” He seemed to be enjoying himself.

“Yes,” Glass said with stony emphasis, “all the facts. That’s why I’m hiring you.”

In one corner of the office there was a big square metal desk, and Glass went now and sat down carefully behind it. He felt less panicstricken sitting down. The office was on the thirty-ninth floor. It was absurd to be expected to conduct business-to do anything-at such a height. On his first day there he had edged up to the plate- glass wall and peered down to see, a couple of floors below, fluffy white clouds that looked like soft icebergs sailing sedately across a submerged city. Now he put his hands flat on the desk before him as if it were a raft he was trying to hold steady. He very much needed a cigarette.

Dylan Riley had turned the chair around to face the desk. Glass was sure the young man could sense how dizzy and sick he felt, perched up here in this crystal-and-steel eyrie.

“Anyway,” Glass said, moving his right hand in a wide arc across the desktop as if to sweep the subject aside; the gesture made him think of footage of Richard Nixon, sweating on the evening news all those years ago, insisting he was not a crook. The studios were so harshly lit in those days of paranoia and recrimination they had made pretty well everyone look like a villain in an old Eastmancolor movie. “I should tell you,” Glass said, “that Mr. Mulholland will give you no assistance. And I don’t want you to approach him. Don’t call, don’t write. Understand?”

Riley smirked and bit his lower lip, which made him look all the more like-what was it? A squirrel? No. Close, but no. “You haven’t told him,” Riley said, “have you. About me, I mean.”

Glass ignored that. “I’m not asking you to be a muckraker,” he said. “I don’t expect Mr. Mulholland to have guilty secrets. He was an undercover agent, but he’s not a crook, in case you think I think he is.”

“No,” Riley said, “he’s your father-in-law.”

Glass was breathing heavily again. “That’s something I’d like you to forget about,” he said, “when you come to do your researches.” He sat back on his chair and studied the young man. “How will you go about it-researching, I mean?”

Riley laced his long pale fingers over his concave stomach and this time rocked himself gently backward and forward in the swivel chair, making the ball-and-socket mechanism underneath the seat squeal tinily, eek, eek.

“Well,” Riley said with a smirk, “let’s say I go way beyond Wikipedia.”

“But you’ll use… computers, and so on?” Glass did not possess even a cell phone.

“Oh, yes, computers,” Riley said, making his big eyes bigger still, mocking the older man, “all sorts of wizard gadgets, don’t you know.”

Glass wondered if that was supposed to be a British accent. Did Riley think he was English? Well, let him.

He imagined lighting up: the match flaring, the lovely tang of sulphur, and then the harsh smoke searing his throat.

“I want to ask you something,” Riley said, thrusting his pinhead forward on its tall stalk of neck. “Why did you agree to it?”


“To write Big Bill’s biography.”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” Glass said sharply. He looked out at the misty rain. He had moved permanently from Dublin to New York six months previously, he had an apartment on Central Park West and a house on Long Island-or at least his wife had-yet he had still not got used to what he thought of as the New York Jeer. The fellow on the street corner selling you a hot dog would say, “Thanks, bud,” and manage to make it sound merrily derisive. How did they keep it going, this endless, amused, argumentative squaring up to each other and everyone else?

“Tell me,” he said, “what you know about Mr. Mulholland.”

“For free?” Riley grinned again, then leaned back and looked at the ceiling, fingering the tuft of hair on his chin. “William ‘Big Bill’ Mulholland. South Boston Irish, second generation. Father ran off when wee Willie was a kid, mother took in laundry, scrubbed floors. In school William got straight As, impressed the priests, was an altar boy, the usual. Tough, though-any pedophile cleric coming near Bill Mulholland would likely have lost his balls. Put himself through Boston College. Engineering. At college was recruited into the CIA, became a working operative in the late forties. Electronic surveillance was his specialty. Korea, Latin America, Europe, Vietnam. Then he had a run-in with James Jesus Angleton over Angleton’s obsessive distrust of the French-Big Bill was posted to the Company’s Paris bureau at the time. In those days one did not incur the displeasure”-again that hopeless attempt at a British accent-“of James Jesus without getting cut off at the knees, which is what would have happened to Bill Mulholland if he hadn’t got out before Angleton could give him the shove, or worse. That was the late sixties.”

He pushed himself up out of the chair, unwinding himself like a fakir’s rope, and shambled to the glass wall and stood looking out, his hands thrust into the back pockets of his jeans. He went on: “After he left the Company, Big Bill got into the then-blossoming communications business, where he put his training as a spook to good use when he set up Mulholland Cable and right away began to make shitloads of money. It wasn’t until twenty years later that he had to bring in his protege Charlie Varriker to save the firm from going bust.” He paused, and without turning said: “You’ll know about Big Bill’s matrimonial adventures, I guess? In 1949 he married the world’s most famous redhead, Vanessa Lane, Hollywood actress, if that’s the word, and in 1949 the marriage was duly dissolved”-now he grinned over his shoulder at Glass-“ain’t love just screwy?”

He went back to contemplating the misted city and was silent for a moment, thinking. “You know,” he said, “he’s such a CIA cliche I wonder if the CIA didn’t invent him. Look at his next marriage, in ’58, to Claire Thorpington Eliot, of the Boston Eliots-that was some step up the social ladder for Billy the Kid from Brewster Street. He had, as

Вы читаете The Lemur
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату