cover the sounds-then the punch line. Delgado, covered from head to toe with vomit, jumps out of the trunk, gun drawn, and runs into the mountain cabin to arrest the counterfeiter. When it was over, even he had laughed at Delgado's strange appearance.

They chuckled. Delgado slapped Carr on the back. 'Charlie, you're one of the best undercover men in Treasury. For twenty years you've made cases that others couldn't make. The counterfeiters fear you. You're known as the Snake out there. He sipped a fresh Scotch-and-milk. 'But guys like you and me have to move along in life…Do you know what I'm saying?'

'Not exactly,' Carr said. I'm going to make you say it, he thought.

'I'm telling you the powers-that-be are saying that Charlie the Snake should accept his rightful senior agent status like the others of his vintage and come out of the street. I mean why the hell should you still be out there booting doors, covering buys, taking chances every goddamn day? In that, I agree with what they are saying.'

Ling served Carr's seventh Scotch-and-water with a 'here comes joke' leer, and said something about Carr's needing to find a new girlfriend since Rose the cocktail waitress was on vacation at Lake Arrowhead. Carr forced a smile. Ling returned to a sink at the other end of the bar and continued scrubbing glasses.

'I guess you know that I'm in charge of the shooting investigation,' Delgado said. 'That's why they sent me out here.'

Carr took a long pull from the drink. 'What have they decided to do with me?'

Delgado paused before answering. 'Charlie, you know I'm just the one who coordinates the interviews and writes the final report. I can make a recommendation, but what happens in the end is up to the people at headquarters.'

'Hogwash,' Carr said matter-of-factly. 'The Ivory Tower has already decided what they're going to do. Your report will be justification for it. I want to know what's going to happen to me.'

Delgado looked at his drink sadly. 'They're going to transfer you on the next list. Of course you'll be able to get your choice of offices… I can help with that.'

Carr spoke to Delgado's reflection in the bar mirror. 'Hold up the transfer until I find who killed Rico.'

'You know how headquarters is…'

Carr turned to face the other man. 'To hell with headquarters. I'm not taking a transfer until this thing is over.'

'No, sir, the years haven't changed Charlie Carr.' Delgado sipped his drink. He rubbed his stomach.

Carr felt uneasy. He wished he'd been less direct.

'Charlie, what are your ideas on how the investigation should go?' Delgado said at last.

'If Rico's murder had made the papers,' Carr said, 'we might never find the killer. Luckily, there's been no publicity, so the killer must believe he murdered a hood. He must figure that the cops have nothing to go on except the body of a thief in a motel room. I say that's what we want him to think. Let him believe he killed a hood rather than a cop. Our only chance to bag him is if he tries it again.'

Delgado nodded and ordered more drinks.

At 1:30 A.M. Ling began wiping up the bar and locking liquor cabinets. He yammered something about closing time.

'I guess you were pretty close to the young fellow,' said Delgado in a soft tone.

Carr cleared his throat twice. 'You would have liked him. He was one-hundred-percent T-man. He could have become an inspector like you someday. He could smell green ink a mile away.' He spoke imploringly, as if the inspector had the power to change what had happened.

'I'm going to lay my cards on the table,' Delgado said, with open palms. 'I want the killer caught one way or the other. You know what I mean by that. On the other hand, I don't want to see you end up in Leavenworth in his place.'

Delgado got off his barstool, rushed his drink to his mouth, and swallowed. He looked at Carr. 'I can postpone your transfer for a few weeks. It's against policy, but I've got my years in and there's not a hell of a lot they can do to me at this point. I'll use the argument that you are the only one who saw the killer and can identify him. All I'm asking you to do is keep your head. I want your word you will keep your head.'

Carr, sober, looked him in the eye. 'You have my word.'

'Ling, two more for the road,' Delgado said.

'I'll also give you my word on something else,' said Carr. 'I'm going to find the one who did it and put him in a box.'

Delgado acted as if he hadn't heard the remark.

Carr pushed the buzzer under the name Sally Malone and waited. He was prepared for her not to let him in.

Seconds later, the door buzzed open. He walked upstairs to her apartment. The door was ajar and he walked in almost cautiously. The living room was neat-as-a-pin Mediterranean, with lots of carved wood and modern-art prints. The place was as immaculate as her desk in judge Malcolm's courtroom.

Sally was standing at the stove stirring mushrooms with a wooden spoon, her back to him. She wore a robe that barely touched her knees.

'Look who's here,' she said without turning around. Her voice was soft, almost inaudible, as always.

Carr sat down at the kitchen table and drummed his fingers. Sally stopped stirring, poured a Scotch-and- water and plunked it down in front of him.

'You know this is the first time I have seen you in three weeks,' she said after returning to the stove. Admiring her gray-streaked hair and tanned athletic features, Carr thought she looked much more like a dance instructor than a stenographer. They had met because she had asked him to lunch, during a counterfeiting trial. He remembered waiting for her to call him the next week, as sort of a people experiment. He finally had to call her. Later, she said she would never have called him for the second date. He always wondered…

'You know how busy…' he said.

She turned and faced him. 'How busy can someone be!' she interrupted in an angry whisper. 'Can you really be so busy that we only see each other once a month? … Twelve times a year? The same thing is happening to us again, and I, for one, should know better. Sometimes I can't believe I have known you for eight years.'

'It's not like I intentionally didn't call you,' Carr said. 'You know that.' He realized it was a dumb thing to say as soon as the words left his mouth.

'I know exactly why you didn't call! You and that crude Jack Kelly are like children who forget what time it is when they're playing. You get a charge out of arresting people and all the crap that goes with it. You are a forty-five-year-old Boy Scout! You like the danger or something. I don't understand you… Did you know that we both live in apartments in Santa Monica and see each other once a month? Oh, hell, what's the use!'

She turned back toward the stove, picked up the frying pan, and dumped the mushrooms into the sink. She washed the pan furiously. Nothing was said for a few minutes.

'Did you know the young undercover man who was killed? I heard the judge talking about it.' Her tone was sour.

'Yes,' murmured Carr. He sipped his drink.

Sally finished up at the stove and placed the utensils in the sink. She grabbed the edge of the kitchen counter with tier hands and stood with her head down.

Carr looked at his watch. 'I thought we could go to a movie tonight,' he said politely.

'Jesus,' she said, shaking her head. 'No communication whatsoever. Why can't you talk to me? I heard you were there when it happened. Can't you at least share that with me? Sometimes when I am around you I feel absolutely alone, as if I'm talking to…'

Carr stood up and walked toward the door.

'Please don't leave right now,' Sally said.

Quietly, Carr followed her into the bedroom.

It was the usual sex scene: the almost perfunctory kisses, clothes in neat separate piles, thrusting tongues, moans of love, her fingernails in the usual place on his shoulders, Carr delaying his orgasm until the proper time…Then the whispers.

'I have two tickets to a charity brunch at Marina Del Rey tomorrow morning,' she said. 'The judge gave them to me. It should be a real nice affair.' She got up from the bed and put on a robe. Her eyes sought his

Вы читаете Money Men
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату