“Someone stole the head off this picture. When Cal saw that, he knew someone was on to him, the jig was up, and got out of town.”

“That’s not murder,” said Crumley.

“Same as,” I said.

“Same as pigs flying and turkeys getting carbuncles tap-dancing. Next case, as they say in court.”

“Someone gave Sam too much booze and killed him. Someone turned Jimmy over in the bathtub to drown. Someone called the police on Pietro and he was hauled away and that will finish him. Someone stood over the canary lady and very simply scared her to death. Someone shoved that old man into the lion cage.”

“Got some further coroner’s reports on him,” said Crumley. “Blood was full of gin.”

“Right. Someone soused him, knocked him on the head, pulled him into the canal, already dead, shoved him behind bars, came out, and walked to his car or his apartment somewhere in Venice, all wet, but who would notice a wet man, no umbrella, in a storm?”

“Shoat. No, let me use a dirtier word, shirt. You couldn’t buy a judge doughnuts and Java with this garage sale of yours, buster. People die. Accidents happen. Motive, damn it, motive. All you got is that rummy song, last night I saw upon the stair, a little man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. My God, I wish he’d go away! Think. If this so-called killer exists, there’s only one person we know who’s been around it all. You.”

“Me? You don’t think…”

“No, and calm down. Avert those big pink rabbity eyes. Jesus, let me go find something.”

Crumley walked over to a bookshelf on one side of his kitchen (there were books in every room of his house) and grabbed down a thick volume.

He tossed Shakespeare’s Collected Plays on the kitchen table.

“Meaningless malignity,” he said.


“Shakespeare’s full of it, you’re full of it, me, everyone. Meaningless malignity. Don’t that have a ring? It means someone running around doing lousy things, a bastard, for no reason. Or none we can figure.”

“People don’t run around being sons-of-bitches for no reason.”

“God.” Crumley snorted gently. “You’re naive. Half the cases we handle over at the station are guys gunning red lights to kill pedestrians, or beating up their wives, or shooting friends, for reasons they can’t recall. The motives are there, sure, but buried so deep it would take nitro to blast them out. And if there is a guy like the one you’re trying to find with your beer reason and whiskey logic, there’s no way to find him. No motives, no root systems, no clues. He’s walking about scot-free and unencumbered unless you can connect the ankle-bone to the legbone to the kneebone to the thighbone.”

Crumley, looking happy, sat down, poured more coffee.

“Ever stop to think,” he said, “there are no toilets in graveyards?”

My jaw dropped. “Boy! I never thought of that! No need for restrooms out among the tombstones. Unless! Unless you’re writing an Edgar Allan Poe tale and a corpse gets up at midnight and has to go.”

“You going to write that? Jesus, here I am, giving away ideas.”


“Here it comes,” he sighed, pushing his chair back.

“You believe in hypnotism? Mind regression?”

“You’re already regressed…”

“Please.” I gathered my spit. “I’m going nuts. Regress me. Shove me back!”

“Holy Moses.” Crumley was on his feet, emptying the coffee and grabbing beer out of the icebox. “Outside the nut farm, where do you want to be sent?”

“I’ve met the murderer, Crumley. Now I want to meet him again. I tried to ignore him because he was drunk. He was behind me on that last big red train to the sea that night I found the old man dead in the lion cage.”

“No proof.”

“Something he said was proof, but I’ve forgotten. If you could ticket me back, let me ride that train again in the storm, and listen for his voice, then I’d know who it is and the killings would stop. Don’t you want them to?”

“Sure, and after I talk you back with a hypnotic dog act and you bark the results, I go arrest the killer, hmm? Come along now, bad man, my friend the writer heard your voice in a hypnotic seance and that’s more than proof. Here are the handcuffs. Snap ’em on!”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106

Categories: Bradbury, Ray