“It would go a long way toward finding the key,” the bellboy said. “But a swim, this time of night…?”

“It’s my hour,” said Constance.

Five minutes later the lights came on in the pool and I sat there and watched Constance dive in and swim twenty laps, on occasion swimming underwater from one end to the other without coming up for air.

When she came out, ten minutes later, she was gasping and red-faced and I cloaked her in a big towel and held her.

“When do you start crying?” I said, at last.

“Dummy,” she said. “I just did. If you can’t do it in the ocean, a pool’s fine. If you don’t have a pool, hit the shower. You can scream and yell and sob all you want, and it doesn’t bother anyone, the world never hears. Ever think of that?”

“I never thought,” said I, in awe.

At four o’clock in the morning, Constance found me in our bungalow bathroom, standing and staring at the shower. “Hit it,” she said, gently. “Go on. Give it a try.” I got in and turned the water on, hard.

At eleven in the morning, we motored through Venice and looked at the canals with a thin layer of green slime on their surface, and passed the half-torn-down pier and looked at some gulls soaring in the fog up there, and no sun yet, and the surf so quiet it was like muffled black drums.

“Screw this,” said Constance. “Flip a nickel. Heads we go north to Santa Barbara. Tails, south to Tijuana.”

“I don’t have a nickel,” I said.

“Christ.” Constance grubbed in her purse and took out a quarter and tossed it in the air. “Tails!”

We were in Laguna by noon, no thanks to the highway patrol that somehow missed us.

We sat out in the open air on a cliff overlooking the beach at Victor Hugo’s and had double margaritas.

“You ever see Now, Voyager?”

“Ten times,” I said.

“This is where Bette Davis and Paul Henried sat having a love lunch early in the film. This was the location, back in the early Forties. You’re sitting in the very chair where Henried put his behind.”

We were in San Diego by three and outside the bullring in Tijuana just at the hour of four.

“Think you can stand this?” asked Constance.

“I can only try,” I said.

We made it through the third bull and came out into the late-afternoon light and had two more margaritas and a good Mexican dinner before we went north and drove out onto the island and sat in the sunset at the Hotel del Coronado. We didn’t say anything, but just watched the sun go down, lighting the old Victorian towers and fresh-painted white sidings of the hotel with pink color.

Along the way home we swam in the surf at Del Mar, wordless and, from time to time, hand in hand.

At midnight we were in front of Crumley’s jungle compound.

“Marry me,” said Constance.

“Next time I live,” I said.

“Yeah. Well, that’s not bad. Tomorrow.”

When she was gone I walked up the jungle path.

“Where have you been?” said Crumley, in the door.

“Uncle Wiggily says go back three hops,” I said.

“The Skeezix and the Pipsisewah say come in,” said Crumley.

The something cold in my hand was a beer.

“Lord,” he said, “you look terrible. Come here.”

He gave me a hug. I didn’t think a man like Crumley ever hugged anyone, not even a woman.

“Be careful,” I said, “I’m made out of glass.”

“I heard this morning, friend of mind down in Central. I’m sorry, kid. I know she was a close friend. You got that list with you?”

We were out in the jungle with just the crickets sounding and Segovia, lost inside the house, playing a lament for some day a long time past when the sun stayed up for forty-eight hours in Seville.

I found my dumb list crumpled in my pocket and handed it over. “How come you want to see?”

“All of a sudden, I don’t know,” said Crumley. “You made me curious.”

He sat down and began to read:

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray