I dressed and ran out to the shoreline. I took a deep breath, then stared south.

Far away down the coast, all of the windows in Constance Rattigan’s Moorish fort were brightly lit.

Constance, I thought. Fannie won’t like this.


And then I really ran.

I came in from the surf, like Death himself. Every light in Constance’s place was burning, and every door stood wide open, as if she had opened them all to let nature and the world and night and the wind in to clean her place while she was gone.

And she was gone.

I knew without even going in her place, because there was a long line of her footprints coming down to the tideline where I stopped and looked to see where they went in the water, but never came out.

I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I wasn’t surprised. I walked up to her wide-open front door and didn’t call, or almost called for her chauffeur and laughed to think I might have been so foolish, and went in without touching anything. The phonograph was playing in the Arabian parlor. Dance music by Ray Noble, from London, in 1934, some Noel Coward tunes. I let the music play. The projector was on, mindlessly whirling its reel, the film done, the white light of the bulb staring at the blank front wall. I didn’t think to turn it off. A bottle of Moe’t et Chandon stood iced and waiting, as if she had gone down to the sea expecting to bring some golden god of the deep back with her.

Cheeses were laid out on a plate on a pillow, along with a shaker of martinis, getting watery. The Duesenberg was in the garage and the footprints still lay in the sand, going only one way. I telephoned Crumley, and congratulated myself on not crying just yet, feeling numb.

“Crumley?” I said into the telephone.

“Crumley. Crum,” I said.

“Child of the night,” he said. “You bet on another wrong horse again?”

I told him where I was.

“I can’t walk very well.” I sat down suddenly, clenching the phone. “Come get me.”

Crumley met me on the shore.

We stood looking up at that Arabian fort all brightly lit like a festive tent in the middle of a desert of sand. The door opening out on the shore was still wide and the music was playing inside, a stack of records that seemed never to want to stop dropping. It was “Lilac Time,” then it was “Diane,” then it was “Ain’t She Sweet?” followed by “Hear My Song of the Nile” and then “Pagan Love Song.” I expected Ramon Novarro to show up at any moment, run in, and come out wild haired and mad of eye, rushing down to the shore.

“But there’s just me and Crumley.”


“I didn’t know I was thinking out loud,” I apologized.

We trudged up the shore.

“You touch anything?”

“Only the phone.”

When we reached the door I let him go in and prowl through the house and come out.

“Where’s the chauffeur?”

“That’s something else I never told you. There never was one.”


I told him about Constance Rattigan and her role playing.

“She was her own all-star cast, huh? Jesus. Louder and funnier, as they say.”

We went back out to stand on the wind-blown porch to look at the footprints that were beginning to blow away.

“Could be suicide,” said Crumley.

“Constance wouldn’t do that.”

“Christ, you’re so godawful sure about people. Why don’t you grow up? Just because you like someone doesn’t mean they can’t take the big jump without you.”

“There was someone on the shore, waiting for her.”


We followed Constance’s single line of prints down to the surf.

“He was standing over there.” I pointed. “Two nights. I saw him.”

“Swell. Ankle deep in water. So no prints for the killer. What else you want to show me, son?”

“Someone called me an hour ago, woke me up, told me to come along the beach. That someone knew her house was empty or soon going to be.”

“Phone call, huh? Swell again. Now you’re ankle deep in water and no prints. That the whole story?”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray