My cheeks must have reddened. He saw that I had been telling a half-truth. I didn’t want to admit I hadn’t answered the phone the last time, but ran down the beach on a terrible hunch.

“At least you got integrity, scribe.” Crumley looked at the white waves combing in, then at the footprints, then at the house, white, cold, and empty in the middle of the night. “You know what integrity means? Based on the word integers. Numbers. Integrity means to add up. Has nothing to do with virtue. Hitler had integrity. Zero plus zero plus zero makes zero, no score. Phone calls and footprints underwater and blind hunches and dopey faith. These late-night shootings are beginning to tell on me. That about do it?”

“No, damn it. I’ve got a real, live suspect. Constance recognized him. I did, too, went to see him. Find out where he was tonight, you got the killer! You…”

I lost control of my voice. I had to take my glasses off and wipe the tiny wet salt-marks off so I could see.

Crumley patted my cheek and said, “Hey, don’t. How do you know this guy, whoever he is, didn’t take her in the water and…”

“Drown her!”

“Swim with her, talk nice, and they swam north one hundred yards and walked back to his place. For all you know, she’ll be dragging home at dawn with a funny smile on her face.”

“No,” I said.

“What, am I spoiling the mysterious romance of all this for you?”


But he could tell I was uncertain.

He touched my elbow. “What else haven’t you said?”

“Constance mentioned she had some real estate not far from here, down the coast.”

“You sure she didn’t just go there tonight? If what you say’s true, what if she got spooked, pulled up stakes?”

“Her limousine’s still here.”

“People walk, you know. You do it all the time. Lady could walk a mile south, spooked, in an inch of water, and us no wiser.”

I looked south to see if I could see a beautiful lady, escaped along the strand.

“Thing is,” said Crumley, “we got nothing to go on. Empty house. Old records playing. No suicide note. No sign of violence. We got to wait for her to come back. And if she doesn’t, there’s still no case, no corpus delicti. I bet you a bucket of beer she’ll…”

“Let me take you to the upstairs apartment at the carousel tomorrow. When you see that strange man’s face…”

“God. Do you mean who I think you mean?”

I nodded.

“The airy-fairy?” said Crumley. “The fag?”

There was a tremendous flop in the water just then.

We both jumped.

“Jesus, what was that?” cried Crumley, peering out over the midnight waters.

Constance, I thought, coming back.

I stared and at last said, “Seals. They do come and play out there.”

There was a series of small flops and splashes which faded as some sea creature departed in darkness.

“Hell,” said Crumley.

“The projector’s still running there in the parlor,” I said. “Phonograph’s still playing. Oven’s on in the kitchen, something baking. And all the lights in all the rooms.”

“Let’s shut some off before the damn place burns down.”

We followed Constance Rattigan’s footprints back up to her fortress of white light.

“Hey,” whispered Crumley. He stared at the eastern horizon. “What’s that?”

There was a faint band of cold light there.

“Dawn,” I said. “I thought it would never come.”

Constance Rattigan’s footprints blew away off the sand in the dawn wind. And Mr. Shapeshade came along the shore, looking back over his shoulder, cans of film under his arms. Far off there, at this very moment, his movie house was being trashed by huge steel-toothed monsters that had risen, summoned by real estate speculators, out of the sea.

When Shapeshade saw me and Crumley standing on Constance Rattigan’s front porch, he blinked at our faces and then at the sand and then at the ocean. We didn’t have to tell him anything, our faces were that pale.

“She’ll be back,” he said again and again, “she’ll be back. Constance wouldn’t go away. My God, who would I run films with, who? She’ll be back, sure!” His eyes spilled over.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray