The Green Ripper
I had parked Miss Agnes two blocks away. An electric-blue Rolls hand-hewn into a pickup truck seemed too conspicuous and frivolous for a memorial service for my dead.
After we got in and I waited for the chance to move out from the curb, Meyer said, ‘~id it go all right? Did he pick the right things to read?”
“It was fine.”
“I tried to ask you ahead of time, but I couldn’t seem to get through.”
“It was fine.”
I thought of the fine running we had done, Gretel and I, on the beach near the shack where her brother was living. I thought of making love with her on the sun deck at dusk, in a hard warm summer rain. I had never really told her how much it all meant. There was going to be plenty of time for that. All the rest of her life. I could make a list of the things we were going to talk about someday. When we had the time.
“Good turnout,” Meyer said.
“For God’s sake!”
“So I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
I wanted to apologize, but couldn’t find the right way to begin, and so the rest of the ride was silent. He sat beside me like a gloomy bear. I knew his feelings weren’t hurt. He was sad because I had lost Gretel, and because we had lost Gretel.
‘A picked out an urn,” he said, as we pulled into the parking place. ‘Nothing ornate. Bronze, though. Seventy-two something, including talc. He wrapped it up in a box and brown paper, ready for mailing.”
‘A might take it out there.”
“I told him you might do that,” he said. “I’ve got the box at my place. 1,11 bring it over. Unless you’d like to have me go on out there with you.”
‘All let you know, Meyer. Keep it for now. And thanks.”
He headed over to the newsstand to see if his copy of Barron’s had come in, and I walked back to The Busted Flush, anxious to get out of the suit and get the necktie off. And anxious to see how much Boodles gin I could fit into a king-size old- fashioned glass.
Two men had boarded my houseboat. They were on my little back porch aft the lounge, one sitting on a folding stool, the other leaning against the rail. They were of a size and age, middle height, middle forties, a tailored three-piece gray suit, with white shirt, black shoes, blue necktie with a white figure; a tailored three-plece chocolate-brown suit, with white shirt, brown shoes, tan necktie with a small figure. Gray Suit wore a gray tweed snapbrim hat, and Brown Suit wore a dark brown hound’s-tooth tweed hat. Soft jowls, pale faces, horn-rim glasses on one, metal-rim glasses on the other. One stood up and the other pushed off from the rail as I came aboard.
The Green Ripper
“Mr. McGee?” said Gray Suit.
The brain is a swift and subtle computer. I have perhaps become more sensitive the clues which exist in mannerisms, stance, expression, hand gestures, and dress than most people. If you are in a line of work where a bad guess can give you a pair of broken elbows, you tend to become a quick study.
They were not going to try to sell me anything. They did not have the twinkle, the up-front affability. They were not here to enforce one of the idiot rules of a bureaucracy that grows like high-speed cancer. They did not have that look of fatuous satisfacffon and autocratic, patronizing indifference of fellows who come to tell you that you forgot to file Form Z-2324, as amended. Or to tell you that you can’t cut down your pine tree without enlisting the services of an approved, accredited, licensed tree surgeon.
They looked important. As if they had come to buy the marina and put up a research institute.. Lawyers? Executives? They were not very fit. They moved heavily. They looked out of place aboard my houseboat, as if it was a little closer to the out- door life than they cared to be.
“I am not exactly cheered up by people coming aboard without being asked,” I said.