He turned his head to bestow a sideways glance at the terrible thing that lay on the ground. Now the sky had grown dark enough that Murray’s flashlight when he switched it on made a noticeable circle of brightness enclosing the dead face.
“Never seen him anywhere, dead or alive,” Jubal reiterated.
Now it seemed that the real decision had already been made, somehow, and the two security men concentrated on technical details. They could do the hushing-up fairly readily; there seemed no chance that the victim had been any kind of a celebrity. But whoever he really was…
“We can’t just bury him like a dead dog,” said Oscar the helper, as if feeling last minute qualms.
The captain shook his. head. “I’m not thinking we’ll bury him at all. I think it wouldn’t do him any harm to be found beside a highway somewhere, a good long ways from San Simeon.”
Oscar began to nod. Explain to him what the job was, and he could do it. “We’ll get an old piece of canvas to wrap him in.”
Jubal thought that wrapping-up would be a job, with the man’s arms sticking out stiff the way they were. But such details weren’t Jubal’s problem.
Meanwhile the captain was going on with his plan, “Then we’ll back a truck around down there below these bushes.” He made vague circular gestures, aiming downhill. “Load him in the cab, take him down to the highway, go well past the village. Drop him off somewhere, far enough away so there’s nothing to connect him with San Simeon. He’s got his money still in his pocket, and the cops won’t be looking for any robbers. Accidental death.”
“What about his revolver, Chief? Looks like a Smith & Wesson, don’t it?”
“No, I don’t care what it is. I don’t want it on me, or on you. I don’t want it found anywhere near San Simeon. Everything that’s his goes with him.”
“Okay, boss,” said the helper.
“Even his money, hear?”
Pulling out a clean and neatly folded handkerchief, Murray used it carefully to pick the gun out of the long grass and tuck it away in one of the side pockets of the dead man’s leather jacket.
Presently Jubal returned to his elegant room in the guest house called Casa del Mar, leaving the stiffened corpse in what seemed Security’s capable hands. After washing up a bit, he went to Casa Grande, managing to enter the refectory almost unnoticed, though he was somewhat late. Since dinner tonight, like most meals, was served buffet style, his tardiness was less conspicuous than it might have been.
Jubal saw his parents at dinner, but as usual conducted most of his conversation with Esther, who sat beside him. After dessert tonight, the two young people along with most of the other guests went to the movie. The Last Outpost, starring Cary Grant.
Later, Jubal heard that Flynn and Niven had missed the show.
His parents had the bedroom next to his, which in the daytime afforded them unsurpassed views of the sea, beyond a mile or so of declining slopes.
When the movie was over, and people were generally turning in for the night, Jubal tapped on their door to say good night before heading for his own bed.
“Have fun today, Jube?” his mother asked.
“Sure, it was all right.”
Speaking simultaneously, they both asked him what he had thought of the movie.
“It was all right.”
His father, taking off his reading glasses to wipe them, grumbled, “I understood it a lot better than last night’s show. For some reason, they moved the whole Charge of the Light Brigade from the Crimea all the way to India. Hollywood!”
Jubal’s mother had just about zero interest in the Light Brigade or where they ought to charge. She asked, “How are you getting along with that Summerson girl? You seemed to be talking to her nicely at dinner.”
“Okay. We were swimming early this morning. Then this evening we shot pool and walked over to look at the animals again.”
“What kind of suit did she wear?” asked Jubal’s mother, yawning in her dressing gown, putting down her magazine.
“When you were swimming.”
Jubal’s dad put in, “I guess if Jube didn’t notice her suit, there must have been enough of it.” His mother half-seriously swatted at her husband with the magazine.
“Her suit was yellow,” Jubal said. “It looked kind of old-fashioned.”
“Good.” Mother was reassured. “Everyone knows old W.R’s a little prudish, but that’s not a bad attitude to take, these days.”
Father put in, “He has these parties almost every weekend, well, half the time anyway, and I’m sure he’s determined there are going to be no scandals coming out of them.”
Jubal nodded as he listened, putting on his face the look that said he was earnestly absorbing information. Privately he was trying to picture to himself what Mrs. Hearst looked like, and what she was doing in New York. She and W.R. were said to have five grown sons. And Jubal was wondering to himself just how big a scandal it would be if prudish old W.R.’s wife walked in on one of his famous prudish weekends and found him with his mistress. But it wasn’t hard to figure out that that just wasn’t going to happen.
When Jubal turned out the light in his room, he was vaguely worried about bad dreams, but his sleep turned out to be sound and uninterrupted. The remainder of Saturday night passed without any general alarm being sounded because of a dead body. Certainly the Enchanted Hill got no visit from the police.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, hours after Captain Murray had presumably disposed of the mysterious dead man, Jubal looked around for a newspaper every chance he got, and tried for a while turning off the piped music in the billiard room so he could listen to the radio. There was nothing in the news about the discovery of any mysterious corpse. When Jubal had thought about it for a while he decided that mysterious corpses were probably a dime a dozen out there in the real world, where miners died in cave-ins. Hardly a day passed, probably, without a nameless corpse being found beside a highway somewhere.
So on Sunday morning it looked to him like the excitement, such as it had been, was over. Someday maybe, maybe years and years from now, he’d be able to tell his dad how he’d saved his important meeting for him. The only problem would be in getting Dad to believe such a wild story.
Many times during the years to come, when Jubal as a man looked back on how concerned he’d been about not spoiling Dad’s important meeting, he would shake his head and marvel silently: it was funny, it was really hilarious, how important that meeting had seemed to the men involved in it, and also to the sixteen-year-old and the security chief who had tried to protect their business deals.
But of course at that point not one of those people had had even the ghost of the faintest idea of what was really going on at San Simeon that summer weekend.
And in fact Jubal never did relate the wild story to his Dad. Instead he kept quiet about it for six and a half decades, and then, gripped by a trembling old man’s fear, he poured out to his son every detail he could remember.
* * *
« ^ »
On Sunday morning, Jubal saw nothing at all of Oscar, and got only one brief look at Captain Murray. That was at a distance, when Jubal happened to be floating on his back in calm water out near the middle of the Neptune Pool, under a sky that promised another flawless day of California summer. The khaki-clad man, no longer wearing a pistol on his hip, stood gazing in Jubal’s direction for perhaps a full ten seconds, and Jubal looked back. But they were too far apart to exchange any subtle signals, and neither of them was going to wave. Feeling somewhat reassured by the captain’s silent presence, Jubal turned over in the steam-warmed water and pulled in a long crawl stroke for the far end of the pool, where Neptune drove his energetic team of marble horses.
Jubal’s parents were not regular churchgoers, and they saw no need to change their habits here. Hearst did not go to church, and few or none of the Hollywood crowd seemed interested; it looked to Jubal like few of them even got up before noon, except he heard one of the maids saying that Marion Davies sometimes rode a limousine into the village of San Simeon to attend Mass in the small Catholic church there, taking with her any other guests who were similarly interested.
All through the early hours of Sunday, Esther stayed in her room. Jubal caught only a glimpse of her in passing, during breakfast in the refectory. Word passed from her parents (Jubal thought they didn’t like him, though he didn’t know why) was that some new Hollywood project had come up, and she had to study a new script, in preparation for a screen test that she soon might or might not have to take. So Jubal was thrown back on his own devices for most of the day.