Читать онлайн "What of Terry Conniston?" автора Garfield Brian - RuLit - Страница 44

 
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“I know he did. But it doesn’t change the fact that—”

Terry bounced to her feet. “Shut up, Carl. Just shut up, will you? You just take that damned money back to my father and get a receipt for it and tell him I don’t ever want to see him again. Tell him Mitch and I are going away together. He ought to get a boost out of that.”

Grim as a pallbearer, Oakley planted his feet and dragged a hand across his eyes and said, “I can’t tell your father anything, Terry. He’s dead. He’s been dead since the night you were kidnaped.”

Terry’s reactions baffled him; but then everything baffled him. Oakley felt as if he had lost his grip on reality; he sensed he was going mad.

She had gone from shock to rage; she had stormed, spiteful and willful; she had gone off into the rocks and he had heard the sound of her retching and seen the signs of misery on Mitch Baird’s wan face. But then she had come back, subdued, and she had sat down beside Mitch and groped for Mitch’s hand and Oakley stood above the two of them watching them and simply did not understand any of it.

And then Terry said, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Carl.”

“Are you apologizing to me? What for?”

“For hating him,” she said. “Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you. He’s dead? I still can’t get it into my head, Carl. There were things we had to say to each other—it isn’t fair.”

Oakley saw Mitch grip her hand in both of his; Mitch murmured, “Take it easy.”

Something burst inside Oakley: he roared, “What in the God damned hell is his part in this?”

Both of them looked up at him, and after a while they told him.

Oakley had to absorb it. He turned a dumbfounded face toward Orozco, and the fat man said in his quiet way, “You can’t prosecute him anyway, Carl, in case you forgot. There never was any kidnaping—remember?” Orozco came away from the car and said, “Walk off a little piece here with me, Carl,” and Oakley, too wilted to question him, followed obediently.

Orozco took him around the corner into the shade and said, “We got a few things to talk through, Carl. Right now.” An odd light burned in his eyes. When Oakley made no sign of resistance the fat man said, “You’re going to have to tell them the whole thing, you know. It’s the only way you can convince them not to talk about this, ever. You got to make a deal with them—promise you won’t expose the Baird kid. In return they promise not to expose you. Nobody ever mentions that there was a kidnaping. You get to keep Conniston’s business, or most of it anyway, and Louise gets her inheritance, and these two kids get to keep each other. And just maybe it might be a good idea if you sweetened the pot a little by givin’ them a wedding present, like say that half million dollars in cash. How about it, then?”

“Nuts. I don’t have to tell them a damned thing.”

“Sure you do.” Orozco began to smile. “Because if you don’t I will.”

Oakley rested his back against the grimy wall, tipped his head back and closed his eyes. “You’re not finished, are you?”

“Uh-unh. You understand me now, Carl—price is high, my price for not exposin’ you. Because once you get done setting up with these two kids you’re going to sign the Conniston ranch over to me.”

Oakley said, softly, finally, “You made it work, didn’t you, Diego?”

“You always used to tell me to grab an opportunity when I saw one.”

“I never thought you wanted the ranch.”

“Oh, I don’t mean to keep it. But once I give it all back to the chicanos, the whole damn land grant, I’m gonna have every Spanish vote in the country in my pocket, and a lot of Anglo liberal votes right along with them. And the funny thing is I’m gonna make a pretty damn good politician, Carl. With your help. Have I got it?”

Oakley opened his eyes. He felt strong again, decisive. “Sure you have,” he said. He clapped Orozco on the shoulder and said, “You’re the meanest bastard I ever met, amigo, and it’s a pleasure knowing you.” He grinned, and turned to walk around to the front of the shack.

Orozco came after him, smiling.

Oakley came around the corner and saw Terry and Mitch sitting together with their arms around each other’s waists. They looked up when he appeared; they looked uncertain, afraid, slightly punch-drunk. Oakley felt full of self-confidence—strong, sure, warm with benevolence. He said, “We’ve got a lot of things to clear up but everything’s going to be all right. Will you both take my word for that?”

They just watched him, not so much suspicious as puzzled. Oakley hunkered down on his heels beside them in the shade of the adobe wall and put an unlit cigar in the corner of his mouth and before he began to talk he looked up past Orozco’s looming hulk at the hard brassy sky above the rock hills. A few diaphanous cirrus clouds moved languorously overhead and a buzzard began to circle down toward Floyd Rymer’s body.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook onscreen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

copyright © 1971 by Brian Garfield

cover design by Mumtaz Mustafa

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