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Chapter 3 Simple Justice
Itwas two in the afternoon when I got home and they were waiting for me.
'You Marlowe? We want to talk to you.' This one was grey-blond and looked hard. His partner was tall, handsome and just looked nasty. They both had watching-and-waiting eyes. They showed me their badges.
'Sergeant Green, Central Homicide.* This is Detective Dayton.'
I went on up and unlocked the door. You don't shake hands with the police.
They sat in the living room and Green did the talking.
'Man named Terry Lennox. You know him, right?'
'We have a drink together once in a while. He lives in Encino, married money. I've never been there.'
'When did you last see him?'
The section of the police department which investigates murders.
I filled my pipe. 'This is where I ask you what it's all about and you tell me that you ask the questions, right?'
'That's right. So you just answer them.'
I don't know, I guess I was tired. Maybe I felt a little guilty. 'I don't have to say anything.'
Dayton spoke up. 'Answer the questions, Marlowe. Just co-operate. It's healthier.'
Right away I didn't like him. His voice was a hard don't- fool-with-me voice. I went to the book shelf and took down the big state law book. I held it out to him. 'Find me the part that says I have to answer your questions. There's no such law.'
'Sit down,' Green said impatiently. 'Lennox's wife has been murdered. Ugly job. Murderer used something blunt. Must have hit her more than a dozen times. Husband is missing. We find your telephone number in his desk, marked with today's date. She'd been seeing other men. We found that out, too.'
'Terry Lennox wouldn't do anything like that. He's known about the other men for a long time.'
'He's not going to tell us anything, Sergeant,' Dayton said. 'He's read that law book. He thinks the law lives in the book. Don't you, Marlowe?'
I said nothing. I wasn't going to help him.
'Stand up,' he said.
I started to get up. I was half way up when he hit me. I sat back down and shook my head. Dayton was smiling; Green was looking away.
'Let's try again,' Dayton suggested. I didn't move or speak. If I stood up, he'd hit me again. But if he hit me again, I'd hurt him. He couldn't hit me hard enough to stop me from hurting him next time.
'That was stupid,' Green said to Dayton. 'That's just what he wanted. A good reason for not talking.'
I nodded. 'Terry Lennox is my friend. Maybe you have enough evidence. In court, I'll answer questions. But not here. Not now. You're not a bad guy, Green. Your partner has psychological problems, that's all. And if he hits me again, he'll have medical problems, too.'
They had no choice. They put the bracelets on me and took me in.
At the station, I still didn't feel like talking. But now the person I wasn't talking to was a captain.
'Thinks he's tough,' the Captain said. 'We could change that.' He didn't sound as if he really cared. 'Guess we'd better. You can talk now.'
I didn't say anything. He reached for the coffee cup on his desk. I was in a chair facing him. The bracelets were on tight. That's the way he wanted them. But when he threw the coffee at me, I was faster than he was. Most of it missed.
'Doesn't like coffee. Look, pal, you've got some information that I want. Saying nothing at all is no good.'
'If I tell you what you want,' I asked, 'will you take the bracelets off?'
'Maybe, maybe not. Tell me first.'
'If I say I haven't seen Lennox today, would that satisfy you?'
'It might.' But he was losing patience. 'If I believed you.'
'I'd like to talk to a lawyer. How about that?'
The Captain laughed. It was a short, ugly laugh. He leaned across the desk and hit me with a hand of stone. There was thunder inside my head. When he spoke to me again, the words seemed to come from far away.
'I used to be tough but I'm getting old. You take a good blow, Marlowe, and that's all you'll get from me. We have younger, stronger guys for this work. OK, you won't talk to me but you'll talk to them. I promise you that.'
The telephone rang. Green handed it to the Captain.
'Yes, sir,' the Captain said, 'he's here. Really? Is that an order?' His face was red and getting redder. 'Fine, sir.' He put the telephone down with a bang. He was shaking with anger when he turned to speak to me. 'The DA* wants you for himself. You're his headache now.'
He told Green to get me out of there. Before we reached the door, however, he held up one of those stone hands and we stopped.
'You've got something to say, right? Your type always does. Say it.'
'Yes, sir,' I answered him politely. 'You probably didn't intend to, but you've done me a favour. You've solved a problem for me. No man likes to betray a friend but I wouldn't even betray an enemy to you. I might have told you something before you hit me; now I wouldn't tell you what day of the week it is.'
Green marched me out. I spent the next three days in jail. It wasn't so bad. It was quiet and it was clean. No one bothered me.
On the third day, a guard unlocked my door in the middle of the morning. 'Your lawyer is here. And don't throw that cigarette on the floor.'
He took me to the conference room. A tall man with dark hair was standing there looking out of the window. He turned and waited for the door to close. He took out a fancy cigarette case and looked me over.
'Sit down, Marlowe. Cigarette? My name is Endicott. Sewell Endicott. I've been told to help you. It won't cost you anything. I guess you'd like to get out of here.'
I sat down and took one of his cigarettes. He lit it for me. I asked him who had sent him. He wouldn't tell me.
District Attorney: a lawyer who represents the government in court.
'I guess that means they caught him.'
He shook his head. 'If you mean Lennox, and of course you do, no, they haven't caught him.'
'If they haven't got Terry, why are they holding me?'
He frowned. 'I think I can help you get out of here, so let's work on your problems and not Terry's. Don't you want my help?'
No, I told him, I didn't. When a clever lawyer gets you out of jail before the police are ready to let you go, people talk. They say unkind things.
'Listen,' I said, 'I'm not in here for Lennox. I'm in here for me. I'm in a business where people come to me with troubles. Troubles they don't want to share with the police. That's why I'm not talking. You can tell Terry that.'
'I see your point,' Endicott said, 'but I have to tell you, I'm not in contact with Lennox. If I knew where he was, I'd have to tell the police. I'm a lawyer, and that's the law.'
'You believe in the law?'
The question annoyed him. 'The law,' he said, 'is not justice. It's just a half-broken machine. If you push the right buttons and you're lucky at the same time, you might get some justice. Now, do you want my help or not?'
I still didn't. 'I'll wait a few more days. If they catch Terry, they won't care how he got away. And if they don't get him, they'll want to forget it all fast. By the way, why haven't any reporters been in to see me? I thought the old man, Harlan Potter, owned nine or ten newspapers. With all that money and power, he should be able to make this into a real party.'
Endicott looked at me coldly. 'You're strange, Marlowe. You know so little. All that money and power can also buy a lot of silence.'
He opened the door and went out. The guard took me back and locked me in again.
I had said I would wait a few days, but it turned out I didn't have to. A few hours later, another guard came and took me to see someone in the DA's office.
We went through the door without knocking. A fat man with a square chin and stupid eyes was pushing something into the drawer of his desk. The guard left, and I pulled a chair over and sat down.
'I didn't say you could sit down,' the man said sharply.
I took out a cigarette.
'And I didn't say you could smoke,' he shouted at me.
I lit my cigarette.
'Take another drink from that bottle in the desk,' I said. 'It'll make you feel better.'
He waited a minute. Then he said, 'A tough guy, huh? Some hard guys come in here, but that's not the way they leave. They leave here small. I want a full statement from you.'
'I get so tired of it,' I said, looking into those stupid eyes.
'Tired of what?'
'Hard little men in hard little offices talking hard little words that don't mean a thing. You think a few days in here is going to make me cry on your shoulder? Forget it. And forget the threats. If you're big enough, you don't need them, and if you need them, you're not big enough to scare me.'
The fat man played with some papers on his desk. Then he looked up, smiling. 'It doesn't really matter if you don't talk. We've found your friend.'
I didn't believe him, and I let him know it.
'Believe me. Believe me, too, that we have people that saw you with him at Tijuana Airport. You want the whole story? Lennox got off the plane in Mazatlan. He disappeared for about an hour. Then a tall man with black hair and dark skin and a scar, maybe a knife scar, booked to Torreon under the name of Silvano Rodriguez. He was too tall to be so dark. The pilot turned in a report on him. The police were too slow in Torreon but they followed him to a little mountain town called Otatoclan. He rented a hotel room there. He was wearing a gun, too, but that's not unusual in Mexico. But the police were right behind him, see? They found him in the hotel.'
I laughed. 'That's a terrible story. Lennox is too smart to try to be a Mexican in Mexico. You don't know where he is. That's why you want my statement.'
He took the bottle out then and had a drink. Then he picked up one of the papers from his desk, grabbed a pen, and signed it. 'I've just set you free. Want to know why?'
I stood up. 'If you want to tell me.'
'The investigation's finished. Lennox finished it. He wrote a full confession this afternoon in his hotel room in Otatoclan. Then he shot himself
I stood there looking at nothing. The fat man watched me nervously. I think he thought I might hit him. I didn't. I just walked out and closed the door. I closed it quietly as if on a room where someone had just died.
I met a friend downstairs on my way out. He wanted to know why I was there, so I told him. Morgan is a reporter, and he gave me a ride home because he is my friend and because he is a reporter.
'Very neat, don't you think?' he asked, after he had listened to my story.
'You think this isn't straight?'
'Two things. Harlan Potter is a very rich man who hates having his name in any newspaper, even his own newspapers. So the trial would have annoyed him. Now Lennox is dead and there's not going to be a trial. Convenient for Potter.'
He continued after a minute. 'Then, there's a chance that the poor fool had a little help shooting himself.'
I didn't think he had needed help. He hadn't thought much of himself lately. But maybe Morgan wasn't all wrong.
Before he dropped me off, he had one more thing to suggest. 'If I were a clever reporter instead of a stupid one, I'd think maybe he didn't kill her at all.'
It was something to think about, but I was too tired to think. I went in and made some coffee, drank it and took Terry's five-hundred-dollar bill out of the coffee jar. I brought in the newspapers that were on the front steps and read about Lennox. There was even a short story about me.
One thing bothered me, though — the way she'd been killed. I was still sure Terry couldn't have done that. But no one was going to explain it to me, because no explanation was necessary now. The murderer had confessed and he was dead. It was good work either way. If he had killed her, it was simple justice. If he hadn't, that was fine, too. He couldn't deny it now.