Masters of Noir: Volume Two
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by Craig Rice, Jonathan Craig, Hal Ellson
Description: Another walk on the wild side! In this series of collections of gritty Noir and Hardboiled stories, you'll find some of the best writers of the craft writing in their prime. The following stories are included in this second volume of Masters of Noir: GREEN EYES by HAL ELLSON, BIG STEAL by FRANK KANE, NECKTIE PARTY by ROBERT TURNER, THE PURPLE COLLAR by JONATHAN CRAIG, I DON'T FOOL AROUND by CHARLES JACKSON, NICE BUNCH OF GUYS by MICHAEL FESSIER, FLOWERS TO THE FAIR by CRAIG RICE, DIE LIKE A DOG by DAVID ALEXANDER, BUILD ANOTHER COFFIN by HAROLD Q. MASUR, SOMEBODY'S GOING TO DIE by TALMAGE POWELL.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2010
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [224 KB]
Reading time: 148-207 min.
GREEN EYES by HAL ELLSON
No sound, no movement anywhere, then a perceptible awakening. A breath of wind, a palm frond moving, and shadows thickening below the hotel balcony. Jim Withers sat forward and watched the white-clad figure climbing the steep road toward the hotel. Even at that distance he recognized the man and frowned. In another moment he leaned forward again and nodded his head in sign of grudging respect for the one in white. The chap was running up the hill.
But why not? The natives were capable of feats that could stun, if not kill, anyone else. But this Juan ... Jim sat back once more and wiped the perspiration from his face. The wind had faded, evening brought no relief from the fierce tropic heat. He closed his eyes, steps on the tiled floor alerted him. Seconds later a pair of cool hands pressed against his eyes. An exotic bouquet floated around him.
As he broke free and turned, Kathy smiled, beautiful and cool-looking in white. "Lazy-bones, sleeping again?" she said.
"No, thinking of when we're leaving this place."
"But how can you say that? I could stay forever in Acapulco."
"Then it'll have to be without me."
"Fresh," she said and laughed in a way that set his pulse racing. A wild surging desire made him want to crush her in his arms, but she stepped back, as if she had read his mind, and said, "We'd better dine, don't you think?"
"Have to wash up," he mumbled, rising from the chair. Then, escorting her as far as the stairs, he went to their room, washed quickly and hurried to the upper balcony.
In that brief interval a swift transition had taken place. The night had closed in, a vast canopy stretched overhead; on the slope of the hill below the balcony nothing but silence.
Jim sat down abruptly. "You're out of sorts," Kathy said, watching him.
"No, it's the heat," he lied. For he could bear with that, but to have found Juan with Kathy was too much. As Juan had gone back to the kitchen, Jim said, "He's altogether too friendly."
Kathy opened her eyes wide, innocently. "You mean Juan?"
"And who else would I be talking about?"
"Oh, he doesn't mean anything. He's just friendly." She was smiling now. "But don't tell me--it's not really jealousy."
Warned, Jim turned his head. Others were arriving. A table for two. He nodded to the couple and turned back to Kathy.
"From Michigan. They motored down. Very nice people," she whispered.
Then Juan appeared from the kitchen bearing a large tray. He smiled. "And how are you this evening, Mr. Withers?" His white teeth flashed, his smooth brown skin gleamed. Not a drop of sweat on his face after that run up the hill.
Jim nodded, unable to speak. Juan set him on edge. All eyes for Kathy as he served, his words directed at her. She appeared delighted by his attention.
"Are you going fishing tomorrow?"
Both of them were looking at Jim now and he appeared almost stunned.
"I hadn't thought of it for tomorrow," he finally answered.
"But why wait?"
"Yes, why wait?" said Kathy. "Wasn't it one of the reasons you came?"
"If you go in a big boat," Juan was saying, "very big fish. Sailfish, swordfish, anything you can name."
"And any price the boatman can name too."
"Ah, but you are rich."
Kathy laughed with delight at this remark.
"All Americans are not rich, particularly this one," said Jim.
Exchanging glances with Kathy, Juan only smiled and said, "If you wish, I can make the necessary arrangements."
Jim finally conceded. "All right, tomorrow, at what time?"
"At six it is best for hooking the big ones."
"Make it seven."
Juan shrugged. "As you wish. The boys will be waiting at Caleta Beach. Ask for Rodriquez."
Juan returned to the kitchen. Voices in heated argument made Jim turn. No door to the kitchen. He saw a barefooted Indian woman--the cook--berating Juan.
"That old devil's at it again."
"Well, she has work to do and he's holding her up."
"I still don't like her."
Kathy's eyes widened. "But don't be silly, Jim. He's cute, that's all."
Jim picked up his fork, not caring to pursue the subject. The food was excellent, as always, not to be ignored.
"You know," he said, "that's the most remarkable thing about this place."
"The food. No two meals alike, a kind of endless variety and perfection."
"I hate to admit it, but the old she-devil does wonders."
"Probably no one appreciates it, either."
At that moment Juan arrived back at the table, apparently not upset by the argument with the cook. "A bottle of Bohemia," said Jim. "And if you don't mind, tell the cook that my wife and I are in love with her cooking."
After what had taken place, another man would have at least hesitated before such a request, but Juan smiled, as if sharing in the compliment, and went immediately to the kitchen. Watching, Jim saw the Indian woman turn her ugly pock-marked face and smile at him.
Juan returned with the bottle of Bohemia. As Jim poured the light golden beer, he said, "Coming along tomorrow, Kathy?"
"Fishing? Are you out of your mind, Jim?"
"It was just an idea."
After dinner, a few couples gathered on the lower balcony. Intensely dark now, a soft wind from the sea, palms stirring, the lizards darting at insects lured by the lights. Utter silence in the shadowed jungle on the slope below the balcony.
Kathy had left with the other couples to join the Canasta players in the lobby. Jim leaned over the railing. Looking down, he saw a light flash. Nothing then, but he knew of the forlorn native shacks hidden below. The cook, and perhaps Juan lived in one of them.
Jim turned away, thought of Juan rousing his anger. What does Kathy see in him? he asked himself, starting for the hall that led to the lobby. There he found the Canasta players at their tables but not Kathy. Gone to the room, he thought, and he walked through the open lobby, then down the front steps.
Palms shadowed the driveway. A night-bird cried out. About to light a cigarette, Jim turned and saw a white-clad figure jump from the small balcony of his own room and quickly disappear. In the next second he turned round, mounted the steps and hurried through the lobby.
"Kathy?" The door was locked. He rattled the knob. Footsteps, and the door swung open. No light in the room. He flipped the switch and stared at Kathy.
"Thought you were going to play cards?" he said, watching her eyes.
"I changed my mind and decided to lie down for a while."
Yes, with Juan, he thought. But when she stared innocently at him he went out to the balcony, dropped in a chair and lit a cigarette.
"What are you going to do out there?" Kathy asked.
"Sleep. I've a big day ahead tomorrow. Wish you'd come along."
No answer from Kathy.
"What are you going to do?"
"Nothing, I suppose."
"Perhaps I better not go."
"Don't spoil your fun because of me."
"Thanks." That said as if he meant it. Then: "Look, why not meet me at the beach with the camera just in case I hook a big one."
"I'll be there."
Hearing the door open, he turned and saw her smiling at him. "Now where are you going?" he asked.
"Canasta, dear. Bye!"
The door closed. He shot his cigarette away. Kathy had lied. He didn't want to believe it, the two of them together. A wild thought entered his mind. Capable of murder. He knew that now, but it was insane. Get away, he told himself. The plane to Mexico City tomorrow, anything to escape the precipice lying near in the dark.
A night-bird cried out in the palms, a wind from the sea. He closed his eyes, slept and woke again to that same mournful cry. Now stillness, everything dead, asleep. Turning, he saw a figure in white vanish behind a palm; he tried to rise and his tired eyes closed.
He opened them again to the clear tropic light and profound stillness of morning, looked at his watch, stood up, passed through the shadowed room, empty lobby and hurried down the hill toward the beach. Halfway there and he met the Indian cook; a mirrored light flashed from a machete that hung from her waist. She smiled. He smiled in turn, passed on, hurrying.
No one at the beach. He lit a cigarette. Ask for Rodriquez? As if provoked by this thought, the quiet beach came to life. A group of beach-boys arrived. One approached Jim and he said, "Are you Rodriquez?"
"Si. You are ready?"
Jim nodded. Rodriquez barked an order. One of the boys plunged into the water and swam out to a boat at anchor. Rodriquez himself took off barefooted and returned with two fishing poles. Meanwhile the boat had been brought in close to the beach. Jim and Rodriquez climbed aboard. The motor started, the boat backed away, turned and headed for the open sea.
Under other circumstances, the trip alone would have been worthwhile, but Jim was preoccupied. Himself out here, Juan didn't have to climb the balcony. Knock on the door, walk in and strip for action, he thought.
A strike and his line went taut, the pole bent. Excited, the beach-boys rose to their feet. Far astern the placid surface of the sea broke as the fish that had struck jumped clear and flashed in the brilliant sunlight. Minutes later the fish was boated.
"A durado," one of the beach-boys pronounced it and with a blow from a club stilled it forever.
One more strike, and thereafter the sea gave up nothing. Only the scenery now, great cliffs with the sea battering them, then miles of beach and white surf wild and booming like cannon. Jim barely took notice, his mind on Kathy and Juan. He had been tricked and couldn't wait to get back.
At noon the boat nosed against the beach. Jim came ashore, eyes searching for Kathy. Rodriquez handed him his catch. Fifty yards away he saw Juan squatting on the back of his legs and Kathy lying on the sand. He dropped the fish, started forward, fists clenched. The sun was blinding, he began to run, caught himself.
I'm going mad, he thought, and he was gasping when he stood over Kathy. Juan was standing now. Kathy smiled at him. "Ah, your husband is back," said Juan.
"Didn't you catch anything?" Kathy asked.
"As I said, you must leave early for the big ones," Juan put in and, excusing himself, he walked off toward the hotel.
Kathy lay back on the sand again, aware that Jim was staring at her. "Angry that you caught nothing?"
"Not about that."
"What then? My boy friend? There, you are jealous?" She laughed, pleased with herself.
"It's nothing to laugh about."
"Oh, come now, you're old enough to know better."
"I wonder," he said casually. And to himself: I wonder how long it's gone on?