Read Get Shorty Online

Authors: Elmore Leonard

Get Shorty (21 page)

BOOK: Get Shorty
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“I can't tell you,” Chili said, “it's an anonymous call.”

The male voice said, “Are you the same anonymous asshole called last night?”

“No, this's a different one,” Chili said. “Have you looked in that locker, C—oh-one-eight?”

There was a pause on the line.

“You're helping us out,” the male voice said. “I'd like to know who this is.”

“I bet you would,” Chili said. “You want to chat or you want me to tell you who to look for? The guy's on his way out right now.”

This DEA agent wouldn't give up. He said, “You know there's a reward for information that leads to a conviction. That's why I have to know who this is.”

“I'll get my reward in heaven,” Chili said. “The guy you want has a bullet scar in his head and is wearing gray shoes. You can't miss him.”

“This was Warren's office,” Karen said, “before he was shipped off to Publicity. Warren Hurst, I think I mentioned him to you.”

Beth's Room,
” Chili said, sitting across from Karen at her big oak desk. “The one that said if you did it your way they wouldn't have a movie.”

“You remember that.”

She said it with that nice look in her eyes she had been using on him lately. Interested, letting him know she liked him. The only difference today, she had on glasses, round ones with thin black frames. She was telling him now the office decor was pre-Warren, he hadn't been here long enough to redecorate; that it wouldn't be bad in a men's club, but she wasn't going to touch it. “Not till I see if I get a vote here.”

Chili said, “You don't fool around.”

“What, taking the job? Why not?”

Karen's shoulders moved in the beige silk blouse, the little ninety-pounder behind the big executive desk.

“I think I'll be good at it if they let me. Look at the scripts.”

She picked up one from a stack of about ten and moved it to another part of the desk.

“Elaine says all of them have spin in varying degrees. That means they're supposed to be good.”

She picked up another one. “
Beth's Room
, still under consideration.”

She picked up another and laid it down again.

“Elaine wants to know what I think.”

“Tell her the truth.”

“Don't worry.”

“I got an idea spinning around.”

“You told me about it.”

As he said, “It's getting better,” Karen's phone buzzed.

She picked it up. “Yeah?” Said, “Tell him I'll call him back,” and looked at Chili as she hung up. “Harry. That's the third time today.”

Chili said, “I have to call him too, tell him what happened.”

And Karen said, “That's right, you were going out to the airport,” her expression changing, her eyes losing that nice glow as they became serious. She took off her glasses as he told her about the DEA guys and hunched her shoulders leaning on the desk, looking right at him but maybe picturing it too, the scene. That was the feeling he had. He finished the part at the airport and she said, “You really did that?” sounding amazed. “So the money's still there?” He had to tell her about Bones then, and she listened to that part, every word of it, without blinking her eyes. When he finished she sat back in her chair for a moment thinking, still looking at him, then came forward again asking about Bones, who he was. So Chili had to take her all the way back to Vesuvio's and the leather coat.

This time when he finished Karen said, “He'll tell the DEA guys you set it up. Won't he?”

“If they get him,” Chili said. “Yeah, Bones'll try to put it on me. If they come around looking and I get hauled in, I say I don't know what he's talking about.”

“But they saw you there today,” Karen said, “at the airport.”

“Yeah, well, they'd still have to prove I put the money in the locker and there's no way they can do that, 'cause I didn't. I never touched that locker. If I see I'm in too deep I can always give 'em Catlett. But I don't want to go through all that right now. Even if I didn't have to post a bond it would be annoying, the way they keep after you asking questions. So I checked out of the Marquis. Now I have to find another place.”

She was giving him that amazed look again. “You're serious.”

“Yeah, I tried the Chateau Marmont, see if I could get Jean Harlow's room, but they're full up. One thing I did, not knowing any better at the time, I told the DEA guys I was with ZigZag. They didn't write it down, so they might not remember it, and I didn't have a card to give them. But if they do, they'll look up Harry, try to find me that way.”

“What Harry will have trouble accepting,” Karen said, “you didn't get the money, not that you could go to jail.”

“Yeah, I'll have to explain it to him. Once Bones found the key, the way his one-track mind works it was out of my hands. I had to let it happen.”

“I'd like to have seen that,” Karen said. She pushed out of her leather chair, came around the desk
in a black skirt a few inches above her knees and leaned against the edge of the desk, close, looking down at him. He thought for a moment she was going to touch his face. She said, “I'll bet you have scars . . .”

“A few.”

“I like your hair.”

“That's another story I could tell you sometime.”

She said, “Why don't you hide out at my house?”

“Sleep in the maid's room?”

She said, “We'll work something out.”


There was a certain look about the Mexican gardener that made Harry think of one of his maniacs: the little gnomelike one in
Grotesque Three
who took over after the original hideously disfigured maniac was burned to death in
Grotesque Two
and the picture went on to gross twenty million worldwide. The Mexican gardener coming this way across the lawn was bowlegged. Maybe that was it.
Grotesque Three
did almost eight million, which still wasn't bad. Or it was—of
it was the shears the guy was carrying, the way he held them in front of him with both hands. The gnomelike maniac had used shears a lot.

Harry was on Karen's patio. Out here now as he kept moving, waiting for the phone to ring. Harry nodded to the Mexican approaching with the shears, wishing he'd point them down. “How are you?”

“Miss Flores isn' home.”

“I know that,” Harry said.

“She's at work.”

“I know where she is,” Harry said, “and she knows I'm here. It's okay, I'm a good friend of hers. We're amigos.”

This Mexican, with his dark skin and big nose, reminded Harry of an Aztec figure carved in relief on a stone wall. It got Harry thinking about human sacrifices, a blood cult four centuries old, virgins into the volcano . . . like movie ideas presented to a studio. The Mexican was saying something.


“I ask you want a drink.”

“Do I want a drink—I thought you were the gardener.”

“The houseman, Miguel. I do outside, inside, everything.”

Harry said, “
Miguel?” feeling a change in his mood, a sudden lift knowing Karen wasn't sleeping with her houseman, not this old guy and not that it made any difference, really, but he felt better in general and said, “Yeah, Miguel, let me have a Scotch, lot of ice.”


Four times now Catlett had tried to get hold of the Bear: phoning his house from home, from the limo office, from his Porsche coming here and now here, in the turnaround part of the driveway at Karen Flores's French-looking house. Still no answer, only the Bear's recorded voice: Leave a message if you want. The only thing good happening Catlett could see was Harry's old Mercedes parked there, and Harry was the reason he'd come. Catlett went up to the door and rang the bell, set his sunglasses on straight, smoothed down his double-breasted navy blazer he wore with a white cotton shirt open wide at the throat and cream-colored pants.

The door swung in and the man standing there startled him, flashed him back in his mind to migrant
camps and hundreds of guys with round, tired shoulders just like this one. Catlett said, “Man, I haven't seen you since picking lettuce down the Imperial Valley. How you doing?” Found out this was Miguel the houseman and got taken out to the kitchen where his good friend Harry Zimm was sitting at the table with a drink, a bottle of Chivas Regal and a big pair of garden shears, the kind with ten-inch blades and wooden handles. Harry had that expectant look in his eyes, hoping for news.

“You hear anything?”

“I was about to ask you,” Catlett said. “There's been plenty of time to do it.”

He turned his head and there was Miguel the houseman asking what would he like to drink, this stoop-labor field hand, Catlett thinking Karen Flores must be a strange kind of lady.

“Let me have a glass of chilled white wine. Some Pouilly-Fuissé, you happen to have it in the house.”

Harry said, “Well, I guess he ran with it.”

Harry sounding tired out, depressed.

“Or, as I mentioned could happen if he wasn't careful,” Catlett said, “somebody hit him on the head. Or, there's the chance he got busted.”

“What he got was the money,” Harry said. “I called his hotel. They said he checked out.”

“He could've done that before.”

“I spoke to him at ten this morning. He was just leaving.”

“That's right, that's what I heard.”

From the Bear, phoning as he tailed him, the Bear in communication up to that time.

“He didn't check out,” Harry said, “till two-thirty this afternoon.”

Catlett said, “Hmmmmm,” to Harry, nothing to Miguel, noticing the man's broken fingernails, big knuckles, handing him the glass of wine; or when Miguel said he was leaving, going home, and walked out the back door to the garage.

Harry looked so depressed he seemed in a daze.

“I didn't think he'd do it. I said to him, ‘I wonder if I'll ever see you again.' But I honestly thought I would.”

Catlett sat down with Harry at the table wondering why, if Chili Palmer was going to run with it, he didn't take a flight out while he was at the airport. Why come back to the hotel? The Bear would have the answer if he could ever locate the Bear.

“Harry, you can't trust nobody like that, has those bad connections. This man come in off the street, nobody speaking for him, you don't know who he is.”

“He was working for Mesas. I know the people there and they know him. They use him for collections.”

“They know the guy that takes out the garbage too. Harry. How'd he find you right away if I couldn't?”

“Through Frank DePhillips.”

“Man, what does that tell you? What you're saying to me right there?”

“I was staying here that night . . .”

“Yeah, with Karen?”

“We're in bed, we hear a noise. Voices. We listen awhile. It's the TV, downstairs. Karen says, ‘But it can't just come on by itself.' I tell her, ‘That's right, somebody had to push the button.' So I go down . . .”

“You have a gun?”

“Where do I get a gun? Karen doesn't own one. No, I went downstairs figuring it has to be somebody she knows. Some friend of hers probably stoned, thinks he's a riot. I walk in the study, the TV goes off—it was the Letterman show—the light comes on and there's Chili sitting at the desk.”

“Chili Palmer,” Catlett said, “yeah. Sneaky, huh? You should've known right then, just from the way he does things. Man breaks in the house . . .”

“The patio door was open.”

“Yeah? Was there a sign on it, ‘Come on in'? Harry, you walk in where you don't belong it's breaking and entering, whether you have to break in or not. Chili Palmer commits a felony against the law and you take him in, make him your partner.”

“He isn't my partner,” Harry said, and took a drink from his glass. “I don't know what he is.”

That was okay as far as it went. But what Catlett wanted would be for Harry to kick and scream, call the man names. A no-good lying motherfucker would cover it. Harry though, for some reason, didn't seem all the way unsold yet on Chili Palmer. So Catlett reset his gold-frame sunglasses and went at him again saying, “The man robs you and you tell me you don't know what he
? If he managed to get his hands on the hundred and seventy thousand and took off with it . . . Harry, you paying attention?”

“Yeah, if he got it, what?”

“Or, if he messed up out there and
got it, but somehow or other they didn't get
. . . What I'm saying is either way, Harry, it was your money. You understand? Soon as I presented you with the key to the locker it was the same as giving you the money. So you the one he ripped off, huh?”

Harry was looking at him with a frown turning all of a sudden from worried to mean.

“You're saying I still owe it to you? A hundred and seventy grand I haven't even

It wasn't the point Catlett had intended to make. Yeah, but it was true. He opened his hands, helpless, and said to Harry, “Man, you owe me


Karen had given him a key to the front door, in case her houseman had already left.

Chili dropped his suitcase in the foyer, checked the study, the living room, then moved down the back hall to the kitchen. He knew Harry's car, could guess who the Porsche belonged to and got it right—Mr. Bo Catlett in the kitchen with Harry, Catlett looking this way through his hotdog sunglasses. It was in Chili's mind to grab a frying pan from the rack, go over the table with it and whop him across the head. Right now, not say a word. But he was no sooner in the kitchen Catlett was on his feet, Christ, holding a pair of shears in front of him. Chili said, “You knew I was coming, huh?” looking at the shears, the blades gunmetal, clamped together. “The Bear tell you?”

He wanted Catlett to answer, keep it between them and settle with this guy. But now Harry got into it, Harry again, ruining the moment.

“I don't know how many times I tried to call you,” Harry said. “Where've you been?”

“Talking to federal agents,” Chili said, still looking at Catlett. “DEA, the ones were waiting for me.”

“They let you go?” Harry said.

“It didn't take too long.”

Catlett said, “Uh-huh. Harry, you understand what he saying? If he was talking to federal agents, how come he's here talking to us?”

Chili said, “I didn't have the key on me.”

Catlett said, “You didn't have the key . . .” and let his voice trail off. “All right, why would they pick you up then, if you didn't have the key?”

BOOK: Get Shorty
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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