Authors: Robbins Harold
She picked up a pack of cigarettes from the night table on her side
of the bed, shook out a Tareyton, and lit it with a paper match. "If
you've got nothing to hide — "
"I didn't say I have nothing to hide. I said I haven't done
anything illegal. This kind of thing — a congressional hearing,
maybe having to defend myself in court — could damage some of
my businesses. Severely."
"More than skipping?" she asked skeptically, even a little
He zipped up his pants. He smiled wryly. "Business people will
see skipping as smart."
"But — "
"Look. If I'm compelled to testify, I'll have to tell how things
are done. Inter-Continental Airlines wasn't built by chance. You have
to be smart. You have to find ways and means of doing things. We have
business secrets. Understand? Do you understand, Monica? It's
"Is there something wrong with your SEC reports, Jonas?"
"Not unless the smartest lawyers on Wall Street have fouled them
up. And taxes ... Our accountants are meticulous. We don't fudge on
"What could they indict you for? You said they might indict you.
What would that be for?"
"Inter-Continental has been getting good gate slots at major
airports. Do you understand that? An air terminal can only receive so
many flights a day. There are only so many gates. Some of the
airlines we shut out are furious and have suggested we rig contracts,
that we pay kickbacks, and so on. No one can prove we do. The truth
is, we don't. But we do have ways of — Well. You can see what I
mean. Another question is: Do we make deals with other airlines,
violating the anti-trust laws? Again, no. But it's not all
cut-and-dried stuff, not black and white. They'd love to grill me.
Some of them would love to tie me up in knots for two or three
"Jonas ... This is the same damned thing that — "
"Look," he interrupted firmly. "A U.S. marshal may be
here to serve me before dawn. I've got to throw a few things in a
briefcase and get going."
"Where?" she asked. "Where the hell will you go?"
"The marshal will ask, and you can answer very honestly that you
don't know. I'm not one hundred percent sure myself. I'll call you as
soon as I get settled someplace and let you know."
She followed him out of the bedroom and along the hall to his little
home office. He opened a big briefcase on his desk and began to shove
papers into it. He shoved in a quart of bourbon, too.
"What am I supposed to tell Jo-Ann?" she demanded. "That
you disappeared in the middle of the night, two skips ahead of a U.S.
marshal? What's the kid supposed to think?"
"Tell her the truth. Tell her just what I told you."
"That her father's on the lam? Is that what I'm supposed to tell
her? That — "
Jonas jerked his head around.
it that way!"
he barked. "Not to her. Not to yourself.
Business is business, Monica, and sometimes it makes us do things we
don't want to do. Jo-Ann's going to be eighteen years old before very
long. She's old enough and smart enough to understand."
Monica had carried her cigarette with her from the bedroom, and now
she crushed it in the ashtray on his desk.
"Monica, I'm sorry," he said. The lavender dressing gown
that didn't quite conceal, didn't entirely reveal, clung to her hips
and reminded him of the firm smoothness of her buns, which he had
been fondly caressing only hours ago. "I wish I could take you
with me. We'll be together again as soon as possible."
"Sure," she grunted. "You walked out on our first
honeymoon. Business called. What else have you missed? Anniversaries.
Birthdays. Even Christmas afternoon last year. Business called."
He had withdrawn from the conversation. He grabbed up his briefcase
and walked out of the room.
She followed him downstairs, toward the door. His Cadillac
convertible sat in the circular driveway before the house. He opened
the door and tossed in the briefcase.
Then he came back to kiss her.
"Baby, it won't be long," he promised. "I'll probably
be on the phone with you tomorrow."
She accepted his kiss, but accepted was the right word for it; she
was not hungry for it, and she was rigid in his arms. He patted her
shoulder and her backside.
"Tomorrow. I'll call you tomorrow if I possibly can."
"Sure," she whispered, resigned.
. What the hell else
can I say?"
He broke away from her and strode to the car.
Monica stood outside for a while, first watching the red taillights
of the Cadillac disappear, then looking up at the points of starlight
in an unusually clear sky. A tangle of emotions suffused her, and she
was not sure if she wanted to cry or curse. Or both.
Damn him. Damn Jonas Cord! He had abandoned her on their honeymoon
... because of a business emergency, he'd said. Then he'd got it in
his head that Jo-Ann was not his daughter. When he learned the truth
he had begged them to return to him. After fourteen years. And she,
like a fool, had gone back to him. Because she loved him. And he said
he loved her. He said they'd have another child. Lucky they hadn't.
Because he hadn't changed. He was the same intriguing, fascinating,
loving ... egocentric, insensitive, disloyal son of a bitch he had
always been. He was obsessed with money and power, especially power.
She couldn't compete with money and power. Neither could Jo-Ann. They
She began to shiver and realized it was not because the night was
cold, which it wasn't, but because she was frustrated and
disappointed and angry. She went inside the house and went to the
bar. She poured herself two fingers of bourbon and jerked the glass
back for a quick swallow. She could feel it all the way down,
burning, warming. It stopped her shivering.
She jerked off her dressing gown and stood at the bar naked, even
though she could be seen by anyone who walked up the driveway. That
was somehow defiant, and she felt defiant.
Jonas ... It probably really had been Phil, calling from Washington.
For a moment she was tempted to dial him and find out. Of course he'd
lie for Jonas. A lot of people would lie for Jonas. He may have told
Jonas to duck service of a subpoena, or he may have been calling to
say something like "If you get your ass to Frisco before dawn,
you can get in bed with Marlene Dietrich."
Of course ... If a United States marshal really showed up on the
doorstep in the next six or eight hours, she'd know.
Actually, she wouldn't know, not really. If it was true he was going
somewhere to hole up and let an investigation cool down, he'd for
sure be taking some girl with him. A "secretary." He'd no
more travel without a female to attend to his needs than he'd have
forgotten to stuff that bottle of bourbon into his briefcase. She
wondered which one it was this time. She'd identified three. He'd
stop at a phone booth somewhere. Then he'd pick the girl up.
She tipped the glass and swallowed the rest of her whiskey. So, now
she would go back to bed. She'd take a shower first, to wash his
sweat off her body. And then she would go to bed. Not in the bed
where they had struggled and twisted the dampened sheets into knots.
She would sleep in the guest room. Alone. Alone again.
"Fuck you, Jonas Cord," she said aloud in the shower as she
washed his come off her legs. "Fuck you," she said again,
this time tearfully, as she dried herself and walked out into the
To hell with this way of living. To hell with
She didn't have to live this way, and she wouldn't. Two could play
this game. She glanced at the clock and decided it was too early to
waken Alex in New York. She would call him later. By God, two could
play this game!
"Fuck you, Jonas Cord! I got a big surprise for you. You're
gonna be served with some different legal papers. Monica's getting a
NEVADA SMITH WOKE. Who could sleep with an airplane buzzin' the
house? Airplane ... buzzin'... ? Oh, God! It had to be Jonas, he
decided. Who else would buzz the house before dawn?
He rolled out of bed. His wife Martha hadn't wakened. A pair of faded
blue Levi's lay on the floor, where he had kicked them off last
night, and he pulled them up over his long, muscular legs that had
never been anything but thick and strong, all his life. He slipped
into soft moccasins. With a backward glance at Martha, to be sure she
was still asleep, he trotted from the bedroom and through the house
to the gray steel box that contained the switch for the runway
lights. He pulled the switch.
He hurried out on the porch. The yellowish-brown lights were on, two
parallel lines of them, defining the thousand-foot landing strip. The
only other lights were a pair of floodlights on the windsock. It was
a primitive strip, for sure, but it had proved enough for Jonas, even
in bad weather. Nevada had been his passenger many times, day and
night, and he had marveled at Jonas's uncanny knack for finding this
ranch and this house and the landing strip, seeing landmarks that
were invisible to anyone else. The old man had never been proud of
his son's instinct for flying — had, in fact, disapproved of it
as dangerous foolishness — but that was because he died before
he could experience it and learn to appreciate it.
The strip was not paved. Nevada had gone out and walked it only
yesterday, carrying a shovel and looking for any holes animals might
have made. It was smooth. An ill-tempered rattler had threatened, but
Nevada had let it go, had not killed it. If it was lying out there
now, it had a big surprise coming from the onrushing wheels of the
heavy airplane that was about to land.
He stood on the porch and watched the red and green lights on the
plane's wings as Jonas circled for his approach. Nevada had first
seen him fly in 1925 when he had flown to the landing strip at the
Cord Explosives plant in an ancient wood-and-wire Waco he had won in
a crap game. Nevada had called him Junior then, and Junior had
demonstrated a natural aptitude for flying, more aptitude for it than
for riding, which Nevada had taught him. Maybe not more aptitude than
he had for shooting, which Nevada had also taught him.
Nevada had come to the Cord ranch in 1909, looking for work as a
cowhand, and the old Jonas had hired him as a nursemaid. Teach the
boy to ride. The old man never used many words. Teach him to ride had
meant a lot of other things. Make a man of him was what he'd meant.
Nevada'd had sixteen years to do it before the old man died —
on that very day when Junior flew to the plant in the Waco. Nevada
had been unsure just how well he'd done with the boy until he heard
Jonas abruptly and coldly announce to the directors of Cord
Explosives that no one was to call him Junior, ever again.
The airplane was a mile east of the runway when it turned and began
to lower toward the dusty strip.
When he was maybe a quarter of a mile out and maybe a hundred feet
above the ground, Jonas switched on the airplane's landing lights for
about two seconds, just long enough to make sure there was not a big
animal on the strip. Nevada understood that Jonas's eyes were
adjusted to the dark, so he did not want the glare of landing lights
as the plane settled on.
The tires squawked as they touched the hard ground, and the airplane
rolled down the strip almost to the end. A thousand feet was little
enough runway for the Cessna Skyknight, which weighed two tons and
had hit the ground at more than eighty miles an hour.
As he turned the airplane toward the house and taxied, Jonas switched
on the landing lights and illuminated the porch and Nevada —
and Martha, who had now come out. Martha waved. Nevada waved. But he
had a big, troubled question —
The sun wasn't up, but Nevada sat down with Jonas on the porch with a
bottle of cognac and poured them two generous drinks. Martha was in
the kitchen, happily making a big breakfast.
"So you see how it is," Jonas said. He had just told Nevada
about the telephone call from Phil in Washington and what he had done
about it. "I figured I'd hole up here with you for a little
while — that is if it's okay with you."
Nevada had gone to the bedroom and pulled on an old buckskin shirt.
He had wrapped a red-and-white bandanna around his neck in
anticipation of the heat of the day and of the sweat it would catch.
The man didn't seem to age. His shoulders remained broad, his posture
straight, his chest deep, his belly flat, his arms muscular, his
hands deft and quick. His hair was white. The old story was that
Indians' hair did not turn white, which was foolishness; but Nevada's
had turned white. Of course, he had blue eyes, too. He was only half
Kiowa. He was almost seventy years old.
It would have been easy for Jonas to say that Nevada was Nevada
because he had stayed away from cities, that he was a product of the
open country, of the blood of his Kiowa mother, of an outdoor
self-reliant way of life. The truth of course was that Nevada had
seen his share of city living. He was Nevada Smith of the movies,
Nevada Smith of the Wild West shows. He'd lived in New Orleans and
Jonas's father had died with Nevada's secret in his heart, never
disclosed. Jonas, who had discovered it accidentally, had kept it
since. Nevada's real name was not Nevada Smith but Max Sand —
the initials on his old revolver: MS. He'd killed the men who killed
his parents, tracked them down and killed them without mercy. He'd
spent time in prison and had escaped. He'd done other things the law
did not allow. Technically, he was perhaps still a fugitive. But for
more than forty years he had been Nevada Smith and — among
other things — the hero of Western pictures the whole world
respected. To Jonas he had never been anything but a hero and the
best friend a man ever had.