Read Rainbow's End Online

Authors: James M. Cain

Rainbow's End (10 page)

BOOK: Rainbow's End
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“Oh—I see.”

“She didn't like me much.”

Aunt Myra, my mother, sat looking at Jill a long time, and then at last remarked: “That I can well understand.” And then, to me: “Dave, Little Myra was getting ideas, or at least I felt she was, that made me very uneasy, ideas that may have accounted for the way she spoke out at last, about me, about herself, and the new relationship she wanted to have with you. Was that her reason? For breaking her pledge at last? Of silence she'd taken to me? In return for what your father did for her?”

“I'd rather not say.”

“Then it was?”

She sat there, staring down at the floor. Then after a long time: “I should have come sooner. I've known it was in the wind, that something like this would come. What I didn't know was that it would come this way, with a girl dropping out of the sky.”

She went over and touched Jill's hair, and Jill patted her hand. Then she asked me: “What about the police? Or the sheriff's deputies, whoever they are, who have charge of the case? The papers say they told you, and told her, and told Jill, to be available for questioning. What did they say about it? Did they give her permission to leave?”

“I didn't tell them about it.”

“Has anyone?”

She turned to Jill who said: “I didn't know it this morning when I called from my hospital room to tell them where I was going. They told me all right, come out here, but her name didn't come up.”

“Then nobody's told them about it?”

“No, but somebody's going to.”

She aimed that at my mother as though expecting approval and maybe a kiss. If so, she got a surprise. My mother's face turned stony and she sat there staring at Jill who suddenly seemed all crossed up. “Miss Howell,” she said, “perhaps I ought to explain something Dave hasn't mentioned that's pretty important to me. This woman who he thought until now was his mother has skipped with all my money, my hundred thousand dollars that Russell Morgan gave me, so I couldn't be charged in any way— and as a reward for what I did. If I'm to get it back, she has to be caught. They can't go after her; the police or the sheriff or anyone, until they've been told she's gone. So that's why I have to tell them.”

But all that got was more of the same from my mother, a stony stare and no answer at all. After a long time she turned to me, kissed me, and whispered: “I have to be going now.”

“What do you want me to call you?”

“What did you call her?”

“Mom—I thought you knew.”

“David, call me Mother.”

“I'd love to. I want to. Mother.” And then, after holding her close: “Mother, who is my father?”

“He'll tell you.”

“Yes, but when?”

“As soon as he's free to speak. It won't be long—but don't ask me to say more, David. If I do, I may find myself hoping—and I mustn't, mustn't, ever.”

“You mean that someone would die?”

“Yes, that's what I mean.”

“And when that happens, what?”

“Your father and I can be married.”

“And it's going to be soon, you say?”

“I didn't say! Don't ask me.”

“You said it wouldn't be long.”

“Then all right, I said that. I didn't say how long is long.”

Then at last she turned to Jill and took her face in both hands. She kissed her, then picked up the mink coat, which she had thrown over a chair, put it on, and pulled it around her. Then she opened the door and went out. We both followed, and I put her into her car. She started it, pulled ahead, and swung around the circle in front of the house. As she made the turn, where the circle joined on to the lane, she blew kisses, one to me, one to Jill.

“What did I do?” asked Jill. “I must have done something to change her.”

“She didn't change. She blew you a kiss, didn't she?”

“She changed from warm to ice.”

“You said you were telling the officers, so they could find Mom.”

“Well? Why shouldn't I?”

“OK, but don't ask any help of me.”

“Her, we're talking about.”

“Or
her
.”

“I'm going nuts. Why not?”

“I've tried to explain to you. I'm mountain. She's mountain. Mom's her kin, that's all.”

“Didn't you hear what she said? She doesn't respect her.”

“You can say that again.”

“And yet, on account of this Mom being kin, she'd block me off from making her give back what's mine?”

“I didn't notice any blocking.”

“For Christ's sake, I'm going nuts.”

“Don't ask her to help.”

“Or you to help?”

“I told you, she and I have been close.”

“I have to think this over.”

She went in the house and sat down off by herself. I sat down and put my arm around her. But she got up, put on her coat, and went out.

13

S
HE WAS GONE FOR
some time. I didn't peep, except to keep track that she hadn't gone off, that her car was still in the driveway. But then I went out to look: she wasn't there. I went around the house, wondering where she could be, and took a chance on the river. Sure enough, there she was. But she hardly turned around when I came. “Dave,” she whispered, “it talks.”

“You have to be putting me on.”

We both kept still to listen. Each time they'd come in clear, the sounds of the river at night, which you don't hear by daylight, how it whispers and burbles and gurgles, and tinkles and tankles and glugs, and sometimes lets go with a roar. She stood drawing deep breaths and listening. “It's beautiful, just beautiful,” she murmured. Then she jumped at the sound of a slap. “What was that?” she asked.

“Fish jumping, was all.”

“Sounded big.”

“Well, why not? Flood time's food time, for him. Plenty to eat, so he grows.”

“I never even thought of fish while I was out there—I mean in it. I was, you know.”

“Well, they thought of you. They were looking right at you, probably.”

“Could we catch one and have him for supper?”

“Why not?”

“Do you have a pole?”

“Handline, good enough.”

“Aw, I forgot, we have to have bait, and we can't in the dead of the night start digging for worms.”

“Aren't shrimp good enough?”

“How do you catch
them
?”

“With a can opener.”

“You goof.”

We laughed and went up the path to the house. I found the handline in the porch closet and the shrimp in the kitchen. As soon as I'd opened the can, I said: “OK, we're in business, but I warn you right now that fishing's bad for that dress, that beautiful dress Mr. York bought you.”

“I'll put on your pants.”

“Then OK.”

We went in the den where both of us changed our clothes, putting on something rough. We went to the back porch again, picked up the line and bait, and went down again to the river. I showed her how to bait up and said: “You can be the fisherman. I'll row the boat. Now what do you want to catch?”

“Which is the biggest?”

“Carp.”

“Then I want me a carp.”

“He's big and fat, but the flavor's not too good. He's what's used for gefilte fish.”

“Well, 10 million Jews can't be wrong.”

“On carp, they could be.”

“He's big?”

“Oh, big and fat and thick.”

“I want carp.”

“Then we'll go where carp is.”

I explained that pike and muskalong like it out in the middle, catfish down on the bottom, but carp up in the shallows, “so that's where we'll go after him.” On the near side, above my landing, was a creek that had no name, for the reason that it wasn't there except in flood time. But it was flood time now, and I had an idea that carp might like it. So I rowed over, past the snag, past the lower end of the island, and on up to the creek mouth. Jill had never fished before, and I explained what she should do—drop the line overboard, let it run till she felt it touch bottom, then pull it up a few inches, to leave the baited hook above the mud, where the fish would swim to feed. So she reached in the can for a shrimp, baited the hook, and dropped the line overboard. She had hardly pulled it off bottom when she gave a little squeal: “Oh! It twitched! I could feel it! It was a nibble!” But I had her pull in, and of course her hook was bare. We baited the hook and she tried again. Then 10 or 12 feet away, a flash of silver showed, but a big flash, to the sound of a loud flop. “Dave!” she yelped. “One is out there, a great big one. I could see him!” She pulled in, checked that her hook was still baited, and then started swinging it around, I suppose to throw it out where she'd seen the fish. But in mortal terror I crouched down in the boat, yelling, “Don't do that! Stop it! Stop whirling that hook around! Do you want it to rip out my eye?”

She hadn't thought of that.

But the tree saved her the trouble, the one we were pulled in beside, a big white sycamore sticking out of the water just off our bow. Ordinarily it was on land, but with the river in flood, the water had risen around it, so the boat was almost touching it, and the hook, where she'd whirled it around, had snagged in the tree, so we wouldn't be catching fish until we got it out. I told her: “First, sit down. Sit down, keep still, and stop hollering.”

She did.

“Now, take hold of me and move from the stern to the bow.
Don't stand up—
or you could go overboard.” To trim the boat, I moved from the cross-seat, where I was, to the stern, where she had been. “Now wait till I snug the boat in, jam it against the tree, and hold it tight with the oar.”

She did.

I bumped the bow to the tree, then held it tight by shoving an oar to the bottom. The water at that point was no more than two feet deep, so it made as firm a fix as is possible with such a boat.

“Now reach as well as you can without standing up and try to loosen the hook. It has a barb on it, so you may have to twist it. But if you can get your fingers on it, you should be able to get it out.”

She reached, but then said: “I have to stand up.”

“No! Please! To hell with the hook. Let's go home and have the lamb.”

“It's OK. There's a hollow here on the side that I can hook my fingers into so if I do lose my balance, I can hang on. Hold everything! I can feel the hook, I'm wobbling it. I have it—wind it in.”

I did, but she didn't sit down. She said: “I have to shift my position, so I don't go plopping down between the tree and the boat.”

“For God's sake, be careful—I can't help you. I have to hang onto this oar so I can steady the boat.”

“There's something else in here.”

“Probably a hive of bees. Leave it alone.”

“It's not bees, it's—”

She handed something to me and asked me to take it, but I dared not let go of the oar, where I had it jammed on bottom, or the boat would veer off and drop her in the water. She said: “It has straps on it and one of them's caught on something. I can't get it loose.”

I had a Boy Scout knife in my pocket. I opened it and gave it to her. She tried to take it from me but couldn't hang onto whatever it was she had and stretch far enough to get it. I held onto the oar in the water with one hand, then with the other picked up the second oar, laid it on the cross-seat, put the knife on it, and that way lifted it to her. She took it, cut, and then flung something into the boat. Then she stooped down to the front seat and at last was back in. I said: “Let's go home. Let's look at what you found.”

“Yes, I think we better.”

We rowed back, beached the boat, then felt our way up the path, and on into the house, both afraid to wonder what we had, yet both hoping. But when we turned the light on we saw what we always knew it would be. There was the red zipper bag, the one Shaw had had, all stuffed out tight, with the end of one strap cut off, where it had caught in some crack inside the hollow. We looked at each other and kissed. Then we pulled the zipper and there the money was, pack after pack of twenties, 100 to the pack, with printed wrappers around them, each reading $2,000. When we felt them, they were damp but not soaking wet.

“Of course,” she exclaimed. “The bag went in the river, too, and water would seep in, but only a little bit at a time, through the zipper. It wasn't more than a minute before he climbed out beside me.”

“I think we could dry those bills in the oven,” and I snapped it on.

But after a moment or two, she said, “Dave, why couldn't we use your plate, that steel thing you have, for cooking fritters? We could heat it, then turn off the heat, put the packs on, and let them stay there and bake. That way, they couldn't burn, but at the same time, we could see what we're doing.”

“OK.”

So that's how we did it and pretty soon came out with nice new money, all dry, all perfect. “And you know what, Dave?” she whispered. “What the beauty part is? It's all mine! I have the paper to show—Bob York gave it to me.”

“That's right,” I said. “Wonderful.”

“But that's not all.”

“Yeah? What else?”

“It's all ours.”

“Little Jill, it's yours.”

“But what's mine is yours. After all, you're God.”

It was beautiful being with her in the kitchen, knowing it had all turned out right and that now we could be happy. She got the paper out of her bag and let me read it. It was in the form of a letter, signed by Russell Morgan, president of Trans-U.S.&C., and listing the bills by number.

Then it said something like: “I hereby, as president of Trans-U.S.&C, and by the authority of its directors, do give, assign, and convey the said bills to you, in acknowledgment of your gallantry, bravery, and quick thinking, in saving a valuable plane and the lives of twenty-eight passengers, a pilot, copilot, and stewardess—” I read it, and then she let go of my hand to get up and kiss the money, every pack. I said: “Hey, watch it, you'll blister your mouth.”

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