The Long Goodbye



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23
A low-swung Jaguar swept around the hill in front of me and slowed down so as not to bathe me in the granite dust from the half-mile of neglected paving at the entrance to Idle Valley. It seemed they wanted it left that way to discourage the Sunday drivers spoiled by drifting along on superhighways. I caught a glimpse of a bright scarf and a pair of sun goggles. A hand waved at me casually, neighbor to neighbor. Then the dust slid across the road and added itself to the white film already well spread over the scrub and the sun-baked grass. Then I was around the outcrop and the paving started up in proper shape and everything was smooth and cared for. Live oaks clustered towards the road, as if they were curious to see who went by, and sparrows with rosy heads hopped about pecking at things only a sparrow would think worth pecking at.

Then there were a few cottonwoods but no eucalyptus. Then a thick growth of Carolina poplars screening a white house. Then a girl walking a horse along the shoulder of the road. She had Levis on and a loud shirt and she was chewing on a twig. The horse looked hot but not lathered and the girl was crooning to him gently. Beyond a fieldstone wall a gardener was guiding a power lawnmower over a huge undulating lawn that ended far back in the portico of a Williamsburg Colonial mansion, the large deluxe size. Somewhere someone was playing left-handed exercises on a grand piano.

Then all this wheeled away and the glisten of the lake showed hot and bright and I began to watch numbers on gateposts. I had seen the Wades’ house only once and in the dark. It wasn’t as big as it had looked by night. The driveway was full of cars, so I parked on the side of the road and walked in. A Mexican butler in a white coat opened the door for me. He was a slender neat good-looking Mexican and his coat fitted him elegantly and he looked like a Mexican who was getting fifty a week and not killing himself with hard work.

He said: “Buenas tardes, señor,” and grinned as if he had put one over. “Un nombre de Usted, por favor?”

“Marlowe,” I said, “and who are you trying to upstage, Candy? We talked on the phone, remember?”

He grinned and I went in. It was the same old cocktail party, everybody talking too loud, nobody listening, everybody hanging on for dear life to a mug of the juice, eyes very bright, cheeks flushed or pale and sweaty according to the amount of alcohol consumed and the capacity of the individual to handle it. Then Eileen Wade materialized beside me in a pale blue something which did her no harm. She had a glass in her hand but it didn’t look as if it was more than a prop.

“I’m so glad you could come,” she said gravely. “Roger wants to see you in his study. He hates cocktail parties. He’s working.”

“With this racket going on?”

“It never seems to bother him. Candy will get you a drink—or if you’d rather go to the bar—”

“I’ll do that,” I said. “Sorry about the other night.”

She smiled. “I think you apologized already. It was nothing.”

“The hell it was nothing.”

She kept the smile long enough to nod and turn and walk away. I spotted the bar over in the corner by some very large french windows. It was one of those things you push around. I was halfway across the room, trying not to bump anybody, when a voice said: “Oh, Mr. Marlowe.”

I turned and saw Mrs. Loring on a couch beside a prissy-looking man in rimless cheaters with a smear on his chin that might have been a goatee. She had a drink in her hand and looked bored. He sat still with his arms folded and scowled.

I went over there. She smiled at me and gave me her hand. “This is my husband, Dr. Loring. Mr. Philip Marlowe, Edward.”

The guy with the goatee gave me a brief look and a still briefer nod. He didn’t move otherwise. He seemed to be saving his energy for better things.

“Edward is very tired,” Linda Loring said. “Edward is always very tired.”

“Doctors often are,” I said. “Can I get you a drink, Mrs. Loring? Or you, Doctor?”

“She’s had enough,” the man said without looking at either of us. “I don’t drink. The more I see of people who do, the more glad I am that I don’t.”

“Come back, little Sheba,” Mrs. Loring said dreamily.

He swung around and did a take. I got away from there and made it to the bar. In the company of her husband Linda Loring seemed like a different person. There was an edge to her voice and a sneer in her expression which she hadn’t used on me even when she was angry.

Candy was behind the bar. He asked me what I would drink.

“Nothing right now, thanks. Mr. Wade wants to see me.”

“Es muy occupado, señor. Very busy.”

I didn’t think I was going to like Candy. When I just looked at him he added: “But I go see. De pronto, señor.”

He threaded his way delicately through the mob and was back in no time at all. “Okay, chum, let’s go,” he said cheerfully.

I followed him across the room the long way of the house. He opened a door, I went through, he shut it behind me, and a lot of the noise was dimmed. It was a corner room, big and cool and quiet, with french windows and roses outside and an air-conditioner set in a window to one side. I could see the lake, and I could see Wade lying flat out on a long blond leather couch. A big bleached wood desk had a typewriter on it and there was a pile of yellow paper beside the typewriter.

“Good of you to come, Marlowe,” he said lazily. “Park yourself. Did you have a drink or two?”

“Not yet.” I sat down and looked at him. He still looked a bit pale and pinched. “How’s the work going?”

“Fine, except that I get tired too quick. Pity a four-day drunk is so painful to get over. I often do my best work after one. In my racket it’s so easy to tighten up and get all stiff and wooden. Then the stuff is no good. When it’s good it comes easy. Anything you have read or heard to the contrary is a lot of mishmash?”

“Depends who the writer is, maybe,” I said. “It didn’t come easy to Flaubert, and his stuff is good.”

“Okay,” Wade said, sitting up. “So you have read Flaubert, so that makes you an intellectual, a critic, a savant of the literary world.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’m on the wagon and I hate it. I hate everybody with a drink in his hand. I’ve got to go out there and smile at those creeps. Every damn one of them knows I’m an alcoholic. So they wonder what I’m running away from. Some Freudian bastard has made that a commonplace. Every ten-year-old kid knows it by now. If I had a ten-year-old kid, which God forbid, the brat would be asking me, ‘What are you running away from when you get drunk, Daddy?’”

“The way I got it, all this was rather recent,” I said.

“It’s got worse, but I was always a hard man with a bottle. When you’re young and in hard condition you can absorb a lot of punishment. When you are pushing forty you don’t snap back the same way.”

I leaned back and lit a cigarette. “What did you want to see me about?”

“What do you think I’m running away from, Marlowe?”

“No idea. I don’t have enough information. Besides, everybody is running away from something.”

“Not everybody gets drunk. What are you running away from? Your youth or a guilty conscience or the knowledge that you’re a small time operator in a small time business?”

“I get it,” I said. “You need somebody to insult. Fire away, chum. When it begins to hurt I’ll let you know.”

He grinned and rumpled his thick curly hair. He speared his chest with a forefinger. “You’re looking right at a small time operator in a small time business, Marlowe. All writers are punks and I am one of the punkest. I’ve written twelve best sellers, and if I ever finish that stack of magoozium on the desk there I may possibly have written thirteen. And not a damn one of them worth the powder to blow it to hell. I have a lovely home in a highly restricted residential neighborhood that belongs to a highly restricted multimillionaire. I have a lovely wife who loves me and a lovely publisher who loves me and I love me the best of all. I’m an egotistical son of a bitch, a literary prostitute or pimp—choose your own word—and an all-round heel. So what can you do for me?”

“Well, what?”

“Why don’t you get sore?”

“Nothing to get sore about. I’m just listening to you hate yourself. It’s boring but it doesn’t hurt my feelings.”

He laughed roughly. “I like you,” he said, “Let’s have a drink.”

“Not in here, chum. Not you and me alone. I don’t care to watch you take the first one. Nobody can stop you and I don’t guess anyone would try. But I don’t have to help.”

He stood up. “We don’t have to drink in here. Let’s go outside and glance at a choice selection of the sort of people you get to know when you make enough lousy money to live where they live,”

“Look,” I said. “Shove it. Knock it off. They’re no different from anybody else.”

“Yeah,” he said tightly, “but they ought to be. If they’re not, what use are they? They’re the class of the county and they’re no better than a bunch of truck drivers full of cheap whiskey. Not as good.”

“Knock it off,” I said again. “You want to get boiled, get boiled. But don’t take it out on a crowd that can get boiled without having to lie up with Dr. Verringer or get loose in the head and throw their wives down the stairs.”

“Yeah,” he said, and he was suddenly calm and thoughtful. “You pass the test, chum. How about coming to live here for a while? You could do me a lot of good just being here.”

“I don’t see how.”

“But I do. Just by being here. Would a thousand a month interest you? I’m dangerous when I’m drunk. I don’t want to be dangerous and I don’t want to be drunk.”

“I couldn’t stop you.”

“Try it for three months. I’d finish the damn book and then go far off for a while. Lie up some place in the Swiss mountains and get clean.”

“The book, huh? Do you have to have the money?”

“No. I just have to finish something I started. If I don’t I’m through. I’m asking you as a friend. You did more than that for Lennox.”

I stood up and walked over close to him and gave him a hard stare. “I got Lennox killed, mister. I got him killed.”

“Phooey. Don’t go soft on me, Marlowe.” He put the edge of his hand against his throat. “I’m up to here in the soft babies.”

“Soft?” I asked. “Or just kind?”

He stepped back and stumbled against the edge of the couch, but didn’t lose his balance.

“The hell with you,” he said smoothly. “No deal. I don’t blame you, of course. There’s something I want to know, that I have to know. You don’t know what it is and I’m not sure I know myself. All I’m positive of is that there is something, and I have to know it.”

“About who? Your wife?”

He moved his lips one ever the other. “I think it’s about me,” he said. “Let’s go get that drink.”

He walked to the door and threw it open and we went out.

If he had been trying to make me uncomfortable, he had done a first class job.

24
When he opened the door the buzz from the living room exploded into our faces. It seemed louder than before, if possible. About two drinks louder. Wade said hello here and there and people seemed glad to see him. But by that time they would have been glad to see Pittsburgh Phil with his custom-built ice pick. Life was just one great big vaudeville show.

On the way to the bar we came face to face with Dr. Loring and his wife. The doctor stood up and stepped forward to face Wade. He had a look on his face that was almost sick with hatred.

“Nice to see you, Doctor,” Wade said amiably. “Hi, Linda. Where have you been keeping yourself lately? No, I guess that was a stupid question. I—”

“Mr. Wade,” Loring said in a voice that had a tremor to it, “I have something to say to you. Something very simple, and I hope very conclusive. Stay away from my wife.”

Wade looked at him curiously. “Doctor, you’re tired. And you don’t have a drink. Let me get you one.”

“I don’t drink, Mr. Wade. As you very well know. I am here for one purpose and I have expressed that purpose.”

“Well, I guess I get your point,” Wade said, still amiable. “And since you are a guest in my house, I have nothing to say except that I think you are a little off the beam.”

There had been a drop in the talk near by. The boys and girls were all ears. Big production. Dr. Loring took a pair of gloves out of his pocket, straightened them, took hold of one by the finger end, and swung it hard against Wade’s face.

Wade didn’t bat an eye. “Pistols and coffee at dawn?” he asked quietly.

I looked at Linda Loring. She was flushed with anger. She stood up slowly and faced the doctor.

“Dear God, what a ham you are, darling. Stop acting like a damn fool, will you, darling? Or would you rather stick around until somebody slaps your face?”

Loring swung around to her and raised the gloves. Wade stepped in front of him. “Take it easy, Doc. Around here we only hit our wives in private.”

“If you are speaking for yourself, I am well aware of it,” Loring sneered, “And I don’t need lessons in manners from you.”

“I only take promising pupils,” Wade said. “Sorry you have to leave so soon.” He raised his voice. “Candy! Que el Doctor Loring salga de aqui en el acto!” He swung back to Loring. “In case you don’t know Spanish, Doctor, that means the door is over there.” He pointed.

Loring stared at him without moving. “I have warned you, Mr. Wade,” he said idly. “And a number of people have heard me, I shall not warn you again.”

“Don’t,” Wade said curtly. “But if you do, make it on neutral territory. Gives me a little more freedom of action. Sorry, Linda. But you married him.” He rubbed his cheek gently where the heavy end of the glove had hit him. Linda Loring was smiling bitterly. She shrugged.

“We are leaving,” Loring said. “Come, Linda.”

She sat down again and reached for her glass. She gave her husband a glance of quiet contempt. “You are,” she said, “You have a number of calls to make, remember.”

“You are leaving with me,” he said furiously.

She turned her back on him. He reached suddenly and took hold of her arm. Wade took him by the shoulder and spun him around.

“Take it easy, Doc. You can’t win them all. ”

“Take your hand off me!”

“Sure, just relax,” Wade said. “I have a good idea, Doctor. Why don’t you see a good doctor?”

Somebody laughed loudly. Loring tensed like an animal all set to spring. Wade sensed it and neatly turned his back and moved away. Which left Dr. Loring holding the bag. If he went after Wade, he would look sillier than he looked now. There was nothing for him to do but leave, and he did it. He marched quickly across the room staring straight in front of him to where Candy was holding the door open. He went out, Candy shut the door, wooden-faced, and went back to the bar. I went over there and asked for some Scotch. I didn’t see where Wade went. He just disappeared. I didn’t see Eileen either. I turned my back on the room and let them sizzle while I drank my Scotch.

A small girl with mud-colored hair and a band around her forehead popped up beside me and put a glass on the bar and bleated, Candy nodded and made her another think.

The small girl turned to me. “Are you interested in Communism?” she asked me. She was glassy-eyed and she was running a small red tongue along her lips as if looking for a crumb of chocolate. “I think everyone ought to be,” she went on. “But when you ask any of the men here they just want to paw you.”

I nodded and looked over my glass at her snub nose and sun-coarsened skin.

“Not that I mind too much if it’s done nicely,” she told me, reaching for the fresh drink. She showed me her molars while she inhaled half of it.

“Don’t rely on me,” I said.

“What’s your name?”

“Marlowe.”

“With an ‘e’ or not?”

“With.”

“Ah, Marlowe,” she intoned. “Such a sad beautiful name.” She put her glass down damn nearly empty and closed her eyes and threw her head back and her arms out, almost hitting me in the eye. Her voice throbbed with emotion, saying: “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.”



She opened her eyes, grabbed her glass, and winked at me. “You were pretty good in there, chum. Been writing any poetry lately?”

“Not very much.”

“You can kiss me if you like,” she said coyly.

A guy in a shantung jacket and an open neck shirt came up behind her and grinned at me over the top of her head. He had short red hair and a face like a collapsed lung. He was as ugly a guy as I ever saw. He patted the top of the little girl’s head.

“Come on kitten. Time to go home.”

She rounded on him furiously. “You mean you got to water those goddamned tuberous begonias again?” she yelled.

“Aw listen, kitten—”

“Take your hands off me, you goddamned rapist,” she screamed, and threw the rest of her drink in his face. The rest wasn’t more than a teaspoonful and two lumps of ice.

“For Chrissake, baby, I’m your husband,” he yelled back, grabbing for a handkerchief and mopping his face. “Get it? Your husband.”

She sobbed violently and threw herself into his arms. I stepped around them and got out of there. Every cocktail party is the same, even the dialogue.

The house was leaking guests out into the evening air now. Voices were fading, cars were starting, goodbyes were bouncing around like rubber balls. I went to the french windows and out onto a flagged terrace. The ground sloped towards the lake which was as motionless as a sleeping cat. There was a short wooden pier down there with a rowboat tied to it by a white painter. Towards the far shore, which wasn’t very far, a black water-hen was doing lazy curves, like a skater. They didn’t seem to cause as much as a shallow ripple.

I stretched out on a padded aluminum chaise and lit a pipe and smoked peacefully and wondered what the hell I was doing there, Roger Wade seemed to have enough control to handle himself if he really wanted to. He had done all right with Loring. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he had hung one on Loring’s sharp little chin. He would have been out of line by the rules, but Loring was much farther out of line.

If the rules mean anything at all any more, they mean that you don’t pick a roomful of people as the spot to threaten a man and hit him across the face with a glove when your wife is standing right beside you and you are practically accusing her of a little double time. For a man still shaky from a hard bout with the hard stuff Wade had done all right. He had done more than all right. Of course I hadn’t seen him drunk. I didn’t know what he would be like drunk. I didn’t even know that he was an alcoholic. There’s a big difference. A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.

Light steps sounded behind me and Eileen Wade came across the terrace and sat down beside me on the edge of a chaise.

“Well, what did you think?” she asked quietly. “About the gentleman with the loose gloves?”

“Oh no.”


She frowned. Then she laughed. “I hate people who make stagy scenes like that. Not that he isn’t a fine doctor. He has played that scene with half the men in the valley. Linda Loring is no tramp. She doesn’t look like one, talk like one, or behave like one. I don’t know what makes Dr. Loring behave as if she was.”

“Maybe he’s a reformed drunk,” I said. “A lot of them grow pretty puritanical. ”

“It’s possible,” she said, and looked towards the lake. “This is a very peaceful place. One would think a writer would be happy here—if a writer is ever happy anywhere.” She turned to look at me. “So you won’t be persuaded to do what Roger asked.”

“There’s no point in it, Mrs. Wade. Nothing I could do. I’ve said all this before. I couldn’t be sure of being around at the right time. I’d have to be around all the time. That’s impossible, even if I had nothing else to do. If he went wild, for example, it would happen in a flash. And I haven’t seen any indications that he does get wild. He seems pretty solid to me.”

She looked down at her hands. “If he could finish his book, I think things would be much better.”

“I can’t help him do that.”

She looked up and put her hands on the edge of the chaise beside her. She leaned forward a little. “You can if he thinks you can. That’s the whole point. Is it that you would find it distasteful to be a guest in our house and be paid for it?”

“He needs a psychiatrist, Mrs. Wade. If you know one that isn’t a quack,”

She looked startled “A psychiatrist? Why?”

I knocked the ashes out of my pipe and sat holding it, waiting for the bowl to get cooler before I put it away,

“You want an amateur opinion, here it is. He thinks he has a secret buried in his mind and he can’t get at it. It may be a guilty secret about himself, it may be about someone else. He thinks that’s what makes him drink, because be can’t get at this thing. He probably thinks that whatever happened, happened while he was drunk and he ought to find it wherever people go when they’re drunk—really bad drunk, the way he gets. That’s a job for a psychiatrist. So far, so good. If that is wrong, then he gets drunk because he wants to or can’t help it, and the idea about the secret is just his excuse. He can’t write his book, or anyway can’t finish it. Because he gets drunk. That is, the assumption seems to be that he can’t finish his book because he knocks himself out by thinking. It could be the other way around.”

“Oh no,” she said. “No. Roger has a great deal of talent. I feel quite sure that his best work is still to come.”

“I told you it was an amateur opinion. You said the other morning that he might have fallen out of love with his wife. That’s something else that could go the other way around.”

She looked towards the house, then turned so that she had her back to it. I looked the same way. Wade was standing inside the doors, looking out at us. As I watched he moved behind the bar and reached for a bottle.

“There’s no use interfering,” she said quickly. “I never do. Never. I suppose you’re right, Mr. Marlowe. There just isn’t anything to do but let him work it out of his system.”

The pipe was cool now and I put it away. “Since we’re groping around in the back of the drawer, how about that other way around?”

“I love my husband,” she said simply. “Not as a young girl loves, perhaps. But I love him. A woman is only a young girl once. The man I loved then is dead. He died in the war. His name, strangely enough, had the same initials as yours. It doesn’t matter now—except that sometimes I can’t quite believe that he is dead. His body was never found. But that happened to many men.”

She gave me a long searching look. “Sometimes—not often, of course—when I go into a quiet cocktail lounge or the lobby of a good hotel at a dead hour, or along the deck of a liner early in the morning or very late at night, I think I may see him waiting for me in some shadowy corner.” She paused and dropped her eyes. “It’s very silly. I’m ashamed of it. We were very much in love—the wild, mysterious, improbable kind of love that never comes but once.”

She stopped talking and sat there half in a trance looking out over the lake. I looked back at the house again. Wade was standing just inside the open french windows with a glass in his hand. I looked back at Eileen.

For her I wasn’t there any more. I got up and went into the house. Wade stood there with the drink and the drink looked pretty heavy. And his eyes looked wrong.

“How you making out with my wife, Marlowe?” It was said with a twist of the mouth.

“No passes, if you mean it that way.”

“That’s exactly the way I mean it. You got to kiss her the other night. Probably fancy yourself as a fast worker, but you’re wasting your time, bud. Even if you had the right kind of polish.”

I tried to move around him but he blocked me with a solid shoulder. “Don’t hurry away, old man. We like you around. We get so few private dicks in our house.”

“I’m the one too many,” I said.

He hoisted the glass and drank from it. When he lowered it he leered at me.

“You ought to give yourself a little more time to build resistance,” I told him. “Empty words, huh?”

“Okay, coach. Some little character builder, aren’t you? You ought to have more sense than to try educating a drunk. Drunks don’t educate, my friend. They disintegrate. And part of the process is a lot of fun.” He drank from the glass again, leaving it nearly empty. “And part of it is damned awful. But if I may quote the scintillating words of the good Dr. Loring, a bastardly bastard with a little black bag, stay away from my wife, Marlowe. Sure you go for her. They all do. You’d like to sleep with her. They all would. You’d like to share her dreams and sniff the rose of her memories. Maybe I would too. But there is nothing to share, chum—nothing, nothing, nothing. You’re all alone in the dark.” He finished his drink and turned the glass upside down. “Empty like that, Marlowe. Nothing there at all. I’m the guy that knows.”

He put the glass on the edge of the bar and walked stiffly to the foot of the stairs. He made about a dozen steps up, holding on to the rail, and stopped and leaned against it. He looked down at me with a sour grin.

“Forgive the corny sarcasm, Marlowe. You’re a nice guy. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Anything like what?”

“Perhaps she didn’t get around yet to that haunting magic of her first love, the guy that went missing in Norway. You wouldn’t want to be missing, would you, chum? You’re my own special private eye. You find me when I’m lost in the savage splendor of Sepulveda Canyon.” He moved the palm of his hand in a circular motion on the polished wood banister. “It would hurt me to the quick if you got lost yourself. Like that character who hitched up with the limeys. He got so lost a man sometimes wonders if he ever existed. You figure she could have maybe just invented him to have a toy to play with?”

“How would I know?”

He looked down at me. There were deep lines between his eyes now and his mouth was twisted with bitterness.

“How would anybody know? Maybe she don’t know herself. Baby’s tired. Baby been playing too long with broken toys. Baby wants to go bye-bye.”

He went on up the stairs.

I stood there until Candy came in and started tidying up around the bar, putting glasses on a tray, examining bottles to see what was left, paying no attention to me. Or so. I thought. Then be said: “Señor. One good drink left. Pity to waste him.” He held up a bottle.

“You drink it.”

“Gracias, señor, no me gusta. Un vaso de Cerveza, no más. A glass of beer is my limit.”

“Wise man.”

“One lush in the house is enough,” he said, staring at me. ‘I speak good English, not?”

“Sure, fine.”

“But I think Spanish. Sometimes I think with a knife. The boss is my guy. He don’t need any help, hombre. I take care of him, see.”

“A great job you’re doing, punk.”

“Hijo de la flauta,” he said between his white teeth. He picked up a loaded tray and swung it up on the edge of his shoulder and the flat of his hand, bus boy style.

I walked to the door and let myself out, wondering how an expression meaning ‘son of a flute’ had come to be an insult in Spanish. I didn’t wonder very long. I had too many other things to wonder about. Something more than alcohol was the matter with the Wade family. Alcohol was no more than a disguised reaction.

Later that night, between nine-thirty and ten, I called the Wades’ number. After eight rings I hung up, but I had only just taken my hand off the instrument when it started to ring me. It was Eileen Wade.

“Someone just rang here,” she said. “I had a sort of hunch it might be you. I was just getting ready to take a shower.”

“It was me, but it wasn’t important, Mrs. Wade. He seemed a little woolly-headed when I left—Roger did. I guess maybe I feel a little responsibility for him by now.”

“He’s quite all right,” she said. “Fast asleep in bed. I think Dr. Loring upset him more than he showed. No doubt he talked a lot of nonsense to you,”

“He said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. Pretty sensible, I thought.”

“If that is all he said, yes. Well, goodnight and thank you for calling, Mr. Marlowe.”

“I didn’t say it was all he said. I said he said it.”

There was a pause, then: “Everyone gets fantastic ideas once in a while. Don’t take Roger too seriously, Mr. Marlowe. After all, his imagination is rather highly developed. Naturally it would be. He shouldn’t have had anything to drink so soon after the last time. Please try to forget all about it. I suppose he was rude to you among other things.”

“He wasn’t rude to me. He made quite a lot of sense. Your husband is a guy who can take a long hard look at himself and see what is there. It’s not a very common gift. Most people go through life using up half their energy trying to protect a dignity they never had. Goodnight, Mrs. Wade.”

She hung up and I set out the chessboard. I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen and inspected them for French shaves and loose buttons, and played a championship tournament game between Gortchakoff and Meninkin, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armor, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.


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