The Picture Ranch 49
For some reason Schultz let Lipowitz drive. Miss G sat up front with the big galoot. I hoped he didn’t break the stick shift off the driving column. This meant, of course, that Schultz was in the back with Mulvaney. I stuck close enough to see Schultz’s pistol move from time to time. They were heading north west along 101, past Universal as if going towards Mulholland Drive. Schultz’s car then began a crazy zig-zag route through side-streets even I didn’t know the name of. A half-hour later we found ourselves on the Camino Real heading south. I knew when we reached the outskirts of Carlsbad that we were going back to the Military Academy. It would be quieter around 8 in the evening. The younger cadets would have lights out at 9, and everyone but the Duty Platoon would be in their dorm rooms before 9.30.
Lipowitz stopped the car at an acute angle to the kerb. I pulled in behind and parked the Hispano in a more conventional style. All four got out of Schultz’s flivver. Schultz waved the pistol in the air like he didn’t care. I got out of the car and joined the four of them on the sidewalk under the sign on the gate that said ‘Army and Navy Academy’. Schultz pointed up at the sign,
‘Army and Navy, huh? Guess maybe I do get my money’s worth. Wadda ya think, Fisher?’
‘Depends what you think you’re buying, Benny.’
Mulvaney had a couple of bruises around the eyes but no cuts, then again Benny Schultz had experience in such things.
‘Put the gun away, Benny, and I’ll ring the bell.’
A uniformed boy around seventeen marched down to the gate, imitation rifle at port. I supposed he could have gripped the barrel and brained someone with the stock. I revised his age downwards when he warbled lo-hi-lo,
‘Sirs – and Ma’am. The academy is closed for the evening. Please come back during regular hours.’
He took a few gulps of air. Lipowitz was probably enough to frighten anyone. Mulvaney spoke,
‘I’m here to see Fulbright.’
‘Oh, Mr Mulvaney. I – I didn’t recognise you.’
Maybe the bruises were worse than I thought. The boy let us in through the gates and locked them behind us. We were already striding up the drive to the main building. He started to double after us, but then slowed to a wary shuffle, arms back to port. There were two more boys standing at ease, one each side of the double-doored entrance. We reached the first of the three steps up to them before they stood to a sloppy attention. Then they saw Mulvaney, and they straightened up enough to impress him, but not me. The boy who had followed us fumbled at opening the doors whilst holding onto his replica rifle. They weren’t locked, but they were heavy.
Lipowitz took hold of Mulvaney’s arm, but stopped short of twisting it behind his back.
‘Lead on, Macduff.’ Schultz said.
‘Lay,’ Miss Gräfenberg whispered, why, I didn’t know.