The Picture Ranch 27
I made a big show of getting Henry to hand me the still damp sheets of paper. He wrapped them in a dirty dish-towel that had been draped over his shoulder. Schultz’s eyes were glazed over,
‘Shoulda told the Polack, Schultz. Coulda let him loose on those three goons. Woulda solved a problem, doncha think?’
‘Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Damfool way to think. You any idea who’s got the boy?’
I told him I didn’t know that anyone “had” him, not for sure. Shultz said he’d ask around.
‘Leave a message with Henry.’ I said.
‘Whatchoo gonna do?’
I was just passing the dry-goods shelves on my way to the door,
‘Miz Gräfenberg and I are going back to school.’
Four hours later we were in Carlsbad, parked near the coffee-shop where we’d met Mulvaney's friend, young Schultz. We jaywalked to the other side of the street and headed on down towards the Military Academy. The same boy as last time, or one very like him, stood like a tin-soldier at the entrance.
' 'Pointment, Sir?'
'We're here to see Father O’Herlihy.'
The boy looked like he was going to use the parade weapon to block our way, for a moment.
He stood aside, but I could see he was working out how to let someone in authority know that two strangers had just walked past him into the school. If he could do that without leaving his post, he had a future in the Marines.
We headed throught the corridors. The décor was all gilt and mirrors. The cadets would have spent half their waking hours cleaning them, if they pulled that duty on fatigues. I led Miss G all the way to the padre's office with only two wrong turnings. The door was closed, locked from the inside. I put my shoulder to the door. The door looked fine, I was in pain, Miss G was removing a pin from her hair. It must have been a cheap lock, because it was open faster than than a champagne bottle at one of the Black Widow’s “clubs” when the LAPD arrived. I went in first, since sometimes a gentleman has to.
The padre wasn’t behind the desk. He didn’t make an attractive light fitting. There was a pool of urine seeping into the polished floorboards. Overall, the smell wasn’t too bad. He’d been considerate and had opened the window, or someone had. I stepped round his swaying legs and checked his desk for a note. The only thing open on his desk was a galboy skin-mag, it was short- eyes stuff. Not the kind of thing you want to see in the office of someone working at a boys’ boarding school. I thought back to my previous meeting with the late clergyman. His babyface, the high-pitched voice: no, it was too damn convenient. Besides, the magazine was as new as this week’s Time, the pages were uncreased and clean, with not even a thumb-print visible on the glossy images.
‘Shut the door, Eleanor. Lean against it, at least until someone tries the door-knob’.
I checked through the drawers in the desk. None of them were locked and there were no keys in evidence to show that they ever had been. The file cabinet was the same. If the magazine had belonged to the late padre, he would have had somewhere to hide it. I did find something though. The Mulvaney boy’s file. It was empty.
There was a phone on the desk, I picked it up and asked the switchboard operator for the Carlsbad Police Department. Too many seconds passed in making the connection and I guessed that “Admiral” Fulbright would be joining us soon. I got through to the detective squad room and gave all the details except my own name. Someone tried the door. Eleanor stepped away and the second attempt allowed a fat man to fall into the room. Fulbright had arrived just in time to hear me tell the cops that it was “Admiral” Fulbright speaking. Then I hung up.