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Raymond chandler the big sleep pdf

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Irony in Popular Fiction: Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep in Film and in Translation. Daniel Linder. Universidad Euskal Herriko del Pais Vasco Unibertsitatea. "THE BIG SLEEP". Screenplay by. William Faulkner. Leigh Brackett. Jules Furthman. From the novel by. Raymond Chandler. Free download of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Available in PDF, ePub and Kindle. Read, write reviews and more.


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Title: The Big Sleep Author: Chandler, Raymond () Date of first publication: Date first posted: 11 January Date last updated: 11 January. chandler raymond the big sleep · Read more Raymond Chandler - Long Goodbye · Read more Chandler, Raymond - Farewell My Lovely. Read more. Read The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1) Full Book PDF. One of my fav Raymond Chandler books and film noir flicks! Books To Read. More information.

I'm sorry. She got cunning. The heat didn't get any less hot with the brandy in me. The woman said there was a police jam connected with it and I'd better lay it on the line fast, or I'd be talking to my little sister through a wire screen. Beyond was no other sound, no cars, no siren, just the rain beating.

You may take your coat off, sir. It's too hot in here for a man with blood in his veins. I stood up and peeled off my coat and got a handkerchief out and mopped my face and neck and the backs of my wrists.

Louis in August had nothing on that place. I sat down again and I felt automatically for a cigarette and then stopped. The old man caught the gesture and smiled faintly. I lit the cigarette and blew a lungful at him and he sniffed at it like a terrier at a rathole. The faint smile pulled at the shadowed comers of his mouth. There's very little that I can eat and my sleep is so close to waking that it is hardly worth the name.

I seem to exist largely on heat, like a newborn spider, and the orchids are an excuse for the heat. Do you like orchids? The General half-closed his eyes. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men.

And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute. I stared at him with my mouth open. The soft wet heat was like a pall around us. The old man nodded, as if his neck was afraid of the weight of his head. Then the butler came pushing back through the jungle with a teawagon, mixed me a brandy and soda, swathed the copper ice bucket with a damp napkin, and went away softly among the orchids. A door opened and shut behind the jungle.

I sipped the drink. The old man licked his lips watching me, over and over again, drawing one lip slowly across the other with a funereal absorption, like an undertaker dry-washing his hands.

I'm thirty-three years old, went to college once and can still speak English if there's any demand for it. There isn't much in my trade.

I worked for Mr. Wilde, the District Attorney, as an investigator once. His chief investigator, a man named Bernie Ohls, called me and told me you wanted to see me. I'm unmarried because I don't like policemen's wives. One of them has been married three times, the last time to an ex-bootlegger who went in the trade by the name of Rusty Regan.

That's all I heard, General. He smiled his faint economical smile. I'm very fond of Rusty. A big curly-headed Irishman from Clonmel, with sad eyes and a smile as wide as Wilshire Boulevard. The first time I saw him I thought he might be what you are probably thinking he was, an adventurer who happened to get himself wrapped up in some velvet. He put his thin bloodless hands under the edge of the rug. I put my cigarette stub out and finished my drink.

He spent hours with me, sweating like a pig, drinking brandy by the quart and telling me stories of the Irish revolution. He had been an officer in the I. He wasn't even legally in the United States. It was a ridiculous marriage of course, and it probably didn't last a month, as a marriage. I'm telling you the family secrets, Mr. The old man looked at me woodenly. Abruptly, without a word to anyone. Without saying good-by to me.

That hurt a little, but he had been raised in a rough school. I'1l hear from him one of these days. Meantime I am being blackmailed again. He brought his hands from under the rug with a brown envelope in them. A few months before he came—that is to say about nine or ten months ago—I paid a man named Joe Brody five thousand dollars to let my younger daughter Carmen alone.

He went on staring at me, half frowning. Then he said: And help yourself to the brandy. I took the envelope off his knees and sat down with it again. I wiped off the palms of my hands and turned it around. The address was in ink, in the slanted printing engineers use. The envelope was slit. I opened it up and took out a brown card and three slips of stiff paper.

The card was of thin brown linen, printed in gold: Arthur Gwynn Geiger. Very small in the lower left-hand corner: More of the slanted printing on the back. In spite of the legal uncollectibility of the enclosed, which frankly represent gambling debts, I assume you might wish them honored.

Respectfully, A. I looked at the slips of stiffish white paper. They were promissory notes filled out in ink, dated on several dates early in the month before, September. Value Received. Carmen Sternwood. The written part was in a sprawling moronic handwriting with a lot of fat curlicues and circles for dots.

I mixed myself another drink and sipped it and put the exhibit aside. Nothing changed in his expression. His clasped hands rested peacefully on the edge of the rug, and the heat, which made me feel like a New England boiled dinner, didn't seem to make him even warm. I think they go their separate and slightly divergent roads to perdition. Vivian is spoiled, exacting, smart and quite ruthless. Carmen is a child who likes to pull wings off flies.

Neither of them has any more moral sense than a cat. Neither have I. No Sternwood ever had. Carmen went to half a dozen schools of greater and greater liberality, and ended up where she started. I presume they both had, and still have, all the usual vices. If I sound a little sinister as a parent, Mr. Marlowe, it is because my hold on life is too slight to include any Victorian hypocrisy. I sipped my drink and nodded.

The pulse in his lean gray throat throbbed visibly and yet so slowly that it was hardly a pulse at all. An old man two thirds dead and still determined to believe he could take it. There has to be something behind it. But nobody's going to break your heart, if it hasn't been done already. And it would take an awful lot of chiselers an awful lot of time to rob you of enough so that you'd even notice it.

It's the easiest way to fool them.

THE BIG SLEEP

That or the police. Geiger can collect on these notes, unless you can show fraud. Instead of that he makes you a present of them and admits they are gambling debts, which gives you a defense, even if he had kept the notes. If he's a crook, he knows his onions, and if he's an honest man doing a little loan business on the side, he ought to have his money.

Who was this Joe Brody you paid the five thousand dollars to? Carmen is still a minor under her mother's will. I give them both generous allowances. I said: Whoever he is and whatever he has. It may cost you a little money, besides what you pay me. And of course it won't get you anything.

Sugaring them never does. You're already listed on their book of nice names. Now you say it won't get me anything. It seems reasonable enough for removing morbid growths from people's backs. Quite a delicate operation. You realize that, I hope. You'll make your operation as little of a shock to the patient as possible? There might be several of them, Mr. I finished my second drink and wiped my lips and my face. The heat didn't get any less hot with the brandy in me. The General blinked at me and plucked at the edge of his rug.

And now I must excuse myself. I am tired. The cord was plugged into a black cable that wound along the side of the deep dark green boxes in which the orchids grew and festered. He closed his eyes, opened them again in a brief bright stare, and settled back among his cushions. The lids dropped again and he didn't pay any more attention to me. I stood up and lifted my coat off the back of the damp wicker chair and went off with it among the orchids, opened the two doors and stood outside in the brisk October air getting myself some oxygen.

The chauffeur over by the garage had gone away. The butler came along the red path with smooth light steps and his back as straight as an ironing board. I shrugged into my coat and watched him come. He stopped about two feet from me and said gravely: Regan would like to see you before you leave, sir.

And in the matter of money the General has instructed me to give you a check for whatever seems desirable. He looked puzzled, then he smiled.

You are, of course, a detective. By the way he rang his bell. No money now, thanks. What does Mrs. Regan want to see me about? His blue eyes gave me a smooth level look. This room was too big, the ceiling was too high, the doors were too tall, and the white carpet that went from wall to wall looked like a fresh fall of snow at Lake Arrowhead.

There were full-length mirrors and crystal doodads all over the place. The ivory furniture had chromium on it, and the enormous ivory drapes lay tumbled on the white carpet a yard from the windows. The white made the ivory look dirty and the ivory made the white look bled out. The windows stared towards the darkening foothills. It was going to rain soon.

There was pressure in the air already. I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs. She was worth a stare.

She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-longue with her slippers off, so I stared at her legs in the sheerest silk stockings. They seemed to be arranged to stare at. They were visible to the knee and one of them well beyond. The knees were dimpled, not bony and sharp.

The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem. She was tall and rangy and strong-looking. Her head was against an ivory satin cushion. Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle and she had the hot black eyes of the portrait in the hall.

She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full. She had a drink. She took a swallow from it and gave me a cool level stare over the rim of the glass. Or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotels. There was nothing in that for me, so I let it drift with the current. She put her glass down on the flat arm of the chaise-longue and flashed an emerald and touched her hair.

She said slowly: And he was a lot of fun for Dad. Rusty shouldn't have gone off like that. Dad feels very badly about it, although he won't say so. Or did he? Why not try the Missing Persons Bureau? They have the organization. It's not a one-man job. A maid came into the room by a side door. She was a middle-aged woman with a long yellow gentle face, a long nose, no chin, large wet eyes.

She looked like a nice old horse that had been turned out to pasture after long service. Regan waved the empty glass at her and she mixed another drink and handed it to her and left the room, without a word, without a glance in my direction. I grinned at her with my head on one side. She flushed. Her hot black eyes looked mad. You sent for me. I don't mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle.

I don't mind your showing me your legs. They're very swell legs and it's a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me. She slammed her glass down so hard that it slopped over on an ivory cushion. She swung her legs to the floor and stood up with her eyes sparking fire and her nostrils wide.

Her mouth was open and her bright teeth glared at me. Her knuckles were white. I sat there and grinned at her. Very slowly she closed her mouth and looked down at the spilled liquor. She sat down on the edge of the chaise-longue and cupped her chin in one hand. Her eyes whitened. Then they darkened until they seemed to be all pupil. Her nostrils looked pinched. Was it? He just drove away in his car without saying a word. They found the car in a private garage somewhere.

She got cunning. Her whole body seemed to go lax. Then she smiled at me winningly. Maybe she had. Regan, yes. That's not what he wanted to see me about. Is that what you've been trying to get me to say? I stood up again. I went over to the tall white door I had come in at. When I looked back She had her lip between her teeth and was worrying it like a puppy at the fringe of a rug. I went out, down the tile staircase to the hall, and the butler drifted out of somewhere with my hat in his hand.

I put it on while he opened the door for me. He inclined his silver head and said politely; "I'm sorry, sir. I make many mistakes. I stood on the step breathing my cigarette smoke and looking down a succession of terraces with flowerbeds and trimmed trees to the high iron fence with gilt spears that hemmed in the estate.

A winding driveway dropped down between retaining walls to the open iron gates. Beyond the fence the hill sloped for several miles.

On this lower level faint and far off I could just barely see some of the old wooden derricks of the oilfield from which the Sternwoods had made their money. Most of the field was public park now, cleaned up and donated to the city by General Sternwood. But a little of it was still producing in groups of wells pumping five or six barrels a day.

The Sternwoods, having moved up the hill, could no longer smell the stale sump water or the oil, but they could still look out of their front windows and see what had made them rich. If they wanted to. I didn't suppose they would want to. I walked down a brick path from terrace to terrace, followed along inside the fence and so out of the gates to where I had left my car under a pepper tree on the street.

Thunder was crackling in the foothills now and the sky above them was purple-black. It was going to rain hard. The air had the damp foretaste of rain. I put the top up on my convertible before I started downtown. She had lovely legs. I would say that for her. They were a couple of pretty smooth citizens, she and her father.

He was probably just trying me out; the job he had given me was a lawyer's job. Even if Mr. Unless there was a lot more to it than met the eye.

At a casual glance I thought I might have a lot of fun finding out. I drove down to the Hollywood public library and did a little superficial research in a stuffy volume called Famous First Editions. Half an hour of it made me need my lunch. Geiger's place was a store frontage on the north side of the boulevard near Las Palmas. The entrance door was set far back in the middle and there was a copper trim on the windows, which were backed with Chinese screens, so I couldn't see into the store.

There was a lot of oriental junk in the windows. I didn't know whether it was any good, not being a collector of antiques, except unpaid bills. The entrance door was plate glass, but I couldn't see much through that either, because the store was very dim. A building entrance adjoined it on one side and on the other was a glittering credit jewelry establishment. The jeweler stood in his entrance, teetering on his heels and looking bored, a tall handsome white-haired Jew in lean dark clothes, with about nine carats of diamond on his right hand.

A faint knowing smile curved his lips when I turned into Geiger's store. I let the door close softly behind me and walked on a thick blue rug that paved the floor from wall to wall. There were blue leather easy chairs with smoke stands beside them. A few sets of tooled leather bindings were set out on narrow polished tables, between book ends. There were more tooled bindings in glass cases on the walls.

Nice-looking merchandise, the kind a rich promoter would buy by the yard and have somebody paste his bookplate in.

At the back there was a grained wood partition with a door in the middle of it, shut. In the corner made by the partition and one wall a woman sat behind a small desk with a carved wooden lantern on it. She got up slowly and swayed towards me in a tight black dress that didn't reflect any light. She had long thighs and she walked with a certain something I hadn't often seen in bookstores. She was an ash blonde with greenish eyes, beaded lashes, hair waved smoothly back from ears in which large jet buttons glittered.

Her fingernails were silvered. In spite of her get-up she looked as if she would have a hall bedroom accent. She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a business men's lunch and tilted her head to finger a stray, but not very stray, tendril of softly glowing hair.

Her smile was tentative, but could be persuaded to be nice. I had my horn-rimmed sunglasses on. I put my voice high and let a bird twitter in it.

Her smile was now hanging by its teeth and eyebrows and wondering what it would hit when it dropped. She looked me over. No smile now. Eyes medium to hard. Pose very straight and stiff.

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler: FREE Book Download

She waved silver fingernails at the glassed-in shelves. Probably has duplicate sets of steel engravings, tuppence colored and a penny plain. The usual vulgarity. I'm sorry. She was as sore as an alderman with the mumps. Geiger—but he's not in at the moment. She knew as much about rare books as I knew about handling a flea circus.

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I'll sit down and smoke a cigarette in one of these charming chairs. I have rather a blank afternoon. Nothing to think about but my trigonometry lesson. I stretched out in one and lit a cigarette with the round nickel lighter on the smoking stand. She still stood, holding her lower lip with her teeth, her eyes vaguely troubled.

She nodded at last, turned slowly and walked back to her little desk in the corner. From behind the lamp she stared at me. I crossed my ankles and yawned. Her silver nails went out to the cradle phone on the desk, didn't touch it, dropped and began to tap on the desk. Silence for about five minutes. The door opened and a tall hungry-looking bird with a cane and a big nose came in neatly, shut the door behind him against the pressure of the door closer, marched over to the corner and placed a wrapped parcel on the desk.

He took a pinseal wallet with gold corners from his pocket and showed the blonde something. She pressed a button on the desk. The tall bird went to the door in the paneled partition and opened it barely enough to slip through. I finished my cigarette and lit another. The minutes dragged by. Horns tooted and grunted on the boulevard. A big red interurban car grumbled past.

A traffic light gonged. The blonde leaned on her elbow and cupped a hand over her eyes and stared at me behind it. The partition door opened and the tall bird with the cane slid out. He had another wrapped parcel, the shape of a large book. He went over to the desk and paid money.

He left as he had come, walking on the balls of his feet, breathing with his mouth open, giving me a sharp side glance as he passed. I got to my feet, tipped my hat to the blonde and went out after him. He walked west, swinging his cane in a small tight arc just above his right shoe. He was easy to follow. His coat was cut from a rather loud piece of horse robe with shoulders so wide that his neck stuck up out of it like a celery stalk and his head wobbled on it as he walked.

We went a block and a half. At the Highland Avenue traffic signal I pulled up beside him and let him see me. He gave me a casual, then a suddenly sharpened side glance, and quickly turned away. We crossed Highland with the green light and made another block. He stretched his long legs and had twenty yards on me at the comer. He turned right. A hundred feet up the hill he stopped and hooked his cane over his arm and fumbled a leather cigarette case out of an inner pocket.

He put a cigarette in his mouth, dropped his match, looked back when he picked it up, saw me watching him from the corner, and straightened up as if somebody had booted him from behind. He almost raised dust going up the block, walking with long gawky strides and jabbing his cane into the sidewalk. He turned left again. He had at least half a block on me when I reached the place where he had turned.

He had me wheezing.

The Big Sleep

This was a narrow tree-lined street with a retaining wall on one side and three bungalow courts on the other. He was gone. I loafed along the block peering this way and that. At the second bungalow court I saw something. It was called "The La Baba," a quiet dim place with a double row of tree-shaded bungalows. The central walk was lined with Italian cypresses trimmed short and chunky, something the shape of the oil jars in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Behind the third jar a loud-pattered sleeve edge moved. I leaned against a pepper tree in the parkway and waited. The thunder in the foothills was rumbling again. The glare of lightning was reflected on piled-up black clouds off to the south.

A few tentative raindrops splashed down on the sidewalk and made spots as large as nickels. The air was as still as the air in General Sternwood's orchid house.

The sleeve behind the tree showed again, then a big nose and one eye and some sandy hair without a hat on it. The eye stared at me. It disappeared. Its mate reappeared like a woodpecker on the other side of the tree. Five minutes went by. It got him. His type are half nerves. I heard a match strike and then whistling started.

Then a dim shadow slipped along the grass to the next tree. Then he was out on the walk coming straight towards me, swinging the cane and whistling. A sour whistle with jitters in it. I stared vaguely up at the dark sky. He passed within ten feet of me and didn't give me a glance. He was safe now. He had ditched it. I watched him out of sight and went up the central walk of the La Baba and parted the branches of the third cypress. I drew out a wrapped book and put it under my arm and went away from there.

Nobody yelled at me. Back on the boulevard I went into a drugstore phone booth and looked up Mr. Arthur Gwynn Geiger's residence. I dropped my nickel and dialed his number just for fun.

Nobody answered. I turned to the classified section and noted a couple of bookstores within blocks of where I was. The first I came to was on the north side, a large lower floor devoted to stationery and office supplies, a mass of books on the mezzanine.

It didn't look the right place. I crossed the street and walked two blocks east to the other one. This was more like it, a narrowed cluttered little shop stacked with books from floor to ceiling and four or five browsers taking their time putting thumb marks on the new jackets. Nobody paid any attention to them. I shoved on back into the store, passed through a partition and found a small dark woman reading a law book at a desk. I flipped my wallet open on her desk and let her look at the buzzer pinned to the flap.

She looked at it, took her glasses off and leaned back in her chair. I put the wallet away. She had the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess. She stared at me and said nothing. She looked out through the partition door and leaned back again. I held a match for her. She thanked me, leaned back again and regarded me through smoke. She said carefully:. She pushed her yellow law book to one side and reached a fat volume up on the desk, leafed it through, found her page, and studied it.

She blew a soft gray smoke ring and poked her finger through. It came to pieces in frail wisps. She spoke smoothly, indifferently. Medium height, fattish. Would weigh about a hundred and sixty pounds. Fat face, Charlie Chan moustache, thick soft neck. Soft all over.

Well dressed, goes without a hat, affects a knowledge of antiques and hasn't any. Oh yes. His left eye is glass. She put the reference book back on an open shelf at the end of her desk, and opened the law book in front of her again. She put her glasses on. I thanked her and left. The rain had started.

I ran for it, with the wrapped book under my arm. My car was on a side street pointing at the boulevard almost opposite Geiger's store. I was well sprinkled before I got there. I tumbled into the car and ran both windows up and wiped my parcel off with my handkerchief.

Then I opened it up. I knew about what it would be, of course. A heavy book, well bound, handsomely printed in handset type on fine paper. Larded with full-page arty photographs. Photos and letterpress were alike of an indescribable filth. The book was not new. Dates were stamped on the front endpaper, in and out dates. A rent book. A lending library of elaborate smut. I rewrapped the book and locked it up behind the seat.

A racket like that, out in the open on the boulevard, seemed to mean plenty of protection. I sat there and poisoned myself with cigarette smoke and listened to the rain and thought about it.

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Rain filled the gutters and splashed knee-high off the sidewalk. Big cops in slickers that shone like gun barrels had a lot of fun carrying giggling girls across the bad places. The rain drummed hard on the roof of the car and the burbank top began to leak.

A pool of water formed on the floorboards for me to keep my feet in. It was too early in the fall for that kind of rain. I struggled into a trench coat and made a dash for the nearest drugstore and bought myself a pint of whiskey. Back in the car I used enough of it to keep warm and interested. I was long overparked, but the cops were too busy carrying girls and blowing whistles to bother about that. In spite of the rain, or perhaps even because of it, there was business done at Geiger's.

Very nice cars stopped in front and very nice-looking people went in and out with wrapped parcels. They were not all men. He showed about four o'clock. A cream-colored coupe stopped in front of the store and I caught a glimpse of the fat face and the Charlie Chan moustache as he dodged out of it and into the store.

He was hatless and wore a belted green leather raincoat. I couldn't see his glass eye at that distance. A tall and very good-looking kid in a jerkin came out of the store and rode the coupe off around the comer and came back walking, his glistening black hair plastered with rain.

Another hour went by. It got dark and the rain-clouded lights of the stores were soaked up by the black street. Street-car bells jangled crossly. At around five-fifteen the tall boy in the jerkin came out of Geiger's with an umbrella and went after the cream-colored coupe. When he had it in front Geiger came out and the tall boy held the umbrella over Geiger's bare head. He folded it, shook it off and handed it into the car. He dashed back into the store. I started my motor. The coupe went west on the boulevard, which forced me to make a left turn and a lot of enemies, including a motorman who stuck his head out into the rain to bawl me out.

I was two blocks behind the coupe before I got in the groove. I hoped Geiger was on his way home. I caught sight of him two or three times and then made him turning north into Laurel Canyon Drive. Halfway up the grade he turned left and took a curving ribbon of wet concrete which was called Laverne Terrace. It was a narrow street with a high bank on one side and a scattering of cabin-like houses built down the slope on the other side, so that their roofs were not very much above road level.

Their front windows were masked by hedges and shrubs. Sodden trees dripped all over the landscape. Geiger had his lights on and I hadn't.

I speeded up and passed him on a curve, picked a number off a house as I went by and turned at the end of the block. He had already stopped. His car lights were tilted in at the garage of a small house with a square box hedge so arranged that it masked the front door completely. I watched him come out of the garage with his umbrella up and go in through the hedge. He didn't act as if he expected anybody to be tailing him.

Light went on in the house. I drifted down to the next house above it, which seemed empty but had no signs out. I parked, aired out the convertible, had a drink from my bottle, and sat. I didn't know what I was waiting for, but something told me to wait. Another army of sluggish minutes dragged by.

Two cars came up the hill and went over the crest. It seemed to be a very quiet street. At a little after six more bright lights bobbed through the driving rain. It was pitch black by then. A car dragged to a stop in front of Geiger's house. The filaments of its lights glowed dimly and died. The door opened and a woman got out. A small slim woman in a vagabond hat and a transparent raincoat. She went in through the box maze. A bell rang faintly, light through the rain, a closing door, silence.

I reached a flash out of my car pocket and went downgrade and looked at the car. It was a Packard convertible, maroon or dark brown. The left window was down.

I felt for the license holder and poked light at it. The registration read: I went back to my car again and sat and sat. The top dripped on my knees and my stomach burned from the whiskey. No more cars came up the hill. No lights went on in the house before which I was parked. It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in. At seven-twenty a single flash of hard white light shot out of Geiger's house like a wave of summer lightning.

As the darkness folded back on it and ate it up a thin tinkling scream echoed out and lost itself among the rain-drenched trees. I was out of the car and on my way before the echoes died.

There was no fear in the scream. It had a sound of half-pleasurable shock, an accent of drunkenness, an overtone of pure idiocy. It was a nasty sound. It made me think of men in white and barred windows and hard narrow cots with leather wrist and ankle straps fastened to them. The Geiger hideaway was perfectly silent again when I hit the gap in the hedge and dodged around the angle that masked the front door. There was an iron ring in a lion's mouth for a knocker.

I reached for it, I had hold of it. At that exact instant, as if somebody had been waiting for the cue, three shots boomed in the house.

There was a sound that might have been a long harsh sigh. Then a soft messy thump. And then rapid footsteps in the house—going away. The door fronted on a narrow run, like a footbridge over a gully, that filled the gap between the house wall and the edge of the bank. There was no porch, no solid ground, no way to get around to the back. The back entrance was at the top of a flight of wooden steps that rose from the alley-like street below. I knew this because I heard a clatter of feet on the steps, going down.

Then I heard the sudden roar of a starting car. It faded swiftly into the distance. I thought the sound was echoed by another car, but I wasn't sure.

The house in front of me was as silent as a vault. There wasn't any hurry. What was in there was in there. I straddled the fence at the side of the runway and leaned far out to the draped but unscreened French window and tried to look in at the crack where the drapes came together.

I saw lamplight on a wall and one end of a bookcase. I got back on the runway and took all of it and some of the hedge and gave the front door the heavy shoulder. This was foolish. About the only part of a California house you can't put your foot through is the front door. All it did was hurt my shoulder and make me mad. I climbed over the railing again and kicked the French window in, used my hat for a glove and pulled out most of the lower small pane of glass.

I could now reach in and draw a bolt that fastened the window to the sill. The rest was easy. There was no top bolt. The catch gave. I climbed in and pulled the drapes off my face. Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.

It was a wide room, the whole width of the house. It had a low beamed ceiling and brown plaster walls decked out with strips of Chinese embroidery and Chinese and Japanese prints in grained wood frames. There were low bookshelves, there was a thick pinkish Chinese rug in which a gopher could have spent a week without showing his nose above the nap.

There were floor cushions, bits of odd silk tossed around, as if whoever lived there had to have a piece he could reach out and thumb. There was a broad low divan of old rose tapestry. It had a wad of clothes on it, including lilac-colored silk underwear. There was a big carved lamp on a pedestal, two other standing lamps with jade-green shades and long tassels.

There was a black desk with carved gargoyles at the corners and behind it a yellow satin cushion on a polished black chair with carved arms and back. The room contained an odd assortment of odors, of which the most emphatic at the moment seemed to be the pungent aftermath of cordite and the sickish aroma of ether.

On a sort of low dais at one end of the room there was a high-backed teakwood chair in which Miss Carmen Sternwood was sitting on a fringed orange shawl. She was sitting very straight, with her hands on the arms of the chair, her knees close together, her body stiffly erect in the pose of an Egyptian goddess, her chin level, her small bright teeth shining between her parted lips.

Her eyes were wide open. The dark slate color of the iris had devoured the pupil. They were mad eyes. She seemed to be unconscious, but she didn't have the pose of unconsciousness. She looked as if, in her mind, she was doing something very important and making a fine job of it. Out of her mouth came a tinny chuckling noise which didn't change her expression or even move her lips.

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