Read The Getaway (Read a Great Movie) Online

Authors: Jim Thompson

Tags: #Crime

The Getaway (Read a Great Movie) (7 page)

BOOK: The Getaway (Read a Great Movie)
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"No, we can't, can we?" Carol frowned. "We hole up with someone, then?"

"What gave you that idea? Who would we hole up with?"

"Well, I just thought that if-weren't you supposed to have a good friend out this way? Somewhere near Mexico, I mean? You know, that old woman-Ma Santis."

Doc said, regretfully, that he didn't have. Ma Santis was on the other side of Mexico, the Southern California side. At least, it had been rumored that she was there, although no one seemed to know where. "I don't know that she's even alive, but it's my guess that she probably isn't. When you get as well known as Ma Santis and her boys, people have you cropping up around the country for years after you're dead."

"Well. If there's no place for us to hole up…"

"I think we'd better be moving." Doc pushed back his plate and stood up. "We can talk about it while we're getting ready."

They cleared up the dishes and put them away. They changed into conservative clothes. As for talk- a discussion of their plans-there was very little. The decision was made for them. One saw it as readily as the other. They had to travel far faster than they had planned, and it was unsafe to use the highways. So there was only one thing they could do.

Aside from putting the kitchen to rights and smoothing out the upstairs bed, they did nothing to expunge the signs of their brief presence in the house. Doc did suggest that they wipe everything off to remove their fingerprints, but that was a joke and Carol grinned dutifully. Criminals are not nearly so cautious about fingerprints as is popularly supposed. Not, at least, the big-time operators who treat crime as a highly skilled profession. They know that an expert fingerprint man might work all day in his own home without picking up an identifiable set of his own prints. They also know that fingerprints are normally only corroborative evidence; that they will probably be tabbed for a certain crime, and the alarm set to ringing for them, long before they are tied to the job by fingerprints-if they ever are.

Doc filled Beynon's car with gasoline from a drum in the garage, also filling two five-gallon cans which he put in the rear of the car. He drove the car out into the yard, and Carol drove the convertible inside; and then they were on their way.

A couple of hours driving got them off of the country roads and back onto the highway. They paused there briefly to consult their road maps, picking out the most practical route to Kansas City. The town was far to the north, farther rather than nearer their ultimate destination. But that, of course, was its advantage. It was the last place they would be expected to go. As a jumping-off place, it offered no clue as to what their destination might be.

Their plan was to abandon the car at Kansas City and take a train westward. It was not, they knew, an ideal one. You are confined on a train. You are part of a relatively small group, and thus more easily singled out. Still, there was only one alternative-to go by plane-and a train was by far the best bet.

The night was chill, and speeding north it grew colder. In the heaterless car Carol shivered and snuggled close to her husband. He patted her protectively, remarked that it was a shame they had had to give up the convertible. "It was a nice car. I imagine you put a lot of thought into picking it out, didn't you?"

"Oh, well-" Carol's small shoulder shrugged against his. "It was nice of you to say that, Doc," she added. "Even to think about me being disappointed or uncomfortable at a time like this."

Doc said it was nothing at all; it came perfectly natural to anyone as generally splendid as he. Carol reproved him with a delicate pinch.

They rode cozily shoulder to shoulder, and somehow, despite the dropping temperature, the car seemed to grow warmer. Carol was comfortably pert. Doc was Doc; tender, amusing, restful-exuding the contagious good humor of complete self-confidence.

So it had been on nights past. The good nights (the good seems always to be in the past) before Doc's prison stretch. Just what broke the spell Carol could not have said. But gradually she found herself withdrawing; moving over to her own side of the seat. Gradually she began to study Doc's words, the tone of his voice, the play of expression over his homely handsome face.

Doc may or may not have noticed the change-may or may not have without knowing which was the case. Characteristically, and up to a point, he did not always allow himself to know what he thought or what he felt. He had come to a decision, decided on a certain course of conduct. If an obstacle could not be circumvented, ignore it. As long as it could be. Or until a better course suggested itself.

A couple of hours before dawn, he refueled the car from the two gas cans. Driving on again, he at last asked Carol if something was troubling her. "If I've done or said anything…"

"You haven't," she said."! suppose that that's- well, never mind. Don't pay any attention to me, Doc."

"Now, of course, I'll pay attention to you," Doc said genially. "Now and at all other times. So let's get this thing straightened out, whatever it is."

"Well, it's really nothing, but-" she hesitated, laughed with nervous apology. "I guess it just occurred to me that if you-if you felt a certain way, I probably wouldn't know it."

"Yes?" His voice tilted upward. "I'm not sure I understand."

"I'm talking about Beynon!"

"Beynon?" He gave her a curious look. "But what's there to say about him? You explained everything. I believed you. It's all settled."

Silence closed over the car again. They raced through the headlight-tunneled night, and the black walls slapped shut behind them. Time and space were the immediate moment. Behind and beyond it there was only the darkness.

Doc shifted in the seat and got cigarettes out of his pocket. He lighted two of them and passed one to her. And after a time, after it was finished, she drew close to him again.

He drew her a trifle closer. He pulled the tail of his topcoat from beneath him and tucked it over her knees.

"Better?" he asked softly.

"Better," she nodded. Because it was. It was warmer. Friend or foe, there was at least someone with her, and anything was better than the utter loneliness.

"I understood what you were talking about," he went on quietly. "I simply didn't know how to reply to it. Or what to do about it."

"I know, Doc."

"It leaves me without a corner to go to. If I'm agreeable, it's pretense. If I'm not, that also is cause for alarm. You see, my dear? You just can't think that way. It's foolish and it's dangerous, and-you do see that don't you?"

"I see it," she nodded; and then desperately, with what was almost a cry, "Then it is all right, Doc? Honestly? You're not sore or suspicious about- anything? Everything's just like it always was?"

"I said so. I've done everything I could to show you."

"But you might do that anyway! You might act just as sweet as pie, and all the time you'd be planning t-to-to…"

"Carol," said Doc soothingly. "My poor darling little girl."

And she sobbed harshly, sighed, and fell asleep against his shoulder.

7
It was early afternoon when Doc let Carol out at Kansas City's Union Railroad Terminal. Being much the "cooler" of the two of them-much less likely to be identified-she kept the money satchel with her. While Doc drove away to dispose of the car, she entered the station and headed for the coach ticket windows. At one of them she bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. At another, far removed, she bought a second one. Then, hesitantly, with a look at the lobby clock, she again picked up the money bag and her overnight case.

It was almost an hour until train time-Doc had previously checked the schedule by telephone. He wouldn't be showing up until the next to last minute, so she had almost an hour to kill-and to remain in sole custody of approximately two hundred and fifty thousand very hot, very bloody dollars.

She had never faced such nerve-wracking responsibility before. It had had to be hers, but still, with part of her mind, she was resentful that it had been thrust upon her.

She looked around the vaulted lobby, then, lurching a little from the weight of the bag, she started for the women's rest room. After a dozen steps or so, she set the bag down, started to shift it to her other hand. And in a blur of movement-in her fear and nervousness it seemed a blur-she saw it snatched up from the floor.

It was a redcap, one of several who had so far proffered their services. But at the moment he had no identity for Carol. He was just a hand, an arm, a half-turned back-a something that was about to make off with the bag.

Taking in her expression, he said, "Hope I didn't startle you, ma'am. Just thought I'd…"

"
You give that here
!" With a wild grab, she recovered the satchel. "You hear me? You give…"

"Kind of looks like you already got it, ma'am." He grinned at her pleasantly. "Ain't that so? Now, how about letting me check it for you?"

"No!" She backed away from him. "I mean, I don't want it checked. I j-just…"

"Put it on the train for you, then. Mighty heavy bag for a little lady like you to carry."

"No! And you'd better get away from me, or I'll-I'll…"

"Well, yes, ma'am," he said coldly. "Yessiree, ma'am!"

Regaining some control of herself, she mumbled a grimacing word of apology. Very conscious that his eyes were following her, she hurried down the vaulted lobby. Her arm ached. She was panting, sweating from exertion. She had a feeling that everyone in the place was watching her, wondering about her.

At long last-after hours, miles, seemingly-she got out of the waiting room proper and into a wing of the building. She paused there gratefully, setting the bag against the wall and resting the toe of one shoe against it.

Her breath came back; she patted the sweat from her face, became cooler, calmer. In a half-resentful way she felt ashamed of herself. There had been no reason for her panic. The bag looked like any other bag. If the police had been alerted, there wasn't a chance in ten thousand they'd be able to spot her. All she had to do was follow Doc's instructions: stay in the crowd, keep the bag with her at all times, carry it onto the train herself. It was simple enough. It was what she knew she should do, without being told by Doc. But…

No buts. It was what she had to do. Checkroom attendants were always losing things. Handing them out to the wrong people, banging bags around until they flew open. There were similar risks in dealing with redcaps, baggage porters. Nothing ever happened, naturally, to a two-dollar suitcase with a few bucks' worth of clothes in it. But let the bag contain something hot-money or jewelry or narcotics, or part of a dismembered corpse-and sure as shootin' there was a foul-up.

It happened all the time. You needed only to read the newspapers to know that it did.

Doc had been fearful that the bag would be too heavy for her. She had lifted it, assured him that she could manage it. She had also assured him-and pretty shortly at that-that her nerves were equally up to the job. But that had been then, and somehow everything had changed since then. The sureness which she had felt with him had melted away; and suddenly, with a spur of panic, she knew why.

Not only had she never faced any such responsability as this before, she had never faced any that remotely approached it. Nothing of do-or-die importance; nothing without Doc to guide her and work with her. She had thought that she had; Doc had tactfully let her think so. But invariably they had been a team. The one thing she had swung on her own was the Beynon deal; and that obviously, and regardless of the consequences, was something that would have been better left unswung.

Actually, she hadn't been around very much. She was virtually untraveled. Until she met Doc she'd never been out of her hometown. Since then, there'd been considerable travel by car, but she'd made only one train trip in her life.

She wasn't used to railroad stations. Even without the money bag she would have felt some unsureness.

Which I'd damn well better get over, she thought grimly. If Doc caught me acting like this, standing off in a corner by myself…!

He wouldn't like it. Far too much had already happened that he didn't like.

Resolutely, she picked up the bag and started back to the waiting room. The resolution lasted for a few steps, and then she began to slow, to hesitate. If only she could get rid of the thing for a few minutes. Long enough to make sure that she hadn't been spotted; to get a drink, to clean up a little. The drink, particularly, she needed. A good stiff jolt to pull her together again and…

She heard a dull clang of metal against metal; jumped a little, her eyes swerving toward it. But it was only someone slamming the door of a baggage locker. She started to move on toward the waiting room, and then her heart did a little skip-jump of relief, and she swung almost gaily toward the row of lockers on the other side of the wing.

She would be taking no chance in leaving the bag in a private locker. Doc couldn't object to it-in fact, he didn't even need to know about it. She could recover the bag before he showed up at the station.

She crossed the marble-paved foyer, set down the satchel and overnight case. She got a quarter out of her purse and stooped in front of an empty locker. Frowning, she sought in vain for the coin slot. Straightening again, she had started to read the metal instruction plate when a young man sauntered by. A young-oldish man with a small brown mustache and prematurely greying hair.

He was neatly dressed, engaging of manner. He would have been handsome except for the slight sharpness of his features.

"Kind of a Chinese puzzle, isn't it?" he said. "Well, here's how you work it."

Before Carol could object to the intrusion, he had taken the quarter from her hand, inserted it in the elusive slot and swung open the door. "Imagine you want to keep the dressing case with you, right?" he smiled. "Well, in we go with the big boy, then. Now-" he slammed and rattled the door, "we'll just test this to make sure that it's locked; maybe you'd better test it, too."

Carol tested it. He handed her a yellow-flanged locker key, courteously brushed aside her thanks, and sauntered off toward the waiting room.

In the station's bar-and-grill ladies' room, Carol touched up her makeup and allowed her suit to be brushed off by the attendant. Then, going out to the bar, she ordered and drank two double martinis. She wanted a third-not the drink itself so much as the excuse it would provide for remaining there. Just to stay there a little longer, where it was cool and shadowed and quiet, and feel the strength and the confidence spread through her. To feel
safe
.

But the hands of the clock pointed forbiddingly. It was barely ten minutes until train time.

Draining the last drop from her glass, she hurried out of the bar. She located her locker, inserted the key and turned it. Or tried to. It wouldn't turn. It didn't fit.

Her stomach cramped convulsively and the two drinks rose up in her throat. Swallowing nauseously, she removed the key and examined it; read the number with bewildered disbelief.

That couldn't be right! She
knew
that the bag had gone into this locker, the one here on the end. But according to this key…

She located the other locker, the one numbered to correspond with the key. Hands shaking, she opened it, and, of course, it was empty.

A voice boomed and echoed over the public address system: "Last call for the California umtumm-the California something-or-other, departing from Gate Three in exacklum fi'min-utts. Passengers will kinely take their seats on the California…"

Five minutes!

Feverishly she returned to the first locker, fought again to unlock it. Again, as on the first occasion, the effort was futile. The drinks struggled upward again. The heat, after the air-conditioned bar, beat and pounded through her brain.

She weaved a little. Foolishly, because there was nothing else to do, she started back toward the second locker, the one the key fitted. And then she stopped dead in her tracks. Up near the entrance, hat pulled low over his eyes, Doc was watching her. Watching and then coming toward her.

A few steps away, he faced up to the locker bank, fumbling in his pocket as though seeking a coin. His terse whisper whipped at her from the corner of his mouth. "Simmer down and talk fast. What happened?"

"I-I don't know, Doc! I put the bag in that locker back there, but I've got the key to…"

"To another locker, one that's empty, right? What did he look like?"

"He? What do you…"

"Will you in the name of all hell hurry! Someone helped you. Put the bag in for you, then switched keys on you. It's one of the oldest con gags in the country."

"But-well, how was I to know?" she lashed out. "You leave me to do everything…"

"Easy, babe, easy. I'm not blaming you." His voice became a purring calm, the intense calm above a raging subterranean storm. "How long since you left the bag? When you first came in, maybe an hour?"

"No. Not more that thirty minutes. But…"

"Good. He'd expect you to leave it longer than that. If he operates on form, he'll try to hit several times before he pulls out." He stepped back from the locker, jerked his head. "Move. Go ahead of me. If you spot him, give me the office."

"But, Doc. You shouldn't…"

"There's a lot of things that shouldn't have been done!" His tone was a whip again. "Now, move!"

She started off at a fast walk, then broke into a faster one as his long stride kept him almost on her heels. At what was almost a trot she reached the waiting room, swept it with an anxious glance. Prodded by an urgent cough from Doc, she made a hasty survey of the adjacent areas.

Then-and now she was really trotting-she headed for the train gates. The jarring of her high heels shot fire up her ankles. A button of her blouse became undone, and she ran clutching at the gap with one hand. Frantically she raced down the corridor, a notorious criminal on the trail of a quarter of a million stolen and restolen dollars, and somewhere within her the child she had been, the child that she was in this baffling and fearful moment, wept with sullen self-pity. It-it wasn't fair! She was tired and sick, and she didn't want to play any more. She'd never wanted to play in the first place!

And it was all so useless. The man would be gone now, no matter what Doc said. He had the money, and he'd keep it. And they, they'd have nothing. The whole nation looking for them, and no means of escape. No money but the relatively little that they were carrying.

She tripped and almost fell. She caught herself, half-turned in pain and anger on Doc. And then she saw him, the thief.

He was at a row of lockers near the train gates; no more than twenty feet away from the uniformed station attendant who stood at Gate Three-their gate-consulting his watch. Smiling engagingly, he was opening the locker for a well-dressed elderly woman, placing two expensive cowhide bags inside.

He slammed the door, tested it. He handed her a key and picked up the money satchel. Tipping his hat, he turned away. And suddenly he saw Carol.

His expression never changed. He took a step straight toward her, smiling, apparently on the point of calling a hello. And then, with a movement that was at once abrupt and casual, he disappeared behind the lockers.

"Doc-" Carol gestured feebly.

But Doc had already spotted the satchel, identified the thief for what he was. He strode past her, and after a moment's indecision, she followed him.

By the time she had gotten behind the lockers, neither Doc nor the thief was in sight. They had disappeared as quickly and completely as though the floor had opened and swallowed them up. She turned, started to retrace her steps-and if she had, she would have seen the thief hasten through the train gate, with Doc following in brisk pursuit. Instead, however, she continued along the row of lockers, turned into the aisle formed by another row, and thence on to the end of that before coming out into the open again. By which time, of course, Doc and the thief were long since gone from view.

She stood there in the corridor, looking this way and that, seeming to shrink, to grow smaller and smaller in its lofty vastness. She had never felt so bewildered, so lost, so alone. Doc-where had he gone? How could she find him? What would happen if she couldn't?

Reason told her that he must have followed the thief onto the train. But-and here reason questioned its own statement-would a smart thief choose the train as an escape route? And would Doc have followed without a word or sign to her?

BOOK: The Getaway (Read a Great Movie)
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