The Black Marble - Joseph Wambaugh - E-Book
Beschreibung

Russian-American Detective A.A. Valnikov is a divorced, burned-out LAPD homicide detective who gets teamed with Natalie Zimmerman, twice-divorced with a grudge against men. These unlikely partners are assigned a strange case of a stolen show dog being held for ransom. In this bittersweet tale that the Los Angeles Times called "terrifying and romantic," the partners will find much more than they ever could have imagined. Cosmopolitan called it "Fast, colorful and gripping ... as touching as it is breathlessly entertaining."

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

1: The Batushka

2: La Buena Vida

3: The Terrier King

4: The Rabbit

5: The Big Sewer

6: Siberia

7: The Tragic Muse

8: The Cathedral

9: The Black Marble

10: The Fiddler

11: The Dog Love

12: Charlie Lightfoot

13: Suicide Bridge

14: The Assassin

15: Paradise

16: Byzantine Eyes

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

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About the Book

Russian-American Detective A.A. Valnikov is a divorced, burned-out LAPD homicide detective who gets teamed with Natalie Zimmerman, twice-divorced with a grudge against men. These unlikely partners are assigned a strange case of a stolen show dog being held for ransom. In this bittersweet tale that the Los Angeles Times called “terrifying and romantic,” the partners will find much more than they ever could have imagined. Cosmopolitan called it “Fast, colorful and gripping…as touching as it is breathlessly entertaining.”

About the Author

The son of a policeman, Joseph Wambaugh (b. 1937) began his writing career while a member of the Los Angeles Police Department. He joined the LAPD in 1960 after three years in the Marine Corps, and rose to the rank of Detective Sergeant before retiring in 1974.

His first novel, The New Centurions (1971) was a quick success, drawing praise for its realistic action and intelligent characterization. It was adapted into a feature film starring George C. Scott. He followed it up with The Blue Knight (1972), which was adapted into a mini-series starring William Holden and Lee Remick.

The Black Marble

Joseph Wambaugh

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2011 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1978 by Joseph Wambaugh

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Jason Gabbert

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-013-7

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For the sterling of Pasadena,

Beverly and John Tarr,

and

For Peter J. Monahan,

Sensitive soul,

Compassionate confessor,

Rhapsodical saloon keeper!

1

The Batushka

An explosion of chrysanthemums, candlelight, Oriental carpets, Byzantine eyes. Plumes of incense rising between two a cappella choirs, blown heavenward by chanting voices.

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat swayed unsteadily and raised his sturdy arms toward those marbling clouds of incense enveloping the Holy Virgin. Her eyes were sweet.

Other eyes were reproachful, severe. Byzantine eyes. A kaleidoscope of ikons, small and large: saints, holy men, madonnas. All around him the faces on the ikons stared with great, dark, unrelenting eyes.

From time to time the man in the yellow rubber raincoat would wobble against the burly woman standing next to him.

Finally she’d had enough. “Zhopa!” she muttered.

He answered her in English: “Yes, I’m terribly sorry.”

Then both choirs burst forth with the tragic, timeless, Slavonic invocation: “Blessed art thou, Lord God of our Father … have mercy on us.”

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat was overwhelmed by the enduring pathos in those Russian voices, and by the clouds of incense he breathed gratefully, and by the low gilded ceiling and the throngs of believers standing shoulder to shoulder. He kept looking about at the quixotic tapestry of ikons, and the huge ikonostasis screen. Great dark sad eyes. The ikon of the Virgin and Child nestled among apricot and butter and salmon carnations. The batushka raised the pomazok to brush the sign of the cross on the forehead of the first in a long queue of communicants.

The communicant was sleek and feline. Her gray coat was damp from the rain. It flared from a belted waist, and the fur cuffs and hem matched the fur in her hat. She wore calf-molded, gray leather boots. The man in the yellow rubber raincoat was overcome by her beauty when the batushka brushed a cross of holy oil on her forehead. She could have stepped from the stage of an opera by Glinka or Borodin: a maiden fallen from a troika in the forest. The man in the yellow rubber raincoat could almost imagine flakes of luminescent snow on the fur of her collar.

But it wasn’t fur, not real fur anyway. And she wasn’t Russian, and she certainly wasn’t a maiden. She was third-generation Anglo-Irish, currently living with a second-generation Ukrainian, in church on Russian Christmas only to please his great-aunt, who was going to loan them fourteen thousand dollars unsecured for a Jaguar X-J-12, which she needed about as much as she needed those tight boots cutting off her circulation.

The room capacity was limited to three hundred. There were four hundred souls crowded into that modest cathedral for vesper service. Yet few residents of Los Angeles knew that this holy night, Thursday, January 6th, was the eve of Russian Christmas. There was a far holier day to anticipate on Sunday. They all knew about that one. And this year, praise God, it would be celebrated in nearby Pasadena! Super Bowl XI.

The voices: “Blessed art thou … have mercy on us.”

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat felt a bubble of sourness in his throat, swallowed it back, belched, and staggered sideways into the burly woman.

This time she wanted to make sure he understood. In accented English, she said, “Asshole!” And jolted him with a plump elbow to the ribs.

“Uh!” the man in the raincoat gasped, his wet cinnamon hair whipping across his eyes.

“Go home!” she whispered. “You damn dronk. Go home!” And she gave him another jab in the belly.

“Uh!” he belched. “Yes, I’m terribly sorry.”

Then he turned, holding his stomach, and staggered toward the door, through the press of standing believers, out of this pewless teeming house of God.

When he got to the door, something clashed at his feet. A small boy said, “Hey,” and grabbed his raincoat.

“Here,” the boy said, handing the man a set of glinting handcuffs, one steel ratchet dangling open.

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry,” the man in the yellow rubber raincoat said, taking the handcuffs and shoving them down inside the front of his belt.

One moment, candlelight and incense and color. The next, darkness cold and wet. But then, always just beyond, was black and cold and rainy night.

“Lord God, have mercy.”

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat couldn’t get the handcuffs tucked inside his belt. He didn’t understand that the belt buckle had slid around to his hip. He groped and pulled at the belt, causing the handcuffs to fall down inside his underwear. The steel was cold, and he cried out as the open ratchet gouged his genitals.

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat struggled. He leaned against the wall of the cathedral, in the shadows, and thought about it. If he was logical and calm it should be very easy to extricate the handcuffs. But he was shivering in the rain. He lurked deeper in the shadows and stealthily withdrew the bottle of Stolichnaya from the pocket of his raincoat. He tipped it up, swaying, and in just seconds the silky flood of Russian vodka warmed him to the toes.

Now he stopped shivering. Now he could think. Except that he was reeling and had to sit. He plopped down on the front step of the cathedral. Right on the tip of the serrated edge of the steel ratchet, lined up directly with his scrotum.

A bent and withered usher inside the cathedral thought for a moment he heard a man scream. Impossible, he shrugged.

Now the man in the yellow rubber raincoat had totally lost the belt buckle. It was all the way around the back, as was the holster and bullet clip. The fly on the old loose poplins was pulled six inches off center. He groped and tugged. He pulled upward, which was the wrong way. The harder he pulled the harder the steel ratchet gouged deep into the wounded sac. He couldn’t find the fly. It too had disappeared. He thought he had his pants on backward.

The bent and withered usher inside the cathedral cocked his head and looked toward the ikon of St. Isaac high on the wall. This time he was certain he heard a man scream.

Three women arrived late for Christmas vesper service. One was seventy-three years old, an immigrant and monarchist who had never stopped bemoaning immorality and anarchy in America, who dreamed of her bones being buried in Russian soil. She crossed herself and threw her arms around her two daughters and shrieked in horror. There, by the old monastery garden, framed by the onion dome of the Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral, a howling dervish, a phantom with matted soppy hair, was twirling in the shadow of the golden cupola. His yellow rubber raincoat was spread wide. His dripping pants were torn down around his ankles. Both hands held his genitals. He moaned ghostlike, doing a lonely mad waltz in the rain.

Now, over the heartbreaking Slavonic chorus, the bent and withered usher thought he heard a woman screaming. He cocked his head and offered a prayer to St. Isaac about the baffling indignities of advanced age.

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat was exhausted from the tremendous battle. His handcuffs were on the pavement, as was his four-inch Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver, as was a set of keys and a dirty handkerchief. Now he was sitting, bare buttocks in a rain puddle, pulling his underwear back up over his knees, realizing that his pants had not been on backward after all.

Five minutes later, he had all his equipment stuffed into the pockets of his raincoat along with the bottle of Stolichnaya. His fly zipper was torn completely off his baggy poplins and dangled between his legs. He stumbled thankfully back into the church.

“Have mercy on us … Holy God Immortal … Have mercy on us.”

He was once again hot and smothering in the damp press of communicants, watching a slender erect man at least eighty years of age, wearing a threadbare olive topcoat, drop to both knees before the ikon of the Virgin and Child. The old man bowed with grave reverence and stood unassisted before the batushka, aglow in the candlelight. The old man bent to the cross in the hand of the priest and kissed the golden bas-relief of the crucified Christ.

The batushka smiled in recognition. The old man was of the First Immigration, a brick mason from Rostov who had in years past donated his skill to his church. The man in the yellow rubber raincoat didn’t know the brick mason. He saw instead a gallant old White Russian soldier, perhaps a Cossack colonel, now standing at attention before the diakon to receive the body of Christ as reverently as he may have stood before the czar himself before boarding a train for The Front.

It became too much for the man in the yellow rubber raincoat. He couldn’t stifle the wet drunken sob. It escaped his mouth like the bark of a seal. The communicant in front of him was starded. He turned and looked at the flushed, tear-streaked face, the soppy strings of cinnamon hair flopping in his eyes.

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry,” the man in the yellow rubber raincoat said in answer to the silent gaping communicant.

Now the man in the yellow rubber raincoat was himself kneeling before the holy ikon. He pressed his lips grimly, but to no avail. A great sob welled and he barked. The batushka looked up sharply.

Two altar boys assisting the diakon snickered and whispered to each other. The man in the yellow rubber raincoat had to be helped to his feet by two communicants. He turned and grinned foolishly at his benefactors and said, “Yes, I’m terribly sorry.”

“Go on,” the man behind him whispered. “Go on, you’re next.”

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat was swaying before the bearded batushka, who looked as though he’d rather give the drunk his fist than his blessing.

Then it simply became too much for the man in the yellow rubber raincoat. All of it: the holy Slavonic chants, the enveloping clouds of blessed incense, the myriads of candles and the rainbow sprays and bursts of carnation and chrysanthemum, the gallant old soldier–brick mason, the omnipresent ikons, and those suffering reproachful Byzantine eyes. He slouched humbly before the priest. And then it all came. His brawny shoulders heaved and he bowed his head and let the scalding waters run. He wept.

His raincoat was open and with each shuddering heave of his shoulders the torn fragment of flyfront jumped and bounced between his knees, a sad rag of a puppet hopping gracelessly on a single wire.

It was unspeakably offensive in this holy place, on this holy day, yet so pathetic the old priest was touched.

“It’s all right, my son,” he said, and brushed the wand on the weeping man’s forehead.

The man in the yellow rubber raincoat felt the warm oil trickle down between his eyes and he grabbed the hand of the bearded priest and said, “Father, I’m terribly sorry. I’m so sorry, Batushka.”

“It’s all right, my son. S Rozhdeniem Khristovym.”

When he heard that ancient Christmas greeting, he kissed the hand of the batushka. Then he lunged past the communion basket and swayed toward the door, scarcely able to breathe.

The bent and withered usher shook his head in disgust and threw open the door for the drunk in the yellow rubber raincoat. The rubber raincoat was old, a dirty canary yellow with a blue collar. The usher looked curiously at the raincoat. It was one of those long, high-visibility slickers worn by men who worked in auto traffic. The usher looked more closely. The raincoat bore an oval patch over the heart. As though for a badge!

“You can’t be a policeman!” the usher sputtered.

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry,” the man in the yellow rubber raincoat belched. Then he staggered into the night.

The last thing he heard before the rain struck his face was the eternal Slavonic chant: “Have mercy on us … Holy God Immortal … Have mercy on us.”

2

La Buena Vida

Victoria’s redolent warm puffs hinted of the pâté they had shared that night. Madeline Dills Whitfield lay awake listening to the rain. She snagged a lacquered Juliette fingernail on pearl satin sheets sliding closer to Victoria without waking her. Vickie whimpered in enviable sleep as Madeline waited for three Dalmanes and six ounces of Chivas Regal to release her.

Now their mouths were almost touching. Vickie’s tongue flicked wet and Madeline ached to stroke the incredible arch of her neck. It was a marvelous neck, now carrying a faint scent of Bellodgia, a neck that lent great hauteur to her movements.

Hauteur. Madeline remembered last Monday afternoon when she and Vickie had strolled across the grounds of the Huntington Sheraton, that once-opulent old dowager of a hotel. That relic of the days when Pasadena was the cultural and social center of the entire Los Angeles area. When old bewhiskered Henry Huntington would don a homburg and waistcoat and ride from his San Marino mansion to Los Angeles in his own railroad car. On a private spur laid by Mexicans and Chinese to his very door.

It hurt to see her so seedy, time-ravaged and mutilated by a grotesque porte cochere of gray concrete, grafted onto the entrance of the hotel where Madeline’s mother had been presented at a debutante ball in 1923. And it hurt more when she walked with Vickie by the Bell Tower, toward the hotel’s Ship Room, where “Old” Pasadena society had enjoyed dance music virtually unchanged for thirty-five years.

Before she died, Madeline’s mother said she was glad her husband had not lived to see the foreigners buy the dear grande dame. Old Pasadena feared the investors from the Far East would tear her down and cover the grounds with cherry trees and high-rise condos.

Madeline and Vickie had stopped in the lobby for a moment, and impulsively, Madeline had turned toward the creaky Picture Bridge which linked the old building with the homely new wing and overlooked the swimming pool where an Oriental waitress served cocktails. Madeline wanted a Scotch and water, but she paused on the footbridge and looked up at the rustic timbered roof, at the painted murals on the gables. The murals suggested pastoral early California. As it never was. Mexicans, Indians, Americans, padre, peasant, landowner: brothers all, in the ubiquitous vineyards and groves.

Then the too familiar empty thud in her chest. A rush of heat to her temples. The price for daring to wax nostalgic, for lingering on this Picture Bridge. Where she had so often stood as a girl and made wishes she had never been given reason to doubt would come true. Then she turned toward South Pasadena and saw the layers of mauve and azure gasses heaving in from the west, and remembered that this lovely vapor blanket made the San Gabriel Valley air perhaps the deadliest in Southern California.

But it wasn’t just the smog that was killing Old Pasadena. It was la buena vida of the past coupled with the frugality of the old social order. When white domestics would not work for the wages offered, there were others who would. The blacks were enticed to Pasadena in large numbers and they prospered and multiplied. And then more came and prospered less but still multiplied. Until a day when fourth-generation Old Pasadenans were troubled to discover that twenty-five percent of their school district was composed of children black and brown. And in another ten years they were shocked to discover that thirty-five percent of their public school children were black and brown. And then one day they were outraged and bewildered to discover that over fifty percent of the children in Pasadena public schools were black and brown! Then the white flight began in earnest.

A nine-thousand-square-foot mansion with guest house, tennis court, swimming pool, and two verdant acres of hundred-year-old twisted oak sold for one-fifth the price of what it would bring “over the hill,” or “on the west side,” on the beaten path of nouveau riche: Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood. Henceforth, Old Pasadena was under siege and near panic. Some were old enough to have children grown and need not fear ghetto busing. Others dropped all democratic pretext, and prep schools quickly became overcrowded. Others moved a few blocks away into the tiny bedroom community of San Marino which had its own public school district. All white.

Madeline Whitfield now needed that drink very badly. She and Vickie left the bridge and walked quickly down to poolside. Then she heard it. The man was unmistakably a Minnesota tourist in for the Super Bowl. Who else would be reeking of coconut oil, white-legged in Aloha print shorts, red socks, black-and-white patent-leather loafers? A hairy belly glistening oil in sunlight which any Californian knew was not hot enough to burn even this flabby outlander. But then he was probably using the pool and the sunshine as an excuse to get drunk at one o’clock in the afternoon. As if an excuse was needed during Rose Bowl and Super Bowl weeks in Pasadena.

The man’s voice was bourbon thick. He said, “That bitch moves like a stallion!”

And Madeline Dills Whitfield, who had been forced into inactive, sustaining membership in the Pasadena Junior League three years before for being too old. Madeline Dills Whitfield, only twenty-five pounds past her prime, never considered pretty, but damn it, not homely. Four years divorced, childless, two-year analysand, three-year patient of a dermatologist (I know that middle-age fat is just excess adipose tissue, Doctor, but why did I have to grow a moustache!). Madeline Dills Whitfield, who dutifully spent more than she could afford in Beverly Hills high-fashion shops like Giorgio’s—which boasted a billiard table, and a full-time bartender serving free drinks to patrons—where Pasadena matrons invariably shopped for clothing with exclusive labels but basic lines. Madeline Dills Whitfield, who cared enough to have her nails done at Ménage à Trois. (Also over the hill in Lotus Land—thirteen bucks, tip included, for a Juliette, forty-five to make hair look more natural, sixty-five bucks to look like you just got out of bed—and you better know the license number of your Mercedes because all the parking attendant has are Mercedes keys in that key box, lady.) Madeline Dills Whitfield, who had not seen male genitalia for five years, yet who was just peaking sexually at the age of forty-three, unsheathed a smile like a knife blade.

The kind of abandoned smile seldom seen on Pasadena Junior Leaguers, unless they were ignited by Bombay martinis at Annandale Country Club. A smile which would unquestionably be deemed provocative by the socially wed and nearly dead at the all-woman Town Club. Oh God, she dreaded the day she’d be old enough to want to join. Madeline Dills Whitfield unleashed a smile she had reserved for Mason Whitfield on those rare occasions he bedded her in the last dreadful years of their marriage.

A smile which carried a promise made instantly, consciously, irrevocably—to screw the patent-leather loafers right off this Minnesota greaseball.

A smile which was not even seen by the hairy stranger. Because he was admiring Vickie. Staring after Vickie.

The oily stranger turned again to his friend and said: “Look at the muscles in her legs. She moves like a stallion, I tell you!”

Then Madeline felt loneliness all right. And real fear. The kind that choked her awake in those first months after Mason had gone. The worst kind of fear, born of loneliness, which only became manageable when Vickie came.

Vickie. Madeline sat there with Vickie by the pool and drank three double Chivas with water-back, and controlled that fear and looked at the hairy stranger scornfully. She wasn’t jealous, she was proud. Vickie belonged to her, and Madeline loved her obsessively.

The rain was steady. She wondered if she’d be awake the entire night. Probably, if she insisted on these tormenting thoughts. But as she lay in the dark and looked at Vickie’s elegant jaw, she couldn’t help admitting that she would have given a healthy chunk of a secretly unhealthy trust fund if that oily man had said drunkenly to Madeline: “You bitch, you carry yourself like a stallion!”

Madeline wryly wondered if, in the history of the old Huntington Hotel, any “sustaining” Junior Leaguer had sat by the Picture Bridge and yearned for a man to look at her thighs and arouse her with an antiquated, vulgar, erotic cliché. By comparing her to a male horse.

Victoria stirred in her sleep. Madeline touched her lovingly and risked awakening her by snuggling closer until her mouth was touching Vickie’s ear.

“Sleep, love, sleep,” Madeline whispered. She stroked that arched neck and said, “Sleep, my darling.”

But Vickie opened her eyes: perfect ovals, blinking in momentary confusion. Madeline kissed each eye, marveling at the luster: wet chocolate irises, whites like lapis lazuli in the moonlight.

“Sleep, love, sleep.”

Vickie sighed and turned just enough for Madeline to see how deep those eyes were set, how shaded by brows of silver white. Madeline wanted to touch her face and kiss that lovely ear.

Like most insomniacs, Madeline toyed masochistically with her devils in the night. Today’s tennis exhibition at the Valley Hunt Club.

It is the oldest social club in the Los Angeles area. Where ladies still sit courtside and worry over coming-out parties. Where Old Pasadena strives to nourish its moldering roots by presenting the family flowers at frantic and archaic debutante balls.

Madeline had been courtside at the Valley Hunt Club, ostensibly watching a listless college tennis exhibition while downing the third double Scotch and water of the afternoon. She had waited an appropriate time to order her fourth because of the presence of Edna Lofton, an obtrusive bitch Madeline had known since Kappa House days at the University of Southern California, when Edna was a smartass sorority viper.

Edna Lofton, another “sustaining” Junior Leaguer, also active with Madeline in the Junior Philharmonic and the Huntington Library Docents, seldom missed the opportunity to grin knowingly whenever Madeline ordered more than three or four afternoon cocktails at the club.

Like other “younger” Valley Hunt Club members, Edna had switched from Yves St. Laurent sunglasses to the latest from over the hill: oversized sunglasses with logograms engraved on the lower lens. In Edna’s case it was a little white tennis racquet. It should have been a spider and a web, Madeline thought. Madeline herself had bought a pair in Beverly Hills at the Optique Boutique. She had wanted the tennis racquet too, but resisted because Edna had beaten her to it, so she settled for a white flower. Madeline thought the glasses chic and becoming, though the little speck was annoying when she looked at anything below eye level. The price tag annoyed her even more.

One day while shopping on Lake Avenue in Pasadena she had encountered something considerably below eye level: a barefoot black girl about seven years of age. The child stopped her skateboard. “Lady?” She was licking a green Popsicle, gawking at Madeline’s ninety-dollar, double-gradient sunglasses.

“Yes, dear, what can I do for you?” Madeline smiled.

The girl stopped licking and said, “I was wonderin. How come you don’t jist wipe the bird shit off them funny glasses?”

The following Sunday, Madeline’s Mexican housekeeper, Yolanda, wore those glasses proudly to a picnic in Elysian Park.

Edna flipped up her sunglasses with the little tennis racquet on the lens, and said sweetly: “Madeline, go easy, we’re playing doubles later and may need you as a fourth.”

Madeline tried a sassy, nose-wrinkling grin. She stuck out her tongue at Edna, but given the pain and the fear and the Chivas Regal flush in her face, it didn’t come off.

“Put your tongue in, dear,” Edna purred. “You look like the victim of a hanging.”

The second set was as dilatory as the first. Most of the spectators were of course U.S.C. rooters. Old Pasadena, if the money was still intact, seldom attended state-supported institutions like U.C.L.A. It was impossible to concentrate. She imagined Edna’s vindictive gaze on her back.

Madeline was in tennis whites and hated it. She was considering trying tennis pants, but was fearful that the club would disapprove if she played in anything but a skirt. Actually she didn’t want to play at all anymore. She had always hated the game, but without some exercise she’d probably look like a medicine ball. (Why the continual weight gain, Doctor? I don’t drink that much. I haven’t eaten a really full meal since my husband left me, I swear!)

Mason Whitfield. Stanford, class of ’48. Infantry officer in Korea. Decorated for typing a report in a tent near Seoul in freezing weather after the company clerk was evacuated with the clap. He had typed for six hours without gloves and was frostbitten. Mason returned to Pasadena wearing a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Like his father before him, Mason had gone to Harvard for his LL.B. and joined a law firm in downtown Los Angeles. One of those giant firms where the lawyers in Probate don’t even know the guys in Corporate. He managed to work ten years without ever setting foot in a courtroom. He made big bucks. He was a near-perfect, Old Pasadena scion. He and Madeline prospered. But they didn’t multiply. He had a flaw or two.

Madeline felt Edna’s eyes on her back, and self-consciously tucked a roll of cellulite under the tennis panty which was cutting into her flesh. Madeline just knew Edna was still telling the Filthy Story about Mason Whitfield, when he made a boozy revelation to the barman at the Hunt Club: “Wanna know why I left my wife? Zero sex appeal, that’s why. And I just came back from a wonderful holiday in Aca-pulco. Wanna know what I like best about my secretary? The moustache doesn’t scratch my balls as much as Madeline’s did.”

The secretary’s name was Herbert.

Madeline was sure it was a rotten lie, because within a year Mason fired Herbert and married a San Marino widow without a moustache.

“Mrs. Whitfield? You probably don’t remember me? We met at dinner? At the Cal Tech Atheneum?”

Madeline looked up, blankly. She was feeling the Chivas Regal more than usual.

“Remember? I was with Dr. Harry Gray?”

He was a balding little man in a lumpy warm-up suit and dirty canvas Tretorns. He made every statement a question.

“Oh, yes,” Madeline lied, “of course, you’re …”

“Irwin Berg? Remember?”

“Oh, yes, Dr. Berg! Of course!”

Now she knew him. She had enjoyed talking with him at a Cal Tech dinner party to raise funds for foreign students. He was said to be an extraordinary astrophysicist and a candidate for Big Casino: a hot prospect for a Nobel Prize.

“May I buy you a drink?” His round, steel-rimmed eyeglasses were fogging and slipping over his perspiring nose.

“I’d love a drink,” Madeline said. She was settling down, the last Scotch working nicely now. She leaned closer and whispered, “The barman probably couldn’t make change for you anyway. Since I’m a member and you’re a guest, I’ll buy.”

Then Madeline took the little scientist by the arm and walked him into the Hunt Room, where Edna Lofton was ordering a Virgin Mary, her muscular lacy bottom pressed against the mahogany.

Edna was laughing uproariously at one of Wendell Hargrove’s dreadful jokes. Hargrove was a third-generation stockbroker and an “A” tennis player, which was the only thing keeping his fifty-year-old body intact, what with the fifth of booze he consumed at noon luncheons at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles. Were it not for his daily tennis, everyone knew that his fierce aging body could never withstand the massive bourbon dosage.

“Guess we won’t need that fourth for mixed doubles, Madeline,” Edna Lofton smiled. “Marcie’s going to play again. So you can go ahead.”

“Go ahead what?” Wendell Hargrove asked.

“Go ahead and have another double Scotch,” Edna laughed. Then she added: “I might even have one.”

But the damage was done. Madeline blushed painfully. Edna looked with curiosity at Madeline’s companion and thrust out her hand: “Hi, I’m Edna Lofton.”

“Oh? Pleased to meet you. I’m Irwin Berg.”

Madeline said, “Dr. Berg’s a guest of … who are you a guest of?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Bates. I met them at the Atheneum. They’re watching the match.”

“You an M.D.?” Hargrove asked thickly and Madeline saw that he was well past any more tennis this day.

“Dr. Berg teaches at Cal Tech. He’s an astrophysicist,” Madeline offered, subtly eyeing the barman, who nodded and reached discreetly for the Chivas Regal.

“Really?” Edna said. “Don’t get many astrophysicists in the Hunt Club.”

Later that evening, Madeline, showered and dressed in a basic dark pantsuit, was standing alone at the dessert table deciding to pass the entrée in favor of some strudel and chocolate mousse when Edna Lofton got up from her table and crossed the dining room to talk to her.

“Is Dr. Goldberg with you, Madeline?” she asked, walking Madeline toward the empty drawing room.

“Dr. Berg. No, he’s not with me. Why?”

“He’s sure a cute little fellow,” Edna winked, batting her evening eyelashes.

“I suppose so,” Madeline said cautiously.

“Play your cards right, Mad, and he might invite you to some of those fun Cal Tech science parties at the Atheneum. A lot of mature, visiting professors must be awfully lonely for one of the few available single ladies they’d be proud to take just anywhere!”

“Edna …” Madeline sputtered, but too late. Edna Lofton had turned and was hurrying toward her guests in the dining room.

Madeline Dills Whitfield had stood alone in the empty drawing room and looked vacantly at the landscape painting as though she had never seen it before. She had seen it all her life. She suddenly longed for the paintings of hunters and hounds. In the bar.

A single lady. As though it were Madeline’s fault. As though she had planned to be a single lady. She had never known anyone who had planned to be a single lady. Madeline Dills had never even lived away from her parents except for college terms at U.S.C., ten miles from Pasadena. Had never lived anywhere else except for six months in Europe with her parents when her father sold his interest in the orthopedic clinic and took a long vacation. She had never in her life given a single thought to being a single lady.

She was the daughter of Dr. Corey Dills and the wife of Mason Whitfield. She had willingly surrendered her Christian as well as her maiden name.

It had always been: “Mrs. Mason Whitfield is giving a tea Wednesday afternoon …”

Madeline Dills, by Dr. Corey Dills out of Mrs. Corey Dills. Edna Lofton, by Mr. Bradford Lofton out of Mrs. Bradford Lofton. They had to give up both names. Androgynous. Mr. Mason Whitfield and Mrs. Mason Whitfield. Hermaphroditic!

The stag ruled. It was her heritage and she accepted it. Which is perhaps why she didn’t make a fuss during the divorce. Her family trust fund was much larger than his. She paid him for his share in the home and furnishings bought as community property. No alimony. She didn’t need or want his money. Her mother was hale and hearty then. Madeline didn’t make a fuss and Mason said he appreciated it. He said she was a perfect lady.

Now there was the new Mrs. Mason Whitfield living in San Marino. He hadn’t the decency to give up his Annandale Country Club membership. So how does one address invitations? Mrs. Madeline Dills Whitfield? The return of her names was … awkward. As awkward as having single ladies at dinner parties. How does one seat them? And the clubs where single ladies were never meant to be? It wasn’t awkward, it was horrible.

Thank God for Marian Milford’s homosexual brother, Lance. He danced beautifully, had impeccable manners, and for ten years had eased dinner problems in Old Pasadena society by escorting half the widows and divorcées in town to social and charitable gatherings. Old Pasadena and San Marino had an exceedingly low divorce rate thanks to the continuity and tradition of society. And thanks to disapproving parents who structured wills and trusts which pauperized many a misbehaving daughter who opted to take the bit in her teeth like less constant, free-spirited sisters over the hill, on the west side.

The Dalmanes and Chivas were interacting. Madeline was about to drift asleep when Victoria sat up.

“Oh, no, Vickie!” Madeline groaned. “Not now. I’m dead!”

But Vickie yawned and stretched languorously and got out of bed. Madeline moaned, got up reeling, and stood naked in the moonlight, reviving when she threw open the French doors to the cold January air.

Suddenly she hoped that someone, anyone—man or woman—would see her through the rain and white oak trees and Canary Island pines. Perhaps someone higher up San Rafael, in a hillside mansion, a gardener, a maid, anyone. She was dizzy, yet she stood defiantly naked under a leering moon, convinced that if someone could see her through the wall of camellias that someone would be aroused by her naked body.

Then she looked down into the valley and saw that the rain had cleared the smog from the Rose Bowl. It would be an ugly carnival on Sunday when Super Bowl XI hit Pasadena, but she and Vickie would be across town winning the Beverly Hills Winter Show. She and Vickie would be basking in attention, glory, celebrity.

Vickie looked at Madeline for a moment, then turned and trotted over to an American Beauty. She squatted beside a puddle of fallen rose petals and emptied her bladder. Then she shook herself, scampered across the lawn, in through the French doors, and leaped up onto the bed.

The Dalmanes and Chivas turned Madeline’s legs gelatinous. She closed the doors and threw herself into bed, hardly noticing the crumbs of mud and garden mulch on the pearly sheets.

“You’re impossible, Vickie,” she scolded. “Impossible!” Then she stroked Vickie’s neck once, twice, and her hand fell limp.

Madeline had a wonderful dream that night. Vickie won best in show, easily earning the last of fifteen major points she needed to become a champion. And then she went on to Madison Square Garden to win. She became the unquestioned grand champion—the finest miniature schnauzer in America.

Vickie grunted uncomfortably for a moment. She growled and squirmed until she managed a puffy fart. Then another. Now she sighed happily and licked Madeline’s face. Then she snuggled, and snored, and slept as deeply as her drugged mistress.

3

The Terrier King

The natural mascara around the eyes of the Dandie Dinmont was the blackest he had ever seen.

“Look at those saucers,” he said, admiring their roundness. Then he turned to the girl, looked at her breasts and grinned. “Your saucers are beautiful too.”

The girl feigned naïveté and said, “Not as pretty as the Dandie’s, Mr. Skinner.”

Then Philo Skinner turned his critical eye back to the Dandie Dinmont and startled the girl by flashing the straight razor so quickly in the face of the terrier. She was glad she hadn’t gasped. He was mercurial, but with good cause. Philo Skinner was a top terrier man on the West Coast. In the past six years he had big wins at Madison Square Garden, Chicago International and Beverly Hills. With a Lakeland, a Kerry blue and a Dandie. The girl knew that if she could survive his temperamental eruptions, like the one earlier in the evening when she left a tassel inches from the bottom of the ear leather in a Bedlington terrier (he measured it), and if she could get used to never being paid on time and having a few “clerical errors” in her paycheck (always errors which made her check ), and if she could repel his sporadic sexual advances, well, Philo Skinner was a champion dog handler. A And she could learn.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!