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.Her eyes had Phil pinned like a gross butterfly.“Go away.”“Nooooooo!” howled Phil.“I’d like to, Irma,” I said.“I really would.But I’ve got an uneasy feeling that if I did, you’d go on shooting Phil here.And I wouldn’t want you to do that.”“He deserves it,” Irma said.“He killed Tina, and I’m going to kill him.”“It’s not true, Joe,” Phil said.“She’s crazy.” But somehow the way he said it lacked conviction.A thought came to me.“Is she, Phil?” I asked.He didn’t say anything, just crouched there sweating and bleeding and wishing I’d blow Irma’s head off.I wouldn’t have wanted to do that.It was a pretty head.“Tell me something, Phil,” I added.“What are you doing up here, up these two flights of steep stairs? I thought your climbing days were over.I thought your heart couldn’t handle that sort of exercise anymore.You haven’t been faking, have you?”Phil still didn’t say anything.He was doing a damned fine impersonation of someone doing his best to overcome a great handicap and being modest about it.“Sure, he’s faking,” said Irma bitterly, “the fat, murdering phony.After you left Rico’s, I went to my place and then I remembered what it was that was missing from this room.It was a crazy brass letter opener Tina had—one with a phallic symbol for a handle.Somebody sent it to her for a joke.I came here, and the door was open.Phil was in here rummaging around.He tried to bluff his way out, but I kept him talking.And the more he talked, the more something seemed to be fishy.Then I knew; he’d killed Tina.I knew it, Joe, and I’ve been trying to get him to admit it.I’ll kill him if he doesn’t.”“And if he does, Irma?” I asked.“What then?”I could see that Irma hadn’t really explored that possibility.She hadn’t had time.She gave it a bit of thought.So did Phil.“I’ll kill him,” she said flatly, raising the tiny automatic until it was aimed directly at Phil’s sweaty moon face half sheltered behind his hands and arms.“Don’t,” he said.“Please, Irma, don’t.”"You know, Phil,” I said.“I think she really is going to kill you if you don’t convince her that you’re innocent.That is, if you are innocent.Talk to the lady, Phil.”“Christ,” he said, “how can I talk with that gun in my face? I’m afraid to open my mouth.”“He’s right,” I said.“You could at least lower that popgun a bit, Irma.Phil’s not going anywhere.If he ran for it, you could shoot his legs off before he got to the door.Besides, I’m here, and I’ve got a real gun.”Irma thought it over carefully.Then she lowered the barrel of the.22 until it was aimed at Phil’s knees instead of his face.“That’s better,” I said.“Now, Phil, you were saying?”Despite his relief, Phil hadn’t lost the look of apprehension which would have wrinkled his brow if he hadn’t been so fat.“Could I sit down?” he asked.“My legs are shaking so much I’m going to fall down in a minute.”“Sure,” I said.“That is, if it’s okay with Irma.”We both looked at Irma, and she gave a cool nod.Phil reached for Tina’s padded dressing chair and let his awesome weight down onto it.The chair, unused to such burdens, shuddered delicately.“You comfy now, Phil?” I asked.“I don’t feel good, Joe,” he complained.“You’ll feel better after you start talking.”“I’ve been shot, Joe,” he said, surveying his vast side with apparent detachment.“I’m bleeding.I need a doctor.This isn’t fair.”“No, it isn’t,” I agreed.“But if you don’t start saying something, Irma is going to put some more holes in you that a doctor might not be able to do anything about.”“But, Joe…”“Talk!”“I didn’t kill Tina, Joe,” Phil said in a rush.“I—I loved her.” He looked down shyly.If you’ve never seen a 350-pound man look demure, it’s a frightening spectacle.But my mother taught me never to laugh at a fat man with two bullet holes, however small, in him.As it turned out, I didn’t have to.Irma did it for me.It was a nasty laugh, like somebody ripping up old linoleum, but it expressed our mutual doubt if not a good deal of amusement.“It’s true,” Phil insisted, glaring at Irma with such righteousness and indignation that I almost believed him.“I did love her.You don’t understand.I made Tina what she was.I took Olga Dombrowitz, just an ordinary North Beach bimbo, not even very young anymore, and I turned her into Tina D’Oro—that was my name, you know; I chose it—the hottest thing in North Beach.Hell, in all of America.I made her a celebrity on network TV.Without me, she’d have been just an aging hooker.”I was watching Irma’s face while Phil said all this, and she didn’t like it much.She believed it, but she didn’t like it.And that last bit about the aging hooker made her blink fast and bite her lip.But she didn’t say anything.Somebody had to, so I did.“So, why did you kill her, Phil?”“I didn’t mean to,” he said.“She said she was leaving.Really leaving, this time.Not like all the other times when she was trying to get more money, better billing, a bigger slice of the action.Hell, she owned half of The Jungle as it was.”“Tina was The Jungle, you slimy bastard,” Irma said, as if coming out of a trance.“Sure,” Phil said, “sure she was The Jungle.Without her, it was just another topless joint.Don’t you think I know that? And this time she was really leaving.Some offer from a big hotel in Vegas.‘Tina D’Oro’ in neon lights over the strip.Those magnificent tits I paid for bouncing in some Vegas show bar.She was really going to do it this time.Nothing I said made any difference.She was sitting right in this chair, playing with that stupid letter opener and laughing at me.Telling me how empty The Jungle was going to be after she left.I got mad.I’ve got feelings, too, you know.I grabbed the letter opener out of her hands, and she tried to get it back.She called me names.She called me some awful names.”Phil ran down like an obscene mechanical toy.He let his head fall forward and sat slumping in the sleazy, padded chair.Sweat from the top of his head ran down over his vast brow.“And then what, Phil?” I asked.Irma just stared, her mouth unconsciously hanging open.The.22 hung limply from her hand.I could have taken it away from her.Maybe.Fat Phil raised his head and looked directly at me [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]