Cork Library: Douglas, Mayfield, Grand Parade, Hollyhill, Blackpool, Bishopstown, Tory Top Check Status
Amazon.co.uk €10.52 (excl.delivery)
Skip to 'Hopscotch'
Shade - Neil Jordan
I KNOW EXACTLY WHEN I died. It was twenty past three on the fourteenth of January of the year nineteen fifty, an afternoon of bright unseasonable sunlight with a whipping wind that scurried the white clouds through the blue sky above me and gave the Irish sea beyond more than its normal share of white horses.
Even the river had its complement of white. It was a rare wind, I knew from my childhood by that river, that would mould the waves into runnels of white foam, but it was a rare wind that day. I had studied those black waters as a child, sat on the bank of its smaller tributary with the hem of my yellow skirt between my chin and knees, because waves and all of their motions held a strange fascination for me. From the inkily silver reflecting surface, untouched by air, to the parabolas of ripples that would appear and then vanish, to the regular lapping of small pyramids of water, to the sculpted crests with their flecks of white. It was those the river had that day, and more. A good force five, a sailor would say. And George, who killed me, had been a sailor in his time.
George killed me with his gardening shears, the ones with which he cut the overgrown ivy on the house and trimmed the expanse of lawn, hedge and garden that descended towards the mudflats and tributaries of the Boyne river. He had large hands, gardener’s hands, scarred in many places by the blades he wielded: shears, secateurs, lawnmower and scythe. He had one finger missing and a face marked with the memory of fires long ago. If one could have chosen one’s killer, needless to say one would not have chosen George. One would have chosen softer hands, or more efficient ones, the kind of hands that you see in films or read about in books. Definitely five-fingered hands, that could smother easily, break a neck in one gesture. But life, as we all know, rarely imitates fiction, nor does it move with the strange efficiency of the films I once acted in. And if George’s life had prepared him for anything, it was to deliver me a death that was, like the house, Georgian.
He held the shears to my neck in the glasshouse, and with quite spectacular clumsiness opened a moonlike gash on my throat. He mistook my loss of consciousness for death, then brought the world back to me while he dragged me through the roses, the world with its scudding clouds above. He watched the last of my blood flow into the muddy channel and augmented it with tears of his own. He decided against a watery grave and carried me like a lifesize doll to the septic tank, then realised I was still living while lowering me in. He spent one last energetic minute severing the head from the body he had known, in one way or another, since his early childhood. And so my last sight was not of sky, sea or river, but of his blood-spattered watch on his thick wrist, and the time on that watch read twenty past three.
Time ended for me then, but nothing else did. I can’t explain that fact, merely marvel at the narrative that unravels, the most impossible and yet the commonest in the books I read in that house as a child. The narrator for whom past, present and to some extent the future are the same, who flips between them with inhuman ease. My Pip is my Estella and both are my Joe Gargery, and what Joe says to Pip I would say to George. What larks, Pip.
So there I am, aged seven, rocking on the wooden swing beneath the chestnut tree at the bottom of the sloping field that curved below the grass-covered manhole. There are Gregory and George, behind me or beneath me. I’m worried about whether they can see my knickers, then oddly not worried at all, staring at the tall, sad woman who is staring back at me, dressed in a grey fur coat, black beret and a pair of Wellington boots. This woman is me, and they are my gardening clothes. I have an attitude of elegance, despite the tufted coat, I am smiling, despite the air of angular sadness, and I am my own ghost. I am glad I didn’t know that then, glad the girl that I was could luxuriate in this comforting presence, this familiar, without knowing how familiar it actually was.
But I knew, when he finally deposited my remains in that septic sphere, replacing the covering of rusted metal, smoothing the grass above it with his bloodied nine fingers. I knew it all then.
You saw me play Rosalind in the school hall, George, I would have said if I could. But of course I couldn’t and his name twisted into anagrams in whatever consciousness I had. George, Eorgeg, Egg Roe, Ogre, Gregory. Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. But men have killed for love, endlessly.
And when he dumped me into my excremental grave it was perhaps in the dim hope that the body he’d longed for would seep one day where all the old effluent seeped, into the river and thence to the sea. And maybe it was an act of flawed, bruised affection, that attempt to send me into the mouth of the river I had loved, and into the final embrace of that sea, which had seemed to all of us, since childhood, infinite.
To have carried me into that sea, to have lowered me into the scarfed waters of that river, might have been love, a love at least that Rosalind could have mused upon. But corpses don’t seep like effluent. George, in fact, left me undiscovered in that undiscovered country, never to reach that sea or glimpse that shore beyond which is no other shore. He would be arrested, since the trail of blood and tissue would be as messy as it could have been. But forensics wouldn’t exhume my body, he had seen to that. The plot beside my parents’ grave in Baltray churchyard would remain unopened. And I would remain in a circle of old effluent within the sphere of a septic tank.
I look at myself, with eyes as preternaturally quiet as the eyes with which George looked at me that afternoon of scudding clouds, wind and murder. I could fear for myself, but fear will be singularly useless.. The girl that I was will follow her course and nothing I, her familiar, could do would prevent it. But there’s a comfort in her gaze and I’m trying to comprehend it. She is swinging, still, over the runnel of the larger river on that swing her father so carefully built her, swinging high, so she can see beyond the waters, beyond the dull green swathe of mud she will one day call Mozambique to where the white caps garnish the sea itself. I turn, to follow her arcing gaze towards the shore beyond which is no other shore, and her face comes level with the back of my head, and I feel the wind of life brush my dead hair into movement and I turn again and find myself looking directly into those wonderful eyes.
I can see myself in those eyes, my own reflection, retreating from me as she swings away, gaining on me as she swings back, and I realise the comfort lies in the fact that I am seen, I am seen and therefore am. I know it with a certainty I only came close to when he hacked the head from my body and was certain that death was coming, sweet easeful death, and the certainty is that I am, I exist, somehow, in those pools of luscious brown, swinging towards me and away, on the swing Dan Turnbull and her father built her, or was it me.
So her narrative begins, as it will end, with a ghost.
SHE HAD BEEN born in the house some time before the new century, three years exactly, but her awareness of the sad presence coincided with the new era. Three years old, in or around the year nineteen hundred, and her mother found her in the curve below the large stairwell, talking quietly and intimately to somebody who wasn’t there. The sunlight came through the bubbled glass of the tall convex window, and she sat below it in the darkness, her doll clutched to her tiny chest, talking to nothing in particular.
“Nina Hardy,” said her mother—for that was her name, Nina, and Elizabeth was the mother’s—“whatever are you doing, talking to yourself on the draughty stairs? Come down and have your breakfast.”
“Can she come too?” asked Nina, and when her mother asked who, Nina pointed to the nothing in particular she had been addressing.
“Of course she can,” said mother, who was a woman wise enough not to question the private world of children, and took Nina’s hand and led her down the stairs to the stone floor of the kitchen, where the flags were cold beneath her bare feet, where the whitewashed limestone arched above the deal table and the range where Mary Dagge prepared her eggs. “Now Nina,” said Mary Dagge, “here’s your egges.”
She pronounced eggs with two syllables because she came from the town nearby, Drogheda, where eggs were pronounced “egges.” And when she placed the cracked plate with its blue castellated pattern and its damp yellow pile of scrambled eggs beside Nina, Nina divided it neatly in two, one for herself and one for her unseen playmate. And over the years to come Mary Dagge would grow accustomed to this division of spoils, to the portions of meals left uneaten on the right-hand side of her plate, to the sugar-coated sweets carefully shared with nobody in particular and to the conversations with shadows in isolated corners of the draughty house. For Nina was an imaginative child, her large brown eyes were pools into which one could sink, gladly, and the house was large, too large for an only child like her.
The house was on a bend of the estuary of the river Boyne, close to where it entered the sea in a small delta of mudflats. There were unkempt gardens leading to the river’s tributary, over which a chestnut tree inclined, and her father attached two ropes to its sturdiest overhanging branch which he tied in turn to a small wooden swing. So Nina could swing, when the weather permitted, over the coal-black waters and glimpse the white caps of the waves on the ocean beyond, providing, that is, she swung high enough. There was a glasshouse to one side and a vegetable garden, the walls of which continued, along the roadside, to the banks of the river itself.
To be present at the beginning of a new century pleased her father, she could tell that instinctively, though she might not have known what the word century meant. But when she saw him supervise the riveting of the rope to the wooden chair of the swing, the rope spliced neatly round the piece of metal shaped like a tear-drop, the screw’s thread beneath it fitting neatly into the precut hole in the wood, she knew it was part of a process that was exact and industrial, it was to do with metal and measurement and that this swing would be a superior swing to those built long ago. And when her father lifted her at last, placed her on the finished swing, and Dan Turnbull, who had screwed the final bolts, pushed her from behind, it felt odd to be swinging on a seat so new and to be staring over the water, at the face of the sad and lovely presence who was part of a story she would never know, that must have happened long ago.
Her father was old too, but so much in love with newness that his oldness fitted in, somehow, with every new thing. She could never imagine loving anyone more than her father, except perhaps her secret friend, during her more secret moments, but because she was secret that didn’t count. No, her father was part of the world that declared itself as real and she loved him for it, as much as for his love of all things new.
And when he brought her to the shellfish factory he had built by the mouth of the Boyne river, on a late summer’s day when the salmon were already leaping, to show her the new ice-machine, she loved him most of all. He led her by the hand into the low, stinking interior, pierced by the rays of the summer sun from the windows on one side, where the shellfish workers stood and touched their caps as he passed towards the sound of rhythmic clunking in the back. There were clouds like steam, but it was a cold steam, and the clunking had two causes, that of the engine-belt which rattled as it moved, and that of the great ice-blocks which hit the wooden base with a thump, shattered in clouds of that cold steam and shattered again under the force of the sledgehammers which the shirtless men swung down. When he told her it would keep the shellfish alive and fresh until they reached the cities of England, it was impossible not to share his pleasure, though she was uncertain what this meant.
She was glad, if the truth be known, when he led her out of that hellish interior, but was happy again when he knelt with her by the river and watched its molten immensity flow past and told her once more the story of the river’s birth. How the well at its source blinded anyone who was bold enough to gaze at their reflection. How a girl of surpassing beauty, with flowing locks like her own, came to wash her hair in it. How the waters rose, shocked at her beauty, how she ran to escape them and how they finally overtook her here, at the seashore near Mornington, deprived her of both her sight and her life. Her name was Boinn, so the river was called Boyne, after the name of its first victim.
There were long tendrils of seaweed beneath the water which rippled with the moving tide. And looking down on them, she could well imagine a long bed of hair beneath the shifting river, the young girl of surpassing beauty still beneath it, the waters perpetually washing her ever-growing hair. Looking up, she could see the obelisk of barnacled stone that sprang up where the river met the sea and was called the Lady’s Finger. Beyond it was the ruined hulk of the Maiden’s Tower. When sailors wished to enter the river’s mouth, her father told her, they would shift their boats until the Lady’s Finger was in line with the Maiden’s Tower, then know they were at an angle to strike the bar. What strike the bar meant she had no idea, but a river whose mouth was guarded by the Lady’s Finger and the Maiden’s Tower and whose source was a young girl’s hair seemed without doubt to be a womanly river. And the men who angled their sails through her, who pulled the fish from her in dark wet nets, who dragged the scallops, cockles and mussels from her seaweedy depths were lucky to have a woman of such bounty. She wondered were the drowned girl and her secret companion one and the same. But she decided on reflection that they could not be, since her ghost wore clothes that were of a later time and the clothes were never, ever wet.
Shade. Of a bat’s wing, of a sycamore at noon, of an ash in thin moonlight, in the biggest shade of all. Nightshade. Shade of what was. I am that oddest of things, an absence now. A rumour, a shade within a shadow, a remembrance of a memory, my own. A stray dog forages with my Wellington boot, buries it in the potato patch, digs it up again, buries it again.
George sits in his cottage in the grounds after the event and listens to the accounts of afternoon race meets on his radio. There is a distant creak from the ironwrought gate by the house entrance as the postman pushes it open. The faint sound of crunching footsteps, as he wheels his bike down the curving avenue, stuffs a handful of bent brown envelopes through the letterbox which fall on the varnished floor. As the tide turns, the winds drop and the clouds quieten their movement, the white horses subside. A low, endless mackerel sky forms a backdrop to the falling sun. Oystercatchers pick their way along the mudflats of the estuary. A film of ice forms along the edges of the river. The blood on the grass grows white with hoar-frost. The world becomes a painting without me in it.
George rises from the car seat that is his only chair, walks out of his cottage leaving the door ajar, the radio on. He moves between the copse of ash and elder like a ghost himself. He wades across the river in his twine-tied boots, leaving elephantine prints in the mud behind him. The water reaches his neck, almost washes him clean. He makes his way along the other side of the river as the moon rises, picks mussels from the frozen shore, eats them raw. The words in his head are estuary, anglo-saxon, monosyllabic—mulch, shit, loam, earth.
He lies face down in the wet sand and feels the brine seeping through his old tweed jacket with the leather elbow-patches. The casts of lug worms stretch away before his eyes to the rippled sand of the shore where the water laps sluggishly in the moonlight. If he could burrow his way into the sand beneath him, he would. If he could shed his coat, his flannel shirt, his greasy jeans and the orange twine that binds them, his flesh and the tissue that binds it, if he could shed the whole of him and throw it up as wet cast, he would.
He is beyond connective thought, but the words thrum through him. What covers the earth is mulch and decay and he has delivered the living to it. He has partaken in the savage order of things. And George now feels the murmur of renewal inside him. A spider crab crawls between his fingers and edges into a wormhole. A kittiwake squawks and he rises, walks along the Mornington shore and the suck of wet sand beneath his feet changes to the crunch of broken seashell. Scallop, cockle, mussel, periwinkle, every footfall tells him of the necessity of death and how the earth needs its skeletons.
Mornington, Bettystown, Laytown, he covers each strand and wades waist-deep through the mouth of the Nanny river, a large hunched figure dark against the phosphorous glow of the breaking waves. He is on a journey back from reason, to the place he was released, St. Ita’s psychiatric hospital, Portrane.
It is morning when he reaches it. He walks from the shore past the round tower to the lawns with the red-bricked citadel of the asylum in the background. The nurses are arriving in their wrappings of stiff white. Beneath the barred window he once knew he stands covered in brine, sand, silt, any trace of the blood he spilt encrusted beneath it. He seems lost and wants asylum, in the old sense. Dr. Hannon drives by in a black Ford car, stops and says, “George, what on earth.” And George says, simply, “Home.”
HER MOTHER, UNLIKE her father, seemed unexcited by the onset of the new century. The house was hers, had come to her through her father, Jeremiah Tynan, whose fortune rose steadily from the early days of the Drogheda Steampacket Company and who bought it with the profits gleaned from the first iron paddlesteamer, the Colleen Bawn, on the Drogheda-Liverpool route. He had died before the launching of the Kathleen Mavourneen, the largest steamer built for the Drogheda Steampacket Company, two hundred and sixty feet long, with a beam depth of one hundred and fifty feet and a gross tonnage of nine hundred and ninety-eight. But the fortune remained intact, indeed prospered, until the company was sold and the house passed to his wife and eventually his youngest daughter, by which time it seemed to have been theirs for ever. Baltray House, on the northern banks of the mouth of the Boyne river, with a view of Mornington, across the river, to the south.
His only daughter had been spared the vicissitudes of trade, had been educated at the Siena Convent on the Chord Road, Drogheda, founded by Mother Catherine Plunkett, grand-niece of the martyred St. Oliver, for the education of young Catholic ladies. On her graduation she had travelled to Siena itself in the company of a nun of her mother’s choosing and had there acquired, instead of a taste for the mysticism of St. Catherine of Siena, a taste for the fine arts. In Arezzo she dutifully copied the Piero della Francescas, and later, in Florence, the Raphaels at the Uffizi and the towering marble of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.
And there, in front of the David, she met a young Englishman named David Hardy who was tracing, on his rectangular pad, everything about the statue but its marble penis. A conversation was struck up under the watchful eye of the chaperoning nun which was resumed two years later, after a chance meeting in the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square under the canvas of Velázquez’ Immaculate Conception, Elizabeth Tynan having travelled to London to further her studies in the fine arts. There were tears streaming down his face and the reason for those tears, when she questioned him gently, moved her deeply. They were caused, he told her, as he dried his cheeks on the handkerchief she had lent him, by his feeling of utter inadequacy in the face of the perfection of the canvas in front of him, a perfection he could never hope to match. In fact the tears, she would learn some eight years later, when the son that had been denied him entered their lives, had quite a different source. But in front of the canvas, the serene beauty of the Virgin’s face seemed a more than adequate explanation, and soon she was crying too. So he gave her back her handkerchief, and their fingers touched.
Indifferent artists both, their interest in Velázquez was soon overwhelmed by their interest in each other, and a courtship ensued, an irregular one, given that both were orphans in effect, the last parents on both sides having recently died, the mother in her case, the father in his. And soon the first of many trips across the Irish Sea began, from Liverpool to Drogheda on the Kathleen Mavourneen, now in the ownership of the British and Irish Steampacket Company in which Elizabeth, with her four brothers, retained a substantial interest. David Hardy, of sufficient means to be unembarrassed by his fiancee’s estate, fell in love with the ship, the music of its name and, when he saw it, the thin, dun-coloured vista of the Boyne estuary which reminded him of nothing so much as the Flemish landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael.
Perhaps he fell in love with it because he needed to, needed a home for his turbulent emotions, so radically different from anything he had hitherto known. That he was in love with Elizabeth was for him beyond question. And perhaps, again, he should have questioned that emotion, as to whether the long drama it was leading him towards was a symptom of the short drama he had left behind. But there is a third supposition, that this moment was fortuitous in the way few moments are, that he could bring whatever consolation was needed to the small-boned hand that he held in his. And when he leaned against the curved metal casing of the giant steam-paddle, placed his other hand around Elizabeth’s thin waist and saw the obelisk of the Lady’s Finger drift by, with the Maiden’s Tower in line with it and beyond them both the long stretch of Mornington Strand, he felt that strangest of affections, for a landscape and country he had never seen before, never imagined he would see.
As night comes down again the radio speaks to itself in George’s empty cottage. A weather-man predicts unseasonable sunshine. The amber lamp in the radio dial illuminates the frosted window. A pale wash of moonlight pencils each branch of the ash trees beyond. Sadness, if I could feel sadness, would be what that disembodied voice would evoke. He left it on, and the coming days of winter sunshine are broadcast to nothing human. As the night progresses and the moon moves and all the shadows of the trees move with it, it seems the calm the radio predicted has already descended. The winds that have blown for the last three days are bound for the Azores.
I should have read the signs, of course. George, like all of us, had his weather too. He had seemed restless because of those winds, obeying instructions other than mine. Instead of grass verges clipped, manure was spread around the roots of the blackcurrants and cherries in the walled garden.
“It is winter, George, the ground is frozen, why manure the frozen ground?”
“I’m doing what I’m told,” he said.
“I didn’t tell you,” I said.
“No,” he said, “what do you know about gardens?”
By the river’s bank I had found a sparrow with its head cut off.
“Who would decapitate a sparrow, George?” I asked him.
“A mink,” he said. He pointed towards Baltray, where the mink farm was. But the head had been sliced neatly, as if with a shears.
“Maybe it was you, George, clipping.”
“Why would I clip,” he had asked me, “in the middle of winter?”
Why indeed, I wondered, and forgot about it.
I had come upon him that afternoon, lying face down in the frozen grass beneath the apple tree.
“You’ll freeze, George,” I told him.
“Maybe,” he said, “but I’ll warm the earth.”
“And I’m sure the earth will appreciate your efforts, George,” I said, “but why not let the spring do it for you?”
“The spring needs help,” he said, “the summer needs help too.”
“Are you an Adonis then, George, in overalls?”
“Who is Adonis?” he asked.
“Adonis revived the earth,” I told him.
“He was a gardener then?”
“Yes,” I told him, “of a kind.”
“We used to lie here,” he said, “just like this, the four of us.”
“Yes,” I said, “but in the summer and the grass was high and we were children then.”
He raised himself at that and stood, awkwardly, as if re-entering his oversized adult limbs.
“You took my part,” he said, or I thought he said, and turned away.
“I what?” I asked.
And he repeated, over the blowing wind, “You took my part.”
I stared at the outline his body had left in the crushed winter grass. I remembered the tiny theatre of the four of us beneath that apple tree in the long September grasses of my childhood. His part had been Touchstone, not Adonis. And he would strike me more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. [End of Sample]
Skip to Shade
In Paris the gambling was hidden but easy enough to find. This one was in the fifteenth arrondissement near the Citroën factory. The thick door had an iron ring for a handle; a thug absurdly disguised as a doorman admitted Kendig and there was a woman at a desk, attractive enough but she had a cool hard air. Kendig went through the tedium of establishing the credentials of his innocence--he was not a flic, he was not Sicilian, he was not Union Corse, he was not this or that. "Just a tourist. I've been here before--with Mme. Labrie. There isn't a message for me by any chance?"
There wasn't. Kendig paid the membership admission and crossed to the elevator. There will be an interesting message for you tonight at the Club Rouge. It had been typed, no signature; delivered to his concierge by an urchin clutching a five-franc note.
He went up in a lift cage piloted by a little fellow whose face was the texture of old rubber dried grey by a desert sun: the look of an Algerian veteran. The old fellow opened the gate on the third étage. "Bonne chance, M'sieur." Behind the smile was a leering cynicism.
Kendig's fathomless eyes looked past the tables at a desolate emptiness of his own. The crowd was moderate, the decor discreet, the costumery tiresomely fashionable. Soft laughter here, hard silence there: winners and losers. The bright lightingleeched their faces of color. Kendig drifted among the felted tables. A croupier recognized him from somewhere and smiled; he was in the uniform--the tuxedo that only appeared to have pockets; to discourage temptation. Kendig said, "They've moved the poker?"
"You must speak with the maître." The croupier glanced toward a largish man in black who loomed over the neighboring wheel.
Kendig had a word with the maître and had to show his bankroll to the cashier behind a cage. He bought five thousand francs in rectangular chips and the maître guided him officiously past the tables to an oak door with massive polished brass fittings. Beyond it Kendig found the game, six players around a table that accommodated eight chairs. A houseman stood in the shadows.
There was one woman in the game; he knew who she was but they'd never met. He knew the American, Paul Jaynes; the others were strangers.
Jaynes gave him a debonair greeting and the others glanced at him but Kendig hung back until they had finished the hand. They were playing seven stud--unusual for a room like this. And the house wasn't dealing.
The woman won the hand and gathered the pot; the maître bowed his way out and Kendig pulled out one of the empty chairs and sat down with his chips. His place was between Jaynes and the woman, with the woman on his left; he knew Jaynes's manner of play and it didn't trouble him to be downwind of the American.
"Been a while," Jaynes said with his beefy smile and Kendig nodded acknowledgment. Jaynes had a deep suntan and a huckster's compulsion to touch anyone to whom he spoke. He was a film producer of independently financed sex-and-sandal epics. The others had the same look: businessmen, promoters--two Frenchmen, a German, a Swede. The woman he knew by sight and reputation; he'd seen dossiers on her--she'd spent a few years as patroness of American exiles in Algeria before she'd tired of the game or been frightened out of it by the professionals. She had been married to a banker but there'd been a divorce and she'd reverted to her maiden name.
"Pot limit of course," Jaynes told him, laying out the ground rules. "Check-raise. It's not table stakes--you can go into your pocket if you want to. Or you can tap out. We try to make it easy on ourselves." He smiled; it was a little nervous--it looked as if he might have started with a larger stake than he had now. "Ante twenty-five francs to the player. The house takes one ante for its cut."
"Seven stud or dealer's choice?"
The woman said, "We decided by majority when we began."
"Suits me." It didn't matter.
The game proceeded. He tried to take an interest in it but most of it came to him like the adult voices you half-heard when you were a small child dozing in the next room. It was one of the things he found soothing about gambling: its detachment from everything. He folded out of three hands on the first round of each; on the fourth he caught a pair of wired jacks in which he had little faith but he strung them along to the sixth card before he dropped out, unimproved; that cost him three hundred francs.
"You're getting cool cards for a newcomer," the woman said apologetically. "You must be disappointed."
He made a soundless reply, a courteous expression. She was wrong, actually; disappointment only follows expectation and he'd had none of that.
After the first half hour he was a thousand francs in the hole and had won only two hands. There had been one extravagant pot; he had not participated in it; the woman won it. That was what the game amounted to--like surfing; you endured the ordinary waves while you waited for the occasional big one. The players who approached it professionally would have none of that--they played every hand to win--but the big ones came their way too and whatever their denials it came to the same thing. The woman was pushing the big ones hard and he saw she was the player to beat.
The Frenchman Deroget tapped out and left the table in vile spirits. He left nine thousand francs in the game. When the Frenchman was gone Paul Jaynes said, "More than two thousand dollars. Not much for a game like this one--but too much for a shrimp like him. I've heard it around that he's in pretty deep. They'll be keeping a close eye on him." He meant the casino: if a man committed suicide his pockets would be stuffed quietly with money to discourage any idea he might have killed himself over his losses.
A few hands came Kendig's way and he raked them in without particular joy. He was only marking time.
The fifth card of the hand was dealt around; Kendig's was a queen and it gave him three hearts face-up. The woman had two nines in sight but she checked them. Kendig checked as well; Jaynes had a pair of fives showing and was eager to bet them--he was cheerfully transparent about it. There were a thousand francs in the pot by then; Jaynes opened the round's betting with a hundred-franc wager and two of the players beyond him called the bet; the German folded and then it was Mlle Stein's turn and she saw the bet and raised five hundred francs. It made a nineteen-hundred-franc pot and when Kendig saw the raise it doubled the size of the pot; and Kendig raised the limit. "The raise is three thousand eight hundred." About a thousand dollars by the day's exchange rate.
Jaynes called the raise without hesitation but he didn't raise back; it meant he had his third five but not his full house. The Swede and the Frenchman folded their hands. The woman smiled a little, thought about it and then called the raise. It ended the round's betting and there was a good sum on the table now: a little over fifteen thousand francs. Two cards remained to be dealt to each player; there would be two more rounds of betting in the hand.
Mlle Stein's card was another four-spot and gave her two pair in sight, nines over fours. The Swede dealt Kendig the king of spades--no visible improvement of his three-hearts-to-the-queen. Jaynes bought the jack of diamonds: his third suit and no evident help for his matched fives. The three-handed betting began with the woman: she counted out five thousand francs into the pot. It could mean anything. Either she had her boat and wanted to build the pot or she didn't have it and wanted to frighten her opponents into not raising.
It was Kendig's turn and he knew every card that had been shown. The hearts were a screen; he had two more queens wired in the hole and he hadn't seen a single king or deuce anywhere in the table's up-cards. Caution dictated a straight call but he made the ten-thousand-franc raise and it folded Jaynes and then the woman was smiling again with her valentine mouth and she bumped him back: "I think I must raise you twenty thousand."
It was as much as some men made in a year. Kendig shrugged and turned to Paul Jaynes. "Can you cover my check?"
"American Express. Paris branch."
"Will it buy me a peek at your hole cards?"
Jaynes said, "You've got enough to cover it of course." He said it with a bit of an edge on his voice: not quite a threat.
"Yes." Kendig had a hundred thousand in that bank and a lot more than that in Switzerland. Most of it had come from gambling of one kind or another. Jaynes knew that much about him. Jaynes said finally, "All right. You can play shy here."
"Thank you." Kendig said it without inflection; he really hadn't cared that much. He pulled the woman's stack of twenty thousand shy and said, "Call."
"What, no reraise M'sieur?" She was amused. It meant nothing about her cards; she was too good a player to coffeehouse any revelations.
The final card was dealt face-down and of course the woman had to come out betting; it would have made no sense to sandbag and in any case the bet only encouraged one's opponent to believe it was a bluff: checking the bet couldn't be a bluff.
She bet twenty-five thousand and Jaynes nodded tautly, covering Kendig. Kendig didn't have to perform any calculations to know there were one hundred and ten thousand francs in the pot which the woman could collect if he folded his hand. If he were to call the bet it would make it a 135,000-franc pot--nearly thirty-five-thousand dollars. She had been reading him for the heart flush but if he raised she would have to change her thinking.
He looked at Paul Jaynes. "Blank check?"
"The size of the pot? Christ that's more than I have to pay a top star for two weeks' location work." Jaynes looked at the three men who'd dropped out of the hand. "Anybody want to lay a side bet against Kendig?"
The German had been very impressed by the woman's play tonight; and perhaps he wanted to prove something because she was a Jew....The German said, "Fifty thousand francs?"
"You're faded," Jaynes said. "All right, Kendig."
Kendig looked at the woman. She was watching him, waiting without expression. He said, "Raise the pot."
"I don't have that much in chips." But she was smiling.
"It's not a table-stakes game," Kendig said.
She studied him. He'd doubled the pot and it would cost her 135,000 francs to call his bet. It was a big pot now and if she called the bet it would be a hundred-thousand-dollar pot--that much on a single poker hand. Kendig had never wagered as much in his life; such a hand came only once in a lifetime, win or lose. It didn't matter. His mind began to drift. He accepted the woman's scrutiny, neither evading it nor challenging it. Jaynes looked on, agape, hands trembling with anticipation. The German watched with his face as stiffly controlled as that of an addict who was declining a fix three weeks after taking the cure. The Frenchman and the Swede were hardly breathing.
She had two pair showing; she probably had her full house; she might even have four nines or four fours. Kendig was a stranger betting with another man's money--a man he didn't appear to know too well--and she'd know Jaynes well enough to know he wouldn't shill for anybody. So it was honest play and she had to make her decision on the assumption that Kendig wouldn't bluff with Jaynes's money. She had therefore to conclude Kendig had four queens.
She did not call his raise; she folded her hand. "Well done, M'sieur."
* * *
Jaynes buttonholed him at the bar. "Well?"
"She didn't pay to see it."
"But I did, didn't I? At least I offered to. How was I to know whether you had that much in the bank?"
"Why should I have lied about it?"
That stupefied Jaynes. "You had four queens. You must have had."
"I'll tell you this much. I had three queens going in."
"Then you bought the fourth queen on the last down-card?"
"I don't know," Kendig said. "I never looked."
"The hell you didn't. I saw you look at it."
"I shuffled them around. That wasn't the seventh card I looked at."
Jaynes smiled slowly. "Jesus H. Christ. How the hell could you keep from looking?"
Kendig shrugged. The plain fact was he hadn't cared; but it wouldn't be worth the effort to convince Jaynes of that.
"Well we both did all right, didn't we," Jaynes said.
Kendig escaped into the toilette and afterward went back into the poker chamber to collect his winnings. The woman was alone at the table adjusting her hair in a handbag mirror. She must have been close to fifty but she hadn't begun to go to seed. "You're leaving?"
"Leaving this game."
"That's hardly sporting." But it was not said unkindly; she was smiling. "You don't take much of an interest in it, do you."
"I suppose not."
"Such a shame," she murmured. Then her smile changed. "I don't know which is worse--a helpless puppy or a lost American. The only thing you really want is to get home, isn't it."
"What makes you think that?"
"I've never met an American who didn't. Why don't you?"
"Perhaps I will."
"You'll feel better then."
"Will I?" He nodded to the houseman, who swept the chips into a sack and went away with them after Kendig finished making the count.
She said, "You are the one who hounded my trail in Algiers, aren't you?"
"I was one of them. For a little while. They moved me out after a few months."
"I'm retired," Kendig said.
"I see." She didn't believe it for a minute but she was amused rather than angry. "Our Swedish friend just finished telling me what a success you've been on the Continent. Gambling, motorcars, skiing, flying aeroplanes. You've a rather interesting sort of retirement."
"Yes," he said because that was easier than denying it.
She pushed the cards together and her hands became still: she stared at his face. "Would you care to come home with me tonight?"
"Thank you," he said, "I think not." He executed a slight bow and left the room.
The cashier was waiting for him. "M'sieur prefers cash or our cheque?"
"It is a dangerous sum to be carrying on one's person, M'sieur."
"All the same I'll have it in cash if you don't mind."
"As M'sieur wishes."
The maître approached, burly and discreet. "Monsieur Kendig? Téléphone, s'il vous plâit....Par ici."
He took it in someone's office. He picked up the receiver but didn't speak into it until the maître had backed out and shut the door. "Yes?"
"C'est vous, Kendig?"
Kendig recognized the voice. It was Mikhail Yaskov. Now Yaskov spoke in English:
"You received my note then."
"I should like to meet with you, old friend."
"For what purpose?"
"To discuss a matter which may prove mutually beneficial."
"I doubt the existence of any such matter, Mikhail."
"Nevertheless perhaps you will humor me?"
Kendig's shoulders stirred. "Why not then?"
"It must be tout de suite I am afraid. I am only in Paris another twenty-four hours."
"Tomorrow," Yaskov said, his voice very controlled. "I shall be with the messieurs Citroën and Mercier. Do you know them?"
"Yes." It wasn't far from here: the intersection of the quai André Citroën and the rue Sebastien Mercier, just below the Mirabeau bridge on the left bank. It was a workers' neighborhood, narrow passages leading back, their drab walls daubed with Communist slogans. Fitting enough.
Yaskov said, "We shall meet at Number Sixteen, yes?"
Sixteen hundred hours: four o'clock in the afternoon. Harmless enough. "All right, Mikhail."
"I assure you the transaction will interest you."
Kendig doubted it but he made no reply. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yes. Bonne chance, old friend." A soft chuckle and then the line died.
Kendig cradled it and went out and collected his envelope from the cashier. Jaynes waved at him eagerly from across the room but he only waved back and followed the maître to the lift; he rode down in the cage with the old Algerian veteran and went out into the night with a pocketful of money.