Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis (Blackmask 1951)

Cassidy turned. He looked at Shealy. He said quietly, “What's wrong with you?”

Shealy did not reply. He was sending his eyes through Cassidy's eyes and trying to see the core of Cassidy's mind.

“All right,” Cassidy said. “Let's hear the sad music.”

The white-haired man folded his arms and gazed past Cassidy's shoulder and said, “Leave her alone, Jim.”

“For what good reason?”

“She's helpless. She's a sick girl.”

“I know that,” Cassidy said. “That's why I won't leave her alone. That's why I'm staying with her.” He hadn't meant to state his complete plans, but now, as though Shealy was challenging him, he met the challenge and said bluntly, “I won't be going back to Mildred. I'll never be with Mildred again. From now on you'll find me living with Doris.”

Shealy moved toward the ladder and gazed up at the top shelf where the sweaters and working pants were stacked. His eyes were appraising and finally he seemed to be satisfied with the arrangement. But he went on looking up there at the merchandise as he said, “Why not take it further than that? If you're out to help all the poor creatures of the world, why don't you found a mission?”

“You go to hell,” Cassidy said. He started toward the door.

“Wait, Jim.”

“Wait nothing. I come in to say good morning and you give me the needles.”

“You didn't come in to say good morning.” Shealy was with him at the door and not allowing him to open it. “You come in because you want assurance. You want me to tell you that you're doing right.”

“You? I need you to tell me?” Cassidy tried a sarcastic smile. All that showed was a scowl as he said, “What makes you so important?”

“The fact that I'm out of it,” Shealy replied. “Entirely out of the show. Just a one-man audience, sitting in the balcony. That gives me a full view. I can see it from every angle.”

Cassidy grimaced impatiently. “Quit the syrup, will you? Talk plain.”

“All right, Jim. I'll make it as plain as I can. I'm just a worn-out rumhead, slowly rotting away. But there's one thing left alive in me, one thing working and holding me in line. That's my brains. It's my brains and only my brains telling you to keep away from Doris.”

Here we go, Cassidy said to the wall. “Now it starts with the preaching.”

“Me preach?” And Shealy laughed. “Not me, Jim. Anyone but me. I lost my sense of moral values a long time ago. The credo I hold today is based on simple arithmetic, nothing more. We can all survive and get along if we can just add one and one and get two.”

“What's that got to do with me and Doris?”

“If you don't leave her alone,” Shealy said, “she won't survive.”

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