Blood Sport Part 28

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'Wouldyoumind...ifIcamewithyou?'

Istirredinsurprise.

'Ithoughtyouwantedtostayhereforever.'

'Mm.Butthatwaswithyou...andEunice.Nowyou'regoing...andEunicehasn'tbeenheremuchthisweek,youknow.I'vespentagesallonmyown,andthereisn'tthatmuchtodoonabeach,whenyoudoiteveryday...'

'WherehasEunicebeen?'



'SantaMonica,likenow.There'ssomeplacethereshespendsallhertimein,wheretheyimportvasesandbitsofsculptureandexpensivelightfittings,andthingslikethat.Shetookmetherethedaybeforeyesterday...Imustsayit'sprettygorgeous.Marvellousfabrics,too.'

'Shemightfeelhurtifyoujustpackupandleaveher.'

'Well,no.Imentionedittoherbeforeshewentthismorning,andhonestlyIthinkifanythingshewasrelieved.ShejustsaidifIreallywantedtogo,O.K.,andshewouldprobablybemovingdowntoSantaMonicainadayortwoanyway.'

'Ifyoureallywantto,then.I'mcatchingthenightflighttoWashington...I'veavisittomakeinLexingtontomorrowmorning.Afterthat,backtoNewYork,andhome.'

'Youdon'tmindifItagalong?'Shesoundedascrapuncertain.

'Cometothinkofit,'Isaid,'youcanwakemeatthestops.'

WehadasandwichforlunchwhichIcouldn'teat,andattwothegirlfromthereceptiondeskcametosayIwaswantedonthetelephone.PaulM.ZeissentoldmeinasuitablyhushedvoicethattheArizonapolicehadbeenmostco-operativeandhadgonetoBellman'sfarmasasked,andhadfoundWaltdead.Imadeshockednoises.ZeissensaidwouldIpackWalt'sthingsandsendthemback?IsaidIwould.

'Isuppose,'hesuggesteddiffidently,'thatyouandhehadnotcompletedyourotherbusiness?'

'Thehorses?'

'Onehorse.Allyx,'hesaidreprovingly.'Showmanwasinsuredwithanothercompany.'

'Oh...yes.Allyxshouldbeincirculation,safeandauthenticatedwithinamonthorso.IexpecttheBloodhorseBreedersAssociationwillbegettingintouchwithyou.Waltworkedveryhardatthis,anditwasentirelyowingtohiseffortsthatButtressLifewillberecoveringmostofthemillionandahalfitpaidout.'

'Wheredidhefindthehorse?'

'Ican'ttellyou.Doesitmatter?'

'No...'hesaidthoughtfully.'Goodsback,noquestionsasked...weworkonthatprinciple,thesameasanyothercompany.'

'Rightthen,'Isaid.'Andyou'llofcoursepayhiscommissiontohiswidow?'

'Uh...ofcourse.AndnaturallyWalthadinsuredhislifewithus...MrsPrenselawillbewellprovidedfor,Ifeelsure.'

Providedfor.Money.ButnoWalt.Nopicnic.

Isaidgood-byetoZeissenandwentslowlybacktoLynnie.WhenItoldherWaltwasdead,shecriedforhim.

Upstairs,whenIpackedhisclothes.IlingeredagoodwhileovertheframedphotographofhimwithAmyandthekids,andintheendputitinmysuitcase,nothis.Itcouldhardlybetheonlyphotographhiswifewouldhaveofhim,andIdidn'tthinkshe'dworrymuchifitdidn'treturnwithhisbaggage.

EunicecamebacktiredandabstractedfromSantaMonica,andafterabsorbingtheshockofWalt'sdeathwasunaffectedwhenLynnietoldheroverearlydinnerthatshewasgoinghomewithme.

'Muchbettertotravelwithamantolookafteryou,honey,'sheagreedabsentmindedly:andthen,givingmeamorecharacteristicsharpglance,added'Don'tlethimgetuptoanytricks.'

Lynniesighed.'Hewouldn't.'

'Huh,'shesaid,butwithoutconviction,andthenaskedme,'WillyoubeseeingDavewhenyougetback?'

Inodded.'Verysoonafter.'

'Tellhimthen,willyou,thatI'vefoundadarlinglittlebusinessinSantaMonica.They'relookingforapartnerwithsomecapital,toopenanotherbranch,andiftheaccountsarerightI'dliketodoit.I'llwritetohim,ofcourse,butyoucouldexplain...Iguessyoucouldexplainbetterthananyone.'

'I'llexplain.'

ShesaidshewastootiredtocomeallthewaybacktoLosAngelestoseeusoff,andwesaidgood-byetoherinthelobby,whereshekissedLynnieandthenmeonthecheekwithaquitesurprisingstrengthoffeeling.

Lynniesaid,aswedroveaway.'I'llmissher.Isn'tthatextraordinary.I'llreallymissher.'

'You'llcomeback.'

'Itwon'tbethesame...'

IreturnedthehiredcartotheHertzagentattheairport,wecaughttheplanetoWashington,andImadeuponpartsofthewayforthethreenightswithoutsleep.LynniesaidatLexingtonthatshecouldquiteseewhyIneededsomeonetowakemeatthestops.

WewentinataxitoJeffRoots'houseandhisteenagedaughterstookLynnieoffforaswiminthepoolwhileIsatwithhimunderhisvine-coveredtrellisandthoughthowcoolandsubstantialhelookedinhisbrightopenneckedSundayshirt.

'SamHengelmanshouldreachLexingtonsometimethisafternoonorearlyevening,'Isaid.'He'llcallyoutoknowwheretotakethehorses.'

'That'sallfixed,'Rootsnodded.

'Wouldyougivehimamessagefromme?'

'Sure.'

'Justtellhimeverything'sO.K:thatIsaidso.'

'Sure.Youare,aren'tyou,onehundredpercentcertainthatthesetwodefinitelyareShowmanandAllyx?'

'Onehundredpercent.Thereisn'ttheslightestdoubt.'

Hesighed.'I'llgettheidentificationstarted.ThoughwhoistoknowShowmanaftertenyears?Abaywithnomarkings...andonlyafour-year-oldwhenhecamefromEngland.'Hepaused,thensaid,'HaveyouanysuggestionsastohowwecanstartprosecutingOffenforfraudandtheft?'

Ishookmyhead.'I'mnotapoliceman.Notinterestedinpunishment,onlyprevention.'Ismiledbriefly.'Icametogetthehorsesback.Nothingelse.Well...they'reback.I'vedonewhatIwasengagedfor,andthat'sasfarasIgo.'

Heeyedmeassessingly.'DoyouwantOffentogooncollectinghugestudfees,then?'

'Hewon't,'Isaid.'NotifsomeonestartsaquickrumourimmediatelythatbothMoviemakerandCentigradehavebeensufferingfromanobscureviruswhichwillcertainlyhaveaffectedtheirvirility.Ownersofmarescanbequietlyadvisedtoinsisttheydon'tpayanystudfeesuntilthefoalshaveshowntheirquality.Afterthat...well,OffendoeslegallyownMoviemakerandCentigrade,andhe'sentitledtothefeestheyearnontheirownmerits.'

'You'reextraordinary,'hesaid.'Don'tyouwanttoseeOffenbehindbars?'

'Notpassionately,'Isaid.Offenhadenjoyedhisprestigealmostmorethanhisincome.Hewouldbelosingboth.AndYola...shewasgoingtohavetoworkhard,withoutMatt,andprobablywithouttheexpensivehouseonPitts.Barsseemedsuperfluous.

Heshookhishead,givingmeupasabadjob.'We'llhavetoprosecute,I'msureofitI'llhavetogetlawyerstoseeaboutit.'

Hecalledthehousemantobringoutdrinks,andmerelysighedwhenIsaidI'dassoonsharehissugarfreetonic.

Wesippedthewell-icedinnocuousstuffandhesaidagainthatOffenwouldhavetobeprosecuted,ifonlytoprovideareasonforAllyxandShowmanhavingdisappearedforsomanyyears,andtoaccountforthetattoomarksinsidetheirmouths.

'Icanseeyouwouldthinkthat,'Isaid'Ialsothinkyou'llhaveaterriblejobprovingthatanyofthemaresbookedtoMoviemakerandCentigradewereactuallycoveredbyShowmanorAllyx.Ididn'tfindShowmanandAllyxonOffen'sfarm.Idoubtifanyonewouldtestifythattheywereeverthere.CertainlyOffenwoulddenyit,andgoondenyingittothebitterend.It'shisonlyhope.'Ipaused.'Ididmanagetogetsometaperecordings,butunfortunately,eveniftheycouldbeusedasevidence,theyareinconclusiveOffennevermentionedShowmanorAllyxbyname.'

Rootsstaredgloomilyintospace.

'Thismakesitdifficult,'hesaid.'WhatyouareinfactsayingisthatweknowOffenswitchedthestallions,becauseofthetattoomarks,butnoonewillbeabletoproveit?'

IlookeddowntowhereLynniewasjumpingintothepoolinabigsplashcontestwithRoots'daughters.Herlight-heartedlaughterfloatedup,carefreeandveryyoung 'Iwouldn'ttry,'Isaid'RightlyorwronglyIdecidedtorepossessthestolengoodsbystealingthemback.First,sothatOffenwouldhavenochanceofdestroyingthem.Second,sothatthereshouldn'tbeyearsofdelaywhilelawyersarguedthecase,yearsofthestallionsstandingidle,withtheirvaluediminishingdaybydayandtheirbloodlineswasting.Third,andmostimportant,thatthereshouldbenochanceofOffengettingthembackoncethedusthadsettled.Becauseifhehadanysensehewouldswear,andprovidewitnessestoswear,thatthehorsesindisputeweretwounracedhalfbredanimalsofnoaccount,andhe'dexplainthetattoosontheirlipsbysayinghe'dusedthemtotryoutsomenewtypeofink.Whatmorelikely,hewouldsay,thanthatheshouldrepeatthenumbersofhistwobesthorses?Hecouldmakeitsoundalotmorereasonablethanthatheshouldhavestolentwoworldfamousstallionsandconductedalargescalefraud.Hehasgreatpersonalcharm.'

Rootsnodded.'I'vemethim.'

'ShowmanandAllyxwerebeinglookedafterbyOffen'snephew,'Isaid'Offencansayhe'dlenthimtwooldnagstohackaroundon,andhecan'timaginewhyanyonewouldwanttostealthem.'

'Hecouldputupanexcellentdefence,Iseethat,'headmitted.

'Hispresentstudgroomisinnocent,'Iadded.'Andwouldconvinceanyoneofit.Ifyouleavethingsastheyare,Offenwon'tgetAllyxandShowmanback.Ifyouprosecutehim,hemay.'

Helookedshattered,staringintohisglassbutseeingwithexperiencedeyeseverysideofthestickyproblem.

'Wecouldtrybloodtests,'hesaidatlast.

'Bloodtests?'

'Forpaternity,'henodded'Ifthereisanydoubtaboutwhichhorsehassiredacertainfoal,wetakebloodtests.Ifonedisputedsire'sbloodisofasimilargrouptothefoal's,andtheotherdisputedsire'sisdifferent,weconcludethatthefoalwassiredbythesimilarsire.'

'Andlikeinhumans,'Iasked,'youcantellwhichhorsecouldnothavesiredwhichfoal,butyoucouldn'tsaywhich,ofasimilarbloodgroup,actuallydid?'

'That'sright.'

Wethoughtitover.Thenhesaidcheerfully,'Ifwecanprovethatnoneoftheso-calledMoviemakerfoalscouldinfacthavebeensiredbyMoviemaker,butcouldallhavebeensiredbyShowman,we'llhaveOffensewnuptight.'

'Couldn'thepossiblyhavemadesure,beforeheeverboughtMoviemaker,thathisandShowman'sbloodgroupsweresimilar?Imean,ifhe'sabreeder,he'dknowaboutbloodtests.'

Roots'gloomreturned.'Isupposeit'spossible.AndpossiblethatCentigradeandAllyxaresimilartoo.'Helookedupsuddenlyandcaughtmesmiling.'It'sallrightforyoutothinkit'sfunny,'hesaid,wrylymatchingmyexpression.'Youdon'thavetosortoutthemess.WhatinGod'snamearewegoingtodoabouttheStudBook?Moviemaker's...thatis,Showman's...getarealreadysiringfoals,insomecases.Themixupisinthesecondgeneration.Howareweevergoingtoputitstraight?'

'Evenif,'Ipointedout,tryinghardtokeepthehumouroutofmyvoiceandface,'evenifyouproveMoviemakercouldn'thavesiredthefoalshe'ssupposedtohavedone,youcan'tproveShowmandid.'

Hegavemeacomicallypainedlook.'Whatothersirecouldhavegotsuchbrilliantstock?'Heshookhishead.'We'llpinitonOffenintheend,evenifwehavetowaituntilafterShowmanandAllyxhavebeenre-syndicatedandtheirfirstofficialcropshavewonasmuchstakemoneyasalltheothers.Offenwouldn'tbeabletosaythenthattheyweretwohalf-brednagshe'dgivenhisnephewtohackaroundon.We'llgethimintheend.'

'Theracingscandaloftheyear,'Isaidsmiling.

'Oftheyear?Areyoukidding?Ofthecentury.'

LynnieandIflewfromKennedythatnightonaSuperVC10,withdinneroverCanadaatmidnightandbreakfastoverIrelandthreehourslater.Ispenttheintervallookingatherwhileshesleptbesidemeinhersloped-backchair.Herskinwasclosetexturedlikeababy's,andherfacewasthatofachild.Thewomaninsidewasstillabud,withalongwaytogrow.

KeeblemetusatHeathrow,andasusualitwasraining.Lynniekissedhimaffectionately.Hewentsofarastoshakemyhand.Therewasapatchofstubbleonhisleftcheek,andtheeyesblinkedquicklybehindthemildglasses.SantaBarbarawassixthousandmilesaway.Wewerehome.

Keeblesuggestedacupofcoffeebeforewelefttheairportandaskedhisdaughterhowshe'denjoyedherself.Shetoldhimnon-stopfortwentyminutes,hersuntanglowinginthegreysummermorningandherbrowneyesalight.

Helookedfinallyfromhertome,andhisfacesubtlycontracted.

'Andwhathaveyoubeendoing?'hesaid.

LynnieansweredwhenIdidn't.'He'sbeenwithusonthebeachagooddealofthetime,'shesaiddoubtfully.

Keeblestrokedherarm'Didyoufindthehorses?'heasked.

Inodded.

'Allthree?'

'Withhelp.'

'ItoldDaveI'ddropyouoffatthehospitalwhenweleavehere,'hesaid.'He'sstillstrungup,buthehopestobeoutnextweek.'

'I'vealottotellhim,andthere'salothe'llhavetodecide.'Theworstbeing,Ithought,whethertocarryonwithhismovealongsideOrpheusFarm,ortodisappointEuniceinhernewfoundbusiness.Nothingwaseversimple.Nothingwaseasy.

'Youdon'tlookwell,'Keeblesaidabruptly.

'I'lllive,'Isaid,andhiseyesflickeredwithamixtureofsurpriseandspeculation.Ismiledlopsidedlyandsaiditagain.'I'lllive.'

Westooduptogo.InsteadofshakinghandsLynniesuddenlyputherarmsroundmywaistandherheadonmychest.

'Idon'twanttosaygood-bye,'shesaidindistinctly.'Iwanttoseeyouagain.'

'Well,'Isaidreasonably.'Youwill.'

'Imean...often.'

ImetKeeble'seyesoverherhead.Hewaswatchinghergravely,butwithoutdisquiet.

'She'stooyoung,'Isaidtohim,andheknewexactlywhatImeant.NotthatIwastoooldforher,butthatshewastooyoungforme.Tooyounginexperience,understanding,andwickedness.

'I'llgetolder,'shesaid.'Willtwenty-onedo?'

Herfatherlaughed,butshegrippedmyarm.'Willit?'

'Yes,'Isaidrecklessly,andfoundonesecondlaterthatIreallymeantit.

'She'llchangehermind,'Keeblesaidwithcasualcertainty.

Isaid,'Ofcourse,'tohim,butLynnielookedupintomyeyesandshookherhead.

Blood Sport Part 28

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Blood Sport Part 28 summary

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