小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » Children of Men » THE MURDERER
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
THE MURDERER
When Marowitz arrived at the station-house to report for duty, the sergeant gazed at him curiously.

“You’re to report at headquarters immediately,” he said. “I don’t know what for. The Chief just sent word that he wants to see you.”

Marowitz looked bewildered. Summons to headquarters usually meant trouble. Rewards usually came through the precinct Captain. Marowitz wondered what delinquency he was to be reprimanded for. He could think of nothing that he had done in violation of the regulations.

Half an hour later he stood in the presence of the Chief.

“You sent for me,” he said.

The Chief looked at him inquiringly. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Marowitz.”

The Chief’s face lit up. “Oh, yes,” he said. 182“From the Eldridge Street station. Do you speak the Yiddish jargon?”

Marowitz drew a long breath of relief.

“Yes, sir,” he answered. “I live in the Jewish quarter.”

“Good,” said the Chief. “I want you to lay aside your uniform and put on citizen’s clothes. Then go and look for a chap named Gratzberg. He is a Russian, and is wanted in Odessa for murder. He is supposed to be hiding somewhere in the Jewish quarter here. You’ll have no trouble in spotting him if you run across him. Here,”—the Chief drew a slip of paper from his desk—“here is the cabled description: Height, five feet seven; weight, about 150 pounds. Has a black beard. Blue eyes. Right ear marked on top by deep scar.”

He handed the paper to Marowitz.

“Keep your eyes open,” he said, “for marked ears. It’ll be a big thing for you if you catch him. When I was your age I would have given the world for a chance like this.”

When Marowitz left headquarters he walked on air. Here was a chance, indeed. He had been a 183policeman for nearly six years, and in all that time there had come no opportunity to distinguish himself through heroism or skill, or through any achievement, save the faithful performance of routine duty. His heart now beat high with hope. How pleased his wife would be! His name would be in all the newspapers. “The Murderer Caught! Officer Marowitz Runs Him to Earth!” Officer Marowitz already enjoyed the taste of the intoxicating cup of fame.

In mounting the stairs of the tenement where he lived Marowitz nearly stumbled over the figure of a little boy who was busily engaged in playing Indian, lurking in the darkness in wait for a foe to come along. The next moment the little figure was scrambling over him, shouting with delight:

“It’s papa! Come to play Indian with Bootsy!”

“Hello, little rascal!” cried the policeman. “Papa can’t play to-day. Got to go right out after naughty man.”

Suddenly an idea came to him.

“Want to come along with papa, little Boots?” he asked. The little fellow yelled with joy at the 184prospect of this rare treat. He was six years old, and had blue eyes and a winsome face. His real name was Hermann, but an infantile tendency to chew for hours all the shoes and boots of the household had fastened upon him the name of “Boots,” by which all the neighbourhood knew him and loved him. An hour later, and all that day, and all the next day, and the day after for a whole week, Marowitz and his little son wandered, apparently in aimless fashion, up and down the streets of the East Side. The companionship of the boy was as good as a thousand disguises. It would have been difficult to imagine anything less detective-like or police-like than this amiable-looking young father taking his son out for a holiday promenade.

Occasionally they would wander into one or another of the Jewish cafés, where little Boots ascended to the seventh heaven of joy in sweet drinks while Marowitz gazed about him, carelessly, for a man with a dark beard and a marked ear. In one of these cafés, happening to pick up a Russian newspaper, he read an account of the crime with which this man Gratzberg was charged. It appeared that Gratzberg, while returning from the 185synagogue with his wife, had accidently jostled a young soldier. The soldier had struck him, and abused him for a vile Jew, and Gratzberg, knowing the futility of resenting the insult, had edged out of the soldier’s way, and was passing on when he heard a scream from his wife. The soldier, attracted by the woman’s comeliness, had thrown his arms around her, saying, “I will take a kiss from those Jewish lips to wipe out the insult to which I have been subjected.” In sudden fury Gratzberg rushed upon the soldier, and, with a light cane which he carried, made a swift thrust into his face. The soldier fell to the ground, dead. The thin point of the cane had entered his eye and pierced through into the brain. Gratzberg turned and fled, and from that moment no man had seen him.

Marowitz laid down the paper and frowned. He sat for a long time, plunged in thought. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he muttered, “Duty is duty.” And, taking little Boots by the hand, he resumed his search for the man with the black beard and the marked ear.

It was a long and tedious search, and almost barren 186in clues. Two men whom he approached—men whom he knew—remembered having seen a man who answered the description, but their recollection was too dim to afford him the slightest assistance. In the course of the week he had made a dozen visits to every café, restaurant, and meeting place in the neighbourhood, had conscientiously patrolled every street, both by day and by night, had gone into many stores, and followed the delivery of nearly all the Russian newspapers that came into that quarter. But without a glimpse of the man with the marked ear.

There came a night when the heat grew so intense, and the atmosphere so humid and suffocating that nearly every house in the Ghetto poured out its denizens into the street to seek relief. Numerous parties made their way to the river, to lounge about the docks and piers, where a light breeze brought grateful relief from the intense heat.

“Want to go down to the river, Boots?” asked Marowitz.

The lad’s eyes brightened. He was worn out with the heat, and too weary to speak. He laid his little hand in his father’s, and they went down to the 187river. Marowitz walked down a long pier, crowded with people, and peered into the face of every man he saw. They were all peaceful workingmen, oppressed by the heat, and seeking rest, and none among them had marked ears. The cool breeze acted like a tonic upon little Boots. In a few minutes he had joined a group of children who were running out and screaming shrilly at play, and presently his merry voice could plainly be distinguished above all the rest. Marowitz seated himself on the string-piece at the end of the pier, and leaned his head against a post in grateful, contented repose. His mind went ruefully over his week’s work.

“He cannot be in this neighbourhood,” he thought, “else I would have found some trace of him. I have left nothing undone. I have worked hard and faithfully on this assignment. But luck is against me. To-morrow I will have to report—failure.”

It was a depressing thought. He had had his chance and had failed. Promotion—the rosy dawn of fame—became dimmer and dimmer. Now suddenly rose a scream of terror, followed instantly 188by a loud splash. Then a hubbub of voices and cries. Then, out of the black water, a wild cry, “Papa! Papa!” Even before the people began to run toward him Marowitz realised that Boots had fallen into the river. A swift, sharp pang of dread, of horrible fear, shot through him. He saw the white, upturned face floating by—sprang swiftly, blindly into the water. And not until the splash, when the shock of the cold water struck him, at the very moment when he felt the arms of little Boots envelop him, and felt the strong current sweeping them along—not until then did Marowitz remember that he could not swim a stroke.

“Help! Help!” he cried, at the top of his voice. But the lights of the pier had already begun to fade. The cries of the people were rapidly dying out into a low hum. It was ebb tide, swift and relentless as death. A twist in the current carried them in toward another pier—deserted—and dark—save for a faint gleam of light that shone through an aperture below the string-piece and threw a dancing trail of dim brightness upon the water.

“Help! Help!” cried Marowitz, in despair. 189He heard an answering cry. The faint light had suddenly been cut off; the opening through which it had shone had suddenly been enlarged; Marowitz saw the figure of a man emerge.

“Help! For God’s sake!” he cried.

The man climbed quickly to the top of the pier, shouting something which Marowitz could not distinguish—seized a great log which lay upon the pier, and, holding it in his arms, sprang into the water. A few quick strokes brought him to Marowitz’s side. He pushed forward the log so that the policeman could grasp it. Then, allowing the current to carry them down the stream, yet, by slow swimming guiding the log nearer and nearer toward the shore, the man was finally able to grasp the rudder of a ship at anchor in a dock. A few moments later they stood upon the deck, surrounded by the crew of the ship; the loungers of the wharf alongside gazing down upon them in curiosity. Boots was safe and uninjured. The moment he felt his feet firmly planted on the ship’s deck he burst into wild wailing, and Marowitz, with his hand upon his heart, murmured thanks to God. Then he turned to thank his rescuer, who stood, 190with the water dripping from him, under a ship’s lantern. The next moment Marowitz’s outstretched hand fell, as if stricken, to his side, and he stood stock still, bewildered. The lantern’s rays fell upon the man’s ear, illuminating a deep red scar. The water was dripping from the man’s long black beard. And when he saw Marowitz draw back, and saw his gaze fastened as if fascinated upon that scarred ear, a ghastly pallor overspread the man’s face. For a moment they stood thus, gazing at each other. Then Marowitz strode forward impetuously, seized the man’s hand, and carried it to his lips, and in the Yiddish jargon said to him:

“You have saved my boy’s life. You have saved my life. May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!”

Marowitz then took his son in his arms and walked briskly homeward.

“What luck?” asked the Chief next day, when he reported at headquarters. Marowitz shook his head.

“They must be mistaken. He is not in the Jewish quarter.”

191The Chief frowned. Then Marowitz, with heightened colour, said:

“I want to resign. I—I don’t think I’m cut out for a good detective.”

“H’m!” said the Chief. “I guess you’re right.”


欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533