In Venice, it happens again: Coleman attacks his loathed son-in-law, dumping him into the cold waters of the Laguna. Ray survives thanks to the help of a boatman, and this time he goes into hiding, living in a privately rented room under a fake name. So begins an eerie game of cat and mouse. Coleman wants vengeance, Ray wants a clear conscience, and the police want to solve the mystery of what happened to the missing American.
As Ray and Coleman stalk each other through the narrow streets and canals, the hotels and bars of the beguiling city, Those Who Walk Away simmers with violence and unease. Originally published in 1967, this is vintage Highsmith.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:January 19, 1921
Date of Death:February 4, 1995
Place of Birth:Fort Worth, Texas
Place of Death:Locarno, Switzerland
Education:B.A., Barnard College, 1942
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Coleman was saying, "She had no brothers or sisters. Makes things a little easier, I suppose."
Ray walked with his bare head hanging, hands deep in the pockets of his overcoat. He shivered. The night air of Rome was sharp with coming winter. It didn't make things easier, Ray thought, that Peggy had had no brothers or sisters. It certainly didn't make things easier for Coleman. It was dark in the street where they walked. Ray lifted his head to see a street sign, and found none. "You know where we're going?" he asked Coleman.
"There'll be taxis down here," Coleman said, nodding ahead.
The pavement slanted downward. The sound of their footfalls grew higher pitched as their shoes slid a little. Scrape-scrape-scrapety-scrape. Ray took hardly more than one step to Coleman's two. Coleman was short and had a quick, choppy gait that was at the same time rolling. Now and again a whiff of Coleman's cigar, which Coleman held between his front teeth, blew past Ray's nostrils, bitter and black. The restaurant Coleman had wanted to go to had not been worth crossing Rome for, Ray thought. He had met Coleman by appointment at eight o'clock in the Caffé Greco. Coleman had said he was to meet a man — what was the name? — in the restaurant, but the man had not arrived. Coleman had not mentioned him once they got there, and Ray wondered now if the man existed. Coleman was odd. Perhaps Coleman had dined or lunched at the restaurant a few times with Peggy, and liked the place for his memories. Coleman had spoken mainly of Peggy in the restaurant, not as resentfully as he had in Mallorca, even chuckling a little tonight. But the grimness, the question was still in Coleman's eyes. And Ray had got nowhere, trying to talk to him. The evening, for Ray, was simply another evening washing over him. The evening had the atmosphere of others in Mallorca in the ten days since Peggy had died — colourless, muffled somehow from the rest of the world, evenings of food eaten or half eaten simply because it arrived on the table.
"You're going on to New York," said Coleman.
"Any business here?"
"Well, yes. But nothing I can't do in two days." Ray was going to see some painters in Rome, see if they were interested in being represented by his gallery in New York. The gallery did not exist as yet. He had made no telephone calls today, though he had been in Rome since noon. He sighed, and knew that he had no heart for meeting painters, for convincing them that the Garrett Gallery was going to be a success.
Viale Pola, Ray read on a street sign. A larger avenue lay ahead. Ray thought it should be the Nomentana.
Ray was vaguely aware of Coleman tugging in his pocket for something. Then Coleman faced him suddenly and a shot exploded between them, rocking Ray back against a hedge, making his ears ring, so that for a few seconds he could not hear Coleman's running feet on the pavement. Coleman was out of sight, Ray did not know if a bullet had knocked him backward, or if he had fallen back with surprise.
"Che cosa?" yelled a man's voice from a window.
Ray gasped for air, realized he had been holding his breath, then struggled forward, off the hedge on to his feet. "Niente," he called back automatically. When he breathed deeply, nothing hurt. He decided he was not hit. He began to walk in the direction Coleman had taken, the direction in which they had been walking.
"That's the man!"
The voices faded as Ray entered the Nomentana.
He was lucky. A taxi approached immediately from the left. Ray hailed it.
"Albergo Mediterraneo," he said, and sank back in the seat. He felt a sting, a burning sensation in his left upper arm. He lifted the arm. It certainly hadn't gone through the bone. He touched the sleeve of his coat, and a finger caught in the hole in it. Further exploration, and he found the exit hole on the other side of the sleeve. And now there was a warm wetness in the hollow of his arm where the blood ran.
At the Mediterraneo — a modern hotel whose style did not appeal to Ray, but his favourite hotels had been full today — he claimed his key and rode up with the bellhop, left hand in his coat pocket so no blood would drip on the carpet. The closing of his own room door brought a sense of safety, though Ray found himself glancing in corners after he turned the light on, as if he expected to see Coleman in one of them.
He went into the bathroom, removed his overcoat and tossed it into the bedroom on the bed, then removed his jacket, revealing a splotched streak of blood down his blue- and-white striped shirtsleeve. Off came the shirt.
The wound was a tiny scallop, hardly half an inch long, a classic graze. He wet a clean face towel and washed it. Ray got a Band-Aid from a suitcase pocket, remembering that this broad Band-Aid had been the only one left in the tin box when he had been clearing out the medicine cabinet in Mallorca. Then, using his teeth, he tied a handkerchief around his arm. He soaked the shirt in a basin of cold water.
Five minutes later, in pyjamas, Ray ordered a double Dewar's from the bar. He tipped the small boy well. Then he turned his light out and went to the window with his drink. He was on a rather high floor. Rome looked wide and low, except for the distant, sturdy dome of St Peter's and column of Santa Trinità at the top of the Spanish Steps. Coleman might think he was dead, Ray thought, from the way he had fallen back into the hedge. Coleman had not looked back. Ray smiled a little, though his brows frowned. Where had Coleman acquired the gun? And when?
Coleman was leaving on a noon plane tomorrow for Venice. Inez and Antonio were going with him, Coleman had said tonight. Coleman said he wanted a change of scene, something beautiful, and that Venice was the best place he could think of. Ray wondered if Coleman would ring tomorrow morning to see if he'd got back to his hotel or not? If the hotel said, "Yes, Mr Garrett is in," would Coleman hang up? And if Coleman believed he had killed him, what would Coleman say to Inez? "I left Ray near the Nomentana. We were taking different taxis. I don't know who could've done it." Or had Coleman not said he was having dinner with him, but said he was dining with someone else? Would Coleman have got rid of the gun immediately, tonight, dropped it into the Tiber from a bridge?
Ray took a longer pull on the drink. Coleman wouldn't ring his hotel. Coleman simply wouldn't bother. And if he was challenged, Coleman would lie and lie well.
And Coleman would, of course, find out that he was still alive, simply because there would be nothing in the papers about his being dead, or seriously wounded. And if Ray were then in Paris or New York, it would seem to Coleman that he had fled, run from him in a cowardly way before everything could be explained, labelled, analysed. Ray knew that he would go to Venice. He knew that there would be more conversations.
The drink helped. Ray felt suddenly relaxed and tired. He stared at his big open suitcase on the rack. He had packed intelligently in Mallorca, not forgetting cuff-links, drawing-pad, his fountain-drawing-pen, address books. The rest of his things, two trunks, several cartons, he had shipped to Paris. Why Paris and not New York, he didn't know, since in Paris he'd only have to get them sent on to New York. It was not an efficient arrangement, but under the rattling circumstances in which he had packed in Mallorca, it amazed him that he had done as well as he had. Coleman had come down from Rome the day before the funeral and had stayed three days afterwards; and during those days Ray had packed up his things and Peggy's, settled bills with tradesmen, written letters, seen about cancelling the lease with his landlord Dekkard, who had been in Madrid, so that the thing had had to be done by telephone. And all the while Coleman had prowled about the house, stunned, rather silent; yet Ray had seen his thin mouth becoming smaller and straighter as he began to build and harden his wrath against Ray. Once, Ray remembered, he had come into the living-room to ask Coleman something (Coleman had slept on the living-room sofa, declining the guest room he might have had) and found Coleman holding a terracotta lampbase shaped like a large gourd in both hands; and Ray had thought for a moment that Coleman was going to hurl it at him, but Coleman had set it down. Ray had asked Coleman if he wanted to drive to Palma, forty kilometres away, because he had to go in to see about shipping his things. Coleman had said no. The next day, Coleman had taken a plane from Palma and flown back to Rome to Inez, his current woman. Ray had not met her. She had telephoned Coleman twice when Coleman was in Mallorca. Coleman had been summoned to the post office to take the calls, as there was no telephone in the house. Coleman always had women, though Ray could not understand what charm he had for them.
Ray slid carefully into bed, not wanting to encourage more bleeding from his arm. It was annoying that Coleman would be in the company of Inez and the Italian Antonio. Ray had never seen Antonio, but could imagine the type — weak, good-looking and young, neatly dressed, moneyless, a hanger-on now though probably a former boy-friend of Inez. And Inez would be in her forties, perhaps a widow, moneyed, maybe a painter herself, a bad one. But perhaps in Venice, if he saw Coleman alone again just once, he could say it all plainly in words — say the plain fact that he didn't know why Peggy had killed herself, that he honestly couldn't explain it. If he could make Coleman believe that, instead of believing that he, Ray, was keeping some vital fact or secret from him, then — Then what? Ray's mind refused to tackle the problem any longer. He fell asleep.
The next morning he arranged for a night flight to Venice, sent a telegram to reserve a room in the Pensione Seguso on the Zattere quay, and made four telephone calls to painters and art galleries in Rome, which netted him two appointments. From these, he secured one painter for the future Garrett Gallery, a certain Guglielmo Guardini, who painted fantastic landscapes in great detail with fine brushes. The arrangement was a verbal one, nothing was signed, but Ray felt cheered by it. He and Bruce might not, after all, have to start the Gallery of Bad Art in New York. This had been Ray's idea as a last resort, if they couldn't get any good painters, get the worst, and people would come to laugh and stay to buy, in order to have something different from other people who collected only "the best." "All we'll have to do is sit and wait," Bruce had said. "Take only the worst, and don't explain what you're doing. We don't have to call it the Gallery of Bad Art. Call it Gallery Zero, for instance. The public'll soon get the idea." They had laughed, talking about it in Mallorca when Bruce had come to stay last summer. And maybe the idea was not at all impossible; but Ray was glad, that evening in Rome, to be on a soberer track with the painter Guardini.
When he fetched his suitcase at his hotel after his solitary dinner, no telephone call had come for him.CHAPTER 2
The others had arrived first, at least ten hours before him, Ray thought. The plane unloaded its passengers into chilly darkness at 3.30 a.m., and Ray learned that there were no buses at this hour, only boats.
The boat was a good-sized launch, and it rapidly filled with silent, solemn English and blond Scandinavians who had been waiting when Ray's plane landed. The launch backed from the pier, turned smartly, dropped its stern like a charging horse, and shot away at full speed. Cheerful piano music, such as one might have expected in a cocktail lounge, came softly from the loud-speaker, but did not seem to lift anyone's spirits. Speechless, white-faced, everyone faced front as if the boat were rushing them to their execution. The launch deposited them at the Alitalia air terminal pier near the San Marco stop from which Ray hoped to take a vaporetto — his destination was the Accademia stop — but before he realized what was happening, his suitcase was on a trolley and being pushed into the Alitalia building. Ray ran after it, was checked by a jam of people at the doorway, and when he got inside, his suitcase was not in sight. He had to wait at a counter, while two busy porters tried to obey the shouts of fifty travellers and hand them their proper luggage. When Ray got his, and walked out of the building with it, a vaporetto was just pulling away from the San Marco stop.
That meant a long wait, probably, but he did not particularly care.
"Where are you going, sir? I'll carry it for you," said a husky porter in faded blue, reaching for his suitcase.
"Ah, you just missed a vaporetto." A smile. "Another forty-five minutes. Pensione Seguso?"
"Si," said Ray.
"I will accompany you. Mille lire."
"Grazie. It is not a long walk from Accademia."
"A ten-minute walk."
It was certainly not, but Ray waved him away with a smile. He walked to the San Marco pier, on to the creaking, swaying dock, and lit a cigarette. There was nothing moving at the moment on the water. The big church of Santa Maria della Salute on the opposite bank of the canal was only palely lit, as perfunctorily as the street-lights seemed lit, Ray felt, because November wasn't the tourist season. The water lapped gently but powerfully against the stanchions of the pier. Ray thought of Coleman, Inez and Antonio asleep somewhere in Venice. Coleman and Inez might be in the same bed, perhaps in the Gritti or the Danieli, since Inez would be paying the bills. (Coleman had let him know she was wealthy.) Antonio, though probably financed on this trip by Inez, too, would be in a cheaper place.
Two Italian men, well-dressed, carrying brief-cases, joined him on the pier. They were talking about expanding a garage somewhere. Their presence and their conversation was somehow comforting to Ray; but still he shivered, and glanced around hopefully for the second time for a coffeebar, and saw none. Harry's Bar looked like a grey glass-and-stone tomb. And not a window was lighted in the red faÃ§ade of the Hotel Monaco e Grand Canal opposite it. Ray walked in small circles around his suitcase.
At first the vaporetto emerged from a dark curve of canal far to the left, a little blaze of welcome, yellowish light. It slowed to touch at a stop before San Marco. Ray, like the two Italians, stared at it as if fascinated. The boat drew large and close, until Ray could see the five or six passengers on it, and could see the calm, handsome face of the man in the white yachting cap who would fling the mooring rope. On the boat, Ray bought a ticket for himself and a fifty-lire ticket for his suitcase. The boat passed della Salute, and entered the narrower mouth of the Grand Canal. The Gritti Palace's lights were elegant and discreet: two softly lighted electric lanterns held aloft by oversized female statues at the water's edge. Boats arriving at the Gritti would dock between them. Motor-boats under canvas covers bobbed between poles. Their names were Ca' Corner and Aldebaran. The colour everywhere was black, the rare lights only small yellow splotches against it, sometimes revealing a faint red or green of stone.
At the Accademia stop, the third, Ray walked briskly with his suitcase into the wide, paved way across the island towards the Zattere quay. He cut through by way of an arched passage into what looked like a blind alley, but he remembered that it turned left after a few yards, and remembered also the blue tile plaque on the side of the house straight ahead that said John Ruskin had lived and worked there. The Pensione Seguso was just to the left after the left turn. Ray disliked awakening the porter. He pushed the bell.
After two minutes or so, an old man in a red jacket that he had not taken time to fasten opened the door and greeted him courteously and rode up with him in a small lift to the third floor.
His room was simple and clean and had a view through its tall windows of Giudecca across the water and, directly below, of the small canal that went along one side of the pensione. Ray put on his pyjamas and washed at the basin — there hadn't been a room with bath free, the porter said — and fell into bed. He had thought he was very tired, but after a few minutes he was sure he would not be able to get to sleep. He was familiar with the sensation from the Mallorca days, a tremulous exhaustion that put a faint shakiness in his penline or his handwriting. The only thing to do was walk it off. He got up and dressed in comfortable clothes, and let himself quietly out of the hotel.
Dawn was rising now. A gondolier swathed in navy blue propelled a cargo of Coca-Cola crates into the canal beside the pensione. A motor-boat dashed in a straight line up the Giudecca Canal, as if scurrying home guiltily after a late party.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Those Who Walk Away"
Copyright © 1993 Diogenes Verlag AG, Zurich.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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