Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings by Max Allan Collins Read Free Book Online

Book: Kill Your Darlings by Max Allan Collins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Max Allan Collins
Tags: Mystery & Crime
this she’d again been critically and commercially successful, and was similarly successful with her Hammett bio.
    “I’ve always admired Hammett,” she said. “That’s no secret. My own work is sort of an unlikely marriage between Hammett and Christie. But the tough mystery story beyond Hammett gets silly very quickly. Chandler has his merits, I suppose, but who else? Mickey Spillane? Don’t spoil my breakfast. Ross Macdonald? Possibly. But how you can take the likes of Roscoe Kane seriously—and I mean no disrespect, I’m talking about the man’s work, and nothing else—mystifies me.”
    The table tension hadn’t departed with Culver.
    “You’re embarrassed to see me again, aren’t you?” I said.
    She shrugged; the cocktail-party smile settled uneasily on one side of her face. She lit a cigarette and handled it gracefully,almost regally, but underneath it were nerves. Even nervous, though, she seemed somehow calm; a bundle of contradictions, Cynthia Crystal was—cool and warm, bitchy and sweet. Whatever, she was a beautiful woman. I had told her so, once.
    “I still have a crush on you,” I said.
    She laughed. “That’s so like you, that word. ‘Crush.’ Are you destined to be an overgrown adolescent your entire life, Mal? Will you never grow up?”
    I shrugged. “Yes and no,” I said.
    Her smile turned gentle and suddenly her brittle manner fell away.
    “Yes, damnit,” she admitted, “I
am
embarrassed at seeing you again. The last time I saw you, I treated you badly. I know it. And you know it.”
    I shook my head no. “You treated me the way I deserved to be treated. I misread the situation, and you put me straight. Let’s leave it at that.”
    She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
    “Friends?” she said.
    I held a hand out and she took it, shook it.
    “Friends,” I said.
    Culver was on his way back to the table, finally having worked his way through the line to pay the check.
    “You just like older men, that’s all,” I said.
    “He’s a better writer than you, too,” she said with a wicked smile, and the sort of natural charm that made a remark like that seem a compliment.
    I smirked. “You’re just saying that ’cause it’s true.”
    She patted my hand and I rose.
    I nodded to Culver as he approached and he at me, and I went on to join Sardini and Murtz in a booth.
    “Mal!” Tom said, having been too deep in conversation with Murtz to notice me come in. “Jesus, sit down! You must’ve been through it last night.”
    “The news about Roscoe Kane sure got around fast. I didn’t tell anybody. Has Mae Kane been down or something?”
    Murtz made a disgusted expression under the every-which-way-but-trimmed mustache. “The hotel leaked it, apparently; reporters were around for a couple of hours, starting about eight, questioning every mystery writer they could get a hold of. I’m surprised they didn’t track you down.”
    “They’ve talked to Mae, then?”
    Tom said, “My understanding is she gave them a brief statement this morning. She mentioned that she’d been with a friend of the family when she found Kane’s body, but didn’t give ’em your name. I figured it was you, since you went up with her from the bar last night, and I mentioned that to some of our fellow wordsmiths—but not to the reporters. The word spread among the people here—but nobody tipped the reporters off that a mystery writer helped find the body. Nobody said much to the reporters at all, frankly, let alone hand ’em a juicy sidebar like that.”
    “Why’s that?”
    Murtz had a cynically amused smile going. “Well, the press sure wasn’t here ’cause Kane was a public figure; they vaguely knew who he was, of course. It’s more the sick joke novelty of a mystery writer dying at a mystery convention. An oddity, a cute ironic sidelight.”
    “Who was here?”
    Tom said, “A woman and a cameraman from the
Trib
. A guy and a cameraman from the
Sun Times
. Word is some TV people

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