Cloudmaker. Malcolm Brooks
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Название: Cloudmaker

Автор: Malcolm Brooks

Издательство: Ingram

Жанр: Историческая литература


isbn: 9780802146335


СКАЧАТЬ up the walk, then looked back. “Your ma still don’t know, hey?”

      Huck grinned at the dusk. “Pop says you tell ’em what they want to hear, and you do what you have to do.”

      “Good man, that pap of yours. Been some kinda day, hey?”

      “Shirley’s liable to kill us, we head out there and find something without him.”

      Raleigh turned and walked. “Shirley ain’t in a position to kill anybody. Plus he owes us. Don’t let on, but that scared the dern daylights out of me.”

      Raleigh’s mother shouted. Raleigh shouted back. Huck set the magneto switch and swung the spark lever. At the top of its arc he heard the snap in the cylinder, felt the engine turn once and wheeze and shudder and still again in the chill blue air. The magnetos whirred like bees swarming from a tree.

      Raleigh stopped. “Guess you ain’t pulling that stunt twice. Need me to crank?”


      Much to her shock, her salt-of-the-earth uncle scooped her into a mighty hug on the platform of the Billings depot, squeezing her hard enough to knock the wind out of her.

      She barely remembered him from years ago, outside the recollection he’d rigged a little Indian-style headband for her with a couple of turkey feathers and put her in front of him on his saddle horse when he rode out to open an irrigation gate. She’d liked horses ever since, had even owned a little Hanoverian cross in junior high before the local stables suffered some zoning crisis and had to move too far out of San Marino to make regular riding practical.

      She supposed on some level she’d assumed Uncle Roy must not be all bad simply because she associated him with her horse, but her parents had said little about him over the years, and with everything else in such a stew, she really hadn’t given him a second’s consideration.

      He let her breathe again, held her at arm’s length and took her in. “Well then. Not the little thing I remember.”

      Crinkly blue eyes and a lopsided smile with one gold-edged tooth. Hat pushed back on his head. She felt her mouth twitch toward a smile for the first time in days, then a pang in her eyes that she fought like a weakness.

      The conductor silently handed over a form for Roy to sign, as though he knew exactly why she was here, and his job entailed not only delivery but a suitably solemn one. Damaged goods.

      Later in the truck he told her about a shootout a day earlier, outside someplace called Roundup. The very name conjured an image of horsemen in big hats ambushing each other with six-shooters. Then he said something about a getaway car and police blockades on the highways, and it occurred to her that Uncle Roy’s hat was a basic fedora, not some ten-gallon Tom Mix, so even a place with a handle like Roundup, Montana, nevertheless existed in the twentieth century.

      “Did they catch them? The robbers?”

      “Shot one of ’em. Right off the bridge and into the drink, evidently.”


      “Never a dull moment,” he said. “A few others got plumb away. They sent a few planes from the airfield here in Billings, to see if they could spot ’em thataway. Pretty slick idea, really.”

      This last got her attention. “It is a slick idea. Especially in places like this, where it’s so . . . you know, big, I guess. Empty. I have a good friend—my flight instructor, actually—who flies for the police sometimes, too.”

      She saw his eyes shift at her. “Well, it’s a new one in these parts, far as I know.”

      They waited through a stoplight, downtown Billings much more of a bustle than she would have guessed. She looked out the side window, saw what appeared to be an honest-to-God Indian curled up in a blanket on the sidewalk. The light went green and they started forward.

      “You said you have a flight instructor?”

      She felt herself nod, felt her lips go drum-tight.

      “Now that’s something. Houston, he’ll be green as that traffic light.” He chuckled. “Probably drive you up the wall with questions, too, so be warned. But he won’t mean to be a pest. He’s as good a kid as they come.”

      If he meant anything with this last, she couldn’t detect it. Couldn’t imagine it either, on an instant’s consideration. “Has he been up?”

      “Flown, you mean? Nah. Well—not in an airplane, anyway. There was this glider he built, but that’s a long story. You have your license?”

      She hooked a curl behind her ear, felt the weight of the watch when she lifted her wrist. “I was getting close. I’d just started soloing when all this . . . you know.”

      Uncle Roy fished out a pack and shook a Lucky loose and fired it. Smoke rose and swirled, and she realized she’d been smelling it on him all along. Another surprise. He cranked his window down. “Sorry,” he told her. “Old habit. Never have much wanted to give it up.”

      “It’s actually a relief. My mother donates to the Anti-Cigarette League, the Anti-Saloon League, the Temperance Union. It’s so . . . I don’t know, gauche, somehow.”

      “Not acquainted with that one, miss. Might have to paint me a picture.”

      “Would you think worse of me if I asked for one?”

      “Are you?”

      She smirked in spite of herself. “Worse?”

      He cracked his own sly grin right around his Lucky. “Asking.”

      “I guess so.”

      He handed her the pack, and she drew one out. He handed her his cigarette, and she lit hers from the glowing tip and passed it back. She put her window down. “You didn’t answer my question, you know.”

      He laughed and held up the smoldering V of his fingers. “Obviously I ain’t in a position to cast the first stone. Long as it stays between you, me, and the highway.”

      “Huh. Forgive my sass, but that’s a pretty spineless answer.”

      “I know it. You’re preaching straight to the converted.” He had his hand on the wheel, and he looked at the burning cigarette. “Used to roll my own, like everybody else in these woolly parts. These tailor-mades are a lot easier to sneak, though.” His eyes shifted back to her. “Half of getting by in life is choosing your battles. What your aunt Gloria don’t know ain’t gonna hurt her.”

      Annelise held the heat in her lungs, felt the lift in her head. She’d been awake a long time now. “Sometimes I think I was accidentally switched in the hospital. I’m serious. Or adopted.” She blew smoke out the window and looked at him. “You can tell me if I was, it won’t hurt my feelings. It would explain a lot, really.”

      “I can’t testify to any switch, but you sure weren’t adopted. You can bet the ranch on that. Plus, you may not see it, but you look just like her.”

      “That’s what everyone says. And you’re right, I can’t see it.”

      The truck went into a climb СКАЧАТЬ