“How’d it go?” Connington laughed from the shadows of the bar at the other end of the living room. He came forward, dressed in a pair of printed trunks, his stomach cinched by the tight waistband. He was carrying a folded beach shirt over his arm and holding a pewter pitcher and two glasses. “It’s a little like a silent movie, from here,” he said, nodding toward the glass wall facing out onto the lawn and the pool. “Hell for action, but short on dialogue.”
Hawks turned and looked. Claire was still sitting up, staring intently at what must have been a barricade of flashing reflections of herself.
“Gets to a man, doesn’t she?” Connington chuckled. “Forewarned is not forearmed, with her. She’s an elemental — the rise of the tides, the coming of the seasons, an eclipse of the Sun.” He looked down into the pitcher, where the ice at the top of the mixture had suddenly begun to tinkle. “Such creatures are not to be thought of as good or bad,” he said through pinched lips. “Not by mortal men. They have their own laws, and there’s no gainsaying\ them.” His breath puffed into Hawks’ face. “They are born among us — car hops, dice girls, Woolworth’s clerks — but they rise to their heritage. Woe to us, Hawks. Woe to us who would pursue them on their cometary track.”
Connington gestured with the pitcher. “Upstairs. Took a shower, threatened to disembowel me if I didn’t get out of his way in the hall, went to bed. Set the alarm for eight o’clock. Put down a tumblerful of gin to help him. Where’s Barker?” Connington repeated. “Dreamland, Hawks — whatever dreamland it was that awaited him.”
Hawks looked at his wrist watch.
“Three hours, Hawks,” Connington said. “Three hours, and there is no Master in this house.” He moved around Hawks to the outside door. “Yoicks!” he yapped twistedly, raising the pitcher in Claire’s direction. He pushed clumsily at the door with his shoulder, leaving a damp smear on the glass. “Tally ho!”
Hawks moved farther into the room, toward the bar. He searched behind it, and found a bottle of Scotch. When he looked up from putting ice and water into a glass, he saw that Connington had reached Claire and was standing over her. She lay on her stomach, facing the pool, her chin resting on her crossed forearms. Connington held the pitcher, pouring awkwardly into the two glasses in his other hand.
Hawks walked slowly to the leather-covered settee facing the windows, and sat down. He put the edge of his glass to his lips, and rested his elbows on his thighs. He put both hands around his glass, holding it lightly, and tilted it until he could sip at it. The lower half of his face was washed by reddish sunlight mottled with faint amber dispersions and glassy points of shifting light. The arch of his nose and the upper part of his face were under a curtain of shadow.
Claire rolled half over and stretched up an arm to take the glass Connington handed down. She perfunctorily saluted Connington’s glass and took a drink, her neck ,arching. Then she rolled back, resting her raised upper body on her elbows, her fingers curled around the glass she set down on the pool coaming. She continued to look out over the water.
Connington sat down on the edge of the pool beside her, dropping his legs into the water. Claire reached over and wiped her arm. Connington raised his glass again, held it up in a toast, and waited for Claire to take another drink. With a twist of her shoulders, she did, pressing the flat of her other hand against the top of her suit.
The sunlight slanted in from behind Connington and Claire Pack; their profiles were shadowed against the brilliant ocean and sky.
Connington refilled their glasses.
Claire sipped at hers. Connington touched her shoulder and bent his head toward her. Her mouth opened in laughter. She reached out and touched his waist. Her fingers pinched the roll of flesh around his stomach. Her shoulder rose and her elbow stiffened. Connington clutched her wrist, then moved up to her arm, pushing back. He twisted away, hurriedly set his glass down, and splashed into the pool. His hands shot out and took her arms, pulling them forward.
Light dashed itself into Hawks’ face and filled his eyesockets as the sun’s disk slid an edge down into sight under the eaves of the roof. He dropped his lids until his eyes were looking out through the narrow mask of his lashes.
Keeping his hold on Claire’s wrists, Connington doubled his bent-kneed legs forward, planted his feet against the side of the pool, and strained himself out flat. Claire came sliding into the water on top of him, and they weltered down out of sight under the surface. A moment later, her head and shoulders broke out a few feet away, and she stroked evenly to the ladder, climbing out and stopping at the poolside to pull the top of her suit back up over her breasts. She picked her towel from the grass with one swoop of her arm, threw it around her shoulders, and walked quickly off out of sight to the left, toward the other wing of the house.
Connington stood in the pool, watching her. Then he jumped forward, and thrashed up to the steps at the shallow end, climbing out with water pouring down from his shoulders and back. He took a few strides in the same direction. Then his face snapped toward the glass wall. He changed direction obliquely, and, at the corner of the pool, did a flat dive back into the water. He swam forward, toward the diving board. For some time afterward, until the sun was entirely in sight and the room where Hawks was sitting was filled with red, the sound of the thrumming board came vibrating into the timbers of the house at sporadic intervals.
At ten minutes of eight, a radio began to play loud jazz upstairs. Ten minutes later, the electric blat of the radio’s alarm roiled the music, and a moment after that there was a brittle crash, and then only the occasional sound of Barker stumbling about and getting dressed.
Hawks went over to the bar, washed out his empty glass, and put it back in its rack. He looked around. There was night outside the windows, and the only illumination came from the balcony at the end of the room, where the stairs led down from the second floor. Hawks reached out and turned on a standing lamp. His shadow flung itself against the wall.