Sequence of Events: Moving On (part two)
Murchison sighs—a sigh of such resignation that Stanley, suddenly, has a vivid picture of the two of them sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. Viola is the stronger. Murchison wants her to see his dilemma.
There is a secret stairway, he tells her. There are three stairways, one from the alleyway entrance to the third story apartments, one in the club’s main dining room that carries traffic from the first floor to the elevator; this reached by a corridor exiting the mezzanine level. The last, the one that leads from the second to the third floor, is accessed from the lounge, from behind a false partition, at the back of the bar. Those who hope to escape the second floor must use the elevator, or go up to the third, along the hall and down again, in order to reach the alley.
“No, I suppose it’s not safe. But, strategically, in respect of the raid, this arrangement is pivotal. These would be Durco’s people, using that particular staircase…the private clientele were not to be told of it, unless the building caught fire.”
The coppers, he says, had every exit under surveillance, but did not move in to block them until ten minutes before the raid began. The pretext…Murchison emphasizes the word…was that some would try escaping to the third floor, justifying a search of the apartments.
“Junior Durco,” Viola says, “is my father.”
This silences Murchison. It means nothing to Stanley. No…recently, he has heard the name.
Gamotte’s is a name Murchison has been warned never to mention. But she knows that. He begins again, and tells Viola that Godshaw had given him to understand—“Godshaw says nothing in so many words”—that this accident of circumstance might have exposed Harvey Planter to embarrassment.
“Godshaw told me Harvey is on friendly terms with Ethan Bragg…well, perhaps no longer so. But you see how the idea was introduced. And I was encouraged…”
“You encourage yourself,” Viola cuts him short.
“May I ask, my treasure…?”
For a minute or two, Murchison does not speak. Stanley is engaged by their talk, in the way a listener follows a radio drama, a broadcast that fades and surges back. And during these pauses, Stanley’s thoughts come back to himself.
He thinks he will never see Talou again. He thinks some crucial action he might have taken was circumvented in that instant, when the man who called himself Summers put a hand on Stanley’s shoulder.
Murchison says, “Charles…”
Viola interrupts. “Don’t blame Charles.”
Her voice comes back to Stanley, after a second hiatus. “It was Boxer Chaney. Do you know Boxer?”
A match strikes. Murchison is lighting another cigarette.
“Are you hinting to me, Viola…”
Stanley smells the smoke and even sees it, hovering in the air like a blue spectre.
(2016, Stephanie Foster)