The bartender looked at the man and continued to polish the highball glass with his white towel. "Sorry, mister," he said, "but I ain't seen him."
"But they told me he hangs out here all the time."
"Nobody hangs out here all the time but me."
"Are you sure you know the one I mean? The name's Frank Dixon. He's big and he's got black hair. . ."
"I know the one you mean, and I ain't seen him. This ain't the only bar in Miami, mister."
"Do you expect him in tonight maybe?"
"I never expect nobody," the bartender said indifferently. He picked up another highball glass and began to polish it. "When they come in I serve them, and when they don't come in I don't worry about them."
"When was he in last?"
"I don't know. A couple days ago. I don't keep count."
"Was he looping?"
"I wouldn't know. If they don't break glasses or start a fight, I let them alone. What was it you wanted him for, mister?"
The man said angrily, "I had a job for him but the hell with it." He turned and walked out.
The bartender held the highball glass to the light and then set it on the shelf behind the bar. He went to the door and looked thoughtfully up the street. The man was a half block away, walking fast. The bartender watched until the man had passed Sonny's Bar & Grill on the corner. He stepped back, closed the front door and plugged in the buzzer so that he could hear if any customers came in. He took a bottle of rye from the bar and walked into the back room.
A big black-haired man was slumped on the edge of the cot, his hands dangling between his spread knees. He looked up dully.
"How are you feeling, Frank?" the bartender asked.
Dixon's hands moved meaninglessly. "Wonderful," he said with self derision. "Fine and dandy. Is that a bottle?"
The bartender picked up a glass from the window sill beside the cot. He blew a dead fly out of it and poured in two ounces of rye. He handed it to Dixon.
"That's the end, Frank," he said. "I can't carry you no more. It's two hundred bucks now. I can't afford no more."
"Here, take this back if it's that bad."
"Don't be like that. Two hundred bucks is a lot of money."
"You're a liar. Since when was two hundred bucks a lot of money?"
"Since just now. Since right this minute."
"Here. Pour it back in the bottle. I don't want to see you starve to death."
"I won't starve to death but you..." He stopped and looked away.
Dixon scowled. "Go ahead and say it."
"That I'm drinking myself to death."
The bartender shrugged. "It ain't doing you no good, Frank, the way you go at it, a week at a time. Not that it's any of my business."
"You're goddamn right it's not."
"I said it wasn't. Drink your drink. I wouldn't like to see you go out of here without a pickup."
"The hell with it and the hell with you, too."
The bartender took the glass and set it back on the window sill.
"I wish you wouldn't be like that, Frank," he said. "You can always come in for a shot or two, but a week at a time is too much." He looked unhappy.
"All right! That's the second time you said it, now let's forget it." Dixon sat straighter on the cot and began to button up his shirt. His hands were not very steady. He bent over and fumbled on the floor for his shoes.
"I almost forgot, Frank," the bartender said, trying to be friendly. "A guy was in looking for you. I didn't tell him you were here. I thought he might be a cop on account of that guy you beat up on Tuesday."
"What'd he look like?"
"He was medium and kind of thin. He didn't look like a cop, but cops come all sizes. I didn't want to take no chances. He said he had a job for you. He might have been on the level, but I didn't want him to see you the way you look anyway."
Dixon was bent over, tying the shoelaces, and he grunted. "What kind of job?"
"He didn't say. He got sore and walked out when I wouldn't tell him you was here. He was a medium guy, kind of thin, brown hair. He's got a little bunched up scar in the middle of his left cheek. You know him maybe?"
He put both hands on the edge of the cot and pushed himself to his feet. He swayed, but he did not put out his hand to steady himself against the wall. He just clamped his teeth until the dizziness passed.
"Suffer, you son of a bitch," he growled to himself, "suffer."
The bartender looked unhappier. It did not take a professional to see that Dixon was in bad shape. He wished Dixon would drink the pickup, but he knew better than to offer it again. Dixon always had been touchy.
Dixon walked to the door without staggering. He stopped and appeared to think something over. He turned and looked at the bartender.
"Forget what I said back there," he said. "You're okay."
"I mean, you're really okay. I'll pay you back that two hundred when I get it."
"Anything you say, Frank."
Dixon said, "Don't kid yourself," and walked out, still going fairly steadily.
Dixon's room was on S.W. 22nd Avenue, six blocks west. He walked the first half block in the sun and when he began to feel sick, he crossed the street and walked the rest of the way in the shade. On the corner was a drugstore and he went in. The druggist was behind the soda fountain mixing a large lemon-coke for a fat woman who was perspiring almost as much as Dixon. She sat on the stool with her legs apart, her mouth open, gasping, and fanned her face with her hand. Dixon went to the back and leaned against the prescription counter. He was feeling sick again and he was drenched with sweat. It poured out of him. It ran into his eyes and mouth and dripped from his armpits. His blue sport shirt was plastered to him and looked black. This was the worst, sweating like this and not being able to stop it without another drink. Without another three drinks. It always took around three to stop it. He stood there with the sweat running down his face and thinking grimly, Go ahead, suffer, you stupid son of a bitch, go ahead and suffer.
The druggist came back to the prescription counter wearing a gravely interested expression, like a doctor or an undertaker, but it changed to shocked surprise when he saw that it was Dixon.
"My god, Frank," he said, "what happened to you?"
"I want some of those pills they give rummies to sober them up before they kick them out of the psycho ward." It was hard coming right out with it like that, but he was deliberately punishing himself.
The druggist looked grave and regretful. "That takes a prescription, Frank," he said.
"All right. Write me one."
"I can't do that. Only a doctor can write a prescription. You know that."
"I'll beg if you want me to. I'll get down on my knees. Do you want me to get down on my knees? What do you want me to do? I wouldn't even ask if I didn't need them."
The druggist frowned at the fat woman, who was hunched over her glass noisily sucking up the last drops of the lemon-coke through a pair of straws. He pursed up bis lips and without looking at Dixon again, walked behind the frosted glass partition of the prescription room.
The fat woman fished a piece of ice from her glass and put it in her mouth. Her dress bunched up between her massive haunches as she waddled out of the store. When the druggist came back with a small box already wrapped, he looked relieved to see that the woman had gone. He put the box on the counter, still not looking at Dixon.
"The directions are on the box," he said in a prim, disapproving voice. "And please do me the favor of not putting me in this position again." He pressed his lips tightly together, nodded once, sharply, and walked behind the glass partition again, turning his back on Dixon's thanks.
Dixon picked up the little wrapped box. His fingers closed around it and the box crackled drily. He had the jerking impulse to hurl it into the frosted pane of glass, yet at the same time he knew it would be a futile gesture of defiance. He had asked for the pills, and the druggist had given them to him. Not graciously, but he hadn't had to give them at all, graciously or ungraciously. And he hadn't had the right to ask for them in the first place without a prescription. He had shamed himself, but he would shame himself deeper if he hurled the box into the pane of glass.
His room was on the third floor of a guest house, a small slanting room directly under the roof. He put the box of pills on the bed without opening it. He took off his drenched t clothes. He put on a terry cloth bathrobe and went down the hall to the bathroom. He returned a half hour later. He had shaved and cut himself in several places, stopping the blood with bits of toilet paper pressed against the cuts. His face looked slightly swollen from all the drinking he had done. He was beginning to sweat again. He had deliberately put off taking one of the pills, punishing himself again. He opened the package, wrapped in green paper. There were three capsules in the box, and on the label he was instructed not to take more than one capsule in any twenty-four hour period. He had no water to wash the capsule down and had to go back to the bathroom. He did all this with tight-lipped deliberation, as if by hurrying he might be coddling himself.
After he finally swallowed the capsule, he took off his terry cloth robe and lay down on the bed. In a short time he was asleep. It was late afternoon when he awakened. The sun was heavily yellow and slanted through the windows from the west. A girl was sitting in the lounge chair by the window with one leg thrown comfortably over the arm of the chair. It was a magnificent leg with a long tanned thigh. Her blonde curly hair was cut short and looked like a beautiful cap that had been made especially for her by Hattie Carnegie. Her high-boned face was sullen in repose, but her skin was smooth and clear.
The mattress springs pinged as Dixon moved on the bed and the girl lowered her magazine and looked at him.
"That must have been a wonderful sleep," she said. "I thought you had St. Vitus dance. Do you always sleep like that?"
Dixon grinned at her and sat up. He was feeling good, refreshed by the sleep and lifted by the drug in the capsule. "You should know," he said.
"I should, but I don't. Not any more. I used to, but I've got out of practice. You keep going away."
"No, no, I mean it. You go away and hide behind a bottle and nobody can find you. Is there something wonderful behind that bottle? I'd like to know. I've never been there, but there must be because you keep doing it. It must be really enchanting. What's so enchanting behind the bottle, Frank?"
"I'm not going to fight with you," he grinned. "I feel too good. Come over here and give me a kiss."
"No, I won't give you a kiss until I find out what's behind that bottle where you keep secreting yourself," she said in a bright brittle voice. "I'm really very curious. I'd like to know because if it is something wonderful I'll get a bottle of my own and hide behind it the next time you hide behind yours. I mean, if you've found something really and truly heavenly, it would be very selfish of you to keep it from us poor humdrum people who have to worry along from day to day."
He sat up and covered himself from the waist down with the terry cloth robe.
"You've got a right to be sore, honey," he said.
"Well, thank you. Now that you approve, I can go right on being sore, can't I?"
He saw that she was in earnest and was also very close to tears. Her lips were working and her hands were closed tightly on her magazine. She blinked her eyes and gave her head a sharp shake as if determined not to cry where he could watch her.
"We've been looking for you since yesterday," she said. "I went down to Dominick's a half dozen times, but he said you weren't there."
"I was there. I was in the back room. Who do you mean, 'we'?"
"The man who came to give you a job. His name is Addams. He said you knew him."
Dixon frowned. "I don't know any Addams."
"He said you did. Wait a minute. He had a funny first name. Theron. That's it. He said it meant hunter. Theron Addams."
"Oh the hell, that crud!"
"What do you mean, that crud?" Helen demanded angrily. "He was good enough to come and offer you the job. It's a good job on a yacht. The owner is very rich. You'd be captain, he said."
"He's a crud. I met him down in Key West a year ago. He was on a yacht then, too. Steward. He specializes in yachts. This one was owned by some rich bitch from Michigan. He took her for everything he could get. He took her for about ten thousand bucks, they say."
"They say! Who are they? I've heard of 'they' before, but 'they' never seem to have a name, and 'they' always seem to know everything about everybody. What do they know about it? And what do you know about it, as far as that goes. Did you see him get ten thousand dollars? Did you see him get anything? Did you see him get even one dollar from her?"
"No, I didn't see him get even one dollar from her. You don't see things like that, but everybody knew it all the same. She slobbered all over him in the bars, and he had a gold cigarette lighter and a gold cigarette case that she gave him, among other things. He was loving her, and she was paying him for it. Does that satisfy you?"
She gave him a steady, level glance. She opened her hands and the magazine slid to the floor. "What are you driving at, Frank?" she asked.
"Nothing," his voice was angry now, "nothing at all. Why should I be driving at something?"