The Vertical City eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 264 pages of information about The Vertical City.

There was a shot then, and on the lower flight one of the men, with an immediate red mouth opening slowly in his neck, slid downstairs backward, face up.

Suddenly, from a crouching position beside her door, the second figure shot forward now, with ready and perfect aim at the already-beginning-to-be-nerveless figure of Getaway hanging over the banister with the smoking pistol.

By the reaching out of her right hand Marylin could have deflected that perfect aim.  In fact, her arm sprang toward just that reflex act, then stayed itself with the jerk of one solid body avoiding collision with another.

So much quicker than it takes in the telling there marched across Marylin’s sickened eyes this frieze:  Her father trailing dead from the underslinging of a freight car.  That moment when a uniform had stepped in from the fire escape across the bolt of Brussels lace; her mother’s scream, like a plunge into the heart of a rapier.  Uniforms—­contemplating.  On street corners.  Opposite houses.  Those four fingers peeping over each of her father’s shoulders in the courtroom.  Getaway!  His foxlike face leaner.  Meaner.  Black mask.  Electric chair.  Volts.  Ugh—­volts!  God—­you know—­best—­help—­

When the shot came that sent Getaway pitching forward down the third-floor flight she was on her own room floor in a long and merciful faint.  Marylin had not reached out.

* * * * *

Time passed.  Whole rows of days of buttonholes down pleats that were often groped at through tears.  Heavy tears like magnifying glasses.  And then, with that gorgeous and unassailable resiliency of youth, lighter tears.  Fewer tears.  Few tears.  No tears.

Under the cretonne curtain, though, the blue mercerized frock hung unworn, and in its dark drawer remained the petticoat with its rill of lace.  But one night, with a little catch in her throat (it was the last of her sobs), she took out the sport hat, and for no definite reason began to turn the jockey rosette to the side where the sun had not faded it.

These were quiet evenings in her small room.  All the ceiling agitation had long ago ceased since the shame of the raided room above, and Muggs, in his absurd messenger’s suit, and Monkey marching down the three flights to the clanking of steel at the wrists.

There were new footsteps now.  Steps that she had also learned to know, but pleasantly.  They marched out so regularly of mornings, invariably just as she was about to hook her skirtband or pull on her stockings.  They came home so patly again at seven, about as she sat herself down to a bit of sewing or washing-out.  They went to bed so pleasantly.  Thud, on the floor, and then, after the expectant interval of unlacing, thud again.  They were companionable, those footsteps, almost like reverential marching on the grave of her heart.

Marylin reversed the rosette, and as the light began to go sat down beside her window, idly, looking up.  There was the star point in her patch of sky, eating its way right through the purple like a diamond, and her ache over it was so tangible that it seemed to her she could almost lift the hurt out of her heart, as if it were a little imprisoned bird.  And as it grew darker there came two stars, and three, and nine, and finally the sixty hundred.

Project Gutenberg
The Vertical City from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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