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Coldheart Canyon

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год

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‘I want to talk now,’ Todd said. ‘Not later. Now. Donnie! Make him stay.’

‘It’s okay, Kiddo,’ Donnie said with just the right edge of threat, ‘Dr B’s not goin’ anywhere. Answer his question, Doc.’

‘Well, first things first,’ Burrows said. ‘There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your eyes, if that’s what you’re worried about. We just have to keep the dressings in place around your eye-sockets.’

‘You didn’t tell me I’d be waking up in the dark,’ Todd said.

‘No …’ Burrows replied. ‘That’s because the procedure didn’t go quite as we planned. But every operation is a little different, as you’ll remember I explained to you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke …’

Now that he was calmer, Todd began to recall some of the things about Burrows that had irritated him. One of them was that voice of his: that fake basso profundo that was a practised attempt to conceal his queeniness, and to match his voice to the heroic proportions of his body. An artificial body, of course. The man was a walking advertisement for his craft. He was fifty-five at least, but he had the skin of a baby, the arms and the chest of a body-builder and the wasp-waist of a show-girl.

‘Just tell me the truth,’ Todd said to him. ‘Did something go wrong? I’m a big boy. I can take it.’

There was a pin-drop silence. Todd waited. Finally, Burrows said: ‘We had a few minor complications with your procedure, that’s all. I’ve explained it all to your brother Donald. There’s nothing – absolutely nothing – for you to be concerned about. It’s just going to take a little more time than we’d –’

‘What kind of complications?’

‘We don’t need to go into that now, Todd.’

‘Yes, we do,’ Todd said. ‘It’s my face, for fuck’s sake. Tell me what’s going on. And don’t screw around with me. I don’t like it.’

‘Tell him, Doc,’ Donnie said, quietly but firmly.

Todd heard Burrows sigh. Then that studied voice again: ‘You’ll remember that during the preparation evaluation I did warn you that on occasion there were reactions to chemical peels which could not be predicted. And I’m afraid that’s what happened in your case. You’ve had an extreme, and as I say completely unpredictable allergic response to the peel. I don’t believe for one moment there’s going to be any significant damage in the long term. You’re a healthy young man. We’re going to see some swift epidermal regeneration –’

‘What the fuck’s that?’

‘Your skin’s gonna grow back,’ Donnie replied, his Texan drawl turning the remark into a piece of cold comedy.

‘What do you mean?’ Todd said.

‘The effect of the procedure we use – as I explained in our evaluation, and is fully described in the literature I gave you –’

‘I didn’t read it,’ Todd said. ‘I trusted you.’

‘– the procedures we use may be likened to a very controlled chemical burn, which produces changes in the dermis and the epidermis. Damaged or blemished skin is removed, and after forty-eight hours at the most, new, healthy skin is naturally generated, which has pleasing characteristics. The client regains a youthful –’

This time it was Donnie who interrupted Burrows’ molassic flow. ‘Tell him the rest,’ Donnie said, his voice thick with anger. ‘If you don’t tell him, I will,’ Donnie went on. He didn’t give Burrows a chance to make the choice. ‘You’ve been out of it since you had the operation, Kiddo. In a coma. For three days. That’s why they sent for me. They were getting worried. I tried to have you moved to a proper hospital, but that bitch of a manager – Maxine, is it? – she wouldn’t let me. She said you’d want to stay here. Said she was afraid the press would find out if you were transferred.’

‘We’re perfectly capable of looking after Mr Pickett here,’ Burrows said. ‘There isn’t a hospital in California that could give him better care.’

‘Yeah, well, maybe,’ Donnie said. ‘Seems to me he’d still be better off in Cedar Sinai.’

‘I really resent the implication –’ Burrows began.

‘Will you just shut the fuck up?’ Donnie said wearily. ‘I don’t give a monkey’s ass what you resent. All I care about is getting my brother properly fixed up and out of here.’

‘And as I say –’

‘Yeah. As you say. Tell you what, why don’t you and Nurse Karyn there step out for a few minutes and let me have a private word with my brother?’

Burrows didn’t attempt any further self-justification, and Todd knew why. He could imagine Donnie’s expression in perfect detail: both brothers got colour in their faces when they were riled up; and a cold eye. Burrows duly retreated, which was the wisest thing he could have done.

‘I want to get you out of here, Kiddo,’ Donnie said as soon as they had gone. ‘I don’t trust these people as far as I could throw ’em. They’re full of shit.’

‘I need to talk to Maxine before we do anything.’

‘What the fuck for? I don’t trust her any more than I trust these sons of bitches.’

There was a long silence. Todd knew what was coming next; so he just waited for it.

‘Just so you know,’ Donnie said, ‘you’ve done some damn-fool things in your life, but this whole deal is the stupidest idea I ever heard. Gettin’ yourself a fuckin’ facelift? What kind a thing is that? Christ. Does Momma know about this?’

‘No. I put you down as next of kin. I thought you’d understand.’

‘Well I can’t say I do. It’s a mess. It’s a goddam mess. And I’ve got to go back to Texas tomorrow.’

‘Why so soon?’

‘Because I’ve got a court appearance at eight o’clock on Thursday morning. Linda’s tryin’ to take away my weekends with Donnie Junior, and if I’m not in court her lawyer’s going to get the judge to rule against me. I’ve been up before him a couple of times, and he doesn’t like me. So, I’m going to have to love you and leave you, which I don’t much like doin’. I guess I could call Momma and –’

‘No! No, Donnie, please. I don’t want her here.’ Todd reached out blind; caught hold of Donnie’s arm. ‘I’ll be okay. You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be just fine.’

‘All right. I hear you. I won’t call Momma. Besides, the worst’s over. I’m sure that’s right. But listen to me, you get yourself the hell out of here and go to a proper hospital.’

‘I don’t want the press finding out about this. If Maxine thinks –’

‘Have you heard a fuckin’ word I said?’ Donnie said, his voice getting louder. ‘I don’t trust that bitch. She’s out for herself. That’s all she cares about. Her piece of the action.’

‘Don’t start shouting.’

‘Well, what the fuck do you expect? I’ve been sitting here for seventy-two hours straight wondering how I was going to tell Mom that you died having plastic fucking surgery on your fucking face –’ He paused for a breath. ‘Christ, if Dad was alive … he’d be so damned ashamed.’

‘Okay, Donnie. I get the message. I’m a fuck-up.’

‘You’re surrounded by so many ass-kissers, you’re not getting good advice. It makes me wanna puke. I mean, these people. They’re all puttin’ on some show – tellin’ me this, tellin’ me that – and meanwhile you’re lying there at death’s door.

‘And will they give you a straight answer? Will they fuck!’ He paused to draw sufficient breath to launch in afresh. ‘What happened to you, Kiddo? Ten years ago you would have laughed your butt off at the thought of getting a face-lift.’

Todd let go of Donnie’s arm. He drew a deep, sorrowful breath. ‘It’s hard to explain,’ he said. ‘But I got to stay on top of the heap somehow. Younger guys keep coming along …’

‘So let ’em. Why do you need to stay on top? Why not walk away from it? You’ve had a good run, for Christ’s sake. You’ve had it all, I’d say. All and more. I mean fuck! What more do you want? Why do this to yourself?’

‘Because I like the life, Donnie. I like the fame. I like the money.’

Donnie snorted. ‘How much more money do you damn well need? You’ve got more than you can spend if you –’

‘Don’t tell me what I’ve got and I haven’t got. You don’t know what it costs to live. Houses and taxes.’ He stopped his defence; took a different track. ‘Anyhow, I don’t hear you complaining –’

‘Wait –’ Donnie said, knowing what was coming. But Todd wasn’t about to be stopped.

‘– when I send you money.’

‘Don’t start that.’

‘Why not? You sit there tellin’ me what a fuck-up I am, but you never said no to the cash when you needed it. Which is all the time. Who paid your last legal bills, Donnie? And the mortgage on the house so you could start over with Linda, for the third time or fourth time or whatever it was? Who paid for that mistake?’

He let the question hang there, unanswered. Eventually, very quietly, Donnie said: ‘This is so fucked. I came here –’

‘– to see whether I was dead or alive.’

‘– to look after you.’

‘You never cared before,’ Todd said, with painful blunt-ness. ‘Well did you? All these years, when have you ever come out here and spent time with me?’

‘I was never welcome.’

‘You were always welcome. You just never came because you were too fucking jealous. Why don’t you admit it? At least once, between us, say it: you were so fucking jealous you couldn’t stand the idea of coming out here.’
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