Enderby climbed those three steps like a whole flight, shaking and panting. When he entered the bar he found that Rawcliffe, helped now by a dark and curly pudding of a young man, had not yet arrived at the place he was groaning and yearning towards a fireside-type chair at the end of the room, facing the main door, with the back door near it open for air. There was too much glass here altogether: it was to bake the summer customers and make them drink more. But now, in the expected pathetic fallacy, the sky was darkening fast, rain on its way. The bar-counter was to the right, facing the doorless entrance to the eating-conservatory. The pudding young man got behind the bar before starting to shoo Enderby out. Rawcliffe, now heavily sitting, said: "Oqu'e, oqu'e, Manuel. Es un amigo."
"That's not," Enderby said, "quite what I'd call myself." There was an aloof interested inner observer, he was concerned to be interested to note, noting all this as possible material for a future poem, including the notation of the interest. That was not right: it was that inner observer, also creator, that had primarily been wronged. "The enemy," Enderby said. "Come to get you. You know what for." The inner observer tut-tutted.
"I knew you'd give it up, Enderby," Rawcliffe said. "You did bloody well, really. All those years writing verse when, by rights, you should have flitted to the tatty Olympus of remembered potency." He wavered all this like an ancient don pickled in the carbon dioxide of his college rooms. Then he coughed bitterly, cursing with little breath. Recovering, he gasped: "Brandy, Manuel. Large."
"Doctor he say -"
"Curse the bloody doctor and you and every bloody body. Who's master here, God blast you? Brandy. Very very large." Manuel, his eyes on Rawcliffe, slopped much Cordon Bleu into a lemonade glass. "Bring it over, Enderby. Have one yourself."
"How did you know it was me?" Enderby asked, interest much too active.
"I can see through things. Poetic clairvoyance. Bring that brandy over."
"I'm not here -"
"To be a bloody waiter. I know, I know. Bring it over just the same." Enderby shambled to where Rawcliffe was and splashed the glass down on a small table by the chair. This table had a mass of personal trash on it, as, Enderby thought, in that poem by Coventry Patmore: to comfort his sad heart. A pile of old newspapers, a Woolworth watch, a couple of stones (ha) abraded by the beach, an empty bottle, no bluebells, cigarette packets. Beware of pity, however. Pity spareth many an evil thing. Rawcliffe took the glass and, in an aromatic brandy tempest, put it to his starved lips. Bleeding to death, Enderby saw; he was near the end of his blood. Pity causeth the forests to fail.
"Swine," Enderby said as Rawcliffe drank. "Filthy traitor and pervert."
Rawcliffe surfaced from drinking. His face started to mottle. He looked up at Enderby from behind his Beetle goggles, his eyes bloodless like his mouth, and said: "I grant the latter imputation, Enderby," he said, "if you call a search for pure love perversion." As on cue, the negroid waiter in the tarboosh appeared from the kitchen, posed against the door-post, and looked in a sort of loving horror at Rawcliffe. "There, my black beauty," cooed Rawcliffe's abraded larynx. "Anybody noshing in there? Qui'en est'a comiendo? His head twitched towards the dining-room.
"Shut up bloody shop, Manuel," coughed Rawcliffe. "We're closed till further notice. The bloody baigneurs and baigneuses-and a fat pustular lot they are, Enderby-can do key-business at the scullery door." Manuel began to cry. "Stop that," said Rawcliffe with a ghost of sharpness. "As for," he turned back to Enderby, "being a filthy traitor, I've done nothing to contravene the Official Secrets Act. The beastly stupid irony of sending you out here as a spy or whatever it is you are. That maquillage is ridiculous. It looks like boot-polish. Get it off, man. You'll find turps in the kitchen."
"To me," Enderby said. "A traitor to me, bastard. You grew fat on the theft and travesty of my art." Pity slayeth my nymphs. "I mean metaphorically fat."
"Of course you do, my dear Enderby." Rawcliffe finished his brandy, tried to cough and couldn't. "Better. A mere palliative, though. And that's why you got yourself up like that, eh? My brain's fuddled, such of it as has not yet been eaten away by this encroaching angel. I fail to see why you should dress up as whatever it is you're supposed to be in order to tell me I've grown metaphorically fat on your whatever it is." He grew suddenly drowsy and then shook himself awake. "Have you locked those bloody doors yet, Manuel?" he tried to shout.
"It's a bit of a long story." Enderby saw no way out of seeming to make an excuse. "I'm hiding from the police, you see. Interpol and so on." He sat down on a stackable chair.
"Make yourself comfortable, my dear old Enderby. Help yourself to a drink. You look sunken and hungry. There's Antonio sleeping in his kitchen, a very passable pastmaster of short-order cookery. We'll shout him awake and he will, singing his not altogether trustworthy Andalusian heart out, knock you up his own idiosyncratic version of a mixed grill." He probed his throat for a cough but none came. "Better. I feel better. It must be your presence, my dear old Enderby."
"Murder," Enderby said. "Wanted for murder. Me, I mean." He couldn't help a minimal smirk. The Woolworth watch ticked loudly. As in a last desperate gasp, the sun slashed the shelves of bottles behind the bar with fire and crystal, then retired. The clouds hunched closer. Bathers were running into Rawcliffe's arena, after keys and clothes. Manuel was there shouting at them, jangling keys. "Cerrado, Ferm'e. Geschlossen. Shut up bloody shop."
"Like something from poor dear dead Tom Eliot," said Rawcliffe. "He always liked that little poem of mine. The one, you may remember, that is in all the anthologies. And now the rain laying our dust. No more shelter in the colonnade and sun in the Hofgarten." He seemed ready to snivel.
"Murder," Enderby said, "is what we were talking about. I mean me being wanted for murder."
"Be absolute for life or death," said Rawcliffe, fumbling a dirty handkerchief from one of the many pockets of his jacket-face. He gave the handkerchief to his mouth with both hands, coughed loosely, then showed Enderby a gout of blood. "Better up than down, out than in. So, Enderby," he said, folding in the blood like a ruby and stowing it with care, "you've opted for the fantasy life. The defence of pretence. I can't say I blame you. The real world's pretty horrible when the gift goes. I should know, God help me."
"It went but it came back. The gift, I mean. And now," Enderby said, "I shall write in prison." He crossed one leg over the other, disclosing much of his European trousers, and, for some reason, felt like beaming at Rawcliffe. "They don't have the death penalty any more," he added.
Rawcliffe shook and shook. It was with anger, Enderby saw with surprise. "Don't talk to me about the bloody death penalty," Rawcliffe shook. "Nature exacts her own punishments. I'm dying, Enderby, dying, and you burble away about writing verse in prison. It's not the dying I mind so much as the bloody indignity. My underpants filling with bloody cack, and the agony of pissing, and the smell. The smell, Enderby. Can you smell the smell?"
"I've got used to smells," Enderby apologised, "living as I've been doing. You don't smell any different," he smelled, "than that time in Rome. You bloody traitor," he then said hotly. "You stole my bloody poem and crucified it."
"Yes yes yes yes." Rawcliffe seemed to have grown tired again. "I suppose the decay was always with me. Well, it won't be long now. And I shall infect neither earth nor air. Let the sea take me. The sea, Enderby, thalassa, la belle mer. Providence, in whatever guise, sent you, in whatever guise. Because, delightful though these boys could often be in my violet-enough-smelling though really Indian summer, days, they can't altogether be trusted. With me gone, a mere parcel of organic sludge yumyumyummed away at by boring phagocytes, Enderby, the posthumous memory of my request will not move them to fulfil it. Oh, dear me, no. So that can be handed over to you with total confidence, a fellow-Englishman, a fellow-poet." The boys could be heard in the kitchen, hearty Mediterranean lip-smacking, the rarer and more sophisticated ping of a fork on a plate, Moghrabi conversation, laughter escaping from munches. Not altogether to be trusted. The rain now came down, and Rawcliffe, as if pleased that a complicated experimental process were under way, nodded. Enderby suddenly realised that that was who he'd got his own nod from: Rawcliffe.
"Rawcliffe," he said, "bastard. I'm not here to do anything for you, bastard as you are. You've got to be killed. As a defiler of art and a bloody traitor." He noticed that he still had one leg comfortably crossed over the other. He disposed himself more aggressively, hands tensely gripping knees, though still seated. That tan polish seemed to be sweating off, a bit streaky. He'd better do something about that before killing Rawcliffe.
"If you killed me," Rawcliffe said, "you'd be doing me a very large favour. There might be a small obituary in The Times. The triumph of that early poem might be recalled, the poem itself reproduced, who knows? As for a weapon, there's a till-protecting service revolver in that cupboard behind the bar. Or our steak-knives are pretty sharp. Or you could feed me, say, fifty sleeping-capsules, pellet by pellet. Oh, my dear Enderby, don't be a bloody bore. Let me expiate in nature's way, blast you."
"That's not right," Enderby started to mumble. "Justice. What I mean is." What he meant was that he'd been quite looking forward to a life sentence, a bit of peace and quiet, get on with his. "I mean that if they're going to get me it'd better be for something real." Then: "I didn't mean that. What I meant to say was for a sheep as well as a lamb. Look, I will have a drink after all."
"Better, Enderby, much better. There's a nice bottle of Strega behind the bar. Remember those brief sunny Strega-drinking days by the Tiber? Days of betrayal, you will say. Was I the only betrayer?" He sat up with sudden alertness. "Do pass me that bottle of life-surrogate there, my dear Enderby. Cordon Bleu, a blue cordon to keep out that scrabbling crowd of clawers hungry for my blood. They must wait, must they not? We have things to see to, you and I, first." Enderby went to the bar, handed shaking Rawcliffe his bottle, unwilling anyway to pour for the sod, then looked at all the other bottles, embarrassed for choice. "Didn't go well, that marriage, did it, Enderby? Not cut out for marriage, not cut out for murder. Tell me all about that. No, wait. Dear Auntie Vesta. Married now to some sharp Levantine with very good suits. But she failed really, you know, failed despite everything. She'll never be in anybody's biography, poor bitch. You're a remarkable man, Enderby. It was in all the papers, you know, that marriage. There was a pop nuptial mass or something. Choreography round the altar, brought downstage for the occasion. A lot of bloody ecumenical nonsense."
"That," grudgemumbled Enderby, "is just what I said. Not in that connection. I mean in the other one. That priest, I mean. The day it happened." Fundador. Not too bad a drink, despite that blasted moon woman. Rawcliffe clanked and clanked out his slug, then drank. Enderby, ashamed at his quieter co-ordination, did a real professional barman's pour of his own. "What happened was this," he said, before drinking. "This yob got shot, Crewsy that is, was, and someone put the gun in my hand. I ran, you see. You'd have done the same."
Rawcliffe frowned, made a shot at his lips with his glass, sprayed and dribbled cognac, sucked in a fair amount, gasped. "Let's get all this straight, Enderby," he gasped. "I read the papers. I read nothing else. I've been hanging on to life, you know. The ephemeral, I mean, the sad, pretty, awful, tragic everyday, not the transcendencies of great art. I shall meet the eternal soon enough. I shall get my chamber music without the trouble of having to attend to profundities squeezed sweating from sheepgut. Or there will be nothing, like Sam Beckett. I read the papers-the pipe-smoking dogs, the topless weddings, the assassinations of pop-singers. Yod Crewsy I know all about. Dying, soon to die. Perhaps we shall die on the same day, he and I. That will be fitting, somehow. A barman shot him. I don't remember the name. Wait: something porcine."
"Hogg," said Enderby with impatience. "Hogg, Hogg." There was a young wall-eyed man in a dirty apron, the cook Antonio probably, standing by the kitchen door, picking his teeth with a quill and frowning puzzled at Enderby's get-up. "Hogg."
"That's it. So you read the papers too. A poetical name, that I did know. A very Jacobitical poet, that one. Charlie he's my darling. Wha the deil hae we goten for a King but a wee wee German lairdie. I like that weewee bit. He spoke out, Enderby. He didn't give a worsted-stocking damn."
"Listen," Enderby hissed, coming from behind the bar with his glass of Fundador. "That was me. Hogg. That was my mother's name. They turned me into a barman, Wapenshaw and the rest of them. Yes, yes, they did. A useful citizen, they said, poet no longer. You didn't know, nobody knew. That was never in the papers." Rawcliffe was all rigidity now, staring. "But," Enderby said, "I got away. As Enderby. I'd got my passport. And then that bloody woman found out that Enderby and Hogg were the same. So I had to get rid of the passport. It's a long story really." He drank some Fundador and tasted again that night of the bloody woman. Bloody women.
"It must be, it must be. But," said Rawcliffe, "it's a man called Hogg they were looking for." Enderby borrowed Rawcliffe's rigidity, staring. "Oh yes. Nothing about may be travelling under an alias. Ill-known minor poet who mysteriously disappeared, nothing like that. Nobody blew the gaff, my dear Enderby."
"She must have done. Selenographer, she called herself. The police scouring Morocco. Me in hiding. And then there's John the Spaniard."
"Yes yes yes." Rawcliffe spoke soothingly. "The world's full of traitors, isn't it? But tell me, Enderby, why did you shoot him?"
"He deserved to be shot. Plagiarism. A travesty of art. He stole my poems. The same as you."
"Oh, for God's sake," said Rawcliffe with emphatic weariness, "get it over with. Shoot everybody. Shoot the whole damned treacherous world, then get behind bars and write your bloody self-pitying doggerel."
"Doggerel," Enderby sneered. "You're a right bastard to talk about me writing doggerel."
"Wait, though, wait. Didn't you say something about not having shot him at all? About someone putting the smoking gun in your innocent paw? That figures, as the smoking gun films put it. Spaghetti Westerns. They had me writing those, Enderby. But I got out. I didn't do too badly out of L'Animal Binato. That was a bloody good idea of yours." He shook himself back to the immediate topic. "You're no killer, Enderby, be sure of that. You're not even the predestined victim. You wriggle out of the real striking of the blow by the operation of a time-warp or space-woof or something. You fall on your feet. You'll have to rename the Acantilado Verde, of course."
"Green cliff, raw cliff. You've got somebody on your side. Who? There you stand, absurd but vigorous. And Auntie Vesta is vanquished and poor Rawcliffe is dying. Is there anything more you want? Oh, yes. I shall dictate a letter to Scotland Yard-there's an old office Oliver in my bedroom behind the bar-and confess all. After all, Enderby, I could quite easily have done it. I even had an invitation. After all, I have been one of the great diluters, worthy to be asked. And I was in London, seeing the last of my head-shaking consultants. Very grave he was. Prepare to meet thy God. My Goddess, rather. Yes yes yes, the mockers and diluters and travestists deserve to die." Enderby frowned, unsure whether this was all drunkenness or the start of terminal delirium. Rawcliffe closed his eyes, his head lolled, his trouser-fly darkened and then his crotch dripped. Enderby saw barman and waiter and cook all crammed in the kitchen doorway, open-mouthed.
"Get him to bed," he ordered. "Come on, jump to it." Antonio crossed himself, quill still in his teeth. They did not exactly jump to it, but Manuel and the tarbooshed waiter grabbed each an oxter of Rawcliffe. Rawcliffe was dimly roaring. Enderby took the legs. He had done that before for Rawcliffe, he remembered. In Rome, honeymooning. Rawcliffe was lighter now than then. Antonio pointed where the bedroom was. The rain was easing a bit.