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Ideal: The Novel and the Play

Ideal: The Novel and the Play

by Ayn Rand
Ideal: The Novel and the Play

Ideal: The Novel and the Play

by Ayn Rand


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In print for the first time ever, author and philosopher Ayn Rand’s novel Ideal.

Originally conceived as a novel but then transformed into a play by Ayn Rand, Ideal is the story of beautiful but tormented actress Kay Gonda. Accused of murder, she is on the run, and she turns for help to six fans who have written letters to her, each telling her that she represents their ideal—a respectable family man, a far-left activist, a cynical artist, an evangelist, a playboy, and a lost soul. Each reacts to her plight in his own way, their reactions a glimpse into their secret selves and their true values. In the end their responses to her pleas give Kay the answers she has been seeking.

Ideal was written in 1934 as a novel, but Ayn Rand thought the theme of the piece would be better realized as a play and put the novel aside. Now, both versions of Ideal are available for the first time ever to the millions of Ayn Rand fans around the world, giving them a unique opportunity to explore the creative process of Rand as she wrote first a book, then a play, and the differences between the two.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451473172
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/07/2015
Series: Penguin Modern Classics
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,096,960
Product dimensions: 5.99(w) x 8.97(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Born February 2, 1905, Ayn Rand published her first novel, We the Living, in 1936. Anthem followed in 1938. It was with the publication of The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) that she achieved her spectacular success. Rand’s unique philosophy, Objectivism, has gained a worldwide audience. The fundamentals of her philosophy are put forth in three nonfiction books, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, The Virtues of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. They are all available in Signet editions, as is the magnificent statement of her artistic credo, The Romantic Manifesto.

Date of Birth:

February 2, 1905

Date of Death:

March 6, 1982

Place of Birth:

St. Petersburg, Russia

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Graduated with highest honors in history from the University of Petrograd, 1924

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“If it’s murder—why don’t we hear more about it? If it’s not— why do we hear so much? When interviewed on the subject, Miss Frederica Sayers didn’t say yes, and she didn’t say no. She has refused to give out the slightest hint as to the manner of her brother’s sudden death. Granton Sayers died in his Santa Bar­bara mansion two days ago, on the night of May 3rd. On the evening of May 3rd Granton Sayers had dinner with a famous—oh, very famous—screen star. That is all we know.

“Sorry we can’t give you any lower low-down— but we can suggest a few questions—if they have not occurred to you al­ready. It would be interesting to know where that enchanting siren of the screen was on the night of May 3rd—after dinner. Or where she has been ever since. And if—as Miss Frederica Sayers maintains—there is nothing to whisper about, why are there such persistent rumors linking that certain famous name with the death of the great oil king of the West? All of which leaves Miss Frederica in the position of the West’s oil queen and sole heiress to the Sayers millions—if any.

“Now, to change the subject. Many readers have called in inquiring as to the present whereabouts of Kay Gonda. This lovely lady of the screen has been absent from her Hollywood home for the last two days and the studio moguls refuse to re­veal the why and the where. Some suspicious persons are whis­pering that the said moguls do not know it themselves.”

The City Editor of the Los Angeles Courier sat down on the desk of Irving Ponts. Irving Ponts wore an eternal smile, wrote “This and That,” star column of the Los Angeles Courier, and had a stomach which interfered with his comfort when he sat down. The City Editor trans­ferred his pencil from the right corner of his mouth to the left, and asked:

“On the level, Irv, do you know where she is?”

“Search me,” said Irving Ponts.

“Are they looking for her?”

“Ditto,” said Irving Ponts.

“Have they filed charges against her in Santa Barbara?”


“What did your police friends say?”

“That,” said Irving Ponts, “wouldn’t do you any good, because you couldn’t print where they told me to go.”

“You don’t really think she did it, do you, Irv? Because why the hell would she do it?”

“No reason,” said Irving Ponts. “Except, is there ever any reason for anything Kay Gonda does?”|

The City Editor called Morrison Pickens.

Morrison Pickens looked as if in the sparse six feet of his body there were not a single bone, and only a miracle kept it upright, preventing it from flopping softly into a huddle. He had a cigarette which only a miracle kept hanging listlessly in the corner of his mouth. He had a coat thrown over his shoulders, which only a miracle kept from sliding down his back, and a cap with a visor that stood like a halo halfway up his skull.

“Take a little trip to the Farrow Film Studios,” said the City Editor, “and see what you can see.”

“Kay Gonda?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“Kay Gonda, if you can,” said the City Editor. “If not, just try to pick up something about where she is at present.”

Morrison Pickens struck a match on the sole of the City Editor’s shoe, but changed his mind and threw the match into a wastebasket, picked up a pair of scissors, and cleaned his thumbnail thoughtfully.

“Uh- uh,” said Morrison Pickens. “Shall I also try to find out who killed Rothstein1 and whether there is any life after death?”

“Get there before lunch,” said the City Editor. “See what they say and how they say it.”

Morrison Pickens drove to the Farrow Film Studios. He drove down a crowded street of little shops, shrunken and dried in the sun, with dusty window panes ready to push one another out of the tight, grim row. Behind the panes he could see everything men needed, every­thing they lived for: stiff dresses with rhinestone butterflies, jars of strawberry jam and cans of tomatoes, floor mops and lawn mowers, cold cream and aspirin and a famous cure for gas in the stomach. Men passed by, weary, hurried, indifferent, hair sticking to hot, wet fore­heads. And it seemed as if the greatest of human miseries was not of those who could not afford to enter the shops and buy, but of those who could.

Over a little movie theater with a yellow brick front, a blank mar­quee, and a circle bearing a huge 15 cents in tarnished tinsel, stood the cardboard figure of a woman. She stood erect, her shoulders thrown back, and her short blond hair was like a bonfire snapped at the height of a furious storm— ferocious tangle of hair over a slim body. She had pale, transparent eyes and a large mouth that looked like the mouth of an idol of an animal that had been sacred. There was no name under the figure, but the name was not necessary, for every passerby on every street of the world knew the name and the wild blond hair and the fragile body. It was Kay Gonda.

The figure was half naked under its scant garment, but no one no­ticed that. No one looked at it conventionally and no one snickered. She stood, her head thrown back, her arms limp at her sides, palms up, helpless and frail, surrendering herself and imploring something far away, high over the blank marquee and over the roofs, as a flame held straight for an insight in an unknown wind, as a last plea rising from every roof, and every shop window, and every weary heart far under her feet. And passing the theater, no one did, but everyone wanted dimly to take off his hat.

Morrison Pickens had seen one of her pictures last evening. He had sat for an hour and a half without moving, and if breathing had re­quired attention, he would have forgotten to breathe. From the screen, a huge white face had looked at him, a face with a mouth one wished one could wish to kiss, and eyes that made one wonder— wonder which was pain—just what it was they were seeing. He felt as if there was something—deep in his brain, behind everything he thought and everything he was—which he did not know, but she knew, and he wished he did, and wondered whether he could ever know it, and should he, if he could, and why he wished it. He thought that she was just a woman and an actress, but he thought this only before he entered the theater and after he left it; while he looked at her on the screen, he thought differently; he thought that she was not a human being at all, not the kind of human being he’d seen around him all his life, but the kind no one ever knew—and should. When he looked at her, it made him feel guilty, but it also made him feel young—and clean—and very proud. When he looked at her, he understood why ancient peoples had made statues of gods in the image of man.

No one knew for certain who Kay Gonda was. There were people who said they remembered her when she was sixteen and working in a corset shop in Vienna. She wore a dress too short for her long, thin legs, with sleeves too short for her pale, thin arms. She moved behind the counter with a nervous swiftness that made people think that she be­longed in a zoo, rather than in a little shop with starched white curtains and a smell of stale lard. No one called her beautiful. Men never ap­proached her and landladies were eager to throw her out when she was behind in her rent. She spent long days fitting girdles to customers, her thin white fingers lacing strings tightly over heavy folds of flesh. The customers complained that her eyes made them uncomfortable.

There were also those who remembered her two years later when she worked as a maid in a disreputable hotel on a dark side street of Vienna. They remembered her walking down the stairs, holes glaring in the heels of her black cotton stockings, an old blouse gaping open at her throat. Men tried to speak to her, but she did not listen. Then, one night, she listened. He was a tall man with a hard mouth and eyes too observant ever to allow her to be happy; he was a famous film director who had not come to the hotel to see the maid. The woman who owned the place shrugged with indignation when she heard the maid laughing loudly, brutally, at the words the man whispered to her. But the great director denied vehemently the story of where he had discovered Kay Gonda, his greatest star.

In Hollywood she wore plain, dark dresses designed by a French­man whose salary could have financed an insurance concern. Her man­sion was entered through a long gallery of white marble columns, and her butler served cocktails in tall, narrow glasses. She walked as if the carpets and the stairs and the sidewalks rolled softly, soundlessly, from under the suspicion of her foot’s touch. Her hair never looked combed. She shrugged her shoulders with a gesture that was a convulsion, and little bluish shadows played between her shoulder blades when she wore long, backless evening gowns. Everyone envied her. No one said she was happy.

Morrison Pickens swung his long legs over the side of his open roadster and shuffled up the polished steps to the reception desk of the Farrow Film Studios. He said to the young man behind the desk, who had a face pink and stern as frozen strawberry custard:

“Pickens. Of the Courier. Want to see Mr. Farrow.”

“Did you have an appointment?”

“Nope. That won’t make any difference—today.”

It didn’t.

“Go right in, sir,” said the young man eagerly, dropping the receiver on the answer of Mr. Farrow’s secretary.

Mr. Farrow had three secretaries. The first one sat at a desk at a bronze railing, and she smiled icily, swinging the bronze gate open into an archway with a desk with three telephones and a secretary who rose to open a mahogany door into an office where a secretary rose to say:

“Go right in, Mr. Pickens.”

Anthony Farrow sat at a desk lost in a vast, white ballroom. It had leaded windows the height of three floors. It had a white statue of a Madonna in a niche. It had a huge crystal globe of the world on a white marble pedestal. It had a white satin chaise longue which looked as if no one had ever approached it; no one had. It was Mr. Farrow’s prize possession—and it was reported to have adorned, in days gone by, the boudoir of Empress Josephine.

Mr. Farrow had brownish-golden hair far at the back of his head and brownish-golden eyes. His suit matched the darkest thread of his hair, and his shirt—the lightest. He said: “Good morning, Mr. Pickens. Please sit down. I am delighted to see you,” and extended an open box of cigars with a gesture worthy of the best close- p in a film of high society.

Mr. Pickens sat down and took a cigar.

“Of course,” said Mr. Farrow, “you realize that it is nothing but a lot of preposterous nonsense.”

“What is?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“The gossip to which I owe the honor of your visit. The gossip about Miss Gonda.”

“Oh,” said Morrison Pickens.

“My dear fellow, you must know how utterly ridiculous it is. I had hoped that your paper, a reputable paper like yours, would help us to prevent the spread of these totally unfounded rumors.”

“That’s easy, Mr. Farrow. It’s up to you. The rumors being totally unfounded, you know, of course, where Miss Gonda happens to be, don’t you?”

“Consider for a moment that wild story, Mr. Pickens. Granton Sayers—well, you know Granton Sayers. A fool, if I may be permitted to say so, a fool with the reputation of a genius—which is always the case with fools, isn’t it? Fifty million dollars three years ago. Today—who knows? Perhaps fifty thousand. Perhaps fifty cents. But cut crystal swimming pools and a Greek temple in his garden. Ah, yes, and Kay Gonda. An expensive little plaything or art work—according to how you want to look at it. Kay Gonda, that is, two years ago. Not today. Oh, no, not today. I know for certain that she had not seen Sayers for over a year previous to that dinner in Santa Barbara we’ve all heard about.”

“So the romance was all over? Cold as ice?”

“Colder, Mr. Pickens.”

“Sure of that?”

“Positive, Mr. Pickens.”

“But perhaps there had been a quarrel between them, some quarrel which . . .”

“None, Mr. Pickens. Never. He had proposed to her three times to my knowledge. She could have had him, Greek temple and oil wells and all, any day she wished. Why would she want to kill him?”

“Why would she want to disappear?”

“Mr. Pickens, may I reverse the procedure of an interview with the press—and ask you a question?”

“Certainly, Mr. Farrow.”

“Who in . . . who on earth started those rumors?”

“That,” said Morrison Pickens, “is what I thought you could tell me, Mr. Farrow.”

“It’s preposterous, Mr. Pickens, worse than preposterous. It’s vi­cious. Hints, whispers, questions. All over town. If I could see any point in it, I’d say someone was spreading it intentionally.”

“Who would have a reason to do that?”

“That’s just it, Mr. Pickens. No one. Miss Gonda hasn’t got an enemy in the world.”

“Has she a friend?”

“Why, of course, why—no,” said Mr. Farrow suddenly, his voice earnest and puzzled by its own statement, “no, she hasn’t.” The way he looked at Morrison Pickens was real, simple helplessness. “Why did you ask that?”

“Why do you answer it like that?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“I . . . I don’t know,” said Mr. Farrow. “I’d never thought of it be­fore, it just struck me suddenly that she hasn’t really got a single friend in the world. Unless it’s Mick Watts, who nobody could call a friend to anybody. Oh, well,” he added, shrugging, “perhaps it’s only natural. How can you think of friendship with a woman like that? She looks at you, but doesn’t really see you at all. She sees something else, no one can guess what. She speaks to you—when she speaks, which isn’t often— and you don’t really know what she’s thinking. Sometimes I’m sure that she doesn’t think what we think at all, you and I. Things don’t mean the same to her as to the rest of us. But what they mean and what she means— ho can tell? And, actually, who cares?”

“About seventy million people or so, judging by your box office re­ports.”

“Ah, yes. Which, perhaps, is all that matters. They worship her, millions of them. It’s not admiration. It’s not just fan enthusiasm. It’s much more than that. It’s worship. I don’t know what she does to them all—but she does something.”

“And how will her public react to—murder?”

“It’s incredible, Mr. Pickens, it’s fantastic. How can anyone believe it for a moment?”

“No one would believe it for a moment if Miss Gonda hadn’t disap­peared.”

“But, Mr. Pickens, she hasn’t disappeared.”

“Where is she?”

“She always wants to be alone when she’s getting ready for a new picture. She’s at one of her beach homes, studying her new part.”


“Really, Mr. Pickens, we can’t have her disturbed.”

“Supposing we were to try and find her. Would you stop us?”

“Certainly not, Mr. Pickens. Far be it from us to interfere with the press.”

Morrison Pickens got up. He said:

“Fine, Mr. Farrow. We’ll try.”

Mr. Farrow got up. He said:

“Fine, Mr. Pickens. I wish you luck.”

Morrison Pickens was at the door, when Mr. Farrow added:

“By the way, Mr. Pickens, if you are successful, could I ask you the favor of letting us know? You understand, we wouldn’t want our great star disturbed, and. . . .”

“I understand,” said Morrison Pickens, walking out.

In the outer office of Mr. Sol Salzer, associate producer, a nervous male secretary fluttered up, insisting:

“But Mr. Salzer is busy. Mr. Salzer is very, very busy. Mr. Salzer is in story con—”

“Tell him it’s the Courier,” said Morrison Pickens. “Maybe he’ll find a coupla minutes.”

The secretary fluttered behind a tall, white door and hopped out swiftly, leaving the door open, twittering breathlessly:

“Go right in, Mr. Pickens, go right, right in.”

Mr. Salzer was pacing up and down a spacious office with purple velvet curtains and pictures of flowers and Scotties in white frames. He said, “Sit down,” without looking at Mr. Pickens, and continued his walk.

Morrison Pickens sat down.

Mr. Salzer’s hands were clamped behind his back. He wore a steel-blue suit and a diamond stick-pin. His curly black hair made a narrow peninsula in the middle of his white forehead. He crossed the office three times, then barked:

“It’s a lotta baloney!”

“What?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“What you want to know. What you fellers waste your time mak­ing up and then fill your papers with on accounta having nothing better to print!”

“Are you talking about Miss Gonda?”

“I am talking about Miss Gonda! I’m talking about nothing else but! I should waste my time here with you if it wasn’t for Miss Gonda! I wish we’d never signed her! A headache we should have ever since she came on the lot!”

“Oh, come, Mr. Salzer. You’ve supervised all her pictures. You must see something in her.”

“Three million bucks cash per each picture. That’s what I see! You go ahead and tell me a better reason.”

“Well, let’s talk about your next picture.”

“So what about it? It’s going to be the greatest, finest—” Mr. Salzer stopped to pound his desk with his fist, “most expensive picture you ever saw in your life! You can tell that to your paper!”

“Fine, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know it. Also, they’ll be glad to know its . . . starting date.”

“Listen,” said Mr. Salzer, stopping, “it’s a lot of hooey! It’s a lot of hooey what you’re driving at! Because she hasn’t disappeared!”

“I haven’t said she has.”

“Well, don’t say it! Because we know where she is, only it’s none of your business, see?”

“I wasn’t going to say it. I was only going to ask whether Miss Gonda has signed her new contract with you people.”

“Sure, she’s signed. Of course. Certainly. She’s just practically signed it almost.”

“Then she hasn’t?”

“She was going to sign it today. I mean, she is going to sign it today. She’s agreed. It’s all settled— ell, I’ll tell you,” Mr. Salzer said sud­denly, with the despair of a person who must capture sympathy on film, anyone’s sympathy. “What I’m afraid of is that it’s all on accounta that contract. She’s changed her mind again, maybe, and quit for good.”

“Isn’t that just a pose, Mr. Salzer? We’ve heard that after every pic­ture.”

“Yeah? You should laugh if you hadda crawl after her down on your knees like we done for two months. ‘I’m through,’ she says. ‘Does it really mean anything? Is it really worth doing?’ No! Fifteen thousand a week we offer her and she asks is it worth doing?”

“Then you think she’s walked out on you this time? And you don’t know where she’s gone?”

“I don’t like newspaper people,” said Mr. Salzer, disgusted. “That’s why I’ve never liked them. Here I’m telling you my troubles, all my confidential troubles—and you go starting on your old baloney again.”

“That you don’t know where she is.”

“Aw, phooey! We know where she is. It’s an aunt of hers, an old aunt from Europe, who’s sick, and she’s gone to visit her on a ranch out in the desert. See?”

“Yea,” said Morrison Pickens, rising, “I see.”

He did not have to be announced to Claire Peemoller, star of Farrow Films, who wrote all the scripts for Kay Gonda’s pictures. He just walked in. It was never necessary to announce the press to Claire Peemoller.

Claire Peemoller sat in the center of a long, low modernistic couch. There was no spotlight lighting the place where she sat; it only seemed as if there were. Her clothes had the trim, modernistic elegance of glass furniture, suspension bridges, or transatlantic clipper planes. She looked like the last word of a great civilization, hard, clean, wise, concerned with nothing but the subtlest and deepest problems of life. It was only Claire Peemoller’s body, however, that sat on the couch; her soul was on the walls of her office. The walls of her office were covered with enlarged photographs of illustrations for her magazines. The photographs showed gentle young girls and sturdy young men embracing, babies squinting up at parents clutching hands in reconciliation over the crib, old ladies whose faces could sweeten the blackest cup of coffee.

“Mr. Pickens,” said Claire Peemoller, “I’m so glad to see you. It was simply wonderful, but wonderful, of you to drop in. I have a great story for you. I was thinking that the public has never really understood the psychological influence of the little things in a writer’s childhood that shape her future career. It’s the little things that count in life, you know. For instance, one day when I was seven, I saw a butterfly with a broken wing and it made me think of—”

“Kay Gonda?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“Oh,” said Claire Peemoller, and her thin lips closed tight. Then she opened them again to add, “so that’s what you came about . . .”

“Well, surely, Miss Peemoller, you should have guessed that—today.”

“I did not,” said Claire Peemoller. “I’ve never been under the im­pression that Miss Kay Gonda was the only subject of interest in the world.”

“I only wanted to ask you what you thought of all those rumors about Miss Gonda.”

“I haven’t given it a thought. My time is really valuable.”

“When did you see her last?”

“Two days ago.”

“Not on May 3rd?”

Yes, on May 3rd.”

“Well, did you notice anything peculiar in her behavior then?”

“When has she behaved in any manner that wasn’t peculiar?”

“Would you mind telling me about it?”

“I mind it very much indeed. And who wouldn’t? I drove all the way down to her house, that afternoon, to discuss her next script. It’s a lovely story, but lovely! I talked for hours. She sat there like a statue. Not a word out of her, not a sound. Down-to-earthiness, that’s what she lacks. No finer feelings in her. But none! No sense of the great brother­hood of men under the skin. No—”

“Did she seem worried on unhappy?”

“Really, Mr. Pickens, I have more important things to do than to analyze Miss Gonda’s moods. All I can tell you is that she wouldn’t let me put in a little baby or a dog in the script. Dogs have much human appeal. You know, we’re all brothers under the skin and—”

“Did she mention that she was going to Santa Barbara that night?”

“She doesn’t mention things. She throws them at you in pails. She just simply got up in the middle of a sentence and left me flat. She said she had to dress, because she was having dinner in Santa Barbara. And then she added: ‘I do not like missions of charity.’ ”

“What did she mean by that?”

“What does she mean by anything? ‘Charity’—just imagine!—to have dinner with a multi- millionaire. So then I just couldn’t resist it, but couldn’t! I said, ‘Miss Gonda, do you really think you’re so much better than everybody else?’ And what do you suppose she answered? ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I do. I wish I didn’t have to.’ But actually!”

“Did she say anything else?”

“No. I’m the kind of person that simply does not understand conceit. So I did not care to continue the conversation. And I do not care to continue it now. I’m sorry, Mr. Pickens. But the subject bores me.”

“Do you know where Miss Gonda is at present?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.”

“But if anything’s happened to her . . .”

“I’ll ask them to put Sally Sweeney in the part. I’ve always wanted to write for Sally. She’s such a sweet kid. And now you’ll have to excuse me, Mr. Pickens. I’m very busy.”

Bill McNitt sat in a filthy office that smelt like a poolroom: its walls were plastered with posters of the Gonda pictures he had directed. Bill McNitt took pride in being a genius and a he- an besides: if people wished to see him, they could well afford to sit among cigarette butts, next to a spittoon. He leaned back in his swivel chair, his feet on a desk, and smoked. His shirtsleeves were rolled high above his elbow, and he had big, hairy arms. He waved one huge hand with a golden snake ring on a stubby finger when Morrison Pickens entered.

“Spill it,” said Bill McNitt.

“I,” said Morrison Pickens, “have nothing to spill.”

“Neither,” said Bill McNitt, “have I. Now beat it.”

“You don’t seem to be busy,” said Morrison Pickens, sitting down comfortably on a canvas stool.

“I’m not. And don’t ask me why. Because it’s the same reason that keeps you so busy.”

“I presume you’re referring to Miss Kay Gonda.”

“You don’t have to do any presuming. You know damn well. Only that won’t do you any good around here, ’cause you can’t pump any­thing out of me. I never wanted to direct her anyway. I’d much rather direct Joan Tudor. I’d much rather . . .”

“What’s the matter, Bill? Had trouble with Gonda?”

“Listen. I’ll tell you all I know, then beat it, will you? Last week it was, I drove down to her beach house and there she was, out at sea, tearing through the rocks in a motorboat till I thought I’d have heart failure watch­ing it. So she climbs up to the road, finally, wet all over. So I say to her: ‘You’ll get killed some day,’ and she looks straight at me and she says: ‘That won’t make any difference to me,’ she says, ‘nor to anyone else anywhere.’”

“She said that?”

“She did. ‘Listen,’ I said, ‘I don’t give a hoot if you break your neck, but you’ll get pneumonia in the middle of my next picture!’ She looks at me in that queer way of hers and she says: ‘Maybe there won’t be any next picture.’ And she walks straight back to the house and the flunky wouldn’t let me in!”

“She really said that? Last week?”

“She did. Well, I should worry. That’s all. Now beat it.”

“Listen, I want to ask you—”

“Don’t ask me where she is! Because I don’t know it! See? And what’s more, none of the big shots know it, either, only they won’t say so! Why do you suppose I’m sitting here like fly food, drawing three grand a week? Do you think they wouldn’t get the fire department to drag her back if they knew where to send for her?”

“You can make a guess.”

“I don’t make guesses. I don’t know a thing about the woman. I don’t want to know a thing about the woman. I’d never want to go near her if for some fool reason the yokels didn’t part with their cash so read­ily for a peek at that bleached pan of hers!”

“Well, now, I couldn’t quote that in the paper.”

“I don’t care what you quote. I don’t care what you do as long as you get out of here and go to the—”

“The publicity department—first,” said Morrison Pickens, rising.

In the publicity department, four different hands slapped Morrison Pickens’ shoulder, and four faces looked at him, sweetly bland, as if they had never heard the name of Kay Gonda before, and it took an effort to remember it, and remembering it, they found they knew noth­ing but the name. Only one face, the fifth, bent closer to Morrison Pickens and whispered:

“We don’t know a thing, pal. Not allowed to know. And wouldn’t know if allowed. There’s only one person who might help you. Might, but probably won’t. Go see Mick Watts. I’m sure the bum knows something.”

“Why? Is he sober, for a change?”

“No. He’s drunker than usual.”

Mick Watts was Kay Gonda’s personal press agent. He had been fired from every studio in Hollywood, from every newspaper on both coasts, and from many others in between. But Kay Gonda had brought him to the Farrow lot. They paid him a large salary and did not object to him as they did not object to Kay Gonda’s Great Dane on Anthony Farrow’s Josephine chaise longue.

Mick Watts had platinum blond hair, the face of a thug, and the blue eyes of a baby. He sat in his office, his head buried in his arms on the desk. He raised his head when Morrison Pickens entered, and his blue eyes were crystal clear—but Pickens knew that they saw nothing, for two empty bottles lay conspicuously under his chair.

“Nice weather we’re having, Mick,” said Morrison Pickens.

Mick Watts nodded and said nothing.

“Nice, but hot,” said Morrison Pickens. “Awful hot. Supposing you and me slip down to the commissary for something cool and liquid?”

“I don’t know a thing,” said Mick Watts. “Save your cash. Get out.”

“What are you talking about, Mick?”

“I’m not talking about nothing—and that goes for everything.”

In the typewriter on the desk, Morrison Pickens saw the sheet of a press release which Mick Watts had been composing. He read, incredulously:

“Kay Gonda does not cook her own meals or knit her own under­wear. She does not play golf, adopt babies, or endow hospitals for home­less horses. She is not kind to her dear old mother—she has no dear old mother. She is not just like you and me. She never was like you and me. She’s like nothing you rotters ever dreamt of.”

Morrison Pickens shook his head reproachfully. Mick Watts did not seem to mind his reading it. Mick Watts sat there, looking at the wall, as if he had forgotten Pickens’ existence.

“You could stand a drink, once in a while, couldn’t you, Mick?” said Morrison Pickens. “You look thirsty to me.”

“I don’t know a thing about Kay Gonda,” said Mick Watts. “Never heard of her. . . . Kay Gonda. It’s a funny name, isn’t it? What is it? I went to confession once, long ago—very long ago—and they talked about the redemption of all sins. It’s a funny thing to yell ‘Kay Gonda’ and to think that all your sins are washed away. Just pay two bits in the balcony—and come out pure as snow.”

“On second thought, Mick,” said Morrison Pickens, “I won’t offer you another drink. You’d better have something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry. I’ve stopped being hungry many years ago. But she is.”

“Who?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“Kay Gonda,” said Mick Watts.

“Any idea where she’s having her next meal?”

“In heaven,” said Mick Watts. “In a blue heaven with white lilies. Very white lilies. Only she’ll never find it.”

“I don’t quite follow you, Mick. What was that again?”

“You don’t understand? She doesn’t, either. Only it’s no use. It’s no use trying to unravel, because if you try, you end up with nothing but more dirt on your hands than you care to wipe off. There are not enough towels in the world to wipe it off. Not enough towels. That’s the trouble.”

“I’ll drop in some other time,” said Morrison Pickens.

Mick Watts rose, and staggered, and picked up a bottle from under his chair, and took a long drink, and straightening himself to his full height, raising the bottle, swaying, said solemnly:

“A great quest. The quest of the hopeless. Why are the hopeless ones always those to hope? Why do we want to see it, when we’re luckier if we don’t even suspect that it could ever be seen? Why does she? Why does she have to be hurt?”

“Good day,” said Morrison Pickens.

The last place Morrison Pickens visited on the lot was the dressing room bungalow of Kay Gonda. Miss Terrence, her secretary, sat in the reception room as usual. Miss Terrence had not heard from Kay Gonda for two days, but she appeared at the bungalow promptly on the dot of nine and sat at her spotless glass desk till six. Miss Terrence wore a black dress with a blinding white collar. She wore square, rimless glasses and her nails were shell-pink.

Miss Terrence knew nothing about Miss Gonda’s disappearance. She had not seen Miss Gonda since her trip to Santa Barbara, two days ago. She supposed, however, that Miss Gonda had been back at the studio, after that dinner, sometime during the night. For when she, Miss Terrence, had entered the bungalow on the following morning she had found that from among Miss Gonda’s fan mail, six letters were missing.

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