Vandyk

There were six dollars in the wallet and a student ID that had expired seven years ago. Paul Brofman, the name was, and he looked back at her with the smug, awkward look that Vandyk remembered from kids in her own college days.

He was maybe thirty, thirty-one now, and the eleven years that had passed since the picture was taken hadn’t improved his looks much. He would have been awkward and too-eager, she thought, when he was alive; even in death his face held a trace of excitable self-interest. In his inner coat pocket she found a little notebook filled with self-quotations; his observations were shallow and his wit stale, which as an epitaph she found almost tragically pathetic.

That was all. Nothing there to tell her what he’d wanted, if he’d wanted anything. She eased him back down and went inside to call the police. Six dollars wasn’t nearly her rate.

Vandyk

With slow steady patience Vandyk separates out the seeds and the stems, twists the paper between her hands and lights the reefer. She smokes two a day: one in the morning, and one just before she closes up. She just recently switched over from cigarettes because she was starting to get worried about her lungs. She doesn’t want the cannabis nearly so much, nearly so often.

It helps her concentrate on details. Usually paperwork. She spends the first couple of hours of the day going over her files, writing reports, dunning notices, that kind of thing. She polishes her billing letters to a deadly edge, mind calm and peaceful and blue, and sends them off. The responses — usually with money — are hilarious. Handwriting shaky, wind gone completely out of their sails.

She has her secretary send back the overpayments. No note. No note is scarier. Oh god, they must think, if she doesn’t want money, what in god’s name does she want?


Vandyk smiles to herself, lights her second and last joint of the day, and watches the sunset reflected off the buildings across the street. Only what I’m owed.

Vandyk

Asleep like the curl of a fist. Dreams of the ocean, of forever purple deeps, of light so far down.

Alarum.

Black peep of eyes through lashes gummed with sleep. Grit at the corners, foul taste in the mouth. Headache. Hands and feet bloodless and cold; hot water from sink burns them into life while the toilet flushes. Rumpled face in mirror, tongue thick and coated, “Mlarghaw.”

Shower needles. Stand up, bend down, head to toe, stretch, shake, awake. Breakfast is cereal and raisins; outside the birds are alive in the trees, and the sunlight comes through the windows golden as butter, or wild honey. She takes cream in her coffee.

As she is leaving the house the alarm goes off again, the Selby Tigers shouting. As she is opening her car door Sam throws open the window and leans out, naked and gilded by the sunlight. “Be careful, Van! I love you!”

She blows him a kiss as she drives away, settles the fedora a little more firmly on her head. There were puzzles out there.

Vandyk

Sam and I were having sex when Charlie Kane was killed. The two weren’t connected except in point of time, but, working it out later, that’s how it was. We were finished about the same time he was through dying. The phone rang a few minutes later, while we were spread out next to each other, pleasantly exhausted. Sam grumbled, “Ah, can’t they leave us alone?” and the bedside clock said 3:27 when I reached over him for the buzzing phone. The voice on the other end said, “Ms. Vandyk?” and I said yes and they said Charlie’d been killed. I said I’d be down in thirty minutes.

Sam grumbled some more to please me and made comments that were meant to be funny while I was getting dressed to annoy me and asked if he shouldn’t come along. “No,” I said. “You go to sleep. This’ll take a couple of hours, maybe more.” He promised to take me out to breakfast when I got back and was asleep before I left the room. Sam’s awfully sweet but he sleeps more than any man I’ve ever had. But, like a cat, he’d fall asleep quickly and wake up equally quickly, which was nice, what with my hours being so irregular.