Hell Hath No Fury - By Charles Williams


The first morning when I showed up on the lot he called me into the office and wanted me to go out in the country somewhere and repossess a car.

“I’m tired of fooling with that bird,” he said. “So don’t take any argument. Bring the car in. Miss Harper’ll go with you and drive the other one back.”

I was working on commission, and there wasn’t any percentage in that kind of stuff. I’d just started to tell him to get somebody else to run his errands when I saw the girl come in and changed my mind.

He introduced us. “Miss Harper,” he grunted, shuffling through the papers on his desk. “Madox is the new salesman.”

“How do you do?” I said. She was cool in summer cotton and had very round arms, just slightly tanned, and somehow she made you think of a long-stemmed yellow rose.

She nodded and smiled, but when he told her about going with me to pick up the car I could see she didn’t like it.

“Can’t we wait a little?” she asked doubtfully. “I think I can collect those back payments. I did once before. Let me go out and talk to Mr. Sutton myself.”

He gestured curtly with the cigar. “Forget it, Gloria. We’ve got more to do than chase him all over hell every month to get our money. Bring in the car.”

We took a ‘50 Chewy off the lot and started out. I drove. “You’ll have to tell me where,” I said.

“Straight through town and south on the highway.”

The business district was only one street about three blocks long. There was a cotton gin beyond that, and a railroad station, with the tracks shining in the sun. It was just nine o’clock, but it was a bright, still morning with the smell of pine and hot pavement in the air.

She was very quiet. I turned and looked at her. She was sitting in the corner of the seat staring moodily at the road and the breeze set up by the car riffled gently through her hair. Any way you tried to describe the hair itself would make it sound like a thatched roof instead of the way it really looked. Maybe it was because it was so straight and wasn’t parted anywhere. It was the color of honey or of straw, with sun-burned streaks in it, and flowed down from the top of her head in a short bob with a kind of football helmet effect and on to her forehead with a V-shaped bang or whatever you call it. Her face was the same golden tan as her arms, and while I couldn’t see her eyes very well, I remembered the impression when we were introduced of an almost startling violet splashed into all those shades of honey.

“Cigarette?” I asked.

She took one. “Thank you,” she said. Her manner was friendly enough, but I could see something was bothering her.

“What’s with this repossession deal?” I asked. “He carry his own financing on the cars he sells?”

“Yes. He’s actually in the loan business. He just added the used-car lot the last year or so. Did you see that building right across the street from the lot, the Southland Loan Company? That’s Mr. Harshaw’s.”

“And you work in the loan office—is that it?” I hadn’t seen her around the lot yesterday when I got the job.

She nodded. “I run it for him. Most of the time, that is.”

“I see.”

We were silent for a moment, and then she asked, “Where are you from, Mr. Madox?”

“Me? Oh, I’m from New Orleans.” It would do as well as any.

We hit the highway and went on down it for another ten miles. There were heavy stands of timber along here, and not much farming land. I remembered from driving up yesterday that it shouldn’t be too far now to the long highway bridge over the river. We turned off to the right before we got to it, though, taking a dirt road which led uphill through heavy pine. At the top there were a couple of farms, abandoned now, their yards grown up with weeds and bullnettles and the unpainted buildings staring vacantly at the road. The land began to drop away on the west side of the ridge and then we were in the river bottom, driving under big oaks, and it was a little cooler. Most of the sloughs were dried up now, in midsummer, and when we came out to the river itself it was low, with the sandbars showing,