The long Saturday night - By Charles Williams


The day it began was January 5th. I’d gone hunting that morning, and it was a little after one P.M. When I got to the office.

Clebourne’s the main street, and the central business district is about seven blocks long. Warren Realty is in the second block from the west end, with J.C. Penney’s on one side and Fuller’s cafe on the other, and, except that it’s mine, it could be any small-town real estate office anywhere—the plate glass window with a few of the current listings posted in it, a split-leaf philodendron here and there, two salesmen’s desks forever cluttered with papers, and, as a sort of focal point like the medulla oblongata of the human nervous system, another desk with a typewriter, several telephones, a Notary sign, and a girl who knows where everything is buried, including the bodies. The girl in this case is Barbara Ryan, if girl is the correct term for a 30-year-old divorcee. She has reddish mahogany-colored hair that always seems a little tousled, a wide mouth in a rather slender face, cool blue eyes, and an air of good-natured cynicism, as though she were still fond of the human race in spite of the fact she no longer expected a great deal of it. When I came in she was alone in the office, speaking into one of the telephones.

“Just a moment, please. Here’s Mr. Warren now.” Then she added, “It’s long distance.”

That was probably Frances now, calling to say she was on her way home. I’d tried twice the night before to call her, but she hadn’t come back to the hotel. “Thanks,” I said. “I’ll take it inside.” I went back to my office and closed the door, grabbing up the phone as I dropped into the chair behind the desk. “Hello.”

It was Frances. “Really, John,” she said petulantly, “do you have to bark? Didn’t the girl tell you it was me?”

Here we go again, I thought. She should realize by this time that the only way I can speak over a telephone is abruptly; I’ve tried, but I can’t change it. Also, she knew Barbara’s name as well as I did, and I could see no reason for referring to her as “the girl.” I brushed aside the annoyance. “Sorry, honey. I tried to get you last night—”

“Yes. I know. But after the concert, the Dickinsons wanted to do Bourbon Street, so it was after three when I got back to the hotel, and it was too late to call back then. I just woke up; in fact, I’m still lying here in bed.”

I thought of the way she looked lying in bed, the swirl of dark hair across the pillow, the blue-green eyes in the beautifully made and sensuous face, the long smooth legs, and began to feel more than ever like an underprivileged husband. “What time are you starting back? Are you all packed?”

“No-o, dear. That’s one reason I called; I’m thinking of staying over till Sunday.”


“The Dickinsons have invited me to dinner tonight. And tomorrow there’s a cocktail party—”

“But, dammit, honey, you’ve been gone a week now.”

“Well, really, John, it’s just two more days. And you’ll probably be duck-hunting anyway.”

“No. I was out this morning—” I stopped; there was no use arguing about it. Even if I got her to change her mind, it wouldn’t be any good. She’d arrive in a bad mood and there’d be an argument, or several days of sweet martyrdom, which was worse. Maybe I was being selfish, anyway. “Okay, honey. But make it Sunday, will you?”

“Of course, darling.” There was a slight pause, and then she added, “Oh, by the way, I’ll probably have to cash a check today.”

“Sure,” I said. “How much?”

“Do I hear five hundred?” she asked playfully. “I have to do some shopping, and that’s a nice round number.”

“Good God!”

“Was that another bark, dear, or more in the nature of a growl?”

“It was a grunt,” I said. “I was getting up off the floor. Look, honey, you’ve got every credit card known to man, and charge accounts at most of the stores down there.” I was about to add that she’d also had six hundred in cash when she left here, but thought better of it and didn’t.

“But I don’t have any account at this shop, dear,” she explained patiently, “and they have the most adorable suit, and the accessories. It’s a Balenciaga copy, and I think I have the figure for it.”

She knew damned well she did. “As I