eliminated his ability to think like a fox.
Cunningly, he squeezed shut his left eye. “One,” he said. “Two…three…”
With each step Orwell took across the grass, his perspective seemed to shift and jump, the horizon tilted, and the relative positions of the ships was altered radically. Also, there was a tugboat off to his right somewhere, and the monotonous throbbing of the powerful diesel engines was giving him a killer headache.
They were almost at her car when Parker said, “You finish counting yet?”
“Just about,” said Orwell. Cannily, he said, “How about you, what’d you get?”
“Eleven,” said Parker.
Orwell dived headlong for the opening. “Me too,” he said. “On the nose.”
They were very close to the car now, crossing the parking lot side by side. Parker fumbled in her bag for her keys, dropped them jangling to the asphalt. Orwell knelt and scooped them up, lost his balance and had to brace himself. He gave her the keys. To his left, a sloppily parked Corvette was crowding the Volkswagen. Orwell had trouble opening the car’s door wide enough to get in.
Parker turned the key in the ignition. The black skirt had ridden high up on her thighs. She appeared to be unaware of how much leg she was showing, and Orwell decided not to notice. He wasn’t going to pop the question in the car. Instead, he was going to suggest that they go back to his apartment for a nightcap. Once there, he’d turn down the lights, pour a couple of stiff brandies, mix in some mood music and pick his spot.
Parker revved the engine, put the Volks in reverse and gently let out the clutch. The car started to creep backwards. She spun the wheel with both hands, arcing the nose away from the Corvette.
Orwell couldn’t stop himself. He leaned across the seat and put his hand on her thigh, nuzzled her neck and tried to stick his tongue in her ear.
“Cut it out, Eddy.”
Parker pushed him away. There was the loud crunch of metal impacting on metal, the snap-crackle-pop of safety glass shattering. The Volkswagen lurched to an abrupt stop, rocked on its springs, and was still.
“Nice going,” said Parker. “Really terrific.”
“Hey,” said Orwell, “it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t driving.”
Parker shifted from reverse to first gear, gave the Volkswagen enough gas to disengage. More glass tinkled on the pavement. She turned off the engine and reached across Orwell to flip open the glove compartment. There was a flashlight in there somewhere. It was about the size of her little finger, and the battery was weak, but the thing worked. She got out of the car to assess the damage.
The vehicle she’d hit was parked on her side of the Volkswagen. It was a jet black Econoline van, and the front bumper looked as if someone had hit it with a bowling ball. Parker tried the door. It wasn’t locked. She opened the door and sat down on the edge of the bucket seat, half in and half out of the van, her legs dangling. She aimed the yellow beam of the flashlight at the steering column, looking for the registration papers. Incidental light gleamed on dark plastic, chrome trim. A row of glass disks on the dashboard shone like mirrors.
The beam of the flashlight moved along. And stopped.
Parker’s mind registered the tangle of stripped wires and the alligator clips dangling beneath the steering-wheel. She saw a rumpled suitcoat, and among the folds of dark green cloth a shining length of metal that looked like the barrel of a gun, but on closer inspection proved to be nothing more sinister than an empty aluminium cigar tube.
The weakening beam moved over and down, across a blizzard of Kleenex, the tissue stained dark red.
There was a noise behind her. She turned and saw Orwell getting out of the Volks.
“Stay right there, Eddy. Don’t move an inch.”
“Why,” said Orwell. “What’s the problem?”
Crouching, Parker directed the faltering cone of light into the back of the van. The glossy pages of a
Bill Johnston Witold Gombrowicz