The Day is Done

It's nothing personal - Editor

by Allen Kopp

I knew Mrs. Beaufort on sight. She was a frumpy, middle-aged woman who had probably been pretty in her day, except that her day was past. I was surprised when she called me on the telephone and asked me to come out to her house. Strictly business, she said. I knew there would be money involved—quite a lot of money, I hoped—so I told her I’d be there at the time she indicated. I had experienced several reversals—failures, if you know what I mean—so I had been praying for just the kind of opportunity I hoped this would be: one that would pay me a maximum amount of money with a minimum amount of involvement and risk.

I had been doing some investigative work for years that allowed me to remain on the sidelines of the criminal underworld. I could go either way—I could tip off the police or I could perjure myself in court; I could provide a hiding place for somebody on the lam or help a murderer get across the border if there was enough in it for me. I had done some work for Mrs. Beaufort’s husband. Work he called “under the table” because it was work he didn’t want anybody to know about. That’s how Mrs. Beaufort knew about me and my reputation.

I had a feeling it would not be a good idea for people to see my car parked at Mrs. Beaufort’s house, so I took the bus out there and when I got off the bus I walked about four blocks to her place. It was raining but I was prepared for it; I was wearing a raincoat and a hat and carrying an umbrella. I looked as nondescript as I could.

The Beauforts lived in the biggest, fanciest house I had ever seen. It was like a house out of a dream, the kind of house that rich people in movies live in. There must have been thirty or forty rooms. When I rang the bell, I expected a butler to open the door, but Mrs. Beaufort opened it herself. She smiled at me and waved me in with the gracious air of a hostess. She took my coat and hat and ushered me into the most beautiful sitting room I had ever seen and pointed to a white sofa where she wanted me to sit. When I was comfortable, she offered me a glass of champagne. I had tasted champagne once or twice before in my life. She gave me the impression she had it every day of her life.

While sipping champagne—she made sure my glass stayed nearly full—we talked idly of this and that: the weather and the stock market, music and movies. I found her a smart and witty woman—a good companion on a rainy night when all you want is somebody to talk to. Pretty soon we were swapping stories of our childhoods and telling each other things we ordinarily would never tell anybody. She had been a tomboy who hated music lessons and briefly, in her youth, entertained the notion of becoming a nun. I told her the sad tale of my disadvantaged youth and how I had run away from home and lied about my age to get a job as a longshoreman. What I told her was mostly true but I wasn’t above adding a few embellishments.

After I had been sitting on the white sofa for an hour or so and the big grandfather clock chimed, reminding me of the passage of time, I suddenly remembered I was there for a reason other than reminiscing about my past. I asked Mrs. Beaufort what it was she had wanted to see me about.

She became serious and sat down beside me. She said she liked me and trusted me. She told me her husband had spoken well of me on several occasions and had found me reliable and amenable. I thanked her for the compliment and set my glass on the side table.

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