- A Crime of Opportunity
No matter how fast or how far she ran, she was never going to outrun herself. That was the sorry truth, Delilah thought. She was still here. She slowed on the last stretch through Golden Gate Park and found Mrs. Stowe—no, she had to remember, Renée—waiting where she said she’d be, by the windmill. They crossed the highway to the sidewalk along the seawall that paralleled the dunes. It was already dark at six, a November dark, a West Coast dark, nothing like New York in November, where you always seemed to be in the shadow of the buildings. And not as cold here, as if the wispy fog were insulation against the wind.
Where were they now? Even after five months in San Francisco she still got lost, running, day or night. She wasn’t sure what direction they were going now—north, south?—though she could hear the waves slap against the sandy beach. She didn’t want to seem anxious; Renée would say, “Okay, Delilah, what is it?” with that hint of impatience in her voice. Once she’d told Renée, “Prepare for the worst and it will never happen,” and Renée had come back with, “Preparation inhibits spontaneity. Forget those maxims, Delilah. You’re no longer in the Girl Scouts.”
She hadn’t taken her cell phone or her pager. Renée never commented, though, if she got a call from her office; Renée knew her job involved instant decisions at all hours. The plan tonight was that they would walk for a while and end up in a small neighborhood restaurant Renée knew about. She could phone in to the office from there, Delilah thought, to get the new euro high against the dollar.
Renée was in her storytelling mode, this time about her paleontologist husband’s first discovery in Patagonia. “We lived in one of those white canvas pyramid tents: I remember how the dozen or so guy lines would sing in the night wind. The place where Sonny had chosen to dig was a treasure trove of Pliocene-era fossils. The armadillo, by the way, has hardly changed at all in forty-five million years: it has stayed the same since the Eocene period, a [End Page 335] living fossil. We had twenty of the local Indians to work the site. Wonderfully conscientious men and women.”
Striding along in her British outfit, long tartan skirt, turtleneck sweater and camel-hair blazer, heavy brogans, her gray hair topped by a beret, Renée was becoming more English with each sentence. Her husband had been born in London. Clothes seemed made for her: she was tall, narrow, long-waisted like the models you saw in magazines. Extremely trim, though she ate like a horse. She was swinging her cane, her English shooting stick, she called it, that turned into a kind of stool when you stuck the metal spike at the end into the ground and opened the handle.
“Let’s stop for a minute so I can stretch.” She interrupted Renée’s story to steer them to a cement bench under a streetlight. She was warm in her sweats and twisted her fanny pack around so it didn’t stick into her side before she started her stretches. Renée paced in the square of light; she couldn’t sit still either. What was amazing was that Renée looked no more than forty, say, maybe fifty. But she had to be nearly eighty. One of her stories took place in 1939. Her face was almost unlined, though there was no sign of surgery. She had young breasts; Delilah had seen them when Renée was trying on a dress at Nordstrom’s. There were no liver spots on the backs of her hands.
There had been occasional passersby, a woman walking a dog, but now two men stopped. “Lovely evening,” one said. Renée stopped pacing but didn’t pause in her tale about discovering that she’d been sitting upon four vertebrae of a species never before found in South America. “Why don...