The Informers


“I think he wants to talk to you.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve seen him a couple of times.” Sheldon shrugs. “Around.”

“Jesus,” I’m saying. “I don’t want to see that creep.”

A young Mexican boy clears away our water glasses.

“Cheryl, most people I know will speak to their ex-husband if their ex-husband wants to speak to them. It’s no biggie. What is this? You can’t even talk to him on the phone?”

“He can get hold of me at the station,” I say. “I don’t want to talk to William. He’s pathetic.” I’m looking out the window again, at two teenage girls with short blond hair, wearing miniskirts, who are walking by with a tall blond boy and the boy reminds me of Danny. It isn’t that the boy looks exactly like Danny—he does—it’s more the apathetic shuffle, the way he checks himself out in the window of this restaurant, the same pair of Wayfarers. And for a moment he takes off his sunglasses and stares right at me even though he doesn’t see me and his hand runs through short blondish hair and the two girls lean up against the palm tree Sheldon was staring at and light cigarettes and the boy puts his sunglasses back on and makes sure they are not crooked and turns away and walks down Melrose and the two girls leave the palm tree and follow the boy.

“Know him?” Sheldon asks.

William calls me at the station around three. I’m at my desk working on a story about the twentieth anniversary of the Kitty Genovese slaying when he calls. He tells me that my phone has been busy lately and that we should have dinner one night this week. I tell him that I’ve been busy, tired, that there’s too much work to complete. William keeps mentioning the name of a new Italian restaurant on Sunset.

“What about Linda?” I realize I should not have said this, that it will give William the idea that I might be considering his offer.

“She’s in Palm Springs for a couple of days.”

“What about Linda?”

“What about her?”

“What about Linda?”

“I think I’ve missed you.”

I hang up the phone and stare at pictures of Kitty Genovese’s body and William doesn’t call back. In makeup, Simon talks about a screenplay he’s working on about break-dancing in West Hollywood. Once the news begins I stare straight into the camera and hope that Danny is watching since it’s really the only time he ever looks at me. I smile warmly before each commercial break even if it’s grossly inappropriate and at the end of the broadcast I’m tempted to mouth “Good night, Danny.” But at the Gelson’s in Brentwood I see a badly burned little boy in a basket and I remember the way William said “I think I’ve missed you” right before I hung up on him and when I come out of the market the sky is light and too purple and still.

There is a white VW Rabbit parked next to Danny’s red Porsche in the driveway, which is parked next to a giant tumbleweed. I drive past the cars and park my Jaguar in the carport and sit there for a long time before I get out and carry the bag of groceries inside. I set them on the kitchen table, then open the refrigerator and drink half a Tab. There is a note on the table from the maid, written in broken English, about William calling. I walk over to the phone, unplug it and crumple the note up. A boy, maybe nineteen, twenty, with short blond hair and tan, wearing only blue shorts and sandals, walks into the kitchen, stopping suddenly. We stare at each other for a moment.

“Uh, hello?” I say.

“Hi,” the boy says, starting to smile.

“Who are you?”

“Um, I’m Biff. Hi.”

“Biff” I ask. “You’re Biff?”

“Yeah.” He begins to back out of the kitchen. “See you around.”

I stand there with the note about William still crumpled in my hand. I throw it away and walk up the stairs. The front door slams shut and I can hear the sound of the VW Rabbit starting, backing out of the driveway, moving down the street.

Danny is lying under a thin white sheet on my bed, staring at the television. Wadded-up pieces of Kleenex are scattered on the floor by the side of the bed, next to a deck of tarot cards and an avocado. It’s hot in the room and I open the balcony doors, then walk into the bathroom, change into my robe and move silently over to the Betamax and rewind the tape. I look over my shoulder at Danny, still staring at the TV screen I’m blocking. I press Play and a Beach Boys concert comes on. I fast-forward the tape and press Play. There isn’t anything on it except for the Beach Boys.