The pawnshop had just opened when I went there to steal a necklace for my daughter. I’d spotted it in the display case near the door, fourteen-karat gold, with red and green tourmalines. But just as I go inside, this woman clicks past me in her high-heeled boots and asks the clerk if he can suggest a gift for a six-year-old girl. She puts her black kidskin gloves on the glass counter. I can smell her hair. It smells like sex.
The clerk says he might have something. He turns his back to us. He slides open a wooden panel so he can reach into the window display.
“It’s for my daughter,” the woman says to his back. His pants don’t match the jacket of his suit.
She has black hair styled to frame her face, freckles on her nose, green eyes. She unzips her black coat. She’s wearing a white blouse and a thin gold chain around her neck.
The clerk turns from the window and sets a tray of necklaces on the counter. He points to one of them.
“This one’s a bloodstone,” he says. “Heliotrope, with inclusions of iron oxide. Kids like them.”
The woman touches the necklace but doesn’t pick it up. She has slender hands, a ring, a bracelet, a watch, all expensive. Nails the colour of cinnamon. Everything about her seems understated. Expensive women can afford not to show off.
“My ex-husband’s getting her a necklace,” she says.
The clerk turns his back again and pulls another tray from the window.
“How about a charm bracelet?” he says. “Children like charm bracelets.”
The woman frowns. “She’s had one for years.”
The clerk puts the trays back in the window and slides the wooden panel shut.
The woman walks out of the store. I pick up her gloves and follow her outside. I’ll come back later for my daughter’s necklace.
I catch up to her on the sidewalk. She unlocks the doors of a dark green Range Rover.
“You drive,” she says. She hands me the keys.
We drive north up Church Street.
“Grace,” she says. She holds her gloves in her lap.
Christ, I think. I wasn’t expecting names. I spot a camera store called Henry’s. A moment later we pass a paint shop called Irwin’s. “Henry,” I say. I smile. “Henry Irwin.” She doesn’t tell me her last name.
We drive to the Four Seasons. She charges the room to her credit card. The way I figure later, it cost two hundred dollars an hour.
I take the subway back downtown. I have to get back to my office before one o’clock. On the way, I stop at the pawnshop. The clerk doesn’t blink an eye when I come back. To most white men, all of us look the same. I tell him I want to see the necklaces in the window. Then I ask to see the bracelets. When he turns his back again, I take the necklace with the bloodstones instead of the tourmalines.
He was right. My daughter liked it.
I didn’t see Grace again for a week or two. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. She was too expensive. If we met again, I’d need money. I don’t steal money. Stealing money seems selfish. I steal jewellery. Then I give it away.
I thought of her, though. She was expensive, she was married, and she was corrupt. Hard to resist.
I knew how to get the money. I work downtown on the thirty-eighth floor of the TD Bank Tower. Two hundred of us work there, all of us in little cubicles under fluorescent lights, in the bank’s compliance office. We sit in front of computer screens and make sure the bank abides by all the laws that govern the way it operates. There are hundreds of them. The one I deal with confirms the identities of customers who deposit more than ten thousand dollars into a bank account. I’ve never made a ten-thousand-dollar deposit in my life. So many people have money. The only time I look out a window is when I meet with a manager. Managers get offices with a view. That’s how I knew it had started to rain on the day when I saw Grace again.
I meet with a manager once a month. She reviews my performance. My last manager quit three months ago. This one can’t remember my name until she looks at my file on her desk. Our meeting lasts ten minutes. She asks me a few questions and ticks boxes on a form. She meets with ten of us a day for a week, but she doesn’t know me any better than the others. Even in the office, we almost never run into each other. If it wasn’t written on the form, she wouldn’t know me from a hundred other people in this place.
At lunchtime I went downstairs. A concourse runs under all the big buildings. It was crowded down there. No one likes to go outside when it rains.
I was looking for a bench where I could sit down. I saw my manager walking toward me through the crowd. I looked straight at her. She glanced at me and kept walking. I turned around and followed her. I edged through the crowd until I passed her. Then I turned around again and looked right at her. She glanced at me and kept walking. I did it three times. She didn’t know who I was. I was one of a thousand people she would see that day and not recognize. It was perfect. I decided to go looking for Grace.
I let her find me. It wasn’t hard. I know where expensive women go. A hair salon near Rosedale. A boutique in Yorkville. A bistro on Queen Street. If I timed it right, she’d show up.
She was waiting by the curb outside a fancy grocery store called Pusateri’s. The parking guy pulled up in the Range Rover and put her groceries in the back. He held an umbrella over her head while she handed him a tip. When I walked up to her, she handed me the keys. “You drive,” she said, just like the first time.
We drove three blocks and turned onto St. Thomas. She told me she couldn’t spend time with me today, but her husband was away for two weeks. Maybe tomorrow, I said, or next week. A valet took the car. I don’t know what he did with the groceries. Now I’d seen where she lived. I had to get some money.
I waited for a blustery day. I left the office before noon. I walked a couple of blocks to a bank at King and York. I pointed with one hand inside my coat pocket and handed a note to the teller. She gave me a few thousand dollars. I don’t think I scared her much. We both knew I was being photographed. I put the money in a plastic shopping bag and went downstairs to the concourse. It was lunchtime. The place was teeming. I took off my coat. I didn’t have to hide. I knew that I didn’t stand out in a crowd. People shuffled shoulder to shoulder talking on their cellphones, hardly looking at each other. If you were tall enough, you could look over their heads. I wasn’t tall enough.
The next time I saw Grace, we were in the lobby of the Four Seasons. She was with another man. She left him standing by the elevators.
“I have money,” I said.
“I don’t care,” she said.
I held out the cash.
“Take it,” I said. “It’s yours.”
“I don’t need money.”
“If you don’t take it, you’ll never see me again.”
The other man came over. He looked at me with disinterest. His shoes needed polish.
“Let’s go,” she said.
I watched them get onto the elevator.
Later I took the money to the pawnshop and bought a charm bracelet for my daughter. I paid for it with hundred-dollar bills and told the clerk to keep the change.
“Thanks, Mr. Irwin,” he said. »
From subTerrain #68 (Pulp Fiction)