His Name, He Said ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Velma Durfee had, at one time, a husband, but he was long gone. The only thing she had to remember him by was a son, Chester, and a daughter, Camille. Chester was seven and Camille nine. The three of them—Velma, Chester and Camille—lived in a small frame house between the railroad tracks and the sewage treatment plant. Velma was employed as office assistant to an osteopathic doctor with a large walk-in practice in town, in the upper floor of an old building across from the county courthouse.
As a single mother, Velma did her best but she sometimes felt that she wasn’t equal to the task. She didn’t much like the kind of life she was living. She was lonely and she didn’t have enough money to live the way she wanted to live. To keep from being depressed, she took tranquilizer pills that her employer doctor provided to her without a prescription. And, whenever the opportunity presented itself, she complemented the tranquilizer pills with beer, wine, and sometimes whiskey straight out of the bottle in copious proportions.
One day she met a man. He was muscular, tall and good-looking, with red-brown hair and perfect teeth. He was, she believed, the man she had been waiting for all her life. His name was Charles Leland Jaffe—always Charles, never Charlie or Chuck. He asked her out on a date and, when that date went so well, he asked her out again and again.
All at once she developed a new outlook on life. She woke up in the morning with a smile on her face and she kept the smile throughout most of the day, even through the most difficult days of car trouble, payments in arrears, and three-day measles. The number-one thought on her mind was when she was going to see Charles Leland Jaffe again.
He had a room in a hotel, causing Velma to think that he was very likely not going to be around for very long. When she asked him where he had been and where he was going, he told her the place he had come from became irrelevant as soon as he left it and the place he was going to was never known. He had a way with words that she had never before known in a man.
And he was always a gentleman. All the other men she had ever gone out with were only counting the minutes until they could take advantage of her, but Charles Leland Jaffe was different. He was polite and respectful and never, ever put his hands on her in an inappropriate way. Even when they were dancing, he always behaved with impeccable propriety.
Velma was in love. She believed that marriage was imminent, and it had all happened so fast, in a matter of two weeks or less. She figured that Charles Leland Jaffe was waiting for the right time to ask her to marry him. He would take her away from the town she had lived in all her life, and she would escape her dreary life and it was all going to be so wonderful. Chester and Camille would at last have the father they deserved and would have advantages in life that Velma alone would never have been able to give them.
On a Friday afternoon, Charles Leland Jaffe picked Velma up from the doctor’s office where she worked. It had been raining all day and had turned much colder. Velma wasn’t feeling well; she had developed a cough and a headache. She had had a run-in with a patient that day and the patient reported her to the doctor for being rude and unprofessional. The doctor, usually so kind and genial, had taken the patient’s side and had given Velma a dressing-down that had left her shaken and angry.
In his intuitive way, Charles Leland Jaffe knew that Velma was in a low state and on the verge of being ill. He kept a small brown bag in the back of his car. In the bag, he said, he had something that would make Velma feel much better in a very short time.
As she watched him prepare the injection, she rolled up her sleeve and allowed him to apply the tourniquet to her upper arm, there in the front seat of his car parked on busy Main Street. She felt the needle going into her arm and it was a delicious kind of hurt. Within minutes, she felt wonderful; energy and goodwill were coursing throughout her body and all the bad feelings had dissipated.
He took her to a wonderful restaurant and they had a lovely meal. The food tasted better than any food Velma had ever eaten. Charles Leland Jaffe ordered a bottle of good wine and the two of them drank the entire bottle. When they left the restaurant, he took her to his hotel room, where they spent the night in his bed, and the experience was wonderful beyond words. This is what my life will be like from now on, Velma told herself.
Velma continued to see Charles Leland Jaffe on a regular basis. They had happy times together. He introduced her to good music, foreign films and abstract art. Anytime Velma was not feeling as well as she might, Charles Leland Jaffe gave her one of his injections. When she asked him what the injections were, he told her it was a combination of life-giving drugs and would never harm her in any way. She told him she didn’t want to get addicted to anything that came out of a needle and he laughed at her. Nothing to worry about, he said. Everybody needs something now and then to help them grapple with life.
Still Charles Leland Jaffe said nothing about marriage, but Velma wasn’t worried. She didn’t want to rush things; above all, she didn’t want to scare him off. Now that she had found him, she wasn’t going to let him go. She was so happy and she knew that nothing but good times awaited her. She drank almost all the time when she was alone, and when she was with Charles Leland Jaffe she insisted he give her one of his life-giving injections. She shunted the care of her children off on neighbors and an old aunt or two who knew something was wrong with didn’t know what to do about it.
On a Friday evening in late October, Velma went out on the town with Charles Leland Jaffe. They had a steak dinner in a candlelit restaurant and then went to a nightclub where they listened to music and danced. Velma knew she was drinking too much for her own good, but everything felt so good, she just wasn’t going to impose any restrictions on herself. For his part, Charles Leland Jaffe had only a drink or two and didn’t overdrink.
About eleven o’clock, Charles Leland Jaffe told Velma he wanted to see the doctor’s office where she worked. There’s nobody there, she said. That’s all right, he said. We can make love on the examining table in the examining room. Nobody will ever know, but every time you look at it you’ll remember what we did and feel good about it.
Velma couldn’t bring herself to say no to anything Charles Leland Jaffe wanted to do. She got in the car with him and he drove to the building on Main Street where she worked and he parked the car on the street right in front of the office. Since it was after eleven o’clock on Friday night, the only people around were high school kids in cars wanting to be seen by other high school kids in cars.
She took the keys out of her purse and unlocked the downstairs door and they went up the stairs in the dark, holding hands. Better not to turn on too many lights, she said. Somebody might notice and suspect we’re burglars. Walking through the dark quiet building with nobody there only added to the excitement and feeling of adventure.
There were two more doors to unlock before they were in the doctor’s office proper. The first thing they saw were rows of empty seats in the waiting room. This is it, she said. It’s not very exciting, I’m afraid.
He wanted to see the rooms where the doctor saw patients. There were two examining rooms at either end of the office. They were small and full of chairs, low white cabinets, and medical equipment. On the walls were medical charts. Charles Leland Jaffe appeared to be impressed. I want to see where the drugs are kept, he said.
Velma found the keys on the key ring that opened the big drug closet that was always kept locked, even during business hours. When she opened the door, Charles Leland Jaffe whistled through his teeth, a sound she had never heard him make before. That is a lot of drugs, he said. About three quarters of a million dollars’ worth, she said. Osteopathic doctors always dispense drugs from their offices. Patients love them for it.
They heard a sound out in the hallway that was probably the night watchman. I don’t want him to see me here, Velma said. He’ll tell the doctor and I’m in enough hot water as it is.
So, Velma and Charles Leland Jaffe left the doctor’s office. Velma relocked the doors and after she checked and rechecked them to make sure they were locked, they got back into Charles Leland Jaffe’s car and he drove to his hotel. In his room, they talked for a while and then Charles Leland Jaffe produced his little brown bag. He prepared an injection and Velma bared her arm without a word. After the injection was delivered, they both undressed and got into the big bed.
In the morning when she woke up she knew that something wasn’t as it should be. She looked at the clock and saw it was after nine o’clock. She got out of the bed, surprised to find herself naked, and when she looked around the room from a standing position she knew the room wasn’t the same as it had been when she went to sleep. She had the unsettling feeling that she was in a different room altogether.
After a minute of trying to clear her head and remember what had happened, Velma realized that the thing about the room that was different was that all of Charles Leland Jaffe’s clothes and personal effects were gone, his suitcases, his shoes and his shaving articles from the bathroom. Also gone were her clothes that she had draped over a bedside chair when she took them off, and her purse.
She called down to the front desk. I’m looking for Mr. Charles Leland Jaffe, she said to the desk clerk. Mr. Jaffe checked out about two this morning, the clerk said. Did he leave a message or say where he was going? People checking out never tell us where they’re going.
She wrapped herself in bedsheets and, barefooted, went downstairs in the elevator and got herself a cab to go home. People stared at her, but she barely noticed and didn’t care.
When the osteopathic doctor opened his office on Monday morning, he saw that the drug closet had been cleared out, about three-quarters of a million dollars’ worth of drugs. When Velma didn’t show up for work, the doctor called her at home and received no answer. The next call he made was to the police. I know what she did, he said, and I never would have believed her capable of such a thing.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp