Hank Snyder is a man with a taste for the finer things in life. He likes his suits expensive, his Scotch top-notch, and his women young and alluring. The pounding rain is an irritant, but he won't let the elements interfere with his weekly rendezvous with love or, at the very least, lust. Despite the damp beginning, the matinee plays out as it does every Wednesday. The ever efficient waiter knows what drinks to bring, and Hank's lovely companion charms him with the same joking patter they share every time they meet for lunch before heading to the motel. But today's tryst has a twist, one that will see our neatly starched Romeo laid out instead of laid. What or who killed Hank Snyder? That remains to be discovered, but with Perrin's penchant for description, tight narration, and ability to immerse his reader in a believable scene, he obviously has the skills to entertain us as we find out.
Hank Snyder sat in his car, a light blue Buick Riviera and listened to the rain pounding on the roof. The rain had just barely started as he drove into the parking lot of the Purple Passion, but by the time he found a place to park, it sounded like machine gun fire reverberating on the roof. It was one of those sudden summer storms that seem to come from nowhere and overwhelm everything on the earth and in the sky.
Snyder lit a cigarette while he waited for the rain to let up, but the water continued to fall relentlessly. He glanced at his watch and looked out the window. The rain was so heavy that he could barely see the entrance of the Purple Passion only fifty or sixty yards away. He put his cigarette out and glanced at his watch again. He pulled the cigarette pack out his jacket pocket. He looked at it for a minute, turning it over in his hand before putting it back in his pocket. He was a thin man, his features too angular to be considered attractive, but he was very neat. His shoes were highly polished. He wore French cuffs with expensive looking cuff links. His light gray suit was obviously well made and expensive.
He looked out toward the entrance of the restaurant again. The rain didn’t seem to have let up much, but Snyder got out of the car anyway and ran toward the door. Someone saw him running and held the door open. Several people were just inside the restaurant, waiting for the rain to let up so they could leave.
Snyder went to the rest room and dried his face and head as well as he could with paper towels. He could feel the dampness on his shoulders where the rain had penetrated through his jacket and shirt. He went to the dining room where the hostess greeted him and showed him to a table near the windows. The rain did not seem to be coming down so hard now, and the sky was not quite as black as it had been.
A waiter came over, a thin, dark-haired young man. “Good afternoon, Mr. Snyder,” he said. “Can I get you anything from the bar?”
“Yes, Robert. The usual.”
In a few minutes Robert was back with a Cutty Sark and soda, which he placed in front of Snyder, and a martini, which he put at the opposite place.
“It really came down there for a while,” the waiter said as he put the drinks on the table.
I guess. It didn’t look like it was ever going to end.”
But it was just about over already. The sun was trying to come out from behind the clouds. The rain drops were so sparse that an agile person could almost dodge between them.
At that point Snyder saw a young woman hurrying across the parking lot to head toward the Purple Passion. She wore a broad-brimmed white hat over her blonde hair and an elegant white dress that was just a little too short to be stylish, but which showed her well-shaped legs to advantage.
In a short time the young blonde woman was at Snyder’s table. He rose from his seat to greet her. He took her hand and held it for a moment while he devoured her with his eyes. He lifted her hand to his face and held it to his cheek.
“God, I’ve missed you,” he said.
“Me too. Let’s skip lunch and go right to the motel.”
They both smiled. It was a little joke between them. One or the other of them said that every Wednesday afternoon, but they always ate lunch before they went to the motel.
When Robert came back, he recommended the broiled scallops. Both Snyder and the young woman followed his suggestion, but when the meal came, Snyder ate one scallop and toyed with his food for a while. Then he forced himself to eat another, but he could not make himself eat a third.
Halfway through her meal the young woman realized that Snyder wasn’t eating.
“What’s wrong, Hank?” she asked. “Don’t you feel well?”
“I’m okay. I’ve just lost my appetite for some reason”
“Oh, I know you, you dirty thing. You just want to hurry up and get to the motel,” she smiled.
He smiled back weakly. He pushed another scallop around on his plate and speared it with his fork, but he couldn’t bring himself to lift it to his mouth. He put the fork down and lit a cigarette.
By that time the young woman had finished her lunch.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Hank? You look awfully pale.”
“I’ll be okay. I’m just going to the rest room. I’ll be right back.”
He managed another weak smile, put out his cigarette, and began walking, slowly and little unsteadily, toward the rest room. Just before he got there, he collapsed. The young woman, who had been watching him, saw him fall. She gave a little cry and ran to him.
Several people had gathered around the fallen man. One woman said, “Let me help. I’m a nurse.”
The nurse listened to his shallow breathing and took his pulse, which was weak and erratic. His skin now was not merely pale but absolutely white. The young blonde woman could see the blue veins in his forehead.
The nurse looked up and said, “You better call an ambulance. This man is very sick.”
By the time he got to the hospital, he had turned blue. The young blonde woman didn’t go to the hospital with him, but over the next two days she called every few hours to inquire about him.
Snyder never did regain consciousness. Two days after he was taken to the hospital, he died. The doctors were completely baffled. They had no idea what had caused his death.