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Deep Water

Patricia Highsmith

First published in 1957

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1       3

Chapter 2       11

Chapter 3       15

Chapter 4       23

Chapter 5       27

Chapter 6       32

Chapter 7       36

Chapter 8       42

Chapter 9       48

Chapter 10       62

Chapter 11       71

Chapter 12       77

Chapter 13       85

Chapter 14       90

Chapter 15       98

Chapter 16       104

Chapter 17       107

Chapter 18       112

Chapter 19       119

Chapter 20       125

Chapter 21       133

Chapter 22       140

Chapter 23       145

Chapter 24       153

Chapter 25       158

Chapter 26       162

Chapter 27       166

Chapter 1

Vic didn't dance, but not for the reasons that most men who don't dance give to themselves. He didn't dance simply because his wife liked to dance. His rationalization of his attitude was a flimsy one and didn't fool him for a minute, though it crossed his mind every time he saw Melinda dancing: she was insufferably silly when she danced. She made dancing embarrassing.

       He was aware that Melinda twirled into his line of vision and out again, but barely aware, he thought, and it was only his familiarity with every physical detail of her that had made him realize that it was she at all. Calmly he raised his glass of Scotch and water and sipped it.

       He sat slouched, with a neutral expression on his face, on the upholstered bench that curved around the Mellers' newel post, staring at the changing pattern of the dancers and thinking that when he went home tonight he would take a look at his herb boxes in the garage and see if the foxgloves were up. He was growing several kinds of herbs now, repressing their growth by depriving them of half their normal sunlight and water with a view to intensifying their flavor. Every afternoon he set the boxes in the sun at one o'clock, when he came home for lunch, and put them back into the garage at three, when he returned to his printing plant.

       Victor Van Allen was thirty-six years old, of a little less than medium height, inclined to a general firm rotundity rather than fat, and he had thick, crisp brown eyebrows that stood out over innocent blue eyes. His brown hair was straight, closely cut, and like his eyebrows, thick and tenacious. His mouth was middle-sized, firm, and usually drawn down at the right corner with a lopsided determination or with humor, depending on how one cared to take it. It was his mouth that made his face ambiguous—for one could read a bitterness in it, too—because his blue eyes, wide, intelligent, and unsurprisable, gave no clue as to what he was thinking or feeling.

       In the last moments the noise had increased a decibel or so and the dancing had become more abandoned in response to the pulsing Latin music that had begun to play. The noise offended his ears, and still he sat, though he knew he could have wandered down the hall to his host's study and browsed among the books there if he had cared to. He had had enough to drink to set up a faint, rhythmic buzzing in his cars, not entirely unpleasant. Perhaps the thing to do at a party, or at any gathering where liquor was available, was to match your drinking with the augmenting noise. Shut the noise out with your own noise. You could set up a little din of merry voices right inside your head. It would ease a great many things. Be never quite sober, never quite drunk. 'Dum non sobrius, tamen non ebrius'. A fine epitaph for him, but unfortunately not true, he thought. The plain, dull fact was that most of the time he preferred to be alert.

       Involuntarily his eyes focused on the suddenly organizing pattern: a conga line. And involuntarily he found Melinda, smiling a gay catch-me-if-you-can smile over her shoulder, and the man over her shoulder—way over it and practically in her hair, in fact—was Joel Nash. Vic sighed and sipped his drink. For a man who had been up dancing until three last night, and until five the night before, Mr. Nash was doing very well.

       Vic started, feeling a hand on his left sleeve, but it was only old Mrs. Podnansky leaning toward him. He had almost forgotten she was there.

       "I can't thank you enough, Vic. You really won't mind picking it up yourself?" She had asked him the same thing five or ten minutes ago.

       "Of course not," Vic said, smiling, standing up as she got up. "I'll drop around tomorrow at about a quarter to one."

       Just then Melinda leaned toward him, across Mr. Nash's arm, and said almost in Mrs. Podnansky's face, though she looked at Vic, "Fuddy-duddy! Why don't you dance?" and Vic saw Mrs. Podnansky jump and recover with a smile before she moved away.

       Mr. Nash gave Vic a happy, slightly tipsy smile as he danced off with Melinda. And what kind of smile would you call that? Vic wondered. Comradely. That was the word. That was what Joel Nash had intended it to be. Vic deliberately took his eyes from Joel, though he had been on a certain train of thought that had to do with his face. It wasn't his manner—hypocritical, half-embarrassed, half-assed—that irritated him so much as his face. That boyish roundness of the cheeks and of the forehead, that prettily waving light-brown hair, those regular features that women who liked him would describe as not 'too' regular. Most women would call him handsome, Vic supposed. Vic remembered Mr. Nash looking up at him from the sofa as he handed him his empty glass for the sixth or eighth time last night, as if he were ashamed to be accepting another drink, ashamed to be staying fifteen minutes longer, and yet a certain brash insolence had predominated in his face. Up to now, Vic thought, Melinda's boyfriends had at least had more brains or less insolence. Joel Nash wouldn't be in the neighborhood forever, though. He was a salesman for the Furness-Klein Chemical Company of Wesley, Massachusetts, up for a few weeks of

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