Cover image for Some day tomorrow
Some day tomorrow
Freeling, Nicolas.
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First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000.
Physical Description:
204 pages ; 22 cm
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Hubertus van Bijl's family has a long and respected history in the Dutch flower trade. Now retired, Bert busies himself with a bit of puttering around the house and long walks in the Zandvoort dunes near the coast of Holland. His wife, Willy, is loyal and dutiful-always saying "Bless You" when he sneezes-though Bert accepts that passion has left the marriage long ago. But ripples of unease soon appear in the quietude: The local authorities are conducting a door-to-door investigation into the murder of Carla Zomerlust, a young student whose body is found along a dune path. Through a diary-like narrative, the reader learns that Bert is not the docile botanist he-and everyone who knows him-considers himself to be. In a novel that plumbs the depths of madness, Nicolas Freeling creates his most compelling and disturbing work to date in this chilling examination of crime from the inside out.AUTHORBIO: Nicolas Freeling, whose many awards include the Edgar, the Grand Prix de Roman Policier, and the Crime Writers Association Golden Dagger, lives in France.

Author Notes

Novelist Nicolas Freeling was born in London on March 3, 1927. After serving in the military and working as a cook, he began his first novel, Love in Amsterdam, while in prision for theft. He is best know for his Piet Van der Valk dective stories which inspired two television series. He also created the Henri Castang series and wrote numerous individual novels. He received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for The King of the Rainy Country. He also won the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers Association and France's Grand Prix de Roman Policier. He died on July 20, 2003 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The reader is invited inside the mind of a madman through the diary entries of a retired Dutch botanist, whose calm recitation of botanical facts, past loves, and present dull routine obscures a possible murder. Hubertus van Bijl, who lives with his wife in Haarlem Near the Sea, interrupts his first journal entry to record a visit from two cops, going door-to-door asking for information in the murder of a 20-year-old local girl. Hubertus knew the victim, recounting in his journal how they progressed from casual greetings in walks on the Zandvoort dunes to sexual encounters. The diary form allows Freeling to play cat and mouse with the reader; since so much is left unwritten, we must piece together the murder mystery through the deeper mystery of the placid, repellent botanist's character. Another quirky, demanding crime novel by Freeling, whose many awards include the Edgar and the Crime Writers Association Golden Dagger. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

Author of more than three dozen books, Edgar Award-winner Freeling remains willing to take chances and eschews the formulaic in this psychological tour de force. His narrator, Hubertus van Bijl, a 70-year-old retired Dutch flower grower, makes a rambling, broken confession, without chapter breaks. Just what Bert, as he calls himself, is confessing to is unclear, though the reader learns quickly of a young woman's murder and of Bert's routine questioning by the police. Sometimes ruminative, sometimes passionate, Bert paints a detailed self-portrait of a respectable Dutch businessman, husband, father and friendDwell educated and knowledgeable about many subjects. That portrait is juxtaposed with another that emerges more slowly, of a man approaching the end of his life. Shunted into retirement, Bert finds himself increasingly isolated. He speaks kindly, even affectionately, of his wife, Willy, but there is little warmth there. Bert's attempts at meaningful connections with a young woman, Lalage, and later with the wife of a friend are excruciating to watch. Closer questioning by the police, arrest and psychological testing do not break Bert's stoical resolve, but add weight to the narrative. (Dec. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One `I really must see about that one day quite soon.' People say this a lot, don't they. Everyone does, I suppose.     `I'll give you a ring to let you know, tomorrow absolutely definitely.' What you do know then is that he won't and probably never will.     There's of course a good English phrase to cover it, and that's `Jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow.' And it never is `Jam today'. Telephone to the doctor's office, or perhaps it should be the lawyer first, and say `It's urgent'. Suppose then he were to say `Come round straightaway; I can fit you in'? I'm trying to say that there has to come an end to this screwing oneself up.     Or a judge. I have a collection (I'll tell you more about this) of the old Penguin `green jackets'. You know, the detective stories. Those were in the days when they used to hand out death penalties.     So that I know about the judge who used to put on a black cap and say `You will be taken to the place from which you came, and from there --' He left it open, didn't say `On Tuesday fortnight' because there were bureaucratic formalities, have to get things organized, write a letter to the hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, lived up in Yorkshire. And to be sure there was an appeal for clemency to the Home Secretary, nasty job he had.     So you said `Tuesday fortnight, that's never.' But the only thing that's certain is that Tuesday fortnight always comes.     Perhaps, even then, the judge didn't like it. Had no choice, clear his throat, say `I pass the only sentence the law allows'. Jam tomorrow, and this time it's for sure. Count on it. No death penalty in Holland, hasn't been for quite a time. We still have a lot of deaths, though. Everyone lives to be a hundred, thinks they'll live for ever. Tomorrow though, or Tuesday fortnight.     Make a start. I, Hubertus van Bijl, born the 20th April 1930 at Haarlem, Netherlands. Being of sound mind, isn't that what one's supposed to say? Or is it `in full possession of my faculties' which isn't true either. Stilted rubbish. We used to have a schoolboy joke, that there was only one Haarlemse Wood but a great many Wooden Haarlemmers. We're a stiff formal people and our language is preposterous.     I've thought of a way to make this better. Put it in the third person; don't say `I', say `Bertus' and the narrative will be less stiff, less pompous. Less self-conscious? More human.     I'm not too sure I like it. Isn't that a way of saying `It wasn't me; it was this other fellow.' Isn't that what they all do? Saying no, I never, it was the shadow, the Doppelgänger, the Other. The real I, the real Bertus, is a respectable, a responsible -- oh this is hopeless, start again. It's all so banal and flat and dull and stupid.     Thought of something else: I'm going to do it in English. So often, even always, slightly astonished but invariably pleased -- `Bert, how come you speak English so well?' But we all do, though few as well as myself. Nothing weird about it, a Dutch businessman doesn't even think about it. Outside our own peculiar enclave nobody speaks Dutch, nobody'd want to try, it's an awkward language in the mouth and clumsy on paper, we've a great many talents but the `taal' isn't one of them. Indeed it's widely agreed, overcoming this obstacle is a factor in our success. We're good at business, at the international dealing and handling. This, and being a small folk in this little corner jammed up between Germany and France and England. Julius Caesar remarked upon it: Batavii are awkward bastards to deal with.     Listen to the Queen -- `onze Trix' -- we're proud of her. She speaks (to us) a lovely Dutch, elegant, musical. And in public as in private the easiest, natural English, or French, or German. A shade of accent which gives a pretty colouring, but no stumble, fumble, or mumble.     I can't compare with that. Only in English. In our business, England was a speciality. I was always good at it, lived there many years, worked hard at it. I'm fairly bright. `Our Trix' is quite a girl. Intelligent, educated, sophisticated, and so she should be. Considerable cow too on occasion but that's a Dutch remark. Born to the job and properly trained -- law, economics, political science. The House of Orange hasn't always been conspicuous for grey matter, but she has it, and to spare. And rich , god-help-us. It was in Forbes. We always thought of the English Crown as rich. And the Oranges are ten times richer, dear-god. And she has considerable artistic talent too. I'm considerably royalist and our House was even more so.     I'm Son to Bijl en Zoon. Planten & Bloemen Handel. I've made my mind up, I'm talking about Bert. Bert was the junior, then the senior, and now the retired, `Im Ruhestand' partner in and owner of a smallish but solid, respected house in the trade. And flowers, plants, this is as essentially Dutch as the Oranges are, and just as old and just as proud.     The original Hubertus van Bijl was this one's grandfather. Hubértus, the accent comes on the second syllable (in English, the first). Bijl, pronounce it Bile, subject of many an English joke. The `van' is the hard bit, it's neither `vann' nor `von' nor `vahn' -- exactly the sort of thing which makes this language impossible.     But notice the over-meticulous fuss about exactitude. Bert is a banal and a boring type. Not though the priggish and constipated little accountant who is always the subject of crime stories.     Crime! That's a word like `Love', so vague and loose in nature one can spend a lifetime trying to define it. My bookshelves of Penguin-crimes don't have much to do with the real thing. The newspapers are full of true-crimes right enough but they skip to something else, leave off just as it begins to be interesting. The public is thought, and taught, to have a short attention-span. There are the sensational movies and television series, filled with the most extreme violence, with all that in the human being is base, vile, evil. That is our entertainment industry.     We get, I suppose in consequence, a lot of talk about crime. It has to do with love, right enough, and when someone gets hauled into a law court, to answer for a criminal action, there will certainly be a cry set up about love withheld and love denied. True, and this becomes a whine of self-pity.     Just as much to do with too much love. Mostly a love of things, which is base, which we call greed. But short and simple words are out of fashion nowadays.     Responsibility is a longer word. We aren't taught, today, to answer for what we say and do. Self-control is thought to be bullshit. We give way, instead, to our `pulsions'; all of which are base.     Bert attempts to be responsible. To answer. That's what all this is about. It's an answer. He isn't, I hope, quite as prissy as he appears. He was brought up at least to believe in honesty in his dealings. To be honest with oneself seems to me an essential part of this. The realities are a little harsher but a little less trite and glib than the explanations.     The old Hubertus was just a gardener, with green fingers and of course a shrewd Dutch peasant sense of business. His son Jan was still a good gardener but that much more of a businessman.     Bert, the third generation, was good enough at the business angle. Trained by Jan, who had rough-and-ready rules, but pretty good ones such as always to answer a query, or fill an order the same day. Never tomorrow, never a day too late. This made of him a hard, honest, independent, successful and even wealthy businessman. Work all day, if necessary far into the evening. He came home then, dirty and smelling of sweat, and before sitting down to a meal he washed from head to foot. Backbone, you see? One stooped all day in the plant houses. It was always humid there. Rheumatisms and lumbago were occupational hazards. The back, and the nape of the neck, had to be solid.     The green-fingers gene is still little understood. Yes, Bert went to the University to study biology. The ADN work was then in infancy but he knows a bit about genetics. The most unexpected men and women have the gift. It's quite common and it's quite often inherited but you can't breed to it. Like faith-healing or second-sight, or even water-divining. Heredity or not, Bert didn't have it. I'd almost think the seeds of the decline were sown there.     What everyone does know, and it's not just genetics, is the rise and fall of the bourgeois class. They climb the social pyramid, and often in the third generation they slip back again. In the Trade everyone knew this much too about genetics, long before Mr Crick and his spiral -- you can breed for the decorative but you lose robustness. Roses are the simple example. The flashy, colourful hybrids are the ones who go and die on you. Word of common sense to any of you who happen to be suburban gardeners. Buy the old varieties, with as much as may be of the sturdy old stock in them. You can breed for colour, for shape, for the number of petals. For scent, for a longer stem, for less thorns, for resistance to disease or parasites. These will win prizes in shows. Sell well, make lots of money. Set a limit to your desire. That thorny old bugger in somebody's hedge which is always thick with buds and nobody knows what-the-hell it is -- take a cutting from that. Holds good for everything, right down to vines. When I'm in France I like to talk to the vigneron who has understood that less means more, and traditional old methods -- and no bloody chemicals -- give him the good juice.     I beg your pardon for the heated parenthesis. This rambling, Jan would have said and did, is a bad sign.     Jan felt himself a coarse and ignorant man. So Bert had to be educated, go to the lycée, the Gymnasium in Haarlem, get his baccalaureate, go on to the University in Amsterdam (from us, a thirty-minute tram ride and fifteen more on the bus). A goodish degree, languages (whose genetics have always fascinated me) and Botany, Horticultural Sciences. Bert can defend himself in German and in French, has a good smattering of Spanish and Italian (South America is important to us growers). Dictionaries remain one of his foremost interests, won't say `hobby'. Grandfather, whom he can recall, thought the boy not very bright. Useful in London, where he spent many years of his youth, as our agent on the spot, to buy and sell and exchange and learn. And then back in Holland ...     We are three generations (before that it becomes vague) of Zandvoorters. Haarlem is close to the sea. Along and behind the coastline, protecting us from the storms and the high tides which used to invade us, lies a broad stretch of sand dunes. Behind this again, between Haarlem and Leiden, is a streak, quite short and narrow, of (for us, in the Trade) the most famous land in the world, whose geology of soil and sand and shell and turf -- but you can read about this in any guidebook to the tulip-land. It is a great tourist attraction. On the coast are a few villages. Zandvoort is one, not quite at the centre of the world but for us who live there as near as makes no matter.     Willy came in. She wouldn't, while I am in here, unless she had a good reason -- or one she's sure I'll listen to.     `Huub.' I do so wish she wouldn't call me that. She really doesn't want to irritate me, while knowing perfectly that I detest it. `There are some policemen asking to see you, so I thought I'd better ...' True that one is always curious even if it's the bicycle licence. As well always to be polite to them. Please-do--sit-down. Ho, something speedier than the local constabulary.     `Sergeant Bout from the Serious Crimes Bureau and this is Detective Dycksma.' Thinnish, smallish, ears which stick out, quick little greeny-snot eyes.     `We're making a house-to-house enquiry on account of a girl missing, I dare say you heard, she lived close by, I'm sorry to say we've found her, dead, and the findings point to homicide.' Willy, if one were suddenly to jump out at her, might utter a squawk. Not now. Looks disapproving.     `With your permission --' (or without, no doubt) `I ask a few questions, brief, and Mr Dee here takes it down.' (Big smile, shorthand pad.) `Routine, asking everyone in the street same thing. Not to be in the least bothered, apologize for disturbing you, and for any personal nature questioning might seem to have.' A practised patter. `Is that clear? Do you have any objection?     `Very well then, need only say if you -- we should be so lucky -- turn-out-possess information relevant then Mr Dee types that up, comes round show-it-you, statement, you sign if you agree it's accurate, okay still so far?     `Right then, here's a photo supplied by her family, quite recent, name of Carla Zomerlust, lived along the road here, twenty years old, student at the university, d'you know her at all?'     `The face I think is familiar but I don't know her.'     `Lovely, perfect answer, short and lucid, easier for my friend here. Let's just check, de Heer van Bijl, given name Hubertus -- age? Profession? Retirement, good, that, observant witnesses -- now familiar how?' Snapshooting, he'll be good at that.     `Couldn't say. Like any neighbour I suppose, seen her in the street, shops maybe.'     `Caught your eye, like? How, would you suppose? Pretty girl?'     `Yes, perhaps, I don't recall in particular.'     `Appearance, manner? Attractive.'     `I doubt it. There are lots of young girls and they all look the same. You know -- jeans, long hair.'     `Never spoke to her?'     `I don't think so ... Did she have a dog?'     `Very good. That's her, took it out often.'     `Bouncy sort of woolly dog. I think I noticed that better than the girl.'     `Know the family at all -- mother, father, little brother?'     `Means nothing I'm afraid. Should I?'     `Not particular, couldn't say when you-saw-her-last?' Blank. `How about Wednesday evening?' Still blank.     `What else happened on Wednesday evening?' I wondered.     `It was raining.' Dutch giggles all round. `Not hard, bit of a drizzle.'     `Quite right. I went out, I walk every day, rain doesn't bother me unless there's a lot of wind. Which hereabout there often is.'     `Great. So did she go out? -- point is, she didn't come back. Did you perhaps see her then?'     `Not that I'd notice or remember.'     `Give me a rough idea of where you went, can you? Or even not so rough.'     `Much as usual, a routine with me. Round the outside of the village, Brederodestraat, along the dunes there --'     `Go into the dunes, at all?'     `No, skirting along, up to the Zuiderbad corner and back along the seafront.'     `Nobody walking a dog?'     `I wonder. There often is a young woman with a dog, there by the car-park, but I couldn't be sure.'     `Good because we've seen that young woman and she remembers you, sees you often.'     `I didn't know she found me memorable.'     `Point is, girl went out without the dog. Where'd she go then?'     `There, I'm afraid, I might have crossed her if that was her path, but it's left no memory.'     `Observant, ordinarily? In your own estimation? We feel pretty sure she did take that path.'     `Yes, I think. But I can be absent-minded too.'     `Would you have noticed, d'you think, if she'd been with somebody?'     `You mean, because she was usually alone? Maybe. A couple, it doesn't leave an impression, much.'     Suddenly aiming the eye at Willy -- `What about you, Mevrouw?'     `I think much the same,' timidly. `As my man, I mean. I know her vaguely from the street. In the check-out at the supermarket? One gives a nod and a smile but I don't think we ever exchanged a word. I've a fair memory, for faces.'     `Right, right,' rather as though this confirmed something known or suspected. Typical police manner, thought Bert. `Ever notice her in the company of other -- boyfriend or -- no? The point' (he was fond of this phrase) `is that she was a shy, withdrawn sort. No known, ticketed --'     `Was she raped?' asked Willy. `I don't recollect the paper saying.'     `Didn't say, didn't know. I'll tell you the truth. Doctor says no; intacta. Now I say, what's tacta? She'd been what the paper calls interfered with.'     `Oh dear.'     `You're sensible people. She was strangled, from the back and couldn't fight much. Clothing disarranged, as the paper calls it, what you or I call knickers pulled down. Next question, no, not menstruating.' Being brutal deliberately. `Dirtied herself. What does that convey to you? Meneer?'     `I'd imagine a stranger accosted her.'     `What would she be doing in the dunes? Mevrouw?'     `I don't picture, I prefer not to think.'     `Quite so. Well that's it for now.'     `Now?' asked Bert mildly.     `We've only just begun. Other things may come to light, more to ask. For now, I've a hundred households, five minutes for each and makes a long day. Think of anything, here's the number to ring.' * * * These things happen. Even, no, also, in Zandvoort. I feel upset, as who wouldn't? The police don't perturb me; only doing their job. The citizen has to co-operate. A great many don't and won't. Here -- still -- most will. We share shock, and pain. For a family a tragic loss, and so brutal. For ourselves. The fabric of our being. Not much left of that, in a town. But in my village, virtually in our street, something like this tears the fabric. I feel shame and sorrow for that. I'm sorry for the girl too, of course. Along my route too. Since I take this path very often. For all I know, within my hours. Seems they found her only a day later, combing out the dunes.     Doesn't sound very competent? No, come on, they check the normal explanations first, and then accidents, and then an enormous number of these youngsters run away. Not for long maybe: while their money holds out. Start thinking about a crime next day, at best.     And then, I know how tricky that terrain is. Easy to lose and hard to find. Every sand dune looks just like the next. Take some time to mobilize a troop, to search. From what one hears she was some way inside. I don't know how sorry one should be for these girls. Shy and withdrawn? Brazen sluts most of them, ask for trouble. One presumes this is why they look near home. Someone she knew. Wouldn't talk to strangers. Well, I dare say I'm not adding anything to police thinking, suggesting that the close circle is likeliest. Family, friends, neighbours. She must have been confident. On a drizzly evening you don't take a walk in the dunes with just anyone.     That woman with the dog saw me, knows me. I wouldn't know where she lived, let alone her name. Zandvoort -- irritaring place and to anyone who's seen a bit of the world doubly, Dutchly so. Narrow, provincial -- parochial and puffed with imagined importance. But I love it. Known and loved it all my life. Mine, me. I'm one of the few, the real natives, as Willy for instance isn't and couldn't be. A lot have left and a lot have died. In a township of ten thousand how many were born here? In the thirties one `knew everybody'. One didn't of course but there were no big blocks then, and no creeping suburb. In winter the place was small, and highly self-contained. We still talk about `the dorp' but it really was a village then.     Bert lives in one of the earliest apartment blocks built here. Back in the fifties, would have been. There was only the building along the seafront, and that only in the centre, where the north and south boulevards join, and what an architectural disaster that had been. This was a step inland, on an island site where three roads meet. Draughty it was thought, nobody wanted them. Got a good buy. Well built, solid, proper walls and insulation. Generously drawn, with plenty of space, roomy even to the balconies and one is never conscious of the neighbours. They don't build like that now! Plumbing which seems old-fashioned but was installed by real craftsmen and has never given trouble. Comfort. Bought on good, easy terms and long paid-for (think of mortgages now ...) No regrets, none whatever. The `quarter' is all small, family houses still: noise and traffic have never been problems. Along the street is the water-tower. Bert remembers the old one, dynamited like all the buildings here along, by the Germans in the war. This was part of their `Westwall'. Emptied of all occupants and fortified. As though the Americans and the English would have crossed the North Sea, to invade. Such a pity. Our beautiful seafront, all destroyed.     A good-sized flat. Bert has a workroom, a `den' Willy calls it. Used to be one of the girls' rooms. The other is now a spare, a guest-room which Willy keeps impeccable. `Netjes' is the Dutch word. Net like a net price, clean, clear of all encumbrance. The girls are long grown up and gone. Here in his personal fortress Bert allows no more than Willy's vacuum cleaner and her endless complaining while pushing the thing. No tidying allowed. Here, also, Bert has (under glass) his collection of old green `crime' Penguins.     Under glass, that's a trade word. Flowers are under, books are behind glass. Not often I make a mistake in English. One has to keep them carefully. Even so the cheap paper they were printed on goes the colour of a cheap cigar. Still a vivid, a living reminder of good days in England, in the fifties, thought of now with a warm, a happy feel. Prehistoric, when one was young and energy unbounded. Defunct now, Vaughns, big name then in the London flower markets, Ralph still the managing director and very much so. Good joke on the peculiarities, the Englishness, writing it so and saying `Rafe Vawn', he'd thought he knew how to speak this language and had had to learn fast, keep your wits about you, a packer or a van-man speaking Cockney, that was like another and special `trade' language. Ralph grinning and saying `You're picking up the accent, you mustn't do that.'     Offices in Covent Garden. What they called the Shop out in Croxley Green and `the Glass' in Rickmansworth. Boarding with Mrs Davis. The old brown `Metropolitan' train, so flavourfully Sherlock-Holmes and not just because it ran in to `Baker Street' (yes and went on to Aldgate; even now he could remember the names of all the stops and did it as a memory exercise, Finchley Road and Queens Park, Harrow-on-the-Hill and Neasden ...)     The first months, lonely yes and homesick, it was then he'd started, `Trents Last Case' and `The Cask'. Freeman Wills Crofts, marvellously English (say the name now and would anyone know what you were talking about?). (Continues...) Excerpted from Some Day Tomorrow by Nicolas Freeling. Copyright (c) 2000 by Nicolas Freeling. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.