Long Lost Page 11

’’Prepared for what?’’

Her eyes were wet now. Terese clasped her hands prayerlike, resting her fingertips on the bridge of her nose. ’’He said what he was going to tell me would change my entire life.’’

I sat back, frowned. ’’He used that exact phrase change your entire life?’’

’’Yes.’’

Terese was not one for hyperbole either. I wasn\'t sure what to make of it.

’’So where does Rick live?’’ I asked.

’’I don\'t know.’’

’’Could he live in Paris?’’

’’He could.’’

I nodded. ’’Did he remarry?’’

’’I don\'t know that either. Like I said, we haven\'t talked in a long time.’’

This was not going to be easy.

’’Do you know if he still works for CNN?’’

’’I doubt it.’’

’’Maybe you could give me a list of friends and family, something to start with.’’

’’Okay.’’

Her hand shook as she picked up the coffee cup and brought it to her lips.

’’Terese?’’

She kept the cup up, as though using it for protection.

’’What could your ex-husband possibly tell you that could change your entire life?’’

Terese looked away.

Red double-decker buses flowed along the Seine, loaded up with sightseers. All the buses had this department-store ad of an attractive woman wearing an Eiffel Tower on her head. It looked ridiculous and uncomfortable. The Eiffel Tower hat appeared heavy, tottering on the woman\'s skull, held in place by a skimpy ribbon. The model\'s swan neck was bending as though in mid-snap. Who thought this was a good way to advertise fashion?

Foot traffic was picking up. The girl who\'d hurled the crushed can was now making out with her target. Ah, the French. A traffic officer started gesturing for a white van to stop blocking traffic. I turned and waited for Terese to answer. She put down her coffee.

’’I can\'t imagine.’’

But there was a catch in her throat. A tell, if you were playing cards with her. She wasn\'t lying. I was pretty sure of that. But she wasn\'t telling me everything either.

’’And there\'s no chance your ex is just being vindictive?’’

’’None.’’

She stopped, looked off, tried to gather herself.

It was time, I knew, to take the big step. I said, ’’What happened to you, Terese?’’

She knew what I meant. Her eyes wouldn\'t meet mine, but a small smile played on her lips.

’’You never told me either,’’ she said.

’’Our unspoken island rule.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’But we\'re off that island now.’’

Silence. She was right. I had never told her what had led me to that island either what had devastated me. So maybe I should go first.

’’I was supposed to protect someone,’’ I said. ’’I messed up. She died because of me. And to complicate things, I reacted badly.’’

Violence, I thought again. The undying echo.

’’You said \'she,\' ’’ Terese said. ’’It was a woman you were supposed to protect?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’You visited her grave site,’’ Terese said. ’’I remember.’’

I said nothing.

It was Terese\'s turn now. I sat back and let her get ready. I remembered what Win had told me about her secret, about it being very bad. I felt nervous. My eyes darted about and that was when I saw something that made me pause.

The white van.

You get used to living this way after a while. On guard, I guess. You look around and you start to see patterns and you wonder. This was the third time I had spotted the same van. Or at least I thought it was the same van. It had been outside the hotel when we left. And more to the point, the last time I saw it, the traffic cop was asking it to move.

Yet it was in the exact same place.

I turned back to Terese. She saw the look on my face and said, ’’What?’’

’’The white van may be following us.’’

I didn\'t add, ’’Don\'t look,’’ or any of that. Terese would know better.

’’What should we do?’’ she asked.

I thought about it. Pieces started to fall into place. I hoped that I was wrong. For a moment I imagined that this could all be over in a matter of seconds. Ex-hubby Rick was driving the van, spying on us. I go over, I open the door, I rip him out of the front seat.

I stood up and looked directly at the van\'s driver-side window. No point in playing games if I was right. There was a reflection but I could still make out the unshaven face and, more to the point, the toothpick.

It was Lefebvre from the airport.

He didn\'t try to hide himself. The door opened and he stepped out. From the passenger side, the older agent, Berleand, stumbled into view. He pushed up his glasses and smiled almost apologetically.

I felt like an idiot. The plainclothes at the airport. That should have tipped me off. Immigration officers wouldn\'t be in plainclothes. And the irrelevant questioning. A stall. I should have seen it.

Both Lefebvre and Berleand reached into their pockets. I thought that they\'d pull out guns, but both produced red arm-bands with the word ’’police’’ written on them. They slipped them up to their biceps. I looked left and saw uniformed cops heading toward us.

I did not move. I kept my hands to the sides where they could clearly see them. I had little idea what was happening here, but this was no time for sudden moves.

I kept my eyes on Berleand\'s. He approached our table, looked down at Terese, and said to both of us, ’’Will you please come with us?’’

’’What\'s this about?’’ I asked.

’’We can talk about that at the station.’’

’’Are we under arrest?’’ I asked.

’’No.’’

’’Then we\'re not going anywhere until we know what this is about.’’

Berleand smiled. He looked at Lefebvre. Lefebvre smiled through the toothpick. I said, ’’What?’’

’’Do you think this is America, Mr. Bolitar?’’

’’No, but I think this is a modern democracy with certain inalienable rights. Or am I wrong?’’

’’We don\'t have Miranda rights in France. We don\'t have to charge you to take you in. In fact, I can hold you both for forty-eight hours on little more than a whim.’’

Berleand got closer to me, pushed up the glasses again, wiped his hands on the sides of his pants. ’’Now again I ask: Will you please come with us?’’

’’Love to,’’ I said.

6

THEY separated Terese and me right there on the street.

Lefebvre escorted her to the van. I started to protest, but Berleand gave me a bored look that indicated my words would be superfluous at best. He led me to a squad car. A uniformed officer drove. Berleand slipped into the backseat with me.


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