“Michel, we haven’t had a meaty case in weeks.”
My chair was like rock underneath me, so I rose from my desk and restlessly prowled the room. I took out my compact from my bag and studied my reflection. Blonde hair, check. Pink lips, check. White teeth, also check. But my blue eyes were dull and my complexion, pallid. Even allowing for the wintry weather.
“If I have to find one more lost dog or cat,” I said, eyeing my own cat, Yankee, sourly, “I’m going to set up my own fur coat business!”
Yankee, as if aware of this threat to his fluffy ginger fur, leapt on to my desk and meowed plaintively.
“Oh, OK, not you, I suppose. You want some Pussy Galore?” I asked, referring to his favourite food. “Come on then.”
Michel, who had kept busy by re-designing the filing system, agreed. “Oui. It must be the time of year.”
“Bless you, Michel. But you and I both know it’s that blasted new agency that’s taking all our business. Just because their whizz-kid boss struck gold with their first case.”
Right across town, a new detective agency had opened up, and they’d been whipping the cases right out from under our noses. I reckoned they’d gotten lucky with their very first assignment, a high-profile politician who’d been caught taking bribes. The doorbell rang into the stillness. Michel jumped up. “A client at last.”
It was the opposition. Speak of the devil. Réne Réydoine approached my desk, his oily smile prominent. “Ah, Kelly. How is business?”
“Great.” I lied. “You?”
His smirk irked me.
He bent to stroke Yankee but that smart cat hissed and scratched his hand.
“I have got a jewel robbery to solve,” he said, when he’d stopped cursing. “So, I was wondering who that contact was who helped you in that Eiffel Tower business?”
“Sorry,” I said. “That’s confidential.”
He looked a bit miffed, but hey, that’s life. Michel had no sympathy for him either. He stood with folded arms till Réydoine, getting the message at last, said, “OK. Well, I will let you know when I have caught the crook, then!” He took off, rubbing his sore hand.
I kicked the desk, wishing it was my rival. “That man really bugs me. There’s something so smarmy about him, and it sets my nose twitching everytime he comes near. I’m sure he’d stop at nothing to get what he wants.”
“I agree,” said Michel, my ever-loyal sidekick and, I’m happy to say, my lover too. “He wants taking down some pegs, that one.”
My gaze travelled down my partner’s wiry body as he bent over the filing cabinet, engrossed in the intricacies of G to L, and my mood lightened. Michel and I had been a couple for over a year now, and life was more or less idyllic. I got up from my desk, startling Yankee, and strolled over to the window. OK, so business wasn’t grand at the moment, but there were worse places to be a failed detective.
I leaned out and breathed in the unique Parisian air on this perfect, crisp winter day. It was February, and the sights, sounds, and smells of my adopted city struck my senses. I could hear the ever-moving throb of traffic, Paris being one of the busiest cities in Europe. Mingled with this were noises of people passing underneath: laughing, chattering, and full of the sounds of life. The delicious smells of the street carts wafted upwards; they sold practically everything from crepes and frites to sandwiches and pizza.
The view was pretty good too. Higgledy-piggledy rooftops stretched as far as I could see. In the background the huge bulk of the Eiffel Tower soared into a pale blue sky. It sure was breath taking.
The sound of a second doorbell chime interrupted my reverie, and I jumped up, narrowly avoiding banging my head on the window frame. “Ah, Watson, a client, if I mistake not,” I misquoted.
Michel hurried to the door.
Next minute, you could have knocked me over with a puff of pipe tobacco, because who should walk in but my ex-boyfriend, Dan Boreszto.
There had been no warning, and the shock was severe. Check it out. I had supposed him to be several thousand miles away in the good old US of A, but now he had materialised in my office.
Michel looked at me with raised eyebrows, seemingly surprised at this informal method of address by a client.
I was gawping, but finally managed to let out a squeak. “H-hi, Dan.” Then, more strongly, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Michel was in the act of pulling out a chair for my ex, but at the mention of his name he scowled darkly, as if he’d like to pull it right out from under him. Dan, thankfully oblivious to the daggers emanating from Michel’s eyes, said, “I’ve come to hire your services. How do you feel about going to Rio de Janeiro?”