Murder on the Quai by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc Investigations, #16) Read Online (FREE)
Paris · November 9, 1989 · Thursday Night
Standing outside the Michelin-starred restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, the old man patted his stomach. The dark glass dome of the Grand Palais loomed ahead over the bare-branched trees. To his right, the circular nineteenth-century Théâtre Marigny.
“Non, non, if I don’t walk home I’ll regret it tomorrow.” He waved off his two drunken friends, men he’d known since his childhood in the village, as they laughingly fell into a taxi. Course had followed course; remembering the caviar-dotted lobster in a rich velouté sauce topped off by Courvoisier brandy, he rubbed his stomach again as he waved goodnight to the departing taxi. His belly was taut with discomfort; he needed to stretch it out before bed. Besides, he always enjoyed the walk home to his place on Place François Premier. Even now, after all these years, pride swelled in his chest that he had secured himself an address in le triangle d’or, the golden triangle, the most exclusive quartier in Paris. The thrill of living among the mansions and hôtels de luxe between avenues Montaigne, George V, and the Champs-Élysées never got old to him.
He looped his silk scarf tight, took a deep breath of the piercing chill November night. Belched. The born farmer in him sensed tonight would bring frost—a crinkled frost that would melt on the grey cobbles like tears. In the village, it would have been a hoarfrost blanketing the earth like lace.
He looked over his shoulder—force of habit—with vigilance that hadn’t diminished in forty years. They were always so careful, so scrupulous about the details, took precautions—yet Bruno’s murder had scared them all. Made them wonder at the implications. Could it be . . . ? But a month passed and nothing. Were they safe?
Not totally safe, not until the final trust document was rubber-stamped tomorrow. But that was only a formality. Nothing would go wrong this late in the game. He knew that—they all did.
Yet why had he woken up shouting in his sleep last night? Why did Philbert’s dentures grind so at dinner, and why did Alain drink a whole bottle of wine himself?
Brown leaves gusted against his ankles. On his right a blurred Arc de Triomphe glowed like a painting on a postage stamp farther down the Champs-Élysées. He kept a brisk pace, got his blood flowing, warmed up. He was fit as a fiddle, his doctor said, his heart like that of a man twenty years younger. A couple passed, huddling together in the cold.
Walking under the barren trees by the Grand Palais, he became aware of footsteps behind him. The footsteps stopped when he did. But as he turned at the intersection in front of the zebra crossing, he saw no one.
Nerves. The light turned green. He crossed. Midway down the next block he heard the footsteps again. Turned.
Only a dark hedgerow, shadows cast from trees. Unease prickled the hairs on his neck. He walked faster now, looking for a taxi. Silly, he lived two blocks away, but he never ignored a feeling like this. Each taxi passed with a red light crowning the roof: occupied.