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19: For the Public and Private Lives

A slam sounded on Clarice’s table and she snapped back to reality; the movement so abrupt that it sent a wave of shock down her neck and she grimaced.

“Damn, girl! Where did you go?” asked Wendy, whom Clarice was now noticing standing in front of her.

“Somewhere with pale face and crimson eyes,” she replied and the redheaded woman’s face took on a confused expression.

But Wendy didn’t a chance to ask about Clarice’s strange response as the latter eyes went to the big brown file that the redheaded woman had slammed down on her desk and rudely jolted her back to the present. “Wendy, what’s this?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“Sebastien Noir,” Wendy replied, smiling. “Everything findable on our latest arrival from across the ocean.”

The redheaded woman wasn’t kidding when she said the file contained everything that could be found on Michael’s legal representative, as Clarice herself soon found out.

As it turned out, contrary to his employer, Sebastien was quite the public person. Everything from simple parties to international functions, the guy was involved; and as the centre of attention too.

Various prestigious business firms in Europe and beyond affiliated him as either as client or contributor; agencies and organisations, both private and government-owned, inviting him to grace virtually every party in town.

Even the fashion and lifestyle magazines seemed incomplete every time without a piece on him. They had announced him more times than could be counted as one of the most eligible bachelors in Paris in the past four years.

Long story short, Sebastien Noir was that guy every woman wanted to date and every man wanted to be.

Unfortunately, as comprehensive as the whole file was, it still boiled down to one very big obvious issue. “Wendy, I’m not sure I see how this helps me with my Michael Holger investigation,” Clarice said to her.

“Look again, Clarice,” insisted the redheaded woman. “Don’t you see anything weird at all in what you just read?”

Clarice didn’t know what point Wendy was trying to make but she went through the file once more just to indulge her; coming up empty just like the first time. “I’m not seeing it, Wendy,” she finally admitted after a third search without result. “What are you trying to tell me?”

“Michael,” returned the redhead woman excitedly at her discovery; which Clarice still couldn’t see even then. “Look, as much as there are things in here about Sebastien Noir enough to fill a mini library, our enigmatic foreigner wasn’t mentioned in any of them, not even in passing. Now, don’t you think that’s weird?”

“Well, maybe the two of them aren’t that close.” Clarice shrugged and Wendy shot her a look like she was being ridiculous.

“You don’t really believe that, Clarice, do you?” she said. “I mean, consider the way Sebastien came all the way from Paris to bail Michael out.”

“He’s his lawyer, Wendy. That’s his job,” Clarice defended him, surprising even herself that she had.

"Before the client even had the chance to call him?” Wendy made a face and Clarice had to relent, sighing.

Thing is, it wasn’t that she didn’t get the point that Wendy was trying to make; she herself had sensed a sort of connection between the duo that went far beyond just a formal client-lawyer relationship. But affirming that point on one encounter alone felt flimsy to her; and if there was something that Clarice hated to do, it was flimsy.

But regardless of whatever she thought, the fact remained that Michael and Sebastien were friends on some kind of level and it definitely was weird that the former hadn’t even shown up in any part of the file considering the amount of attention the latter always received.

“Unfortunately, completely disappearing from a friend’s background file isn’t exactly a big lead to go on in an investigation,” Clarice pointed out with a sigh.

“Not if it was premeditated by the people involved,” Wendy returned and Clarice’s face immediately took on a frown.

“Wait, you think Sebastien deliberately made sure that Michael didn’t appear in any of his public limelight?” she asked. “I mean, that’s crazy.”

“And quite genius too, you’ll have to admit,” returned the redheaded woman, clearly excited at the revelation. “Public Mr. Sebastien Noir makes himself the centre of attention, thereby taking away everyone’s eyes from private Mr. Michael Holger and his secrets.”

“Mr. Private and Mr. Public.” Even Clarice had to admit that that was a bit above bonkers.

But it was also reasonable. She’d been trying for days to get even the slightest information on Michael Holger but everything had always appeared to be shrouded in some of sort unnavigable darkness.

But out of nowhere comes Sebastien Noir, famous in every form possible and with his life an open book for anyone who cared to read it; and still with no pointers to one person she had no doubts he was definitely more than deeply connected to.

“So, what now?” Clarice asked, looking up to Wendy then.

“Well, if you’re ever going to gain useful insight into the private life that is Michael Holger.” She pushed the file towards her. “I suggest you first dig deeper into the public one that is Sebastien Noir.”

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