“Can I offer you a drink?”
Not again. Megan let off a sigh.
“No thanks, I’m too tired for it.”
“Another time, perhaps?”
“Please, don’t insist.”
It was the third one this evening, his face had the same expression as the two others: ecstatic. She dodged him, left the theater and made haste to go home, followed by the lingering impression that someone followed her every move. Every evening, she would walk a bit faster, proportionally to how her fear grew.
It was nice to play during the interlude, she practiced piano, got money for it and didn’t miss any school lesson. But she hadn’t expected admirers, and these admirers were not what she expected either.
Exhausted, she arrived at her apartment door. She had ran the last hundred meters, her robe was sweaty. Megan checked the surroundings to spot any stalker, nothing. She entered her two room student apartment, undressed and let hot water fill the bath.
She needed alcohol, something strong if possible. Vodka, it smelled as awful as it tasted and had been laying around long enough for dust to settle on it but her nerves demanded it.
It was a friend that had put her on the job. The lad of a contact of a cousin of an unknown party searched for a pianist to fill in the blanks and add an instrument to the arsenal. After a few repetitions, it was agreed that she would play not only between, but also during some scenes.
Why not, it was fun for a while. Now she was trembling in her burning bath. At her first public appearance she was accosted by an old man dressed with clothes that were worn for every great occasion these last 40 years. In the moment, Morgan was flattered.
Born in a small village and experiencing uninteresting teen years in forgettable places, she had never learned the metropolitan lifestyle dictated by rowdy students. Now she studied history on the Grenoble campus and had trouble adapting. Bad clothes, bad type, bad conversation.
This local public, earnest and direct farmers with a simple yet hard life, was the other reason she accepted the offer. She knew how they functioned, they laughed and talked trough instinct. On the campus, things seemed unnecessarily more complicated, hidden under forms, plays, games and double meanings, only to, in the end, discuss stupid matters. Coming back to the source was a way to reduce her loneliness.
Being accosted, even by an old man, reminded her that there was hope left to grow out of her shell and be recognized as worthy of companionship. The sweetness of the moment disappeared as she stared upon the man facing her. A normal man, except for his intensive gaze that could scare a serial-killer into submission.
Morgan first suspected the libidinous need of a pervert, but this was way beyond. His trembling grin that verged into a grimace didn’t speak for desire, but obsession. He offered her a drink, she refused sharply, made a step for the door and was stopped in her tracks by an iron hand clutching her arm.
Luckily, they were not alone, spectators had seen the commotion and were approaching, he let go of her and left. At most, the event took a minute to happen but Morgan felt the repercussions to this day. That gaze was engraved in her memory, and she saw it again every time she played. Some eyes had a flickering spark in them and others, a raging inferno. She knew to avoid them, albeit her own misconceptions would sometimes trap her.
One night, as she expertly sneaked to the exit, she saw an old lady advancing towards her, likely for some congratulations. That’s when she learned madness was not limited to men. Morgan smiled politely at first, before noticing the ragged breath and the menacing tone of her voice.
Instinct made her say a single “no!” and turn around, too fast for the lady to react. She felt safest when she was alone in the cold outside, until she heard the old hag stepping outside and shouting for her to stop. Morgan bolted home, too fast for an elder in high heels.
It kept on happening evening after evening, the same sickos came back, more numerous every time, fixing her without blinking. In the heated bath, she shivered. Going outside terrified her, what if someone was waiting for her? Morgan cried, the faces in the crowd were turning into predators. I’m done with this stupid theater, she thought, the apprehension that gnawed at her from inside was too much to handle. She would quit tomorrow and find a place to play in Grenoble, a real city, may this village burn.
“We didn’t kill him.”
“I haven’t said that...”
“We didn’t kill him.”
“We didn’t kill him.”
This was pointless, thought Hyacinth. The son’s death and being suspects was too much to bear at once, the parents couldn’t articulate any coherent thought, the day had gone by without any progress. He left the holding bloc through a hall that needed new paint.
Functional but a bit decrepit, it was a good metaphor for the french police force. The only exception was the morgue he went to, a pristine floor and spotless walls as a form of respect for the dead who would soon be autopsied. Disinfectant assaulted his nostrils as he went by the coolers, full to burst with bodies.
“We’re showing more respect for the dead than for the living who have to clean up their mess,” echoed a close voice.
“Philosophy doesn’t suit you, Freddy.”
His colleague was going through some files, he didn’t look at Hyacinth.
“Where’s the doc?”
“Gone, we’re Friday evening, not everybody is insane enough to work as hard as you do,” said Freddy with a smirk.
“You or me?”
“I’m having fun, that’s different.”
He had to be the creepiest cop in the district.
“You got the results of the autopsy?”
“Yes, couldn’t resist reading through them.”
Hyacinth sat on a chair, a corpse covered by a white shroud and two burning cups of coffee occupied the table in front of him. He took a sip.
“You’ll be disappointed, pal.”
“Call me lieutenant, and just give me the results, no comments.”
“With pleasure, lieutenant. Nothing.”
“Take a look for yourself, lieutenant.”
Freddy gave the file, along with a broad smile. Unnecessary medical jargon complicated the reading, only to conclude that nothing permitted to define a concrete cause of death. Drugs, not enough for an overdose. Alcohol, hardly enough for an intoxication.
“Read the rest, it gets disturbing.”
Disturbing didn’t accurately describe it. The victim’s hearts suddenly stopped with no reasonable explanation. A cardiac arrest happens sometimes, but 15 at the same moment to young and healthy adults? The more he read the more it verged into the absurd.
The guitarist had his fingertips burned from the inside out, same for the bassist. The spectator’s calves were damaged in a similar fashion, as if they had jumped in place in the exact same fashion for hours, ignoring pain, muscles that teared under the strain and internal bleeding, until their hearts stopped.
“What the fuck?”
“It’s bullshit, has to be.”
“You ever went to a festival, lieutenant? Oh no, not you, your wife left because you never do anything. Let me tell you, I went to some, high as a kite and jumping like an epileptic horse for days. I never saw anyone bursting muscles from that, the forensic doc must have missed something.”
“About my wife?”
“Did I say something?”
What an asshole. But Hyacinth had to agree with him, there had to be more. They sat on opposite ends of the table, drinking and thinking, a corpse laying still between them. Hyacinth idly checked the files again and nearly spit out his coffee.
“You’re going to like that.”
“Amaze me, lieutenant.”
“Look at the times of death.”
He threw the folder, Freddy didn’t try to catch it, he yawned and picked it up from the ground.
“What’s with them?”
“Henry Hirtz, one of the dead, wasn’t even playing. Look at the estimated time of death.”
“Three in the morning.”
“Check the others.”
“…They all died before him, second-to-last was estimated at two in the morning. What?” Freddy had finally lost his unnerving smile.
“So Tristan jumped in place for a full hour, after watching fourteen of his friends die, with no music.”
“This is weird even for my taste.”
“And forensic reports dry retinas and sinuses, no one cried.”
They leaned on their chairs, mulling over this new bit of information.
“In the end, we still don’t know anything,” said Hyacinth.
“Sure, lieutenant, but such weirdness has to be saved somewhere right? A headache leaving all the cops clueless, there has to be a place for it.”
Hyacinth lit up at once.
“This is not a face I like to see,” said Freddy.
Hyacinth went up, emptied the coffee and patted Freddy’s head.
“Let’s go to the computers, if something like that ever happened, we’ll know.”
“I beg you, no paperwork, please!”
“Just for once, be a professional.”