The police barrier tape said “Do Not Cross” and “No Cruza”. I lifted it and stepped out of the crime scene. Even though I was leaving, not crossing, a uniformed cop laid a heavy hand on my shoulder.
“The Inspector will be here any minute,” he said.
“He was going to be here any minute, twenty minutes ago,” I said and walked toward the steps that curved away from the high-rise, toward the pool.
It was past eight o’clock and the only other civilian at the scene was the Paradiso’s general manager. He had succeeded in getting the paramedics to remove the body before the inspector arrived, a feat that was accomplished with plenty of pleading and probably bribery as well. It worked; after the ambulance left, most of the hotel guests lost interest and drifted back to their vacations.
Mrs. Arnaud sat in a wicker chair she had pulled close to the pool’s edge. Her feet were folded under her chair, making her petite body seem even smaller. A cop stood at a respectful distance, his dark blue uniform black under the setting sun.
I dragged a chair over. She looked up and trained her bottomless black eyes on me.
“You’re the one who found…Benoit?”
“Yes. I’m so sorry.”
“Did he say anything before…”
For some reason, she seemed relieved to hear this.
“But you knew him, did you not?”
“We talked once or twice.”
Trivial stuff. I told him about my honeymoon to Marseilles, when I was a struggling writer with a loving wife. He had asked me if I was the Jim Koenig and I had told him no, it was just a coincidence.
“He seemed so happy…” Mrs. Arnaud’s voice trailed off.
I put one hand on her arm and with the other, I pulled out the bracelet, making sure my back was turned to the cop. Her eyes lit up with relief. She grabbed it, ran a finger over the broken link and slipped it into the pocket of her dress. Clearly, the bracelet meant a lot to her.
“Where did you find it, Mr. Koenig?”
“Call me Jim.”
“Where did you find it, Jim?”
“Close to your husband’s…close to your husband.”
“Oh. What luck. May I ask you to keep this between us?”
“If the police find it, well, I hate to say it, it sounds so raciste, but…”
“You’re afraid they would keep it, because it’s valuable.”
It was her turn to lay a hand on my arm. Before I could say anything, we heard a siren and another police car pulled up in front of the hotel. Seconds later, a short, stocky man wearing a baseball cap blazed up the path leading to the high-rise. A uniformed policeman did his best to keep up.
I freed my arm from Mrs. Arnaud’s grasp and stood up.
“Thank you,” she said and went back to studying the water.