Love and Other Murders

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Chapter 9

Alex wakes her bringing a glass of garnet colored potion to her lips.

“Drink it up, Nathalie. We have things to do.”

After alternating hot and ice cold shower she joins him for breakfast. All is put impeccably back to order: there is not the least sign of the last night’s wild dinner drowned in alcohol and designer drugs. How she woke up in Alex’s bed is a nut better not to be cracked.

“Here is your brand-new French passport, your flight ticket, your handbag with money and traveler checks and your hand luggage full of necessary things. Keep in mind that your family name is now changed to Nova. Give me your hand!” He clasps a dainty platinum bracelet on her wrist.

“You are taking it to Oslo. Never, under any circumstances allow it to be taken off your hand, understood? Don’t talk to anyone on the flight, don’t accept any food or drink from anyone, the flight attendant included. You’ll be met at Oslo airport by a contact person who’ll inform you about your next move. Let’s go.” With a supreme indifference he propels her out.

He accompanies her to the waiting car and shoves her and her luggage inside. Without a kiss, without wishing her to have a good flight, he disappears in the closing door.

The taciturn driver brings her to Roissy airport, carries her luggage until the passport control and leaves her on a nod. The steward puts her luggage into the overhead compartment and offers her a glass of champagne that she declines even if she considers Alex’s dos and don’ts ridiculous. None of her fellow passengers gives her a second glance. They are all typical business-class nerds inclining zealously over their computers. She opens her handbag and examines her passport photo taken recently at a photo booth at Boulevard Saint Michel. Nathalie Nova, French citizen born in Prague. She puts her passport back into her handbag and decides to take a nap.

“What a surprise!” Startled by Nick’s unexpected appearance she lets the handbag fall to her feet.

“You stood me up, Nathalie! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You should be. I waited for ages in front of the cinema while you were evidently betraying me with a hairdresser. I don’t blame you. You are breathtaking! One would believe you are born blonde. Wait! Let me pick up that stuff for you!” Kneeling down he collects her scattered belongings and hands them on her one after the other. She knows that letting him to do is awfully wrong, that Alex would kill her if he knew. Nick’s eyes on her open passport are two recorders entering the details upon his mind’s tape. All she can do is to smile him her thanks and play it cool.

“I’m awfully sorry about the failed date. Something unexpected cropped up and I couldn’t find your phone number to let you know. One can’t always do as one wish.” She says with an apologetic smile.

“It’s all right, Nathalie. You are forgiven. No bad blood. The essential thing is that fate gave me the second time around. I see that the seat next to you is empty. May I join you?” He does and she shivers. Which one of the passengers, keeping eye on her, will report her breach of rules to Alex? She puts protectively her hand over the bracelet. Is Nick here to steal it? She is no more fool enough to believe in the innocence of their re-encounter.

“Pleasure or business, what’s the object of your journey, Nathalie?”

“And of yours, Nick?” She retorts strategically by another question.

“Mine? To find you! Isn’t it evident?”

She stops prying. Aren’t they both lost in a maze reaching one after the other in search of an exit that they may or may not find? Against Alex’s warning she accepts the refreshments that Nick takes from the steward’s hand to pass on her.

“What a beautiful bracelet, Nathalie!” Nick nears it to his eyes.

“Is it a family heirloom?”

“Maybe,” she says evasively.

“What’s wrong? Tell me, Nathalie.” He asks noticing her anxiety.

She suppresses her urge to confess.

“Everything is okay, Nick. I’m air-sick that’s all.”

“Poor baby, put your head on my shoulder and relax.” He takes a silver flask out of his breast pocket and brings it to her mouth. The gin hits her arousing a bombshell of memories bleeding through her present. She isn’t certain whether they are real or figments of her imagination. Cradling in Nick’s arms she wants to believe that if she acts as if she existed only from this moment on her life can’t get wrong.

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