Love and Other Murders

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Chapter 31

She dares not to believe that the man sitting on the edge of her bed and observing her with an alarming intensity is real and not just a dream.

“Alex! Is that really you?”

She raises herself on an elbow and touches his face.

“Be quiet! Nobody must know I am here, and Magda the least of all. As much as I tried I was unable to leave Paris without seeing you!” He whispers his eyes gleaming in the reflection of the street-lamps.

“I won’t be able to see you for some time. I don’t know yet how long it may take. I have nobody but Elijah to trust you with, so please don’t hesitate to contact him in case of need. There is one thing I have to ask you, Nathalie. Stay away from Vincent. There is something very strange in his assault and I am not certain he told me all he knows about it. There is another thing I must tell you even if I hate the pathos of it. I love you, Nathalie! Don’t break my heart!”

He leans over her. His kiss is more like the aura of someone who has already gone and she is not certain if he was not just a dream, a deviant feeling that her life had already happened and she was sinking to the bottom of the sea reaching after the split end of a saving stick.

Listening to Magda’s happy humming lightens up the atmosphere. Life at its normal that’s what she needs. And what can be more natural than to have breakfast with a friend?

“It’s awfully nice of you, Nathalie!” Magda enters the kitchen all soft and flashed after a hot shower.

“I am dying for a cup of hot strong coffee! Sorry if I woke you up. Elijah will be here any moment as I decided to take on that job he asked me for. He is bringing me all I need and will drive me to the Euro Star. I am SO excited about going to London! There is no better place for serious shopping with one big advantage for you: I will stop for good borrowing your clothes.” Magda says lightly making the last adjustments to her perfect make-up.

“I’d need your advice, Nathalie. Can you help me find a plausible excuse for my sudden departure so that Norton won’t think he was not up to our first date? Is an illness of my mother an excuse good enough? I’d like also to ask you a favour; could it be you who delivers him the news? He would offer me to fly me to Budapest and then what? I don’t think a sudden departure is a bad idea. It adds some spice to our budding liaison. Here, that’s his number. Oh, that must be Eli!”

She jumps up at the ringing of the door bell.

“Are you decent, girls?” Elijah used his own key and knocks before entering the kitchen.

“Come in, Eli! Don’t try to do the innocent with me!” Magda offers him her cheek for a kiss.

“A cup of coffee, Elijah? It’s freshly brewed.”

“Thanks, but no, Nathalie, we are short of time.”

He opens his attaché-case, takes out a thick envelope and hands it to Magda.

“Be sure you won’t be mistaken about the man!”

The photo, probably taken from an ID shows an average business executive, a stocky man in his late forties, with a snub nose, a week chin, fleshy lips, perfect teeth and chestnut hair turning grey on the temples. His pale blue eyes fix the camera with a serious regard.

“Memorize him well, Magda! A mistake would be fatal!”

“Don’t worry, Eli! I’m not a fool! Though could I have more facts? Is he as married man with children, how’s his wife, is he a wolf or the faithful kind? A family photo would be also good to have.”

“Sorry, Magda, that’s all I have. One more detail, he is an ass in all that money concerns, dirty rich but stingy. Here, take the camera. I know now I am asking you a lot but we need intimate snapshots.

“Here are the train tickets, your hotel reservation, money, don’t forget your passport. I’d appreciate a daily report but don’t take any risk. That’s all. Let’s go!”

He helps Magda into the jacket, takes her luggage and off they go.

The flat feels depressingly empty after Magda’s departure.

The only way not to get lost in the gloom is to fill it with illusory creatures. She settles down at her desk and starts to write. Word after word the wasteland gets alive. What does it matter that this world is not real? How do you mean “not real”? Real is what she makes it to be.

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