Paris • Late September 1999 • Monday Morning
Humidity hovered in the air, waiting for the drop in barometric pressure to drag Paris into autumn. A few leaves had turned and soon would carpet the cobbles yellow brown, red, and orange. It wouldn’t be long before Aimée Leduc would have to break out her wool scarves. It was her first autumn as a mother, and for some reason, the changing temperature filled her with a sense of foreboding.
In Leduc Detective’s office, Chloé squealed on the changing table while Aimée replaced her leaking diaper. Aimée had a meeting and wished her nanny would hurry up. She loved having her tenmonth- old with her at the office in the mornings, but business was business; Aimée still had to earn their baguette and butter it, too. Just then the frosted glass door buzzed open. Babette entered, accompanied by a wave of stale air from the landing. “Désolée, got held up by the Métro strike.”
Another Métro strike. Tomorrow it would be nurses or bus drivers. September always brought the usual disruptions. Behind Babette stood a tall man wearing a suit and dragging a rolling suitcase.
“This monsieur said he’s here for a consultation,” said Babette. Consultation? No way—Aimée was on her way out the door to her emergency client meeting, and she still had an overdue proposal open on her laptop.
“Afraid not, monsieur,” she said, wrangling Chloé’s squirming, tiny feet through the leg holes of a onesie. “Today is completely booked.”She sat back, felt a pressure in her chest. “Non, don’t answer. You know I don’t do criminal anymore.”
“Forgive me for intruding, Aimée,” said the man.
Aimée looked up. This time, she recognized his receding hairline. “Éric?”
It was Éric Besson, a thirtysomething intellectual property lawyer, buttoned-up and conscientious, the husband of the second cousin of Aimée’s best friend, Martine. He looked as if he hadn’t slept. Aimée had last seen Éric at one of Martine’s huge family parties . . . a wedding, baptism—she couldn’t remember.
“I hate dropping in,” he said, his voice higher than she remembered, “wouldn’t if it weren’t important.” Before she could ask if Martine had sent him, he’d wheeled his roller bag to her desk.
“Alors, I’m catching a train to Brussels, giant court case. Please, can you give me five minutes?”
“Late night, eh?” She gestured to a chair. “Have a seat. Let me just finish a couple quick things.”
Outfit accomplished, she quickly repacked the baby bag and kissed Chloé’s warm pink cheeks. Babette waved Chloé’s chubby hand as they headed out for bébé swim. Then Aimée opened her laptop, scanned her proposal’s last paragraph, and hit send.
“You’ve got my full attention.”
Éric set a police homicide report on her late father’s worn mahogany desk.
“What’s this?” she asked, surprised. She sat back, felt a pressure in her chest. “Non, don’t answer. You know I don’t do criminal anymore.”
Not since her father’s death in the Place Vendôme explosion, when she’d inherited the agency and vowed from then on she’d do only computer security. That horrific day played in her mind: her father’s melted glasses, his shoe . . .
From Murder on the Left Bank. Used with the permission of the publisher, Soho Press. Copyright © 2018 by Cara Black.