Yesterday, after almost finishing the homicide manual, I went out for lunch and some unglamorous Parisian grocery shopping. When I returned, I discovered a ridiculous power outage in our building that required me to walk up six flights of stairs in the dark. Me? Daunted? Forfend! I then literally wore out the heels of my boots as I walked to La Durée
to pig out on macarons to get a whiff of the fancy pastries and take a healthy stroll on the Champs Elysées, where I found a post office to send some things I’d forgotten to mail just before we left. After I returned, exhausted and swooning from sugar, I cracked and walked into Princess Tam Tam just around the corner from our apartment. They actually had two whole bras in the store that were cute and fit me fine. (They were Divide and Conquer, but I overlooked that for the lace and cuteness.) As they were very expensive, I only bought one with matching panties. The Frenchman was mighty pleased, too.
But then sleeping was nightmarish. Literally.
Around dusk, a white man in his early 30s — good looking, clean shaven, dressed as if for camping — was driving fast down a rural sort of highway lined with tall vegetation.
Someone ran out onto the highway in front of his car.
The car struck the body hard. Jarred by the impact, the man swerved off the road. His head swarmed with panic as he got out and searched for the body. He found nothing. He noticed on the other side of the vegetation there was a big diner and rest area. He ran to the car of a woman who just pulled in. She was black, with a tousled pony tail. He knocked on her window, realized he was crying as he frantically begged that, if she had a cell phone, she call 911. “I hit someone on the highway! I think they’re dead!” The woman eyed him dubiously, reaching into her purse. The man left her to run inside the diner. He looked everywhere for a pay phone to call the police.
Instead, he found a gang was taking over the rest area, threatening people with guns and knives for their wallets. Inside the diner was a horror as they hurt families, individual travelers, anyone who might have money.
The man hoped beyond hope that the woman had called the police. But he was pretty sure she hadn’t.
He went back to his car and found a steak knife from some picnic gear in the back seat. He carried it into the diner, where he fended off a couple of gang members who wanted his wallet. They were sufficiently intimidated by his build and strength to not fuck with him.
By now, the gang had done their worst. They were clearing out. The man found a terrified family — father, mother and child — bleeding and shaking with terror as they huddled in a small closet. “Are they gone?” the father whispered to the man. He shook his head. “I’m not sure. Stay here and I’ll check.”
It was nightfall now. The man found three people who seemed newly arrived, although they looked like leftovers from the gang — two guys, a girl. They were having a romantic spat. As the man surveyed them surreptitiously, he became convinced that they were there to make sure no one was left or calling the cops.
Instead of going back to the family, the man went back to his car. He scanned the dark. No body. He got into the car, legs and hands trembling, then turned the key. The car started okay, but as he pulled forward it felt like something had been damaged.
He drove off into the darkness anyway.