I awoke to a tray of dried, scrambled eggs and a shot glass of orange juice being thrust into my face. Without really waking up, I managed to unpin the serving tray and lay it open for the stewardess to drop my breakfast onto. She did so with a clatter. It was the best service I'd seen in about a week.
"Hello?" She said when I tried to go back to resting my eyes. She had a french accent that sounded neither thick nor feint. A velvety, whipped cream accent that made you want to take all your clothes off and lie down with it for a while. Nose nuzzling a mountain of curls while you listened to her whisper soft foreign nothings to you. The French had likely already made a movie about it and it was probably as slow, boring, and frustratingly sensual as you'd expect from them. The type of film you'd never watch twice but would love to live in forever.
Anyway. I told her I didn't need anything else. I was fine. Thank you for breakfast, it smelled delicious.
She flashed me one of those soft, ever-so-slightly arrogant, French smiles then walked away, walking the way a woman who looked like her ought to walk. I resigned myself to being love sick over her for the next month then took the plunge and sat up in my seat. When you're in love, sleeping feels like heaven because it's the only place you can go to be together, which is why it's the worst thing you can do. When you're in love. Otherwise it's a gas.
I thought about the various events of the past week that had led me to jumping on the transatlantic flight with barely enough luggage to last a night, let alone twelve, but so goes the life of a private eye. One night you're home alone, drinking yourself into a tight, cozy little cocoon, the next you're tired, hungover, and trying to coax some life back into your body with thimblefuls of orange juice and bad eggs. There were worst ways to live.
Out of habit my hand went to my side and pressed the purse to my side. Still there. How something can become a habit after only being in your possession for twenty-four hours is a testament to the human body to adapt. It's also speaks wonders for the motivational impact of a having a gun shoved in your face while the wielder of said instrument of destruction promises you a meal of white hot steel if you don't deliver the purse on time and in accordance with their wishes.
Whose wishes being the mysterious so-and-so who apparently picked your name out of a hat and decided this was the day they'd either make you a moderate amount of money or the newest addition to St. Anthony's permanent residence inn on Chapel Hill.
"Woman in white. Silk dress. Big brimmed-hat."
"Like the kind at the Kentucky Derby?" I asked.
I thought he'd haul off, whack me in the neck with his gun the way they do in the movies. But he just grinned at me. A nasty tight-lipped little thing that only showed off a few sliver of teeth. "Yeah, like that."
The rest was simple. Go to caffe [french name] in Paris. Noon. Wait there for the woman in white. Sit with her. Talk like we're old friends. Enjoy a brisk French lunch and some coffee. Then part ways. Excuse yourself and say your goodbyes the French way. Two light pecks and a limp sort of half hug. Then scram.
"But make sure she takes the purse."
"But, it won't match her outfit."
We both looked down at it like it was the first time either of us had laid eyes on the bag. Beige and froppy, it was the sort of thing harried single mothers of four slung over their shoulder as they darted down New York streets with an armful of groceries for their ever growing brood. It was a bag meant to be rummaged in, sweaty, tired hands searching desperately for a pair of keys while a stocking clad legs stomped up the step of a crumbling brownstone.
On the arm of a beautiful Parisian women it would look like a coconut at a rodeo. I tried telling him so.
"What are you, a fashion writer for the Times?"
"No, the Herald."
Then he did hit me with the gun. Right in the neck. Side chop. Like he was a heavy staring opposite Bogart. Although I expect old Bogie gets a softer touch when it comes to the action. My neck still felt like tenderized beef. If you'd tossed a hook through it and strung me up in a freezer there'd be very little difference between me and the fellow next to me except I'd for considerably less on the open market. Probably end up in the grocery bag of that woman carrying the beige purse. Hamburger Helper meat at your service.
I must have grunted when I sat up and started at my food. The woman next to me, who seemed to gained the ability to forget I was there, suddenly became very aware of my presence. I felt her bones pushing against her skin, forcing her closer to the window. She cleared her throat