You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, he said. Paris at night is beautiful. He said that as well, and he was right. Both times. Paris definitely is beautiful at night. The street cafés, the glittering lights, especially as autumn creeps in and there’s a snap to the air making everything just a bit more romantic. Perhaps it’s just me, but I do prefer the colder weather. One of my late husbands once said it was because I had a cold heart. He was wrong.
I have no heart.
What I have is knowledge - I know men, Paris, seduction and death very well.
We went for the walk, obviously. I was my most charming, effervescent, feminine self. Just the kind of woman they usually look for. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life. So much so, I almost changed my mind about him. I believe the term is ‘catch and release’.
Most men, boringly, enjoy…how can I put it…piscatorial adventures. The equipment, the lure, the teasing chase of bait and fish, the hook, the landing. Some even enjoy thumping the poor fish on the head to kill it. Others leave it to gasp desperately for air until it expires, horror and desperation frozen in its once liquid and vibrant eye.
Am I a fisherman, or should that be fisherwoman, fisherperson? The politically correct term escapes me. Perhaps I am; a fisherperson that is. I prefer to think of myself as a cat…playing with a mouse. As it were.
I had no animosity towards him, or any of the men, come to that. Just as my cat has none towards the mice she plays with. Nor do either of us have any desire to eat our victims. It’s just a game. The fact that both victims end up dead is neither here nor there. Although, if you’ll forgive the train of thought, this time I bit off more than I could chew. Clearly, or I wouldn’t be sitting here.
The Pont Alexandre III is my favourite bridge in Paris. It reminds me of that Gene Kelly movie, ‘An American in Paris’. Which I hated, by the way. Way too long. The bridge also reminds me of all the most romantic of romantic films. Not that I could name a movie the bridge has actually been in.
Here’s a thought - why are romantic films, set in France, always in Paris and in either autumn or winter, and mostly at night, and always with accordion music? I hate accordion music.
I digress. Back to Paris and the bridge and my midnight walk with this man in the expensive, black overcoat. The man who smelled so delicious. See how easily distracted I can be? That’s probably why things didn’t go as planned this time. He was much better looking, and more confident, than the others. It put me off my game. Only when we reached the bridge did I became aware of that undertone of assured menace he carried. The title of that song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ sprang to mind when I looked at him and saw a shift in the set of his shoulders.
Usually, by the time we reach the Pont Alexandre III, they’re eating out of my hand. But tonight, especially when he turned to me and smiled with that ironic and slightly dangerous look in his eyes, I suddenly realised we were both fishing. And there was probably not going to be any ‘release’ on his part. Let alone mine.
I must admit it made the game a lot more interesting. Distracting, but interesting, and I hadn’t met interesting for a long time.
I should have stepped back then, but, as I say, he was very attractive. Not in the usual way. That wouldn’t have worked at all. Far too obvious. This… this was clever. Someone had done their homework.
I took his hand and danced around him to make sure we were alone. I couldn’t see anyone else, but then again, it was midnight. I heard a bicycle rattling up the alley. I pulled myself close to the man in front of me so I could watch the alley without him noticing. The cyclist was only the boulanger making his way to his shop on the corner to start the day’s baking. He makes the best bread in Paris. On night’s like these, when it’s all over, I treat myself to one of his hot, fresh loaves. I’ve usually eaten most of it by the time I get home. Interesting how hungry I am once the game is played out.
I never get as close to the men as I found myself on the bridge then. ‘Keep them at arm’s length’ has always been a good rule when it comes to the opposite sex, for more reasons than one. It makes moving difficult, and taking them by surprise almost impossible. Now that I was there, I would have to adjust my strategy. Just as I was thinking that, he moved.
He pulled me in closer and turned so I was pressed beneath him and up against the bridge. Beneath his coat, my hands could feel muscle, and controlled, tense power. Not something you often experience with most men, despite what they like to think. I should have guessed; the width of his shoulders alone had spoken of a build that would make everything more interesting.
I will admit, for one moment I debated changing the game completely and letting this one go. Instead of the usual ending, perhaps, for once, I would play it out traditionally and only part ways after a hot night in his bed and coffee and croissants the next morning. He had the body, and the attitude, for it.
But if I took that path, would he assume I’d want to see him again? Would he call me, send flowers, theatre tickets? I really couldn’t deal with the drama of the inevitable break-up. That’s where I made my mistake. I’d stopped looking at his eyes.
He kissed me. He knew what he was doing and for once I enjoyed it. He pressed me hard against the bridge and let his hands roam. It was intoxicating. He let go of me without warning and stepped back with a smile.
Your place or mine, he said. I’m just around the corner, he said. His eyes were intense.
Have you ever noticed how well a coat swirls when you spin? It gives you enough time to draw a weapon without the person behind you seeing you do it.
I swung round with a laugh, the gun alive in my hand. I saw his smile first and knew immediately - he was also holding a gun. Drop it, he said. You’re under arrest, he said.
I fired anyway.
And now, I’d like a lawyer.