Lindsey Grant locked the door behind her to her Paris apartment and leaned against it, sighing heavily. She had just received her tenth letter from her overbearing mother. The tenth in a month. She called home back to New York once a week. Paris was the place to go in the nineteen-fifties, that’s what they all said. “Go to Paris, meet a handsome young man, fall in love,” her uncle had said as though it were so simple, such an easy dream. “They call it that you know; the City of Love. La Ville Lumiére.” He was so excited by the idea that she had not the heart to tell him that lumiére meant ‘light’ in French. Her doting uncle insisted though that she go, and paid for the whole trip.
Putting away her groceries, she tried not to think of what the letter her mother sent her would say. She would mention Michael, mention how sorry he was, how much he missed her, how she should reconsider. Was it wrong of her to be furious that she had caught him kissing another woman? Of course not, she told herself! But her mother was hopelessly old-fashioned, and Michael Horn was a fabulously wealthy businessman.
Of course, Lindsey thought, marry an unfaithful, handsome, rich man, keep the house and raise the children and never say anything at all, never want for anything more than money and security. “You’re reaching for the moon,” her mother would said, “and you won’t be young and pretty much longer. You’re almost thirty!” As if twenty-seven were old and she were halfway in the grave! And Michael… he may have been handsome, but she had always known in the back of her mind that there was something wrong. It was in his eyes; they were empty. She understood that her mother worried; Lindsey’s father had died when she was very young, and her mother had a hard life, raising a daughter with only her much-older brother for help. And Lindsey’s uncle had only become wealthy in the last ten years. Money had been a constant worry, second only to their security.
She pushed all this out of her mind as she glanced through her bedroom and out of the window to see it raining. Foolish as it was, she loved when it rained in Paris. Everyone always said that, but she truly did. The soft glow of street lamps filtered in through the grey evening into her window and she decided to go out to the café and just sit for a while and enjoy the quiet. It felt good to be alone, in Paris to her. It felt good to be away from her mother and her friends who all treated her like someone damaged. She hardly cared for Michael; it was easy to get over someone when it happened like that.
And yet, as calming as it was to be alone, she thought as she walked the cobbled streets, umbrella in hand, her heels clicking, even the splendor and beauty of Paris could not replace that hollow space in her chest. It was the space that swelled at night, when she lay in bed alone. It was the ache that surrounded it when she saw two lovers kissing in the street, or on a park bench. Paris could not replace that longing in her hands when she saw two people walking down the street, holding on to each other as if they were all that kept them anchored to life.
Still, she was in Paris, and if there was any place to be lonely, it was there. She rounded a corner and saw the most curious thing from the corner of her eye, snatching her out of her thoughts. A man in a suit with an umbrella was walking behind her. She had no reason to think anything of it, but something about him simply caught her eye. He was wearing a brown suit and carrying an umbrella. Looking across the street, she saw another man, this one in a grey suit, also with an umbrella. Her uncle, a war veteran and perhaps a tad paranoid from his time in the Pacific, had always told her to be careful. “The world isn’t as safe as it once was,” he said. “There’s bad men out there.” Something about these men told her they were bad men. And they were watching her.
She had made eye contact with the one across the street and he had immediately looked away. This was most unusual. She did not boast, but Lindsey knew herself to be an attractive woman, one most men took at least an extra moment to take in before looking away, but he had done so immediately, and without so much as a smile. He had even looked ill-tempered upon seeing her.
Don’t be silly, she told herself as she came in view of the café, the windows a great yellow light against the dull grey. There were people in there, warm and cozy and quietly murmuring to one another. If these men were indeed following her, they wouldn’t dare follow her inside. The man across the street had disappeared, getting into a cab and driving away after she spotted him and this dispelled her fears. She glanced behind her and saw the umbrella of the brown-suited man turning out of sight down an alley. Nothing to worry about, she told herself.
Lindsey sat in a corner booth, sipping her coffee and nibbling an apple tart. She had been there only five minutes, letting the warmth soak into her cold body, when another man in a suit approached her. It was too much coincidence for one night, which meant it was no coincidence at all to her. Yet he was different than the two she had spotted before. His black hair was slightly ruffled, like his suit and he was clean-shaven; the other two had mustaches which, if anything, made them seem even more forbidding than their expressions let on. This man was younger, too. He might have been even younger than Lindsey. There were no lines in his face as he smiled, and yet there was something in his eyes… something that made her think of steel, yet at the same time, of the sky. They were beautifully blue-gray.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle. Parlez-vous anglais?” he asked. His accent was Parisian, as though he were a native. She looked around quickly and saw no one else suspicious in the café. No one besides this man.
“Yes, what is it you want?” she said. He looked taken aback. He frowned, hands in his pockets.
“Well, to ask you your name of course, and if I may be so lucky as to join you? Unless of course mademoiselle is expecting someone. I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said with a sly smile. He had a very handsome smile, she noticed. And while it did not strike her as a sincere one, there was something about him that made him seem familiar, as though they had met before. His English held a decidedly East Coast American accent, articulate but relaxed, confident. There was something even flippant in the way he hunched his shoulders, leaning back slightly, not as a lazy man slouches but as a man who knows how to handle himself stands supposedly relaxed, but tensed and ready for trouble. Yes, Lindsey thought, he looked like a man ready for trouble in his black suit and tie, hands in his pants pockets. She decided she liked him.
“Lindsey,” she said, “Lindsey Grant. And you may.” He sighed, still smiling.
“I was afraid you’d say that. Miss Grant, I…” he faltered, glancing around at the entrance to the café. And then she saw the most peculiar look in his eyes. It was guilt. It suddenly etched itself across his whole face, his eyes pleading with her to believe what he was about to say. “Miss Grant, I know you have no reason to trust me, but I must ask you to come with me. You see, I’m Lindsay Grant, and I’m afraid there’s been a very unfortunate misunderstanding.” Her eyes widened.
“What kind of misunderstanding?” she asked. He glanced again to the street outside. She followed his eyes and saw two men in suits approaching, both with umbrellas. Both had their hands inside their coats.
“Now’s not the time. Again, I can give you no reason to trust me, except to tell you that I will do everything in my power to take care of you. But please, you must come with me. Now! Please Miss, we’re in danger.” Her heartbeat quickened as she stared into his blue eyes, those impossibly grey-blue eyes. She had been right; those men had been following her. But why?! Who were they? Who was this other Lindsay Grant? There was no time! The men outside were crossing the street and she understood that they must get away. “Please Miss,” he said again, reaching into his own coat, his eyes pleading with her. Somehow suddenly she knew he held a gun and that so did those men outside and that he was one of the good guys.
“Yes,” she said breathlessly, and he took her hand and took her away.