Why You Will Become Obsessed with This Bestselling French Novelist
If you haven't heard of Guillaume Musso yet, you are in for quite a treat, as several of his latest books are being published in the US for the first time.Read full article
First, a gust of wind stings her face. The light rustling of leaves. The distant murmur of a stream. The quiet trill of birdsong. The first rays of sunlight illuminating the tiny blood vessels in her still-closed eyelids.
Then the creak of swaying branches. The smell of moist earth, rotting leaves. The strong, woody odor of gray lichen.
And farther off, an indistinct buzzing, dreamlike and discordant.
Alice Schafer opened her eyes with difficulty. She was blinded by the early-morning sun, her clothes sticky with dew. The frozen sweat on her skin made her shiver. Her throat was dry and her mouth filled with the harsh taste of ashes. Her joints were bruised, her limbs stiff, her mind numb.
When she tried to sit up, she became aware that she was lying on a rough wooden bench. Suddenly, she realized that a large, sturdy man was curled up next to her, his body leaning heavily on hers.
Alice stifled a cry and her pulse raced. Trying to free herself, she toppled over onto the ground and stood up in the same movement. That was when she realized that her right wrist was handcuffed to the left wrist of this stranger. She took a step back, but the man remained motionless.
Her heart was pounding in her chest. A glance at her watch—the face of her old Patek was scratched, but the mechanism still worked. According to the watch, it was eight a.m. on Tuesday, October 8.
Jesus Christ! Where the hell am I? she wondered, using a sleeve to wipe the sweat from her face.
She looked around in an attempt to assess the situation. She was in the middle of a forest, the leaves on the trees autumn gold, the undergrowth fresh and dense. A wild, silent clearing surrounded by oaks, thick bushes, and jutting rocks. There was no one else here, which was probably a good thing, considering the circumstances.
Alice looked up. The light was soft, beautiful, almost unreal. Shards of brightness sparkled through the foliage of a huge flame-colored elm tree. Its roots disappeared into a carpet of damp leaves.
Where was she? She hazarded a few guesses: The forest of Rambouillet? Fontainebleau? The bois de Vincennes?
It was like an Impressionist painting on a postcard, the serenity of the image clashing with the surreal weirdness of waking up next to a total stranger.
Cautiously, she leaned forward to get a better view of his face. He was in his late thirties, she thought. Disheveled chestnut hair and the beginnings of a beard.
She knelt down and placed two fingers on his neck, to the right of his Adam’s apple. When she pressed down on the carotid artery, she felt a pulse. Relief. The guy was sleeping but alive. She took a moment to look at him more closely. Did she know him? Some thug she was taking to jail? A childhood friend whose face she’d forgotten? No, his features were completely unfamiliar to her.
Alice pushed back a few stray blond locks that had fallen over her eyes, then examined the pair of metal handcuffs that connected her to the man.
It was a standard doublelocking model, a type used by police departments and private security firms all over the world. Most likely, this was her own pair. Alice rummaged in her jeans pocket, hoping to find the key. It wasn’t there. She did, however, find a gun in the inside pocket of her leather jacket. Thinking it must be her service pistol, she sighed with relief as she gripped the butt. But this was not the SIG Sauer used by cops in the Paris Criminal Division. It was a polymer Glock .22, and she had no idea where it had come from. She wanted to check the magazine, but it was difficult with one hand shackled. She did eventually manage it, after a few contortions, taking care not to wake the stranger. One bullet missing. As she handled the pistol, she became aware that the butt was stained with dried blood. Unzipping her jacket all the way, she discovered that there were traces of blood all over her blouse.
My God, what have I done?
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