Home > The Man in the Black Suit(7)

The Man in the Black Suit(7)
Author: Sylvain Reynard


   He was thirty-eight, had a fondness for jazz and Michelin-rated restaurants, and visited Paris several times a year. According to Marcel’s notations, it was not uncommon for Breckman to socialize with the world’s elite. He also enjoyed sporting events such as European football and the French Open.

   During his stays at the Hotel Victoire, three different female companions, all significantly younger than him, had joined him in the past five years. Monsieur Breckman was not considered difficult or troublesome, which made his behavior earlier that day puzzling. Understandably, he was sensitive about his scar. But his file didn’t mention tantrums or outlandish behavior.

   Silke Rainier, a Swiss model, had been Monsieur Breckman’s latest partner. Their separation must have been recent, as Marcel had included her in his remarks on the current reservation.

   Acacia put the printed pages aside. She knew the reservations agents and housekeeping staff could have told her far more than was recorded in the file. But she wasn’t on friendly terms with the former and she didn’t want to make herself conspicuous to the latter, who were notorious for gossiping.

   She opened her laptop and Googled “Pierre Breckman,” which yielded only enough information to confirm what was listed in the file. Strangely, none of the entries included photographs.

   Googling Silke generated hundreds of entries. Although Acacia didn’t recognize her, photographs of Mademoiselle Rainier were splashed across the internet, including recent images of her sunbathing topless with an American film star on the deck of a yacht. The way she caressed her new man’s unmarred face seemed calculated, if not punitive to Monsieur Breckman, who would no doubt see the photos.

   “What a cruel display,” Acacia whispered.

   Claude responded by rubbing his head against her stomach, as if in agreement.

   While Monsieur Breckman had been busy purchasing gifts for his girlfriend, she’d been topless with someone else. Acacia closed the browser window.

   Monsieur Breckman was not the kind of man who would welcome pity. He’d reacted in anger when she’d apologized for staring at his scar. Of course, he’d probably seen the photos of his erstwhile girlfriend. No wonder he’d been so irritable.

   But Monsieur Breckman’s interest in the attack on Marcel seemed of a personal nature, as were his questions about Marcel’s associates. Again, she scoured the reservation notes for information about a meeting, but found nothing.

   Acacia took her membership in Les Clefs d’Or very seriously and would never disgrace the organization by participating in anything illegal. Not all concierges were as scrupulous. She’d never caught Marcel committing an infraction, but since he was her superior and discreet in the extreme, it was quite possible his compromises had gone undetected.

   Acacia slid her hand under the neckline of her T-shirt and withdrew the hamsa amulet she always wore. She never took off this pendant of protection. However, given the antagonism in France toward religious symbols, she was careful to keep the necklace hidden.

   Much later, she lay in bed while Claude curled up on top of the blankets next to her feet. She gazed sleepily at a print of one of her favorite paintings, Monet’s Twilight, Venice, which hung over the bed.

   The Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo owned the painting’s original. Although she’d never seen it in person, Acacia had fallen in love with it when she began studying Impressionism.

   The painting featured the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, an island haven surrounded by water and sky. Monet had used oranges and pinks to convey the light of the setting sun, darkening to blues and greens at the edges of the painting. The church appeared like a floating city, dark and shadowy against the warm light.

   She studied the brush strokes, admiring the way Monet had used wavy lines here and there to give the impression of gently moving waves.

   If she focused very hard, she could forget everything around her and disappear into the painting. She could feel the fading sunlight dance across her skin. She could smell the scent of the sea.

   Acacia was not an idealist. Any ideals she’d had were killed years ago in Amman. Of course, no one in her current life knew about that. She was determined to keep it that way, which was why she hid behind a navy uniform, serving a transient clientele and never letting anyone get too close—not even Luc, her former boyfriend.

   Acacia shut her eyes. She didn’t like thinking of Luc and how things had ended with him. She didn’t like thinking about lying next to him in this very bed, his hand smoothing across her naked skin while he whispered to her. She hadn’t had a lover since.

   As much as she tried to deny it, Acacia was lonely. Rarely did she admit it and rarer still did she dwell on it. But like many, she longed for love and companionship. She longed for honesty and intimacy, even though she’d lived without them for years.

   Acacia opened her eyes and rolled over. Claude meowed his annoyance at being discommoded.

   Her position at the hotel paid well, and she received thousands of Euros in gratuities on top of her salary, which enabled her to support her mother in Recife. In addition, she was slowly building her savings—her exit strategy—and hoped someday she could work in a gallery.

   By chance, her gaze landed on her work journal, which rested on her nightstand.

   Every well-trained concierge kept a record of the requests made by hotel guests. She carried her journal at all times, which was why it was on her nightstand. The contacts and comments inside were too confidential to be left at the concierge desk or in her locker at the hotel.

   If Monsieur Breckman had asked Marcel to set up a meeting, Marcel would have recorded the particulars. Indeed, any work he’d done for Breckman would have been written down, with the possible exception of illegal activities. No doubt Marcel had the journal with him when he was attacked, which meant it could be lying on the street near the hotel. Perhaps the police had overlooked it.

   Acacia resolved to look for the journal before she began work the next morning.

 

 

Chapter Four

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