When she disembarked at Place de la République, almost tripping over the rails in her haste, she put the tube back into her satchel. Her article was due in a little over an hour. After she dropped it off, she’d go right back to the morgue to see the second victim.

As she walked home, Nathalie pondered what, if anything, to tell Maman. Her mother was a good listener and offered advice from the heart. Yet that was also one of the reasons Nathalie didn’t feel comfortable telling her about the episode at the morgue. Maman had a way of making other people’s worries her own, and her moods had been especially erratic since the fire. Not to mention, Maman was repulsed by the public morgue to begin with and rarely went. She couldn’t confide this to her mother.

Nathalie’s building was tucked away on a quiet avenue lined with gray sandstone apartment buildings. She walked with an even quicker pace than usual. The neighbor’s black-and-white cats spooked her by leaping onto a wall, one after the other. Embarrassed by her jumpiness, she glanced around. The street itself was empty, but a hundred glass rectangles watched her from behind grime-hewn balconies and decorative wrought-iron grates.

As she approached the steps to her building, she noticed a familiar blonde with painted pink lips and a bright, pea-green pleated dress coming down the stairs.

No one better to lift her spirits or talk her through this.

“Just the person I wanted to see!” Nathalie said, hoping she sounded more cheerful than desperate. She wanted to ease into this conversation, because she wasn’t even sure how to have it.

“Excusez-moi?” Simone turned to her with a grin. “Aren’t I always that person?”

Nathalie folded her arms and pretended to think about it. “Eh, sometimes.”

“You watch that sense of humor of yours. Or I’ll steal those flowers,” Simone said, wagging her finger. “I just stopped by your place. Your mother said you hadn’t even come home to change yet.”

“Believe me, I’ll explain why. It’s going to take a while.” She trotted up the stairs and kissed Simone on both cheeks. Simone smelled of rose water, as always. “First, you and why you’re here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” said Nathalie. “Now let me guess: You’re moving back in with your parents because you miss me so.”

“I love you dearly, my friend,” said Simone, taking her hands. “Just not enough to give up Le Chat Noir. Too much fun and too many boys.” She struck a theatrical hands-on-hips pose and giggled.

Simone’s parents were more lenient than Nathalie’s, but they drew the line at cabaret performing. It had been almost four months since M. and Mme. Marchand gave Simone a choice: leave Le Chat Noir and work at the family market or live elsewhere. Within a week she’d moved into a small apartment near the club, several tram stops away.

“Besides,” Simone added, “I know you enjoy visiting me.”

“Only because you have grapes,” Nathalie teased. As the only two children in the apartment building for many years, they’d been playmates growing up. Between Nathalie’s imagination and Simone’s boldness, they were never bored—a trait that was as true for neighborhood adventures in childhood as it was for conversations now about dreams, worries, and all else life left on the doorstep. Visiting Simone across town rather than downstairs had been, to say the least, an adjustment. “So if it isn’t moving back home on my account, what brings you here today?”

“Céleste isn’t feeling well. Again,” said Simone with a frown. Her sister was seven and had been ill on and off all summer. “I came by to look after her so my mother could work at the store for a few hours.”

“I’m sorry to hear it, Simone. Happy to see you, but sorry to hear it.”

Simone thanked her. “Enough about my day. What is it you wanted to explain?”

The question, natural and straightforward, pressed a hundred thoughts into Nathalie’s head at once. So much to share, so much to say. She bit her lip as all the possible ways to begin competed for her voice. “Did you hear about the murder victim?”

“Heard and saw. I stopped at the morgue on my way over.” Simone stroked her throat. “Terrifying.”

“It was. Is. And—something happened to me in the viewing room this morning. It’s going to sound stranger than anything you’ve ever heard. Promise me you’ll believe me,” Nathalie said, sitting on a step. She cradled the flowers in the lap of her dress.

Simone sat beside her. “Believe you? Why wouldn’t I?”

Nathalie sighed the sigh of someone who didn’t know where to begin, who could scarcely mount the incredulity of what she was about to say. And then she told Simone everything she could, and couldn’t, remember about the day so far.

Simone asked question after question, even though Nathalie didn’t have many answers.

“Silent and in reverse.” Simone tucked a curl behind her ear. “That makes it even more peculiar. And you’re sure it happened because you touched the glass?”

“Either that or it’s some coincidence.”

“I wonder,” said Simone, “if you have … I don’t know. Some connection to the killer?”

Nathalie interlaced her fingers. “I never thought of that, but then again, who do I know that would do something like that?”

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