Prologue: Time Ticks
Hands in motion. Fingers fly over letters and numbers, type out a
message, a brief history of self, of time, of need and directionless
desire. The screen bathes those hands in bruised light, flickers on a
face in the darkness. A face grown two years older, forehead scarred
by a bomb blast often hidden by blonde bangs and more tiny lines
around the eyes behind glasses. There is an unmistakable tattoo on the
left hand between the thumb and index finger: two interlocking
crosses, equal but opposite.
Here is how the monster is kept at bay: he surfs through pornography,
lurid images and chatrooms, searches for the lowest common
denominator. There’s a picture of a beautiful young boy, only
eighteen, on one side of the screen and an open dialogue box on the
other. 17 Rue Ferrandi, the boy types. I am Thierry. What is your
He types back: Martin.
He leaves the apartment on rue Rampon silently, makes sure not to wake
his roommate. But she is awake. She hears the almost imperceptible
click as the laptop switches off; his feet pad down the hardwood floor
of the hallway. Then there’s the other click, the one that makes her
mouth go dry with dread and disappointment. It’s the sound as the door
softly opens and closes, a maneuver only she hears. Even the cat at
the foot of her bed, with preternatural senses, sleeps through his
leaving. These late night disappearances happen at least twice a week,
and they’ve been going on for months. Every time he leaves, it’s still
a surprise, as if it’s happening for the first time. She gets out of
bed and opens the doors to the balcony.
It is late summer, the tourists have gone home, the city is quiet, but
there is expectancy in the air, something or someone she cannot name.
She feels it as intensely as when Martin Paige’s arrival was imminent
just two short years ago. It is early morning; Venus is visible
overhead. It rivals the moon for the sky. Irène Laureux leans on the
balcony, the tattoo on her pale left hand in sharp relief against the
metal railing even in the weak light. Equal but opposite – the same
ink she shares with Martin. Irène looks up, summons the inevitable
with words that have served her well in the past: Paris, Paris, Paris.