“Who keeps that much cash in a safe?” asked Ethan stupefied. It was a good question, but it wasn’t the right one.
We sat around my wooden kitchen table, a gift from Serge that he had made in his workshop. At that moment his head was face down upon it.
“I don’t like banks,” he answered numbly. I reached from beside him and rubbed his back reassuringly. It was not the time for ‘I told you so’ and it was not time for questions about money.
Deanna was gone and with her two hundred thousand Canadian dollars. She left a note inside his pillow case. At first Serge had been excited. Apparently she had done the same thing on their honeymoon and the note had been some kind of sexual scavenger hunt. This time when Serge rolled his head to hear the crunch of paper beneath it, the note was of a different sort. This time it was goodbye. Ever the narcissist, she’d even scented the paper.
Serge ended up lighting the bed on fire out of rage. One of the customers at the cafe is Gatineau’s police chief. He called me to ask me to get Serge.
Ethan and Vicky showed up the very next day. Ethan, briefly my ex-boyfriend and hopelessly still obsessed with me (I cringe saying the words, though they’re true), was clad in a black suit, white dress shirt with the top two buttons undone. He always looked too perfect. Vicky, my brother’s best friend since college and, regrettably, a lesbian. She was six feet tall, brown-skinned, soft-spoken and an accidental clairvoyant.
“What exactly did the note say, Marie?” asked Vicky in a voice barely above a whisper.
I rubbed my brow in exhaustion. I had read it and re-read it a thousand times looking for a clue or a code. I knew it was fruitless, but to sit idly by seemed wrong. “All it said was: ‘Please forgive me. My half will go to good use. Love, Deanna'”.
Ethan sat down quickly in the chair across from me. “Well, what does she mean by that? Was there four hundred thousand in the safe and she only took half?”
Serge shook his head and looked up to answer his friend. His eyes were red and swollen. “No, she took it all.”
Ethan considered his words. “So she’s splitting it with someone? Have you reported it to the police yet, man?”
My brother nodded heavily and then reached for his brandy. It was only ten in the morning, but if he wanted brandy then by God he got brandy. I would deny him nothing.
“They’re looking into it,” I said quietly, trying to be helpful.
“Do you still have the note, Marie?” asked Vicky. She was pacing my tiny kitchen, a water glass in her hand.
I shook my head. “The police have it.” Vicky cursed quietly. And then a thought occurred to me. “I have a pair of Deanna’s shoes. We wear the same size. Do you just need something of hers?”
She laughed. “I don’t know what the hell I need. I’m not a real psychic, but sure. Get the shoes.”
I scrambled to my bedroom and fished out Deanna’s size seven silver stilettos from my bedroom closet. Ever since I had heard the news I had wanted to hate her. I wanted to punish her and see her suffer, but that was only a small part of me. This bigger part just watched it all unfold as if it were a movie. I had whispers of thought that told me nothing could hurt Serge, not really. And so as I regarded my sister-in-law’s shoes I said a tiny prayer for her: May she be safe, may she get help and may she leave my brother the hell alone.
Vicky came up behind me. “Are those hers?”
I nodded and handed them to her. She plopped herself down on my double bed, the scarlet red of her cotton dress clashing with my soft pink duvet. She held them to her chest and shut her eyes gently. I watched her breathe in and out. And then she screwed her face up in what appeared to be disgust. Her breathing grew laboured, her eyes flew open and she threw the shoes to the floor in a heap.
Vicky’s voice sounded strangled and urgent. “Marie, where is your father right now?”
A shiver flew up my spine. I sighed in fearful resignation. “Gatineau.”
She closed her eyes again. “They’re together,” she said.