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Authors: Angela Henry

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BOOK: The Paris Secret
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“Unfortunately, that’s the only page of this book available online. It was published by a small university press in 1992 and is out of print now. I haven’t had any luck finding a copy anywhere let alone finding another mention of the Society of Moret anyplace else. However, as luck would have it, the author lives right here in Paris. Her name is Dr. Evalyn Hewitt. She recently retired from teaching medieval studies at the American University. After I put you in a cab to the airport tomorrow morning, I plan to go see her.”

“Oh, really?” I fixed him with a hard look. “I don’t remember saying anything about leaving Paris?”

“You need to go home where you’ll be safe.”

“I need to stay here and clear my name. Do you know how it’ll make me look if I leave the country? They might even arrest me for trying. At least now I have a chance to prove I didn’t kill Juliet.”

“They didn’t arrest you. Did they take your passport?”

“No. But—”

“Then you can go home. If they were truly trying to keep you here, they’d have confiscated your passport. They were just trying to scare you.”

“Well it worked! I’m not going home and you can’t make me.”

Simon let out an exasperated sigh.

“Your life is in danger. Two people have already died. You need to get out of here before—”

“Forget it, Simon.” I stood, letting the sketchbook slide onto the floor. “I’m not going home to spend everyday looking over my shoulder waiting for either the French police or that crazy fucker who killed Juliet to come after me. I need to lay low and find out what the hell is going on.”

“When I find out exactly what happened to Luc, I’m afraid of what I might do,” Simon said quietly. “Do you want be a part of that with the trouble you’re already in?”

We stared at each other. I had to break my gaze because he was dead serious. He also had a point. Did I really need to add Simon’s troubles to my own? His eyes held a deep sadness that made my heart ache for him. And the last thing I needed was to get into more trouble over some stranger, even one with beautiful, green, sad puppy dog eyes.

“Why don’t we wait until tomorrow to see what Dr. Hewitt has to say? If she doesn’t know anything useful, then we can go our separate ways and you can do whatever you want. Now, if you really want to do something for me,” I said, sitting back down, “you can feed me. I’m starving.”

 

I woke with the birds the next morning in Simon’s brother’s bed. Simon slept on the couch. We’d spent the rest of the previous evening in awkward companionship, making occasional small talk punctuated by long lapses of silence. I sensed Simon was much more personable and charming under normal circumstances, and so was I. But we were both so tired and these were hardly normal circumstances. The only edible things to eat in the tiny fridge, that didn’t resemble a science project, had been some eggs, a wedge of Gruyere cheese and a pint of strawberries. Simon made a large omelet and we’d shared it along with the strawberries before he gave me one of his old T-shirts to sleep in and went to bed. He was still asleep, lying on his stomach with his left arm hanging over the side of the couch, when I walked into the living room and pulled up the blinds, flooding the living room with bright sunlight.

“Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty. We need to get a move on.”

Simon jerked awake with a groan and fell off the couch. When he scrambled to his feet, he was completely naked, and the only part of him that was awake and alert was below his waist. Wow! No wonder he could run up all those flights of stairs. He had the trim, well-muscled body of an athlete. He was in excellent shape. In short, his body was bangin’.


Mon Dieu!
What are you trying to do, kill me?” He hastily grabbed two pillows from the floor to cover his front and back and sidestepped me.

“Well, I am suspected of murder after all,” I joked, hoping he hadn’t noticed me admiring his anatomy.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“Ten ’til seven.”

“Why did you wake me so early?” he asked grouchily as he dropped the pillow covering his ass and rubbed his scruffy face.

“You said you had an appointment with that professor this morning.”

“At eleven. A civilized hour,” he snapped, grabbing his pants from where they were draped across the chaise.

“Sorry,” I said, slinking off to the kitchen. “I didn’t realize you weren’t a morning person.”

“There is only one reason a woman should wake me first thing in the morning. And it’s not for an appointment.” He eyed my bare legs. I tugged at the T-shirt.

He came into the kitchen and walked toward me. Due to the limited space, I couldn’t get out of his way fast enough and ended up backed into a corner. At first, I was afraid he was going to try and kiss me, and I could tell by his smile that he knew it. Instead, he reached over my head to the cabinet above and pulled out a bag of coffee beans and a grinder. I noticed for the first time he had a small diamond stud in his left ear.

“Do you think she’ll still talk to you if you bring me along?” I asked to mask my embarrassment.

Simon looked down at me, started to speak and stopped abruptly. A horrified look spread over his face. He leaned down to look at my neck. Rattled, I headed off to the bathroom to see what the problem was. Simon followed. What I saw made me gasp. Livid purple bruises from where I’d been choked the day before encircled my neck.

“Does it hurt?” He probed the bruises with tender fingers. I could feel his warm breath on my neck and jumped away from him like I’d been burned.

“A little,” I said, though in truth it didn’t hurt at all.

“Are you hurt anywhere else?” He promptly pulled up the T-shirt to reveal my white cotton bikini panties as well as another large bruise the size of a baseball on my right side. This bruise was tender and I flinched when he touched it.

“I should have killed that bastard when I had the chance!” exclaimed Simon through gritted teeth.

“I’m fine!” I quickly yanked the T-shirt down again. “Now get out of here so I can take a shower.”

Simon paused in the doorway of the bathroom before leaving. “Luc’s ex, Natasha, left some clothes behind that might fit you. They’re in the bedroom armoire.”

“Thanks.” I waited for him to go but he just stood there smiling at me. Was he expecting an invitation to wash my back? Like that would happen. I finally closed the door.

 

Natasha Girard had a much frillier and more feminine taste in clothing than I did. She was also a lot taller than me. The only things of hers I was willing to step out of the apartment in were a gray turtleneck sweater that covered the bruises on my neck and a pair of black slacks that fit just fine once the waistband was rolled up a couple of times.

While I was putting Natasha’s clothes back into their box at the bottom of the armoire, I found a snapshot. Two tanned, smiling couples stood on the beach. Simon’s brother, Luc, wearing an unflattering yellow Speedo and a red polo shirt, had his arm around a tall, willowy blonde in a pink string bikini. This had to be Natasha.

The other couple was made up of Simon and a curvy redhead in a black one-piece. Her gorgeous curly hair hung gracefully around her shoulders. The redhead wasn’t traditionally pretty, but she had a beautiful smile and was quite striking. Simon smiled at her like a love-struck teenager. I flipped the picture over, but all it said was
St. Tropez 2004.
I wondered who the redhead was. Simon was clearly crazy about her. Of course a man like Simon had someone special in his life, probably several someone specials. How cute. I tossed the snapshot back in the box and slammed the armoire shut with a force I hadn’t intended.

 

Dr. Evalyn Hewitt lived on the Ile St. Louis, the smaller of two islands in the center of Paris. Once Simon and I crossed the Pont Louis-Philippe, the bridge that connected the island to the Right Bank, it was as though I’d stepped into a small village.

I walked with Simon down narrow, cobbled one-way streets past shops, galleries, restaurants and elegant seventeenth-century townhouses. We strolled past an ice cream parlor that had a line of customers so long it was winding down the sidewalk. Simon told me it was Berthillon’s, an ice cream parlor that had the best ice cream in the world.

Once we were away from the busy rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, a short street running the length of the island, the side streets were much quieter and tranquil, and it was possible to catch glimpses of the Seine between the buildings lining the quay. Residents of the island went about their daily business, pulling grocery and laundry carts down the street and relaxing at cafés.

Dr. Hewitt lived on the rue Poulletier in a building built in 1637, according to the plaque mounted on the outside of the honey-colored building. The building was a walk-up and I could see Simon resisting the urge to laugh at my pained expression as I started up after him. Thankfully we were only going to the third floor.

Simon was just about to knock on Dr. Hewitt’s door when it was suddenly flung open by a slender woman in her late sixties with short white hair pinned down on either side of her head by black barrettes. She wore a gray twinset and skirt.

“Dr. Hewitt?” asked Simon.

“Oh, yes. Do come in. I’ve been so looking forward to your visit, Monsieur Girard,” the woman said excitedly. She had an English accent but rolled the
R
’s in Simon’s last name like a French native.

She stepped aside and we walked into a large spacious apartment. Our shoes clicked on the polished hardwood floors. The first floor of the apartment was decorated in what I would bet my next paycheck was authentic Queen Anne furniture. I spotted a staircase in the corner of the dining room. This place had to have cost a fortune.

“I hope you don’t mind that I’ve brought my assistant, Madame Sinclair, with me, Dr. Hewitt?”

“Oh, not a problem. Not a problem. You know I was just telling Agnes the other day. It’s not everyday we have a filmmaker come to visit us. It’s all so exciting.”

Filmmaker? I shot Simon a look and he ignored me.

“The pleasure is all mine, Dr. Hewitt. I’m just happy an important woman such as yourself was able to squeeze me into your busy schedule.” He took her hand and brushed the top of it with his lips. Dr. Hewitt giggled like a little girl. I rolled my eyes.

“Agnes thinks it would be an excellent idea if we take our coffee up in the library. I have it all laid out. Follow me.”

We followed Dr. Hewitt upstairs. White-washed brick walls and exposed wood beams in the ceiling gave the room a homey, rustic feel. Walls were lined with bookshelves holding row after row of leather-bound books.

An overstuffed plaid couch and a worn leather recliner were arranged by a fireplace. A tray with a Bodum coffee brewer, cups and a dome-covered platter of cheese, fruit and French pastries were laid out on the low table in front of the couch. Curled up on a leather footstool was a fluffy Bichon Frise.

“Here we are, Agnes,” Dr. Hewitt announced as she sat The dog looked up briefly then jumped off the stool and onto Dr. Hewitt’s lap. It was clear the two adored each other.

Once we were settled, Simon got down to business.

“Dr. Hewitt do you mind if I ask you few questions about your book,
Secret Societies of France?

“Ask away,
monsieur.
It’s not everyday one’s book gets made into a documentary. Isn’t that right, Agnes?” The dog yawned.

I cringed but didn’t dare look at Simon. I couldn’t believe he’d lied to this sweet old lady.

“I’m aware of many of the societies mentioned in your book. But this one,” he said, pulling out the computer printout he’d shown me and handing it to her, “is one I’m completely unfamiliar with.” He gestured toward the symbol for the Society of Moret. Dr. Hewitt put on her glasses and peered at the printout.

“Ah, yes, the Society of Moret.” She reached into the drawer of the small, round table next to her chair and pulled out a hardbound book. It was a copy of
Secret Societies of France.
“You know I seriously thought about not including this one in the book. It’s actually more of a myth than anything else.”

“It that so?” said Simon. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning forward in anticipation.

“Except for a handful of stories handed down over the years, there’s no real proof it ever existed,” said Dr. Hewitt, clearly happy to have a captive audience.

“And what are those stories?” Simon asked after taking a swig of coffee.

Dr. Hewitt started to speak and then looked pointedly at me, and then back at Simon. My mouth was full of luscious pear tart and by the odd look she’d just given me, I was afraid I might be drooling.

“Isn’t your assistant going to take notes?”

“Ah, you must forgive her, Dr. Hewitt. She’s new.” He turned to wink at me on the sly then pulled a notepad and a pen out of his backpack and plopped it on my lap. I quickly wrote the words
Society of Moret
at the top of the page.

“As I was about to say,” continued Dr. Hewitt. “According to legend, the Society of Moret was founded in Moret-sur-Loing France by an obscure seventeenth-century nun named Sister Louise-Marie Therese. She was known to the locals of the time as the Black Nun of Moret.”

“Why’d they call her the black nun?” I asked, still writing.

“Well, because she was a woman of color like yourself, my dear. She was born Louise-Marie Therese, the illegitimate daughter of Queen Maria-Theresa of Spain, wife of King Louis XIV of France, and her African lover, a servant named Nabo,” she said matter-of-factly.

Dr. Hewitt flipped through the book until she found the page she wanted. She turned the book to show us a painting of a black woman wearing a habit. Her skin was the color of cinnamon and her large brown eyes overwhelmed her long narrow face. She seemed sad and forlorn. My pen froze over the page. This story sounded familiar. Then it came back to me. When I’d toured Versailles with Brian and Jarrod, I’d overheard a tour guide telling her group about a French queen who’d given birth to a black baby at Versailles. I’d just thought it was some exaggerated gossip to shock and titillate the tourists and it had annoyed me at the time. But this had to be the same child.

BOOK: The Paris Secret
9.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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