“It’s snowing again,” Ivan observed Monday morning at breakfast.
I glared, first at my husband, and then at the window. I was perfectly capable of seeing that it was snowing—again. It’s not an altogether unexpected occurrence in Montréal, which gets more snow every winter than does Moscow; but this March storm hadn’t been forecast, and I had meetings lined up for most of the day. All in different parts of the city, of course.
Ivan’s head was bent again over his iPad: he consumes the morning news along with his café au lait and croissants, and I was accustomed to his running commentary. “Well,” he said finally, “your new boss hasn’t called in sick yet, that has to be good news.”
“My new boss,” I reminded him, “has only been in office two weeks.”
“Still, it’s some sort of record.”
I’m the publicity director for the city, and my new boss was our new mayor, Jean-Luc Boulanger. Early days, I thought realistically: in a city incapable of electing anyone who isn’t corrupt, it seemed a little fanciful to expect anything else. “I never took you for a glass-half-full kind of guy,” I said.
“I’m dedicated to surprising you,” Ivan said, not looking up from his reading.
“Everybody needs a worthy goal in life,” I responded agreeably, slipping into my boots. “I’m leaving; the metro will be jammed.”
Well, it would be a test, anyway: the previous mayor hadn’t gone much of anywhere in the winter months, despite having a limousine and driver at his disposal—unless it was to an important meeting held at an expensive restaurant. If Jean-Luc was actually in his office this morning, he’d score a few points.
But only a few. Unlike Ivan, I am definitely not a glass-half-full kind of person when it comes to politicians. Then again, I work more closely with them than he does.
The wind hit me the moment I stepped out the door, and even though I was well wrapped up—hat and hood, scarf, mittens, and a coat so padded that I looked like the Michelin Tire Man—the snow it sent full into my face was stinging. I trudged to the closest metro stop, wondering (as I did every winter morning) why we didn’t just get an apartment in one of the many buildings that have direct access to the Underground City—Montréal’s miles of passageways, food courts, shops, and transportation that enable us to keep the city running despite the weather. I was relieved when I got to the subway and could do most of my commute underground.
City Hall is located in the Old City, and that meant another few blocks floundering along sidewalks that hadn’t yet been cleared. Beneath my feet, I knew, were picturesque cobblestones, and the cafés I passed would in the summer spill tables, chairs, and chattering customers over them. Some were shuttered, now, waiting for better weather and the waves of tourists that came along with it.
My administrator was already beside her desk, shaking out her coat and muttering under her breath. She lived in the Old City, I knew, and that meant that she’d done her entire commute on foot and outside. “Bonjour, Chantal,” I said as sympathetically as I could.
“Bonjour, Martine.” She gestured toward my door. “Sylvie from the mayor’s office left a stack of paperwork for you,” she warned.
“Is he in?”
She nodded and we exchanged a look that was half-shrug, half a grimace of surprise. “Will wonders never cease,” I said.
“And he wants to see you,” she added.
“Okay.” I went into my inner office and exchanged furry boots for office shoes, hung up my coat, and looked with some dismay at the papers piled on the desk. Maybe he was going to be efficient after all, I thought. That would certainly make for a change.
I assembled what I might need for meeting with my boss—pen, notebook, courage—and headed up to his office. Sylvie waved me in. “He’s waiting for you,” she said.
“What time did he get here?” I was still a little shocked: this efficiency was going to shake the whole building up.
“Early,” she said. “I think he has some new plans, he’s very excited about something, said he wanted to talk to you about it first thing.”
Curiouser and curiouser. “Thanks, Sylvie.” I knocked on the door and went in.
Vast expanse of desk, and Jean-Luc Boulanger behind it, gazing out the window. “Good morning, monsieur le maire,” I said. “Sylvie says you have something important to discuss with me?” I was ready. Plans for a new PR campaign? Maybe some much-needed money for my department? A new citywide initiative?
He turned from his perusal of the snow falling outside. “Yes,” he said. “Quite important.”
I sat down, pen and notebook at the ready. “Yes, monsieur?”
“Tell me,” he said, leaning over and looking at me earnestly, “what exactly I need to do so they’ll name a major street after me.”
Read more about publicity director Martine LeDuc in Asylum, available from St. Martin’s/Minotaur.
Women are being murdered in Montréal’s summer tourist season, and everything points to random acts of a serial killer—but it’s Martine who discovers that the deaths reflect a darker past that someone wants desperately to keep hidden.
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About the author
Jeannette de Beauvoir grew up in Angers, France, but now lives on Cape Cod—and spends as much time as she can in Montréal, a city that never fails to be inspiring. Her idea of an excellent way to spend a snowy winter day is curled up in bed with a novel and a cup (or three!) of hot chocolate. You can read more about her at www.JeannetteAuthor.com.