Reads: 102

Dumas scarcely paid attention to the message from the Palais de Justice on Monday morning. Instead, pensively watching the fields slide past as they rode back to the city, she gave the message a quick glance.

Then a second glance.

Then, reading it more carefully, she sat bolt upright in her seat and gripped Simmons’ forearm hard enough to leave bruises.

‘I am vindicated, Richard! Such a relief! I feel like a lottery winner! Because we have won! I knew the girls reached his heart! They humbled themselves so thoroughly!’

‘What are we talking about?’

‘The Magistrate has ruled, and your friends—’

‘Associates—’

‘—associates will be released tomorrow.’

‘And nothing happens to them?’

There was a pause as Dumas read further down—and then the excitement dissipated a little. ‘No—not exactly “nothing”. There is an amount in euros further down. Now I have to find it.’

‘All right.’

‘And—when that financial matter is settled—they will be deported. “With prejudice” I believe the English phrase might be.’

‘Prejudice?’

‘They are being asked not to return to France for five years.’

‘I doubt they’ll be wandering back in this direction anyway.’

There was no excitement at all when Dumas handed him her phone. She knew that he didn’t read a word of French: and pointed to the financial judgment instead.

‘Holy fuck!’

‘In euros—but the exchange rate is fairly good.’

‘Seems like he’s gouging them a little. Maybe more than a little—’

‘But they could have gone to jail with the rest. So it is something of a victory. And I was so worried that there would be nothing.’

‘I’ll have to check with the home office,’ Simmons warned her.

‘Reminding them that these women cannot leave France until this is paid in full. Your office gave you money for the bail amount, I believe.’

Simmons gestured toward the smartphone screen: ‘About half that. And that was for all six. And the idea was that the company would get that back when they appeared in court again.’

‘Could more be available?’

‘Didn’t sound like it. But how does the court make sure these girls stay put?’

‘Pardon? Stay…what?’

‘Keep them from going out to the airport, and just getting on a plane.’

“Their passports are being held, of course,’ Dumas explained. ‘But, beyond that, I personally am responsible for them.’

‘You, yourself? Is that legal?’

‘That is the arrangement, and I am pleased to do it—’

‘That’s really hands-on lawyering.’

‘I have the enormous apartment. I have the time—and it will not hurt my reputation for thoroughness.’

‘Your apartment? I had the idea it was just going to be the two of us for a while.’

‘The walls are quite thick. Anything we wish to do, no one will hear us. I am sure all will be well. And only for a few days.’

Simmons challenged her. ‘How do you know that?’

‘I will contact the Magistrate if it appears that our guests still believe they are on vacation. But they were so, so tearful: telling him how much they want to get back to their lives. I think they will be busy calling in favors. Or calling this Asia person that you have mentioned. But having guests in the apartment does change one thing—’

‘I get my surprise early?’

‘Easy to guess—’

‘No, I’m just a good guesser.’

‘Well you are correct. The meeting I wish to have must be tonight. I must contact the cook and tell her the time. It will be too inconvenient to have your friends—’

‘Associates.’

‘—your associates to be in my home. The conversation I wish you to have can only be among the three of us.’

‘Top-top-secret.’

‘It must be. My life would turn upside down if certain facts became common knowledge. So: when Jimmy comes to speak with you—’

‘Jimmy? I thought you said he was older.’

‘Quite an older person. In his seventies now. But not a formal person. You will not find him intimidating, even though he has had quite a life behind him and was once famous all over the world.’

‘Now you’re torturing me again. Just tell me who this is.’

‘But you will not have to wait much longer! Dinner tonight—and in the utmost confidence—even if you decide that what he is asking is not what you would prefer to do.’

‘The secret’s safe with me. Whatever the hell is it.’

‘I believe the secret will be safe’ the lawyer observed. ‘Otherwise, I would have said nothing. I do think you will hit it off. If nothing else, he has an endless supply of stories. And I should probably get some wine if we are looking forward to guests tomorrow.’

‘Is this Jimmy any kind of wine expert?’

‘He tells me he preferred beer back in the day. All that is behind him. He does not drink at all, now. But he will be happy to step out on the terrace if you would like to share a smoke.’

‘I stopped smoking a few years ago.’

‘Not that kind of smoking. The other kind.’


Submitted: May 07, 2022

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