Mélanie Mercier née Markowitz (11)
Jean Michel Jakobowicz, UN
The kids and the father of Mélanie Mercier née
Markowitz, deputy chief economist in the
Projection Department of the Organization, have
disappeared. They vanished shortly after her colleague
David Garrido, who was trying to help her, was found
dead. (The first ten chapters of Mélanie are on UN
Special’s home page: http://www.unspecial.org)
Bourg-en-Bresse, Hôtel de la Gare, 4.30 a.m.
Mr. Markovitch Sr. is sleeping in an armchair, gently snoring. His grandchildren, Benjamin and Isabelle, are asleep in the big bed. Theres a faint, rubbing sort of noise. Its enough to stir the grandfather. He opens one eye, sits up and listens.
The rubbing starts again. He stands up without making any noise and goes to the door. He puts his ear against it and listens. This time the knocks are clearer. He carefully reaches for the doorknob and slowly he turns it. Gently he opens the door, which is still held by the chain. Without even looking outside, he puts his hand out. Then suddenly he pulls it back. He is holding a manila envelope.
Mr. Markowitz closes the door and returns to his armchair. He opens the envelope and pours out all its contents. A key falls on the glass table, then the papers of a car and a piece of paper folded in four, which he immediately starts to read. Satisfied, he crumples it and lights one of the hotels matches to burn the sheet of paper in an ashtray. He gets up and walks towards the bed where his grandchildren are sleeping. He looks at them full of tenderness. He cant help thinking that time passes quickly. It seems like only yesterday that he was looking at Mélanie sleeping like this. Come to think of it, Isabelle looks just like her. He leans towards Benjamin and reluctantly rouses him. The kid slowly wakes up. He looks around and smiles at his grandfather.
Good morning, son, says Mr. Markowitz, Im sorry to wake
you, but we have to go.
Why? What time is it?
So early! moans Benjamin. Wake up, children. We have no time to waste. I would really like to be out of here before daybreak.
Will you finally tell us what this is all about? asks Isabelle, whos stretching out her arms.
Of course I will, darling, but one thing at a time. Now get dressed quickly.
No, sulks Isabelle, I wont leave here until you explain to us why were in hiding. Hurry up, repeats Mr. Markowitz. Hes getting nervous. Come on, says Benjamin, dont be childish.
When he hears this, the grandfather smiles. After all, Benjamins only 10 and Isabelle 8.
The boy jumps out of bed and goes to the bathroom.
Theres no time for a wash. Get dressed and were off.
The two children obey. Benjamin is all excited about what is beginning to look like a spy novel, but Isabelle is grumbling. A few minutes later they are ready. Mr. Markowitz is carrying two holdalls and the kids each have their own rucksack. Instead of taking the lift, they use the backstairs to walk down from the third floor to the street behind the hotel. On the corner theres a car parked. Mr Markowitz presses the key and the doors unlock automatically. Its a back Mercedes with tinted windows. Its got leather seats and theres even a bar!
Fancy car! exclaims Benjamin. The two children get in the back and fasten their seatbelts. You know, says Isabelle, you didnt even pay for the hotel. We left like thieves in the night. Can I call mum now? Ive already told you, says Mr Markowitz patiently as he starts the engine, that its not safe. In a couple of hours perhaps, but not now.
Isabelle pouts in her corner and looks out of the window. Benjamin on the other hand is pleased as Punch to be involved in what seems to him to be an increasingly thrilling mystery story.
Where are we going? he asks. Youll see, son. In about half an hour.
The car heads towards the north of Bourg en Bresse and drives onto the road D975. Once they arrive in the village of St Julien, they take a small road to a beautiful house in the middle of a park.
Weve arrived, says Mr Markowitz.
As no one replies, he turns around and sees that both children are fast asleep. He opens the car without making any noise. A little old lady is standing on the threshold of the mansion. Slowly she shuffles towards him.
My dear Léon, how kind of you to come and see an old
woman. But where are your little ones?
Im not surprised. Why did you make them get up at the crack of dawn? And why are you so secretive about whats going on? Sh, dear friend, as I told you, the less you know, the better. Adventurous as ever, my dear Léon, youll never change, will you?
Geneva. Mélanie answers the phone. Shes half asleep
No, Jérôme. I dont have any news. I dont
know where they are.
But of course Im worried. Ive informed the police
and my mother has done the same at her end. Theyve got my phone
number and theyve got yours. Now stop shouting.
Well, my mother is already beside herself, I really dont need you to start yelling as well. And in any case, my father has nothing to do with this. Im convinced its not his fault.
Mélanie hangs up and bursts into tears.
France Info, the 8 oclock news bulletin
«After the announcement yesterday in the late afternoon that the European Central Bank was cutting its key interest rates by 0.5%, followed a few hours later by a similar announcement by the chairman on the Federal Reserve, the financial markets have surged. Yesterday on Wall Street the Dow Jones closed an unprecedented 5.2% up. This morning halfway through the trading session the Tokyo stock exchange was already 8.3% higher. It would seem that the announced rate cuts are not the only reason for this exceptional hike. Our experts believe that the financial markets are expecting a wide- spread economic recovery. A speculative move due largely to the low return on capital could also be behind the surge. The financial world is anxiously awaiting the opening of the European markets to see if this trend is confirmed.»