memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for July 12, 2011

Paris in the spring is a movable feast (II)

After he had been gone for a few minutes, the waiter brought in the oysters, nestling in their bed of ice; Emma waited a few more minutes then, assuming that John was having a bit of a sulk in the bathroom and still annoyed herself, decided to start without him. She squeezed a drop of lemon onto the first oyster and lifted the shell to her mouth and let it slide down her throat – not a dish for the fastidious or over-imaginative. After a sip of wine, Emma became uneasy and decided to go to the bathrooms herself. She explored both the Gents and the Ladies, calling out his name repeatedly, but there was no one there, they were all empty; puzzled and worried she doubled back to their table, but no Johnny. She beckoned to waiter and asked if he had seen her husband leaving the restaurant. Nonplussed the waiter called the manager to the table:

–              Hello, my name is Emma Sawyer and I know that this sounds a bit ridiculous, but I seem to have lost my husband, John …

–              Calmez-vous Madame Sawyer, he can’t have gone far … we’ll search for him.

After searching the restaurant again, the alley at the back and the Boulevard in front, they drew a blank and decided to call the Police. After a while an inspector from the local Arrondisement appeared, along with a chain-smoking sidekick and after taking statements from the waiter and the manager, suggested to Emma that they go down to the station, to fill out a Missing- Person Form. So poor Emma collected her things from the table and went off to the police station. The inspector proceeded to ask questions about Emma’s husband: full name, date of birth, appearance, address in London, address of their hotel etc.

–              Very well, Madame, could you tell me a bit about your husband’s state of mind? For example has he ever «disappeared» before?

–              No, never … I mean he’s been a bit depressed recently; you see, he might be made redundant; this weekend was supposed to take his mind off his problems …

–              And he doesn’t have any friends here that he could go to?

–              No, to my knowledge he doesn’t know a soul in Paris …

–              And has anything out of the ordinary happened today?

–              No, we arrived on the Euro-Star from London this afternoon and we were just, you know, seeing the sights …

–              What did you two talk about in the restaurant?

–              Well nothing much … but actually we did have a bit of a disagreement, you know the usual marital spat … I can’t even remember what it was about now … oh, there was something else, slightly unusual, it’s probably not important, but John was being badgered by a strange looking chap while we were on the Pont Neuf and eventually felt obliged to buy, (Emma rummaged in her bag), this.

«This» was a little souvenir of Paris, a metallic miniature Eifel Tower. The inspector and his sidekick exchanged glances; then he summed up the situation:

–              Madame Sawyer, why don’t you return to your hotel and wait for news, and don’t worry too much; your husband probably had a slight breakdown and is wandering the streets … we’ve contacted all the hospitals. This situation is not as uncommon as you might imagine, Madame.


Let us leave them there, on that spring night in Paris. Emma waited for a couple more days and then returned sorrowfully to London, where «The Case of The Missing Tourist» was attracting some attention in the tabloids.

Two years have passed since then, and the case of John Sawyer has been archived in the Unsolved Missing Persons file by the French police. Emma takes the Euro-Star to Paris most weekends or Jean-Luc stays at her place in south London.

What exactly happened that night? Did John have a major breakdown and throw himself into the Seine? Or, as he was coming out the Men’s room, was he stabbed or clubbed by a psycho, bundled into a car, which was waiting in the alley in the back, and then thrown into the river? Why did the inspector exchange a significant look with his assistant, when the little Eifel Tower was produced? Who was the little man on the bridge? It is just one of those mysteries, isn’t it?

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