Clasping his hands together, the diminutive jeweler hopped up and down like a small child in need of the bathroom and looked pleadingly at Tracy with his twinkling, impish eyes.
Tracy did not share his enthusiasm. “When was Jeff here?”
“He came to see me a few days ago, bless him. And my goodness he did look handsome! The man is ageless. You both are.”
Tracy looked murderous.
Let’s work together. It’ll be just like the old days. So much for that baloney! Jeff was doing this on his own. Or worse, he was still acting as Frank Dorrien’s lapdog. Well, two could play at that game.
Tracy felt a rush of righteous anger, conveniently forgetting that she, too, had sought out Guy on her own and had just agreed to report everything she learned back to the CIA.
The problem with using her old contacts to help Greg Walton was that they were Jeff’s contacts too.
“So Jeff asked you for leads on the same man?”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I sent him to Madame Dubonnet, of course.” Guy smiled. “I understand your quarry is a gambler?”
“Among other things,” Tracy said.
“Any serious poker players in Paris end up at Dubonnet’s. Didn’t Jeff mention it?”
Tracy said through gritted teeth, “It must have slipped his mind.”
MADAME DUBONNET WAS A toothless old hag who wore too much rouge, smelled of eau de violettes and Gitanes, and wore her blouse unbuttoned low enough to reveal a large expanse of crêpey cleavage. She had a deep, gravelly voice and a raucous laugh, and her gnarled, veiny hands were encrusted with diamonds as big as barnacles.
Despite her advanced years, however, she clearly considered herself to be sexually alluring. Tracy could instantly picture her being charmed by Jeff. And, no doubt, by the handsome Hunter Drexel, if Guy was right and he really had shown up here.
“Your friend told me you’d be coming.” Madame Dubonnet talked down her long nose at Tracy. She was clearly not fond of the company of younger, more attractive women.
“My friend? You mean Guy?”
“Guy? Who is Guy? No! The American. Monsieur Bowers.”
Mr. Bowers. Tracy smiled to herself. Jeff hadn’t used that one in a long time.
“Lovely man.” Madame Dubonnet’s eyes positively glowed.
“When did Mr. Bowers stop by here, out of interest?” Tracy asked.
“None of your business,” the old woman said tersely. “The point is that he warned me. ‘She will come here asking questions about her lover,’ he told me. And now you ’ave.”
Tracy frowned. “My lover?”
“Bah, oui! Of course, your lover! Monsieur Graham. Not that you are ’is only girlfriend, of course. Any man rich enough to play at Albert Dumas’s table keeps women like a beekeeper keeps bees. Buzz buzz buzz.”
Madame Dubonnet’s wrinkled mouth puckered up grotesquely as she made the buzzing bee sound.
“Naturally I make no judgment,” she added, looking at Tracy as a chef might look at a rat that had wandered into his kitchen. “But there are conventions here in Paris, even for the mistresses.”
Tracy pieced things together. Jeff had guessed Tracy would go to Guy, and that eventually she would follow him here. So he’d pumped Madame Dubonnet for information on Hunter, then convinced the old hag that Tracy was some sort of bunny-boiling bit on the side, here to cause Harry Graham trouble.
“Madame,” Tracy said firmly. “My friend Monsieur Bowers is mistaken. I am not Monsieur Graham’s mistress. Or anyone else’s mistress for that matter.”
Ignoring Tracy’s protests, Madame Dubonnet wagged an arthritic finger in her face, almost blinding Tracy with a five-carat sparkler.
“You know, Cherie, it is not a nice thing to try to entrapper a gentleman by threatening to go to his wife.” Madame Dubonnet made a clucking sound with her tongue and shook her head from side to side, before pronouncing, “This, I do not approve of.”
Tracy’s eyes widened. Boy, Jeff must have laid it on thick.
“Madame. I assure you, you are mistaken. For one thing Monsieur Graham, as he calls himself, is no gentleman. For another, he has no wife. Although you may be right about the bee thing,” she conceded, thinking back to what Sally Faiers had told her about Hunter’s endless string of lovers. “In any case I am not his lover, as my ‘friend’ Mr. Bowers knows all too well. The truth is”—Tracy lowered her voice—“I’m working for American intelligence.”
Madame Dubonnet smiled patronizingly. “Vraiment? Le CIA?”
“That’s right,” said Tracy, relieved to have cleared up the misunderstanding. “I work for the CIA.”
“And I am working for NASA, mademoiselle.” The old lady cackled at her own joke. Then the lips pursed again for the last time. “As I said before, I do not discuss the private lives of my patrons. Marianne will see you out.”
JEFF CALLED TRACY JUST as she stepped out of Madame Dubonnet’s apartment building onto the street.
“Darling! How’s your head?”
Tracy exploded. “Don’t ‘darling’ me. You told that old witch I was sleeping with Hunter Drexel!”
Jeff chuckled. “Ah, dear Madame Dubonnet. You’ve been to see her then?”
“Of course I have. You knew I would.”
“Now don’t be mad, angel. I didn’t say you were sleeping with him. Not exactly.”
“Well, whatever you said ‘exactly’ it was enough to get me kicked out of there. So what ‘exactly’ did she tell you? That you were so eager to hide from me?”
“Pull the other one, Jeff. I’m serious. She obviously knew Hunter. She’d met him. What do you know? When was he last there?”
“I have no idea.”
“Tracy darling, what is the point of this conversation? If you refuse to believe a word I say?”
“Good point,” Tracy said furiously, and hung up.
JEFF RANG BACK IMMEDIATELY.
“I see you’re fully recovered then?”
Tracy bit her lip. The urge to hang up on him again was almost overpowering, but she wanted to know what he knew.
“Yes, thanks. Nice of you to come visit me,” she added caustically.
“I wanted to.” Jeff sounded genuinely hurt.
“So why didn’t you?”
“Something came up.”
“Something always does,” said Tracy bitterly.
“Hey, hold on,” Jeff protested. “It doesn’t help when your boyfriend guards the hospital like a Rottweiler and then spirits you off to his tower in the woods like bloody Rapunzel!”
Tracy took a deep breath and counted to three. “Where are you?”
Jeff told her.
“Meet me at l’Église Saint-Louis-des-Invalides in twenty minutes.”
“l’Église les what now?” said Jeff.
“Just be there.”
LITTLE KNOWN TO TOURISTS, the church of Saint Louis nestled deep within the complex of Les Invalides, beneath its magnificent golden dome. Designed by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the chapel was commissioned in the seventeenth century by Louis XIV as a sanctuary specifically for soldiers. Every stone, from its banner-hung walls to its crypt filled with the tombs of French generals, was steeped in military history. But this afternoon, like most afternoons, the church was almost deserted, with only a few quiet worshippers kneeling discretely in its pews or lighting candles of remembrance.
Jeff saw Tracy as soon as he arrived, kneeling alone in a side chapel. Making a sign of the cross he knelt down beside her and whispered in her ear.
“What are you praying for?”
“Strength,” Tracy whispered back. “I tend to need it whenever you’re around.”
“How are you?” Jeff asked, ignoring the jibe.
“They told me you’d been in a coma.”
Tracy thought, And still you didn’t come. Out loud she said, “I’m fine, Jeff. We aren’t here to talk about me. Where have you been?”
Jeff had agreed to follow Frank Dorrien’s advice and not tell Tracy about his trip to Steamboat. There would be time enough for that later.
“You saw Drexel?”
“And you know about Sally Faiers?”
Jeff shook his head grimly. “Yes.”
A verger, busy polishing the tabernacle and the altar candle sticks, shot Jeff and Tracy a reproachful look. Jeff lowered his voice.
“Any ideas who did it?”
“Well, it wasn’t Hunter,” Jeff whispered. “I was watching him when it happened. He won big at a poker game in the Old Town, then met up with a woman. Tracy, I’m pretty sure it was Althea.”
Tracy’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
Jeff described the woman Hunter had met and their interaction in as much detail as he could. “Your friend General Dorrien called to tell me about Sally’s murder before I could hear any more. But I heard him call her ‘Kate.’ Twice.”
Kate. A name. An actual name. It was the first time Althea had been anything more than a shadow. Not a lot to go on, perhaps. But it was something.
“They were fighting. If I didn’t know better I’d have said it was a lovers’ tiff. He was trying to give her money but she wouldn’t accept it. She was upset when she left.”