The start of new day and, for once, I wasn’t running late; I was even a few minutes ahead of schedule! Standing in front of my letterbox, I had butterflies in my stomach, a mixture of apprehension and impatience. I hesitated before opening the small metal door. Empty! No envelope, nothing written in violet ink. Relieved yet strangely disappointed at the same time, I set off to meet my friend Florian at the Odessa Café, as usual every Tuesday before classes. It’s become a ritual we’ve shared since the start of the academic year. I felt a little lost at this new university when I first met him in the Odessa. Florian, at the start of his final year, helped me out with advice. And the habit of meeting up for coffee just went on from there.
— I thought your thing was rugby, I said, sitting down beside him.
— It is, but I’m also a multitalented sportsman, don’t you know? He said, jokingly. I also like basketball and handball… even if, when I was young, I spent more time playing video games than anything else! But that’s another story. What about you, how are you today?
For a moment, I wondered whether I should tell him about Charles Langley. In the end, I decided not to.
— I’ve been thinking about taking a course in psychology along with my other majors.
— Haven’t you got enough on your plate already? he asked with a touch of irony.
— It’s an interesting subject… and it’s important to broaden your horizons, isn’t it? And what about your internship?
— It’s not an internship; it’s a work-study program! An important distinction, young lady! said Florian with a smile. It’s going well. I’m looking into career opportunities with Groupe BPCE. But I’d really like to continue working on digital applications. Anyway, we’ll see. But I wanted to tell you about an idea that…
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. A familiar perfume caught my attention: the same as in the scented envelope. Florian was still speaking but none of his words could reach me, like a TV set with the sound turned off. The fragrance drifted back. I looked at the customers around me to see if I could recognize a face, discover a clue.
— … and it would be an opportunity, if you had time to…
I nod my head automatically, not listening. Could it be that brown-haired man with a long white scarf? Or that shy-looking 40-year-old, playing with his strange orange ring? Or that elderly gentleman, stylish in tweed suit and hat? Unless it’s that young man writing in a notebook with a fountain pen…
— Unless I’m mistaken, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said!
— No, I’m not mistaken, said Florian, slightly annoyed.
— I’m so sorry! I’ve had a really busy day and I’ve got a lot on my mind!
— It doesn’t matter. We’ll talk about it later if you like. Anyway, it’s time to go!
We stood up. Once again, I scanned the faces around me. And why not that woman wearing sports clothes? She could have taken an assumed name… As we were walking out of the café, I felt a hand on my arm. “You’ve forgotten your newspaper,” said the waiter.
— It isn’t mine.
— Are you sure? It was on your table and there something written on it.
I grabbed the paper. On the last page, above the slogan “Being helpful”, you couldn’t miss the violet ink. The same handwriting: “Tomorrow, 10 a.m., Quai Branly museum. And the Gold of Their Bodies.” I read the message twice before putting down the newspaper. Outside, Florian gave me a worried look. “You sure everything’s okay, Eva?”
Illustrations: Karolis Strautniekas/Agent 002; Yann Le Bec/Illustrissimo
Photos: Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac ©Luc Boegly, Yvan Zedda/BPCE, Banque Populaire, Stéphane de Bourgies, CASDEN Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne, Julien Crosnier/KMSP/DPPI, BPCE, DPPI/BPCE, Le Pot Commun, Neustockimages, Fidor Bank.
Getty Images: Btrenkel, picturegarden, Inimma-IS, Koraysa, Moodboard, Rachel Dewis, Peter Carlsson, Clu, Twohumans, Donal Husni-EyeEm, Nikada, egafoldo, Oscar Wong, Alija Izetbegovic, Uschools, Westend61, Bloom, milazvereva.
Shutterstock: Jacob Lund, EQRoy, Prostock, Diego Cervo, GaudiLab, Monkey Business Images, Travel Stock, Zhu Difeng.
Design and production: Havas Paris
Groupe BPCE, Corporate Communications Department.
Author of the short story: Jean-Pierre Montal.
Editorial consultants and drafting of the “Clues” pages: Information & Conseil.