Janice looked around. The restaurant seemed like quite a pleasant place, at least at a glance. She hadn’t been there yet.

“Looks nice, you’ll like it,” Nick promised.

“Do you know the place?”

“I’ve been here a few times before. For an afternoon meal, it’s perfect. Not crowded, shaded, friendly and quick service, just nice to stretch one’s legs and have a rest.”

Janice had known Nick for years, since the times when she could still paint. They’d even had an idea of putting together an exhibition; they both and a couple of other painters, but a sequence of events disrupted Janice’s life and turned it upside down. Now, five years later, they both met again in completely different circumstances. Janice had come to this city soon after having recovered from a nervous breakdown. She came and she stayed, like so many creative souls and minds had done before her and would do in future. Janice couldn’t paint anymore, she couldn’t look at red paint, and it would have been a real blow to her if not the other gift she possessed: writing. That saved her. Little by little, Janice forgot the trauma; moving far away had equally helped. A kind of compensation for the lost ability to create pictures was the chance to literally spend days in museums and art galleries or visit numerous exhibitions. The opportunities were endless and Janice made use of them all to the fullest.


She was standing in front of her favourite Ary Scheffer painting, quite engrossed in it as always, when someone touched her shoulder. “Janice?” The voice held a hint of disbelief, though it sounded familiar. She turned to face a man who was smiling and looking down at her from his basketball player’s height.

“Is it you, Nick? You seem even taller than before, or else I’m shrinking.”

“Way too soon!” Nick laughed.

“What are you doing here?” Janice inquired.

“Catching up. You’ve been able to do it slowly, maybe even methodically. I have to make it in a rush. Only one more day before I leave. I’m not as lucky as you are.”

Janice shivered.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said so.”

“Was the man found?”

“No, vanished into thin air. Listen, we could go together to have a drink. I’m thirsty and tired; hungry, too. Like the idea?”

“You haven’t finished this hall, a lot of nice paintings and at the end: Mona.”

“I know. If you could just sit here and wait for a quarter of an hour or so. Agreed?”

“Fine.” Janice really felt weary, weary in body and mind. She wanted to sit down. She knew that it would be better to let memories find their way out of their secret corner where they’d been successfully hidden and where they would return after having tortured her again.


It was a spring day in late April, unusually warm that year.

“Let’s make a longer walk, up to the wood,” Dirk, her boyfriend, had suggested. “The dog will like it too.”

It was Dirk’s dog. Janice preferred cats, but Smarty was a nice and friendly dog. They often went for long walks together. Close to the wood, Dirk let the dog free and it soon disappeared around the corner.

“He’s smart, he won’t get lost, don’t worry. He fully deserves his name!” It was at that instant that Smarty’s first bark was heard. Then the barking grew more intense and would not stop. They hastened their steps. Turning the corner, they noticed a car at the side of the road and Smarty. He was running about along the boot of the car barking impatiently.

“Looks abandoned.” Dirk sounded uncertain.

“Why is Smarty so excited? Let’s have a look.” They went up to the car. “What is it, doggie?” Smarty started to scratch the boot. Dirk pressed the button.

Next moment, the light was no more for Janice, but the sight had stayed before her eyes for months to come, all through the recuperation period and occasionally even later, well until the time she’d come to stay here, in the city of her everlasting dreams.

Janice came ‘round, feeling Smarty’s wet tongue on her face.

“Are you okay, Jen? You fell as if struck by lightning. I’ve called the police.” Dirk helped her to get up.

“Oh, how awful!” Janice was trembling. “She’s dead?” It was not really a question, as nobody could have survived with such a horribly smashed face. The young woman was naked with her hands and legs tied up.

The victim’s personality was soon discovered, but her killer was never found. He’d disappeared as if having never existed at all, which in this case would have been much better…

Janice opened her eyes; she felt as if having completed a half-marathon. She needed a drink. Where was Nick?”

“You are very pale.” She heard Nick’s voice and felt his hands on her shoulders. “Get up, let’s go.”


Back in the present, Nick led her to a free table by the window. Janice wasn’t hungry; on the contrary, she felt sick at the very thought of food. What she needed was a drink.

“Nick, I can’t eat, but you do. Please, order some drink for me that is quite strong.”

“It’s a pity I can’t see more of Paris this time. I’m leaving tomorrow, but I’ll return. You are happy here, Jen—after all…”

“I guess, yes, now I am. And I can work again, although so sorry it’s not painting. At least I can look at pictures. When I write, I actually see my poems as miniature paintings.”

Janice raised her eyes and was startled by the expression on Nick’s deadly pale face. His eyes were fixed at a certain table and its occupant. The man seemed unaware of having been observed and was more interested in his food.

“What’s wrong, Nick? Nick!”

He passed the tongue over his dry lips. “It’s him.”

“What do you mean?”

“The murderer.”

“Can’t be, Nick, it’s Paris here!”

“Our world is shrinking all the time. I know it’s him.”

“You may be mistaken. It’s been years.”

“I’m sure, I know.”

“Nick, how can you be so sure?”

“I am. It’s my brother.”