I bought the jacket at a second-hand shop in Cannes. The movie festival had ended and the city was emptying. The city was shaking off its foreign milieu. A few of us hung on. I had come from Lyon on the last day of the festival and was able to get a room at a hostel. I photographed some red carpets, some celebrities…but really the city was becoming bare. Just the natives living their Mondays and Tuesdays. It was a beautiful jacket. Chanel. 150 euros. A bargain for a Chanel even though it wasn’t vintage It was black, sleek, with oversized silver buttons. I felt amazing in it. The clerk appraised me.
“That looks wonderful on you. It goes with your hair and skin coloring. You could pair it with red pants.” The clerk was tall and stalked the store like a gazelle. She was Russian. Of course, she had to be. Only Russians had that look. Her name tag said “Ekaterina”. She showed me a pair of red pants. Givenchy. I shook my head.
“I can only afford the jacket,” I told her. She shrugged her shoulders coldly.
I bought it and walked the street. When I got to the hostel I removed the jacket from the plastic and put it on. I didn’t want to flaunt buying things. Anyone could steal anything in the hostel. If they thought it was valuable. The desk clerk paid me no mind and I went to my bed. The hostel was nearly empty. Most likely people were still out trying to snap photos of celebrities or movie posters or even haunting the beach.
I laid down and that’s when I felt a weight on me. On the left side. There was something in the jacket. I opened it and saw no pockets. Something was sewn into the lining of the jacket. I was very curious. I got my cuticle scissors and snipped delicately at the fabric. I made a six-inch incision and slipped my hand in. There were a 1000 euros with a note attached. JOEL B KILLED ME. GO TO THE PARIS POLICE AND TELL THEM. I was shocked, scared, and greedy. Yes. I was greedy. A thousand euros. I wasn’t heading for Paris. I had left a week ago. Soon I was off to Spain. Should I call the police in Paris? That would be long distance and I didn’t have a European cell phone. Maybe the hostel manager would let me call. But then they would want the jacket. Besides, who’s Joel B.? Why not write out his whole name?
I locked the jacket and the money in my locker. I wandered to the beach. The sun was setting. I set on a bench next to an old man with a tiny dog.
“Bonsoir,” he said. I returned a greeting and then looked at him frankly.
“Okay. What if you found some money and there was a suggestion of crime but no real specifics?”
The man shrugged and opened some wax paper where there was cheese. He looked thoughtfully at the sea. “I would take the money and forget. You can’t solve a crime without specifics. I used to be a detective with the Cannes police. You need specifics.”
I nodded. “Yes. Yes, you’re right. It’s not my responsibility.”
I left the man and walked back to the hostel. I would continue onto Spain and forget the Paris police. But that night I dreamt of a girl in the jacket and she was being slapped and punched. I then dreamed of her stitching a hint and a bribe into the jacket. I woke up in a sweat.
In the morning, I packed and left the jacket in the closet but stashed the money in my wallet. I put the note in my travel journal. I left for the train station and knew the jacket would always haunt me. Deep in the night, a ghost would appear and I would sweat. I would scream. And the woman would always be dead. A victim of domestic abuse. I think. I had no specifics. Nothing. I would just avoid anyone named Joel B.