By Timothy Altwies
Stirred from his sleep by the ringing telephone, the plumber lets out a sigh after glancing at the clock in this early morning hour. He had hopes for a quiet Saturday, maybe go to a movie after a leisurely lunch. Those thoughts are quickly shattered as the caller is frantic. “What is the earliest you can arrive to clear a drain? How quickly can you get here? I need you as soon as possible.” The questions became a single demand from the out-of-breath concierge in an apartment building at 17 rue Beautrillis in Paris’s 4th arrondissement.
The plumber places the receiver back in its cradle and lights a burner on the stove to warm a pot of coffee. Thoughts return to a leisurely day as the weather in Paris has been pleasant for early July. “Oh, how everything’s an emergency,” he mumbles to no one, lighting a Gauloises cigarette while pouring the thick dark syrup into a stained mug.
Arriving at the building, he is startled to see a firetruck and two police cars. Quickly ushered upstairs by the concierge—one, two, three flights—they reach the apartment and again he’s startled to see detectives guarding the door. Making way with his heavy tool bag in hand, the plumber navigates down the narrow hallway to the last door on the left. The bathroom door.