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Louis left Dessanges in the root cellar as promised. He could keep him for twenty-four hours, he told us, before he had to charge him. With a curious glance at both of us and a careful lack of expression in his voice, he informed us that we had that time in which to conclude our business. A good lad, Louis Ramondin, in spite of his slowness. Too like his uncle Guilherm for comfort, though, and that I suppose blinded me at first to his essential goodness. I only hoped hed not have cause to regret it soon enough.

At first Dessanges raved and yelled in the root cellar. Demanded his lawyer, his phone, his sister Laure, his cigarettes. Claimed his nose hurt, that it was broken, that for all he knew there were bone shards working their way into his brain right now. He hammered against the door, pleaded, threatened, swore. We ignored him, and eventually the sounds ceased. At twelve thirty I brought him some coffee and a plate of bread and charcuterie and he was sulky but calm, the look of calculation back in his eyes.

Youre just delaying the moment, Mamie, he told me as I cut the bread into slices. Twenty-four hours is all youve got, because as you know, as soon as I make that phone call-

Do you actually want this food? I snapped at him sharply. Cause it wont hurt you to go hungry for a while, and that way I wouldnt have to listen to your nasty talk any more. Right?

He gave me a dirty look, but said nothing else on the subject.

Right, I said.

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