Read an Extract from Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre

Read an Extract from Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre

The whole thing is more complicated than she expected. The branch is closing, it is noon, the taxi driver has probably seen the shutters being lowered.

Flashing a faint smile, she says:

“The thing is, I’m in a hurry myself.”

“Just a minute, let me check.”

Sophie has a clear idea of what the man is like. She can smell his pheromones. She realises that she has stumbled into a hornet’s nest.

There is no time to stop her, the clerk has already stepped from behind the counter and is knocking on the door of the office opposite. Behind her, Sophie feels the eyes of the other clerk who is standing idly by the door and would no doubt rather be at sitting idly at a cafe table waiting for his lunch. It is unsettling, having someone behind you. But everything about this situation is unsettling, especially the man who now appears with the cashier. This is someone she knows. She cannot remember his name, but it was he who dealt with her when she opened the account. Thirty-something, thickset, with a slightly brutish face, he looks the type to spend his holidays with the family, play petanque with his mates and make off-colour jokes, wear socks with sandals, put on twenty kilos over the next five years, see his mistresses during his lunch break and make sure all his colleagues know, the sort of middle-management pick-up artist who wears a yellow shirt and lingers on the word “Mademoiselle”. In other words, an arsehole.

The arsehole is now standing in front of her. Next to him, the small cashier seems even smaller. It is a mark of his authority. Sophie has a clear idea of what the man is like. She can smell his pheromones. She realises that she has stumbled into a hornet’s nest.

“My colleague informs me that you wish to withdraw . . . [He leans towards the computer screen as though only now becoming aware of the details] . . . almost the entire balance of your accounts.”

“Is there a law against that?”

As she says it, she realises she has adopted the wrong tactic.

With a guy like this, a direct approach means all-out war.

“No, no, there’s no law against it, it’s just that . . .”

Doors bang at the far end of the bank, the silence is even more oppressive than before. Sophie tries to think fast.

He turns and shoots a paternal look at the cashier who is standing by the coat rack:

“You can go to lunch, Juliette, I’ll close up, don’t worry.”

The mis-named Juliette does not have to be told twice.

“Are you unhappy with the services offered by our branch, Madame Duguet?”

Doors bang at the far end of the bank, the silence is even more oppressive than before. Sophie tries to think fast.

“Oh, no . . . It’s just that . . . I’m going away for a while. I need “The trip became necessary at the last minute. The very last minute. I need to leave immediately, and I need to have the requisite funds.”

She stares at the man and, inside her, something snaps, a little of her dignity. She sighs, she will do what she needs to do, she feels a little disgusted with herself, but only a little.

“I entirely understand your reservations, Monsieur Musain [The man’s name has come to her in a flash, a small sign that her confidence has returned]. If I had had the time to phone you, to give you some notice, I would have done so. Had I been in a position to choose when to leave, I would not have come here at lunchtime. If I did not urgently need the money, I would not be troubling you. But I do need it. I need the full amount. Right now.”

Musain flashes her a smug smile. She can tell the game is now on a more equal footing.

“There is also the matter of whether we have such a sum available in cash . . .” Sophie feels a wave of cold sweat. “But I can check,” Musain says.

He disappears into his office. To telephone someone? Why should he need to go into his office to find out how much cash is available?

She looks helplessly at the entrance, the metal shutters now closed, then glances at the rear door through which the two clerks went to lunch and remembers the dull clack of reinforced steel. There is silence once again, but it feels slower, more menacing now. The guy is calling someone, she is convinced of it. But who? All of a sudden he reappears. He walks towards her but does not go behind the counter; he stops next to her and smiles winningly.

He is standing close, very close.

“Need a little liquidity.”

The word liquidity no longer seems as apt as it did earlier, it sounds rash, hasty, unsavoury, slightly suspicious.

“‘Need a little liquidity’,” the man repeats, “You should know that under normal circumstances, when dealing with sums of this magnitude, we prefer to meet with customers in private. During regular office hours . . . A matter of security, you understand.” The insinuation is so blatant, so in keeping with his character, that she feels like slapping him. But she reminds herself that she needs this money, needs it desperately, that the taxi will not wait all day, that she has to get out, that she has to get herself out of this.

“I think we should be able to accommodate you, Madame Duguet,” he says in a breathy whisper.