WHEN CAMILLE CARON told me the next case I’d be working on involved an identity theft, I didn’t think she meant mine.
“What kind of a name is Bunny?” I asked her. “That’s not a real name.”
Camille shrugged. “Laurent chose it,” she said, her blasé air as French as her accent.
I picked up the other I.D. on her desk. “Léon? I have to be Bunny and he gets to be Léon?”
She tipped back in her chair and fingered the multi-colored slinky she kept on her desk. “You should have said something sooner if you didn’t like the name. It’s all done now. Everything’s arranged.”
“I didn’t know about it until just now. Nobody told me.”
Camille’s brother Laurent strolled into her office and slipped an arm over my shoulder. “Ready?” he said to me. Then he eyed my outfit, jeans with a white pullover. “Is that what you’re wearing, Lora?”
I turned to see what he was wearing. Jeans and a blue-striped dress shirt over a tee with a scarf loosely draped at his neck. “We’re practically matching,” I said. “What’s the problem?”
He gestured at himself. “These clothes are fine for “Léon” but look at you. You look like Lora not “Bunny.”
Seemed to me his “Léon” look was pretty much the same as his regular Laurent one. Right down to the dark, unkept hair fringing his shoulders and the slight scruff.
Camille got up and crossed the room to a small armoire on the far wall. In contrast to Laurent, her hair was short and blonde and her eyes a lighter shade of brown. At thirty-one like me, Camille was younger than Laurent by two years and a nudge shorter, but their sibling connection was visible in their sleek, muscular builds and chiseled features.
She pulled out some clothes and passed them to me. “Tiens,” she said. “Try these.”
I held up a slinky pink blouse and a black mini skirt. “What? No garter?”
She stepped back over to the armoire and returned with a pair of black stockings with a seam up the back and a black lace garter belt.
“Funny,” I said.
“Lora, it’s January in Montreal. There’s three feet of snow outside. You want frostbite?”
I grabbed the stockings and went off to the washroom to change clothes. Not that I believed a little Lycra was going to save me from frostbite, but it was better than nothing. When I got back, Laurent was in his own office, and Camille sat me down in the window seat across from her desk and started in on my makeup.
“Your eye’s twitching,” she said. “Stay still or I’ll poke it out with the eyeliner.”
I reached up to steady the skin near my temple. “I can’t help it.”
“Mais voyons, Lora. This is what you wanted, remember?”
I nodded. True. But trading in my previous career as a social worker to become a PI was a smidge harder than I thought. And going undercover was even trickier. It always looked fun in the movies—pretending to be someone else, wisecracking, and chasing down perps. In real life, there was more to it.
Camille stood back, cocked an eyebrow at me, and tapped the eyeliner pencil on her knee. “Écoute-moi,” she said. “If you don’t stay still, I’ll have to start over.”
I willed my eye to relax. “I’m trying.” The twitching slowed, and she came at me with the eyeliner again. I grabbed her wrist before the black pencil reached my skin. “But don’t make me look like a hooker, okay?”
Camille crooked an eyebrow at me and leaned forward to get back to work. When she was done with my makeup, she freed my hair from its ponytail, fluffing out the auburn waves so they skirted down my back and pulling a few tendrils forward to rest on my face. Then she passed me some silver hoop earrings and held out a ring. What looked like a diamond ring.
I slipped on the earrings and glanced at the ring. “Is that real?” I asked her.
I checked out the ring again. Simple, elegant white gold band, not too flashy stone. Just enough shimmer. I wasn’t born with the diamond-loving gene, but I was born with a flood of sentimental genes and every one of them was melting into a big gooey puddle thinking about wearing the ring.
“Attends,” Laurent said to Camille as he came back into the room and took the ring from her. “She’s my fiancée.” He came over to me and reached for my hand. “That’s my department,” he said as he slipped the ring onto my finger.
“Don’t you mean Léon’s? Bunny is Léon’s fiancée,” I said, correcting him and trying to ignore the heat from his hands that flared through me like a shot of brandy. Laurent was hard wired with the French flirt gene, and I knew better than to take it personally. Not that he made it easy. The man should have a “Danger: High Voltage” sign stamped on his forehead.
A glint played in his eyes and he released my hand. “Of course.”
“Bien,” Camille said, darting a look at her brother and edging her way between us. She zipped me up in black knee-high boots and steered me towards the full-length mirror on the back of her office door. “I present Mademoiselle Bunny Bosworth, future wife of Léon Clément.”
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, twisting and turning to get a full sense of the outfit, my eyes stopping at my feet. “These boots fit remarkably well for loaners,” I said, knowing Camille and I were usually off by a size.
“Non, non,” Camille said. “The boots are not mine. Those I bought for Bunny.”
I glanced at Camille’s image in the mirror, wondering just how much work had gone into planning for my new alter ego, and my eye twitched again. Then again when I went back to sizing up the new “me” and realized going undercover didn’t seem to include actual coverage. Lucky for me, I was wearing a good bra because it was barely shielded by the blouse. Also lucky for me, the height difference between Camille and me meant her mini skirt wasn’t so mini and came down nearly to my knees. I had to tug it up some to cover the new blue, fleur-de-lys tattoo I’d gotten recently on my backside, though. The only parts of my body the new look covered well were my eyes where smoky lids and thick, black liner made my blue eyes and pale skin appear lighter.
I pulled some of my hair around from the back and tried to arrange the waves to hide my bra. “Hmm. Bunny Clément,” I said, unintentionally aloud, trying on my future pretend married name.
Camille picked a piece of lint off my skirt. “Non, non, Lora. In Québec a woman is not given the man’s name when she marries. She is still considered independent. Le mariage is a partnership of equals.”
“Really?” I said, feeling more respect for my adopted home. Back in New York, I’d known women who’d chosen to use their maiden names after they married, but their independence wasn’t written into the law. “That’s really progressive of you guys. Is that the same all over Canada?”
Camille shook her head. “Only in Québec I think. Didn’t Adam ever tell you?”
“It never came up,” I said.
“You’ve lived together for what, almost two years now, and you’ve never talked about getting married?”
I thought about it. “Not seriously, no.”
Her eyebrows rose and fell so quickly someone who wasn’t her best friend may have missed it.
“What?” I said. “Since when are you so big on marriage?”
Camille had an on-again off-again man in her life, but during the off times she had no shortage of men offering to keep her company. The last one she met on a case a couple months back, and she’d been seeing him ever since.
“I’m not,” she said. “But you and Adam have been together a long time. I just thought that’s where you were headed.”
My boyfriend Adam and I had been together nearly three years. Somehow that hadn’t felt long to me but maybe Camille was right. Maybe that was a long time. I looked down at the engagement ring on my finger. “Well. We might be.”
Laurent handed me my coat. “Not tonight. Tonight you’re mine.”
“You mean Léon’s,” I corrected him again.
“Right,” he said.