He was French

I got up from the table this morning to refill my coffee cup and noticed that a police car had pulled up across the street. A pair of policemen knocked on the first door of the three-unit building across from mine and said something to the young woman who answered, though I couldn't hear what.

Within a few minutes, there were more officers milling around, and a truck full of firefighters; by the time I stepped outside around ten to 9, there was crime scene tape tied to our front gate.

I called out to one of the policemen to ask what had happened. He walked over to me, pointed to the third door in the house across the street, and said there was a deceased person inside, and blood on the steps outside, and thus it appeared that the death was "not due to natural causes." (Some might call that an understatement.) He asked if I'd heard anything last night; I said I hadn't, and had turned in early. The officer handed me off to one of his colleagues, who took my name and contact info, saying that a detective might need to contact me.

By the time I did what I had set out to do--gone to have Josh notarize something for me, gone to the post office, walked home--the street was clogged with vehicles from the Medical Examiner's office, and neighbors were crowded in front of my house, outside the boundaries of the crime scene tape but close enough to watch the proceedings. I chatted with them for a few minutes, then came inside and sat on the sofa so I could watch and listen.

He was French, they said--or spoke with a French accent, at least. And a law student. He seemed both cute and kind of geeky. Dan said he seemed fairly young, perhaps in his mid-30s, and certainly didn't appear to be the type of guy who'd be connected with any sort of criminal element. He just seemed sort of quiet.

I watched the medical examiners bring a gurney to the foot of the front stairs, then drape a white sheet on the front porch. I watched them hand things over the railing to the officers below, who put them in brown paper bags and labeled them with markers. And I watched two men carry out the body of this man--young, French, law student--wrapped in a white sheet through which red stains were spreading at both his feet and his head, watched them wrap the body in the sheet laid on the porch, and tie its ends, and carry this sad and sorry bundle to the waiting gurney.

And then I noticed the blood on the steps and the railing--the incongruous smears of red on otherwise grey surfaces, a literal stone's throw from my own front steps.

The neighbors with the Afghan hound report that they heard loud music last night, though it seemed to be coming from Hayes Street. Dan reports that he was up until 3 working in his living room, in front of the windows, and that he neither saw nor heard anything. Bridget was up at 6, and nothing caught her attention, either.

We take for granted the fact that we live on a street where a young, quiet law student doesn't meet his end on his front steps, barely fifteen feet from a street lamp.

No. Correction: we took it for granted. Now what?

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