The Woman in Cell Three
“What crime did she commit?”
“None that I know of, sir.”
“Then why is she living in my jail?”
“It’s safe and warm, sir. And hot meals …”
“I want her out. Now.”
“Just one more day, sir, to find out who she is?”
“Twenty-four hours, Sergeant.”
Sergeant Dan walked away, frowning. The prisoner wanted to tell him something, something important.
Je suis perdue … She said the words over and over, followed by another unintelligible phrase.
I’m lost. His heart went out to her – so fragile, so alone.
Ta famille? he asked. Her eyes filled with tears. Perdue, she repeated.
This situation needed a woman’s touch. Sergeant Dan called in Della – fashion maven, history buff and brilliant lawyer. She took one look at the prisoner and gasped. “That dress! Those ringlets! That stylish corset! She’s not from here.”
Sergeant Dan showed Della the prisoner’s possessions – a ruffled hat, an ivory comb, a pair of soft leather gloves, and a watch with multiple dials. One dial measured ten hours, not twelve. “Is she a thief? I didn’t want to tell the Chief, but I saw this watch in the museum when I was a boy.”
Marie-Claude answered the phone. He described the watch and she asked him to hold.
Finally, “Yes we have a watch that answers your description. It’s a rare example of French Revolutionary Decimal Watches. They …”
He interrupted her to clarify. “Your watch is safe, then?”
“Of course! Guarded night and day. These watches were only made for eighteen years, in France, just after the Revolution. They are museum pieces now, all cataloged and counted.”
When Sergeant Dan finished the call, Della showed him the inscription she had discovered.
Pour ma cherie Mimi. “This watch was a gift!”
As they entered Cell Three, Della called out, “Mimi?”
The prisoner looked up. Oui, she answered.
Della put her arms around the woman, rocking her like a baby. Ma pauvre petite.
Mimi clung to Della, sobbing. Je suis perdue … Je suis perdue … dans le temps.
This time Sergeant Dan understood her perfectly. I’m lost … in time.