Dead Cold Presents, “Dead To Me In Paris”
by A.B. Bourne
c. 2013 all rights reserved
In the large pool at the center of the Luxembourg Gardens, white triangles chased one another in the Parisian breeze, some with reckless disregard for maritime rules, and some bent on revenge.
Outside the Gardens, Pierre LaFontaine rushed across the street, carrying a brown paper bag. The side of his knee grazed the bumper of an odd looking black limousine. Annoyed, Pierre kept walking. He did not want to keep his mother waiting. The thin gold hands on his Patek Philippe showed ten minutes after 1:00pm.
Pierre was 32 years old, 5’ 10” and slightly built. When he reached his bench he lifted the edges of his grey worsted wool trousers and sat down. He placed the bag beside him and took out the coffee cup. Steam fumed from the sharp plastic edges of the spout.
“Walking with a cup,” he thought. “So American.”
Before Pierre had bumped into the limousine, its passenger was already watching him from the back seat of the 1959 Zil-III. The Russians originally built a few of these for their leaders, first making the cabin bulletproof, bombproof, and flip proof and then fastening on the chassis, engine and wheels. In the ‘90s they auctioned them off.
The passenger’s hair was grey, his skin sallow. He bore the marks of more years than he had actually lived. When he saw Pierre go through the gates, the man raised the revolver like an index finger. He drew a small circle in the air. Around again.
Pierre watched the children sail their boats. He thought of Frederick, nine months old, threatening to crawl.
“We will sail boats here, Freddie,” he murmured. “We will.”
Pierre heard the leaves rustle in the dense shrubs behind him. The smell of sour skin, pine needles, garlic, bourbon and beer, reached him before he saw her.
“Madame, bonjour,” Pierre called. Over his shoulder, a short mound moved in the bushes. She wore layers of brown fabric, and on her head grew a long and tangled nest. The whites of her eyes were startling clean patches at the center of her muddy, creased face. She looked unsteadily at Pierre, then lifted a jug to her lips. Pierre stared off through a wrought iron gate in the garden wall. As he watched, a rectangular black limousine rolled by.
The gypsy retreated, but left her strong scent.
Pierre slid his hand into his coat pocket and cupped the folded envelope into his palm. Concealing it against the cup, he put both in the paper bag, and left that on the bench. Then he walked back to the bank where younger men would bring him real espresso in white porcelain.
From behind the leaves, the dirty woman watched him go.
Days later, Pierre strolled to the same bench at ten minutes after one. An ambulance was parked on the maintenance path near the shrubs.
“Dead gypsy,” said the man with thin blue latex gloves over his wrists. “Usually it’s the drink. Pardonnez-moi, sir.”
Pierre watched him lay the body on the stretcher. He saw at her elbows, now drawn out flat, the fabric’s original bright streaks of blue, red and yellow paisley prints. Then the sheet covered her.
Pierre turned away, his Italian leather shoes crunching shards of the ceramic jug. “Au revoir, maman,” he whispered.
That was when he noticed the brown paper bag under the bench. It was the same one he had left for her, but now it bulged.
Pierre unrolled the top and reached in. He felt something soft.
That night when the elevator opened into the foyer of Pierre’s apartment, he heard laughter in the nursery.
“Watch this,” Maria said when she saw her husband at the door.
Once Pierre had won, as a joke award from the bank, “Sidney the largemouth swordfish.” It was a fake fish mounted on a piece of wood which would open its mouth and slap its tail when someone clapped.
Maria did so, and the fish obliged. Freddie tipped his head back with peals of laughter and tried to bring his little chubby palms together too.
Pierre bent down to get close to Freddie’s beautiful face. He touched his boy’s little earlobe, where a fluke of birth had put a cleft in it.
“I have something for you,” he said, holding out a small stuffed bear. It was thirty years old and its nose was gone.
Freddie clapped for it, which made Sidney slap and gawp, which sent the boy into fits. Laughing, Pierre stood up and kissed his wife.
Freddie started to cry.
“He wants the bear,” said Maria.
Pierre nodded, but kept the bear in his hands. Turning his back to the boy, he grasped the bear’s head and ripped it clean off. Slowly, he stuck his fingers deep into the stuffing. When he pulled out his fist, Maria saw three large diamonds, and a ruby. Pierre blew the stuffing off them, and walked over to Sidney.
“Clap Freddie!” he said. When his son made the fish open its mouth, Pierre dropped the jewels inside. They rattled when they landed on the pile.
The passenger put his revolver flat on the back seat of the ZiL. His hands trembled as he opened the folded envelope, stained by coffee and filthy fingerprints, and extracted a photograph. It was of a nine month old boy.
As the ZIL drove on, tears leaked from the passenger’s eyes. One found the edge of his nose and dripped over his lip. The other slipped from the outer edge of his eye. It slid along his cheekbone and down to his earlobe, where a fluke of birth had put a cleft in it.
A.B. Bourne is the author of The First Secret of Edwin Hoff, c. 2011 Watch Hill Books. The thriller reached #4 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue, and spent over a year as one of Amazon’s Top-Rated Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue. In her cover life, Annie Bourne is also VP of Business Development and General Counsel at Kinvey, a start-up in Boston, MA. She mentors start-ups at TechStars Boston and serves on the board of Libboo, Inc. Previously she worked at Akamai Technologies in multiple executive roles and managed Akamai’s IPO, raising $234 million in 1999. Before joining the start-up world, the author graduated from Yale College and the University of Michigan Law School and practiced law in Boston. She lives in Massachusetts with her family, writing The Second Secret of Edwin Hoff.