A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The next morning over a hotel breakfast, they did a post mortem of the night before. The food, the wine — too much wine – they’d slyly taken the last bottle with them when they left the restaurant. They’d shared it in the plaza, watching the midnight fire dancers in front of Notre Dame and finished it on the slow stroll through the half-deserted streets, looking for a taxi. They never found one and ended up walking and talking and, a couple of times, waltzing all the way back to the hotel. It had been fun; it was what they did. But now it was time to finish their coffee and go to work, and they both knew it.
Emily looked across the table with an unasked question in her eyes. Dreyfus put his tongue on his top teeth and slightly opened his palms. Emily thought about it for less than a second. She knew she’d already made up her mind, but it was worth a try.
“So what are you doing today?’ he asked.
“I don’t know. I’m in Paris; I think I’ll go shopping,” Emily answered casually. “Are you going to be around?”
“Oh, yeah. Just not during the day.”
“Here for dinner?”
“Find us a place,” Dreyfus said, getting up. Emily looked up with another question.
“Whatever you like.”
He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.
“Be careful,” she said into his ear.
Dreyfus stood up and smiled down at her. It was his highwayman smile, and Emily slowly shook her head.
“And don’t let that crazy old man talk you into anything stupid.”
“He’s still sleeping,” Dreyfus said. “See you tonight.” And then he walked away.
Emily poured another cup of coffee and reached for her newspaper. She needed to think.
Dreyfus went to the lobby, ordered a taxi and went out into the street. He took the telephone the driver had given him on the first day and dialed the only number available. He arranged two meetings for that afternoon. He made them three hours apart, in two different places. Then he took out his own telephone, found Sydney’s name and tapped the number.
“Hell-o sir. How are you?”
“Very well, Sydney. And you?”
“Top form. Is everything all right?”
“Perfect so far. No problems. But I need a gun.”
“Certainly.” There was a pause. “Didn’t they give you a telephone, sir?” Sydney’s voice betrayed his concern.
“Yeah, it’s good. No problem. I just want this to be separate. If that’s possible?”
“Something big and noisy.”
“How big, sir?” Sydney was interested.
“No, Sydney. Just a handgun. Any time in the next few days.” Dreyfus gave him the name of the hotel.
“Anything else, sir?”
“No, that’s fine. I’ll see you in a week or so.”
“Of course. Goodbye, sir.”
Dreyfus took the taxi down to the river, told the driver to wait and jumped out at a tourist kiosk. He bought an “I ‘HEART’ Paris” baseball cap and a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Then he told the driver to take him to an address in Le Marais. He put the sunglasses on top of the cap and bent the arms so they were tight. Then he put the cap on. He was going shopping for Picasso: the bill of the hat would obscure his face from above, and CCTV cameras don’t like the glare off reflective sunglasses. To the high-tech watchdogs, he was now practically invisible.
Emily was half-reading, mostly thinking and didn’t see Simon DeMonta until he sat down.
“Do you mind?” Simon asked, leaning his cane on the table.
Emily gestured and folded her newspaper. “How are you this morning?”
“Never get old,” Simon said, and smiled.
Despite her best efforts, Emily actually liked Simon DeMonta. She knew she didn’t know the whole story, but the one she knew made sense to her and it satisfied her romantic spirit. She wasn’t at all keen that DeMonta had pulled Sinclair into the plot, but she also knew that Sinclair was quite capable of tilting at windmills all by himself. It wasn’t DeMonta’s fault there was a damsel in distress — especially one Sinclair felt so protective towards.
One of the kitchen staff came to the table with a pot of coffee and two eggs with toast.
“Good morning, Lottie,” Simon said. “Thank you so much. It’s been a long time since a pretty girl remembered what I like.”
Lottie brightened and Emily slowly shook her head. “You know you’re a hopeless flirt,” she said, when the girl had gone.
“A man’s a man. My wife’s in prison. What can I do?”
Emily’s face lost the smirk.
“No, don’t worry. Between you and me, Marta’s been in jail before. And I’ve got her out before. So. . .” Simon shrugged and took a piece of toast. “This’ll work. Believe me. I and Dreyfus are good at this. Back in the day …”
“I don’t think I want to hear this.”
“What? You’re already an accessory.”
“Yes, and thanks for that.”
“No. Relax. Nothing’s goin’ happen. This time next week, it’ll all be over.”
“And nothing. You go back to real life, and Marta and I slide back under the radar.”
“You’re not going to keep in touch?”
Simon laughed. “You don’t understand this, do you? Marta and I are on the run. Have been for 5 years. She’s got convictions; I got warrants. That’s why we’re here. When this is done, we have to close up shop and move on. Disappear.”
“So you and Sinclair …?”
Simon shook his head.
“That’s too bad. You two … and I really wanted to meet Marta.”
“She’d like to meet you, too. You’re good for Dreyfus. She’d like that.”
“You are. You didn’t know him before. I’ve known him since he was a teenager. Believe me, you’re good for him. And, hey, what do I know? But I’m thinking he’s good for you, too.”
Emily thought about it. Yes, he was. She’d known that from the beginning. She looked across at Simon. No, she didn’t know the whole story, but at that moment she didn’t care. She liked Simon. She liked him and Sinclair together. She would probably like Marta as well, but that didn’t matter because Sinclair did. She didn’t want this to end badly. She knew she knew how to fix it. She’d decided that last night. She just wasn’t sure how — yet.
“Enjoy your breakfast.” Emily said getting up. “Are you coming for dinner?”
“I’d love to. What are we having?”
Emily walked through the lobby out into the street. The first thing she needed was transportation. She took her telephone out of her pocket, found Sydney’s name and tapped the number.
“Hell-o, ma’am. How are you?”
“I’m fine Sydney. And you?”
“Top form, ma’am.”
There was a pause.
“Can you keep a secret, Sydney?”
“Of course, ma’am.”
“I need a – um – a scooter, uh … a motorcycle. No, not a motorcycle … something smaller, something I can handle. Do you know what I mean?”
“Exactly, ma’am. The sort of thing a courier might use. Lightweight and just powerful enough for traffic. Something like that?”
“Perfect. I know this is short notice, but could you have it here tomorrow?”
“Certainly.” There was a couple of seconds delay. “And where is here, ma’am?”
Emily gave him the name of the hotel. “Just leave the keys with reception.”
“Is that everything?”
“Yes, thank you, Sydney. Good bye.”
“Good bye, ma’am.”
Emily walked back into the hotel to get ready for her shopping trip. In London, Sydney Khatri Singh rolled his eyes and decided he wasn’t even going to speculate about what Lady Weldon was up to.