Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 11

Candlestick

Dreyfus was half awake, sitting on the side of the bed, when Emily came into the room.

“Who won?” he said, rubbing one finger in his eye.

“What?” Emily shot back, more than a little irritated.

“You look like you were in a fight.  What happened?”

“I fell.”

“Out of a building?”

“For God sake, Sinclair!  I’m tired: leave me alone.”

Emily was tired and still stomach sick from the adrenaline rush.  And what the hell was Sinclair doing awake at this time of the morning, anyway?

“Okay, okay,” Dreyfus stood up and went into the bathroom.  He turned the cold water on in the sink and threw in a towel.  When it was soaking wet, he grabbed another dry one and went back to Emily.

“Sit down, and let me see.”

Emily was pulling her dress over her head, so Dreyfus didn’t hear the “I’m fine.”

“Come here.  Sit down.”  Dreyfus offered his hand.

Emily took it, sat down on the bed and Dreyfus knelt in front of her.  He reached his hand to her calf and brought her leg forward.  Then he put the cold, wet towel on Emily’s knee and squeezed.  It was an icy shock and it stung.  Emily instinctively flinched.

“OWW!”

“This might hurt.’

“Thanks for the warning.”

“Seriously, what happened?”

“Oh-h-h, that’s cold!”  Emily shivered.  “I just fell.  My heel broke and I fell.”

Dreyfus lifted the towel to look.  The water had washed most of the dirt away.  He carefully used the towel to sponge away the last bits.  Emily’s knee was numb by then, so she didn’t really feel it; and after a few touches, Dreyfus was satisfied.

“Okay, let me see your hands,” he said, folding the towel.

“What?”

“Let me see your hands.  People fall; they land on their hands.  Let me see your hands.  Clean them up.”

Emily took her hands off the edge of the bed and turned them, palms up.

Dreyfus tilted his head and shifted his eyes to look at Emily.

“What was it?  A suicide attempt?” he said sarcastically.

Emily crinkled her nose.

“No defensive wounds?”

“My God, Sinclair, I’m not a murder victim.  I fell.  No big investigation.  I fell.”  Emily stood up.

“Okay, okay.  You want the shower first?” Dreyfus said, standing.

“No, I’m tired.  I just want to go to bed.”  Emily leaned up and kissed Dreyfus on the cheek, “Sorry I’m grouchy; I had a wretched night.  Thanks for the Florence Nightingale.  It feels a lot better.”

Emily stepped back and reached behind her to undo her bra.  Dreyfus collected both towels and went into the bathroom to shower.

When Dreyfus got out of the shower, he could hear Emily’s deep sleep breathing.  He dressed as quietly as possible, turned the Do Not Disturb sign on the door handle and put his boots on in the hall.  Then he went off to find an early morning coffee somewhere and meet the first team on Boulevard Raspail.

Emily slept for eight hours and woke up worried that she’d forgotten something – and she had.  On the other hand, Dreyfus’s day was going better than expected.  The manager at the gallery hadn’t questioned anything: he’d signed the work orders, notified the staff and even offered the lunch room.  The three-man team knew exactly what to do.  They’d set up the barriers, opened the grates, and by noon, the vertical shaft was connected to the sewer.  Two hours later, they’d found the junction box, identified the various wires and installed the splices.  Now, there was nothing left to do but hang around and look conspicuous.

Emily spent the afternoon shopping.  She bought a sports bra that was uncomfortably tight and a package of black hair nets.  She found a public telephone and called the caterers she’d talked to the day before.

“I have a delivery tonight.  Yes, that’s correct.  Could you add a note, please?  Yes.  ‘Merci beaucoup! Sandy.’  Could you make that big enough so they don’t miss it, please?  Thank you.”

Then she went back to the hotel, put the things she needed in the black backpack, left a note for Sinclair at the reception desk and went off to have a very early meal and see a movie.

At the end of the day, Dreyfus came back to the hotel.

“Excusez, monsieur.  You have a package, and Lady Weldon has left you a note.”

Dreyfus took the package and put it under his arm.

“Thank you, Sydney,” he thought and opened the note.

“Gone night shooting with Antony and Beth.  See you in the morning.”

Dreyfus was used to Emily’s erratic comings and goings, but he decided he was going to look into this Antony and Beth at the first opportunity.

Emily And Dreyfus -1

Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 10

Candlestick

That evening, the dinner was a disaster.  Simon LaMonta was clearly tired, too many activities for an old man; Dreyfus had already put on his work face and Emily was too nervous to notice she was playing with her Inner Duchess.  Finally, they quit trying and struggled along in silence, each one slightly angry with the other two.  After the fish, Emily decided to end it early.

“I met some friends today.  Antony and Beth.  You remember?’

Dreyfus didn’t.

“They’ve brought a crowd over for the Steeplechase.  We’re going to Le Meurice for drinks.  Do you want to come?”

This was lover’s code for ‘you weren’t invited,’ and that was fine with Dreyfus.  Generally, he liked Emily’s friends and might have ignored the escape hatch, but tonight was not the night.

“No, I’ll pass.  I’ve got things to do tomorrow.”

“Alright, then.  If you don’t mind, I’ll leave you two to your coffee and dessert.” Emily stood up, “I shouldn’t be too late.”

She touched Dreyfus on the shoulder and raised her fingers to Simon.

“Night,” she said, turning.

Dreyfus tilted his head to look up, but she was already walking away.

At the hotel, Emily changed into the too-short, too-tight party dress and the shoes she’d bought that afternoon.  She loaded the oversized handbag with the other things she needed, turned her telephone off and kicked her purse under the bed.  She took the stairs to get used to the high heels, wondering what she was going to do for the next five hours, dressed like this.  But, as she crossed the lobby:

“Excusez?  Lady Weldon?  An envelope for you.”

Emily took the envelope.  It was keys.

“Problem solved,” she thought, “Thank you, Sydney.”

Outside, the motor bike was exactly what she needed.  “Thank you, Sydney.”  Unfortunately, her dress was far too short to ride it with any dignity.  “Oh, well!”  Emily pushed it halfway down the street, pulled her dress up to the point of indecency, climbed on and drove off into the night.

Somewhere around 3 in the morning, Emily left the motorcycle in the trees on Avenue de New York.  She casually walked up the wide stairs and along the balustrade of the gallery to the red line of graffiti she’d marked two days before.  She stopped.  She could hear the white noise of distant traffic, but the gray electric light night was deserted.  On that exact spot, she knew she was hidden from everything — including the security cameras.  She was invisible, and it made her feel very alone.  This was the last point when she could turn around and go back to the hotel, tell Sinclair what she’d discovered and, if he was so damned determined, let him do it.  She turned around and looked out at the river.  It would be easy: just get on the motorbike and ride across the bridge; she could be home in twenty minutes.  And then what?  Wait for the axe to fall?  She trusted Sinclair, and any other time, she would probably just shut up and get out of the way, but …  A car drove by.  Emily instinctively twitched.  It didn’t stop.  It didn’t even slow down.  If this was going to work, she had to do it now.  She turned back to the gallery, slipped her shoes off, knelt down and smashed one against the curb.  The heel snapped off cleanly.  She put her hand on the pieces, leaned forward, and balanced, scraped her knee sideways across the rough concrete.  Goddamn it hurt!  She tightened the muscles in her leg and clenched her eyes against the pain.  She crouched there until the moment passed, stood up and, barefoot, walked the eight steps to the gallery window in a precise straight line.  She dropped the broken heel on the ground and put on her other shoe.  Then she reached into her handbag and, by feel, found the solvent from the DIY store.  There were six screws in the window, and she carefully sprayed each one.  She put the can back into her bag and turned to face the street.  This was the hard part, waiting, listening, feeling the pulse in her stomach, rehearsing her broken heel story, willing the world not to interfere.  In the soundless night, she heard every sound — tried to distinguish them, identify them, find them in the darkness.  She flexed her fingers against the tension in her hands; then she put on her gloves and took the electric screwdriver from her bag.  She fitted it to the first screw and pressed the button.  Even with her gloves, the noise seemed to cut into the night like a jet engine.  But it worked perfectly, just like the clerk showed her.  The first screw twisted out almost instantly.  It wobbled.  Emily caught it just before it fell, and tightened it back into the hole just a bit.  The rest were easier to gauge and, in less than a minute, all the screws were loose.  Emily jiggled the window open until it rested on the ends of the screws.  She reached behind the window to the lock on the wire grate and, with her other hand, took the bolt cutter from her bag.  She lined everything up and pushed … nothing happened.  She pushed again — and again. Still nothing.  She pushed again.  No matter what she did, she just wasn’t strong enough to break the lock.  She could feel the panic rising.  Any second now, some drunk would stagger by, the guards would hear her, a car would stop.   “For God sake, c’mon!”  She lined the cutters up with the wall and pushed with both hands.  Still nothing.  Finally, almost overwhelmed with terror, she adjusted the angle, pulled up her dress and kicked the handle with the flat of her foot.  It gave.  There was a snap.  The lock broke and the bolt cutters fell rattling onto the sidewalk.  In a mad rush, Emily pushed the window back into place.  She tightened all six screws, threw everything back into her bag, grabbed her broken shoe and scrabbled back to the concrete balustrade.  She was invisible again.  She leaned down heavily, breathing through her mouth.  As soon as she could, she took off her gloves, put them in her bag, took off her shoes again and walked around the corner.  Under the street light, she stopped and looked at her watch.  It was 3:15.  She made sure her bag was closed, then ran up the street to the gallery’s service entrance.

“Hello!  Excusez?  Hello!”  She shouted, pounding her fist against the door, “Hello!  Can you help me?  Please!  Hello!”  She pounded again.

The door opened.

“Thank God!  Uh – Jesus! – S’il vous plait – uh – um …”

“I speak English.”

“Oh, fantastic.  I was robbed.  I was phoning for a taxi, and a kid on a bike just came out of nowhere and stole my wallet and my phone.  I was there.  Here.  I don’t know where I was.  I’m …   My boyfriend left me here.  I – uh – the kid just came out of nowhere.  I chased him, but I fell.”  Emily rubbed her knee.

“Alright, Madame.  One minute,’ the security guard said, holding his hands in the air.  “I will call the police.  One minute.”

“No, please.  All I want is to go back to the hotel.  Can you call me a taxi?  The police will take all night.  I just want to go home.  Could you …”

“Yes.  Alright.  One minute.”  The guard took his telephone out of his pocket, tapped a number and spoke.

“Thank you so much.”  Emily was calmer now, “Could I ask you to wait with me ‘til he gets here?”

“Of course.  Are you hurt?  Come in and sit down for a minute.”

“No. Thank you.  I’m fine.  I just …   I’ll report it in the morning.  I just want to go home.”

“We have a medical kit.  For your knee?”

“Oh, no!  It’s nothing.  You’ve done enough, really, just waiting with me.  Thank you so much.  Can I offer you … oh, I don’t have any money.”

“No, Madame.  It’s good.”

“Are you here all the time?  Do you work here?”

“Yes.  We are the night guards for the museum.”

The taxi came.

“Thank you again.  Will you be here tomorrow night?” Emily smiled.

“Yes, every night.”

“I’ll see what I can do for you.  I’m Sandy, by the way.”

Emily got into the taxi and loudly gave the name of a hotel.  After a couple of streets, she pulled 20 Euros out of her bra and told the driver to let her out.  She walked back to her motorbike, and twenty minutes later, she was at her hotel — barefoot, dirty, with a ripped dress and a bloody knee.

“Good morning,” she said at the reception desk, “Any chance I could get a drink at the bar?”

Emily And Dreyfus – 1

Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 9

Candlestick

It took Emily nearly three hours to take a deep breath and finally do something.  She spent most of the morning wandering in the sun-sparkled Jardin du Luxembourg.  It wasn’t that she was worried about the plan.  She knew there was nothing wrong with it.  Planning was what she did.  After all, she’d been keeping Pyaridge Hall and the Weldon estate one step ahead of the banks and bankruptcy since she was twenty.  However, it’s one thing to organize a robbery in your head, fix a timetable and figure out the details — but it’s quite another to set the wheels in motion.  So she hesitated.  Sat on a park bench.  Walked.  Sat down again.  Waited.  Watched children with their mothers and young girls with their lovers and thought about a time when she played and teased and flirted and life was a simple thing.

But she knew life wasn’t a simple thing, and Sinclair was trapped by the past and a love-struck old man.  And no beautiful spring morning was going to change that.  She liked Simon LaMonta, but she had no confidence in him.  And she loved Sinclair beyond her ability to trust his judgement.  He was going to rescue his people no matter what the risk, and that frightened her.  She didn’t want to contemplate a time without Sinclair close at hand, and that made her finally leave the garden and walk to the art shop on Rue Soufflot without looking back.

She had shopped at La Plume Ancienne many times when she was a student and she knew exactly what she was looking for.  She found all four items quickly, paid cash and left.  At the stand outside, she got a taxi to Tati, the mecca of shabby/chic in Paris.  The store was huge, so it took her some time to find what she wanted — black sweater and slacks, a too-short, too-tight party dress, two pairs of shoes, gloves, a black backpack and an oversized purse.  She paid cash, stuffed everything into a one-on-every-corner Tati bag and found another taxi that took her back across town.  This was the hard part.  She wasn’t exactly sure what she needed and couldn’t really explain what she needed them for — so she flipped her hair a lot at the DIY store.  She told the clerk she was recently divorced — with a crumbling apartment that seriously needed a man’s hand — and explained her immediate problem.  She followed his eyes as he answered and asked if he could possibly just show her how to actually use the tools.  He did, and she leaned very close as he guided her hand, then laughed at her own success.  She thanked him very much and asked if there was anything else that might help her.  He volunteered a spray can of strong solvent.  She paid cash, thanked everyone again, said she’d probably be back, and left.  From there, she went to BNP Paribas bank, paid cash for a prepaid credit card and immediately used it to buy a glass of wine.  The card worked, and she wandered off to find a public telephone.

Unaware that Emily was organizing a robbery, Dreyfus was putting the finishing touches on his own.  After leaving the Picasso gallery, he walked several streets before casually setting the cap and sunglasses on an empty café table.  Then, a few streets further, he found a taxi and gave the driver an address in the very south of Paris near the Montrouge cemetery.  From there, he walked to another café where the driver from the airport was sitting waiting for him.  Around the corner, in a locked up garage, they met with the first team who would handle the street work.  Dreyfus inspected the truck, the uniforms and the equipment, explained what each man was responsible for and set a time and place for them to pick him up in the morning.  None of this was necessary: Dreyfus trusted Sydney’s people, and he knew they’d already been given detailed instructions from the original plan.  But now that he was on the ground, he wanted everyone to be clear that he was in charge.

A couple of hours later and much closer to the gallery, Dreyfus and the driver met the second team – the ones who were actually going into the gallery.  Once again, he inspected the truck, the uniforms and the equipment, but this time he unfolded a paper layout of the gallery and marked the location of each painting – numbered one through four.

“Walk in casually.  When four gets to his painting, here,” Dreyfus pointed and made a small circle with his finger, “You can all see each other.  Lift the painting up and out.  The power’s been cut, but they might have backup alarms.  Don’t worry.  Just get the painting and walk out like you own the place.  I’ll be here at the door.  Ninety seconds after you lift the paintings, I’m going for the van.  All of you should be ahead of me.  At the van, get in and I’ll close the door.  Any questions?  Okay, study the layout and make sure you know where you’re supposed to be.  We’ll go over this again in real time the night before.”

Outside the garage, the driver, who hadn’t spoken, turned to Dreyfus. “I’ll give you the destination when we have the paintings,” he said.

Dreyfus looked back and shrugged. “No need.  I’m done once we have them.”

“Those are my instructions.  The destination and the access code.”

“Okay,” Dreyfus said and walked away.

At a public telephone on Rue Saint-Jacques, Emily ordered a very expensive box lunch for three, complete with dessert and a bottle of wine, to be delivered tomorrow night at 2:00 AM.  She gave the delivery address and specified which entrance.  She made the woman repeat the instructions and then she paid for it with her prepaid credit card.  Twenty minutes later, she was back at the hotel, taking a nap.

Emily And Dreyfus – 1