Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 8

Candlestick

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?”

“Of course.”

“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?’

“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.”

Emily shrugged.

“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?”

“Fish.”

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.

Emily And Dreyfus – 1

Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 7

Candlestick

That evening spread out for them like sand slowly leaking out of an hourglass – time out of time.  As usual, they were alone in the crowded restaurant, content to let the world swirl around them.  It was long after Vespers, so there weren’t any bells from Notre Dame, but even across the river, the floodlights on the cathedral shone through the trees and cast shivering shadows on their faces and over their table.  It was a dinner made for lovers – several lazy courses, small bites, wine and conversation.

They had arrived nearly together from separate directions.  Dreyfus by taxi directly from their hotel and Emily a two train transfer and a walk from St. Michel Metro station.  Without reservations, it took a few minutes and some well-placed Euros to get an outside table.  But with generosity established, the service was excellent. (All Parisian waiters instinctively know exactly when to be at your elbow and when to stay away.)

Dreyfus had spent the day shaping, reshaping and finally perfecting each detail of DeMonta’s plan until both men were satisfied.  Now, DeMonta was probably asleep, and everything else was etched in stone.  Dreyfus had made all the necessary telephone calls and the on-the-ground timetable was set to start the day after tomorrow.  He was confident but still wary of the variables.  Meanwhile, after her inadvertent discovery, Emily had spent the entire day in and around the Musee d’Art Moderne.  After walking through the rooms again, she left and had lunch at Antoine, watching the traffic on Avenue de New York.  After lunch, she bought a guide book and strolled around the museum several times; then, when the tourists thinned, bought a ticket and went back inside.  She spent the last hour or so wandering and sitting, making certain she hadn’t made a mistake, until a friendly security guard told her the museum was closing and she had to leave.

“Of course.  I’m sorry,” Emily said in more than acceptable French. “I’m keeping you from your dinner.”

“No, Madame,” the guard shrugged, “I’m here until eleven.”

Emily gave him a sad smile and tilted her head in sympathy.  She gathered her purse and book, and they chatted as they walked to the entrance together.  The guard more than pleased that a beautiful woman was interested in the hard work he did.  As she walked to the Metro, she wondered how or even if she’d tell Sinclair what she’d found.

At the restaurant, after the fish they decided on gateau au chocolate facon grand-mere with two forks for dessert and, breaking tradition, red wine with their coffee.

While they waited: “Are you really going to go through with this?” Emily asked. “Do you really think you and that old man can rob a gallery?”

Dreyfus lifted his glass.  He wasn’t sure he wanted this conversation, but he knew Emily well enough to know he was going to have it anyway.

“I told you I owe him — a lot.  And Marta too.  Especially Marta.  We go way back.  They were very good to me.  When I was a kid, I got into a bunch of trouble…”

“I don’t want to hear it!” Emily interrupted.

“And they straightened it out.  They vouched for me when they didn’t have to, and they treated me right.  Without them … I don’t know.  Now, they’re old and sick and what am I going to do — walk away?  She could be in prison for the rest of her life.  And Simon?  He’s lost without her.  You heard him last night.”

“He’s a sweet old guy, but …” Emily shook her head, “I swear to God if you go to jail, Sinclair …”

“I’m not going to jail.  I’m not even going to be anywhere near.”

Emily thought about it. “Are you lying to me again?”

“I’m not.” There was a pause. “Well, maybe a little bit, but I’m not going to go to jail.”

Emily turned her eyes to the shining cathedral.  Then she leaned over to the next table. “Excusez-moi, monsieur.  Une cigarette, s’il vous plait?”

Emily opened her purse.  The man waved his hand and handed her the package.  She opened it, took a cigarette and lit it with his lighter. “Merci.”

Pas de quoi,” the man said, without looking.

Emily turned back to Dreyfus with a serious look-what-you-made-me-do glance.

Dreyfus exhaled, hoping the cake would show up soon.

“C’mon, Sinclair.  You don’t know anything about this.  You’re an insurance adjuster, not an art thief.”

Dreyfus raised his eyebrows, pulled his head back slightly in disbelief and gave her a thin-lipped smile.

“Okay,” she said pointing, “But you know what I mean.”

“Look, Simon is one of the best planners in the business.  And Sydney …

“Sydney!”

Dreyfus put both hands up. “Not Sydney himself.  His crew.  Or something.  His people.  You know Sydney.  Don’t ask too many questions.  They’re doing the heavy lifting.  And those boys don’t make mistakes.”

Emily had to agree with that, but all she said was, “God!  Sydney?  And where are you going to be while all this is going on?”

“I’m just there to make sure nothing goes wrong.  That’s all.”

Before Emily could answer, the cake arrived and the coffee and the wine.  The waiter showed Dreyfus the bottle.  With two fingers, Dreyfus directed him to Emily.  He turned, uncorked it and poured.  Emily drank.

C’est bon.”

The waiter poured both glasses, put the bottle on the table and left.  Emily dropped the cigarette on the sidewalk.

“Alright.  Let’s have some cake.”

Emily knew the tone.

“You’re crazy,” she said, suddenly making up her mind.  It was a way out if she could make it work, but either way, Sinclair didn’t really need to know right now.  It would only complicate things.

Dreyfus lifted his wine glass: “To crazy!”

Emily smiled.  She lifted her glass: “To crazy,” she said, thinking just how crazy it had all become.

They drank.  And in the beautiful half-light night, they ate cake.

Emily And Dreyfus – 1

Emily And Dreyfus – Fiction – 6

Candlestick

Mid-morning in Paris is cluttered with tourists – early tour buses unloading at their first attraction (“Follow the red umbrella, and remember the number of your bus.”) and “smart” two-a-day sightseers, crowding in to beat the crowds.  Emily sidestepped the ticket line at the Museum of Modern Art and used her association card to get in through the staff entrance.  As a student, she had spent hundreds of hours here, mapping the displays, calculating traffic patterns, studying the effects of light and shadow.  Although she’d done her first internship at Le Petit Palais, it was here she learned the nuts and bolts of display and design.  She knew this gallery as well as any of the people who worked here.  She walked through the familiar rooms, pausing to sit in front of a few old favourites, avoiding the famous works obscured by herds of cellphone cameras.  Some things had changed, but it was mostly the same — a small stroll down memory lane.  Except – and this was odd — she had a feeling that something wasn’t right.  Something didn’t fit.  She’d set up enough gallery exhibitions to trust her instincts, but she couldn’t put her finger on it – and it bothered her.  She walked through a few more rooms.  She stopped, sat down and watched the people – and the paintings – and the people again.  And then she saw it.  She waited, but nothing changed.  She got up and walked through several more rooms.  They were all the same.  She considered the options and decided she needed to think about it.  She went down to the café and bought coffee and a pastry.  Her mind immediately went to Sinclair.

In the conference room, back at the hotel, Sinclair and DeMonta were done with the details.  Like all good plans, it was simple, with very few moving parts and no unnecessary transitions.  On day one, Team One arrives at the gallery with equipment, uniforms, credentials and official papers.  They find the middle managers and explain they will be working in the street near the entrance, upgrading data and telephone lines.  This shouldn’t cause any problems, but there might be an occasional disruption — probably just to the Internet or maybe telephone services.  They won’t last more than a few seconds, certainly less than a minute.  They get a couple of signatures on formal-looking work orders, apologize for the inconvenience and thank everybody very much.  Then they go back to the street, set up a construction site and open the vertical shaft to the junction box in the sewer system.  For the next few days, they make themselves conspicuous – part of the landscape — laughing, saying good morning, eating lunch and, every once in a while, pulling a plug and replacing it.  More apologies, a few complaints but mostly workmen regularly seen inside the gallery to “fix” the problem.  On day five, twenty minutes before closing time, a well-recognized brown delivery van drives up to the entrance.  Team One goes down the excavation shaft, cuts all the trunk lines at the junction box (telephone, Internet, alarm system, power) then disappears into the sewers.  Team Two gets out of the van and goes into the gallery.  They each go directly to their designated painting, lift it off the wall and take it back to the van.  The van drives away – one of many in a busy city.

“It’s as close to perfect as possible,” Simon said, hobbling away from the big conference table to the sideboard.

Dreyfus knew that tone. “But?” he said.

Simon poured water into a glass.

“But. . . ” Simon leaned on his cane and drank. “Look, I trust your guys.  If you say they’re 100%, okay, good enough for me.  They do the thing, no problem, but …” Simon slowly shook his head, “They gotta sell it.  They don’t sell it …?  Puhh!  Team Two needs that extra minute.  It’s gotta feel normal when they go into the gallery.  If it doesn’t, somebody’s going to get excited.  Too much time and our boys are flatfooted.  Those paintings might get off the wall, but they’re never gettin’ out the door — and we’re dead as disco.  They gotta sell it right from the get-go, and that’s a lotta trust with guys we don’t know.”

Simon put the glass down.

“And … we haven’t taken care of the concerned citizen.  Some taxpayer decides he’s going to be a hero?  Even on the street?  That screws everything.  We need muscle.  Something loud and scary to make sure everybody thinks twice about goin’ ‘Vive La France’ on our ass.”

Dreyfus picked a long plastic line of ID badges out of the suitcase.  He’d seen the holes too and had already decided to fix them.

“We’ve already got all the material.” Dreyfus lifted the badges in the air, “That’s done.  We can’t add anybody now without throwing the timetable off.  Besides, you and I both know muscle’s a whole different ballgame.  My people don’t do that.  We’d have to farm it out.”

Dreyfus shook his head. “Too much risk.  I’ll do it.  I’ll go in with the first team, sell the hell out of it, stay for the transition and I’m the muscle.  Nothing else changes.  I’ll do it.”

“You don’t speak French,” Simon said, reaching across the sideboard for a wine bottle.

“I got enough to get by.  Besides, city workers?  We’re Romanians or something.” Dreyfus shrugged, “The people at the gallery aren’t going to know the difference.”

“What about your girl?”

Dreyfus looked across at Simon. “Corkscrew’s by the glasses,” he said.

Emily And Dreyfus – 1