The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 14

marie at window pp

Marie continued to stare out of the window of the small house. Sir John and the tenants, M and Mme Enrault, stood in the room as she did so.

“Would either of you like some coffee or perhaps some tea,” said M Enrault, looking nervously at Sir John. M. Enrault was still trying to work out why he had invited this strange pair into his house, a question his wife was also considering from the expression on her face.

“No thank you,” said Sir John. “You can leave us, we’ll be fine.”

The couple retreated willingly and Sir John turned to look at his wife’s back.

“You think I’ve gone too far,” she said. “That I should have just asked and not… done what I did.”

“I imagine you thought you only had one chance, and you were so anxious to see your aunt’s old house again, that you panicked a little,” said Sir John gently.

Marie’s shoulders shook a little.

“It has been 28 years,” she said, “to the day.”

Sir John’s face fell.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Perhaps we should have waited.”

“No,” said Marie, “you were right, it is… fitting.”

Just then a woman in her sixties walked past and glanced into the window. She stared for a moment and then screamed. The woman dropped the bag she had been carrying and came up to the window. Her face was pale as she stared in at Marie.

“Mademoiselle La Fleur,” she said in disbelief. “Is that… is it really you?”

Marie’s head nodded and the woman went to the front door of the house. There was a knock at the door then a conversation in the corridor. The woman from the street came into the room and rushed over to Marie. She held Marie’s face with her hand and stared into it.

“Not a hair different,” she said in awe.  Marie smiled then.

“You are too kind Mme Duchamp,” Marie said. “My hairs are very different. Some are even grey now.”

The woman then looked over at Sir John and back to Marie.

“Is this… are you?” she said.

“May I present Sir John Jennings,” said Marie, “my husband. Sir John, this is Mme Margot Duchamp.”

“Enchantée,” said Mme Duchamp. “An English knight? How strange, but then you always were different. When I saw you now, when I screamed, I swore I thought you were a ghost. Especially today. What happened? Where did you go?”

“I am sorry to scare you Mme Duchamp.” said Marie. “All I can say is, after they died, my aunt, my uncle, I couldn’t be here anymore. I just had to leave.”

“My word, all these years!” said Mme Duchamp. “I can’t believe it, we thought you were killed with your aunt and uncle. Why did you not come back here? Your things were all here?”

“I did come back,” said Marie, “right after the shell took them. I saw it fall, I saw them die, right in front of me. I came back here and everywhere was their possessions, their life, our life. Now gone. It was too much, after my mother’s death. Too much for me. I took a bag of things I would need and I left. I didn’t have an idea to leave forever, but I never came back. And then. Then other problems. The commune and everything.”

Marie wiped away the tear which had run down her face.

“It was bad then for sure,” said Mme Duchamp. “A terrible time. But then did you find your uncle? He was looking for you.”

Marie looked confused.

“Mme Duchamp, my uncle was killed that day,” she said.

“No, not that one, the other one, the brother of your aunt. What was his name?” said Mme Duchamp. “Thierry? I forget his surname.”

“Oh,” said Marie. “He was not my uncle Mme Duchamp, he was just a family friend, I think. I called him uncle to be polite.”

“I think not, Marie,” said Mme Duchamp. “I’m sure your aunt called him brother. And besides, he came to look for you when he heard your aunt and uncle had died. Poor man looked so sad. So you didn’t see him? He didn’t find you?”

“No,” said Marie, “I… I didn’t know. Do you have an address for him?”

“I don’t,” said Mme Duchamp, “but this has reminded me I do have something you may want.”

“What is it?” said Marie.

“When we all were sure you had all died, your uncle said for us to take what we wanted from the house. I don’t think he cared to take much himself. So I took your books, and I have most of them still.”

“I don’t think I need them anymore,” said Marie, “but thank you.”

“No, you don’t understand,” said Mme Duchamp. “I just grabbed all the books without looking. I didn’t realise that one wasn’t a book at all. Marie, my dear, I have your diary.”

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 13

stairspp

After returning to their hotel late at night, Sir John and Marie were at the bottom of the stairs and climbing up to their room.

“I noticed you omitted some aspects of our story,” said Sir John, casually.

“I was… it felt right,” said Marie. “I didn’t want to send them totally crazy.”

“Excuse me, monsieur,” said a voice from below.

“Yes,” said Sir John as the receptionist appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“Monsieur Jennings, I forget to tell you. There was a man here to see you,” he said.

“Oh, who?” said Sir John.

“He did not say his name, but he did say he’d wait. That was some time ago,” said the receptionist.

“Is he still here?” said Sir John. “What did he look like?”

“He was short, wore a hood and had a foreign accent, I mean, not French,” said the receptionist. “I didn’t see him go, but he’s no longer here. I suppose he must have left, but he didn’t leave a card or note.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “Well, thank you anyway.”

“My pleasure to help,” said the man and left.

“Very helpful,” said Sir John. He turned back up the stairs to see Marie looking back at him with a distracted expression.

“It’s not that at all,” she said. “If I am honest, I didn’t want him to know. To know about me. I’m worried what will happen, what he will say.”

“He’s a good friend,” said Sir John gently. “I’m sure he’d understand. Be impressed, even.”

“I think so too, and… I hope so,” she said. “But I’m still afraid.”

Sir John took his wife’s hand.

“Then we will wait,” he said, “and tell him together when you’re ready.”

Marie smiled then suddenly frowned.

“What was that?” she said.

“What?” said Sir John.

“From upstairs,” whispered Marie. “From our floor, I heard a sound.”

“Well it’s a hotel,” said Sir John, whispering too, “that shouldn’t be so strange.”

“In the rooms, yes,” said Marie. “This was in the corridor. I hear someone breathing.”

She crept up the last few steps as quietly as possible then turned at the top.

Venir!” she said and there was a high pitched squawking noise. A slender, hooded man ran up the corridor and stopped dead in front of her. His hood fell back to reveal a frightened pale face which made another squawking noise. Sir John appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Phlebotomous?” he said.

“He-hello,” said the vampire.

“Mr Bosch,” said Marie. “What are you doing here?”

“I was just passing?” ventured Phlebotomous.

“In Paris?” said Sir John.

“They are having auditions for some exposition next year,” said Phlebotomous. “I brought some of my inventions.”

“Why are you skulking around the hotel,” said Marie. “You gave me a fright.”

“I’m sorry, but it got too sunny in the lobby and I wanted to see my old friends,” he said then opened his arms wide and grinned.

Sir John shook his hand and Marie tapped the other.

“Well, yes, very nice to see you, Phlebotomous, but we’ve had rather a long day. We’d better get to our room,” said Sir John.

“Of course, of course,” said Phlebotomous, who then looked as his feet.

“Is your accomodation far?” said Marie.

“Not too far…” said Phlebotomous. “It is rather late, though. There might be thieves or murderers out there.”

“You’re a vampire,” said Sir John. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

The vampire looked nervously out the window and Sir John sighed.

“There’s a chaise-longue in the room, you may stay there for tonight,” he said and Phlebotomous smiled.

The Paris Awakening: Initation Part 12

Map Earth

“And this time he will not get away!” concluded a red faced Clackprattle, banging the table.

“Very moving,” said Bisset, who had remained impassive throughout the diatribe, apart from little glances towards Pook.

Pook unfixed both his gaze and smile and turned to Clackprattle.

“Indeed Master, a most eloquent exposition of the injustices and deprivations you have suffered at the hands of Sir John Jennings,” he said.

“If it is not too impertinent a question, my I ask why you seek the weapon,” said Bisset.

Clackprattle looked astonished.

“Have I not just explained the very circumstances!” he said.

“Indeed, and at some length,” said Bisset. “But you have about your person a most formidable means of attack. Surely that would suffice?”

“The Master feels, and I concur, that a less direct approach may be more appropriate here,” said Pook. “Indeed, given our previous misfortune the opportunity to carry out some action from a distance seems most prudent. For it seems Sir John has more than his fair share of luck. He seems to lead a… charmed life.”

Bisset raised one eyebrow and tilted his head a few degrees.

“I am sure you are correct,” said Bisset. “The next question is how we should proceed.”

“I believe, sir, that the next question is ours to ask,” said Pook.

“Just so,” said Bisset.

“What is it that might be found at the locations indicated by the map?” asked Pook.

“I will ask the questions!” barked Clackprattle. The other two men looked at him with mild surprise which melted into pleasant smiles as they awaited the next utterance.

“As he said,” said Clackprattle, waving a hand in the general direction of Pook.

“At the four locations indicated on the map are four “beings”. They each… represent one of the four classical elements. Each possesses a part of the key which they will surrender to one who can pass a test that is set,” said Bisset.

“A test presumably commensurate with the element is question?” said Pook. “A physical test for earth, for example?”

“Indeed Mr Pook,” said Bisset. “And I believe I have at least two questions now.”

Clackprattle scowled at Pook who nodded lightly.

“It would seem so,” Pook said.

“My first question is will you allow me to invite you to stay with us here? I believe you have been staying somewhere quite inappropriate to persons of your stature.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“You mean Paris?” he said.

Bisset smiled again.

“Perhaps you may feel warmer to my city if you were to stay somewhere more… consistent with your standing in society,” he said, gesturing lightly around the large room.

“We acquiesce,” said Clackprattle, looking bored.

“My second question is would you permit me the opportunity to study the map in order to find the location of the first part of the key?” said Bisset.

Clackprattle shrugged but Pook leaned forward and put a hand on the map.

“I feel that, whilst that may seem a most effective course of action, it would not perhaps be the most desirous,” he said.

“Do you think?” said Bisset, a small frown forming on his face.

“I would very much like to remain in constant contact with the map,” said Pook, “in the interests of mutual transparency.”

“Well, perhaps we may travail in such a way that you accompany me, Mr Pook, whilst your Master enjoys the comforts we can provide.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Clackprattle, clearly bored.

“And I have some information that may make you very keen to proceed at a prompt pace,” said Bisset.

“What might that be?” said Pook.

Bisset looked absently away from the table.

“Only that Sir John Jennings and his wife happen to be in Paris at the moment,” he said.

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 11

PA I 11 prisma

Sabine sat back and exhaled deeply. She placed the cigarette she had been absently smoking into the overflowing ashtray and turned to Emile.

“What a story!” she said.

“It was quite the adventure,” said Sir John, flushed from telling the tale. “Four adventures, really.”

“And this Pook creature and the man, Clack, Clack…” said Sabine.

“Clackprattle,” said Marie.

“Yes, ‘im,” said Sabine. “They were nowhere to be found?”

“No,” said Marie. “After the…explosion? I think you’d call it that. After that there was chaos and they escaped, along with much of the cult. The police tried to find them, but, well, there seemed to be no crime for them to solve.”

“They had it down as an industrial accident,” said Sir John, ”even though it was in a church.”

“I didn’t follow fully,” said Emile. “It was the stone they made that exploded? After Clackprattle grabbed it?”

“They were making, or trying to make, the Summum Malorum,” said Sir John. ”It’s like the famous philosopher’s stone that gives eternal life and riches. Only it does the reverse.  It can take life and turn gold into dross.”

“This was the cult you mentioned, this Draco Viridis?” said Emile.

“Yes,” said Sir John. ”They were led by this chap Lord Anglestone. He was the one that died.”

“This is what confused me,” said Emile. “How did that happen?”

“Mac Dubh, who was an alchemist, arrived in the church,” explained Marie. “He had made the Philosopher’s stone and pressed it against this Summum Mallorum. I imagine the mix of concentrated good and evil balanced out and they destroyed each other. Anglestone was holding the evil stone and Mac Dubh the good one. There was a flash and after… they were both gone.”

“I thought this Claprattle had the bad stone?” said Sabine.

“Clackprattle,” corrected Marie “He held it for a while, but he dropped it. Anglestone picked it up then Mac Dubh came in and then… the flash.”

“The stone was doing something very odd to Clackpratlle’s hand,” said Sir John. “It was going a most peculiar green colour.”

“I see,” said Emile. “So Anglestone led the cult and Clackprattle and this Pook joined it, and seemingly tried to grab this stone for themselves.”

“That’s what we think,” said Sir John. “Although no one was around to explain. They all ran away quickly.”

“And this Pook,” said Sabine leaning forward again. “You’re sure about him? That he is a puoque? It’s not just his name, it’s what he is.”

“We have evidence, yes,” said Sir John.

“What evidence?” said Sabine.

“He had an influence on people,” said Marie. “An unnatural one. We think it’s ‘ow they managed to join this cult.”

“Fascinating,” said Sabine. “Alors! But enough. Now you are here on ‘oliday and I really understand why!”

“Actually we’re…” started Sir John.

“Yes a holiday,” said Marie. “At last! We thought we might visit some old neighbourhoods.”

“I see,” said Sabine frowning a little. “Well, that sounds very nice.”

“Yes indeed,” said Sir John. “We’re just going to have a nice, peaceful rest. A nice get away.”

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 10

Paris

Bisset sat across the Louis XIV table from Pook and Clackprattle and smiled. The room was dark apart from two candles on the table and a few on the walls, some distance away.

“So,” said Bisset, “questions?”

“Who do you work for?” said Clackprattle. Bisset winced a little and then his smile recovered.

“I am confidante and assistant to the most noble Confrère des Ombres,” he said.

“But not an actual member,” said Clackprattle.

“I do not possess that honour, no,” said Bisset. Clackprattle leaned forward.

“So can we talk to the organ grinder and not the monkey?” he said and leaned back, looking around with a bored air.

“I can assure you that I have the full confidence and can act with the full authority of the order,” said Bisset, smiling very wide. Clackprattle snorted.

“So why don’t they speak to us,” he said.

“The brothers are… men of some standing and some reputation within the society of Paris,” said Bisset. “They would rather keep both of those by exercising their anonymity.”

“Well, sir, I wish them and their anonymity well,” said Clackprattle, standing. “Come on Pook, we’re going.”

“Perhaps, Master,” said Pook, “it may be advantageous to listen a little further to M Bisset. He has proved to have some knowledge of our situation and indeed some insight. It would be, I think, an error to appear too hasty.”

Clackprattle snorted but sat down. He waved his hand at Bisset.

“Continue,” he said to the Frenchman.

“I am most grateful indeed,” said Bisset. “As I have answered a question for you, maybe you may do me the honour of doing the same for me.”

Clackprattle looked bored but did not object.

“You are both in league with Draco Viridis, am I correct?” asked Bisset.

“In league?” said Clackprattle. “Our involvement is a little deeper than that. Following the death of that fool Anglestone I personally took control of the whole shoddy organisation.”

“They acquiesced?” said Bisset, sounding surprised.

“Let’s just say I used my powers of persuasion,” said Clackprattle, looking at his hand.

“I see,” said Bisset. “So you are both members of this organisation and…”

“Pook is not,” interrupted Clackprattle. “It’s an order for gentlemen.”

“Oh, so you are…” said Bisset, looking at Pook.

“Indeed,” said Pook, “you and I are on, what we might call, a similar footing.”

“And your hand?” said Bisset, turning back to Clackprattle.

“I believe it’s my turn for a question,” said Clackprattle.

“Just so,” said Bisset.

Clackprattle snatched the map from Pook and waved it at Bisset.

“How does this wretched thing work?” he said.

“The makers of the map, several hundreds of years ago, were fully aware the city would change, physically, but that it would not change emotionally,” said Bisset. “That is they knew the city would have places where people gathered for pleasure or to rage against injustice. Where people would worship God and where they would worship each other. So instead of physical landmarks, which may not persist, they drew a map of emotions that would always exist, even if the location changed.”

“And what does the map point to, precisely,” said Pook.

“I believe it is my turn?” said Bisset. “Your hand, Mr Clackprattle?”

“In the chaos of the botched attempt to make the Summum Mallorum I grabbed the stone of evil,” said Clackprattle. “It would have destroyed any normal man, but I am made of sterner stuff. Some of its powers transferred to my hand.”

“Including the power to kill?” said Bisset.

“Indeed,” said Clackprattle, voice rising, “which is why you will call me Master from now on or face my fury.”

Bisset looked a little shocked and his eyes darted across to Pook who smiled wryly.

“Perhaps,” said Pook cheerily, “we could learn a little more of the map’s purposes.”

“It is…” started Bisset, “that is, it points to four places in the city. These four places each hold part of a key. The key when combined gives one access to something remarkable.”

“Yes,” said Pook, “go on.”

“It gives one access to a weapon reported to be of terrible power,” said Bisset. “The Weapon of Paris.”

Clackprattle grinned.

“Now we are talking,” he said.

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 9

Clicquot1

And you are quite sure they are sane?” said the lady, hunched over the canvas and applying generous quantities of paint to it.

Emile looked over her shoulder at the chaos of colours and shapes of the painting. A quizzical look passed over his face. He squinted and tilted his head.

As sane as anyone I’ve met, Sabine,” he said. The lady turned to look at him, a wild plume of dark hair sweeping around as she did. She looked closely at his face.

Well, that doesn’t tell me much,” she said. There was a knock at the door and Emile went to answer.

“That will be them,” he said, then jovially, “Marie! Sir John!”

As he saw the couple he changed his tone. “My God, what is it, what has happened?”

“Terrible, terrible business,” said Sir John, face pale and holding on tightly to Marie.

“The Libraire du Magie,” said Marie. “We went there…”

“That is a terrible business!” said Emile. “That man sells the worst nonsense I’ve ever seen. A profiteer on the gullible.”

“That man is dead,” said Sir John. Emile sat down suddenly.

“Dinard. Dead?” he said quietly.

“Yes,” said Marie, “We found him in the shop, slumped over the counter. He had been there some time by the looks of it.”

“Well, he was never the healthiest specimen,” said Emile absently. “Poor Dinard.”

“Oh, what a shame,” said Sabine. “I liked him so much! He was so clever, and I so liked his colour-music ideas.”

Sir John and Marie looked around at the lady.

“I’m sorry,” said Sir John, “we haven’t…”

“My God, my manners,” said Emile. “Marie, Sir John, this is Sabine. She is a guest of mine.”

Enchanté,” said Sabine.

“Et vous,” said Marie.

“The same,” said Sir John.

“Sabine is an artist,” said Emile.

“Amongst other things,” Sabine said. “Emile, darling, perhaps we should have something to drink?”

“Yes, good idea,” said Emile.

“I shall go to the cave and retrieve something worthy of our guests,” Sabine said with a sly smile and swept out of the room.

“Sabine is very modern,” said Emile after she had gone.

“I see,” said Sir John. “Are you… that is… do you… I mean… is she?”

“We are not lovers, no,” said Emile. “Well, not exactly.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “I think.”

“Paris,” said Emile and shrugged.

Sabine returned then with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. She waved it imperiously round the room.

“It is a little on the warm side,” she said, “but in light of our guests and the sad news they bring, it is the only thing I will drink.”

“I was saving that…” said Emile.

“For an occasion more worthy than this?” said Sabine, looking perplexed. With a single twist of her wrist the cork came off the bottle.

“I’ll get the glasses.” said Emile, resigned.

“Paris,” said Sir John and glanced at Marie. She smiled for the first time that afternoon.

“So, Sir John, Marie,” said Sabine, sitting down in front of the couple and fixing them in her gaze, “you must tell me everything about your adventures.”

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 8

map on floor

There was another knock at the hotel door, and a plaintive voice called from outside.

“Messieurs? Messieurs? Is everything well?”

“I can honestly assure you,” said Pook, from inside the room, “that all is very well. Very well indeed.”

There was just a hint of a tremor in his voice.

“We ‘eard some noise,” said the voice outside.” A lot of noise, in fact. Can we come in, please?”

“Really,” said Pook, “there is no need at all. A … a chair fell over which probably made the noise you refer to.”

Pook looked around the room and saw the shattered glass, the broken furniture, the bed in ruins. And sitting on the floor in the center, like a bull in a ring, Clackprattle.

“I really must insist,” said the voice outside, and there was a sound of a key in the lock. Pook darted across the room and threw the bolt.

“I am afraid that I have just finished bathing,” said Pook, glancing at the bath filled with shattered mirror. “I’m in no position to receive visitors.”

There was some whispered conversation in French behind the door. Pook turned to look at Clackprattle who was breathing heavily.

“Very well!” said Clackprattle. “Very well! When we’ve been tricked like some witless tourist into buying this … this … garbage.”

The large man threw a piece of paper across the room. It was the map they had procured a few hours earlier.

“Excuse me!” said a new voice outside the door, more confident sounding. “Please let me in.”

“‘Oo are you?” said the first voice.

“My identification,” said the second. There was a gasp.

“Of course, monsieur,” said the first voice.

“The police!” said Pook.

“Let them in,” said Clackprattle, taking off his glove and leering.

“I don’t think that in all honesty, this would be a serendipitous time for such a course of action…” started Pook when the door smashed open.

A well dressed man with a smart little moustache stepped in. He dusted off his shoulder and smiled warmly at the duo in the room.

“Messers Clackprattle and Pook I believe,” said the man and held out his hand to shake.  Clackprattle launched himself up and grabbed the man’s hand, pushing his face close to the other man’s and grinning maniacally. The other man’s smile didn’t fade but he did look down at his hand and the glove that held it. Clackprattle looked down then and saw the situation. He pulled back the abomination of his hand and scowled.

“Hardly a way to treat a guest,” said the man,”who comes to offer assistance.”

“You can leave us, sir,” said Clackprattle. “We have no need of assistance.”

“Because all is going so well?” said the man, arching an eyebrow and looking pointedly around the room.

“Perhaps,” said Pook licking his lips, “perhaps if the gentleman could explain who he is, we may feel … better acquainted.”

“Of course!” said the man jovially, “My name is Victor Bisset. I am a … representative of an organisation.”

“Most pleased to meet you, Monsieur Bisset,” said Pook. “May I be so bold as to enquire on the organisation that you represent?”

“Well, Mr Pook, you may enquire but I may demur,” said the Bisset. “For now, just imagine it to be a … sister organisation of your own London fraternity. At least in terms of aims and ambitions.”

“I understand you perfectly,” said Pook and turned to Clackprattle.

“Well, I understand it not, any more than I understand this worthless piece of paper,” said Clackprattle.

“Oh, this piece of paper is worth more than you would imagine,” said Bisset, walking over to it. “My organisation has been after this for quite some time.”

He reached down gracefully to pick up the paper, but Pook rushed and grabbed it quickly from the floor. The two men smiled at each other.

“A strange map,” said Pook. “It is not a map of places but of feelings, of emotions.”

“Indeed,” said the man. “It was designed so that only a true Parisien could solve its riddles. Someone who not just knew the city but felt it. Knew where passions were fueled and burned, where sorrow gathered, where rage brewed. To an outsider such as yourself, it presents no information at all.”

“So I surmise you suggest we need your assistance,” said Pook. “What are you looking for in return. We have a large store of money at our disposal.”

“Oh, dear sirs, my organisation does not lack for resources,” said Bisset. “We are however, a little too … visible for the work at hand. Our names are known across society”

“Ha!” said Clackprattle. ”So we’re to be your disguise? Is that it?”

“Indeed, but not just that,” said Bisset, looking at the fat man and pointing to his hand. “You are also to be our assassins.”

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 7

Notre Dameprocesseds

Marie put her hands on her hips and looked up.

Really, Albrecht!” she said in French. “He is most handsome!”

Albrecht shrugged,

Well it’s you that married him so you that has to look at him,” he said. “Each to his own.

Aren’t you going to say hello?” said Marie.

Someone comes,” said Albrecht.

The family from Amsterdam were struggling to make sense of a map so barely saw the middle-aged lady with her hands on her hips, admiring the architecture, or her gentleman companion squinting up where she was looking.

“They’re gone,” said Marie.

“What are you saying?” said Sir John, “You’re speaking very quickly and I can’t follow.”

“Albrecht is expressing his admiration of your good taste and refined visage,” said Marie, glancing nervously up at the gargoyle. Sir John smiled and nodded.

What did you say?” said Albrecht. “I couldn’t follow.

What you told me,” said Marie with a blank expression. “More or less.

“Tell Albrecht I’m delighted to make his acquaintance,” said Sir John to Marie, after the family had passed.

My husband is pleased to meet you,” said Marie to Albrecht.

Well, tell him I say hello,” said Albrecht. “I admire a man who can hear the truth and not flinch. Ah, there are more people coming.

The Japanese lady with her parasol and her husband were buried deep in the guidebook so barely noticed the French lady staring at the gargoyle and her husband nodding appreciatively.

Well, it’s good to put a face to a name,” said Albrecht, “even if it is hard to look at for too long. But at least one mystery is solved.

What mystery is that?” said Marie.

There have been rumours about a person with some power in the city,” said Albrecht. “Someone who came from England they said. I guess they must mean you.

“News travels fast,” said Marie. “We’ve only just arrived.”

“We’re being gossiped about?” said Sir John, “Oh, someone else is coming.”

The German gentleman walked by at pace so didn’t notice the well-dressed lady and her gentleman companion looking puzzled at one of the gargoyles.

So what will you do now?” said Albrecht. “You have come back for a reason?

Yes, it’s sort of an … exploration maybe. I am trying to learn something of my … background,” said Marie. “But we are seeing some old friends first. As we are close, I think we will go and visit the bookseller.

Dubois?” said Albrecht. “That old fraud? Tell him I said hello and tell him to visit. I never see him these days. I never see anyone these days.

I will,” said Marie smiling, “and we’ll come back soon, I promise.

Well, you know where I’ll be,” said the gargoyle.

The large fat man and the small thin man clutching a scroll passed on the other side of the street. They seemed deep in thought and so missed the couple waving and turning away from a gargoyle.

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 6

handshakepp pp

The store was gloomy but filled with marvelous things. Arcane and occult pictures sat cheek by jowl with dusty books with portentous titles. Crystal balls, wands and cups were piled up in one corner. Behind the counter were two massive pillars, one black, one white, and in the middle was the proprietor. He was an ageing thin man with skin as yellow as parchment and a voice as dry.

“Ow can I ‘elp,” he said, as he saw the two foreigners approach.

“I believe we are expected,” said Clackprattle. The man behind the counter grinned. Several teeth revealed themselves to be absent.

“I am a master of the unseen arts,” he said, absently turning over a card. It showed a picture of a tower struck by lightning. “Of course you were expected.”

Pook pushed himself forward to the counter.

“I believe what my…master is referring to is that we have, if you will,  an arrangement to procure something here. Something we have been at pains to find for quite a little while now.”

The man behind the counter looked unimpressed and gestured around him.

“Specifically,” continued Pook unabated, “we are here to acquire a map which, we are so led to believe, will allow us to uncover the location of four parts of a key.”

The shopkeeper’s face fell.

“That’s you?” he said incredulously.

“Indeed sir,” boomed Clackprattle, “Why do you seem surprised.”

The shopkeeper shrugged.

“I was expecting someone…” he trailed off, arms waving some complex sigil.

“Would you have the item in question, that we have traveled so far and waited so patiently for,” beamed Pook without a hint of warmth. The shopkeeper made a noise with his mouth and disappeared into the back.

“I don’t trust this debauched reprobate as far as I could throw him,” said Clackprattle, none too quietly.

“He came highly recommended,” said Pook, “from a most reliable and trustworthy source”

Clackprattle looked down his nose at Pook.

“In other words another debauched reprobate,” said Clackprattle. The shopkeeper returned with a scroll tied with a bit of black ribbon.

“Here she is,” he said.”You have the money?”

“Let us inspect the merchandise first,” said Clackprattle. “You won’t make a fool out of me.”

“Naturally,” said the man “A man of your stature could never be made into a fool.”

He handed over the map and whispered “deux, peut etre.” Clackprattle unrolled the parchment and stared at it.

“It’s in French,” he said. The shopkeeper shrugged.

“I ‘ave dictionaries for sale,” he said. Clackprattle glared irritably at him.

“It seems in order,” said Clackprattle, “Pook, give him the money.”

“May I ascertain if this map, is, as we specifically requested, the only such copy,” said Pook.

“As you asked,” said the shopkeeper.

“Then Master… I suggest that you pass the money to our most helpful friend and shake his hand.”

Clackprattle grinned and walked over to the counter. He removed his glove at the last minute, not breaking his stare with the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper for his part returned the stare, with a bored disaffected look on his face. He took the larger man’s hand listlessly then after a moment he looked down. Clackprattle’s fat, sweaty fingers were a green colour, and the green was spreading to the shopkeeper’s hand and up his arm. The shopkeeper looked in horror and tried to pull away as the putrefaction spread to his chest.

“What are you?” he gasped as the green maleficence overcame his head and his tongue lolled black from his silent mouth.

“I, sir, am the man who will unleash the weapon of Paris,” said Clackprattle and turned to leave the shop. He waited at the door until Pook opened it and the two left in silence.

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 5

chp 5 pp

“I’m sorry, how much exactly?” said Sir John looking alarmed. The waiter pointed to a total at the bottom of the bill and Sir John recoiled a little.

“Is that because of…the incident?” said Sir John.

“Because of the wine,” said the waiter sourly. “The scene is free of charge.”

Sir John pulled out a large number of notes and handed them over. The waiter looked at them.

“It is customary to leave a tip,” said the waiter. Sir John sighed and added another note.

“One that is not derisory,” said the waiter, and Sir John added yet another note. The waiter looked at the pile with mild disapproval but took the cash.

“In return, I have a tip for you.” said the waiter without humour.

“What’s that?” said Sir John.

“Find a better friend,” he said and left.

Marie took Sir John’s arm and they walked away from the restaurant, heading north.

“Well that was embarrassing,” said Sir John. “But the right thing to do.”

Marie smiled at her husband.

“I’m sure Emile will say otherwise,” she said.

“Well, you know, that’s just, him,” said Sir John.

They wandered for a little while in silence looking at the buildings covered in posters. Everywhere there seemed to be exotic curling letters and botanical shapes. An artform sprouting fresh from the city walls.

“This style is very…new” said Sir John. “I don’t remember it last time.”

“Do you like it?” said Marie.”It’s very in vogue.”

“It’s a bit…curvaceous for me,” said Sir John, gesturing. “I prefer something more…”

“Mechanical?” interjected Marie.

“I would say Classical,” said Sir John. “Do you like it?”

“It’s very…natural,” said Marie. “I like how it makes the city seem more organic.”

Sir John wrinkled his nose as they went past a blocked drain.

“I’m not sure that’s what the city needs,” he said. They turned a corner and faced the Ille de Paris and the Seine.

“This is more like it,” said Sir John, looking at the vast building opposite.

“It’s hardly Classical!” laughed Marie.

“True but it has…gravitas,” said Sir John. “I’ve always found the Notre Dame enchanting.”

A little cloud passed over Marie’s face.

“More than you know,” she said. “Come with me.”

Marie pulled her husband by the hand over the bridge, walking at pace. Sir John could barely keep up as they weaved through the crowd.

“What is it?” he said, “What are we rushing to see.”

They stopped at the edge of the cathedral and Marie looked around. She pretended to tie a shoelace as a couple walked passed then looked up when they had gone.

“May I present,” said Marie pointing at a gargoyle, “Albecht.”

The gargoyle’s eyes moved side to side and then he moved to look down and Marie and Sir John.

Is this him?” said the Gargoyle in French, “I thought you said he was handsome?