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?

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 4

Clackprattle's Gloved Hand

“What could be worse!” said the fat man walking down the Parisian street. He strode and kept his head fixed ahead as his shorter, smaller companion scurried to keep pace with him. “What could be worse than another day in this vile, sodden, drunken town with its whimpering, whining inhabitants.”

“Indeed Mr Clackprattle…” started the companion.

“You call me Master now Pook,” said Arthur Clackprattle and waved a gloved fist at his companion. “Don’t you forget.”

“Indeed, one thousand apologies Mi … Master,” said Ernest Pook. “I think I can say without contradiction that your … power and magnificence is most firmly impressed on my mind. And I agree with you most heartily, this is indeed a most decadent town with many, many citizens all too willing to embrace the most depraved pleasures of the flesh, but, and I feel I must stress this point, we should strive to remind ourselves of our most glorious goal and our proximity to it.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“Our proximity to it … are you blind man?” he said. “We’ve been here a month already and have nothing but the rantings of laudanum addled lunatics and frauds of the first order. We’re no closer to finding this weapon than on the day we left London.”

“Whilst I feel no urge to contradict you,” said Pook, “I feel that circumstances are a little better than you fear. We have learned, have we not, of the key and its significance in our search? We have found, have we not, a gentleman who promises to divulge to us the map of where the key may be found?”

“A map for a key for a weapon,” said Clackprattle. “Riddles within riddles, all the smoke and mirrors this whorehouse of a city inspires. How do we know, Pook, that we can trust this man, his map, this Key or any of these wild goose chases.”

“We should have faith Mi … Master,” said Pook. “Our cause is just, and thanks to our helpful friends in London our wallets are deep. We should not gamble the knowledge we would gain for a small lack of patience.”

Clackprattle stopped in the street and stared coldly at Pook.

“Sir, anyone who thinks Arthur Clackprattle lacks patience is terribly mistaken. I was patient in Manchester, when our plans were ruined. I was patient in London, when our prize was stolen from us, and oh yes, I am patient here in this … cesspit.”

“Indeed sir,” said Pook, lowering his head slightly, “no one that knew you would say anything other. I am sure that our investigations will yield the progress that leads to the goal we seek. See, sir, we are a few yards away now from the emporium. Let us cross the threshold and find our reward.”

Clackprattle turned away and grunted and walked towards a bookshop. He stood just outside waiting as Pook scurried around and opened the door for him. Clackprattle and Pook made their way inside.

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 3

lafite_pp

The trio were gathered around a tiny table with Emile on the outside. His bulky frame was blocking the narrow aisle, a situation made worse by his constant gesticulating. At least once he sent flying a plate of food ferried by a waiter. His response was to look bemused and mildly annoyed at the plate, as if it had been deliberately in the way.

“So enough about me,” Emile finished, after a lengthy monologue, “tell me what you ‘ave been doing and why you are ‘ere.”

“Well we finally set up the paranormal detective agency,” said Sir John, struggling to be heard over the din.

“You have any cases, any success?” said Emile, glancing at a passing lady as he spoke.

“Yes we’ve had quite some success,” said Sir John. “Four cases, successfully concluded.”

“Really,” said Emile, staring quite blatantly at the girl now, “sounds interesting.”

“Yes,” continued Sir John, “we’ve investigated a haunting, a case of mesmerism, a… Well I don’t know what to call it, a fiend of some kind, and a strange case featuring an alchemist.”

“Go on,” said Emile, eyes still averted and absently lighting a cigarette.

“Two of them seem linked,” said Sir John. “The underlying agent was a pookah.”

Emile swivelled round then and looked at Sir John.

“Are you, what is it, pulling my trousers?” he said.

“It’s true,” said Marie. “He was controlling this ‘orrible little man. Well quite a big man in fact, but he was the mesmerist and was wrapped up with the alchemist.”

“My God,” said Emile, “and I was impressed when I thought I had captured an imprint of a spectre. A pookah? And all this time you’ve let me rattle on about inconsequential nothings.”

“Well you were quite animated,” started Sir John.

“Excuse me monsieur,” said a man who appeared at Emile’s side. He was young with a thin wisp of moustache and expensive clothes. “You have been staring at my woman, I won’t have it.”

“Then you ‘ad better go somewhere else,” said Emile, not looking up. The man went to raise his cane. A waiter stepped in and stopped the flight.

“Messieurs,” said the the waiter, ”this is not acceptable.”

“Indeed not!” said Emile, voice rising in indignation. “Here we stand on the cusp of the 20th century and this, this imbecile insists on treating a woman like a possession, like chattel.”

He stood up, easily towering over the younger man.

“Messieurs,” said the waiter slightly hysterically, “enough, I must ask you to leave.”

Emile shrugged and took his jacket. The Jennings got up to leave and the trio left the place. When they were a little down the road a waiter raced after them.

“Monsieur! The bill!” he called, “The Lafite!”

“Yes,” called back Emile, not breaking stride, “it was very nice, thank you.”

The Jennings struggled to keep up with the Frenchman’s strides and he didn’t stop until the waiter was some distance behind.

“Did you plan that?” said Marie.

“Who can plan the ways of the heart,” said Emile. “I will see you this evening, yes, and you can tell me your plans and more about this creature.”

“Alright,” said Sir John, “I imagine we can occupy ourselves for the rest of the day.”

Emile made a noise.

“Of course you can!” he said, “It is January in Paris, what could be better!”

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 2

i2 street scene pp

Emile was lighting a new cigarette with the embers of the old as they came to meet him. The sunlight was dazzling and despite the crisp cold air the city was in full swing. Couples walked and kissed or bickered and groups gossiped and gesticulated. An omnibus pulled by a horse went by, leaving the steam off the animal in its wake and the clatter of the coach. Opposite was a cafe. The aroma of coffee and pastry wafted across along with cigarette smoke, perfume, and the murmur of a city talking endlessly about itself.

The trio walked along the road and Sir John realised how different was the life here from Southampton Row. They passed two men deep in conversation. From the gestures and tone, Sir John was sure that a fight was immanent. But to his surprise the men suddenly burst out laughing and slapped each other on the back.

“Where are we going?” said Sir John, trying to regain some bearings.

Emile stopped his long determined striding and pointed over the road to a restaurant with a bold Art Deco sign: Les Magots de la Chine. The restaurant was crowded with some diners shivering at outside tables.

“This place is adequate,” said Emile. “The wine list is a little short, but he has the good stuff. I must warn you it may be expensive compared to England. And it may also taste of something more than boiled beef.”

Emile strode across the road without a glance, causing a horse and cart to halt rapidly. The man driving the cart shouted something at Emile who turned to look and curse him back. Sir John couldn’t make out the words, but he noticed Marie blush. They both scurried across in Emile’s wake, trying to avoid getting killed.

When they got to the restaurant a waiter turned to Emile who was in turn bearing down on him.

“I am sorry sir, but we are full,” he said in French, glancing up and down at Emile’s peculiar dress and the Jennings’ obviously foreign air.

“Then throw someone out,” said Emile, flabbergasted.

The waiter looked dumbfounded. “Sir, I cannot…”

“Do you still have the Lafite ‘71?” said Emile.

“The … yes we do … maybe we could…”

“Well you may keep it a while longer,” said Emile and turned to leave.

“Sir, please!” said the waiter. Emile turned with a disinterested air.

“Maybe we can find something?” said the waiter.

“How does it feel to be back?” said Sir John to Marie. 

“Exciting and exhausting,” she said.

“Same as ever then,” he said and they smiled at each other.

“Ahem,” coughed Emile, “I have acquired us an excellent table. I am happy to purchase for you dinner, if you may purchase the wine.”

“Same as ever, indeed,” said Sir John.

 

 

Photograph taken and modified from the public domain with the following creative commons license 

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode

 

The Paris Awakening: Initiation Part 1

absinthe_pp

The hotel lobby was small but warm after the chill of the Parisian streets. On the left was a little bar with an absinthe dispenser on the counter. A gaggle of people chatted amiably in the gloom and cigarette smoke, the roiling music of their words suggesting intrigue and drama. To the right was the reception desk and a small neat man sat behind it, a world away from the midday drinkers.

Sir John and Marie walked to the desk and the man looked up expectantly.

“Monsieur?” he said.

“It’s Sir and Mrs Jennings,” said Sir John, somewhat hesitantly. The man’s head twitched as if to change language and he smiled.

“Ah yes, you are to stay with us for a month or so? In the suite?”

Sir John noticed that the group at the bar seemed to murmur in response and remembered it had been like this before. Nothing had gone unobserved.

“Exactly so,” he said.

“You stayed here before?” said the man, his head tilting to one side like a bird. “I seem to recall you.”

“Years ago, yes,” said Sir John, “on our wedding night.”

“Ah yes,” said the man, “I remember now. One moment.”

He leant over and pulled open a draw and rifled through some papers. A sheet was extracted and placed on the green leather desk top. 

“Sign here, please,” said the man and produced a key as he did so.

From behind Sir John a man’s voice rose up from the convivial hubbub.

“You English! Always the same, never bothering to learn the language.”

The group at the bar fell quiet. A look of anxiety fell across the desk manager’s face as he held out the key. Sir John turned round to see a tall, well built man in his forties walk toward them. He had a suit on over a garish purple shirt and a small cigarette hung from his lower lip, which was shaded with stubble.

“How do you expect to get around my city,” said the man, so close now to Sir John.

“Well, monsieur,” said Sir John, “I expect you to help me.”

The quiet reached a nadir as the two man stared at each other, then suddenly both burst out laughing. The group in the bar jumped back in surprise.

“Emile, my friend!” said Sir John. “I’m glad you could meet us.”

“Ah Sir John,” said the tall man, slurring out the honorific, “I am sorry I missed you at the station. I was a little unprepared this morning.”

The desk manager looked confused yet relieved as Marie took the key from him.

“Marie! Ca va?” said Emile.

Tres bon!” smiled Marie, “et toi?”

Emile offered a long shrug and noise by way of explanation.

“Better now,” he said. “We should eat, I have yet to have breakfast.”

“But, it’s practically lunchtime” said Sir John.

“Indeed, so I am famished,” said Emile. He leant forward to the desk manager and said something in French pointing to the Jennings’ bags.

“This gentleman will take care of your bags, come, let us eat, this is Paris after all. We have the best food in the world!”

He pushed out the doors into the midday sun and Sir John and Marie looked at each other, shrugged and followed.

La racine des malapropismes de Miss Henderson – encore

menu“Unfair of what?”

Dear Reader

Well we have all hopefully enjoyed the prologue of the Paris Awakening and your appetites are suitably whetted for the forthcoming serialised novel. For this we shall return to our “two episodes a week” regimen, starting this Saturday hence. This will be followed by another episode next Tuesday and so on and so forth.

We may of course add a little light entertainment, book review, waspish comment or other ephemera on a more or less random basis during the coming weeks. Our aim is to have the novel serialised, completed and enjoyed by your good selves by the end of this year 2018. We would also like wish you a very pleasant New Year and hope this to be the very best of years for you.

Yours

Mr Michael and Miss Pichette

 

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 5

Their eyes locked over the gorgonzola piccante.

“Yes, it was an exciting time,” smiled Sir John. “As you say, the Societe were largely buffoons, and I was all but giving up on them when we met. Then we started all those experiments, trying to build devices that could detect paranormal activity.”

“And all that time, I wanted to tell you about me,” said Marie. “About the powers I had. But, it seemed a strange thing to say at first, and then it got harder and harder to speak. I hoped at first that you would be able to help me find out more about myself, but then I found myself wishing for something different.”

Sir John held out his hand next to the Camembert de Normandie, and Marie reached and held it.

“Me too,” he said. “I was so pleased when we became partners, not just in paranormal investigation, but in romance.”

“And by then, it was impossible to tell you,” said Marie.

There was a pause.

“I have one question, Marie,” said Sir John. “The early investigations, before I knew, how much was the devices and how much was … you.”

“I … helped a little,” said Marie, “at the haunting. But you found the body after all, and even the villain of the piece.”

“And in Manchester?” said Sir John. “It was me that stopped Clackprattle, wasn’t it.”

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but there is more you must know. This is important. Clackprattle isn’t the mastermind, Pook is.”

“That little twerp?” said Sir John.

“Yes, that little twerp is a magical creature, a pookah,” said Marie. “A kind of trickster that plays with people’s lives. He manipulated Clackprattle in Manchester and I imagine again in London. He is wrapped up with these Draco Viridis cult people, and I’m worried about what he will do. You remember at the end, when Clackprattle seized the Summum Malorum? Something happened to him. Something that can only be bad.”

Sir John nodded gravely.

“Yes, I thought there was something strange happening there,” he said. “I noticed Pook shouting, but I didn’t make the connection. Not for the first time, obviously…”

Marie’s head dropped.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” said Sir John. “I meant that, that I should have seen these things. I’m an investigator, and, and your husband, and you were in danger because I didn’t see what you were. Who you are.”

Mon cher, I hid this from you,” said Marie. “The fault is with me.”

“No, it’s not,” said Sir John. “Not at all.”

Both the couple looked at their plates. There was another pause which was interrupted by Miss Henderson struggling to bring in a large plate filled with chocolate covered balls.

Prophet-a-Holes,” she said. She looked at the couple who both smiled distantly at her, sadness in their eyes.

“Tomorrow I shall cook us a nice turkey roast,” she said, by way of compensation and left with the half-eaten cheese board.

profiteroles
“Prophet-a-Holes”

“You know what we need to do,” said Sir John. “What you wanted me to do from the start.”

“What is that, mon cher,” said Marie.

“In the New Year, straightaway we shall leave for Paris. We shall go back to where this all started and we shall find out where you came from, how you got these powers, and what they are for once and for all!”

Oui, mon cher!” said Marie beaming at him. In triumph Sir John speared a chocolate ball with a fork, and cream spurted out onto his face.