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.”