Death and Complications

The brasserie was silent except for the occasional clink of a glass, the turning of a page, the gentle glug of a drink being poured or the footsteps of the wait staff. In a corner, sat a woman dressed in a grey suit. Despite the warm glow of the gaslights, her complexion was pallid and her short hair was pale blonde that bordered on silver. A small glass of dark liquor sat in front of her, untouched.

“Bonsoir Detective Durand.”

“Bonsoir Sergeant Arpin,” she said, “Please sit down.”

Doing so, he looked around.

“Slow night?”

“Not at all.”

Arpin was about to signal the waitress when she appeared and placed a tall glass of beer in front of him.

“What is this?” he asked.

“A lingonberry sour monsieur,” replied the waitress as she left.

He sipped it and his whiskers twitched.

“That’s very good! How did she know I’d want this?” he exclaimed.

This last comment provoked a chorus of shushes from the other patrons.

“Please keep your voice down, the customers here value their quiet and privacy.”

“Then why not stay home?”

“Not all homes are calm.”

“I see.”

“As for Monique, she has a knack for knowing what people wish to drink, it cuts down on the chatter.”

“Very efficient. But why meet here?”

“Because people mind their own business.”

She slid a folder across the table to him. Opening it, it was a missing persons report. He read it while she sipped her dark liquor.

“Can the dead be considered missing?” he asked.

“Legally they can,” she replied, “under the Proclamation of Fantôme Rights.”

Arpin took a drink of his beer, it was excellent, and looked at Durand.

“I’m not sure why you wanted to speak with me, I’ve never worked in the Department of Méfait Des Morts so what is it that I can do for you?”

She tapped on the report.

“The missing spirit, Etitan Chardin, dead seventy eight years, buried in the catacombs very near where the break of that bar you’re investigating.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Is it possible he has moved on? I read that that sometimes happens.”
“Possible but unlikely. When a ghost completes unfinished business, the others would know.”

“Might they lie about that?”

“To what end? And why report him missing?”

“I suppose so.”

“One more thing, the proprietress of the bar where the break-in and fight happened,” Durand checked her notes, “Mistress Rosamund. She was a spirit wrangler in her homeland.”

“So you think she’s involved?”

“Perhaps. She does hold a license for theatrical ectoplasmic manipulation.”

“It’s a little out of fashion these days.”

Durand shrugged.

“Maybe that’s why she opened a bar.”

“The question is, how are they connected, if at all?”

“I’m not sure they are but…”

“Would you like to question Mistress Rosamund with me?” asked Arpin.

Durand cocked her head to the side as if listening to something and said, “Yes, that would be agreeable.”

“Very well, tomorrow then?”

“Tomorrow,” she replied.

The door opened and a paper owl flew into the room and landed on Arpin’s wrist. He unwrapped it and read the message.

“A break in the case?” asked Durand.

“No. At least I think not. Another break-in and a death.”

“Let me know if a spirit shows up.”

Getting up and buttoning up his coat, he replied, “You’re on top of my list.”

When he arrived at the scene, the flashing lights of official velo-pedes illuminated the front of the home. Several uniformed gendarmes in their tall helmets were keeping overcurious bystanders at bay. He approached the closest one and showed her his insignia.

“They are waiting for you Sergeant Gendarme, on the second floor,” she said.

His nose caught the distinct scent of ozone as soon as he crossed the threshold. There was also the odor of burnt flesh. One flight up, in the study was Doctor Flandrin, the forensic chirurgeon was kneeling over the charred body.

“So, is this the burglar,” said Arpin.

“What remains of him,” replied Doctor Flandrin looking up. Her eyes were comicaly magnified by the lenses of her enlargement goggles.

“Cause of death?”

“In my learned opinion, He was electrocuted.”

He looked at the steel and crystal display case. It contained a folio, clearly old but in excellent condition. What was of more interest was the Tesla coil protruding from below.

“I believe I’ve discovered the source of electrocution.”

“As always, your powers of deduction astound me Sergeant Gendarme,” said Doctor Flandrin.

“It is my raison d’etre,” Arpin said, “Was there anything on the body?”

Flandrin pointed to a cloth next to the body, it contained charred and melted tools, a blackened chronoton and what had most likley been a billfold but now resembled a shrivled prawn. Arpin sighed, little could be learned from these, though the chronoton did lock down the time of death.

“This was all?”

Without taking her magified eyes off the body, the doctor pointed to the lapel. There was a pin attached.

“It’s fused to the material but that’s ready to crumble,” she said as she slowly measured the victim’s legs.

“May I take this now?”

“Do you need it at this moment?”

“Yes.”

“Then by all means, please have it.”

It was discoloured and slightly warped, easy to miss at first glance. With a gentle twist, he removed it and placed it in a hankerchief.

“The owner is downstairs, should you wish to do some acctual investigation.”

“Where would I be without your wisdom?”

“I shudder to think,” said Doctor Flandrin.

He understood that was the end of this conversation. Wrapping the pin in a handkerchief, he left the study and went downstairs. In the sitting room was the owner, a Monsieur L’Horloge and his guest, Frau Schlüsselherrin. They did not seem to be lovers, his first impression was colleagues.

“Good evening, my name Gendarme Sergeant Arpin, I would like to ask you some questions,” he said, “May we sit?”

And they did. Arpin learned the following things. L’Horloge and Schlüsselherrin were not lovers, they were colleagues, though maybe not friends. The Folio was extremely valuable, but only to a select group of professionals or academics. While having a Tesla coil might seem an illegally excessive home defense, his insurance papers stipulated its installation. Both claimed to have arrived just after the intruder was killed. (A subsequent interview with the velo-pede driver corroborated that.) The two were working on a project together but their guild rules forbade them from revealing its nature. Other details were taken, papers checked and so on.

“I think that should be all for now, “ said Arpin, “but I might contact you both should I have additional questions.”

“Of course,” said L’Horloge.

“Ya,” added Schlüsselherrin.

“Then I will bid you both good night, I have assigned two uniformed gendarmes to stand guard outside.”

“That’s not necessary-” began the clockmaker.

“I must insist,” interrupted Arpin, “it would be negligent of us to leave you unattended. Frau, we have velo-pede waiting to ferry you home safely.”

The key mistress did not look reassured but nodded. Arpin turned to leave but stopped and looked back.

“One more thing, if you would indulge me?”

“Certainly.”

Arpin took out his handkerchief and unfolded it to display the carbonized pin.

“Do either of you recognize this? The intruder was wearing it on his lapel. I thought it was a floret of some kind, but on second glance, I think it rather looks more like spider.”

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Questions and Schnapps

Dipping a pen in golden ink, she drew a diagram in the air. Both gazed with an intense focus as they circled it.

“Very elegant,” he said.

“Danke,” she replied.

A moment passed.

“However…”

“I know.”

“Schnapps?”

“Please.”

Monsieur L’Horloge poured two small glasses of a pale blue liqueur and handed one to Frau Schlüsselherrin. They clinked glasses and looked each other straight in the eyes. The diagram floated upwards to join its siblings bobbing at the ceiling.

“I really wish we could examine the device.”

“That would be very risky.”

“True, but still…”

“I know, I know.”

“It is safe?” she asked.

“Extremely so.”

“And you don’t know where it is?”

“I do not.”

“And the young woman who inherited this sack of trouble?”

“She is also hidden.”

“And you don’t know where?”

“It seemed prudent.”

“I understand, but…”

“Yes, it is frustrating.”

The key mistress sat down and threw back her schnapps and shuddered. It burned with an aftertaste that made her recall playing in the snow as a child. The clock maker pulled some of the diagrams down and overlaid them in a variety of patterns but none of the combinations satisfied him. He then sat and sipped his drink.

“I don’t think we can do this,” he said.

“We don’t have all the pieces,” she replied.

“No.”

“But getting them would be dangerous.”

“For many, many reasons.”

“Still…”

“I know.”

Frau Schlüsselherrin got up and poured herself another while Monsieur L’Horloge continued to slowly sip. They sat there, each mulling over their options. The workshop behind the key store was filled with mélange of silence and deep thought with a strong undercurrent of frustration.

Getting up to stretch, the clock maker cracked his neck and heard something out of the corner of his ear. A faint tap, tap, tapping. He closed his eyes and listened. It came from… Left and up. Turning toward that direction, after opening his eyes, he saw a shadow at the window.

He looked at Frau Schlüsselherrin, held his finger to his mouth and moved to the window. She picked up a heavy, cold iron tool and stood ready to act. With a quick movement, he opened the casement and something flew in.

“Wait!” he cried.

She lowered her improvised mace as the winged serpent, made of paper landed on the back of Monsieur L’Horloge’s hand. He unfolded it with his quick and narrow fingers and read it out loud.

Drágám ,

Something odd has happened. This may mean nothing but as my nagymama would say, measure twice, cut once. A grad student came into the library requesting The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication. It is well outside his thesis and there was something about him that is… Odd. Likely this is nothing, I hope it is, if so then go on with your work. But I did wish you to know.

Szeretet,

Zsófia”

Grabbing his greatcoat he said, “Come with me.” They rushed out of the store and through the crowds to the Velo-pede stand, leaping into first empty one.

“Thirteen West Rue du temps,” he barked to the driver, “Ten silver notions if you get there in five minutes!”

After a harrowing ride through bewildering path of side streets, alleys, stairways, and one extremely narrow bridge, they arrived at Monsieur L’Horloge’s residence. If there were more time, the key mistress might have admired the intricate stained glass and brass work on the front of the narrow town house, as well as the fact that the street resembled a row of books but as time was at a premium, they dashed in.

On the second floor, in his study, The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication lay undisturbed in it’s steel and crystal case. However, the body that lay in front of it was most assuredly dead.

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Bread And Wine

Mistress Rosamund lit the last candle at the rim of the salt circle on which sat a plate of fresh bread and an open bottle of wine. Taking a step back, she rang the tiny silver bell thrice. The dead have a much different perception of time so she left orders not to be disturbed but that’s why she brought a chair.

Time passed, she didn’t look at her chronoton, doing so would not help, but she did go through more than a few cigarettes. She noticed that the smoke was being drawn over the bread and wine. Then a vague figure began to form as the temperature dropped.

“What do you wish from beyond the veil mortal?” whispered the vapor, “The spirits are not to be summoned lightly!”

“Cut the malarkey Etitan, if I wanted a show, I’d go to the Odéon.”

The figure became more defined, it was now a small, bookish looking man, balding and bespectacled, though still made of smoke.

“You used to be more fun,” said Etitan, “It seems as though you’ve lost your love of pageantry.”

“Do you see an audience?”

“Sadly no.”

“I’ve got a few questions for ya, ifffin ya don’t object?”

Etitan glances at the bread and wine and asked, “For me?”

“Who else?”

As quickly as a thought, he enveloped the offering, and it was as swiftly drained of color.

“You ought to slow down, you’re liable to choke.”

“Very droll.”

“Are you ready?”

“Of course.”

“I had group of roughnecks break into my establishment and I was wondering if you knew anything about that.”

Etitan shuddered. It reminded Rosamund of a gaslight buffeted by the wind.

“I’m sorry, I cannot help you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Break the circle and release me, please.”

“No, not till you tell me what’s going on.”

“RELEASE ME NOW!”

She could feel the power of his shout. Goosebumps sprang up across her entire body and she was suddenly covered in an icy sweat. As her heart beat like jazz drummer’s solo, she forced herself to slow her breaths and while not exactly relaxed, keep her composure.

“That was a low down dirty trick, amigo.”

“Just set me free, I beg you.”
Rosamund struck a match on her fingernails and lit another cigarette. She took a deep drag and exhaled.

“What’s got you all flummoxed?”

“I cannot say.”

“Then I reckon you’ll be staying here for a spell.”

“You’re breaking the covenant!” shrieked the spirit.

“To my way of thinking, you’re the only one doing any breakin’. You took the offering and haven’t given me one bit of information.”

“I’ve given you the best advice I can, leave it alone. Please.”

She continued to smoke as she got up and walked around the binding circle.

“You’re already dead, meanin’ no disrespect, so it’s not like you can get killed again.”

Etitan did not reply but he spun slowly with her.

“So what scares a ghost? Stimulating question to my way of thinkin’, don’t you agree?”

She looked him straight in the eyes but he said nothing

“So, you wanna be a tough guy, fine with me. I have a bar to finish cleaning up. I’ll look in on ya in a while. Can’t really say how long that might be, but you’ve got all the time in the world. Adios.”

With that she turned for the door and went upstairs to her bar. She hadn’t been fibbing, the place still needed cleaning. So she and Mr. Twig began to clear out the broken furniture. Soon, more staff showed up, putting things back where they should be. With that, the place was ready for the midnight crowd.

Business was brisk, she hadn’t told anyone about the fight so naturally everyone knew. Gossip flowed out of mouths as were cocktails inhaled. It was a very good night. Mistress Rosamund was so busy, she completely forgot about Etitan. It would become a regret.

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In the Stacks

Zsófia slid through the stacks, her arms filled with books. Returning them to their correct and proper place was like a meditation for her. Once the last one was placed, she stopped and listened to the faint scritching of note taking.

She returned to her front desk and began filling out forms, there were always forms but she also took pleasure in completing them. For those who knew her in a purely social way, would be flabbergasted to see her in this context.

The Zsófia they knew was not someone who gently and thoroughly returned books to shelves or completed paperwork with clear and legible handwriting. Their Zsófia drank and danced till the sun groggily rose in the sky. It might not make sense, but remember, no one is all one thing.

Completing one stack of supplication documents and sealing them in the correctly colored envelope (pale jade) she was about to delve into some overdue notices when she heard the gentle clearing of a throat.

Standing in front of her desk was Personne the graduate student, in all his forgettable glory. Zsófia took a special pride in knowing the names of faculty and students who came in but it took more than a few visits for her to remember him. Eventually, she recognized the small brass pin attached to his lapel. It looked like a floret but she did not recognize the type, which seemed apropos. However, it did allow her to identify him even if the rest of him was unmemorable.

“Good afternoon Monsieur Personne, what can I do for you today?” she asked quietly.

“Mademoiselle, I need several books pulled, if it is not too much trouble.”

He handed her his list. Most were historical accounts, dry reading even for scholars, but there was one that gave her pause.

“The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication? Have you changed your thesis Monsieur?

He shook his head, “No, but I believe that it might contain something that could aid my research.”

Zsófia did not usually care what was checked out in the library as long as it was returned in good condition and on time. Academics sometimes branched out their inquiries into seemingly unrelated areas, but Personne did not do that. Until now that is. There was one other wrinkle in this, L’Horloge owned a copy and had paid dearly for it. Something about this smelled off, like cold iron and hot oil.

“I’ll be back momentarily,” she said with a smile.

Of course the historical accounts were shelved and available, they were written by little known figures about even more obscure events. Easily done. As for the Folio, it was sitting on a shelf in the protected section and there was no rational reason to deny this unusual request. Still…

She returned to her desk with the dull tomes of forgotten history but not the Folio.

“Apologies Monsieur, but the Folio is not available at this time.”

Taking the other books under his arm, Personne asked, “Do you know who has it out?”

“I’m afraid that it’s being restored, it is after all, quite old.”

“Indeed. Do you know when that will be done?”

“I couldn’t say, but such work must be very meticulous and cannot be rushed.”

“Very well, merci Mademoiselle, these will have to suffice for now.”

He turned and began to walk away but slowed and turned back.

“Can you inform me when it is back in circulation?”

“Of course Monsieur, I will make a note so I should not forget.”

“Once more, merci.”

And with that, he disappeared into the stacks. Zsófia found her heart was racing. It felt as though she had avoided something sinister, though not forever. Taking pen to paper she wrote a note to L’Horloge, asking to meet him later. Folding the missive into a winged serpent, it flew off and out a high window.

It did not go unnoticed.

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Lost Things And Hot Chocolat

Olivia was very good at finding things. Everyone in her family were finders, mother called it their knack. Helena, her older sister always found the right thing to say, Theo, her younger brother could find the quickest way around the Arrondissement, and her father exceeded in finding trouble, even if he didn’t seek it out.

She wandered through the Market of the Misplaced, passing by tables filled with gears, leather cases for unknown instruments, faded bolts of cloth, their patterns barely moving, carved wooden cages with no doors, baskets of mismatched socks, piles of faded daguerreotypes, half written journals, crystal octagons filled with colored smoke, books desperate to be read, and forgotten toys. Trash to some, treasure to others.

At the end of a winding lane, she found the booth. It was filled with wooden crates and the crates were filled with keys, specifically, lost keys. If something inexplicably disappeared, it could be found in The Market of the Misplaced. Of course finding what was lost was a challenge in of itself, but not for her.

She began rummaging through the keys. They were of almost every variety, and for almost every purpose. Almost. The one she was looking for was not there. It was frustrating, her knack told her that what she was looking for was near, but it was as though it was avoiding being found. Most lost objects desired to be recovered, but this one…

Recalling some advice from her parents, “When you can’t see what you want, look somewhere else.” So she wandered through the aisles, until she found a cart selling hot chocolat and fresh rolls. Ordering one of each, she found a wooden crate to sit on and pondered what to do next.

“Lost something have we?” asked the woman tending the cart.

Olivia looked at her, she was a middle-aged handsome woman, with blonde hair and kind, hazel eyes.

“Hasn’t everyone?” Olivia replied.

The woman laughed and replied, “Well said!”

“This chocolat is quite good, you’ve added something unusual to it.”

“You have sophisticated palate.”

“May I ask what it is?”

“You may ask but I shan’t answer, it’s my special secret.”

“I won’t press you further.”

Olivia took another sip of her chocolat, it was delicious, as was the roll. Perfect for a brisk fall day. She looked again at the cart vendor, she wore a single, dangling earring that resembled falling rain, the silver shone and tarnished in a cascade. The longer she gazed, the more she felt as though she could hear the patter of raindrops.

“It’s hypnotic, isn’t it?”

The vendor’s voice brought her back to where she was.

“Very! Is that made of Nacht Argent?” asked Olivia.

“You’ve a sharp eye,” she said as she topped off the chocolat.

“Merci, but you-“

“Please, I think you got a little lost yourself there.”

Olivia drank her cup and sighed.

“I was careless.”

“Great things never come from caution. At your age, I made any number of mistakes.”

“No regrets?”

“Not a one, “ the vendor said, “Well, perhaps just one.”

Olivia dipped her roll in the chocolat, sometimes people will tell you more if you don’t interrupt them. The vendor filled an order for a pair of Tête de Bâtiments and turned back to her.

“This earring had a sister, it was made of Tag Aurous. Sadly, I lost it one night.”

“But you are in the right place to find it.”

“I’ve looked, but fortune hasn’t smiled on me, at least as far as that is concerned.”

“Would you like me to try?”

“Oh no, it’s too much to ask, I’m sure it’s dangling from someone else’s ear.”

“I’m very good a finding things, let me try.”

“So you have-“

“Oui, a family trait.”

“That would be wonderful, but hiring you might be beyond my means.”

“Normally it would, but I find myself at loose ends at the moment, so I’ll do it for a free cup of your remarkable chocolat.”

“If you can find it, you will always be my guest.”

“Done!” said Olivia whose feet had found a new path.

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An Evening Stroll

He stopped by the grocer to pickup some root vegetables and fresh peas, then it was off to the meat market for some catoblepas tri tip. The butcher handed his order wrapped in bright red paper and Sergeant Arpin gave him a handful of copper concepts. Each coin was handled by a different claw but they all disappeared under the apron.

“Bonne nuit Sergeant,” clicked the butcher, who then quickly turned to another customer.

“And to you,” replied the gendarme.

Sergeant Arpin enjoyed the autumn, for some reason, it always felt like a beginning. He knew, logically that it wasn’t true, but it was how he felt. Walking down the Avenue Verte, the leaves fell and he tried to catch one as they fluttered in the chilled breeze. After several attempts, he succeeded, finally catching one and made a wish. Slipping it into a battered notebook, he smiled.

He made one more stop before returning home, a small wine shop, The Barrel Haus, he was friends with the owner. Buying a demie of a very nice Merlot to accompany his dinner, he chatted with his friend.

“Is the Arrondissement free of crime yet?” asked the shop owner as he wrapped the bottle in soft, thick paper ribbons.

“Not yet, I’m happy to say.”

“Peculiar attitude for a gendarme.”

“Not at all, if there were no crime, I would have no job.”

The shopkeeper laughed and said, “A very practical position, my friend.”

“Indeed. I’m afraid I’m unsuited for any other task.”

“You are fortunate then, that we are stuck with crime,” he said tying the bottle up with a sturdy grip.

“It is an odd variety of luck I suppose,” replied Sergeant Arpin.

“Better odd luck than none!”

“Well said my friend, a pleasant evening to you.”

“And to you, enjoy the Merlot!”

As he strolled home, the soft hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Something was off. He stopped and looked in the window of lantern store. While the row of filigreed illuminators were well made, each with a tiny spark trapped within, he was more interested in who else was walking down this particular street. Someone exited the lamp store carrying a parcel, giving him the opportunity to see a reflection of a figure also peering into a shop window.

This figure was quite ordinary, drab clothes but not shabby, neither tall nor short, and not attractive but also not ugly. In fact, he seemed to be made to be ignored, utterly unremarkable. The perfect tail. His shadow walked past him but stayed within half of block.

Sergeant Arpin continued his walk home in a leisurely manner. He stopped and window-shopped at a few other places, and his shadow stayed with him. As they both walked down boulevards and across bridges, Arpin noted that his pursuer’s coat would change periodically, but the scent did not change, his nose was never wrong.

But this could only go on for so long. Taking a detour through St. Lupin’s Demi-Park, he knew that it would make disappearing easier. The leaves dappled the amber light from the glass globes bobbing above as he moved down the winding paths. Ensconced in shadows, he hid behind the statue of the famous thief. Ironic to be sure, but life was full of contradictions. Setting down his shopping, Sergeant Arpin slowly drew his Morpheus and released the safety.

The wind shifted and he knew he had made a mistake. Spinning around, he was hit on the shoulder rather than the back of head, but he dropped his Morpheus. Sergeant Arpin was not a professional pugilist, but neither was his opponent. Arpin landed several solid blows but his adversary took them with no reaction, at least no verbal reaction.

Throwing the gendarme against the Lupin statue, again the irony, the figure landed a powerful gut punch. As he slid to the ground, Sergeant Arpin felt himself roughly searched. The assaulter became a thief as he pulled the worn notebook from Arpin’s inside pocket.

Leaping up with more energy than someone who had just been trading punches should have, the criminal dashed to the demi-park’s exit. Arpin rolled over and saw a dull glint in the fallen leaves, it was his Morpheus. Grabbing it, he aimed and fired at the quickly retreating figure. A pale, ghostly sphere flew out of the barrel and enveloped the fleeing person. He took two, staggering steps then collapsed, just before the exit.

Sergeant Arpin, slowly stood, brushed himself off and walked up to the prone figure.

“Monsieur, you are bound by law for the assault of a gendarme, robbery, and criminal mischief.”

The assailant was in deep repose and did not respond, the Morpheus had worked perfectly, but forms must be observed. Arpin also shackled him, just to be sure. As he retrieved his notebook, the leaf he caught earlier drifted out. As he said to his wine merchant friend earlier, an odd sort of luck. But he was alive, so there was that.

He moved to the closest gendarme box, the panel irised open and he spoke to the grill. “Gendarme Sergeant Arpin at St. Lupin’s Demi-Park on the East-West exit, I have a criminal in custody, please send a velo-pede post haste.”

With that, a tiny metal and silk butterfly shot into the sky and off to the station. They should be here soon. He examined the man who had followed him. On the surface, perfectly ordinary, though he was much stronger than he appeared to be. Curious.

Sitting on the closest park bench he lit a cigarette. It took a little longer than usual as he kept his Morpheus in hand, it seemed prudent. There would be paper work, there always was, but he had been looking forward to cooking dinner and that seemed unlikely to happen tonight.

In the distance, he heard the trumpets of the velo-pede, they would be here soon. Standing, he kept an eye on the sleeping suspect, while behind him, flowers bloomed in clear defiance of autumn.

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The Details, As Such

Gendarme Sergeant Arpin sighed. He had seen many worse sights but violence and it’s results always filled him with sorrow. He lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, his lungs resented this, as they always did, but it reminded him he was still alive.

The daguerreotypes showed images of broken chairs, tables and glassware littering the bar. So senseless but unsurprising, which made it all the more heartbreaking. Across his desk sat the proprietress, her head bandaged.

“Do you feel well enough to speak with me?” he asked.

“I reckon,” said Mistress Rosamund as she sipped the gendarme station coffee which was better than she had expected.

“Mademoiselle, I am Sergeant Arpin, I would like to ask you some questions.”

She smirked and said, “I’m sure you would.”

He took out a form and rolled it into the Gutenberg. The details came, her name, her nationality, how long did she own the establishment, and so on. Not so interesting that they need to be put down here but Sergeant Arpin was a very particular policeman and it should be acknowledged.

“Do you have any enemies?” he asked.

“I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t.”

“Very philosophical, and yet, it doesn’t answer my question.”

“Well, there are some that don’t care for me and a few that might not shed a tear at me being six feet under, but I can’t think of any that would do this.”

“Even so, would you please share their names?”

“Give me a cigarette.”

He did so, lighting it for her off a wooden match. She took a drag and blew a
smoke ring at the ceiling. With a smile, she said, “You know, I really can’t recollect.”

Sergeant Arpin shrugged. He knew she would give him no names, there was a code after all.

“Did you recognize any of the assailants?”

“Didn’t get a look, they all were masked.”

“Naturally. So who else was here when these ruffians came into your establishment?”

“Just Mr. Twig, who works the door for me.”

“You run the whole place,” he said looking at the daguerreotypes of the long bar, “with such a small staff?”

“Of course not, it’s early, the rest of my folks aren’t supposed to come in till early evening, though I don’t think we’ll be open tonight.”

“I would like to speak to them.”

“They may be scarce, given the state of things.”

“Of course. Was anything taken?”

“Excuse me?”

“The criminals, did they want anything in particular?”

“From where I was standing, it seemed like all they wanted was trouble.”

“Easier to find than to lose.”

“Now who’s the philosopher?”

“Only the poorest kind. So they came in, proceed to break everything in sight, steal nothing, ask for nothing and are repelled by your man, Mr. Twig. Does that sum up the events, as you’ve shared them?”

“I reckon so.”

The sergeant flipped though his notes and looked up at Mistress Rosamund.

“A witness in the catacombs reported seeing a young woman, perhaps a student, running from the scene. Did you see anyone matching that description?”

“Nope, I was a mite busy, what with all the violence.”

“So no one like that was in your establishment?”

“Not today, as I said, we weren’t even open.”

“Curious,” he said as his whiskers twitched.

“Not really, some young student hears a ruckus, they are likely to go a running the other way.”

“I suppose so. Thank you for your time,” he said handing her his card, “If you remember anything else, please call.”

She looked at the card, which read,

Sergeant R.M. Arpin
Division Of Pernicious Criminal Mischief
673 and 3/5th Rue de droit
52-6098-732-68

Sliding the card into her blouse, she said, “Thank you kindly Sergeant, if I should recollect anything, I’ll be sure to give a ring.”

“Good day mademoiselle, bonne chance with your redecoration.”

And with that she got up and made her way outside. Mr. Twig sat on a bench, waiting.

“What do you make of him?” she asked, grinding her cigarette under heel.

Mr. Twig unfolded himself and stood. He scratched his chin and pondered for a moment.

“He maybe the only honest gendarme I’ve ever met.”

“You may be right.”

“Is that good news or bad?”

“Too soon to say. But get some candles, wine and some fresh bread, I need to send a message.”

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