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.