Harry stood in the doorway of the small mansard apartment that he had rented online wondering how the terrorists had found him and followed him here? The Internet service had provided him with a quaint little hotel room on the Rue Verneuil replete with a bed with noisy springs, bidet, and Leyden glass wooden screen that shielded to many indiscretion’s since before the last World War. The dusty toilet sat hunched, ‘his and her’s style un-flushed for the last couple of weeks since ‘les concasseurs’ had ‘tossed’ the place reputedly, one day after his unexpected arrival at the hospital. Just standard procedure he had been reminded after such a nationally traumatic event! The desk clerk had given him the courtesy of returning for a couple hours in the vacated space out of fear that his special status as an international victim might bring some adverse publicity to his establishment’s presence online. That was odd given the fact that the inclination of the guest in question was to clear out on the next flight with what remained of his officially savaged possessions. It seemed amazing to him how ‘la police nationale française de Paris’ could have done their job by stomping across his clothes with muddy boots? His romantic notions of the ‘City of Lights’ had descended to one of darker thoughts.
He had regained the facility of recalling his own name, but just barely. Somehow his entire journey here had lost the majority of its mentally summoned context. The strange dream of monstrously large red and black pet beetles running madly twixt his legs had displaced the evidential reality of waking life. He could not discern which was more fantastic? The cartoon horrors of Morphia induced dreams from the hospital or brief mental flashes of his finger playing in another man’s spilled brains upon the sidewalk. Amidst all were the flickering glimpses of dark faced men glaring at him from the other side of a fully automatic rifle. This was what the DGSI had been most insistent about. He could barely recite his name in his mother tongue much less keep up with the persistent pressure of the ‘Liaison’ demanding answers from a ‘cerveau traumatisé.’ He could only imagine a quick plane ticket home back in a noisy overcrowded seat to the safe anonymity of his own shabby little apartment. The first order of business was to overcome the current drape bureaucracy now descended in departing the country. The mattress was at least his until the next afternoon and he sank down upon it overcoat and all falling into the sanctity of unconsciousness.
The sandy grounds of the demi-tasse before him at the Gare de l’Est rankled his lingering sense of exhaustion. The sweet quicklime of sugar that he had thrown upon it with the tiny little silver spade did little to cover over his want for a more American styled content. The airport via the SCNF was still restricted to ticket holders and airport personnel. The only parties traveling freely at this point were travelers making connections through to other destinations. He had to wonder seeing the three man squads coursing through the incessant crowds of faces rushing past them just how expert at the task they were in terms of ferreting out suspects? Considering the many varieties peppered throughout of ‘likely suspects’ that qualified as both dark and swarthy and obviously North African, it was impossible to consider their task as anything but utterly futile? The presence of their SMG’s more a trooping of the colors to deter would-be copycat factions to ‘mind their manners!’ Harry found himself caught within what had up to now been an unimaginable situation in his life. He was caught in Paris. The thought of the absurdity of it summoned to mind some silly nineteen-sixties Hollywood movie wherein the audience was teased continental style with both suspense and romance. This time, for him the actors did not have clear identities and the script for him to recite had not yet quite arrived. Whatever particular important part that he personally was to play seemed more like one of an extra milling about on the edge of the set waiting for instructions. He seemed in the proverbial ‘no-man’s land’ of dammed either way. An eccentric sounding female voice immediately beside him startled him out of his confusion. “S’il vous plaît pardonnez-moi monsieur . . . « , I mean excuse me but are you not the man who was at the hospital ?” The cold chill of unexpected discovery shot through him. He turned on the knife’s edge of a response to see a small young woman with a pathetic expression of faux felicity. Had one cast a cute puppy in bronze her face might have been the model. “I’m sorry Miss!”, he quavered over loudly, “You must be mistakenly confusing me with someone else!” It was strange to him to find himself so spooked by such a tiny fragile presence. She looked up at him for a moment silently expectant of another answer on his part that he was convinced that the moment was caught in some form of cinematic ‘bullet time’ suspended animation. “I’m sorry!, he repeated a little less loudly, “I’m not who you think . . .” “Yes you are!” she replied suddenly in her version of a querulous tone. “I saw you next to my brother’s body out in the street!” “I know that you were talking to him before . . ., her words halted as if frozen.
Harry stood there in an equal form of paralysis. The tiny cup wavering uncomfortably as it slipped betwixt his thumb and forefinger. The woman’s stare fixed upon him sending mixed messages that ran his blood colder. He could see those sets of black eyes somewhere in a world far off drawing a bead upon his table. “What do you expect of me!”, he blurted out unconsciously. The woman’s expression switched from iron to a cynical form of painful irony. “Rien!” “Nothing!” Her hand not bothering to wipe the tears away as they showered in a down pour upon her cheeks. “I just wanted to know if he had said anything to you before . . . he . . . died?” Harry held out his arms before him feeling as if he was plummeting headlong into a sinkhole that had unceremoniously opened up in the ground before him. The woman pressed up against him, the scent of Bois d’Jasmin and freshly tailored wool filling his embrace. The doors of Paris had sprung open once again.