Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Don’t Smoke In Bed Part 2 of 3
The oldest of the bridges over the Seine. Five spans to the Left Bank. Seven to the Right. Sidewalks, complete with nooks in which to sit and watch the world go by, on either side of the traffic lanes.
When you think, “old European bridge”, Pont Neuf is the image that should leap to mind. Sorry, London.
The bridge and surrounding area were still doing a brisk business at eleven o'clock at night.
The electric lights hummed and brightened the shadows, affording me a clear field of view as we approached from the left bank.
Good choice for a drop and swap, I thought. We wouldn't stand out much amongst the lovers headed for a favorite alcove or the waiters and cooks heading home. Tourists and drunks went by too, each as lost and confused as the other.
There should have been some uniformed policemen around. I didn't see any.
Sabine and I walked, arm in arm, toward the middle of the left span. I carried her bag of dough in my free hand.
The garlic from our coq au vin hung all around us. It was a very nice dinner. The two fine a l'eau's I allowed myself with dinner continued to do their work, keeping me tight enough, and no more.
“Smile,” I murmured to Sabine. “It'll be better if you look like you want to be here.”
“What makes you think I don't?” She grinned at me around the omnipresent cigarette. “Better?”
We passed by three guys leaning against the wall, all in a row. The two on the outside, in their stained shirtsleeves and threadbare trousers, looked like they lived on or possibly under the bridge.
Neither of them had a jacket on both wore hats-- a gray beret on one and a tan bowler on the other. The down and outers of Paris committed their vagrancy in style. The two of them guffawed and passed a bottle of wine back and forth across the man in the middle.
“That's Wilson there,” I whispered as we passed within smelling distance of the trio.
Wilson stood a full head shorter than his drunken companions, though the rumpled, once-black duster and slouch hat he wore made him appear taller. He smiled and nodded when the banter of his erstwhile companions made it necessary but the smile never reached a pair of brown eyes that had seen too much of all the wrong things in his young life.
She flicked her cigarette butt into the river.
“Can you spot any of theirs?” she asked.
“Been looking since we got here. Can't say I've seen any likely suspects. Doesn't mean they aren't there. Wilson's on the job.”
“You have much confidence in that young man.”
“That I do, Sabine. That I do.”
We reached the middle of the span.
“All right,” I said, “here we are.”
“Now we wait.” She put another cigarette in her mouth. “Light me, will you?”
Headlights hit us dead on and two cars, one red and one black, stopped hard in front of us.
A tall man in a good black suit got out of the red car and approached us. He was pasty white with light blond hair and walked with a limp. He held a heavy walking stick in one hand and had a silver revolver in the other. It wasn't pointed at us but he made sure we saw it.
“So nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Meltzer,” said the man I'd spoken with on the phone. No doubt about it.
“Bon soir, amigo,” I replied.
“Put the money here by me. Once I've had a look at it I'll direct my associates to release Mr. Durant to you.”
“Sounds like square deal to me. Kind of.”
He smiled at me. I didn't much care for his smile. Too much tooth.
“Open the bag, please, Mrs. Durant.”
Sabine looked to me, then knelt and opened the bag as requested.
“Show me,” he said.
She held it up enough for him to see the bundles of cash inside.
He took the bag from her, then rapped three times on the side of the red car.
The passenger side door swung open and out stepped the biggest human being I'd ever seen. The man had to be nearly seven feet tall and had the bulk to carry it off. His suit wasn't anywhere near as good as his boss'. It looked like it'd been cut from a mile of light gray cloth and made for a smaller man. The sleeves rode up his forearms and his pants ended just above his ankles.
A heavy beard dominated his otherwise unremarkable face.
He reached back into the car with one arm, hauled Herve Durant out, and deposited him in front of us. He grabbed Herve by the arm to keep him from falling over.
Herve didn't look too good. His white linen suit was torn in the knees and one shoulder and his reddish brown hair stuck out in every direction.
They had him blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back.
“Sabine?” he croaked.
“I'm here, Herve,” she said, moving toward him.
The man with the gun raised it.
“I'm afraid I've changed my mind,” he said. “You will all be coming with us.”
Herve turned and drove his shoulder into the bearded giant's gut. He might as well have attacked the hard stone of the bridge itself.
The big man hauled Herve off his feet and held him in the air by his shirt front.
I lunged at the man with the gun, taking him down to the ground before he could get a shot off. I grabbed his wrist and slammed his hand down on the pavement until he let go of the gun.
The black car spun its wheels, then sped off across the bridge.
Sabine moved in to help her husband. The big ape sent her sprawling with the back of his hand.
I reared up and belted the guy on the ground. He had a good chin.I socked him again. He quit moving.
“No! No! God no!” hollered Herve.
I looked up just in time to see the giant throw him over the side of the bridge.
He screamed the whole way down.
We all stood there, paralyzed, until we heard the splash.
I felt more than saw Wilson blow by me. He tossed his hat and duster aside and hit the big guy at full speed, knocking him out cold, then jumped into the Seine after Herve.
“Aw hell,” I grumbled as I wriggled out of my blazer and headed for the side.
Sabine screamed my name just a second too late.
Something hard crashed into the back of my head. I saw red, then white, and got this crazy idea that I was falling.
I dreamed of an ocean voyage, tossed around on the waves during a terrible storm.
Constant motion, punctuated by violent jerks and surges, made it hard to stay under.
“Be still, Mike,” said a familiar voice. Female. Exotic and raspy.
The smells of cigarette smoke and spices mixed with sweat and a medley of indistinct food odors, led me back to the land of light. The roar and growl of a big engine made sure I stayed there.
It sounded too big to be a car engine.
I opened my eyes and saw a dark blur before me. It took a second before I figured out it was above me. Everything was above me. I felt something soft and warm beneath my head and shoulders.
I looked to my right. A slender, tattooed hand rested on my chest. I'd seen that hand before.
“Sabine,” I choked out.
“It is I, Mike Meltzer. Now be still. We are nearly there.”
She moved her hand from my chest to caress my temple.
I sat up and managed to stay that way long enough to make out three person-shaped forms sitting across from me, then fell back into Sabine's lap.
John Henry raged around inside my skull, trying to pound his way out with his trusty sledgehammer.
I opened my eyes again and kept them open until my vision began to clear.
We were in the back of a delivery truck. Sabine sat on the floor, holding my aching head in her lap. Three dark-haired men in a collection of disreputable coats and hats sat on crates against the opposite wall. Two of the three wore their hair long, the third had hair so curly that it only grew up and out. All three of them regarded me with cool amusement, like they were in on a joke I hadn't been told yet.
Sabine shifted her legs beneath me, propping my head up enough to hold a bottle to my lips.
“Drink,” she whispered.
Warm, sweet liquid drizzled into my mouth and down my throat. Wine of some kind.
She took a swig herself then passed the bottle across to one of the men in the truck with us.
I had questions. Lots of 'em.
I settled for a whispered, “Where...?”
“We are going someplace safe,” said Sabine. “Someplace we will not be found unless we choose to be found.”
She held her cigarette in her teeth and used both hands to massage my forehead.
“Herve has his people,” she said. “And I have mine.”
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.