Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paris Noir

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables

"Between the walls of the two yards there was a dark and narrow street, the Rue de Chemin-Vert-Saint-Antoine, which seemed to be exactly what he was looking for."


J. carefully slipped out of the bed, looking back at the sleeping figure half draped by the sheets. He pulled his clothes on quietly and tiptoed out of the room. The door closed with a barely audible click behind him. He walked to the end of the hallway, turned right, through the "Hotel Staff Only" double door and took the service elevator to the basement. He briskly walked through the bowels of the hotel, down a long and narrow corridor and up small staircase.

He found himself in a small courtyard at the Southeast corner of the hotel. It was surrounded by a crumbling stone wall with a cast iron gate in the middle. Across, over the wall he could see a drunk stumbling through another courtyard, one of an apartment building. The drunk fumbled with the door, dropping his keys, then finally was gone. It was quiet now, except for the consistently random noises of a sleeping city.

Between the walls of the two yards there was a dark and narrow street, the Rue de Chemin-Vert-Saint-Antoine, which seemed to be exactly what he was looking for. The street was dark with something more than just the night, and he shuddered, tightening his jacket around himself.

His steps echoed down the empty street. He slipped into the shadows and stopped. He held still, listening, watching. Nothing. "H. Cousin" - declared the sign over the otherwise nondescript doorway. He rapped his knuckles twice on the door, halted, rapped three times. The door opened. The gorilla inside looked at him with a bored sort of contempt and jerked his head to follow him.

Behind the heavy desk sat an exceptionally fat man wrapped in expensive looking pinstriped fabric roughly in the shape of a suit.

"Have you got it?" The fat man asked, not bothering with niceties.

J. extracted an envelope from his pocket and dropped it on the desk, just so that the other had to strain to reach it. It didn't please the pinstripe, and neither did the contents of the package.

"This is not what we agreed upon." He spat the words at him.

"That was before you sent your man to follow me. That was stupid, Anglade. Did you really think I was going to go anywhere near my contact with a thug in tow? With all your money, one would think you could hire better quality help. Where do you get them anyway, the local pound?" He shot a pointed glance at the muscle, now standing by the doorway, who returned it with a less than loving stare.

"My dear Jaque, I assure you I have no idea what you are talking about." Anglade gave him his best solemn look, but failed to come across reassuring. Maybe because of the slight nod that was not directed exactly at him but a little over his right shoulder. His world exploded into a million shiny stars before he could turn. This was not going to be a good day.


  1. "The street was dark with something more than the night …" Boy howdy, Vanda, you know how to make an old Raymond Chandler fan happy.
    What an excellent piece. I visualised it all in black and white with Ralph Meeker playing Jaque and Orson Welles Anglade.
    Darn it, now I want to watch the movie!

  2. You caught me Dive. Reading Chandler makes me feel so tiny.

  3. YES, that was one of my favorite lines, too, Dive! It's one of those, "I wish I had thought of it," things.

    I also liked "the consistently random noises of a sleeping city."

    It's weird, Vanda, how you weren't specific about anything in those images (just a dark street and a night with some kind of sound), yet we can see and hear all from the references. Love it!!