Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Paris With Love by Verne Morse

A beautiful Russian lady witnesses a crime in Paris, and a French Inspector insists on looking after her, by Verne Morse.

The train to Paris was just arriving after a fast run from Bordeaux and the passengers were assembling by the door to disembark, but La Belle stayed behind because she disliked being in a crowd. She grasped her handbag tightly remembering what her grandfather had told her about purse snatchers. To her the trip to Paris was a blessing as she needed to get away from a family of four brothers who made life intolerable with their bickering and quarreling.

She left the train after the crowd had dwindled and made her way to her hotel. The reservation for her Paris holiday was made in advance so she had no trouble getting settled. The manager took her to her room. It overlooked the city and it was really special for she could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. This was her first excursion away from home and at nineteen she was determined to make it the time of her life. It was late afternoon so she planned a short sightseeing trip around the city and maybe to stop for a little supper at one of the street cafes she had heard so much about.

La Belle Anna Maria Walensky, a beautiful child of Russian parents who came to France after the war to seek a better life for their family. The father had succumbed to a bronchial disease he acquired while working in a coal mine in Russia. This left La Belle, the oldest, the responsibility of raising the brood and caring for her grandfather while her mother sewed clothes in a factory in an effort to make a living for the family.

Life went on in this routine until one day the grandfather died and in his will he left La Belle a small inheritance with the provision that she take a well deserved holiday in Paris. Her mother had insisted that she make the trip, and assured her she would manage the boys in her absence.

Reluctantly La Belle made her plans but felt ashamed that she'd have to leave Mother with the rambunctious quartet. She put her guilt aside and did her very best to enjoy this wonderful excursion.

Getting all dressed up and taking her new umbrella she was off to tour the beautiful city of Paris, France. Not ever having traveled to the city before, she was amazed at the magnificence of it and took in all the spectacular sights. She stopped for a supper as planned and although struggling with the language was able to order her entree. She was in seventh heaven and lavished in the luxury of the ambience.

Finishing supper she went back to the hotel and prepared to call it a night. In bed she soon fell asleep and dreamed of romance and being whisked off into bliss by a knight in shining armor.

Startled in the middle of the night by a loud disturbing noise outside her window, she got up and looked out the open window. Down below in the shadows were two figures violently fighting in the street. The flashing of a knife got her attention and she could see the smaller of the two stab the other. She let out a gasp getting the man's attention. He looked up and saw her, made a threatening gesture with the knife and ran off.

La Belle was horrified by the whole affair and jumped back in her bed and tried to put the thought out of her mind.

Soon after that she heard the police and an ambulance down below and went to the window. Just then, one of the police looked up and saw her. She ducked back, but knew it was too late. Moments later there was a knock on her door. Frightened by the intrusion she inquired, "Who's there?"

A man with a French accent answered, "I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle, it is the police. May I speak with you?"

She donned her bathrobe, went to the door and unlatched it, opened it a bit and peeked out, "What do you want?"

He said, "I am Inspector François Philar of the Paris Police Department. There has been a ruckus outside your room and I wanted to know if you saw anything."

She said, "No," and closed the door.

He raised his voice, "Mademoiselle, if you won't talk to me here, and now, I'll have to take you in to the station for a statement. It will take several hours, but if you will let me in now, I will only be a moment."

She quietly opened the door, turned on the light and let him in. His first glimpse of her face took him by surprise. He wasn't expecting a beautiful creature and it caught him off guard. He made a complimentary remark in French, "Elle a le visage d'une ange, et la figure d'une sainte!"

She said, "I'm sorry but I don't speak French very well, but I do understand English a little if you don't mind."

He gasped, still overcome by her beguiling charm, but finally blurted out, "Oh, I'm so sorry Miss, there has been a stabbing down in the street. I'll try to make this brief. Did you see anything out of your window tonight, anything at all that will help us find the culprit?"

She said, "No, nothing at all, now will you please leave?"

The policeman's instinct told him she was not being truthful and he pursued further, "Miss, you must have seen something. Let me tell you, if he got sight of you, and I'm sure he is desperate, he will come back and silence you, so if you know anything at all, please tell me."

This really startled her and she knew she was in a serious situation. She thought for a moment, went over to the window and said, "I heard them quarreling and went to the window to see what was going on. The smaller of the two pulled out a knife and stabbed the tall one and then ran away. That's all I saw, please believe me."

"Did he see you, now be sure. Did he see you at all?"

Meekly she replied, "Yes, he did and he raised the knife and made a threatening gesture with it. I'm sure he would remember me, oh, I'm so frightened, I just don't know what to do. What can I do?"

François took her by the shoulders, set her down and said, "Now just be calm. I will have a guard by your door all night long, so don't worry, no one will bother you. Now tell me, do you remember any of his features, his height, his weight, color of his hair or anything about him that will set him aside from anyone else?"

She thought for a while, and in the meantime, he studied her features not really sure she was real. She said, "Yes, he was short, about five five, wore a tan leather jacket, and oh, yes, he had a big mole alongside his nose," grimacing she continued, "and he had squinty eyes."

"That's fine. Did you hear his voice? Did he say anything, anything at all?"

"Yes, he said something, like, 'Take that, you dirty French dog.' He didn't have a French accent though, he sounded like an American."

"That's really great, we will be looking for a short American with a mole and squinty eyes. You have done very well, Miss, and I want you to know we won't let anything happen to you." In French he murmured the same remark he had said before.

She looked up at him quizzically but seemed to understand the compliment and said, "Thank you."

He stared at her delightful face for a brief moment, finally coming to his senses, "Well, oh, I didn't even ask you your name."

"Its La Belle Anna Maria Walensky. This is my first trip to Paris and I must say, so far its been quite an experience." She ushered him to the door and continued, "Good night, Inspector, I hope I've been some help and you are able to get hold of this terrible person."

He left, saying, "Good night, La Belle Anna Maria, you have been a great help," he handed her his card, "If you can think of anything else, anything at all, please call me at this number. Good night." He left and she slowly closed the door getting the last glimpse of him disappearing down the hall. She thought him to be quite handsome and wondered if he was married or anything like that.

She slipped into bed and in moments from sheer exhaustion, fell asleep, dreaming the same dream about the knight in shining armor. When she awoke in the morning she thought her dream was about the French detective and wondered why, but still she cherished the thought.

Her stay in Paris was supposed to be a week, but from the hectic time she had had on the first night, she didn't know if she could last the entire seven days.

She got dressed and outside her door she saw the guard. She thanked him for his protection, then took a street car to the Louvre and enjoyed her stay there viewing all the great masterpieces of the world. However, the previous night's event kept gnawing at her insides and it put a blemish on her enthusiasm.

As she was leaving the museum she caught sight of a little man watching her and she cautiously left the building and ran across the street to a pharmacy where she immediately got on the phone and called Inspector Philar. While on the phone she looked up and there stood this little guy just outside the building. At that moment the Inspector came on the line. She was so excited she couldn't speak, but blurted out, "There is a man following me!" Finally he got her quieted down and he told her that the man was the policeman he had assigned to her for her protection. She looked up at the man and realized it was the same one that was stationed outside her hotel door. This seemed a comfort but she was still a little edgy.

He asked her if she would like to meet him at a little cafe down the street at noon for lunch. She agreed it would help to ease her anxiety and was grateful for the invitation.

Lunch was delightful. They had a few laughs and exchanged stories of their own experiences. She told him the story about her family and how she was able to make this trip through her grandfather's generosity. All the time François Philar was getting more and more interested in this stunning little beauty from Bordeaux.

When she returned to the hotel, there was a message at the desk. She took it up to the room and read it, "If you know what's good for you, you will get out of town on the next train!" She sat down on the bed, cried a little, then went down to the desk and made a phone call to Inspector Philar. He told her not to fret because the police guard was close by and he would protect her. She went up to bed and fussed and fumed until she fell asleep again from pure exhaustion. Once more, she dreamed of romance, only this time it was definitely of the handsome detective.

First thing in the morning she heard a knocking at her door. She bolted up in bed and cried out, "Who's there?"

"Its Inspector Philar, La Belle, I thought I'd take you out for breakfast, if you'd like. I'll wait for you down in the lobby."

She jumped out of bed and said, "Oh, that would be lovely. I'll only be a minute." Getting dressed and fixing her hair took longer than a minute. She donned a cute little red dress with sandals to match. It was the right thing, it all but knocked him out when he saw her coming down the stairs.

He took her down to an open market place where the merchants bring their wares right out into the streets. The sight and aroma of all the food was breathtaking and she treasured every moment wandering through the booths. Finding a coffee house with tables out on the sidewalk, they had a delightful breakfast and talked about everything except the note she had received.

Finally she showed it to him. He read it over and said, "If you don't mind, I'd like to take this to the police lab and see if they can come up with anything. Maybe it has a secret that will help unravel this case. The man who was stabbed is in the hospital and as soon as he can talk, we might get a clue as to what this crime is all about."

They walked back to the hotel and on the way he said, "I don't want you walking anywhere without protection, is that understood?"

She saluted him and haughtily said, "Yes, Sir! Inspector Philar of the Paris Police Department!"

He reached down and grabbed her arm and said, "I just can't have anything happen to you." She moved closer to him and he drew her into his embrace and at that moment she experienced the first passion of her young and innocent life. From their expressions it was obvious that love was beginning to flourish. He walked her back to her hotel and up to her room to be sure the guard was back on duty.

Back at the department he got a call from the hospital that the injured man had awakened and it was possible he might be able to talk. Philar rushed to the hospital and to the man, who was barely conscious. When he was questioned, the only thing he muttered was, "No, not the Mona Lisa!" At that moment he went into a coma. Philar looked at him and wondered what he meant by that.

Returning to the department he dug out the information on the background of the man and found he was a French patriot with an outstanding war record and now a night shift security guard at the Louvre. This got him to wondering what the connection was between the stabbing and the Mona Lisa. He got on the phone and called La Belle at her hotel. While waiting for her to be summoned, he got an idea and just as she answered the phone he blurted out, "Yes, of course. Its a plan to heist the Mona Lisa!"

Bewildered, she answered, "What are you talking about, what does 'heist the Mona Lisa' mean?"

"Its about your little short friend with the mole on his face and the squinty eyes, that's who! They're planning to steal the Mona Lisa! Listen, I'll have to relieve your security guard so I'll pick you up in a minute and we'll take a run over to the Louvre and maybe I can figure out how they planned on doing it."

They arrived at the Louvre, contacted the authorities and got permission to go into the security guard's quarters. There they found his locker and in it were several letters, a wad of money, and a loaded gun. The letters were all written in French and nothing made sense, except one that was mailed from the United States. The only thing on it was a date, Sunday, August 19th. That was several days away so that gave him a little time to think the mystery out.

This intrigue fostered excitement in La Belle and she was eager to be in on the drama. He could see that she was hyped up on the mystery, but with her around he found it hard to keep his mind on his work.

They spent an hour looking the evidence over and then went back to headquarters. There were a few catcalls and whistles from the other officers at the unusual visitor but a disapproving glance from the Inspector brought the display to a sudden halt. Philar answered the ringing telephone, listened and then hung up. He told La Belle he had an very important business to attend to, and would she mind very much if he'd put her in a cab to be taken to her hotel. Her security guard was back on duty. This brought a frown to the pretty face but in spite of that it was still the most beautiful face he had ever seen.

They went outside and at the curb he hailed a cab. The cabby was standing outside his cab smoking a cigarette, but before he could get in, another cab pulled out from behind the line and stopped in front of them. François paid the cabby, gave him the address of La Belle's hotel and waved goodbye to her as the cab sped away.

The cab went out towards her hotel, but when out of sight of Philar, made a left turn and sped out towards the airport. La Belle cried out, "Driver, this is not the way to my hotel!" She looked into the rearview mirror and got a glimpse of him. It was the man with the mole on his face and with those squinty eyes. Half frightened to death she cried, "You are him, you're the one who stabbed the man in the street! What do you want of me? I haven't done anything. Please let me go." She started to cry hysterically.

He turned around, yelled and slapped her across the face, "Shut up and sit back and you won't get hurt." She fell back in the seat. That was the first time anyone had ever struck her and she was more surprised than hurt.

He drove like a maniac down through the Paris back streets. In falling back La Belle felt an umbrella that someone had left on the seat. She picked it up and although never in her life had she ever displayed a fit of temper, (it must have been the slap that triggered her rage), bashed him across the back of the head which caused him to lose control of the cab. It jumped the curb and hit a fire hydrant. The driver was knocked unconscious and water came gushing through the open window. La Belle was shaken up and drenched to the skin. She climbed from the back seat and staggered out from under the geyser of water coming from the broken hydrant.

Moments later, the police and the fire department came on the scene. They wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the police car. Philar was notified and was there in a couple of minutes. He picked her up and carried her to his car. She was a total mess with her hair streaming down her face and her wet frame shaking with cold. She cried, "François, it was him, the man with the mole and the squinty eyes. I'm sorry I hit him, but he slapped me!"

Calming her down he said, "You did great, ma chérie, and you'll probably get a reward for catching the man who dared to plot to steal the Mona Lisa." He again made the French remark he had said previously, "Elle a le visage d'une ange, et la figure d'une sainte."

She raised up and looked at him, "What does that mean?"

He said, "Translated, it means, You have the face of an angel and the body of a saint."

She laughed, "Some angel, look at this awful hair!" He took her back to her hotel where she showered and dressed. They had dinner at the little cafe across the street.

The next day she received a call from the museum. They were giving her a commendation and a reward for her assistance in the capture of the criminal.

The remainder of her holiday was fabulous with the attention she got from the museum people and especially the attention from François.

She left for home through hearty farewells from the whole police department and the entire museum society who came to the station to bid her goodbye.

After the train pulled out, François turned to his police chief and said, "Sir, I'd like to take some time off, if you can spare me. I need to take a holiday myself."

The chief said quizzically, "And where do you intend to spend this time off?"

Philar answered, "Sir, I think I'd like to take a little trip to Bordeaux."

"But why a trip to Bordeaux?"

"Well, I thought while I was there, perhaps I'd drop in on a friend."

"And who might that friend be?" quizzed the Chief, knowing full well who he was talking about.

Looking after the disappearing train Philar repeated the French remark he had previously made to La Belle, "Elle a le visage d'une ange, et la figure d'une sainte."

The Chief questioned, "She has the face of an angel and the body of a saint?" He looked at François, "Yes, my son, I guess you'd better take some time off."

4 comments:

  1. some stories should have a happy ending!

    well done

    michael mccarthy

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  2. Delightful tale. I love Paris!

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  3. This is a nice story. I appreciated you moving away from certain stereotypes such as those associated with criminals and police. Although as an American I hate to see one of my countrymam as the villain, it is usually the Arabs and North Africans who are seen in this light in Paris. Also with the police, having lived in Paris myself I can say the police would not have made such an effort, so attraction must have been involved :p.

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  4. Loved it - I was afraid the cop would turn out to somehow be the killer in disguise. Viva la happy ending!

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