Her street Parisian was perfect. “Come to me,” she said. And he did. A high ranking Vichy official who should have known better; he’d had too much to drink. The city was dark and warm. He was lonely, and she seemed to overlook his uncommon ugliness. The little blonde whore who stood just outside of a yellow ring of light provided by a street lamp. Was her lipstick really so red? “Come to me, my dear.”
“Yes,” he said, and came so close their bodies touched. Her perfume is expensive, he thought. Rare now in war, during occupation. Odd for an ordinary prostitute, but inviting nonetheless. “What is your name?”
“Choose one,” she said
“No,” he said. “No little games. Your real name. I insist.”
“Games are all some of us have left.”
“It’s Trudy. My name is Trudy.”
“A lovely name. And you are so beautiful.”
“No. Not beautiful.”
“No. I’ve hunted you for days, Monsieur Millet. And what happens now is not beautiful, nor am I.”
“Pardon? But you know my name….”
“Yes, I know your name.” Moving then, in anticipation of the blood, she stepped a little to the left. At the same time she raised her right hand, the one that held the straight razor, and ran it vertically up Monroe Millet’s belly. The blade went deep, and stopped only for the base of Millet’s sternum.
He staggered backward. His hands gone to the massive wound. A look of disbelief on his face. He tried to speak, but could not. His mouth opened and shut but he produced no words.
Trudy Parr looked at her hand. Despite her speed and expertise, there was still a little blood there. As he stood before her in shock, she took a corner of Millet’s tweed jacket and wiped the blood away. “Your kind always looks so surprised,” she said. Dropping the razor, she nudged it down a sewer grate with the toe of her milky white patent leather shoe.
Millet reached out and grabbed at her. Unsteady on his feet. No longer drunk, but rapidly dying. Trudy Parr stepped away. It occurred to him then that she was smiling. Not broadly, it was a subtle smile. She enjoys her work. Such a strange last thought.
He staggered and fell.
A black Renault pulled up, headlights off. The passenger door opened, and Trudy Parr got in. The car disappeared down a poorly lit street.
“We can take Monroe Millet off the list,” she said in the street English of a far away place called east end Vancouver.
The driver passed her a lit cigarette. “You sure of the kill,” he asked.
“Good,” he said. “But now we have to shut it down. There’s been another Killroy killing. News just came out, happened a week ago. The gendarmes are making a show of locking down the city. The SS are tightening security. It’ll be too dangerous to continue for now.”
“That makes how many now, Crispin?”
“The underground count is eight. The papers say two. Three if this one gets reported.”
“You’re certain it’s Killroy?”
“Severe trauma to the neck and throat. Blood splatter on an adjacent wall. No blood on the ground or otherwise near the body. Killroy was here written in blood nearby.”
“Le Géant. We have an appointment with him at the house tonight.”
“That’s pure, alright. What the hell’s going on, Crispin?”
“Maybe someone’s killing for recreational purposes. And why the hell not? We’re living in Nazi Land.”
“Male. No other information, like the rest.”
“All male so far. What does that mean?”
“Something maybe. Maybe nothing. Who gives a damn? We aren’t here for the street opera.”
“All intelligence is worthy intelligence, Crispin. I’m quoting you now.”
“That’s theory, sweetheart. This is practice. If one of us gets it, I don’t want it to happen while we’re nosing around some meaningless back alley freak show. We have assigned targets. We need to lay low until we can follow through on those.”
Trudy Parr dropped her cigarette onto the floor of the car and snuffed it out. She looked over at Crispin Dench. In profile, in the dim light from the dashboard, he looked a little spooky. Paris had aged them both, had added layers. Now he was talking about taking precautions. Since when did Crispin take precautions? “Lay low,” she said. “That’s a new one.”
Ahead on the road leading out of the city, a roadblock appeared. A small company of SS men were checking papers. The Renault rolled slowly forward as the line moved. Crispin Dench lowered his widow. At the gate he held his papers out and stared ahead. A SS sergeant took the counterfeit documents and examined them. He immediately stood at attention and saluted. “Your destination, SS-Sturmbannführer Faust?”
“Somewhere dark and private, Unterscharführer,” Dench said in a perfect Westphalian accent. “And look, would you please not salute me. I’m out of uniform, and trying not to draw attention.” He gave the sergeant a surreptitious look, and then nodded his head toward Trudy Parr.
“Of course, Sir. And the young lady’s papers,” the sergeant said. “I’m sorry, Sir. Orders.”
Trudy Parr reached across and handed her papers to the sergeant. He stooped lower to look across at her in the passenger seat. She looked back, remaining calm, unsmiling. The sergeant smiled at SS-Sturmbannführer Faust, and handed the papers back. He said, “Very good, Sir. Allow me to wish you a pleasant evening.”
“Just do your damn job, Unterscharführer,” Dench said and released the clutch.
Ten minutes outside of the city, the Renault turned off the highway onto a dirt road. They drove for several minutes before they reached a yard surrounding a dark, abandoned house.
“I hate this place,” said Trudy Parr.
“He says it’s safe.”
“We’ve used it too many times already.”
They sat in the car. Quiet and still. Staring into the dark.
“There,” said Crispin Dench. Two silent shadows ran across the yard, circling and running back. “If there’s a problem, they’ll know.”
In a moment, the two shadows arrived on either side of the Renault. They sat and panted happily. Dench looked in his rear view mirror and saw Benoît Le Géant, the arthritic dwarf who headed an important underground cell, walking up from behind. Le Géant whistled, and his two Rottweilers stood and departed. There was a tapping on Trudy Parr’s window. She rolled it down.
“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle,” said Le Géant. “How dark and lovely the absolute of night. The waxing moon upon your pale cheek….” The dwarf raised his hand, but did not touch.
“Save it for the debutantes, Benoît,” said Trudy Parr. “I work for a living.”
“Oh, oui, of course, la Canadien. So lacking in romantic predisposition. It is your young nation’s greatest failing. May I add Mademoiselle Parr, your kill this evening is already legend in certain covert circles. A shame it shall for all time remain a secret.”
“Let’s not take all night, Benoît,” Dench said.
“Of course you are correct, Crispin,” said Benoît. “The birds never sleep, and are always listening. So, to the point. I have a request. I’m asking you to do a little job that will differ somewhat from your usual endeavours on behalf of La Résistance française.”
“Yeah?” said Trudy Parr.
“What?” said Dench.
“You have heard of the Killroy incidents.”
“Look,” said Dench. “I know what’s coming….”
“No,” said Le Géant. “You do not. So, please just listen. We are the blunt and wicked end of a vital movement. We do not participate in politics or introspection. We receive instruction and act, nothing more. We are also not great disseminators of information; this is understood. So, it is understandable that there may be things you do not know about the Killroy killings.”
“Spill it,” said Trudy Parr.
“The Killroy victims were all high level Résistance members,” said Le Géant.
“That’s news. How many,” said Dench. “For real this time.”
“Then the killings are secondary, peripheral events,” said Trudy Parr. “What’s important is that you have a leak, Benoît.”
“Had a leak, Trudy. We had a leak. She has now been eliminated. But not before she conveyed some useful information, names and locations. Killroy will strike again. He must be stopped, and he must be made an example of. This is the favour I am asking of you.”
“What’s the dope you’ve got on this character,” said Dench.
“At first we believed that it could not be only one man. Even you two work together. We believed it had to be a team of up to four operatives. Gestapo involvement, of course. But when the leak broke under torture, she insisted that it is only one. But one controlled from on high. We were correct in our assumption that it is Gestapo.”
“Speed this up, Benoît,” said Trudy Parr. “I need a cigarette, and I can’t light one here.”
“Very well,” said Benoît. “Killroy is now an assigned target. Your assigned target.”
“You don’t assign target to us.”
Le Géant held out a large envelope. “This contains details, including your London handler’s consent for your involvement.”
Trudy Parr looked at the envelope, but didn’t take it. “That’s one hell of a lot of printed information to have lying around, Benoît. You’re getting sloppy?”
“Familiarise yourselves with the details, and burn it. There is no other way. There will be no SIS satchel, no coded BBC broadcast. This must happen within 24 hours.”
“Why so fast,” said Dench.
“To send a message.”
“I thought you were blunt and wicked, not political.”
“I am not; others are.”
“I don’t like it, Crispin,” Trudy Parr said. “I say we drive away.”
Crispin Dench sat at the wheel looking forward and said, “Trudy’s got a say in this, Benoît. And since this is only a request, we reserve the right to decline.”
“When you read the material in the envelope,” said Benoît. “I believe you will change your minds.”
“Let’s go,” said Trudy Parr. “I need a bath.”
“We believe,” said Benoît, “that the SS and the Gestapo have colluded. We have evidence that the killer, that Killroy, is something strange, aberrant.”
“Strange and aberrant?” said Dench putting his hand on the ignition key.
“Yes,” said Benoît. “It is ironic. They have tapped into some form of Jewish mysticism and created a monster. And because their intent is evil, they have made it more horrible than any that have come before.”
“He’s blowing smoke,” said Trudy Parr. “He’s playing the shill.”
“What is this blowing smoke?” said Benoît. “Qu’est-ce que c’est shill.”
“Trudy thinks you’re full of merde, Benoît.”
“Fine,” said Benoît. “Go. But ask yourselves. Why is there no blood on the ground where the bodies lie? They want us to believe that the bodies were killed elsewhere, then moved to the locations where they were found. But why is their blood on the walls. How is it that the bodies are so completely drained?”
“Okay,” said Trudy Parr. “Elucidate.”
“The killer is feeding,” Benoît said.
“Oh for God sake,” said Trudy Parr. “It’s Bela Lugosi. Now I need a bath, a cigarette and a drink.”
“Isn’t Paris fucked up enough, Benoît,” said Dench. “We already have Nazis. Do we really need vampires?”
“Not a vampire,” Benoît said. “But vampiric in its habits.”
“Its habits?” said Trudy Parr.
“Oui,” said Benoît. “They have gambled. They have been obsessed, and the obsession appears to have paid off. You are already intrigued, are you not? I know you will not, cannot, refuse this assignment. Read the documents and you will see that, if successful, it will be your masterpiece.”
Trudy Parr reached out and took the envelope.
Alain Lefebvre of the French underground stood in shadow beneath an ancient flight of stairs that led up from La Seine. Something was wrong. The operative was late. Instinct and procedure said leave immediately. Climb the dimly lit steps up to the street and take the long way home. He decided to do this. He stepped out from the shadow, into the muted light of the thin crescent moon.
There was a sound. Steps or shuffling? Lefebvre stepped back into shadow. The sound of heavy breathing now. And more shuffling. Yes, a lame foot dragging after a healthy one. Lefebvre reached into his pocket for his switchblade. It was a comfort to find it there. Now the shuffling stopped. Lefebvre listened. The breathing had stopped. No other movement. Silence. He pulled out the switchblade, and pressed the release. It made a familiar dull snapping sound. Whoever this was, it was not the operative. The operative was a young man, quick of step. Lefebvre stepped out to face his stalker.
The golem stood perfectly still, its eyes closed. Its head loosely tilted a little left. Dim moonlight reflected off of its tall, broad muddy body. Lefebvre reacted, thrusting his switchblade into the soft muck of the golem’s abdomen. His hand sank in up to the wrist. Mon Dieu, he whispered.
The golem’s eyes opened. “Alain Lefebvre,” it said. Its pronunciation was wet and slurred. Its breath a swamp of foul smells. Bits of mud dripped from its mouth.
“No,” said Lefebvre.
“Yes, I think. Orav sends me.”
“No.” Lefebvre spoke louder now, pulling his hand out of the mire. It came out empty, having left the switchblade behind.
The golem became more animated. Its grimaced and took a step backward, onto its right foot. It drew its right hand back. Lefebvre looked down to see long, hard white claws. The golem took a hard, well targeted swipe at Lefebvre’s neck and tore it open. Blood splashed against the ancient stone wall. Lefebvre’s last sight was the golem’s savage lunge, its vicious rows of yellow razor teeth.
A moment later the golem shuffled awkwardly to the wall, dragging its poorly formed left foot after the right. It spit some of Lefebvre’s blood onto a fingertip and began to write.