Friday, December 7, 2007

One missed shot, one dead-on

Good gravy, my mother used to say. It's not like I've never been to Paris in summer, so what on Earth was I thinking this time? Sometimes, I even surprise myself with my lack of foresight when it comes to combining delicious, high fashion with stealth, crucial for invisible stalking and quick escapes. For all my beauty, experience and divine intuition, I can be a dumb broad at times. I can say that; you oughtn't dare.

Imagine how a sheep must feel, layered under such density of fragrant, itchy wool. Now imagine that same sheep galloping (is that what a sheep would do?) full force in 90 degree heat with equal humidity. Got it? Well, that's me, dears. 90 degrees and I'm as moist as the underside of a cow's tongue. I'm running like a madwoman in and out of the Rue Fromentin dressed in a delightfully smart, but completely impractical, charcoal gray wool two-piece. Even my elbows are sweating.

I could see the colonel from 30 meters away, his smoldering Chesterfield tip shining like a beacon in the black night. The perfect target. It was as obvious as the cigarette plugging his mouth that he was as spent as a schoolboy's pocket change at the circus. It wasn't the dull red glow of the bare light bulb in the doorway that gave it away, though a dame less experienced than myself would have needed that clue to ascertain that he'd been doing a discharge of his own but minutes earlier. I looked up at the tiny balcony over his head, making sure his rented whore wasn't swooning her painted face out the window, longing for one last look at this respectable gent who had, just minutes earlier, been most unrespectable to her. The drapes were drawn, the light behind them barely imperceptible.

It had been some time since I'd used such a tiny weapon, and an old one at that. French manufactured, a remnant of the war it was a Luger Parabellum Semi-Automatic Pistol, small enough to fit neatly in my hose and almost small enough to slip through my damp, now swollen fingers. A semi-automatic. It was a far cry from the standard revolver that had been my best girlfriend stateside, but when in France...

I always hate it when I miss the first time. I can say that without hesitation, because it seldom happens. A girl has to be precise, intentional in all she does and killing is no exception. And I should have taken him out with one bullet, that I cannot deny. He was holding stock-still, the burning cigarette was nothing short of a waving flag showing me precisely where to aim. Straight ahead, six inches inward.

It was the cat. Why is it I find that, more than anything, the cat is always to blame? The damned feline, crafty, self-involved, needy one second and dismissing the next. It was a mangy, overly affectionate thing that had worked its way between my tingling ankles and I must have thought it to be a common sewer rat. It was in the Pigalle, after all, so it's not an unreasonable assumption. And I'm not typically startled of rats. I've communed when them out of necessity. Once, I hurled two with remarkable precision at a common thug, corralled an entire colony of them into a primary school as a diversionary tactic. I've even eaten one, in a particular moment of desperation on which I hate to elaborate (suffice to say, it involved a lost weekend in Sicily, a mistakenly consumed bottle of absinthe, a hog tying and a frighteningly dark abandoned well). So it wasn't the cat, per se, that frightened me, it was the unscheduled intrusion on my person.

One thing about a semi-automatic pistol that is good, is that a lady can fire it with little effort whatsoever. The bad thing is that a lady, startled by a damned cat, can fire it with little effort.

The first shot was not nearly six inches to the right as I'd planned. It was more...about three inches. Just at the tip of the lips. It must have startled him incredibly because he didn't even call out. He just pulled back, drew his hands to his lips and sat down hard on the sidewalk. A light turned on more brightly in the whore's room above him. "Merde," I whispered. French, I know, but when in France....

It would have to be done within seconds; I had no time for theatrics or a dramatic montage backed by swelling music. I kicked off my shoes (a welcome move, actually) and padded down the stone walkway. I wish I could sketch for you the look of shock on the Colonel's face. Was it because he saw that I was a dame, that the still smoking pistol in my hand was the one responsible for taking off is upper lip? Was it that he had realized that his last moments on Earth had been spent with the likes of the syphilis dish upstairs? Or was it that he recognized me? Saw the glamorous wife of Ambassador Delacourt, standing over him in hose and dress, directing the barrel of a Luger Parabellum Semi-Automatic between his eyes? In all my years, I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with that look of desperate confusion and nauseated realization. A quick, gentle jerk and his traitorous brain decorates the alcove of the Rouge Boudoir.

Now, I have a party to get back to. I'm receiving the toast.

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