The Blue Ripples International Airways landed with a short bump and then slowly taxied its way on the runway towards the Charles De Gaulle airport. It was forty-five degrees in Paris, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. The snow from the previous days had blanketed the whole airport. Frank Adkins of the British Embassy disembarked the plane and had simply no difficulty going through the corrugated disembarkation tube which linked the airport and with a slight, cunning expression on his face, he entered the security check.
Going through the security monitor he felt ostensibly anxious for some reason and after coming out of it he heaved a sigh of relief. Three policemen near the check point were talking to each other in a jovial kind of mood like a college student has when talking with his friends and when he came near them, the smile on their faces disappeared and changed into a slight frown. Their eyes were glued to his briefcase for some dim reason and in that frozen moment in time ,he really felt that there was something truly dreadful with his luggage and then, the inevitable happened.
He was always scared of these moments since his childhood, and when one of the policemen yelled at him, he totally ignored him and kept on walking. The policemen then revealed his silenced Walther from the waist band at the small of his back and aiming on him said, ‘‘stop right now or I’ll shoot your head off! You understand?!” and then, at that very moment he seized his opportunity and darted to the door. He could hear the ricochets of bullets behind him but paid no heed to them and reaching at the door he almost stumbled, but had caught the handle of the door and rushed out.
High above the street, a figure crouched on a flat rooftop, elbows atop the low parapet. He was holding a MR-k41 bolt action sniper rifle and his eyes peering through the sniper’s lens were focused on a particular target on the street. He took his Nokia cell phone from his olive green army holdall and after punching the redial button he placed it on his ear. In a deep, hoarse voice he said something in Russian, and after listening for sometime, he put his phone away and looked through the sniper’s lens. The figure on the rooftop shifted his gaze for a moment to see if someone was looking at him or not, capturing everyone like a mega pixel camera. People of all shapes, sizes, religions, walking, staring mindlessly, standing undecided, lounging, slouching, smoking, getting on and off vehicles, talking to one another, plugged into I pods, shopping, eating on the run, kissing goodbyes, cuddling, arguing, saying bad words, forgetful, cell phones glued to their ears, hunched, drunk, fighting with one another, first- date embarrassments and mumbling to themselves. Suddenly his gaze was distracted by the bellowing and yelling of the people on the street. He quickly peered through his sniper’s lens and found his target running with the cops on his tail. Aiming on his target he shot one, two, three times and then stopped. Madness began.
Frank was running on the sidewalk with all the strength he had albeit his legs were killing him, but was suddenly grabbed by the lapels of his trench coat and was pulled inside a dark alley beside the sidewalk. His stomach churned up and was in a knot, fear surged through him but when he looked closely in the eyes of the man who pulled him in; he saw to his surprise that it was a girl. A short, middle-aged girl with a pale face and dark eyes. He was about to open his mouth to speak but she grabbed his arm and led him towards the door with a sign post that said ‘Hades inn’.
Inside it was dull and overriding, two large fans revolving in a low ceiling. There were several booths against the walls, a scattering of marble topped tables across a floor with black and white tiles. There were high stools on the long mahogany bar, bottles on glass shelves against the mirror behind. A large, handsome black man with graying hair was constantly polishing glasses, Tom Curry, the barman. Only two people were sitting at the darkest corner of the room, talking discreetly amongst each other. The girl stiffened her grip on his arm and as they came near those men on the table, her hand was slowly turning into a tight fist as though she was about to hit them but she suddenly relieved herself and stepped back from him as if it was his turn to go in the noose. The man with the broad shoulders stood up, his face calm, and looked at him, “What’s your name, old son?”, he asked him, there was a hint of Russian in his accent and calming himself, he replied, “ Frank, sir, Frank Adkins”. The man with the broad shoulders nodded in satisfaction and sat down. Frank hesitated for a moment and then sat down, putting his briefcase between his legs. The man removed his cap, and ran a hand nervously over his hair which he’d dyed black and then turned to him. “The name’s Melvin, Melvin Strauss. I’m the head of the DCRI here, that’s French intelligence. The thing that concerns me is the briefcase that you’re carrying, nothing else”. Frank swallowed hard enough to choke himself up, then replied with ease, “my personal belongings are in that case sir”. Melvin patted vigorously on the shoulder of the man sitting at his side and said angrily, “even though my brother here doesn’t speak English but is quite efficient with weapons, and so, if you refuse to answer me, he wouldn’t hesitate a moment to blow your kneecap off, you understand!” At that moment, his brother took out the silenced Beretta from the pocket of his overcoat, took out the magazine, checked it, and then rammed it home. He was thunderstruck, beads of sweat came trickling down his forehead, his throat became dry, and before he could reply, a huge, blunt instrument struck his head, and in minutes, everything seemed to drown into the abyss.
“Goddamnit!” shouted the man on the rooftop, and kept on cursing himself while he was collecting his gear, and then stood up, picked up his army holdall, and proceeded towards the stairs, the rifle slung on his chest. He took out the cell phone from his jacket, punched the redial button, listened for a while and then closed it. He had failed his mission; he knew that pretty well, his career, his fame, was now all drowned just because of one silly mistake. He went to the curb on the road, and amidst the huge furor on the street, he waved to the van that was approaching him, slid open the door and jumped in. “So how’d it go, me ould son?” came a voice from the front. “It went as planned”, he replied and sat back, relaxed on his seat as the van started to move. “To tell you the truth, if I were you, I would never lie in front of my boss”, the man said. “Go to hell!” Came the reply to him from the back, and at that moment, some hands grabbed him from the rear, the man in the front turned around in his seat, raised his gun, and shot him between the eyes, killing him instantly.
Frank was all of a sudden shaken from his reverie with the sound of the keys that were rattling in the door. He opened his eyes and saw that he was situated in a room not big from his own, and had seen better days. The only light coming in the room was from the window above him that was too far to reach. The door flung open with a bang, and he saw two men appear in reefer coats, coming towards him. At the sight of those men, he stood up, went back a few steps and then lurched at them, hands crawling on their skin with a fierce anger that was beyond their control and then, one of the men divulged a Walther PPK with a Carswell silencer from his coat, and the other one punched him hard in the kidneys that made Frank lose all his strength, and crying in agony, he fell on the floor on one knee. All of a sudden, the fluorescent bulbs above him were opened, letting out light that penetrated into his sullen eyes, weakening him, and illuminating the whole room. The man with the gun had now concealed it in his coat, pulled a chair in front of him, and sat on one himself. “Have a seat Mr. Frank; we have some real questions that need some straight answers, okay? Now straighten up and be a good lad, and by the way, Erich’s the name”. Frank stood up and sat on the chair given by Erich, and after glaring at them furiously for some while, he said wryly, “Is that a fact, now?”
“I’ll give the spanking of your life, you cheeky old bastard! Do as he says!” bellowed the man beside Erich with enraged fury in reply to Frank’s statement, and lurched forward in an attempt to hit him but Erich got in his way and grabbing him by his collar, took him to the corner and said in his ear discreetly, “ you get out of this Johnson, don’t spoil this one now, we can catch the fish when its still in the bloody net, you understand?” “Fair enough”, replied Johnson, his face red with anger. Frank glanced at Johnson and noticed the prominent scar on his face that ran from the corner of his eye to his nose, which along with his long hair gave him altogether a more sinister look.
“Sorry for that, that’s my brother, he can get stupid sometimes, especially when it comes to interrogation. Anyways, where was I now?”
“The damn questions! Now don’t get all Gestapo with me here, okay?” Frank frowned and lit a cigarette from the Zippo lighter provided by Erich that now dangled from the corner of his mouth.
“Ah yes, so, how did you happen to come to Paris?” asked Erich, a sly smile dancing on his lips.
“Paris? Well, obviously for vacation!” Frank answered back thoughtfully.
“Okay, then would you care to tell me that why, on a vacation like this, would you be carrying a aluminum briefcase comprising of two .32 AK assault rifles and a Belgian automatic, which I’m afraid would be your only luggage?” inquired Erich, a slight ironic smile had now appeared on the corner of his mouth.
Frank sat facing him motionless and in complete horror, his face pale, he tried to speak but nothing came out, actually felt his bowels move, and so, he ran his hands on his face, straightened up, and then, looking at Erich, he told him the worst, stuttering in between. After hearing what he wanted to, Erich took out his silenced Walther from his coat, and aiming at Frank he said merrily, “ all’s well that ends well, my friend”, and then, the last thing Frank heard was the laughing of those people as the Walther coughed once, swaying Frank on one side, his eyes staring into oblivion.
John Hopkins was making scrambled eggs and sausages in his kitchen and was humming the Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony simultaneously, when the phone rang, he cursed at whoever it was, then went over to answer it.
“John here, who is it?”
“It’s me Carter, something bad has happened, Johnny boy”, there was a slight pause, he sighed, and then continued, “Frank blurted it all out. He's dead. Gunshot wound.”
“Holy God!” exclaimed John, and then the line went dead.
He stood there with the receiver still in his trembling hands, thinking of it all, replaced it, then went to his door, he paused for a second to hear the rain that was still drumming relentlessly against the roofs, got his rain coat on, opened his umbrella and went out. The rain increased the intensity of cold and was followed by a loud peal of thunder. A few gunshots and shrieks were also heard outside but were soon drowned in the ascending sound of thunder and rain. Inside the house, the phone rang for several times and then stopped.