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Richard! What the fuck are
you doing here? And who is that magnificent pigeon beside
you?”


Arnaud Lafleur, let me
introduce Ms. Winter Willows. Winter, Arnaud here is an old friend
of mine and a much more capable and important fellow than you’d
think if you were to judge only by that ridiculous display we just
witnessed.”


You never did understand,
did you, Richard?” Lafleur said, huffing and puffing after his
workout. “The Zeppelin gets into your soul! When that happens, you
can’t help yourself! But never mind that. Sit down, both of
you!”

The three of them sat,
Lafleur in a worn old armchair that seemed to have molded itself,
over many years of use, to the exact lumps of his large body.
Monroe and Winter took to two other chairs, not so badly abused,
probably much newer.


What are you doing here,
Richard?” Lafleur asked. His face had gone serious. “I thought you
would never return to Paris after what happened. Are you on the job
again?”


Not exactly,” Monroe said.
“I’m working, but not for the same bosses. Same ends, different
means…and we’re here
because
of what happened, not despite
it.”


You are both in the
business then?”


Winter is…filling a
temporary position,” Monroe said.


But you obviously trust
her,” Lafleur said,” or you would not have brought her here to see
me, would you?”


She knows her place,”
Monroe assured him.


I’m not a pet, Richard,”
Winter suddenly spoke up in anger. “Stop talking about me as if I’m
not here! And what are you, Arnaud, undercover Paris
police?”


No, my dear,” Lafleur said,
“something much better: what you would call the DGSE, my nation’s
equivalent of your American Secret Service. This place though is a
wonderful front, is it not? I spend a few hours each day listening
to surveillance recordings and the rest hearing the glorious ruckus
of the greatest of rock and roll! Of course, Mademoiselle Willows,
you will not tell anyone what my real profession is…if you wish to
leave Paris alive.”


You two could be brothers,”
Winter muttered.


All right,” Monroe said,
“enough banter. Arnaud, I need some help. You are aware, I’m sure,
that Garrett Khan is in Paris?”


I was aware,” Lafleur said,
“but I am no longer so sure. We know that he arrived here some time
ago but, and it shames me to admit this, he seems to have fallen
away from our radars.”


You lost track of him in
your own city?” Monroe was not happy.


Richard,” Lafleur asked
with a look of worry, “why are you here chasing Garrett Khan with
just a girl at your side? The last time, it was all of us hitting
him in one big punch: French, American, British together. What is
different now?”


One of the eventual results
of that collaborative punch, Arnaud, was what happened at the
Opera,” Monroe said.


You mean,” Lafleur asked,
“that Khan was responsible for what happened to your wife? He
ordered that? You know this for a fact?”


Yes.”


I understand why you are
here then, but even if Khan is still in Paris, he does not seem to
be doing anything to cause us concern. I have other fish to cook
now and I cannot take time away from official things to help you
with this. I am sorry, Richard, I am.”


Arnaud,” Monroe leaned
forward for emphasis, “I’m not asking you to take me straight to
Khan, wherever he is. If you can just point me in the right
direction, give me any little scrap you have, some scent to
chase…”


I should stay out of this,
but we did have some good times together when you were here…and
what happened to your wife was a terrible thing. I will see what I
can do, but I make no promises.”


All right,” Monroe said,
getting up from his chair. “Come on, Winter. I know you’re dying to
see more of Paris.”

 

***

 

They roamed the avenues in
the area around the record shop. Monroe said nothing for fifteen
minutes until Winter could stand walking in silence no
longer.


Any more old friends to go
to for help, Richard?”


Not now, Winter: I’m not in
the mood for your sarcasm. Let me think.”


Can I make a
suggestion?”


What?”


Instead of trying to think
of who might know where Khan is, why don’t you concentrate on what
you know about him and try to pick up the trail
yourself?”


Where would I even start?
In cities like this, in the business I’m in, players change
positions too often. I’ve been away for a while and I had no idea,
until yesterday that Khan had come back to Paris. If Arnaud, with
his eyes and ears on every corner and alley in the city, hasn’t got
a clue, how am I supposed to pick up the trail on my own? Damn it,
Winter, don’t tell me how to do my job!” It all came out in an
angry growl. But then Monroe stopped walking, looked over at Winter
and said, in a quieter tone, “I’m sorry. I’m
frustrated.”

Winter smiled gently,
nodded. She understood. “He doesn’t seem to be here on business,
does he? Your French friend said Khan’s not committing any big
crimes here, so what’s that leave? He’s hiding out, obviously, but
a man like that doesn’t just sit in a safe-house and play solitaire
all day. Garrett Khan is young, filthy rich, quite handsome from
what I’ve heard, and obviously enjoys being all those things. I’m
sure he’s having quite a good time here in Paris. Maybe that’s how
we should be trying to find him.”


The nightlife…” Monroe said
under his breath.


That’s exactly what I
mean,” Winter said. “You lived here for years, right? You fell in
love here, got married, and had a good life here while it lasted.
You know the city as well as anybody does, for personal reasons as
well as having been a spy here. You don’t have to rely on Arnaud or
anybody else! Let’s just find this asshole ourselves and get it
over with!”

Monroe laughed. A pep talk
was the last thing he expected from the woman he had basically
kidnapped and flown across the Atlantic.


Yes, dear,” he said,
turning to smile at her.


That’s better,” Winter
said, taking hold of his arm as they strolled down those Parisian
streets.

 

Chapter 13: Pros
and Khans

 

 

Winter’s method worked. It
took three nights of clubbing, dancing, dining, and theatre going,
but Richard Monroe finally saw, in person for the first time, the
man whose vicious orders had forever altered his life in the worst
possible way. The man called Garrett Khan.

They were seated in a very
expensive restaurant, a recently opened establishment with a name
that would translate to A Heaven of Gluttony. One of those places
where dinner for two costs the equivalent of well over five hundred
US dollars. Getting a reservation had been tough and Monroe had
called in a favor from an old French acquaintance. The eatery was
part of their rounds of the places they suspected a person like
Garrett Khan would fill his evenings. This time it had paid
off.

Monroe was in suit and tie
and Winter wore an elegant black dress she bought that day, along
with the shoes and handbag that accented it. They had been seated
ten minutes earlier and had just been served drinks—red wine for
both of them—when the target made his entrance.

Garrett Khan was of average
height and built like a large hockey player: broad-shouldered,
thick-legged, with large hands that would make formidable fists if
he chose to use them as hammers. His hair was jet black and his
youthful face was an odd combination of baby-fat and ruthlessness
that mixed to make a handsome, though slightly strange, look. He
was accompanied by a woman of Middle Eastern descent with
model-class looks and a diamond necklace that shimmered in the
light of the overhead chandeliers.

Monroe recognized Khan
instantly from photographs he had seen in the past and nodded to
Winter while giving just a slight nudge of his chin to get her to
glance, subtly, in the direction of Khan and his companion. The
head waiter sat them down about thirty feet from Monroe and Winter,
close enough for Monroe to watch but not so close that either table
would hear what the other was saying.


Stay calm, Richard.
Please,” Winter said. “Don’t even think about drawing your gun.”
She put her hand on Monroe’s, which was already a white-knuckled
fist atop the table. The other hand hovered at the level of the
shoulder-holster but had not drawn back the jacket to get at the
Glock.

Monroe stared with absolute
hate in his sharp blue eyes.


Will he recognize you?”
Winter worried aloud.


I doubt it,” Monroe said.
“He looks too sure of himself to be alert enough to analyze the
whole room and he thinks I’m dead by now. Probably sure Cyril
Benson had me killed in Boston. He knew who I was, but how much
else he knew about me I don’t know. I’m not even sure he’s ever
seen my picture. Damn it, Winter, I want to take him now…but he’s
not even close to being alone.”

Winter snuck another glance.
At the table just behind Khan’s were seated three men, all big and
all tough-looking: bodyguards for certain.


What do we do?” she
asked.


We eat, just like we came
to do,” Monroe said, trying to keep the lid on the boiling pot of
wrath in his heart. “We don’t leave here until he does. Then we
follow him and find out where he’s staying in Paris.”

The waiter came and took
their orders: steak for Monroe and lobster for Winter. When the
waiter walked away, Monroe stood up.


Richard, don’t!” Winter
said in a hurried, scared whisper, fearing that Monroe’s temper had
overgrown the fence that kept it in.


Relax,” Monroe said. “I
have to make a call.”

He went outside, walked half
a block down the street, took out his cell phone and made a call to
a number nearby.


Bonjour,” Arnaud Lafleur’s
slightly slurred voice answered.


You’re drunk,” Monroe
said.


Only the littlest bit of
drunk, Richard,” Lafleur clumsily switched to English.


I need a car,” Monroe said,
“and a driver who knows Paris like he knows his wife’s
body.”


I drive well…but I have no
wife, as you know.”


Arnaud!” Monroe was losing
patience. “You’re too damn drunk to drive anywhere. Just send me a
car and a reliable man. I’ll text you the address as soon as I
check the building number. Try to get him here within the
hour.”


Richard, if you’re going to
kill anybody tonight, I don’t want my boys involved. You are not
here officially in the eyes of my government, are you?”


Arnaud, I promise there
won’t be any shooting tonight. I’m just doing a little surveillance
and I don’t feel like over-tipping a cab driver into loyalty. Just
send the damn car.”


All right, all right. Give
me thirty minutes and I’ll have somebody there for you. And good
luck, old friend.”

Monroe hung up. He had not
told Lafleur that the surveillance was on Garrett Khan himself.
Lafleur was a good information gatherer but could be a bit clumsy
in the field, as Monroe had learned years earlier. Had Monroe
mentioned Khan’s name, Lafleur would almost certainly have insisted
on coming along, too, and that was not a good idea. Especially
after what sounded like more than a few drinks.

Monroe went back inside,
looked first to see if Khan was still there, which he was, and
rejoined Winter at their table. He took a sip of wine and said,
“Arnaud is sending us transportation.”


Good,” Winter said. “Now
stop staring so hard at Khan if you don’t want him or his guards to
notice us. I know you’re fighting for control, Richard, but please
just take it easy.”

Monroe nodded, forced his
mouth up into a smile, and tried to come up with something to talk
about. His usually clever conversational skills were taking a
backseat in his mind to thoughts of bloody, brutal vengeance. More
than ever, he was glad he had brought Winter Willows to Paris with
him. Had he been alone, he would already be out in the streets
trying to avoid arrest after putting a bullet in Garrett Khan’s
forehead right then and there in A Heaven of Gluttony.

The food was excellent; at
least Winter thought so, but Monroe hardly tasted his. He conversed
with Winter, put on the show of being a normal patron of the
restaurant, but his attention was focused on Khan. He managed to
time things just right, finishing his meal and making sure Winter
finished too, just long enough before Khan and his companion
finished to get outside and into position.

Winter followed him out and
they were waved down by a thin man in his late twenties who stood
smoking a cigarette as he leaned against a green car that looked a
little too beat up to be government issue. Monroe smiled at the
sight; Arnaud had sent the right car, one that did not look like a
surveillance vehicle.

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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