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Nostradamus Propheciesby Mario Reading
Quartier St-Denis, Paris, Present Day
Achor Bale took no real pleasure in killing. That had long since left him. He watched the Gypsy almost fondly, as one might watch a chance acquaintance getting off an airplane.
The man had been late of course. One only had to look at him to see the vanity bleeding from each pore. The 1950s moustache à la Zorro. The shiny leather jacket bought for fifty euros at the Clignancourt flea market. The scarlet see-through socks. The yellow shirt with the Prince of Wales plumes and the outsized pointed collar. The fake gold medallion with the image of Sainte Sara. The man was a dandy without taste - as recognisable to one of his own as a dog is to another dog.
‘Do you have the manuscript with you?
‘What do you think I am? A fool?
Well, hardly that, thought Bale. A fool is rarely self-conscious. This man wears his venality like a badge of office. Bale noted the dilated pupils. The sheen of sweat on the handsome, razor-sharp features. The drumming of the fingers on the table. The tapping of the feet. A drug addict, then. Strange, for a Gypsy. That must be why he needed the money so badly. ‘Are you Manouche or Rom? Gitan, perhaps?
‘What do you care?
‘Given your moustache, Id say Manouche. One of Django Reinhardts descendants, maybe?
‘My name is Samana. Babel Samana.
‘Your Gypsy name?
‘That is secret.
‘My name is Bale. No secret there.
The Gypsys fingers increased their beat upon the table. His eyes were everywhere now - flitting across the other drinkers, testing the doors, plumbing the dimensions of the ceiling.
‘How much do you want for it? Cut straight to the chase. That was the way with a man like this. Bale watched the Gypsys tongue dart out to moisten the thin, artificially virilised mouth.
‘I want half a million euros.
‘Just so. Bale felt a profound calmness descending upon him. Good. The Gypsy really did have something to sell. The whole thing wasnt just a come-on. ‘For such a sum of money, wed need to inspect the manuscript before purchase. Ascertain its viability.
‘And memorise it! Yes. Ive heard of such things. This much I know. Once the contents are out into the open its worthless. Its value lies in its secrecy.
‘Youre so right. Im very glad you take that position.
‘Ive got someone else interested. Dont think youre the only fish in the sea.
Bales eyes closed down on themselves. Ah. He would have to kill the Gypsy after all. Torment and kill. He was aware of the telltale twitching above his right eye. ‘Shall we go and see the manuscript now?
‘Im talking to the other man first. Perhaps youll even bid each other up.
Bale shrugged. ‘Where are you meeting him?
‘Im not saying.
‘How do you wish to play this then?
‘You stay here. I go and talk to the other man. See if hes serious. Then I come back.
‘And if hes not? The price goes down?
‘Of course not. Half a million.
‘Ill stay here then.
‘You do that.
The Gypsy lurched to his feet. He was breathing heavily now, the sweat dampening his shirt at the neck and sternum. When he turned around Bale noticed the imprint of the chair on the cheap leather jacket.
‘If you follow me, Ill know. Dont think I wont.
Bale took off his sunglasses and laid them on the table. He looked up, smiling. He had long understood the effect his freakishly clotted eyes had on susceptible people. ‘I wont follow you.
The Gypsys mouth went slack with shock. He gazed in horror at Bales face. This man had the ia chalou - the evil eye. Babels mother had warned him of such people. Once you saw them - once they fixed you with the stare of the basilisk - you were doomed. Somewhere, deep inside his unconscious mind, Babel Samana was acknowledging his mistake - acknowledging that he had let the wrong man into his life.
‘Youll stay here?
‘Never fear. Ill be waiting for you.
* * *
Babel began running as soon as he was out of the café. He would lose himself in the crowds. Forget the whole thing. What had he been thinking of? He didnt even have the manuscript. Just a vague idea of where it was. When the three ursitory had settled on Babels pillow as a child to decide his fate, why had they chosen drugs as his weakness? Why not drink? Or women? Now O Beng had got into him and sent him this cockatrice as a punishment.
Babel slowed to a walk. No sign of the gadje. Had he been imagining things? Imagining the mans malevolence? The effect of those terrible eyes? Maybe he had been hallucinating? It wouldnt be the first time he had given himself the heebie-jeebies with badly cut drugs.
He checked the time on a parking meter. Okay. The second man might still be waiting for him. Perhaps he would prove more benevolent?
Across the road, two prostitutes began a heated argument about their respective pitches. It was Saturday afternoon. Pimp day in St-Denis. Babel caught his reflection in a shop window. He gave himself a shaky smile. If only he could swing this deal he might even run a few girls himself. And a Mercedes. He would buy himself a cream Mercedes with red leather seats, can holders and automatic air conditioning. And get his nails manicured at one of those shops where blond payo girls in white pinafores gaze longingly at you across the table.
Chez Minette was only a two-minute walk away. The least he could do would be to poke his head inside the door and check out the other man. Sting him for a down-payment - a proof of interest.
Then, groaning under a mound of cash and gifts, he would go back to the camp and placate his hexi of a sister.
Copyright © 2009 by Mario Reading
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