Chapter 35:

Searching for someone in the smoke

The Sequence of Kai

The safehouse is some distance from the centre of Paris so by the time we get there, Trish is already tired and wants to sleep.

We booked into a hotel and Trish went to bed right away after I told her I’d stay up to do the preliminary investigation.

On our walk from the safehouse to the city centre, we had Aaron drag up some info on our target. She’s enrolled in a local college, a 1st-year psychology student, but she’s been absent without notice for a couple of weeks. Not originally a Parisian, she moved here from the country so she’s living in an apartment alone.

I’ve never been above breaking and entering, so I decided to go check it out, see if there’s a reason someone with such an immaculate academic record might so suddenly stop showing up like that, especially without a missing persons report being filed.

I had to use the maps on my borrowed phone to find the place, all these streets look the same, pretty as Trish might find them. I hate using the safehouse phones, whoever set these things up always has the apps in the wrong place. Why wouldn’t maps be on the first page? That’s where it should be.

At any rate, I’m here now. A pretty unassuming place, accessed through a door left of a cafe and right of a competitor. I sit down outside at one of them and order a coffee, waiting for someone to come by and open the door to the apartment block, I won’t have any time to investigate if I start the breaking now.

About half an hour later someone enters the apartment block, lucky for me because the cafe is cleaning up for close. I throw a €10 note at the table and slip in behind the resident.

I wait at the entrance until I hear them enter their apartment and then head up to the second floor. Apartment 9 should be the one I’m looking for. I go to pull my lockpicking kit out of my jacket pocket but then I hear something odd. The sound of music coming from apartment 9.

I text Aaron to get some confirmation from Paul that Mallory is still where we thought and hadn’t come back to Paris today. A couple minutes later and I get the confirmation that she has not.

How to deal with this…… These kinds of situations are where Trish’s less violent mind comes in handy but she’s not here right now. I don’t really want to wake her to get advice over something so trivial. I knock on the door loudly and wait for whoever is inside to answer. It’s not like it’ll hurt me to try.

A couple of seconds later I hear the sound of a latch unlocking and the door opens. In front of me is a tall man of average build. He has a goatee and a cigarette but no shirt. He looks up and down at me with disgust.

“Qui diable êtes-vous.”

“I don’t do French.”




He knows enough English to introduce himself it seems. I walk straight past him into the apartment.


He pulls me back around by the shoulder to face him.

I hook my left leg around him to kick the door closed. He responds by punching me across the face and then collapsing in a heap. He went big, knockout punch off the jump.

The one-room apartment is full of cigarette smoke, half of it emanating from the one that’s still miraculously in his off-hand, the other half from the smouldering ends in the ashtray on the coffee table in the middle of the room. The entire place is a mess, a bit like my place with its decor of plastic and aluminium, all it’s missing is the blood.

The first thing I do is restrain the man. He wasn’t very nice, so I drag him into the bathroom and tie his arms around the toilet lid using his laces. I flush his cigarette for good measure, I hate the smell. He won’t get out of his restraints without making some serious noise.

Next, I go searching for some clues while I wait for him to wake up. There’s nothing but garbage in the living room, in the bedroom though, I find what I want. A woman’s bag, upside down in the corner. I pick it up, it feels full. I rummage through it and find a purse and a phone. I plug the phone into a charger at the wall, Aaron said that it was going straight to voicemail when he tried to call earlier.

The purse is bereft of any cash or debit cards but with all the IDs still in place. I’d place my money on Frenchie having something to do with Mallory’s absence, not that I didn’t before but now I’m certain, everything on red.

There’s not much else inside the bag apart from a small makeup set, some sunglasses and a power bank. Girl travels light, much neater than Trish.

As if I needed further confirmation about the nature of her absence, I find an empty suitcase on top of her wardrobe, I’d be surprised if she owned more than one.

After about a minute the phone buzzes against the dresser to say that it’s got enough power to be used. I call the number that Aaron sent me and sure enough, the phone on the locker starts ringing. I leave it where it is and go to check on my captive.

I find him in a bit of a baffling position, he’s managed to get his cigarettes out of his pocket and is removing a single one from the packet with his toes with what can only be described as real dexterity. He hasn’t even attempted to escape it seems. He notices me when he finally gets one out.


He nods at me.

“Excuse me?”


He puts the cigarette in his mouth deftly. I don’t respond.

“Bitch! Lighter!”

I go out to the living room, grab the lighter on the coffee table and present it to him.

“This what you want?”

“Yes! Lighter!”

He sways the cigarette in his mouth at me. I ignite the lighter, wave it in front of him mockingly and then kick him across the face with my right foot. He slumps to his side as he drops unconscious. I kick him again with the left.

I didn’t want to wake Trish but I’m not going to be able to get anything out of him myself, she’s going to have to get him to someone who can translate.

“Trish, get up.”

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, why?”

She’s still half asleep, a problem when she’s hard enough to convince awake.

“I need you to do something for me.”

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, no.”

She hangs up.

I ring her again.


“I know about the box under your bed, and I’ll tell Aaron about it if you don’t get up right fucking now!”


She’s processing that.


“Get to the address I’m about to send you within the hour or I’m texting him about it.”

She starts to go absolutely ballistic, but I hang up instantly. When she calms down, she’ll rush over here.


“Fifty-eight minutes, thirty-three seconds.”

“You didn’t tell him about the box, right?”

“No, he’s the last person I’d give the satisfaction of knowing.”

“OK, good. When did you go snooping around my room?!?!”

“I didn’t.”

“Then how did you know about the-”

She peaks her head around the corner and sees the conscious again suspect.

“-the, uh, ‘contents’ of the box?”

She doesn’t want to say it in front of a stranger, she’s guarded at the strangest times.

“You use my prime account remember? You’re a fucking leech.”

Her face goes bright red, she knows now I’ve seen all of her orders, I bet she’s not happy. I’m not happy either, she’s into such a boring shade of pink.


“Speak up.”

“I said what do you want anyway?!”

I jerk my thumb in the direction of the bathroom.

“That guy over there probably has something to do with Mallory, possible even to do with why she isn’t here. I want to ask him some questions but he’s stupid and sexist so he doesn’t speak any English, need you to bring him back to Paul’s for me.”

“Oh, we don’t have to do that, I speak French.”

“You do? Since when?”

“Since forever, my mother was French.”

I turn away from Trish. It’s embarrassing to not know that considering what else I know about the girl.

“I didn’t know that……”

She kneels down beside him and touches his bruising cheeks.

“How did this happen?”

“A face got kicked, nothing I could do about it.”


No harm in letting her think he kicked me.

She smiles at him and starts speaking to him in French.

“Are you OK?”

“Get me a lighter.”


She looks at me expectantly.

“He’s not using mine.”

I kick the one from earlier across the tiles to her. She puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it for him.

“There you go.”

“Yeah, that’s good.”

“So, I was hoping you might answer a couple questions for us.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because if you don’t then I’m not sure I can convince her to let you go.”

She gestures towards me with her head.

“Yeah, she’s some bitch, huh? One of those women that fancies themselves a bit of a man.”

“She can be a bit difficult sure….”

“Not like you huh? More looks, more class, so much more fuckable than that.

Trish punches him in the face before my boot lifts off the ground. That sort of surprised me, she’s not normally one to get annoyed by some vulgar flattery, in fact, I thought she sort of enjoyed it. Guess she just didn’t like it up so close.

“Answer our questions or I’ll let her kill you.”

“Ok fine, fine. So scary. What do you want to know?”

“Well first off.”

She sprinted so confidently into the first question that she neglected to make sure she even knew what it was.

“Uh, Kai?”

She turns her head away from me.


“What was em….. What exactly did you want to ask this guy?”

“We wanna know what his relationship with Mallory was.”

Her body language perks up when I don’t criticize her and she nods, still turned away from me. She faces the guy to relay the question.

“What do you know about Mallory Peyrin? Actually, what’s your name?”

She must’ve realized after saying another name that she didn’t know his, she’s too interested in people’s names.


He gives it some extra accent, really accentuates what a prick he is.

“That’s a really nice name!”

Even though I can’t understand French, I can tell she’s getting distracted.

“Trish, stay on topic, ask him about Mallory.”

“Right, yeah, yeah…….”

She takes out her phone and scrolls to a photo of Mallory she’d saved to her camera roll.

“This girl, Mallory, do you know her?”


“But this is her apartment asshole.”

Trish pretends to not have heard me.

“She says that this is Mallory’s apartment though.”

“She also said I was an asshole.”

“Yeah well, she was right twice then, what are you to Mallory?”

“An investor of sorts, if you hear otherwise from her, she’s deluded.”

Trish’s face sours, I know exactly why it did. One of the reasons our contacts were able to drum up as to why her disappearance hadn’t been reported is that most of her friends thought she was probably on a fling with her new boyfriend, not that any one of them could recall him having a name.

“What did he say?”

“Said they weren’t together anyway, what else should we try?”

“Ask him about where she is now.”

She turns back towards Kylian.

“Do you know where she is now?”


I’m losing my patience now.

“Are we going to do this for every question?”

I search up the address she’s currently at and show him a picture of the chateau.

“Ask him if he recognizes it, it’s clear that he does.”

“Have you been here before?”

The man looks confused.

“You weren’t hired by Hugo?”

“We don’t even know who Hugo is, we’re just looking for Mallory.”

“Then stop, she’s not of a grade worth troubling yourself for, especially if it’d mean crossing the Milieu.

Trish’s face grows worried at the mention of the Milieu.

“What did he say?”

“He said that if we continued looking for Mallory, we’d be crossing the French mafia.”

“Terribly scary stuff I suppose, ask him what that chateau is used for then, tell him I’ll cut his dick off if he keeps stalling.”

“She says that she’ll cut your penis off if you don’t hurry up with your answers.”

I root through the toilet cabinet for a nail scissors to add a visual to proceedings. This makes his eyes widen finally, he starts shaking his head furiously.

“I’ll answer fast!”

“Then what is this chateau used for, we know Mallory is there.”

“How do you know that?”

Trish signals behind her back with her right hand that he hasn’t given a satisfactory answer, so I grab his right trouser leg and tear up the inseam towards his crotch with the nail scissors in one quick motion.

“Wait! It’s a holding house for the girls they pick up, clients come to see them and buy them if they like what they see.”

“And how did Mallory end up in a place like that?”

“By asking questions too timid and infrequent. I’m surprised she’s still there, quiet girl like her would make a great servant.”

Trish stands up from her crouched position, making sure to step on this guy’s shin as she does so. His pained yell seems to ease her anger somewhat.

“What do we do? If she’s trapped somewhere like that, we’ve gotta get her out.”

Of course, Trish is concerned with this girl’s wellbeing first and foremost.

“Yeah, she’s not going to be easy to observe if we don’t do something.”

“Is that what we should be concerned about?”


She widens her eyes with a tinge of annoyance.

“There’s plenty of people we don’t save every day Trish, come on we’re not gonna solve anything by wasting our time here.”

I gesture towards the door. Trish decides that it’s not worth arguing over, that I’m technically right.

On her way out though she grabs my wrist to drag me along, she knows to stay close to my body so that I don’t try and hurt this guy on the way out. She chooses the strangest moments to not ignore her moral compass.

“Au revoir.”

She blows Kylian a kiss as she slams the bathroom door in his face.