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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Qui diable êtes-vous.”Bookmark here

“I don’t do French.”Bookmark here

“Bitch.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“Bitch!”Bookmark here

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

“Oi!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Lighter.”Bookmark here

He nods at me.Bookmark here

“Excuse me?”Bookmark here

“Lighter!”Bookmark here

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

“Bitch! Lighter!”Bookmark here

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

“This what you want?”Bookmark here

“Yes! Lighter!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“Trish, get up.”Bookmark here

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, why?”Bookmark here

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

“I need you to do something for me.”Bookmark here

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, no.”Bookmark here

She hangs up.Bookmark here

I ring her again.Bookmark here

“Hellooooooo?”Bookmark here

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

“Hmmmmm?”Bookmark here

She’s processing that.Bookmark here

“Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”Bookmark here

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

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

***Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t.”Bookmark here

“Then how did you know about the-”Bookmark here

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

“-the, uh, ‘contents’ of the box?”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

Whadyouwan…….Bookmark here

“Speak up.”Bookmark here

“I said what do you want anyway?!”Bookmark here

I jerk my thumb in the direction of the bathroom.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“You do? Since when?”Bookmark here

“Since forever, my mother was French.”Bookmark here

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

“I didn’t know that……”Bookmark here

She kneels down beside him and touches his bruising cheeks.Bookmark here

“How did this happen?”Bookmark here

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

“Alright…..”Bookmark here

No harm in letting her think he kicked me.Bookmark here

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

“Are you OK?”Bookmark here

“Get me a lighter.”Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

She looks at me expectantly.Bookmark here

“He’s not using mine.”Bookmark here

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

“There you go.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s good.”Bookmark here

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

“Why would I do that?”Bookmark here

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

She gestures towards me with her head.Bookmark here

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

“She can be a bit difficult sure….”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“Well first off.”Bookmark here

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

“Uh, Kai?”Bookmark here

She turns her head away from me.Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

Kylian.”Bookmark here

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

“That’s a really nice name!”Bookmark here

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

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

“Right, yeah, yeah…….”Bookmark here

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

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

“No.”Bookmark here

“But this is her apartment asshole.”Bookmark here

Trish pretends to not have heard me.Bookmark here

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

“She also said I was an asshole.”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“What did he say?”Bookmark here

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

“Ask him about where she is now.”Bookmark here

She turns back towards Kylian.Bookmark here

“Do you know where she is now?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

I’m losing my patience now.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Have you been here before?”Bookmark here

The man looks confused. Bookmark here

“You weren’t hired by Hugo?”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“What did he say?”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“I’ll answer fast!”Bookmark here

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

“How do you know that?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Is that what we should be concerned about?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

She widens her eyes with a tinge of annoyance.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“Au revoir.”Bookmark here

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

You can resume reading from this paragraph.