Joe Harris was no stranger to Paris. He backpacked through Europe in his early twenties and also made a stop in the City of Love. Later, he took his wife here to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.
“Do you still drink your coffee black as the night?” a man with an American accent asked Harris, who was sitting at a kitchen table next to a little radio.
“Sure do, Frank. Why are you listening to the police radio traffic?” Harris said, looking over his shoulder at Frank.
“I enjoy it. Some people watch sports, I listen to the police,” Frank responded and added, “The last time I saw you was when they shipped us out of Saigon. When was that again?”
“’Seventy-three,” Harris said, wrapping his hand around the large, white mug which Frank placed next to the radio. His massive hand made the mug look like an espresso cup.
“Who exactly are these guys you’re chasing?” Frank said.
“I don’t even know myself anymore. At the beginning, I thought one of them just cheated at gambling, but now it seems that he and his partner are Satan worshipers and murderers. All I know is that they are staying at a hotel here in the city, but I don’t understand what they want here. It seems to me that…”
The crackling of a female voice on the radio interrupted their conversation.
Trois suspects. Tous les trois avec l’accent américain. Deux hommes et une femme.
“What is she saying?” Harris said, looking over to Frank.
“Apparently there was an attempted murder at the catacombs. The suspects are a woman and two men and they all have American accents,” Frank said.
“Good God, that must be them. Are the catacombs far from here?” Harris said, jumping out of his seat.
“Just a few blocks from here. I’ll take you.”
* * *
The small silver Peugeot stopped with squeaking tires at the front of the catacombs. Harris jumped out of the car. He could see the sales clerk standing outside looking out for the police to arrive. His throat was marked with deep red stripes. He was repeatedly coughing and rubbing his throat.
“Where you the one who called the police?” Harris said with raised voice, rushing toward the sales clerk.
“Oui,” he responded, still coughing heavily.
“What happened?” Harris voice was rapid.
“A man tried to strangle me. I passed out.”
“A man? What about the woman?”
“You reported that two men and a woman tried to kill you.”
“That was another man and woman. The man that attacked me asked about the man and the woman.”
“What did the man look like?”
“The one that attacked you?”
“He was tall, had short blond hair, and his face, his face was covered in deep scars. He looked like he came straight from Hell.” His voice broke.
“Interesting,” Harris said and pointed at the security camera above the entrance.
“Can I see the tapes?”
“Who are you? Are you with the police?” the clerk said, looking dazed.
“Yes, I am.”
“But you’re not French.”
“I’m on an officer exchange program. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands. My French colleagues will be here any minute now. Please, can I have the tapes?” Harris urged him.
“Good old Joe, at heart he’s always been a con-man,” Frank mumbled, overhearing their talk from the car.
“You’re not police,” the clerk said.
“Listen, here’s my badge,” Harris pulled a police badge out of his jacket pocket. After he retired from the police he pulled in some favors and was able to keep his badge. “Trust me”
“Ah well, I went through Hell already to Hell, peu importe”,” the clerk said, walking into a little house next to the entrance.
“Here you are. Can I file the report with you?”
“No, as I said my colleagues are on their way and will do that. I have to go inside the catacombs now. Thanks for the tapes.”