Jean Durand looked like a lot of other successful French businessmen as he walked his way down a busy Parisian street in the business district. He walked briskly, but not seemingly in a rush. Yet you could tell he had somewhere to be. In that regard he was also no different than the other men and women around him. But as he passed busy restaurants, shops and office buildings it was clear that he had a lot on his mind. And unlike others on the street that day, he ducked down a secluded alley where most people in five thousand dollar suits wouldn’t be caught dead. But he wasn’t concerned. He had made this trip several times over the last twenty or so years. Maybe not this exact spot, but the group had meeting locations all over the city, usually in places where people tend to mind their own business.
When he made it about halfway down the alley, he took a left and entered a side door that would be almost impossible to spot from the street. He entered and made his way to one last door, which opened to a small room, decorated with just a table, one chair and a desktop intercom system.
Standing at the door as always was a man dressed all in black, including a thin black veil. Durand didn’t know exactly how many of these men his boss employed, but he knew if he saw one that he would be hearing from him soon. Their job also apparently included setting up and dismantling the communications for these secretive meetings. But their real job, he knew, was as his boss’ enforcers. Stories of their ruthlessness spread constantly in the groups’ circle. He glanced at the man’s spider web tattoo on his left hand, another thing that all of them had in common. No matter where he was instructed to go, the setup was always the same. He sat and waited as always.
Just then, the intercom crackled with a familiar voice, “Good morning, Mr. Durand. It’s been a while.”
“Good morning, sir. Yes, it has been too long. May I assume it is time?”
“Very soon. I have the final list ready. The young lady that you are to mentor is an exceptional one.”
“I’m sure she must be, to make the final cut. Has a date been set?”
“Yes. We are to meet at our American location two weeks from today. I’ll let each of you arrange your own transportation there. Details will arrive to you in the usual fashion.”
The intercom was silent for a few seconds before the speaker continued, “So, Jean, are you prepared to hand over the reins to a new generation?”
Jean smiled and thought before replying. “Yes, believe it or not I am. You know better than I do the stress that comes with this job. But it will be bittersweet, I have to admit. Belonging to something like this is an incredible honor.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I agree. Don’t forget, I am to choose my successor as well.”
Jean hadn’t forgot. He has been taking directions from this voice, known to the group only as The Conductor, for more than twenty years. Yet he’d only met him once when he first took over from his own mentor. He was very polite, but always definite in his instructions. Jean had never met anyone so meticulous as this mysterious man. He seemed born for this role. He couldn’t imagine anyone being able to replace him.
“He may hold your title, sir, but you are irreplaceable.”
“I appreciate you saying that. I’ve been doing this job for too long though. All good things have to come to an end sometime.”
With that, the intercom shut off and Jean knew the meeting was over. The man in black glared at him until he got up to leave.
Now all he had to do was wait for further details about the meeting in America.