Part Two - Eternal Love
“Closing my eyes, I see an old woman holding hands with a little girl. The old woman stops in front of one of the white stones in the middle of a great lawn. This is their stone – she says. The little girl caresses the old woman’s face, unable to understand why grandma is weeping. But now she remembers the old woman’s hands, and the bas-relief she was lovingly touching. The bearded man and the beautiful woman.”
Sarah’s eyes are wet when I complete the story. She has entered romantic mode. She is a girl of several selves. And I love every one of them.
“That is a marvelous story Varela dear, I didn’t know you were a fairy-tale storyteller.” She sniffs, caressing my face.
I am slightly annoyed by the implication. That the story was not true.
The lovely waitress – whose badge-name is Sophie - is drying her eyes with a lace handkerchief, a dreamy smile on her pretty face. Eternal love! She seems to be waiting for the sequel, so we order another Sauvignon, and she gets behind the bar counter, lovingly nursing a slender bottle as only a French sommelier can do. I continue:
“My grandma used to tell me the story of great-grandaunt Irina over and over again. I loved it so much you see. But the narration was the same, over and over again. Exactly the same. I believe it is mostly true. And I have... you see... independent verifications.”
She shrugs slightly, switching slowly toward businesswoman mode:
“Sure. I know. Prince Orlov.”
I jump at the mention. The dangerous oligarch. The alpha man with the pale blue eyes, as cold as the Neva flowing in front of the Winter Palace. The man who ordered my abduction. Piercing eyes. Vengeful eyes.
"Prince Orlov. Yes.” I answer, trying to convey a doubtful meaning on the word ‘Prince’. He is not a true Prince. He is not of royal blood. I am.
I am wondering how much I should trust Sarah. Someone has infiltrated the Agency, and as a result, I had almost been sold – well, leased – to Prince Orlov as a sex slave. And for sure, he is still considering me for that role. At this moment he is probably organizing his notable financial resources and calling up important friends – some of them rather sinister - in order to do so.
But I need to build a list of trusted people, fast. And I want to believe Sarah is not involved with the bad guys. I want to believe that. But I wonder how much she knows. As usual, she solves my dilemma. Suddenly, she kisses me. Her lips are soft and her tongue tastes even better than the Sauvignon. As the sweet kiss slowly breaks off she looks into my eyes, winks, and says:
“I had always dreamed to know how it feels to kiss a true Princess... it tastes good.”
Holding my marvelous new friend’s hand I look lazily out toward the square through the art-nouveau iron-framed glass doors. It is a sight of quiet French beauty. A small vegetable market is in full swing, classy women are strolling hand in hand as elegant men are cycling home, long baguettes under their armpits. A lone cop – a gendarme – is idly standing under the Town Hall, in the shade, just across the cozy square, reading Le Figaro.
The French love so much their famed cuisine that even their gendarmes′ caps are shaped like casseroles – I consider as I scan the square.
An alarm bell starts ringing softly in my mind. Cops always work in pairs. Where is his companion? But here he is, just behind the corner, smoking a Juul electronic cigarette. America reaching the French historical countryside at last. Nothing alarming.
Maybe I am just being paranoid. But there are only two classes of undercover agents: paranoid agents and dead agents. And I prefer to belong to the first variety.
I try to relax and ignore the small alarm bell still ringing when Sarah becomes tense. She is looking at gendarme number two. A blond, athletic man with pale-blue eyes. The two cops are too distanced to give each other immediate support – the main reason why they always work in pairs. But they are effectively guarding both entrances to the bistrot, effectively trapping us inside. The bad guys are already on us!
Gendarme number one – or should I say bad guy number one - reaches for his holster and moves across the square toward the bistrot. Toward us. They have realized we noticed them at last. Bad guy number two turns off his e-cigarette and starts striding toward us in a cloud of steam. What now? I have been trapped like an amateur. But this is what I am after all. An amateur special agent. Now in line for whatever the real professionals have in store for me. For us.
At that moment Sophie the waitress arrives, bringing two flutes of Sauvignon on a tray. A smiling colleague follows her, tag-name Élise, a delightful brunette dressed - like Sophie - in a demure floral dress, wide full skirt, white stockings, black sandals.
The waitress sets the flutes on the table, accompanied by the bill printed on a large sheet of paper. A very European document, full of details, very official, since the European are very serious when it comes to tax their small businesses as they allow our American blockbusters to make business in Europe, almost tax-free. But the large sheet of paper gets useful this time. A large script written in red lipstick reads ”Aux Toilettes! Vite!" “To the Toilet. Quickly.”
Meanwhile, the brunette waitress, who has quickly reached the door, switches the ouvert-fermé chain sign to fermé and starts cleaning the glass windows. Sarah reaches for the second entrance and does the same. The fake gendarmes, still a dozen feet away, stop on their steps, puzzled, uncertain. They don’t want to blow their disguise too early, so they probably decide to wait for the maintenance to be completed. At this moment, their views to us is blocked for an instant by the girls, and we catch our opportunity to bolt, reaching the nearby toilet door in a split second. Sarah is incredibly fit after her memorable training at the Pussycat Gym, and gets there before me.
The fake gendarmes should have had the impression that we have vanished into thin air.
Just inside the toilet, I get unexpectedly dazzled by a strong light. Someone has planned this in advance. A muscular arm circles my waist, a big hand gags my mouth, and an educated deep male voice gently suggests:
“Be quiet Madame, s’il vous plaît »
His English is quite good, with just a slight French, fashionable accent – and strangely familiar. Where have I heard this voice? But I have no time to guess because another big guy steps in front of me, and efficiently begins undressing me. Jacket. Blouse. Bra. As I am topless he gently brushes my nipples, then his companion quickly handcuffs my wrists behind my back. I see Sarah being subjected to the same treatment – and I have the time to marvel again at how fit her body looks: she must be almost forty, but can easily pass for thirty, and her muscles would be the pride of a twenty-year-old girl. Skirt. Panties. Stockings. The man is skilled in female clothing and quickly completes his task. As we are naked they gently force us to sit on a leather bench, where we are fitted with identical black stockings and red, classy high heels. An uniform of sort.
Finally, we are made to stand, and a long red cape is draped around our shoulders. Again! The men push us urgently forward because a slight commotion is heard from the bistrot. The red cape opens at every step as we are gently directed toward the rear door. It is clasped only at the neck and with our hands behind our back, we are unable to keep the garment close, so our erect nipples lead the way as we sashay on red pumps towards the dark cellar.
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