Chapter Four: Monsieur Claudette

Chapter Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Jean Rene Claudette stood on the street corner, waiting, watching. It was a cool Parisian evening. The wind swept through the calm street like a lazy river of sweet scented air. Jean stood with his back to a wall on the alley side of a cafe. The murmur of the crowd nearby sounded like a low hum to the tall thin man who stood only a few feet from a nearby streetlamp.

     Jean meant to stay hidden. His mark would be along soon and he had to be ready. He had to remain vigilant. One wrong move, one miscalculation, one tiny mistake, and the whole job would be ruined. He couldn’t afford that. He couldn’t afford to mess this up. Not this job. Not when so much relied on him pulling it off properly.

     From the left, far down the long lane, Jean heard someone coming. It was his mark. From where he stood in the shadows he could see the portly rich man moving in his direction. Just a minute longer and he would step in. So long as everything went to according to plan, Jean would make his move. The man, a Monsieur Michel Leroy Durand, was a successful businessman who traded in mercantile goods along the French and German border. He was not tall, but what he lacked in height he made up for in width. He was balding and sported a thick mustache above his lip.   

     Suddenly, a dark figure stepped into the street behind the portly man. Jean wasn’t ready. He stepped out of the alley toward Monsieur Durand. The fat man stopped in his tracks, noticing the thin, leather-clad man, in front of him.

     “Your fight is with me,” Jean said in a serious voice. “Leave Monsieur Durand alone.”

     The dark figure moved toward Jean, pushing past the fat man, shoving him with a strong open hand.

     “What is the meaning of this?” Durand demanded. “Monsieur Claudette. Is that you? What is going on?”

     Jean reached behind his back and pulled a large khukuri knife, brandishing it in front of him, letting the moonlight reflected off its silver blade. “It is I, Monsieur Durand.” He said. “This is the monster that has been plaguing you.”

     The dark figure hissed angrily, pulling back a hood which had cloaked its face. It turned back toward Monsieur Durand and grimaced. Monsieur Durand took an involuntary step back, shocked at the sight before him. The dark figure’s face was contorted and ill-shapen. For teeth, it had long sharp fangs. It was not human.

     “This,” Jean said stepping toward the figure. “Is a vampire. And it has been stalking you. It wants the blood of your daughter, Marie.”

     The figure turned back toward Jean and without warning leaped at him. With lightning fast reflexes, Jean dove out of the way and rolled on the hard pavement, rising back up to his feet with grace. The monster turned, searching for its prey. Jean dashed forward and jumped onto the vampire’s back. It turned and thrashed violently. It let out a loud cry, which drew the attention of the cafe patrons. A small gathering of people began to surround the scene as Jean fought with the monster.

     Monsieur Durand could not believe his eyes. He watched in horror as the thin man he’d hired to protect his family fought with a demon of hell.

     The monster grabbed Jean by the leather vest which he wore and threw him over its head. Jean flew through the air and landed hard on his back. Slowly he rolled over and grinned at the devil.

     “Your secret is out monster. The people of this city know your face. There is nowhere for you to go, but Hell.” With that, the charmingly handsome rogue jumped to his feet and pulled from his belt a vial of water.

     “Do you know what this is, you fiend? This is holy water from Notre Dam itself. Tonight you die!” He tossed the vial at the vampire. The glass broke as it impacted with the beast. In a flash of smoke and fire, the creature cried out in pain.

     When the smoke had cleared all that remained of the monster was a pile of ash. Jean dusted himself off and made his way back to Monsieur Durand.

     “Monsieur,” He said. “Are you alright?”

     The fat man shook with fear but took a moment to compose himself. Still staring wide-eyed at the pile of ashes on the ground he replied, “How did you know?” He asked. “How did you know it was a vampire?”

     Jean smiled. “Monsieur, you told me you had thought someone was following you. You asked me to track them and discover their intentions. I remained outside your house the very night you hired me. As the sun set and moon shone high in the sky, I witnessed the very monster creeping to your daughter’s window. I was able to scare it off that first night. The following day I made arrangements to have garlic placed outside her window. That following night the creature returned but was held at bay by the small herb. I knew then what I had already suspected. The creature was a vampire.”

     “But why had it followed me? What did it have to gain by attacking me?” Durand asked.

     “Not attack,” Jean replied. “Enthrall. The creature wanted to make you his willing slave. Therefore gaining access to your daughter. I knew that if I followed you, the vampire would eventually make itself known. That is exactly what happened.”

     “You have saved, Monsieur,” Durand said. “How can I repay you?”

     Jean paused a moment as if to think. “I will admit, had I known I would be facing a vampire in the beginning, I would have asked for double my usual fee, but considering that I did not, I cannot presume to ask for more.”

     Monsieur Durand shook his violently. “No, Monsieur. You have saved not just my life, but my daughter’s as well! I will pay you triple your fee. I am forever grateful to you!”

     Jean smiled but took a half step back. “I cannot accept. That is too much.”

     “I insist Monsieur, please. I have the money here, with me. I was to take it to the bank in the morning. But you, you sir have saved my soul and my daughter’s soul from eternal damnation. It is the least I can do.”

     The man, dressed in the finest attire money could buy, pulled from his jacket a large wallet filled with bank notes.

     “This is,” The man said, “five thousand francs. I am certain, a man as good as you will know best what to do with such money.”

     Slowly, almost hesitantly, Jean reached out and took the money. “You are too kind sir.” He said. Then, without another word, he turned, faced the crowd that had gathered, and left, moving through the people, all of whom watched with awe and fascination. With a swift motion, Jean tucked the money into his coat pocket.

     For three blocks Jean walked, never stopping, never turning to look behind him. At the end of the final street, he glanced back once, to ensure he wasn’t followed. When he was certain the coast was clear, he dipped down a side street and behind a three-story building built from brick.

     There he faced a figure standing in the shadows. It was the dark figure, the vampire. They loomed in the darkness like a spirit. Their hood covered their face, but in the dim lit of the moon, a thin smile could be seen.

     “We meet again,” Jean said.

     “So we do.” Said the figure.

     “Did anyone see you flee?”

     The figure stepped into the light, pulled off the hood, and began removing the makeup which covered their face and removing the set of canine fangs they’d made from dog’s teeth. “Not a chance, that smoke bomb went off perfectly, it obscured everyone view as I escaped. Did you get the money?”

     Jean held up the stack of banknotes he’d been given. “Monsieur Durand was kind enough to double the fee, just as I had expected. Here is your cut,” he said. “Thank you for your help, my friend. I could not have done it without your perfect performance. I would have hoped you’d waited another moment before stepping out into the street behind Durand, but in the end, it worked to our advantage.”

     The man, now clean of any vampire makeup, nodded and bowed. “Jacque Olivier the Third always delivers, my friend.”

     “Now,” Jean said looking back toward the street cautiously. “Before anyone sees us, let us part ways for a while. In time, we can do this again.”

     Jean shook hands with the other man and headed back toward the street.

     “Oh, before you go,” Jacque said. “I was given this letter for you.”

     Jean returned and took the envelope. It was addressed, in fine English penmanship, to him. The seal on the envelope revealing nothing but a simple, pentagonal, shape.