translated into English by Stéphanie Benson
I picked up the phone as it rang for the fifth time. Doc’s
thick voice said:
"Were you sleeping?"
"No, didn’t want to answer."
"I don’t understand you, recently"
"Nostalgia. Got a problem?"
"Yes, but not on the phone."
"Six o’clock at Pouchla’s, rue Mandar."
The sun was shining over Paris, out of place in the sharp
March cold. I looked out onto the street. Two market sellers employed by fruit
and veg stores were calling out to potential customers, sharing obtuse jokes
that had their colleagues bent double laughing. To keep busy until the meeting
time, I dismounted and then remounted the Diamondback. Blind test. Thirty-eight
seconds. I was beginning to get rusty. I did it again; I’m a stubborn bastard.
Thirty-six seconds. Reassured, I put the weapon back in the cupboard behind the
Rue Mandar, six o’clock. Doc was having trouble with a
German newspaper. His black skin pulled together by scars ran tight over his
angular cheekbones. He was wearing a Chicago Bulls cap. He didn’t look up as I
"Those fucking Irish have decided to stop the war. Can
you believe that, Edward?"
"I don’t work in civil war countries. Too complicated."
"Take this beer. Corona wassname, but you have to go and
get it at the bar. It’s the middle ages, here."
"I like doing things myself."
"I know, I know."
Then he turned back to his paper while a smiling bearded guy
put an old Marley on the jukebox behind the bar.
As I came back with my beer, Doc sank back in his chair, eyes
"I’m listening", I said.
"It’s an important contract."
"Thirty thousand dollars. But you’re not going to like
"For a lot of reasons too complicated to go into and
anyway, you don’t give a shit, we can’t do a direct hit on the target. You
have to take out his little girl."
"No, coming out of school. She’s on her own when she
crosses the square in front of the Beaubourg Modern Art museum on her way back
to her parents’ place, rue Quincampoix. You’ll have to shoot through your
pocket with a silencer."
"And the three hundred idiots around start clapping when
she geysers blood all over the place?"
"That’s the idea. The place is full of people; panic
will be your best ally. You shoot and go on your way."
Fucker, I didn’t like it. Kids are unpredictable and crowds
hysterical. The two together were worth a premium.
"Can’t answer that right away. I have to make a phone
call... You know, I thought you’d refuse on account of the kid."
"I’m getting her out of sixty years of hell in a
country ran by corruption, racism and bad soaps."
"Yeah. Wait for five minutes, I’m going to phone from
The beer was good. A thickhead put Johnny Cash on the jukebox.
With forty thousand dollars, I could have the roof of the house I was born in,
in Entraigues, redone. I went out there regularly and had often sworn I would
never again work in the job of programmed death. Then after a week, I’d come
In fact, the countryside bored me.
Doc returned, smiling a half-baked smile.
"You’re killing us, Edward."
"Okay, it’s accepted. I’ll send you over ten
thousand greenbacks tomorrow so you can start thinking."
"Yeah, sure. It’s a bit out of focus. The kid’s
prettier than that. Shame."
"You prefer we shoot the ugly mugs on priority?"
"Yeah, the shitfaces first. That’s my idea."
I got up hunching. Stupid fucking Negro. Then I went back to
my flat, which lies just at the point where rue Montorgueil becomes rue des
Petits Carreaux. I put the girl’s photo on the coffee table. Her face, three
quarters turned towards the camera, evoked a somewhat blurry memory.
It was strange, but I knew from the first that this contract
wouldn’t be so easy. I turned the photo over. On the back, someone had written
the kid’s name with a felt pen: Marie Dumas. I searched my memory, but the
name didn’t mean anything to me.
Easy Rider was showing on Canal Jimmy and I fell asleep
in front of the television, which whispered static all night without managing to
At four o’clock the following afternoon, I was sitting on
the terrace of the Café Beaubourg and lighting up a fag-sized Davidoff to have
something to relate to. At four thirty-five precisely, Marie Dumas rushed past
like an arrow; the middle one of three excited and noisy young girls.
It wasn’t going to be a piece of cake to stick a slug
between her eyes.
I walked slowly home, taking my time in rue Quincampoix to
see if the Dumas family building had surveillance in the lobby. Unfortunately,
the intercom was on all day. Security specialists don’t make my job any easier.
Slowly back through rue aux Ours and an ongoing orgasm in
front of two Black prostitutes in red plastic boots and bare thighs surmounted
by gaping strings.
At eight o’clock, I got through to Doc on his cell phone.
"I saw her."
"Complicated. Dangerous, too. I don’t like it,
"You’ve got two days. There’s a big thing coming up,
we are asked not to drag feet. I got twelve numbers on the Lottery, and you?"
"Didn’t play. This contract’s bothering me."
"Finish it quickly. You think too much."
"Yeah... Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow."
Then I hung up. Three aspirins were waiting for me in the
kitchen. I massaged my temples for five minutes and started checking the
shortest of my .38s.
I was going to fuck up another suit. On FR3 TV, a medical
serial was showing; a hospital filmed three times slower than in E.R. I fell
asleep for the second time in the sitting room armchair, like a baby full up to
the brim with cereals.
The pale light of dawn worked through dirty drizzle. Truck
drivers were blocking Brittany roads and the latest Tricky was disappointing. I
spent the day wandering round the flat, mounted and dismounted the silencer
twenty-three times, then put Little Odessa on the video recorder to pass
time until four.
It stopped raining at ten past the hour. I slipped back into
a porch on rue Quincampoix, watching the first children come out of Saint-Merri
school and cross the square blocked off at one end by the Tinguely/Saint-Phalle
fountain. If the kid came running, I’d drop it. We’re not animals.
But she didn’t. She walked alone, nice and serious in her
beige satin dress. I pulled away from the porch and we moved slowly towards each
other. Her face crumbled as I looked at her and recomposed more precisely than
Doc’s approximate photo. She looked up at a street performer juggling in the
square. My heart thumped in my chest, squeezed by twenty-five years of
She was the portrait of my mother who’d died five years
earlier. Slim lips, blond curls, and that deliberate little chin. Right up to
the thoughtful, veiled expression. I stopped; my emotions were in a storm. Then
she saw me standing there like a dummy in my Torrente styled suit. In my pocket,
the Smith’s steel was burning my fingers. I turned away, panicked, searching
"You look like my brother."
I looked down at her. Mummy, I love you.
"He died in an airplane."
"You look like my mother."
"What have you got in your pocket?"
I couldn’t do it. Even the worst Freudian shrink would
understand. You don’t shoot your mother on Beaubourg Square in front of a Man
Ray exhibition. A sudden fury took hold of me. I began to hate the whole world
and with a rapid gesture brought out the Smith and Wesson.
"Is that real?"
"Don’t look at me like that. Shit, yes, this is
"You wouldn’t dare kill anyone."
She was wrong, of course. I was about to kill the first
bastard I came across, or rather an innocent person, anybody, just to put an end
to this shitty contract. An old fashioned tearjerker was playing between the
girl and my dark Ray Ban sunglasses. Mummy and me, an eight-millimetre great
love story shakily filmed under the Saint-Brevin sun in our Entraigues garden.
An old smooch song by Charles Trenet, Sundays stayed at home, her illness, death
in a lonely room. Oh, God, I could not kill this kid.
I turned to an arsehole with a slimy laugh and greasy hair.
My hand caught his jacket collar and I sent two professional bullets into his
right eye, accompanying his fall with my knee. Pure hate.
Marie watched me, serious and resolute. I had my back turned
to the onlookers who wandered up, full of compassionate concern.
As I strode off towards the rue du Renard, I heard the kid’s
voice behind me:
"Please... Wait for me."
She caught my hand. I mustn’t look at her. Mummy was dead
in the swamplands.
"Go back to your parents, kid."
"They’re never there. Take me with you."
"Good heavens, what are you talking about? You don’t
even know me."
A parked taxi seemed to beckon its opened doors at me. The
car’s radio was bellowing out Willy DeVille’s live version of Cadillac
Walk from the 1993 Olympia concert.
Good morning America.
Let’s finish with old Europe.
Wipe Televised Death off the screen.
I leaned towards Marie, looking away.
"You want to go to America?"
I nodded. Mummy, forgive me, I am this traitor.
She smiled lightly and the Jamaican taxi driver handed me a
I had a hundred thousand dollars stashed snugly away in a New
Orleans bank, but I got the driver to detour in order to get my Diamondback. I
don’t like waste.