EXTRACTS FROM PARIS NIGHT
The manuscript for Paris night was completed before the revolutions in North Africa, the French action in Libya, invasion of Mali and military intervention in Central Africa; before revelations about the head of the IMF, DSK, before the affair of Hollande and night-time motor-bike visits to an actress, and before the revolution in, and invasion of, Ukraine (Read more Here on the Russian invasion).
One theme of the novel is the strategic importance for France of having close relations with the United States, a bitterly divisive subject in internal politics. The book was completed, except for editing, a few years before President Hollande's recent state visit (in February 2014), to crown successful attempts by France to win its way back in the confidence of the White House regarding foreign affairs, to repair the damage done by the refusal of Chirac to participate in the second invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. The United States was particularly impressed by the decisive decision by Hollande to intervene in Mali, and the speed and efficiency of that action. This campaign by France to rebuild relations with the United States, a matter of vital strategic interest with regard notably to threats from Iran and from the eastern and southern sides of the Mediterranean, began while Chirac was still in office. The United States is now working with France and other countries on a joint strategy to combat Islamic terrorism across Africa. The threat such terrorism poses to the West, via France, is a central factor of the book.
A constant theme of Paris Night is corruption: Now a new corruption case is in the headlines: allegations concerning aerospace and media magnate Mr Dassault and the buying of votes.
Almost every week brings a new “affaire”, such as lately the allegations by the news magazine “Le Point” about improper accounting by the UMP, the main opposition party which is already in disarray over doubts about how a leadership election was conducted.
Meanwhile other far bigger, far more explosive corruption scandals which have no connection to Mr. Dassault, but concern arms sales, commissions and murder, lie unresolved in the shadows.
The latest affair to hit the French headlines concerns revelations that a close adviser to former President Nicolas Sarkozy secretly tape-recorded highly sensitive meetings held by the president at the Elysee. This eminence grise did so in order to have an insurance policy. This too is strangely similar to the behaviour of a central character in Paris Night.
Paris Night, pure fiction, provided and still provides codes for understanding all these, and other, scripts behind the scenes of how France functions.
Here are a few extracts to give a taste of action, conspiracy, sex and style:
Cast, before the storm
A young woman from a centre spread was riding her man on the dining table.
He watched them idly for a moment, and then turned away along the bridge, to walk down his memories until he reached his bed, sleep.
He felt strangely on edge. His business was advising on risk. And for weeks, he’d sensed danger in the air, rather as a sailor feels a storm.
There would be more hot-blooded nights, he was sure. The actors were out there somewhere, making love or plotting evil, or both.
On the other side of the Seine, the interior minister Martha Maretti was undressing the woman who would satisfy her until dawn. Maretti rolled up four new five-hundred-euro notes, wet them with her lips and worked them up inside her partner. The woman had no choice. When she had smiled warmly at the minister during an arranged election visit to shake hands at the reopening of an art gallery, the minister made her choice. She invited the woman to the cocktails, took her aside and found that only the mildest of threats…drugs, taxes…and promise of payment, won her over with surprising ease.
Maretti began to work the notes. No-one knew she was here. Her telephone was at home where her husband was supposed to be.
The minister could take no calls. She was otherwise engaged.
As the Lizard worked his way into Kir for the third time that night above the black waters of Nice, and as Titus Mallory walked by the black waters of the Seine, a doorbell rang at a villa on the outskirts of Rabat.
The colonel nodded. “So we became anxious that something is about to happen. We couldn’t wait! So we used medical means. A short cut. Always risky. The psychiatrists can access part of the brain. But can also confuse or destroy it. Literally cut the wires, so to speak.”
The colonel paused, stood up and went over to a large aquarium and began to feed the fish, clicking strange sounds. “Very relaxing! Some are colourful. Others blend totally with any background. Always in movement. Always silent!”
For want of something to say, Mezrat offered: “Like our clients, colonel!” He wondered what other black arts this man exercised, besides night warfare, manipulation of the mind, and communicating with fish.
The colonel returned to business. “It is most regrettable, but our experts…we have the best…trained by your colleagues I may say…in trying to force this, let us say live memory, out of him, have damaged the brain. He’s been programmed to shut down. So the little he does say is at the centre of his sub consciousness…his vital mission.”
“A suicide bomber?” Mezrat said, half turned in his chair.
Scars of Liberation
“Of course! Which is why I have taken certain precautions in talking to you here, Colonel de Mezrat. As you know from your recent work in my country, there are many factions: factions for reform, against reform; for the king, against the king; for a modern state, for the Islamists, and so on. And France, in all that, Colonel de Mezrat? You know, ever since my studies in France, I come here whenever I can. To breathe. Fortunately, with my functions I can come frequently.”
He pointed with the envelope towards the quay beneath where girls in low-cut tee shirts and short skirts were licking ice creams under a wall lamp.
“To breathe and see the girls. Of course, today in Morocco, there are many girls dressed like this. But for how long? My region is unstable, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali…Where will France stand if North Africa is swept by the fundamentalists? Do you think we can count on France…to take us in at least?”
So that was it! Mezrat bit his tongue with irritation at having been so blind to the obvious. “Are you not unduly pessimistic, colonel?”
“You’re a big girl; but be careful.”
She had crossed her arms now, so that they covered and compressed her cleavage; fingers curled around her collar bones.
“Are you frightened, Leila?”
Her back straightened. Her hands fell to her knees.
“Look, I tell you,” she said. “Confidential.”
“Tell me, Leila!”
When she looked up, her eyes gleamed in the way rain drops shine in the sun.
“I tell you: maybe I need help…So I rent a studio, near Sentier, but some of the time I stay with the family of an American diplomat. He has a big job at the American embassy.”
Titus must have shown some surprise.
“No, I’m not his sugar girl. I explain. He was in Georgia. His daughter, Aline is my friend. We played tennis. They went to Kiev. I spent a summer with them there. To study. That’s where I met Georgi.”
“We were going to get married. Georgi was a journalist too. Working on how the Russians use the mafias. Its part of their plan. To take back Ukraine, Georgia.”
“Both countries have voted for pro-western governments.”
“The Russians are very…how you say, angry. They tried to control the elections. Why do they make threats to block American missile protection in Europe? Why threats to stop Ukraine, Georgia joining the EU, NATO? Why do they block the West at the UN over…you know…stopping Iran from making nuclear missiles? Russia sells Iran arms, you know.”
Titus feigned polite interest. But Leila was talking of great matters. Great manoeuvres of which little was known but which could yet tear the continent, the world, apart.
“So Russia uses mafias to infiltrate, subvert the systems in Ukraine, Georgia?” he encouraged her.
“In central Europe, they’ve seen this before. In the thirties, the fifties. No? Georgi wanted to expose corruption in Ukraine. Everyone knew the Russians had a lot of power. Just like in Georgia. But then Georgi found out how much Moscow was using the mafias, the traffickers. And then he, we, found out that one of these networks seemed to be doing bad things for some quite official people, in France.”
Titus recognised him immediately: Claudius Vendoremin, once a senior minister in Progressive governments. He’d fallen out of favour with the Prince. A loose cannon, still with the firepower to complicate the forthcoming elections by pushing five per cent of the votes this way or that.
A second figure entered the boudoir and closed the door. Titus needed a moment or two to recognise Delphine de Daguerre: lawyer, and consultant on financial services.
Now she was dressed as a libertine and purveyor of sexual services. The first part of her attire to catch his attention was a black top hat. Her hair was pulled up beneath it so that her neck was clear. From the top down, she was made up with strong red lipstick and wore bright red silk, cut like a full-piece swimsuit but with black lacing all down the front. Black high-heel shoes and a black frock coat completed the picture. She looked like the star turn out of a risqué night-club show.
Bullets for barbouzes
Two men, one about forty, the other about thirty, were caught for an instant like frightened rabbits, astonished, alarmed, angry. The one not holding the glass already had his hand halfway to his armpit.
Suddenly, the younger man moved sharply to one side and for an instant was no longer outlined against the window. He had moved in front of a sideboard. On it stood an art-deco style lamp with no shade, in front of a mirror.
He was still moving, fast, when a door seemed to slam, loudly, in another room and, strangely, the lamp disintegrated with a brittle, but arresting, crash, sending tiny shards of fine coloured glass in all directions.
The explosion had occurred fifty centimetres in front of the young agent’s head from which blood began to flow from half a dozen splinter points. The agent threw his hands up to one eye, and froze. He caught sight of himself dripping blood in all directions, and then turned slowly, incredulously. In one of his hands he held the gun he had drawn while moving.
“Blinded? Don’t give a damn!” she exclaimed, tossing aside the cushion which showed a rip and small burn across one side. The gun she’d taken from her cleavage was still steady, smoking slightly, in her hand.
She sniffed the old smell of her youth, and underground war, and searched for her shoe with her toes.
“Guns, papers, everything on the floor.”
She reached aside to dispose of the tea cup and bent down to pull the rug towards her, felt for the papers and two ‘phones which she pushed into her dress pockets, and held the two guns by their trigger guards. Her own pistol never wavered.
“I am the lawyer acting for Mr. Titus Mallory, the owner of the apartment which you have entered illegally. In following such an illegal order, you are little better than the Milice!”
“We’re quite happy to go,” the older one ventured.
“Now, who are you working for?”
“Affaire d’Etat!” “Secret d’Etat!” They said simultaneously.
“Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee!”
“What?” the young one asked.
“I see you carry Gendarmerie cards.”
“We can’t tell you anything!” the older one said. He spoke with authority but there was slight hesitation in the answer, as if his throat were dry.
She lowered her aim. “Wife, mistresses? Say goodbye to your apparatus. Remember, I don’t care!”
She stretched for the cushion which she placed over the gun.
Again, the distant door slammed.
The old lady looked at the young one. “Between your legs, behind you, there’s a table leg. Just bend down, very slowly, and look between your legs. Just below your apparatus.”
Slowly the young man bent and looked behind him through his crotch. The top, square part of the leg of a side table was splintered where the bullet had buried itself.”
“We…we take our orders on special authority. Not from Colonel Mezrat and Maretti. From Colonel Kirch!” He blurted. “From the Elysée!”
If it was an attempt to impress and intimidate, it had the opposite effect.
“Ah, my old friend Beaucourt! Know him? Long time since he’s kissed my…hand. He was a regular visitor to the Bresson, and Meurice: the Champagne parties. You know the Meurice? Headquarters of the Nazi occupation! They tortured me there. I shot an SS colonel, with his own little toy…” She moved the pistol. “And Milice captain. They raped me…Well, you must stay for tea! Strip!”