Before leaving the house for his mission—top priority, straight from the president—Paul stood in front of the mirror and studied his appearance. Visually, this was a useless exercise: it was a shaving mirror, and he had to stand on the other side of the room to fit in his entire reflection. He had no idea how he looked (and just as well), but merely casting a reflection gave him confidence. (As a child, Paul was the victim of a cruel prank in which his brothers convinced him he was a vampire. A tiny part of him still believed it.)
Seven-thirty. Main Street. Limousines rolled up one by one in a cavalcade of self-promotion. Fourth of July fireworks could not have lit up the street better than did the sea of flashing cameras surrounding that most holy of holy grounds, the red carpet. With the divine offering prepared, the gods descended: television personalities, movie stars, members of a currently popular boy band, and a visiting prince. The least of them was a millionaire, collectively they had over a billion social media followers, and not one of them possessed any real significance.
With the masses distracted by the pretty faces entering the building from the front, Paul snuck around back to one of the rear doors. Standing there between him and the party was a mountain of a security guard—six-five, three hundred pounds, and just itching to choke someone out. Paul would have to use a subtle approach—no problem for an experienced smooth talker. With his hands in his pockets, he sauntered up the guard, whistling a winsome tune. She noticed him, and in a loud, authoritative screech she explained to Paul that if he did not immediately turn around and leave, she would inflict severe and irreparable damage to various members of his person, and then deposit him with the utmost malice into the nearby gutter. Paul just tipped his hat and winked, before retrieving a small tranquilliser gun from his pocket and firing three darts at her. She wobbled, and then slowly crumpled to the ground like a deflating jumping castle.
Once inside the building, Paul set about his task. He crept around behind the stage, and knelt down behind a catering table. From there he had a clear view of the front row, and of the prince in particular. He noticed the royal crest on the prince’s jacket, right over his heart. That would make a perfect target, thought Paul. He reached up on the table and took a small pastry. It felt warm and flaky, and soft—there must have been some sort of filling inside. He wrapped the pastry in a serviette and put it in his pocket. He snuck back out of the building.
Ten pm. Under the bridge by the docks, Paul met with the president of the French Cinema Appreciation Society. The president emerged from the shadows, wearing a trench coat and a beret. “Did you bring it?” he asked.
“Yeah, here it is,” said Paul, as he took the pastry from his pocket.
The president examined it. “It’s cold,” he said.
“Yeah,” said Paul. “Well, I’ve been waiting here since nine.”
“Oh, sorry about that,” said the president. “I forgot it was daylight savings.” He took a bite. “Not bad… Quite tasty actually. Yes, I like it. Do you want some?”
“No thanks. Nancy is making lemon chicken.”
“Fair enough.” The president ate the rest of the pastry and licked the crumbs from his fingers. “Mmm, that was good. Thanks Paul. Are you coming Wednesday? We’ll be watching Les Enfants du Paradis.”
“Oh, that’s a good one,” said Paul. “I’ll be there.”
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