There are books with which you feel good at the first words, stories that cling to you and do not let you go until you have turned the last page. You can see, behind each sentence, the author’s narrative power, his ingenuity, his ability to weave his canvas to better imprison you. A few years ago, I discovered Jacques Saussey with this twisted and stringy intrigue as I love them. I traveled from the thick forests of the Yonne to Johannesburg via New York, I let myself be embarked on the adventures of a very appealing team of cops. “Black anger” is a great literary arrow that touched me right in the heart. It put its author among the best of actual crime novel. In addition to books, I have always attached great importance to the author behind his work. In addition to being talented, Jacques Saussey is a luminous man, full of qualities, a rare kindness and who experiences an infinite pleasure with meeting its readers, as far as Quebec. He only releases his claws in his books! Moreover, he is a novelist who fights for his stories and, more generally, for the French polar.I always take great pleasure at read his intrigues which are like no other, stories marked by his only style, Jacques Saussey is one of the people that I follow and will continue to follow for many years to come.
Sunday, October 19, Paris, 10:15 pm
Leaning over his balcony, Serge Taillard peered out into the Parisian night, drawing long puffs from his cigar. His apartment was submerged in darkness, and the incandescent end described arabesques that could be seen from the other side of the Saint-Martin Canal. He let his mind drift into a temporary calmness, one of those that precede terrible and devastating storms. He tried to imagine that he was returning to happier times, where life had yet to make him what he had become: that merciless man whom nothing and no one would ever stop.
Three floors below, the lampposts bordering the canal projected shifting gleams fighting for reflections with the headlights of the cars on the black waters. Loud voices from the other side of the lock overlapped at times, with the muffled sound of traffic. A few homeless people had set up camp under the arches of the bridges in order to get out of the light rain which had been falling steadily since the end of the afternoon. They took advantage of nightfall to settle down, knowing that the police would be there the next morning to move them out. Since the covered areas had been fenced off on the wharves, they had been constantly changing places, prowling from bank to bank in search of a dry place to sleep.
The cigar’s bitter taste filled his mouth and left him with a thick, unpleasant sensation on his tongue. He gnashed his throat, looking for a little saliva, and then spat in the direction of the street.
The lightning flash of a siren appeared at the corner of St. Louis Street and went with a sound of wet tires. The flashes of the beacon were reflected in the extinguished facades of the deserted offices, whose glass panes protruded at an angle over the sidewalk, and then vanished away between the hospital buildings.
Taillard entered the dark living room and closed the French window behind him. With a heavy step he made his way to the bathroom, and turned off the faucet of the bathtub. The foam was soon going to overflow.
The cigar still stuck between his lips, he undressed himself taking care to fold his clothes on the edge of the stool, which he always used as a shelf. Once naked, he studied himself for a few minutes in the sink’s mirror. He tucked in his belly, and did not let his gaze linger on the flaccid flesh surrounding his flanks, their prominent bulges witnesses of his appetite for good food. The gray hairs covering his torso in scattered tufts barely masked an old scar, inherited from a bad knife wound received in a fight on an evening “expedition” in the seventies, when he was part of the FUD, an extreme right-wing unit that had begun to make a name for itself as a neo-Nazi hard movement.
Taillard smiled at the memory. He had almost died on that occasion and only owed his survival that day to the bicycle cable he always had in his pocket in those distant times. A cable with wooden handles used to tighten hard. A weapon that he had made himself, to show off in front of his fellow members during the evenings organized by the FUD to gather supporters for the party. The man with the knife, a young Algerian man of about twenty, must still have been floating somewhere at the bottom of the Marne, between Joinville and Charenton. At least whatever the fish and crayfish had left behind. It was not a wise move to pick a fight Serge Taillard at the time…
Without feeling even the shadow of the slightest remorse, he puffed out his chest in front of the mirror. The pectorals and biceps had melted away a long time ago, but the memory of their faded power remained intact. Following this event, which marked a turning point in his life – that of his first unpunished crime – more than one of his competitors had noticed over the years. He has built up his industrial empire on this devastating energy of battle, that same energy that engages opponents in a mortal hand to hand fight, whatever the discipline, without any regard for rules from which only one can leave unscathed. A ruthless struggle with no mercy to be expected in case of defeat.
And he was a specialist of this merciless struggle. He used all the levers at his disposal to make it, to obtain an unrivaled victory. He had never considered illegality as an obstacle, the important thing was never getting caught red handed. If his company had expanded over the years since its creation in 1989, until it was rivaling with the largest international steel suppliers, he owed it to no one but himself as he had led it with an implacable hand. Industrial tooling had proven a very profitable industry for almost two decades, but now Asian competition was beginning to undermine his business.
And this did not sit well with him at all.
He clenched his teeth and looked in the mirror at the flame that burned in his pupils. He felt filled with the same vigor as in the past, the same determination. He was not going to give up now. It was simply out of the question. He had struggled too much for this. He had battled too much with the banks, with his creditors, with his friends and with those that he considered less and less as his friends, those that fled cowardly as they had felt the tides turn against him.
He needed money fast, and a lot of it. He was about to move on to the next stage of his plan. It was high time to strike hard, where it hurts, where you remember.
He carefully tested the water in his bath with the tip of his foot. It was just right. Sighing comfortably as he entered the foam. On the stool, next to the bathtub, his glass filled with his best whisky was being covered with steam. He laid back in the warm water and closed his eyes all to the joy of this weekly meeting with forgetful bliss. The CD-radio was playing muted Mozart, the only music worth listening to in such a moment of detachment from the real world.
However, tonight relaxation seemed to elude him, ungraspable. Because if he did not rectify the situation quickly things might not end well. He wasn’t going to be able to hold much longer. Orders were diminishing day by day, and he was finding it difficult to convince the banks to provide him with funds. They had even become suspicious.
All his political friends turned their backs on him, as success faded away. All this even though he had put in hard work for some of them. He had helped to finance campaigns, to build careers, to generate currents of influence. He had even gotten his hands dirty, without getting caught, without leaving a trace. But for this kind of friend, gratefulness is just an empty word, and he now found himself alone to confront his problems, alone face to face with the abyss which opened before him. A chasm that would swallow him up if he didn’t react quickly. He felt vulnerable, an extremely unpleasant to which he was not accustomed, and he was about to reject it violently.
The bath’s warmth gradually numbed him, and his thoughts then took on a more ethereal turn. A face came to his mind, in a burning halo of steam. He laid his hand on his sex which was beginning to straighten up, his head bobbing in the eddies printed by his arm in the scented water.
Ghislaine… He drank a sip of Laphroaig and again drew a long puff of his cigar. 18 years old! Half that of his protégée’s.… He thought of Ghislaine’s sublime body, her heavy breasts and the delicate curve of her neck, when she leaned over him, and his hand became more precise.
He could hear the rain and batter with doubled intensity against the windows. This October looked like it was going to be a rotten month. He grabbed the remote control and turned up the Mozart.
Under the chestnut trees and plane trees of the quays, the wind blew around the first golden autumn leaves. The trunks shone with moisture, and overlapped in bottomless puddles. On the wharf facing Taillard’s building on the other side of the canal, a silhouette detached itself from a blind porch, a diffuse blotch embedded in a long, waterproof coat. A cap with a shabby rim protected his face from the rain, drowning his eyes in the shadow cast by the visor. A gloved hand stowed away the ornithological binoculars, which made it possible to see the color of a sparrow’s eye at fifty meters.
The man crossed the rounded metal bridge connecting the two banks with stone steps, worn out by decades of passing pedestrians, which gave such a particular charm to this typical district of Paris of former times, opposite the old hotel of the North made famous by Arletty and Jouvet.
He then cautiously approached the building into which Serge Taillard had entered half an hour earlier. At the traffic lights, a drunk homeless man shouted at cars that refused to open their windows to give him a euro.
It was perfect. With the noise the guy was making, nobody would pay any attention to him. The man tapped the digicode without hesitation and the door clicked a slight click to indicate that his information had been correct. He entered the vestibule without pressing the switch, and then proceeded confidently to the staircase plunged into darkness. He avoided the elevator and climbed the three floors in a few silent strides. By the time he got to the third floor, he already had the square in his hand; the type of key that is used to open the access doors to water meter boxes on the landings of old buildings.
He stopped for a moment, his ear on the lookout, ready to move away with nonchalance if one of the target’s neighbors came out of his house unexpectedly. At the end of a long moment of standing still, he opened the lock of the technical cupboard which was less than a meter from Taillard’s door. Well maintained, it turned on its hinges without causing any squeaking.
He stooped down, stretched out his hand to the bottom of the cupboard, and immediately found what he had come for.
The industrialist drank the last drop of whisky and put his glass back down with regret. He had imported this nectar at an exorbitant price and, in fact, he had never drunk a better one. How much longer could he take advantage of this kind of luxury if his company fell into the market battle? He was incapable of imagining such an eventuality.
Even his last bulwark, the one in which he had founded his last hopes, was also failing him. And he could not accept that. He had to show that he could still bite, and suddenly close his jaws on his prey.
And very hard.
He sat in the bath and turned to the ashtray to crush his cigar residue. With his back turned to the shelf hanging over the bathtub, he did not see the radio approaching the edge of the bathtub in small, almost imperceptible jerks. If he had looked up at the ceiling, he might have seen the thin white wire tied to his handle, which disappeared at the top of the wall in a small hole connecting to the wardrobe in the entrance. But this would have required him to suspect something, and he would have to wrinkle his eyes wondering about the presence of a new electric chute, flush with the molding. Or even that he could just imagine that someone had broken into his home the night before while he was gone.
Nor could he have guessed that this wire then ran along the skirting board, between small white painted steel horsemen to the door of the apartment, and then passed through another tiny hole through the wall at the corner of the ornamental rod, and that its carefully wound end was concealed in a reduced service on the bearing.
The station slid, scraping the edge of the shelf. One of its feet protruding over the void, then a second one, and the carcass of the device struck the wood. When the disc jumped out of the laser reader, Taillard jerked up and gave a sudden kick that caused water to spurt on the wall.
He turned his head and, in nightmarish slow motion, saw the CD-radio player oscillate in unstable equilibrium on the corner of the shelf, before plunging suddenly into the bathtub full of water. An extreme coldness submerged him, instantly draining his mind of all coherent thoughts, paralyzing his brain with animal panic. The post fell with unreal slow motion, and Taillard’s tetanized muscles could not even attempt the slightest movement. His lips rounded off in silent protest, a visceral refusal of the inevitable, or perhaps in an embryo of prayer, even as the gates of death opened before him.
He did not immediately understand that the radio had been stopped in its fall by its power cord, 10 centimeters from the soapy water surface. White foam covered the buttons, and Mozart’s disc began to skip inside hitting the hood as the device swung just above his knees.
Taillard let escape a moan of terror that turned into a ridiculous hiccup as he realized that he had just had an unexpected reprieve. Then the wire came off the back of the radio, which fell like a stone into the bath by throwing bubble tracks on the wall.
Taillard screamed as he stood upright. He tried to grab the washbasin to get out of the bath, but only overturned the stool, splashing the floor with water and broken glass. He lost his balance and his feet slipped on the enamel of the bathtub. He then fell backwards, and suddenly he had only the time to understand that he would not get a second chance.
Released from the weight of the radio, the wire bounced in the air, and the loop that had blocked it on the corner of the shelf unraveled, releasing thirty-two extra centimeters of copper wire that fell into the water with the rest of the power cord connected to the plug.
© French Pulp éditions, 2017
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Illustration couverture: © Louise Gatepaille
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