The scent of smoke and sweat at three am in a large hotel is nauseating. The coming and going of all the guests and the tired staff contribute to the odour. The leather seat with the velvet upholstery I was sitting on had stuck to my sweaty back. I had taken off my white dinner jacket hours ago and was onto my second Argentinian Captaris cigar. The velvety texture of the smoke in my mouth soothed my mind and body. My indulgence could only be short lived, though. I looked at the clock again. Ten minutes to go. Agitatedly, I rose up, wiped the sweat off my neck with a handkerchief, put my jacket back on and smartened myself. Failure was not an option. Others would think of me as insane, but is the difference between insanity and genius not success? I took one last long drag of the cigar and stubbed it out in an ashtray.
Paris’ night life had come to bore me. A mixture of too many business calls and wild nights out had ruined this colourful, gay city. I chose to spend my last hours before work in the peaceful lounge of my hotel, the Hotel de Crille. A porter scurried past me as I approached reception. His eyes were fixed on the rug. He looked almost as tired and fraught as me. I tried to act coolly and calmly. I leaned my back on the reception desk and looked at the well-polished, nineteenth century grandfather clock in front of me. Any second now and he would arrive. In my brain I quickly ran through the procedures I would automatically carry out when I met the ambassador. Was it bad that these situations seemed normal to me? As I waited I remembered I hadn’t washed since the morning before and I suddenly became aware of my odour. My mouth was very dry from the after taste of the cigar. I toyed with the idea of nipping back to the bar for another Martini Royale.
The seconds ticked by as I waited for the main door to open. I slipped my hands inside my jacket pocket and reassured myself with the feeling of cold steel against my fingers. Just before I gave up on waiting and retreated back to my room, a car pulled up to the entrance. I gave a grim smile to myself. A man got out of the driver’s seat. He was obviously the chauffeur: probably just a low time thug hoping to make a few innocent bucks or pounds. The chauffeur opened the passenger door and a greasy, worm like figure stepped out. He was around 6ft 3, wearing a brown jacket, a battered pre-war hat and black trousers.
The worm-like man opened the grand doors and walked towards me, in an almost scampering motion. I raised my head and we met eyes. His were the soulless, cold eyes of a drowned man. He twitched. “What’s your game, then?” he asked me. I reassured myself that he must have done this a dozen times, all too innocent people. I lowered my head and slowly reached into my jacket, as though reaching for a cigarette. I grasped the butt of my silenced Beretta. Its habit of stoppages during action had been a problem but, usually, it got the job done quickly...