The man materialized on the Champs-Elysee, mid-crowd, straightened his fitted suit of charcoal and pale burgundy, brushed the black locks out of his eyes, took in the lead skies and decided that today was going to be a good day. It was exactly 8:56 on a frigid October Monday and positively no one noticed his entrance. Paris was too busy.
The man, in no way bothered by such a reception, set his tracks to the Southeast, towards the Elysee Palace. L’Arc de Triomphe to his back – the small cinematic triumph drawing a smirk – he strolled, twirling a useless umbrella. He walked the pavement with the careless confidence of a man who had walked these streets many times before. He had, but last time there were fewer cars. Those, he found annoying and a tasteless solution to the transportation problem. Not for too long, and with that thought he entered a sidewalk café.
“Garcon, a coffee for a freezing gentleman,” he greeted the solemn-faced Parisian youth of undeterminable sex.
“Will the Monsieur be taking a table?” Mechanical reply.
“Well yes, why wouldn’t the Monsieur take a table?”
“Would the Monsieur like to be seated or does he have a personal preference?”
“He most certainly has, but he would prefer to see what you would recommend,” the man in the charcoal suit felt surprisingly talkative.
The youth disentangled itself from behind the counter, led its customer outside, found a table facing L’Arc de Triomphe and pulled out a chair.
“Outside,” grim disappointment, but the man sat down, “You Parisians and your love for exhaust fumes. Where is the culture in breathing in this filth?”
“The Monsieur is in Paris not the first time?”
“No, no, sadly not the first. Had multiple pleasures. In the fourteen hundreds, now that was a city! And now? A result of a centuries old quest for art. Finely spiraled up its own derriere.” Chuckle. “You, Michelle, live in a perverted place.”
The youth straightened at the sound of its name and for the first time really took in its peculiar customer, the elegance of the suit, its obvious foreign trim, the odd umbrella that rested on the man’s knees, more crouching panther than inanimate device, the fine trim of his beard, barely there yet conjuring the very essence of man, the sharp mouth frozen in grin, and lastly, the eyes. And then Michelle Ramelli knew.
“What. What are you going to do with it? Mon-monsieur?”
“Paris? Oh, nothing at first, but any disease sooner or later needs to be cured. I prefer fire.”
“You? You are going to be a diligent waiter and will bring me my coffee with hot milk within the next two minutes and, in turn, will receive a generous tip.”
“Yes, Monsieur, but, after…”
The man, though, had exhausted his supply of playful banter, placed the umbrella from his knees onto the table and began to stare into the sky, as not to humour the city around him with any attention. The youth, Michelle, stumbled back into the café and, within a minute, a different waiter brought out a steaming cup, placed it in front of the man and retreated quickly inside to attend to the hysterical fit exploding within. Their customer, he drank the cup in one gulp with no sugar, slapped a pack of crisp bills on the fake marble surface and rose. The encounter left an unpleasant aftertaste despite its playful beginnings and the man hurried his step, determined to reach his destination without further cultural relations.
He arrived at the back gate to the Elysee Palace in a much better mood, waved the guards into a coma, walked freely through both the first iron wrought gate and the second, inner one, and politely knocked on the oak door of the service entrance. At the same exact time, men, who eyewitnesses would swear were exact copies of the man that now sought audience with the President of France, were waiting to be admitted into the Kremlin, the White House, the Bundeskanzleramt, knocking on doors of all the leaders of the world.
When the door swung open in front of him, the man walked past the waxy butler and gave him a sly wink. He had killed the middle-aged man on his first step past the first gate, gave his soul instant absolution and animated his corpse for the purpose of a theatrical entrance. As many would later learn, the man was impartial to putting on a bit of a show. For now though, he quietly made his way down the corridors and up flights of stairs, through a set of double doors and into an office that could be called anything but modest.
“Nicholas! My dear!” he smiled at the startled Sarkozy, who, in his surprise drenched the dossier in front of him in coffee, swore and began to rise.
“Who…?” but the French President didn’t finish, his gaze locked with that of the intruder. Nicholas Sarkozy knew then, the way poor Michelle Ramelli knew, and lowered himself back into the leather chair in defeat. “What do you, what would you like? Monsieur.”
“You people, no deduction anymore, no thought, no manners. Where are the Descartes’s and D’Artagnans? The Sherlock Holmes’s, for hell’s sake? A man comes to see you, all the way from afar, he comes in person, greets you warmly and what do you give him? What you want? Eh. It should be plainly obvious,” the man scratched behind his left horn, neatly hidden by thick hair, and finished, in dozens of voices in dozens of offices, “I want you to kill me.”