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For All Nails #95: Get Shorty

by Johnny Pez

Palace of the Republic
Paris, France
28 June 1974

The realist philospher Jean-Paul Trudeau famously once said that an optimist could never be pleasantly surprised. Yvette Fanchon had begun to suspect that the same was true for politicians. Today in particular had been full of surprises, all of them unpleasant: a Serb terrorist with Scandinavian connections had killed Chancellor Markstein and wounded Ambassador Gellmann; news of the assassination had set off some sort of riot or uprising in St. Petersburg; and on top of everything else, the New Granadans had launched an invasion of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

With all that going on, it was just one more unpleasant surprise for Fanchon to walk into her office that evening and find Maurice Lebrun waiting for her there.

He was perched atop her desk, his short legs swinging idly to and fro. In his powder-blue velvet suit and white lace cravat, he looked like a slightly oversized bluebird with black-framed spectacles.

With a grin that exposed crooked teeth, he said, "Hello, baby, love what you've done with the place." Nodding towards the Levesque portrait of her great-grandfather, he added, "The old man gives it just the right feel of veiled authority. Must give poor Eric the shivers."

"How the hell did you get in here?" she demanded.

"Language, doll, language, you've got a public image to uphold," he mockingly scolded her. "And this used to be my office, remember? Who do you think installed that door switch under the desk? I still know one or two secret ways around here."

"Fine," Fanchon said. "You can go now."

Still grinning his unattractive grin, Lebrun said, "Not even the least bit curious about why I'm here?"

Circling slowly around the desk, Fanchon said, "Whatever it is, Maurice, I'm sure it must be something utterly inconsequential. Everything else in your life has been." Seating herself behind the desk, she added, "Incidentally, I already have an ugly paperweight for my desk, so your services in that regard are unnecessary."

Possibly because his neck was beginning to pain him from twisting around to keep her in view, Lebrun hopped down from the desktop. The result wasn't much of an improvement, though, since he immediately leaned up against the desk and propped his elbows on top. And the grin was still there.

"Ah," he smarmed, "your mouth says no no no, but your eyes say yes yes yes. And never let it be said that Maurice Lebrun refused the plea in a lady's eyes."

Fanchon began searching the desktop for something to hit him with. She had just decided on the in/out tray when he continued, "I am here, my sweet cabbage, to offer you an opportunity to redeem your reputation as a shameless collaborationist."

Fanchon withdrew her hand from the tray. "And how do you propose to do that?"

His grin grew wider and, if possible, uglier. "By allowing you to join the winning side before the action starts."

"I was unaware of any impending action that I might be on the winning side of."

"The most glorious action of all," Lebrun exclaimed. "Revolution!" Unable to contain his excitement, he left the desk and began to stride back and forth across the office. "The long nightmare of our national humiliation is about to end! A blow has been struck at the very heart of the German Empire! St. Petersburg is only the beginning! Soon the whole of Europe will rise up against the foul barbarians who ravage her! This is the day! This is the hour! This is... " Words failed him at last, and he finished, "...this!"

Fanchon's hand had now disappeared completely from above the desktop. "I see your previous lesson didn't take," she remarked.

Now, at last, Lebrun's grin slipped away. His expression suddenly immobile, he said, "If you're referring to the incarceration that followed my ouster, I assure you that is one mistake I will not be repeating. I will not allow the Germans another opportunity to imprison me."

That's what you think, Fanchon thought as her hand moved beneath the desk. With any luck, there was one secret in this office that Lebrun was not, after all, privy to. Aloud, she said, "I was not referring to your imprisonment. I was referring to the activities that led to it." She nodded towards the wall to her left. "Do you see the sign hanging over there?"

" 'La violence est le dernier refuge de l'incompétence'," he read. FN1 He spat. "A philosphy for cowards and women. He," Lebrun gestured in his turn to the opposite wall, "would not have approved. He would be appalled to find his portrait in the same room with such a sentiment."

"Some of the members of my party, and of my family as well, choose to believe that the Marshal was infallible," Fanchon replied without heat. "Given the disasters with which his regime ended, that is obviously untrue, and I feel myself under no obligation to repeat his errors. We face an enemy -- and make no mistake, I am as aware as you that they are our enemy -- with an overwhelming preponderance of military force. In such circumstances, any resort to violence on our part is doomed to failure. We must find another way. We have found another way. And I have no intention of letting you 'kick the duck' as the Mexicans say, with your pathetic attempt at an uprising." Shifting her attention past Lebrun, she added, "Get him."

And just like that, Lebrun found himself held in the grip of two men in the dark green uniforms of the National Police. A search of Lebrun's person turned up a small pistol, though where he managed to hide it within his famously tight clothing was a mystery.

Lebrun gave her one more look at his repulsive grin, but she could see uneasiness showing from his bespectacled eyes. "You surely don't think I was relying only on that little Minetti for protection? Unless I depart from this building under my own power within the next half hour, my compatriots here and elsewhere across France will set our plans in motion immediately. And their very first target, I assure you, will be yourself and your little clique of collaborators."

"Your compatriots," Fanchon repeated. "That would include, would it not, Monsieurs LeClerc, Chambon, Darrand and Bienville here in Paris, along with Monsieur Raoult in Orleans, Monsieur Mallet in Limoges, Monsieur Dutrochet in Bordeaux, Monsieur Sabatier in Marseille ... shall I go on? No? Sad to say, Shorty, you make as poor a conspirator as you did a politician."

The grin was gone again, a definite improvement. "And you intend to do better, I suppose."

"I am already a better politician. As to the other," she paused for a moment. "Who can say?"

The last she saw of Lebrun before he was dragged from her office was the look of dawning astonishment on his face.

Forward to FAN #96: Dominique.

Forward to 1 July 1974: The Reproaches.

Forward to Yvette Fanchon: Wheelchair General.

Return to For All Nails.