For All Nails #61: Picking Up Slack
by Johnny Pez
Yvette Fanchon was quite pleased. One of her more pleasant duties as Premier of the French Republic was making herself available to the ladies and gentlemen of the media. For the last two days, for example, she had been accompanied throughout much of her day by Selma Bouvier of Depeche Mode magazine. Naturally, given that Depeche Mode was a fashion monthly, the article would be accompanied by a photo spread.
"Lovely, lovely, now look to the left, Madame Premier," said the photographer, a Monsieur Gahan who had accompanied Mlle. Bouvier this morning. The three of them were atop the Palais de la Republic, where Fanchon was posing against the Paris skyline in one of her trademark short-skirt-and-long-jacket ensembles while Gahan shot roll after roll of film. "Exquisite, Madame Premier, now lean your left arm against the balustrade and look at me." Clickclickclickclickclick.
It was a tradition that had developed since the war for French leaders to maintain an elegant facade. Fanchon was perfectly well aware that the tradition had its origins in the less-than-savory fact that the task of French leaders since the war was to distract attention away from the reality that it was the Germans, and not the French, who ruled France.
She was proud of all that she had done in the last four years to rectify the situation. In the wake of the Bayeux Incident, she had been able to establish control over the Justice Ministry, replacing that corrupt jackal Chaplette with her own man Clouseau. With Clouseau's reforms proceeding apace, France at last had a police force that was capable of actually policing the country.
Another pose struck for Monseiur Gahan brought her Beretta watch into view, and she said, "Monsieur Gahan, Madamoiselle Bouvier, I fear that our time is at an end. I wish you the best of luck with your article." The two journalists thanked her for her time, and Armand escorted them from the roof.
Fanchon made her own way down to her office. She occupied her time reading a report from Gitreau on the status of the Assembly's budgetary legislation until Armand buzzed her to let her know her 10:30 appointment had arrived.
"Send him in, Armand," she said, replacing the telephone handset and tripping the foot switch that opened her office door. (That foot switch was an excellent way to practice self-discipline; the urge to toy with it was a constant source of temptation.)
His Excellency General Eric von Gellmann, Ambassador of the German Empire, looked resplendant as usual in his Imperial Army dress uniform. Fanchon found herself wondering if the General's impeccable dress sense had influenced Chancellor Markstein's decision to appoint him to his present post, or whether the Paris assignment had made Gellmann more conscious of his appearance. Was living in France turning the General into a Frenchman? She knew that he would be appalled by the notion, and decided that she would have to mention the idea to him at some point. For now, they had more important matters to deal with.
Rising from her seat, Fanchon responded with a gracious nod to Gellmann's heel-clicking salute. "Herr General," she said in German, "I wish to thank you for taking the time to see me this morning. Won't you please have a seat?"
"You're quite welcome, Madame Premier," the General answered as he settled himself. "To what do I owe the honor of your invitation?"
"Herr General," said Fanchon as she reseated herself, "I wish to discuss with you the matter of the Imperial Police presence in France."
"Specifically," said Gellmann, "you wish to discuss withdrawing the Imperial Police back to Germany."
Come to think of it, Gellmann's quick wits had probably also played a part in Markstein's decision. "I do indeed, Herr General. I think you'll agree that Minister Clouseau has done an extraordinary job of bringing a sense of professionalism to the French police force."
"I must admit, Madame Premier, that given what Herr Clouseau had to work with, he has made admirable progress. Whether that progress justifies withdrawing the Imperial Police is another question."
"Well now, Herr General," said Fanchon as she eyed him intently, "just how much progress would Minister Clouseau have to make, in your opinion, before you could justify withdrawing the Schupos?"
Fanchon could see Gellmann's eyes sparkle behind his wire-frame spectacles. "That sort of thing is difficult to quantify, Madame Premier."
Fanchon narrowed her eyes. "Not at all, Herr General. Number of crimes reported. Number of arrests made. Number of convictions gained. Clearance rate of homicides. It is very easy to quantify the effectiveness of a police force." She opened a desk drawer and withdrew a bound report. "In fact, Minister Clouseau has already done so. He finds that in the last six months, the effectiveness of the National Police has actually surpassed that of the Schupos in most of the categories studied." She slid the bound report across her desk. "Feel free to take this copy with you, Herr General. You will find it includes both French and German versions of the text."
To her surprise, Gellmann began to laugh. "Ah, Fraulein Fanchon, you never cease to amaze me. You know us too well, I fear. No German can resist the lure of a statistical analysis." He leaned forward and took the report from her desk. "Very well, my dear Madame Premier. I will take your report back to Berlin with me tonight, and relay your request to Chancellor Markstein when I meet with him tomorrow. And do you know?" He raised one eyebrow. "If your numbers stand up, I think he might just accede to your request." He laughed again and added, "Is there anything else you wish to discuss? Perhaps you would like us to withdraw the Security Service and the Criminal Police as well?"
Recovering, Fanchon said, "No, Herr General, the Schupos will be enough for the time being."
Rising from his seat, Gellmann gave her another salute with clicked heels and said, "In that case, I shall bid you a fond farewell, Madame Premier. Au revoir."
"Au revoir," Fanchon echoed automatically as she triggered the foot switch. After Gellmann's departure she shook her head.
She would never understand those people.
Forward to FAN #62: Sunday Morning Coffee.
Forward to 28 June 1974: Waiting for the Chancellor.
Forward to Yvette Fanchon: Get Shorty.
Return to For All Nails.