Cenotaph for the Living -‘The French Collection #2’
In Cenotaph for the Living, Tristan disappears on his 20th birthday. His family receive a ransom note demanding one million euros. The trouble is, they can’t report it to the police because it’s the police who sent the ransom note. Matters go from bad to worse until an old friend of Ken’s arrives on the scene. He’s been brought in to track down the corruption in the police and gendarme services. But it’s two against dozens. How is that going to pan out? Meanwhile Camille Laurent finds herself talking to a ghost who doesn’t know who he is.
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CENOTAPH FOR THE LIVING
From his hiding place behind the high, elaborate burial chambers, Sparky kept an eye on the whole circle of grass and paths. His eyes locked on like magnets to the strange lady who sat talking to somebody next to her, who wasn’t there. He’d seen plenty of unstable people, usually alcoholics or drug abusers, who talked to invisible friends, but somehow, this lady didn’t quite fit that mould. There was something about her that said she was holding a perfectly normal conversation, not the ravings of someone whose mind was on another planet.
He dismissed the thought and looked back at the package that Ken had thrown over the railings. Unsettling to think there were one million euros in there. As he eased a cramp in his leg, he sensed someone behind him. There was no noise; just the smell of tobacco smoke and stale sweat. Years of Special Forces training made him instinctively reach for his weapon. Then he remembered that those days were gone, and he turned to see a man in his forties wearing a crumpled suit. Though the day was pleasantly warm, it was not unduly hot, yet the man’s face had a sheen of sweat as though he’d just splashed water on himself.
“What are you doing here?” the man snapped.
“Trying to find my way out,” Sparky said in his best broken French. “I got lost a bit and ended up here.”
“You are English?”
“Hmmm, yes, I remember now. I saw you earlier next to the grave of Oscar Wilde. All English people are crazy.”
“Sorry, can you talk a bit more slowly. My French is not very good.”
“You must go now. It is closing time. We lock the gates at six o’clock and everybody has to be out before that.” The man made a motion with his hand like turning a big key.
Sparky didn’t understand every word, but he certainly got the gist. “And that lady over there?” he said, pointing to the pink woman who was still talking to herself.
“Madame Laurent,” the man said, whirling his finger at the side of his head. “Elle est folle. She is mad. She comes here often and talks to ghosts. She already knows we are closing. She will leave soon.”
Sparky stepped out from behind the mausoleum. The shopping bag was still at the foot of Casimir Périer’s memorial.
“That way is out,” the man said, pointing behind him.
Sparky turned and sauntered away. His cover was blown and he was a great believer in the old addage, ‘if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging’. So he made for the entrance, hoping Ken would be nearby and they could formulate a plan B. He took one last look at the crazy lady and left the scene.
Image used and published according to the licence granted by the artist