Friday, January 29, 2016

Excerpt Number Four, Maintenon and the Golden Dragon.

Louis Shalako

Gabin Lussier was understudy to Largo Banzini. He was married and had a daughter of eight years old. He lived in the city and provided personal details readily enough.

He was making a living at it, or so he told them.

Lussier even smiled when he said it.

There was little physical resemblance between the two, Gabin being a little shorter and much heavier than Banzini. As a singer, he was versatile more than anything else, very experienced, and would normally be playing a minor role, staying in the background when he was there at all.

In no one role was he outstanding—not so far, anyways.

A swing had taken his part when he stood in for Banzini.

Lussier would be a good five years older than Largo.

He seemed very calm, very assured of himself, and yet he of all people stood to gain a lot by Banzini’s demise. It was something to keep in mind. According to him, the management was already looking for another star, another big draw, and Maintenon wasn’t sure how much weight it carried. Yet it could be seen as a big break for Lussier, who had never had a major, lead role on the Parisian stage.

What if they couldn’t find anybody? Marquee players might be booked up years in advance.

That would leave it all up to him.

In the provinces, that was a different matter. He’d been the headliner once or twice when a hit show went out on the road. There was some element of prestige, and then there was the money.

All of these people had an ego or they never would have made it.

“So, you returned to your dressing room for the break?”

“Ah, yes. I’m not in the next scene, and I usually just hang around backstage.”

Lussier sat across the table in the scarred interview room at the Quai. His posture was relaxed, one ankle across his knee and his body well back in the chair.

“I see.”

Other detectives in other rooms were interviewing other witnesses. There were a lot of them to get through.

“So tell me about Mathilde.”

“Ah, yes. Delightful girl, and not affected at all—humbled, you know, and it’s unusually sincere in her case.” He grinned. “Hell, it might even be true.”


“Yes, it’s a real privilege to sing with a girl like that.” Lussier’s voice rose and a look of humour was exchanged. “I mean, guys like Largo have it all too easy. Not that he wasn’t talented of course, because he was—”

“You got along well?”

“I’ll put it this way—everyone liked her. Seriously, and in this business that’s quite an achievement.” He nodded firmly, giving the impression that he had liked her as much as anyone, and possibly more.

“What about Banzini?”

There was little or no hesitation.

“He was all right—I never had a problem with him.”

How sincere that might be was anyone’s guess.

They were all bloody actors, and that was just the truth.

“What were they like together?”

“Hmn. I would say there was some chemistry there. He was at the top of the game, she was young and impressionable. There might have been some hero-worship there.” On her side, presumably.

“And what about him—”

“As I’ve said, she was a very charming young lady.”

So far it had been like that—more gossip than any hard information. People were often reluctant to slander the dead, whereas they might be a bit more forthcoming regarding the living.

“So, you don’t think Largo had any bad habits?”

“Oh, hey, Inspector—you can read the newspapers as well as I can. But seriously, I wasn’t in that circle, and so I really don’t know much about it. Certainly he didn’t confide in me.”

“And what was your relationship with Monsieur Banzini?”

“It was fine. Ah, I would say he was happy, you know, to have someone good in an emergency, and of course he never would expect anything to happen anyways. He had laryngitis a couple of years ago—you may have seen that one too. No matter how healthy, no matter how rich or successful, no one is immortal—or invincible. People get sick, people get in car-crashes or skiing accidents. They fall off the wagon and end up in a clinic in Switzerland for three months. Whatever. But no, we got along just fine.”

“I see. So when you say circle, what do you mean? What sort of people? Because honestly, someone must have disliked Largo rather intensely.”

The young fellow pursed his lips. It seemed like he had something, and then thought better of it.

He shook his head.

“Oh, I don’t know. Talk to the society columnists—there’s a lot of stuff that they can’t print, right?”

Those innocent blue eyes stared at Maintenon from behind a burgeoning cloud, a facade of tobacco smoke.


That seemed plain enough—so there was something then.

“And so, how do you feel, knowing that Largo was murdered?”

“Wow—just wow, Inspector.” There was still that irrepressible element of humour there—

Gilles couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it was definitely there.

Gilles nodded.

That was pretty much the same way he felt.

Just fucking wow.

There were only the three of them, the unit being particularly busy at that time.

The logical thing was for the more experienced investigators to tackle major personalities.

It was easy enough to sit there and say that. Any idiot could make up a schedule, a roster, and sit back and read the reports.

“We need to find out everything there is to know about our victim.”

While Gilles had his contacts, Levain had just thought of a name. Nichol’s cousin Dax happened to write for a fluffy arts magazine, le Chat Noir. It was about as obscure a magazine as one could get, and still be in business. As Andre recalled, Dax had mentioned reviewing plays and musical revues. He took in shows of modern painting, read all the latest books, and wrote whatever he felt like, according to him.

According to Dax, a hundred and fifty francs a month was darned good money and most writers didn’t even see that. Too many of them worked for free and so there was no pressure tending to drive the wages up…all that socialism.

“Let me make a quick call here, Gilles.”

“Sure, otherwise we’re going to be wading in crap for the foreseeable future.”

It’s all yours, then.

LeBref laughed, but he was the only one. Now there, was one sardonic son of a bitch.

He sat there swinging his legs.

Levain called home and Nichol got him the number from her little book. It only took a couple of minutes and might even be relevant.


The office of le Chat Noir was in one of the seedier, more industrial areas of the city. It always impressed Andre how the city just went on and on, anonymous business after anonymous business lined up along such a street. A hundred streets, a thousand streets, anonymous streets, all different, all the same. They all had the same dead little trees and the same cheerful little sparrows. What was interesting was how people lived and died, giving up their entire lives, not just within the city limits but within a five or ten-kilometre radius…the sparrows too, when one really thought about it.

Their lives were even smaller.


“Hey, Dax.”

The receptionist simpered and then turned on a dime.

Dax was a fresh-faced young man, with good posture. He was narrow in the hips and broad in the shoulders, definitely taking after his father. That would be Nichol’s uncle Phillipe.

“Come in, come in.”

He closed the door.

“Ah, gentlemen. Please, sit down. Now, let’s see here.” In the short time since their call, he’d apparently misplaced it…

Levain had explained briefly over the phone. There wasn’t much point in talking to Dax if he didn’t have anything, and hopefully they weren’t wasting their time.

There was some sense of relish as Dax seized upon a sheet of paper, sitting in his cluttered little office, a heaping ashtray and the remains of a box lunch stinking up the room. Whatever that was, it wasn’t French. It was very hot and very damp in the building, judging by the permanent fog on the windows.

If Dax found it uncomfortable, he gave no notice. He was in his shirtsleeves, (admittedly there were faint dry stains under the arms), whereas the two detectives were sitting there in overcoats. At least it was a sunny day, or the detectives would have been literally steaming by this point. As it was, they were patiently enduring it. It was a cop’s lot in life to do just that, among other things.

“So. Tell us what you know.”

Dax snorted. He glanced at a few notes in point form.

“I don’t know anything. It’s one of my little rules. I don’t have too many of those but I stick to them. People talk, though, right? And they say all kinds of things. Crazy things, jealous things, malicious things. Ignorant things. Bear in mind, gentlemen, calumny is more prone to exaggerate than to invent. I forget who said that—” If it was Gibbon, then he would have been quoting someone else anyways, if not in Greek then in Latin, Hebrew or Syriac.

“Okay.” Maintenon had picked up this most American of words during the war.

“So. Word is that Banzini liked them young.” He stopped and took a breath, scribbling something on a slip of paper. “Don’t tell them I sent you.”

“What do you mean by young?”

“Pretty young. Quite young.”

“Are we talking little kids here? Or what?”

“The impression I got was what they call nubile—we’re talking girls, I don’t know, but at least a few years slightly underage.” The age of consent was twenty-one, which left some latitude of interpretation. “There was something about boys too. If true, that generally implies pitcher rather than catcher…as the Yanks would say.”

That made sense—grown men weren’t generally looking to get boned by little boys.

That really would be unusual—necrophilia was more common. Even homo necrophilia was more common—

No, they were looking for something else—something indefinable, in the analysis.

They were looking for something that the average aficionado couldn’t put into words.

A cheap thrill, the forbidden fruit.

Beautiful boys.

“Right. Where would we find out more.”

“I have a couple of names here. These people were close to him. Let’s just say that one or two of them might have shared any bad habits our boy Largo had. They were with him, men and women, numerous occasions, when they were out and about in the public eye. What passes as a friend, you might say. But I can honestly say, it’s pretty common knowledge—another word for gossip. Here’s the thing, Andre, Inspector. If someone is charged with a crime, I can certainly report that fact. I must never be the one to say who is guilty, (I can say they were convicted, which isn’t exactly the same thing, right?). I can’t really say who did what, who’s evil, whatever. I’m a fucking journalist in the same way that you guys are cops. Professionals, right? I’m not a fucking idiot. I’m not a crusader or a crackpot. Also, I’m not getting my ass or this magazine sued for libel, slander or defamation of character. It’s in my contract, and I can at least read the thing. Which, totally off the record, is more than some people can say. I mean some other writers—also, if he was out and about and not where he should be—speaking euphemistically, then somebody close to him knows something.” Dax was writing under his real name, which was always a consideration.

A journalist was someone who could be held accountable—

Among other things.

Levain was looking impressed. He’d never seen Dax in his own element. He’d always seen him as more of a clownish young man than anything else. The life of the family reunion sort of thing.

But this kid had a real brain in his head. He would never look at Dax in quite the same way again. He was what, about twenty-two? Twenty-three?

And thinking about getting married and everything—at least, that’s how it looked.


“Hmn. Interesting.” Levain passed the paper over to Gilles, who gave it a quick glance.

“There’s more.”

Gilles’ mouth opened.


“Okay. There was an out-of-court settlement. Some girl got pregnant. This one was about fourteen, which is technically statutory rape but…ah, no complaint, no charge. You guys know more about that sort of thing than I do. Let’s call it a little bit of honest blackmail…that’s the name on the bottom. Her name’s there too. You did not hear it from me. That’s her dad—what the hell you’re going to tell him, and what in the hell he’s going to tell you…well, that’s up to you guys. No guarantees.” Dax stood. “Tell him anything you want, but people are saying some money exchanged hands there. Now that Banzini’s dead, he may be more inclined to talk about it.”

“We’ll use our discretion, young man. And thank you. You may have been of very great help to us.” Maintenon looked at Levain, who shrugged.

What the hell.

The phone was ringing on the desk. There was a sheet half-written in Dax’s typewriter, a few more complete ones stacked up beside it. It looked like Nichol’s cousin was giving them the bum’s rush.


Repressing a smile, Levain could take a hint, as for Gilles, he hadn’t even taken his hat off.

So that was okay, then.

Dax and Andre exchanged a blank look.

Levain was becoming more impressed by the minute. Nothing beats a list of names…short, sweet, and to the point.

It might even be useful.

They rose, nodding and extending their hands for a quick shake.

“Thanks, Dax.”

The young fellow grinned.

“My pleasure, Andre. Say hello to Nichol for me.”

There was something oddly wistful in the tone.

More than one man had admired a slightly-older female cousin over the years and there was probably not much more to it than that.

Dax was going out with a pretty nice-looking girl, as Levain recalled. Her name was Bernice. 

She was a bit dowdy for his taste, but then he could see into her future and perhaps Dax didn’t have that kind of objectivity…not yet, anyways.

They might even make a match of it.

At least Andre didn’t have to marry her—not that Nichol had turned out (or would turn out) a whole lot different.

“You should come over for dinner on the weekend. How about Sunday? Bring that 
Bernice—or whatever her name is.”

Dax grinned.

“All right. I will have to talk to her first, though.” Non-committal—nice.

Andre clapped him on the shoulder.

That’s the spirit, laddie.

“Yeah, I’ll ask Nichol, too—but seriously, think about it. Anyways, it’s a good excuse for a big pot-roast or something—you know her.”

Dax nodded in vague agreement, with qualifications.

As was often the case, the door hit the frame pretty hard behind them on the way out.

(End of excerpt.)

Editor's Note.  This is a work in progress and all materials subject to change.

How to Rob a Bank is the sixth in the Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery Series.

Excerpt # 1.

Excerpt # 2.

Excerpt # 3.

No one ever comments on this blog. What up with that, eh?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Excerpt Number Three, Maintenon and the Golden Dragon.

Good old Chiappe.

Louis Shalako

Yeah, good old Chiappe.

They had popped into the office to check for messages or any big breaks—forlorn hope that it might be. Gilles wanted to know where everyone was and what they were doing. Chiappe had eyes and ears everywhere, nailing them via phone barely two minutes in the door.

“I’m sorry, Gilles, I know this is tough for you guys.”

Normally, senior officers were called in when off duty in a strict rotation. It was based on seniority, and Gilles was a long ways up that ladder these days.

Gilles had the impression that the case had quickly been dumped off on him, possibly by someone even higher up the totem pole. It was just a little feeling he had. He could be wrong about that—maybe they just weren’t answering their phones, an old trick in more than one industry. After all, a man had to leave the house once in a while.

He’d never had much patience for professional lizards who wanted the perks and the pay but in the crunch, didn’t have what it took. That was the trouble with seniority and open-call job postings. All they had to do was hang in and be patient. Sooner or later you’d make the grade.

It wasn’t like Gilles knew anything about opera or singers or the beautiful people who, at times, infested this town with their intemperate demands and their appalling smugness.

“I understand.” Commissioner Chiappe’s voice was about as sympathetic as it ever got. “I’m sorry, Gilles. But you’ll just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’m having a press conference at nine-thirty. At that point, the cat’s out of the bag. I’m sorry, Gilles.” 

Like Gilles, Chiappe was also impressed.

“Yes, sir.”

Their respective phones crashed into their cradles. Maintenon’s might have hit a little harder than Jean-Baptiste’s, but oh, well.

That was just the way things were some days.

“So, it’s our baby, then.”

“Yes, Andre.”

“Right. Well. We’ve got our list. So what do you want us to do?”

The pencil in Maintenon’s hands snapped with a crack that made Firmin, whose back was turned, flinch in reflex action. LeBref was perched on the corner of someone else’s desk as always. His wizened features were unreadable, a valuable skill most times.

“Some days, it’s all you can do to do your job.”

“Yes, it is, Inspector.” Levain opened up the notebook. “Well, Gilles. Somebody had a motive—either that, or we’re talking pure psychopath.”

“Yes.” Maintenon nodded gravely. “In which case, sooner or later they must tell us what it’s about.”

“So what do you want us to do, Gilles?” It was LeBref.

LeBref, a dwarf and excellent for undercover work.
“Bring on the forty monkeys.” The tone was bitter, very bitter.

Levain nodded in complete understanding.

LeBref just grinned.

“All right. We can do that—”


With a dozen junior officers conducting interviews of the cast, first and foremost, Gilles and Levain were almost at a loose end. They had other cases on the go, if they cared to think of it that way. 

Unfortunately, it looked as if they were going to get plenty of pressure on this one.

If each and every statement was one single page, two pages at most, they would have thousands of pages of so-called evidence in a very short time.

Maintenon had his hands behind his head, his feet up on the end of the desk in his characteristic position. It would be dumped on some overworked junior prosecutor, who would skim it at best.

Most of it would never be called upon. At this point in the game, he knew of no shortcuts.

Maintenon seemed to be studying the ceiling, and Levain and Archambault knew enough not to disturb him. The look on his face indicated that he was thinking.

The feet crashed to the floor and Maintenon opened up a desk drawer and pulled out the thick Paris phone book.

That was the great thing about the newspaper.

He’d just remembered a story, and a name to go along with it.

He’d always been pretty good with names and faces and stories.

Inspector Gilles Maintenon. Good with names.

They never did get the man on the phone and had to go looking. School was in and it was a weekday…it was the best they could do, to make a stab at it.

Doctor Marchal Grenier was a historian. He lectured on ancient history, and specialized in primitive weapons. At first glance, an ordinary, rather unassuming man.

He wore a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows, stout brogues on his feet and thin trousers as befitted his mostly indoor existence…the gentleman was in his early to middle fifties.

Andre had been on the grounds and in the buildings of the Sorbonne once or twice. Paris was a big city, and even a police officer would get lost if they were a little bit out of their own neighbourhood.

Finding their way once inside was quite a chore, and the man himself elusive within his own department.

University professors were like cops in that they didn’t have a secretary…when not lecturing, they were remarkably elusive quarry. All you can do is ask sometimes. There were other doors and some of the adjacent offices were occupied. They had finally tracked him down in the library after several bum leads. Rather than talk there, they had gone back to his office. The weird part was that they had actually passed him in the hall, not knowing what he looked like…going from point A to point B.

There were the usual pleasantries.



“So. What is this about?”

“You may have read the news. Largo Banzini. He died at the Opera last night.”

“And? What does that have to do with a humble scholar, such as myself?”

“He was killed with a dart from a blowgun. Or something like that. Any information you can give us about such weapons would be welcome. Also, we may have you examine the actual projectile—we would like to know whether it’s authentic, or whether someone merely had some knowledge.” In Maintenon’s opinion, making such a thing wasn’t much more difficult than tying flies if one was an angler.

Surely this all went towards the character, the habits and knowledge of their killer.

“Huh. A blowgun dart. Ha. Banzini, Banzini.”

“The opera singer.” Andre was trying to be helpful, but the gentlemen gave him a blank look.

Apparently the professor hadn’t seen the morning papers, either.

“Anyways. It is my opinion that the blowgun is a short range weapon. But I am by no means an expert.” Gilles inclined his head, prepared to defer to such an expert.

“Ah. Well then. Why didn’t you say so.” The professor thrust his chair back on its rollers and stood up abruptly. “Why don’t you just come with me, then, gentlemen.”

With a look, the pair got up and followed the fellow out of the cluttered office. He’d been grading papers when not hiding out in staff rooms and student cafes. He took them down a hall which was narrow but very tall. The guts of the building were all sort of no-nonsense, industrial looking, in contrast to the more decorative public areas.

The ceilings must have been five metres up. The silence was palpable, you could cut a slice off and eat it. There were doors on the left side of the corridor, and when the professor opened one up, it was another long, narrow room with high ceilings and rows and rows of steel cabinets of over two metres tall.

There was this feeling of being afraid to speak, which would surely spoil the silence and the atmosphere.

The professor had a pretty good idea of where he was going. He led them to the end of one row, used a small key and opened up a cabinet that was easily three metres wide. Pulling out some shallow drawers, he showed them a collection of a dozen blowpipes from various cultures. They were all neatly tagged with white pasteboard tags tied on with thin buff twine.

Taking out a long, heavy black one with colourful markings on it, he allowed Gilles to have a good look. The thing must weigh a couple of kilograms anyway.

“How long is it?”

“That one’s over two metres. Bear in mind, gentlemen—” Picking a narrower drawer higher up, he opened it and Levain stepped in for a look. “The length of the thing adds to the efficiency, and yet the human lungs only have so much capacity.”

“Ah. And so?” Maintenon could sort of see what he meant—but it wasn’t up to him to say it.

The gentleman certainly qualified as an expert witness.

“Ha. Let’s say your lungs are one-tenth of a cubic metre, fully extended, in terms of nominal capacity. They’re nowhere near that, actually. A twelve or fifteen-millimetre bore, two and a half metres long, means that your air is partially expended, and your projectile is at maximum acceleration—” After that, it was a case of rapidly-diminishing returns. “There is a question of efficiency in terms of barrel length, but also the bore—too small, and you’re working too hard, too big and you haven’t got enough air in you…” A man had to drag the thing around with him in some pretty tight country.

Maintenon was nodding vigorously.

“I see.”

There was a big ball on the end, presumably to get a better grip with the lips.

“…you might do a bit of pre-breathing before firing. I’ve spent some time with these things and you can literally see spots in the peripheral vision after a really good shot. I’ve put a dart through a half an inch of white pine.” The tip, according to the professor, was sticking out five or six millimetres on the other side.

“Oh, really.”

Maintenon had another question.

“What do you reckon for the maximum effective range of this thing?”

“Oh, golly. I don’t know—maybe twenty, twenty-five metres max. Even so, that’s one hell of a shot—”

Gilles nodded.

Detective-Sergeant Andre Levain.
Levain was fascinated, finally trying the thing up to his mouth and seeking a target down at the far end, the way they had come in. There was a brown light-switch on the faded, pale green wall, and that was about it. It wasn’t all that bright in there after all, when one thought about it. The end of the pipe bobbed and weaved all over the place. Shifting his grip, he tried holding it differently.

He could see how this might take a bit of skill…a bloody miracle, really. The target couldn’t have been ten or twelve metres away.


“Okay, sergeant. The tip drops and it’s hard to aim it, as you’ve already noticed. But for light game such as birds and monkeys, the pipe is held much closer to the vertical. You’ll see that it is significantly easier to hold on a target.” By being directly below the target, the range was about as short as it was going to get for the hunter, who needed every edge just to survive.

Nodding, Levain tipped his head back and tried to imagine shooting at one screw or bolt visible on a bracket holding up a ventilation tube. It really was easier. That’s not to say it wouldn’t take a bit of practice. In hunting, if you missed, you missed. There might be a half a dozen hunters, all trying at once.

In homicide, you would only get one shot at it—and you didn’t dare tell your friends.

“Hmn. Okay.”

There were darts in various colours, types and sizes.

The professor reached into his jacket pocket and put on a pair of thin gloves. He picked out one item to show Gilles, who pulled his own gloves on and had a look.

“Wow.” Some of them were a lot longer than their dart.

Some of them were a good foot long and beautifully made.

“Right. These weapons are used primarily for hunting. The darts are almost invariably poisoned, or drugged perhaps is a better word. Even a hit that wouldn’t normally be lethal, causes the prey animal to become sleepy, or paralyzed, or numbed. In the case of monkeys and birds, they simply fall out of the tree.” In that sense, marksmanship wasn’t the highest priority—all the hunter needed to do was to tag a leg or limb. “The vegetable toxins that are used are usually pretty well destroyed by cooking. Also, the sort of dose that would take down a five or ten-kilo monkey would have little effect on a man—and you ain’t going to eat the whole monkey by yourself anyways. Right?”

“I see.”

“So. Normally, it’s not so much of an anti-personnel weapon, although primitive tribes do use them against each other. It’s not going to stop a charging man with a spear—not in time, anyways, and so they tend to fight spear against spear. In battle, which can be highly formalized, they’d be using shields, clubs, hardened wooden swords, primitive body protection, and relatively simple tactics.”

Maintenon nodded.

Boys, and the lesser warriors, low-status men, might hover on the flanks, hiding in the bushes and sniping opportunistically. The most honorable positions were in the centre and in the main line of attack or defense. The gentlemen certainly knew his stuff.

“For someone to have punctured the heart muscle, ah, shows at least a minimum knowledge of anatomy. Think of putting it into a moving target, right between the ribs like that. It’s a pretty small target even at close range. If they used a blowpipe, it either had to be very long, or they had good lungs, or it might have been powered by gas…possibly even a spring, gentlemen.” He pulled out another pipe, exchanging it with Levain. “So you say this happened at the Opera? Hmn.”

Levain stood there open-mouthed, as Gilles nodded.

“Good lungs—like an opera singer.”

“True.” Gilles thought about it. “Or a spring-loaded device—some sort of infernal machine.” It might be a lot easier to smuggle that into a crowded theatre.

“Okay. Assuming they really used a blowpipe or blowgun, I would think they must have spent a certain amount of time practicing for that one shot…it’s not well known, but there are European blowpipes. There’s even a few clubs out there. Mostly in major cities. People do it as a hobby or sport. They’re illustrated in various illuminated manuscripts, notably for hunting birds and such. It’s not a serious weapon of war.”

Gilles held up a hand.

“Okay. What sort of force would it take to penetrate three or four inches of tissue?”

“Hmn. More than you think. What sort of dart was used?”

“Ah, a big long thorn.”


The professor chewed his lip.

A historian, specializing in primitive weapons.
“Get yourself a pork roast or something and try shoving a similar dart into it a comparable distance. A simple spring-loaded scale, use that to do the pushing, n’est pas?”

“How do you mean?” Maintenon’s eyes had gone all cloudy, trying to visualize what he had just said.

“You have one person sort of hold the dart and steady it. Then use the pad or platform of your scales to push the dart into the meat…right?” Read off the number and there you go. “That gives you the amount of force required.”

“Ah. Now I get it—” The lab boys would come up with something.

Yes, that might do very nicely.


“Yes, Inspector?”

“Would it be possible to borrow one of these blowguns? Perhaps one of the more common ones—I see you have these three black ones here, all mostly the same…” A handful of darts for comparison and experimentation would also be handy. “I mean, if we promise to look after it, and if in the event of a successful prosecution, the university and this department would receive credit for their assistance?”

The professor hesitated only a moment.

“We’ll bring it back, of course.”

“Well, I—yes, I suppose that might be possible.”

His eyes sought Levain.

Andre shrugged, magnificently.

“Also, in the event, we might need you to testify as an expert witness.”


The sound of the heating sysetem hummed softly in the background and the lights flickered for just a second.

(End of excerpt.)

The Usual Disclaimer. This is a work in progress and all content is subject to change and revision over the course of writing Maintenon and the Golden Dragon.

Excerpt # 1.

Excerpt # 2.

Excerpt # 4.