During one of my breaks I checked in on Thibalt to make sure he was OK after getting slugged by the Brick. While his paunch and receding hairline didn’t suggest it, the middle-aged Frenchman was a sturdy sort. He just smiled around the chipped tooth and broken nose like the professional he was and said it was nothing.
I finished up my shift in the cavern of the slot machines. Checking out at the security station a sullen Jasper ignored me, upset that Carlu’s arrival had overshadowed anyone possibly caring about me leaving my sector. I would have thought the rumor-mongering surrounding the crime boss’ arrival would have given him something to focus on other than petty blackmail, but he barely glanced my way as I signed out. Nobody does haughty quite like the French.
In the pre-dawn dark of the city I paid more attention to the reflection of the streetlamps in the puddles along the sidewalk than I did to what was going on around me. Mitnick and Carlu occupied most of my brain, so I didn’t notice when the late-model Citroën pulled up, riding along the bollards beside me. I only noticed it when a car behind the hatchback honked its horn, urging the Citreon to speed up its pedestrian pace. Knowing who it was, I pretended not to notice.
I got a few blocks from the casino but not quite to the tram station when the BX’s tinny horn made it impossible to ignore. With the hook of the umbrella’s handle resting on the crook of my arm I stuffed my hands into the peacoat and turned to the car, trying very much to appear as if I might have picked up Carlu’s Tokarev. Between the mist on the windshield and the early morning dark I couldn’t see the driver, but I knew he could see me. With the occasional auto whipping past it in the outside lane the BX idled there.
I walked over and bent down to see the driver finish cranking down the passenger side window. His black hair, thin face, and aquiline nose were lit by the headlights of the occasional passing car. He leaned back into the driver’s seat and smiled at me as if inviting me into a limousine. “Get in.”
With the same kind of regret that I imagine a tired streetwalker possesses I gave him a doleful half-grin and reached for the car door handle. I thought about giving him some excuse, but I decided I’d rather talk to him without Sophie around. I got in as another automobile passed the BX on the motorway, blaring its horn.
Ignoring the fading anger of the other car, the driver waited until I got in before pulling away from the pedestrian border and getting up to speed. “How have ya been?”
I stared at the oncoming lights. “I’ve been fine Atwell. How are you?”