Chapter Twenty-nine

Paris, 1947

Octavius sat drinking coffee from a demitasse at his favorite table in his favorite café in Paris. The café, Le Procope, had been operating on the Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie ever since 1686. Decorated in red walnut paneling and green beaded trim, with black-checkered white marble floors and  a winding staircase overlooking the bar area, it had not changed much since its opening.

Octavius liked to sit inside, rather than at the preferred outdoor tables that better allowed for the favored French pastime of people watching, because he enjoyed watching people who didn’t think they were being watched. The small table by the door, his table, allowed him to see people walking in, and, more importantly, a view of the coat hanger by the stairs. There people would stop to remove their coats as if they were removing their daily burdens.

Octavius would watch the old, the infirm, and the weak most intently. Their slow and jerky movements when removing their outer vestments provided all the insight he needed into their level of frailty. These he would mark by memorizing their face and their clothes.

The café grew busiest just as darkness descended and Paris illuminated for the evening. This was also the time the older patrons began to exit, leaving the café to the young.

Once a week, Octavius Vieillesse would choose one of the elder patrons and follow them out. If they were alone, and they happened to walk down a quiet street, the elegant Frenchman would catch up to them and strike up a cordial conversation.  He usually began by asking them if they needed help to get home.

He had been surprised, when first he began his sojourns nine months prior, how many would readily accept his help and be thankful for any conversation. These he called Sheep. Only rarely did any of them ignore him or dismiss him with a curt rejection. These he called Rams. He was now very good at knowing which would be which before they even left the café. The Rams were the lucky ones. The Sheep, trusting of a gentleman in need of a cane himself, would never be weak again, never follow again, and, certainly, never return to the café again.

The cane was not an affectation or a disguise. He had spent the war years as a German sympathizer, and while it had brought him power and riches during the occupation, it had also gained him three years of beatings at the French penal colony off the coast of French Guiana named 'Bagne'. The Dutch closed the prison in 1946 due to the atrocities committed there by the sadist guards. The closing had resulted in freedom for Octavius.

The prison's other name had been more commonly know: 'Devil's Island'.

He had, however, taken from his years as a sympathizer a taste for the good life, which he indulged at every turn thanks to the Francs he had squirreled away during the war.

The other tastes he acquired during that time he allowed himself to enjoy about once a week.

This cool April evening he made his choice quickly; a little old woman, well into her seventies, was unable to hang her coat herself. Octavius obliged her befuddled attempts and hung it for her, walking back to his table after a slight curtsy. The woman thanked him with a small, confused smile.

He was certain she was a sheep.

Octavius watched her walk toward a table next to the grand stairs. He noticed she had sat by herself and that the other place setting was removed by Alfonse, the Maître d’. The old lady was dressed in an expensive black dress with long sleeves and white cuffs she would pull at continuously. She wore a white cloche hat with a narrow black band which she unpinned and placed on the empty chair next to her when the menu was presented to her. The black band around the hat ended in a ribbon, symbolizing the wearer’s status as married. Octavius knew she wore it as a widower. She pulled out a pair of pince-nez glasses from her purse and placed them at the end of her nose.  A tiny gold chain swung freely from the bottom of one of the lenses as she read the menu.

As he drank his coffee he would steal glances at her over the brim of his cup, his glasses fogging lightly from the steam. He considered his options. It had not yet been a week since his last choice was made; he usually waited at least a week, more often ten days, before choosing again. But Madame was perfect... perhaps too perfect. He had not gone undiscovered this long by being rash.

He watched a look of fear cross her face as she reached for her head and found her hat missing. She pulled her arm back when she realized it was on the chair she had placed it on. The tingle he felt at the bottom of his throat whenever he was ready to act came furiously this time.

His decision was made. Madame was exactly perfect - He’d act tonight.

With that decision, Octavius Vieillesse had become the Sheep.

Chapter 30

funny bunny says:
2007-09-08, 06:45
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Me says:
2007-10-27, 13:33
Este e o novo método de comentar...
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2008-01-21, 04:36
This rocks...
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