Thursday, November 18, 2010

Excerpt. 'The Handbag's Tale.'

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1913 (Street Scene.)

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

Maintenon regarded the woman as Levain took notes. Her eyes gleamed dully across the desk, scarred with the cigarette burns of a million other interviews. The uniformed police had provided reams of notes for them. They had no witnesses and no one to arrest.

“Smoke?” he offered.

She shook her head, numb. Eloise was very vulnerable, pale blonde hair limp and her features showing fatigue. Her shoulders were slumped. She had been given a moment to wipe away the streaks of mascara from her tears. She was composed, now, he thought.

“Do you mind?”

The sound of the match flaring was loud in the stillness, the only other noise some intermittent typing in the distance.

She just ignored him, dumbly. She looked away at Levain for a moment, then met his eyes.

“I’m very sorry for all of this,” he began. “But we need to ask you a few questions.”

Andre scribbled away in the oppressive silence as the inspector blew a smoke ring up towards the light.

Andre looked up for a moment.

“Would you like some tea?” he asked pleasantly.

Andre looked quickly over at Maintenon.

“She’s had a nasty shock,” he told the inspector.

“No, thank you,” she said.

Maintenon went on with the questioning.

“So you are Eloise Charpentier from Cevennes. You moved here three years ago, and you work at the insurance company, and you live in apartment nineteen, one-forty-four Rue de la Portiers?”

“Yes,” she said.

“And you were looking for your purse?” asked Maintenon.

“Yes!” she agreed.

“Why were you looking for your purse in the alley?” asked the inspector.

She coloured slightly.

“I thought that I must have lost it there,” she said.

“Ah,” noted Maintenon. “Yet you did not know this deceased gentlemen, although he was at the party. He was involved briefly with another young lady, a certain Mademoiselle Vernier, also awaiting interview at this moment.”

“If you say so, sir,” she mumbled.

“Who did you arrive with?” he asked.

“With Guillaume,” she said.

“Were you smoking hashish with Guillaume in the alley?” asked Maintenon. “Or smooching?”

None of this seemed to be going anywhere and deep in his heart Maintenon knew they were just going through the motions.


So what we have is a dead body, an era, a place, (Paris,) and a group of suspects. At Genrecon 2009, I asked crime writer Dennis Collins if he sort of 'must have' a definite ending in mind, and then, 'write toward it.'

"No, I had to finish my first book just to find out who did it!" he recalled.

So that's about where I am right now. While it is true that I could simply pick a character and make them the killer, at this point in time i have no idea who killed the portly playboy banker Emile Danton. (Or even why!)

The goal at this point is simply to advance the story, by a couple of thousand words a day and see what happens. Maybe Inspector Maintenon and his husky sidekick Sergeant Levain will get a lucky break.

Editor's Note: this story is now complete at 11,000 words.

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