Metzger of Marseilles is the best source of forged identity documents in Europe. He is discrete, as befits a man in his profession, asking no troublesome questions. If a man who called himself Pietro Cardonas last year is trading that persona in for Reginald Barclay, it is of no consequence to him. The individual who thinks of himself as 47 has schooled himself to answer to numerous names over the years.
If that same individual were to ask to be identified as Forty Seven, Metzger would no doubt give a Gallic shrug and confirm the spelling. 47 has successfully done business with Metzger before, and they have a cordial relationship. He has idly wondered whether forgery is a secondary source of income, or if it finances the man's cover as a wine merchant.
As Metzger is double-checking the absolute correctness of his passport, 47 glances around the shop, where bottles are cradled in racks, in cartons, wine bottles everywhere.
His gaze is arrested by the graphic on one label in particular. Easing through the narrow aisles, he studies it. The letters Q-S-L are intertwined in an ornate typeface, but what's captured his attention is the picture below the letters. On a red-and-white striped background is a familiar-looking black dragon. 47 smiles. Apparently Nika is making a success of her vineyard.
"Everything is complete, Monsieur," Metzer says, coming forward with the sheaf of documents to show him. "Merci, very good," he says when 47 deposits the amount they've agreed upon, plus a gratuity for future good will. "What's that you've found? Ah, the Quarante-Sept Lignes-that's 'forty-seven rows', probably the quantity of vines they have cultivated. The property produced good vintages under its previous vintner, so I thought I would take a chance on the new management."
"How is it?" 47 inquires. He's touched by her sentimental gesture. Forty-seven rows, indeed!
Now Metzger gives the shrug. "Not remarkable, but drinkable. I'd pair it with lamb, perhaps, or medallions of beef. Try it with my compliments, Monsieur Barclay. To your good health!"
Later, in his hotel room, 47 has chilled the bottle and is ready to sample it. He uncorks it carefully and sniffs the cork. The scent is heady, and he thinks of the fragrance of Nika's hair, lemons and chamomile with just a memory of roses...the wine is sweet, ripe...he isn't Metzger, he doubts he would recognize a truly remarkable wine, but this is pleasant.
He is enjoying his second glass when he focuses on the bottle again, and this time, he sees it, and begins to chuckle. The label is busy enough, between the fancy lettering of the name and the bold black dragon-it's three times the size of the one Nika has tattooed on her cheek-that he hadn't paid much attention to the background. Now, he realizes the vertical stripes of varying widths are a stylized bar code...in blood red.