Prologue- Dangerous talk
Giselle knew the secret to a successful erotic dance: the hips. A pair of nice breasts earned a nice tip, but a flat stomach, a thin figure, a beautiful pink round bum, and the ability to make said bum flow and move like the ocean waves earned a whole lot more.
She had a beautiful body, something she was proud of. And as the floodlights above her head illuminated the stage, the whoops and hollers of the nazi soldiers told her it was appreciated. She stared at the painted backdrop of the Parisian night sky, with the myriad of buildings painted onto wooden boards. They were cleverly set a few inches ahead of the blue backdrop, so as to give the viewer the sensation of dimensionality. She stood for a moment, posed like Aphrodite rising from the seashell, her back turned so that she could savor the last few seconds of not having to smile at the cockroaches infesting her beloved city…
Her musical cue kicked in and she snapped around, a smile on her face, and pleased the nazi hordes. She kept her eyes up, admiring the heavy red and gold art deco music hall style of the building. Anything was more pleasing than the jackbooted invaders seated all around her. Madame Rousseau had hired her for her body, but Giselle's true gift was her voice. She flowed up to the microphone in time with the music, her slightest movements making the drunken krauts in the front row holler appreciatively. She reached the microphone and began to sing a slow, sensual, and melancholy song which resonated far deeper with her than it did with the drunken, hungry crowd:
Hello my love
It's getting cold on this island
I'm sad alone
I'm so sad on my own
The truth is
We were much too young
Now I'm looking for you
Or anyone like you
A solitary figure sitting at the corner bar was the only member of the audience not even remotely interested in the show. He was a large man with a strong, handsome face, and an athletic build which drew the eye of many of the women in the crowd, including Giselle's. He was dressed in a heavy, shabby green coat, cargo pants, and a gray faded flat cap. All in all, he looked to be a wholly unremarkable working man. A dock worker, perhaps, arrived from Le Havre, determined to spend his weekend getting sodden drunk.
Perhaps the only truly unique thing about him was the fire in his eyes, as he stared down at a singed picture depicting himself and another, taller man, patting each other on the back in a show of brotherly affection, with a beautiful, freshly painted racecar in the background.
The man took a sip from a glass of whiskey and propped the picture against the bottle, ignoring the noises all around him. A cigar smoldered in his right hand.
A voice with a heavy, thick French accent spoke quietly, and the man knew it was directed at him, "Is this seat taken?"
The man turned his head slightly, surveying the newcomer through the corner of his eye. His companion was a tall man, thin, with sallow cheeks and flowing brown hair.
"I'm not lookin' fer company." The drinker said, taking a drag on his cigar. His thick accent revealed his home country, Ireland.
His visitor slipped onto the barstool beside him, ignoring the dismissal. He said, "This is Paris, my friend. In this city, no one drinks alone."
The Irishman ignored him, and the Frenchman took the opportunity to pour himself a glass of whiskey, making the picture fall to the table, "So…what are we celebrating?"
"We aren't." the Irishman replied, glaring at him and snatching away the bottle, "But if you're keen to get yer teeth kicked in, I'll be happy to oblige."
"Hmm," The frenchman's eye fell on the picture, and it's burnt edges, "I'd have thought you were too busy kicking yourself, with good reason I'm sure."
"What's it to you?"
The Frenchman took a long drink and set his glass down, obviously preparing for a speech, "Do you think you are the only man in Paris hoping to drown a guilty conscience? This city is filled with men like us, we all have good reasons…" he glanced back at the Irishman and was disheartened to see that the man was ignoring him, favoring the glass of whiskey. He continued anyway, determined to see the thought through, "I have been watching you these past weeks, and I have seen that you have no love for the Nazis."
The Irishman froze in the act of pouring himself another drink, and the Frenchman knew he had hit his mark. Time to start digging. "The question is, how many people will die at the hands of these jack-booted killers while you sit there, cowering like a whipped dog?"
He smiled slightly as his companion thumped the bottle on the table angrily, his face showing guilt and the sort of quiet anger upon which a man could spend years brooding. He knew he had hit his mark, "Ahh, you are mad enough to break that bottle over my head, but you won't lift a finger to help these people, eh?"
"This isn't my country." The Irishman muttered through gritted teeth.
"Oh? Did you abandon your conscience at the border? Does the need for justice end at some line drawn on a map?"
"Aye, if it's a map of Ireland!" the Irishman declared, turning to look his companion full in the face, "You Frenchmen have unrealistic expectations."
"Open your eyes!" the Frenchman persisted, raising his voice slightly, "The War is all around us! You can't escape it! You can hide here, and leave the fighting to braver men, or you can walk out that door and do what must be done! The choice is yours!"
"Keep it down!" the Irishman pleaded, "That sort of talk'll get us both a bullet in the back of the head."
The Frenchman leaned in close, put his mouth up to the Irishman's ear, "I intend to do more than talk!" he said quietly, rising from his seat. He circled around to the Irishman's other side, "There is a courtyard around the corner. Meet me there when you are ready to stop hiding." He walked away.
The Irishman hunched over the bar again, and continued to stare at the picture, his blood boiling. Then he very carefully rose from his seat, pocketed the picture, and headed for the door.