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                            And there I floated along the shores of Paris, vaulting the crumbling warehouses,

                                             tap-dancing over cobbled streets.

Passing lazy cats and blooming window boxes, outside faded little boulangeries, squeezed in between high tenements. Shop fronts of spiraled perfume bottles and dangly copper earrings, secondhand scuffed suits and shinned brogues.


I climbed over yards with draped mysterious house boats, balanced along slim walkways rocking on brown waters. Some high some low; storeys of water, and sewers and underwear-lines, and life.

A small shop with pies, another bins of spice, another an assortment of artichokes, and hens, and marbled beans, and hanging lavender leaves. And then a chocolate croissant bakery bellowing out a heavenly potion from a chimney into an iron-fire-escape alley cat row.


Little bells knocked by doors chime pleasure. Pleasure for the stevedore, the barge runner, the rag lady; for the sellers of oily lamps, and rubbed-down wardrobes and Chinese tar.

Pleasure and grit, pissoirs and spits.


I scrambled along a walkway of an abandoned blue tug, watching my step. I was looking for a café; it had existed twenty years or so ago. A little red wooden thing, with adverts on wooden boards, the type found on postcards under the tower. It was wedged in between the multilayered streets, under a bridge, over a metro’s tangled metal-legged fly-over, up and under a viaduct of garages for secondhand Citroens, skilled table turners, bloodied butchers’ dens and criminals playing gin on an up-turned drum; hidden.


It was there.

It hadn’t changed a bit. A little more paint had flaked but that was about it. I walked in.

There she was, still dyed blonde, still draped at her stool, at the end of the bar.

I walked up, sat down next to her and ordered a Vin rouge and a strong espresso.

I lit a Marlboro. I couldn’t stand those French fags no matter how cool the box was.


So, we meet again.

What are you, Mickey Spillane?

What else should I say?

Hi, Mia, how the devil have you been?

Ah But, Mia, I know the devil you have been.

You, my friend, know nothing, and of that nothing you know very little.

But, Mia, I have climbed over wrecked barges and fought through iron scrap to see you.

Cut the crap, Micky, you got my note then? I wasn’t sure… after all this time.

Twenty years.

Is it so little? Doesn’t time drag by when life’s a piece of shit.

Jesus, you got bitter as well as twisted. Let’s have a few drinks and maybe catch a bite to eat in the Marais later, to catch up. Twenty years; we sure have a lot of catching up.

If it’s not business, Micky, I ain’t interested, and no one eats in the Marais anymore. Where’ve you been?

Away, for too long it seems…Is our bikers bar still there, where we fell in love in leather; Jim Morrison and Jack Daniel’s and smack. You know, on Rue de Lappe?

You always were the delusional romantic, Micky. That dump went way back, some drum and bass cocktail shithole now.

The religion and porno bistro?

The artifacts and filth are still there, but the clientele are snobs and cheap.

What about the magician’s restaurant in St Paul?

Who the hell needs card tricks over a soufflé these days. No, my friend, the real Paris is around the 11th and 20th Arrondissments.

Oberkampf, really? That used to be a real run-down workers grind.

Add a load of gutter chic students and cheap food and a piano, in run-down buildings, minimal battered furniture, all out of sync…Et voila…your new trendy Paris!


Ok, another drink and then we’ll head off, you know somewhere good to eat? It’s been so long since I’ve eaten properly. I’ve been in Eastern Europe.

My god, how the hell did you survive? And I didn’t like to say, but you have got fatter.

That’ll do it for you. Transylvanian cuisine is the only thing worth writing to Paris Match about, but even that is torture to a palate.

Ok, I have the perfect place for you, Light bites of succulent delights.

Ah, Mia, you always were a poet.

A poet and a painter, and a lover.

But of course.


We sat in an East district, close to the cemetery. She was right. This felt like the Paris of old. Crowds of students sat eating and drinking, mixing with beautiful things who waited on tables. Everyone kissed, or laughed or argued with passion, and some read and some took notes, brushing back greasy fringes from tapped-up glasses.

Over oysters and a sweet wine we conversed:


So I got your letter

I guessed as much.

A big favour to ask you said

Not a big “After all the things I’ve done for you Mickey” favour. I want you to find a man for me.

Does he want to be found this guy?

Probably not.

So what’s he done? Why do you want to find him?

He stole something from me.

Go on.

My heart

What, you mean he stole your love and ran away?

No, he literally stole my heart

What like…Stole it?



Very tricky.

And you of course would like it back

Well, yes, but just for appearances sake to be honest.

Could be distressing.


Well what do you think he has done with it? In my experience the first few days are vital when tracking a heart…you know, things have been done to them or they have been put to various uses. How long has he had yours, a week or so?


She nodded.


Difficult. I mean I could find it but it may not be in the best condition.

But it’s still mine.

Well, technically yes, but it may not be the heart you remember.

I’m ready to take that risk. I am just not the same without it.

So, who’s the guy and where can I find him?

No idea where he is. He like flew on the tip of a morning fog.

Nice, a name then, a description….

He is a son of a bitch, ugly mo...

Just details, Mia, please.


Sorry, yes…Rebury, Tobias Rebury. Tall, skinny, good strong chiseled face, long swept back raven hair, wears black as you would expect and…

Wait a minute is that The Rebury of the back alley dueling dens of Pigalle?

That’s him.

Famed for his sword skill and lack of compassion; no opponent is ever spared.

Those duels of honour are played for real. The people know what they are getting into, or they should.

Agreed, but you want me to find him. And then what?

Well, kill him, of course.

Of course.

But not before you get my heart off him, naturally.

Naturally...but the killing thing, might not be so easy, what with him being a terribly good fighter and all.

Micky, you under-play yourself...I know you can handle him, what with all your years of experience.

Yes well, I’m getting on a bit now, not so quick on the old fighting front as I was. Can’t I just find him and negotiate to have the heart back?

I’d prefer if you killed him.

Well OK, I’ll see what I can do. And by the way, my fee is the usual one.

You never change, Micky.


She smiled, lightly flicked her lace handkerchief at my nose and kissed my cheek.


It wasn’t difficult to track him down. I just laced a few palms in the ‘Live’ show foyers of Pigalle.

I sat across the street in an old Citroen, non-descript, me in a grey suit and sporting a long shadow. I smoked and ate candy bars and pissed back in bottles, after taking swigs of Jack’s.

Usual predictable waiting game.


He arrived in the early hours, staggering and alone. He fumbled with his key. I went over and offered to help and he thanked me. He walked up the stairs. I followed and helped him again when he got to the door, as soon as he opened the door, I punched him.


What the fu….

I turned him over quickly and took a gun from his pants, a knife from his sock

What the…hell, do…you…

Shut the fuck up Rebury, and get your arse in the living room.

I kicked him towards the couch.


Sit your arse on there…

So…you... know my name…Mr..?

He was panting and wiping the blood from his lip

I was trying not to pant….


Who I am is not important…You know how this goes down as well as I do…I ask you for something, you say you have no idea, I do you over a little bit, you tell me or I shoot you, blah de blah…

So, you want to cut all that crap and get down to it.

Up to you, save us both a bit of grief though.

OK, what if I told you I have no idea why you are here an…


Shwap! I hit his jaw. His teeth crunched.


Now let’s not go ther…

Ok OK, the heart, yes?

He spat blood and bile on the floor


I was gonna give it back, you know, I just thought I could kind of borrow it for a while, you know put it to good use.

Borrow it? It’s a bleeding heart.

I know, but she doesn’t use it much!


Well, he was right there, but business is business, so they say.


It’s in the draw under the women’s lace hankies and undies



I opened the case, opened my eyes and stepped back, a little step…

I took a drag.

I buttoned the case, turned and looked at Rebury. He was wiping the last of the blood from his nose and lips. He flicked his head back and puffed out his chest.


Now why don’t we settle this in the time-honoured fashion?

I raised my head, then my arm, squinted one eye and popped a 9mm straight between his eyes. I had always been a good shot, and I sure as hell wasn’t gonna give him a chance with a sword.


So, it’s all yours.

I pushed the case along the bar and sipped my Absinthe. 

Darling how can I ever…

I held up my finger to her lips.


Babe don’t ask me that question let’s just settle on the agreed fee… How does it feel to be back with it?

Great I can feel all these emotions whizzing around, dying to get out into me.

You want to watch that, don’t let them run away with you, or without you in this case.

Droll, Micky, there’ll always be a place in there for you, you know that, Micky.

Mia, You and I both know there isn’t any room but for yourself.


Too true Mickey, until….



We brushed our lips and breath.


I turned with the other case and, putting on my trilby and coat, walked out the bar and up the steps.

After a few flights I looked back and caught the silhouettes from the bar, a couple of hipsters were fighting over the lighting of her cigarette. She tossed her head back and gripped the holder, grinned and waited.


Nick Gerrard – One time Chef, activist, union organiser, musician, punk rocker, teacher, traveller, Eco-lodge owner in Malawi. Lived and drank far too much in 6 countries; travelled to loads more. Loves trains, music, books, football, politics, languages, different cultures and food.

Written articles on politics, music, travel, culture and food for magazines and web sites. One son, one tractor, one Eco-lodge in Czech Mountains! Two books published.

Stories, poems and essays have appeared in various magazines and web sites including; Day12 travel magazine, Citizens for decent Literature, Outsider writers, Thieves Jargon, Bluehour magazine, Etherbooks.


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