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For All Nails #61: Picking Up Slack

Paris, France
27 June 1974

Yvette Fanchon was quite pleased.  One of her more pleasant duties as Premier
of the French Republic was making herself available to the ladies and
gentlemen of the media.  For the last two days, for example, she had been
accompanied throughout much of her day by Selma Bouvier of _Depeche Mode_
magazine.  Naturally, given that _Depeche Mode_ was a fashion monthly, the
article would be accompanied by a photo spread.

"Lovely, lovely, now look to the left, Madame Premier," said the
photographer, a Monseiur Gahan who had accompanied Mlle. Bouvier this
morning.  The three of them were atop the Palais de la Republic, where
Fanchon was posing against the Paris skyline in one of her trademark
short-skirt-and-long-jacket ensembles while Gahan shot roll after roll of
film.  "Exquisite, Madame Premier, now lean your left arm against the
balustrade and look at me."  Clickclickclickclickclick.

It was a tradition that had developed since the war for French leaders to
maintain an elegant facade.  Fanchon was perfectly well aware that the
tradition had its origins in the less-than-savory fact that the task of
French leaders since the war was to distract attention away from the reality
that it was the Germans, and not the French, who ruled France.

She was proud of all that she had done in the last four years to rectify the
situation.  In the wake of the Bayeux Incident, she had been able to
establish control over the Justice Ministry, replacing that corrupt jackal
Chaplette with her own man Clouseau.  With Clouseau's reforms proceeding
apace, France at last had a police force that was capable of actually
policing the country.

Another pose struck for Monseiur Gahan brought her Beretta watch into view,
and she said, "Monseiur Gahan, Madamoiselle Bouvier, I fear that our time is
at an end.  I wish you the best of luck with your article."  The two
journalists thanked her for her time, and Armand escorted them from the roof.

Fanchon made her own way down to her office.  She occupied her time reading a
report from Gitreau on the status of the Assembly's budgetary legislation
until Armand buzzed her to let her know her 10:30 appointment had arrived.

"Send him in, Armand," she said, replacing the telephone handset and tripping
the foot switch that opened her office door.  (That foot switch was an
excellent way to practice self-discipline; the urge to toy with it was a
constant source of temptation.)

His Excellency General Eric von Gellmann, Ambassador of the German Empire,
looked resplendant as usual in his Imperial Army dress uniform.  Fanchon
found herself wondering if the General's impeccable dress sense had
influenced Chancellor Markstein's decision to appoint him to his present
post, or whether the Paris assignment had made Gellmann more conscious of his
appearance.  Was living in France turning the General into a Frenchman?  She
would have to mention the idea to him at some point.  For now, they had more
important matters to deal with.

Rising from her seat, Fanchon responded with a gracious nod to Gellmann's
heel-clicking salute.  "Herr General," she said in German, "I wish to thank
you for taking the time to see me this morning.  Won't you please have a
seat?"

"You're quite welcome, Madame Premier," the General answered as he settled
himself.  "To what do I owe the honor of your invitation?"

"Herr General," said Fanchon as she reseated herself, "I wish to discuss with
you the matter of the Imperial Police presence in France."

"Specifically," said Gellmann, "you wish to discuss withdrawing the Imperial
Police back to Germany."

Come to think of it, Gellmann's quick wits had probably also played a part in
Markstein's decision.  "I do indeed, Herr General.  I think you'll agree that
Minister Clouseau has done an extraordinary job of bringing a sense of
professionalism to the French police force."

"I must admit, Madame Premier, that given what Herr Clouseau had to work
with, he has made admirable progress.  Whether that progress justifies
withdrawing the Imperial Police is another question."

"Well now, Herr General," said Fanchon as she eyed him intently, "just how
much progress would Minister Clouseau have to make, in your opinion, before
you could justify withdrawing the Schupos?"

Fanchon could see Gellmann's eyes sparkle behind his wire-frame spectacles.
"That sort of thing is difficult to quantify, Madame Premier."

Fanchon narrowed her eyes.  "Not at all, Herr General.  Number of crimes
reported.  Number of arrests made.  Number of convictions gained.  Clearance
rate of homicides.  It is very easy to quantify the effectiveness of a police
force."  She opened a desk drawer and withdrew a bound report.  "In fact,
Minister Clouseau has already done so.  He finds that in the last six months,
the effectiveness of the National Police has actually /surpassed/ that of the
Schupos in most of the categories studied."  She slid the bound report across
her desk.  "Feel free to take this copy with you, Herr General.  You will
find it includes both French and German versions of the text."

To her surprise, Gellmann began to laugh.  "Ah, Fraulein Fanchon, you never
cease to amaze me.  You know us too well, I fear.  No German can resist the
lure of a statistical analysis."  He leaned forward and took the report from
her desk.  "Very well, my dear Madame Premier.  I will take your report back
to Berlin with me tonight, and relay your request to Chancellor Markstein
when I meet with him tomorrow.  And do you know?"  He raised one eyebrow.
"If your numbers stand up, I think he might just accede to your request."  He
laughed again and added, "Is there anything else you wish to discuss?
Perhaps you would like us to withdraw the Security Service and the Criminal
Police as well?"

Recovering, Fanchon said, "No, Herr General, the Schupos will be enough for
the time being."

Rising from his seat, Gellmann gave her another salute with clicked heels and
said, "In that case, I shall bid you a fond farewell, Madame Premier.  Au
revoir."

"Au revoir," Fanchon echoed automatically as she triggered the foot switch.
After Gellmann's departure she shook her head.

She would never understand those people.