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For All Nails #95: Get Shorty

Paris, France
28 June 1974

The realist philospher Jean-Paul Trudeau famously once said that an optimist
could never be pleasantly surprised.  Yvette Fanchon had begun to suspect
that the same was true for politicians.  Today in particular had been full of
surprises, all of them unpleasant: a Serb terrorist with Scandinavian
connections had killed Chancellor Markstein and wounded Ambassador Gellmann;
news of the assassination had set off some sort of riot or uprising in
St. Petersburg; and on top of everything else, the New Granadans had launched
an invasion of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

With all that going on, it was just one more unpleasant surprise for Fanchon
to walk into her office that evening and find Maurice Lebrun waiting for her

He was perched atop her desk, his short legs swinging idly to and fro.  In
his powder blue velvet suit and white lace cravat, he looked like a slightly
oversized bluebird with black-framed spectacles.

With a grin that exposed crooked teeth, he said, "Hello, baby, love what
you've done with the place."  Nodding towards the Levesque portrait of her
great-grandfather, he added, "The old man gives it just the right feel of
veiled authority.  Must give poor Eric the shivers."

"How the hell did you get in here?" she demanded.

"Language, doll, language, you've got a public image to uphold," he mockingly
scolded her.  "And this used to be my office, remember?  Who do you think
installed that door switch under the desk?  I still know one or two secret
ways around here."

"Fine," Fanchon said.  "You can go now."

Still grinning his unattractive grin, Lebrun said, "Not even the least bit
curious about why I'm here?"

Circling slowly around the desk, Fanchon said, "Whatever it is, Maurice, I'm
sure it must be something utterly inconsequential.  Everything else in your
life has been."  Seating herself behind the desk, she added, "Incidentally, I
already have an ugly paperweight for my desk, so your services in that regard
are unnecessary."

Possibly because his neck was beginning to pain him from twisting around to
keep her in view, Lebrun hopped down from the desktop.  The result wasn't
much of an improvement, though, since he immediately leaned up against the
desk and propped his elbows on top.  And the grin was still there.

"Ah," he smarmed, "your mouth says no no no, but your eyes say yes yes yes.
And never let it be said that Maurice Lebrun refused the plea in a lady's

Fanchon began searching the desktop for something to hit him with.  She had
just decided on the in/out tray when he continued, "I am here, my sweet
cabbage, to offer you an opportunity to redeem your reputation as a shameless

Fanchon withdrew her hand from the tray.  "And how do you propose to do

His grin grew wider and, if possible, uglier.  "By allowing you to join the
winning side before the action starts."

"I was unaware of any impending action that I might be on the winning side

"The most glorious action of all," Lebrun exclaimed.  "Revolution!"  Unable
to contain his excitement, he left the desk and began to stride back and
forth across the office.  "The long nightmare of our national humiliation is
about to end!  A blow has been struck at the very heart of the German Empire!
St. Petersburg is only the beginning!  Soon the whole of Europe will rise up
against the foul barbarians who ravage her!  This is the day!  This is the
hour!  This is . . . "  Words failed him at last, and he finished,
". . . this."

Fanchon's hand had now disappeared completely from above the desktop.  "I see
your previous lesson didn't take," she remarked

Now, at last, Lebrun's grin slipped away.  His expression suddenly immobile,
he said, "If you're referring to the incarceration that followed my ouster, I
assure you that is one mistake I will not be repeating.  I will not allow the
Germans another opportunity to imprison me."

That's what you think, Fanchons thought as her hand moved beneath the desk.
With any luck, there was one secret in this office that Lebrun was not, after
all, privy to.  Aloud, she said, "I was not referring to your imprisonment.
I was referring to the activities which led to it."  She nodded towards the
wall to her left.  "Do you see the sign hanging over there?"

" 'La violence est le dernier refuge de l'incompétence'," he read.  He spat.
"A philosphy for cowards and women.  He," Lebrun gestured in his turn to the
opposite wall, "would not have approved.  He would be appalled to find his
portrait in the same room with such a sentiment."

"Some of the members of my party, and of my family as well, choose to believe
that the Marshal was infallible," Fanchon replied without heat.  "Given the
disasters with which his regime ended, that is obviously untrue, and I feel
myself under no obligation to repeat his errors.  We face an enemy - and make
no mistake, I am as aware as you that they /are/ our enemy - with an
overwhelming preponderance of military force.  In such circumstances, any
resort to violence on our part is doomed to failure.  We must find another
way.  We /have/ found another way.  And I have no intention of letting you
'kick the duck' as the Mexicans say, with your pathetic attempt at an
uprising."  Shifting her attention past Lebrun, she added, "Get him."

And just like that, Lebrun found himself held in the grip of two men in the
dark green uniforms of the National Police.  A search of Lebrun's person
turned up a small pistol, though where he managed to hide it within his
famously tight clothing was a mystery.

Lebrun gave her one more look at his repulsive grin, but she could see
uneasiness showing from his bespectacled eyes.  "You surely don't think I was
relying only on that little Minetti for protection?  Unless I depart from
this building under my own power within the next half hour, my compatriots
here and elsewhere across France will set our plans in motion immediately.
And their very first target, I assure you, will be yourself and your little
clique of collaborators."

"Your compatriots," Fanchon repeated.  "That would include, would it not,
Monseiurs LeClerc, Chambon, Darrand and Bienville here in Paris, along with
Monseiur Raoult in Orleans, Monseiur Mallet in Limoges, Monseiur Dutrochet in
Bordeaux, Monseiur Sabatier in Marseille . . . shall I go on?  No?  Sad to
say, Shorty, you make as poor a conspirator as you did a politician."

The grin was gone again, a definite improvement.  "And you intend to do
better, I suppose."

"I am already a better politician.  As to the other," she paused for a
moment.  "Who can say?"

The last she saw of Lebrun before he was dragged from her office was the look
of dawning astonishment on his face.