My Dear Dr. Watson,
Imagine the ecstatic rush that shot through me when I realized the tracking device I placed in the hilt of the katana stolen by Moriarty had not only led me straight to Paris, but to the very place I expected to meet you, the Café Le Select. The chase was not only afoot, but underfoot!
I sped to the scene with great alacrity, expecting to locate my prey comfortably ensconced at a table blithely sipping espresso from white China, the fingers of her free hand indolently lingering on the sword’s intricately decorated scabbard while she gloated about her presumed victory over me. Instead, I found the café empty except for a young garçon, who was standing at the counter resting his head on his hands while he sullenly stared into a dark corner of the establishment that sheltered a table littered with the remains of someone’s lunch.
“Did you serve that vanished repast?” I queried, pointing at the table.
“Yes, I made that. What’s it to you?” he sneered.
“It’s quite a lot to me,” I replied, withdrawing a small stack of euros from my wallet. The waiter stood up straight, his expression suddenly alert. “Tell me what you remember about that particular diner, if you would,” I said, smiling.
“She was quiet, ordered a Croque Monsieur and a Pepsi Max, read a book that she pulled from our shelves while she ate.”
“And her appearance?”
“Hesitant smile, piercing gray eyes—like a wolf. Remarkably long and full brunette hair.”
“Moriarty!” I cried.
The waiter shrugged. “I didn’t catch her name.”
“When did she leave?”
“She didn’t,” he said, pointing toward the restrooms.
“What!?” I immediately bolted toward the rear of the café, performing a quick calculation in my head.
I’d been speaking to the garçon for perhaps a minute. From my studies at London’s Natural History Museum, I knew that all mammals, including homo sapiens, take an average of twenty-one seconds to urinate. This is as true for an gigantic elephant as it is for a diminutive bat—or 5-foot, 1-and-a-half-inch-tall criminal mastermind. There was a slight chance I’d catch her in time.
But I was a split-second too late. Moriarty must have overheard me speaking to the waiter, for I spied her fleeing out of the restaurant’s back door, her infamous hair whipping around like a tornado.
I chased her through the alley and into the street out front, where she hailed a cab, ducked into the rear seat, and urged the driver forward. I scanned the road for another cab, but it was hopeless; There were none, and she vanished into the city’s infamous traffic faster than a frightened ferret running from a feathered hawk.
Scurrying back inside, I handed the waiter several of the bills that were still clutched in my hand.
“May I examine her table?” I asked.
“Oui, knock yourself out,” he said, grinning.
I stepped into the shadows and studied the area closely.
My katana was resting on the table, the hilt split open with a bread knife, the tracking device defiantly stuck into a pat of butter. So she had known about it all along, and used it to lead me here. A taunt.
A book was lying open on the table, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Moriarty had circled a line on a page, “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
Like you, I thought, wryly. Another taunt.
But Moriarty wouldn’t be satisfied with mere taunts.
I sat down to think, ordering a coffee and a chocolate Napoleon as aids, for I was sure the book itself was a clue, however obscure. Long after the sun had set and the moon had risen over the city, it finally came to me. Based on Hemingway’s experiences when he was young and working in Paris, the short collection of essays was an ode to a city he admired and loved like no other. In it, he deliberately mentions many of the city’s most-famous landmarks—the Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre, a number of cafés, specific neighborhoods he walked in with friends, even a favorite English bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., which doubled as a library and boarding house for aspiring writers like himself.
Yet curiously, to the observant reader there is one object he never mentions.
Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, it was built in1889 as the arched entrance to the World’s Fair, and at 324 meters high, it remains the city’s tallest and best-built structure next to Bernadette Brigitte, the comely burlesque striptease artist at the Moulin Rouge: The Eiffel Tower.
It’s world-famous, visited by millions of tourists every year. So how could Hemingway write about Paris yet fail to mention the Tower? It’s absence is striking, almost as if it had been lost, or stolen.
I knew with certainty that was her clue, and her cunning plan—to steal France’s beloved cultural icon, no doubt that very night, if not already, while I insufferably wasted time solving the puzzle she had set before me.
I scanned the site for other clues—not the ones she meant me to find, but ones she had overlooked.
There was a cloth napkin with a smear of lipstick on it. Having earlier made an effort to memorize the various brands and shades of women’s makeup to assist my investigations, I recognized the light-pink shade as an expensive one manufactured by the German company OEKAbeauty.
At the table’s far end, I spotted a notepad that appeared blank. When I held it up to the light at a severe angle, however, I saw the faint traces of handwriting from the missing page above it, and made out the word “Hochtief,” which proved in a quick Google search to be a German construction company headquartered in Berlin. One of the few companies in the world with employees who have the necessary expertise and contempt for France to dismantle the Eiffel Tower and spirit it away.
I turned to the waiter.
“What did Moriarty say to you while she was here?”
“Not much. Said hello, ordered her meal, told me I have wonderful eyes, and thanked me for my service.”
“In English or French?”
“German,” the waiter spat. “Fucking Nazis.”
So that was it. Moriarty, already a mistress of half a dozen languages in addition to her native Finnish, had mastered one more. I knew instantly she intended to take the Eiffel Tower to Germany, where she could seal her reputation as the world’s greatest thief. To Hochtief’s corporate warehouses hidden in the beating heart of old Deutschland, Berlin.
I should look on her scheme with disapprobation, Watson. But I confess I cannot help but admire her audacity and assiduous attention to detail. She is brilliant. A challenge even to me, if wicked where I have chosen serve the good. Or if not the good, then at least the lesser of evils.
Still, I mean to foil her, Watson. Not literally, of course, because aluminum’s expensive. I mean the other foil, as in “to thwart.”
I am headed to Berlin even as you read this letter, which I left in the waiter’s hands to keep you informed. Meet me there as soon as you can, at the currywurst stand near the Holocaust Memorial in the city’s center. Bring strong rope, a gag, and your handcuffs. We will need them to stifle her pleading and hold her fast once we finally have her in our grasp.
Together, we will set a trap that even Moriarty cannot escape…
This overly long post was written for the prompt “Yes, I Made That,” on Day 21 of 30 Days Minus 2 of Writing III, hosted by Nicky and Mike at We Work For Cheese. It’s also the third installment in a thrilling mystery written by my Team ZiMi teammate, Ziva, at Ziva’s Inferno. Look for part four on her blog soon.