In anticipation of Chris DeFazio’s book signing at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans (Saturday, March 19 from 2-6 pm), we are sharing Chris’s new short story, The Last Time We Saw Paris. Read an excerpt below and download the full version free at the TouchPoint bookstore!
The odd-looking, gangly man sat at Cafe Trocadero on a crystal clear, perfect Sunday afternoon. The Cafe’s much sought after view of the Eiffel Tower had made it an “in” spot for over two centuries. It was a place that attracted the beautiful people and the late night revelers of Paris who sought a precious outdoor table for the perfect 4 p.m. brunch.
The man did not look to be the late night type, and he was most definitively not beautiful. He was nicely dressed, not quite stylish, but acceptable, and that, in and of itself, made him unacceptable amongst the ultra-chic diners spattering the tables along the street.
His thick spectacles that dangled from his over-sized, hawk-like nose also made him stand out because with the various medicines and micro-surgical procedures available, no one needed glasses any longer. Sunglasses though, they were absolutely needed for appearance’s sake and to make not-so-subtle statements of the wearers’ wealth. Some pairs adorning the various striking faces that day cost upwards of thirty thousand Eurodollars.
The man’s amazing shock of unruly, thick hair conjured images of the early Modern Era genius Albert Einstein. It may have been plastered down at some point in the day but by now, the plaster was obviously failing. Various patches of his hair had sprung up in unpredictable patterns and at extremely odd angles completing an appearance that screamed that he was quite peculiar and very much out of place.
A complicated appearing gadget was affixed to his skinny wrist by a wide metallic band. As he spoke, his eyes nervously flicked to it, checking it over and over again. What he saw there clearly did not make him happy.
For all intents and purposes the device appeared to be an over-sized, antique wristwatch. But no one had worn a wristwatch for decades. They’d been rendered obsolete since the dawn of the implantable cerebral chip. And courtesy of the chip, everyone always knew the exact time every second of every day. It was one of the thousands of small, but extremely important “gifts” that humans were thankful for courtesy of their computer-enhanced intellects.
The man’s large Adams Apple bobbed up and down as he continued his animated conversation with the woman with whom he sat. She was not as beautiful as most who sat at Trocadero that day, but compared to the man, she was a work of art. She was thin, perhaps forty with dark brown hair that was worn casually over her shoulders. Her features were plain with thin lips and a slightly underdeveloped chin.
As the man talked on and on, clearly becoming agitated, she removed her sensibly priced sunglasses to better look at him. Her clear, light blue eyes dominated her face. They were distinctly large and by far her best feature. Her eyes sparkled with interest, and perhaps concern as the man continued to talk. The volume of his voice rose and now he began to gesticulate wildly and passionately as he spoke. As he went on, he crossed and uncrossed his long, spindly legs, barely able to un-tuck and then tuck them back under their tiny wrought kevluminum table.
Other diners were starting to notice him, becoming upset and whispering amongst themselves. The woman knew it would only be a matter of time before the Maître D’ made an appearance in an attempt to calm him or worse still to ask him to leave. This sort of loud, upsetting conversation was simply not tolerated at the Cafe Trocadero.
She reached across the table and touched his hand in an effort to quiet him. Thankfully it worked.
“I know we’ve just met today, Desmond,” she said. “But I truly do like you. And for some reason, I feel as if we’ve known each other for years. But how can you expect me to believe all this?” She paused for a moment. “I know a doctor in the city, a very good doctor. Perhaps I can get him to agree to see you. I think he could help you work through this.”
Desmond checked his watch a final time and sighed. “I am a doctor, Sabine. I don’t need one.”
A sonic boom rocked through the peaceful Sunday afternoon. Desmond didn’t flinch. Sabine let out a brief shriek, joining the chorus of shocked surprise that sang out from the cafe and the rest of the city. All eyes were drawn to the super-bright, white flash in the sky, and for an instant, the City of Light was truly that. As quickly as it came the brightness suddenly vanished and the perfect, Sunday-afternoon, blue sky made a brief reappearance. But it was quickly overwhelmed by a rapidly descending, angry red cloud.
Desmond stood suddenly. Sabine’s hand fell away from his. He didn’t appear at all stunned, only horribly distraught.
“You see,” Desmond said. “I told you, my love.”
The top of the Eiffel Tower began to melt as Desmond disappeared right before Sabine’s eyes. She was shaken by this, but not for very long.
Sabine, and everyone else at the cafe were engulfed by a blood red, magenta swirl of supernova-hot positrons. In a matter of seconds, Paris was reduced to a smoldering graveyard.
Sabine had spent the most wonderful afternoon of her life with a total stranger. She was a cautious woman by nature, and this sort of behavior wasn’t like her at all, but she had to admit that she hadn’t felt as strong a connection with a man in … well, forever.
She regarded Desmond Ashcroft once again as he sat across from her at the Cafe Trocadero. She couldn’t deny he was not the most handsome man in the world, in fact quite the opposite, But there was something about his eyes as they looked at her. Through his thick spectacles she could see they possessed an inner beauty that his external features could never hope to match. Ashcroft’s eyes clearly possessed something else as well; love for her.
This sort of thing never happened to the likes of Sabine Mollet. Love at first sight was always for others, never for her. The thought of being in love sent a tingling thrill down her spine. Her hand reflexively came to her lips. Desmond noticed.
“Are you all right, Sabine?” he asked.
She smiled. “I’m fine, Desmond. I was wondering though, why the spectacles? Surely, you don’t need them.”
Desmond removed his glasses and absently rubbed his nose. “No, I don’t of course. It’s just that I’ve grown used to them through the years. Old habits, I suppose.”
“I’d like to learn more about your old habits,” Sabine replied.
Desmond smiled. It made his rather odd-looking face appear rather young.
“And I’d love to tell you about them.” Desmond paused looking at the metallic contraption on his wrist. “But I’m running out of time and I need to ask you something.”
She very much wanted to ask him about the “watch-like” device on his wrist, but instead she said, “Go ahead, Desmond.”
His very peaceful eyes took on an intense note, boring into her. “Do you trust me?”
Sabine was a bit unnerved by his penetrating scrutiny, but answered honestly. “Yes, I think I do. Even though I’ve only known you for a few hours, I think I do trust you.”
Desmond sighed in relief. “Oh thank goodness, thank goodness for that.” He reached across the table and took her hand. “Then you must come with me right now. We haven’t got much time. Something terrible … horrible is going to happen. It’s the Eastern Alliance, my dear.”
Sabine was unsettled. She was expecting some type of romantic statement, nothing like this. She slid her hand out of his and leaned back. “What do you mean, Desmond? Surely not that; I admit it was frightening for these last several months, but the treaties have been signed. We’re safe now.”
Desmond shook his head. “No, they lied. They were delaying until everything was ready.” Desmond looked at his “watch” again, and then up at the sky. “We don’t have much time, and certain provisions must be made. You must be prepared before we can escape.”
Sabine’s thoughts of love at first sight, her picture-perfect afternoon in Paris and of what the evening may have had to offer came crashing down around her. She felt the fool, a feeling she was quite used to in matters of the heart. “Desmond, I like you very much, and perhaps even more than that, but I’m not going anywhere with you. Now please stop talking like this, you’re scaring me.”
Desmond’s head bowed forward and Sabine saw his tears silently rain down on the expensive tablecloth. She was stunned and reached out and touched his hand.
Desmond spasmodically pulled his hand away and sat bolt upright. He quickly mopped the moisture from his face with his napkin, reaffixed his spectacles and stood. “You’ll forgive me, Sabine, but I cannot watch this … you, again. It’s been too many times now. Please excuse me.”
With that Desmond spun on his heel and started at a brisk pace for the corner.
Sabine called out after him, “Desmond.” But her voice was drowned out by the sonic boom that exploded in the beautiful Paris sky. She looked up to see a flash of light so brilliant that it blotted out the sun. “Oh my God,” she whispered.
She looked back to the corner for Desmond, but he was gone.
In a matter of seconds, so was she.
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