The smallest restaurant in Frons also happens to be the largest. It is a quaint little place, the quiet warmth and scratchy music crackling unobtrusively in the background fit with the air of the sleepy old village, buried in the heart of France. The soft hues of brown and red are a homely sight to a wheel-weary traveler, however poor the food may be. The manager is an old man who spent his life building the place up into a respectable inn before five fatal food poisonings occurred on the same night, the result of the kitchen staff celebrating one of their numberâs 21st earlier that day. Overnight the restaurant gained notoriety nationwide.
The place was forsaken by the disgusted and embarrassed townsfolk for well nigh a year. The once famous Frons market, previously the only place one could purchase the famous spices once produced only deep within the decrepit home of an equally old woman, was now nonexistent. The only reason a young man was ever taught the secrets of her culinary magic was in thanks for an old life saved. Even then it was on the premise that it went unshared with anyone who would seek to make a fortune of it, a promise unkept after her demise.
But thanks to the deaths of five hungry young travelers, none of it mattered anymore; no-one wanted to hear about Frons food, except perhaps spices made outside of the area. The streets were at no point a bustling hive of activity but now they lay silent, as if dead; poisoned perhaps. With the old womanâs spice now sold internationally by many French companies, there was no need for the tasters and the rare spice enthusiasts to be making the frustratingly long journey from any main city to the village. And after all, no-one was visiting for the restaurant.
Enough to cause a mayor to resign, and to lose all but the least promising young people; depressing for some, but perfect for others.
A man moved with purpose through the shadowy streets of Frons, his quick movementâs ill fitting with the lethargic air exuding from every building. His eyes moved from shadow to shadow invisibly and almost unconsciously; heâd spent his entire lifetime doing what he did best. He turned the last corner and stalked up the hill towards the restaurant.
The man noted the empty car park. Good. Though of course no locals will be driving there, he conceded to himself.
The push door jammed as he tried to enter, and would not give until the man at the counter came and eased it open with familiar hands, his eyes shouting surprise at the well dressed visitor entering his restaurant. The old man was now manager, waiter, and receptionist. The loss of business meant he could not afford anyone working for him other than his wife; the sole chef and dishwasher. His only son tried again and again to get him to sell the property before it fell apart, but the old man could not bear to see what had once been his pride and joy going under the wrecking ball.
The man stepped into the warmth of the room. Without making eye contact he gave the old man an easy, evading smile and in a soft voice thanked him for his assistance. The old man felt a sense of having been passed over, of having been appreciated but at the same time left out in the cold. The manâs eyes saw everything and stored the information away. He sat down at a table he had determined previously.
The old man approached. Would sir like something to eat? The man ordered the most expensive food and drink available. There was something about this place he liked; the man decided that he may as well help it as best he could. The old man bustled away and over the quiet music the man could hear him talking to his wife about the wealthy guest they had today.
The newcomer spoke English with a thick accent. The man could identify it as originating from London, but nothing more than that.
âI presume you would like to know where to find him.â
The man sighed again. âYou British always have to make it so uncultured, so uncivilized.â
A harsh laugh, and then in a softer tone;
âUncultured? Itâs not croquet. Itâs a brutal business and you know that as well, if not better than I do. Why pretend otherwise?â
âOui, it is a brutal business.â
Another laugh. âGood for you.â
âSince we are already knee deep in it, what of our mutual friend?â
The newcomer began to answer but instead broke off into a comment on how nice the weather had been that day; in French. The old manager placed the dish and the bottle of wine on the table, and asked if he could help the newcomer.
The manager left.
âListen closely. In four days from now, at precisely 7:15am, a man will leave HĂ´tel De Bordeaux, in Paris. He will not be able to find a taxi, and will be alone on the sidewalk barring his personal adviser for roughly half a minute as his associates will have trouble with their lift. That is your window. We cannot help you at all after that. No more favors.â
The newcomer looked around.
âI presume the waiter will not be able to tell anyone of this?â
The manâs face made a pained expression at this remark.
âHe is an old man, the manager in fact. I like this restaurant, why would I want to bring it down?â
âDonât be stupid. If you know this hole that well then he knows you.â
âI donât always look like this.â
âDonât be stupid.â
âIâm too soft for this.â
There was a pause in the conversation. They both sat, with nothing to do but ponder life and its idiosyncrasies. At length the newcomer stretched, got up, and made a final remark.
âHave fun. Iâve already been here too long.â
The man scowled, and turned to his cold meal. He watched the old manager sifting through papers at his desk, and casting concerned glances at the old man in the corner.
Three days later.
A large man in a dark suit and glasses too small for his face paced a street impatiently as he vainly searched for a taxi in the mass of cars seething in front of him. His jowls jiggled as if in merriment at some silent joke. A man stood beside him and watched in mild interest, and in no little trepidation as to any lashing out which might come.
Someone brushed past, and the fat man felt a sting in his side. He knew what that was.
He jerked around, stared in shock at the rush of people around him and all of a sudden felt very alone. He opened his mouth, but he knew it was too late. He couldnât speak anyhow.
He was already losing consciousness.