Artur and Guillaume (part 1)
Artur lands heavily on his skinny Gallic arse as he is thrown unceremoniously from the door of Les Jolies Filles brothel, Rue Guy de Maupassant, in the now largely forgotten French town of N____.
“And don't come back until you have more than a few sou in your pockets!"
The large black man who acts as a both hawker and protector of the girls shouts down at Artur before he slams shut the door.
“Oh! Merde alors!”
Standing up Artur brushes down clothes already dusty and stained by weeks of lack of care and shakes his fist ineffectually back up at the door.
“Just you wait. Next time we meet things will be different. You don’t know who you’re messing with. I’m going to be a person of some renown!”
Right then is when the idea comes crashing into his mind, like some misguided duck hitting the windscreen of a 2CV. Alphonse Daudier, Pierre Balzac, Jean-Paul Hâter, those three hucksters from his year at N____ Catholic School for boys. They had all killed someone and nobody messed with them.
The sun is coming up, a lazy eye, not yet winking at the day.
“Why not? Then they will treat me with some respect.”
Over the next weeks Artur plans the despicable act carefully in his grubby septième étage apartment on Rue de Moche. Naked, for there is something primal about nudity, he stands at his attic window and looks out over the old Jewish cemetery; old bones, old lives, once so vivant and now forgotten.
“Yes, oh yes.”
Pulling on some clothes he goes there in the dead of night, and searches until he finds what he is looking for. Under a sycamore tree shaking its branches at the wind a grand tomb with its own little charnel house nearby. Clearly not visited for years, the decay is testament to that, what better place to hide a body? Then visit it, take photos of it? Place these photos on lampposts around the town of N____ like advertisements for lost cats.
A smile tugs upwards at his cracked lips.
This warped fiend will certainly be talked about. There will have been nothing like it in the history of N____. And just knowing it will give him a certain swagger. He will be a changed man.
He clenches one hand into a fist and punches it into the palm of the other.
“Let them stand up to me then!”
When he goes to that stinky brothel even the most costly of the whores will open her legs willingly to him.
On the day he sets to commit his atrocity he lays wait at S_ S____ train station. Picking out a young man quite at random, handsome enough and with fine clothes, he leaps into his path.
“You are in great danger.”
He presses his lips up against the man’s ear.
“Meet me tonight and I will explain all. Don’t tell a soul. Your life depends on it.”
On a piece of paper he has written the name of a public house, a time. He slips this piece of paper into the man’s pocket and walks swiftly away.
Les Trois Mousquetaires, a dingy public house, on the cusp of decrepitude holds just enough customers that two more fellows can slip into the ambience without being duly noticed in a memorable way. But then, Artur has surmised, even if some insalubrious soul should mark them out and store their visages for a later date it would be of no import, this being not the kind of establishment whose clientele would speak willingly to members of the gendarmerie.
He is there early.
He knocks back one pot and then another.
A thought grips him. What if the salaud doesn’t come? But then as the clock behind the bar clicks onto the hour the door bursts opens and there he is.
Names are swapped, hands are shook and, trembling with anticipation, Artur leads Guillaume, for that is his name, over to the cosy banquette he has chosen for his purpose.
“You stay there and let me get fetch the drinks.”
It is at the bar that Artur slips a white powder of dubious origin into the drink that is destined for his pray. The wine fizzes for some seconds and then goes clear.
Guillaume puts a hand up to his forehead upon which a small army of sweat droplets have started to gather.
“Here, let me. Maybe some fresh air will do you good.”
Sliding his own scrawny arm around Guillaume’s tight waist Artur manoeuvres the ailing man into the deserted street.
“Maybe we should walk a little.”
Parked just along the road is the unremarkable and rather battered red Renault he has borrowed from Enzo, an old letch he knows from the racetrack and whom he sometimes does favours for. When you’re poor you can’t be precious about your cul. His whore of a mother, Pauline la Pipe, famous throughout Nancy for her expertise in the downstairs department, had taught him that and it was the best lesson she ever gave.
“Steady now. This way. That’s right.”
Having first lowered the now practically comatose Guillaume into the boot of his borrowed vehicle, the interior of which smells of some absurd perfume, he then drives them the five miles to the rooms he rents above the deaf old woman’s shop.
His street is a quiet one, badly lit and rubbish strewn, the kind of place where even the gendarmes don't linger. So nobody sees as Artur hefts the body from the car and up the rickety fire escape stairs.
“Don’t worry,” whispers Artur, a kindly smile playing on his sharp dissatisfied features as he closes the door behind them, “Soon it will be all over. Your last breath. Your last heartbeat. And I will be a man to be reckoned with. They won’t dare throw me from that stinking brothel again.”
With a carefulness that is perhaps surprising considering his murderous intent he lays the body on his living-room floor and then, even more surprisingly, he kneels next to it and gently strokes his victim’s hair.
“So perfectly smooth.”
A tenderness enters his eyes.
“As soft and luxurious as the merkin of Paris’s finest courtesan.”
“Urrgghh, grrrghh, mrrrgh.”
Guillaume, whose eyes are open and swivelling frantically, manages to spew forth a few unintelligible utterances. It seems likely, even in his heavily drugged state, that he has noticed the plastic sheeting that covers the floor and the sharp edge of the saw that lies upon the sofa ready to saw off his beautiful head.
For that is the plan.
However, before he proceeds, Artur acts on a whim.
“Yes, it seems a shame to waste them. And why should I be dressed as a clochard?”
First of all he undresses himself, it is not the kind of situation which requires modesty. Then he undresses Guillaume, right down to and including his silky soft boxers. These he holds next to his cheek, revelling in a luxury he has never known.
“Already, you see, my plan is working. New wonders are opening up to me.”
Quickly, wanting to get on with the disposal of the shithead, he puts on Guillaume’s clothes and, feeling there is something not quite right about having a naked man lying on his floor, he dresses Guillaume in his own.
This, as they say, is his downfall. The feu d’artifice inserted in his own bumhole and then lit.
As previously mentioned in a former part of this sorry tale he had meant to start with the head. Saw the head off and that would be the end of it. Without a head Guillaume would undoubtably be dead. However, as he bends to retrieve the saw and turns back to the body, he receives a shock.
It is the clothes that have squared the circle, have dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s.
He might have been looking at himself.
Guillaume and Artur, two peas in a pod.
They are about the same age, the same height, build, and despite its differing texture, have the same coloured hair. There is even something about the set of the nose and jaw that indicates, under certain circumstances, they could have been taken for brothers. Or each other.
“If I kill Guillaume,” he muses. “It would almost be an act of self-assassination.”
This thought, entertained casually, within seconds gains momentum.
“Oh merde alors!” he calls out.
With the gushing force of an epiphany he realises he cannot go through with it.
For how could he, just when his life was filled with a new hope, kill himself?