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Only for her

An excerpt from Find the Lady, in which we find John in Paris …

Without her letter, memories were all I had, and memories were no use to me in Paris that winter. After several fruitless days I took to busking, hoping to run into Serge in his enforcement role. I ran into a lot of enforcers, official and unofficial, but I never ran into Serge. At least, I never recognized Serge, and either he didn’t recognize me or I’d blacked my character so badly with my last brief, bratty, letters that he was careful to avoid me. I haven’t changed so much since I was fifteen, not on the outside, and I’m certain that she sketched me, maybe many times. Her sketchbook is never private if she thinks she’s amongst friends, and she sketches compulsively. I don’t have to have a good opinion of myself to expect that I was there. Whether she was missing me or cursing me I must have been in her thoughts, and that meant her friends knew my face.

I should have thought of that. I told you, I muffed it. I didn’t know I was looking for her friends, and I posed as a distant relative with that stilted photograph. It’s no great surprise that I failed, but at least I can say that it was an educational failure. I hawked that photograph up both sides of the Seine, me and my clarinet and my schoolboy French. I hoped I might do something about that last item, but as I didn’t make many friends, I didn’t make much conversation. What I did learn was a lot of different ways to say no. The no that came accompanied all-too-evident relief that there was no assistance to be offered. The no that was determined before the picture was out of my pocket. The no that said sod you, copper, d’you think I can’t tell what you are? The no that came a fraction too late. The no that meant yes, and whatcha gonna do about it, pal?

I took up the challenge on a couple of those – despite Hal’s impressive paperwork I was there as a private citizen, asking questions on my own account, and if I wanted to risk a battery charge it was on my own head – but I never got much more than that my cousin had gone, and that was already becoming apparent. The alternative was to believe that she had become so stone hearted that she would not come to me, though I came in penitence, and played the old songs that she knew I would play only for her.

… but will John find the lady he is looking for?

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