Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Teaser Tuesday - The Prophet and the Snow Angel

 “La Maison de Glace,” Aria walked in stride with Stein to the French winery, his French was a little sluggish but not offensive. 

“We go in, have a little chat, and see what he knows,” Aria scanned the busy Paris street corner unconsciously looking for anything suspicious and to count the amount of collateral damage should the meeting go south.

“There is no way he is going to give us any information voluntarily,” Stein loosened his shoulders as if readying for battle.

“Agreed, but we have to get in the door,” Aria stood at the door and Stein opened it. 

“After you.” He motioned Aria in.

Aria expected a dark smoke-filled hole in the wall but instead discovered a well-lit tastefully decorated business. A mixture of aged stone and wooden accents adorned the walls, the vaulted ceiling inlet with glass panes added air and natural light to the spacious area. Small tables of various sizes surrounded by racks of wine behind glass cases covered in vines and greenery were a sight to behold. She hated to admit it, but she would’ve enjoyed a night out at La Maison de Glace.

Stein spoke to one of the waitstaff who then disappeared.

“Pretty nice.” Stein put his hands in his pockets surveying the room.

“Gorgeous.” Aria wasn’t sure how to feel.  Enamored by the delicious d├ęcor, or revolted by the blood money used to fund it.

The waiter returned and motioned for them to follow. They followed him to the back of the building to a large cherry wood door. He opened it, and they entered. “M. Kardif sera avec vous dans un instant. S'il vous plait, attendez ici.”
“Je vous remercie,” Aria smiled politely, surveying the room adorned with bottles of wine and an impressive collection of art. The rug beneath their feet she guessed was Persian, valued at a few million dollars. “The business is doing well.”

“Apparently,” Stein agreed also taking in the room, he seemed to be focused on the open laptop sitting on the desk.

The door opened, and Jean-Paul Krandif entered the room. She’d seen pictures of him before, a thin, wiry man in a linen shirt and khaki pants.

“Good afternoon, Jean-Paul Krandif. How can I help you?”

“We apologize for taking time out of your busy day. My name is Chris
Schoenfelder, and this is my associate Lisa Milam. Your establishment is very beautiful.” Stein introduced himself and Aria with their fake names.

“Thank you, our supporters are very generous, and we have established ourselves as the premiere ├ętablissement vinicole of Paris. The tourists love us. Please call me Jean,” the man leaned against the desk.

“Given your reputation and expansive collection du vin from around the world, I just wanted some insight about the procurement of some rather rare more robust vintages.” Stein hinted.

“There is an entire network of dealers and well-known suppliers. Why come to me?” Krandif a plastic smile widening his face. “What business are you in again?”

“Recovery, and we were told you are the guy who gets things done,” Stein flashed him an equally wide smile.

“How can I help?” Krandif shifted in discomfort, grasping the edge of the desk tightly.

“Well, what we wanna know is, if I wanted to procure and transport canisters of a potentially lethal bioweapon from somewhere, let's say Germany, would you be the guy to talk to?” Stein’s gaze locked with Krandif. Aria watched Krandif’s reaction closely. He blinked, and his bald head started to perspire. “Would you be that guy?” Stein voiced again, tilting his head.

“No, I'm afraid not,” Krandif moved off the desk and toward the door. “I believe our meeting is over.”

Stein followed, “all right, thank you for...wait I have a quick question. Do you like Hummers?”

Oh, good lord – Aria’s heart skipped a beat. She knew what was going to happen next and moved toward the back of the room.

“Range Rovers, Land cruisers?” Stein stepped into Krandif’s line of escape.
“Mr. Schoenfelder, will you leave the room?” Krandif balled his fists and straightened his shoulders.

“No!” Stein grabbed the back of Krandif’s head, thrusting it against the edge of the wooden door. “Should've taken the car, Jean!” Aria moved behind the desk to the computer.

“You broke my nose!” Krandif cried out holding his nose.

Stein pulled his weapon from the back of his pants, pointing it at Krandif’s head, “not a word.” Aria wrapped up the laptop, cable, and started searching the desk. “I won't shoot you unless I have to, Jean. Don’t make me shoot you because  I’ll feel bad about it. Sit down!” Aria pulled the duct tape out of her bag, tossing it to Stein. Stein proceeded to bind Krandif to the chair. Aria pulled every piece of paper and notebook out of the desk, shoving it into her bag. Then she started on the bookshelf.

“Two nights ago, you had a German visitor, Geoff Vlakin. Why was he here?” The intensity of Steins voice made Aria hesitate for and instant. Maybe I have been out of the field for too long

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, we have guests—” Krandif started, and Stein backhanded him with the gun in his hand. “Understand, it is not my intent to disrupt this little operation you’ve got going on here, Jean. I need to know about Vlakin. Why he was here and what is the location of the canisters he stole.”

“I don’t—”

“Come on, Jean,” Stein hit the man’s face again. “I can do this all day. Just tell me what I need to know, and we can be on our merry way.”

Aria yanked the books off the shelves uncovering a hard drive and a camera, she quickly detached and shoved them into her bag, “Stein, we need to go.”
He glanced at her before hitting Krandif again, this time pointing his gun at the man’s groin, “Talk to me Jean, or you will be spending Christmas getting reconstructive plastic surgery that may or may not restore your manhood.”

“Fine!” Krandif grunted. “The man—”

“Vlakin.”

“Yes, Vlakin. He asked me to add a box to my shipment. It seemed harmless,” Krandif spat.

“Where?”

“I don’t know. Vlakin put the package on one of the trucks. I didn’t ask which one.”

“Where is the shipment going?”

“Downtown Paris.”

“When?”

“Today,” Stein rolled his eyes.

“Where are the deliveries for today?” Krandif hesitated, and Stein shot him in the knee. Krandif screamed. “Come on, Jean, you’re making this way too hard.”
“Alright, alright!” Krandif bellowed between grunts of pain. “There are three, I de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Le Secret.” Aria gathered up her bag and moved to the door.

Stein ripped off another piece of tape using it to cover Krandif’s mouth, “thank you for your cooperation. It’s been a pleasure.” Stein met her at the door. “Let’s go.”


Aria followed Stein out of The Ice House without incident. Aria immediately dialed her phone as they dashed to the car. “Wes, we have three potential targets—”


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