The process of getting the information from Anatole the Turk involved a meeting with very nervous, very armed people. I showed up for my little group, because I had the power armor and Buttero wasn’t supposed to be working with us. That left me sitting on a bench in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, enjoying the fine scenery and avoiding the hateful sun, while Anatole approached.
His escort surrounded us inconspicuously enough. A couple enjoyed a picnic, keeping their hands close to the basket but having yet to pull any food out to eat. A man with a camera followed me around from the time I entered the grounds, conveniently finding interesting things to photograph any time I paused. A woman pushed a stroller that bulged with extra weight.
Aside from that, the Turk didn’t stand out from any other Frenchman. Black hair and a thin goatee with light green eyes. He walked with a measured pace, hands behind his back, but he cleary wasn’t the main threat. Besides, Chat watched over the whole place from what I’m sure was a suitable vantage point he hadn’t bothered to specify to me.
At least I had my armor on. Between being a sitting duck and a sitting duck in armor, I prefer to take the armor. Anatole smiled and nodded to the empty portion of the bench. I nodded. “I’m surprised you came here yourself, though I didn’t get to know you much last time. Chat did all the talking then.”
Anatole settled into the bench beside me. “He is a cat, and cats are untrustworthy. Are lizards any better?”
I knelt down in front of him and held up a large case. “Oh Anatole, will you make me the happiest Gecko in France?”
Anatole leaned over it and pulled out a jeweler’s loupe to examine it. “Take it all in,” I told him enthusiastically, “It’s real. Go ahead. Look over it. Be amazed at its facets.” Read the tiny note stuck on it. Follow the arrow to the clever tracking device.
Anatole lowered the loupe and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. It probably wanted to know why it had been waxed so much. “If you will humor me before you leave, I’m curious to know something.”
I held out my hand and a pie “appeared” there through the power of sufficiently advanced technology. I then slammed it into my face.
“What was that?” asked Anatole.
“I humored you. Are you not humored?” I wiped away the cream, which disappeared.
He looked at me for a moment, then carried on. “I want to understand your motivations. You are a killer and your association could be bad for business. I think that is why the Chat des Combes did not let us speak before. Do you have a grudge with the Belgian?” In case y’all forgot, that’s the guy who somehow managed to steal a pyramid, possibly though a shrink ray. That’s my guess.
I laid out for him the general idea: I wanted to steal a giant radio telescope dish to see if aliens were coming to earth. That meant I needed someone who had stolen other giant things.
He nodded as I finished the short explanation, “A simple tale. But why would Chat des Combes aid you?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. Fame? Expectation of reward?”
Anatole rubbed his thumb against is fingers, then waved that hand at me. “I would like to ask him if he were here.”Anatole smiled and shrugged as a man in a dark brown outfit and balaclava stood up from a nearby flowerbed. Topsoil, smelling rich in fertilizer, dropped from him along with the bodies of flowers. One last one hung onto his head in defiance of gravity and its place in the world as he stepped forward and held out his hand. One was empty, the other held an envelope.
“He’s with you?” I asked Anatole.
Anatole took the diamond case from me and handed me the envelop his man held. The man himself walked off, pulling the flower off his head and tearing his pants and longsleeve shirt off to reveal a business suit. He set out with the diamond, followed by the photographer I noticed earlier. The picnickers whispered sweet nothings to each other and eyed me.
Anatole motioned to the envelop with his hand. “Open. Commit it to memory and destroy it before anyone spies the information you bought.”
I did, then balled up the paper within and charged my gauntlet. A few seconds later, I opened my hand and let ashes drift off my glove.
A couple days later, Chat and I crawled the outer wall of the White Tower in the Tower of London. Despite the name, the Tower of London is actually a whole prison and fort. It’s like a little castle, but with lots of birds and people in old-fashioned medieval costumes. Apparently, the guards there were called Beefeaters because of their hatred for vegetarians and Hindus, or something like that.
“This bozo better be here like your friend the Turk said he would be,” I said, trying to sound more strained than I really was.
“Anatole is as good as his word, and a poor sport. I’m glad he didn’t see the tracker. You worried me.” Chat pulled himself up onto the roof of the White Tower with a quiet grunt, making sure I got a full view of his ass in his tight midnight black catsuit.
I checked the clock on my HUD as I pushed his ass out of the way to make room up there for me and crawled up after. “I hope you’re not getting tired, Chat?” I leaned on the nearby corner tower that rose still higher than the normal roof.
Chat’s smile grew beneath his domino mask. “I don’t tire easy, remember?”
I put my hand on his shoulder, seemingly affectionately. Well, except for the way I gripped him and tried to keep him from moving out of the way as a gargoyle fell. In a blink, he was further over to the side and the gargoyle landed right where his chest had been a lot more quickly than I thought.
“What was that?” he asked, then stood up. “You tried to hit me with a chimera!”
“Me? No, don’t be ridiculous. I was down here the whole time.” I pointed to myself. Then I pointed up to where Moai dropped another gargoyle on Chat. “But you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about him.” The gargoyle went from midair to cracking onto the ground, and Chat instantly teleported from where he stood to the crenelations on the edge further away. I raised a finger, “Now listen here, you little shit, this dodging shit is getting old.”
Chat smirked. “It’s easy to dodge with my power. Haven’t you noticed that you’ve been losing time? I knew this could happen, Psycho. That’s what made it fun.”
I toggle the HUD clock on until I said otherwise and threw an unarmed chicken grenade at Chat where he stood. He slapped the cock aside before it could smack him in the mouth, but it helped distract him all the same, as was its purpose. This time, when Moai dropped an anvil, it winged him and he started to fall. I wondered if he’d land on his feet, but didn’t get a chance to find out since he caught hold of the side of the crenelation. My clock jumped five seconds and he had pulled himself up and stood on the roof again. It didn’t give him much of a break when he backflipped to avoid a wooden barrel thrown at him.
I gave Moai a thumbs-up where he stood on the tower above us dressed in a gorilla costume. “Good job, keep up the pressure!” He responded by tossing a safe down at the backflipping Chat, who tried to get out of range.
Figuring I couldn’t let Moai do all the work, I jumped onto the battlement and ran along it toward Chat. The catburgler huffed away red-faced, trying to catch his breath. Either he had little stamina for flipping around, or his time stop ability took something out of him. I guessed I’d find out in a moment as I charged up my gauntlet and covered my approach with a hologram as best I could.
He’d hardly lost sight of me than time skipped again and I ran into another corner tower. The energy sheath around my fist expended itself in the stone that cracked around me. I stumbled back, a bit loopy. As my head cleared up, I realized that he wasn’t exactly stopping time. It’s like my mind skipped forward in time while my body did whatever it had been doing.
Something tapped on my shoulder. A glance in the rearview cameras of my helmet showed Chat now held a long, thin sword, like a rapier. I turned around, not even bothering to slap it away. It’s pretty damn tough to stab through my armor with anything like that. “Bad idea bringing a sword to the gun show,” I said, and flexed my arms.
He shook his head. “I knew you could turn on me. That’s what made this so exciting.” He grinned.
I knocked the blade aside with one hand and reached for him with the other. He flicked his wrist, knocking my hand aside and sidestepping to avoid it further. I turned invisible. He did his weird time stop thing. Not for five seconds this time, but for long enough to move beyond my reach.
“A little help over here!” I called out to Moai, still atop his tower, now standing next to a cardboard cutout of a princess. I reappeared so he could aim around me, but instead he threw me a banana. Dammit. I should have figured my minion would make this all about bananas.
“It takes more than a little fruit to beat me,” Chat said from behind me. He’d put me in the way in case Moai flung anything else at us, but stood much closer to the edge. If I could get him to back that ass up…
“Day! Day-o! Come, mister tally man, tally me banana.” I didn’t turn around as I swung at him with the banana, hoping to catch him off guard. It almost work, but he turned it to the side and sliced off a part of the skin.
“Allow me to circumcise that for you,” he quipped, then thrust.
I thrust with the banana, catching the blade in the soft fruit and pushing it down. “Rapier? I don’t even know her!”
He growled and wrenched the sword up. “Colichemarde!” The banana slid from my grip and landed behind him. On the plus side, he WAS closer to the edge. He smirked and held the sword out, ready to deflect any other attempts to get at him. “I will take my leave now, unless you have any other surprises up your sleeve?”
“Just one, but it’s a nasty one.” I swept my left arm up, the mini-chainsaw blade shooting out from underneath it to knock his blade far to his own left. Sparks flew as I charged forward where he couldn’t bring his weapon to bear. He backed up, not bothering to pull his little trick again, perhaps thinking he could make a smooth escape over the edge of the battlement.
And maybe he would have, if he hadn’t stepped on my banana. Oh, he still went over the edge, and I still caught him. Only, he wasn’t prepared to fall, and I swung him against the wall and conked that bitch out.
“I guess you’re not slipping away this time, are you?” I asked his unconscious body as I hauled him up to the roof. Nearby, a tuba played a disapproving sound. Moai was bounding over the roof toward us with the brass instrument wrapped around him. I’d have preferred if he brought rope, but bending a little metal around Chat des Combes could only help until we shoved him into the safe Moai dropped.
A quick delivery to Anatole cleared up any problems at that point. He really had given me the Belgian’s location, but now he gave me a password and called off his ambush team. In return, he got Chat des Combes, but not Buttero. He told me he wished he had more like me since the cowboy got away.
That’s not my problem. My problem is finding a lot of batter, because it’s about time I immersed myself in Greece.