'Who are you and what the hell is my son doing with that stranger?' snarls a voice directly behind Sydney, all the more shocking because he's gotten himself so wrapped in the stageplay he's created he complete forgot his surroundings, something Sydney never does. He spins to confront the voice.
'And just who- wait...Matthieu? Is that really you?'
The man looks the same as he did ten years ago, a little more wrinkled, perhaps, but the same intense dark green eyes, unusual enough without the smooth straight jet black hair he still kept long enough to almost seem unkempt.
'Sydney? Well I'll be fucked, it's been, what, ten years?'
'Fifteen I'm guessing.'
'Damn. We're old men now, aren't we?'
'Speak for yourself.'
It's as if it they were back there, that summer where Sydney, then a relative newcomer to SAS, had participated in a joint exercise with his counterparts across the channel and found a friend at once in Matthieu. Despite being the son of a prominent and very wealthy family, the young man of perhaps twenty-three at the time never had made any comments about it. Sydney had taken him under his wing and the two of them became inseparable, a pair everyone wanted on their excercises because they moved in perfect lockstep every time.
'So, all history aside, what have you gotten my son into?'
'See that man there?'
'The one that is drunkenly trying to grope my son,' says Matthieu, not sounding at all amused.
'Your son's idea, not mine, and I must say he must have learned some skills from you about getting people to let down their guard.'
Matthieu grunts, and he's obviously still not very happy, so Sydney continues, 'That man is involved in a few things back home we couldn't quite pin him down on. Nothing dangerous, mind you, but when he decided to come to France, well, I figured he might be easier to catch off-guard.'
'What sort of things?'
'Smuggling of some kind, is our best guess. Prepaid cel phones to people in port cities, that sort of thing, and he seems to have a thing for, well, you know.'
'I'm getting a picture, and I'm not liking it.'
'I'm not going to let your son out of my sight, you know me, he's safe.'
'It's not my son I am worried about, my friend. The boy is a demon, I am quite sure, even still, he is my son.'
'Well, perhaps you can also assist here, the people I represent would...be quite appreciative, if you get my meaning.'
'What are you trying to accomplish?'
'Well, if your son is overly friendly to him, and a lot of the other people are downright mean, that will put your son in the unique position of trust, a position where a man is likely to betray himself quite easily.'
'So, what do you want me to do? I can spread the word among the elders and parents here pretty quickly, we are a small enough village, if you think that will work.'
'Yes, let's do that. He's also rented a car -- see the Citroen over there?'
'The hideously colored one -- god, is that purple? I didn't know such a color existed, mon dieu.'
'I think it needs a ticket, it is illegal to park right in front of the pub like that, right? And then maybe ask your officers to ignore what happens next?'
'God, Sydney, you haven't changed. Remind me to stay on your good side.'
Inside, Sydney Thomson is having some difficulty concentrating. Too many pints and he keeps looking back and forth between the beer and the boy, the tender drops of sweat trickling down his naked chest, across his nipples, down to his stomach before disappearing behind the belt that holds secrets for Sydney, oh just to trace that bead all the way down. He doesn't even notice the boy looking over his shoulder, the subtle nod he gives to an unseen man outside.
'Is that your car?' asks the boy.
'Car? What- Oh, fuck, great, a parking ticket. Where's the bloody sign that says I can't park there?'
He almost makes the door before two teenagers crash into him knocking him over. To his disbelief they start smashing the windows out of it.
'That's my fucking car! My fucking car! Where'd the fucking copper go that was just here?! Police!'
But they're gone and he's lying on the sidewalk, wondering if he bought insurance with the rental. An old woman in a shawl stops in front of him and looks at him with the meanest look he's ever seen on a woman in his life.
'Madame??' he asks.
'Va te faire foutre! Clochard de merde!' and to his disbelief, she *spits* on him. Yes, spits.
'What the bloody fucking hell?!'
He starts to stand, indignant, before he feels a firm hand on his shoulder
'Don't,' hisses a voice, 'It's not safe for you here, come with me, now or there is trouble. You do not want to make these people angry, gypsies.'
He now notices that there are several people staring at him, before the boy spoke they would have seemed normal enough but now that he looks at them, there definitely is *something* off. Something he can't quite put his finger on.
The hand tugs on his shoulder again, and a chill runs down his spine, and Sydney is only to happy to follow wherever the boy is taking him, which turns out to be a small cellar apartment which has barely a stick of furniture in it, just a lamp, a floor with a mattress on it.
'J'mappelle Jérémi', says the boy, and Sydney can almost feel rust on his mental gears as he tries to unshackle his memories of French from three decades ago.
'Sydney,' he says, 'uhm...Anglais?'
The boy nods and produces two oranges from his backpack, offering Sydney one, but all Sydney can do is sit there, realizing now he's alone with Jérémi, smelling the sweetness of the fruit, seeing its juice trickle down across the boy's lips, dribbling onto the crotch of his dirty ripped jeans. He reaches out and touches the boy's crotch, and the boy is a bit shocked but all he says is, 'is fifty euros to start, okay?' with a soft look in his eyes, so pouty, and Sydney notices that his pupils are catching the sunlight so slightly they almost seem violet in the semi-darkness of the room, and he feels a stirring in the jeans.
'You can touch to me,' says Jérémi. 'Is cool. Touch for real touch, okay?'