CROSSING the road from Le Drugstore, Otis Leatherman paused to buy a Herald Tribune from a student and strolled around the corner to wend his way between the tables of the Deux Magots terrace. Plumping in the corner seat he ordered coffee and croissants from a surly black-waistcoated waiter and dived into the news.
Pravda and Izvestia were up to their usual games, NASA held high hopes of tossing a probe in the direction of Mars, Israël was swopping punches with Jordan, The Union of South Africa had jailed a white journalist, a young black buck had been found swinging from a tree in Alabama—nothing new, stuff seen and heard a hundred times before.
Leatherman planked the tabloid on the next chair and took a croissant as the waiter placed it before him.Out through the glass partition he watched Charley Quince come around the corner of Rue Bonaparte, neat and grey in Ivy Leagues, blending not.
The Scarsdale Galahad advanced on him, grinning, coming around the partition to fold his long frame into a chair, snapping fingers for the waiter.
”Howdydoodee, Charley, what's new?” murmured Leatherman.Quince rubbed his hornrims on his jacket collar and examined Leatherman through them.
“My stomach is growling like an Airedale. Mind if I take one of your croissants?”
Leatherman nodded approval, watching the man rip into his breakfast with gusto.
“Boy, you're starved. Didn’t see you yesterday. Want coffee?”
Quince nodded around a mouthful of flaky croissant. “Ungh. Black, make it black.” He swallowed. “Man, do I have one humdinger of a headache.”
Without speaking Leatherman poured a glass of water and plopped two Alkaseltzers into it. Quince sat watching the fizz with an almost exquisite agony on his face. Picking up the glass he downed the contents, chewing at the bits with a look of loathing on his face. When the air had risen in a belch, he looked around, squinting at the church of St Germain, the cabs at the rank, and along at the few other people dispersed along the terrace.
“An Action Detail of Steka barbouzes departed for the city of Tulle last night.”
Leatherman raised an eyebrow. “Tulle? What’s in Tulle? Nada.”
Quince nodded. “I’m not so sure. I say you can lay an even money bet on General Reynal.”
“Uh-huh. He’s in prison down there.”
“Who d'you get this from?”