The house was dark. The music was soft.
Tranquility was shattered. Somewhere, a man let out a hideous groan.
A woman rolled over in bed. Pale, pink lingerie.
A short, growling man got up from his piano bench. His hair looked like steel wool.
Qui me téléphone a cette mauvaise heure de la nuit? he pondered in another language. C'est presque onze heure!
Mon dieu... the man picked up his cellphone from its recharger.
"Hallo?" he asked in the thick, French accent with which he was accustomed. His frustration had all but disappeared. Mostly exasperation remained.
"What the hell was that!?" cried the voice on the other end of the line. It was flat, English and annoyed. It seemed almost familiar, but hard to place because of how flustered it was.
"What de 'ell was what?! And who am I talk-ing to?"
"You could at least warn me, you lunatic!"
"Who am I talk-ing to? Tell me right now, orrr I-will-hang-up-de-phone!"
"It's Gavin Vasser, sir."
"And what is de problem, Agent?"
"You know what the problem is, don't play games with me! I work for you!"
"De problem is dat you work for me?! I don't understand." He paused for a moment.
The Frenchman continued, "Or per'aps I do indeed understand -- one minute, I 'ave anudder call coming in," he said and pressed a button. "Hallo? Director Guiscard speaking. 'Ow may I 'elp you?"
"Hello, Director," came a new, huskier voice. "It's Bryan Haines. Please disregard Gavin, he's gotten a little hysterical. There's been an attack. You haven't taken things into your own hands, have you?"
"I most certainly 'ave not! Is everyding all right?"
"Most definitely not. Would that precious little board of donors you answer to have done anything?"
"No! It would all go through me. Now, please, explain the situation to me in detail."
"Gavin was watching his surveillance feed on his iPhone in front of the hockey game. Like he would have been when Shiki was over. The bed incident was nothing more than --"
"Yes, I got dat e-mail. Thank you."
"Well, next thing we knew, he had Vivian over. To talk."
"You 'ave Subject Two to attend to. If dis is just about Subject Three, let me take Gavin off hold. If he 'as calmed down."
"He seems calm now. Subject Two is studying in his room. He was barely fazed by the break-in theft and kidnapping."
Bryan hung up.
"Yes, sir? Uh... sorry, sir."
"I don't pay you to apologize. Tell me what happened, boy."
"They framed you. Men came, they looked just like the security agency that's always hired whenever Rosa or Darrion are working on gigs. But Darrion didn't recognize any of them. Black suits on black t-shirts. With sunglasses."
Guiscard sipped from a tall glass of imported Chardonnay as Gavin paused to collect his thoughts.
"They showed up right as it sounded like Darrion was about to reveal to Vivian confidential details about the files he was given. Bryan was trying to help me come up with a distraction when she just started bleeding form the ears and zoning out. I'll send you the footage."
"What did dey take?"
"The files, sir. And Vivian. Though they left plenty of her blood on the carpet."
"Anything else I should know?" the director asked before taking another sip. The wine tasted too oaky to him.
"Yes sir. His room was bugged by someone else. I think it happened when the fans got in his window earlier. I noticed it, but left it for the police."
At that word, 'police', Director Guiscard spat out his wine and began to curse frantically in his mother tongue, "Sacré bleu! Les policiers!? Merde. Non! Merde, merde, merde."
"I doubt they'll detect any of our stuff. Not when their set of stuff is so much easier to find. I mean, I can't even... and I know where to look! It's camouflaged quite well."
"As you've probably gathered, we 'ave a lot of sophisticated technology at our disposal. It can't and won't get into de government's 'ands. Especially dos files!"
"They hurt Darrion pretty bad. I don't think he'll be able to shoot that film with Shiki over the break."
"I'll 'ave someone do something about dat, don't worry. Darrion will be as good as new by morning," he told Gavin as he bent down to wipe wine off the floor with a napkin.
"Our room is a crime scene. They're making us sleep in the TV lounge."
"Are you 'urt too?"
"No, sir. But sir... he's gone to Professor Gregory's. The police finished questioning him, and he just rode off into the night before they could examine his wounds."
"Hmm... per'aps dese interlopers 'ave done us a big faveur."
"You think he's going to take the deal?"
"We've been preparing 'im to, nudging 'im in dat direction for quite some time. 'E just doesn't know it. Subtleties, some subliminal. Darrion 'as been primed."
"And which one of him will I get to watch?" asked Gavin.
"Whichever stays with de university. Probably da copy, eh?"
"Do we have any hope of finding her before the police do?"
"We? Not you, Gavin. But yes. Most certainly. Der is a tiny tracking device, uh, stapled between two pages near de middle. There is anudder embedded in the dick paper of the folder itself. That'll give us a far sharper lead. Now if you'll excuse me, I 'ave some calls to make. A young lady's life depends upon it."
"I understand, sir."
Guiscard dropped the half-charged phone into his pocket. Then he slammed his fist into the wall of a sturdy cabinet, screaming an obscenity in French, "Mauvaise salope!"
A quiet, feminine voice called from down the hall of the man's suite, "Iz every zing okay, dear?"
He strode down toward her, caressing her soft blond curls with one hand. "Go back to sleep, ma petite chou. I'll pay you in de morning."
"Mon petit chou," she murmured back. Her French had no accent to his ears.
Then he waited. And waited. And when his dear, sweet German-tongued companion was finally and completely asleep, he picked his phone out of his pocket and began to dial a number.