David and Pierre meet at La Fontaine

[novel extract: Earlier in the day, the two older men who met outside La Fontaine café in Nice were obviously very pleased to see each other. They looked like any other travelers enjoying this quiet, leafy oasis on Place Magenta – a wide pedestrian strip connecting Rue de la Liberté and Rue Massena. It was home to several popular cafes and restaurants.

After their warm greetings they sat down on the red chairs, ordered coffee and biscotti, and then began to engage in conversation. ]

They update each other, and share the personal threats they have both received, before returning to this curious meeting that Jak scheduled…

[novel extract: “What did your last message say?”

“ It said, ‘Meet 3×5 + 2 at La Fountain rouge, Nice, urgent.’”

“Hmm. Mine was the same,” David added, “I thought it was really clever of Jak.”

Pierre held up his hand to interrupt David’s explanation.

“Yes, I soon realized that the name ‘La Fountain’ was a misspelling – just in case someone else got hold of the code by mistake. They would think that we were meeting at the large fountain near Place Massena – the main square. But the café and chairs here are red, so it made perfect sense once I thought about it.” ]

Le Musée Masséna

David thinks he is being followed as he makes his way on foot towards the Negresco hotel via the back roads of Nice. At one point, a car pulls alongside him, and a camera is pointed his way. However, David is sure that it is just a tourist – or is it?

[novel extract: “All good,” he thought when he finally reached Le Musée Masséna. Its lush vegetation looked welcoming and he was pleased that the gardens were still open and much less crowded than the busy streets. He used the shortcut through the grounds, taking time to admire the tall trees and rich-green, mature magnolias.

At the front of the ornate museum the ‘red, white and blue’ French flag struggled to unfurl fully, while a group of children played happily on the soft lawn – enjoying a game with a ball and some sticks. It was a pleasant oasis from the relentless roar of rush-hour traffic, so David sat for a while on one of the garden benches under the cool shade of a grove of sub-tropical palms.

“It’s so nice to relax in these quiet gardens after the urgent plane trip to get to Nice, but I still think that Florence is a better place to live,” he quietly noted. “But, now I have a taxi to catch.” ]

The infamous meeting at Hotel Negresco

Ah, the Hotel Negresco in Nice! What an appropriate place for David and Pierre to meet just before they catch a taxi to their all important meeting with Jak. As one reviewer – in the UK Telegraph – noted, this is no ordinary hotel. It is an icon…

“My favourite hotel in France? No idea. There are too many contenders. But the most memorable hotel in France? No contest. It’s the Negresco in Nice – at once cultivated, frisky, magnificent and a little disdainful. In a hundred years, no-one has ever missed it on the Promenade des Anglais. The façade rises white and imperious to the pink roof, and pink dome allegedly inspired by the breast of the architect’s mistress. (But they say that about almost every dome in France. This tells you more about the French than it does about domes.) “

[Novel extract:  Pierre was busy checking an app on his phone. “Perhaps, but let’s first check to find a taxi rank nearby. Yes, here is one at Hotel Negresco. I’m not sure if we are being followed but, with such an important meeting as this one, we can’t take chances. It might be safer if we split up and meet at the hotel. It is only a short walk and we can take the taxi together when we arrive.”

“Great,” David replied, “but where shall we meet in the hotel?”

Pierre knew the area well. “Wait for me in the main floor gallery – the Royal Lounge. You can’t miss it. It is a huge circular room that was once a fabulous ballroom. It’s often used for spectacular events and what could be more spectacular than the event we are meeting for?”

He laughed aloud before continuing.

“Look for the painting of the red lady. It is of Marie Leszczynska, who became a famous consort in France. She was married to Louis XV.”

David was fascinated. “How did you say her name?”

Pierre looked quite pleased with himself. “Les chenz ka! Now, I will take the promenade if you take the back route.”

He pointed across from the café. “Follow the Rue Massena. It joins on to Rue de France. Turn left when you go past the gardens at Le Musée Masséna or, if the museum is open, you can walk through the gardens. Oh, and remember to check to see if anyone is following. You can go into a shop or double back just in case. I know some places along the promenade where I can also change direction to shake anyone who might be on my tail. I am probably being paranoid about taking these precautions, but we don’t want anyone else finding out about our meeting, do we?”

“Of course not, especially after the careful measures that Jak has taken,” David replied. ]

Note: Perhaps Pierre wasn’t paranoid enough!

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