A new month, a new story is available for patrons on my Patreon. “The Maltese Tiger” is set in 1920’s Paris, and finds Countess Felluci, adventuress and thief, at odds with a murderous society of criminals over a treasure of incalculable worth. I’ve included a brief extract below, for those interested.
“Society is built on compliance,” the man with the gun said, gesturing with a lit cigarette. “If the masses do not comply, society cannot function. You agree, no?”
“No,” Francesca Felluci said, tapping the ash from her own cigarette, her dark eyes never leaving the barrel of the gun. Clad only in a silk dressing gown, she was in stark contrast to her visitor, who was dressed fashionably, if not formally.
“No?” The man cocked his head.
“Pity.” The pistol barrel jerked for emphasis. It was a stubby Mas Ordnance revolver. Six shots, if she recalled correctly. “Common philosophy makes for easier negotiation.”
“Are we negotiating then?” Felluci said, letting a ring of smoke drift from her full lips. “Only I find it hard to negotiate when I have a pistol in my face.”
“Most people find it easier.”
“I am not most people.” Felluci looked out over the edge of the balcony, admiring the way the setting sun set the Parisian skyline aflame. Already the City of Lights was waking up, and the sound of cabaret music drifted out of the narrow streets and courts. “I am not even some people. I am only me.”
“Last night, you stole something from my room. I want it back,” the man said softly.
“Did I?” Felluci added two more smoke rings to the first. “Do you?” She reached up and patted her hair, bound up in a twist on top of her head. Her fingertips drifted across the bud of the Chinese hairpin holding the oil-dark mass in place.
The man frowned. “Do not play coy magpie with me, madam.”
“Hardly coy. It’s just that I steal quite a lot of pretty things, you see. Remind me.”
“The stone, woman.” The revolver’s hammer slid back with a menacing click.
“Which-?” He gaped at her. “The Maltese Tiger!”
“Was it blue?” Felluci examined her cigarette. “Which room was yours?”
“You do know what I’m speaking of. It was indeed blue. A blue such as has never been seen. A blue to make the gods weep.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “And you will return it or you will die.”
“You would shoot me, m’sieu?” Felluci said innocently. “How ungallant.”
“I grow weary of your games madam. The stone. Now!”
Fireworks popped and crackled in the darkening sky over the Seine. The man spun in surprise. The revolver swung away from Felluci and she seized the opportunity with both hands. Or feet, rather.
Tipping her chair back, she kicked the table up, driving it into her guest. He squawked and fell back, his hands thrown up. The revolver went off, the noise of it lost in the cacophony of the fireworks. Sweeping the table aside, Felluci plucked the hairpin from her hair and launched herself at him, crashing against him before he could recover.
The edge of her palm caught the wrist of his gun-hand and his fingers spasmed, releasing the pistol. A jab of stiffened fingers into the soft spot just beneath his rib-cage caused his breath to whoosh out of him. As he bent double, she sat astride him and jerked his head back. Pressing the sharpened tip of the hairpin to his throat, she leaned forward. “Now then, I have but one simple question – if you knew that I had stolen this rock of yours, why didn’t you call for the gendarmes?”
He made a strangled sound and she twisted the hairpin. “Don’t bother to answer. You didn’t call them because the stone doesn’t actually belong to you, does it?”
“You-you don’t understand,” he gasped out.
“I rather believe I do, actually. You, m’sieu, are a thief.” Felluci leaned back. “Now, what am I going to do with you?”
“The Maltese Tiger” is an orphan. It was written for an anthology that never saw the light of day, which is a more common occurrence than you might think. Written in the tradition of Leblanc’s Arsene Lupin stories, it’s all daring-do and speed-boat chases. I’ve had a sequel half-finished in my projects folder for a year or so now, and if folks enjoy this one, I might very well knuckle down and finish it.
Too, the character of the Countess has, with Moorcockian persistence, appeared in a number of my stories, across a wide array of settings and genres – to date, she’s fought werewolves and vampires in a steampunk alternate Europe, hunted rogue timelines in a sadly short-lived series of science-fiction stories, and locked swords with hired assassins in several fantasy stories. I look forward to seeing where she pops up next.
“The Maltese Tiger” is a patron-only post, but it’s only a dollar to read the entire story. And if you’re short on funds, why not check out “The Riders of St. George” or one of the other free-to-read stories on my Patreon?
Too, while you’re there, why not check out my pal Derrick Ferguson’s Patreon? There are short stories, novellas and novels, including the ongoing serial, Dillon and the Prophecy of Fire. Lots of good stuff there, well worth a dollar a month.