Анри Малле

Страна: Франция

Анри Малле родился в 1963 году в Европе. Вырос и учился в СССР. Автор запатентованных изобретений в области автоматических систем безопасности. Принимал участие в работе программы ядерного разоружения. Несколько лет работал директором регионального представительства издательства «Деловой мир» в Москве. Анри Малле – переводчик; языки: русский, французский, английский. Начал публиковаться как писатель в 2019 году. Автор книг в жанре шпионского детектива, городского фэнтези и детской литературы. Финалист конкурса «Открытая Евразия-2021». Третье место в конкурсе рассказов 2022 года. Писатель живет во Франции.

Country: France

Henri Mallet was born in 1963 in Europe. He grew up and studied in the USSR. Author of patented inventions in the field of automatic security systems. He took part in the work of the nuclear disarmament program. For several years he worked as the director of the regional representative office of the Delovoy Worde publishing house in Moscow. Henri Mallet – translator; languages: Russian, French, English. He began publishing his work as a writer in 2019. Author of books in the genre of spy detective, urban fantasy and children’s literature. Finalist of the Open Eurasia-2021 competition. Third place in the short story competition in 2022. The writer lives in France.

Отрывок из перевода произведение “Hibiscus”

Ron Jones, an energetic professional journalist in his forties, dressed in an expensive mouse-colored suit, deftly drove through the gates of an old mansion, securely and pompously situated in the most prestigious area of the city. Ron parked on the lot in front of the entrance. A modest gilded plaque with the engraving «Here lives Mrs. Molly Stinger» adorns the entrance.

For some time, the journalist’s well-manicured aristocratic hands remained on the steering wheel of his Jaguar XF. Finally, Ron took a deep breath, as before jumping into the water, looked at himself in the mirror, ran his hand through his short-cropped blond hair, adjusted his handmade Brioni silk tie, and winked to himself reassuringly.

«Do you have a plan, Mr. Fix?» he asked his reflection in a mockingly serious tone, imitating the hero of his favorite movie. «I have the best plan in the world!»

Ron Jones was quite famous in certain circles for his assertiveness and penchant for intrigue, and today he was able to secure an exclusive interview with famed detective writer Molly Stinger.

She had no friends and did not let anyone near her, and, most likely, did not trust anyone altogether. There were many conflicting rumors about Mrs. Molly Stinger, but no one dared argue the success of her bestsellers. This lady led a rather secretive life, did not favor the press or any publicity. Some journalists were even afraid of her for her asperity that sometimes bordered on rudeness. Therefore, getting Molly Stinger to agree to even a short interview was a remarkable victory. And an invitation to visit her in her own mansion was an unprecedented success.

Ron picked up a crocodile-skin briefcase from the back seat. The cool handle lay pleasantly in his palm. Ron was familiar with the finer things and their ability to enhance the appearance of any person. And today’s meeting was of particular importance.

The journalist hung a polite, service smile on his face, slowly entered the hall of the old mansion and looked around. An extravagant, Venetian-glass chandelier hung from the ceiling, complemented by ornate sconces and a soft, olive-hued oriental rug over an oak parquet floor. In the discreetly muted color of the wooden panels, the contrasting brilliance of copper handles, and the original paintings decorating the hall, one could feel the character of the owner and the smell of very big money. Ron sighed contentedly. Such interiors evoked a habitual reflex in the journalist: he pulled back his shouldered and raised his chin.

Ron Jones appreciated the well-fitting suit of the vigilant guard, whom he showed his briefcase with a stack of documents, handed over his phone, and for whom he helpfully raised his arms while being checked with a portable metal detector.

«I was allotted very little time for the interview. Can you ensure complete quiet and not disturb us?» Ron asked in a businesslike tone, but his arrogance still slipped through and appeared in his piercing blue eyes.

The guard just nodded silently and looked at his watch.

«Mrs. Molly Stinger is very punctual. Keep that in mind», he said in a faceless tone, pointing to the massive oak door. «You will be able to enter the writer’s office in two minutes.»

Ron took his time carefully and knocked.

«Come in», was the immediate reply.

The journalist turned the polished doorknob. The door opened, inviting into the sanctum sanctorum of Molly Stinger. The office of the famous detective writer, despite its large window, was permeated with twilight and tense silence. There seemed to be ghosts lurking in the corners, shadows of heroes she had created. And on the ceiling, like a portal, a splash of light reflected from something outside.

«Good afternoon, Mrs. Stinger. I’m Ron Jones. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I know how many before me were refused even a short conversation.»

Ron stopped at a respectful distance. The writer’s office looked more like an investigator’s office in a police department. A large, rather-featureless bookcase, an expensive laptop, even stacks of papers on a massive desk, a modern desk lamp, a huge computer screen on a side cabinet. Ron gazed with interest at the slender, Balzacian-aged lady seated in the chair by the desk. Slightly disheveled red hair, obviously dyed, baggy, awkward gray blouson, and askew expensive reading glasses. The writer Molly Stinger looked unimpressive, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was her consent to hold this meeting.

«Good afternoon, Mr. Ron Jones, in the light of recent events, it has become interesting to meet you. Sit down, please», the lady’s voice turned out to be scratchy and indistinct.

She gestured elegantly to a chair by the window, and Ron admired her hands. Perfect manicure on short nails, strong well-groomed fingers, on one of which gleamed a large pink diamond. There were speculations about how this ring got to the writer. Allegedly for a special service, the unique diamond Molly Stinger was presented by the great padishah himself.

Ron put his briefcase on the floor, and, sitting down in the offered chair, involuntarily glanced at the landscape through the half-open window. A small well-groomed garden, gaudy flower beds, and farther in the background, behind a brick fence – armor-clad in mirror glass, newfangled high-rises. And above them – the sky, so blue and boundless that it seemed fake.

Ron spoke, choosing his words carefully. He seemed to prefer not to ask questions, but to observe his interviewee, keeping a hundred of the most important secrets.

«I am a big fan of your talent and not just the writing kind», the journalist smiled cryptically and, interlacing his fingers, folded his hands on his knees. «How deftly you twist the plots of your detective stories. I’m sure it comes from a wealth of life experience.»

«What can I say, I don’t want to turn into a fictional character. Maybe writing is masturbation for me, but certainly not self-criticism», croaked Mrs. Molly Stinger and chuckled.

«Let’s not waste time. You clearly indicated that I only have thirty minutes for everything», the journalist’s face showed no emotions. «Let’s begin with the fact that Molly Stinger is one of your pseudonyms, but what is your real name?»

«Your approach, Ron Jones, is too direct. And don’t you think that some other people’s secrets are not worth stirring up?» the writer chuckled again. «You know, I have a daughter, her name is …»

«Tell me, what did you do before you bought this mansion and became a writer?» Ron interrupted. «Your rise in the literary field has become lightning fast and unexpected. A lot of money must had been invested in promotion.»

Mrs. Molly Stinger hesitated to answer and looked at her interlocutor with interest.

«Do you want to know the name of my daughter?» she asked again in a hoarse voice.

«Okay, let’s speak frankly», smugness slipped into Ron’s sly smile and crumbled into gray dust. «Do you like bullets?»

Ron glanced from under his brows, and even behind Mrs. Stinger’s glasses saw her eyes narrow.

«Hmm, how can you fall in love with a rifle if you are not in love with the bullets – deadly, yet charismatic. Feeling their weight, rolling them in the palm – a wonderful sensation», the writer’s tone had become velvety.

«One by one you load them into the magazine, feeling how the spring resists more and more», Ron continued in a low voice.

«You insert the magazine into the rifle, and it snaps into place with a pleasant click. Then you point the sight at the target», Molly Stinger moved her hands in the direction of the journalist, as if in her hands, indeed, was a sniper rifle. «You know, such a tiny figure that always freezes for a moment at the merciless point of sight, thereby dooming itself to death. It certainly freezes …» the writer, without blinking, looked at her companion. «I know why you’re here», she added slowly.

«And I know that you are the Slippery Rat, the most notorious and elusive murderer», Ron snapped his fingers contentedly in fanfare.

Mrs. Molly Stinger smacked her lips, opened a drawer, took out a bottle of whiskey and poured a little into two wide glasses. She picked one up, slowly looked at the empty space, then turned her gaze to her companion and pointed to the second.

«Take it, don’t be afraid, the whiskey is excellent. By the way, you have twelve minutes left». She took a slow sip, savored it, and drank some more. «So what do you want to hear from me?»

«Not to hear, but to regretfully inform you that it’s all over for you. Not a single bestseller will come out from under your pen, except perhaps from a prison cell». Ron held out his hands in front of him and loudly clapped. «And you were nicknamed the Slippery Rat because you play the double play. That’s right; I know that while working for the CIA, you took orders on the side. I know that you even managed to investigate a murder committed by your own hand». Ron stood up, took the offered glass, but under the heavy gaze of the writer, he again sank into the armchair. «Now you can’t escape. I’ve collected and docked so much evidence», he took out a flash drive from his breast pocket. «Everything is here. I hope you understand that the originals of these documents are safely hidden». He defiantly took a sip.

«Okay, so you said what you wanted. What’s next?»

The writer’s answer sounded so nonchalant that it forced Ron to shift in his seat.

«I’ve collected a lot of evidence and I can prove it. Distract and entrap – that’s your strategy. You always manage to turn the situation in your favor. The hardest thing is to predict your behavior. The police are betting on one outcome, but you always manage to surprise them, as if it’s just another plot twist from one of your novels. But now I’m here, and for you, Ms. Slippery Rat, it’s all over.»

«I take it you thought you were hunting me? In fact, it was I who’s been hunting you, throwing false evidence like bait», the writer bowed her head slightly. «So, you still have no doubt you’ve found your killer?»

«What’s there to doubt?» Ron allowed himself a chuckle as he finished his whiskey and shook the glass like a rattle.

«You should know by now the Slippery Rat is very cunning?» Molly set her glass down on the table and sighed.

Ron nodded a little embarrassedly, not understanding what the conversation was leading to.

«Yes, you’re right, but you also forgot one very important point», the writer pointed to the clock. «At the time of the shot, the target must be stationary.»

And then Mrs. Molly Stinger took off her glasses, and Ron caught the look in her green eyes. For a few seconds they stared at each other without blinking. She smiled, and he realized he had lost. This is how a prey likely feels when it raises its eyes to see the hunter.

The crimson evening sun slipped out from behind the glass wall of the high-rise, dissolving the twilight in the room and illuminating everything around with a bright pink light. The room smelled of dust. Ron instinctively glanced out the open window, and through it saw a dark silhouette in the distance. There was no mistaking this shape. There was a person with a sniper rifle.

«Well, journalist Ron Jones, you’ve got to go, and by the way, my daughter’s name is Hibiscus», said Molly, but Ron was no longer listening. A red hibiscus bloomed on his chest, and his lifeless eyes peered through the famous detective writer.

Molly Stinger smirked, and slowly approached, carefully removing the flash drive from the hapless hunter’s breast pocket before it was stained with blood. Journalist Ron Jones went to a place where there was nothing but light, and no one was concerned with other people’s secrets.

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