Die Fannen Hoch
For all you big Christmas eaters…
Felix sucked each finger in turn. The noise irritated the big blacksmith who stared under lowering brows. Jacques never ate at the Lion D’Or; a cheese and potato man with no time for fanciful food, nor the people who delighted in it. Felix removed the serviette from inside his shirt collar. He dabbed at pursed lips, the gesture almost lady-like, as Gaston the proprietor hovered nearby. Jacques frowned into his glass. Checking the level, he downed the remaining Pastis and called for more. Gaston though, was busy. He segued around the tables, tray held high, balancing a single coffee and bound for the fastidious diner. Philippe came to his friend’s rescue. He laid two glasses on the table, reversed the chair, and draped himself over the high back.
‘I know, I know. Monsieur Gourmand is under your skin again?’ The little postman rested his chin upon the chair as he smirked at Jacques. Everyone knew the Blacksmith for a dangerous man. Passionate, violent and changeable. To be avoided they all said. But Philippe had the measure of the man. He played jester to the giant; pulling him from the dark humours and dancing around the clenched fists. ‘I have a secret, my friend.’ He tapped a finger to the side of his nose. ‘Messire Felix has friends in Germany, eh? Another parcel this morning.’ The whisper was conspiratorial. ‘Couldn’t wait to shut the door on me and tear it open.’ He waited for reaction, but Jacques was occupied in study of his enemy. In front of Felix was a box. They watched as he removed the lid to peer inside. The cherries were draped in fine, dark chocolate. Felix withdrew a leather wallet from inside his jacket. He selected a long silver pin with two tines. The weapon hovered above the box then, selection made, it dipped below the rim. Jacques salivated. He had an uncultured sweet tooth and his nostrils flared like an overwrought horse at sight of the plump chocolate cherry. He groaned as Felix consumed the sweet confection then drained the demi-tasse of strong coffee. Philippe held the large blacksmith in his seat as Felix made great show of his departure.
‘Later Jacques. Tonight perhaps?’ The curt statement brought a smile to both men.
They’d worked the catch on the rotting sash window. Jacques pulled his small confederate aside and stepped across the sill. In the darkness behind the house, Philippe saw nothing more than his friend’s bright grin. He gave Jacques ten minutes then followed him inside. When consciousness returned, Philippe gazed upon a warm, bright parlour. He shivered in cold realisation, feeling the tight, constricting band around his brow. Movement was impossible despite his best efforts; despite the strength of the fear which ebbed away in his struggle with the unseen bonds. He saw Felix step over the body on the floor, in his hand the box of chocolate cherries. The petite Frenchman had a strong grip. Philippe felt his jaw open under the pressure, before his mouth closed upon the cherry.
‘Wonderful, isn’t it? Soft. Sweet. The slight resistence in the bite?’ Philippe swallowed. Fear and cherry both, though he found the fear indigestible. ‘Not to your fat friend’s liking. A mule; stolid and unimaginative. Not at all like you Monsieur Le Facteur. ‘ The smile was playful. The eyes however… ‘Don’t struggle Philippe – you’ll need your strength.’ He turned then, a little like a spinning ballerina, the box and the silver fork in opposite hands. One fastidious step across the body then the theatrical stoop to lift the lifeless head. ‘I suppose I should finish with this shit first?’ The expletive seemed unnatural in Felix’s mouth. Perhaps it explained Philippe’s heightened fear. Jacques had an empty eye-socket, the blood congealing on his cheek. The postman vomitted. With a dexterous flick of the wrist, Felix took the other eyeball then dropped it into the sweet-box. He had his audience in the palm of his hand. ‘A little music, I think.’ His back to the postman he wound the old gramaphone, the movement again balletic, full of grace. ‘Die Fannen Hoch!’ He laid the stylus onto the turning disc. ‘Don’t you just love Horst Wessel?’ He turned, his back to the dresser. The imaginary baton weaved with the melody. ‘My old comrades in the Waffen S.S. always did do it justice, did they not?’ He stepped across the dead, sightless blacksmith. ‘Now you shall have the other little treat. A moment gourmande before we discuss your appalling lack of professionalism.’ The silver fork dipped into the box…