Sept. 23, 2010
An excerpt from the opening chapters of Marilyn Z. Tomlins’s Die in Paris, published in the United States in September of 2010 by Raider Publishing International. The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and borders.com.
by Marilyn Z. Tomlins
In the early evening of Saturday, March 11, 1944, the telephone rang on the desk of the duty officer at the Porte Maillot police station house. Until that moment, Rue le Sueur in Paris’ elegant sixteenth arrondissement had made it into the news just once. That was in April 1912. That month, the French singer and actress, Léontine Pauline Aubart, from Number 17, had set sail from Southampton for New York with her lover, Benjamin Guggenheim, but she had returned to Rue le Sueur, alone and grieving. The ship she and her Ben had boarded in Southampton for the Atlantic crossing was the Titanic. Guggenheim had gone down with the ship.
Rue le Sueur would yet again be in the news.
On the phone was Jacques Marçais, a retired clerk. Jacques and Andrée, his wife, lived in an apartment at Number 22 Rue le Sueur. He was calling to report that for the past six days pestilential smoke has been pouring from the chimney of a townhouse across the street.
The duty officer did not understand why someone would think that a smoking chimney needed investigating. In 1938, world war had broken out and France had capitulated to the enemy – Nazi Germany – and, since June 1940, when the Germans had occupied northern France, which included Paris, they’d been imposing frequent power cuts on the Parisians. It might have been spring, but it was still cold in Paris, and the Parisians had to light fires for heat. Consequently, in just about every Paris living room, a fire was roaring, and, from every Paris chimney, poured smoke.
Jacques explained. It was the chimney of an uninhabited house, and that was certainly not normal. The duty officer promised to send a patrolman over as soon as possible.