The French Art of Stealing

a novel by

Mark Zero

First Giant Publishing Edition 2006

Smashwords Edition © 2010 by Mark Zero

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

1 Le Marais

People shoot at me all the time, but it’s nothing personal. I’m a photojournalist—a war photographer, to be precise. I risk my neck so that you can calmly survey scenes of violence half a world away as you sip your morning coffee. I’ve been attacked with rocket-propelled grenades in the jungles of Côte d’Ivoire, held at knife-point in a collapsed mosque in Fallujah, hit by a jeep during a firefight outside of Medellin. The chance of death is both the price and the perverse attraction of the job, and it’s compensated by a freedom that most people rarely enjoy—as an experienced freelancer, I work when and if I want, travel to the most exotic places imaginable, and require only the hatred of man for his fellow man to keep my creditors at bay.

Bullets have been whizzing past my ears for so long that I don’t usually tell stories about them any more, but in this case an exception is in order: the bullet that ricocheted off the stones of the Pont Neuf a few inches from my head was different from the others. No war was raging in downtown Paris that night, no revolutionaries were trying to capture the Île de la Cité. That bullet was meant for me, personally, and when I jumped off the bridge into the Seine, the bullets that followed me into the river were meant for me as well. Fortunately, the shooter was as unfamiliar with guns as I was with fine art, and he was probably just as surprised to be shooting at me as I was to have his priceless painting, a masterpiece by the Post-Impressionist Maximilien Luce.

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