Enzo's files

the macleod clan

enzo's biographer

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AUGUST, 1996

   He finds himself in a cobbled courtyard, breath hissing back at him from buttressed walls.  A rasping, gasping breath, full of fear and the certainty of death.
He knows every window by heart in this cloister of the two charnel houses.  Colours embedded in the glass with affixed enamel.  “Le Miracle des Billettes”, “Elijah’s Sacrifice”, “The Mystic Wine-press”.  Beloved images lost forever in the dark.
Moonlight glances off the shiny surface of cobbles worn smooth by the feet of holy men.  His own feet slip and clatter as he scrambles through an alley between buttresses, heart squeezed by the hand of desperation.  A green bin spins away in the darkness, spilling its decaying contents across the yard.  The door ahead of him lies ajar, the corridor beyond bathed in the ghostly light of the moon, angling between tower and apse to slant through frosted glass arches.  He sees a sign and a red arrow -  Vitraux du Cloître - and turns the other way, past the sacristy.
The door to the church is open, and he is almost sucked through it into the vast, glowing stillness.  The stained glass rises all around, its colours turned to black by the dead light of the nearly full moon.  His panic fills the vaulted vastness with every painful breath.  To his right a statue of the virgin cradling the baby Jesus watches impassively, impervious now to the prayers he has offered her so piously over so many years.  The neighbouring chapel has been given over to notice-boards pasted with announcements that he will never read.
He hears the footsteps following in his wake, and breath rasping in lungs that are not his own.  He flees along the north ambulatory, past the Chapel of St. Paul, the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Souls in Purgatory.  At the end of the church, ninety silvered organ pipes rise in shining columns to the figure of Christ Resuscitated, flanked by two angels.  He wants to scream, help me!  But he knows they cannot.
He turns beneath the nine meter span of the only remaining screen in all of Paris, a delicate tracery of stone carving and spiral staircases curling around slender columns soaring into blackness, and he stops beneath Christ on the cross, a Calvary taken from the chapel of the École Polytechnique to replace a predecessor destroyed during the Revolution.  How often he has knelt here, before the altar, to receive His flesh and drink His blood.
He stops here now, and kneels again for one last time, the footsteps almost upon him.  And as he rises and turns, the last thing he sees at the far end of the nave, before red turns to black, is a sign commanding him to SILENCE.


JULY, 2006

  The Rue des Deux Ponts cuts across the centre of the Île St. Louis, from the Pont Marie straddling the Seine on the north side, to the Pont de la Tournelle on the south.  The island is no more than two hundred meters across and, side by side with the Île de la Cité, stands at the very heart of old Paris.
   Enzo had wondered how his daughter could afford an apartment here, where four square meters of real estate could cost upwards of three hundred thousand euros.  But Simon had told him that she was in a tiny sixth-floor studio up in the roof of her apartment block, and that the rental was being subsidised by her employer.
   The previous night in the small hours, at home in Cahors, he had questioned the wisdom of trying to see her.  He had to go to Paris, anyway.  The stupid wager!  But in the end, it was Sophie who had made his mind up.
   It had been a hot seventy degrees, humid and sticky.  Somewhere across the jumble of mediaeval red-tiled roofs a clock had chimed two, a deep, sonorous ring that pealed across the centuries.  The old quartier of this ancient town in southwest France dated back to Roman days, and in some of his lonelier moments here Enzo felt only a breath away from the beginnings of human history.  His armchair reclined by the open window, his guitar laid across his chest, he stared at the ceiling and brushed his steel slider along the length of the fretboard, strings softly weeping, evoking the blues of a not so distant past.  By leaving for Paris the next day he would miss the start of the annual Cahors Blues Festival.
   Floorboards creaked in the hall.  ‘Papa?’
   He’d turned his head to see Sophie in her nightdress framed in the doorway, and  had to blink away sudden tears, surprised sometimes by just how much he loved her.  ‘You should be sleeping, Sophie.’
   ‘Go to bed, Papa.  It’s late,’ she’d said softly.  She always spoke English to him when they were alone.  English with an oddly incongruous Scottish accent, like the sweet scent of whisky drifting in the warm air of a summer’s night.  She’d padded across the salon and perched on the arm of his chair.  He’d felt her warmth.
  ‘Come to Paris with me.’
  ‘To meet your sister.’
  ‘I don’t have a sister,’ she’d said.  There was no rancour in it.  Just a cold statement of fact, as she saw it.
  ‘She’s my daughter, Sophie.’
  ‘I hate her.’
  ‘How can you hate her?  You’ve never met her.’
  ‘Because she hates you.  How could I ever like anyone who hates you?’  She had lifted his guitar away then, and laid it against the sill, and slid down into the seat beside her father, laying her head on his chest.  ‘I love you, Papa.’

  He had found the apartment block quickly enough.  Number 19 bis, on the west side of the street, next to Le Marché des Îles fruit and vegetable store.  He had no idea what the entry code was for getting into the courtyard.  He could have rung for the concierge, but what would he have told her?  That his daughter lived here, on the top floor?  And if the concierge had taken him up, what would he have said if Kirsty had shut the door in his face?
  So he lunched in the L’Îlot Vache bistro on the corner of the Rue St. Louis, sitting on his own in the window, watching the faces drift past, sunlight slanting down between tall old buildings that leaned at sometimes curious angles.  He sat until the restaurant was empty, his waiter hovering impatiently nearby, waiting for him to pay so that he could go home for the afternoon.  Finally he settled up and walked across the street to the Louis IX Bar, and found himself a table in the doorway and nursed a beer for nearly two hours.  More faces passed.  More time.  The angle of the sun grew more acute as it slid down the sky into early evening.  And still the tourists filed by, perspiring in the July heat, and private cars and taxis belched their fumes into the fibrillating air of a long Parisian summer’s day.
  Then he saw her, and in spite of all the hours of anticipation still felt as if he had been punched in the gut.  It was twelve years since he had last laid eyes on her, a brittle, difficult fifteen year-old who wouldn’t speak to him.  She was crossing the Rue des Deux Ponts from east to west, carrying groceries in pink plastic bags dangling from both hands.  She was wearing denims that cut off inches above the ankle and sat low on her hips beneath a short, white, sleeveless top that bared her belly to the world.  It was the fashion, although very few girls had the figure to carry it off.  Kirsty was one of them.  She was tall, like her father, with square shoulders and fine, long legs.  And she wore her hair long, again like her father, but not tied in a pony tail like his.  It was a rich, chestnut brown, like her mother’s, and flew out behind her in the warm breeze like a flag of independence.
   Enzo left several coins rattling on his table, and hurried along the street to intercept her.  He caught up with her as she was juggling with her shopping bags to punch in the entry code.  ‘Here, let me take one of these,’ he said as the electronic lock buzzed and she pushed the door open with her foot.
   She turned, startled.  Whether it was the unexpected Scottish voice in the middle of Paris, or the odd familiarity of this strange male, it took her some moments to realise who he was.  By which time he had taken the bags from one of her hands and was holding the door open for her.  Her face flushed with confusion and embarrassment and she pushed past him into a passageway that led to the inner courtyard.  The time it took for that simple act was long enough for her to find her anger.  ‘What do you want?’ she hissed, keeping her voice low as if she was frightened they might be overheard.
   He hurried after her as she strode along the passage and into a tiny, paved courtyard filled with potted trees and a tangle of lush, green plants.  Apartments rose dizzyingly all around them into the small square of blue Paris sky above.  Ground floor windows were barred, and the door of the guardian’s apartment stood at the foot of an ancient wooden staircase.  ‘Just to talk, Kirsty.  To spend a little time with you.’
   ‘Funny...’  Her voice coarse with bitterness.  ‘You were never around when I wanted to spend time with you.  You were too busy with your new family.’
   ‘That’s not true, Kirsty.  I’d have given you all the time in the world if you had only let me.’
   ‘Oh, yes!’  She turned on him at the foot of the stairs.  All the colour had drained from her face.  ‘Of course.  It was my fault.  I should have known.  It was my fault you left us.  It was my fault you chose to go and live in France with some other woman and start another family.  Why didn’t I see it?  All those nights I lay awake listening to mum crying herself to sleep in the next room, and I never realised it was my fault.  All those birthdays and Christmas’s you weren’t around.  All those moments in a girl’s life when she wants to know that her dad’s watching, that he’s proud of her.  The school concert.  Sports day.  Graduation.  Why didn’t I understand then that it was my fault?  After all, you always had a great reason to be somewhere else, didn’t you?’  Her emotion finally choked off the diatribe, and she was working hard to catch her breath.  The intensity in her eyes made it hard for Enzo to meet them.  He had never before felt the full force of her anger.  He was shocked.  ‘Give me those!’  She snatched at the bags of shopping he was holding, but he held them away from her.
   ‘Kirsty, please.  There’s never a day in my life that I don’t think about you, or the hurt I caused you.  You’ve no idea how hard it is to try to explain these things to a child.  But I’m still your father, and I still love you.  All I want to do is talk.  To tell you how it was.  How it really was.’
   She stared at him for a moment in silence, anger turning to contempt.  ‘I don’t have a father,’ she said finally.  ‘My father died a very long time ago.’  Her eyes dropped to the bags he was still holding.  ‘Are you going to give me those?’  But she barely gave him time to respond.  ‘Oh, well, fuck it!’ she said.  ‘Keep them.’  And she turned and ran up the stairs leaving him standing in the courtyard, feeling foolish and bereft.
   He had no idea how long he stood before finally laying the bags carefully on the first step.  There didn’t seem any point in going after her with them.  He turned slowly and went back out to the street.
number one

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