“Did I ever tell you about the last days of the war?” Francois said. “The Germans were running away, the Maquis were ascendant, and the arsenal over at St. Etienne got raided.”

“Yeah, I know,” Claude said. “You’re older than dirt, I get it.”

“Most of the things that the Maquis stole from there just melted away into the countryside,” Francois said, continuing his story as if he hadn’t heard Claude. “Oh, some went to the front, and they sent some De Gaulle men to round it up, but…to this day you can find lathes from that workshop in people’s garages.”

“I’m sick of listening to your stories,” Claude said. “I’m going after Babette. If you come after me, I’ll break every tooth in your worthless old head.”

Francois held up a pistol, a Modèle 1935 from before the war. “I never registered it,” he said. “Never got the evaluation. It’s only got 7 rounds and I can’t get any more. But it’s enough, I think, to stop you.”

Claude sized the old man up. “You don’t scare me with that rusty old thing,” he said, and began to advance.

Francois took aim and pulled the trigger. A dull snap, nothing. A dud in a decades-old cartridge.

“Hmph, see?” Claude grinned. “I’m going to enjoy breaking that antique over your head.”

Taking a step back, Francois racked the pistol’s slide like he’d seen them do in the movies. The dud round popped out and clicked to the tile floor. The next pull of the trigger was also a harmless snap.

“Put that piece of junk down,” Claude said. “You’re embarrassing yourself, old man.”

Francois pulled the trigger again. The gun roared to life, spitting out a smoking case that fell to the floor and melted itself into the cheap plastic tile. Claude gasped, clutching at his chest where a red stain was already spreading.

“Yes, this won’t look good when the police arrive,” said Francois. “But I’m willing to take that chance.” With Claude gasping before him, he emptied the pistol into him, another dud and three live shots.

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