French Kiss

A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery


By James Patterson

With Richard DiLallo

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A handsome and charming French detective joined the NYPD for a fresh start, but someone wants to end his first big case . . . and his life.

Welcome to New York, Detective. Now watch your back.

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Chapter 1

The weatherman nailed it. “Sticky, hot, and miserable. Highs in the nineties. Stay inside if you can.”

I can’t. I have to get someplace. Fast.

Jesus Christ, it’s hot. Especially if you’re running as fast as you can through Central Park and you’re wearing a dark gray Armani silk suit, a light gray Canali silk shirt, and black Ferragamo shoes.

As you might have guessed, I am late—very, very late. Très en retard, as we say in France.

I pick up speed until my legs hurt. I can feel little blisters forming on my toes and heels.

Why did I ever come to New York?

Why, oh why, did I leave Paris?

If I were running like this in Paris, I would be stopping all traffic. I would be the center of attention. Men and women would be shouting for the police.

“A young businessman has gone berserk! He is shoving baby carriages out of his path. He is frightening the old ladies walking their dogs.”

But this is not Paris. This is New York.

So forget it. Even the craziest event in New York goes unnoticed. The dog walkers keep on walking their dogs. The teenage lovers kiss. A toddler points to me. His mother glances up. Then she shrugs.

Will even one New Yorker dial 911? Or 311?

Forget about that also. You see, I am part of the police. A French detective now working with the Seventeenth Precinct on my specialty—drug smuggling, drug sales, and drug-related homicides.

My talent for being late has, in a mere two months, become almost legendary with my colleagues in the precinct house. But…oh, merde…showing up late for today’s meticulously planned stakeout on Madison Avenue and 71st Street will do nothing to help my reputation, a reputation as an uncooperative rich French kid, a rebel with too many causes.

Merde…today of all days I should have known better than to wake my gorgeous girlfriend to say good-bye.

“I cannot be late for this one, Dalia.”

“Just one more good-bye squeeze. What if you’re shot and I never see you again?”

The good-bye “squeeze” turned out to be significantly longer than I had planned.

Eh. It doesn’t matter. I’m where I’m supposed to be now. A mere forty-five minutes late.

Chapter 2

My partner, Detective Maria Martinez, is seated on the driver’s side of an unmarked police car at 71st Street and Madison Avenue.

While keeping her eyes on the surrounding area, Maria unlocks the passenger door. I slide in, drowning in perspiration. She glances at me for a second, then speaks.

“Man. What’s the deal? Did you put your suit on first and then take your shower?”

“Funny,” I say. “Sorry I’m late.”

“You should have little business cards with that phrase on it—‘Sorry I’m late.’”

I’m certain that Maria Martinez doesn’t care whether I’m late. Unlike a lot of my detective colleagues, she doesn’t mind that I’m not big on “protocol.” I’m late a lot. I do a lot of careless things. I bring ammo for a Glock 22 when I’m packing a Glock 27. I like a glass or two of white wine with lunch…it’s a long list. But Maria overlooks most of it.

My other idiosyncrasies she has come to accept, more or less. I must have a proper déjeuner. That’s lunch. No mere sandwich will do. What’s more, a glass or two of good wine never did anything but enhance the flavor of a lunch.

You see, Maria “gets” me. Even better, she knows what I know: together we’re a cool combination of her procedure-driven methods and my purely instinct-driven methods.

“So where are we with this bust?” I say.

“We’re still sitting on our butts. That’s where we are,” she says. Then she gives details.

“They got two pairs of cops on the other side of the street, and two other detectives—Imani Williams and Henry Whatever-the-Hell-His-Long-Polish-Name-Is—at the end of the block. That team’ll go into the garage.

“Then there’s another team behind the garage. They’ll hold back and then go into the garage.

“Then they got three guys on the roof of the target building.”

The target building is a large former town house that’s now home to a store called Taylor Antiquities. It’s a place filled with the fancy antique pieces lusted after by trust-fund babies and hedge-fund hotshots. Maria and I have already cased Taylor Antiquities a few times. It’s a store where you can lay down your Amex Centurion card and walk away with a white jade vase from the Yuan dynasty or purchase the four-poster bed where John and Abigail Adams reportedly conceived little John Quincy.

“And what about us?”

“Our assignment spot is inside the store,” she says.

“No. I want to be where the action is,” I say.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Maria says. “Do what they tell you. We’re inside the store. Over and out. Meanwhile, how about watching the street with me?”

Maria Martinez is total cop. At the moment she is heart-and-soul into the surveillance. Her eyes dart from the east side of the street to the west. Every few seconds, she glances into the rearview mirror. Follows it with a quick look into the side-view mirror. Searches straight ahead. Then she does it all over again.

Me? Well, I’m looking around, but I’m also wondering if I can take a minute off to grab a cardboard cup of lousy American coffee.

Don’t get me wrong. And don’t be put off by what I said about my impatience with “procedure.” No. I am very cool with being a detective. In fact, I’ve wanted to be a detective since I was four years old. I’m also very good at my job. And I’ve got the résumé to prove it.

Last year in Pigalle, one of the roughest parts of Paris, I solved a drug-related gang homicide and made three on-the-scene arrests. Just me and a twenty-five-year-old traffic cop.

I was happy. I was successful. For a few days I was even famous.

The next morning the name Luc Moncrief was all over the newspapers and the Internet. A rough translation of the headline on the front page of Le Monde:

Oldest pigalle drug gang smashed by youngest Paris detective—Luc Moncrief

Underneath was this subhead:

Parisian Heartthrob Hauls in Pigalle Drug Lords

The paparazzi had always been somewhat interested in whom I was dating; after that, they were obsessed. Club owners comped my table with bottles of Perrier-Jouët Champagne. Even my father, the chairman of a giant pharmaceuticals company, gave me one of his rare compliments.

“Very nice job…for a playboy. Now I hope you’ve got this ‘detective thing’ out of your system.”

I told him thank you, but I did not tell him that “this detective thing” was not out of my system. Or that I enjoyed the very generous monthly allowance that he gave me too much.

So when my capitaine supérieur announced that the NYPD wanted to trade one of their art-forgery detectives for one of our Paris drug enforcement detectives for a few months, I jumped at the offer. From my point of view, it was a chance to reconnect with my former lover, Dalia Boaz. From my Parisian lieutenant point of view, it was an opportunity to add some needed discipline and learning to my instinctive approach to detective work.

So here I am. On Madison Avenue, my eyes are burning with sweat. I can actually feel the perspiration squishing around in my shoes.

Detective Martinez remains focused completely on the street scene. But God, I need some coffee, some air. I begin speaking.

“Listen. If I could just jump out for a minute and—”

As I’m about to finish the sentence, two vans—one black, one red—turn into the garage next door to Taylor Antiquities.

Our cell phones automatically buzz with a loud sirenlike sound. The doors of the unmarked police cars begin to open.

As Maria and I hit the street, she speaks.

“It looks like our evidence has finally arrived.”

Chapter 3

Martinez and I rush into Taylor Antiquities. There are no customers. A skinny middle-aged guy sits at a desk in the rear of the store, and a typical debutante—a young blond woman in a white linen skirt and a black shirt—is dusting some small, silver-topped jars.

It is immediately clear to both of them that we’re not here to buy an ancient Thai penholder. We are easily identified as two very unpleasant-looking cops, the male foolishly dressed in an expensive waterlogged suit, the woman in too-tight khaki pants. Maria and I are each holding our NYPD IDs in our left hands and our pistols in our right hands.

“You. Freeze!” Maria shouts at the blond woman.

I yell the same thing at the guy at the desk.

“You freeze, too, sir,” I say.

From our two pre-bust surveillance visits I recognize the man as Blaise Ansel, the owner of Taylor Antiquities.

Ansel begins walking toward us.

I yell again. “I said freeze, Mr. Ansel. This…is…a…drug…raid.”

“This is police-department madness,” Ansel says, and now he is almost next to us. The debutante hasn’t moved a muscle.

“Cuff him, Luc. He’s resisting.” Maria is pissed.

Ansel throws his hands into the air. “No. No. I am not resisting anything but the intrusion. I am freezing. Look.”

Although I have seen him before, I have never heard him speak. His accent is foreign, thick. It’s an accent that’s easy for anyone to identify. Ansel is a Frenchman. Son of a bitch. One of ours.

As Ansel freezes, three patrol cars, lights flashing, pull up in front of the store. Then I tell the young woman to join us. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t speak.

“Please join us,” Maria says. Now the woman moves to us. Slowly. Cautiously.

“Your name, ma’am?” I ask.

“Monica Ansel,” she replies.

Blaise Ansel looks at Martinez and me.

“She’s my wife.”

There’s got to be a twenty-year age difference between the two of them, but Maria and I remain stone-faced. Maria taps on her cell phone and begins reading aloud from the screen.

“To make this clear: we are conducting a drug search based on probable cause. Premises and connected premises are 861 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, in the borough of Manhattan, June 21, 2016. Premises title: Taylor Antiquities, Inc. Chairman and owner: Blaise Martin Ansel. Company president: Blaise Martin Ansel.”

Maria taps the screen and pushes another button.

“This is being recorded,” she says.

I would never have read the order to search, but Maria is strictly by the book.

“This is preposterous,” says Blaise Ansel.

Maria does not address Ansel’s comment. She simply says, “I want you to know that detectives and officers are currently positioned in your delivery dock, your garage, and your rooftop. They will be interviewing all parties of interest. It is our assignment to interview both you and the woman you’ve identified as your wife.”

“Drugs? Are you mad?” yells Ansel. “This shop is a museum-quality repository of rare antiques. Look. Look.”

Ansel quickly moves to one of the display tables. He holds up a carved mahogany box. “A fifteenth-century tea chest,” he says. He lifts the lid of the box. “What do you see inside? Cocaine? Heroin? Marijuana?”

It is obvious that Maria has decided to allow Ansel to continue his slightly crazed demonstration.

“This—this, too,” Ansel says as he moves to a pine trunk set on four spindly legs. “An American colonial sugar safe. Nothing inside. No crystal meth, no sugar.”

Ansel is about to present two painted Chinese-looking bowls when the rear entrance to the shop opens and Imani Williams enters. Detective Williams is agitated. She is also très belle.

“Not a damn thing in those two vans,” she says. “Police mechanics are searching the undersides, but there’s nothing but a bunch of empty gold cigarette boxes and twelve Iranian silk rugs in the cargo. We tested for drug traces. They all came up negative.”

I think I catch an exchange of glances between Monsieur and Madame Ansel. I think. I’m not sure. But the more I think, well, the more sure I become.

“Detective Williams,” I say. “Do you think you could fill in for me for a few minutes to assist Detective Martinez with the Ansel interview?”

“Yeah, sure,” says Williams. “Where you going?”

“I just need to…I’m not sure…look around.”

“Tell the truth, Moncrief. You’ve been craving a cup of joe since you got here,” says Maria Martinez.

“Can’t fool you, partner,” I say.

I open the shop door. I’m out.

Chapter 4

The suffocating air on Madison Avenue almost shimmers with heat.

Where have all the beautiful people gone? East Hampton? Bar Harbor? The South of France?

I walk the block. I watch a man polish the handrail alongside the steps of Saint James’ Church. I see the tourists line up outside Ladurée, the French macaron store.

A young African American man, maybe eighteen years old, walks near me. He is bare-chested. He seems even sweatier than I am. The young man’s T-shirt is tied around his neck, and he is guzzling from a quart-size bottle of water.

“Where’d you get that?” I ask.

“A dude like you can go to that fancy-ass cookie store. You got five bills, that’ll get you a soda there,” he says.

“But where’d you get that bottle, the water you’re drinking?” I ask again.

“Us poor bros go to Kenny’s. You’re practically in it right now.”

He gestures toward 71st Street between Madison and Park Avenues. As the kid moves away, I figure that the “fancy-ass cookie store” is Ladurée. I am equidistant between a five-dollar soda and a cheaper but larger bottle of water. Why waste Papa’s generous allowance on fancy-ass soda?

Kenny’s is a tiny storefront, a place you should find closer to Ninth Avenue than Madison Avenue. Behind the counter is a Middle Eastern-type guy. Kenny? He peddles only newspapers, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and, for some reason, Dial soap.

I examine the contents of Kenny’s small refrigerated case. It holds many bottles, all of them the same—the no-name water that the shirtless young man was drinking. At the moment that water looks to me like heaven in a bottle.

“I’m going to take two of these bottles,” I say.

“One second, please, sir,” says the man behind the counter, then he addresses another man who is wheeling four brown cartons of candy into the store. The cartons are printed with the name and logo for Snickers. The man steering the dolly looks very much like the counterman. Is he Kenny? Is anybody Kenny? I consider buying a Snickers bar. No. The wet Armani suit is already growing tighter.

“How many more boxes are there, Hector?” the counterman asks.


On Sale
Oct 4, 2016
Page Count
160 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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