The Secret Agent is published this week so I thought I’d share an excerpt.
Sylvie has made her way to Nantes only to discover her contact isn’t at the rendezvous point. fortunately she knows the name of the club where she will be working as a dancer so heads there in the hope of finding some answers.
One of my favourite films is Cabaret so I loved the chance to create a nightclub which had echoes of the KitKat Klub.
From the outside, Club Mirabelle looked run down. It stood halfway up a narrow road on a hill leading away from the river. Perhaps before the destruction wrought on Nantes by the war and subsequent occupation, this would have been a high-end establishment, but now it showed evidence of neglect.
The club was double-fronted in one of the three-storey buildings that lined the street. A plain black door was set between wide windows that at some point had been boarded up with black-painted wooden planks. It could have been due to the war and the need to block out any escaping light, but Sylvie suspected the alterations had been done prior to that in order to create an atmosphere. The sign outside looked strikingly old-fashioned. A laughing woman held out the flounces and ruffles of her skirts to display one leg raised in a high kick. In her right hand, she held a flute of champagne that appeared to defy the laws of physics given the tilt of the glass. The club’s name curled in cursive script from leg to arm. Perhaps this was Mirabelle herself.
If she had been in England, Sylvie would have turned her nose up at any suggestion she spent an evening there. Still, she reasoned, disreputable might mean it was less likely to be frequented by Germans and she would stand less chance of being discovered for who she was.
Sylvie pushed the door ajar ever so slightly and was greeted by the sound of laughter and piano music. Seedy and down at heel it might be, but Mirabelle was busy tonight. She hesitated, wondering if the middle of a busy evening was the best time to try to make contact with someone, or whether she should return tomorrow when there would be fewer witnesses to the conversation she needed to have.
She was still wavering indecisively when voices speaking German made her start. A quartet of soldiers in uniform were making their way down the empty street towards the door. Sylvie tensed, recalling the brutal arrest of the boy in Cholet, but they were strolling, not goose-stepping. They were off duty, not a patrol out to round up suspects for interrogation.
They walked two abreast, and one in the first pair nudged his young companion and gestured towards Sylvie. The two walking behind spoke German to each other, laughing. It was obvious to Sylvie that the young man was being teased and that she was the subject.
‘Are you going inside, fräulein?’ asked the man who had begun the joke, switching to halting French.
‘She is waiting for you, Valter,’ said the oldest and, from the insignia on his uniform, the most senior officer of the group.
The young soldier looked visibly relieved that the attention had moved on from him and stepped aside to let his superior – presumably, ‘Valter’ – pass him and kept his eyes firmly ahead as if he was standing to attention on the parade ground. Sylvie suspected nothing short of a direct order from the Führer himself could have induced him to meet Sylvie’s eye.
‘Maybe she is waiting for all of us,’ Valter replied.
Sylvie’s scalp prickled. She could probably fend off one man, but not four. She hid her revulsion and gave him a smile, hoping it was just bravado. He straightened up and looked pleased with himself. Men were men, it appeared, whatever nationality they were.
Without replying, she opened the door fully and stepped inside.”
“Mirabelle had seen better days inside as well as out. The room went on further back than Sylvie had expected from the outside. Small circular tables were set for couples or groups in front of both sides of the door and throughout the room. Most were occupied. A raised stage area ran along the left side of the room. The bar covered the back-right-side wall. Between them was an arch covered with a pair of burgundy velvet curtains.
Besides the stage was a piano where a dark-haired man in a black dinner jacket sat with his back to the door. He was currently playing something almost like jazz, with a languid rhythm that made Sylvie’s fingers begin to drum against the side of her leg. His lean frame moved sinuously from side to side as his fingers worked along the keyboard. As Sylvie watched, he reached up and caught the lit cigarette that was tucked behind one ear, took a quick drag and put it back without losing his rhythm. Though he was only half facing the audience, Sylvie was sure he must be aware that all eyes were on him.
The club was dimly lit and the air was hazy with smoke. The intense odour of French cigarettes made Sylvie blink. Colognes and perfumes added another layer, and beneath that were the smells of warm bodies and alcohol.
It was sleazy and exciting.
Preorder your copy here getbook.at/TheSecretAgent