Two years ago, the German army marched into Paris. They hung their brazen red flags and stark white banners across every landmark and capitol building, from the Tour Eiffel to the Arc de Triomphe. DEUTCHSLAND SIEGT AUF ALLEN FRONTEN bellowed the banners in block capital letters, evoking the strict bark of the Germans as they flaunted their power in parades through the streets. Germany is victorious on all fronts.
Henri refused to leave the city before the occupation, claiming that it was easier to make money in the black market during chaotic times. He ignored Emile’s protests, pulling rank as Emile’s guardian. Emile was too young to understand, Henri claimed. He wasn’t around for the first war. Meanwhile, thousands of refugees walked past them, slowly exiting the city on foot and bicycle, wisely avoiding what was to come.
Six months ago, Henri admitted to Emile that his plan may not have been the most prescient. This war was not as profitable as the last, and their occupiers were far more oppressive. By the time Henri came to his senses, both he and Emile were trapped in the city by their own lack of papers. Living outside of the law as petty criminals and squatters was easier when there were larger crowds in which to blend. As the population trickled out to the countryside, the newly fledged Vichy government focused their vile bureaucracy on those within the cities, demanding extensive identification.
Henri and Emile relied on their unique mode of survival in these lean times. They existed off the grid and worked for crime families in exchange for shelter and food from the black market. During the day, they scammed the remaining citizens out of their ration cards, or simply picked their pockets for any withheld riches. At night, they practiced their highly effective method of burglary, scaling buildings and entering open windows in search of hidden family heirlooms and emergency funds. Emile learned enough German to service soldiers in the brothels for extra money and cigarettes. The German soldiers were the gold mine that Henri anticipated when the war began. They treated Paris as a holiday destination, and they revived the tourism, entertainment, and prostitution industries with their salaries. The Corsican gangsters that ran the brothels at the behest of the German military skimmed generous profits, and they employed Henri and Emile to reclaim money which had slipped through the cracks.
Despite their relationship with the underground criminal milieu, Henri and Emile were a unit first and foremost. They could rely on nobody but each other. Ever since Henri rescued Emile as a child from slave labor in a suit factory, Emile remained his protege. Henri taught him the lucrative arts of theft and fraud. True, Henri expected Emile to provide him with comfort from time to time, but he had always taken care of his ward. Henri kept Emile fed, clothed, and inured to the rules of the world. “Look out for yourself first and foremost, and don't do anything for free.”
Two months ago, when the Germans mandated that every Jew would wear yellow stars on their clothing, Henri saw opportunity. “Jews always have money,” he told Emile. “We just have to find where they’re hiding it. And we must find it quickly, before the police take them away.” The French police performed the bidding of their occupying enemy, enforcing curfews and punishing those Jews that did not flee the country. Henri and Emile benefited from this renewed focus on one segment of the population. If their criminal acts or illegal presence drew the scrutiny of the gendarmes, Emile and Henri would simply draw attention to any Jew in the area.
Yesterday, that particular gambit became impossible when the French police rounded up every Jew in the city and imprisoned them in the Vélodrome d'Hiver, an indoor stadium. Fortunately, Henri had a plan for this eventuality. He knew the gangsters that formed the Carlingue, a thuggish auxiliary to the police that hunted members of the Resistance for the Germans. On many occasions, Henri and Emile delivered payment and services to Raul Savelli, a Corsican. Raul knew everything that was going to happen before it happened. He informed Henri about the upcoming raids, so that Henri and Emile could clear out the coffers of the Jews before the police arrived to steal their hidden savings. Raul made pure personal profit from the scheme. In exchange, Henri convinced Raul to smuggle himself and Emile out of the city. Raul agreed, but he requested one final task of Emile before he fulfilled the bargain.
Twelve hours ago, Emile knelt below a desk and teased Raul’s cock out of his silk trousers. Raul’s fat sausage stank like garlic. Emile rolled his thick foreskin past his flared, spongy cockhead. When Emile hesitated to swallow him down, Raul tapped his leather shoe impatiently.
“Emile,” urged Henri, “do as he says.”
“You know how I like it, boy.” Raul seized Emile by his hair and dragged his face against his sweating groin, burying Emile’s nose in his coarse pubic hair. Emile gripped his thumb in his hand, like Henri had taught him, and distended his jaw around Raul’s shaft. He struggled to relax his throat as Raul’s girth squeezed past his tongue and filled his mouth.
Just as Raul said, Emile had serviced the gangster before, in order to pay off Henri’s various debts. The task was far easier with several years of experience than it was the first time, when Raul delighted in fucking his throat until seed spurted from his nostrils. Henri coached Emile in fellatio like any other trade, ostensibly to raise Emile’s worth as an asset. Now, the lessons were paying off.
Raul grunted in approval and returned his attention to Henri, who stood on the other side of his mahogany desk, wringing his hands over the assorted watches and jewelry that he and Emile had stolen from the interned Parisian Jews. Raul sorted through the bounty, scrutinizing each item. The sounds of clinking chains joined with the sucking smacks of Emil’s mouth around Raul’s cock.
“What’s going to happen to them?” asked Henri, surprising Emile with the affected innocence of his question. Emile and Henri had just discussed the Jews incarcerated outside of Paris at Drancy, as well as the network of trucks and trains that transferred prisoners east. Henri knew as well as anyone about the rumors of death camps in Poland. Jews were not the only people to fall prey to the recent wave of arrests. In France, numerous prison camps were being built to house the growing resistant population. Even established penitentiaries like Fresnes now held more political prisoners than hardened lifetime criminals.
Raul scoffed. “Since when did you care about the Jews, Lapointe?” From below, Emile observed the contempt on Raul’s face as he used Henri’s fake surname, which Henri had chosen to make himself sound authentically French on his forged documentation.
Although Emile could not see Henri, he could hear the helpless shrug in his mentor’s voice. “I just want to know what the Germans are planning. Drancy’s getting full, no?”
Raul held up his hand to silence Henri. His golden rings glinted in the dim light of his office. Raul forced Emile’s mouth back to his crotch and humped his face, smacking the back of Emile’s head against his desk as he pulsed his orgasm down Emile’s throat. At his peak, Raul hissed in pleasure and locked Emile between his thick thighs, trapping him against his cock, engulfing him in the smell of body odor and expensive leather that reminded Emile of his place in the world.
Raul released Emile and relaxed at his desk, slicking back his dark hair. “We’ll get you back to Marseille,” he announced, as if the agreement was contingent on Emile’s ability to bring him to climax. “Maybe you can at last make your pilgrimage to Saint Sara."
Henri cleared his throat as Emile crawled out from under the table and stood by his side. “What about the identity cards?”
“Be ready tomorrow morning.” Raul dismissed Henri, waving his hand and turning back to the pile of stolen goods.
Henri wrapped his arm around Emile’s shoulders, steering him out of the room. Emile was all too happy to leave Raul and exit behind the cafe that served as a cover for Savelli’s illicit activities. The usual group of Carlingue mobsters lingered outside of the back door, smoking precious rare cigarettes and snickering at Henri and Emile.
“If it isn’t the gypsy and the bedbug. How much for the little boy, gypsy?”
Henri ignored the insults as always, but his hand clenched in Emile’s shirt, knotting the fabric against his spine. Their criminal associates called Henri le Manouche. Henri ensured through Raul that no official documentation marked him as a gypsy. To be labeled a gypsy would sentence Henri to a similar fate as the Jews: herded into trucks and deported to prison camps for the rest of their short lives. Henri maintained that he was not a real gypsy, and that the nickname merely referred to his dusky skin and his thieving talents. Henri had only approached the gypsies for help once, years ago, after he and Emile had been starving for weeks in winter. They expelled Henri from their circle, calling him a gadjo.
Even though the gypsies rejected Henri from their ranks, the Vichy government and the occupying Germans had different standards of ethnicity. A man’s personal identity was invalid if it did not match the label on his documentation. The Israélites, the Jews that had assimilated into French society over many generations, wore the same stars as the Juifs, the devout refugees from the east. Likewise, Henri would be considered a gypsy if his identity card marked him as such, despite his rejection from the gypsy enclave.
Emile feared his own imprisonment by association. Although he and Henri were not blood, they were inextricably linked, and coincidentally quite similar in appearance, with their slim builds and grey eyes. Everyone assumed that Emile was Henri’s illegitimate son. This common misunderstanding benefited the pair, allowing them to scam countless ignorant targets with elaborate cons. Perhaps Henri had deliberately kidnapped Emile from the suit factory for this reason, after days of casing the textile mill for the child that would best play the role of his offspring.
Implied paternity did not stop Henri from taking what he wanted from Emile. When they returned to their hiding place, an abandoned flat over a derelict bookstore that was raided months ago for inappropriate literature, Henri pinned Emile to the bed and held a glass of ersatz wine to his lips. “Swish,” he ordered. Emile obediently swilled the weak piquette, washing away Savelli’s bitter taste with the prickling fizz of the imitation wine. After they repeated this process three times, Henri kissed Emile and swiped his tongue across his teeth, cleansing his mouth as a cat would groom its kitten.
Emile whined urgently as Henri’s clever tongue revived the shameful arousal that had been flickering in him ever since Raul Savelli looked into his eyes and beckoned him to debase himself under his desk. Emile saw his complicity as a matter of survival. If he squirmed and cried and protested each time Henri sold him, they would never have food to eat. It was better to surrender himself to the act and entreat greater profits with enthusiasm and skill.
Henri sucked Emile’s lower lip raw and manipulated his cock in his hand. “Look at your sweet little prick,” Henri purred against Emile’s throat. “I would do anything for you, Emile,” he promised, sucking bruises into Emile’s neck. “Would you do anything for me?”
“Anything, anything,” Emile whimpered, humping Henri’s hand. Before he finished, Henri released him. Emile was only allowed to climax through Henri’s chosen method. “Please, Henri. Please fuck me.”
“Such a good boy.” Henri peeled Emile’s clothes from his body like the rind of a ripe fruit. He descended on Emile’s prick, sucking him just enough to make Emile gasp and bite his own hands to muffle his cries, before he dragged his tongue to Emile’s hole and cleaned him as he cleaned his mouth, laving inside with indulgent licks. Emile writhed on the bed, holding his legs behind his knees and spreading himself wide, pleading for Henri to tongue fuck him more deeply so that he could come. Each time he approached the edge, Henri withdrew, leaving Emile to beg while he rinsed his mouth with piquette.
When Emile began to weep in outright need, Henri shushed the boy’s cries and lay over him, penetrating him slowly as he folded Emile in half. Emile’s ankles stretched past his head as Henri’s cock pierced through him, finding its home deep within Emile. “Mon chaton,” moaned Henri, kissing Emile’s tears away. “I will always be here for you.”
“I love you,” wept Emile, clutching his arms around Henri. His hatred for Henri burned as strongly as his love in that moment, for Henri ensured that Emile had no one else. They were outcasts by Henri’s design. He had taken Emile to be his only companion, and Emile was trapped with him at the end of the world. As a man of sixteen, Emile could have struck out on his own at any other time, but the upheaval of war made it impossible. All of the stateless, paperless refugees were being rounded up. Emile was no exception.
Henri rutted against Emile, returning his sweet words. His stubble grated Emile’s smooth cheek as he bent low over him, embracing Emile as tightly as the boy clung to him. Henri’s long cock jammed against his prostate, milking spurts of seed from Emile that pulled and stuck between their bellies. Henri arched his back and crushed Emile against his chest, muffling Emile’s overstimulated cries with his mouth as he took his pleasure.
Four hours ago, Henri tucked Emile under his chin and lit the same stub of a cigarette that they had been smoking for the last week. They finished it together. Emile recalled how he obtained the cigarettes by sleeping with a German soldier in Pigalle. Henri kissed Emile and thanked him, praising him drowsily, promising him the world when they woke.
Two minutes ago, Emile started at the sound of a motor outside. The curfew forbid driving after dark to everyone but the Germans and the police. He shook Henri awake. Henri’s nostrils flared like a panicked horse as he heard the approaching vehicle. He pushed Emile to the bed, shushing him, before he crept to the window.
“That bastard,” growled Henri. “Raul sold us out.”
Emile’s hands shook as he dressed himself. “Is it the police?”
“Yes.” Henri lingered by the window, baring his nudity.
Emile threw Henri’s shoes at him. “Hurry! We have to run!”
Henri didn’t flinch when the wooden soles struck his back. He turned slowly towards Emile, viewing him with empty eyes.
“There’s nowhere to go,” said Henri. His wrist flicked at the end of his stiff arm, unfolding the blade of his butterfly knife.
“Henri?” Emile backed away, tripping over the bed. Henri leapt on top of him. His knuckles whitened as he raised the knife over Emile.
Downstairs, boots hit the pavement. The French police stormed into the derelict bookstore below the flat.
Emile grabbed Henri’s wrist in both hands, fighting a losing battle against Henri’s superior strength. “Please,” he begged as the knife surged down towards his chest. “Let’s go, let’s run, Henri, please!”
“There’s nowhere to run,” droned Henri. He had defeated himself from within, and he intended to take Emile down with him.
Now, there are boots in the stairwell. Henri’s eyes cut to the door.
Emile knees Henri in the groin. Henri’s grip falters, and Emile seizes the knife from him. The blade is like the sixth finger of Emile’s hand. He turns the point on Henri.
A proud smile revives Henri’s dead expression. “Mon chat,” he whispers.
Emile stabs the side of Henri’s neck, severing his artery. In the same instant, the door bursts open, and police flood into the room. They gawk at Emile as he pushes Henri’s hemorrhaging body to the floor.
Emile raises his hands in the air, dropping the knife. He closes his eyes and waits, but they don’t shoot. The French police have orders to deliver all gypsies to the Germans.