The thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Ghost Agents trilogy
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Excerpt from Ghost Agents: Retribution
“Do you think it’s a good idea for us to just be out here in the open like this?” Drew asked, scanning the surrounding area with a wary eye.
“It can’t be helped if we want to talk to Maurice,” Sophie told him.
Even at this time of night, the pedestrian plaza under the Eiffel Tower was sprinkled with a healthy smattering of tourists. If any Syndicate operatives were in the area, they would have little trouble blending in.
“Drew has a point,” Gabriel said. He patted the bulge of the gun underneath his suit jacket. “I think I’ll take a look around, just to be safe.”
Drew scanned their surroundings again and frowned. “What are we doing out here anyway? I don’t see any projections anywhere.”
Claire and Sophie exchanged a knowing look.
“Just give it a minute,” Claire told him.
“Don’t be in such a hurry,” Sophie added. “You definitely do not want to miss this show.”
Drew’s frown deepened as he glanced down at the clock on his phone. “Do we really have time for a show?”
Claire shrugged. “We have to be here anyway, so we might as well enjoy it.”
“I’d feel better if you told me why we…”
Before Drew could finish his complaint, the golden floodlights illuminating the Eiffel Tower shut off, plunging the area into complete darkness. Drew reached out and took Claire’s hand.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” she assured him, giving his hand a squeeze.
Before their eyes had time to adjust to the darkness, thousands of flashes of light began a sparkling dance, chasing each other playfully around the massive, darkened tower. This was the Eiffel Tower’s famous nightly light show.
Every night since the turn of the new millennium, at the top of each hour after sundown, 20,000 LED bulbs accented the famous golden-hued floodlighting for five minutes. For the final show of the night at 2:00 a.m., the floodlights on the tower were turned off, providing a pitch-black canvas for the dazzling light display.
Claire had timed their arrival at the tower so they would be there for the final show. Despite the high stakes of their investigation, she still wanted Drew to experience at least some of Paris’s touristy charms.
Five minutes after the sparkling had started, the LED lights blinked off for the final time and the golden floodlighting gradually returned to illuminate the tower.
“That was really impressive,” Drew admitted. “I’d say it’s a ‘must see’ for tourists, but that’s not really what we are, is it?” He looked from Sophie to Claire. “Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out The Syndicate’s next move?”
Claire gave his hand another squeeze. “That’s why we’re here. Maurice might be able to help.”
Drew looked around again. “Where is this Maurice?”
“Just wait,” Claire urged.
“Wait for what?”
Sophie grinned. “You’ll see.”
Drew started to protest again but stopped mid-sentence as a distant sound cut through the stillness of the night. He glanced around, a frown of confusion creasing his brow. “What’s that?”
Claire and Sophie just smiled at him.
The sound grew gradually louder, eventually drawing Drew’s attention upward. In an instant it became clear. The sound was the unmistakably tortured scream of someone who knew they were plummeting to their death.
Drew jumped to his right just as a translucent form slammed into the ground next to him. “What the…?!?”
Sophie burst out laughing and Claire couldn’t resist a smile.
“Drew, meet Maurice Arsenault,” Claire said, motioning toward the projection on the ground.
The translucent form slowly stood to his feet and dusted off the front of his aviator-style jumpsuit before adjusting the harness on a set of canvas wings attached to his back. He spotted Sophie, and his expression brightened.
“Ah, ma chère Sophie,” he exclaimed, smiling broadly and kissing the Bureau agent once on each cheek. “Je suis content de vous voir.” (I’m happy to see you.)
“Et moi aussi,” Sophie replied. “Vous connaissez Claire?” (Me too. Do you know Claire?)
Maurice extended both hands in Claire’s direction. “Mais, oui. Mademoiselle Abelard, ça fait trop longtemps.” (It’s been too long.)
“Vous êtes trop gentil, Maurice,” Claire replied with a warm smile. She motioned to Drew. “Maurice, I’d like you to meet Drew Mitchell. Drew is a new agent with the Bureau.”
The two men nodded in greeting.
“Maurice was a very famous aviator and daredevil in the 1920s,” Sophie told Drew. “His final stunt would certainly have assured him a place in the history books.”
“If only I had succeeded,” Maurice said with a sad shake of his head. He turned to Drew and stretched out his arms, revealing the intricate webbing of material that composed his wings. “I was to be the first man to fly across the Seine from the second deck of the Eiffel Tower.” He sighed. “It would have been glorious.”
Drew nodded. “At least you had the guts to try.”
“Merci, mon ami,” Maurice said with another nod in Drew’s direction. He bent over and collected his goggles from where they had fallen. “So,” he continued, “can I assume you have come to see me tonight on some Bureau business?”
Sophie smiled. “I wish we could say it’s just a social visit.”
Before Sophie could tell him why they were there, Gabriel returned.
“It looks like the coast is clear,” he announced, nodding a greeting to Maurice.
Claire felt some of the tension leave Drew’s grip, though he didn’t release her hand. They had been through too much recently to completely let their guard down, even with an armed Gabriel looking out for them.
“Maurice,” Claire began, getting the conversation back on track. “We need your help with something.”
“But, of course,” the aviator assured her, “I will be happy to help in any way I can.”
Claire looked at Sophie, unsure how to explain the situation without causing the projection any unnecessary alarm.
Sophie cleared her throat. “There have been some very strange things happening in town, and they’re beginning to impact both the world of projections and the world of the living.” She paused to consider her words. “We would like to ask you to keep your eyes and ears open the next few days to see if you hear any talk, in either realm, about a group of men who might be planning something.”
Maurice was the ideal projection for this assignment. His loop of activity often attracted projections that were tethered nearby. Though the outcome of his stunt was always the same, they still couldn’t resist coming to watch and enjoy the spectacle. And thanks to the millions of tourists who visited the tower every year, he was also in a perfection position to overhear any pertinent conversations among the living.
Maurice’s eyebrows went up. “And exactly what do you think these men might be planning?”
“I wish we could give you some idea,” Claire admitted.
“Could it possibly have something to do with the disturbance we felt earlier today?” Maurice asked.
Claire and Drew exchanged a concerned look.
“You felt that disturbance?” Drew asked.
Maurice nodded. “I can’t say it was entirely unpleasant, but it was definitely unlike anything I’ve experienced before.”
Claire looked at Sophie and Gabriel. “The Élysée Palace is at least two miles from here. If The Syndicate’s device has that kind of range, they could be operating from pretty much anywhere in the city.”
Maurice slowly shook his head. “I’m not sure what the Élysée Palace has to do with any of this, but the disturbance I’m referring to did not come from that direction.”
Claire recognized the same concern she was feeling mirrored in the faces of her fellow agents. A sickening knot began to form in the pit of her stomach.
“I don’t want to sound disrespectful,” she told Maurice, “but are you sure about that?”
He put on his goggles and gave a firm nod. “Absolutely.”
“What direction did it come from?” Drew asked.
Maurice thought for a second then pointed toward the southeast. “I am certain the sensations came from somewhere over there, though I could not begin to say exactly where.”
Claire looked across the Champ de Mars, in the direction he had indicated. “Could you at least tell if it was close by or not?”
Maurice adjusted his goggles over his eyes. “Alas, I cannot.” He moved his arms slowly up and down and lifted both knees in turn. “I truly wish I could be of more assistance, but I’m afraid I do not know anything more.”
“You’ve been a tremendous help,” Sophie assured him. “If you feel any other disturbances, or if you hear anything helpful, please reach out to us.”
“Indeed, I will,” Maurice assured her. He kissed both female agents on the cheek, then nodded to Drew and Gabriel. “Now, if you all will excuse me, I feel I must return to the second deck and give this flight another attempt.”
“Bonne chance!” Sophie called out as the projection began to fade from view. (Good luck!)
Once Maurice’s projection had disappeared, Claire turned to her fellow agents. “How is it possible there was another energy disturbance that we didn’t know anything about?”
“Well,” Gabriel said, “we did have our hands pretty full earlier.”
Sophie frowned. “Do you think the attack on President Lavigne was a distraction of some sort?”
Drew shook his head. “That would be a pretty elaborate distraction. Remember, it wasn’t just the French President who was attacked.”
Claire looked toward the southeast. “Well, whatever it was, it has to be part of The Syndicate’s plan.” She felt her pulse quicken. “Which means we’ve got to look into it.”
“Well, then,” Drew said, “I guess we better go find some more projections to talk to.”