Philippe and Mazamette were eating lunch at the Café de la Paix. The Paris autumn weather was dreary; the clouds hung low in the overcast sky. Phillipe had not wanted to go out to lunch, but Mazamette had insisted; Phillipe had not gone out since the Vampires case had descended upon him like a pack of hungry wolves and Mazamette had offered to pay.
A mime was performing and when he finished, the patrons applauded.
“Talented chap, no?” Mazamette turned to his friend.
“He was awful,” Phillipe grumbled, his eyes boring into his French onion soup.
“Come on, Phil! What’s gotten into you lately?”
Phillipe sighed and rubbed his temples. “I don’t know, Maz. Just…this whole Vampire case is really getting to me.”
Mazamette laughed. “That’s why we’re here! Come on, Phil. You know what you need? A day off.”
“Yeah, and let about a thousand more robberies occur in Paris.” Philippe toyed with his spoon.
Mazamette shrugged. A few minutes later, they heard a booming voice behind them.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t The Journalist Wonder and Mustache-Man!”
Both men stood up to greet the smirk of Satanus and the two black-clad Vampires trailing in his wake. Philippe walked up to Satanus so that his face was an inch away from that of the Grand Vampire’s.
“Can we help you?” Philippe asked calmly but sinisterly.
“Oh, not really. Hey!” he yelled, pointing. “look over there!” And Satanus smacked the back of Philippe’s head hard the minute the journalist turned away. Satanus and the two Vampires walked away, laughing. Philippe grabbed a big, ripe, juicy tomato from a tray that a waiter who was walking past them was carrying and let loose. The tomato hit the Grand Vampire’s head and smashed open, leaving a big red spot on Satanus’ silver hair. Satanus turned around with an evil look on his face to see Philippe and Mazamette shake hands and laugh. He turned around and walked away.
“Wow, I didn’t know you had such great aim!” Mazamette exclaimed as the men sat back down. “That arm, too! Where’d you get it?”
“My mom made me play football when I was ten,” Philippe shrugged. “I wanted to play baseball, but she said that the man of the house must know how to play football.”
“Yeah, your mom’s really weird.”
Philippe nodded and the boys went back to eating. Ten minutes later, a woman with black hair and eyes set deep in their sockets came striding up to the boys’ table. They looked up at her and immediately dropped the food they were holding.
“Irma?” Philippe murmured quietly.
Irma smiled nervously. “C…can I eat lunch with you guys?”
Philippe and Mazamette looked at each other nervously. Philippe shrugged and they nodded at Irma, wide-eyed and wary. Irma pulled up a chair and plopped into it, not saying a word. She stared at the tabletop as the boys stared at her, eating slowly. Finally, Philippe broke the silence.
“Irma, why are you here?”
“I don’t know,” Irma muttered.
“Irma, are you okay? You don’t look so good,” Mazamette observed.
“I’m fine!” she snapped, looking up at Mazamette, who put up his hands as if under arrest.
“All right, all right! It was just a question!”
The waiter came by and asked if they’d like anything else. Philippe and Mazamette each ordered a coffee, but when they asked Irma if she wanted anything, she shook her head.
“Irma,” Philippe began, concerned. “you really, really look like you need to eat something.”
“And I’m really, really done talking about this.”
“Irma,” Mazamette was done waiting. “come on, spill it out, will ya? You’re scaring us. What’s eating you?”
Irma hesitated several times before asking, “Phil, how do you do it?”
“Well, usually we don’t do it right away because we, y’know, Jeanne and I, we like to make out first—”
“No, not that, you idiot! How do you…you know…be good?”
Philippe fell silent and looked at Mazamette, who shrugged. Lost, he turned back to Irma. “Uh…can you rephrase the question?”
“How do you stay out of trouble?”
“Oh, that’s easy!” Mazamette smiled. “You don’t get into trouble in the first place!”
“Psst!” Philippe whispered. “the secret ingredient is oregano!”
“Very funny,” Irma said sarcastically as Mazamette cracked up. “Please be serious, you guys. I really wanna know!”
Philippe finished laughing. “There’s really nothing to it, Irma! You just have to…be, I guess! What we’re doing now, that’s being good!”
“Don’t do drugs!” Mazamette offered.
“Stay in school!”
“Brush your teeth!”
“Only get drunk on Saturdays!”
“You know, all the stuff your parents told you, but you didn’t listen because you were too busy robbing people.”
Irma made a face at Mazamette and turned back to Philippe. “So…that’s it? Just be? That’s it?”
“Don’t forget to eat a lot,” Mazamette reminded her.
“Oh yeah!” Philippe smacked his forehead with his palm. “See, if you eat too little, that means you probably hate your life and are probably gonna end up a madman or something, but if you eat a lot, that means you’re happy and…good!”
“Oh. I see.”
“Tell you what. You hang around us for a couple of days and we’ll show you just how to be good like an expert!”
“You’d do that?”
“Sure! It’s absolutely free too!”
Irma smiled and the three talked as they ate lunch.