Action & Adventure

The Parisian Professor

By

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A CIA agent placed in Paris seeks to uncover the plans of a likely terrorist, though there is more to the larger plan than meets the eye!

Synopsis

A POWERFUL POLITICAL NOVEL RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES AND WRAPPED IN A LOVE STORY

It is late winter, 2020, and Nick has been pulled out of the CIA's Kabul office and sent to Paris for what sounds like a simple assignment. Posing as a graduate student at a local polytechnic institute, his task is to build a case against Abdul Haqq, a brilliant engineering student suspected of building bombs for Hezbollah.

What should be an open-and-shut case soon becomes a tangled mess as Nick finds himself drawn into a friendship with the charismatic young engineer, then falls hard for Abdul's adopted sister, the beautiful but troubled art student with a tragic past, Gabrielle.

As tensions in his personal life rise against a distant backdrop of geopolitical conflicts in Russian-dominated parts of Ukraine, Nick soon finds himself struggling to balance his passion for Gabrielle and his friendship for Abdul with his growing sense that something is rotten at the highest levels of the American government.

At the center of a hornet's nest of political malfeasance and greed is a figure known only as "the professor," an insidious intel boss whose sick ambitions threaten not only Nick and Gabrielle but the world.

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Joseph Sciuto for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.


In this thriller with a great deal of ‘current event’ moments, Joseph Sciuto keeps readers intrigued with a story that has a little of everything. A decent plot and well-crafted characters work in the author’s favour, keeping the reader entranced throughout, even if things get a tad hokey at various points. Recommended to those who need something a little off the beaten path when it comes to a suspense novel.


After spending some time in the CIA’s Kabul office, Nick leaves under a cloud of suspicion and lands in Paris for another assignment. Asked to pose as a university student, Nick’s target is a young Abdul Haqq, a suspected terrorist with lofty plans. While it may seem easy enough, Nick’s conscience gets the better of him and he befriends Abdul, who does not appear to be the staunch Muslim some might expect.


While Nick seeks to learn a little more of Abdul’s plans, he meets and instantly falls in love with Abdul’s adoptive sister, Gabrielle. The two siblings could not be more opposite, something they both make perfectly clear to Nick during countless conversations. Nick works through the emotions he has for them both and comes to a decision, he will have to finish his work for the Agency, flee Paris with Gabrielle, and settle down in America.


Along the route to completing the mission, Abdul confides in Nick what he’s been selling, but feigns any wrong doing and ensures that these small bombs are for the personal protection of those who can afford them. Abdul insists that Nick drop the obvious love interest he has for Gabrielle, a woman not worth any man’s time.


Meanwhile, Nick learns some harrowing truths about Gabrielle, which will help him solidify the need to get her out of the country. All the while, there is a larger and more sinister plan for Abdul, one in which Gabrielle may have a hand in creating. This includes a new destination for Abdul and a wily professor who is calling all the shots as a well-placed member of the Agency. All Nick wants is out of this game, though he may have left himself beholden to something even more troubling. When the professor take matters into his own hands, Nick surmises that there is something nefarious taking place, all the way up the chain of command.


This is my first novel by Joseph Sciuto, though it seems he has numerous others that have been published over the years. There is certainly something unique about the piece, both in its presentation and the topics covered. While not entirely what I expected from the dust jacket blurb, the story does work and kept me wanting to forge ahead with every page turn.


Nick is one of those protagonists who reveals much, but sometimes not enough. His ability to connect with the reader is present, though not always complete. With an interesting backstory, both before and during his time within the Agency, Nick’s growth within the novel is surely the means by which he is noticed by the reader. Slightly focussed on the next chapter in his life, the reader may not see Nick’s actions as being much more than a conduit to get Abdul into the hands of the real movers and shakers who’ll make a difference.


There is a strong core of secondary characters, including the young Gabrielle. The reader, alongside Nick, are left to wonder if she is a clueless pawn in the entire mission, though it is her horrifying past that becomes what defines her. She presents herself as vulnerable, while others around her are as cold as can be, which proves to be an interesting contrast throughout the piece. Sciuto utilises a handful of secondary characters to flavour the narrative and keep the reader from falling into a lull throughout the story. It is primarily these interactions that push the story into a ‘hokey’ domain at times. Silly dialogue and what appears to be outlandish decision-making (ie marriage at the drop of a hat) that lessens the impact of the story for me.


While the premise may not be unique, Sciuto does not rest on the laurels of the Agency man trying to foil a terrorist plot to push the story along. There is much more to this piece that is only truly revealed through dedication and a great attention to detail. With some wonderful political commentary of what is going on around the world at present, Sciuto injects added reality to a story that seems plausible at times. There are some eye-rolling moments, but they come primarily from some of the character banter and the mysterious tough guy demeanour of the professor, as well as some of the aforementioned silly comments that arise in dialogue. With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader is pushed to read on and see how things will reveal themselves, though it is surely a tangential journey. 


Kudos, Mr. Sciuto, for this interesting spin on what is surely a great story. I’ll likely return to try out some more of your work in the months to come, primarily to see how you craft your other work in comparison with my first impressions.


Reviewed by

I love to read and review all sorts of books. My passion is crime and thrillers, but there are so many other genres that pique my attention.

While I am not a full-time reader, I try to dedicate as much time to my passion as possible, as can be seen on my blog and Goodreads.

Synopsis

A POWERFUL POLITICAL NOVEL RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES AND WRAPPED IN A LOVE STORY

It is late winter, 2020, and Nick has been pulled out of the CIA's Kabul office and sent to Paris for what sounds like a simple assignment. Posing as a graduate student at a local polytechnic institute, his task is to build a case against Abdul Haqq, a brilliant engineering student suspected of building bombs for Hezbollah.

What should be an open-and-shut case soon becomes a tangled mess as Nick finds himself drawn into a friendship with the charismatic young engineer, then falls hard for Abdul's adopted sister, the beautiful but troubled art student with a tragic past, Gabrielle.

As tensions in his personal life rise against a distant backdrop of geopolitical conflicts in Russian-dominated parts of Ukraine, Nick soon finds himself struggling to balance his passion for Gabrielle and his friendship for Abdul with his growing sense that something is rotten at the highest levels of the American government.

At the center of a hornet's nest of political malfeasance and greed is a figure known only as "the professor," an insidious intel boss whose sick ambitions threaten not only Nick and Gabrielle but the world.

The rarest creature in the world is an honest person. I don’t

remember which philosopher said this, but for some reason it has

always stayed with me ... even through the most difficult times in my

life, like at this very moment.

***


I sat across from Abdul Haqq and silently watched as the young man

said a short prayer before touching his meal. I understood enough

Arabic to silently translate his words: “All praise is due to Allah who

gave us food and drink and who made us Muslims.”

Abdul was a young graduate student at the local technical

university, École des ponts ParisTech. I knew more about him than

he realized. I knew, for example, that he had emigrated from Algeria

with his parents when he was very young, and the circumstances of

his adoption, and the fact that he had an adoptive sister.

But these were just the facts in his file. As I got to know Abdul, it

was all the intangibles that began to matter most: his essential

sweetness, combined with his rakish charm and brilliant mind. A

pleasant-looking man with a round face and eyes that crinkled with

kindness when he spoke, he was fluent in English and French as well

as in Arabic, and seemed to get along well with almost everybody. It

was difficult to dislike this young man, as I quickly found out while

pretending to be a student at the same university.


2 The Parisian Professor

Unlike other students from his background who stuck to

socializing within their communities, Abdul Haqq was quite outgoing

and made friends with just about everybody. He could often be seen

flirting with the pretty young women on campus, and he was quick to

help any struggling student who was having difficulty with a project.

It wasn’t long after we met that Abdul introduced me to his

adoptive parents. A few days later, I would have the distinct pleasure

of meeting his sister, Gabrielle. At first it was uncomfortable having

to pretend that I didn’t know about the horrifying circumstances of

Abdul’s adoption. I was relieved when he finally told me the whole

story, so I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping up and referring to

it. I could have told him I saw an old news story, but that would have

been stretching things. It had been over a decade since Le Monde and

Le Figaro were full of stories about his biological family being blown

up by a suicide bomber while strolling across the Champs-Élysées. All

five of his sisters and brothers and his two parents were killed when

the terrorist accidently detonated the bomb strapped around his

waist. By some amazing good fortune, Abdul, who was just a kid, had

become separated from his family and was wandering around lost

when the bomb went off. It wasn’t until hours after the explosion,

after all the debris and body parts were removed from the scene, that

the Paris police picked him up, identified him, and placed him in an

orphanage.

Luckily for him, a Lebanese Christian family that had recently

immigrated to Paris read about the tragedy in the newspapers and

decided to adopt him. Little Abdul was already well-schooled in the

Muslin faith and deeply religious for a small child, and his adoptive

parents decided it was not in his best interest to force him to become

a Christian. From the time he came into their home, they never failed

to encourage him to continue to practice his religion. They

considered themselves progressive, and after fleeing Lebanon due to

all the sectarian violence, they weren’t big on religion, anyway.

We were sitting at a small table in the back room of Chez Marcel,

a hundred-year-old bistro tucked away on a small street off Boulevard


Joseph Sciuto 3

Raspail near Montparnasse on the left bank. We were the only people

dining, and at a small bar about thirty feet away, Elijah and David,

two crazed Mossad agents, were laughing and drinking while

pretending to chat with the bartender and actually keeping an eye on

me. They were here to make sure I did the job correctly, and if not,

they would clean up my mess. Somehow, even after four years as an

operations officer working for the CIA, I still had plenty of people

looking over my shoulder, not quite convinced that I was the best

man for the job. This, despite the fact that, by all of the usual

measures, my recent three-year stint in Kabul had been a success. I

was assigned to our embassy there, and I made a lot of contacts for

the agency. I also participated in a number of successful operations

that saved lives and provided us with invaluable information. I may

not have been James Bond, but I sure as hell didn’t need to be babysat

by these two Israeli soldiers while doing my own job.

Elijah was the less subtle of the two. He kept banging his beer

stein on the bar and side-eyeing me as I ate my steak and frites. It was

annoying, but I had to keep my cool. I was already hoping that this

would be my last job with the agency. It was becoming increasingly

clear to me that I was destined for a different line of work. The stresses

of the job were really meant for someone with steelier nerves and a

better poker face. I stuffed a French fry in my mouth and resolved to

get through this job with as little drama as possible. And on the face

of it, the task was simple enough. I’d been transferred to Paris a few

months earlier, was set up with my own little apartment, and was

registered as a graduate student at the university. My only real job was

to befriend Abdul and find out if the agency was right about his ...

extracurriculars. My bosses believed he was involved in manufacturing

sophisticated bombs to be used by suicide bombers for an Islamic

terrorist group with ties to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and I was there to

prove the case and turn him over to the CIA.

I knew for a fact that I wasn’t the agency’s first pick for this job,

but I had a few important things going for me. At twenty-nine, I still

looked young enough to be a graduate student studying abroad, and


4 The Parisian Professor

it didn’t hurt that I had an undergraduate degree in engineering and

spoke fairly fluent French. But after everything I’d accomplished in

Afghanistan, I still felt a little silly playing the part of a spoiled

American kid, carrying around a backpack stuffed full of engineering

and chemistry textbooks.

Usually one of the most difficult jobs working as a covert agent is

to gain the trust of the source, which in this case was Abdul. In this

case, it was dead easy. In fact, it was Abdul who introduced himself to

me on the first day we had a class together. I sat right across from him

and he leaned over and asked me, in French, what I thought of the

two girls in the front row. He used the word “bonne” to describe

them, and I knew from brushing up on current Parisian slang that

this was not quite as innocent as it sounded. It was short for bonne à

baiser — “good to fuck.”

I smiled knowingly and said, “The blonde and the brunette?”

“Yes, Americans, no doubt. Facile! We’ll ask them out after class.”

“Okay, that sounds like fun,” I said as we shook hands and

exchanged names. During class, Abdul was all business, raising his

hand and participating and offering all the right answers. But as soon

as class was over, he was equally focused on our planned conquest. He

grabbed me by the elbow and steered me over to where the girls were

standing, packing up their books. We introduced ourselves, and Abdul

took the lead, saying a bunch of smooth stuff and asking the girls out

for a meal. After giggling like a couple of teenagers, they agreed to meet

us at a little bistro not far from the campus. As Abdul had predicted,

they were American, and ready for a little ... cultural exchange.

During my four years as an undergraduate back in the states, I

never once got so much as a smile out of the one or two good-looking

girls in my science classes. Now here I was in Paris, and after just a

few hours of amiable chatting and four bottles of wine, these two

beauties were ready and willing.

Abdul disappeared with one of the girls through the back door

and that was the last I saw of him that night. The other one, Jennifer

from Nebraska, was literally climbing all over me like I was a


Joseph Sciuto 5

mountain. Fending her off might have been the most difficult and

frustrating assignment I’d had since leaving Afghanistan. Quite

simply, she was hot, and it didn’t help that I had not been with a

woman in years. But there was no way I was going to compromise my

assignment, or Jennifer, by establishing any sort of relationship with

her, especially not a sexual one. She could easily become collateral

damage and I could never, in good conscience, allow that. Thankfully,

the poor girl got sick and vomited all over me, and whatever desire I

might have had vanished. After cleaning up, I put her in a cab, and

told her I would see her in class. From that night on, she could barely

look at me without apologizing a thousand times.

For the next couple of weeks, Abdul and I hung out day and night.

After being away from school for so long, I was rusty when it came to

physics and mathematics, but that was no problem; before leaving the

university grounds, we would go to the library and Abdul would sit

there tutoring me until every problem was solved and the answer

double-checked. It was all so easy for him. He could solve a highly

technical math problem in a fraction of the time it took me to get a

less elegant solution, and he did it all with a smile.

We would then go out and eat at the finest restaurants, drink and

party until the wee hours of the morning, and never once did he let

me pick up a check. He always carried around wads of cash, and never

paid with a credit card. If he was a terrorist, he certainly didn’t belong

to any ascetic organization.

As a cover story in case I needed to get away for a while, I told

him my mom back in the States had been ill for a while, and that I was

worried about her. Never once after I told him that did he fail to ask

about my mother. He would inquire after her health at least twice a

day and ask if there was anything he could do to help her, such as pay

medical expenses or send her gifts to cheer her up. The guy was as

charitable and as empathetic as anybody I had ever met. I showed

more signs of being a terrorist than he did.

Even so, a bomb was about to go off in my life, and it was

named Gabrielle. The day I met her was the same day I first noticed


6 The Parisian Professor

Elijah and David watching me in a bistro during my lunch with

Abdul. I’d endured their antics all during our meal and finally left

the bistro with Abdul. I was on my way home to my little

apartment when we came across Gabrielle on the steps of the

American University, where she was studying to be an artist. Little

did I know that all the self-restraint I’d been able to exhibit with

Jennifer a few days earlier would vanish in an instant at the sight

of this incredible creature.

I’ve never been a big believer in love at first sight, but with

Gabrielle, there was no other explanation. It had to exist, or I was

going crazy. How do I put this? She was the most stunning creature I

had ever seen — a tiny thing, slim to the point of waifishness, with

gorgeous, long, dark brown hair, parted in the middle, and the most

beautiful, olive complexion. When I met her, she wore a simple white

dress with a narrow, red leather belt around her waist, a light wool

coat, and stylish black boots. She looked like she’d just stepped out of

a Chanel ad. She was so perfect that I was immediately afraid that she

wasn’t real, or that at any moment she might vanish. Her delicate

features reminded me of both Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn,

and her smile was instantly bewitching. At certain angles and in

certain light she could look almost like a child, with her sweet dimples

and her precious little teeth, so white and so straight. All of these

characteristics combined, but especially her smile, made her

extremely dangerous.

I hung back while Abdul and Gabrielle talked, unable to take my

eyes off of her. Abdul gave her some money that she had asked for,

and she quickly thanked him and turned away, saying she was late

for class. Abdul and I went our separate ways, after making plans to

meet later that evening. I was starting to walk back toward my

apartment when I heard a voice from behind me. I turned and saw

Gabrielle walking toward me, smiling. I knew from that moment

that I was doomed.

“So, tell me Nicky, do you always fall in love with a girl after only

twenty seconds?” she asked.


Joseph Sciuto 7

All of my CIA training lay in a puddle on the ground. I couldn’t

remember my own name, let alone the recommended strategies for

not falling in love in the field. After a long pause, I finally forced out

a reply.

“I didn’t know I had fallen in love,” I said, almost choking. No

one would believe me. I didn’t believe myself.

She smiled at me appraisingly, and said “Uh-huh.” Then she

pushed one thin forefinger into my chest and said, “Okay, Nicky.

Have it your way.” But she didn’t turn and leave. She stood there,

arms folded in front of her, gently mocking me with her coy smile.

I was trying to shake off the feeling of having been bewitched. I

called to mind the wizened, friendly face of my first mentor at the

agency, Donna Low, the senior officer in charge of recruits. I

remembered her advice to me that first summer after I joined the

agency: “Never let your heart, or any other bodily organ, do work best

performed by your head.” She had stared at me pointedly, smiling just

a little, when she said it. That was seven years ago, and the penny had

just dropped. Some agent I was, taking seven years to get a dick joke.

I almost laughed at the memory and exerted all my will to force

my heart rate down, imagining Donna Low’s face in front of me

instead of Gabrielle’s, and said, “I thought you had a class to get to?”

“I do, I do, but missing one class won’t make me any less likely to

become the next Rembrandt or Monet — or, for that matter, the next

Suzanne Valadon.”

I couldn’t tell what she meant by that — whether she was praising

herself or denigrating her own abilities, so I just kept quiet. Then,

suddenly, we were on the move, as she looped her arm in mine and

we began walking along rue Saint-Dominic, in the direction of the

Esplanade des Invalides.

She looked up at me, her face now three inches away from mine,

and like a beautiful sorcerer casting a spell over her helpless prey,

asked, “Isn’t Paris lovely, even in late winter?”

“Beautiful...” I stammered, not knowing to what or to whom I

was referring — just trying to stay in the conversation and keep


8 The Parisian Professor

floating along beside her. At that moment, I didn’t know where I was,

who I was, what my assignment was, or what was in the best interests

of my country ... I was doing my best to ignore the goosebumps that

were running up and down my body as this earthbound goddess

squeezed my forearm and touched her shoulder to mine.

Suddenly, she stopped us in mid-stride and turned around to face

me. Her expression was soft, knowing, and grave all at the same time.

She placed both hands on my arms and said, “Wake up, Nicky. You’re

not dreaming ... the girl you are going to marry is right here in front

of you. Hopefully, you won’t mess it up.”

Now I really was awake, and defensive, but on her terms instead

of my own. It took me a moment to speak, but when I did, I made a

small effort to defend myself. “What makes you think I might mess it

up?” I asked, staring into her eyes, battling for position.

“Because,” she said, softly, “you are an American, a very

handsome American, living in Paris, where there are many

temptations.”

“And you suspect that the temptations might be too great for me

to resist?” This was getting a little easier.

“You are a man, after all, and if Adam could be gullible enough

to eat the forbidden apple offered by Eve, I don’t see why you might

not be just as gullible and foolish.”

“Maybe if Adam was looking at you, instead of Eve, he might

never have taken a bite,” I said.

I knew this was a half-baked analogy as soon as the words came

out of my mouth, but she spared me by laughing softly and leaning in

closer.

“I think you need to go back and read your Bible,” she said,

teasingly. “You seem to have misinterpreted the meaning behind the

story.”

“Well, maybe we can read it together and you can explain it to

me.”

“I don’t think so, my little Nicky. I don’t waste my time on such

nonsense anymore. Hopefully, you don’t lose sight of your dream and


Joseph Sciuto 9

taste the milk of any of these French putins who so pollute our lovely

city.” She looked at me hard and said, “If I catch you cheating on me

one time, your dream will evaporate as quickly as it materialized. I

don’t forgive such transgressions.”

She smiled as she touched my wrist and asked, “Do you

understand?”

“Quite clearly,” I replied. Then I asked, “And does the same hold

true for you?”

“Of course. If you like, I will even wear a chastity belt.”

“That won’t be necessary. I would hate to have you wear anything

that might inhibit you in any way.”

“So thoughtful,” she said, smiling. “Why don’t we take a walk

through the gardens at Tuileries ... such a lovely day to walk beneath

the spare winter trees and to learn a little something about my little

Nicky.”

I was starting to recover my equilibrium, and now I was gripping

her arm as tightly as she had been gripping mine. We stayed that way,

glued at the hip, alternating between French and English like a couple

of Montrealers, without even noticing when we were speaking in one

or the other language.

“What do you want to know?” I asked her, as we exited the

Esplanade des Invalides and continued east toward the Tuileries.

“So many things. So many,” she said. “I’m sure behind that

handsome face and pleasant demeanor you have some amazing

stories you would like to share with your future wife.”

I knew I should be trying to keep things interesting by resisting

her utter confidence in our future as a couple. I tried to get myself to

say something like, “You’re awfully sure of yourself, aren’t you?” But

it was futile pretending that we weren’t made for each other — that

we weren’t two figures trapped in a painting together for centuries,

becoming conscious of each other for the first time.

“To be honest, when I look at you, every story flies out of my

head. I can’t remember anything from before we met less than an

hour ago. How is that possible?”


10 The Parisian Professor

“It’s possible,” she said. “Just ask the poet Rilke and the painter

who he, and he alone, called Merline. They knew all about love that

transcends reason.”

“The things you pick up in art school...” I said, impressed.

“A lot of art school is just art gossip,” she said, waving her hand.

“Which reminds me, Nicky ... there is no need to pretend that you

are a graduate student. You might be able to fool my stupid brother,

but one look at you and I could easily tell that you have no interest in

your studies.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because I just know.”

“Know what, Gabrielle?”

“That no one who carries himself like you do has any interest in

attending a university. You’re a man of the world, not a man to be

tied down in a classroom. Am I wrong?”

I suddenly felt my mission kick in. Why would she say this? Had

my cover been blown before I even had a chance to investigate Abdul?

I tried to sound casual, as though her misunderstanding was a source

of amusement for me, but the truth was, she had me rattled. I went

on the defensive.

“I’m a graduate student, and if you have any doubt you are more

than welcome to go to the university’s registry’s office and check for

yourself.” I smiled at her calculatedly, and watched for her reaction.

It was, at most, inscrutable. A lightness played around her emerald

green eyes as she waved aside my offer.

“How generous of you. No, thank you. I have no doubt that you

are registered ... but a serious student? No, not my handsome fiancé.”

She ignored my puzzled look and took me by the arm and we entered

the Tuileries.

As we walked through the gardens, Gabrielle skipped and danced

around me, held my hand and then dropped it, and delighted in

pointing out a Pin de Corse tree — a Corsican Pine — that she said

was the pride of the Tuileries in late February, and her personal

favorite. She seemed to have forgotten all about my seriousness, or


Joseph Sciuto 11

lack of seriousness, as a student, and I began to forget, too. We were

just two lovers walking through Paris.

After a little while, we sat down on a bench across from the

Louvre. She leaned against me in silence. I asked, “Maybe one day you

can take me on a tour of the Louvre?”

“I would love that, Nicky,” she said as she suddenly laid her head

on my lap and stretched out along the bench, with her coat pulled

across her body, looking up at my face. “I could look at the Mona Lisa

for hours. So many tourists complain that they don’t see what’s so

great about it — especially Americans, like you. The type that prefer

looking at the Kardashians. But me, I see the mischief behind the

smile and a million little plots going around inside her head.”

“Is that so?” I asked, as I tried not to confuse my real identity with

my cover identity.

“And what do you see?” she asked.

“I haven’t looked at the painting in years, and never up close, so I

really couldn’t tell you.”

“Well, then we definitely have to take a tour of the Louvre.

Certainly, before we leave Paris,” Gabrielle said.

“And when are we planning on leaving Paris?”

“As soon as possible,” she said. “Once you formally propose and

we get married.”

I smiled at her absolute confidence in our future together. “And

where do you propose we live?”

“Anywhere you like. After all, you’re the man of the world. I’m

just a struggling art student, still living with her parents.”

“Oh, you’re so much more than that, Gabrielle.”

“And what makes you say that, my handsome boy?” she asked as

she reached her hand up and touched my lips.

“Just a very strong hunch.”

I looked down into her eyes and suddenly my fingers were

caressing her lips and a second later she was sitting up and we were

kissing. For an agent to lose track of time is rare and totally against

training and protocol, but I couldn’t tell you how much time passed


12 The Parisian Professor

before we finally came up for air. Even then, we just hung there, our

faces inches apart, smiling at each other with dewy eyes.

“Did you enjoy?” she asked, in French.

“Very much so,” I replied, in one of the two languages, though

which one I couldn’t say, any more than I could tell you whether it

was raining or snowing or sunny at that moment. We were on our

own planet, with its own time, its own hybrid tongue, and its own

weather. She threw her arms around my neck and we kissed, again.

“A little taste of what you will be missing out on if you’re ever

tempted.”

My phone rang and it was a text message from Abdul asking me

where we wanted to meet tonight.

“From your brother,” I said to Gabrielle. She grabbed the phone,

looked at the message, and started typing. “He has a date tonight,” she

wrote, “so you’re on your own ... good luck chasing your whores.

Gabby.”

“That was kind of rude,” I remarked.

“You think so? I mean, if you want to go out with Abdul tonight,

please go right ahead. I just didn’t think you wanted your dream to

explode so quickly in your face.”

“Don’t be like that, Gabrielle.”

“Don’t be like, what? If you want to go out with Abdul, please do.

I laid down my conditions. Just don’t think in a few months when you

go back to your America that I will be just another story among your

many conquests. I’m not for sale!”

She got up from the bench and started to walk away. I reached

out and grabbed her wrist and pulled her back and said, “I don’t

behave like that, and for the record, you might be my dream, but it’s

not like I’m mincemeat.”

“Mincemeat, is that like hamburger?”

“I guess so; I never thought about it.”

“Well, just for the record, I don’t think of you as just hamburger.

Where do you plan on taking me to dinner, Nicky? I’m starving.” We

walked toward Le Fumoir, which was close to the Louvre. The sun


Joseph Sciuto 13

was starting to set and for a moment we had to shield our eyes, and

when I looked back at Gabrielle, it was almost a relief to notice that

she didn’t look quite as stunning as she had up to that point. I thought

I might be saved, but a few seconds later, after my eyes cleared, the

dream was back, and I followed her like a little puppy.

We sat at a nice table in the corner and before looking at the wine

list and menu she asked, “You do have money, Nicky?”

“Not much,” I said, looking at her casually. “I figured we could go

Dutch.”

“Dutch?” she asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means, whatever you order you pay for, and whatever I order

I pay for. Abdul did give you a stack of money.”

“Enough for cab fare home and to pick something up at the

grocery store. You are American, aren’t you Nicky?”

“Yes, but when in Paris one behaves like a Parisian.”

“I think we should go,” she said as she started to get up out of her

chair and I took her hand and sat her back down.

“I’m joking with you, Gabrielle. I have money for both of us.

Please order whatever you like.”

She looked at me suspiciously and blushed. “Joke, like Jerry

Lewis?”

“Yes, but not as funny. My God, you are adorable.”

We each ordered an aperitif while deciding on appetizers.

Gabrielle drank her entire aperitif before I had time to taste mine. She

ordered another one and nearly drank that one as quickly. “You

might want to slow down; otherwise I might have to carry you home.”

“I don’t think so, Nicky. I’ve already told you don’t expect any

favors until we are married.”

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I know,” she said. “I was only joking, like your Jerry Lewis.”

I laughed but nevertheless quickly ordered a number of

appetizers: salmon trout tartare with pressed caviar and tomatoes,

porcini mushroom tartlets, and herb-and-lemon-poached baby

artichokes.


14 The Parisian Professor

Gabrielle looked at all the food and remarked, “So you are a rich

American.”

“No, just trying to impress the girl of my dreams.”

“Merci, c’est très gentil,” she said.

“Tout le plaisir est pour moi,” I said.

“You speak well,” she said.

“Your English is great, too.”

“Well, it’s mandatory in French schools.”

“You must be very popular with the men in your university

classes.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because you are undeniably the most beautiful girl in the

university.”

“If you say so.”

“I doubt I am the only one who does.”

“The men are all pigs, like my brother, and the girls are whores.”

“All the men you meet are pigs?”

“Every one of them. But not you, my little Nicky, right?”

“No, ma’am — I mean, non, mademoiselle,” I replied with a tinge

of fear if I contradicted her. Gabrielle was only about five-foot-four,

but already I could sense that I didn’t want to get on the wrong side

of this complex, beautiful, and sphinx-like creature.

“Do you speak any other languages besides French and English?”

she asked as she took a small bite of a cracker covered with caviar and

salmon.

“A smattering of Spanish,” I replied.

“No Arabic?” she asked.

“No! Why would you think I speak Arabic?”

“Because there are many Arabs living in France and in your

America. Abdul is a Muslim and my parents and I are from Lebanon.

Christian, not Muslim.”

“And you speak Arabic?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied as she took another bite from her cracker and

pronounced it “délicieux!”


Joseph Sciuto 15


“Well, maybe you can teach me Arabic?”

“Maybe,” she replied, pensively. “Maybe sometime, Nicky.”

I picked up the wine list as I watched her eat tiny portions as

though she was suspicious that it might be poison ... not at all like she

was savoring every taste.

“Do you have a favorite wine?”

“Whatever you like. After all, you are a man of the world, whereas

I still live with my parents.”

I ordered a bottle of the Bouchard Aine & Fils Bourgogne pinot

noir, a good, reasonably priced wine. Gabrielle liked it so much that

we had two bottles during our main course. For after-dinner drinks

we each had a kir royale, and for dessert, we split a crème brûlée.

We walked out of the restaurant at about ten o’clock and got into

a cab. It wasn’t particularly late, especially not for Paris. Actually, this

was the time Abdul preferred to hit the nightclubs. I was drunk, a

couple of drinks away from being plastered, and with any other girl I

would have asked her if she wanted to go to a club and listen to some

music, but this wasn’t any other girl ... it was Gabrielle.

I played it safe and had Gabrielle give the driver the address to

her parents’ apartment. Throughout our long dining experience,

Gabrielle and I had talked freely and laughed frequently. Suddenly, in

the back seat of the cab it felt like we were strangers, with only a few

words passing between us.

The driver stopped in front of her parents’ apartment and I

walked her up the few front steps of the building. I asked, “Can I call

you tomorrow?”

“Of course,” she replied as she looked up at me with her

glistening, emerald eyes seemingly studying every aspect of my face.

“And do you think you might be free to go out tomorrow?”

“Yes, Nicky.”

“Great,” I said. “I had a wonderful time tonight.”

“Me too.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said as I started to turn back toward the

cab, and she grabbed me by the arm.


16 The Parisian Professor

“No goodnight kiss?” she asked as I turned back around and

lowered my head and kissed her.

“Nice?”

“Yes, very nice.”

“Maybe tomorrow we can practice some more?”

“Maybe,” I replied as I gently ran one hand through her hair and

kissed her on the forehead. Then I turned and walked back to the cab

and got inside. I looked out the window as she stood there, an ethereal

beauty that even the greatest romantic poet would have difficulty

describing. She waved goodbye as the cab drove away.

“Mademoiselle is very beautiful,” the driver remarked.

“Yes, she is,” I replied.

About the author

Joseph Sciuto holds degrees from both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Stony Brook University and a certificate in film studies from New York University. He relocated to Southern California to attend graduate school at Loyola Marymount University, where he studied writing and film. view profile

Published on October 27, 2020

Published by Iguana Books

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Action & Adventure

Reviewed by

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