The Puppeteer And The Key
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Phnom Penh, in front of Dr. Gopette's offices.

Phnom Penh is a buzzing city, which is probably a part of its charm. However, first and foremost, it is a complete city that always seems to have the two sides of the same problem, all the pieces of several puzzles, that come together in this heteroclite amalgam that forms the city of four rivers.

Luxury 4x4s meet old tuk-tuks patched up; ragpickers and businessmen in a same place; rats, cats and dogs, yet historical enemies, seem to mix without difficulty here; the tempting smells of street food seem trapped in an endless battle against the smell of pollution; prostitutes and wedding tents easily cross paths on the same street. In a few words, the best and the worst.

There is always something going on, anywhere, anytime. These are certainly not always good things, but not all stories have to be happy. This city, by the astronomical number of elements crossing it, is truly the storyteller's paradise, as long as he knows where to look.

Among the strange stories of the Khmer capital, this one begins with a simple door, near the Russian market. A popular area for expatriates, it was however a very local young woman who came out of it, pushing a much older second woman into an armchair, although obviously of the very same origin. Wearing large sunglasses, she rushed to her car where her driver was waiting for her and didn't even notice, as she left the scene, the unusual arrival of a giant tattooed man on the place. Waiting patiently for the girl to leave, he readjusted his shirt. Once the car left, he passed through the property gate and stopped in front of the door.

He knocked three times, with no answer.

The fourth, a voice was heard from within.

"It's open, you idiot!

- Might I come in? asked the colossus.

- Sarak, is that you?

- Yes, "idiot"

- It's been a while! Go ahead, come in, don't worry, though, your familiar spirit stays out."

He passed the heavy door as the owner of the place came, smiling, to greet his new guest.

René Goppette, by his full name, was a very strange man. Originally French, the man had travelled a lot following the opportunities, but it seems that Cambodia has given him enough to stay. Small and skinny, badly combed for the little hair he had left and his beard graying, he wore as usual ample clothes, too big and poorly matched, giving him an air of a great horn. After a straight hug with the colossus, he invited him to sit down.

"Want me to get you a beer?

- No thanks."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I will take one, he says, while picking one out of a small refrigerator.

- I saw one of your clients pass by. Looks like you' re up your standards.

- You have no idea of the gold mine I found!" He put down the can he had just taken to support his explanations with large gestures: "a rich and reconstituted family. Two daughters, one supported by the father and the other by the mother, both sick. The last of the two survivors wins everything and passes it on to his favourite. So, the eldest sister asks me to help her… "fix" her father, who died for the first time two months ago, from time to time, so that she doesn't lose too quickly… And I can assure you, she pays well! He said with a laugh.

- Until she gets tired of paying you and realizes that an assassin is much cheaper.

- She has already realized it… he said with a smile on his face. I have an appointment with the younger one on Tuesday."

It was the colossus' turn to burst out laughing. The old necromancer definitely still had some resources left.

"Well, I guess you know I didn't just come by to talk to you: I have work for you, telled the colossus."

The Frenchman took off his glasses for a moment and wiped them in his shirt.

"I'm listening to you.

- I'll need you to "fix" a body for me, as you say. A woman, who died three days ago.

- I don't do soul's comeback, remember? Too much problemsp. The body and only the body, is that okay with you?

- Yes, it even simplier for me to have to deal with a vegetable rather than a real person.

- Well, well… How long?

- Nine months minimum. And an operational genital system."

The necromancer frowned.

"You know, usually I never judge my clients, but this time…"

Sarak sighed.

"Do you know about Kayananan's death?

- The association warned me, yes, you're the one who took care of the revenge?

- Yes. In exchange for everything I could get from the old man in passing.

- And?

- And so? The old man wrote everything down. All his research, all his results, all the things he was hiding from the association, all his little formulas, all his results. In other words, whoever gets his hands on his archives gains the equivalent of twenty years of discoveries and much more: the legacy of the Kayanan family's secrets on the occult arts, and especially on their art of blood" The colossus bent down the table. And I found the book.

- I'm very impressed, you have to admit, but it still doesn't explain why.

- The book is cursed, Sarak continued. This freak was obsessed with the genealogy of wizards and his own lineage. I need his first male heir to open it, but he died without one. Just a girl, Virika, of whom I found the trace, hidden under the name of "Virak Sam", who died at the same time as him by a spell linked to the neck.

- An excellent practitioner, but a very sad man, if you ask me. Does anyone else know about his daughter?

No. She had fled before the Foundation became interested in the character. As the old madman was paranoid, she was undeclared, no civil record and smart enough to change her name on her own after running away.

- And so… Announced the necromancer with a smile.

- When you can't open a trunk, you drill a blank, dismantle the lock, or…

- You make a brand new key. So what's the benefit for me? I'm not indebted to anyone, and certainly not to the association, you know. However, there is a huge gap between fixing something in a hurry to save a few days and keeping all vital signs on the green for such a long period of time. This kind of thing is neither easy nor given. You know I don't do volunteer work…

- My plan is simple. I open the book and sell it to anyone interested in it for a substantial price. Some will literally ruin themself to the association for a few pages and you, I offer you the gratuity on the whole."

He smiles.

"That's interesting. However, I can't engage myself without seeing the state of the body.

- If the body suits you, you sign?

- Yes, I sign for it.

- Perfect. Come and help me unload it, I have it here, announced the colossus before leaving for the door."

- What? There? Here? Now?

- Yes. Is there a problem?

- How long have you had it?

- Less than an hour. Partial refrigeration, I wasn't specially equipped.

- How did you get your hands on it?

- The trick of the familiar spirit who plays poltergeists and two small cigarette holes on an old photo with the local authorities.

- A classic in your field, I guess. What if I had refused? Who would you have seen without risking rotting the body? Do you know anyone else on the street who can do that?

- No, but I knew you were going to accept.

- I could have wanted a day of reflection, to negotiate.

- You should have. He smiles. But you're a pagan, so you can't negotiate.

- Fair enough."

After parking the van inside the residence, in a small inner courtyard hidden from view, they pulled out of the vehicule a body bag strangely nestled in an industrial cooler, which they passed through a back door to a small room that looked like an operating one. The colossus placed the bag on the central table, while the Dr. Goppette put on his apron. Once close, he handed a mask to his guest.

"For germs?

- For the smell."

The necromancer adjusted his glasses, approaching a radiostation. With a mechanical gesture, he started the music as he approached the body.

" What is it? asked the colossus.

- Edit Piaf. A marabout with who I used to work a lot in Mali claimed that it calmed the souls of the deceased who could haunt the bodies. I'm not sure how effective it is, but I like it."

He put on his mask and opened the bag, revealing the young woman's naked body, examining it under expert eyes.

"Correct state of conservation, no trace of puncture… No autopsy?

- No, they didn't have time.

- A few traces of old scarification marks on the neck, probably during childhood. Is this the curse you were telling me about?

- Yes.

- You know more about that?

- No."

He grabs a scalpel, to make a slight incision in the neck.

"To be explored, but first of all, I would bet on the formation of a blood clot in the carotid artery. Considering the character, it wouldn't be absurd."

He started from the head and gradually descended along the body, looking for clues or more obvious signs of alteration of the body, without finding anything else on the trunk, or even the arms. When he examined the erogenous zones, his face wrinkled.

"Do you know why she ran away?

- No.

- I probably have an idea. Second type excision, with scarifications of the labia majora showing similarities to those observed on the nape of the neck, which are visibly more recent.

- His father would have caused it?

- I fix dead people Sarak, I don't interview them. But I'll bet on it. I have heard of strange practices in the Philippines to transmit family power to the child, but this is beyond my scope. Anyway, no wonder she ran away from her father after that.

- And for us, that's problematic?

- I don't know, I just told you that. Please listen to me a little.

- But what do we do now?

- I don't know. Don't you have any relative with knowledge about Filipino blood animism by any chance?

Yes, I actualy have one girl in mind.

- Amazing…Surprising, but amazing. So why not include her in the loop?

- She has no more debt to anyone.

- I don't have any either, and yet you asked me.

- Yes, but she knows how to negotiate.

- Do you see another alternative?

- No.

- So call her."

He grabbed his phone and left the room with a heavy step.


- What?

- Increase the sound while living please, I prefer Piaf to the company of the dead alone."

He increased the volume, while the doctor came out tools to start the rest of the examination. Now alone, Goppette began to sing, his mind free from the upcoming negotiations.

“Et traînée par la foule, qui s'élance et qui danse, une folle farandole, je lutte et je me débat…”

A week later, the body of the last daughter of the Kayanan lineage would leave this room, on both of her legs, thanks to the combined action of Dr. Gopette and Sorya, sorceler, to give birth to the wanted son of a dead man in the year.

My very esteemed colleague F.C,

I have taken note of your request made on 11/11/2017 to the association concerning access to the K's black book. I have also taken note of your arguments and your current research themes very close to those of our regretted M.K., but unfortunately and you know it, someone else than you has been in charge of executing the revenge wanted by our code for his murder by a third-party group. As a result, and for this service provided, this one is designated by the association as the only beneficiary of the black book and he is free to make use of it and share it as he wishes. The association will respect its obligation on this subject and will not force the legitimate holder to do anything, regardless of whether you like it or not. Regarding the tone of your last letter, I also recommend the greatest caution, reminding you of your status of debtor and not contributor to the association.

Nevertheless, we wish you a pleasant continuation,

K.A. great arbitrator, 3rd seat.

PS: Please burn this letter once readed, as usual.

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