Reboul would never sell. It is well known from Marseille to Menton that he loves his house. And he doesn’t need the money. Désolé.” The speaker shrugged, and lit a cigarette with a gold lighter.

He was standing with Vronsky on the top deck of The Caspian Queen, which was paying a visit to the Cannes Film Festival. Vronsky’s yacht was moored offshore, well placed to appreciate the distant glitter of the Croisette. He had chosen to introduce himself to Cannes by giving a party on board, organized by his public relations company, and not a single invitation had been declined. It was a fairly typical gathering of the usual characters found at film festival events: thin, overtanned women; stout men with the pallor that comes from spending too much time in darkened screening rooms; starlets and would-be starlets; journalists; and one or two festival dignitaries—to add a slightly formal touch of local color. And, of course, the gentleman in the white silk dinner jacket who was now having a discreet conversation with Vronsky.

He was, so Vronsky had been assured, the most successful and well-connected real estate agent on the coast. In his early days, his name had been Vincent Schwarz. This he had changed, for professional reasons, to the Vicomte de Pertuis—a title he invented that had nothing to do with noble birth—and during twenty years as a self-promoted aristocrat he had gained a near stranglehold on the top end of the coastal property market. Vronsky, he had to admit, was a challenge. So far he had proved to be a difficult and demanding client, turning up his nose at properties from Monaco to Saint-Tropez. But the Vicomte, encouraged by the thought of the agent’s commission—a generous 5 percent—had persevered. Now, to his carefully concealed frustration, his client had found the house he wanted all by himself, without any professional help.

Circumstances like these demanded considerable finesse on the part of the Vicomte. He could scarcely expect 5 percent for merely supervising the transaction. Unforeseen difficulties and problems would have to be created—problems that could only be overcome by someone as experienced and wise in the ways of negotiation as the Vicomte. It was a principle that had worked for him several times in the past, and one which had prompted his negative response when Vronsky had asked him about Le Pharo.

The Corsican Caper