"Free Man in Paris," by Brendan DuBois, in The Beat of Black Wings, edited by Josh Pachter, Untreed Reads, 2020.
On occasion I have judged contests which involved reading stories without knowing the identity of the author. Reading this one, I wondered if my experience would have been different if I hadn't known who the author was.
The reason? Well here is the first sentence:
Since Sloan's retirement, he has spent his fall and winter months in a remote villa in the village of Ilse-Sur-La-Sorgue in Provence in the south of France, and the spring and summer months in a comfortable and well-hidden flat in Paris.
My question: If I hadn't known that DuBois was the author, would I have instantly known that Sloan is an ex-spy? Not that DuBois writes primarily about espionage. Maybe it''s just that he writes well enough to set the mood immediately. By the way, this is his eighth appearance in this column, which puts him in the lead ove rthe rest of the mystery-writing world, for now.
Back to Sloan who is, indeed, an ex-spy. If one can ever stop being a spy. He is constantly on watch for clues about his major concern:
...what really occupies his time is wondering if this is going to be the day when he will finally be killed.
And indeed on this day there is a threat on the horizon. Watching how he deals with it is intriguing. A nicely written story.