The Pink Panther Gets Lucky

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-08-01
  • Publisher: Harper Entertainment
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When the legendary Hot Pink diamond mysteriously vanishes during a magic show at the popular MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegasalong with the famous starlet who was last seen wearing it upon her ample bosomauthorities immediately summon Chief Inspector Jaques Clouseau, the world renowned investigator from the Paris Police Bureau, to the scene of the crime. With the aid of an American private eye and bounty hunter "Junkyard" Bob Convoy, the French detective who bumbled his way to fame in the widely celebrated Pink Panther case is determined to track down the bauble and the bosom it was last cleaving to. Oddsmakers predict he'll solve the case. . .or go bust trying to! So look out evildoers: Clouseau is in Sin City. (And look out Nevada Highway Patrol, because some fool has given him the keys to an SUV!)


The Pink Panther Gets Lucky

Chapter One

An Inspector's Drive

"All of Paris appears to be strolling along the Champs-Elysées tonight, eh, my friend?"

From the back of the Metro Police car, Inspector Jacques Clouseau shifted his unblinking gaze from the gaiety in the summer streets to the brawny man at his side. The City of Light was divided into twenty different neighborhoods and tonight's high-risk assignment would take Clouseau to its very heart, its geographical center, the first arrondissement. The inspector could not help but consider whether the man sitting next to him was up for the job.

In Clouseau's estimation, Detective Second-Class Gilbert Ponton sported the kind of beefy physique seldom found outside of butcher shops. At six feet four inches tall with choice biceps and prime shoulders, draped this evening in a passably tailored dinner jacket, he appeared capable of handling any physical confrontation. As the inspector well knew, however, looks could be deceiving. He doubted very much that Ponton could trump a man who practiced, for instance, Clouseau's own uniquely personalized brand of martial arts.

On the other hand, Clouseau had to admit that Ponton did have other attributes. Though his head had a rather distracting egg shape to it, and his dark, hooded eyes appeared perpetually sleepy, Ponton had proven, through his able assistance in their previous case, that he seldom missed a detail.

The detective second-class had earned countless commendations during his two decades of work in the Police Nationale, including the Star of Valor. His family had performed police work in Paris for nine generations, and, two hundred years before that, they had enforced the peace in the surrounding provinces.

A neophyte, Clouseau concluded. A pup in the kennel, a babe in the woods. I must continue my work guiding him as a mother bird guides her little chick, as a shepherdess guides her little lamb, as a tour guide guides her—

"Tour bus!"

Swerving violently, their police car narrowly missed sideswiping a lumbering Stuttgart motor coach. The inspector was hurled into Ponton's meaty side as the shadowy bus windows flew by like frames in an Expressionist film, starring a fairly disturbing array of grimacing Germans.

"Slow down, if you please!" called Clouseau to the uniformed officer behind the wheel.

The gendarme's round, flat-topped cap bobbed up and down like a bouncing blue layer cake, yet the driver hardly braked. The white Peugeot 406 with POLICE scrawled on its front, a fat orange stripe down its sides, and a bar of emergency lights mounted on its roof continued to cut a swath through the ranks of cars, busses, and bicycles choking the wide, tree-lined boulevard.

The 406 was one of the best handling of midsize sedans in the Nationale's fleet. It boasted a 194 horsepower V6 engine, had front-wheel drive, and topped off at a speed of 228 kilometers per hour. Clouseau feared, however, that the officer driving was attempting to surpass that speed before they reached their destination.

Obviously, the man is nervous in his role as chauffeur, the Inspector silently presumed as he righted himself, especially for so august a personage as myself, Medal of Honor winner and solver of the unsolvable. The lowly gendarme obviously wishes to impress me with his skill at evasive maneuvers.

Clouseau cleared his throat and straightened the khaki lapels of his beloved Scotland Yard-type Mackintosh. Beneath his soft-brimmed trilby, his thinning hair was—in his own mind—the color of Paris moonlight. He believed his silvery-white locks announced his aura of Solomon-like wisdom, high intelligence, and extensive experience with the opposite sex. In contrast, he felt his dark brown eyebrows and black pencil-thin moustache suggested an air of vigor, masculinity, and mystery (although to those in the beautician's field, it chiefly suggested a bad dye job).

Turning his attention back to Ponton, Clouseau waved his hand at the window. "Look at these people, Ponton, they come from all walks of life, from every nook and corner to see our urban gaiety."

Ponton nodded at his superior. With his basset-hound eyes, he glanced at the demonstrative young couples strolling the romantically lamp-lit Champs-Elysées, the families of tourists snapping photos of the awe inspiring Arc de Triomphe, even the fearful cyclists and pedestrians diving to escape the path of the projectile that was their police car.

"Yet, for all their differences, Ponton, they have one remarkable thing in common. Can you tell me what that is?" Beneath his Paris-moonlight hair, the inspector arched one dark brown eyebrow and awaited his protégé's answer.

Ponton shrugged his wide shoulders. "Well, it is a lovely summer night, Inspector. Perhaps these people are simply enjoying the evening."

Clouseau snorted—an eruption so forceful it startled the driver into bumping the vehicle in front of him. The inspector and detective second-class were thrown forward then back.

"No, no, Ponton," Clouseau replied, rubbing the small lump forming on his forehead. "We are not speaking of a gaggle of English people taking some silly constitutional after consuming a steak and kidney pie with a bitter, vile pint of ale! Look at them, man. They are proud Parisians and worldly-wise travelers armed with digital camera phone type devices. What they want more than anything else, Ponton, is to be noticed."

Comprehension dawned behind Ponton's hooded brown eyes. "Yes. This is so." He gestured to a giggling group of belly-baring coeds. "The women, especially, seem dressed to that effect."

Clouseau sank back into the police car's seat. His khaki trench coat rustled as he crossed his legs. "Exactly, Ponton. They all want to be seen. And what is it that we should be doing with these proud peacocks sporting their magnificent feathers for us to watch, eh?"

"We should, uh . . . watch them?"

"No!" Clouseau cried. "That is precisely what they want. But we must not succumb. We must foil their little scheme to steal away our attention."

Ponton blinked. "Then we do not watch them?"

Clouseau clapped his hand on his subordinate's shoulder. "Exactly."

Ponton scratched the short brown hair on his egg-shaped head.

The Pink Panther Gets Lucky. Copyright © by Marc Cerasini. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from The Pink Panther Gets Lucky by Marc Cerasini, Alice Alfonsi
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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