Corner of the Sky

Part 2

Hot food and a flagon of wine were set in front of him before he even realised they had been ordered. He ate ravenously, listening to the details Babet dealt out like a deck of cards, alternately speaking to Brujon and Feuilly.

“I’m going to need some practice, see if I can still get these fingers to do what they used to. What do the locks look like?”

“Garden gate is old, lock accessible only from the inside, but I think you can slide through to get to it. We’ll be sure to oil the hinges from both sides. French doors can only be opened from the inside without breaking anything -”

“And you’re afraid of any noise at all, and even if there isn’t broken glass tinkling, you don’t want to risk the initial bang with star glazing.“

“Right. The kitchen door is where you’ll best go in.”

“Dammit, you said this was going to be easy and painless.”

“It will be, if you’re quiet. We can’t afford fuck ups.”

“And if it succeeds, the servants will take the blame for opening for somebody and no one will ever be looking for us. Kitchen door is brilliant, in a sense, but where do I go from there?”

“Turn left, head out any door. I think. We haven’t been able to get inside. House is too tall to get Parnasse up to the roof.”

“I don’t like this. Why can’t we just raise the latch from the outside?”

“They aren’t latches, if Parnasse isn’t too thick. Sent him through the fence to make the canvass. Bolts, he says. He tried lifting ’em, no go.”

“So someone is protecting something of actual worth.”

“Damned straight. It should be a nice haul.”

“What are we looking at?”

“Just the drawing room and the library. Yes, the library,” Babet repeated as Feuilly couldn’t help looking up from his already empty plate, a piece of bread still frozen in his hand.

“So I come in through the kitchen, left will take me into the dining room, we think, and I open one of the doors for the rest of you.”


“How big of a job are we talking about?”

“Just what we can carry, no furniture.”

Brujon finally spoke. “I wouldn’t say no to a couple of rugs, though.”

“If there’s time,” Babet warned him. “You can count on some books, plenty of little trinkets to pawn, and even your precious -”

“Candles,” finshed Feuilly. He sighed. “I can’t make any promises.” He shoved the last of the gravy-covered bread into his mouth, then washed it down with the last of the wine. “These fingers may not be what they used to be. It’s been two years, more or less.” He spread his fingers on the table, looking at the calluses he had earned in two years of work. He swore they had thickened, but in reality, they were still thinner than Babet’s thin fingers. “You still have my tools?”

“Of course. Those are prime. You think we’d get rid of them?”

“Find me something and somewhere to practise tomorrow, and if all goes well, then we’ll see about Monday night.” More wine was set in front of him, from where, he did not know or care. He drank deeply. “And this does not mean I am back. It means I have no desire to return to that hellhole, and I need to live until I can find something better.”

“Whatever you say. You don’t leave your blood behind so easily.”

Feuilly laughed, a sarcastic burst that ill-matched his porcelain features. “My blood could be some fucking aristo, for all anybody knows. You weren’t even in Paris when I was born, so don’t tell me you know which of my mother’s clients is my father. Not all the sons of prosses turn out like you.”

“My mother wasn’t a pross, dumbshit. But if you think you can escape what life set up for you, you’re dead wrong. Sleeping on the streets for however long you had been pushes you into this.”

“And becoming literate should be the ticket out, but you don’t want it and I don’t see it happening for me, yet, so we’re all fucked.”

“You’re smarter than you look.”

“Why thank you. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were turning almost fatherly in your old age.”

“I’m not old, and you do know better.”

“You’re older than me, which is good enough. What’s the latest?”

“Latest what?”

Feuilly leaned back in his rickety chair and propped his feet on the table. It was easier to slide back into the familiar setting and attitudes than he had thought. “Latest additions.”

“No one you know, and no one I trust for this job. The nigger’s been hanging around again.”

“Hogu is harmless, and quit calling him the nigger when you know his name. Everybody knows his name.”

“Whatever. I don’t like him hanging about.”

“Ever though nobody likes him hanging about? What if he’d rather earn an honest living? Of course, these potentialities never cross your mind. I’m assuming you’d even understand a word as long as ‘potentialities’.”

“Fuck you.”

“What about Guelemer?”

“Dumber than a box of rocks. As if that would have changed. He’s doing a stretch at the moment.”

“Dumber than a box of rocks. That’s real eloquent. How’s your real trade?”

“Excuse me for preferring the newspapers to the shit you read. My real trade, as you call it, is unprofitable unless I head out into the provinces. Which ain’t never going to happen.”

“Afraid you’ll accidentally find the wife and kids you misplaced?”

“You could have some respect for your elders.”

“I notice you don’t say betters.”

“Why did I even invite you here?”

“Because I arouse paternal feelings in that iron breast. And you’re down on your luck and I’m your boost.”

“I hope you were joking.”

“About the first part? Hell yeah. As if you could have feelings at all. What time is it? Where’s Parnasse?”

Babet checked a battered pocketwatch. “Around nine. He’ll be in soon enough. Don’t know where he’s living at the moment.”

“Well, you have assured me that you haven’t developed paternal feelings of any sort, if the boy is having to make his way as I did.“

A high pitched voice let out a stream of curses one would have though impossible to put together. Momentarily, a dark haired little boy appeared in their corner. “What the fuck happened to you?”

“Well, Parnasse, here is your morality lesson. This -” Babet pointed at Feuilly - “is what is called ‘being respectable’.”

“Go to hell, Babet. Come here, Parnasse, let me look at you.”

“You look like bloody hell.”

“I’ve been reminded of that frequently.” Feuilly gently ran his hand over the little boy’s black hair. He was really a beautiful child, or would be if he were not dressed in rags, his face smudged with god only knew what. “Are they treating you well?”

“Just as you promised.” Feuilly pulled him onto his lap and slid his wineglass over. Montparnasse took a long drink. “So you’re back.”

“Maybe. We’ll see. Sometimes a man needs a drink, know what I mean?”

“Sometimes the only way a man can afford a drink is when his friends are buying,” Babet put in warningly.

“I might be back. Is Babet teaching you your alphabet?”

Parnasse wrinkled his nose. “What’d I want that for?”

“See, some people here have sense.”

“I’m helping you out, ain’t I?”

“You keep saying ’maybe’.”

“Fine. Parnasse, you want to see more of me?”

The little boy shrugged. “Why should I give a fuck? You look sick.”

Feuilly rolled his eyes. “I’m not sick.” He turned to Babet. “I’m back. No more maybes. Get me the practice I need, and this job is a piece of cake. But if you’ll excuse me, I have had the longest day of my life, and if anyone comes to find me before noon, they’ll find themselves dead. Clear?”

“Crystal. You were always a good boy at bottom, Feuilly.”

“Now I feel all warm inside,” he responded sarcastically. “I am a good boy at bottom, that’s why I can’t believe I’m doing this. But you’re right - I’m worth more than that fucking mill.” He gently kissed the top of Montparnasse’s head as he made him get down. “Life is a compromise. So I’m making that compromise. Bring me my tools and a suitable lock or location of a suitable lock tomorrow afternoon. It’s going to be done right or not at all.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Feuilly got up and stooped to Parnasse’s level. “And I’ll see you around, holy terror.”

“Damn straight I’m a holy terror,” Parnasse replied proudly.

“Don’t let him drink too much, he’s just a waste of good wine. Tomorrow afternoon, then.” Feuilly pulled his thin coat around him and walked out.


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