Falcon in the Dive
Daniel grabbed Chauvelin by the hand and pulled him along. Soon they were in a part of town he never knew existed, where rich men and fine ladies were everywhere, shops were well stocked, and still no one noticed a pair of ragged little boys. Daniel briefly explained what he was about to do, without actually saying what would happen, and that Chauvelin was to watch how it was done. As soon as he saw Daniel lift a pocketwatch off a gentleman, the boy froze. Something about it looked wrong, but no one seemed to notice, and why should he say anything? Daniel slipped it into his pocket, grabbed Chauvelin’s hand, and pulled him into an alley that was momentarily empty. He pulled it out and examined it, biting down on the winding knob to see how it dented. “Shit, this is the real thing! We done good today! Enough already to make Linois happy. This’ll go for a lot, I bet. Come on, let’s get some pocket change.”
Just as Daniel slipped the watch back into his pocket, Doré came into the alley. “Hey, whatcha doin’ on my patch?!”
“That what he thinks?” The older boy grabbed Chauvelin and pushed him against the wall. “What’re you doin’ ’ere?”
“I don’t know, monsieur.” Already he looked as if he might cry.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know.”
Doré let him down. “What’d you nick?” he asked Daniel.
“Nuffin. Pickin’s is slim, Doré, you know that.”
“I do know that. And I know you lie. What’ve you got that belongs to me?”
“Nuffin. You see a mark, you take ’im. I see a mark, I take ’im. Anyfin I got’s mine proper. Din’t take nuffin off you.”
“Outta here! Now!”
Daniel grabbed Chauvelin’s hand and ran down the alley, pulling the younger boy with him. “Shit shit shit. Ok, lesson for today: don’t get on Doré’s patch if you can’t stand up for yourself. You gotta learn to beat him back.” Chauvelin nodded. “You gotta learn to stand up, or you’ll get killed. I don’t know where you from, but I’m sorry to see you here. You’re gonna be better’n Doré if you learn to live. Just remember that. Did you look at his fingers? No? Look at your hand, look at my hand. See how long your fingers are? Same length as mine, only your hand is smaller. Long fingers are good. You’ll be one of the best.”
“If you work at it, light touch, yeah. Now, we best be lookin’ for some pocket change, nuff for a drink and sumfin to eat.”
Leaving Doré’s territory, going nearly a mile away, where the streets were poorer but more crowded, Daniel made off with a couple of handkerchiefs, which could be exchanged for a bit of bread for their dinner. Chauvelin was beginning to form some idea of the business, as Daniel explained what each thing he stole was worth.
“Now, pickin’ pockets is different from stealin’. You take bread from a bakery, that’s bad. Someone’s not got much money, and less bread there is, more they ’afta pay. Take a watch from an aristo, he don’t care so much. He can buy another one. And someone’s gonna want the one you have. Linois sells it for us, and that’s how we get a dry room and sumfin to eat. Stealin’s bad. Pickin’ pockets, that’s a trade, like locksmith or notary.”
Hélène had tried her best, but at the age of six, her son had not developed a very strong moral conscience. He was just too young to have fully grasped the rights and wrongs of her world, a very different world from the one he was now in. Chauvelin took everything Daniel taught him as the truth, and quickly learned the ins and outs of his trade.
A smart boy, quick fingered, with some initiative and a lot of daring, could earn more than enough to keep himself. Chauvelin was bright, and had he been born on the proper side of the blanket, would be well on his way to becoming an intellectual. Instead, he was becoming one of the best tradesmen of the lowest order.
* * * * * *
A few months after Chauvelin’s arrival in Linois’ establishment, as Daniel had predicted, Doré disappeared. For Daniel, it meant some peace, and perhaps a chance at grabbing a better patch. For Chauvelin, it meant the disappearance of a bully. The older boy had rarely given him a moment’s peace, certain every time Linois spoke to him that there was a transfer of affection by the adopted father to an interloper. Still, not having Doré there was a change Chauvelin was not sure he was glad to see. It meant more attention from Linois, as Chauvelin was now the decided favourite, the new protégé.
It was a couple of weeks after Doré’s disappearance that Chauvelin finally asked, “Monsieur, what has become of M. Doré? Was he - you know, nipped?”
“Definitely not! No more gossip. Doré has gone to make his fortune, as you will someday, if you learn proper and do as you’re told. No more gossip. Doré ain’t never been close to bein’ nipped. Get back to work.” And that was the end of the subject.
One of the older boys was given his patch, which Daniel resented but said nothing except to Chauvelin.
“Alfred’s a fool. He ain’t got the touch for that patch. Watch, they’ll be onto us because of Alfred. Woulda thought Linois’d give it to us, be savin’ it for you, like. Shit, I wouldn’t be sorry if Alfred did get nipped, though. Lazy little bastard.”
Every time Alfred brought in less than Daniel thought he could have, Chauvelin heard the whole tirade over again. He was quickly learning that life was not fair.
* * * * * *
Nearly a year after Chauvelin came to Linois, he saw Daniel make his first mistake.
Chauvelin had been getting better, enough that he and Daniel were in direct competition in the same patch. Daniel got sloppy and was caught. When Chauvelin saw how tightly the man had hold of Daniel’s arm, all he could do was run. It was what Daniel had told him to do, and while he felt guilty for leaving his friend, Daniel’s voice came to him, asking why the hell should two go to jail when only one got caught proper? He ran home to Linois, who was about to yell at him for coming back in the middle of the afternoon when the look on the boy’s face stopped him. “Daniel got nipped,” Chauvelin announced, breathing hard.
Linois let loose a string of curses longer and more powerful than Chauvelin had yet heard. “Where?”
Chauvelin told him the street.
“Well, he’s done for. He’ll get his stretch, may or may not be good for anything when he comes out, if he comes out. Think you can handle his patch alone? I don’t do this regular - little boys with only a year of experience shouldn’t have their own patches. But you’re the golden fingers, my boy, really are. Think you can do it?”
“And you still got manners. Thought we’d ’ave cured you of those. Stay out of there for a couple weeks - work with Brujon and Ledoyen for a while. Then go back and take your patch once they ain’t lookin’ for more of us no more. And hand over your take. I assume you have something to show for today?”
“Course I do.” Not much - a couple of handkerchiefs and a snuffbox, but most of the boys were only bringing in handkerchiefs. Pickings had been slim for some time - more and more carriages coming through the parts it was safe enough to work.
“Not bad, not bad. Good eye on yer. May as well get to work pickin’ out the letters. Someone’s got to do it.”
It was a trade, and not a bad one. Better than picking oakum, which was unraveling rope until your fingers bled, or doing piecework, pulling apart old clothes and old boots to get somewhat useable scraps of cloth and leather to be sewn back together into different clothes and different boots.
Linois looked after his boys. He found when Daniel was to be tried and took Chauvelin with him to the court to witness the outcome. Five years. “That’s it, he’s done for good.”
“He won’t be that old when he gets out,” Chauvelin protested.
“And he won’t have fingers left to eat with, much less that are any good for anything else. If he’s lucky, he’ll die this winter.”
“Lucky?” Chauvelin had not yet seen this side of the world.
“They set you pickin’ oakum and the like - tears your fingers to shreds. Not much to eat, no heat, no shoes, just remember how good you have it. If he makes it out, he won’t be good for anything anymore. Best he die this winter.” Linois quickly crossed himself. “Lord remember he ain’t never done but what he had to. Never hurt nobody, neither. Amen.”
“Amen,” Chauvelin echoed. It was a common prayer. God had said, “thou shalt not steal”, but did God really prefer “thou shalt starve”? Sometimes God needed reminding, though they were already in hell.
On the way home, Linois finished his lecture. “You know what happened.”
“It was my fault, monsieur. We made it a game, and I was winning.”
“That was stupid. No gambling on work, you know that. But that wasn’t what happened. He wanted it too much.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Daniel wasn’t bad. You’re better. You’re better’n any of ’em. Daniel wanted to beat you at your game. He wanted it more than anything, so he went too quickly, got sloppy. You have to want it. You won’t get nothin’ if you don’t want it. But don’t want it too much. Don’t let the goal take more of your brain than how you’re going to get it. Make sense?”
“He was thinking about the watch, not how to get it, so he was too heavy and got felt,” Chauvelin repeated, a little uncertainly.
“Close enough. You learn fast. Just keep watching yourself.”
* * * * * *
Chauvelin came home one cold winter day to see a familiar face he could not quite place. He had never seen a woman in the flat before, much less one he seemed to recognise.
She looked at him in astonishment. “Jesus, Chauvelin, you are some kind of fuckin’ aristo!”
“Marie, quit putting ideas in the boy’s head,” Linois ordered her sharply.
“Marie!” he cried in surprise. “My god, I think I’d forgotten you! What’s it been?”
“Ten years or so, near enough. You’re more handsome than your mama was.”
“How are you?”
“Tired. Hopin’ Régis’ll take me even if I ain’t got your fingers.” She smiled, then broke into a fit of coughing.
“Marie’ll be stayin’ here,” Linois informed him.
She caught her breath again. “Look at you. Nearly a man. You’re not Hélène’s little boy anymore. Are you as good as Régis says you are?”
“Linois tends towards exaggeration, but he’s not always completely beyond the mark,” Chauvelin grinned.
“I suppose you’ll be leavin’ soon, make your own way.”
“Ain’t got no place to go, no hurry to leave. Pickin’s are slimmer - we need the income anyway.”
“Chauvelin claims he ain’t going nowhere,” Linois cut in.
“Damn straight I’m not. Beside, me and Marie got some catching up to do now.”
“Do it tonight. I’ll be gone this evening. Watch the boys, collect the take.” Not even Doré had been asked to take care of anything so important as the day’s collection. Chauvelin’s overriding loyalty to Linois before himself made him the son where Doré had only been the apprentice.
Chauvelin nodded. “No problem. Should I take anything in or wait for you?”
“It’ll wait. I best be goin’.”
That evening, when the younger boys had been put to work, Chauvelin took a chair across the long table from Marie. Pulling his long dark hair out of the bit of ribbon that held it back and running his fingers through it, he smiled ruefully. “I thought you’d be dead. Never thought I’d see you again.”
“Nearly am,” she smiled back. “Figured you were too weak to last it.”
“So I am.”
“Never thought I’d see you grown up. You gotta be what, sixteen?”
“Thereabouts. Lose track of time easy enough.”
“Don’t I know it. I think I still expected to see a little boy.”
“Sorry to disappoint.” Out of nowhere, Chauvelin could seem to stop the words from coming out of his mouth. “You remember my mother?”
“No one can forget that, honey.”
“Did she die or did she leave? I barely remember her anymore, but I’d kind of like to know.”
“She was killed. Some aristo. Mighta been an accident, I don’t know. Never heard of any others done the same way.”
“Aristo like me or aristo like real?”
“Aristo like real.”
“Stocking round her neck. Some of ’em likes to tie us up. Guess he went too far.”
“Hazard of the profession,” Chauvelin remarked bitterly, then suddenly turned thoughtful. “And here I thought she’d up and left.”
“She wouldn’t have left you, honey. Never let you outside, afraid you’d get hurt. You were all she had. I always thought she made you too soft. You remember not talking to me?”
He thought for a bit. “Mama said don’t talk to anyone,” he said slowly. “Don’t tell anyone anything. Jesus Christ, I remember that and I don’t even remember what she looked like. Well, I’m talking to people now.”
“She just worried about you. You were six when she died. And now you’re all grown up. Bet you could pass for a real aristo.”
“Linois said don’t give me ideas,” Chauvelin grinned.
“Régis isn’t here. It’s true, you know. Hélène said your father was an aristo, and I believe her. You’ve got an authority about you, like the world owes you respect, and they do. I never thought I’d see boys like this listen to anyone, but they do what you tell ’em. Plus you’ve got lovely hands. You have prettier hands than I do, I think.”
“Yours are older than mine.”
“True enough. Where did Régis go tonight?”
“I don’t know. He’s expanded his investments to include something he doesn’t tell me about. Could be housebreaking. Might be resurrection. Wish I did know. You can only be satisfied with this for so long.”
“He’ll let you in on his game if he thinks it’s safe. You’re his favourite. He’s looking out for you.”
“I suppose so. Hey,” he called to the boys, “time for bed.”
* * * * * *
The spring drizzle was an annoyance. The roads were beyond sodden, carriages splashed without thought to who might be hit, and no one who could afford otherwise was in the street. Chauvelin entered the pawnshop, cursing whoever had splashed him with enough force to send mud to his shoulder.
“It’s the boy!” the fat, greasy pawnbroker greeted him. “What have you brought us today?”
Chauvelin emptied his pockets onto the counter. “What’ll you give me for the lot? I could go elsewheres, you know.”
“I know, I know.” He looked over the couple of watches, assorted snuffboxes, took an obvious liking to a lacquered pillbox, then finally named a price.
“You gave me more last time.”
“Times is hard.”
“I know. Doesn’t mean I have to get fucked with.”
“Fine, fine. Here’s your price. You know, I found something as might interest you.”
“Very little interests me,” Chauvelin replied dryly.
“I think this will.” He pulled a small silver frame from under the counter. Inside was a portrait of a young woman, her clothing a generation out of date, bearing a strong and unmistakable resemblance to Chauvelin. “I don’t want to know as where it come from, but I can maybe remember who brought it in, like.”
“Have you a good mirror?”
The pawnbroker took him in the back, where a strange collection of mismatched furniture made odd shadows on the walls and reflected in various ornaments. Chauvelin quickly found himself before a great mirror, larger than he ever expected to see, alternately examining his own face and looking at the portrait. He had never seen his own face so well, and never did he even contemplate that there could be someone who resembled him so closely. Finally he was looking at both in the mirror so he had only to move his eyes between them. “Shit” was all he could whisper as the resemblance became so obvious to him that even he was convinced the woman was a family member, if not actually his mother. “How much?” he asked the pawnbroker.
“The portrait, nuffin. Throw those out meself. The frame, if’n yer wants to keep it, that’ll cost.” They bickered for a while before reaching a deal, which was removed from the money Chauvelin was counting up from the sale of his own merchandise.
“So who was it?”
“Albert what lounges ’round the tavern two streets over.”
“Tall, blond, face bashed in, walks funny?”
“Wouldn’t say that to his face, wouldja?”
“Why not? Never spoke to him, just figured out he exists.”
“Mean son of a bitch. Be careful. His nose ain’t so pretty as yours.”
“Stuff it. See you next week.” Chauvelin stalked out, back into the mud. He went home first, to hide the money and his new purchase. When he went back out, the drizzle had begun again. Bending his head against the rain and muttering curses, he headed down to the tavern where Albert was likely to be seen.
Someone near the door pointed Chauvelin towards his quarry. A tall man, thinner than a rail, whose matted sort of blond hair shadowed his face, was leaning on the end of the bar. Chauvelin and Albert had never been face to face, yet Chauvelin rather knew who he was and assumed the same was true for Albert. He knew many people whom he had never spoken to - everyone did, by reputation, by overheard conversations, by introductions made and ignored. He shook the water from his battered tricorn and strode cross the muddy floor to where the taller man stood. “I’m told you’re called Albert.”
“So I am,” the rough voice answered, not even looking at the boy.
“I’m called Chauvelin. We’ve a bit of business, I think.”
The man practically spun around -- his hard, cold blue eyes bore into the boy, who did not seem a bit fazed. “Chauvelin, you say?”
“Come on, we’ve heard of each other. I heard about a piece of work you did woulda been last week, and I’d like a single bit of information on that. Let’s talk over there,” indicating with his head a dark corner that had just been vacated.
The man nodded, grabbed his drink, and went with Chauvelin. “You don’t recognise me, do you? I wouldn’t have either, without the name, but then you ain’t some pansy boy anymore.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now about business. You made a good haul a couple of days ago. Took a miniature in a silver frame along with some other trinkets. Wasn’t ideal but it was portable, I’m guessing. Who was the vic?”
“They toughened you up real good somehow.”
Chauvelin was still confused. How could this man, whom he had never met, know anything about his past? “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who was the vic?”
“Finally get sick of crying for your mama every night?”
Suddenly it hit him. “Doré? Jesus fucking christ, what happened to you?”
“A bunch of years and a lot of this,” the rough voice answered, raising his tin cup.
“Linois won’t be happy.”
“He won’t give a fuck. Not like I got nipped and ratted anyone out. You on your own yet?”
“Not until he’s gone. He’s poking around in pies I don’t like the look of. Someone has to be watching the kids.”
“He never let me watch the kids.”
“You made my life a living hell - I’m glad he didn’t let you watch the kids. Now, about the vic.”
“Marquis de something or other, don’t remember what. I think I remember the house. Why d’you need to know?”
“Unfog your brain and I’ll make it worth your while.” Chauvelin pulled a coin out of his pocket and put it on the table. Despite the obvious difference in age between the boy and the man, it was the boy who was leading and looking older by the second.
Albert Doré finally came up with the address and something resembling the marquis’ name. The coin slid over to his side of the table, and Chauvelin replaced his hat on his head and disappeared into the drizzle-turned-downpour without another word.
* * * * * *
Linois was out again and the boys were in bed when Chauvelin pulled out the portrait to show Marie. “This isn’t my mother, is it?” he asked, sure the answer would be negative.
“Sorry, honey, it ain’t. Looks more like you than your mama did, though. Who is it?”
“Don’t know. Got it at the pawnshop. Doré hocked it, proceeds from a robbery. How is this possible?”
“I told you, your mama said as you was aristo.”
“And Linois said as don’t put ideas in my head,” Chauvelin laughed, though he looked thoughtful.
“What are you thinking, honey?”
“Thought I might go there,” Chauvelin said slowly. “Take it back. Portrait like this ain’t worth anything ’cept to whoever knew the woman in it. Maybe I’d see who she was.”
“Chauvelin, be careful. You don’t know where it came from.”
“Yeah, I do. Talked to Doré myself, or what’s left of him, anyway.” He told her Doré’s approximation of the marquis’ name.
She corrected him. “Hélène always said she worked for quality. Watch what you do there.”
“Marie, I can take care of myself.” He took a deep breath, stood up and bowed. “Monsieur, I believe I have found a piece belonging to your family. I believe you were missing this?” His diction was still perfect and his manners were still impeccable. Chauvelin’s continued success was that he could appear of fallen family rather than the bastard son of a whore.
“Your mama taught you real good.”
“Yes, I was well taught. I’m going, Marie. I have to do this. I want to face the bastard, and face him properly.”
“Just be careful.”
“I always am.”
* * * * * *
Before he could stake out the marquis’ house properly, Chauvelin had his own tragedy. He came home to find Linois gone. According to one of the boys who was still there, some men had come and taken him away. “Investments” he had made went south, and when the perpetrators found themselves before the court, they were only too eager to name Régis Linois as the one behind the mess. At seventeen, he found himself alone, with slight obligations to a washed up whore and a group of five young pickpockets. He was more and more in Marie’s company, keeping the younger boys working, taking on Linois’ responsibilities.
Chauvelin was the principle breadwinner, and he took the task seriously. It was not until several months later, when he was certain they were out of the woods and no one would come looking for repayment for god knows what Linois had been doing that he realised he still had the portrait. He spent the next several days watching the marquis’ house, tracking the movements of the staff and household, both of which were small - it appeared that there was only a rather aged gentleman, who must have been the marquis, or at least he was the only person ever to leave or return. Finally, he found the courage to approach the door.
He knocked firmly, standing as tall as he could, acting for all the world as if he belonged there. A footman in powdered wig and velvet breeches answered the door quickly, looking down at him with distaste. “The tradesmen are to come to the kitchen.”
Chauvelin quickly became defensive. “I am not a tradesman. I have business with the marquis, and he would be advised to see me.”
“I do not see how you could have business with the marquis. Now I suggest that you go before you are put off.” It was a valid statement, after all. Chauvelin had dressed as well as he could, but it still meant that his faded breeches were stained with mud, his stockings were an odd sort of yellow from age, filth, and wear, his coat had been ill-repaired, and to top off the ensemble, his tricorn had seen better days, namely those before it had been trod upon by a passing carriage. A strand of hair had come undone from his queue and hung in his eye, and the frayed ends of his knotted hair ribbon could be seen even from the front. Yet his linen was clean, if coarse, and he had washed well before coming - the only dirt was imbedded in his trousers or on the soles of his buckled shoes, which though battered, were polished. Pride was as obvious as poverty.
He held his ground. “I believe I have found a piece of his personal property and I should like to return it to its owner.”
“Give it here - I will see if it is indeed of this house.”
“I will show it only to the marquis. You are not its owner.”
Sighing, the footman finally replied, “Stay there. I will ask if you may be seen.” He closed the door in Chauvelin’s face - if indeed true, that he would ask if the boy might be admitted, he was certainly not welcome to wait inside.
“At least it’s summer,” Chauvelin said to himself. “I could be waiting in the cold for nothing.”
The footman had not lied. He returned a few minutes later, surprised to see the young man still waiting patiently. “You may enter.” He was, however, not allowed beyond the entryway, told that the marquis would see him at his convenience.
Chauvelin removed his hat and looked about the large hall in which he found himself. The ceiling was high and shone with gold and luminous images. The walls were hung with portraits, most likely of the family, and large mirrors which reflected the whole. The candles had just been extinguished as one was still smoking, but there was not the familiar smell of tallow - for the first time in his life, Chauvelin saw wax candles. It seemed an eternity before the silence was disturbed by footsteps over the spotless floor. He turned and saw up close the man he had been watching for a week. Only it did not seem as if it could be the same man, for without the distance between them, the resemblance between Chauvelin and the woman’s portrait was heightened even further by this masculine copy of the woman.
The marquis was surprised at the resemblance - Chauvelin could see it in his eyes - but he covered himself well. “What do you want with me, boy?”
Chauvelin bowed to him. “Monsieur, I believe I have found a piece of your personal property that had been stolen I do not know when. I thought I would perform the kindness of returning it to its rightful owner.” He removed the miniature from his coat pocket and offered it to the marquis.
The gentleman took it, taking care not to touch Chauvelin in any manner. “Where did you find this?” he asked roughly.
“A pawnshop, monsieur. I thought it had been stolen. I have had to pawn things myself on occasion, but when I saw the portrait still in the frame, I was sure that there was something wrong. Thus I have come to return it.”
“You steal from me then you give it back?”
“I stole nothing from you!” Chauvelin argued back indignantly. “With five younger boys to support, I could ill afford the money paid for this expedition.”
The marquis tossed a coin at his feet. “You have been reimbursed.”
A fury took hold of Chauvelin as he looked down at the coin. He looked back up at the marquis. “You know who I am, don’t you? Or do you? Are there so many of me you cannot place the mothers anymore?”
“I do not know what it is you think you are saying.”
“My mother’s name was Hélène Chauvelin. Does that unfog your memory? I say was because you killed her.”
“I never harmed a girl in my life,” the marquis responded threateningly.
“You threw her out into the street when you got her pregnant. Pregnant with me. Without family, without references, without a place to get rid of me, she was forced into prostitution. Yes, the truth is ugly and the words should make you wince. When I was six years old, she was murdered by a client. It may as well have been you who tied that stocking around her throat, because it is your doing that put her in that bed that night. You toss me money as if I were some beggar on the street. I have never begged in my life, and I daresay if you had fallen on hard times, you would be too proud to degrade yourself in that manner as well. I am not a beggar and I am no more an animal than you are. Animals and men do not share blood.” He bent to pick up the coin, still talking. “You toss this at my feet, asking me to prostrate myself before your majesty, thinking I should be grateful to have been allowed in this house at all. I have not come to claim you as a father - you, monsieur, do not deserve the title, wishing me dead before I even existed. I did not even come for blackmail, as that would be beneath me. I came because of the portrait and because of my mother. She was a good woman, I am told. I barely remember her. I spit on your misplaced charity, and I spit on you.” He threw the coin down at the feet of the marquis, spit on his perfectly polished shoes, and stormed out.
Chauvelin was several blocks away before he realised what he had done. He had just confronted an aristo. Not just any aristo, either, but his father. He did not know if he should be proud of his actions or ashamed of his behaviour or perhaps even a bit afraid of his own bravado. He was out the money for the portrait. The boys and Marie had been depending on him, and he’d just wasted the equivalent of three loaves of white bread on a lark. What was to say he would never do it again? He had not thought it possible this time, yet it had happened.
He came to a decision. The oldest of the boys was twelve; the youngest was nine. They were old enough to fend for themselves if necessary. Chauvelin determined to introduce them to the pawnbroker and see what he could find in the way of warm enough, dry enough lodging for them. The business of looking out for everyone else weighed too heavily on him - he wanted no part of it anymore.
Within a month, they were all gone. The two oldest went out to work one day and never returned home. The youngest was more nervous, and the other two promised to look after him. Freedom meant the ability to act above their age, and the boys had always been a little jealous of Chauvelin’s power when Linois was still there. Now they were being given the same power to make their own deals and control their lives.
Alone with Marie, sitting across the long table from each other, he slumped forward. “That’s that. All right, end of life number two. I must be a cat, so I suppose I had better figure out what comes next.”
“There ain’t many options - keep on with what you’re doing or find something else. You’re good enough you can make your own living, you know.”
“You think I haven’t been more than paying for my keep these past few years? What about you?”
“I’ll find a way. Régis was just the easiest option. It’s time for you to be on your own. You’re a man now - I know you’ll do well.”
“‘May the lord in heaven and the devil in hell remember that I got to eat and I ain’t never killed nobody.’“ Marie echoed his “amen.“ “Take care of yourself, Marie.”
“Régis taught you well. You’ll do fine, I promise. Just watch your back, Chauvelin.”
“Don’t I always?”
“Someone had to say it.”
He stood and kissed her cheek, then gathering his meager belongings, left the room.
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