“He will bend, he will break. This time there is no mistake.” - Les Misérables
The young lieutenant ran up the street, hoping he would fail in his errand. Unfortunately, success was to be his. Step one: find Major Javert. Done. Step two: tell him that Inspector Drouot wanted to see him immediately. That was perhaps more difficult. After pacing in a side street, away from the major's beat, for a good ten minutes, the young man decided to bite the bullet and get away from the major. He walked around the block in order to meet face to face with Javert and not to have to get his attention. Javert saw him at once.
“Lieutenant Lapointe,” he addressed the young man, throwing contempt on the title of his subordinate.
“M-major Javert, I-I have a m-message for you from th-the inspector,” Lapointe stammered.
“Do not just stand there with your mouth open, Lieutenant,” Javert chastised him. “Inspector Drouot wishes you to tell me something.”
“Oui, monsieur; oui, monsieur.” Lapointe took a deep breath and blurted out, “He would like to see you immediately.”
“Of course,&rdquo Javert agreed right away, responding to the authority of the message, not the weak little messenger.
“I am to walk your beat in your absence.”
Javert quickly nodded in reply and stalked off in the direction of the prefecture of police. Lapointe heaved a sigh of relief. There had not yet been any comments about his position by virtue of his uncle, Inspector Drouot.
Javert knocked brusquely on the door to Inspector Drouot’s office. “Entrez,” the inspector called.
“Am I interrupting you, sir?” Javert asked formally upon entering, more out of form than any real desire to take less of his superior’s time.
“Ah, Major Javert. I was just looking over your records. I must ask, who on earth is this elusive Jean Valjean?”
“A parole breaker, sir.”
“A parole breaker. He may as well be the bloody Scarlet Pimpernel for the sheer number of men you have arrested for being this Jean Valjean. I have here fifteen files, each with a different name alias Jean Valjean. Tell me, have you found this man?”
“Sir, I firmly believe -”
“Answer the question. Have you found Jean Valjean?”
“No, sir. I have not yet found him.”
“I know. We have released all fifteen of your Jean Valjeans. You have been with us three years, is that correct?”
“Yes, sir. It is, sir.”
“Major, I do not approve of this continued madness. You must stop bringing me men whom you believe to be this Jean Valjean. He is certainly not worth our time. Is that understood?”
“Dismissed. Return to your post, Javert,” the inspector waved him away.
Lapointe, knowing that his uncle did not have good news for Major Javert, had decided to abandon Javert’s beat in order to escape a potential berating from his superior for no reason other than Javert’s anger. As a consequence, Javert never saw the young lieutenant, and on questioning a couple of street walkers who had not yet begun any illegal activity - indeed, they were not even dressed for the evening - he discovered that no one else had seen him either. “He might as well be 24601. Certainly neither one is reliable, and both are impossible to find. I must speak to Inspector Drouot about his nephew’s insolence toward duty.”
Two weeks later, Javert was called back into Inspector Drouot’s office. Lapointe ran out of the prefecture when he saw Javert come in.
Before Javert even made it into the office, his superior’s angry voice assaulted him. “Javert, what is the meaning of this?!” He was waving a report wildly.
“I have found Jean Valjean,” Javert replied calmly.
“No, you have not! I know this man whom you have arrested, and he is certainly not your parole breaker!” Drouot took a large shot of brandy to calm himself. “Javert, I ordered you to stop arresting men whom you believe to be Jean Valjean. Was I not clear on that?”
“You were perfectly clear, sir. But I know this man must be 24601.”
“He is not! This cannot continue. I will not allow it to continue. You are a good officer, Javert, so I can’t just fire you, and Paris would have my head if I demoted you. But I will not allow this to continue in my town. Is that understood? This is your last warning. One more man you think is Valjean, and you will be transferred with a reprimand on your record. Is that clear enough?”
“Lapointe will fill your position if you leave. Is that understood?” Drouot knew Javert had no love for Lapointe, who was a real threat by virtue of his brains, not by his relationship to Drouot.
Two months went by without incident, but finally, Javert was called back to the inspector's office. This time, Lapointe remained in the room, standing behind his uncle.
“Javert, what is this?”
“A report, sir.”
“A report condemning the captain in the next town over as a parole breaker! Javert, I told you this had to stop.”
“But he is 24601.”
“Use the man’s name, Javert. I have no head for numbers. You disobeyed a direct order. Do you know what this means?”
“To where am I transferred, sir?” Javert asked calmly. Lapointe was shaking.
“To Montreuil-sur-Mer. It will be easier on you, fewer new faces to condemn as convicts. And it needs discipline in its police force. Paris has ordered me to promote you to Inspector. I do not want it, but I must do as Paris asks. You leave first thing in the morning. Collect your pay on the way out. Major Lapointe, show M. Javert out of my prefecture.”
“Yes, sir." Lapointe was terrified of Javert.
Javert said nothing, just saluted his superior, now his equal, turned militarily, and left with Lapointe.
“I-I’m sorry, sir.”
“You are not worthy of rank. Remember that when I am gone. No one can take my place,” Javert growled, not at Lapointe, just to the world in general.
Javert stalked off, leaving the newly promoted Lapointe and his old prefecture behind.
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