“Sir, there are more over here!” the sergeant called to his lieutenant.
The young officer strode over to his subordinate. “That makes nine students, twenty workmen, and four women. Any identification on any of them?”
“No, sir, but this one does have a letter on him, addressed to a Mlle Angèle Mancion, 4 rue Blanche,” the middle aged, balding, rotund little man replied.
“Is it sealed?”
“May I read it?”
“Certainly, sir. Here it is.”
“Hmm. It has not been bloodied. ‘My dear angel’, that means ‘ange’ in English, ‘I shall not see you again in this life. Your brother has valiantly given his life for the republic, and I believe that I shall soon follow him to eternity. Do not weep too much for me, mon Angèle. I beg you, go to the Luxembourg, to our bench, and look upon the two domes. I will be there in spirit, to look upon you one last time. I know that you will forgive us for giving so much of ourselves to the people. Please go to Mlle Laurier, and tell her where I am, that my parents may know that Charles is to be the heir. I know that you shall never wash the sadness from your eyes, but do look kindly upon a young man some time. You should not remain alone. Remember, I have always loved you.’ It is signed, simply, ‘Julien’.”
“Well, he was a lover. Nice phrasing, that, ‘two domes’ and all,’ the sergeant snickered.
“Hush. The domes visible from the Luxembourg belong to the Invalides and the Panthéon, representing monarchy and republic, respectively. It is an admirably written letter, with a seriousness that could well be my own. Where is Lucas? Lucas!” the lieutenant called.
“Yes, Gouttenoire?” Lucas’ young head popped up from behind a pile of corpses.
“Lucas, are you sketching?”
“Of course. I figured we may as well have some record as to who was here.”
“Could you get this one next?”
Lucas went over to the corpse at Gouttenoire's feet. “Already have him. You want it now?”
“No, I can wait until you are finished. Who all are you sketching?”
“The students and the women. They should never have been here, you know?”
“I know. When you have finished, let me know. I think we can perhaps identify at least two of them.”
“Sir, I don’t see what purpose this has.”
“Sergeant, if you were slain in battle, you would want your mother to know, would you not?”
“My comrades would inform their superiors, who would tell my mother,” the sergeant replied smugly.
“And if your entire regiment or battalion were wiped out?”
“Someone would notice.”
“We have noticed these schoolboys. They have mothers and sisters who must know.”
“They are traitors!”
“And if they had lived, or if they had sold military secrets to the British, their families would be informed of their trials and executions. I do not ask that their bodies be rescued from a common, unmarked grave. It is their punishment in death. But there are women left behind. I ask only that Mlles Mancion and Laurier know that M. Julien is dead. You do not have to involve yourself. This is a task that I must perform alone.”
“Sir, I -”
“Sergeant, you are to say nothing more of this matter. That is an order.”
Lucas rushed up with a handful of paper scraps and torn notebook pages. “Here you go. Nine students and five women.”
“There’s a girl in the alley, shot through the hand and chest. Looks like she tried to stop a bullet.”
“Sergeant, would you take care of the girl’s body? Lucas,” Gouttenoire asked when the sergeant had gone, “would you accompany me on a small errand?”
“To find out who these boys were?” Gouttenoire nodded. “Be glad to. I can’t take much more of these corpses. What’s wrong?” Lucas asked with concern.
“What would posses these boys, no older than us and not much younger, to go against the government?"
“I don’t know, Gouttenoire; I don’t know."
Fiction ~ Chapter 2 ~ Home