Morning of Anguish

Chapter 6

The sun grew hot by noon, making the city forget the previous night’s rain. The heavy stone building that housed the medical school, however, retained the dampness and shunned the sunlight, creating a cool refuge from the hot alleyways of the Quartier Latin. The street in front of the medical school was too narrow for the fiacre to wait, so the officers had to let go of their hard won prize. Few people who could afford to do otherwise were willing to walk in the growing humidity. They quickly ducked into the dark building to escape the heat.

The hall was deserted. Gouttenoire and Lucas quietly looked about for an office. They reached the opposite end of the long building without finding a single clue other than a hall full of numbered doors.

“Where is everyone?” Lucas whispered.

“Probably in class. The stragglers are likely at the Luxembourg; the day is quite pleasant,” Gouttenoire explained.

Suddenly, a door opened and a flood of young men poured out of the lecture hall, most complaining about the day’s lesson. Gouttenoire tapped one of them on the shoulder.

“Excusez-moi, monsieur. Where is the office?”

“Which office?”

“The office that holds enrollment information.”

“This building is confusing. You need to go up to the first floor.”

“Merci, monsieur.”

“No problem, officer. You know, for a second I thought you were someone else. But he’d never enter the military. Well, good luck, officer, and good day.”

Gouttenoire and Lucas climbed the stairs and immediately found a door labelled “Bureau d’Affaires d’étudiants”. Gouttenoire knocked.

“Entrez.” The lieutenants found an elderly gentleman, dressed all in black, stooped over a desk. At the sound of their footsteps, he looked up into the gloom of the office. “Ah, bonjour M. Combeferre. You have returned to us? Oh, I am so sorry officer,” he apologised, realising his mistake. “The office is dark, and you looked rather like a former student. How may I help you?” the clerk asked amiably.

“Monsieur, we would like the address of the parents of a M. Joly. We were informed that he was a student here,” Gouttenoire told the old man.

“What is this about?”

“I really ought not say.”

“I can’t just give out information like that without a directive. The provost will be back tomorrow. Can you come back then?”

“Thank you, monsieur. We will return tomorrow.” Gouttenoire turned and walked out, followed by Lucas. “So, we wait.”

A young man rushed out of a second door that must have led to a back room of the office. He glanced around nervously, then whispered hurriedly, “Thank god I caught you, messieurs. I work in the file room, and I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with old Gauvin. I knew Joly quite well, and I figure I know why you’re here.” He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. “This is not quite what you want, but I can legally give it to you without sacrificing my job. The address is of his flat in town. You’ll find his parents’ address there somewhere, along with some sort of similar information for Lesgle, I would imagine. You’ll be let in when I wouldn’t. I shouldn’t be doing this, but I have no choice. They wouldn’t let me come to the barricade, even though my wife and I wanted to come. The least I can do is help you help them however you can. I know they are dead. They must be. You will tell their parents, I hope?”

Gouttenoire took the paper and nodded. “What is your name?”

“Blacheville. Go to the flat. Around the corner is a wine shop. The owner’s daughter knows everything.” The young man glanced about nervously. “I must go.”

“Thank you, M. Blacheville.” The boy nodded and disappeared into the shadows. A door opened and closed, with no trace he had ever been in the hall.

“His wife? He cannot have been more than eighteen!” Lucas whispered in disbelief.

“They knew they were going to die, so they forced a lifetime into a few years, or, more likely, months. M. Blacheville expected to die with his friends, and now his is alone except for his little wife, who also wished to die. Their lives will be difficult now that they must survive.” Gouttenoire shook his head as if to rid his brain of cobwebs and troublesome thoughts. “Let us go now to the Sorbonne, then proceed to M. Joly’s flat.”

“What's at the Sorbonne?”

“Information on les Courfeyrac.”

“Oh, of course, I had nearly forgotten.”

“You mean you had completely forgotten.”

“All right, I admit it. I had. But why not follow up on M. Joly?”

“The Sorbonne is only a couple blocks away, walking distance even in this heat, whereas this address is a couple miles from here, and empty fiacres are few and far between. In order to expend less energy with this weather, I suggest we follow up within this neighbourhood first.”

“Fine. I’m in complete agreement. I never argued with you.”

“Then we go.”


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