Hear Now the Tale of a Jet Black Sunrise
Julien was surprised to see that his trunk had been placed in his room. He had not thought to ask that it be sent, yet here it was. A letter in his mother’s hand lay on top of his things, a surprisingly kind letter with a statement of sympathy, a regret that he must have had a dismal holiday, and a wish that his affairs might be wrapped up by the usual pilgrimage after Easter so they might all have a pleasant summer together. The usual cutting remark was nowhere to be found.
He did not manage to catch Henri alone until after dinner. Henri was at last regularly taking his meals with his father, which heartened M. Enjolras and Julien. It was a step in the right direction. After dinner, however, Julien pulled Henri aside in the hall as they followed M. Enjolras to the salon. “I saw Gérard. When shall we talk?”
“I must see your father first, briefly.”
“Come to my room when you are ready.”
“Monsieur, I have a rather difficult question to ask.” Julien did not particularly want to ask it, but he did need to know. “Have the police ever come to you to make any sort of inquiries?”
“If you mean about the girl, no. They came and told me what happened, but they never asked for him, thank god. I don’t know what I would have told them, considering what he had done to himself that morning. Now before this whole mess, certainly. Not inquiries, really, more a plea that I exert some influence on him. And what was I to do? Banish him? Lock a grown man in his room until he agrees to give up his ridiculous politics that harm him more than the government? I ended up commiserating with the commissaire central over what is to be done about youthful indiscretions.”
“Thank you. I am glad to hear that the police seem to find no danger in him.” That did not absolve them from finding danger in Emilie, however. Unlike the magnate’s son, the blacksmith’s daughter could be a serious threat: her class had the most to gain politically, being of education and organization while the labourers were not, and she was a woman who involved herself in political questions. Gérard, too, could be dangerous in theory, as his family were a bare step up, shopkeepers, with their eldest son the only possibility for social advancement. Lameire’s father worked for one of the local companies in a position similar to that which Savin filled for M. Combeferre. Thierry was expected to break into the next higher rank if he could place himself well and marry better, but his taste at the moment was for excitement instead. If Courfeyrac or Bahorel were in Marseille, they would have been boon companions, Julien suspected. Valland was the only one of the three men who had not been at school with Henri, and Julien did not know how he kept himself or what his family were like. The police could have a deep interest in Valland.
But before he could push his inquiries further, he had to break the news of the police investigation to Henri. There was no way to talk about what he had learned from Gérard without admitting that the police had threatened the boy.
“I hate to ask,” Julien began as carefully as possible, “but do you recall anything of what the police said to you?”
“Do I have to?”
“They threatened Gérard, interrogating him publicly in his father’s shop and insinuating that he had murdered her out of jealousy.”
“Christ.” Henri stared at the floor for a long time, then finally closed his eyes and shook his head. “I can’t. There’s nothing there.” Tears were evident in his voice.
“I’m sorry I must cause you such pain. I need to know as much as I can, that’s all.” He related his conversation with Gérard, though without any mention of the letter. “I can’t consider him a coward, really.”
“No, his nature is what it is, and I have always known that. For him, to have any conversation at all with you is bravery.”
“I intend to speak with Lameire and Valland at the earliest opportunity. Even if neither of them know anything, just following the movements of the police may tell me something.”
“It is to be hoped,” Henri said hollowly.
Julien felt ill at the thought that just as Henri had started to recover, he had brought all the sadness back to the forefront. “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
Henri met his eyes and took him by the arm. “You have always apologised too much for what is not your fault.”
“But it is.”
“No, it is not,” he said carefully. But then he pulled away, so obviously on the verge of tears. Julien put an arm around his shoulders and sat with him in silence, neither of them outright weeping, but neither in a real position to speak.
The mistral came down again in the night. Julien preferred to delay looking for Lameire, as somehow the wind seemed even stronger and more bitter, though he suspected he merely misremembered the force of the previous blow. It lasted only four days this time and was followed by an utterly dismal rain.
“How do you like our Southern winters?” M. Enjolras asked Julien at dinner to the sound of rain hitting the windows.
“I have not missed much, I fear.”
“I don’t quite know how you can abide Paris, though. Sure, the wind here will drive a man mad, but in Paris, you never see the sky.”
“And often it is cold enough we have snow. Winter is winter - it is not a particularly interesting or happy season anywhere. I would not mind staying until spring, however.”
“You’ll not have long to wait, if indeed you stay. You are welcome to it, is what I mean,” M. Enjolras clarified, though he looked away as he said it. Julien thanked him anyway, preferring to accept the words in the moment; emotional meanings could be clarified once Henri’s recovery had progressed somewhat farther.
When the weather cleared again, Julien ventured out to look for Lameire. The man had left his lodgings before the beginning of December, the concierge said when Julien inquired. She did not know where he had gone, just that a wagon had taken everything away. “I’m glad of it, too - I don’t need the police coming around here again.” She knew nothing of why the police had come nor where Lameire had gone. The easiest solution was to simply ask his father, though that was a task Julien did not at all relish.
He went in search of Valland, as something easier than looking up M. Lameire. He knew Valland was likely to be at work, though where he worked was unknown, but he could at least verify whether or not Valland still lived at the address Gérard had given. It was a poorer building, and the concierge immediately took him for police. “I don’t know where he’s gone, and I told your men that before!”
“I’m sorry, madame?”
She took a look at him properly, and though she did not apologise, he knew perfectly well that his expensive clothes and fine accent marked him as something other than a policeman. “What do you want with him?”
“I have a message from a friend, that is all.”
“He moved out. Didn’t tell me where.”
“Before the police came?”
“Same morning the police came. Would have been back in November, I think. Well before Christmas, anyway. He paid down an extra week’s rent and said he was leaving.”
“Where did he work?”
“I don’t know. Kept to himself, did M. Valland.”
“Thank you, madame.”
Both had flown, Valland barely ahead of the police. If he had been working with the police, would they have visited him at all? Would they have deliberately delayed their visit so as not to visit him? Or would they have been careful to interrogate him as publicly as the others in order to hide their disinterest in the case? Perhaps the police were not it at all. Or the murder had been planned at a higher level in the ministry of the interior and the police in Marseille were kept ignorant of the whole thing, little pawns investigating a crime they cared nothing about but had to examine perfunctorily because they did not know their superiors did not want it solved. He could play at conspiracy as easily as Feuilly or M. Duchamp, but it was hard to believe anyone outside Marseille could care enough to want any of their cell dead. Cell was a rather polite term, when it came down to it, in any case. No, whatever had happened, it concerned Marseille alone.
M. Lameire worked for Amiot, if Julien remembered rightly, and there was a chance that he, like many in the Port district, would take a midday meal at one of the finer cafés. It would be more polite to find him there than to attempt to see him at work. Julien found himself again presented with Chantal’s lovely bosom as she would know as well as anyone where the men from the various firms chose to drink.
“Amiot? The little ones, from time to time, but the big fish go up the hill, not down. Why do you care so much?” Though the question seemed more a means of flirting than of ascertaining his intentions.
“A friend of mine’s father works for them, and I’d rather not be interrupted.” He’d managed to take hold of her hand and stroked it insinuatingly.
She giggled, then said quietly and quickly, “Not here. In the alley behind. Two o’clock.” She left, but brought an unasked for second cup of coffee and managed to trail her hand across his back. It had been a long time since he had felt a woman’s touch, particularly in that manner, and he was surprised to find he was grateful for the café girl’s attention.
The café began to fill with, as she had said, the little ones from the neighbouring firms, stepping out as much for something to break the monotony of the day as to provide nourishment to the body. Gérard happened to be one, and when he saw Julien, he disentangled himself from his companions and slipped into the chair Julien pushed towards him.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was about to leave, then I saw you. They’re both gone. Left their lodgings, no notice, no word as to where they’ve gone. Where does Valland work?”
“I don’t know.”
“How do you not know?”
“We never discussed it. It wasn’t important.”
It was tremendously important - while in Paris, no one really dared outright ask Feuilly where he worked, he had dropped a few hints and finally let slip his current employer, because to never answer the unspoken question was to never make clear that one had no ties to the government. One could be embarrassed by the admission, but the admission eventually had to be made. If one could not trust one’s friends to be discreet but still find you and warn you as necessary, then it was not going to be an effective revolutionary cell. But to say any of that would only scare Gérard further, and for him, at least, deniability was a necessity.
“If I cannot find him, then I at least need to see Lameire. Where does his father drink?”
“Why do you think I know?”
“Because you are in this neighbourhood every day, and I think you keep your eyes open, even if only to avoid people you don’t want to chat with. Thank you for coming to me,” he added, throwing a bit of praise to the nervous boy. “I know this must be very hard for you.”
Gérard sighed. “The managers usually go to the Rabbit.” Up the hill, just as Chantal had said.
“Thank you.” He got up to leave - it ought to be the right time to arrive in advance of the bosses, who generally dined later than the clerks.
“I put a letter in the mail this morning,” Gérard announced, his voice even higher than usual in his nervous strain.
Julien smiled and clasped his hand. “Thank you.” Gérard wasn’t so bad, really, he thought.
The Rabbit - really the Café Victor after several changes of hands, but colloquially still the Rabbit - was finer than where the clerks drank, but it was still a comfortable café of the old style. Only after the latest change in hands and slight redecoration did it acquire the class separation that now characterised it, as much from the higher prices as from the tables that were not covered in old graffiti. Julien arrived at the same time as several older men, including Savin, whom he did not acknowledge as was his right as an owner rather than an equal. He took a table from which he could watch the door, ordered only a glass of wine, and hoped he still recalled M. Lameire with any accuracy.
He did, indeed, and rose to greet the gentleman at the door. “My name is Julien Combeferre. I knew your son briefly. May we speak?” M. Lameire nodded his agreement and joined Julien at his table.
“You’ve come because of the girl.”
“Of course. May I ask what happened to your son?”
“He has returned to Aix to finish his legal studies.”
Julien’s astonishment quickly faded as he focused on the logic - of course someone with resources and permission would want to put a police inquiry as far behind him as possible. “When did he leave?”
“After the police paid him an unwelcome visit.” From his scandalised tone, it seemed that M. Lameire had not shared M. Enjolras’ relationship with the commissaire central. “As a favour to me, one of the professors has agreed to mark him as present since the beginning of the semester, and I have hopes that Thierry can manage the rest himself. The only good this circumstance has engendered, monsieur, is that it has broken him of all his nonsense. I am sorry it came at the cost of a girl’s life, and the interest of the police, but what is done is done, and may the outcome be happy. Good day to you.”
“And to you, monsieur.” They shook hands politely. The brief conversation had been rushed, but there was no need to keep M. Lameire against his will when there was so little to be said.
Lameire had run back to Aix. Well, it was for the best, Julien thought, and he would not suffer for it. Valland had bolted for who knew where, but no one really knew from where he had come, Lameire was finally doing as his father believed he should, and Gérard would follow, in the middle of a semester but understandably eager to leave his parents’ house at the earliest opportunity. They were scattered, but none seemed to be ruined, at least. But that left Henri completely alone in Marseille. He could not stay, Julien determined. Without companionship, he would stand alone on a street corner and give the police no choice but to follow up with him.
But how to convince M. Enjolras - and Henri himself, for that matter - that Julien must take Henri back to Paris with him?
Chapter 8 ~ Fiction ~ Chapter 10 ~ Home