"You know me! You know me! I'm a con just like you!"
Blood spilled in to the vile, dirty sink, staining the sides slightly. A
damp cloth was added to the wound on his neck, as so to keep infection to a
minimum. The young man winced in pain as the water stung his flesh. Jean
Valjean removed the cloth and gently pressed his fingers against his neck,
examining the full extent of the cut. He felt weaker than usual, and sat
down on the mattress. Not that the mattress brought comfort, it was only a
little softer than the stone floor. He reached for the side of the sink and
wrapped a bandage around the wound. Before he could even begin to think
about how badly he was hurt, his thoughts were broken by the familiar sound
of a nightstick slamming against metal bars.
"Numbers 24600 to 24610, I want you all out in the work yard in one
minute!" The voice disappeared.
"Damn . . ." Valjean sighed, and stood up. Moving over to the other
mattress, he reached out a hand and shook the body lying in it. "Rupert . .
The head looked up in to Valjean's face. "Whaddya want Jean?"
"Work yard . . ." Valjean reached out to the man and helped him up. The man
had cuts and bruises all down his leg, and long, stringy, brown hair. His
face was scrunched up, like a rat's.
"Alirgh' alrigh'." The two men stood together, and waited for the key
keeper to unlock their cell.
Outside, the air was stale. Valjean was totally unaware of the time; all he
could tell is that it must have been late, for it was dark. He had lost
count of the time and the days. The months now, were starting to slip.
A barking voice echoed through the air. "Right! Two people to a group! If
not cellmates, people the same strength and size! Now!" The rabble quickly
organized themselves. A man dressed in an inspector's uniform, looked the
men up and down angrily, as if staring at a new form of plague. "Do you
know why I've brought you out here?" The majority of the convicts shook
their heads. "I'll tell you! Yesterday, 100 Francs were stolen from
inspector Touissant's office! I am here to find out who it was! I only have
two main suspects . . . You two! What are your numbers?" He pointed an
accusing finger at Valjean and his cellmate.
"24601," muttered Valjean. "24602 m'sieur," added the second.
"24601 and 24602 . . ." The man flicked through a notepad. "Jean Vajean and
Rupert Thénardier . . ." A malicious smile crept over the man's lips. "You,
24601! Come here!"
Valjean stepped forward. The policeman gripped him by his hair and held him
up to his height. "You remember me don't you 24601? The one who caught you
trying to run, every time." Before letting him continue, the man smacked
him in the chest with his nightstick. Valjean fell to the ground.
"Inspector Javert," Valjean moaned.
"Correct! Empty your pockets 24601." Fumbling through the holes in his
rags, Valjean turned them inside out, revealing nothing.
Javert frowned. "And you! 24602! Step forward!" Trembling, Thénardier
stepped forward. "Empty your pockets, immediately!"
"Inspector!" Barked Javert. "How dare you address me?"
"I have nothing . . ."
"Show me then!"
He did so. Nothing except scraps of paper and leftover bits of food fell
out. Javert's face turned an angry shade of red. This was not what he had
been expecting. "Very well!" He spoke, regaining his composure. "You may
return to your cell! The rest of you will undergo the same process as these
two ingrates!" His search continued as Valjean and Thénardier returned to
the cell block.
"Got it hidden under me mattress, the dear inspector'd never stop to check
there. 'Ow stupid does he think we are?"
Valjean waved his head. He was tired. He still had 7 years to serve in the
chain gang . . .