Come and Go: Chapter One: A Not So Upright Man
Disclaimer: I honestly thought of this idea myself, but, as has been proven before in the past, I have had the same ideas as other people without even knowing it. If this proves to be not quite an original idea, I swear to God I didn't steal it, and apologize. But, onto the more important stuff of disclaimers: These characters belong to Victor Hugo. I didn't change the names to avoid confusion. I will try, sincerely hard to keep these characters in character, but that does not guarantee success. Now, onto my note!
A.N.: Hey there, and welcome to another fic of Shadow13 (growls they made me add the one even though the other guy with the name Shadow13 only has one fic. I still claim this name! snarl)! Why am I writing another one? Most of the one's I'm writing are no where near to being done. Well, it's my life, and I'm tired of it being even remotely organized, though this would help me out a bit, heh heh.... Well. Any who, this all takes place in 2004 and up and in Oregon. Why Oregon? Because that's where I live, so it'll be easier for me to translate the area. All of the mentioned cities and buildings exist except for certain churches, homeless shelters, etc. I'll try to keep as accurate as possible. Also, I have made Javert's first name Andrew because it's pretty normal and his first name is never mentioned in the book. I will mention a sworn officer later on in the fic. A sworn officer, versus a non-sworn officer: I have to double check this with my dad (he's a cop) but I believe only sworn officers work on the street and do guard duty in prisons. Also, I believe they're the only ones who can earn military names such as Sergeant, and Lieutenant. However, still unsure, I believe non-sworn officers can become managers. And now, finally, on to the fic!
The motor of the ford purred in the very capable hands of a one Mr. Jean Valjean, first time auto thief. He was not the before mentioned by choice, but rather, by necessity. Before, he had been an auto mechanic – which made this all the easier – but the recession had hit Forest Grove a bit hard, and he had been laid off. Unemployment was not enough to pay the bills and keep him, his sister – a widow, so he was the only one left to care for her – and her children fed, clothed, schooled, and healthy. When a man has no obvious means for support there isn't much choice.
A thief it would be.
He had a few "friends," who were always happy to sell something (for a small percentage, of course) and not turn the donor in. Valjean had had no choice.
The hard truth of it was, however, Valjean, never truly tempted by a glamorous life of crime, wasn't any good at it. On his virgin attempt, he was caught.
He begged, he pleaded, he prayed for mercy, for them to let him go. His defense attorney, so kindly provided by the Great State of Oregon, did all he could, but in the end, Valjean hadn't a hope in the world. After the unanimous verdict of guilty, Valjean was too frightened out of his wits to give a thought as to what would become of his sister. He shook and shivered ceaselessly on his trip to his new home for the next year and a half.
Looking back on it, he could have kicked himself. He could have applied for welfare, traveled around for a job, begged, done something, anything but break the law. He might have been able to get by quite well until jobs opened up again. What an idiot he had been!
The Men's Correctional Institute of Oregon, located in the capital, Salem, was not a terribly bad place. It was no heaven. No prison ever is. The rule of not dropping the soap applied, of course, but Valjean always had a good firm grip on it. The food wasn't that bad, but it was just barely edible at times. There was a certain system, a definite trustworthiness. You don't lie to the Lieutenant, the Lieutenant don't lie to you. You don't screw with anybody, nobody screw with you. And while that system might work for some, it did nothing to steady the unsteady Valjean. Every night he relived the horror of being put in prison, the cold, emotionless voices that he heard, taking his picture, his eyes wide in shock, and the number they now gave him as an easier means of identification: 24601. This all combined to force Valjean to recede into his own little bubble, his own little world.
And it was a dark, dark world.
The fact that he only had another year to go before he went before the parole board (he stood a good chance. He'd behaved well and he wasn't a danger to society) meant nothing to him once his brain finally snapped. The human brain can only take so much monotony, only so many orders and restrictions, only so many nights sweating in a cell knowing you were surrounded by bars, and as far as Valjean knew (this was how mad he had grown) he was never getting out. It was hell.
Mortal, living men can only take so much hell until there are few options left: Death or Flight. Valjean, the great idiot, chose flight.
But then, if he hadn't, many things would be different.
He did not even remember how he did it, he did not remember if he formulated a plan. His instinct took control and he was out!
The moon was bright, and Valjean stood still, stupidly staring at it and not making a break for it, just staring. For a moment, Jean Valjean the sane seemed to swoop back in, and he felt like crying.
That is why, when the guards swooped down on him, his instinct took over once more and he fought, viciously, hurting one pretty badly. No! Not back! He would not go back to a cage!
It was a known fact that could not be avoided. He lost.
The highest ranking officer at The Men's Correctional Institute of Oregon was a one Andrew Javert. He was a cold, serious man, who had disturbingly clear eyes that very rarely showed emotion. His face was covered by two bushy sideburns and a snub nose. He was a terrible sort of person, who's only joy was in carrying out a work well done. One always felt ill at ease around him. He was not liked by his fellow officer or by the sworn men who worked at the State Prison, which did not bother him. However, no one ever disobeyed an order given under Javert, and the clean order and neatness with which he ran the prison made him a shoe-in for a higher position either in Salem, or somewhere really big and important like Portland. If he ever caught the notice of the mayor, he stood a good chance at being named Chief of Police, so good was he at his work. But all this did put him at a bit of a disadvantage, for while he was respected – it was more of feared – he was not loved, and it was highly unlikely that anyone other than upper management would miss him once he went onto bigger and better things or retired. But oh, Javert would most definitely go on to bigger and better things! No one doubted that!
He had little patience for convicts who attempted escape, so when prison number 24601 was presented to him – disheveled and disoriented – he glared down at the man, who looked something like a deer caught in headlights. He got the details of the escape from the officers that presented him and pressed the sad, sorry man for answers.
"So why did you run?"
"I wanted to see the moon," came the simple, terrified answer. Javert raised an eyebrow and decided that he might have to bring in the physiatrist to look at this one.
"And how did you get out?"
"I don't know."
"You what?" Javert asked incredulously.
"Yes, sir, I do not know. One moment I was in my cell, the next moment, I was outside. Really, that's all there was to it." Yes, Javert would definitely have to bring in the physiatrist for this one. Javert sighed, put a hand to his temple, and waved them away. He poured himself a cup of coffee – only drunken to keep him awake – and started drawing up the papers to put before the judge.
For the crime – reasonably minor – the punishment was a sever one: Another five years in prison, with no possibility for parole until all were served. With the one still left to go, that made six. The plea of insanity did not sit with the judge. A physiatrist did meet with 24601, and other than a little shaken up from being in prison – who wouldn't be shaken up? – he was most definitely sane enough to know when he was attacking an officer and escaping from prison.
And had he ever done a number on that cop!
Javert certainly didn't argue with the results. He liked dealing out harsh punishments.
The verdict paralyzed Valjean, who curled up on his bunk and did not move for several hours, so that no one could tell if he was sleeping, awake, or dead. Valjean was no young man, so he was prone to fall asleep faster than his cell mates.
Another year went by for Valjean, whose hair had grayed quite a bit since arriving at prison over a year ago. He had totally receded into his bubble now, and did not speak. And then, once more, his instinct seized his mind, he went mad, he broke loose.
"And what now?" Javert demanded of the repeat offender, who had knocked one officer totally unconscious. He'd scaled a wall for crying out loud! A wall with not a crack to be seen that was thirty feet and went straight up! With barbed wire on top and everything! He'd gotten down without as much as a scratch! "Was there a lunar eclipse?" he raged.
"No, sir," said Valjean meekly.
"Orion was out."
Javert blinked and sputtered out "Orion?"
"It's a constellation, sir."
"I know that it's a constellation!" he shouted. "You mean to tell me you risked life and limb just to see a bunch of stars?" said the now incredulous Javert.
"It was very pretty, sir."
Javert was tempted to bang his head on his desk. The things he had to deal with! He mumbled curse words under his breath and finally sighed. "Fine. Take him away." Javert gulped down his coffee and started working on the report.
The second was no better than the first. Another five years tacked on. That made eleven. Valjean did not last six months before the next one.
Javert did not speak a word, just watched, silently, at the master Houdini. It was the cleverest, the most difficult, and the most amazing escape attempt he'd ever seen. The man might be growing mad, or at least senile, but he was, when it came to escapes, a genius! It had taken a phenomenal amount of strength to do what he did!
"A meteor shower," he explained.
Javert let go an aggravated breath, paced a few steps, his hand to his temple, and finally spoke. "Go. Just go."
It seemed everyone had grown quite weary of 24601's escape attempts and intended to get rid of them for good: Eight more years in prison, and one month spent in solitary confinement. That made nineteen years. Nearly two decades. When tossed into solitary confinement, Valjean quietly curled into a ball and wept.
No one would have recognized the old, grizzly man after twenty years in a prison. His hair had gone grey, his eyes had gone emotionless, and he'd completely receded into himself. So much the better for Javert, who had had no more trouble from the renegade 24601.
Even with all this change about him, a light seemed to go on in Valjean's head the day he heard the Parole Board was letting him out. He looked about at everything as though he had only just noticed its existence. He only winced a little when he saw Javert.
"So, today's the day, hm, 24601?" he asked snidely.
"My name's Jean Valjean," 24601 challenged.
"Not here it's not. Personally, I don't see why they're letting you out," said the officer, changing the subject.
"I didn't hurt anyone," the poor, wretched man protested.
"Scum like you? The lot of you is a threat to society." Valjean winced at the harsh words. "But this is not the point." He pointed to the man standing in the corner. "That is Officer James Rowe. He is your parole officer. You are to report to him once a month. And, I will require where you intend to be going after leaving."
"Milwaukie," he said eagerly. (A.N.: waves little flag for home town) "I heard my sister is there."
What no one knew was that Valjean's sister was dead. He was going on a fool's mission.
"That's a bit of a trek," admitted Rowe. "How will you get there?"
"Steel another car?" Javert said snidely, glaring down at the poor wretch.
Valjean shook his head vigorously no. "I'm walking."
"All the way to Milwaukie?" asked an incredulous Officer Rowe.
The old man nodded furiously. "I might hitch-hike too. Just so I don't have to walk back and forth all the time, is a phone call enough?" he asked Officer Rowe.
Rowe was a kind man, with a gentle, forgiving disposition. Javert never allowed convicts to only phone back. What kind of proof was that? But Valjean was no longer under Javert's care, and Rowe proved this point by agreeing a phone call was enough. Valjean was given the money he had earned over the twenty years in the prison, and the few personal possessions he had owned and was showed out side. The old man left the room in ecstasy. Rowe was about to walk out after him when Javert called out to him.
"Best watch yourself, Rowe," he said snidely. Rowe clenched a fist, but turned, and said respectfully to the commanding officer "Sir," and left.
Valjean walked for miles and miles, stopping wherever his money was accepted (it was amazing how many places reserved the right to refuse service to anyone) or working wherever anyone would hire him. He was working as a berry picker on a farm (Oregon was famous for its berries) when the manager paid him the amount he'd earned (it was minimum wage) and told him to leave.
"But the day's not over!" Valjean protested.
"That's tough. Here's you money, now get off my property!" Valjean, hurt and confused, obediently scurried off. The real trouble had started when an old woman had given him some quarters and told him not to spend it on booze.
What he wanted was food, a job, a place to sleep!
That is what everyone thought of him?
It was a very long walk to Milwaukie. If he was looking to be about people more like himself – former convicts – he could go sleep by the train tracks that ran repeatedly through the town. He decided against it. That was more sexual predator territory, and he was no sexual predator.
Milwaukie was a pretty poor town. The richer people lived in stately houses by the river. There were a few streets where the middle class lived in comfort and relative safety, and then the rest were the ones that were not quite so rich. The town's mayor (A.N.: so true XD!), a man named Bernard, was also the town's mechanic and he owned Bernard Auto. Valjean had tried to get a job there, but they simply didn't need the help. The Leading Library was up to its ears in volunteers, and none of the other smaller businesses wanted him. The high school –Milwaukie High, home of the Mustangs (A.N.:waves little flag for High School Mustang Born, Mustang Bred! Gonna Be a Mustang till I'm dead!) – did not need anyone else, and the other high schools – Milwaukie was the only one in the downtown area – were too rich to need any other vagabond staff.
It was a small city with only about 20,000 people, miniscule compared to near by Portland. The other cities around it more or less blended so that unless you lived in the area, it was hard to tell where one ended and another began. Milwaukie had a small, ancient movie theater, a hospital, a few churches, a few schools, a Christmas Tree Farm, a Vegetable Farm, a Middle School, two private schools, and remnants of once prosperous berry farms everywhere.
On Boss Lane there was a nice church named Milwaukie Lutheran Church (A.N.: waves flag for her church I heart you Milwaukie Lutheran! Also, the pastor I'm about to mention was once our real pastor. He has retired due to health problems). It sat comfortably snuggled between Rowe Middle School (A.N.: waves little flag for her former Middle School) and Vernie Avenue thought it was rather covered by a line of bushes. It was reasonably sized, with a tall roof that looked pretty distinctive, giving it good acoustics; a must have for a Lutheran Church, for Lutheran's loved their music.
Their pastor, a one Jim Leifeld, was a slightly older man, with sandy grey hair and blue eyes, though the left one roamed from surgery done on it. His eye sight might mean his retirement soon (A.N.: sobIt does!). He was a nice man who played Baritone – though he'd given his instrument to a young boy in the congregation – and drums, sang, and was generally helpful and kind.
It was on this particular day, rainy, for this was Oregon. When the pastor had decided to take a break from the work he was doing that Monday afternoon, it had only been overcast, but not rainy. He had decided to walk to Milwaukie Floral, which was only about three blocks away, and see if he could buy a newspaper and then walk back. It sounded like a refreshing idea.
And it was! After his first half of the walk he felt much better, not so cooped up. But as he reached the last stretch back to the church, he was glad for buying the newspaper, for it served him as an umbrella, which he sorely lacked at the moment. And as he walked down the back hill into the back parking lot to walk through the back door – it was closer to his office than the front, and the only door left unlocked, generally – was when he spotted the odd old man, huddled in the bushes that so rudely hid the church from view.
He seemed weary and sullen, his eyes were slightly glazed over and they fearfully snapped to attention when Pastor Leifeld said "Hello." The man's eye's snapped into focus and he looked frightened as he backed away from the smiling man above him. "Would you like to come inside? We have coffee. Or tea, if you like that better. And I can see what we can scrounge up in the kitchen, if you're hungry."
"What?" the odd man asked confused.
"Come in!" Jim repeated.
"I'm afraid I don't have the money to pay for the food," the old man admitted after having a full stomach in what seemed like ages. The pastor waved that aside.
"Nonsense, I won't have you pay."
"I'm not a beggar," the old man said firmly.
"No, you're a guest in a house of God, and I will see you fed and rested until you wish to leave. What is your name?"
"It is unimportant."
"There are no unimportant names, God knows them all. What is yours?"
"Valjean," said the stunned man.
The old man trembled slightly as he looked around the large fellowship hall where the two were eating. "Would you like to look around?" Pastor Leifeld asked. The old man shook his head no in a frightened way, but Jim reassured him. "I'm just gong to be busy working. Take a look around and leave whenever you're ready." And with that, Jim got up and went back to his office.
That left the funny old man to look around, which he did. He found his was into the narthex, and from there, into the rest of the building. There was nothing of terribly great value, for the donations were locked snugly in the office, which was right next to Jim's office, so there was no possibility of breaking in. But behind the alter in a little room there were the chalices and bread baskets that were used in services on Sunday. They were made especially for the church, and were very pretty, though Valjean doubted he could get a good price on them. Still, any help was good help, and if he felt the large cross seemed to stare him down as he left, he was humming to himself "God Helps those who Help Themselves."
Jim, looking for wherever he had put his glasses, and believed them to be in the narthex, went looking for them there. He was just in time to see his guest leave out the front door, though the guest did not know he was being watched. Pastor Leifeld felt that, for a moment, he thought he saw the church's chalice stuffed into the man's coat pocket.
If Assistant Pastor Charles Mantey (A.N.: Our temporary Lead Pastor since Jim's retired) was worried when he realized something was terribly wrong – for the chalice was utterly gone! - , the elder Lead Pastor Jim Leifeld reassured him that he was cleaning it, it was at home, and that it would be back on Sunday. So Jim, insisting that he had everything under control - for it was only Tuesday! – sent Charles on home to spend time with his wife while Jim decided to formulate his next lie and figure out an excuse to either use the good silver chalice or buy a new one, wherever he could get one of those.
He was actually surprised by a knock on the door of the church and surprised to see an officer holding the arm of that funny old man from the day before. "We found him trying to pawn this off, and the Pawn Shop owner thought it rather odd to pawn off a chalice when it had the words 'Property of Milwaukie Lutheran Church' on the bottom of it, so he called us. This character –" here he hoisted Valjean back up to his feet, whilst the old man looked like he was in a bit of pain "- insists that you gave it to him, sir." Valjean would have fallen to his knees were it not for the officer holding him up. "If he's telling the truth, by all means, we'll release him, but, you see, he has a record, and if we need to get in contact with his parole officer and find out if he's been dodging parole, I'd like to save myself some time and know if you did actually give it to him." Valjean was about ready to weep.
Jim stared from the pitiful wretch of a man to the cool public servant and said without a trace of indecision "Yes, I gave it to him." Valjean raised his head and stared at his savior. The officer looked surprised, but let go of the convict's arm.
"All right then. Thank you for your cooperation, sorry to bother you."
"Oh, it's no bother at all! Have a good day, officer! God bless!"
Valjean had fallen to the smooth stone floor of the narthex, his head raised in shock. "You...lied to the police."
"Well nobody's perfect," Jim said with a smile.
"But...I stole that chalice! You could've turned me in and seen justice done!"
"There can be no justice without mercy. As for that chalice, you really ought to have hunted around a bit more and found our good silver one. It wouldn't have been half as missed, and given you twice the profit. I'll go get it then, shall I?" Valjean gapped at him as the pastor disappeared, returning with the pure silver chalice.
"I don't want it!" Valjean almost shouted his eyes wide with fear, as though it might burn him as Pastor Leifeld tried to give it to him.
"Take it!" Jim insisted. "And sell it! Do with it good, honest work! Become a good man and help the world. I have bought your soul for God."
Valjean broke down and wept.
To Be Continued....