A/N: And the next – after several months. I have been exceptionally lazy and I apologise for it. Shorter chapter here with a longer on the way. At this rate I'll probably be celebrating my 70th birthday by the time the end chapter's posted. yawns scratches behind left ear with back leg I hope somebody's still reading this…
5. Wolf Amongst the Chickens
Why am I on the bed? I'm never allowed to sleep on the bed. The man, the tall one with the grey fur on his face, he always says I mustn't sleep on the bed; that I must lay on the rug in the next room, in front of the fire where it's warm. But where is he? Where's he gone? I know he's never there when I am, but somehow he always is; at the back of my mind… but he's not here. Not anywhere. I let out a pitiful whine as I get up, sniffing around the house to try and find him. His scent is everywhere; he was here not so long ago. Sir? Sir, man, person? Where've you gone?
Not here. How strange. He's left the door open for me it would seem. Odd, he never does; he usually only leaves the bedroom window ajar. God, but I am starving! How long has it been since I had any food? I remember being ill, so ill… But no, I wasn't ill; it was just this, just the transformations. Nothing unusual.
It's full moon! Full moon, you idiot! What are you thinking about 'the man'? That's you! As for food, what am I prattling about food for? I always leave myself a bowl down next to the table so I can just… No, wait a minute, I didn't this time, did I? I meant to later tonight, but I needed to lie down, so I went into the bedroom and… Oh shit.
Taking a glance out of the window I can see that it is already 'later tonight', the silvery moon shining brightly in an almost cloudless sky. I must have slept through the whole afternoon, although I would have thought the pain of transformation would have woken me, like it did last month. I suppose there's no use fretting about it now; but I'm definitely going to hear from someone tomorrow. Anyway, might as well go to work now; search out Vidocq's two warehouses while the scent is still hot, so to speak. It's a shame I didn't get the chance to see Maurice – his advice would have been valuable, but I should be able to find what I need without it; just would have saved some time.
Cautiously I pad across to the door, poking my nose through the crack onto the landing and sniffing. All clear. As I start my descent of the stairs my fur begins to bristle. I've never been out of the house this way as a wolf and it feels very strange to be in such a public space; I know I won't feel even remotely safe until I am outside. But how do I get outside from here? The concierge always locks the front door at night and there's no way I'll be able to get it open. No hope of a window either; even in summer she fears of marauding ruffians murdering us all in our beds. Once down I sniff around the dark hallway, trying to find any hint of an escape route to the outside world. I'm in luck; my nose seems to be directing me to the concierge's kitchen.
The door is ajar and I push it open with my muzzle. The landlady is sound asleep on a chair next to the fire, a pile of knitting in her lap and snoring gently. Silently I slip by her chair to the back door which she has left partially open; she must have fallen asleep before she had a chance to close it. I merely have to scratch it a couple of times before it swings open, the hinges emitting a loud squeak of protest. The woman momentarily stirs and out of instinct my entire body tenses, but she settles back down again and breathing a sigh of relief I slip out into the night. That was close, too close. How I'm going to get back in again I don't know; I'll have to figure that one out when the time comes.
Just as I trot round the corner into a wider street a sudden thought stops me in my tracks. Where did my clothes go? I should have woken up all tangled in my shirt and trousers, or probably have been strangled to death by the stock and cravat. I didn't take them off, that I'm sure of, and I certainly didn't go to work in the nude; so where did they go? I glance up to my bedroom window, weighing up the chances of being able to break the window quietly enough so as not to wake the concierge on my way back in, but the chances are very slim indeed. Besides sleeping in a draught and paying the glazier's bill is not a very attractive prospect. No, it's not worth it. Perhaps Vidocq'll put me up for the night? He wouldn't mind giving me the carpet, then he can send someone round for my clothes in the morning. Maybe it does pay to have a confidante…
I head for the end on the street, moving up a gear into a fast trot. I have so much time to make up for tonight. I'll have to move fast, as there are only four or five hours left before dawn; however I have not made it more than two streets away before I am stalled by a sudden wave of dizziness. Oh… My legs can't seem to co-ordinate themselves and I stumble, grinding to a halt. I shake my head to try and clear it, but that just makes it worse, my vision swimming in and out of focus. What's happening? Where am I? What am I doing here? I raise my eyes to see the moon glowing red; an angry red, a bloody red… I do my best to try and make out my surroundings, but everything is slipping away fast; I no longer recall names, places or objects. In desperation I put my nose to the ground, trying to find a scent that I can recognise to take me home. People, horses, dung, filth, slush and soot… and there is something else. Blood; I can smell blood. There must be food nearby. A butcher's, maybe? A slaughter house?
No! You insufferable hound, how can I think of food at a time like this?
What else is there to think of?
Plenty! Such as… such as… What was I thinking about just now? I can't recall. But it was important, I swear it was–
Can't have been that important if you forgot. Now come on, before someone else gets it!
Yes, I can smell them around here – dogs of all shapes and sizes, hunting and scrounging in my territory! A low growl rumbles up through my throat. Thieving bastards, I'll teach them not to poach on my reserve! It's not far off, I can smell it from here; a definite kill only a few streets away. My stomach gives a deep, pinching gurgle, spurring my legs to go faster. I am on to the scent, and tonight I shall feast!
"So what's on today's menu?"
"Rape in Saint Marceau, two suicides – one in a stable in St. Denis, the second found in the River just past the Pont au Change – theft on a property in the Marais and a poultry seller mauled to death by a dog in the Latin Quarter; his chicken house was massacred as well. Two witnesses to the incident; fishmongers."
Quiet night then. "Anything else?"
"There was one in a few hours ago," said Simon, rummaging through his papers to find the relevant report. "A wine merchant's cellar in the rue Saint Médard was broken into, nothing taken though."
"Isn't that the same district as the mauling?"
"Three streets away."
"Did they pick the lock?"
"No, smashed the cellar window. The noise was what alerted the owner."
"Did he see anyone?"
"He says he saw a shape running away. Not very clear; dark, crouched over and lurching this way and that."
Could be connected. The dog might have found its way into the cellar; a mad dog wouldn't have a care about going through a pane of glass. I'll get someone to make a few more enquiries though, just to be on the safe side.
"Alright then; give me the list."
Simon is just about to hand over the paper when there is a loud knock on the door. In an instant the boy's face pales, clutching the paper to his chest convulsively and dives beneath the desk. I give a hefty sigh. I thought we'd finally coaxed him out of this unnecessary timidness.
Amelot walks in, holding what I assume is a note and a worried expression on his face.
"You have a moment, M. Jules? It's urgent."
"What's the message?" I ask absently, rising from my chair and hauling Simon up by the collar. The boy's shaking. Amelot looks from me to Simon, then back to me again with a questioning glance.
"Well?" I ask sharply.
Hearing the tone in my voice and seeing the significant glare directed at him Amelot instantly recollects himself.
"A note from the rue Pontoise about a call they got half an hour ago," he says, edging his bulk into the room and closing the door behind him. "Misconduct on the part of one of our agents."
"Who is it this time? Not Maurice again?"
"No. The Inspector."
For a moment I stand there staring at him blankly, Simon momentarily forgotten. I can't quite believe what I'm hearing.
"Yes. Inspector Javert."
"I know which inspector, we've only got one! Are you sure they said Javert? What has he done? What can Javert have done?"
I don't why I'm asking, I know what it's going to be. If Javert were injured or dead Amelot would just say, and with last night being full moon it could only be one thing; this certain knowledge is accompanied by a horrible creeping sensation in my guts. But there is always the chance I might be mistaken. I hope to God I am mistaken. Amelot is looking at my white face, trying to gauge my reaction before he says any more. Ye gods, stop being so cautious, man, and put me out of my misery!
"His landlady found him early this morning dumped naked in the privy, bloodied and… covered in chicken feathers."
Oh Christ. Oh Brilliant.
"Amelot," I reach for my coat. "Grab Guidon and Marlois from whatever they're doing; send one round to Lobjois at Pontoise and have the other meet me at Javert's apartment – I don't want a word getting out about this! Simon, run to Chabouillet and explain what's happened; they know you at the Prefecture, they'll let you see him. Tell him 'No further action required'. He'll understand. I'm going round there immediately to see what can be done. And Amelot," I say, snatching up my hat. "Burn that note at once."