The rain poured relentlessly as the dark figure emerged from the Seine carrying a heavy mass. Her clothes were freezing and heavy from the combination of rain and river water and she struggled to keep the hair out of her face. When she finally believed she had gotten to safe enough ground, she dropped the unconscious inspector on the ground. She looked hopelessly at his lifeless face as possible solutions flew in and out of her head. Nobody would hear her calling for help thanks to the rushing of the river and the boom of the thunder. Her shop was too far away; if she tried to run there to get something to help, by the time she got back he might be… well, she did not like to think about it. Instead she beat her fists against his chest as she had seen her father do to her little brother on long ago family trips to the beach in an effort to expunge the water.
Soon the tears from her eyes mingled with the rainwater and she turned away with a childish fear that she would drown him completely if her tears fell on him. She tried removing the soaked clothing from his body and in vain started shouting his name. She felt herself growing weaker and her heart raced faster and faster as the memories of their first encounter came flooding back, on a night almost as rainy as this…
"Shit." Elisabet swore as she tripped on the cobblestone street. She lifted up a pant leg to reveal a bloody knee, and she ripped a piece of her shirt to use as a bandage. The night was pitch-black and she had no idea where she was going- as if things weren't bad enough it had started to rain as well. The young girl walked slowly forward, her eyes adjusting to the night. Didn't she pass that bakery already?
"Hello there little girl." She held back a scream as a voice accompanied by the smell of rotting meat and alcohol came from behind her.
"What do you want?" Elisabet turned to the voice and tried to not betray her fear.
"Wandering around at night all alone? Surely a little girl needs a strong male companion with her." The drunken attacker took her by the outstretched wrist and pushed her against a wall, to which she responded with a kick to his shin. As she tried to run she slipped on the wet stones again and onto the same knee. She cried out in pain as the man lifted her up. "Ohhh, gotta teach this young whore some manners, don't I?"
She screamed for help and before the man could do anything else, the sound of many hooves pounding on stone gave way to a strong voice breaking through the rain.
"What is the meaning of all this?" The man dropped Elisabet and stared up at the four officers on horseback, their lanterns shining through the rain.
"I am not your friend." The same voice cut sharply. "I am Inspector Javert of the Montreuil-sur-Mer police and you will address me as such."
"Well, erm, Inspector, y'see, this little urchin come beggin to me for money, see, and when I refused, she done attacked me."
"That is not true!" Elisabet protested, stomping her foot on the ground. "I was walking home and he grabbed me, I tried to fight but I fell, this drunkard-"
"Watch your tongue, slut!"
"After you cut yours, bastard!" the man lunged for her again but this time Inspector Javert blocked him on his horse.
"I have heard enough. Clearly neither scum is quite free of blame. Take the man to the jail, I will take the girl-"
"I'm not scum! My father is Christoph Barbier, the carpenter of the town. I wouldn't be surprised if he built your jail!"
"The jail was built half a century ago."
"Well… well then you'd better get a new one!" The inspector rolled his eyes and began tying a rope around her wrists. "Don't you tie me up I'm telling the truth!"
"I have never seen a Mademoiselle Barbier in this town and I have been here for several months."
"I just got here a few weeks ago, I lived with my aunt and uncle and cousins because my father couldn't be bothered to raise a child so he waited until I was seventeen to send for me. Truth be told I'll be seventeen in six months, but he doesn't know and I just hate my cousins and their cats. Father says that he was just too busy with work to give me attention as a child, but I know otherwise- ow, not so tight!" All the while she had been talking, Javert had been busying himself with tying the rope around her wrists to ensure that she would not chance an escape. Without a word, he got on his horse and tugged her along. He did not see the need to go any slower for her- she was probably just another lying street urchin. Before long he heard faint gasps and cries behind him as the girl started to lag.
"What is the matter now." He asked impatiently.
"Before you came I fell on my knee, and then when that man attacked me I fell on it again. It's bleeding and it really hurts." Elisabet hunched her shoulders and looked up at him with her saddest eyes. "Do you think I could ride on the horse with you, Inspector? I promise I won't try and get away."
After a pause, Javert looked her over and consented with an "Oh, very well." Soon they were traveling again, with her arms around his waist behind him.
"So you're a police man?"
"That must be fun."
"How old are you?"
"That is irrelevant."
"I say you're in your late thirties. What's your name?"
"I am Inspector Javert of the-"
"Oh yes yes I know all of that. I mean what's your first name? Mine's Elisabet. You can call me Lilybet though, that's what I let people who I like call me."
"What cause do you have to like me?"
"You saved me." She said simply.
Javert was glad she couldn't see his face turn pink. He almost felt bad that he would have to put her in jail once her little ruse with the carpenter was unraveled. "If you are who you say you are, then what were you doing out in the street so late?"
"A girl from my class invited me to her house for tea, but I think it was a joke because she made fun of my pants and shirt and said I looked like a boy. So I stormed out and tried to find my way home, but I got lost."
"And why do you go around in pants?"
"Why do you?"
"I warn you child, do not be insolent-"
"I'm not! Do you have children?"
"Are you married?"
"You must lead a lonely life. I do too. But one day, I'll meet my true love, and we'll get married and raise children and live happily ever after. Don't you ever wish for that?"
"My love is my work and my happily ever after will be once I pass through the gates of paradise to be with the Lord."
"Don't be so stiff! Like I said, I think you're just lonely. I'll be your friend since you saved me."
"I do not need street urchins as friends."
"Hell, how many times do I need to tell you that I'm not a street urchin? I-" the rest of her sentence was cut off by a loud sneeze, "-I think I'm getting sick. Will you take me to the soup shop?"
Javert was completely thrown off by her brazen attitude. "No!"
"How about when you find out that I'm not lying? Then you can take me for soup on some other day."
Javert grunted in response.
"My father's shop is this one- just there. With the fire in the window. We live upstairs."
"Now we can end this little charade of yours." Javert slid off of his horse and helped Elisabet do the same. He grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and led her to the door and knocked, and a short, chubby, balding man in his late forties opened the door.
"Good evening father." Elisabet greeted him, swinging slightly as Javert held her up.
"Monsieur Barbier, I hate to disturb you at this hour, but we found this child in a scuffle on the street. She claims that she is your daughter."
"What? What are you doing out I thought you were at one of your classmate's houses? Get inside and get out of those wet clothes immediately, Lilybet. Thank you Javert, yes, she is mine."
"Don't call me that!" Elisabeth retorted as she wriggled out of Javert's grip and stepped inside. "Told you, Inspector. Would you like to come inside for some tea and rest?"
"You've caused enough trouble, child. Leave the inspector alone."
"He's cold and damp too!"
"Enough, I said!"
Elisabet ran inside and quickly reemerged holding a roughly sewn dark blue tarp. She ran outside and draped it over the inspector's shoulders.
"Take this against the rain as my thanks. I believe you owe me soup, Javert."
"Pups with big mouths and no claws best keep out of the dark." He retorted before getting back on his horse and riding away into the night.