A lone police boat cut through the rolling waves of the Seine, its rusty old port lantern a solitary beacon in the starless night. It swayed and bobbed, hewing close to the quay as it rounded the Pont Notre-Dame, then rode the rapids toward the distant smear of the horizon until a loud splash stopped it in its course. The nose of the boat pitched up like a bloodhound who’d caught the scent. More lights blinked on along its aft and starboard side, followed by a gruff voice snapping orders at its crew. Two burly men cast a net into the ink black waters while the boat circled the source of the sound. Five minutes passed. Then ten. Finally, a heavy weight slammed into the dragnet, and they hauled their catch onto the deck.
A young officer in a pressed navy uniform, his face barely dusted with peach fuzz, knelt beside the sodden figure. “Another victim of the gangs.” He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You see where they tossed him from?”
“Corner of the Pont au Change.” His elder partner stared up at the bridge as if sheer force of will could pierce the veil of night.
“Well, by the time we get up there, they’ll be long gone.” The young officer sighed again. “What a damn mess. Brawls, looting, murder… all ‘cause of those damn rebels.” Shaking his head, he stood up and headed for the bow. “Better tell the captain to swing by the morgue. Hey, I wrote up the whore on the south docks, your turn to fill out the paperwork for this one.”
After a minute more of glaring into pitch darkness, the old officer gave up. Casually, he rolled the body over with his boot. “Hold on. I recognize this man.” He squinted at the blue-tinged face. “That’s Javert!”
“Inspector first class, twelfth arrondissement. I served under him as a probationary.”
The young officer peered down at the corpse, taking in the leather stock, the silver bars on the collar, the navy uniform that matched his own. “You’re right. Christ, he’s one of us. Christ.” Voice shaking, he scrubbed the heel of his hand over his brow. “Things are really bad if they’re goin’ after the police.”
His partner frowned. “I thought he was dispatched to the main barricades.” Settling on his haunches, the old officer rifled through Javert’s pockets.
“Got separated in the chaos, most likely. Cursed rioters spread as far as the Arsenal and Châtelet. Nothing but blood an’ mayhem all along the streets, I tell you. If he were tailing someone, they coulda’ gone - ”
Suddenly, the body heaved and spewed water from its mouth.
“Sweet Jesus!” Both men jerked back as if they’d seen a ghost.
With a shaking hand, the elder officer felt Javert’s wrist for a pulse. “He’s alive! Get us to the nearest hospital, quick.”
“But the sick bay at the station-house is full to bursting!”
“Then head for the Prefecture. There’s a doctor on staff in the adjacent wing to the Bureau.” Seeing his junior partner’s hesitation, the old officer snapped, “Do it!”
“Marcel! Préfecture de Police, on the double!” The young officer stomped up to the bridge. Seconds later, the boat pivoted in a tight arc and sped toward the coast of Île de la Cité, its prow leaping through the waves like a bloodhound chasing down its quarry. Returning to starboard, he stared at the distant spire of their destination. “You know that doc’s only for the higher-ups. Probably won’t even see us.”
“He will see Javert.” Gently, his partner tilted Javert’s head to one side, causing another gush of water to spill from the latter’s nose and lips. “When we get there, send an errand boy to 226 St. Martin. The secretary to the Prefect will want to hear about this.”