Unlike many of her youthful Parisian contemporaries, Cosette Fauchelevent possesses a truly kick-ass set of organizational skills. You might think this was a by-product of spending her early years in a sketchy foster-care situation, or perhaps a remnant of a slightly later time in her life when she had to be prepared to blow town in the middle of the night with her adoring-yet-annoyingly-mysterious adoptive dad.
If you were to ask Cosette for the secret of her success, however, she’d tell you that this skill-set is almost certainly a result of strict adherence to the many meticulous mental checklists she keeps on every single detail of her day-to-day routine. Sure, it might not be sexy or exciting, but it generally gets the job done.
Take tonight, for example.
Adoring-yet-annoyingly-mysterious father conveniently out of town for the next twenty-four hours: check. Carefully chosen spot on a nice tall bridge over the Seine, right under a big stone eagle sculpture for a little extra historical ambience: check. Sexy dress and killer heels to make a fab final impression: check. Pitcher of ice-cold cosmopolitans and a frosty glass to complete the send-off: check.
“Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase! I am the Law and the Law is not mocked!”
…Oblivious uniformed dude a few feet away from her, leaning over the edge and muttering to himself: not on the checklist.
Cosette isn’t a fan of going off-plan. She’d also really like to avoid standing back up again, because these stilettos are starting to pinch, but what’s a girl to do?
“I’ll spit his pity right back in his face, there is nothing on earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Jagaahh!”
Judging by the yelp and the little flaily dance when she taps him on the back, he wasn’t expecting an audience either. She has to give him credit for a fast recovery, though; in a matter of seconds he’s off the ledge and looking only slightly rattled as he’s invading her personal space.
“Assault on an officer of the Law is a criminal offense, girl! What the hell are you doing up here this time of night?”
“Sorry to interrupt you, Monsieur, but I was hoping to stop you before you – you know.” She puts her hands together and pantomimes a diving gesture.
He draws himself up to his full height – which she would say is impressive, but let’s face it, almost everyone over twelve years old in this city seems to be taller than she is, stilettos notwithstanding - and glares down at her with narrowed eyes that seem a little bit weary.
“Mademoiselle, if you’re trying to save my immortal soul let me assure you that more persistent people than you have made the attempt as recently as this morning, and you won’t be any more successful or any less annoying. That ship, as they say, has sailed, so be on your way.”
Seriously, why does everyone assume she’s some tender little angel with a salvation complex? Jimmy Choo was apparently going through a torture-porn phase when he designed these damned shoes, and her pitcher of frosty cosmos is getting warm as they speak. As far as she’s concerned this man’s immortal soul is on its own.
“Actually, Officer –”
“Inspector, I’m not trying to save your soul. I’m trying to tell you that this bridge is already taken. I was here first, and I’m on kind of a time-crunch, so you’ll just have to find another spot to jump.” She glances at her watch. “Or you can come back here in a couple of hours, with the way the current’s running tonight I should be pretty far downstream by then. OK? Thanks!”
She turns and starts hobbling back toward the stone eagle, only to be stopped by a gloved hand on her shoulder. The long arm of the law has a pretty firm grip.
“Wait.” The Inspector looks – what, confused? Constipated? (Probably confused. The stupid stars just went behind the clouds again and it’s dark on this bridge.) “You’re telling me you were about to jump?”
“Well, not technically about to jump,” Cosette explains. “First I plan to spend a little time enjoying the fact that tonight I can dress like my peer group without my father clutching his rosary beads and pitching a fit.” She gestures to her cute cleavage-y hot-pink dress. “Then I’m going to enjoy a last lovely starry night, weather permitting, while I consume this entire pitcher of alcohol. And then I’m going to haul my fabulous-looking drunk-ass self up onto that ledge and commence with the jumping.”
She considers mentioning that she’s hopeful her feet will be numb by then, but he really doesn’t look like the type who’s into the nuances of women’s footwear. For his part, her new bridge-buddy seems to be having a little trouble processing her explanation – perhaps he’s impressed to the point of speechlessness by her flawless planning?
“You – that – that’s totally unacceptable! This is my final warning, girl, leave now or I’ll arrest you on the spot.”
Or it could be that she forgot he’s a cop. Why is everything so difficult tonight?
Cosette resists the urge to smack her head repeatedly against the ledge – which would probably also result in her demise if she wants to get technical about it, but ew, messy, and damn it, she spent time on this plan.
“Yes, right, Inspector, doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose for both of us? If you arrest me we both end up in the police station for the rest of the night, which would be kind of a lose/lose situation, all things considered.”
“Mademoiselle, if the thought is rattling around in that vapid little blonde head of yours for one minute that you’re going to get away with such a mockery of the laws of God and country while I’m standing right here –“
Inspector Buzzkill is really starting to piss her off.
“Just so I’m clear, Inspector, that would be the same mockery of God and country that you were about to commit on my bridge?”
“It’s not your bridge!” the Inspector shouts.
“I was here first!” she shouts back.
Hand to God – not that she consistently believes in Him, and if He’s actually up there she’s probably on His shit-list at the moment – but if this man arrests her tonight she’s going to confess to being a serial killer as soon as they get to the station, if only to see him stuck with all the paperwork.
“One evening of peace, that’s all I wanted.” The Inspector seems to be addressing the stars as he starts to pace. “I’ve devoted years, decades to an ideal that turned out to be nothing but a lie. I don’t think exiting with a little dignity is too damned much to ask for. And yet apparently it is, because here I am wasting time arguing with some insipid twentysomething over her petty little problems.” He whirls around and points an accusing finger at her. “What’s the worst that could happen at your age, anyway? Did you fight with your boyfriend? Didn’t get invited to join the sorority of your choice? Oh no, let me guess, your parents just don’t understand you, how’s that for a tragedy?”
“You’ve got to be kidding, we’re turning this into a competition?” Cosette blinks in amazement. “Gee, Inspector, so sorry to intrude on your mid-life career crisis, but it just so happens that some of us are able to recognize the hopelessness of our situation and act on it before we creak into our late fifties.”
“How dare you, I’m not a day over – beside the point.” The Inspector takes a deep breath and looks down at her gravely. “Fine, Mademoiselle, since you’re already wasting my evening you can be my poor substitute for a confessor. Let’s compare hopelessness, shall we? Yours evidently necessitates matching your shoes to your dress. Mine revolves around losing a man that I’ve pursued for years.”
“Does he even know you have feelings for him, or are you all broody and irritating with him too?”
“What do you — for Christ’s sake, I didn’t mean that kind of pursuit!” The Inspector looks like he’s caught somewhere between blushing and having a stroke. “He’s a fugitive who broke parole, and I pursued him to bring him to justice. And I had the chance to do it today, to arrest him and close out an era that was decades in the making for both of us. Had him dead to rights, and I couldn't do it. He had to go ahead and do something ridiculous and self-sacrificing and not at all what a hardened criminal would do, and he got me to thinking differently, damn him, and now nothing makes sense anymore.”
“But if he acted better than you’d expected, isn’t that a good thing?”
“No!” He looks at her like she’s the stupidest thing on two feet, which may not be too far from the truth given how her feet are actually feeling at the moment. “Men like us can never change, and the Law trumps all – except he did, and it doesn’t, so where does that leave me but spending my entire life living a lie? I’m already as good as dead thanks to that man – no, not a man, he’s a devil. I’m here tonight to finish the job the devil started.”
Honestly, if she’s going to spend her final hours as some broody policeman’s confessor she would’ve much preferred a plot that involved hot gay sex. This unfiltered stream-of-consciousness thing is getting very confusing, and she hasn’t even broken open the booze yet.
And he’s still not getting her bridge.
“Oh please, so the guy’s not who you thought he was, so now you’re obligated to over-think your way into the Seine? At least he gave you a change of pace. You think living with a devil is bad, Inspector, try living with a saint.”
“I hardly see how that –"
“Hey, if I get to be your confessor tonight you get to be mine.” She hobbles closer until she can glare up at him. “For the past two decades I’ve grown up with a father who literally can’t think of himself. Somewhere along the line he decided that he had to atone for some horrible sins in his past, not that I’d know what they are because that would involve his actually talking to me like an adult. And now his only remaining goal in life is to slowly wither away while he sacrifices everything – for my ‘best interests,’ whatever the hell those are, for the entire indigent population of Paris, for some random dumb-ass college boy that he dragged home like a pony for me. And I can’t even get angry at him because he’s so damned noble that he’d probably just wander off and go die of a broken heart. Which, incidentally, I suspect he’s going to do anyway if I ever move out or get married or otherwise try to have a life, because that’s all he thinks he deserves. Try living up to that set of expectations on a daily basis and tell me you wouldn’t be jumping off the highest bridge you could find.”
She winds down with a sigh, guilty at even speaking the words out loud, and sees the Inspector looking at her skeptically.
“That’s a touching story, Mademoiselle,” he says with the slightest hint of a sneer. “But you need to work on making it more believable. Nobody on this earth could be as self-sacrificing as the man you describe.”
OK, she’s officially volunteering to push him off this bridge.
“Oh my God, you really are that much of an ass, aren’t you? You don’t believe me and yet you expect me to buy into some shadowy convict who conveniently escaped you yet again just this morning?”
“If you were listening, he didn’t escape. I let him go. And despite that, he still gave me his home address so I could arrest him as soon as he finished rescuing his hopeless idiot of the day.”
She makes sure he can see her eye-roll. “Sure he did. This guy sounds more over-the-top than my father. It’s probably not even a real address.”
“I’m an Inspector of the police, you ridiculous girl – don’t you think I confirmed what he told me? As opposed to you and this fairy-tale father you've pulled out of your ass."
“Oh, I'm sorry, do you want an address from me now? Fine, Inspector, but in that case I get to hear your stupid fake address.”
“Fine, you stubborn –“
“—Number 7, Rue de l’Homme Arme.”
They stare at one another in shock as the address rolls off their tongues simultaneously.
“You did say Number 7?”
“Rue de l’Homme Arme, Paris, right?”
“Several blocks away, turn left at the dry-cleaners and…”
Well, that was unexpected.
Vague images are starting to coalesce in Cosette’s brain.
She remembers herself as a little girl running down narrow alleyways with her brand-new dad, thinking this was a pretty cool game of tag and wondering who those pursuing footsteps belonged to – and why was Papa so nervous all of a sudden?
And last week when they’d almost been robbed on the street…well, shit.
If Cosette were a cartoon character this would be right about the time the little light-bulb went off over her head.
“So…your criminal fugitive,” she begins tentatively.
Scratch the little light-bulb -- this is more like the cartoon where the anvil flattens her into a Parisian pancake.
“I…guess that makes you Javert?”
“And you’re Cosette.”
One well-organized night that's gone way, way the hell off-plan: check.
Javert slouches back against the ledge, still staring at her in astonishment.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance," he says hoarsely. "Did I hear you mention you brought alcohol?”
Cosette nods numbly and reaches for the pitcher.
“Have a seat, I’ll pour.”