"If we're just below the surface, we'll make it," Joly says, holding the match in his hand as he and Enjolras press themselves against the backseat of the buried car.
"And if not?" Enjolras asks, trying to keep his breathing steady to conserve whatever oxygen they have left.
Joly hesitates; there's a sad look in his eyes, his lips drawn into a thin line. "Then, my friend, it's been a pleasure working with you."
Enjolras dips his head, offering a faint but hopeful smile. "It's been a pleasure."
There's no countdown, no one-two-three. Only the slow passage of time as he feels the strain for oxygen in his lungs, a feeling he would suggest was akin to being strangled. It takes forever for Joly to light the match, and when he releases it towards the front of the car, he thinks it's floating.
He grasps Joly's free hand tight, bracing for the explosion's impact.
He doesn't remember those following moments, only sitting in stony dirt and gasping for air with eyes open under a blue sky. Eponine is looking him straight in the eye, her own wide in concern as she murmurs words he doesn't hear. She's searching his expression, waiting for some marker that all is well.
He's alive, that's all he can bring himself to understand.
He sees just over Eponine's shoulder the removal of Joly by Bossuet. Joly, other than the injury to his leg he sustained during their capture, appears to be fine, and while he appears more occupied by the relief at the sight of Bossuet's face, he'll be fussing over the wound once it's all wore off.
They're alive…somehow, they've survived.
Enjolras spends that night at the lab, reclining on the couch in his office. Despite the trauma of the situation, he's been cleared, while Joly is to remain in the hospital under observation because of his injury for a few days.
He's told by everyone to go home, that it's the best place for him right now, put a distance between himself and what he's just been through—twelve hours of darkness and uncertainty, and mere breaths away from taking his last—but it would make little difference; he'd be thinking about what happened, either way. If he was in the lab, at least he had ways to distract himself by surrounding himself with work, had opportunities to sort through the terror his mind was still processing into other things.
He can't get himself to relax. There's the unsettling notion someone's right behind him, and that someone is going to ambush him and attack him and make him defenseless and he's going to end up buried again and he's not going to make it out.
It's why he can't close his eyes to even attempt to sleep.
The lights of the Lamarquian Institute flicker on, signaling that the work day has started once more.
It's about two, maybe three days, into this routine where Eponine pulls him out of the lab and to the Musain.
"You're staying at my place tonight," she says after her coffee and his tea are placed on the table. "Gavroche and Azelma won't mind."
"Such a measure isn't necessary," he replies, stirring his drink with no cream or sugar. "I need to get myself back into a routine of going home to sleep first."
Eponine sighs. "And that's not going to happen if you're spending twenty-four-seven in the lab. You can sleep on the couch."
"I don't need watching, Thenardier," he replies, irritation in his voice. Just because I've been through a traumatic situation does not mean I cannot return to a state of normalcy.
"I'm no expert, but lack of sleep causes issues with your ability to function, not to mention you're going to have difficulty doing your job. Case or not, tonight, my place. No argument on this." Eponine looks him straight in the eye, her signature stern expression spread across her face. "Oh, and I've already mentioned it to Combeferre, too, so you're not getting out of it."
"Just give me a few days; I'll be fine."
Eponine's phone goes off. "No arguments on this one. Hold on." She answers, nodding and murmuring a few responses, then hangs up. "We've got a case. You up for it?"
"As always." Enjolras returns a curt nod.
"They were put here to make a statement, no doubt," Eponine says, staring at the posed corpse. "Reminds me of some religious imagery."
"Reminiscent of a crucifixion, but also a scarecrow," Enjolras states, gloved hands examining the remains, the stench of gasoline all over them. "I haven't seen anything like this before in all the remains I've worked on."
"What's at his feet?" Eponine asks, recording the findings on her small notepad.
"Intestines," Combeferre answers. "Disemboweled, most likely."
"A horrible way to die," Eponine says, wrinkling her nose. "Someone wanted to spill their guts."
Enjolras continues his examination, hearing the clicking of the camera as Courfeyrac takes images of the scene.
"Caucasian male, late fifties," he says, inspecting the skull. "While the intestines suggest the victim was disemboweled, we cannot be certain it's cause of death. Courfeyrac can swab for particulates in the abdomen, see if they can at least identify what type of knife, if it was a knife, may have be used to slice the victim open, though its possible the fire may have burned away some crucial evidence. Until the remains are cleaned and I have the bones, I'll be able to discern more…"
Courfeyrac moves out of the sunlight, which allows Enjolras to catch a reflection of something metal in the ash towards the victim's feet. He kneels down and shifts through the ash, and picks up a thin brass chain with a pendant, covered in ash and blood. There's an image on the pendant, but he cannot see what it's meant to be.
"Enjolras?" Eponine takes a few slow steps forward.
"A necklace, it appears," he says, peering at it before he slides it into the evidence bag held out by Combeferre. "Difficult to make any read on it. We can clean it up at the lab after swabbing for particulates."
"Scarecrow position, the spilling of guts, my guess is this guy's a rat," Eponine says, circling the remains. "And based off the fact this is the roof of the Justice Building, means he may have been involved in some high-profiled case."
"We don't have all the facts," Enjolras replies, getting to his feet. "While some of the evidence suggests symbolism, we can't overlook that what's here may purely be circumstantial."
"I'm just letting you know how this usually goes," she says, shoving the notebook in her pocket.
He takes a deep breath, then starts to gather his things to head back to the lab, when Courfeyrac calls his attention back to the remains.
"There's something in his throat," he explains, then taking a few steps back as Combeferre uses a pair of forceps to remove what turns out to be a folded piece of paper. He carefully unfolds it, revealing 'My name Pierre Dumont' written in red marker across the page without obscuring the writing in pen that was signed by an Auguste Leclaire.
Eponine narrows her eyes at the names, as if sorting out a familiarity within them. She shakes her head. "I'll run those names, see if I can come up with anything."
"Feuilly can do a facial reconstruction," Enjolras adds. "One of those names may belong to the victim."
Back at the Institute, the remains are laid out on the metal slab for closer examination. Combeferre works through the remaining flesh and takes it for drug screening. Feuilly begins his work on the facial reconstruction. Courfeyrac swabs multiple points and runs test on the particulates. Prouvaire begins his examination of the remains, noting some fractures on the ribs, as well as some cuts along the bones there.
Enjolras won't admit it, and neither will anyone else; Joly's missing presence is felt. His quips about various chemicals and bacteria to lighten the mood are absent. Enjolras half-expects to hear Joly's voice after Feuilly coughs a few times to ask him out of concern if he's ill.
He'll be back in a few weeks, Enjolras reminds himself. He just needs time to heal.
And you, shouldn't you be taking some time off to do the same?
"Everything all right, Dr. Enjolras?" Combeferre asks from across the platform, causing Enjolras to jump up and hit his head on the overhead lamp above the remains.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he replies, shaking his head as if it will rid him of the new soreness on the top of his skull. "Thinking, is all."
"Anything you would like to discuss?"
Combeferre sighs. "It won't do you any harm to talk about what you went through. It would actually probably help you."
"I said I'm fine."
"Not from what I've seen since then."
"Combeferre, I'm fine!" Enjolras snaps. "I've been shot at, I've been held prisoner for examining remains, I've been kidnapped and nearly cut open alive. I can handle and process the trauma of being buried alive, too."
"Enjolras, I know you haven't slept and that the only instance you've left the lab since was because Agent Thenardier pulled you out," he says, setting down his reports. "What you went through…I know it's messing with your head, and as your friend, I'm concerned, we all are."
His breath wavers, and he can feel his hand shaking. "Please…please, just let me focus on my work. That's the only way I'm going to get past it…It's…it's how I've always gotten past it."
Enjolras looks up to see the disappointed but worried look on Combeferre's face.
"I'm not going to argue with you," Combeferre says, taking a few strides towards him. "Because I think you know as well as I do, that isn't completely true. However, if you ever feel the need to talk about it, remember, I'm not too far away."
He nods. "Thank you."
Combeferre gives him a pat on the shoulder, a concerned expression in his eyes, then walks away. Feuilly passes him on his way up the stairs.
"I've run the facial reconstruction on the victim's skull. Matches that of Pierre Dumont, just as stated on the note," Feuilly says, passing the folder to him. "And that's not all. The necklace found in the ash, I cleaned it up. I did some research on the imagery: it's Saint Michael, otherwise referred to as Archangel Michael."
"Thanks," Enjolras says. "I'll be sure to pass the information on to Thenardier."
Feuilly stands there for a few moments, as if waiting for more, and in most cases, Enjolras would say more, but there's too much on his mind for that.
Feuilly nods and starts to walk away, only to pause mid-step. "I forgot to mention: your sister's in your office; she brought someone with her."
Enjolras has to blink a few times to make sure he's seeing things right, having not seen his cousin since he left for college. The separation had not been on the best of terms, either, Enjolras still going through the issues that resulted from his parents' disappearance.
"Yes," Charlie replies, already sitting down beside Annie on the office couch. "It's been awhile, hasn't it, Lucien?"
"Eight years, at least," Enjolras replies, sitting down in the chair at his desk. "Is there something I can get for either of you?"
Annie narrows her eyes, shaking her head. "I think the better question is, are you okay?"
"I've told you before, I'm fine," he says, the words coming out harsher than intended. "If I'm being honest, I would prefer if people would stop asking; it's not going to change anything, nor is it making it any easier to move past it."
Her expression softens, though her eyes hold concern. "I just don't want you to revert back to what you put yourself through when Mom and Dad left. It was quite painful to watch, on top of my own personal struggles with the fact."
"I've got my work to distract me; that'll be enough." He pulls the chair towards the cleared space on the desk, trying not to hide behind the computer; the last thing he needs is someone reading into that.
Annie nods, though he can't be certain she's accepting of the statement.
Charlie glances between the two of them, then takes a breath. "Well then, I suppose now is as good of a time as any to tell you that I have a message from your father."
"A message?" Enjolras' brows furrow. "He's contacted you?"
Charlie nods. "Yes, though I can't say how."
"What's the message?"
"'Keep low, and stay out of this,'" Charlie says, the usual-cheerful voice Enjolras' recalls from childhood turned into a clipped, firm tone. "From my understanding, what you've uncovered with your mother's discovery has brought back old ghosts, and he believes you and Annie have made yourselves targets by digging further."
"And he couldn't tell this to us himself?"
"He thought his presence would only put you in more danger."
Enjolras shakes his head. "Of course that's his reason; it's only another excuse to hide his face."
"Hiding his face and going as far as changing our names as children was pretty effective until recently, wasn't it?" Annette chimes in. "It can't be a coincidence that finding Mom and her killer is unraveling these things."
"He didn't contact us for twelve years! Where was he in that time?"
"Protecting us, most likely!"
A knock on the door pauses the argument. Eponine walks in, holding some files.
"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" she asks, her eyes flickering between the pair on the couch and Enjolras, who gets up from the chair.
"No," he answers sharply.
"I need to borrow you," Eponine says, and Enjolras follows her to the floor. She pauses around the corner from his office.
"I take it this was too urgent to call me?" he asks, folding his arms across his chest.
"I did try calling you. Either it was off or you left it out of your reach," she replies. "Which is why I'm here."
She looks around, then lowers her voice. "I received a phone call from where Batamabois was being held until trial. Long story short: he's dead."
When Eponine speaks the name "Brujon," Enjolras picks up on the familiarity, though until the confrontation in what he would at best refer to as a poor excuse for an interrogation room, it doesn't click as to why.
"Well, if it isn't the daughter of the old wolf," Brujon says with a bit of amusement in his tone. "Quite interesting you would visit after all this time. Daring to show your face to the rest of us now you've gotten yourself cleaned up?"
"I'd close my mouth if I were you, wouldn't want anything to fall out," she replies, sitting down in the metal chair across from him. "Though I suppose the shiv that fell out of your pocket, it was only an accident that it stabbed Batamabois in the chest and the throat, that gravity did all the work?"
Brujon sniggers, shaking his head. "That's what you're here about? Here I was thinking you wanted a reminder of your past."
"If I wanted anything to do with that, I certainly wouldn't be visiting you," Eponine says, maintaining a cold stare. "What I want to know, is why you killed Batamabois. There's no known connections to the Patron Minette, not even as someone who gave you a job."
"The man was an arse; if I didn't do it, someone else would have."
"While that may be true, I know that's not why you killed him." Eponine leans forward. "So, who asked you?"
Brujon leans back in his chair, as far back as his restraints will allow.
"You have nothing to lose, nothing to gain. Whoever asked you likely knew this." She brings out her voice of reasoning, the calm and serious tone dripping with sincerity. "I need a name, that's all."
"That's not something I can give you."
"Batamabois' trial was vital in gaining more information on the whereabouts of Raymond Enjolras," she explains. "Because of your actions, not only is that information lost to me and my superiors, but it's lost to Raymond Enjolras' children, who haven't seen or heard from the man in over twelve years."
"It's a shame." Brujon's eyes flicker to Enjolras. "Sorry to disappoint you and Blondie here, but I don't have any information to give you."
"'Blondie?'" Enjolras raises an eyebrow, disturbed by the name-calling.
Eponine takes a deep breath. "Give me a name, and I might be able to arrange for you to get a nicer cell."
"And lower security? I'm not taking my chances. If I ratted the guy out, he'd go after me easy," Brujon replies. "He got in and out without raising suspicion to talk to me; he'd do it again, too, under different pretenses."
Eponine turns back to Enjolras, her signal she's out of ideas. He nods back to her. She gets up from her chair and walks out the door, pausing to wait for Enjolras.
"I've got this though: perhaps Fortier doesn't want to be found."
Enjolras pauses in the doorway and glances back at Brujon, only Eponine pulls him into the corridor before he has a chance to respond.
Enjolras holds back from saying anything until they get back in Eponine's SUV and start driving.
"He was there!" Enjolras says. "How else would have Brujon known that specific name?"
"That's something I would like to know, too, but I doubt we'll be able to find out until we locate your father himself," Eponine says, keeping her focus on the road, momentarily gesturing with her head for Enjolras to pick up the files sitting between his seat and the console. "In the meantime, I looked up records on Dumont and Leclaire. Dumont's been retired from the FBI for a few years now, before I came in. Leclaire's an agent who was allegedly killed in the line of duty by an activist of the name Jack Pouliot a bit over twenty years ago; Pouliot is currently facing a life sentence for the killing."
Enjolras picks up one of the files and begins to go through it. "'Allegedly?'"
"The only reason I'm phrasing it that way is due to discrepancies in the medical examiner's reports, the coroner's reports, the reports filed by Dumont, who was there when Leclaire was killed…I hate saying it, but it reeks of something suspicious," she explains. "I'm sure there's unintentional mistakes, it happens, but the way it's all presented…I don't like it."
"You're guessing there's a cover-up involved here?"
"I'm still trying to verify some records," she replies. "I'm going to do a search of his apartment, see if we can find anything that may give us the reason as to why Dumont was killed, because something doesn't make sense with him being killed now if he's being blamed for Pouliot's sentencing, even if something with the records is false."
Enjolras looks through the file, finding pictures of the scene where Leclaire was killed, the multiple reports, the images of evidence, among court records and other information he isn't quite sure what to categorize it as. Then, he pauses at one of the reports, regarding something about some missing weaponry left in a safe deposit box on Rue de la Chanvrerie, along with a police report regarding the robbery of safety deposit boxes at the location less than a week after Leclaire's death.
"Anya and Michel Fortier, who were known for working with a dangerous crew and robbing banks. Small jobs, such as breaking into safety deposit boxes is what they did. Sound familiar at all?"
No, it must be a coincidence.
He continues to read through the file, searching for the names of suspects, leads, anything further related to the safe deposit boxes and the missing weaponry. Nothing.
"Thenardier, how much do you know of the weaponry stolen out of the safety deposit box?" he asks.
"Only what's in those files. Why?"
He hesitates. "This all happened over twenty years ago."
"Over twenty years ago, was when the name switch occurred in my family," he says, running the concepts and scenarios through his mind. "This…this whole incident, if what you speculate turns out to be true, what if, for whatever reason, this was specifically why?"
Eponine turns her head for a brief moment, concern in her eyes, then focuses back on the road. "We don't have all the facts, Enjolras, and you're a stickler for that. Just because we have these dots of information, doesn't mean those dots connect."
"I know," he replies, staring at the police report. "However, there's the fact my parents robbed safety deposit boxes, as well as the fact that these safety deposit boxes were broken into not even a week after Leclaire's death. Then coupled with the fact that suddenly there's multiple warnings from my father that all we are doing is putting us in danger, on top of the fact I was buried alive—"
"I'm telling you right now, the Gravedigger has nothing to do with your father's warnings or anything surrounding this case," Eponine says, her tone stern. "But we'll find the bastard one of these days. As for now, let's just focus on this case, alright? We're going to figure out what this means, we always do."
The apartment of Dumont is spare. Few personal effects. It's rather clean, aside from what's maybe a week's worth of dust sitting on top of the coffee table's wooden surface. Appliances are fairly updated, stainless steel less than five years old. For a fairly clean person, this would be seemingly normal, but there's an off feeling about the place that leads to Enjolras believing there's something missing.
"Either a maid was here recently or he was hardly ever here himself," Eponine says, peering at the bare granite countertops. "Even the sink is empty."
Enjolras walks towards a closed door in the hallway, to find it locked. "Thenardier."
She turns her head as he attempts to open it again. She narrows her eyes as she walks over, then gestures with her head for him to get out of the way. He obliges, and she kicks at the lock, and the door swings back.
Enjolras has been looking at corpses in many states of decay for years. Some corpses riddled with insects, others torn and/or bent in a plethora of ways. Some with flesh remaining, others already picked clean to the bone.
But none of them have made him feel as nauseous as the sight of seeing four walls of pictures containing distant, candid photos of him and Annette. Pictures from floor to ceiling. And they are both oblivious to the fact they're being watched.
And some are recent, very recent. As recent as the evening he returned to the lab after having been buried alive. Then one of his sister that was dated only the day before, with her walking out of a local café with who he guessed was one of her friends.
While absorbing the sight before him, Eponine had meanwhile taken notice of a small selection of photographs grouped together, lines drawn on them in marker. She lets out a shaky exhale, which is enough to capture his attention as she goes and points the said pictures out to him.
"He was figuring out the range and angles."
"What do you mean?"
"These drawn lines…I've used a similar method myself back in the armed forces…to plan kill shots."