Hello, dear readers! This story is a sequel to my previous story "To Drive the Cold Winter Away"––it can be read as a stand-alone piece, but some parts of it will make more sense if you read that story first. I know I said the sequel would be published in January…clearly it is no longer January. My apologies. This was originally going to be a one-shot, but it ended up taking a lot longer than I anticipated, and life has been kind of crazy lately (in a good way, but still, not enough time for writing).
This story is dedicated, as a late birthday present, to my dear friend Lee Eliot, who gave me a new respect for Javert and the inspiration to write a sequel.
Inspector Javert lived a solitary life. His days were filled with his police work; when the day's work was finished, he retired to an old house in a quiet corner of Paris and spent the evenings reading in front of the fire. He was on civil terms with his housekeeper, though he seldom had much to say to her other than, "Thank you, Mme. Pascal." He had nearly convinced himself he needed no one else.
One winter's night, this lonely life of his took an unexpected turn when he found himself suddenly in charge of three children by the name of Thénardier. The boy, Gavroche, was seriously ill; his two sisters were frantic with worry. Their family was the last with which he would have chosen to associate himself, but his sense of duty would not allow him to abandon them. Over the course of several weeks, he sat up night after night with Éponine, caring for Gavroche. He witnessed Azelma's eagerness to show her appreciation by helping around the house. The simplest things suddenly seemed of great importance. The dreary days passed more quickly than he had ever thought possible; the once quiet evenings were filled with storytelling and song. Slowly, Javert felt something begin to stir in his heart that he had not felt for a long time.
Then, as suddenly as the children had entered his life, they were gone. He knew their time together could not last––the girls, after all, were both in their teens, old enough to be self-sufficient; and Gavroche was a free-spirited little imp who would not abide any sort of confinement. His solitary life seemed even lonelier now, in their absence.
He saw them occasionally: Éponine and Azelma trailing behind their parents like sullen shadows; Gavroche roaming the streets, getting into some sort of mischief or other. The girls would always have each other, and they had a home, however unfriendly a place it might be. But Gavroche, some years ago, had been thrown out on the streets to fend for himself. After what they had been through, Javert could not help feeling a slight sense of responsibility for the boy. He was careful not to publicly acknowledge any relationship between them. Gavroche would have been utterly disgraced if the other street waifs knew he was friends with a "cop"––though Gavroche occasionally paid him the compliment of some cheeky remark or other.
Recently, Javert had been keeping an eye on a group of university students who had been stirring up trouble for quite some time. Their recent exploits included handing out incendiary pamphlets to illiterate beggars, delivering impassioned speeches in public squares, and an impromptu street rally. Revolution was in the air; Javert had sensed it coming some time ago. Often he had seen Gavroche hanging around this group of rabble-rousers. No doubt their talk of fighting for freedom and justice all sounded very exciting to a young boy. They saw themselves as defenders of the people, delivering them from oppression and poverty, like the heroes of old. What boy wouldn't love to be one of them?
When the request came from the National Guard for an undercover policeman to join the ranks of the students and report back to them, Javert volunteered for the job. After all, he had served in the army, as a much younger man, and he felt it was his duty to his country to help maintain order in its capital. That was what he told the chief of police. But as Javert pulled on a workman's jacket and pinned a red, white, and blue cockade to his shirt, he knew there was another reason he wanted to be in the students' ranks: Gavroche would be at the barricade.
Javert followed a couple of students through the winding streets and back alleys. He saw three young men carrying a table down the street. Two more ran by, one carrying two or three muskets and one with a long piece of red fabric that looked like it had once been a tablecloth, or possibly a curtain, draped over his shoulder, flapping behind him like a cloak. Javert shook his head; they were mere boys, playing at going to war. He hoped their insurrection could be put down without too much bloodshed.
The two students he was following turned a corner into a broader street in front of a café where he had noted they often gathered. The street was already obstructed by a large pile of broken furniture, overturned carts, and other rubbish. Several students were milling about the place, building up their barricade, inspecting their weapons, scribbling out poems on scraps of paper. A couple of young men were removing the door of the café from its hinges. The old woman who owned the establishment was scolding them; one of the boys kissed her, silencing her protests. She retreated up the stairs while the door was carried off to fortify the barricade. A few young men came down a side street pushing a cart full of assorted firearms. Gavroche was standing on top of the pile, singing at the top of his voice. Javert recognized the red scarf that hung loosely around the boy's neck as the one he had given Gavroche last winter. The coat Javert had given him had disappeared long ago, though Javert had seen another urchin running around in one that looked suspiciously like it––Gavroche was not practical, but at least he was generous. But the scarf he was never without, even in the heat of June. Red was the color of the revolution. Many of the students wore red sashes or armbands; the boy was probably trying to imitate his heroes. Still, Javert could not help wondering if perhaps Gavroche had not entirely forgotten about him.
One of the men pushing the cart gripped Gavroche under the arms and lifted him down. The boy scampered off toward the barricade, intent on being in the center of the action. A fair-haired young man stepped out of the café; the others clamored around him, ready to receive their orders. Javert drew closer and slipped into the crowd.
"Combeferre," said the young man to one of his comrades, "you will be in charge of distributing weapons. Feuilly, I want you to make an inventory of supplies. Joly, you are in charge of turning this café into a field hospital. And I will need someone to give a report on the army; find out exactly what we are up against." Javert stepped forward. "I will go, Monsieur Enjolras," he said, "I served in the army myself when I was a young man; I am well familiar with their ways. I can find out everything you need to know."
"Very well," said Enjolras, "Thank you, citizen."
Javert raised his hand in a respectful salute. As he left the barricade, he caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of Gavroche. The boy was at the highest point of the barricade with one of the students, installing a red flag on top of the heap of rubble. Nothing could quench the child's spirit. Javert hoped for his sake the revolution could be stopped quickly.
It was early evening by the time Javert returned to the barricade. "Who goes there?" shouted the young lookout, pointing a rifle at the figure approaching through the shadows. Javert stepped into a patch of light, and held out the cockade on his shirt. "Oh, pardon me, Monsieur––er, citizen," the student stammered. "Put that gun down before you hurt someone," Javert muttered, striding past the young man. Enjolras saw him approach and greeted him with a nod. "Citizen, what is your report?" he asked.
"The odds are vastly against us, sir," said Javert, "They more than triple us in numbers. Each man is armed; they have cannons as well." He lowered his voice, but not so much that the men closest to them could not hear. "I'm afraid our men are no match for them, sir."
"Have faith, citizen," said Enjolras, clapping a hand on Javert's shoulder. "If we know their movements, we can turn their own strategies against them. Though we may be few in number, we can still overcome them. Tell us what you heard."
"There will be no attack tonight," said Javert. "As far as I can tell, they intend to wait until our supplies have dwindled and morale is low before they attack in full force. When they do attack, they will come from the right, and then––"
From the top of the barricade, a shrill voice rang out. "Liar!"
Javert looked up to see Gavroche grinning down at him. "Good evening, dear Inspector," he said. He scrambled down the pile of furniture. "Friends," he said, "allow me to introduce Monsieur Javert––Police Inspector."
At the word "police," several of the students immediately leveled their firearms at Javert. "Police Inspector, eh?" said one of the young men, seizing Javert's arm, "That would make you a government employee, wouldn't it?"
"Spying for the government, eh? Shame on you, Inspector," said Gavroche, clicking his tongue as if he were reproving a naughty child. "Looks like the mouse got the cat this time." Javert gritted his teeth and glared at the pavement. You little fool, he thought, Could you not keep quiet? Something in him had to admire the child's spunk in standing up for a cause he believed in; he only wished Gavroche's patriotism had expressed itself by other means.
"Bravo, little Gavroche!" cried one of the students, ruffling the boy's hair. Two other young men had taken hold of Javert, far more roughly than Javert thought necessary, pinning his arms behind his back. "Enjolras, what you want us to do with this traitor?" one of them asked their fair-haired leader. "Kill him!" one of the students suggested; the others nodded in agreement. "No––no, wait! Wait!" Gavroche cried. He leapt onto an overturned cart, trying to get the men's attention. "Don't kill him!"
"Gavroche," said Enjolras, "this man is a spy and an enemy of the republic. He must be made an example."
"But wouldn't it be a better example to leave him alive––and make him watch the little people triumph?"
Enjolras pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Take him inside the café and tie him up," he said to the young men who were holding Javert, "The people will decide your fate, Inspector Javert."
"Shoot me now or shoot me later," Javert said, struggling against the two men who held him, "You'll still have blood on your hands. You have no authority to decide matters of life and death. I suggest you give it some serious thought, Monsieur Enjolras, before you jeopardize your friends' lives as well as your own!"
The students dragged Javert roughly inside the café and bound him to a chair. "Do not underestimate the power of the people, Inspector," one of them said, probably echoing on one of Enjolras' speeches, "We will fight for a better future. And we will triumph."
"Fools," Javert muttered.