Javert was seated at his desk. He was filling out yellow slips of leave for the various convicts at Toulon who had served their time. He paused in his work to grimace. This was merely an entry-level position.
Some of his fellow police-officers were still in the habit of mentioning that they had gotten their jobs on their own. Javert HAD had a little help getting into the force, but he was doing well.
Javertís mother had been a gypsy, his father a criminal on the chain gang. They were both arrested for some obscure reason Javert had forgotten. He was born in prison, turned on the streets as a gamin for several years, and finally taken in by the Chief Inspector at Toulon. He was raised strictly, as befitted a police officer, and had grown up knowing that the Law was the ultimate guide and could never be broken, Duty was never to be taken lightly, that religious followers were above suspicion, any follower of the law was to be considered divine, and that every person who violated Law or Duty was fallen from grace for- ever.
As I said, he knew this, but something in the back of his head didnít BELIEVE it. Specifically, the last point mentioned above. How could it be that every last man, woman, or child who ever broke a single rule, be it with good or bad intentions; how could it be that every last one of them would be forever forsaken by God in all ways? Is that sort of thing possible?
The main reason Javert puzzled over this sort of thing was because of his lineage. He believed, in that foolish manner of denial, that if he were able to go back to his parents he would be able to convince them to become normal, law-abiding members of society. However, since both of his parents were dead, it was a bit of a moot point.
There was no doubt in anyoneís mind that Javertís adopted father had something to say about Javert getting into Toulon, but his words were hardly needed. First in his law classes, Javert knew his law books practically by heart, and he followed the laws in them more rigidly than any of his classmates. He looked with disdain at ale-houses and the like, and he came close to arresting his friends if they ever even glanced at the nice young whores who gathered on cold street corners. Yes, except for that one nagging doubt about falling from grace, Javert was the model police officer. Everyone knew that Javert would move through the ranks at Toulon quickly, and probably replace his adopted father in time.
Writing these yellow slips was just a place to begin, Javert thought sullenly. He scribbled another name into the blank space and glared at his messy handwriting. He hoped his stay here was brief.
One of Javertís classmates who had also found a niche for himself at Toulon burst through the door of the room.
Javert glanced up testily and snarled, "Donít you EVER call me that!"
"Down, Tiger!" laughed his friend, but he backed off the subject. "All of the officers at Toulon who have been here less than a year have orders to come into Chambertain (the neighboring town) to see an example of policemen at work."
"Why should I bother?"
"Well," the friend could tell he had Javertís interest now. "You donít have to come. The officers say that itís an interesting case and we should know how to handle it. Plus," his friend observed, "I can see your handwriting isnít any better than usual and Iím betting youíd take any opportunity to get away from that damned inkwell and pen."
Javert brightened a bit. "Youíve got a point." He stood up, put away the pen, pushed in the chair, and grabbed his coat in one fluid motion. "Explain the case to me on the way to Chambertain."
It was only a short way into the little town, so the two friends walked. Their boots made fuzzy imprints in the slushy snow. Javertís friend (Whose name, I might add, was Jacques, so thatís what weíll call him.) outlined the case.
"Well, the case itself isnít really so interesting. A man gets arrested for swiping a few francs off of this lady, stays in jail for the designated amount of time, gets released, and then steals a necklace right off of another woman in the street. The inspectors already have him cornered in an alley-way and plan to capture him any second."
"Oh, whoop-de-doo," Javert muttered. "Look, I grew up around this sort of thing. Iím not very interested." In truth, he really wasnít, and the whole situation fit right in with the Ďfallen from graceí idea that hurt him so much. He stopped walking and folded his arms, waiting for Jacques to convince him. Javert thought with longing of his tidy desk with yellow slips.
Jacques sighed. "Look, Javert, we have to hurry. Who knows when the inspectors will capture this fellow?"
Javert stayed still.
Jacques turned away from Javert and started walking. He kept talking, too. "The reason the police havenít captured him already is that he has a hostage. He grabbed some little gamin when he ran into the alley and has a knife at his throat." Jacques half-turned and wasnít too surprised to see Javert walking quietly behind him, head down, and arms folded.
"The reason that the officers think that we should see this is because of the emotion involved. None of the jailers believe that this is the same old man. While he was in jail, you might say that he was reformed. He became very religious, renounced the Devil and accepted God, you know the basic routine. He even got baptized again! Claimed he was a new man, and the jailers believed him. So all of us youngsters are going to see that, no matter the emotion or disbelief involved, the Law must be carried out."
Jacques spoke that last part as if he were reciting it, and no doubt he had heard it from some older officer.
The two men had reached the city of Chambertain and were following the sounds of commotion in the little city to find the hostage situation. A small crowd of younger officers mixed with the few older men needed to control the situation. Javert and Jacques pushed their way to the front. Javert was tall enough that he could see what was going on.
Huddled in the back of the alley, half nestled in the grimy snow, was a dirty and disgruntled looking man. He had a dirty knife clutched in one hand and a simple pearl necklace dangling from the other. The arm with the knife was wrapped around a young boyís neck. The boy couldnít be older than seven, and was clearly a gamin, much as Javert had been. The knife was pressed against his throat and the boy was quivering wildly, the tears flowing down his face in a river, but he was silent out of fear.
Javert watched impassively as two police men started slowly into the back-street. The man gave a warning snarl and tightened his hold on the knife. The boy gave a nervous squeak as a single drop of blood ran down his neck.
Javert may have been watching quietly, but inside he was thinking quite wildly. This man was correlating directly with the idea that if you broke the law once, you were forever damned. Javert didnít want to believe this at all, and although he knew he should be rooting for the police, in his heart he wanted the man to drop his knife and the necklace and be allowed to go free. Surely, if this man had found God, he wouldnít continue to sin like this. Surely."
A piercing shriek cut through his reverie. The officers had continued advancing, and the man had gone through with his silent threat. Iíll spare the details, but the little gamin had gone to meet his maker. The man had lost his bargaining chip, and he was immediately disarmed, the necklace taken from him, and handcuffed.
The crowd dispersed. Most of the younger officers followed the returning prisoner back to Toulon, where Javert was later informed that the man had left only two days before. Javert had probably signed his yellow slip.
But enough of that. Javert remained staring into the little side street. Three men were stooped inside, wrapping the little body in a blanket. When the corpse was taken past Javert, he drew back as if in physical pain. He stayed gazing at the alley for some time. It seemed impossible to him that the scarlet blood which even now stained the snow had actually fallen.
Jacques tapped Javert lightly on the shoulder. He silently signaled that it was time to go. The pair walked in silence back to Toulon. In silence, Javert returned to his work-room. He mindlessly continued to fill out yellow slips.
Late that night, if you had happened to glance into Javertís room around 11 oíclock, you might have seen him consolidating his thoughts onto a single sheet of paper. If you had waited until he was peacefully sleeping and read that paper, you might have read this.
"The Law is the ultimate guide and can never be broken by an officer of it. Any person who breaks the Law have been forsaken by God forever. They have been irrevocably lost and can never be regained."
"An officer of the law must fulfil his duty in every way, and shall capture those who have broken the law without emotion and while ignoring the personality of the wrong-doer, regardless of past situations, events, or relationship with the officer."