Boot steps echoed off the marble floors of the Tribunal de Justice. Jules Thibault, his hands shackled was flanked by four Chevaliers, one on each of the cardinal points and if that was not enough, four uniformed gendarmes also filled the ordinal points.
To a clerk who witnesses this procession, it seemed excessive for such a slight young man. There would be no way for him to escape even one of his guards. She felt a pity for this prisoner, which was the correct impulse, but not for the obvious reason.
At the end of the hallway double doors were opened by officers of the Tribunal in their scarlet robes and faceless masks (justice is of course, blind) and Jules was brought into the chamber of Judgment.
The gallery was filled with government officials, the fourth estate, and high-ranking gendarmes, all eager to see this sentencing. Gendarme Sergeant Arpin, being the part of the trial, such as it was, also sat in attendance. There was a vibration in the vaulted marble chamber. Everyone was thirsty for justice, or so they would say. It felt more like a rabble to Arpin.
All eyes followed Jules as he was led to the Platform of Judgment. Speculative whispers drifted through the room. An officer of the Tribunal pounded his ceremonial staff trice.
“All rise for their excellencies, the Magistrats of the twenty-third Ordre Judiciaire!”
Everyone rose as the Magistrats entered, and sat behind the wall of justice, and then sat once the Prime Magistrat banged her gavel.
“We are now in session, let all that is spoken be the truth,” she said.
To which all present, save Jules Thibault, replied, “Aye,” and sat.
“Is the advocate for the defense present?”
A stout man with short hair and neatly trimmed mustache stood.
“Yes your Grace.”
“Does your client have anything to say before we deliver his sentence?”
The advocate leaned into his client and whispered. Jules shook his head.
“No your Grace, my client declines his right of last declaration.”
“And do you have any final statement?”
“My client has directed me to make no additional defense.”
The Prime riffled through some papers and looked up.
“As far as I can see, you’ve made no defense at all.”
“That was also at the insistence of my client.”
“Is this some sort of joke advocate?”
“Not at all your grace, I’m simply fulfilling my client’s wishes.”
“Did your client direct you to squander the Tribunal’s time?”
“No your grace.”
“And yet you have,” added the Tertiary Magistrat.
“That was never my intention.”
“Despite entering a not guilty plea and then not offering any defense whatsoever,” interjected the Ancillary Magistrat.
The advocate thought that if the Magistrats were interested in not wasting the Tribunal’s time, they had and an odd way of showing it.
“I would like to remind the Tribunal, I was not the first advocate assigned to this client. Nor was I the second or third.”
“Did you not suggest to him to plead guilty?” asked the Prime Magistrat.
“And he declined.”
“Did you make it known that the Tribunal might be more merciful in that case?”
“Your grace, as an advocate for the public I am compelled to advise my client in matters of the law. However, he is no way compelled to take that advice.”
This set off an eruption of chatter amongst the gallery. The Prime banged her gavel.
“I would remind everyone that this is not a theater nor this a play. I would have no guilt in clearing this chamber. Are we clear?”
Silence answered in the affirmative.
“Does the prosecution have any final statements?”
The council for the prosecution stood and said, “The state rests your grace.”
“Very well. Jules Thibault, you have been found guilty of one count of assault of gendarme, and two counts of robbery. While your crimes might insure you spend the next forty years in the L’île de Oubliette, the Tribunal believes that the Arrondissement would benefit from your rehabilitation.”
This, of course, provoked a reaction from the members of the gallery. But before that, Arpin smelled panic, a sharp desperate scent
“Instead, you will be remanded to the care of the chirurgeons of Manoir de la Lune for the recovery of your wits. Afterward, perhaps you will be able to shed more light on your organization and it’s goals.”
Just as the prime was banging her gavel, Jules leapt towards the Magistrats, scattering the gendarmes around him. Screams issued forth from the gallery and the Chevaliers moved into action. Despite the hindrance of being shackled, Jules was proving to be a formidable combatant. The Chevaliers had drawn their swords but struck with the flat of the blade.
Arpin, who was one of the only gallery viewers who had not tried to flee, was impressed by the technique the Chevaliers used. Clearly, they did not wish to kill him but had no concern about causing pain. However, Jules fought recklessly, almost as if…
“Be careful!” Arpin shouted, “He wants to die!
With that said, Jules grabbed the arm of the nearest Chevalier, she had armor made from woven sand and a sword carved from a dappled green wood and slashed his wrists along the edge. After a spurt of cardinal, he slumped to the floor.
Arpin ran to Jules and used his tie and pocket square to stanch the bleeding. He was unsure if it would be enough, given the amount of blood he was kneeling in.
“Not today,” he said to Jules and perhaps himself.
Sometime after that, the chirurgeons arrived. Everything took on a dream-like quality after that, or perhaps more nightmarish. Jules was removed via stretcher and Arpin was examined, he was uninjured, at least physically.
He recalled Gendarme Vasseur giving him a ride back to his apartments, and making sure he was safely home. It was nighttime when he found himself sitting in front of a window. Beside him was an ashtray full of the stubs of cigarettes, and a half-smoked one between his fingers.
Standing up, he moved to the door when he saw a note stuck to it.
Sergeant, if you read this before tomorrow morning, please do not come to the station. Captain’s orders. I have left you some bread, cheese and andouillette on the kitchen table. Please sit and eat. This is also the Captain’s orders. Additionally, there is a bottle of very nice Malbec. Please enjoy. That is not one of the Captain’s orders, more of a suggestion. Eat, drink and rest, then return in the morning.
With some reluctance, Arpin did just that. The Malbec was indeed very nice.