Retribution: Chapter 9

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Later that evening, Marianne came home from work. It was very late and she knew that she could get a shower in. From her room, she grabbed a slip, and towel and her toiletry bag.

Marianne disliked having to share a bathroom with everyone on her floor and only being able to wash two or three times a week. But she was lucky to live in a building which had showers when many did not. The bathroom was a large space with a tiled floor and half a dozen showers blocked off by canvas curtains and just as many sinks. Lucky for her, no one else was there.

Marianne turned on the water in one of the showers and stood reading a magazine while she waited for it to turn hot. When the room became steamy, Marianne hung her towel and slip on a hook near her shower and then stepped in, closing the curtain behind her.

The door open and Marianne peaked behind the curtain to see who had come in.

It was Madame Verte, Papa Verte’s daughter in law, in slip and slippers. Madame Verte was a young woman not much older than Marianne, and she and her husband, Papa Verte’s son Dominic, lived in a room on this floor. She was carrying a basket with her baby son Jacques inside.

Madame Verte went over to one of the sinks, gently put down Jacques’s basket, turned on the water and began to splash her face.

The door opened again and a tall young man stepped in.

“Louise” he whispered to Madame Verte

She turned her head away from the sink to look at him.

“Dominic” she answered “what is chéri?”

“Nothing, it just that tomorrow’s rent day. Rent day always makes me nervous”

“Why?”

“Because the day after that, Papa goes to bank like a sheep waiting to be sheared”

Louise put her arms around her husband’s neck.

“It’ll be alright. The old man knows what he’s doing”  She bent down to to look at her son in his basket “isn’t that right little man. Tell your papa that everything’ll be alright”

Baby Jacques cooed.

The next day was a rough one for Augustin. He was almost out of money and there was no work for him that day.

In the evening, his stomach growled like an angry beast and he was feeling light headed and weak. The money in his pocket would be able to buy a proper meal. He decided to use the money to eat a good dinner and then hopefully he would get more money the next day.

A smoky mist heavy with the smells of cooking coming through the open French doors of a restaurant tempted him close.

The restaurant was called The Green Goblin which was painted in green script on the class windows out in front. A green awning hung over the entrance and underneath were tables and chairs.

The atmosphere inside the small, low ceilinged room was close and claustrophobic and noisy with the sounds of people talking loudly and the doors to the kitchen slamming open and shut. The glare of the lights and the tobacco smoke shrouded the room in a greenish yellow fog.

The tables and benches were placed close together and one ran the risk of being bumped into by a haggard looking waiter in a grease stained apron and a jacket of questionable whiteness with a cloth over his arm carrying a steaming tray of food.

Augustin sat down at one of the tables and ordered a three franc dinner of chicken and rice in beans and gravy. The green gingham tablecloth at the table smelt of mold and cutlery was scratched and blackened with grease.

As he waited for his dinner he reached into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes.

On each table was a small box of matches for such a purpose.

“Hey, can I have a light?” asked one of the girls at the table next to him after he had struck the match and lit his cigarette “our table is out”

“No problem” he answered.

He handed the box of matches to the girl and the friend she was sitting with. They were both in their late teens or early twenties but looked prematurely worn out, a fact they were trying to hide with copious amounts of makeup. The both of them were bony and starved looking and their clothes hung on them in a scarecrow-like way.

The girl who had asked for the matches had a broad, homely face and unfortunate front teeth. She had a short, sticky bob of red hair and wore just a sleeveless blue and white striped knit blouse and a white underskirt.

Her friend had a hook nose and beady eyes which gave her a bird-like appearance and a finger waved bob of dishwater blond hair. She was dressed in a camisole and a filthy white skirt.

“Thank you” the girl with the red hair said “I’m Marie”

“Augustin” he answered.

At another table sat three men, two of whom were talking very loudly. The two loud ones were burly young men around Augustin’s age, one with with a spiky crop of red hair and a cocky devilish smile and one with a head covered in dark bristles and a grim expression. The third man, who appeared to be the leader of the group was about thirty and dark haired and swarthy with a Spanish look about him and a dandyish style of dressing.  

The dandy began saying something to his two companions and they quieted down. He had a soft, intriguing voice with a Basque accent which was pleasant to listen to. Augustin recognized him as Anton le Basque, an acquaintance of his. Over the noise of the restaurant, he caught the phrases “Friquet” “Le Paradis” ” Verte” and an address on the Rue Casette. It was the address which struck him. Marianne lived at that address. He also recognized the name Verte. It was the name of the nice old man who lived in Marianne’s building.

The three men then began to leave their table and walk out. Augustin quickly finished eating and went to pay for his dinner, then rushed to out try to catch up with them.

To his relief, they were still outside of the restaurant. The red haired one was talking to Marie’s friend

“Cerise, I’ll be back here later tonight” he said to her “wait around for me”

“Be sure you pay me this time, Philippe” Cerise answered

“I’ll be there too” Marie added

“I’ll be waiting around for both of you”

The two girls walked off

“Are you coming, Philippe?” Anton le Basque called to him.

Philippe went and joined his two companions. Curiosity lead Augustin to follow them to a building with a sign which read “Le Paradis” in blue letters and into a room stinking of tobacco smoke and cheap alcohol. He made his way through zinc covered tables populated by people drinking, smoking, yelling, and spitting to a bar covered in stacks of cups with shelves full of bottles and shinny yellow casks with brass hoops and taps behind it.

“Augustin?” a soft, sweet voice asked him

The voice belonged to the girl who was tending the bar.

“Evening Clare” he said to her

Clare was a pretty girl with a long, heart shaped face dusted with freckles and long wavy brown hair and brown eyes flecked with hazel.

“Is Jules with you?”

“No, I was thinking Jules might be here”

Jules was a good excuse for why he was there.

“Well, can I get you anything?”

“a beer please”

Clare took one of the cups off of the counter and went to fill it up at one of the taps. Augustin paid her and then went to stand by the wall.

Looking around, he saw the three from The Green Goblin sitting at a table taking shots of whisky. A fourth had joined them. A large bull of a man of middle age whom Augustin recognized as his neighbor Friquet, the father of young Eulalie.

“As you all know, rent day’s tomorrow” Friquet began

“Yeah, yeah” the red haired Philippe interrupted rudely.

“Anyway, Pere Verte leaves his place tomorrow morning at eight with a pocket full of rent money to take to the bank .”

“Yeah, I knew that”

Friquet put a Lebel revolver on the table and pushed it over to Philippe.

“Then you can do the honors”

Philippe eyed the Lebel with caution, almost horror. For all his bluster he did not seem like the type who was keen on threatening a helpless old man.

“Are you going to do it?” Anton le Basque asked.

Philippe quickly stashed the Lebel in his pocket. The other young man, the one with the bristly dark hair, also looked apprehensive.

“What’s wrong Jean?” Philippe teased

“Nothing” Jean vehemently asserted.

“We’ll meet up on Rue Casette about quarter to eight tomorrow morning” Friquet continued “Anton, Jean, you two keep watch outside of Verte’s building and give me and Philippe a signal when he comes out. Philippe and I’ll pull up in a cab…”

“How are you going to get a cab?”

“Don’t worry about it”

“We’ll offer the old man a ride and we’ll charge him for it”

The three other men nodded in agreement.

Augustin did not think they were talking about dabbling in public transportation.

August ran as quickly as he could to the building on the Rue Cassette. Up above him, a low, soft, husky and very sweet voice was singing in English.

” East Side, West Side, all around the town. The tots sang “ring around rosie”, “London Bridge is falling down”. Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O’Rourke. We tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York. Things have changed since those times, some are up in “G”. Others they are wand’rers but they all feel just like me
They’d part with all they’ve got, could they once more walk, with their best girl and have a twirl on the sidewalks of New York”

“Can I help you, young man?” a disheveled looking woman wearing a dingy old dressing gown asked him from the doorway of the building. There was a large, sooty grey cat at her feet.

“You can tell me where’s that singing is coming from” he asked her, “has your cat’s learned to sing?”

“Oh, it’s just some little drudge who lives here.”

Marianne was seated in her bay looking at some new magazines by the dim light of her lamp. The world spread out in front of her was one of beautiful clothes, Hollywood intrigue, fame, and fortune. Her hand was absentmindedly stroking Johnny and head was full of her childhood dreams of glamour, excitement, and romance.

She saw a blue hat and a white satin frock that she would love to own, and imagined herself wearing them instead of her stained apron.

Her train of thought was broken by Johnny’s barking. The dog was standing on the bed and looking out the window.

Marianne got up and went over to the window and scratched Johnny behind the ears.

“What are you barking at, boy? Eh, what are you barking at?”

“Marianne” a voice called up at her

Looking down she saw Augustin standing under her window.

“Hello, there” she called down to him.

“Was yesterday rent day?”

“Yeah why?”

“Is your Papa Verte going to the bank?”

“Yeah why?

He explained the plans he had overheard and the danger Verte was in.

“Marie la Douce” Marianne said crossing herself.

“Go downstairs and tell him ” whatever you do, don’t take a cab”

“I will”

He began to walk off.

“Augustin!”

“Yes?”

“I’m scared”

“Don’t be. You’re not in any danger, I promise”

“I’m not worried about me”

Down in the lobby, Papa Verte told Dominic and his wife Louise that he was going out.

“I’m going to the bank before it closes” he said “I shouldn’t be too long”

“Be careful” Louise told him

“You know papa, I don’t like you going out alone with all that money” Dominic said “let me do it, or at least let me go with you”

“Thanks for your concern son but I’ll be fine. You don’t get to be as old as I am without knowing how to take care of yourself”

By the time Marianne got down to the lobby, the old man had already left.

“Merde” she mumbled under her breath.

Augustin noticed Jean and Anton le Basque on the street outside of the building watching and waiting for Papa Verte to come out.

He looked in Jean’s direction.

“What are you looking at?” Jean grumbled

“Your ugly mug” Augustin answered.

“Say that again”

“Your ugly mug”

Jean punched him in the face making his nose bleed.  Augustin punched him back. The stronger Jean was able to overpower him and pummel him to the ground. Struggling against Jean’s blows, Augustin was able to regain his footing and pin his adversary against a wall.

Friquet sat in the driver’s seat of a cab he had hijacked smoking a cigar and waiting to hear from Jean and Anton le Basque.

“See anything?” Philippe asked

“Nothing” Friquet answered

“Bet they flattened out”

Papa Verte came walking down the street and Friquet pulled the cab up beside him.

“Can I give you a ride?” He asked the old man

“No thank you” Papa Verte answered “I could use a walk but thanks for the offer”

He continued on his way to the bank.

Down the street came Dominic who rushed over to his father.

“I’m sorry Papa” he said “but it didn’t feel right letting you go to the bank by yourself”

“Very well” Papa Verte said “if you insist”

Father and son continued on their way to deposit their livelihood unhindered.  

Augustin and Marianne encountered each other on the street. He was out of breath and utterly fatigued from running.

“I’m sorry but I missed him” she said

“It’s alright” he said “I told his son everything and he went to escort him there safely.”

“You don’t look alright”

She was referring to his black eye and bleeding nose.

“It was nothing, I just had to chase some thugs away”

Marianne stood on tiptoes and cautiously touched her lips to his. Her kiss tasted cool, clean, and sweet, like fresh water when one was dying of thirst.  He began to reach for her waist but she stepped away.

“Goodbye”

She blushed deep red at her own daring and then turned to go inside. When she was gone, he put his hand to his mouth and savored the feeling of the kiss.

One kiss and that was it.

Inside, Marianne sat on her bed feeling warm, giddy, and a bit sick. The kiss had felt like everything a kiss should but nothing like she had expected. It had hit her like a bolt of lightning, unexpectedly.

Those who knew Marianne noticed a change in her during the following days. Her high, rosy coloring had faded to a radiant pallor and sleepless nights had given a dreamy look to her eyes. She had less of her usual chattiness and hearty appetite and seemed in a daze. They asked her if she was ill.

One day, as Marianne was sweeping the floor of the café and humming to herself, Anna asked Madame Océane, the manager, what she thought was wrong with her.

“She hasn’t had enough to do” Madame Océane grumbled and then began to complain about how when girls are not kept constantly busy and are left to their own devices, they become lazy and do nothing but daydream.

“Isn’t it obvious” Manon whispered to Anna.

Being Marianne’s closest friend, Manon had been the first she had confided in about Augustin.

“Isn’t what obvious?” Anna responded

At night before going to sleep, Marianne would kneel beside her bed and say her prayers.

“Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu” she would began and she would confess the new feelings which were causing her to lose sleep and look pale and feel ill.

She knew that she should not have kissed Augustin and she was not supposed to feel this way but the damage had been done. Her cheeks were wet with tears. It all was so painful. Surely no one had ever suffered as much she was.

Those days were humid and rainy and those nights, she would hear raindrops falling on the roof as she was kneeling on the floor.

“Please, I wish to see him again” she prayed “I don’t know why but I do”

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