Try to see it my way
La Motte examined the pistol carefully. He turned it, butt away, muzzle on and he looked down its length. This is how he first encountered the weapon. He thought long, longer than made his wife comfortable. He was back in that place, that evening, remembering, not the gun in particular, but the skylight. The feeling in his stomach as the cover slid across, and he realised he was on his own. At the time, he was straight into dealing with what had happened, and what he should do next, but now. He looked from the muzzle of the decorative piece, now noting just how decorative, to across the room, into those same eyes.
Jeanne had seen the pistol slide away and had been about to ask him to throw it back, it wasn’t loaded after all, when she picked up something in his manner. In the Italian’s apartments she had seen who it was she trained the pistol on, straight away, but either he hadn’t recognised the pistol, or he didn’t care. Now, she knew at the very least, he recognised it here, and his careful demeanour suggested he might indeed care.
He coloured. She coloured. He looked back at the pistol, just to be sure, and try to connect the sweet and enthusiastic lover he’d spent the last few nights with, and those hard eyes in the night. The body he’d seen disappear through the roof was certainly in evidence.
“My pistol, if you please.”
“It was you!” he repeated. Jeanne was now at an impasse, asking for the pistol would look like avoiding the question, but then, she wanted to avoid the question.
“Yes, it was me. My pistol please.”
He threw it at her, hard, aiming at her head. She caught it. If there is one thing more annoying than having someone throw something at you, it’s the other person catching it. She turned and began to put it away in its small case.
“What else?” she answered without looking back.
“You might say ‘sorry’. It would be the very least.”
“Sorry? What for?”
“Leaving me like that, at the mercy of, who knew how many, night-watchmen .”
“I knew you’d be fine. You’d tried to arrest me, remember? For all I knew it was a trick by some Gendarme Captain and his friends outside. I had a lot to lose.”
“But you just left me. You closed me into the place so I couldn’t get out, and you walked away.”
“What else could I have done? You broke the rope, or have you forgotten.” From the look on his face, perhaps he had forgotten that bit, “What was I going too do? Haul you through the skylight? Look at you and look at me, how likely do you think that was to work?”
“But you didn’t even try.”
“But you tried didn’t you? Before I got back. While I was sticking to my end of the deal, you tried to get away first, but you broke the rope. If the cabinets hadn’t been so high I would have been stuck there, caught like a rat in a trap.”
“I was trying to get things ready so our escape would be smooth, if you must know. I thought we could team up.”
“You tried to get away, and the rope gave when you put your weight against it.”
“So that would have happened anyway, wouldn’t it.”
“No, I would have gone first, yes, but then doubled the rope, got you up on one of the cabinets and you could have followed me.” He ran that through his head as she spoke, and thought it would have worked, might have worked, that is if he hadn’t broken his neck climbing up on the cabinets.
“That is, of course, if you hadn’t broken your fool neck climbing up on the cabinets.” She quoted back his very thoughts.
“Are you suggesting I’m inelegant?”
“Not when you’re lying down.”
That shocked him and he opened his mouth for a cutting reply, but nothing came to mind. He picked up the cup on the table by the door and flung it at her. She ducked and it shattered on the wall behind her. She grabbed a shoe and returned the compliment, hitting him on the back of the head as he, in turn, ducked.
“See, awkward. You’d have gotten us both caught, whereas my early departure meant we both got away.”
“My quick thinking you mean.”
“It was the obvious course to take.”
“I’m obvious too now, am I?”
“Inelegant, awkward and obvious, but delicate enough to teach you a thing or two in the art of making love, no?”
“The practice of rutting, you mean.”
“No I do… rutting? Is that what you think we’ve been doing? Rutting?”
“What else? It’s what men do, no? Venal, selfish, vulgar rutting. The lowest peasant in the land does as much.”
He stared and turned cold.
“I guess, it’s true, I am, when all is said and done, merely training a whore, for a priest. One knows nothing, the other cares nothing.”
Now she reached over to the windowsill and picked up a vase of flowers thoughtfully gifted them by the inn-keeper, and she flung it with all of her might and sent it crashing against the door.
Downstairs Françoise, the musicians and the staff of the inn were together in the refectory and listening to the incoherent shouting, accompanied now by the crashing of numerous items smashing against the walls. One of the musicians turned to the other, and began to count out coin into the hand of his smiling friend. Françoise forced a smile and excused herself.
As she reached the corridor outside the room, she was passed by an apparently furious la Motte. She reached out to his arm, to congratulate him on the performance, but she was brushed aside and she stared at his retreating back. Trying to recover from her surprise she took a few steps in the direction of the door of the room and peeked inside and had to duck back quickly, as another shoe whistled past her head.
“Jeanne? Stop, it’s Françoise, he’s gone.”
Silence. She waited some seconds and risked her head round the door again. Jeanne was inside, sitting on the bed. She looked up as Françoise stood in the doorway.
“Not dead is he?” she asked.