The trains stop running at 2 am beneath the streets of Paris, everyone gets off. Some get off at their planned stop and head to an intended destination. Others find themselves at unknown locations and must trudge the streets until the train starts running again in the morning or until they find their way home. Clarissa Le Beau was one such passenger. She rode the Métro from stop to stop often changing trains until the ride ended. Over her years of exploration the late night streets of Paris she had become familiar with the often decaying stops and the twisting paths the trains followed.
At 2 am on October 26, 2005, the doors slid open for the last time, a figure clad in torn jeans and old sneakers exited the train. She adjusted the hat she wore and looked up. "Another abandoned station," she whispered. "Wonder if mom even notices?"
Her soft voice shattered the harsh silence for only a moment. Soon the train was gone behind her, the wind throwing her braids up into the air. She held her hat down and braced herself. The wind died down as soon as it had begun allowing her to let her muscles relax. Her eyes opened catching a shard of mirror across the way. Carmel skin and blue eyes contrasting sharply marked the fact that her mother was American and her father was pure blooded French. The blue eyes though just highlighted her mother's mistake.
With a roll of her eyes she released the reflection and walked away. Fallen porcelain tiles crunched under her feet as she walked. "Yeah thanks mom," she muttered as she swung around a corner and up the stairs.
Clarissa walked up the steps of the Métro stop, the green painted wrought iron twisting above her. The sign was strange, the word Métropolitain was declared in lettering out of an old horror movie. It matched the street that night. The street and the alleyways off of it were abandoned. A lone figure worked its way in her direction so she moved to cross the street. Just as she did a car sped through and stopped a few meters behind the figure. Her mind went into overdrive as the figure came closer. She cursed the passengers of the car. A glint of silver flashed at the figure's side. Clarissa halted.
"Empty your pockets, lady." The man whispered harshly as though he was afraid of being heard.
All the money she had added up to little more than the train fare home. Seeing that she wasn't moving the man grabbed her arm. She struggled to get out of his grip but it was too tight. She aimed a punch at his gut. He let her go and she fell backwards. At the same moment they both realized he'd dropped the knife and went for it together. He hit her in the in the head in order to get there first. A foot landed on the knife before the mugger could get to it.
"Don't you know this is Le Beau territory?" The newcomer asked and a shiver ran down her spine. "Leave now, while I'm feeling nice."
The mugger scrambled to get up and ran away. She wished she could do the same as the other man's hand appeared in front of her. The man sighed when she turned away refusing his help. He grabbed her arm and she pulled away. He sighed again. This time grabbing both her arms and pulling her to her feet.
"Let me go!" she yelled.
"Come on, Clary, you know I can't do that. He-"he paused, "He wants to see you- tonight."
"No," she growled as he stepped forward.
"Come on, you know I have to do this. It's not personal, you know that right?" He asked continuing his advance.
"Right, 'it's not personal'." She lifted her leg and kicked him in the groin.
She high tailed it out of there. She ran through alley after alley until she came to a semi-busy street. Her legs carried her farther down the street. For all she knew she was still in Le Beau territory, a place she did not want to be. There was no doubt in her mind in her mind that the gang was following her. She had a short head start for all that she was on foot. She spared a glance behind her. There was no sign of the car from before or any of the gang members she would recognize. All of the sudden the side of her head the mugger had hit rammed into something solid. She winced.
"I'm so sorry, are you all right?" the guy asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine, it's just- you have I hard back." She said with a chuckle.
He laughed as well, rubbing his back. "Yeah, well you have a hard head." He knelt down beside her. "I'm Jack by the way." He offered her his hand to shake.
"Clarissa," She said with a smile.
"Don't tell me you're running away too?"
"No, not from home, at least. Is that what you're doing?"
He helped her stand up. "Yeah, family problems, ya know? I figure I'll get a job and work my way to America or any where really."
"How old are you?"
"Same, but I'm not running away. Life with my mom isn't perfect but," she sighed, "it's better than the alternative."
"Ah, so you understand." He said with a light smile. "Paris, the city of lights, the city that everyone dreams of coming to and all I want is to escape it."
Iknowthefeeling,she thought as she spared a glance behind them at the street. The car from before was slowly cruising down the street avoiding pedestrians. She cursed under her breathe. "Let's go this way," she said pulling him into an alley and into the small path between the buildings on either street. They exited the darkness and found themselves on a well lit street.
"What's wrong?" he asked when they'd finally slowed down enough to blend in with the average members of the crowd.
"Oh, nothing, I just thought you'd enjoy a little adventure. I love exploring Paris at night. Everything is different, all lit up. No one has anywhere to go. It's all so relaxing."
He seemed to buy her answer for the time being. "So, what about your dad?"
She stopped and he passed her up. Did he know? Could he have figured out? No, that was stupid, they'd just met and she hadn't even told him her last name. "What about him?"
"I mean, earlier you were saying that life with your mom wasn't the greatest but you didn't mention your father."
"Oh. I haven't seen him since the divorce." It wasn't a total lie. She hadn't actually seen him since she was six and her mom had won custody of her. She had seen his name on the television- so much that she'd told her mother they should change their names or move away from Paris. But her mother's business was in Paris and it was under her current name. "That was eight years ago and from what I remember he didn't hang around with the nicest people."
For a while they let the flood of people carry them away. Jack tried to make her feel better by telling her stupid jokes and stories about his childhood but she couldn't stop looking over her shoulder.
"What are you so nervous about; I thought you weren't running away?
By now the crowds had dwindled down and they had turned on to another abandoned street. She had just turned back around to face where they were going when she caught sight of them. There were more than twice as many of than before when she'd been alone.
"Run," she whispered pushing him back.
"Trust me, just go, they don't want you."
He didn't even budge. In fact he froze on the spot as she walked forward. The man at the front smiled at her. "Hello, Clarissa."
"Sorry, Clary." The guy from before, Benjamin, whispered softly.
"Why are you sorry? She is coming home at last. Her father would be happy to see her return to the fold." She knew him, he was her father's second. She glanced back over her shoulder.
"Jack, run!" she whispered hoarsely not hiding her fear but it was too late.
They had been followed. More men walked up behind Jack and one of them put their hand on his shoulder. "What should we do we do about this one?" He asked.
"I don't care. Put him out of his misery, I guess. The boss didn't say what to do about any others but he was very clear about you, Ms. Le Beau." The leader had stepped all the way up to Clarissa. His eyes conveyed a message beyond his words that made her fee cold down to her bones.
"No." She was on the verge of tears. Her mother had spent ten years trying to save her from her father but now it was almost over.
"Sir, the boy."
That jolted her awake, Jack didn't deserve to die because he'd hung out with her. She punched the jaw and turned around. Grabbing Jack's arm she raced away, crossing the street. A bullet whizzed past her but her legs only moved faster.
"No! Hold your fire, the boss wants her alive and unharmed!" The leader yelled to his lackeys.
"What about the boy?"
"They're too close now; you can't risk the shot hitting her."
She took them back into the alleys and off the main roads. If she could keep out of sight maybe Jack would be safe. Once she was sure they were far enough away she let herself relax and sneak a peek into the empty street. She didn't see anyone but that didn't mean much; they were still in Le Beau territory.
"Who were those guys? Why were they going to shot me?"
"It wasn't about you, it was about me."
"What was all that about your dad?"
"Remember how I said my dad hung around with the wrong people? Those were them. I have I feeling his been watching me for a while now. He probably them to take tonight after- when I left the train station."
"Why? Why not go to court to get custody?"
"He tried once," she said looking back. "As you can see he lost."
She paused for a moment and he was able to catch up to her. "What time is it anyway?" he asked with a yawn.
"Close to four, come on, I know a safe place where you can sleep." She led back into the open. "There's a park up this way, they won't think to look there for us."
They crossed the park walking past a deserted playground. The whole park was deserted, actually, and it gave Jack the creeps. Eventually they came to the central pathway, a road lined with benches and that was just wide enough for maintenance carts. Bare trees sat behind the benches, thrusting their skeleton limbs into the greying sky. Not far down the road a dead fountain topped with a stone angel stood in the middle of a small round-about.
"Get some rest that is what you want, right?" Clarissa said sitting on the rim of the fountain.
She could almost see the ripples even though there was no water in the fountain. In her memory there was the reflection of a little girl around five years old, smiling and oh so innocent. It was almost like she was there again like eight years of truth hadn't made this day bitter.
An older man walks up behind her, his reflection showing him trying to sneak up on her mimicking a monster. The girl giggles and turns around. "Daddy you're so silly." Her father starts laughing with her. Just a normal day. And then the police came.
"Mr. Le Beau, you are under arrest for kidnapping." The officer says putting the handcuffs on the mam's wrists. The man looks past the fountain and shakes his head. The action goes unnoticed.
"Daddy, what's happening?" The girl cries as one of the officers picks her up and carries her away.
That was the last time she'd seen her father in person. The next thing Clarissa knew she was back in her mother's custody and, as she found out later, she should have been with her mother for at least a month before they found her. Her father got off easy and that had been the only thing they'd caught him for.
Clarissa turned back to Jack. He had curled up on one of the benches and had fallen asleep. How could she explain all this to him? He was already losing faith in her. With the peace of sleep on his face he almost looked too young to be 14. She sighed. The whole thing was getting too complicated.
'You're just like your father," stated a bland male voice.
In a second Clarissa was on her feet ready to run and lead them away. Panic clouded her mind as her heart hammered painfully against her ribs. Then from behind the silhouette of the fountain she saw a man in an old fedora hat. She took a deep breath to calm herself.
"Oh, it's you." She said sitting back down.
"Be careful or I might be convinced to forget about your little bribes and tell my bosses the truth about you." The man said.
"As if, you enjoy the extra money and besides, what would your bosses say when they found that the little girl you were supposed to be trailing bought you out?"
"You have a point there. Still, what do you play to do about the boy?" He nodded at Jack. "After all he must be questioning you."
"I just met him tonight but then again you already knew that," she said with a long sigh.
"Yes, I know. What I meant was, after what just happened how can you expect him to trust you?"
"You saw all that? You were there during ll that and you just watched?"
"I was under orders." He said with a shrug.
She growled and balled her hands into fists. Yeahright,ordersnottointerveneiftheLeBeauGangevercameformejustincasethere'sachanceitcausesgoodthingsforyourbosses.Jerk, she thought. Then her mind returned to Jack.
"Look I need a favor." Clarissa pulled off her hat. Under the bill the stitching had come lose and she had wedged a small wade of bills inside the makeshift pocket. She held them up. "I know you'll follow us anyway, so if we do get caught I want you to wait until Jack comes out and then I want you to take him anywhere he wants."
"I'm not a free taxi service, I'm an investigator."
"Do you not see this?" She held the money out further. "This is twice as much as usual. You want it or not? I could give it to Jack in case of an emergency."
"I'll take it." He stated blandly. "Since its possible this could be our last transaction and, yes, I'll take care of the boy."
"Good," she tossed the cash to him. He nodded and disappeared knowing that it was more dangerous to been seen with Clarissa. She slipped her hat back on. Apart of her wished for the peace of sleep like Jack but every nerve in her body was on edge. They were coming, she knew it.
Time passed and she moved to a bench. She tried getting comfortable, to curl up sleep like Jack. In the end she just sat there like one might do in the middle of the day, just feeding the birds. Suddenly there was a hand on her shoulder, her mouth fell open and a hand cme to cover it. She looked over her shoulder with a glare. Then she looked at Jack, another man was standing over him. The two men carried them to a car. Clarissa was thrown in the back seat and Jack in the trunk.
"Alive and unharmed," one man said when he closed the door behind her.
The car sped off. Clarissa tried to sit up a couple of times but the car would swerve and she would fall back down so she contented herself with lying on her back on the seat. From her position she could see the first rays of the dawn turning the sky a sickly grey. She gave a small bitter laugh. The trains would start running again soon. She thought about the money in her pocket. On a normal night she would be heading back now. She guessed her mom would notice now.
The car finally stopped. Clarissa was still gazing longingly at the sky when the men grabbed her. She looked at Jack as they were half dragged into the alley. He looked sick and a little bit banged up from the car ride. I'm sorry. She mouthed. He didn't respond and she regretted dragging him into this.
The group gathered in the alley was small, the gang leaders and security, Clarissa guessed. Just in case we run, Dad?Or are you just going to kill Jack and be done with it? She went over the possibility of getting Jack out alive. It was looking pretty slim at the moment even with the P.I. waiting for him somewhere. She wondered how long the man would wait fopr Jack before he left to tell his bosses the news.
She kept her head down after that praying the bill of her hat would keep her face hidden. Then a pale hand tipped it off her head and let it fall to the ground. She kept her eyes on the hole she'd created under the bill, the one where she hid her bribes for the P.I. She didn't want to see the man's face or notice his face in her own. To look at his blue eyes and know that he'd given them to her. It was like buying from someone you is a thief, they were cursed to her.
His fingers felt like ice when he tucked a stray braid behind her ear and then trailed down her cheek to tip her head up at him. He smiled warmly at her. "Hello, Clarissa. Welcome home, it's been too long since you've been here." He said warmly even with his cold fingers on her chin. He dropped his hand and turned around. "I'm naming Clarissa my heir no matter what you say, Luke."
"I won't except that, we've been working together all these years and now your going to look me over for some brat." His second, Luke, said.
"She's not a brat, she's my daughter. All along she has been my heir by blood, now I'm simply making it official. If you feel I have wronged you we can settle that later. For now we have other matters," he turned to face Jack. "What do with you?"
Fear mixed with adrenaline pumped through her veins. "Daddy, wait!" Her father's eyes turned to her. "Let him go. He won't say anything about this; he doesn't even know who to tell about this. Look, if you let him go I'll do whatever you want. I'm old enough now to go to the courts and say I don't want to live with mom anymore. Just please let him go."
Her father weighed her words. She'd given him away to legally take her back and stamped it with her consent. His eyes looked past her calculating the possibilities of what she'd proposed. He scratched his head and ran his hand through his cinnamon colored hair.
"Think of it as a welcome home present for your heir." She added.
Her father smiled. Those words had tipped the scales in her favor then and there. "Let the boy go, Horace."
"He'll need some money for the train home, I have the right amount." She walked over quickly and gave him the cash mouthing "go!"
He looked at her gulped and ran.
His legs carried him down the road. Ahead of him he could see early commuters on their ways to work. Apart of him was still scared that the man, Clarissa's father would change his mind and send those other guys after him. Just as he was about to cross an intersection a car stopped in front of him and stopped. The window rolled down revealing a gruff man in fedora hat.
"Get in kid," he growled.
"Who are you? Are you with..?" Jack started to ask backing away.
"The Le Beau gang, not at all. I'm a pal of Clarissa; she paid a good deal for me to help you out." Jack hesitated but pulled open the door anyway and got inside. "Where to kid?"
Clarissa watched Jack's retreating form as he ran away. Her father laughed. She looked back at him. Martin Le Beau was a cold man with wealth to drown a third world country. This was her life now; she'd sold him her soul for Jack's freedom.
"I'm not going to accept this, Martin." Luke yelled.
That brought her back to her current predicament. "Well then, let's fix that shall we." No subordinate called him Martin, ever. Her father took something from Horace and walked to her twisting something, a silencer. Two more men flanked Luke hold him in place. He placed the gun in her hand and stepped behind her. The gun was heavy and awkward in her hands. Her father's hands wrapped around her hands and around the gun. "Let's settle this, Clary. Welcome to your new life." He brought their arms up and tapped her finger. She squeezed.