The Education Of Delhomme(historical fiction) Release date: November 17, 2020 at History Through Fiction 280 pages Goodreads
Spy. What a stupid, lethal choice. Now I sit shivering on the mud floor of a crowded cell with four walls and a black door. Five other men stare blankly into space. A sixth sticks his hands out the window and cries for food from passersby—anything to stop the hunger—coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, shriveled berries, cheese rinds.
The noxious stench from their unwashed bodies and buckets of excrement numbs the nostrils. The Seine threatens to overflow from snow and rain. But what does it all matter? I am days, likely hours, away from the guillotine. “I am innocent!” I say to the others. But no one listens. No one cares. There are only the sounds of chin-wagging shoppers and clicking horseshoes. The sparse straw is a paltry shield against the cold earth. I stretch the thin blanket from the jailer over my head and face and sit in a corner farthest from the window. Chill winds blow. There will be no January sun today.
Spying was supposed to be a brief stint, something to earn money so I could marry Lili. That delusion has cost me dearly. I want to atone for that. But not with death!
My trial is nigh. I will stand proudly in court, pound my fist, and declare that Vidocq tricked me into joining his detective agency. All to help King Louis Philippe control the masses. I will ask the judge, ‘What truck would I, a lowly piano tuner, have with radicals wanting to kill the king? I care about wood and wire and wonderful music. How does this mean I betrayed the monarchy? Let those who killed innocent people with their muskets and knives go to their death!’ That is what I will say.
Who will come to my defense? Frédéric Chopin would have, but he died three months ago. George Sand is volatile and untrustworthy; I hope she can muster fairness. Even so, I doubt her testimony can undo Vidocq’s devilish words. He will swear I sided with resisters, hobnobbed with radicals, and became a counterspy. Never mind that he lured me with easy money. He is the ruler’s vaunted, powerful toady. Loyalty trumps scruples in this man’s government.
I did everything Vidocq asked of me—reluctantly, I am proud to say now. Then one day, I fed him wrong information on purpose. It was my attempt to fight the domination of those who ignored the suffering of others. Then, Vidocq’s wrath came crashing down. Now here I sit. Accused of treason. Jailed. Condemned.