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14 October 2013 @ 10:17 pm
Chapter 65: The Art of Avenging  

A/N: Since I have more time on my hands, here we go. Early update for you all. I'm taking some artistic license with the form of the legal proceedings here; this isn't a normal trial after all.

To the Guest reviewing: Thanks much! I'm glad you picked up on Eponine's tentativeness with regard to Enjolras' intentions, or at least her perceptions of them; it is something they will have to deal with especially as their relationship takes on more public ramifications.

Trigger warning here for a reference to child abuse.

Chapter 65: The Art of Avenging

"It all comes down to vengeance and scandal. That is what will pack the galleries today."

Enjolras' eyes narrowed at Grantaire's remark. "To be more to the point they are here for a reckoning. This will finally put an end to a protracted inquiry."

"Curiosity does not lead to fury, but more likely to Tartarus," Grantaire replied, gesturing towards a window with a view of the agitated crowd milling about outside the doors of the Palais de Justice. "Vengeance is applicable for today's trial since people still remember that Magnon is connected to the incidents prior to the elections. Scandal is more fitting for this Friday."

"You speak as if you did not receive summons as well for these cases," Enjolras pointed out.

Grantaire gave him a lopsided grin. "I would only consider my testimony superfluous if we could have judges as astute as Apollo and Athena, and a defendant as besieged as Orestes." He pulled a folded newspaper out of his coat and shook it out to display a caricature of Magnon being led to the guillotine by a nubile Marianne. "See this very sorry rendering; the lines do not hold true here."

"An understatement," Enjolras said disapprovingly. "Magnon is only one link in this chain; his employers are still being sought out."

"A chain which goes back to Louis-Philippe?" Grantaire laughed.

"That cannot be ascertained," Enjolras replied. 'The root of this matter may lie with more than the Orleanists,' he thought as he heard a hubbub from the crowd downstairs; someone had just opened the doors to the public. "We must proceed to the waiting rooms; you remember that the witnesses may not hear the testimonies preceding theirs, hence this temporary seclusion."

"An interminable bore; did you know that there are at least twelve witnesses called for the prosecution alone? Aside from us, Feuilly, Bahorel, Blanchard, Stendhal, and Alain Foulon, there are apparently some others who used to work with Magnon and were prevailed upon to give a word or two," Grantaire said, crossing his arms. "I shall find my feet rooted to the moldy flooring."

"All the same this is a necessary business, and the sooner concluded, the better. Much will hinge on your testimony," Enjolras said, clasping Grantaire's shoulder briefly before leaving the room. 'His sobriety could not have been better timed,' he thought as he made his way to a small chamber two doors down from where he and Grantaire had been conversing.

Judging by the light, it had to be just past nine in the morning; the trial was slated to start at ten. 'Nevertheless it is likely that the verdict will be pronounced after sundown,' he realized as he was showed into the room and directed to take a seat. The room he was assigned to was a warm and windowless cell; the only furnishings were a rickety chair and an equally wobbly desk. A dust covered lamp served as the sole source of illumination. 'Even if I brought anything to read, I would not be able to work on it extensively,' he surmised. In keeping with the revised procedures of the courts, he had not brought any documents, papers, or even his pocketbook since any of these items could easily be construed as contraband. Of course this had the added effect of putting much of his day to waste, a prospect which already grated on him. Not even his constant mental review of his testimony with regard to Magnon's crimes did much to alleviate his irritation.

The truth was that the mere idea of another face to face encounter with Magnon filled Enjolras with a disgust deeper than any distaste he had previously felt for Grantaire, or if he wanted to stretch the point, his current revulsion towards Thenardier. 'He is more than an assassin; he's a murderer of innocents and a danger to the State,' the young man thought grimly as he sat back in his chair. Fifteen civilians had perished in the Notre Dame assault alone; surely this was not the only instance wherein Magnon had been directly or indirectly responsible for shedding blood. Then there was the matter of the coded missives that he and his friends had intercepted at various times, clearly part of an insidious network extending from border to border. Somehow Magnon's capture had interrupted this chain, owing to the fact that since then there had been no reports of suspicious activity in various cities and provinces. Yet for how long?

In the middle of his reverie he suddenly heard the slight creak of the door opening, and he got to his feet in time to see Eponine stepping into the cell. She smiled impishly at him as she silently shut the door behind her. "It's already afternoon, didn't you know that?" she greeted.

"You're not supposed to be here," he said in a low voice as he took her arm. He knew there had been policemen and guards standing watch throughout the vicinity of the Palais de Justice. What if one of them had seen her?

"I know my way about, don't you worry," she replied even as she tossed her hat and her gloves on the desk. The dim light cast a warm glow over her face, making her cheeks seem more flushed than usual and bringing out even more the vivacious spark in her dark eyes. She was wearing a new red dress that she accented with a tricolor ribbon. Somehow Enjolras found that he could not easily avert his gaze or even come up with a response to her nonchalant words.

She laughed, clearly realizing that she had him speechless. "I also know you haven't had much to eat since before dawn so I brought you something. I've already eaten, so don't you ask about that," she added more convivially, pulling two small rolls of bread and a flask out of her coat pockets.

"Thank you," he said, realizing now how dry his throat really was. He was certain that the flask only contained water, so he drank down more than half of its contents quickly. "Aren't you needed at the Rue des Macons today?" he asked when he could speak more easily.

Eponine rolled her eyes. "Would you believe it? Emile never told Odette that he had to do with this case. She found out this morning, they had a row, I had to finish some of his work and that was all before she said we had to go here to make sure he didn't do mischief to himself. She's probably screeching at him now someplace outside the courtroom."

Enjolras smirked at the comic scenario Eponine's words depicted. "There might still be some seats in the gallery. You ought to find them as soon as you can."

She shook her head. "Not just yet. Don't you want to know what's happening?"

"I'm not supposed to know what they are saying in the testimonies prior to mine," he pointed out.

"It's a silly rule I think; you would find out eventually one way or another. I couldn't tell you all the exact words anyway," she retorted. "The journalists are talking about this huge plot Citizen Magnon was in, and some position promised to him by some émigré in England. Then someone wanted to make trouble in Verdun, but I s'pose it never happened because the message never got there and there were agents who had been watching carefully."

"That will do," he said. He motioned for her to be silent as the sound of conversation swept through the hallway, but all the same they went to the corner furthest away from the door. "Keep your head down. If Citizen Magnon sees you, he could very well say something," he warned her.

She bit her lip as she eyed him sceptically. "I'll be far away from where he's sitting."

"It's not a particularly big room; it's smaller than the assembly hall at the Hotel de Ville."

"Ah, well then! And what about you? You'll have to face him and I know you don't like it," she said, cradling his chin in her hands before she brushed her lips against his jaw.

"I'll manage. You shouldn't worry." He kissed her by way of reassurance, letting her bring her fingers up to tangle in his hair the way she'd taken to doing lately. Her lips parted gently under his, prompting him to hold her more tightly against him and bring his hands down to just above her hips. The sight and feel of her were intoxicating as always, but this time their closeness was mingled with the trepidation of being on the crux of something dangerous. It was this foreboding that he dearly hoped to banish for both of them, at least for the time being especially when there was so much at stake. It seemed as if she was of the same mind, judging by how she pressed light yet ardent kisses to his face and neck, pausing at times to let him capture her lips again, each kiss needier than the last. They only pulled away from each other when they heard the door in the adjacent room clatter open; the witness staying there was being escorted now to the courtroom.

Eponine caught her breath before she tugged on his hair affectionately. "I should go now; it will be your turn there in a while," she said with a confident grin before quickly donning her hat and then her gloves.

"Perhaps." He saw that Eponine's left glove was still askew, especially over her twisted fingers. He deftly took her hand such that their palms were touching and tugged the glove snugly past her fingertips, even as he heard her breath catch at this gesture. "Later, after the trial?" he asked as he let go of her hand.

She nodded gratefully before kissing him hard. "I'll see you then," she whispered against his mouth before she let herself out of the room.

Enjolras ran his hands through his hair and straightened out his cravat in an attempt to achieve some semblance of propriety before sitting down to finish the remainder of his meagre repast. It only seemed as if a few minutes had passed until the door opened again, this time admitting a policeman who was tasked to escort him to the actual proceedings.

A casual observer might have said that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the veneer of this courtroom. Enjolras, being an attorney, was quick to note the furrowed brows of both the defense counsel as well as the counsel for the prosecution, an elderly attorney designated as the 'state representative'; a necessary but provisional title given that this was a high crime in question and not a matter for a mere district court. He also noticed the temerity of the jurors seated off to one side, as if they were unable to look in the face the accused sitting between four armed gendarmes. This was in contrast to the furious hubbub and murmuring from the periphery and galleries, as if confirming Grantaire's observations of several hours ago. Only the judge, a former professor of his, seemed even remotely impassive. Although it was usual practice to show the witnesses out after they gave their testimonies, he saw that Feuilly, Bahorel, Grantaire, Blanchard, Emile Stendhal, Foulon, and all the other witnesses were still in the hall. Much to Enjolras' amazement, one unlooked for face was in this line: the bookshop owner Gustave Ravigard.

Yet despite the piercing, almost hot light from the new lamps all around the room, it still seemed as if an oppressive shade loomed where Olivier Magnon was seated. The accused was sitting up, his back ramrod straight and his head unbowed despite a livid bruise on his left jaw. He was wearing a neat striped smock and a dark blue cap. These marks of prison did not diminish the hard glittering venom of Magnon's eyes watching every person in the courtroom, especially the latest arrival. "How disorderly!" the assassin sneered, shaking his head.

Enjolras raised an eyebrow at this jibe, at least till he saw the presiding judge's eyes narrow at him. He saw Bahorel and Grantaire failing to hide their overly amused looks, while Feuilly quickly gestured to the angle of his jaw. Enjolras could feel heat rising up his neck and threatening to creep up towards his ears as it dawned on him what everyone was seeing on his skin. 'Of all times for Eponine to come in with ink stained fingers,' he thought, gritting his teeth and smoothing out his cravat over the ink stains before turning to the official presiding over the oath that would begin his testimony. A quick glance towards the galleries was enough for him to locate Courfeyrac, Eponine, Marius, Leonor, and Odette; he already knew that most of their other friends would still be at work since this was still the middle of the week.

The judge nodded to Enjolras. "A great deal has already been said, Citizen, with regard to the dealings of the accused. Recall, Citizen, and then state briefly what you have personally witnessed of this accused man's doings and his communications."

Enjolras met Magnon's challenging expression for a brief second before turning to address the court. "It begins with a letter, delivered on the twelfth of January," he said. He detailed the nature of Magnon's cryptic missive series as well as the codes hidden in Ravigard's books and the documents that Emile and Marius had translated on various occasions. As he moved on to the events at Notre Dame, the attack at the Rue des Macons, the incident at the Lafontaines' soiree, and concluded with the rescue of Blanchard, he noticed how Magnon's eyes grew brighter and how at some points the beginnings of a sneer tugged at the corners of his dry lips. This was in dire contrast to the increasingly perturbed look on the faces of the presiding judge, the jury, and much of the gallery. In fact even Ravigard paled visibly and wiped at his face, his lips moving as if he was murmuring a prayer for forgiveness.

The judge rubbed his temples as Enjolras finished his testimony. "Are there any questions?" he asked, eyeing the counsels for the prosecution as well as for the defense.

"He's forgotten a few things here and there," Magnon laughed, slamming one hand on the chair. "Citizen Enjolras, why don't you tell them what I told you at La Force?"

Enjolras glared at the accused. "That is irrelevant to this case."

"It is relevant. Don't you lawyers enjoy motives?" Magnon mocked. "My motives are already well known to the court, what about yours?" He chortled at the stunned expression this elicited from his reluctant counsel. "Aren't you going to cross examine him about those?"

"The accused is ordered to comport himself properly and leave the cross-examining to the appropriate parties," the judge snapped.

Magnon eyed the judge contemptuously. "I demand freedom of expression!"

"I demand that due process continue," Enjolras retorted. He nodded to the counsels. "Please proceed with your cross examination."

The state representative tugged at his cravat before beginning a cursory cross-examination, followed by the even more perfunctory questioning from the defence. The revulsion and horror that had been a mere undercurrent at the beginning of the hour was now almost palpable; this and the increasing slant of the afternoon sunlight in the windows only gave more impetus to finish the proceedings as quickly as possible. After the close of twenty minutes, the presiding judge told Enjolras to take his seat with the other witnesses while the counsels prepared to present their pleas concerning the case.

Bahorel whistled at his friend. "Marble versus poison there! How could you withstand it?"

"I am convinced after today that this Magnon is a demon," Stendhal chimed in, crossing himself.

"This is not the time for superstition, Stendhal. I thought you were a man of science!" Bahorel said.

"He will indict himself for what he is soon enough," Enjolras replied, motioning for them to quiet down. 'What will he say in his defense?' he wondered, seeing the defendant giving them all another challenging look. There was nothing in Magnon's countenance that suggested he would insist on his innocence or at the very least ask for clemency; it was not even the state of a man resigned to his fate, but rather one insistent on spitting on it.

The poor defense attorney spoke up first, albeit reluctantly, citing the existence of a grand conspiracy which clearly the accused could not have been the sole author of. The true root of the matter lay with individuals who were not on French soil; therefore it would be more appropriate to turn there for answers instead of letting the full brunt of punishment fall on Magnon. There was no denying that he had a part to play in some deadly schemes, but he was not personally present at the scene of any murders. He had been involved in assault and burglary, and certainly these would necessitate penalty but only to the extent currently provided in the law. He finished his speech by entreating the jury to consider a sentence commensurate with the crimes against property and person, and to refrain from exacting the penalty for the crimes of conspiracy against the government as well as treason.

There was no need to pronounce the word 'death'; it was present in the minds of many. Enjolras himself looked down, aware that he too was being watched owing to his recent work within the legislation. 'He may have to remain alive so that he can unravel this mystery,' he thought. Nevertheless there was already a punishment outlined in the law, one that was there for the continued safety of the majority. Which end was to prevail?

Within a minute, the vitriolic state representative began his address, going so far at the onset to demand that his colleague state the facts for what they really were: Olivier Magnon was a traitor, conspirator, murderer, assassin and robber. He returned to France for the express purpose of toppling the government and he was not sparing with regard to the means of bringing this about. There was nothing mitigating in the circumstances of his deeds; he had entered into all of them willingly and had even gone so far as to embroil otherwise simple people in his plans. He had not only murdered but had also unsettled an entire populace and very nearly disrupted legitimate proceedings. He had only burgled because he could not kill, and had assaulted an upstanding lawyer for no particular purpose other than the act of killing. This was not explained by lunacy, extreme need, or any sort of duress; this was the mark of a malevolent individual. Therefore was the state representative's recommendation, citing the interest of the general good, that this Magnon be 'removed as threat' at the soonest possible time.

The judge had to raise his hands for order before too much noise could spread across the court. "What do you have to say to add to your defense?" he asked Magnon.

Magnon fixed the judge with a look. "I do not deny any of it. I must say, I do not understand why I am the one on trial here when I know that nearly all of the gentlemen who have testified against me have also killed with their own hands, have perjured and cheated and stolen all in the name of a revolution, and have taken on the additional crime of usurping legitimate authority. Shouldn't there be a trial for them, and not for someone who was merely ending a long exile on distant shores? This is a miscarriage of justice. Or are you so incapable of protecting your own that you would easily shoot at your own shadows?"

"Citizen-"the judge began.

"Didn't you ask for my reply?" Magnon asked. "Your Republic will sentence me as you will, but your characters are already registered in history. I am sure that if I had stopped only at letters, none of us would be here. It is only because I have threatened your lives that you take action; that shows you all to be an entire lot of cowards. So there is no matter of principle here, no question of your vaunted Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, but only that of survival."

"Citizen, it is imperative you return to the point immediately," the judge growled.

"I will; in fact I have a good many of them," Magnon said. His gaze turned to the witnesses. "I would have treated you well, Ravigard. Tell me, what sum did they give you to speak against me? Don't pretend to be brave, Stendhal. You're a milksop and the last pebble in the rockslide. Foulon, you are a thief of my papers; my breaking your arm was the least you deserved!"

These men went livid with these accusations; in fact Emile had to be restrained by his neighbours before he could launch himself at Magnon. The defendant gave them a toothy smile before training his eye on the rest of the group, adopting the manner of a condescending academic. "Bahorel, you are nothing but a keg of hot air in the department; with someone of your academic record and credentials I am amazed you have managed to find decent employment-wood louse and parasite that you are. Feuilly, oh you poor orphan; my dear cousin told me who you are. An overgrown gamin from the docks of Marseilles. So who is it you fight for? This Republic? Maybe it is because you could not save yourself or your brothers from being bent over the piers night after night with a club to your back-"

Feuilly cursed in Occitan while Bahorel would have flung a pen at the defendant if the gendarmes had not intervened to put Magnon back into his seat. "Have you anything pertinent to add, Citizen Magnon?" the judge finally asked sternly.

"Not for your purposes, Monsieur."

"Then the jury will decide on the verdict."

At these words a restless murmur began in the crowd; with such an impudent reply there was no doubt that a mere civil penalty was now out of the question. Enjolras could see his friends in the galleries conferring among themselves, perhaps wondering if the jury would really go as far as sentencing Magnon to death or the bagne. He also noticed Emile's knowing, almost smug look; this was certainly what the young man meant as an exception to the principle. How many other persons were also of the same mind?

Shortly after this the jury handed down its decision, to be officially read out by the judge. "The jury unanimously agrees that the defendant Olivier Magnon is guilty of these crimes: conspiring with émigrés and agents to destabilize the government, fifteen counts of murder, five counts of assault, and one count of burglary. He will serve the sentence of a convict for life -"

A shout came from where Magnon had been seated; he had somehow overpowered one guard and had drawn a sort of blade from his boot. Before anyone could stay his hand he sprang forward and flung this knife at Ravigard, striking him in his shoulder. Amid the shrieks and exclamations from the galleries, three gunshots rang out from the rear of the hall, throwing the assembly into pandemonium.

Enjolras quickly glanced to where Foulon was directing some bystanders with caring for Ravigard, who was almost insensible with pain. Bahorel was already with a group of men fighting their way towards the rear of the hall. Feuilly and Grantaire were among those trying to help the spectators vacate the premises. The gallery was a scene of chaos; people were pushing towards the exits and a few had even taken the risk of climbing over the railings to reach the floor. As Enjolras ran towards where a commotion was starting near one of the doorways, he heard some furniture clattering to his left. He turned in time to evade Magnon lunging at him, brandishing a longer, bloodstained knife. Enjolras quickly dealt a fouette to his attacker's face, knocking him to the floor. He then swiftly grabbed the knife that Magnon dropped and held it away from the assassin's grasping fingers.

Magnon's bleeding lips were twisted in a sneer as his gaze travelled from the weapon to its wielder. "Do it then. You know it would be in self defence."

Enjolras stared at the assassin for a long moment, taking in the bloody visage that was in dire counterpoint to an unrepentant, glittering gaze. It was clear now what had to be done. He threw the knife behind him and then pushed Magnon down so that the assassin was on his face and then twisted his right arm behind his back. He dug his knee between Magnon's shoulder blades for added leverage, effectively impeding the man's attempts to get to his feet.

Enjolras looked up at the sound of footsteps and finally caught sight of Eponine, Courfeyrac, and a few gendarmes hurrying over. "Tie up this man and bring him back to La Force," he instructed the gendarmes. "He may as well start serving his sentence there."