Copyright 2012 by G Johanson
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CHAPTER ONE – GUILLOTINES AND GROTESQUES
There was a certain irony in Paul Frere’s desperation to cling onto life. Looking back at his life it could only be considered a wretched existence, at best. Born into a deprived family in one of the worst tenements in Calais, a life of crime had seemed his only option if he wanted to survive. Another irony was that choosing this life now ended it. A habitual thief, he got lucky to start with and on the rare occasions he was caught (and his ratio was decent, Paul getting away with around 80 robberies without getting apprehended) he was sentenced to brief to moderate spells in local prisons. When his luck ran out and he was sent to Devil’s Island he still didn’t learn and attempted to escape and served two years in isolation that almost sent him insane. That he held onto his sanity in that time was probably his greatest achievement in a wasted life. The guards and the system along with the other inmates all seemed determined to send him over the edge and he didn’t break. He served his time in solitary confinement and when he was returned to general population he seized his opportunity to escape again. When a guard tried to stop him he assaulted him; he was prepared to kill him to get away, anything to prevent being sent back to solitary for another two years. He didn’t kill him; the scuffle was in fact a non-event, with the guard more than holding his own, the pair evenly matched, and assistance quickly arrived and subdued Paul using more force than was strictly necessary. Back in his cell he was in a far worse state than the guard yet the fact he had raised a hand to an officer sealed his fate. Life was finite, and Paul had always known this, yet now that he knew the date and manner of his death he grew mawkish and emotional, recalling small wooden toys his grandfather had fashioned for him for Christmas, the paleness of Elodie’s thighs, each memory a reason to try and survive, to store more happy memories to see him through the bad times.