Monique didn’t meet us in Calais, nor was she in Brussels when I arrived. I even looked for her in Varcarlos – our special meeting place. Her open communications with the Countess had ceased; and my friend Jacques could not find her. I had Jacques re-check his sources in the Bastille. My heart was sinking fast. But, no word came forth.
Maurice joined me at our chalet near Jaca. He was an important edition to our small group, he was well connected and knew the mountains and the southern region, and had been important in our work from Montpellier to Marseille. The people loved his jolly appearance, and ready laugh; but as I knew Maurice, he was an aggressive leader in reestablishing the church.
“Maurice, I am concerned. Nobody has heard from her.”
“I think perhaps Monique is in hiding, yes?” Maurice spoke seven languages, and at any time might launch into one I did not speak. I was glad he was accommodating me with English.
“I don’t know my friend, even the Countess has no word from her.”
“There is a crackdown in Paris, they are searching for the churches, perhaps she is simply helping the people stay one step ahead and is too busy.”
I pulled my torn leather Bible from my coat. “If she is caught with this they will kill her and ask questions later.”
“You worry too much Monsieur Garris, she is fine, just hiding; she wears the Bible.”
“I am afraid something went wrong, things were moving too fast, and Monique can be reckless.”
“Would it help if we went the Paris?”
“I think so, can you get us in?”
“Oui, Monsieur, but we will have to travel to Bordeaux and come into Paris from the West. I have heard that the roads east of Versailles are too hazardous for Christians.”
For two nights we traveled by rail and by coach until we arrived at Courbevoie on the outskirts of the city. Maurice had the address of an apartment along the Seine; and there we found secure shelter supervised by a former priest. We were not the first he had hidden.
I encountered our host on a small landing leading to our room. “Le père, c'est bon de vous à accomodate nous.” I told him how we appreciated the room, but referred to him as father.
“S'il vous plaît, je suis non plus long un prêtre, il n'est pas permis.” He did not want me calling him a priest. “Trop dangereux.” It was simply too dangerous. His face had drawn tensely tight.
“He wants us to call him simply, Pe’, that is how he is known.” Maurice walked into the tiny foyer.
“Me pardonner. Merci pour votre aide.” I backed out my faux pas, and thanked him for his help.
His countenance immediately softened. Maurice spoke with him at length about our urgent need to find a young female Christian. Maurice never used her name, as he did not know the reaction it might make. Pe’ had heard of a Christian woman held by another group not the police or the government.
Maurice looked at me. “It could be.”
I must have appeared anxious. Maurice said, “It will be fine, don’t worry. By the way, the old man likes you, everyone is afraid to call him father anymore, although you surprised him and you reminded him of his calling. God works in many ways my friend.”
Maurice secured more information from Pe’; then the old man left for his own apartment.
“He said, a small hotel at Centre Pompidou. We need to hurry if we want to get there tonight.”
I knew the district well; we had successes and losses with the mix of people on the hill. It would be like Monique to walk into a skirmish there.
We borrowed bicycles and my nightfall we rode into the village, the downhill ride would be much easier. I looked over at my heavier friend; though his cheeks were flushed he seemed to be faring better than me. We neared the hotel; Maurice entered alone and quickly came back out.
“They have taken her out. He believes to Versailles, the clerk thinks they have sold her.”
“Who sold her!” I screamed. I rushed into the lobby of the hotel and grabbed the clerk by the collar. “Who sold her?”
“Pourquoi soignez-vous, monsieur ?”
“Why do I care? I’m her father!”
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