(Inspired by the work of Laurent Kronental, in particular this photograph)
Dregs. Scum. Rabble. Undesirables. Canailles.
Guillaume hated them all with a dour passion. His hatred had not made him become a gendarme, but it had kept him one through the subsequent years of thankless state service. When he achieved the rank of Inspecteur, he paid lip service to the notion of going after the power behind the streets – the organised criminal hierarchies who played the common thugs like marionettes – but such idealistic claims were far removed from his real aims. In short, he wanted to lock up every single clochard and malfrat he could get his hands on. It was they who he blamed for sullying the alleys and boulevards of his once-spotless locality. It was they who would draw the full force of his ire.
Glumly mulling over such feelings, Inspector Guillaume Ouvrier was unaware that the thoughts of loathing had painted an expression of sneering disgust across his face. Thus, any passers-by who walked past the towering flats and happened to look up through the second floor window would catch a glimpse of a most intimidating visage. Ouvrier was pushing sixty, and his work had aged his features so that he looked at least a decade older, but he wore a fearsome countenance underneath his dark brown fedora with its thick black hatband. His messy mop of white hair was just visible around the tips of his ears, and though eternally clean-shaven he had the craggy, lined face of an old sea dog. Though blessed with big blue eyes, his permanent squint of disdain lessened their attractiveness quite a bit. To call his demeanour ‘frosty’ would be akin to describing the Antarctic as ‘cool’.
The dull-witted Lieutenant Student rushed back into the living room, as if burdened with explosive news, but Ouvrier knew the rookie well enough at this stage to know that this was simply down to the naive officer’s inability to discern information that was useful from that which was useless. Snapping to attention – as if on the parade ground, noted Ouvrier derisively – he began to speak, before being immediately interrupted by his superior.
“Sir, I’ve just-”
“I’m sure you have, garçon. Any chance at all that whatever-it-is that you have just done has any bearing whatsoever on our case?”
Mouth agape, eyes wide, cheeks blushing… The inexperience – or was it incompetence? – was writ large on the youngster’s face.
“GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!”
With his superior’s roar hot on his heels, the Lieutenant Student fled, cursing once more his misfortune in being seconded to this crazed detective.
Inspecteur Ouvrier turned back to the window, resuming his rumination. Though barely taking in all that was before him, he nonetheless gazed out over sights of utter magnificence. These buildings were architecturally daring, inspired by visions of the future that were extraordinary in their originality, and fearless in the unbound nature of their construction. Even the parks weaved around as if designed to mimic the rolling waves of the sea, while the apartment blocks surrounding them resembled grand cruise-liners from the age of steam. Futuristic novelty was everywhere, and yet…and yet…
Yet the inhabitants looked more like him; old, cantankerous, grizzled, aching. Nouveau et ancien. You would think that it would be the young, the bohemian, the artistic, the energetic…that those would be the ones drawn to such a unique environment. Mais non. The elderly and the frightened came to live here…because, in this district, they could depend on the police to uphold law and order with an iron fist. An iron fist that, in the case of Inspecteurs like Ouvrier, meant zero tolerance towards anyone who disturbed the peace.
Given that all the residents in the Victoire apartment block had been discovered dead that grey morning, it was fair to say that Guillaume Ouvrier’s peace was now thoroughly disturbed.
Solidarité, fréres et soeurs…