The phone call.
His daughter sounded worried, almost hysterical. She had been crying.
“Is he with you, Dad?”
That was an unusual beginning to a conversation with her. She was always excited to discuss her research; what she'd just learned; or to ask his opinion on something that she’d already sent to him by registered mail, or even by e-mail.
“What’s upsetting you, my dear? Where are you?”
She was still talking twenty to the dozen.
“Is he there? Did he get to you?”
“Slow down, my dear. Did who... get to me?”
“Guillaume, of course. Guillaume.”
First names already?
He sensed her frustration with him.
“De Vaillancourt. Did he reach out to you?”
“Anne!” He had to raise his voice. “Settle down, my love, or we’ll never be able to have a conversation. You are too much like your mother. Now, take a deep breath. Breathe.”
When he sensed that she seemed to have calmed enough to humor him, but knowing that she hadn’t, he continued.
“Yes. A young man with that name came to my door this morning.”
He heard her sigh with relief.
“So he was there. Thank god. What did he say?”
He put the letter aside and picked up that old book again.
“He didn’t say anything to me... not directly. Judson answered the door and got a package and a letter addressed to me, except he’d made a mistake with the house number. Good job my name is on that brass nameplate. That’s the second letter in a month sent to that number...”
“Father!” He almost heard her grinding her teeth.
“What did he want?”
“He left me an old book, with the comment that it was a gift from the author.” He laughed again. “Not likely though. Same name, however, on the book and on the letter. He wants my help to find some place for him in the south of France, but he didn’t seem very specific about it. No name, nothing. 'East of Marseilles, and west or northwest of St. Denis'. (‘I knew I should have toined left at Albuquerque’. He knew his daughter would remember that old cartoon). Pretty vague, I would say. That’s a hell of a big, and hilly area, but nice at this time of year.” His daughter let him talk.
“He came across as being either eccentric, or a little mad, but then aren’t we all?” He laughed, almost a deep-throated guffaw at his attempted humor.
“Only the truly mad, try to claim that they are entirely sane... or have you not noticed that? The sane....
“Father! Dad!” She brought him back down to earth.
At least she was becoming calm, now that she knew he’d been there. That seemed to be a relief for her. He was curious now
“Still here, my dear. How did you know he was coming to see me?”
“He talks in his sleep. And he has the most awful nightmares.”
As well as the most wonderful responses to her calming touch.
Her father sat up straight in his chair. So that man had been in France... and recently... and had spent the night with his daughter? In her bed? He’d better not have...! But, of course, he had... the swine!
He did not ask the more pointed questions he wanted to ask. He needed to stay calm.
“I suppose he could have come over on the early train from Paris. Judson thought he may have been French. Very prescient of him.”
She continued. “He just left here; sometime while I still slept.” She wouldn't tell him the rest of it; how he had still been leaking from her, or that she was now pregnant. No one could know that, this early.
Her voice broke with emotion. “But he shouldn’t have gone without me.” That frustration was coming back into her voice.
“Whoa, girl, whoa. Slow, down. Slow down. So, this Guillaume Justin de Vaillancourt... (a mouthful of a name); how do you know him?”
He almost didn’t want to know.
“We are in love.”
That was it. Straight between the eyes, just like her mother.
He counted slowly to ten
“Was that why you told him your full middle name? Full disclosure?” As between lovers with their heads on the same pillow. But that was not quite the image that came into his mind, unfortunately.
“No. He already knew that name of mine. It... I think he knew what my full middle name was... even before I met him; long before I met him.”
About a thousand years before. From that past life. Almost a thousand years before 'she', had been born.
“He called me by that name, and only by that name soon after we met.”
My Rossignol! But she wouldn’t tell her father that possessive part of it.
She could not trust him to believe even one tenth part of it.
She would say nothing of them visiting Deux Églises, or of them being in that Vault to meet the first Rossignol... speaking to her, or how they’d made love there, standing up for the first Rossignol to see and to feel... still loved, still thought about. And she had that vault key on her key ring. Or about that drawing of her, of both of them.
“Merde!” That was one of her father’s favorite words when he was annoyed or frustrated.
“A bit rushed, wasn’t it? You said nothing of him when you phoned me on Friday morning.”
She never answered. Fathers always thought such things were being rushed. He’d better accept him. She was old enough to know her own mind by now.
“What about him? He was here half an hour ago, then he went. He left me an old book with that name in the front of it. and on his letter, seeking my help. He wanted to meet in a place called Plessy. How in hell he knew I’d bite, I don’t know.”
“So you will go?”
“How could I not? I’ll round up my team and I’ll go.”
“Good.” She sounded relieved.
“Look after that book, Dad. What did he want after that? Tell me more.”
“I can’t. I don’t know any more. However, with that book alone... I think I could be persuaded to meet with him, as he wants. Where the hell did he come across that? Isn’t that the same one you....” He knew it was. “And you say you spent a day with him (a night)?”
“I spent two complete days with him, and three nights. He never left my side.” She did not say ‘why’ it had to be that way, at first.
Oh, lord. It was worse. He’d better let her talk.
“Dad. I’m not sure what to say. Part of me wants to tell you not to help him, but part of me wants you to help him.”
She’d better make up her mind.
“Whatever it is that he wants, help him, Dad, please. Believe everything he tells you because... as impossible as it might sound... it is true, every word of it. He does not lie. Don’t hesitate, and please don’t stand in his way.”
“I didn’t plan on doing so.
“Why does he need my help?” He wanted to hear it from her.
“He plans on putting an end to himself.”
That got his attention. The second or third time in just two minutes.
He hadn’t said that in his letter.
“Hold on.... How do you know that?”
“I know all about him, Dad. And I mean ‘all about him’.”
He was afraid of that.
“He left me a note when he left this morning to catch that early train, but he said nothing of where he was going. I had a feeling he was going to see you."
Yes. He talked in his sleep. He remembered her telling him that.
“He and I... spent all of Friday night, reading that entire document... beginning to end.”
That did not seem believable.
“How? I read some of it before you called. It would take me an entire hour to get through five pages.”
“He read it to me, fluently; easily; as I followed along.”
She wouldn’t tell him about that exact circumstance; reading it as they’d been making love for the ‘nth’ time as she’d sat directly upon him, feeling him in her, and with them both naked, able to feel changes in his body... knowing when to pause to help him come again... though he needed no help for that, with him touching her breasts, pulling her back into him, kissing her neck, and doing everything else too.
She didn’t have to say. He had an imagination.
“He won’t have to kill himself if he hurt you. I’ll kill him myself.”
“He did not hurt me, Father.
“Dad. Listen to me for once. Please listen.”
“Whatever he told you, or tells you, believe him. That book is his history. As impossible as it may seem to you at this moment... he...” She paused up on that.
“It’s his entire history, Dad. It’s all about him.” That might be easier to accept than her telling her father that Guillaume had actually written it himself.
“Can you hear yourself? Hear what you are saying?”
“Do you think I am mad, Father?”
She heard him snort. “You teach under that idiotic head of department, Robespierre, don’t you? and at the Sorbonne; that hotbed of student radicalism, the hangout of future idiots in the French Assembly?” That hive of fornication!
“I rest my case. No, of course I do not think you mad. But, what are you trying to tell me?”
“If you had read that book with us. You’d know. That style of French was his first language.”
"Have you tried to read it?"
"Not at length, but, yes."
"Pick it up... I’ll read it to you, as he read it to me....
She read it easily as he tried to follow along.
“Okay, I’m impressed, so he’s not your regular... whatever he is.”
“Father, he is not. He is from a different time and a different place. Accept it. Don’t question it or you will suspect that I am not the only one, mad." She had another thought. "Damn, I wish I’d recorded it all now....” except for those more intimate moments between readings, and those afterward.
“Help him as much as you can, but please, you must tell me where you are, twice each day. I’m setting out just as soon as I can to join you, but don’t tell him I’m coming, or he may run."
“Why would he run?"
“Because he loves me, Father, just as I love him. More than life itself. Without him I am nothing. Without me, he is truly dead, and he must not die.” She didn’t tell him the rest of it... that she would also not want to live.
“You seem sure of him.”
“I am. Very sure.”
“Okay. I promise to keep you informed every step of the way. We’ll get to Plessy in two days and meet up there. And I am to have no doubts about anything he tells me?”
“You got it. I am looking forward to meeting him, especially after this conversation. I’ll phone you twice a day.”
“Thank you. There is one more thing father, to help persuade you.”
“Yes. What is that?”
I just sent you an e-mail. My first slide of that Document in St. Denis. He signed it with that name, and placed his family crest upon it. In addition, his thumbprint is there, in ink. I'll send you another thumbprint, in blood.
“Look at it carefully and compare this thumbprint, in blood, that he left on some wrappings three days ago when I first tended to his wound on his arm. Apart from obvious scarring, they are fully identical, more than the needed points of comparison. The signature in that book and on the letters he left for us both, are identical too.
"I must go and let my head of Department know that I’m leaving before the end of term.
“Bye... I love you, Dad”
She hung up before he could ask her about that wound.
He heard the electronic message from her come in. Turning to his screen, he opened the message.
After fiddling a bit with copying, sizing, and opacity, he overlaid one thumbprint, over the other. They matched, except for minor scarring changes.
He then did the same for the signatures, after copying that one from the letter.
They matched too.
He’d be there.