He yearned so desperately for freedom. True freedom, not this fabricated illusion of liberty their captors had manufactured- but something real that would release them from the nightmare they had been living in for several months.
To the eyes of the civilians around him, Alex walked the streets of Paris alone. He knew that his every movement was actually being watched by multiple pairs of eyes. It was becoming his regular activity (when such precious luxuries were allowed) to be dropped off at the Palais Garnier and wander down the Rue de la Paix until he reached the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre. Despite his desire to enter the famous museum he was saving it until he could share the experience with her. It had been a few days since they were allowed contact with one another and their captors informed the two of them that with good behavior they could be allowed outside time with each other.
Since he did not speak French their captors used that to their advantage. One of the rules Alex had to follow, or else risk physical beatings (not always inflicted upon himself), was to avoid conversations of any kind with anyone. So as to not raise suspicions if someone did talk to him unprompted Alex had a script to follow. It involved him being polite yet, not actively seeking to carry on the conversation. He had memorized a few sentences of content revolving around expressing his thankfulness, wishing the other person a good day, and apologizing for not knowing the area.
Despite the hostile situation he was in Alex found some small pleasure in the summer day and fresh air. For too long he and his fellow captive had been locked up in cement cells. He could not remember the exact number of days, weeks, or even months they had spent within the gloomy walls. This brief excursion seemed too good to be true but Alex had learned nothing benefited him by asking questions.
A footbridge over the Seine river shared the same name as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father, Leopold. Alex smiled slightly at the thought of sharing this shared commonality with her, knowing that the Russian composers were her favorite and while the Mozarts were not French it was something to highlight their shared musical knowledge. Alex himself rather liked the Italian and French composers and he longed for the day that the two of them would be allowed out together.
Thoughts of escaping had almost left his mind entirely, it had been many weeks since their last attempt, which was back in the Canadian wilderness, and since then they had been to Boston, London, and now Paris. His companion on the other hand formulated all sorts of plans for getting away from their captors. She was patient, she knew that one day human error would prevail and someone would screw up royally. They had both mutually given up on their countries uncovering the mystery in their sudden disappearance and returning them both back to New York City safety. As much as he hated school he loved playing in the conservatory’s ensembles and adored the oboe professor. All of that comfort and known expectations had been stripped away from him and her. How fitting had it been that their last concert together had featured Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 “Fate”, everything after the concert seemed to dwell in the key of c minor. Everything in the minute prior the sole measure of an oboe solo was replaying over and over in his mind... but nothing ever resolved. He could not seem to remember what came next in the music or much less the subsequent movements.
As grim as it would sound Alex was glad that it was her he was held hostage with. Not that he was happy she too was a captive- but that if it had been anyone else he did not think he could have bared it all. He had wondered if their situation was further complicated by her duel citizenship as a Canadian and an American. It certainly did not worsen matters when they were running through the wilderness of Quebec, they had made it a few days before they were once again taken under black hoods and had their limbs bound together with rope.
While engulfed in his thoughts Alex did not notice had had continued walking in the direction of the Eiffel Tour. The large monument was seen from almost all of Paris and yet again he was saving the view for when he and her were allowed to venture out together. Casually glancing around Alex could not see the usual henchmen that followed him. Pausing while leaning against the railing parallel to the river Alex surveyed the area. The usual three German males that monitored him were no where in his sight. His heartbeat started to pick up as he remained still and continued to look around scanning every inch of the surrounding area. They were not there. Alex thoughts were beginning to run rampant as he wondered where they could have gone, he was not even trying to loose them in the crowds and had not spoken to anyone.
Resuming his stroll along the river Alex kept his eyes on high alert for any police officer and rehearsed what limited French he knew to hopefully convey the dangerous situation. Rather he prayed that his English could carry the conversation and that the French officer could understand him.
With still no sighting on the three Germans he continued searching for help. The pressure in his chest was beginning to impend his breathing and he pleaded with himself to remain calm. He could not let himself become unrestrained with this possible chance for freedom. Alex turned down another street in his best efforts to locate a police officer. He felt the constraint of time in that he would be relocated soon by them, this was his only window of opportunity.
A newfound burning sense spurred him onward as his pace quickened while he rounded a corner. He was on a boulevard near Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb and the anticipation was getting to him. He had not seen any of the henchmen assigned to follow him and knew they would never let him out of their sight for this long. They never approached him while they were out but they did pursue him- at a distance.
Like a heavenly light sent from above Alex noticed a police officer when a tour group moved away. His breath caught in his throat and he began to sweat nervously. The sacrificial dance from Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring echoed in his mind and he wondered if what he was about to do would also cause riots in the streets of Paris. Correcting his thoughts he knew he had to be discrete, if a large commotion was to break out he would be captured in the mass of people. Or they would ensue violence as that was their favorite threat.
Alex made his way to the officer, he would try in English first and hope to some higher power that the officer would understand him. Or maybe speak his best in French but substitute English words with a French accent. He was half way down the street when his steps faltered.
Why hadn't he been recaptured... or made aware of the observers contact again... the realization dawned on him like the end of a tragedy.
They were setting him up, they were testing him. He was forbidden to seek out anyone and if he did there would be consequences. If he did this- they would surely torture her... and Alex refused to be the one responsible for her pain. He knew in his heart that he could not leave her alone to carry on endlessly. Even if by some stroke of luck this was a real police officer and they could really help their captors would merely pick up and leave Paris and travel to a new city or someplace else entirely. His thoughts of her, of Emma, of the promise that they could walk the city streets together with respectful behavior stayed his further action. He had paused in the street in the midst of civilians and tourists and he had never felt more alone. He wanted to return to Emma, he knew in his heart that he loved her more than this fleeting glimmer of summer... of freedom.
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