Imprisoned: part two
An interval passed, which Honoré could not account for; during this time he had been moved. He woke to a sudden draft, and could not see. A light came towards him. He perceived only the casting aside of shadow, and a red pulsation. Whoever held the light had withdrawn it, and Honoré could smell the smoking oil well up, then dissipate. His right arm seemed immobile; he threw his left fist at the man who prodded the bones of his face.
“Monsieur Bellet.” The words were quick and professional, the voice weary, belonging to a man past middle age. In naming his assistant, he had conveyed some order the assistant understood.
“No,” the doctor said. “Not yet.”
Honoré vomited the blood he had swallowed.
“Now wait, Monsieur Bellet. We will see more of this.”
They waited. At length, Honoré gasped, “Merciful God!” His retching had run him through with shocks of pain―from everywhere, it seemed. He was quivering. He tried to hold his limbs taut.
The doctor resumed his work. “Monsieur Bellet,” he said again. To Honoré, he said, “I am going to clean away this dried blood from your nose. You will not like it. But you will breathe more easily.” It was Bellet, Honoré assumed, who took him by the left wrist. He struggled in any case.
“Madame Niemann, who keeps a lodging house in Schaerbeek, on the rue de Brabant…” It seemed to Honoré that he had been having this conversation. He had been arguing with someone, insisting he could prove his identity. They must let him go. His father had told him, it was true, that should he be arrested, there would be no help. But he knew of others…
“Merciful God, why won’t they help?” He felt that something in his mind had become unhinged and he could not stop these words.
“Are you Belgian?” the doctor asked. “Monsieur Bellet, note that down. Will you tell me your name?”
“Why won’t they let me go?”
“Will you tell me your name?”
“Please, monsieur, my name is Honoré Gremot.”
“Monsieur Bellet, note that down.”
The other man spoke. Honoré could not understand him. “Well of course,” the doctor said, “they won’t put that information about. I cannot think that many answer to the description. Insofar, as this one answers to a description.”
His voice had been distant. He must have stood, taken his assistant aside, to make his grim joke. Now, Honoré heard the rustling of fabric, the grunt and labored breathing of a man kneeling with effort. He felt his right shoulder being manipulated. The effect was agonizing. Bellet resumed his restraining hand.
“Will they let me go?” Honoré repeated. He said this again, two or three times, raw in the throat.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)