Etienne feels strangely good as he steps outside; he feels strong. He is glad Madame Ruelle has assigned him this final task. He has already transmitted the location of one air-defense battery: a cannon on a shelf of rampart beside the Hotel of Bees. He needs only to take the bearings of two more. Find two known points—he’ll choose the cathedral spire and the outer island of Le Petit Bé—then calculate the location of the third and unknown point. Simple triangle. Something other than ghosts on which his mind can fix.
He turns onto the rue d’Estrées, skirts behind the college, makes for the alley behind the Hôtel-Dieu. His legs feel young, his feet light. No one is about. Somewhere the sun eases up behind the fog. The city in the predawn is warm and fragrant and sleepy, and the houses on either side seem almost immaterial. For a moment he has a vision that he’s walking the aisle of a vast train carriage, all the other passengers asleep, the train gliding through darkness toward a city teeming with light: glowing archways, gleaming towers, fireworks rising.
As he approaches the dark bulwark of the ramparts, a man in uniform limps toward him out of the blackness.