The Scarlet Eyed Beast: Novel’s Chapter 1

The view from Sebastian M. Brane’s window looks down on chimney tops surrounding the golden domed Panthéon in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  It’s a splendid view, and at night, heading for l’Ile de la Cité, a continuous caravan of gaily decorated Bateaux Mouches steer upriver along the meandering Seine.    The book on Sebastian’s desk reads more like a text on theology than quantum physics…is the world ruled by chance?  Does God play dice with the universe?  Physics and chemistry created humans and everything else in the universe.  But unlike everything else, humans possess the mysterious quality of cognition that allows them, like a machine in search of its creator, to reflect on their origins.  Science calls this a search for reality.  Theologians call it a search for God.  As Sebastian turned the page of his book, the phone rang.  He looked up from his book, removed his glasses and reached for the phone.    The voice at the other end of the line wasn’t hard to identify.  It’s Alexy Alexandrovich, the tall, redheaded Russian who’s nursing a nasty bump on his head.  Speaking French with a strong Russian accent, he tells Sebastian a mild concussion kept him in intensive care for a week.  “But I’m ok now,” he says.  “And I’m ready to celebrate with good Russian vodka.  French wine and Cognac are good, but they cannot compete with fine Russian vodka.”  He pronounces vodka as “voudkaya.”  He tells Sebastian that a friend, Dimitri, who works at the Russian embassy, brought some of the ‘good stuff’ with him on his return trip from Moscow.  “Come over.  Let’s open a bottle.”   While Alexy continued to exhort the qualities of Russian vodka, an uneasy feeling roiled at the pit of Sebastian’s stomach.  Like Sebastian, Alexy was in Paris attending lectures on Quantum Physics at the Sorbonne.  But Alexy may have more in mind than science.  Sebastian shook his head.  Am I getting paranoid?  Is everybody in Paris who speaks French with a Russian accent a goddamned spy?    While Sebastian’s thoughts wandered the narrow, twisted streets of Paris where the somber eyes of Russian spies peered from the shadows beneath black, wide-brimmed hats, Alexy tells him, “If you had not dragged me from that gang of rightwing assassins on la rue Mabillon, we would not be talking on the telephone right now.”  An image of Alexy’s bloody face, staring up at him from the pavement in front of the student restaurant on la rue Mabillion, surfaces in Sebastian’s mind.  La rue Mabillon lies in the heart of the “Latin Quarter,” home to the University of Paris.  The Street of The Four Winds and Monsieur le Prince Street–streets that reveal the charm and beauty of Paris–surround the student restaurant at Mabillon.  In cafés and restaurants nearby, diners lean toward each other in animated conversation, debating existentialism and the meaning of life over tables stained red with wine and plates piled high with husks of crevettes and oyster shells.    The autumn air is crisp but not cold.  The sun has set, but it’s not yet dark.  The sidewalk is crowded with couples in the early stages of courtship ritual. They laugh as they stroll down the brightly lit street, arms locked around each other like voracious boa constrictors as they exchange kisses and play grab ass.    A group of young men, a little drunk and supported by camaraderie, jostle each other as they march down the wide sidewalk. They give each other ‘the elbow’ as they do an ‘about-face’ in mid stride to admire the retreating derrières of a group of girls they will never know.    As he walked down la rue Mabillon, Sebastian watched students gather in front of the restaurant.  They like to congregate around the stone stairs leading to the entrance where they preach political slogans and hand out pamphlets.  There’s always pushing and shoving going on between the two opposing factions…the extreme right wants to reestablish the monarchy and the extreme left wants to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  But tonight, Sebastian sensed a new energy in the crowd, crackling like static electricity.  Too many students wore bicycle helmets and trench coats that were really too warm for a mild autumn night.  The heavy trench coats would serve as excellent protection.  And weapons, concealed beneath their bulky exterior, would soon stain the sidewalk red with blood.    A right wing student, outfitted in this manner, walked up the stairs and began a heated exchange of insults with a leftwing student who carried an armful of pamphlets.  The ‘in your face’ war of words erupted into physical action, and the pamphleteer, in a gesture he would soon regret, pushed his opponent on the chest with his free hand.  The helmeted student drew a fat club from his coat and struck the pamphleteer in the face.  Under a blizzard of fluttering pamphlets, the pamphleteer teetered on the steps, then collapsed and plunged head first down the stairs.    This signaled the beginning of a well-orchestrated assault in which a dozen helmeted students suddenly appeared in a loose military formation and marched ‘quick step’ up the stone stairs.  Clubs and chains appeared from beneath their trench coats, and blows rained down onto the heads of the leftwing students.  Some fell unconscious to the ground, their pamphlets sailing upwards and settling onto their bodies like a shroud, while clubs and chains continued to pound their heads.  A silent crowd of students gathered around the attackers and their victims.  Sebastian stood in the front row and heard the crack of club against bone.  I should do something, he thought.  But what?  Join the bloody students on the sidewalk?  He saw a tall redheaded student push through the crowd, shouting in French with a Russian accent, “FUCKING RIGHTWING PIGS!”  One of the attackers, teeth bared like a mad dog, struck the Russian on the head.  Alexy’s eyeglasses fell to the ground, and as he bent to pick them up, the club descended again.  Alexy went down.  Sebastian ran to where Alexy had fallen, grabbed his legs and started dragging him into the crowd.  The club, now aimed at Sebastian’s head, descended again, but the blow glanced off his shoulder.  Before the next blow could strike, Sebastian disappeared into the crowd, dragging Alexy with him.     Around the corner, Sebastian knelt on the sidewalk next to Alexy.  Alexy sat up, his white shirt covered with blood.  “Help me from this place, comrade,” he…
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