Jasmine’s Journey – ‘The French Collection #3’
Jasmine Guichard didn’t want Father Barbier touching her. She’s a plucky eight-year-old and she makes a run for it, but finds herself deep under the streets of Paris and lost in a maze of dark tunnels. But for a chance glimpse of her whilst visiting the catacombs, Harry and Tristan would have been none the wiser. Yet what can they do about it? They are eventually helped in their efforts by a young nun who is not at all what she seems. There’s more going on behind the closed doors of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Isabelle of France than meets the eye – a lot more.
Meanwhile, The Vicar is in Paris to complete a contract to terminate a paedophile. His chance meeting with Harry and Tristan could be the trigger they need to dig deeper into Jasmine’s disappearance. D.S. Robbie Allen and D.C. Benedict Blewett have been dispatched from Liverpool to find The Vicar before he strikes again.
Who will win the race?
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Jasmine continued downwards, moving her torch from side to side and up and down. She had discovered that thirty seconds winding the handle gave her about 15 minutes of light. The younf girl shivered with the cold. She was wearing only a light summer tunic and the temperature down here seemed to be no more than about 10°C or 12°C. The passageway twisted and turned. The floor of the passage was limestone, the same as the walls, but loose stones and lumps of rock had fallen over time and walking wasn’t easy. In places the roof of the passage was over four metres high. Elsewhere it dropped down to not much more than one metre and Jasmine had to bend low to pass through. It was, she felt, like being in an Indiana Jones movie. Any minute now, she expected to see a great, unstoppable ball of stone rolling down the passage towards her.
And then the passage opened up and she found herself in a cavern that was so vast, her torch beam couldn’t reach the furthest walls. She walked on, touching the walls and examining the marks of tools in the stone. Here and there on the walls were men’s initials, like ancient street tags. It was clear that the space had been hacked out of the rock: there was nothing natural about it. The roof was, she estimated, about five metres high, and several huge columns of limestone had been left intact to support the weight of rock above. As she approached one of the walls, she could see that enormous lumps of limestone had fallen to the floor. There would be a moment in the future when the crushing weight above would collapse the whole gallery, filling it with millions of tons of bedrock. She hoped it wouldn’t happen in the next few minutes.
LOST IN THE CATACOMBS
Walking round the periphery, her torch illuminated several incoming passages, radiating out all directions. And then Jasmine spotted the bent and rusted remains of a narrow train track. This time, her mind filled with images from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indy, Shorty, and Willie were involved in a mine cart chase to escape the temple. But it occurred to her that in reality this is how the miners would have transported the stone to the surface. Following the tracks would maybe lead her to an exit. If the men who created these caves tunnelled their way in, then there had to be a way out.
But what if there wasn’t? What would she do if the tunnel went nowhere? Jasmine felt the panic begin to rise again like a cluster of weasel teeth in her abdomen. She sensed the tension grow in her face and limbs. Jasmine closed her eyes, her mind replaying her panic attack when the lights first went out. She didn’t want it to happen again, but couldn’t stop what was happening to her in this wretched blackness. Her breathing became more rapid, more shallow. It was like her thoughts were living in a personal hurricane of fear. She gulped. Anything to stop the primal urge to just flee and try to get away from the darkness that surrounded her and suffocated her.
Frozen to the spot, large salty tears darkened her face. She wasn’t crying; they simply rolled out of her closed eyes unbidden. There she stayed, unaware of the passing of time until she realised that the feelings of panic had subsided. She opened her eyes. Though she could still hear each of her breaths, rasping just the same as when she had the flu, she’d made it. She was back in control. Almost.
Image used and published according to the licence granted by the artist