Well, here it is. The first of two novels that I've been working on. Hope you enjoy! Sorry if it's a bit lengthy. Chapter 1 Jean Claude was bored with his job at the museum. Every night was the same task, guard the exhibits and protect the museums prized item, The French Jewel, from any thief. Problem was that nothing ever happened. The exhibits were pristine as always, the jewel was in its place and the museum was as quiet as ever. Jean Claude gave a little sigh and headed back to his booth to eat his dinner. He was always on the graveyard shift so that he was rarely disturbed. Jean Claude was as shy as they come. He never had any friends and only had a few acquaintances. As he sat in the booth, he took off his cap and ruffled his short black hair. Every afternoon before work he would buy a Croque-monsieur for dinner from the same bistro, and was always served by Natalie. Even though he was a very shy person, he always thought fondly of Natalie. He thinks of her long brown hair and her friendly smile. Suddenly, he heard glass shattering. It’s not very loud but it snaps Jean Claude out of his daydream and he goes to investigate. As he walked down the corridor, he heard faint voices discussing their plans. “I say we steal that big arse jewel I keep hearing about!” “You mean the one that’s carved into the shape of the Eiffel Tower?” “No, the one that looks like your mother. Of course the one that looks like the Eiffel Tower, you numskull!” “Oh. Right.” “Alright, they said that this gem is the main attraction of this place. All we have to do is swipe it” “Wait. I thought it was a jewel, not a gem?” “You idiot. Stay here and keep a lookout. I’ll find this jewel.” Jean Claude saw an opportunity to impress Natalie. If he stopped these two thieves from stealing the French Jewel, then he would be a hero to all of France. As he looked around the corner, his idea faltered as he saw the accomplice. He was gargantuan, a man among men, he was at least seven feet tall and his arms were as thick as tree trunks. Jean Claude started regretting trying to take him on but a new idea formed. He thought about ambushing the other man; stop him from stealing the French Jewel. So Jean Claude doubled back and in no time at all he was hiding behind the stand on which the French Jewel was displayed. Jean Claude was starting to feel tired but was determined to catch the thieves in the act, but he eventually nodded off. He woke up when someone shouted “The jewel! The jewel has been stolen! Wake up you lazy guard!” “Wh… What?” Replied a confused Jean Claude “I said wake up you lazy guard.” They said as they started to kick Jean Claude. “Hey, watch who you kick you little… Uh, sorry Curator Felix.” Curator Felix was a short, plump man who was going bald. He always wore a pinstripe suit and a monocle and was old fashioned. He never had a wristwatch but always carried a gold pocket watch. Standing beside him was Mrs Felix. She was a tall, slender woman with straight, shoulder length brown hair and wore a white dress. She never showed her emotions often and now was no exception. She was calm and collected, but the same couldn’t be said for her husband. He looked fit to burst with anger. “What were you doing here sleeping!?” Demanded Curator Felix “I was… uh… trying to catch the thieves before they stole the jewel.” Answered Jean Claude “Well, what a brilliant job you did!” Said Curator Felix sarcastically “Sorry Curator.” Jean Claude said apologetically “He tried his best. Cut him some slack, dear.” Said Mrs Felix “No! I will not. You’re fired!” Jean Claude was about to argue with the curator but reconsidered. Slowly, he got to his feet and left the museum. He was depressed about the loss of his job and the theft of the French Jewel. Never in his fifteen years of being a security guard had something like this ever happened to him. Chapter 2 Ten minutes later he had arrived home. The apartment building was dilapidated and looked ready to collapse but, miraculously, it didn’t. He entered the foyer and looked around. The peeling wallpaper and cracked floor tiles told of a former life as a grand reception. He took the stairs to the third floor due to the lift seizing and never being fixed. Each step creaked under his weight as Jean Claude precariously climbed the wooden staircase, afraid each step would be his last. When he finally reached the landing, he stared down the hallway. The wood panelling on the walls was falling off and the paint was all but gone. The rug along the hall was never washed and the floorboards underneath was covered in dust. The numbers on the doors had fallen of a long time ago; the darkened lines they left were all that remained. Jean Claude soon arrived at room 37, his room, and took out his key. He put the key into the lock and fiddled with it for a few seconds before it unlocked. As he entered the room and closed the door behind him, the musty scent of the old carpet greeted him immediately. His apartment was tiny. It only has three rooms and it was severely outdated. He walked towards the bedroom, taking his shoes of as he went, and lay down on the bed. He stared up at the cracked ceiling and contemplated his life. Jean Claude was born to a prostitute who left him at the doorstep of an orphanage. He was raised there and never knew his mother or father and was always by himself. One of the carers at the orphanage felt sorry for him and often took him to the nearest town whenever she went shopping. When Jean Claude was 15 he left the orphanage and got himself a job working as a dishwasher at a bistro in Paris. That was where he met Natalie. She was the daughter of the bistro owner and was a waitress there. At the end of the day, she would often give him the food that some customers left on there plates. By the time he was 18, Jean Claude applied for a job at the museum as a security guard. After a year he started renting an apartment and was enjoying Paris. Jean Claude was hoping to save enough money to buy a car but, because he had just been fired, he would have to use the savings to support himself. His rent alone would be 150 Euros a month. Then Jean Claude decided to look through the paper to find another job. He hopped off the bed, put his shoes back on, then opened the apartment door and closed it behind him. As he tiptoed down the old, rotting staircase, Jean Claude thought about what kind of job he wanted to look for and knew that he wouldn’t be able to get another job as a security guard after what had happened. As he exited the lobby, he didn’t realise that he had slept all night. A cold gust of wind slashed at his face and nearly made Jean Claude fall of the front steps in surprise. After regaining his balance, Jean Claude continued towards a nearby newsstand, just around the corner. Chapter 3 As he turned the corner, he ran into a young girl and both fell over. Getting up and starting to apologizing to her, Jean Claude looked at her and stopped mid-sentence. It was Natalie. Lying on the ground next to her was a package, like a present, with a card attached to a length of ribbon wrapped around the package. Jean Claude helped Natalie up and then picked up her package and returned it to her. “Thank you so much for helping me, Jean Claude.” Natalie said gratefully. “Well, uh, you’re welcome Natalie.” replied Jean Claude, “Who is receiving that gift?” “Oh, this?” responded Natalie, “It’s actually for you.” “What, really?” inquired Jean Claude, “Why?” “Because I heard that you were fired and that the jewel was stolen.” She said “Really? When did you hear about it?” “I hear the Curator discussing it with my father. He was very was angry about the entire ordeal.” “You do know how I was found, don’t you?” “Yes, unfortunately. Well, here you go.” “Thank you very much.” “You’re welcome.” Natalie turned around and headed back the way she came. Jean Claude was about to continue to the newsstand but changed his mind. He decided that he would go home and open Natalie’s gift to him. So he turned around and walked back to the apartment building. As he walked, he felt like that he was being watched, but didn’t think much of it. As he entered the foyer, he still couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Even when he reached his room, although the hallway was empty, he still felt like he was being watched. He entered his apartment and his anxiety disappeared as he closed the door behind him. When he opened the gift, he was stunned at what was inside. It was the album of pictures of him and Natalie posing in front of national landmarks. There was the one of them pretending to lean against the Arc de Triomphe. Another was them on the observation deck of the Eifel Tower, standing side by side, leaning against the railing. He flicked through all of the photos until he got to the end of the album, where there was a note which read: Dear Jean Claude, Over the past few years, we have had many good times and always had lots of fun as well. No matter bad any situation seemed to be, you would always make it feel non-existent. Now it is my turn to help you with your situation. From Natalie Jean Claude felt like he finally had someone to call a friend, and after reading it over and over, was on the verge of crying tears of joy. He was almost positive that she had feelings for him and wanted to tell him how she felt. But, he thought, she could just be trying to help me instead of telling how she feels. This thought had unnerved him and he started to feel miserable again. “Well,” Jean Claude thought “at least she wants to help me through this.” Chapter 4 Jean Claude finally went down to the newsstand and bought a paper. After ten minutes looking for jobs, Jean Claude came up empty. He couldn’t find any jobs that were suited to his liking. Feeling more upset, Jean Claude went back to the photo album and to look at the happy memories. As he flicked to Natalie’s note, he noticed something strange about where it was stuck. He had normally gone down to gift shops and looked for albums for Natalie as a birthday present. They normally had one colour on the inside. This one had a small border of dull grey around the letter and the rest was black. Jean Claude felt around the seam, loosened it and pulled it away from album cover. Inside there were bundles of 500 euro bills. Jean Claude stared in awe at the small fortune. Suddenly, the feeling of anxiety that he had earlier that day returned and he quickly stuffed the money into one of the draws of his dresser. He then shuffled towards the window along the wall to avoid being seen. As he peered out he noticed a familiar figure standing in the street below. The figure was easy to see due to them being very tall and muscular. Then Jean Claude realised why he was so familiar. He was the accomplice to the robber that stole the French Jewel. He was staring up at Jean Claude’s apartment as if waiting for something to happen. Then it happened. A violent explosion ripped through the building. The entire structure began to sway dangerously from side to side. Jean Claude ran straight to the dresser, pulled out the money, stuffed it into his pockets, and then ran out the apartment door. The sight that met him was unbelievable. The floor of the hallway was falling away in several places and in front of the elevator, the floor was gone. He ran around the holes and practically leapt down the stairs. In the reception, the police and the fire brigade had already arrived and were escorting residences out of the building. Among the confusion, Jean Claude snuck out of the entrance and walked down the street. As he glanced back at his home, he noticed that the figure that was standing in the street before the explosion was now following him. Panic started to consume Jean Claude as he started to walk faster but the figure kept pace with him. He turned a corner and, out of sight of the figure, started to run and turned into an alleyway. He then quickly hid behind a stack of boxes and waited. Chapter 5 Jean Claude waited for about ten minutes before taking a look around the boxes that he hid behind. When he looked, he was relieved to find that he lost his pursuer. Jean Claude calmly strolled out of the alleyway and walked back to his former home. When he got back he was shocked at what he saw. The apartment block had suffered a massive explosion and had enormous hole in one of the side walls, across from Jean Claude’s room. He went over to one of the police officers and asked what had happen. “I am sorry.” Replied the officer “I can’t tell you what happened here, Sir.” “But this is, I mean, this was my home.” Jean Claude said “I am sorry but I still can’t give you the information, Sir.” “But where am I going to live now?” “Do you have any immediate family living nearby, Sir?” “No, I’m an orphan.” “Then I am not sure where you can stay, Sir. Perhaps you could rent a room somewhere else, Sir?” “Yeah, maybe I could.” And with that, Jean Claude left the site. Jean Claude was gutted at the loss of his home and all his possessions. He starts walking down the street towards the bistro where Natalie worked and lived. It was only a 15 minute walk from his former apartment but to Jean Claude, it seemed like an eternity. When he arrived, he immediately noticed that something was different with the bistro. Normally the bistro had customers ordering bunch by this time of day, but the bistro was empty. Jean Claude thought that explosion of the apartment complex was the reason but he then noticed that the sign on the front door said that the bistro was closed. Jean Claude thought that was strange because they were normally open. Just as he was thinking about that, he was suddenly pulled into the alleyway beside the bistro. Jean Claude struggled against his captor until they said “Please, don’t struggle.” “Let go of… wait… Mrs Felix!” Exclaimed Jean Claude “Yes, it’s me” Replied Mrs Felix “What are you doing!?” “I need to talk with you, in private.” “What about?” “The French Jewel.” “I already told your husband everything I know.” “Not everything. You never said anything about the thieves.” “What about them?” “Was one of them seven feet tall and very muscular?” “Yea… how do you know?” “I’ll be honest with you. I’m an agent for the French Government. I’ve been undercover posing as Curator Felix’s wife.” “Does he know?” “No, he doesn’t know.” “Oh… now I know why you’re with him.” “Yeah, I never liked him. You however…” “Uh, can we get back on the subject, please?” “Oh… sorry. They are wanted by several other nations including the Germans, the Egyptians, and the Americans.” “Huh… and what has this have to do with me?” “They don’t usually leave the guards alive.” “Well, I must be lucky. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.” “Don’t joke around! That means that they want to tie up loose ends!” “Oh, crap! That’s why they blew up my apartment.” “Exactly. You need to hide somewhere. And I know where.” Chapter 6 After entering the bistro through the back door, Mrs Felix led Jean Claude down a set of stairs which then led to an abandoned tunnel under the streets of Paris. Mrs Felix explained as they walked along that this was one of many tunnels built by the French during World War II before the Germans in attacked Paris as a way to move messages and supplies around undetected. But since the cold war scare of the 50’s and 60’s, the tunnels were being used by the government as a training ground for the secret agents used for recon and other missions behind enemy lines, made easy because all of the tunnels ended at the Élysée Palace. As they reached the Élysée Palace, Jean Claude glanced around curiously, wondering about where the other tunnels would end up and how large the network actually was. At the hub of these connections, all that was there was a small, rickety staircase, winding itself up a spindly pole. This bought back memories of his former dwellings, an unkempt but truly homely place in which, he had lived a unique experience. At these thoughts, Jean Claude started to cry, not tears of pain or sorrow, but of joy and happiness. Mrs Felix had been studying the staircase, judging whether or not it was still safe to ascent, and hadn’t notice Jean Claude’s sudden change in emotion. She then turned around as he wiped the tears away. “Good,” she stated “The stairs are still useable.” “Well, that’s the first good news I’ve heard all day.” Replied Jean Claude “If you come up here, you must promise not to mention anything that you see. Too anyone. Ever.” “Ok, I promise… but why?” “Because the last thing we need is any word-of-mouth advertisement.” “Oh, ‘cause your part of a secret organization.” “Yes, exactly.” And with that, both Mrs Felix and Jean Claude continued climbing the stairs ever higher. Only when they reached the top, did Jean Claude realise why they wanted to stay ‘secret’.