The Tannoy gave us Edith Piaf singing “Je ne Regrette Rien” as the ship docked at Hollande Terminal, New France. We both took in a last deep draught of recycled air, my prisoner and I, and joined the throng jostling for positions at the embarkation point.
Standard Operating Procedure demanded that I put her back in handcuffs, but she and I both knew that was no longer an option. We were friends now.
In the diffuse artificial light of the Terminal building she looked almost normal: a diminutive with purple hair dressed in loud green check flaired pants that were fashionable then. Even the standard yellow reflective jacket provided by the prison service was not that out of place, although the large caption ‘Prisonnier Dangereux’ on the back was something of a giveaway.
Her small rounded nose and blue eyes were pretty typical for her kind, showing only that, like many Anglos, she was too impoverished for corrective surgery. Even the pock-marked face was not uncommon since the Earth plague of ’30-’33.
I had followed protocol on the journey and avoided personal topics of conversation for as long as I could. But Earth to New France by Hyperdrive is a six month trek. We had spent two months playing chess before switching to checkers and, finally, zero-gravity Boule, before boredom took its toll and she began to talk about herself in fractured New Franglais.
She told me of her childhood in Tombe-fond (Gravesend) with an abusive father, a psychotic mother. Life in the early days of the English ghettos was far from easy. The Anglos never really adjusted to French Law and she grew up hating France and everything French. Like so many of her generation, she thought of us not as liberators, but as invaders.
She experimented with drugs, of course, and spent time as a putain on the streets of Londres before being rescued by a priest called Father Green — Père Vert.
The killing started when she was twelve. Her first few victims were homeless gamins that nobody missed. Then she killed a tourist from Brittany on a cycling holiday of the Welsh wine valleys. Not long after she moved to Londres, she claimed her first high-profile victim, Henri Dupont, Prefectuer of the East End arrondisement. Then she killed the priest, both victims of the skewer, and the newspapers dubbed her ‘Madame La Brochette’.
That was when the Gendarmes realized they were dealing with a serial killer. Extra resources were sent from the Department de l’Interior in Paris. She skewered twelve more, including Le Commissionaire des Affaires Anglaises, before they caught her.
We passed through Customs accompanied by the gravel voice of Charles Aznavour. There was a moment when she was free on the streets of the colony and could have disappeared into the crowd. I would have been happy to let her go, to let her take her chances. She might have survived and avoided recapture for a few weeks. But our eyes met and I knew she’d had enough. She’d lost the will to run. Perhaps she feared that she might kill again, I don’t know. She held out her hands to me. I snapped the handcuffs on.
New France is not France. There’s no Eiffel Tower, no baguettes, no Breton shirts, and certainly no men on bicycles carrying strings of garlic or onions. But New France has one remnant of Old France, the one thing that brought me here with my prisoner.
Madame La Guillotine.