Chapter 1: Thehttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/92/334c35c9f2869c019adc1a7214d268d2.jpg
My name is Yann Baillieu, I am just your average middle aged reporter working for La Voix du Nord, a provincial newspaper serving the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France. In my youth I played rugby and had copper chestnut coloured hair. It has now turned grey with many winters, oh and I love horses. I live at 7 Place Alexandre Dumas, Lille next to one of my dear intellectual teacher friends called Bruno Marinello. He shares my passion for science and delving into the mysteries of the universe, so for me he provides a welcome relief from the day to day tedium of my routine work. I love the connection with the musketeers that Dumas wrote of, may be I was there at that period of time in the 1620s? Who knows? You see all my life I have been plagued with vivid memories and flash backs of my own past lives. They were and are always in the first person, so I knew from an early age that I was not remote viewing other peoplesâ€™ memories but mainlining into my own subconscious. The mind is a strange and wonderful creation, we only use 10%, the RAM memory, in our daily conscious activities but it is the 90% subconscious ROM memory that holds the key to our past and what we are. It was and is interesting, sometimes annoying, but never ever scary; they are only memories after all. It just was a fact with me. I was born with the ability of recall, some would call it a gift, yet others a curse. As a child I was surprised to find that others couldnâ€™t remember events, people and places from other times. The subconscious therefore fascinated me; it called to me all of the time whether awake or asleep, such vivid memories.
Just recently I had suffered what I thought was a stroke and the doctors, after much deliberation and an MRI scan, diagnosed that I had dissected my left vertebral artery. It turned out to be neither a stroke nor a dissection but something more strange and interesting; I was built different to other humans. The physicians were excited and announced that they wished to write a scientific paper on me which was unusual. Personally, I was just relieved that it wasnâ€™t a stroke, especially with all the trauma that would entail. Sure, I had somewhat high blood pressure; who hasnâ€™t these days! My age now put me in the bracket where I had to be careful, not much chance of that with the pace of life as it is in a modern day metropolis such as Lille, France. Perhaps the unusual ganglion structure supplying extra blood and energy to my brain accounted for my ability to recall previous memories of other lives? Who knows? I was just glad that I was alive. Itâ€™s such an exciting time to live, the internet had revolutionized my life, it had accelerated my studies into all the knowledge that had been kept secret from the masses for centuries, for it was way beyond the controlling forces that hold us all captive in darkness and ignorance.
Ironic for a journalist! That I should be part of that very control system of information and disinformation. Truth should be our business but the world doesnâ€™t require that on a day to day basis, just more of the same bland diet of mediocrity for the masses. Never mind the truth print the legend - had been a famous 19th century American journalism quote. My perspective wasnâ€™t the same as others. I didnâ€™t buy into corporate political lies and spin. I had suffered cancer in my mid 20s and had been given 3 months to live at one point. After chemotherapy and radiation I found that I had been given a second chance, so had embarked on a quest for information into the nature of our existence and this physical reality in which we find ourselves. I loved the works of the philosophers such as Descartes and Voltaire; the enlightenment had propelled us out of the medieval darkness and repression of religion. I was proud of the French achievement to rationalize our world view, despite its imperfections and the infamous reign of terror.
My own family, came from Norwegian Vikings that had settled in northern France on the border with Belgium. I therefore speak French, Flemish, German and English due to my multicultural perspective and the excellent education system of such a multicultural border community. Bailleul, a small village just outside of Lille, had been our family home for 1200 years. Transgressed by the horrors of the Great War our warrior family had played their part in that infernal industrialized butchery machine. My ancestors had also been in the Marie of Lille and had played their civic part in the past. I had not. Being content with just surviving life and sharing the excellent company of my fellow intellectual friends Monsieur Vincent Callens and Monsieur Bruno Marinello, we would often share an aperitif and the local gastronomic delights of such a fine city. Le Lion Bossu was our favourite restaurant situated in the historic old quarter of the city. I loved their lâ€™amour de vie philosophy and haute cuisine. We dined there often and it gave us an appetite for intellectual discussion, for me it was the oxygen of life, French society and civilization. Vincent even reminded me of a fine revolutionary from that defining period of modern France. When he wore his dark rimmed 18th century round glasses, it gave him the quintessential look of a natural Robespierre. His father had been an eminent surgeon in Lille and Vincent was now the Directeur of a local school. My good neighbour and fellow science enthusiast had worked with Vincent hence the connection between our lives.
My life had been pretty mundane for a number of years until one summerâ€™s day when a beautiful young girl with auburn hair and blue eyes walked into my life.
â€œBonjour my name is Lilly Chevalier!â€ she announced with a cheeky grin and a flick of her immaculate mid length hair. I looked up from my computer screen to observe a tall leggy young lady of obvious refined quality, aristocratic breeding and education. She stood there looking slightly nervous and blushed.
â€œIâ€™m sorry. I donâ€™t believe I know you; are you lost?â€ I said.
â€œNo, Iâ€™m your new assistant and partner!â€
I coughed theatrically and reached for my coffee. Taking a sip to stall for time and take in the situation. I replied, â€œPardon Mademoiselle, I was unaware that I needed a partner or an assistant even.â€
â€œMonsieur Latteur the copy Editor thought you could make use of me after your recent illness.â€
â€œMmmm, well I must say, I am honest enough to admit that he is probably right and he is a good friend of mine so I do trust his judgement.â€
â€œI think he intends that I take over when you retire,â€ she said with a giggle and continued in a matter of fact way. She enjoyed observing my reactions.
I spluttered into my coffee. â€œI see Mademoiselle Chevalier, thatâ€™s news to me!â€
She blushed again and looked somewhat uncomfortable as she had perhaps overstepped the mark with her youthful confidence. My chivalrous qualities rose to the fore as I responded more in control of myself and I attempted to put her at ease in an attempt to halt the point scoring.
â€œMay I call you Lilly? Much less formal donâ€™t you think?â€
â€œYes certainly.â€ She politely replied. â€œHow shall I address you; Monsieur Baillieu?â€
â€œThe nameâ€™s Yann and I would be honoured if you would call me such, all my friends do.â€ I smiled and extended my hand to shake hers. That simple moment of physical contact broke the ice and we became two ordinary people getting to know one another.
With that she too visibly relaxed and the atmosphere eased as we both smiled at each other. â€œWould you like a coffee Lilly or perhaps a glass of Perrier?â€ I remembered that young people tended not to drink coffee in the manner of us old journalistic hacks.
â€œWater would be nice, thank you Yann.â€ She tried out my name and found that it came naturally to her tongue; age seemed no boundary it was a meeting of minds.
There was something familiar about this confident young lady that sat in front of me. She looked like somebody I had known from the past, yet how could she be? She was so young, not 23 years old at a guess.
In conversation it transpired that she had been studying for a degree at lâ€™UniversitÃ© Catholique de Lille, gaining a distinction there she had applied for numerous jobs to begin her career ambition to become a journalist. Very quickly I discovered that she was also an aspiring novelist favouring genre akin to my tastes.
She continued. â€œI'm beginning to write a novel too. I don't know if you know this author but my novel is a bit in the style of Bernard Werber : somewhere between science-fiction, philosophy, and the fantastic, well at least that's one of my ambitions !â€
I was entranced. She appeared to be a fellow spirit with the same interests and intellectual curiosity. As she kept talking the coincidences were remarkable and quite beyond chance.
â€œWe seem to be on the same wavelength Lilly, is there the remotest possibility that we have met before?â€ I blurted out my thoughts without inhibition. I felt naturally comfortable in her presence and I could see that she was the same with me. We talked at length about art and philosophy and I completely forgot about the exact reason of why she had walked into my office at La Voix du Nord.
Just then the phone rang and interupted our indepth conversation. I relayed the message to Lilly, â€œItâ€™s Jean Latteur, he wants us to go to Metz tomorrow to cover a cultural exhibition at one of the MusÃ©es de Metz MÃ©tropole, La Cour d'Or. Itâ€™s our first assignment together!â€
â€œHow do we get there?â€ Lilly interjected with an excited schoolgirl grin.
â€œWe are taking the TGV! Leaving Lille Flandres at 7:00Hrs we will be in Paris by 8:00Hrs change and then in Metz Ville by 10:00Hrs. We are booked in at the Hotel Moderne for 3 nights!â€
Lilly had made a routine assignment suddenly more exciting. She simply continued grinning with a charming expression of youthful innocence.
â€œWelcome to the exciting world of journalism.â€ I exclaimed. â€œWell almost time to clock off, best get home and start packing. Jean will e-mail details of the assignment to each of us. You can check the details online at home.â€ With that I started to clear my desk picking up my laptop and smiled. Lilly stood and beamed an angelic smile back.
â€œOur first case!â€ she said excitedly. â€It somehow feels like we have done this before.â€ She said as she nonchalantly shrugged off the DÃ©jÃ vu sensation.
â€œYou get that feeling too?â€ I said quizzically. â€œThatâ€™s weird? Oh well more to the universe than we can imagine.â€ I confided. â€œSee you at the Gare Lille Flandres 06:30Hrs in the morning. Donâ€™t be late! Abientot mon ami.â€
With that Lilly grinned again, turned smartly and left the room. Her leaving left a tangible void in the office atmosphere. How could someone so new be so familiar? That feeling wouldnâ€™t leave me and persisted all evening.
My concentration and train of thought were interrupted by a text beep from my phone which shattered the silence. It was Jean Latteur - would I like to have dinner with him this evening? We could discuss the assignment too, his wife Mimi was going to cook moule vin blanc, one of my favourites; I text back in the affirmative and continued clearing my desk.
I left the office and walked casually along enjoying the warm early evening air and the scents of the old market mixed with the delicious aroma of side walk cafÃ©s. The tourist season was in full flight and the city was busy. Finally I stopped at a florist and purchased some beautiful flowers for Mimi. Taking the metro tram from Gare Lille Flandres, I stood the short distance to Clemenceau Hippodrome, the stop that I wanted. Rush hour was always busy in Lille but it saved me driving and parking in the city centre. I walked from the tram stop the short distance to Jean and Mimiâ€™s house in the well to do suburbs of Marcq-en-Baroeul. By coincidence their children Jacque and Nico attended the Ã‰cole Charles PÃ©guy of which my good friend Vincent was Directeur. Both had a gift for music as Jean had and I was hoping that after dinner he might play something for Mimi and me.
I reached the impressive dark green door of his substantial house and rang the bell. Mimi gracefully opened it dressed in her little black Coco Chanel dress. She looked stunningly elegant, she had lost none of her Parisian catwalk looks or figure. Her dark chestnut hair contrasted magnificently with her pale skin and whistful blue grey eyes. The waft of her perfectly matched Chanel perfume, Allure Sensuelle, caught my nostrils and transported me effortlessly back to a long lost girlfriend I once knew. Such was the power of smell to trigger an emotional memory deep in oneâ€™s psyche.
â€ Bonjour Yann, nice to see you, bienvenue, come in.â€ With that we kissed on both cheeks three times and I presented her with the flowers. â€œTheyâ€™re lovely, thank you so much, you are very naughty!â€ She grinned and led me into the lounge.
By complete contrast Jean was exhausted after a hard day in the office and was having an illicit cigarette in the garden. â€œDrink, Yann?â€ Mimiâ€™s dulcet tones broke my observation.
â€œGlass of vin blanc,thanks.â€ I replied automatically whist still holding the thought of the perfume memory and the observation of Jean.
In an instant Mimi glided to my side and handed me the drink. â€œSantÃ©!â€ She said enthusiastically. With that we chinked glasses. Jean entered from the garden. â€œBon soir mon ami. How goes it? Donâ€™t know about you but Iâ€™m shattered!â€ He sat heavily in his favourite chair and reached for his drink on the adjacent coffee table.
Jean relaxed visibly and smiled his usual naughty adolescent smile and made a joke. He was always telling jokes and in no time he had me laughing and telling my own. If only all bosses were like him, the world would be a better place. He was the main reason I liked my job so much.
â€œIâ€™m sending you and that glamorous new assistant of yours off to Metz. We are doing a cultural spread over the next several weeks on medieval France. Itâ€™s sort of a mini series. We are contrasting many different regions with our own medieval experience in the Pas de Calais and I think it will be of interest to the readers. Treat it as a sort of historical summer holiday!â€
â€œSounds interesting,â€ I thought out aloud. I could see several possibilities and articles lining up in my mind. It played to my sense of history and as yet unexplained fascination with that period.
â€œJehanne dâ€™Arc country!â€ I suddenly burst out with a spontaneous exclamation which exploded from my subconscious; wow, where did that come from?
Jean smiled, â€œI thought you would like the assignment. Thatâ€™s why I gave you the job instead of Michael.â€
I smiled back and thanked him it was soon time to eat and we made polite conversation around the dinner table. The boys joined us and I enjoyed talking to them about their experience of the day. After the extremely tasty meal of several small courses in the French tradition we settled back in the lounge. The packing would have to wait and I could sleep on the train. I would not be brilliant company for Lilly but I was very much into enjoying the now moment in the universe. When I looked back all of my best memories were made up of such spontaneous now moments. What is important in life? When I contemplated this question it was happy times with good company and conversation that I remembered. My childhood holidays came suddenly into view, those long hot timeless days of youth that were spent with my father and sister; always an extraordinary adventure and inevitably they involved traveling to other countries so as to broaden our education. At the time I thought them expensive and frivolous but now I could see that in terms of memory they were rich beyond compare when matched against the normal mundane day to day life we shared.
My thoughts mingled with the lilting melody of medieval lute music. Jean had started to play and the heady mixture of alcohol and a delicious meal had relaxed me to the point of euphoria. The haunting sounds of a world gone by came alive as Jean magically plucked the strings. Suddenly I was there, for an instant my memory sparked and flashed as it reconnected with the past. It was like a vivid dream of images, colours and smells all triggered by the haunting strains of a medieval melody. So familiar, so familiar, yet I knew not why. A beautiful womanâ€™s face shone incandescently in my mindâ€™s eye. Her magical azure eyes pierced my soul, she smiled lovingly at me, a beautiful intimate mellow smile. Then in an instant she was gone! I tried to get her back but the moment had past and the iron door of reality had slammed shut.