Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Stranger In Paris, Pt. 20. An Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery #9. Louis Shalako.

 


Louis Shalako



Claire Laurent had turned in a missing-persons report. Her young man had gone missing, and it just so happened that he not only fit their basic description, but he was also very political, as she put it.

“Joseph was adopted, but he was always my son.” She dabbed a kerchief to her eyes.

“Uh-huh.” Hubert, with his undeniable charm, especially so with the older women, oozed with empathy.

She appeared to be in her early fifties.

“He was never any good in school, and not much of an athlete, although he enjoyed games, as so many boys do.”

Hubert nodded sagely, making small notes as they went along.

“And how did you feel when Joseph became interested in the Parti?”

She shook her head in indeterminate fashion, to her the question was immaterial. Her boy was missing, hadn’t been home for days and that was all she knew.

“You simply must do something.” She was distraught, but still enough in control to be polite, restrained.

It was hard to watch, to see—

He would have to bear that in mind, as well.

She was definitely prosperous, well accessorized with rings, a necklace, earrings, shoes, gloves, the little hat from a slightly-bygone era pinned through her tightly coiffed bun and with a few loose curls dangling out here and there.

It framed an elegant face, powdered and moisturized and still not hiding her real age, which might have been considerable on a second look.

“He was very much a rudderless young man. I mean, at one time. There were a few times when I really did despair. He had tried various things, all of which bored him, or perhaps it was just impossible to get into—I mean, one needs an education for certain things, which was the one thing that was beyond him.” She dabbed at her eyes.

“Was he, ah, a nice guy? I mean, did he have interests?” An open-ended question.

“Oh, yes, absolutely.”

Of course she would say that, and from her perspective, it might even be true. Some kid who read the sports pages, chased girls and still had some sort of political agenda. One had to take it all with a grain of salt.

“So, what about this political stuff? I mean, did he have any friends there, did he mention any names, did he bring anyone home for, ah, lunch or dinner…anything like that? Did he talk about his work.”

“Oh, he certainly had friends. They went off on weekend hikes, that part all seemed very wholesome and healthy. It was good to see him take an interest…” Leather shorts, walking sticks and knee-socks held up with garters.

He could see it in his mind’s eye.

Argh. More bullshit--

“So, did your son have any particular, ah, distinguishing marks?” A birthmark, now, that would be priceless—

You couldn’t really say it, but a person could think such things…

“No. Nothing really—” Nothing she could immediately think of.

She might come up with something later, they often did.

On the other side of the one-way mirror, a feature of their row of interview rooms, Levain, Margot and Maintenon stood, watching and listening. All the police could do, was to extend her every courtesy, and on some more human level, hope that perhaps this was not her boy at all, regardless of political affiliations.

Cops were people too.

And again, there was no real way to identify the body…not without wading through another huge pile of bullshit.

Argh.

He growled, deep in his throat, but the room was sound-proofed, after all.

***

The greatest remedy for anger is delay. Seneca. The problem there, was that the killings had not been committed in anger, at least not in the classic sense. No, their perpetrators were pure psychopaths.

He told them that.

Sartre. We sort of expected that... - ed.

A murder is abstract until you pull the trigger, and after that, you do not understand anything that happens. Sartre.

“The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre saw all self-deception, no matter how mild, as a form of what he called bad faith; an unwillingness to discover our essence as conscious beings and take true responsibility for ourselves. Ignorance may be bliss, in this view, but it is an irresponsible waste of a life.” So, the gentleman had read a book.

Gilles thought about that, as he sat there.

“How does this concern me.”

The Deuxième Bureau de l'État-major general, that was to say, Military Intelligence, two males in shiny brown trench-coats, sat opposite. Their boss was a certain Colonel Maurice-Henri Gauché, for however long that might last.

He didn’t really care what books they had read, or what justification they had, or thought they had.

The reputation had preceded them. None too particular as to their methods, they were known to use sleep deprivation, starvation, water torture, cigar burns and beatings with rubber hoses in order to obtain not so much confessions as information—information which might be useful, or it might be not, but information never the less. It justified much, in their own eyes.

They were just as happy to dump a person, dead or alive, by the side of the road and charges and formalities be damned.

The one on the left was Bouchard, the one on the right was Leclerc. Bland, clean-shaven, they had left their hats on. They would not be staying long.

“That is one shit-load of wiretaps, er, Gilles. So far, we aren’t getting much of anything at all. We’re only too happy to assist, but we were wondering just how long things might go on.”

He gestured at the pile on his desk.

“We appreciate the copies, would it be possible to send up a machine so we can play them back ourselves…that might take some of the load off of your people.” Shared resources was one thing, but the fact that these boys were somehow involved was distinctly disquieting.

Hubert, had made himself scarce. Margot, talking on the phone, in a low voice and the other hand clamped over an ear, had not been so lucky. As for the others, LeBref, Archambault, one or two more, they were out of the office.

“I need the written transcripts.”

Le Dieuxieme Bureau. These guys aren't even intellectual gangsters.

“There’s nothing there, Maintenon.” The younger one, even more hard-bitten and pasty-faced than his boss, spoke up. “That, is what we are trying to tell you.”

There was nothing but silence and a long stink in the room—

“What about all these dental records. How in the hell do you expect us to do all of that. What we have here is nothing if not incomplete, considering the long list of names.”

He had the impression that that was that, as the saying went.

“We’ve sent what we could get to Poirier.” The hands were on the knees, and they were preparing to rise.

If that was the best military intelligence had to offer, it was a wonder that they had won the last war, if not the next one—

Another shitty little thought.

“All right, gentlemen, thank you very much.”

***

END

Chapter One.

Chapter Two.

Chapter Three.

Chapter Four.

Chapter Five.

Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven.

Chapter Eight.

Chapter Nine.

Chapter Ten.

Chapter Eleven.

Chapter Twelve.

Chapter Thirteen.

Chapter Fourteen.

Chapter Fifteen.

Chapter Sixteen.

Chapter Seventeen.

Chapter Eighteen.

Chapter Nineteen.

 

Images. Louis steals them from the internet.

See his books and stories on Amazon.

Louis has art on Fine Art America.

 Check out the #superdough food blog.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Stranger In Paris, Pt. 19. An Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery #9. Louis Shalako.

Nothing from the fascists.

 

 

Louis Shalako



“So far, no missing-person reports from the fascists.” Putting the microphone back in its clip, Andre looked over from the other front seat as Alphonse eased them out into traffic again. “We still have the key, Gilles.”

Maintenon nodded sharply.

“Hmn. Yes. And another body—and Madame did identify the one body as her Paul.” This was more than just food for thought.

But he would very much like to know more about Monsieur Saulnier.

“So. How much do you want to bet?”

Levain shook his head.

“Nope. I still need all of my money.”

Alphonse allowed a small grin to steal across his face…a few more minutes and he would at least be able to get out and stretch his legs. Smoking now, that was a human right…he puffed contentedly.

“Merde.” Looking into the mirror, he spoke. “Sorry, gentlemen. Ah—but here comes the rain again.”

“Isn’t that a song?” Up front, Levain cracked a window, but only just.

Otherwise, she’d fog right up.

“Don’t know. If it isn’t, it really ought to be.” Alphonse took another look over.

Gilles sat in the right rear seat, looking out the side window, face turned away, ignoring the cold flecks of rain on his skin.

Back to the office, where, sooner or later, another baffling case. The sort of case only the Unit could solve. Poor old Maintenon, muddling on until the day of his retirement, rapidly outliving his usefulness…either they caught a break, a real one, or this case would rapidly fade into oblivion. If no one else could solve it, who could blame him.

Merde.

***

There was one stop, and then on to their little errand. In the absence of any next of kin, a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the Croix de Feu was in order.

But first, the impression upon walking in the door was one of complete chaos.

“Fuck. Not you people again—” Argh.

“I’m sorry, but this really won’t take long.” Patience, patience, think of your blood pressure…his doctor, a brilliant West African emigre, whom he’d always thought of as a witch doctor in the latest shoes, complete with skulls and serpents on his black silk socks.

The advice, of course, was usually pretty good.

That pesky blood pressure...

Gilles counted a couple of breaths and began again. He looked around, indicating with a gesture.

“Er—what’s going on here? If you don’t mind my asking.”

There were boxes and bins, some overflowing with fresh or semi-fresh vegetables. Cases, some of them unopened, of a popular brand of tinned soup…other boxes, open to the top with a variety of food-stuffs, mostly, although he noted a wicker basket heaped with gloves and mittens, all sizes, all types and all colours. Hats and scarves in another box by the look of it.

A cold breeze was blowing through, only partially mitigated by the closing of the front door.

“It’s a food drive, Maintenon. Inspector.” The individual stood, arms across the chest, defying them with his eyes. “The depression still isn’t over. Some of our own members are suffering, no thanks to the bourgeois social policies of this government. No, it’s not over, not everywhere, anyways—and some of our members just thought that we could, ah, maybe, ah, try and give something back to the community. You know—we all must do our little part, eh. Oh—and perhaps you might like to make a donation?”

Snarky, and another fellow nearby, lean and sallow, putting low flat tins of fish or something, into smaller boxes, snickered and gave the police a quick look.

“Ah. Of course. Yes, the times we live in—” Interesting times, interesting times indeed.

“I don’t need a receipt.” Gilles handed over fifty centimes and the man had the wit to grin and shake his head.

“Thank you.” He turned.

Levain shrugged.

“Sorry, I’m a little short today.” There was this tone, and the gentleman would have to ignore it as best he could…standing there, looking down at the coin in his hand, and now it was his turn to shrug.

The fingers closed around the coin. He studied them. They studied each other.

Hmn.

The fellow loosened up a bit, casting an eye into the back room, visible through an archway from what, most of the time, would have been the front office. Some sort of dispute, good natured, but a dispute nevertheless, was going on back there…

“Hey! Pipe down!” For all the good it seemed to do—

“So what, exactly, may we do for you, Inspector Gilles Maintenon.”

“A couple of simple questions, mostly. You’ve heard of the, er, finger killings? Three young socialists…” He held up a palm, as the fellow was about to bare his fangs. “I am not suggesting that you or anyone you may be involved with, ah, has anything to do with that. No, the problem is that we have a new dead person. And it appears, at first glance, that, ah…well, we think he’s maybe, just might be, ah, one of yours.”

The mouth opened. Then it closed.

The hands dropped to the sides.

Perhaps you'd better tell us all about it.

He nodded, eyes troubled.

“Okay.”

He thought about it some more—

“Well, then. I guess you had better come in and tell us all about it—ah, Inspector.” He waved them further in, as the people in the back room, unaware of their presence, were getting pretty noisy. “I must have an office around here somewhere…be careful, gentlemen. And you’re Levain, aren’t you? Yes, I know all about you. Our party is very strong on law and order, as I am sure you gentlemen must be aware…a strong platform consists of many, many planks…”

It sounded like another lorry was backing up to the door. They pushed their way in past garment racks of old coats, mostly in kid’s sizes but some rather unprepossessing garments in adult sizes as well.

Those white parkas with fur around the collars and the cuffs had never done much for Maintenon, although one saw them all over town. Mostly on poor people, one had to admit.

Judging from what he could see, the ladies didn’t have much to look forward to this winter.

Finally, the door to the inner sanctum was closed and they could at least hear each other talk.

The gentleman sat down behind the desk and listened, mouth open.

***

“Ugh.” Andre had opened up the refrigerator, and then had a sniff of the milk. “That’s been in there a while.”

It was a funny thing. Their search warrant did not have an expiry date, something which was occasionally specified, but due to the unusual circumstances, this particular one had been all but forgotten. The milk now, that had an expiry date, and one long since past—be that as it may.

In fact, it was in one of those little piles of stuff on Maintenon’s desk, right where it had been left not all that long ago.

The Montmartre apartment of Paul Saulnier had been long unoccupied. There was the smell, for one thing, a combination of stale cooking, stale tobacco, and stale bedding. All of the windows were closed and almost unmovable. One wondered if they had ever been opened. Whatever had been in the kitchen garbage had dried up and long since stopped its stench…with the season, and with no real heat turned on, it was still cold up there under the very roof tiles.

He hadn’t been paying his bills. It was like the ashtrays hadn’t been emptied since last time.

Well, it wasn’t his job, and there might even be a clue in there.

“Ah. Here it is—” He had half-remembered seeing it, a small brass key, in the right-hand drawer of a small oaken desk, tucked into one corner of the main room.

“Here. Check and see if this fits the mailbox.”

Andre stumped off, back down the stairs to the lobby.

He’d know in a minute, but it seemed their man had flown the coop, and according to the wire-tap people, the line had been quiet ever since they’d first hooked in, as they were calling it.

Andre was back in two minutes, with a bundle of mail in one hand, and studying the postmark, barely legible, on one envelope…

“Andre.”

“Yes, Gilles.”

He stopped, noting the tone and the look.

“How much do you want to bet?”

END

Chapter One.

Chapter Two.

Chapter Three.

Chapter Four.

Chapter Five.

Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven.

Chapter Eight.

Chapter Nine.

Chapter Ten.

Chapter Eleven.

Chapter Twelve.

Chapter Thirteen.

Chapter Fourteen.

Chapter Fifteen.

Chapter Sixteen.

Chapter Seventeen.

Chapter Eighteen.

 

Images. Stolen from the internet, one must assume.

...stolen...???

Louis has all kinds of free books and stories on Google Play. For crying out loud, grab yourself a freebie.

See his works on Fine Art America. Some people like it.

Check out the #superdough blog.

 

Thank you for reading.