Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A Stranger In Paris, Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery #9, Part 21. Louis Shalako.

 

Well, we got three corpses, anyways. Poirier.


Louis Shalako







***

Dr. Poirier had the three corpses, and he had an initial stack of sets of dental records, more or less complete, from a list of names. How in the hell they had gotten all of this, let alone so quickly, was an interesting question.

Sometimes even a parent, a friend, a neighbour, just didn’t know the name of a loved one’s dentist or doctor. 

Even if they did, they couldn’t always remember it. Not all the names were represented, not by a long shot, but where a patient’s records existed, their doctor had kept a record of all work done. And yet people changed doctors. They moved to another town, or came from somewhere else. They became more prosperous, moved across town, or fell into ruin, only for the records to stop altogether, perhaps even owing money and so, if they came into fortune again, were just as likely to move on to another dentist. Maintenon had his short list, and then he had his long list—

Poirier shook his head at that one, but Gilles was nothing if not thorough.

It was all one could do, to take on one set of records, and study the teeth of Corpse A, Corpse B, and Corpse C. Corpse D…

There was some element of subjectivity. He was not a dentist by trade—sometimes fillings fell out, and the decay would set in anew.

In the background, something dripped, he’d probably failed to shut it off completely. The washer needed replacing and one had to really screw that thing down…

He knew enough of the story so far, and the chances did not seem too good of solving this one. None of the dental records, insofar as he could make out, matched the allegedly identified body of Jean-Paul Saulnier. If the man himself came walking in to the room, his teeth might not match the records either, and then what were you supposed to do?

This wasn’t all that surprising. None of their records matched, certainly not without some stretch of the imagination, that of the body which had been speculated to be that of Cariveau, and then there was Jules Lalonde. One set of records did sort of match, but they were three years since the last procedure and nothing since.

It was nothing one could hang their hat upon, and Dr. Poirier had strong doubts in spite of the match.

At some point, one had to bite the bullet, so to speak.

With a cough, he stubbed out his cigarette.

He reached for the phone.

***

Gilles woke up in a cold sweat, the adrenalin coursing through his veins…

Merde.

It was the dream, again. The bloody dream—

Sighing, he looked at the clock. Fuck, he was almost grateful. For one thing, it said four-forty-eight a.m., and that was at least a whole hell of a lot better than two or three a.m. Several nights ago, he’d woken up at eleven-thirty, and if he had gotten a good hour’s sleep after that, it would have been some kind of miracle.

Hell, he might even be able to just lie in for a while. Have a luxurious extra half an hour of rest, just plain rest, whether he actually slept or not; and he’d still be on his way by shortly after seven. The truth was, a morning routine and an hour of wakefulness, time for coffee, and the bathroom, and to sit and smoke and not having to rush out the door—it was a kind of luxury, when one really thought about it. Going to bed at fucking six-thirty or seven these days…no wonder, he had the time to dream. When you went to bed that early, you had twelve full hours to kill, as it were.

Or to be killed.

The dream had its variations. Dreams quickly fade, even as he thought it over, but this time he’d been running from enemy soldiers, a solid phalanx of them, all of them with rifles and their long bayonets. He’d had the dream so often, it was all too familiar. He was looking through two glassy holes, the hood over his head, impregnated with chemicals which would run with the sweat and the heat. Your eyes would burn, and too many men, unable to stand it, had torn off the thing and just run—to just run. A few of the lucky ones might have made it.

Even in the hood, primitive as it was, one could still smell the gas—and to hear the screaming and the shouting.

Which was exactly what Gilles had been doing. In the dream, he was running like a fucking deer, for crying out loud. All boys ran, of course, they raced each other just to see who was best. Hell, he might have even won a time or two, back in those days. Back then, in what seemed like the halcyon days of youth, growing up in a small village in the Pyrenees. It sure seemed like a long time ago, and even farther away, in some more physical sense. To take the time, to make the long trek back there was perhaps too emotionally-laden for him to consider. No, the last time he’d been back there, that had been with Ann. It was one more painful memory.

The bloody dream again. #fuck

That had been the last time he’d seen his mother—before God took her unto his heavenly bosom, as the Curé had put it. He wondered if he really believed in all of that anymore…not very much he decided, although it was comforting enough in its way.

Bagneres de Luchon, the village of his birth, was near the border with Spain in the high Pyrenees, and he still had a real posse of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and cousins and aunts and uncles of all stripes around there to prove it.

In the dream, Maintenon had run down a set of stairs, turned left into what had suddenly turned into his grandmother’s cubby of a kitchen. There was a grenade in his hand, the pin had been pulled…his heart was thudding in sheer terror. You were supposed to count off the seconds…

What was worse, the gas or the bayonets…or your own grenade. It hardly mattered any more.

He’d darted into the left corner, into what looked like a pantry, and indeed there were some narrow shelves with jars and bottles and crocks there. Pickles and beets and tomato sauce…

But while the rest of the room was framed and paneled, this little passage led back under the stairs into one corner of his grandfather’s workshop and utility room, the end with the chute where they put the coal in, or in earlier days, just plain firewood and kindling…the house really was that old. He didn’t even know if the place still stood.

And with someone who looked terribly familiar, close on his heels, (was that his cousin Suzanne?) and with loud voices and bayonets and gunshots in the background, he’d been confounded by the fact that the regular workshop door he was seeking was simply gone.

It was just a blank wall, and he was trapped. Hence the gut-stabbing wrench of fear.

Hence the waking up. Also—he didn’t have cousin named Suzanne.

“Argh.”

No, he would not be getting back to sleep now. That much was apparent. Listening carefully, it did not seem to be raining out there.

He put on the hooded bedside light, although he might shelter there for another few minutes…there were more clues than you could shake a stick at. He almost groaned, in fact he did—

Something Father Raymond, the popular priest of his local parish had once said, came to mind.

So much depends on the weather…now, what the hell was that supposed to mean. Of course, the whole congregation had laughed, and perhaps that had been the point all along. It kept them listening.

Fuck.

You know you are done when the thoughts turn to coffee and that first cigarette of the day.

***

“Good morning, Gilles.” The voice was familiar.

Receiving personal calls at work was distinctly unfamiliar, and he abruptly realized some close relative must have died—

Which turned out to be just one more shitty thought.

“Who is this?”

“Hector.”

“Ah.”

“Hector Vachon, your old friend and well-known roving reporter-about-town.”

“Ah. Hector. Yes, it is good to hear from you. What can I do for you?” Maintenon knew enough to know this wasn’t a social call. “We really must get together for a drink and a chat.”

“I’d love to, Gilles. Give me a call. Other than that, what’s going on?”

What’s up, Doc?

A standing joke of some many years…back when they were young and just a little bit silly, especially true after a long string of eventful night shifts and that inevitable running on adrenaline for too long—

“Er, the usual things, Hector. The usual things—” He left it hanging.

Sooner or later, Hector would get to it.

“Well, Gilles. It’s just that people are saying the great Gilles Maintenon may be all washed up.” The telephone line crackled in the silence. “All these Finger Killings—I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines, all these young men, and one wonders if police have been making any progress.”

“Er…no comment, Hector.” Hmn.

All washed up. People could say anything they liked, of course.

He had never taken it too personal, as most of them were just idiots anyways.

“Really?” Hector chuckled. “Sorry, Gilles, but it is my job to try, after all.”

“That’s okay, Hector. Of course we never comment on individuals or the details of an ongoing investigation. Police are making inquiries and anyone with any information on this or any other case should contact police as soon as possible…”

More chuckles.

I'll buy, but I get to choose your lunch...

“Fine. Be that way.”

“You too, mon ami.” Gilles thought. “So, ah. How’s the wife these days?”

“Ha. You know I’m not going to give up, don’t you? Look at the clock, Gilles.”

“Hmn?”

“It’s eleven oh six. There’s plenty of time. I’ll meet you for lunch. Down at the old Cock and Bull.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Although it might be better than a couple of ham-and-cheese panini sent up from the deli a few blocks over…thin sliced tomato, and a bit of tired lettuce.

Versus this.

“I’ll tell you what. I will make you a deal. I will buy lunch, with one proviso.”

“And what’s that?”

“I get to pick your dinner.”

“Oh, really.”

“Yes. I was thinking—I was thinking…liver and onions. Yes, that’s it. Liver and onions, Gilles. What do you say?”

Maintenon grinned.

“As you remember, that comes with the lovely little hot rolls, the lady of the house still does her own butter, Gilles. Right out beside the back door. With a wooden churn and everything…the choice of soup or salad, juice, a bottomless cup of coffee…rice pilaf, and the usual boiled veg. And for dessert, you even get your choice of a scoop of ice cream, rice pudding or even cherry gelatine. That greatest of all American inventions. I’ll tell you what, I’ll even throw in a pint of the best.”

“All right. You son of a bitch. But you’re on. And you can quote me on that one.”

“Until lunch, then, Gilles. Bye.”

***
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.

https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/a/AVvXsEgl6arajz5o-EZ5csVUgl3S2UZCj15Uz-TmMAXLTAEmxNAAVsmRYiV7rV63BVth0jZuSqPGxvUQK9bzy50Wa-Z6iYgwq-bSM88It7v4xpd3eI0AJ9xgam9cYA2kdHOXOYX7J6WIA5bFqwr5NE0Y0gfLhWaiOUgfpMCivIQaf0Mn1Z_pmZs_3y9pVgKv=s320

Chapter Thirteen.

Chapter Fourteen.

Chapter Fifteen.

Chapter Sixteen.

Chapter Seventeen.

Chapter Eighteen.

Chapter Nineteen.

Chapter Twenty.


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.