|A paradigm of female pulchritude.|
She was a paradigm of female pulchritude, and a vision of loveliness. He was especially drawn to her toes, peeking out of the end of her pumps. Some very beautiful women had less than exemplary feet. Every millimetre of this one would be perfect. She would not have big calves or big thighs. She would not have large, drooping breasts, but high, firm ones with pink nipples, as suited a young woman who had never borne children. Some women, all made up and taken at a distance, could appear beautiful, with good bone structure, good hair and good clothes. Up close and personal, Sophie had the most unblemished skin, on her neck and arms, where it was exposed below the puffy short sleeves, that he had seen in a long time. The softness of her gently-rounded countenance had not been ravaged by time or disappointment. Her deep blue eyes were clear, with only the slightest hints in the small red veins, of her late night and rude awakening. The young recovered quickly from such nights, possibly even such mornings, while the old suffered much more readily.
Her scent washed and cleansed the air, taking away everything that was foul or mundane, and left behind only the glory that was her. After holding her chair as she was seated, Gilles went around to the door.
His heart beat a little faster, as he closed it and took a seat, marveling at how aware he had instantly become at the sight of her cleavage, the soft, round arms, hands calmly clasped in her lap. The look of innocent youth did nothing to distract from the unmistakable body underneath the thin cotton sun-dress. Her ankles were trim and her feet neat and proper in the black patent-leather sandal-pumps. She had apparently taken the time to dress after the initial excitement.
Tailler’s big eyes took it all in and he sat very quietly, never taking his eyes off the subject.
She looked at Tailler and looked away, lifting her chin.
The young lady, so demure in her posture, was positively stacked, if that was the proper expression. It struck Gilles that Tailler was a handsome young fellow, a gift seldom despised except by those who did not possess it.
“I am so sorry for your loss. Please allow us to ask a few simple questions.”
She nodded, looking down at her hands. Her eyes came up and the second such jolt in his stomach was real enough.
“Okay. Were you home last night?”
“Well, yes. And no. You see—”
She flushed most prettily, over the worst of the first waves of grief at this point. Then her face crumpled in recollection.
“Yes. I was at a party. I came home late, about four or four-thirty a.m. I can’t quite recall, as I had a little champagne…”
“Where was this party?”
She mentioned a restaurant. They had gone on to a private residence in the Latin Quarter of the city after dinner.
“You took a cab home, right? But you can’t remember the name of the company?”
“Were you alone?”
She blushed furiously, sitting up straight and biting back an initial reply.
“Yes.” Short, sweet and to the point.
“And there was nothing amiss when you came in?”
She almost seemed uncertain, and then made up her mind.
“And you went to bed.”
“Did your aunt have any enemies? Had she been in an argument with anyone lately?”
“No. I don’t know—I don’t think so.”
Gilles regarded the girl, tapping his pen on the pad as if to annoy even the most patient person.
“So, what brought you here?”
She regarded him evenly from her chair, hands in her lap.
No further explanation would appear to be forthcoming.
He grinned unexpectedly.
“But of course.” He had the desperate feeling that she was hiding much, but of course she was a young girl, full of life and love and hope and such things and he was just a scruffy old man.
“Do you have friends in the city?”
“Yes, of course.”
Gilles decided not ask about gentlemen friends. He must tread lightly there.
He wondered what she was really thinking.
“How long have you been here?”
“Two years…and a half, I think. Maybe a bit more.”
Her voice was low and even, and enough to draw shivers from any man.
“So you came here quite young, then?”
“I was fifteen.”
His jaw dropped slightly. How old was she, then? He sensed more to the story, although girls of good breeding came up to the city all the time. It was part of their education.
It turned out that Sophie was a bare seventeen and a half years old. Food for thought when he considered all of the Ducharme sons, and Olivier wasn’t the youngest one, either.
“May I ask a more personal question?”
“Of course, Inspector. If you think it will help.” Her lips pursed but her eyes were on his.
“How tall are you? You seem, er, very athletic.”
Her face lit up somewhat. She was just of an age. While a younger man, a cute guy, would have been more welcome, she just couldn’t help herself. The attentions of any man would do.
She responded well to flattery.
“I’m one hundred eighty centimetres tall.” Her head cocked to the left, as if she was sizing him up for a dance.
“I see. Do you engage in any sports?” It would be a pity if she didn’t.
He wasn’t surprised to learn that she was taking tennis lessons, and could golf on occasion, thanks to her father and brothers back home being fiends for the game. She went skiing in the winters, with friends, always with a chaperone, including her uncles Benoit and Olivier once or twice.
“And your family, they are all back home?”
“When was the last time any of them have been to Paris?”
“Oh. When they brought me up to the city.” Her mother and an older brother rode up on the train.
According to Sophie, she wrote home about once a month, and hadn’t been home since coming up to the big city. She belonged to a club. She swam in the pool, and exercised there from time to time, nothing regular about it, and on weekends in the country she did a little riding. It accounted for the healthy glow about her. Gilles hadn’t seen such a head of hair in a long time, although his own thin straggles had once been a tousled mop of auburn hair with multi-coloured highlights. As a very small child, he had ringlets. There was a picture of him like that in an old family album. He wondered at the Ducharme’s family history. He needed to know a lot more about them, and in the meantime, he put in the routine moments of questioning.
Every answer was given in a calm, level tone. She seemed very sensible, possibly intelligent.
This girl was just a little too good to be true. It struck him like that, and he couldn’t dismiss it. The wriggling tape-worm of an idea, as yet just an impression, slowly began to unwind and unfold in his mind. Maintenon had seen a lot of cases, and had met a lot of unusual people over the years. There was nothing new under the sun. Murderers were the most unusual people of all, for they had stepped across all boundaries and struck out on their own in a completely amoral fashion. She really didn’t impress him as that type, but one never knew.
Some cynic put it best.
Beauty is the bait which makes the hook more palatable.
While it was true that he didn’t get out much, she seemed to be an unusual young lady.
END of EXCERPT.
Actually, she isn't wearing a hat in this scene but I like the photo. (Morguefile.)
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