Hubert had a year’s seniority on Tailler. Every so often he belabored the point, usually on procedural matters—Tailler still struggled with writs and applications, being intimidated by senior officers and jurists. The pair of them had become a pretty good team. What Tailler lacked in polish and experience he more than made up for in intuitiveness. He was persistent as all hell. He had a streak of independence Hubert had never seen in such a junior man. The fact that they were about the same age and experience probably helped, thought Hubert. They were more friends than senior man and apprentice. That was a good thing and he didn’t mind that at all. If you had to be stuck on a train for half the day (and if they really wanted to get home tonight then then should have been out of here an hour ago), with anyone, well.
It might as well be someone rational.
|Might as well be someone rational.|
Tailler had very sharp wits, a wicked sense of humour and wasn’t above having a cold beer on duty, as long as they were away from the prying eyes of higher-ups. It couldn’t be all bad.
Levain was busy as hell. Firmin was eying up stacks of files. His phone in particular was ringing off the hook, and it would seem that they were it.
“Come on. Let’s grab a couple of sandwiches and get the hell out of here.” Hubert, not exactly an old man himself, ran a quick hand through his fashionably long hair and stuffed everything they had so far into a briefcase.
“I’m with you.” It was a gorgeous, warm September day, the leaves were in full colour and Tailler was just in the mood for a lark.
His eye raced down the train schedule. They had already missed the next one. They just couldn’t do it. If they stopped and had a decent meal, they would miss the one after that. It was all the same to him, although he’d better remember to call his mother—
A quick stop at the cashier’s office for some expense money, and the two men were clattering down the front steps of the Quai, hats firmly jammed on due to the incessant breeze and their coats over their arms as it really was unusually warm for this time of year.
After several delays, and what seemed like days on the train but it was more like six and a half hours, Hubert and Tailler stood out front of their hotel.
Stricken with the notion that the expensive commercial travelers hotels near the station might send the bean-counters into fits, even more stricken that the expense might not be approved, they had found something a lot less costly.
It was a little off the beaten path, but it would almost surely be approved. For two young men in a strange town, an expense account was almost too much temptation. What they saved here, they could spend there. Hubert seemed to know what he was talking about. It all sounded pretty reasonable to Tailler.
A taxi slid into place before them.
The driver rolled the window down.
“Messieurs? Monsieur Hubert?”
“Yes, that’s us.”
The place was so small, cabs did not sit out in front awaiting fares. The desk clerk, a sallow-faced fellow about their own age, had phoned for one. With a ferret of a face, and with a rather humorous air of conspiracy that Tailler for one did not share, the clerk was nothing if not unprepossessing. Tailler for one wouldn’t put much past him. Pimping, procuring, badger game and blackmail, pretty much everything went along with a face like that.
Having spoken personally with Sergeant Roche at Lyon’s central police station, they had about all the information they were likely to get.
They had an appointment with Madame Godeffroy, but first some kind of lunch would appear to be in order.
Tailler slammed the door and Hubert read off the name of a restaurant, a cheap one as he had insisted, provided by their new ally behind the hotel desk.
Impressed as all hell to have a couple of detectives from Paris staying with them, the fellow had nodded in understanding and then provided them with several options.
“So how do we play this?”
Tailler wasn’t worried about the driver overhearing. The situation could be managed without naming names. He was referring to the Godeffroy case.
Misunderstanding his intent, Hubert shrugged in a non-committal manner.
“I can live with pretty much anything. As long as they have cold beer, that’s all that’s really important.”
Tailler agreed to a certain extent, but the heavy red sauces were not his favourite. Since becoming a detective and feeling the pressure, his stomach had rapidly become over-sensitive to hot spices and anything acidic. He had thought driving Chiefs and Commissioners and Deputy Chief-Inspectors around was stressful enough.
Cold beer sounded good to him as well.
“I meant the lady.”
|"I meant the lady."|
“Ah. Well.” Hubert’s eyes took in the driver, seemingly ignoring them.
Unlike most of his breed this one was apparently not much of a talker once initial requirements for hard information were met.
“Give up nothing—and wring her for everything she’s worth.”
The driver’s eyes found him in the mirror and Hubert looked away. He didn’t answer to anyone but Maintenon, not in his humble opinion. In certain disciplinary matters Maintenon would be the least of their problems. Other than the bare-bones information they had, perhaps the lady would identify the gentleman in their photos as her husband. It might be an emotional scene, and yet they really couldn’t tell her anything.
If she said, no—that’s not my husband, then the name might just be a coincidence. It was hard to see it any other way at this point in the investigation. At least she wouldn’t be looking at a morgue shot.
“Hmn.” Tailler was beginning to sound like Gilles.
Hubert decided that silence was the best policy and let the conversation drop.
The restaurant was apparently all the blessed way across town. Lyon was an industrial city and the capital of its region. He’d sort of forgotten its size. Any schoolboy could look it up.
He settled into the cushions for a long ride, stomach rumbling and hoping they could get out of there at the crack of dawn. Interesting as it was, variety being the spice of life, his real life was back in Paris.
Like Monique Godeffroy, Lucinde was tall, slender, and very blonde and blue-eyed. She was an archetype, as Gilles would have said. She unconsciously lifted a hand and pulled the fine long hair back, sticking it behind her ear to hold it in place.
It was hard to imagine someone like her every committing a crime, or ever having darkness ever enter her life. And yet tragedy had struck. The odds were against it, but here it had happened.
Each person, every story was unique and to make an assumption was to be bit on the ass sooner or later.
For that reason, Hubert had a prepared list of twenty questions and he knew Tailler would stick an oar in somewhere in his inimitable way.
“Thank you for speaking with us, Madame.”
She nodded sombrely, hands clasped in her lap. Stolidly middle-class by the appearance of her home, a flat in a prosperous section of the city, she appeared to be bracing herself for what came next.
“Now, these questions are strictly routine and there is probably nothing in it. Your husband is Didier Godeffroy, and he is a traveling representative of Gaston et Cie, a wine wholesaler?”
“Please call me Hubert, everyone else does. We’re going to do our very best to locate your husband, Madame. In the meantime, every little bit of information you can give is of value. N’est pas?”
She nodded, intent.
All Tailler had said on the phone was that they wanted her to look at some pictures, and that it may or may not be Monsieur Godeffroy.
She was expecting photos from the morgue and she sort of shivered, and yet the two males were so reassuring, so uncertain and so gently polite—the suspense was killing her of course.
“I only wish we had some real news.”
She had some pretty nice knees, thought Tailler.
Emile Tailler, seated beside her on the couch, opened up his battered briefcase, where he had everything stacked up in a kind of order. The envelope of photo-enlargements lay on top. The arrangement had been thoughtful, obscuring any other documents that she might get a glimpse of.
You couldn’t be too careful, and more than anything they didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag. It was their case, not hers.
She had no right to any other information. He closed the case and set it aside. If she was completely innocent, she would be accepting things at face value. You couldn’t be too careful sometimes.
He reached into the manila envelope and pulled out the first one. He handed it to her as Hubert studied her reaction.
“Where did you get this?” She looked up, startled. “From his mother?”
Didier at about twenty years old. Straw boater cap, white shirt, black vest, ribbon tie and a flower in the buttonhole.
Hubert didn’t answer directly, and sooner or later she was going to catch on. Everything about the lady, the flat, even the books on the shelf lining the one short wall on the end and framing the archway into the dining room, spoke of education, intelligence, and refinement.
This was no ordinary housewife.
“Ah, why do you ask that?” It was lame, terribly lame. “Is that Monsieur Godeffroy?”
Tears welled up and rolled down her cheeks as she faltered before speaking. He handed her another photo.
“God, he looks so young…” It was a university graduation picture, found by the other Madame amongst her husband’s effects.
Hubert wondered why Tailler had begun with that one, but let the boy go. This was interesting.
“Is this your husband, Didier Godeffroy, Madame?”
“Oh, God. He’s dead isn’t he?”
This was already going badly but there were only so many approaches, so many places to start.
“We’re not really sure of anything, Madame. Not just yet.”
Hubert spoke up.
“This is all very preliminary, Madame Godeffroy.”
She hadn’t even questioned as to why a couple of Paris detectives would be involved, perhaps she really was in shock. It took people different ways, some reacted differently. The real control freaks were barking out orders and snapping out instructions to the last; and the weak and the soft merely folded up like a wet cigar in the hip pocket.
Even through the tears, she remembered her manners. She sniffed and gasped, nose already all stuffed up and needing a good blow. Like almost anyone of her class, she had insisted on giving them tea, not exactly unwelcome as it tended to settle the stomach and dull the effects of a couple of tall mugs of cool lager.
It was his one regret, to arrive at this house of sadness, smelling of alcohol. Hubert accepted the error calmly enough. Life was a learning curve, and what was a welcome break from dull routine for the pair of them was right in the midst of somebody else’s misery. You couldn’t help but take it seriously sometimes.
“Forgive us, Madame. These are all very dull, very routine questions, and you have no doubt already heard them before…”
She nodded, sniffling, as Tailler whipped out his own handkerchief. Taking it, she immediately made a mess of it and Tailler gave him an unreadable look.
“It’s just that we need to be really sure.” Tailler pulled out more photos.
|"He's dead, isn't he?"|
Lucinde Godeffroy looked through them.
“Take your time, Madame.”
They had rather easily decided not to tell her about the body Gilles had discovered. Lyon was over four hundred fifty kilometres from Paris. They had their own blaring headlines, and the lady and those big, beautiful blue eyes had hopefully not already been tainted by the news coverage.
“Aw…” She broke down completely, upon seeing the gentleman as a young man, standing at the side of the other Madame Godeffroy, arm in arm at some seaside village. “Oh, God. Diddy…oh, Diddy.”
“So that is Didier?”
She nodded through the torment.
“For the record, Madame, we need to hear you say it clearly.”
“Yes—that is Didier.”
She buried her face in her hands.
“Did he ever talk about his old girlfriends?”
That was sure as hell one way of putting it, thought Hubert.
She shook her head, devastated.
“Do you have any idea of who that other woman, ah, girl might be?”
She shook her head again.
“No…no.” It was wracked out of her in a sob.
He was sort of wondering why she didn’t ask about the other person in the picture. How significant that might be was anyone’s guess, and she was definitely a bit of a train-wreck. He wondered if she knew, somehow. She’d already leapt to the conclusion.
Tailler got up, needing breath and movement and almost afraid to ask about the children. Hubert made a point of doing so. Apparently they were staying at her sister’s place. That would leave her alone, just her and one or two part-time staff, a cook and a maid, which was sometimes not the best solution. They were only here during daytime.
It would be sheer hell to just sit and wait, thought Tailler.
He wandered over to the mantelpiece, where there were yet more pictures. There were Lucinde and Didier, him and her and the children, a good looking boy and girl, and other family photos which he presumed would be her parents. He was wondering who was who. Didier was an orphan according to the first wife or whatever she was.
For an orphan, a ward of the state, to go anywhere in life or to make anything at all of themselves, was a real achievement. They mostly grew up in the poor-house. His own middle-class upbringing did nothing to dispel those notions. A few years in police work was an awful dose of reality. Tailler really had been sheltered, accepting that as the norm and sometimes wondering why anyone would be so errant as to choose not to live a normal life.
That was one way of putting it.
He had learned not to judge too harshly.
After a quick pause for thought, Hubert went on with the questions.
“And you two have been married about eight years, is that correct?”
Her response was muffled and indistinct, and Tailler turned away from the pictures to listen.
“Okay. How and where did you happen to meet?”
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