|Police would very much like to speak with Monsieur Godeffroy.|
Speak Softly My Love
Dropped off at the front door on Friday evening, Gilles had enjoyed a quiet weekend. Any sense of tedium had been relieved by doing his own shopping. It helped a little to have something to do, however mundane. He strolled to the nearest outdoor market early Saturday morning. He made his own bed, and hung up his own clothes. He was relatively self-sufficient.
He’d brought the food home, putting it all away, preparing it in the sense of taking the greens off the tops of a bunch of carrots. He’d had a nap Saturday afternoon, feasted, feeling oddly youthful as he dined on a tin of this and a jar of that. He’d hit the pickles and the coleslaw, one of the few things he made well, pretty hard. There was a sense of accomplishment from that coleslaw.
The rest of the evening had been taken up with a book, cigars, cognac and the radio.
With even less to do on Sunday, he hadn’t even gotten out of his pajamas until after noon. Only the fact that the telephone hadn’t rung in the whole time, and that sooner or later, it surely would, finally got him into the bath.
The phone still didn’t ring, and it occurred to Gilles that he hadn’t heard from any of the family in a while. It didn’t occur to him, not really, that he might have called them.
Better to leave well enough alone, as Levain would say.
Sunday evening, unfashionably early, he went to a favoured nearby ristorante for spaghetti and meat-balls. There was a salad, rolls and butter, and refills on the coffee. The wine was fine, and that was about all he could say for it. The place was an old standby, hot food at a good price. No waiting, no line-ups and no reservations.
Belly full and back at home in his old familiar armchair, Sylvestre, who had been following him around the house all weekend, hopped up into his lap. Gilles set the book aside and scratched the animal behind the ears. A black short-haired cat with a white muzzle, he’d always thought the name very fitting, although Madame Lefebvre had initially been opposed. It was one of the few times he’d pulled rank on her, he being the owner and she merely the housekeeper. Even now, he still grinned when he thought of it.
The cat’s claws began to knead at his red sweater and the thing curled up on its side, seemingly fascinated as it bit and tugged at a bit of loose thread. It being an old sweater, Gilles let it go on.
The phone rang.
“All right, Sylvestre. Down you go.”
|"Screw you, Gilles. I was sitting in your lap. Argh."|
Gilles dragged himself out of the chair on the third ring and shuffled over. It was very dark on the other side of that glass. Time just flew when you were on your own and there was nothing much going on.
The clock on the mantel said seven forty-three p.m.
“Hello. Is this Gilles Maintenon?”
It reminded him of his mother, and he’d always been tempted to say no, this is not me.
“Ah, yes, who’s calling?”
“Ah.” Maintenon took the thin black cigarillo out of the corner of his mouth.
He’d had the phone installed with an unusually long base cord. Picking up the heavy lower part of the unit, he went and stood and looked out the window. What he expected to see was a good question.
His reflection impressed him as that of a terribly desperate and lonely old man, the fact that it was just the highlights, all dark tones disappearing and going transparent may have had something to do with it.
“Okay, sir. We sent out the Belinotypes.” These were wire-photos, a real sign of the times. “All major and regional detachments, n’est pas? And the funny thing is we got a hit, almost right away.”
“You’re going to like this.”
“What is it, a body?” Gilles turned again to take another quick look out the window, some odd prickling sensation at the base of the neck.
|"What? A body? Another freakin' wife?"|
It was dark, and windy. With the windows closed tight, he was alone with nothing but the sounds of the old place settling. It was cracking away from the adjoining properties.
“No, Inspector. They have a missing persons report. Going by the picture they sent…well, we don’t know what to think.”
“You know what’s even more interesting, Inspector?”
“…the gentleman’s name is Didier Godeffroy.”
Gilles stood there.
“Who made the report?”
“Her name is Lucinde. They have two children, age five and seven. He’s a couple of years younger than the wife, and she says they’ve been married about eight years. Their anniversary is coming up. The pictures bear an uncanny resemblance. That’s all I know. Sir.”
“So what do you think, Inspector?”
“Damn it all. Does Inspector David know about this yet?”
“He’s not around, Inspector Maintenon.” There was a hesitation. “His kid’s in a bad way and he’s a bit distracted lately. We try not to bother him, and sort of let him have his weekends…”
“Ah. What’s wrong with the child?”
“Polio. The kid’s about twelve.”
“Oh. Ah. Not good. And you’re what, on night shift or working late?”
“Shit. Something like that.” He didn’t even hardly know himself these days, but he’d heard through the grapevine that Gilles and his crew didn’t have anything really interesting going on—just wrapping up some big ones, but mostly routine, easy stuff coming in the front door in recent days.
A stabbing here, a shooting there, a strangling somewhere else. The criminals were being really dumb these days. It was a phenomenon, it seemed to come and go in waves. It was all too easy sometimes.
Girard thought he’d do a little fishing. There were times you needed to ask a favour and everyone
knew Maintenon was a pretty good guy.
“Yes. I see the problem. Okay, let me think about it.”
“The Inspector will be in the office at about nine or so.”
“Thank you. I will definitely speak to him.”
The sergeant rang off.
Gilles wandered back to his armchair. It seemed like a long shot. It was definitely one weird coincidence.
Considering the pictures he had examined, and they had the exact same pictures, it just seemed so unlikely. Unfortunately, by this time the gears in his brain had begun to turn over.
First thing Monday morning, Gilles called Inspector David. A mental picture of the fellow’s long sideburns and walrus mustache were a reminder that the old guard still hung on in certain quarters. In the event, David was happy enough to give it up, having heard from Girard already.
“Yes, Gilles, and thank you.” Inspector David was getting up there in years and Gilles wondered at his health or when his retirement date might roll around.
Gilles wasn’t looking forward to his own particularly, but other men felt differently. It was true that people got tired after a while.
“It’s my youngest boy.” The Inspector had been a widower, but he remarried, his wife bearing young Frederic in her forty-fourth year.
An impressive feat. One had to admit. Gilles was a little preoccupied, or he might have asked more questions.
“We’ll be more than happy, Inspector David.”
The Inspector gave him a name and Gilles jotted it down.
Roche. Sergeant. He took down the telephone number.
“Don’t worry about Girard. He’s a good one, and he’s happy to be working with you on this one. He’s like you Gilles.” The Inspector’s voice took on a more animated note. “He needs plenty of stimulation.”
There was a quick and dry little chuckle and then David rang off.
Gilles hung up the receiver and looked up at an expectant circle of bright and eager faces.
“Right. I have court and I’d better get going.”
He stabbed Tailler with a look.
“What’s your first move?”
“Call them and get copies of their new reports…send them everything we’ve got.”
“Ah…I wouldn’t mind talking to the Godeffroy woman…now that it’s our case. After that—maybe take a quick train ride to Lyon…?”
|A quick train ride to Lyon.|
Gilles stood. His briefcase had been carefully packed, to the extent of having a sandwich and an apple in there. It could be a long day, but he’d seen plenty of those and it was unavoidable.
Monsieur Brevard had a right to a speedy trial, among other things. He was also pretty much a goner.
“Fair enough.” With a nod, he threw his raincoat over his shoulder and then he was gone, leaving a slightly impressed Emile Tailler to brazen it out.
He’d been there long enough and he really ought to be able to handle it, thought Andre Levain.
He had one or two rather pressing matters of his own. Levain was hoping to get some news back on a fellow who had run off to Martinique in the hopes of avoiding questioning in a troubling little shooting incident.
Either the local police could find him or they couldn’t. He had ten or twelve other cases as well.
It was always the way.