Speak Softly My Love
Their dynamic duo came traipsing in after eleven in the morning. Gilles was out of the office, having court again today. Firmin and Levain were the only ones there. The pair hung up coats and hats and busied themselves. Tailler began sorting the contents of his briefcase, laying it all out on the desk. Hubert headed straight for the coffee-pot, looking a bit bleary-eyed if anyone had taken a good look.
His head turned.
“Hey, Andre.” Firmin was implied in there somewhere.
Levain was tempted to ignore his ringing telephone.
“Hey.” He put some thought into it. “How was your train ride.”
Levain picked up and listened for a moment.
“Very well. Okay. Thank you.” He set it down again.
Tailler was ready.
“Once more from the top. So. How did it go?” Levain leaned back, placing his hands across his stomach.
He tipped his chair back and put his hands up behind his head.
“Yeah. Amazing. That Didier really gets around, Andre.” Tailler glanced at his notes, but it was all still fresh in his memory.
Levain’s eyebrows began to creep upwards in anticipation.
“He’s got a thing for blondes, apparently.” He looked at the coffeepot but it was down to the last centimetre. “Who knows, there may be more of them out there.”
He certainly hoped so, his attitude seemed to indicate.
Tailler, at least, had no trace of a hangover, and couldn’t help but feeling a bit superior.
The train ride, the fresh air blasting in the windows and innumerable cups of the always excellent railway coffee, the only thing they did really wellm hadn’t made much of a dent in Etienne’s head.
Not to hear him tell it. His eyeballs looked red and raw, and he had been oddly subdued all morning.
“Ha.” Levain was there to listen and guide, but Gilles and Firmin, their two most senior men, were going to let the leash off the two young detectives.
Maintenon said to let them go as far as they could on their own.
Levain guessed he didn’t have a problem with it. There were plenty of cases to go around. This one looked like a toughie, which was good.
Sooner or later it had to be done, and this one was definitely challenging. If they solved it, it might help their careers considerably. If they failed it would be a humbling experience they would not soon forget. Someone would make sure of that. It might even be him.
“She made the identification. We made sure she didn’t get a look at Monique in there, well. The one picture—they’re really young. Hubert wonders why she didn’t ask about the other woman. I’m not sure I agree—they have their pride, or whatever. We couldn’t really ask, but there were no Paris papers lying around—she had the Lyon paper and a few ladies’ magazines right there on the coffee table. She’s real smart, don’t ask me how I know that. We also went through the family album and came up with one or two more photos. I don’t know if they’re all that helpful.”
Hubert settled into his seat. Let Tailler rattle on for a while.
He nodded and indicated Levain’s telephone.
“My prisoner is all set to go. Interview Three.” With that, Andre Levain stabbed out his cigarette. “Another sad story.”
Smoke curled up from the ashtray as some sort of conflagration was still going on.
He put his thumb on the offending butt and squashed it some more. Some of them took on a life of their own. They were un-killable.
He took a fresh notebook and a mental list of questions and left without further comment. Tailler’s eyes slid to Firmin, who was immersed in his notes, but then his fingers spurted up and the words began to flow from the battered old ironclad on his desk.
Firmin smacked the return and kept going in the syncopated hunt-and-peck of the truly self-taught.
Hubert winced, sipping at the hot coffee. Still on their own, then.
Tailler pulled out notes and then carefully went through everything. While pretty much everything they had was a copy, their own notes from Lyon were original and losing anything at all was strictly a no-no.
He looked up at Hubert.
“I guess we should go and have another chat with Monique…” There was some hesitation evident in the statement, but it wasn’t like Hubert had any ideas. “I don’t know, we could ask around the neighbourhood. Ask about other women…things like that. We haven’t spoken to his employer yet.”
He trailed off.
“Just give me a minute. Where’s Gilles?” This aside went in the direction of Firmin, who looked up as if becoming aware of their existence for the very first time.
“Court. Brevard. Done today, he hopes.” He grunted in speculative fashion. “Maybe tomorrow.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Firmin’s eyes dropped to the keyboard and he rattled off another thirty-odd words while whatever thought was fresh.
They weren’t going to get much more out of him. Neither one was a dog-fucker, but a little direction from the other guys might have been welcome.
Tailler looked at Hubert and shrugged. Tailler had been sorely tempted, over the last few months, to inquire. Surely Firmin had a first name. He must have. The opportunity to ask such a question, after so much time, was long since gone, and now the real question was how to go about asking. They must have been introduced at some point or other.
Tailler gave a short, sharp nod. He looked happy, like a puppy with a brand-new tail.
Tailler had nabbed that mother-stabber a month or so ago, and it would seem the confidence was at an all-time high.
Detective Hubert, in his role as senior man, set the cup down with a clunk.
“Anytime you’re ready.”
Tailler grimaced, but without direction from above, he was more than prepared to go on with it.
Bodies don’t just get up and walk away.
He threw the notebook and a good pen or two into his jacket pocket, standing up quickly and reaching for the hat-rack.
Holy, crap, he’s right on it, thought Hubert. There were worse people to be stuck with. That much was true.
That Monique wasn’t bad, either.
Tailler had his own perspective on such things. After closely examining any number of naked and sweet young things the night before, he was now something of an expert. Her clothes were conservative, but they fit well enough. The flat-chested look that was currently popular was sort of beyond her, even with the stiff bindings that some women affected. He couldn’t hold that against her, as he preferred something with a little more flesh on it anyways.
After their extensive pub crawl of the evening before, he had a much better idea of what might be under there. In Tailler’s own neighbourhood, the norm was old women in black babushkas, or slim young women who were eminently flirtatious and yet mystifyingly flighty—it was like he had no idea of what they were talking about sometimes. He’d only had so many chances, and Tailler ruefully reckoned he’d blown all of them. He knew what beauty and attraction were. The trouble had always been putting it into words, in a language that women could understand.
And then there was Monique—Lucinde was one hell of a woman when he thought of it as well.
Either one of them would look pretty darned good if you could just get them naked.
Hell, I’m not picky.
The thought was enough to send a surge of something cold and exciting through the old inner guts.
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