Sunday, April 26, 2015

Speak Softly My Love, Chapter Eighteen.

Part One
Part Seven 
Part Eight 
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen
Part Fouteen 
Part Fifteen
Part Sixteen 
Part Seventeen

Louis Shalako

Speak Softly My Love

Chapter Eighteen

In the end, all she could find on short notice was a wedding picture, a clipping from the local daily newspaper. Her hands were shaking and her lips quivered when she gave it to them. 

There was the date and their names written in a tiny feminine hand on the right-hand margin. 

She had no idea of what happened to their papers, they might have been lost in a move or even during spring cleaning. Neither she nor Didier had liked keeping a lot of dusty, mouldy old boxes around.

“That’s us.”

“Thank you, Madame.” Tailler put it into his precious envelope, jammed his hat back on and they headed for the coat closet. “And don’t worry about expenses and accommodation. There’s plenty of provision in the budget for what we call, uh…victim’s services.”

Lucinde took a deep breath and steeled herself. Her hands were together and she stood very straight as she fought for self-control.

“Is there anyone you might want to call, Madame…Lucinde?”

“Oh, shit. I’d better leave a note for Celeste. The maid. She might worry.”

“Okay, let’s do that quickly now.”

Rather than allow her back into the flat again, Tailler pulled out his notebook and flipped it open to a clean page.

“Okay. Here we go, let’s keep this nice and simple. Only that you’re going away to Paris for the evening and that you’ll be back tomorrow afternoon at the latest. You’ll call them from your hotel. Something like that.”

She scribbled it out, putting the pad flat on the wall at face height and writing it out pretty much as he said.

“We’ll just leave that on the coffee table.” Hubert scurried to the salon with the torn-off sheet as Tailler helped the lady on with her coat.

His mouth was terribly dry and this was going to be as awkward as all hell. It had to be borne for all of their sakes.

“I must say. You’re really being a good sport about all of this.”

There was the most barren ghost of a grin from a somber and very preoccupied Lucinde Godeffroy as he turned the knob to let them out.


It was probably the longest train ride of their lives.

The two of them sweated it out, immersed in the heavenly aroma of a healthy young female, immaculately prepared, painted, powdered and polished. What she thought of all this could only be imagined.

After dealing with her children, who were away in school in Switzerland, and Tailler’s mother, there wasn’t much left to talk about. She seemed genuinely interested that Hubert was engaged, and smiled sadly as she looked out the window after that little tidbit. Silence fell over the three.

It was a good thing the detectives had an agreed-upon plan. Other than that, they would consult in the men’s room when circumstances arose.

The lady sat in the middle. There was no way they were going to talk about anything important with her there anyways. It was times like this when they realized what strangers people really were. To speak of the weather was too boring and too predictable. To speak of politics was to argue, Tailler was convinced, although he doubted if the lady’s politics or his partner’s, were much different than his.

It was hardly an occasion for cheer.

Current events, celebrity gossip and the latest films, who was playing at the theatre or what was the latest best-selling book, would quickly tend to pall over something like five hours on the train. There was no way in hell they could just sleep.

She was very quiet and not asking a lot of questions, which was a relief.

The lady had more important things on her mind. In spite of all, Tailler still wanted the lady to like him. There was this urge not to offend, to appear, well, as something in her eyes. 

Anything, rather than the incompetent and bumptious fool he knew himself to be. At times the quiet was overwhelming. Maybe, someday, it would come more naturally.

The landscape under low cumulus held no comfort for her. For Tailler it was losing interest, and Hubert was quite frankly close to dozing off.

Finally the train drew into the station. All three were famished. They agreed to a quick snack in the station itself. Sandwiches and coffee, which didn’t take very long at all. It did some good, but not much.

After viewing the body, no matter what happened, it seemed unlikely that Lucinde would have much of an appetite. To provide her with a hotel room was one thing. Yes, she would have to eat, and she should eat. The notion that Lucinde would find any great comfort or pleasure in the company of two bearers of bad news seemed terribly unlikely.

What were they supposed to do, suggest dinner with the lady? The option was to just leave her alone.

Climbing into a cab, Hubert gave directions and they headed off in the direction of the Maison Santé.

“Not much longer now.” Tailler resisted the urge to pat her on the back of the hand.

He’d already done it about fifteen times and was aware of how it looked. Hubert had been solicitous, which was fine. Hubert managed to keep his hands to himself, when all poor old Emile Tailler wanted to do was to take the lady into his arms and comfort her.

What might happen after that didn’t really bear thinking about. It was pure, childish fantasy. 

What really bothered Emile was the thought of someone like her, winding up with a real skunk like him.

She might not even be a widow yet—but they would know within a half an hour or so.

After that, one way or the other, things could get awkward. At least then they would know.


It was the same process as before. Tailler introduced her to Doctor Auger. After some small preliminary remarks, which were meant to be reassuring, he opened the hatch and pulled out the sliding slab.

Hubert had found a seat in the corner by the door, wanting to study the lady’s reaction.

“All right. Madame, are you ready?”

She stood there at the side of the table and Doctor Auger lifted the cloth covering and exposed the face.

“Oh, Didier! Oh, my God, poor, poor Didier.”

Bawling her eyes out, Lucinde fell forwards onto the body, as Tailler’s head whipped around to meet Hubert’s eyes with a stunned look. Doctor Auger was patting her on the shoulder and the back, making soothing noises as the pair of detectives stared into each other’s eyes.

Hubert stood, approaching Lucinde. There was only one way to play it in his opinion, and that was strictly by the book.

Don’t give up anything.

“Please, Madame.” Hubert took her by the elbow, four of them crowded around the upper end of the slab. “We understand that this is a terrible tragedy.”

“But we need to talk.” Tailler had little choice but to wrap a long arm around the distraught, downright hysterical woman as she kicked and cursed in terms that were not very lady-like.

They finally wrestled her, as gently as possible, over to the chairs along the far wall.

She had all kinds of things to say, mostly to God. Her eyes were fierce and for a moment it looked as if she might strike whoever was closest.

“Please, please Lucinde. Try to get control of yourself. We know this is very hard for you.” Grief was so contagious an emotion, he was wracked with a sob of his own. “But we have a job to do too, right, Lucinde?”

“Oh, God, Didier—my love. My one and only, the love of my life. Oh, God, how can you be so cruel?”

She fell forwards, bending in half and howling in her anguish, covering her eyes, bawling into her soft grey gloves, which she hadn’t taken off since leaving the house in Lyon six or seven hours previously. The gloves seemed a way of insulating herself, keeping her dignity in the worst of times. It really wasn’t that cold.

“Okay, okay.” Tailler sat beside her as Hubert pulled out his notebook, still standing by the slab with Doctor Auger. “Just for the record. Lucinde Godeffroy, is this the body of your husband, Monsieur Didier Godeffroy?”

She nodded, the makeup ruined totally. She hadn’t been looking all that good when they came in. She had refreshed herself once on the train and then once again at the station. All that work was now undone. She had been revealed as a distraught woman with nowhere to turn, no one to cling to, not the way she once had with Didier.

At that moment, whatever one might think of Didier, it was possible to see that Lucinde had very much been a woman in love.

The handkerchief was sodden and her nose was running as Doctor Auger pulled paper tissues from a dispenser and handed them over to Hubert, who brought them to Lucinde. With guests present, Dr. Auger could only be attentive and keep out of the way. It was all in a day’s work.

Emile was studying his notebook, lucky to have brought the correct one. A thought struck him.

“There are, unfortunately, not much in the way of personal effects.” There was another question he must ask. “What colour of suit was he wearing when he left the house?”

Her lips quivered as she tried to answer.

“His brown suit is missing, but he had several. It might be at the cleaners.”

The tears still flowed.

She shuddered.

Tailler was wondering at his own reaction. Surely she deserved better than this, although he wasn’t so sure about Didier.

He gave Hubert a look, receiving a shrug and a non-committal look in return.

“All right, Madame. We’d better get you to a hotel.”

“Can’t I…can’t I just sit with him for a moment?”

Auger gave a quick and negative shake of his head. Against regulations, of course.

“No, I’m afraid not, Madame.” Tailler found the formality helped, otherwise he had no idea of what to say.

She was such a nice lady, and no one deserved this—a bigamist for a husband, and yet she had obviously loved him so very much. As for Monique and her failure to identify the body, perhaps that could be put down to denial, perhaps, perhaps…perhaps. But it was definitely odd, he had to admit that.


Take your time, Madame.”

“Oh, God. This is so hard—when will I be able to call the funeral—”

Dr. Auger cleared his throat.

“The remains will be released in due time, Madame.”

The detectives wrestled with that problem silently, exchanging another quick look, but did not contradict him.

“Yes. It might be a while, Madame. Ah. Incidentally. I know this is very hard, Madame Godeffroy. But. Your husband was stabbed to death, Madame. I guess you have the right to know that.”

It was the final blow.


She sagged heavily against first one, then the other. They quickly got her into a chair.

They waited for her to recover from a swoon of sorts.

Hubert took one elbow and Tailler took the other. Between the two of them, they got her back down the hall, up the stairs and into the darkness and the chilly evening air.

Their taxi, patiently waiting, was before them and they could get the hell out of there. It was late enough, ten-thirty when they finally got Lucinde checked into a hotel. Close to the railroad station where she could easily depart on the early train, she had quickly ruled out an overnight train although the possibility had been raised.

She had promised to call room service and that she would try and eat something.

The place wasn’t the best, but it was a respectable commercial hotel frequented by businessmen, salesmen and other professional travelers.

Hubert promised that one or both would be there to pick her up and see her off in the morning. It was the least they could do, he said. The blank look in her eyes was enough to shut him up after a few brief remarks, all of which seemed necessary to the occasion. He felt really bad for her.

Finally they were done.

The detectives were dead beat, their minds still reeling from the contrast—interminable hours on the train, going there and coming back, and then the chilling contradiction raised by Lucinde’s firm identification.

Everything in their training screamed out against pressing a witness—but it was very odd. 

Having met Monique first, somehow she was more real—she had more credibility. That wasn’t very logical, but they had at least seen her marriage certificate.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Hubert nodded.

“Flip a coin?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you like to see her off on the train in the morning? It’s the six-oh-seven, for crying out loud.”

Tailler slapped his buddy on the shoulder.

“Forget the coin. I’ll do it.”

He looked up and raised an arm. His stentorian voice boomed out over the noise of chuffing engines and steam puffing out of brake cylinders.

“Taxi! Taxi!”


Blessed Are the Humble, on Amazon.

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