Speak Softly My Love
The next afternoon Gilles, Levain and Firmin were all in the office. The two younger detectives arrived and quickly unloaded their briefcases. Having come by taxi straight from the station, they still had their overnight bags. These were dumped at the end of their respective desks. Gilles was on the phone taking notes and asking questions. Levain nodded pleasantly. Firmin gave them a blank look, and then a wave and a grin. He typed for a moment, and then looked up again, as if only now remembering who they were.
They hung up coats, put their hats on the rack, and got cups of the rather cold coffee that was left in the pot.
Hubert took his chair and Tailler glanced through his notes.
He looked at the room and cleared his throat.
Maintenon beat him to it.
“Yes, sir. We spoke to an Ada Bellerose. The address from the passport in the Rive Gauche killing was correct. The lady in the Rive Gauche was—near as we can make out—the real Zoe Godeffroy. Ah…maybe.” Hubert continued as Gilles gave a quick and approving nod.
“Ada knows quite a lot about Zoe, as they are best friends. She says, Zoe hasn’t been out of the country in five or six years. That’s confirmed by the stamps in her passport. Why she had it in Paris, we don’t know. Here’s the really neat thing, Inspector. Ada knew exactly who Didier Godeffroy is. She says the pair met at some function somewhere and they had some kind of relationship. She was holding a few things back, for the sake of her friend’s reputation if nothing else. She used the term lovers. There was nothing we could safely tell her. There’s some love or affection there, at least on Zoe’s part. She had the same last name, pure coincidence, but it probably led to their original conversation. I mean, when he picked her up. Didier was nothing if not a quick study.”
“So the basic premise is that Didier stole the passport—or someone who knew something about them, Inspector. The real question there is why Zoe herself, would bring it to Paris. We figure Didier brought it and left it there.” Tailler had a thought. “The victim’s fingerprints are on the ticket stub. We really ought to get one of Zoe’s kin to have a look at the body.”
“Ada didn’t have all the intimate details, but she says Didier always called ahead. Zoe knew when he was coming to town. He sent her letters, flowers once or twice. When we asked if Zoe had a home phone number for him, that’s when Ada dried up.” That part was understandable enough. “We asked if they had ever spoken of marriage, whether there was any kind of commitment, and that’s about the time Ada began to tire of us.”
She simply wasn’t telling one way or another.
The odds were that both Zoe and Ada knew about, or even just suspected the existence of a wife, in Paris or elsewhere. Zoe might tell Ada everything. Ada was only going to tell them so much. Didier would of course be feeding Zoe a story. The trail of lies could be revealing, or so Tailler saw it. By the time they were done, the young lady was becoming quite fearful for her friend. News of the killing would break her up.
She had two cops grilling her and after a while she was pretty upset with them.
“She knew Didier was in Paris a lot and didn’t see Zoe much. Once or twice a month, sometimes for pretty short stays. We asked that question early on, then dug deeper. She says Zoe and Didier were very good friends for about the last two, or two and a half years.”
“So what’s your plan?”
Gilles’ eyebrows rose as Hubert passed the buck by turning and looking at Tailler.
“Well, sir. We want to get search warrants. For both Godeffroy households, as well as Zoe’s place. Ada might have a key. She probably does, but she wasn’t about to just let us in so she played dumb. As to whether we can include his business premises in there, that’s a tough call. It would be tough to establish a connection to Gaston e Cie except for the fact that he’s employed there. The real question in a warrant is what do we expect to find there? My guess is nothing. It’s difficult to see how anyone at work might have benefited from his demise. The whole thing is just too complex for someone bucking for a promotion. Why not just rat him off? Surely the boss, the firm, would absolutely hate employing an infamous bigamist. That, is a question we haven’t really asked. It’s a question of do we have enough? Sometimes it’s just the judge you get, sometimes it’s just the way you say it. I would sure as hell prefer not to lie to a judge, and claim a lot more than I really have. But this is by no means clear-cut.”
“So what do you hope to find?”
“So far, we have the fingerprints from the body in the river and the body in the hotel room.”
They had little bits of evidence from here and there.
Gilles nodded sharply.
“I would very much like to clearly establish who’s who—and who’s what.” Emile thought further, as long as one must have a wish list. “We can set our people to tracing Didier on the train. I would like to see some confirmed hotel stays. Real sightings from real people, people who know him well. The train schedule can’t prove his guilt. What I expect to find there—hopefully—are some pretty big gaps when he could have been in Paris. When he shouldn’t have been.” Like for example the Rive Gauche case. “I’d shit bricks if we could find someone who saw Didier and Zoe together on the train, coming to Paris when he should have been somewhere else.”
“Ah.” Levain’s eyes glittered at the prospect. “Now we’re cooking with gas.”
“The odds are the girl never received any letter. It’s a prop, pure and simple. He wrote it wearing gloves and brought it along in a pocket.” The killer would have used the lady’s dead hand to put her prints on there, while wearing gloves himself.
You put on the gloves, peel off a dozen sheets right off the top, and then write your little note. Same thing with the envelope. If there even was one. A fresh box would be opened, wearing gloves, the same procedure basically. Tailler could see it in his mind’s eye well enough.
That’s how the trick was done.
“Yes. I’ll tell you what. Take an hour or so, longer if you need it. Your little staff on the third floor have nailed Didier’s whereabouts. He is in fact in Bordeaux. It took him a while but he got there, and we have his hotel room and everything…”
“Write it up as best you can, and I’ll have a look at it.” He gave Tailler a look. “What’s our theory of the crime?”
“Damned if I know. We need to know who’s who—and who’s what, before we can go much further.”
“Okay. Off you go, then. And Hubert—you might want to let the hired hands go back to wherever, unless you feel they might be needed?”
Hubert chewed on that for a second.
“No, sir. Let’s give them some legwork—we’ll start at the local train stations. If we don’t get anything, we can think it over and decide again. Because honestly, when you think of his travel itinerary, his history I guess, there’s just a shit-load of places to canvas. And let’s leave Didier out there for a while.” When the time came to bring him in, Hubert wanted something tangible to bonk him over the head with.
Tailler had typed it up as best he could.
“This is not going to wash, Tailler. I asked you, what is the theory of the crime?” They were usually so much better than this.
Gilles let the application for a warrant fall to the desk.
It was a big case, a complex case. Tailler he could almost understand, but Hubert had more experience and even he had been loose, too loose in the questioning, too loose in the thinking.
Tailler pursed his lips. Hubert looked worn out, a man with no ideas.
“I don’t really have one. But bigamy is a crime, and abandonment is a civil crime. The man had two wives, God knows how many affairs, girlfriends, one-night stands probably, and sooner or later his luck had to run out.”
Tailler was struck by an inspiration.
“I got an idea, boss.” He went to their pile of exhibits.
He pulled out three passports.
“Okay, boss. According to the ladies, each of whom knows about one passport, these both belong to Didier. Right?”
“Now you are at least thinking, Tailler—that’s what I want to see.”
Tailler picked up the phone.
Hubert looked mystified.
“What are you doing?”
“It’s just that I don’t believe anything anymore.”
Tailler’s forefinger spun the dial.
“Hello? Who is this?”
Hubert stood waiting, Gilles went back to reading files.
“Ah. Can you send a fingerprint technician up to Maintenon’s office?”
Hubert listened open-mouthed.
“Thank you.” Tailler hung up. “We’re lucky, they have someone available right now. He’s coming right up.”
Their fingerprint technician was done working. He looked up from the passports, frowning.
“Well, we have a couple of good prints from each one. They are from the same person.” He handed over the big magnifying glass. “This is our male subject.”
Next it was Lucinde’s passport and the prints from the body in the Rive Gauche.
Tailler had a look, Hubert had a look, and then Maintenon had a look. They compared the prints on the passports with the enlarged reproductions of the prints taken by the examiner, Dr. Guillaume at the city morgue.
“They are not a match.”
“Are you sure?” Tailler was a little upset, although it was definitely a long shot…
The technician shrugged.
“It’s the best I can do, anyways you can see for yourself.”
The technician had carefully examined the passport from Lucinde. There were good prints, many of the same person, but obviously some from customs officials as well. With an anonymous print, there was no way to determine gender.
The technician, a man named Proulx, next compared them to the prints taken from the woman in the Rive Gauche. There were only so many ways he could say it.
“Well. There you go. They are not a match—none of them.”
“Hmn.” Tailler and Hubert were mystified.
“Okay, so that didn’t prove a damned thing.”
“You’re wrong, Emile.” Maintenon chuckled.
All of this was in the written reports. Tailler doubted everything, which was an interesting state of mind. He would go over it and over it until he dropped if he had to—
“It sort of indicates the man in the river was not Didier—and the woman in the hotel was not Lucinde.”
“Well. Since you put it that way—”
Tailler beamed at Maintenon, and then Levain.
“All right, thank you.” Gilles dismissed the technician, who put his brushes and powder bottles back in the briefcase and departed.
Maintenon looked at Emile Tailler.
“Sit down, please, gentlemen.”
The pair reluctantly did so.
“You had an idea there, Emile.”
“Ah, yes I did, sir.”
“Care to tell us what it is?”
Tailler bit his lip. He looked doubtfully at Hubert, who looked at Gilles and then Levain.
“I have no idea what he’s on about.”
“It’s a process of elimination…” Emile heaved a deep sigh. “Okay. I think I know what happened. They’ve done a nice job on us. We desperately need search warrants, for three premises at least—otherwise we are never going to get them.”
“Who’s them, Tailler.”
Maintenon was the most patient man Levain had ever met. These young guys had potential, but not much discipline. Their minds were all over the place—especially when you let them go off on their own. There were one or two holes in the training that needed to be filled. Yet Tailler was clearly chewing on something. It was the old problem.
They needed to get their ducks all in a row.
“Yes?” There was nothing there but gentle amusement.
“When you stumbled on that body in the park…that was Didier.”
“Well. I have been sort of wondering.”
Hubert made a little snork sound. Maintenon wasn’t trying to be funny.
“All he had to do was to be tripped over. All he needed was for someone to report a body. The odds were they would head for the nearest phone. Almost anyone would have done the exact same thing.”
“You’re saying he was alive then?”
“Yes. He cut the coat, and probably made some little nick in his arm, or something. The coat had to have blood on it. There was a lot of blood according to the lab report. That’s great if he was actually stabbed. But what if he wasn’t? It was merely for effect. If he was waiting for you, specifically—and he lived right in the neighbourhood, Inspector. He might have seen you around. And you’ve got a hell of a lot of credibility. His wife says he was wearing a black suit. Yeah, they have a bit of a fight. But before leaving, he nips into the bedroom. Changes clothes…and the brown suit already had the cuts in it. He might have even provoked a fight. It would take less than a minute. All he has to do was to put fresh blood on there.” Tailler would bet on it, the man would have a big, half-healed gash on him somewhere. “He’s on the way to the park and he sees you going into the store—yeah, that’s it.”
He might have even had a minute in the darkness to freshen up the blood.
“And what did all of that accomplish, Emile?”
“It convinces the great Gilles Maintenon that there is a body in the park—a body that was subsequently removed by means unknown.”
“And why would he want to do that?”
Hubert and Levain stared at each other. There was a simultaneous shrug. Gilles’ eyes were on Tailler, not without signs of amusement.
“Confusion. Mystification, so his wife could call in a missing-person report, and then, not too long after, good old Didier comes walking in the door, very much alive. Because he was planning to kill another man—one who, just by the luck of the draw, resembled him well enough.”
“I can’t. We don’t know enough. We don’t have a motive. We still haven’t identified the body in the river—my sense is that we never will, not the way we’re going at it. Because we’re actually pretty good at that sort of thing. Those bulletins are all over France—and we’ve already had our one good hit. And that, sir, was in Lyon. Didier’s second spouse. And it wasn’t even a picture of Didier. The resemblance must be pretty close and we can see that for ourselves.” Tailler took in some air and went on. “If we take a photo of the river victim and show it to the neighbours—what are they going to say?”
He waited. Gilles shook his head.
“I don’t know, Tailler—” There was promise here nevertheless. “And who, Emile, was the blonde woman in the Rive Gauche?”
Emile Tailler turned and found his desk. He sat heavily on the seat, staring up and out of the window for a while.
With a sigh, Maintenon was about ready to get back to his own files.
“Ah.” Tailler sat up. “Ah!”
Tailler locked eyes with Maintenon.
“If I tell you, will you get us those warrants? I mean, you can do it, right?”
There was such a thing as a friendly judge, and Maintenon had been around a lot longer than either Tailler or Hubert.
“Okay, boss, then listen. Listen good. You are really going to like this one.”
Levain chuckled softly, giving Emile an admiring look. The guy had only been with them for three or four months, for crying out loud.
Persistence was better than nothing. The boy certainly had his share.
Architect of His Own Destruction is available for Kindle.
Thank you for reading.
Architect of His Own Destruction is available for Kindle.
Thank you for reading.