|Mademoiselle Savary: A rather impressive young woman.|
Gilles was being interviewed, at his home, ten-thirty in the morning on a weekday. They were at the dining room table, with wires and cables and microphones seemingly strewn everywhere. Besides the lady, there were a sound engineer and her producer, listening on headphones, checking their notes and listening intently.
It was the sort of thing senior officers had to do from time to time, for the public relations if not exactly educational value. What was unusual in this case, was that it was for radio. The papers were the real pests.
“Today we’re speaking with Inspector Gilles Maintenon of the Surete.”
“Hello, and welcome to my home. It is always good to speak with Radio France.”
“Some of your homicide cases have been explored by the notable mystery author Louis Shalako. How do you feel about that?”
“It’s all right, I suppose. He’s very good at drawing out the moral component.”
“One of your cases is detailed in Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery?”
“Are you the hero of your own story?”
“I am never the hero, Mademoiselle. Standard operating procedure is to reduce risks as much as possible for all concerned. This includes the guilty as well as the innocent.”
“What is your problem in the story? Where’s the big challenge.”
“A young man is accused of murder, and what little evidence there is definitely implicates him and no other. But I did not believe him capable of murder under these particular circumstances. Most of us would kill, and justifiably so, to protect our families and our own lives. In a more general sense, my problem, is the provision of justice and the restoration of order. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the mental puzzle.”
“Some criminals are extremely intelligent. How do your friends see you?”
“I have never asked. We remain friends after many years, so I suppose I’m all right to get along with. Most criminals are not very smart. The smart ones give us a lot of trouble.”
“How do your enemies see you?”
“I really don’t have enemies unless you mean criminals and possibly the disgruntled. There will always be a few of those…my enemies see me from the wrong side of a set of steel bars or a police desk.”
“How does the author see you?”
“I think he sees me as an extension of himself…a useful tool, to misquote the Socialists.”
“Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?”
“No, but he tried very hard.”
“What do you think of yourself?”
“I try not to think about it too much.”
“What are your achievements?”
“Several hundred murderers have been guillotined, and many more reside for the term of their lives in new (and rather bleak) surroundings, partly due to my efforts as well as the efforts of my colleagues and our brother and sister officers.”
“You’ve been on the force since before the War. When it comes to homicide, I would dare say that the public appreciates your work, and your experience is extensive. Do you have any special weaknesses?”
“Ha. I have the romantic’s tendency to dream, which I believe to be incurable. If I run out of cigars, I can be pretty miserable. There are a few others. I like my milk, for example.”
“Do you have any skills?”
“I am thoroughly trained in the art of detection and criminal psychology.”
“If you had not become a policeman, what would you have done with your life?”
“I have asked myself that question many times—it’s a complete mystery to me.”
“What do you want?”
|< Ha. What do I want? >|
“What? What do I want? Hmn. Perhaps it is a question of what I don’t want—I don’t want to die alone. I would like to die in my bed, and with my boots off. In that sense, I am no different than anyone else. But in answer to your question, I have everything that I need…except love. For we can never have enough of that, can we?”
“What makes you angry?”
“I should say that crime makes me angry, but that would be a half-truth. Certain types of crime are merely pathetic, and I have more than my share of compassion for both victim and perpetrator. What makes me angry, really angry? Violence makes me angry. It resonates within me. I could be like that all too easily. And yet I have learned to control myself, sometimes in the face of my better instincts. My job is to prevent it, or, when that fails, as it so often does, to bring the miscreants to justice. I have learned to govern my passions accordingly. Otherwise I would not be able to do my work. And, I think my life could have turned out very differently. This was something I only learned recently.”
“Are you lucky?”
“Yes, I probably am, but I never rely on luck. Hard work, clear thinking, persistence and teamwork are the key to success as a gendarme.”
“What in your past had the most profound effect on you?
“My wife. Even now, I can barely speak her name without blinking back tears.”
“Your wife’s name was Anne. Was there a defining moment of your life?”
“I wanted to be a professional cyclist. You must understand the romance of the early days of the sport. I was very young. But my father convinced me to become a gendarme. It was a secure job, and the pay was the best I could hope for. My father had little schooling, and he saw it as a way out of the crushing poverty he had accepted as his own fate. He wanted better for all of us. My father was not exactly lavish with his praise. I can only think of three times in my life when he said he was proud of me. When I was accepted into the Police Nationale, well. That was one of those times. He cried at the ceremony.”
“Is there anything else about your background you’d like to discuss?”
“No, not particularly.”
His interviewer, Mademoiselle Simone Savary, laughed, and reaching across, patted him on the knee. With her rather impressive bust, heavily exposed in a low-cut black dress, it was surprisingly stirring.
It had been a long time, after all.
“Thank you, Inspector Gilles Maintenon of the Surete. And now ladies and gentlemen, a word from our sponsors…”
(End of excerpt.)
Editor's Note. Okay, so you see the kind of people we're working with here...frickin' nutcases.