A car waited at the curb, ready to take Judith and her parents to the station for the next leg of their trip.
Gilles was standing outside, the day a bit cooler than the past week and he was grateful for that.
With minimal sleep, his eyes felt like radishes in their sockets, but he’d gone without sleep before. This was nothing like the war…
Puffing on one of his slim little cigars, he was bravely attempting to enjoy the sight of villagers going about their daily routine, giving him the odd passing glance, but not making too much of the well-dressed man standing on the porch of the station. Inside, his heart was cold. Courtesy was inborn, and it was none of their business, really—
The door behind him opened.
It was Constable Granger, with a bit of a belly, two chins and two bright brown eyes. The sort of eyes that saw everything.
“Inspector? There’s a phone call. It’s for you. Paris. Andre Levain.”
Nodding, Gilles tossed the butt with some regrets about litter and wasting a good smoke, and followed him back inside.
Granger showed him into their grubby little back room, pointing to a phone on a battered maple desk.
Granger went back to the front desk, where he was on shift, and grateful it was a slow day.
Maintenon picked up the phone.
“Yes, Boss. We’ve located Marko’s sister. She lives in Algeria. The name is unpronounceable. It’s a small village just outside of Algiers. They’ve got some sort of plantation, I don’t know—dates and palm oil, coconut, something like that. According to her, he owns two buildings. One in Paris and one in Orleans, apparently.”
“Very well, what is she saying.”
“Okay. We know where Marko got his money—his big start in life.” This had been very much a mystery, as there was nothing on that in the paperwork recovered from the flat.
“Yes. His father was in manufacturing. He made bicycles, trailers, wagons, all kinds of mechanical contraptions. This is her story. It sounds like quite the factory operation. Motorized lawn mowers, stuff like that. This was down in Toulouse, which explains a few things, like why no one around here knows anything. Apparently the old man built up a successful manufacturing company, sold out at a relatively young age, and then invested the money in real estate. He liked landed estates with good farmland and numerous tenants, all of them paying a substantial rent. Over time, fifteen or twenty years or so, the values went up, the rents went up, and he sold out again. He practically doubled his money. He put it in blue-chip investments. That way, he didn’t have to do anything, just sit back and rake it all in. When he died, he left them a couple of million francs each.”
“Yes. Apparently, young Marko, not having a care in the world, moved to Paris. Where, strangely enough, considering all that money, he kept to himself. His present bank account, as you recall, was only opened about ten or eleven years ago. We don’t know where he banked before that, but he wouldn’t keep that kind of cash around the house. The initial deposit was one and a half million francs, which is more than enough to live on for the next two hundred or so years—” Accounting for inflation and all of that. “Some of his inheritance went to buy a couple of buildings. As for any more money, stashed someplace else, we just don’t know.”
There was nothing about it in the will, if that was the case.
The bank would have every transaction on paper, going back years, but that would take a little time. They were at least being cooperative so far. That was good, as it wasn’t always the case.
Dubzek’s portfolio, with professional management, had grown considerably since then. Once the buildings and all assets were sold, it might be north of three million francs. The real estate had risen in value in the big cities, even faster than it had down south in farm country. All those tenants—all of that cash flow, coming in like clockwork at the beginning of each and every month. Marko had obviously listened to his father, at least to some degree.
The other thing was that he had stayed out of trouble.
“We talked a bit about her. Husband’s ailing, and they’re thinking of packing up, but keeping their estate property under professional management. None of these people impress me as dummies. They were thinking about coming home to France. They’re not entirely sure of where they might want to settle down again. Neither one of them are real big on cities. It’s been many years, after all. The south, maybe, but they haven’t made up their minds on that one yet. She had a good relationship with her brother. She says he had visited them once or twice, the last time about four years ago. He stayed for a month, loafing about, playing tennis, and swimming in the sea. She says he used to write, once or twice a year anyways. He phoned them up on birthdays and anniversaries. After a while, it’s difficult to know what to talk about, although he sent presents. Marko called them up on the telephone every year about Christmas-time. Marko was pretty good with the Christmas cards, stuff like that.”
“Hmn. So. Where does that leave us?”
“About where we were before. At least now we know how Marko ended up owning a pretty nice building. Two that we know of. The only question there is, why not buy a few more?”
“Maybe because he got burned…” By Duvall and Dubois. “And it’s not like he didn’t have enough money anyways.”
“A rich man who wasn’t greedy.”
“Yes.” Levain had another thought. “Looking after the buildings might have been a pain in the ass, too. Especially if you’re not that interested.”
“All right. Keep on it. We’re not getting much here, either.”
“Right. See you guys when you get back, assuming I’m around.” Levain was taking a week’s vacation, starting Monday.
In some ways Maintenon envied Andre, with a wife and a kid, friends and family waiting, with a whole week off and nothing to do.
The last time I did that, a very nice lady got killed.
Esther. Esther Phelps.
A knife in the back.
That one was my fault too—
First, there was some unfinished business to attend to, and so far, not much joy.
As for Anne, he thought of his wife every day and he always would.
The flowers on her grave must have wilted by now.
(End of excerpt.)
Thank you for reading.