Murder in the Rue De Paradis (2 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Rue De Paradis
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“This can’t work, Yves.”

“Look, I had to go there,” Yves said. “And find out.”

“Find out that you could only expose a percentage of the world’s corruption?”

She could have told him that.

“Turkey’s incredible,” he said. “So beautiful. You’d love the indigo and aquamarine sky over Mount Ararat, Aimée.”

Surprised, she sat back. “You know I’m a city girl.”

His gaze was far away. “Nothing prepares you for the vastness, the monumental scale of the landscape. Breathtaking and harsh. Everything is bigger than life there.” He looked down. “Red dust, baking heat . . . and the refugees. The children are the worst.”

A wren winged over the canal, the soft flapping of its wings and ruffle of leaves as it settled on a branch across from them just audible.

“What do you mean, Yves?”

“I mean it’s useless to fight how I feel about you.”

“Quit changing the subject.”

Aimée clutched the sheet around her. Was he lonely, overworked, or. . . .

“I haven’t been here for you, Aimée.”

She wondered where that came from.

“That’s trite, Yves.”

He took a deep breath. “You know, I’ve never said this to anyone . . . I want to spend my life with you.”

Her breath caught in her throat. He’d changed, something felt different.

His dark eyes searched hers, then he took her hand. She felt something smooth and cool. In her palm lay a bright embroidered patch, a coin amulet on a frayed woven string. Tribal by the look of it. Unique.

“An Anatolian Sufi gave me this amulet at a Kurdish Dervish ceremony.”

In the slant of moonlight, she stared at the gleaming worn Ottoman coin.

“A talisman for vision, to help you to see your way. It prevents you from being blinded by obstacles and false paths. Betrothed girls wear this before the wedding ceremony. And a ring like this.”

He held out a beaten copper Turkish puzzle ring.

“Will you accept this?”

Dumbfounded, she stared at him.

“Close your mouth, Aimée,” he said. “You can nod yes or no.”

She stared at him. “You’re serious?”

“That’s not an answer,” he said. His eyes crinkled in sadness. “Or maybe it is.”

“For real, Yves?”

He nodded.

Something shifted inside her. A warm feeling welled up . . . happiness, security, or the knowledge that he was the one . . . the words didn’t matter. Now it was all so simple. Her doubts were gone in a flutter of air. She wanted him. Had wanted him for a long time.

“And we can make some babies,” he said. He reached for her cheek and her hands caught his.

“That takes work.”

“So you’ll have me?” A slow smile spread on his lips as she guided the ring onto her ring finger.

She edged her leg around his waist, gripped his neck, eased him flat on the floor, straddling his hips.

“‘Have you,’ Yves? Yes, yes, yes.”

He pulled her down on top of him, and smothered her words with kisses.

AIMÉE BLINKED AT the pink-apricot rays filtering through the half circle of the loft window. The clock read 10 A.M. Late! She reached out and felt an empty space beside her.

“Yves?”

No answer. No welcoming aroma of coffee. She stood and pulled a sheet around her. She looked in the bathroom and spotless kitchen. No note. No Yves.

She didn’t see his briefcase, and wondered for a moment if she’d dreamed last night. But his musky scent still clung to her.

He’d asked her to marry him. The beaten copper ring encircled her finger. Why shouldn’t she trust him? She knew he was undercover. But old doubts invaded her. He’d left without even waking her to say good-bye. She was ready to kick herself for her stupidity. Again. She slipped into her clothes and shouldered her laptop case.

Blinking back angry tears, she walked through the narrow courtyard lined with bamboo trees in planters of the former printing works. Wind chimes tinkled and sun glinted on the tall, wood-framed loft windows. At the door, she knotted her scarf around her shoulders. Outside, by the canal, whose waters shimmered in the sun, she caught the stares of truck drivers driving past. Luck was on her side; she caught a taxi.

OUTSIDE HER OFFICE she nodded to Maurice, the one-armed Algerian-veteran news vendor whose kiosk was near the café. With an adroit maneuver of his stump, Maurice stacked yesterday’s
Le Monde
, the same edition she’d noticed lying on Yves’s briefcase last night.

“Business good, Maurice?” she asked.

“These headlines increase sales,” he said. “Sad to say.”

The article in the paper on the Metro bombing cited a police source indicating that new leads to suspects ranged from Bosnian Serbs angry at the French accords, members of Hamas angry at Arafat’s projected visit, the iKK Kurdish party that had demonstrated last week at the Turkish Embassy and to militant GIA Algerians suspected of murdering a moderate imam two weeks earlier.

In short, the police had nothing to go on, and so had fallen back on the usual suspects.

“The Metro’s running on a limited schedule,” he said. “You know how that goes.”

With half the city taking part in the annual vacation exodus, the museums closed, bus schedules reduced to the minimum, and heightened security, the streets lay quiet. She slipped Maurice two francs, took a paper, and headed to her office.

The sun filled the air; another hot August day. A few cotton puff clouds hovered over the Louvre’s Cour Carrée façade. For a moment the image of Yves, the stubble on his chin and the feel of his warm legs enfolding hers, filled her. But when she fingered the Turkish puzzle ring she was tempted to toss it into the sewer drain.

When he called she’d demand an explanation. She pushed Yves out of her mind.

In the cool foyer of her office building she sighed. There was an “out of order” sign posted on the elevator. Great! That meant no repair until September.

Inside Leduc Detective, she set her laptop on the desk, headed for the armoire, changed into a top and black pencil skirt, then switched on the espresso machine. In five minutes thick brown-black liquid with a decent tan foam dripped into the demitasse cup. She stirred in brown sugar cubes, sipped, and welcomed the jolt of caffeine.

The office door unlocked and she turned, cup in hand, to see the flushed face of her partner, René Friant. A dwarf, he wore an off-white double-breasted linen suit tailored to his four-foot-tall frame. And matching tasseled loafers.

“The elevator repairman on his way, Aimée?”

The concierge was no doubt sitting on a shale beach in Brittany with his family as they spoke.

She shook her head.

He took out a handkerchief, wiped his wide brow and set a printout on her desk. “It’s only one of many things that don’t work here. The heating’s more temperamental than my Italian printer, working full blast now instead of in December.” René gestured around the high-ceilinged wood-paneled office which was filled by a period recamier, marble fireplace, directoire desks, and computer ware. “And we’ve outgrown this place.”

True. But her grandfather had founded Leduc Detective at the very desk she now used.

“Check this out, Aimée,” he said. “It’s for sale.”

On the printout she saw price comparisons of building footage. “A factory floor in Passage du Desir, René? You’re kidding, right?”

“The mortgage payments will be less than our rent,” he said. “And we’d own it. Instead of scrambling every month to pay off our
landlord’s
mortgage.”

What had gotten into him?

“And if we didn’t make it, René,” she said, “there’d be no extension from the landlord, and we’d be out on the cobblestones.”

“Look at the figures, Aimée. Our payments would go for space we’d own,” he said, a child-like excitement in his eyes. “We’d build equity, instead of throwing money at a landlord every month and having nothing to show for it. It makes financial sense.” He pointed to the peeling wainscoting and the dim, wavering chandelier suspended from the high ceiling.

Talk about being able to get the peasant out of the country, but not the country out of the peasant. At heart, like most, René believed that only land was secure, the only guarantee against famine in wartime. A misconception proved during every famine and war.

“The star pupil in my hacking class referred me to this real estate broker,” he said, sitting down on his orthopedic chair and booting up his computer. “The property’s in probate; the estate will make a deal. Aimée, we can’t go wrong, the quartier’s up and coming.”

“A hip investment in old proletarian Paris, René?” she said. “I was there, in that very neighborhood, last night.”

She handed him a demitasse of espresso. René raised his eyebrow.

“Partying?”

She kept Yves’s visit to herself; no use telling René, or he’d say she’d fallen for Yves’s line yet again.

“Working. I netted the Microimage contract last night.”

René inhaled and whistled. “Not bad. Should take care of those, eh?” He pointed to the bills on her desk. Then an expression she couldn’t read crossed René’s face. “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

She thumbed on her cell phone. Nothing.

“Try charging the battery.”

A voice said, “Mademoiselle Aimée Leduc? I’m from the Commissariat.”

Aimée looked up see a blue-uniformed
flic
standing at the open office door. Short cropped brown hair, muscles under his shirt, and no expression on his face. Goosebumps ran up her arms despite the heat.

“Permettez?”
he said, entering the room. “I agree with the gentleman.” His thick black shoes creaked over the wood floor.

“What do you mean?”

“You might want to keep your phone charged,” he said. “Will you accompany me, please?”

“Since when is it against the law—” she caught herself. “What’s this about?”

“Routine. We need to ask you some questions.”

“But I don’t understand.”

“My vehicle’s outside,” he said.

René set down his cup hard. Little brown drops spattered over the real estate comparisons. “Does this have to do with her cell phone, officer?”

He shrugged. “Her number was the last one dialed from a victim’s phone.”

“A victim?” René asked. “Are you saying she’s a suspect?”

“Pure routine, as I’ve said. We’d appreciate your cooperation. Now.”

“But that was me. . . .” René eased off his orthopedic chair and stood.

“I’m afraid not, Monsieur,” he said. His gaze held for a moment, taking in René’s stature. Like many did.

Aimée said, alarmed, “I’m not going anywhere until you explain.”

“Take it up with the Commandant, Mademoiselle; he’s waiting. That’s all I can say.”

René looked at her and then handed her his cell phone. “Mine’s charged. Call me afterward.”

The
flic
gestured toward the door.

“After you.”

* * *

EACH TIME THE Commissariat’s double doors swung open, Aimée heard the blare of car horns layered over the sound of the rushing water of Canal Saint-Martin.

The bad feeling she’d had in the police car heightened. The
flic
had responded to her questions in monosyllables, refused to reveal any more information, and escorted her inside the station. He’d disappeared once she’d seated herself on a contoured plastic chair. She tried to think who had been the last person to call her. And then it hit her . . . Jean-Paul, her disastrous blind date.

“He’ll see you now,” said the receptionist. “Room 12.”

Aimée strode inside an office. Metal file cabinets lined the walls, anonymous, standard issue, like those in any other commissariat except for the map of the tenth arrondissement taking up half the wall. Another map sectioned the arrondisse-ment into quartiers: Saint Vincent de Paul, the working-class section with hospitals and Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est; Porte Saint-Denis, Michel’s district of renovated warehouses, 18th-century
hôtels particuliers
and covered passages; Porte Saint-Martin, old convents and theatres; and l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, bordering the Canal: an arrondissement notable for hospitals, train stations, and old prisons.

A middle-aged man with sparse brown hair, a broad forehead, and rolled-up shirtsleeves swiveled around in his chair. Behind him, floor to ceiling windows overlooked the dirt-encrusted metal-and-glass canopy roof of a workshop. His smooth-shaven face, the lines more pronounced around the close-set eyes, was familiar.

“Maillol?”

“It’s Commander Maillol now,” he said, thumbing open a file on the otherwise clear desk. She remembered him; one of the recruits her father had worked with before Maillol had been assigned to the statistics bureau. A numbers man. And a backstabber, rumor went. Soon after working with Maillol, her father had left the force and joined her grandfather at Leduc Detective.

No doubt he still won at belote, she thought, recalling the smoke drifting from the off-duty
flics
around the card table in their kitchen. She remembered the late nights, empty bottles of pastis, and Maillol counting his winnings with a smug look. Maillol, her father had said, was a frustrated academic who’d failed his baccalaureate exams several times.

“Is this about Jean-Paul Orcut?” she asked, concerned.

“Mademoiselle Leduc,” he said, “what’s your relationship to Yves Robert?” He consulted a file, answering her question with his own.

She was taken by surprise. She sat without being asked. “Problematic at best. But perhaps you should explain why I’m here and what this has to do with—”

“Your number showed on his cell phone,” he said consulting the file.

“Why shouldn’t it? Is that illegal?”

“If you’d kept yours on, this formality could have been averted. We could have just called you.”

This didn’t make sense. Neither did his businesslike tone or his distancing himself from their shared past.

“I work with absolutes.” He pointed to a chart on the door. Cases solved, cases pending, all arranged in neat columns in black marker.

“I don’t understand,” she said. She leaned forward. “I’m more than acquainted with procedure. . . .”

“We found the victim’s cell phone in the suspect’s possession.” He looked up. “Your number was the last one dialed.”

BOOK: Murder in the Rue De Paradis
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Fragile by Chris Katsaropoulos
Trapped with the Tycoon by Jules Bennett
Knight 02.5 - If I'm Dead by Clark, Marcia
No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace
The Runaway Daughter by Lauri Robinson
Dragon Weather by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Beyond Moonlight by Piper Vaughn, M.J. O'Shea
An Unexpected Song by Iris Johansen