Murder in the Rue De Paradis (9 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Rue De Paradis
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René’s car . . . thank God. She’d take that, faster than a taxi. On quai d’Anjou she unlocked the car, turned the key in the ignition, and gunned the engine.

She crossed Pont Louis Philippe at the tip of the island, passing over the sluggish green currents of the Seine, drove up to rue de Rivoli, and turned left.

The sun, which shone to almost 11 P.M. in July, set earlier now each day. She hated, as she had as a child, to climb in bed while vanilla light painted her room. And she loathed being sick.

Her mother’s voice came back to her, the lilting singsong voice making up stories about Emil, the Royal mouse in the Louvre, illustrating them on old postcards in the bright splashed evening, dabbing Aimée’s fevered brow. . . . Why think of that now? Useless.

She shook off memories, wedged the Citroën next to a sleek Mercedes, set the parking brake, and hurried out.

Inside the seventies-era steel-and-smudged-glass Agence France-Presse, video monitors showed sweeps of the interior. A blond man in his early thirties, his white shirtsleeves rolled up over pressed khaki pants, leaned over in earnest conversation with the reception guard.

He straightened up. Tall, wide brow in a tanned face with a jagged nose, handsome in a prizefighter sort of way. He extended his hand. “Mademoiselle Leduc?”

She nodded and reached for his.

Strong dry grip, a white untanned thread of skin where a wedding band would have been. “Gerard Drieu. I just got off the phone with the Brigade Criminelle. It’s terrible.” He seemed shaken. “Words fail me to . . . well, to explain it.”

He’d spoken with Rouffillac, as anyone—not just the smart, accomplished type she figured him for if he worked here— would do. Gotten the lowdown. She wondered if Rouffillac had warned him against her.

“Monsieur Drieu, I’d appreciate speaking with the members of the staff who worked with Yves.” She shifted on her heels. “Could you provide me with an introduction?”

“I am sorry, but everyone’s left. There seemed to be no point to the meeting,” he said. “It’s so hard to believe. Yves’s work is up for the Renadot journalism award for that incredible piece he wrote on the Cairo poor dwelling in the cemetery. Like all his articles, incisive and based on solid reporting. Such a waste.” Drieu shook his head. “We’re stunned, we’ll have to reorganize priorities and assignments tomorrow. It’s a blow!”

More than a blow.

“A real maverick; he did it his own way. But then Yves got the stories no one else did. A stellar journalist.”

Aimée clutched her bag. An award . . . she’d had no idea.

“There’s breaking news, bureaus all over the globe, constant streams of data to coordinate. But as I told the Brigade, we’ll furnish anything pertinent they need.”

She aimed for tact. “Look, wouldn’t the Cairo branch know—”

“But Yves worked out of Turkey for the last six months.”

Why hadn’t he told her? But then she remembered his words about the indigo sky over Mount Ararat. If only she’d insisted that Yves explain instead of interrupting with her stupid excitement over his assignment in Paris.

“Yves was involved in an investigation; I’m sure it had to do with—”

“But the Brigade indicated a man with his wallet and cell phone was suspected,” Drieu said, his words slower.

Her anger rose to a slow boil. How could Rouffillac stick to that theory . . . unless it was only for public consumption.

“Somehow you were involved with this . . . ?” Drieu hesitated.

“Sordid mess?” she said. “We’d just gotten engaged.”

Drieu’s brow knit with concern; then he took both her hands in his. “Forgive me, I had no idea.”

He seemed to be a company man thrust into an awkward position. There was no reason to attack him.

“Of course you wouldn’t know, but I disagree with the authorities. An Arab woman was seen at the crime scene. Did they mention that?”

“The details he gave me were about a thief. You’re sure?” He didn’t wait for her answer. “But what does that mean?”

She shrugged. “Yves had circled an article in
Le Monde
about the Metro attacks, that’s all I know.” And saying that, she realized how insignificant her words sounded.

“Let’s go outside.” He opened the glass door and ushered her into the hot evening air. Across from them stood the pillared Bourse, the former Brogninart mansion, now the stock exchange, dead and deserted in the fading light.

“Excuse me, but I’m late for a meeting with my boss,” he said. “You look pale. Are you all right?” Again, he took her hand.

She wanted to beat her head against the glass window, to make Drieu understand there was more to Yves’s murder. To question him about Yves.

“I’m fine, but I feel Yves’s work was key to his . . .” she took a deep breath, “. . . murder.”

”Let me look into this more thoroughly,” Drieu said. “I’ll get back to you. That’s the best I can do right now.”

“Merci,
” she said.

The lines on the brow of his tanned face crinkled. “My condolences; it’s hard to lose someone, I know,” he said, his voice thick with what seemed like pain. He checked his watch. And with a quick nod he left for a waiting taxi.

She didn’t want to leave. But without an introduction and with all the staff members who knew Yves gone, what more could she discover? A cigarette; she needed a cigarette. Too bad she’d left the pack in her desk drawer.

She stuck on a Nicorette patch. Another taxi pulled up. A young man with camera bags slung over his shoulder got out. An Agence France-Presse pass dangled from his neck.

She followed him, re-entering the reception area. The man flashed his photo ID press card, and she saw his name: Gerard Langois. Took a chance.

“01 32 55 78 23?” she asked him.

He paused and turned around. About her height, thick longish brown hair parted on the side, and deepset brown eyes in a long face. “You know my office number.”

At least she’d found the other Gerard.

“And you know Yves Robert,” she said.

He nodded, watching her. “Big eyes, long legs. You’re Aimée, the one he goes on about.”

Her stomach knotted. Yves had talked about her and Gerard didn’t know yet. His black camera case held stickers saying “Marriott Hotel–Sarajevo.”

“A joke,” he said, grinning and noticing her gaze. “Yves insists I—”

“Please, we need to talk,” she said. “Upstairs?”

Gerard Langois signed in. She furnished ID to the reception guard and signed her name under his. Once through the automatic door, he took a quick left up a switchback of concrete stairs and then through a swinging door to a large low-ceilinged area with ten or so vacant desks and terminals. In a large cubicle at the corner, several men and women worked at desks. Banks of monitors showing breaking newsfeed perched on the walls. Fluorescent light panels flickered in the ceiling.

“So you’ve let Yves come up for air, eh? I’m already late for the meeting,” he said, setting his bags on a desk, pulling out rolls of Agfa film. Amusement shone in his deepset eyes. “But since I’m a freelance clicker, just contracted to Agence France Press, I can afford to arrive stylishly late. Besides, the good stuff comes at the end.”

Fancied himself Robert Capa, did he?

“We’ll talk after the meeting, Yves’s waiting.”

She shook her head. “There’s no easy way to say this. Sit down.”

His hand stopped on the roll of film. His smile froze and his gaze never left her face. “What happened?”

Her nose dripped as she sat. She wiped it with her sleeve. Tears threatened, but she willed them down.

“The meeting’s cancelled. They should have informed you.”

“Eh?”

She took a breath and gave him the bald facts.

For a full minute, shock painted Langois’s face, then hardened into anger mixed with hurt. “Damn fool. I told him.”

“Told him what?”

“When I met him at the Gare du Nord.” Langois shook his head. “I said leave it alone.”

She pulled out the Eurostar ticket stub with her shaking hands. The stub she’d forgotten to give to Rouffillac. “Yours?”

He glanced at it, nodded, then sat down on the edge of the desk.

“Leave what alone, Gerard?”

“His contact didn’t show.”

She leaned forward.

“What contact?”

“That’s what I asked.” Langois sighed. “But Yves knows everyone, has contacts everywhere. Getting to his sources is like peeling the layers of an onion. ‘Better you see it when it happens, keeps your photos fresh,’ he always says . . . said.”

Langois averted his eyes.

He wasn’t telling her something.

“So, like the
flics
, you think his contact was a junkie hustler? That’s what you’re saying?”

“Eh? You mean that asthmatic, the suspect you mentioned?”

She stared at him.

“I doubt it,” he said. “When Yves met me arriving on the Eurostar at Gare du Nord, we waited thirty minutes at the gate for his contact.”

“Any idea who the contact could be?”

He shook his head. “No clue. But instead of leaving by the main exit, grabbing a taxi, and having dinner, as we’d planned, he insisted we take the tunnel.”

“A tunnel in the Gare du Nord?” she said. “You mean to the Metro?”

“I thought so,” Langois said. “But after a ten-minute walk underground we ended up by some construction. A spooky place. Yves kept looking around, glancing at his watch; he said this was their backup meeting point.”

She had a thought. “Did he get any calls on his cell phone?”

“No reception down there. Anyway, he said the contact didn’t trust cell phones. Wouldn’t use one.”

She thought of the pebbles outside the loft window. Made sense.

“So the contact didn’t show there or at the backup location . . . didn’t he give you some idea what it concerned?”

“He asked one of the workers something. But I don’t speak Turkish.”

Surprised, she leaned forward.

“Yves spoke Turkish?”

“He’s been stationed in Ankara as chief correspondent for the last six months until this. . . .” He stopped.

The Anatolian sufi amulet, the Turkish puzzle ring, of course. Like he said, peeling the layers of an onion. She had to construct the events of Yves’s life before he met her at Microimage, so she could understand the events afterward.

“And then?”

“He got the keys to a great loft on the canal.”

“Did he make calls on his cell phone?”

Langois thought. “Can’t remember.”

“What about his bags?”

He shrugged. “Instead of dinner, he said he had to go, he would call me later. Otherwise, to meet up here tonight.”

She thought about
Le Monde,
the front page on the floor with the Metro bombing headlines.

“Does ‘a homegrown insidious network’ mean anything to you?”

“We photographers just capture an image; the journalists don’t tell us much.”

She had an idea. “How about the stories he worked on in Ankara?”

Langois pulled out a small large-format camera, switched on the power. “Yves went native, got inside the militant Kurd organization, the iKK party. Fancied himself a Lawrence of Anatolia for a while, until the Agence reined him in.”

Now the dark makeup she’d discovered on Yves’s face made some sense. . . . Suppose he’d applied it to make himself appear Kurdish?

“Yves wrote incredible stuff. But he always played it close to the wire.” Langois’s voice deepened in sadness. “Too close. He hated Ankara, but the countryside captured his heart.”

Langois clicked on his state-of-the-art digital camera. “Look.”

Astounded, she stared at the photos displayed: an aquamarine sky over a purple blue mountain rising from desolate red earth plains, men in skullcaps, ragged suit jackets, and embroidered vests brandishing machine guns, old Kalashnikovs by the look of them.

“This camera’s only available to the trade right now, but in ten years everyone will have one. Small enough for your pocket.”

A little spark of hope flared up.

“Do you have any photos of Yves?”

“See.” He pointed to a tanned man dressed like the others amid what looked like the smoldering ruins of a village, chunks of breeze blocks, upturned scorched trees and blackened stones. A solitary doorway without a house—a doorway to nowhere—stood framing Yves.

“He gave me this,” she said, showing him the amulet.

Langois stared. “I remember how he bartered with the old Sufi. The Sufi insisted that it go to his betrothed, or bad luck would follow.”

It already had.

“Can you make me a copy of this photo?”

Langois hooked up a cable to the printer. Within minutes, she had a damp photo of Yves gone native. Achingly handsome, his eyes lit by an inner fire. The only one she had to remember him by . . . better than her last view of him.

“What if he dressed up again, played a part, and met with foul play . . . the junkie hustler might have been involved. Or not, and took advantage of the chance to grab Yves’s wallet and cell phone.”

He shrugged. “Ask him.”

“Too late, asthma attack; he’s dead. But his crony might know.”

“Crony?”

“When I find him,” she said.

“Let me come with you,” Langois said.

Aimée glanced at the time. “Are you ready?”

“Hold on; I’ll check in with Georges, the attending.”

Langois’s words raised more questions; she had to get access to Yves’s belongings, see what clothes or disguise he wore. Maybe his bag and papers were still at the Commissariat if the Brigade hadn’t requested them. Stupid; she couldn’t assume anything. Right now Rouffillac had a lot on his plate.

In the cubicle, Langois held a long discussion with a gray-haired man in a long-sleeved shirt. Headphones hanging on his chest like a stethoscope made him resemble a doctor. By the time he returned, she’d trimmed Yves’s photo with scissors she’d found on the desk and stuck it in her wallet.

“I’ve got a press shoot tomorrow, then an evening shoot at a women’s conference, some female Turkish MP, a
cause célèbre
and darling of the
bobo
set. Boring stuff. At least Yves—”

He stopped his mouth pursed.

“Made it interesting?” She turned away. Controlled her shaking hands. “You up for this or not?”

BOOK: Murder in the Rue De Paradis
9.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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