Long Lost Page 13

My reply was a simple eyebrow arch.

Berleand smiled. ’’I almost blew another French stereotype, eh?’’

’’You\'re worrying me, Berleand.’’

’’So you came for a romantic rendezvous?’’

’’No.’’

’’Then?’’

’’I didn\'t know why she wanted me to come. I just sensed that she was in trouble.’’

’’And you wanted to help?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Did you know what she needed help with?’’

’’Before I arrived? No.’’

’’And now?’’

’’I do, yes.’’

’’Would you mind telling me?’’

’’Do I have a choice?’’ I asked.

’’Not really, no.’’

’’Her ex-husband is missing. He called her, said he had something urgent to discuss with her, and then he vanished.’’

Berleand seemed surprised by either my answer or the fact that I was being so cooperative. I had my suspicions which.

’’So Ms. Collins called you to, what, help find him?’’

’’Exactly.’’

’’Why you?’’

’’She thinks I\'m good at that sort of thing.’’

’’I thought you told me you were an agent. That you represented entertainers. How does that make you good at finding missing people?’’

’’My business is a rather personal one. I\'m called on to do a lot of bizarre things for my clients.’’

’’I see,’’ Berleand said.

Lefebvre came in. He still had the toothpick. He stroked his facial growth and stood to my right and stared nails at me. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Bad Cop. I looked at Berleand as if to say, Is this really necessary? He shrugged.

’’You care about Ms. Collins, don\'t you?’’

’’Yes.’’

Lefebvre, playing his role to the hilt, stared more nails at me. He slowly took the toothpick out of his mouth and said, ’’Lying sheet!’’

’’Excuse me?’’

’’You,’’ he said with an angry, thick French accent. ’’You are a lying sheeet!’’

’’And you,’’ I countered, ’’are a lying pillowcase.’’

Berleand just stared at me.

’’Sheet,’’ I said. ’’Pillowcase. Get it?’’

Berleand looked mortified. Couldn\'t blame him.

’’Do you love Terese Collins?’’ he asked.

I stayed on the truth train. ’’I don\'t know.’’

’’But you\'re close?’’

’’I haven\'t seen her in years.’’

’’That doesn\'t change anything, does it?’’

’’No,’’ I said. ’’I guess not.’’

’’Do you know Rick Collins?’’

For some reason, hearing him say it, I was surprised Terese took his name, but of course, they met in college. It would be natural, I guess. ’’No.’’

’’Never met him?’’

’’Never.’’

’’What can you tell me about him?’’

’’Not a damn thing.’’

Lefebvre put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed just a little. ’’Lying sheeet.’’

I looked back at him. ’’Please tell me that\'s not the same toothpick from the airport. Because if it is, we are talking seriously unsanitary.’’

Berleand said, ’’Is Ms. Collins correct?’’

I turned back to him. ’’About what?’’

’’Are you good at finding people?’’

I shrugged. ’’I think I know where Rick Collins is.’’

Berleand looked at Lefebvre. Lefebvre stood a little straighter.

’’Oh? Where is he?’’

’’A nearby morgue,’’ I said. ’’Somebody murdered him.’’

7

BERLEAND took me out of the Groupe Berleand office and turned right.

’’Where are we going?’’ I asked.

He wiped his hands on his pants legs and said, ’’Just follow me.’’

We walked in a corridor with an opening that dropped down five floors. A steel net covered the space.

’’What\'s up with the net?’’ I asked.

’’Two years ago we brought in a terrorist suspect. A woman, as a matter of fact. When we walked her down this hallway, she grabbed one of the guards and tried to throw them both over the railing.’’

I looked down. It was a long drop.

’’They die?’’

’’No, another officer grabbed them by the ankles. But now we have the netting.’’

He took two steps up into what appeared to be the attic. ’’Watch your head,’’ Berleand said to me.

’’Terrorist suspect?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’You guys do terrorism?’’

’’Terrorism, homicide, the boundaries are no longer so clear. We do a little of everything.’’

He entered the attic space. I had to duck big-time now. There were clothes on a drying line. ’’You guys do your laundry up here?’’

’’No.’’

’’So whose clothes?’’

’’Victims. That\'s where we hang them.’’

’’You\'re kidding, right?’’

’’No.’’

I stopped and looked at them. A dark blue shirt was ripped and covered with bloodstains. ’’Do these belong to Rick Collins?’’

’’Follow me.’’

He opened a window and stepped outside onto the roof. He turned and looked back for me to follow.

Again I said, ’’You\'re kidding, right?’’

’’One of the great views of Paris.’’

’’From the roof of 36 quai des Orfèvres?’’

I stepped out onto the slate and wow, was he right about the view. Berleand lit a cigarette, sucked in a breath so deep I thought the entire cigarette might turn to ash, released it in a long stream through his nose.

’’Do you often interrogate up here?’’

’’To be honest, this is a first,’’ he said.

’’You could threaten to push someone off.’’

Berleand shrugged. ’’Not my style.’’

’’So why are we here?’’

’’We are not allowed to smoke indoors and I desperately need a cigarette.’’

He took another deep breath.

’’I used to be okay with it, you know? Smoking outside only. I would jog up and down the five flights of stairs as my way of exercising. But then I\'d be so out of breath from the cigarettes.’’

’’It would cancel each other out,’’ I said.

’’Exactly.’’

’’You might have considered quitting.’’

’’But then I wouldn\'t have a reason to run down the stairs and so I wouldn\'t exercise. Follow me?’’

’’As much as I\'d like to, Berleand.’’

He sat down and looked out. He gestured for me to do the same. So there I was, on the roof of one of the world\'s most famous police stations, staring at the most breathtaking view of Notre Dame.


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