Long Lost Page 14

’’And look that way.’’

He pointed over his right shoulder. I looked over the Seine and there it was the Eiffel Tower. I know how touristy it is to be awestruck by the Eiffel Tower, but I just stared for a moment.

’’Amazing, no?’’ he said.

’’Next time I get arrested, I need to bring a camera.’’

He laughed.

’’Your English is really good,’’ I said.

’’We are taught here from a young age. I also spent a semester at Amherst College in my youth and worked two years in an exchange program with Quantico. Oh, and I have the entire Simpsons collection on DVD in English.’’

’’That will do it.’’

He took another hit from the cigarette.

’’How was he murdered?’’ I asked.

’’Shouldn\'t I say something like, \'Aha, how do you know he\'s been murdered?\' ’’

I shrugged. ’’Like you said, you don\'t process parking violations here.’’

’’What can you tell me about Rick Collins?’’

’’Nothing.’’

’’How about Terese Collins?’’

’’What do you want to know?’’

’’She\'s quite beautiful,’’ he said.

’’That\'s what you want to know?’’

’’I did a little research. We have CNN over here, of course. I remember her.’’

’’So?’’

’’So about a decade ago she was at the top of her profession. Suddenly she quits and there isn\'t a Google mention of her again. I checked. There is no sign of employment. I can\'t get a residence, nothing.’’

I didn\'t reply.

’’Where has she been?’’

’’Why don\'t you ask her?’’

’’Because right now, I\'m asking you.’’

’’I told you. I haven\'t seen her in eight years.’’

’’And you had no idea where she was?’’

’’I didn\'t.’’

He smiled and wagged his finger at me.

’’What?’’

’’You said \'didn\'t.\' Past tense. That implies you now know where she was.’’

’’Your good English,’’ I said. ’’It has come back to haunt me.’’

’’So?’’

’’Angola,’’ I said. ’’Or at least, that\'s what she told me.’’

He nodded. A police or French siren went off. The French have a different siren than we do more insistent, horrible, like the love child of a cheap car alarm and the wrong-answer buzzer on Family Feud. We let it shatter our silence and waited for it to fade away.

I said, ’’You made some calls, didn\'t you?’’

’’A few.’’

’’And?’’

He didn\'t say anything else.

’’You know I didn\'t kill him. I wasn\'t even in the country.’’

’’I know.’’

’’But?’’

’’May I offer another scenario?’’

’’Shoot.’’

’’Terese Collins murdered her ex-husband,’’ Berleand said. ’’She needed a way to dispose of the body someone she could trust to help clean up the mess. She called you.’’

I frowned. ’’And when I answered, she said, \'I just killed my ex-husband in Paris, please help me\'? ’’

’’Well, she might have just told you to fly here. She might have told you the purpose after you arrived.’’

I smiled. This had gone on long enough. ’’You know she didn\'t tell me that.’’

’’How would I know that?’’

’’You were listening in,’’ I said.

Berleand didn\'t face me then. He just kept smoking the cigarette and looked out at the view.

’’When you stopped me at the airport,’’ I continued, ’’you put a bug on me somewhere. My shoes maybe. Probably my cell phone.’’

It was the only thing that made sense. They found the body, maybe checked Rick Collins\'s cell phone or whatever, found out his ex-wife was in town, put a tap on her phone, saw that she called me, held me up at the airport long enough to put on a bug and start surveillance.

That was why I had been so forthcoming with Berleand he already knew all these answers. I\'d been hoping to win his trust.

’’Your cell phone,’’ he answered. ’’We replaced the battery with a listening device that holds the same charge. It\'s very new technology, quite cutting edge.’’

’’So you know Terese thought her ex was missing.’’

He tilted his head back and forth. ’’We know that\'s what she told you.’’

’’Come on, Berleand. You heard her tone. She was genuinely distraught.’’

’’She seemed to be,’’ he agreed.

’’So?’’

He crushed out the cigarette. ’’You could also hear that she was holding back,’’ Berleand said. ’’She\'s lying to you. You know it, I know it. I hoped that maybe you\'d work it out of her, but you spotted the van.’’ He thought about it. ’’And that\'s when you realized that you were bugged.’’

’’So we\'re both very clever,’’ I said.

’’Or not as clever as we think.’’

’’Have you notified his next of kin?’’

’’We\'re trying.’’

I aimed for subtle, but then again I thought we were somewhat past that. ’’Who is the next of kin?’’

’’His wife.’’

’’Do you have a name?’’

’’Please don\'t push it,’’ Berleand said.

He took out another cigarette, stuck it between his lips, let it dip down as he lit it with a hand that had done this many times before.

’’There was blood found at the scene,’’ he said. ’’Lots of it. Most belonged to the victim, of course. But preliminary tests tell us that there is at least one more person\'s blood in the mix. So we have gathered a blood sample from Terese Collins, and we will run the proper DNA test.’’

’’She didn\'t do it, Berleand.’’

He said nothing.

’’There\'s something else you aren\'t telling me,’’ I said.

’’There is a lot I\'m not telling you. You, alas, are not part of Groupe Berleand.’’

’’Can\'t I be deputized or something?’’

He made that mortified face again. Then: ’’It can\'t be a coincidence,’’ he said. ’’Him being murdered right after his ex-wife arrives.’’

’’You heard what she told me. Her ex sounded scared. He\'d probably gotten himself into some kind of mess that\'s why he called her in the first place.’’

We were interrupted by the trill of his cell phone. Berleand unfolded it, put it to his ear, and listened. He probably made a hell of a poker player, my new friend Berleand, but something crossed his face and stayed there. He barked out something in French, clearly annoyed or puzzled. Then he went silent. After a few moments, he snapped the phone closed, stubbed out his cigarette, and stood.


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