Long Lost Page 15

’’Problem?’’ I said.

’’Take one last look.’’ Berleand brushed off his pants with both hands. ’’We don\'t let a lot of tourists up here.’’

I did. Some might find it odd, this police headquarters with its spectacular view. I decided to take the moment and look out and remember why murder was such an abomination.

’’Where are we going?’’ I asked.

’’The lab received preliminary results on the DNA from the blood.’’

’’Already?’’

He shrugged a little too theatrically. ’’We French are about more than wine, food, and women.’’

’’Pity. So what\'s it show?’’

’’I think,’’ he began, ducking back inside through the window, ’’that we should talk to Terese Collins.’’

8

WE found her in the same holding cell where I\'d been half an hour earlier.

Her eyes were red and swollen. When Berleand unlocked the door, all pretense of strength fled. She grabbed on to me, and I held her. She sobbed against my chest. I let her. Berleand stood there. I met his eye. He did the big shrug again.

’’We are going to release you both,’’ he said, ’’if you will agree to surrender your passports.’’

Terese pulled away, looked at me. We both nodded.

’’I have a few more questions before you leave,’’ Berleand said. ’’Is that okay?’’

’’I realize that I\'m a suspect,’’ Terese said. ’’Ex-wife in the same city after all these years, the phone calls between us, whatever. Doesn\'t matter I just want you to nail whoever killed Rick. So ask whatever you want, Inspector.’’

’’I appreciate your candor and cooperation.’’ He seemed so tentative now, almost too deliberate. Something he had heard during that phone call on the roof had thrown him. I wondered what was up.

’’Are you aware that your ex-husband had remarried?’’ Berleand asked.

Terese shook her head. ’’I didn\'t know, no. When?’’

’’When what?’’

’’Was he remarried?’’

’’I don\'t know.’’

’’May I ask his wife\'s name?’’

’’Karen Tower.’’

Terese almost smiled.

’’You know her?’’

’’I do.’’

Berleand nodded and did the hand rub again. I expected him to ask how she knew Karen Tower, but he let that go.

’’We have some preliminary blood tests back from the lab.’’

’’Already?’’ Terese looked surprised. ’’I just gave the sample, what, an hour ago?’’

’’Not on yours, no. Those will take some more time. This is the blood we found at the murder scene.’’

’’Oh.’’

’’Something curious.’’

We both waited. Terese swallowed as if she were preparing for a blow.

’’Most of the blood nearly all of it, really belonged to the victim, Rick Collins,’’ Berleand said. His voice was measured now, as if he were trying to wade his way through whatever he was about to tell us. ’’That\'s hardly a surprise.’’

We still said nothing.

’’But there was another patch of blood found on the carpet, not far from the body. We\'re not exactly sure how it got there. Our original theory was also the most obvious: There was a struggle. Rick Collins put up a fight and injured his killer.’’

’’And now?’’ I said.

’’First off, we found blond hairs with the blood. Long blond hair. Like you\'d find on a female.’’

’’Females kill.’’

’’Yes, of course.’’

He stopped.

’’But?’’ I said.

’’But it still seems impossible for the blood to be the killer\'s.’’

’’Why\'s that?’’

’’Because, according to the DNA testing, the blood and blond hair belong to Rick Collins\'s daughter.’’

Terese didn\'t scream. She just let out a moan. Her knees buckled. I moved fast, grabbing her before she hit the floor. I looked a question at Berleand. He was unsurprised. He was studying her, gauging this reaction.

’’You don\'t have children, do you, Ms. Collins?’’

All color had drained from her face.

’’Can you give us a second?’’ I said.

’’No, I\'m fine,’’ Terese said. She regained her footing and looked hard at Berleand. ’’I have no children. But you knew that already, didn\'t you?’’

Berleand did not reply.

’’Bastard,’’ she said to him.

I wanted to ask what was going on, but maybe this was a time for shutting up and listening.

’’We haven\'t been able to reach Karen Tower yet,’’ Berleand said. ’’But I suppose that this daughter was hers too?’’

’’I suppose,’’ Terese said.

’’And you, of course, knew nothing about her?’’

’’That\'s right.’’

’’How long have you and Mr. Collins been divorced?’’

’’Nine years.’’

I\'d had enough. ’’What the hell is going on here?’’

Berleand ignored me. ’’So even if your ex-husband married almost immediately, this daughter really couldn\'t be more than, what, eight years old?’’

That quieted the room.

’’So,’’ Berleand continued, ’’now we know that Rick\'s young daughter was at the murder scene and was injured. Where do you suppose she is now?’’

WE chose to walk back to the hotel.

We crossed the Pont Neuf. The water was muddy green. Bells from a church pealed. People stopped on the bridge midspan and took pictures. One man asked me to snap one of him and what I guessed was his girlfriend. They snuggled in close and I counted to three and took the picture and then they asked if I minded taking one more and I counted to three again and did and then they thanked me and moved on.

Terese had not said a word.

’’Are you hungry?’’ I asked.

’’We need to talk.’’

’’Okay.’’

She never broke stride across the Pont Neuf, onto the Rue Dauphine, through the hotel lobby. The concierge behind the desk offered up a very friendly ’’Welcome back!’’ but she blew past him with a quick smile.

Once the elevator doors closed, she turned to me and said, ’’You wanted to know my secret what brought me to that island, why I\'ve been on the run all these years.’’

’’If you want to tell me,’’ I said in a way that sounded patronizing even in my own ears. ’’If I can help.’’

’’You can\'t. But you need to know anyway.’’

We got off on the fourth floor. She opened the door to the room, let me pass, closed the door behind her. The room was average size, small by American standards, with a spiral stairway leading to what I assumed was the loft. It looked very much like what it was supposed to a sixteenth-century Parisian home, albeit with a wide-screen TV and built-in DVD player.


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