Long Lost Page 19

’’Please,’’ I said for the hundredth time, ’’Captain Berleand can explain everything.’’

If you were trying to read their body language, you\'d conclude that the cops were both skeptical of everything I said and rather bored. But you can\'t judge by the body language. I had learned that over the years. Cops are always skeptical plus they get more information that way. They always act like they don\'t believe you so you keep talking, trying to defend and explain and blurting out things that maybe you shouldn\'t.

’’You need to find the van,’’ I said again, repeating the license plate number mantralike.

’’My friend is staying at the d\'Aubusson.’’ I pointed down the Rue Dauphine, gave Terese\'s name and room number.

To all of this, the cops nodded and responded with questions that had nothing to do with what I had just said. I answered the questions and they continued to stare at me as though every word out of my mouth were a complete fabrication.

Then they dumped me back into this holding cell. I don\'t think anyone had cleaned it since my last visit. Or since de Gaulle died. I was worried about Terese. I was also a tad worried about yours truly. I had shot a man in a foreign country. That was provable. What was not provable what would be difficult, if not impossible, to corroborate was my account of the incident.

Did I have to shoot that guy?

No question. He had a gun out.

Would he have fired at me?

You don\'t wait to find out. So I fired first. How would that play here in France?

I wondered if anyone else had been shot. I had seen more than one ambulance. Suppose someone innocent got hit by the machine-gun fire. That was on me. Suppose I had just gone with Scar Head. I could be with the blond girl now. Talk about terrified. What was that girl thinking and feeling, in the back of that van, probably injured since there had been blood at her father\'s murder scene?

Had she witnessed her father\'s murder?

Whoa, let\'s not get ahead of ourselves.

’’Next time, I suggest you hire a private guide. Too many tourists try to do Paris on their own and get into trouble.’’

It was Berleand.

’’I saw a blond girl in the back of the van,’’ I said.

’’So I heard.’’

’’And I left Terese at the hotel,’’ I said.

’’She left about five minutes after you did.’’

I stayed behind the glass door, waiting for him to unlock it. He didn\'t. I thought about what he had just said. ’’Did you have us under surveillance?’’

’’I don\'t have the manpower to follow you both,’’ he said. ’’But tell me: What did you make of her story about the car accident?’’

’’How . . . ?’’ Now I saw it. ’’You bugged our room?’’

Berleand nodded. ’’You\'re not getting much action.’’

’’Very funny.’’

’’Or pathetic,’’ he countered. ’’So what did you make of her story?’’

’’What do you mean what did I make of it? It\'s horrible.’’

’’You believed her?’’

’’Of course. Who\'d make up something like that?’’

Something crossed his face.

’’Are you telling me it\'s not true?’’

’’No, it all seems to check out. Miriam Collins, age seven, died in the accident off the A-Forty highway in London. Terese was seriously hurt. But I\'m having the entire file sent to my office for review.’’

’’Why? It was ten years ago. It doesn\'t have anything to do with this.’’

He didn\'t reply. He just pushed the glasses back up his nose. I felt a tad on display in this Plexiglas holding cell.

’’I assume your colleagues from the crime scene filled you in on what happened,’’ I said.

’’Yes.’’

’’You guys need to find that green van.’’

’’We already did,’’ Berleand said.

I moved closer to the Plexiglas door.

’’The van was a rental,’’ Berleand said. ’’They dumped it at CDG Airport.’’

’’Rented with a credit card?’’

’’Under an alias, yes.’’

’’You need to stop all flights out.’’

’’Out of the largest airport in the country?’’ Berleand frowned. ’’Any other crime-stopping tips?’’

’’I\'m just saying ’’

’’It\'s been two hours. If they flew out, they\'re gone.’’

Another cop came into the room, handed Berleand a piece of paper, and left. Berleand studied it.

’’What\'s that?’’ I asked.

I ignored Berleand\'s lame attempt at humor. ’’You know this isn\'t a coincidence,’’ I said. ’’I saw a blond girl in the back of that van.’’

He was still reading the sheet of paper. ’’You mentioned that, yes.’’

’’It could have been Collins\'s daughter.’’

’’Doubtful,’’ Berleand said.

I waited.

’’We reached the wife,’’ Berleand said. ’’Karen Tower. She\'s fine. She didn\'t even know her husband was in Paris.’’

’’Where did she think he was?’’

’’I don\'t know all the details yet. They live in London now. Scotland Yard delivered the news. Apparently there have been some marital difficulties.’’

’’And what about the daughter?’’

’’Well, that\'s the thing,’’ Berleand said. ’’They don\'t have a daughter. They have a four-year-old son. He\'s home safe and sound with his mother.’’

I tried to process that one. ’’The DNA test showed the blood definitely belonged to Rick Collins\'s daughter,’’ I began.

’’Yes.’’

’’No doubts?’’

’’No doubts.’’

’’And the long blond hair was tied to the blood?’’ I asked.

’’Yes.’’

’’So Rick Collins has a daughter with long blond hair,’’ I said more to myself than him. It didn\'t take time to come up with an alternate scenario. Maybe it was because I was in France, supposed land of the mistress. Even the former president openly had one, didn\'t he?

’’A second family,’’ I said.

Of course it wasn\'t just the French. There was that New York politician who got caught drunk driving on his way to visit his second family. Men have kids with their mistresses all the time. Add in Berleand\'s belief that there were marriage difficulties between Rick Collins and Karen Tower and it added up. Of course, there were still major holes to fill like why Collins would call Terese, his first wife, and tell her it was urgent to see him in Paris but one step at a time.


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