Long Lost Page 20

I started explaining my theory to Berleand, but I could see that he wasn\'t buying so I stopped the sell.

’’What am I missing?’’ I asked.

His cell phone trilled. Again Berleand spoke in French, leaving me totally in the dark. I\'d have to take a Berlitz course or something when I got home. When he hung up, he quickly unlocked the holding cell and waved for me to come out. I did. He started down the corridor at a hurried pace.

’’Berleand?’’

’’Come on. I need to show you something.’’

We headed back into the Groupe Berleand room. Lefebvre was there. He looked at me as if I\'d just dropped out of his worst enemy\'s anus. He was hooking up another monitor to the computer, flat screen and maybe thirty inches wide.

’’What\'s going on?’’ I asked.

Berleand sat at the keyboard. Lefebvre backed off. There were two other cops in the room. They too stood back by the wall. Berleand looked at the monitor, then at the keyboard. He frowned. On his desk was the dispenser for towelettes. He pulled one out and started wiping down the keyboard.

Lefebvre said something in French that sounded like a complaint.

Berleand snapped something back, gesturing to the keyboard. He finished wiping it down and then started typing.

’’The blond girl in the van,’’ Berleand said to me. ’’How old would you say she was?’’

’’I don\'t know.’’

’’Think.’’

I tried, shook my head. ’’All I saw was long blond hair.’’

’’Sit down,’’ he said.

I pulled up a chair. He opened an e-mail and downloaded a file.

’’More video will be coming in,’’ he said, ’’but this still-frame is the clearest.’’

’’Of what?’’

’’Surveillance camera from the de Gaulle airport lot.’’

A color photograph came up I\'d expected something grainy and black-and-white, but this one was fairly clear. Tons of cars duh, it\'s a parking lot but people too. I squinted.

Berleand pointed to the upper right. ’’Is that them?’’

The camera was unfortunately so far away that the subjects could only be seen at a great distance. There were three men. One was covering his face with something white, a shirt maybe, staving off the blood. Scar Head.

I nodded.

The blond girl was there too, but now I understood his question. From this angle a back shot I couldn\'t really tell her age but she certainly wasn\'t six or seven or even ten or twelve, unless she was unusually tall. She was full grown. The clothing suggested a teenager, someone young, but nowadays it is hard to know for certain.

The blonde walked between the two healthier men. Scar Head was on the far right.

’’It\'s them,’’ I said. Then I added: ’’What did we figure the daughter would have had to be? Seven or eight. The blond hair, I guess. It threw me. I overreacted.’’

’’I\'m not so sure.’’

I looked at Berleand. He took off his glasses, placed them on the table, and rubbed his face with both hands. He barked out something in French. The three men, including Lefebvre, left the room. We were alone.

’’What the hell is going on?’’ I asked.

He stopped rubbing his face and looked at me. ’’You are aware that no one at the cafésaw the other man pull a gun on you.’’

’’Of course they didn\'t. It was under the table.’’

’’Most people would have put up their hands and gone quietly. Most people would not have thought to smash the man\'s face with a table, grab his gun, and shoot his accomplice in the middle of the boulevard.’’

I waited for him to say more. When he didn\'t, I added: ’’What can I say? I\'m the balls.’’

’’The man you shot he was unarmed.’’

’’Not when I shot him. His cohorts took the gun when they fled. You know this, Berleand. You know I didn\'t just make this up.’’

We sat there for another minute. Berleand stared at the monitor.

’’What are we waiting for?’’

’’Video to come in,’’ he said.

’’Of?’’

’’The blond girl.’’

’’Why?’’

He didn\'t reply. It took another five minutes. I peppered him with questions. He ignored me. Finally his e-mail dinged and a very short video from the parking lot arrived. He clicked the Play button and sat back.

We could see the blond girl clearer now. She was indeed a teenager maybe sixteen, seventeen years old. She had long blond hair. The vantage point was still from too great a distance to see the features up close, but there was something familiar about her, about the way she held her head up, the way her shoulders stayed back, the perfect posture. . . .

’’We ran a preliminary DNA test on that blood sample and the blond hair,’’ Berleand said.

The temperature in the room dropped ten degrees. I wrested my eyes away from the screen and looked at him.

’’It isn\'t just his daughter,’’ Berleand said, gesturing toward the blonde on the screen. ’’It\'s also Terese Collins\'s.’’

11

IT took me a while to find my voice.

’’You said preliminary.’’

Berleand nodded. ’’The final DNA test will take a few more hours.’’

’’So it could be wrong.’’

’’Unlikely.’’

’’But there have been cases?’’

’’Yes. I had one case where we grabbed a man based on a preliminary like this. It turns out it was his brother. I also know about a paternity case where a woman sued her boyfriend for child custody. He claimed that the baby wasn\'t his. The preliminary DNA test was a dead match but when the lab looked closer, it turned out that it was the boyfriend\'s father.’’

I thought about it.

’’Does Terese Collins have any sisters?’’ Berleand asked.

’’I don\'t know.’’

Berleand made a face.

’’What?’’ I said.

’’You two really have a special relationship, don\'t you?’’

I ignored the jab. ’’So what\'s next?’’

’’We need you to call Terese Collins,’’ Berleand said. ’’So we can question her some more.’’

’’Why don\'t you call her yourself?’’

’’We did. She won\'t pick up.’’

He handed me back my cell phone. I turned it on. One missed call. I didn\'t click to see who it was from just yet. There was what appeared to be junk mail, the subject reading: When Peggy Lee sang, ’’Is that all there is?’’ was she talking about your trouser snake? Your Small Pee-Pee Needs Viagra at 86BR22.com.

Berleand read it over my shoulder. ’’What does that mean?’’


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