Speak Softly My Love
Chapter Twenty-Three: the culmination
It had suddenly come to Hubert. The solution to all of their problems.
It was just so damned simple.
Tailler was interviewing the one known as Lucinde. He was asking simple, innocuous questions about her hometown. She was putting him off as best she could. Her answers were very general, vague even. They were a little too vague for someone who had allegedly lived there in Lyon for many years.
Their voices were muffled on the other side of a panel of one-way glass.
Hubert and Maintenon stood beside Ada Bellerose, brought in from Molsheim by Jeannine, back on the case, and LeBref, who barely came up to her shoulder.
She gulped, not really knowing what was going on.
“Can you tell us who that is, Mademoiselle?”
She cleared her throat.
“Yes. That—that is Zoe Godeffroy.”
Maintenon took her arm.
“Thank you, Mademoiselle. That will be all.”
Hubert tapped on the glass. Two faces turned to look at the mirror on their side. The lady was very pale as Tailler went back to the questioning.
The gentleman had his lawyer present. Tailler and Hubert sat on one side of the table and the two of them sat on the other.
Hubert was letting Tailler handle this part. Emile had definitely earned it.
Those blue-black eyes stared across the table as the attorney, a Monsieur Pichon, shifted in his chair. It was the face from the pictures, even some of the pictures of the other guy—the dead one.
The lawyer’s briefcase was on the table between them, unopened. His jacket, hand-stitched, looked thick and soft in a kind of multi-coloured grey weave of Italian make.
The attorney spoke.
“And what might they be?”
His intelligent glittered behind thin silver glasses. For professional reasons, he was completely composed, although his client bore the signs of nervousness.
“You can take your chances and go to trial.”
“You can go to trial, plead your innocence, and who knows—you might walk away a free man. Or face the guillotine.”
Tailler paused again, looking into those eyes.
“Or you can plead guilty, get up on the stand, and tell some big sob story. You can blame somebody else, claim self defense, whatever. Talk about the blackmailer threatening you. Hell, it might have happened, right? Even we can see that. Extenuating circumstances, throw yourself on the mercy of the court.” The gentleman might plead to manslaughter, or a homicide in the lesser degree. “At the very least, you avoid the death penalty. If you’re lucky. You might get parole in about forty years…”
“One of our concerns is for the ladies. Lucinde has children. They, at least, are real. With a little cooperation from you, sir, we could maybe let them off the hook—we could try and keep the children out of the limelight.” Tailler was hoping he would go for it. “They are your children after all.”
Didier’s face fell into his hands and he sobbed.
“We can recommend to the public prosecutor, twenty-five years, with the possibility of parole after twenty. Time off for good behaviour. Devil’s Island, which, on reflection, might be better than a metropolitan prison…n’est pas?”
He would at least get to see the light once in a while. He could have his own garden and grow vegetables, beets and things.
Tailler stopped. He swallowed. He looked down at the notes before him. Didier’s eyes had already fallen. The dead weren’t the only victims. There were also the living.
“May I speak with my client?”
“Certainly, sir. We need for Didier to be very clear on this.”
Without hesitation, Tailler and Hubert pushed their chairs back. Hubert tapped on the door and there came the ringing of keys and the clunk of big tumblers.
It was in the lap of the gods at this point.
It was another morning, the start of another brand-new day. Over the course of time, busy as hell they were lately, they all blended into one, or so it seemed.
Tailler came in, with snow on the shoulders of his coat and on the wide brim and peak of his battered grey fedora. The radiators along the front wall steamed with a collection of hats and gloves laid there in the forlorn hope of drying out before they were needed again.
He hung it up, turning and rubbing his hands.
They were all mostly there, including Archambault, looking a pale and wan shadow of his former self, and even LeBref.
Levain looked up from his desk.
“Have you seen the papers?”
“Ah, yes, I have.” Tailler grinned and made a little mock bow.
Didier Godeffroy, having made an agreed-upon statement of the facts, had pleaded guilty before the court and had been convicted of two homicides. His written confession was very detailed, including the real names of Lucinde and her dead husband.
Didier Godeffroy was all over the front pages. Tailler and Hubert were there too, as well as some other important mentions.
Didier was awaiting his official sentencing, but there was little reason to doubt that he’d be on the boat to Devil’s Island in pretty short order. It was one for the history books now.
“Congratulations, Emile. You gentlemen did a wonderful job.” Picking up a white pasteboard box from his desk, Gilles came over and lifted the lid.
“A baker’s dozen. Strawberry-filled, Emile. And they’re all for you.” There was white icing on top, and those lovely, colourful candy sprinkles.
Emile Tailler’s mouth opened as he took the box.
“For me—really?” The look on his face was priceless.
“No, Emile—they’re for somebody else.” Gilles stepped back, nodding gravely as Levain guffawed.
“It’s either the one or the other, Emile.” Hubert grinned from behind the desk.
Tailler found words.
“It is just so hard to be accepted around here.” He sighed. “And I suppose, there will always be doubts…”
Lifting a beignet and biting into the wrong side, a squirt of red jam flew out and over and spattered down on their black and white tiles.
“I have just one more question, Emile.”
“Ah, yes, sir?” His mouth was full and he gasped at the sticky mess. “And what’s that, sir?”
“What is the moral of the story?”
Tailler broke off his quick search for a rag or a cloth or something. A weird, comical look crossed his homely mug and then he regarded the Inspector.
“Didier Godeffroy loved women.” The room broke up and Emile flushed. “It was pathological with that guy. Like the loaves and the fishes, he figured out a way to indulge it in a most spectacular way. You really got to hand it to good old Didier. He loved women, loved them, altogether, just a little too much. Too much for his own good. And too much of a good thing can kill you.”
Tailler sighed deeply, almost in a kind of admiration.
“For all of his fascination, it’s like he just didn’t appreciate them enough.”
“Ha!” LeBref had just come in. “He’s got you there, Gilles.”
Levain snorted. Hubert was wondering when the phone would ring; probably soon enough.
“Hmn. I’ll buy that. I guess.” Maintenon’s hands came up and he led the room in a sustained golf clap that brought a blush to Tailler’s face.
It was all over save the actual eating of the aforesaid beignets.
There was still that bit of goop on the floor too.
About Louis Shalako
Louis Shalako began writing for community newspapers and industrial magazines. His stories appear in publications including Perihelion Science Fiction, Bewildering Stories, Aurora Wolf, Ennea, Wonderwaan, Algernon, Nova Fantasia, and Danse Macabre. He lives in southern Ontario and writes full time.
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