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Authors: Pierre Lemaitre

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BOOK: Camille
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“So what was the haul?” Camille asks.

“Six hundred and eighty thousand euros,” Louis says. “That’s what was declared.”

Camille raises a quizzical eyebrow, not because he is surprised that the jeweller’s would minimise the value of what was stolen – they would have undeclared valuables in stock – he simply wants to know the true amount.

“The probable value is significantly upwards of a million. Resale, probably six hundred, six hundred and fifty thousand. A good day’s work.”

“Any idea where they might have offloaded the stuff?”

Given the nature of the haul – high-end, one-off pieces – resale would bring in a fraction of the real value, and few fences in Paris would be prepared to take it.

“We’re assuming it was trafficked through Neuilly, but who knows . . .”

Obvious. It would be the ideal solution. Rumour has it the fence in Neuilly is a defrocked priest. Camille has never bothered to check, but he does not find the idea so strange: to him, the two professions have much in common.

“Send someone out to nose around.”

Louis makes a note. In most of their cases, it is he who assigns tasks to the team.

*

At this point Juge Pereira, the examining magistrate, arrives. His eyes are a dazzling blue, his nose a little too long for his face, his ears droop like a spaniel’s. Nervous and harried, he shakes Camille’s hand –
bonjour, commandant
– as he passes. Strutting behind him comes the court clerk, a stunning woman with a plunging neckline that reveals too much cleavage and with preposterously high heels that click-clack across the tiled floor; someone should have a quiet word with her about appropriate work attire. The magistrate is well aware that she is causing a stir, but despite her revealing dress it’s clear that she wears the trousers. If she felt so inclined, she could parade around chewing gum and blowing bubbles. Camille cannot help but think that, at thirty or so, the Lolita look is rather sluttish.

Everyone gathers around: Camille, Louis and the two other members of the squad who have just arrived. Louis takes charge. Analytical, precise, methodical and intelligent (in his day, he was awarded a scholarship to the elite
École nationale d’administration
but chose to study at Sciences Po). The
juge
listens thoughtfully. There is talk of the fact that witnesses identified Eastern European accents, the possibility that they are dealing with a gang of violent Serbs or Bosnians; much is made of the fact that they fired shots when they could have avoided doing so. Someone mentions Vincent Hafner and his string of convictions for gun-related offences. The magistrate nods. Hafner teaming up with a Bosnian gang would be a dangerous combination; it’s surprising there were not more casualties. Those guys are animals, the
juge
says, and he is right.

Juge Pereira moves on to enquire about the witnesses. Usually, there are three members of staff in the jeweller’s to open up: the manageress, her assistant, and another girl, but she was late this morning. She showed up just in time to hear the last gunshot. When staff in a shop or a bank are miraculously absent during a hold-up, the police are immediately suspicious.

“We’ve taken her in for questioning,” says one of the officers (though he does not seem altogether sure). “We’ll look into it, but right now she seems clean.”

The court clerk is plainly bored. She squirms on her high heels, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, staring pointedly towards the exit. Her nails are painted blood red, the top two buttons on her figure-hugging blouse have popped open to reveal the pale, cavernously deep furrow of her cleavage while all eyes are drawn to the third button, precariously held in place by straining fabric drawn out like a predatory smile. Camille glances at her, mentally sketching a portrait. She is certainly striking, but only taken as a whole. Because the details tell a different story: her feet are too big, her nose too short, her features are a little crude, her buttocks are amply proportioned but too high. An arse worthy of an alpine climber. And the perfume exudes . . . salt water and sea air. She could be a fishwife.

“Right,” the
juge
whispers, taking Camille to one side. “
Madame la commissaire
tells me you have an informant . . .?” The phrase “
madame la commissaire
” is said in the obsequious tone of someone preparing for the day when he gets to say “
monsieur le ministre
”. The clerk is vexed by their
tête-à-tête
. She heaves a long, loud sigh.

“I do,” Camille confirms. “I’ll know more tomorrow.”

“So in theory we should be able to wrap the case up quickly?”

“In theory . . .”

The magistrate seems satisfied. He may not be a
commissaire
, but he appreciates favourable statistics. He decides it is time to leave. He shoots an angry glance at the clerk.

“Mademoiselle?”

His tone is curt, imperious.

From the look on Lolita’s face, it is clear he will pay a heavy price.

*

4.00 p.m.

The little hairdresser proves to be an effective witness. She runs through the statement she gave to the police earlier, eyes coyly lowered like a blushing bride. It’s by far the most accurate account I’ve heard. The girl’s got a keen eye. With witnesses like her, it’s a good job we were wearing balaclavas. Given the hustle and bustle outside, I stay next to the bar, as far as possible from the terrace. I order another coffee.

The woman involved in the incident is not dead. The parked car took most of the force of the blast. She was taken away in an ambulance.

Time to head for the hospital. The casualty department. Before she’s discharged or transferred to another ward.

But first, I need to reload. Seven cartridges in the Mossberg.

The fireworks display is only just beginning.

I’m planning to paint the walls red.

*

6.00 p.m.

Despite his agitation, Camille cannot drum his fingers on the steering wheel. He drives a specially adapted car with centrally located controls – he has no alternative given that his arms are short and his feet dangle off the ground. And in a vehicle designed or adapted for handicapped persons, you have to be careful where you place your fingers on the steering wheel; one wrong move and the car could go off the road. To make matters worse, Camille is not particularly good with his hands; aside from artistic ability, he is downright clumsy.

He pulls up outside the hospital and walks across the car park, mentally rehearsing what he plans to say to the doctor – the sort of pithy phrases you spend hours polishing only to forget as soon as the moment arrives. When he came here this morning, reception had been crowded so he had immediately gone up to Anne’s room. This time he stops. The desk is at eye level (about one metre forty, Camille estimates). He goes around and, without a second thought, pushes open the door marked “
AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY. NO ENTRY
”.

“What the hell?” the receptionist yells. “Can’t you read?”

“Can’t
you
?” Camille retorts, holding out his warrant card.

The woman bursts out laughing and give him a thumbs-up.

“Good one!”

She is a slim black woman of about forty, sharp-eyed, with a flat chest and bony shoulders. From the Antilles. Her name-tag reads “
OPHÉLIA
”. She is wearing an ugly frilly blouse, a pair of huge, white movie-star glasses shaped like butterfly wings and she stinks of cigarettes. She holds up a fleshy hand telling Camille to wait a moment while she answers the phone, patches the call through, hangs up, then turns and looks at him admiringly.

“Well, ain’t you a little thing? For a policeman, I mean . . . Don’t they have some kind of height requirement?”

Though Camille is in no mood to deal with this, the woman makes him smile.

“I got a special dispensation,” he says.

“You got someone to pull some strings, is what you did!”

Within five minutes, their banter has become a friendly conversation. She seems unfazed by the fact that he is a police officer. Camille cuts it short and asks to speak to the consultant dealing with Anne Forestier.

“At this time of night, you’d need to talk to the on-call doctor up on the ward.”

Camille nods and heads towards the lifts, only to come back again.

“Were there any phone calls for her?”

“Not that I know . . .”

“You sure?”

“Take my word for it. It’s not like the patients in that wing are up to taking calls.”

Camille walks away again.

“Hey, hey!”

The woman is fluttering a sheet of yellow paper, as though fanning someone taller than her. Camille traipses back to the desk. Ophélia gives him a smouldering look.

“A little love letter from me to you . . .”

It is a bureaucratic form. Camille stuffs it into his pocket, takes the lift up to the intensive care unit and asks to see the registrar. He will have to wait.

*

The car park outside A. & E. is full to bursting. It’s the perfect place to hide in plain sight: as long as you don’t park here for too long, no-one is going to notice one more car. All you have to do is be alert, discreet. Ready to act.

It helps if you have a loaded Mossberg under a newspaper on the passenger seat. Just in case.

Now all I need to do is think; plan for the future.

One option is just to wait until the woman is being transferred from the hospital. Probably the simplest solution. Shooting up an ambulance is a breach of the Geneva Convention – unless, that is, you don’t give a flying fuck. The C.C.T.V. cameras over the entrance are useless: they’re there to deter any prospective criminals, but there’s nothing to stop someone from shooting them out before getting down to serious business. Morally, it’s a no-brainer. Technically, it’s not exactly rocket science.

No, the only snag with his option is logistical: the security barrier at the ambulance bay creates a bottleneck. Obviously it would be possible to put a bullet in the security guard, break through the security barrier – there’s no mention of security guards in the Geneva Convention – but it’s hardly an elegant solution.

The second possibility is to wait until the ambulance clears the security area. There’s a brief window of opportunity here, since it will be forced to turn right and wait for the traffic light on the filter lane to turn green. Though it might arrive with sirens blaring and tyres squealing – after all, it has urgent deliveries to make – the ambulance will be a little less pressurised when it leaves. While it’s waiting at the lights, a determined shooter could step up behind, and in three seconds – one second to open the tailgate, one to aim and one to fire – leave the paramedic and any bystanders shitting themselves so much he’d have more than enough time to jump back in his car, floor the accelerator, drive forty metres against one-way traffic before reaching the dual carriageway and the Périphérique
.
Piece of piss. Job done. Everything back on track. I can almost smell the money.

Both options mean waiting for her to leave, either to be discharged or transferred to another hospital. If that window of opportunity doesn’t open up, I’d need to look at other possibilities.

There’s always the option of making a home delivery. Like a postman. Like a florist. Just go up to the room, knock politely, enter, deliver my bouquet and leave. It would mean a precisely timed operation. Or alternatively, going in with all guns blazing. Each strategy has its advantages. Option one, the clean kill, would require more skill and be more satisfying, but it smacks of narcissism, it’s more about the killer than the victim, it shows a lack of generosity. Firing at random on the other hand is much more generous, more magnanimous, it’s almost philanthropic.

In the end, events usually make the decision for us. Hence the need to assess the situation. To plan ahead. That was the Turks’ big mistake – they were well organised, but when it came to planning for all eventualities, they screwed up. When you leave some godforsaken country to go and commit a crime in a major European capital, you plan ahead. Not them. They just showed up at Roissy airport, scowling and knitting their bushy eyebrows so I would think I was dealing with big-time gangsters. Jesus Christ! They were cousins of some whore at Porte de la Chapelle, the biggest heists they’d been involved in were robbing some shop in Ankara and knocking over a petrol station in Keskin . . . Given what I needed them to do, it’s not like I had to recruit top-flight specialists, but even so, hiring dumb fucks like them was almost humiliating.

Forget about them. At least they got to see Paris before they died. They could have said thanks.

It seems good things come to those who wait. I’ve just spotted the little policeman scuttling through the car park on his way into the hospital. I’m three steps ahead of him, and I plan to keep it that way. I can see him standing at the reception desk. Whoever is behind the desk probably only sees his bald patch looming over the surface, like the shark in “Jaws”. He’s tapping his foot, he’s clearly on edge. He’s gone around the back of the desk.

Short but sure of himself.

It doesn’t matter, I’ll take him on his home turf.

I get out of the car and go for a scout around. The key thing is to act fast, get it over and done with.

*

6.15 p.m.

Anne is asleep. The bandages around her head are stained a dirty yellow by haemostatic agents, giving her skin a milky whiteness, her eyelids are swollen shut and her lips . . . Camille is committing every detail to memory, every line he would need to sketch this ruined face, when he is interrupted by someone popping their head around the door and asking to speak to him. Camille steps out into the corridor.

The on-call doctor is a solemn-faced young Indian with small, round glasses and a name-tag bearing an impossibly long surname. Camille flashes his warrant card again and the young man studies it carefully, probably trying to work out how to react. Although it is not unusual to have cops in A. & E., it’s rare to get a visit from the
brigade criminelle
.

BOOK: Camille
2.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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