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Authors: Jean-Luc Bannalec

Murder on Brittany Shores (7 page)

BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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‘Does he live on the islands?'

‘He actually lives in Les Sables Blancs, he's got a villa there, renovated in an extremely modern way by a top architect, with a pool and all that. But he also seems to spend the night on Saint-Nicolas quite often. A confirmed bachelor. If you ask me: a show-off, snob and womaniser. He makes headlines quite a lot.'

Dupin was again tempted to ask how she knew all of this and how she'd come by this information within such a short time. Not least, how she had come to this drastic characterisation of hers. He had sounded like a hero at first.

‘By the way, Lefort didn't keep his two boats in Bénodet, of course, he kept them in Concarneau. He owns a luxury sailing yacht and one of those speedboats. He's always running between the Glénan and the mainland in them.'

‘Hmm. And why are they not out in the luxury yacht on their trips, he and Konan?'

‘No idea, Monsieur le Commissaire.'

‘I'll see if I happen to run into him here. Or whether anybody knows anything.'

Dupin had uttered this sentence instinctively. Nolwenn had, apparently, been reckoning on that exact thing. She knew him.

‘I've just asked at the sailing school whether he is there. They said they don't know where he is right now, but he's expected there at any moment.'

‘All right. Tell Riwal there's no need for the helicopter to pick me up. I'm sure it'll come back again later. I assume. After it's taken the bodies to Quimper?'

‘I don't know. But there's also the second sea-rescue helicopter.'

‘Great.'

There was just one thing Dupin did not want: to set foot on another boat.

*   *   *

A few minutes later, Commissaire Dupin was standing in front of Lucas Lefort's house, which was indeed very ugly. It was the first in the row. The other absolutely identical houses followed at intervals of about fifteen metres – six of them, each one set a little further back than the last. They were each surrounded by a large, albeit barren garden, overgrown with nothing but bushy, wild island grass. For all that, they had an enchanting view of the lagoon of Saint-Nicolas and of Penfret, Drénec, Le Loc'h and – in the middle of the chamber – Fort-Cigogne. The gardens were separated from the seaside path by a knee-high, strange-looking and very plain concrete wall. The houses must have dated from the seventies and the architecture had surely been ambitious for the time. The slate roofs reached the ground, with windows and balconies built into them like niches, which must have been considered chic at the time. Probably, only the extremely strict coastal protection laws of the last few years had prevented them being torn down and replaced with new houses. Lefort's balcony was wooden and was the only attractive thing about the whole house, which was surrounded by large stones and furnished with – in Dupin's opinion – an excessively large wooden table and an equally excessive number of chairs.

You couldn't make anybody out through the light-reflecting panoramic windows. On the right hand edge of the property, there was a small wooden gateway, from where a narrow gravel path led towards the entrance at the side of the house. There was no doorbell visible on the gate. Just a small enamel plaque: ‘L. Lefort'.

Dupin again toyed with the idea of letting Riwal know he was to be taken straight to the mainland after all. The whole situation was too awful. Here he was making enquiries about the clearly unpleasant friend of an equally unpleasant friend of the Prefect whom he hated. Perhaps Lefort was lying contentedly in bed after a long night and if not here, then in his villa in Sables Blancs. And what did that mean – ‘They're expecting him'? Anyway: there were no indications of any kind that Konan and Lefort were two of the three bodies in the air on their way to the pathologist's office in Quimper at that very moment. And what was he meant to say to Lefort if he did runinto him here? ‘For some reason I had a hunch you were one of the three water corpses, even though we had nothing indicating that – I'm glad that you're not'? Everything was pointing towards his immediate return to Concarneau. But no matter how much this all annoyed him, Dupin couldn't do anything about it. He opened the gate and walked along the gravel path.

The main door was just as ugly as the house – made of aluminium, with a frosted glass window in the upper third. No bell here either. Dupin knocked. Discreetly at first, but after waiting a while, with more force.

‘Monsieur Lefort? Hello?'

Dupin called out several times. Louder each time. ‘Commissariat de Police Concarneau.'

‘I don't know if he's even in.'

Dupin jumped. There was a woman standing right behind him. He hadn't noticed anyone approaching and she couldn't have come up the pebbled path.

‘I – Bonjour, Madame – Commissaire Dupin, Commissariat de Police Concarneau.'

The woman looked to be in her late thirties, with long, thick hair, dark blonde, set in a tidy plait. She was exceptionally thin, of average height, with elegantly high, yet completely harmonious, cheekbones, in a narrow face. Very narrow, but not ugly. Not at all. Guarded, alert, self-assured eyes. A visibly tight, mud-brown tweed skirt and an equally tight, severe blouse in a dark orange. It looked quaint, the way she was dressed, old-fashioned somehow.

‘Has something happened to Lucas? What's this about? I'm his sister. Muriel Lefort.'

‘No, not at all. I just wanted…'

This was even more difficult than if it had been Lefort himself. Whatever he said, it would make her anxious.

‘I'm sure there's no need to worry.'

Dupin felt uneasy at this sentence.

‘My brother and I had arranged to meet, but he hasn't turned up yet. I wanted to check if he was here. He's not answering his phone. His boat is in the harbour. So he should be on the island. He actually lives in Sables Blancs, but he's here now and again, although he doesn't stay overnight very often. He was still here last night anyway.'

‘He was here last night?'

‘Yes. I saw him briefly in the
Quatre Vents.
But I didn't speak to him. I was only there for a few minutes.'

‘Was your brother alone?'

‘I couldn't say. He was standing at the bar talking to a blonde woman. Why are you looking for my brother?'

Dupin had hoped to avoid this question.

He was confused. Lefort had been here yesterday evening. Had Yannig Konan been too? Had they been travelling in the area, did they stop off here because of the storm? Did the two of them stay overnight on the island? If Lefort had been alone, was that not really an indication that Konan had not been travelling with Lefort at all, but had actually been with a woman or something along those lines? But where was Lefort?

‘Do you have a key to your brother's house?'

‘Not here. I can get it, I live just next door.'

Dupin's telephone rang loudly. He saw Kadeg's number. He stood aside and picked up.

‘We have a missing person's report. It just came in to Quimper.'

Kadeg was getting a bit flustered, even though he was desperately trying to keep his words under control.

‘Who is it?'

‘A Monsieur Arthur Martin. From Île-Tudy, not far from Bénodet. He…'

‘What age?'

‘Fifty-five.'

‘I – wait a minute, Kadeg.'

Dupin turned to Muriel immediately, who was looking nervously at him.

‘This is about something totally separate, Madame Lefort. About someone else. Categorically.'

‘That's good to hear. – – – I think…' she broke off awkwardly, ‘I'll go get the key.'

‘Please do.'

Dupin waited a moment, then turned back to Kadeg.

‘Who reported him missing?'

‘His girlfriend. He was on the Île aux Moutons yesterday. It's not a part of the archipelago at all, but everyone counts it anyway. It's five nautical miles away, in the direction of the mainland, slightly more to the west. He was meant to be back tomorrow morning at the latest, travelling by boat. Not a very big boat, five metres sixty, that he was always going out in. With a cabin though. The girlfriend tried to get him on his mobile. Then she got more and more worried.'

‘Maybe the battery is dead.'

‘She drove round to his house and called his office. He hasn't turned up there yet either.'

‘What was going to do on the islands?'

‘Fish. He was an experienced fisherman.'

‘Was he alone?'

‘His girlfriend says he was always alone on the boat. I'm having a photo of Arthur Martin sent to us on my smartphone.'

Kadeg didn't use a mobile, of course, he used a smartphone. Dupin couldn't even stand how Kadeg pronounced the word ‘smartphone', let alone watch how he showed off when he used it – with all of its sensational functions.

‘I don't see any signs that the missing man could be one of the three bodies. Monsieur Martin is certain to turn up again soon.'

Dupin knew that the strictness of this conclusion was mainly due to his displeasure at letting Kadeg score a point here – but still: even sticking to the issue, none of this made any sense. There was one man involved. There was no evidence that he had met anyone. And it was actually very unlikely that several boats capsized last night, perhaps capsizing in several separate locations, each with one person aboard and that three bodies had floated onto the very same beach – wasn't it?

‘I'd put it down to a strange coincidence,' said Kadeg. ‘At the exact same time, we have three as yet unidentified bodies and one missing person. And the missing person's report relates to the exact area that we're talking about. It would be grossly negligent not to look into it.'

It sounded convincing when put like that, Dupin had to admit. ‘All right.'

‘We ought to let one of the helicopters know to take a look at the area around the Moutons,' Kadeg continued. ‘And also request another boat from Bénodet or Fouesnant. The Moutons may be uninhabited, but there might be boats there that were also there yesterday and someone might have seen Martin's boat.'

‘Please do that, Kadeg.'

Dupin hung up. Maybe for some reason they weren't aware of yet, there had actually been two more people on board the little boat belonging to the man from Île-Tudy yesterday? After all, they knew nothing at this stage.

He looked around. Madame Lefort was back in sight again, climbing skilfully over the low wall from the first house to the second. Soon she was standing next to him.

‘The key.' She seemed absolutely composed again.

A moment later, she was unlocking the door.

Directly beyond it was a spacious, open room, which was the sitting-room and dining-room all in one. The panoramic windows were to the front and back and a small, premium-looking kitchen range was opposite the main door.

‘Lucas? Lucas? Are you there?'

It wasn't meticulously tidy, but not untidy either. Madame Lefort was standing there a little uncertainly.

‘This is a bit awkward for me, just going into my brother's house. I wouldn't normally.'

‘In this case it's – appropriate.'

Dupin had spoken in a soft but firm voice.

‘If you think so.'

Muriel Lefort moved toward the narrow wooden staircase that led up to the attic. Commissaire Dupin had stopped and was standing in almost the exact centre of the room.

‘Lucas? A Commissaire wants to speak to you.'

She climbed the stairs and disappeared to the first floor for a few moments, before reappearing on the stairs.

‘Nobody there, Monsieur le Commissaire. The bed looks unused. The bath too. He doesn't seem to have slept here.'

‘So he must have travelled back during the night.'

‘As I said, his boat is in the harbour. He owns one of those ridiculous speedboats. He has a space right on the mole.'

‘Maybe…'

Dupin broke off. This wasn't going anywhere. Everything was pure speculation. They needed clear facts.

‘Do you have a photo of your brother?'

Madame Lefort's unease returned.

‘Do you now think it possible that my brother is one of the dead after all?'

‘I would like to be able to say with certainty that he is not.'

‘He might have stayed overnight with someone else. He…'

Now Muriel Lefort trailed off.

‘I'll get you a photo,' she said.

She disappeared into the attic again, coming back a moment later.

‘There was one hanging over his bed, with his current girlfriend, I think.'

She had emphasised the word ‘girlfriend' in a strangely stilted way.

‘The photo is quite recent anyway. Take it.'

She handed it to Dupin. It showed an admittedly attractive, tall, thin man. He had chiselled features, angular cheekbones and short, thick hair, shining black. He was wearing Bermudas and a dark polo-shirt, standing on a biggish sailing boat. He was laughing, his arms around a bikini-wearing, picture-perfect brunette. He was looking straight into the camera, confidently, penetratingly, challengingly. Dupin couldn't make out whether the man in the photo was one of the three dead on the beach. But of the three men, there had been only one face that was relatively easy to make out. And it wasn't him.

‘I can't make a statement based on this photo. But it would be good if we could check it quickly. Then we'll have some certainty. I'll…'

Dupin reflected.

‘There's a series of photos of my brother available on the internet. He is a well known sailor. The Admiral's Cup…'

‘Can I keep the photo anyway?'

‘If he turns up again straight away, you'll have to explain to him why the Commissariat de Police Concarneau is in possession of a private photograph of him and his girlfriend.'

Her smile was a little strained.

‘I'll think of something. What is still important for us is this: you said you brother hasn't been seen since yesterday evening?'

BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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