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Authors: Jean-Luc Bannalec

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BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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Muriel Lefort answered slightly timidly.

‘As far as I know. My assistant said she hadn't seen him all morning. I don't know what he had planned. As I mentioned, I didn't speak to him at all in the
Quatre Vents
last night. We…'

She seemed to be thinking for a moment.

‘It is well known, that we weren't – that we're not close. We have a meeting today, there are some important things to discuss. We run the sailing school together, in theory, I mean … It belongs to both of us.'

‘I see.'

‘You still haven't told me how you came across my brother in the first place?'

Dupin had to keep a clear head. The situation with Lefort now seemed clearer than it really was.

‘It's a bit complicated, Madame Lefort. We know that your brother often goes on boat trips with a Monsieur Yannig Konan and that they were planning one this weekend too. I take it you know Monsieur Konan?'

‘Only superficially.'

‘But you're aware that the two of them are friends and sometimes go out together in the boat?'

‘Yes, why?'

Dupin hesitated.

‘Yannig Konan didn't turn up to his office today,' Dupin said, quickly adding, ‘but he has not yet been reported missing. He could be anywhere, there are indications that he is in Bénodet or in the area of Bénodet. His boat, which he was out in, is in the harbour there.'

Muriel Lefort's eyes widened.

‘Konan is missing too?'

‘At the moment we don't know where he is. Nothing more.'

Dupin was well aware that his sentence had not been particularly polished.

‘So it could still be Lucas then.'

‘I myself have only known since a short time ago that it was your brother who was out with Konan. I … this is really a very complicated story. But you'll see, it will all turn out to have been nothing. That's how it will go.'

Dupin had made an effort to infuse this sentence with all of the confidence he could muster. He hadn't done a great job.

Muriel Lefort turned towards the exit.

‘I have to go back to the office, Monsieur le Commissaire. Maybe somebody there will have heard from Lucas after all.'

‘Thanks for your help so far already, Madame Lefort.'

They walked outside and said goodbye. Dupin made a note of her phone number in case there was news. Then he walked slowly back down the gravel path. But he didn't turn right towards the
Quatre Vents,
he went left, towards the sandbank.

He had to make a call. In peace.

‘Riwal?'

‘Monsieur le Commissaire?'

‘I'd like our colleagues to check immediately whether one of the dead is a Monsieur Lucas Lefort. Straight away. A famous sailor. World champion or something. You should look for a usable photo on the internet. Lu – cas Le – fort. I want to know straight away. Have the bodies arrived in Quimper yet?'

‘The Admiral's Cup winner?'

Riwal sounded agitated.

‘Yes, he hasn't been seen since yesterday evening.'

‘I'll call our colleagues. I think they should be arriving in Quimper soon. How did you…'

‘Call them, Riwal. Everything else can wait.'

‘Understood, chief.'

Dupin hung up.

He walked over the picturesque wooden bridge that ran alongside the sea all the way round the island. The ‘inside' of the island (and there wasn't much of it) was barren, austere – he liked it. Thorny undergrowth, raspberries, blackberries, a scanty covering of grass, waist-high ferns, heather flaring here and there, pockets of garish yellow gorse. The rising water had already washed over the sandbank between Saint-Nicolas and Bananec. Long, gentle waves glided into the chamber from the open Atlantic. Right in the middle of the sandbank, two men were visible. They were standing no more than ankle-deep in the water. It looked insane – like they were walking on water. The high tide was coming. The landscape was changing, which meant above all that land was becoming even more scarce.

The archipelago was an extreme outpost of the old continent. You could feel it, Dupin thought. The final stop at the end of the world. In fact, there was nothing more between the Glénan and the coast of Canada, not a speck of earth, not even a bleak rock formation. You would have to put five thousand kilometres behind you before you'd set foot on solid ground again. Five thousand kilometres of water. In the wildest sea in the world. And it wasn't much land, this very last piece. Dupin was thinking about last night's storm. This very last piece of land wasn't a solid landmass, not even close. These were desolately placed, chaotically torn, misshapen swatches of land – which the popular aerial shots showed impressively. The last bastion of land was a very fragile bastion.

Dupin had walked slowly round the northern tip of the island. He looked westwards. The ringing of his phone broke the silence. It was Kadeg. Dupin answered.

‘Negative.'

Kadeg sounded more frantic than usual.

‘What do you mean, Kadeg?'

‘It's not him.'

‘So you're saying none of the three dead who have been examined is the missing angler? The man from Île-Tudy?'

Dupin had phrased the sentence in such detail so that he could gloat. Because his instinct had been right and Kadeg's wrong.

‘No.'

‘Has he turned up again then?'

‘No. But they've examined the bodies carefully, using the photographs and he has been conclusively excluded as being one them.'

There was open disappointment in Kadeg's voice. And a little embarrassment. ‘So we have a missing person who is not any of the three dead – and three dead, of whom none of them have yet been missed.'

Kadeg clearly didn't know how to respond to Dupin's bit of wordplay and remained silent.

‘Right, Kadeg, that's where we are.'

Dupin hung up.

As macabre as it was and for motives different from Kadeg's, he would not have been unhappy if the missing person had been one of the three bodies washed up on shore. To have some kind of lead at least. Then they could probably find out who the other two dead bodies were quickly.

Dupin had come to a stop. He was contemplating turning around, but it seemed he would be back at the
Quatre Vents
sooner if he just followed the path. The bar might not have been visible yet – a sand dune ran lengthways across the island – but it couldn't be far now.

Dupin's gaze slid uncertainly into the distance, over the sea, which was a deep ultramarine at the horizon. He had stopped saying that the sea was blue. Because that wasn't true: the sea was not just blue. Not here in this magical world of light. It was azure, turquoise, cyan, cobalt, silver-grey, ultramarine, pale watercolour blue, silver-grey, midnight blue, violet blue … Blue in a good ten or fifteen different base colours and infinite numbers of shades in between. Sometimes it was even green, a real green or brown – and deep black. All of this depended on various factors: the sun and its position, of course, the season, the time of day, also the weather, the air pressure, the exact water content in the air, all of which refracted the light differently and shifted the blue into this or that tone. It particularly depended on the depth of the sea and whatever sea floor the light was falling on. It also depended on the wind, on the quality of the surface of the sea and the swell. And on the land that lay in front of the sea, the landscape and its colours. The most important factor was a different blue though – the sky, which varied in the same way and even contrasted with the clouds. It was this blue that found itself in an infinite interplay with the various shades of the sea. The truth was this: you never saw the same sea, the same sky, not once in the exact same hour and in the exact same place. And it was always a spectacle.

Dupin walked on, at a somewhat faster pace. He would have another coffee. And wait for Riwal's call. And if that didn't produce anything either – Dupin was assuming it wouldn't – he would fly back to the mainland for good. Despite how beautiful it was here.

*   *   *

The terrace of the
Quatre Vents
had emptied noticeably. Dupin saw the three women from the Nuz family together for the first time, they were clearing the tables in a practised, skilled way and sprucing everything up again after the midday rush. Nolwenn was right, they looked almost eerily similar. They all had the same deep brown eyes, the same matt black hair and most of all they had the same obstinate snub nose, the same slim figure. Unlike her daughters, Solenn Nuz wore her hair short, à la Jean Seberg, and had two pronounced dimples. The daughter who was younger – as far as Dupin could make out, although only with an effort – had whispered something to her mother when he had walked into the bar, without making the slightest move to hide it. A brief glance from Solenn Nuz hadswept over Dupin – she was sizing him up – before she busied herself again behind the counter with glasses and bottles.

He hadsat down in his old place with a coffee. The
Luc'hed
was in view now. It had lain docked by one of the boats lying quite close to the pier. They were clearly still busy with the interviews.

Dupin realised that he was not satisfied. He was finding everything too slow. He would simply call Savoir himself. They needed to make progress. And he wanted to be sure they did.

It took some time for Docteur Savoir to pick up.

‘Is there any news, Savoir?'

‘And to whom do I owe the pleasure?'

Dupin was absolutely certain Savoir had recognised him straight away.

‘Did you compare a photo of Lucas Lefort with the three bodies?'

‘Ah, it's you, Commissaire! We are looking for more photos and are in the process of examining the corpses. There is only one who it could possibly be. He has serious injuries, even to the face in part. What we really need is a portrait, most photos show him on a boat, at prize-givings, with other people. And you look different when you're dead anyway. You have to take into account that…'

‘I want to know what you think, Savoir.'

Dupin had got louder. For a moment, there was silence at the other end of the line.

‘I think it could be him. The probability is high.'

‘What?'

Dupin was gobsmacked. This was almost impossible to believe. Now there silence on his end of the line.

‘You think one of the dead is Lucas Lefort?'

‘I said the probability is definitely there.'

‘So you're sure.'

Dupin was in no mood for Savoir's roundabout manner.

‘I think so, yes. We'll do an identification anyway, just as a matter of form. He has a sister.'

‘And why the hell did you not call me when your suspicions were first raised?'

‘
I
work meticulously.'

Had the message itself not been so dramatic and significant and had it not set off a chain of thoughts in Dupin's head – he would have hit the roof.

‘The sister lives on the Glénan. We will have to fly her over here.'

Dupin didn't reply. He was thinking. It really was Lucas Lefort. One of the three dead was the brother of the woman to whom he had just been speaking. In whose house he had just been.

‘Did you hear what I said, Monsieur le Commissaire?'

Dupin forced himself back to the conversation.

‘Do you have initial indications as to the cause of death?'

‘No. We've only just brought the corpses into the lab and then have only focused on the question of whether Lucas Lefort could be amongst them. We'll examine the bodies immediately for possible lesions that cannot be explained by drifting in the sea. Then we'll perform the post-mortem and the toxicology tests, we…'

‘I see.'

Dupin had spoken in a very aggressive tone of voice, which at least had something of an effect.

‘I couldn't do much on the islands. What I saw looked like external injuries that might have been sustained on rocks and cliffs. But they are absolutely not conclusive statements that would stand up to all scientific scrutiny.'

‘How long will you need?'

‘If the bodies weren't in the water for more than a day, we will know within three quarters of an hour of opening the chest cavity whether the cause of death was drowning. In each case. I…'

‘Lefort wasn't in the sea for more than twelve hours, I can tell you that already. So the others probably weren't either.'

‘Then let's start with him. I've requested two additional assistants from the clinic. I…'

‘We have to know what we're dealing with.'

‘I'm aware of that, Monsieur le Commissaire, we are waiting…'

‘Savoir.'

‘Yes?'

‘Look for photos of a Yannig Konan on the internet. Yan – nig Ko – nan. A well known big businessman from Brittany.'

‘You suspect he's one of the other two dead?'

‘We'll see.'

‘What makes you think so?'

‘They had planned a boat trip together. It may not…'

Dupin stopped short. He actually was not keen to divulge anything to Savoir at all.

‘It's not significant. Just search for Yannig Konan.'

Dupin had almost hung up before Savoir could say anything more, but he paused.

‘Savoir, another thing.'

‘Yes?'

The ‘yes' spoke volumes.

‘I'm going to inform Madame Lefort myself. I've just made her acquaintance. I'll tell her how things stand. And also that she is needed in Quimper for the identification.'

‘The helicopter will collect her. We mustn't waste any time.'

‘No, we shouldn't. Get in touch with me immediately – even if it's just about a ‘suspicion', I…'

Now Savoir had hung up.

Dupin got up. Even though they hadn't been close, Muriel Lefort and her brother, it would be a shock. And an identification was always horrible.

BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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