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Authors: Jean-Luc Bannalec

Murder on Brittany Shores (9 page)

BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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He walked past the mole. To the right of it, at the first buoy, there was a speedboat. Bright red, narrow, long. He hadn't noticed it this morning, despite how much it stood out. It belonged to a dead man.

He was just a few metres away from the sailing school now. The unusually broad door was standing wide open. To the right of the entrance was the ‘Accueil'.

He went inside. At that moment – he wasn't even fully over the threshold – his mobile trilled. Savoir.

Dupin turned round on the spot and answered.

‘You were right, Monsieur le Commissaire!'

Savoir's voice quivered slightly, even though he was clearly trying to come across as calm.

‘It is Yannig Konan. It's him. In this case, it's definitive. The body has no significant wounds to the face. He's clearly identifiable based on the photos we found on the internet.'

Dupin had walked in the direction of the oyster bar.

‘No doubt of any kind?'

‘There's no doubt in my mind. None.'

Dupin ran his hand roughly through his hair a few times. Then he stood still.

‘Bloody hell.'

‘Excuse me?'

‘Excellent. This is going to be a sensation. A good friend of the Prefect's. And we are still taking stabs in the dark.'

Dupin had been speaking more to himself than to Savoir.

‘A friend of Locmariaquer?'

‘Yes.'

‘Oh. He's going to make a big issue of this then. I assume that you'll inform him straight away, Monsieur le Commissaire. I'm going back to work. We'll progress with our investigations as quickly as possible.'

That's what he got for his persistence and really for his being absolutely hell-bent on eating the lobster – he would certainly never have started his aimless snooping around on the mainland. Dupin had got things moving. Now it was up to him to deliver the message to the Prefect
personally
about the death of his friend and this after the Prefect himself had given a relieved ‘all clear'. And also after he had
personally
notified Muriel Lefort of her brother's death. Of course, an identification of the body would have happened at some point anyway – but it would definitely have been much less unpleasant for him.

And quite apart from the Prefect: what did all of this mean? Who was the third dead man? Konan and Lefort had wanted to go out as a pair. As far as the police knew anyway. That seemed to be what they always did. And why was Konan's boat in Bénodet? They hadn't been out in Lefort's boat either – had they taken the third dead man's boat? And again: what about the missing angler, the man from Île-Tudy who was not the third dead man?

Dupin let out a bad-tempered curse.

*   *   *

As expected, the conversation with Muriel Lefort had been extremely difficult. They had gone into her small, simple office in the sailing school, right next to the ‘Accueil'. Initially she seemed composed. Eventually she had broken down in tears and not been able to keep talking. In an odd way, Dupin had felt guilty. Then Madame Lefort sat there silently for a few minutes, paralysed, her head and eyes lowered, staring into the distance. You couldn't even tell if she was breathing. Dupin was sitting just as still. Then Muriel Lefort suddenly stood up and asked to be alone. She had tried to make her voice sound firm. Of course, Dupin agreed.

Without any fuss, she haddeclared herself prepared to fly to Quimper to identify the body as soon as she felt able. She had given Dupin her assistant's name and asked him to arrange everything through her. Dupin had obviously had some urgent questions, but it hadn't been the moment. He would speak to her again later.

The phone call with the Prefect had been even more hideous than he'd feared. A long, very ponderous, very stressful conversation. Dupin had walked exactly once round the island during it. Again and again, the Prefect hadcried out dramatically how terribly tragic and devastating this was, again and again he had wanted to know why Dupin had even kept on investigating what was going on with the various boats and how and why the accident had happened in the first place – all things which Dupin himself didn't have the faintest clue about yet. It had been an impossible conversation. If it hadn't been so clear how deeply the death of Konan was affecting the Prefect – it was now up to Locmariaquer to call Konan's wife, whom he had confidently reassured at length earlier – and if Dupin had not, surprisingly, felt a trace of sympathy, it would have ended in a sharp exchange of words. And this would not have done him any good at all. He'd been through this before. Each time, he had pulled himself together at the last minute with all the psychological strength he could muster. The Prefect had spoken constantly about Dupin's ‘case' and Dupin had noted every time that it wasn't even a case in all likelihood – rather, it was an accident. That there was no evidence indicating otherwise yet. Only once Dupin had loudly interrupted to this effect had the Prefect reacted at all, bellowing that this ‘accident' and its ‘complete resolution' were now Dupin's case. Dupin and all other employees of the Commissariat in Concarneau should, the Prefect said, drop everything else in the meantime. And he, the Prefect, would personally and with immediate effect organise all of the reinforcements necessary. Then the phone call had ended.

Dupin was fed up, his mood at rock bottom. Shortly before the
Quatre Vents,
he turned off to the beach, going down the broad wooden steps and then to the left over the rocks. The sun had passed its highest point, you could feel it. It didn't have the full power of summer yet.

So that was that. This was now his
case.

*   *   *

Dupin had declared the
Quatre Vents
their ‘headquarters' on the spot, which had lifted his mood (if only briefly). They had taken one of the tables and six chairs from the terrace and put them next to the annexe, facing the diving school. It was quarter past four. After the conversation with the Prefect, Dupin had called them all together, his little troop, with the firmly worded order to come immediately. He hadn't felt like conducting the investigation as an endless series of telephone conversations, even if it would mostly be that way under these local conditions. He had also asked Kireg Goulch to come and so had sent the
Luc'hed
to the Méaban. All they had found on the Méaban so far were six large canisters used on boats for drinking water or other fluids. Nothing more.

The table was not big. They all – Riwal, Kadeg, Goulch, the two other young police officers from the
Bir
and Dupin – sat squashed uncomfortably close to one another, which looked decidedly odd. There were two large trays in front of them with coffee, water, coke and a few crab and mackerel rillette sandwiches.

‘What have we got?' Dupin began. Somewhat awkwardly, he got his arms into position, opened his notebook, scribbled a few words – making the others wait – and then continued.

‘We have identified two of the three bodies at this point. Lucas Lefort and Yannig Konan. There are no clues as to the identity of the third dead man so far. Lucas Lefort was still on the Glénan last night. In the bar here. We know this from his sister, Muriel Lefort. How long for, whether he was on his own or not, and if not, who he was with, we don't yet know. Or how long he was here for. Or when he left. Maybe he was actually with Konan and the third dead man. We…'

In the middle of his sentence, Dupin's mobile trilled. He saw Savoir's number. He had expected the call much earlier. He took the call.

‘The body wasn't in the sea very long,' said Savoir. On the basis of a macroscopic examination we can conclude that no fine tissue examination is necessary. Although…'

‘Savoir. Get to the point.'

Dupin didn't have the patience to listen to Savoir's endless preliminaries.

‘Lucas Lefort died by drowning. Definitively. That much is clear. We're examining Yannig Konan's body right now, but I thought I'd let you know now.' Savoir sounded offended.

‘I'm much obliged, Docteur.'

‘Aside from that, we have not yet found any pre-mortem injuries. I'll be in touch again.'

Savoir hung up.

Dupin looked around, all eyes were fixed inquisitively on him. He briefly recounted what Savoir had said and tried to marshal his thoughts.

‘That would fit with the idea of the accident. Or to be more specific: right now we've got no clues that could allow for a conclusion of anything other than an accident. Probably an accident in a boat. But not in Konan or Lefort's boat. Potentially, in the boat belonging to the third dead man.' Dupin was speaking mechanically, summing up. It sounded resolutely uninspired. ‘We have initial indications of where the possible shipwreck took place. That seems to me to be the essence of it. What we still need to do is reconstruct exactly what happened. And find out who the third dead man is.'

Dupin had tried to compensate for the vagueness of his comments with the lively certainty of how we was phrasing them. He was holding his baguette in his left hand the whole time, but had not yet taken a taken a bite.

Goulch spoke. ‘The storm will probably have had an effect. And the low tide. At high tide the Méaban are six or seven sheer towering rocks, nothing more. They're even visible in bad weather. At low tide, however, there are dozens of rocks just above and below the surface of the water, over an area of a good half kilometre,' he recited in his pleasantly matter-of-fact way.

‘Right now we're dealing with pure speculation on all sides,' Kadeg interjected curtly.

While on Le Loc'h this morning, Dupin had already suspected that Kadeg would cope badly with not playing first violin. Goulch was clearly the one playing it out here, remaining absolutely unfazed.

One of the two other police officers piped up now, almost shyly.

‘I've requested the information from the weather service,' he said, sounding increasingly certain as he spoke. ‘The storm reached the Glénan at around 10pm and was over by midnight. The storm moved very quickly along the coast, in a slight zigzag. Almost only over the sea, it just grazed the coast at Penmarc'h. It reached wind speeds of nine or ten and up to eleven in the peaks.'

Dupin looked questioningly at the young police officer.

‘Up to a hundred or a hundred and ten kilometres an hour.'

‘Well that's – worth noting,' said Goulch. ‘But these kinds of storms happen in the summer too.'

It was less Goulch's continued use of well chosen words than his way of intoning ‘worth noting' that made Dupin aware that it really had been a serious storm.

‘Maybe they saw the storm coming and wanted to get back to the mainland in good time,' Dupin was making a few cryptic notes as he spoke. ‘I'm sure we'll find out when they left the bar soon. Somebody will remember.'

‘What is strange though, is this,' said Riwal. ‘Monsieur Lefort was one of the best sailors in France, he was at home at sea and knew the Glénan like the back of his hand. And the Méaban too. He grew up here. Monsieur Konan was also extremely experienced at sea. And, of course, both of them were aware of the dangers of spring tides. And of what storms can mean here on the Atlantic.'

Riwal had put forward his reflections quite thoughtfully. An extended silence set in. He followed it up in an utterly Riwal-like way.

‘The Atlantic is a
real
ocean.'

Riwal could be highly analytical, precise, very practical and pragmatic and then suddenly whisper dark, mysterious sentences. It had sounded full of emotion. Solemn.

The line about the ‘real ocean' was not just a typical ‘Riwal sentence', invoking the sea was an ancient Breton mantra. It was done in all kinds of situations and Dupin only occasionally understood what it actually meant. But it always came from ‘very deep inside'. And, apparently, meant many things at once: respect, fear, anxiety, elemental force, fascination, love. A disaster. And pride.
Ar mor bras,
‘the great sea', as the ocean was actually called, in Celtic that is, before the Greeks had called it
Atlantis thalassa,
‘Sea of the Titan Atlas'. Even for them it was explicitly the ‘End of the World'… And the Bretons would then immediately add superlative figures: a fifth of the world was covered by
their
ocean (106.2 million kilometres, squared!), it was almost ten thousand metres deep, with gigantic mountain ridges. This ‘real ocean' was meant to highlight its difference from the ‘harmless' Mediterranean Sea, which to Breton eyes was utterly overrated – nothing more than an inland sea belonging to the Atlantic. And, the Atlantic was growing. By two centimetres every year, by a metre in fifty years and, in a thousand years (by the standards of the Breton sense of time this was nothing) by twenty metres! What pained the Bretons a little though was this – the Pacific Ocean was – still – a little bigger. But other statistics made up for that immediately. So for instance the average salt content of the Atlantic Ocean was around 3.54%, while in the Pacific it was a mere 3.45%. And was salt not one of the central elements of life? And did they, the Bretons, not therefore have the most delicious and famous salt in the world: the
fleur de sel,
the flower of salt? There was no famous Pacific
fleur de sel.

‘It's not uncommon for us to fish experienced sailors out of the sea,' said Goulch. ‘Thinking you know it all and are capable of anything, can sometimes be the greatest danger. The Atlantic is totally arbitrary. Nobody knows what currents result from the combination of storm and spring tides. At a moment's notice mountain waves tower up ten metres high, currents of eight or ten kilometres an hour appear out of nowhere – the Atlantic is a place of extremes.'

Goulch was explaining what the ‘real ocean' statement meant this time.

‘Isolated waves reach twenty or twenty-five metres,' added Riwal, ‘and run against the direction of the normal swell, with narrow, deep troughs and a powerful crest. Then there is the “kaventman”, the three “sisters”, the “white wall”.'

BOOK: Murder on Brittany Shores
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