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Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect


John Matthews Past Imperfect

PROLOGUE

    Provence, June, 1995
    The three figures walked along the rough track alongside the wheat field. Two men and a boy of eleven.
    The older of the men, Dominic Fornier, was in his late fifties. A stocky figure just short of six foot with dark brown hair cropped short and almost totally grey at the sides. Another twenty metres ahead would be the best vantage point, he thought, his eyes scanning the broad expanse of the wheat field. Soft brown eyes with a faint slant at the corner. A slant that somehow made them sharper: knowing eyes, perceptive eyes. Eyes that had seen too much.
    The younger man, Stuart Capel, was an inch shorter and slim with light brown almost blonde hair. Mid-thirties, the first faint worry lines showed more prominently as he squinted against the sun and the glare of the bleached white field. Dominic could see the slight resemblance between Stuart and the young boy; though the boy's hair was a shade lighter and a few freckles showed across his nose and cheeks. Fresh faced, happy, but Dominic could still sense the slight barrier, a distance and detachment in the boy's eyes that betrayed the pain and scars of the past months.
    As they shuffled to a stop, Stuart asked: 'So is this where it happened?'
    'Yes, more or less.' Dominic pointed. 'About five metres ahead on the left.'
    Stuart looked at the area of wheat, and it told him nothing. Barely a foot high after being cut down to stubble in the early summer, it was silent, eerie. No hint of the events which now brought them to this spot. What had he expected? He looked across, at young eyes and a distant look that now he knew so well; but there was no glimmer of recognition. As usual, little or nothing while the boy was awake. Probably now even the ghostly shadows finally faded from the edges of his dreams. Acceptance. Stuart wondered.
    Six months? It seemed far longer as Stuart's mind flicked through the nightmare odyssey which had finally led them here today. And now the with the trial, so much would hinge on the events of the next days and weeks. Is that what he'd hoped for by asking Dominic Fornier to bring them out here: a final closing of the book, a laying to rest of the ghosts in both their minds?
    To the right of the lane were pine trees and thick bushes clinging to an embankment which dipped down towards the small river tributary thirty yards away. Stuart could hear its faint babbling above the gentle wind that played across the field.
    He reminded himself that whatever pain and anguish he'd felt, for Dominic Fornier it must have been much worse. The case had plagued Fornier for over thirty years. From a young gendarme to a Chief Inspector, from a provincial case to now one of the largest and most intriguing in French legal history. 'The trial of the decade,'Le Monde had apparently headlined it. And equally it had ripped apart Fornier's own family life.
    Dominic lifted his eyes from the field and into the distance, towards the village of Taragnon. Blood patches dried brown against the bleached sheaves. The small face swollen and disfigured. Dominic shuddered. The images were still stark and horrific all these years later.
    The field and the view had remained constant, thought Dominic, but everything else had changed. Everything. How many times had he stood in this same field the past thirty years? Searching for clues and the missing pieces of his own life. One and the same. The last time he'd visited in the Spring just past, he'd cried: cried for the lost years, cried for the family and loved ones long departed, cried for his own and Taragnon's lost innocence. One and the same. Cried and cried until there was nothing left inside.
    For a moment he thought he could hear the goat's bells again. But as he strained his hearing above the soft sway of the wind across the field, he realized that it was the distant church bells of Bauriac, calling morning prayers… the many services through the years: christenings, marriages… funerals…
    Dominic bit his lip. He could feel the tears welling again with the memories, and turned slightly from Stuart and the boy as he scanned the silent panorama of fields and the rich green Provence hills beyond. And as the pain of the images became too much, he closed his eyes and muttered silently under his breath, 'Oh God, please forgive me.'

ONE

    California, December, 1994
    Fields of gold. Burnished wheat under the hot sun.
    Eyran could feel the warm rush of air against his body as he ran through the sheaves, thrilling to the feeling of speed as they passed in a blur, springing back and lashing lightly at his legs and thighs. It was England. He knew instinctively, even though there were no guideposts in the dream from which he could be sure. The field where he used to play back in England was on a hill, a slow incline which led down to a small copse of trees with some of his favourite hiding places. Another wheat field rose beyond, linking in turn to fields of cabbages, maize and barley. A colourful and lazy patchwork of green and gold stretching towards the horizon.
    But the field in the dream was flat, and Eyran found himself running through frantically looking for those all so familiar landmarks. The hollowed tree in the copse where he had built a camp, the small brook that ran into the copse from Broadhurst Farm — where Sarah was on some days with her labrador. The field stretching out before him remained obstinately flat, no matter how fast he ran and how many sheaves he pushed past. The line of the blue horizon above the gold stayed the same. Though he knew somehow that if he kept running, the scene would change, he would see that all so familiar incline towards the copse, and he picked up the pace, a tireless energy driving him on. The contours changed suddenly, he could see what looked like the brow of a hill just ahead. But the position of the sun was also different, shining straight into his eyes and moving closer, closer — blotting out the hill ahead, then the horizon. Fading the golden wheat to stark white and searing his eyes as it became one blinding blanket of brightness.
    Eyran awoke abruptly as the light hurt his eyes. Looking from the car window, he could see the car lights shining at them from one side start to swing away, taking a left at the four way junction. He didn't recognize any landmarks, though he knew they must have driven some way since leaving their friends in Ventura. He heard his father Jeremy mutter something about the junction they should take for joining highway 5 for Oceanside and San Diego, then the crinkling of paper as his mother in the front passenger seat tried vainly to unfold a large map to the right place. They slowed slightly as his father looked over intermittently at the map.
    'Is it junction 3 for Anaheim and Santa Ana, can you see?' Jeremy asked. 'Maybe I should stop'.
    'Maybe you should. I'm no good with these things.' Allison half turned towards the back seat. 'I think Eyran is awake in any case. He's got school tomorrow, it would be good if he slept some more.' Allison turned and gently stroked Eyran's brow.
    Eyran slowly closed his eyes again under the soothing touch. But as his mother's hand moved away and he realized she was looking ahead again, his eyes instinctively opened to stare at the back of her head, focusing on her golden blonde hair until it became almost a blur. Willing himself back into the warmth of the wheat field and the dream.

    Allison noticed Jeremy gripping the steering wheel hard as he talked about a problem case at work. His eyes blinked as they adjusted to the fast dying dusk light. Signs now for Carlsbad and Escondido.
    She stole a glance back at Eyran. He was asleep again, but she saw now that his brow was sweating, the neck of his shirt damp. She pulled the blanket covering him lower down to his waist. Early December and the weather was still mild, temperatures in the late sixties, early seventies. Two weeks to school breaking up, with the trip to England to see Stuart and Amanda only days after. Part of her mind was already planning: how many days she should arrange for Helena to visit during their three weeks away, fresh food left in the fridge, clothes, packing, what woollens and coats to take.
    ‘We should be back within an hour,’ Jeremy said. ‘Shall I give Helena a call on my mobile?’
    ‘Up to you. She’s preparing something, but that’s only going to make us forty minutes earlier than we said.’
    Jeremy looked over as a large double trailer truck sped by, and checked his speed: 57 mph. The truck must be touching seventy. He shook his head briefly.
    He didn't notice the motorbike change lanes without warning ahead of the truck, nor the sudden swerve the driver made in the cabin to miss the bike. The first thing he noticed was the lazy snake like undulation at the back of the trailer, twisting abruptly at an angle and into a jack-knife which finally pulled it away from the cabin.
    There was a suspended moment as it happened. As if in one blink everything was still: the road, the trees, the roadside signs and hoardings, the grey dusk sky; the landscape rolling past suddenly frozen. And then in the next blink the trailer was rushing towards him.
    Jeremy braked hard and turned the wheel sharply away — but the suddenness with which the trailer flew at them made him gasp out loud. 'Oh… Jeez!' He braked harder, wrenching the wheel frantically away from the large grey steel block floated inexorably upon them, filling the windscreen and his view as it scythed through the front of the Jeep.
    He heard Allison scream as the Jeep tilted sharply with the impact, and felt something jam hard into his stomach and ribs, pushing the air from his body as the windscreen exploded and shards of glass flew past them like blizzard snowdrops. Numbness more than pain hit him as the engine block was shunted back, severing his right leg just below the knee joint, and the first two rolls of the Jeep became a spinning confusion of sky, road, grass verge. Then darkness.
    He remembered awaking once later. He could hear voices, though they were muffled and indistinct. When he tried to focus, the people seemed to be far away, though he could see clearly the arm of a man leaning over and touching his body. He found it hard to breathe, as if he was gargling and choking on warm water, and a jarring pain gripped his stomach and one leg. He must have lay there for some while, at times almost succumbing to the welcome release of the darkness, but knowing somehow that the pain was his only tangible link with consciousness and life.
    He mouthed the word 'Eyran', but the man by his side didn't respond, nor could Jeremy in fact hear his own voice.
    As finally they lifted his body, the lights twisting and spinning briefly to one side and away, the voices faded and he drifted back into the darkness.

    Stuart Capel looked at his watch: 10.40 pm. — 2.40 pm in California. When he tried his brother Jeremy's number earlier it was on the answer-phone, so he'd made a note to call again in the afternoon.
    Only two or three weeks to go and so much to plan. He hadn't seen Jeremy and his family for almost two years. He had ten days off work over Christmas while they were over, but the problem was he couldn't remember if it was the 16th or 23rd when they arrived. All so precise Jeremy, phoning him almost a month ago, going painstakingly through flight numbers, dates and times. Somehow he'd ended up with the flight number and the time on his phone pad, but not the date. The problem was, the same flight number left at the same time each week.
    If he had to ask Jeremy again, it would probably provoke a comment. A short snub that said it all: I'm organized and you're not, I'm successful because I plan carefully, you've suffered in business because you don't. All so precise Jeremy. Each step of his life carefully mapped out and planned. From University at Cambridge, through London Chambers, then re-taking exams in the US and six months in Boston as a stepping stone to a San Diego law firm.
    Stuart's life and career had been in almost complete contrast. A massive rise in the eighties in design work for print media, then the slump. Two partnership break ups followed and he was almost bust by the late eighties, only crawling his way out the last few years. Methodical planning had never worked for Stuart, and nearly all of his arguments with Jeremy revolved around the same thing: Jeremy trying to suggest some well staged plan, Stuart telling him at every turn why it wouldn't work, what would probably arise to fuck it up, and finally they'd reach the subject of Eyran.
    Stuart would strike back by complaining that Jeremy was trying to structure Eyran's life too carefully, the boy was being stifled. He sensed a kindred spirit in Eyran that was somehow lost on Jeremy, a curiosity and thirst for life that Jeremy so often quelled by trying to map out his son’s life to finite extremes. Jeremy loved Eyran, but had little grasp how important it was to allow the child some freedom. Some choice.
    The last get together almost two years ago, Stuart had taken his family out to California. He’d put his foot in it by mentioning some of Eyran's old friends in England. Could Eyran write them a postcard or perhaps get them a small memento from San Diego zoo? Jeremy had shot him a dark look, then explained later that they'd had problems with Eyran being homesick and missing his English friends. Only in the last six months had he settled in more and not mentioned them.
    Later in the same holiday, Jeremy had poured cold water on Stuart's plans to expand into multi-media production, and they'd had more words. Of course there were risks, Stuart explained. Anything that depended on creative input, market forces and an unpredictable general public was a risk. As usual, Jeremy was blinkered; Stuart might as well try and explain Picasso to a plumber.
    Stuart made a mental note: Eyran's friends in England, advice about Eyran's upbringing and future, current business activities which might be viewed as risky. Any other no go areas for his conversation with Jeremy?
    He made the call again, but it was Helena, the visiting Mexican maid, telling him that they were away, 'Hup state till later tonight… about nine o’clock. You want I ask them to call you when they get back?'
    'No, its okay. I'll set an alarm call early and phone them back.'
    He arranged the call for 6.30 am, 10.30 pm California time. One finger tapped at the receiver for a second after putting it back. Fleeting unease. He pushed it as quickly away, told himself it was just his nerves settling back from steeling for possible confrontation with Jeremy.

    Dr Martin Holman, at thirty-four the youngest of Oceanside's three head ER consultants, heard the babble and commotion of voices a second before the emergency doors swung open. He was aware of two gurneys heading to different parts of the room, and then his attention fell on the young boy.
    'What have we got?'
    'Accident victim. Ten years old. Head injuries, but the chest's the most severe: two cracked ribs, possibly a fractured sternum as well.' The paramedic spat the words out breathlessly as they wheeled the gurney rapidly towards a bed.
    'Conscious at any time?' Holman asked.
    'No. He's been out since we loaded him. Breathing blocked — so tracheal, respirator, plasma to keep up the volume. The normal. But still his blood pressure and pulse dropped the last few minutes in the ambulance. Last pulse reading was forty-eight.'
    'Okay. Let's get him up and attached. One… two.' They lifted the boy in unison onto the bed. Holman called over two nurses and a junior doctor, Garvin, to attach the monitors: pulse, respiration, central venous and arterial pressure. Within a minute, the readings and a steady pulse bleep were there for Holman. But he was immediately alarmed: Blood pressure 98 over 56, and pulse only 42 and dropping… 40. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong.
    'More plasma infusion!' Holman snapped at Garvin. 'Do we know blood type?'
    'O Positive.'
    Holman instructed a nurse to arrange a supply for transfusion, then looked back to the boy. The pulse stayed stable at 40 for a few seconds with the increased plasma, then dropped another notch… 38. Holman began to panic. By the early 30s, it was all over. The boy was dying!
    He scanned rapidly — the chest bandaged and blood soaked, the face and head bruised with heavy contusions — looking for tell-tale signs. Blood loss was heavy, but the plasma infusion should have compensated. He moved around, feeling the boy's skull, shining a penlight into the eyes. No responsiveness. There was probably internal damage, but no alarming swelling to cause the current problem.
    'Thirty six!' Garvin called out with alarm.
    Then Holman noticed the unevenness of the boy's chest: one part of his lungs wasn't expanding! Possibly a broken rib puncturing one lung.
    He nodded urgently at the remaining nurse: 'Trochal cannula! Set up a plural drainage.'
    Holman cut through the chest bandages and then slowly inserted the cannula, a hollow metal pipe with a cutting edge, between Eyran's ribs and into his left lung. He then fed a thin plastic pipe through the cannula, and at his signal the nurse activated the pump. It started sucking out blood from the flooded lung.
    Garvin announced: 'Thirty four!' And Holman muttered under his breath, 'Come on… come on!' It had been a good day so far, mostly only minor injuries. He'd been hoping to finish his shift unscathed at midnight. Don't die on me now!
    Holman looked anxiously between the cannula pipe and the pump. It was a race against time. Hoping that enough blood could be pumped from the lungs to restore blood pressure and respiration before the pulse dipped too low. But when blood pressure fell to 92 over 50 and Garvin announced pulse at 32 — then after only a few seconds' gap, 30 — Holman realized with rising panic that it was a race he was losing.
    Garvin's shout of 'Brady Cardia!' and the boy lapsing into cardiac arrest came almost immediately after. The pulse became a flatline beep.
    Holman had already signalled the nurse, and now prompted urgently: 'De-frib!'
    Garvin put the electro-shock pads into position, but Holman held up one hand, counting off the seconds... six… seven. It was a calculated gamble. Holman knew that as soon as the heart started again, fresh blood would be pumped into the lungs. Each extra second gave him more chance of clearing the lungs and stabilization. Ten… eleven... Garvin looked at him anxiously, the flatline beep sounding ominously in the background… thirteen… fourteen… 'Okay… Clear!'
    Holman stepped back as Garvin hit the charge. The shock jolted the boy's small body dramatically.
    But there was nothing. The flatline pulse still beeped… nineteen… Holman's jaw set tight, frantic now that he might have mis-timed it, left the de-frib too long. Twenty-one seconds now the heart had been stopped! He leant across, put one hand firmly on the boy's chest and started massaging. It was thick with blood, and with the cracked ribs and sternum, Holman feared he couldn't apply the pressure he'd have liked. Twenty-eight… twenty-nine…
    Still nothing! The beep a persistent, infuriating reminder. He didn't need to look up. He leapt back, signalling Garvin. 'Hit it again!'
    Another shock and jolt. But with still no pulse signal, Holman feared the worst. He leant back over for another massage, his hands now slippery with blood on the small frail chest, trying to feel deep with each push down, silently willing back a spark of life. Beads of sweat massed on his forehead. Only minutes since the boy had been wheeled in, and his nerves were gone, fighting now to control the trembling in his hands to hold the massage rhythm… forty-three… forty-four. If he lost the boy now, he doubted he could face another patient the rest of his shift.
    But already he knew there was little hope. One more de-frib, and then that was it. By then the boy would have been dead almost a full minute.

    Fields of wheat, swaying gently in the breeze.
    The incline changed suddenly, without warning. Eyran could see the small copse of woods at the end of the field and ran down the hill towards it, excitement growing as he got closer. Inside the copse, it was dark and damp, the air cooler. He looked for familiar landmarks that would lead him towards the brook, picking his way through the darkness. At one point he thought he was lost, then suddenly the brook appeared ahead from behind a group of trees. He felt uncertain at first, he couldn't remember the brook being in that place before. As he got closer, he could see a small figure hunched over the brook, looking into the water. He thought it might be Sarah, but there was no dog in sight. The figure slowly looked up at him, and it took a second for recognition to dawn: Daniel Fletcher, a young boy from his old school in England who he hadn't seen for years.
    He asked what Daniel was doing there, it wasn't the normal place he played, and Daniel muttered something about it being peaceful. 'I know,' Eyran agreed. 'That's why I come here. It's so quiet. Sarah comes down here with her dog sometimes as well.' Then he remembered that Daniel lived almost two miles beyond Broadhurst Farm. 'It must have taken you ages to get here. Do your parents know you're here?'
    'No, they don't. But it doesn't matter, I haven't seen them in years.'
    'In years! Very funny.' Though Eyran could see that Daniel wasn't smiling. He was looking soulfully back into the water, and some small quirk told him that something was wrong, that all of this wasn't real, it was a dream. Then he recalled with a jolt what it was: Daniel had suffered with acute asthma, he'd died at the age of six after a severe bronchitis attack, over a year before Eyran left for California. He remembered now the service of the school chaplain, the whole school tearful, and how all the boys who had picked on Daniel for his frailty had felt suddenly guilty. He could see Daniel's pigeon chest struggling for breath, hear the faint wheezing. Eyran was startled by a rustling among the trees, preparing himself to turn and run before seeing that it was his father walking through.
    He felt nervous because he'd never seen his father down by the copse before. He knew instinctively that he must be late returning home or have done something wrong, and mouthed 'I'm sorry', almost as a stock reaction.
    His father looked thoughtfully down at Daniel before waving his arm towards Eyran. 'You must go home now, Eyran, you don't belong here.'
    Eyran started to move away, then realized his father wasn't following. He was staying by Daniel at the side of the brook. 'Aren't you coming with me now, Daddy?'
    His father shook his head slowly, his eyes sad and distant, and Eyran looked out of the copse to find that now it had become dark outside. The darkness was a solid black blanket, the wheat field seeming to stretch endlessly into the distance, as before, with no hills and contours which he recognized. 'But I could get lost', he pleaded, just before his father turned and disappeared back into the darkness of the woods.
    Eyran started to tremble and cry. He sensed that he must do as his father said and try to find his way back home, though he was struggling desperately at the same time to understand why his father had deserted him to fight back through the darkness on his own. If he could just get back home, he knew that all would be well. But the darkness of the field was deep and impenetrable, with no familiar landmarks.

TWO

    Provence, August, 1963
    Alain Duclos saw the boy a few hundred yards ahead walking at the side of the road. His figure emerged like a mirage from the faint shimmer of the August heat haze.
    At first Duclos wasn't going to stop. But there was something about the boy's tired posture and profile that made him slow down. As he drew close, taking in the boy's curly hair and olive skin, the sweat on his brow and his flustered expression, he decided to stop. The boy was obviously tired and something was troubling him. The side window had been wound down because of the heat. Duclos leant across as he pulled over.
    'Can I give you a lift somewhere?'
    The boy was hesitant and looked back towards the far ridge of the fields for a second. 'No. No, thank you. It's okay.'
    Duclos guessed his age at no more than ten or eleven. He couldn't help noticing how beautiful the boy's eyes were: green with small flecks of hazel, in contrast to his deep olive skin tone. The eyes betrayed the boy's anxiety. 'Are you sure?' Duclos pressed. 'You look as if you've lost somebody.'
    The boy looked back towards the ridge again. 'My bike broke down back there just beyond the field. I was walking to my friend's house, Stephan. His father has a tractor with a trailer to pick it up.'
    'How far is it to Stephan's house?'
    'Four or five kilometres. It's the other side of the village. But it's okay, I've done the walk before.'
    Duclos nodded knowingly and smiled, pushing the door ajar. 'Come on, you're tired and it's hot. I'll run you there. It's too far for you to walk'
    The boy returned the smile hesitantly. For the first time he looked the length of Duclos' car, the sudden excitement at the prospect of a ride in a sports car showing. 'If you're sure it's okay.'
    Again the reassuring nod and smile as the boy got in. Duclos leant across to shut the door, revved twice quickly as he checked the mirror, and pulled out. They both sat in silence for a moment as the car picked up speed. Duclos noticed the boy looking at the dashboard and leather seats, then lifting up slightly to take in the sloping bonnet. Duclos answered his obvious curiosity.
    'It's an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, 1961. Custom colour, dark green. I wanted one of the classic Italian racing colours — red or dark green, but I thought the red was too loud. I've had it just under two years. Like it?'
    The boy nodded enthusiastically, now checking out the small back bench seat and view through the coupe rear window.
    'What's your name?' asked Duclos.
    'Christian. Christian Rosselot.'
    Duclos checked his watch: 12.48pm. He'd made good time since leaving Aix-en-Provence. Duclos knew now what had made him stop. The boy reminded him of Jahlep, the young Algerian boy his Marseille pimp had found for him and had become a favourite on his last few visits. Except more beautiful. The skin pallor wasn't as dark as Jahlep's and had a smoother tone like polished cane, and his large green eyes with hazel flecks were striking beyond belief. The boy was wearing shorts, and he found himself looking over at the smooth copper of the boy's legs. They'd already gone a kilometre and a half, Duclos estimated, when he noticed the roadside sign: Taragnon, 1.3km. The friend's house wasn't far past the village. There wouldn't be much time. Duclos glanced again at the boy's legs. His mouth felt suddenly dry. He had to think of a device to get himself alone somewhere with the boy, and quickly. A few hundred yards ahead he saw a roadside farm track. Duclos slowed down and stopped just past it.
    'I've had a thought. If we get to Stephan and his father's not there or for any reason can't help out — it's a wasted journey. I've got some tools in the back, I'll run you back to the bike, and if we can't fix it I'll rope it into the boot and run you home with it. Where do you live?'
    'Almost three kilometres that way from where the bike is now.' Christian pointed behind them and slightly to the east. 'But it's okay. I'm sure they will be there. Stephan's father is always working on the farm.'
    Duclos shrugged. 'The problem is, if they're not there you're going to be stuck.' He backed into the farm track, checked briefly for traffic, then turned out heading back the way they'd come. Just take control, his instincts told him. The boy's protests weren't strong. 'Look, it's no trouble. In any case I've just remembered I should have picked up something at the patisserie back in Varages, so it's not putting me out of my way.'
    Duclos wondered if the boy was suspicious. In the wake of his insistence, the boy had finally nodded and smiled, though hesitantly, then hastily looked away through the side window. It could have been his normal awkwardness with strangers, or perhaps he was suspicious. It was hard to tell either way. Duclos was now more concerned of passing anyone who might see them together. After almost a kilometre, a truck came towards them with a company name and MARSEILLE in large letters on the side. With the height of the cab and the speed they'd passed each other, Duclos doubted the driver had paid them any particular attention. For a moment he thought to himself, 'Just drop the boy off, leave him alone, continue on to Salernes.' But the urge driving him on was now too strong. A mixture of excitement, curiosity, anticipation, the thrill of the unknown. He found it impossible to resist. They'd just passed the point where he'd first picked up the boy.
    'Is it far now? Duclos asked.
    'No, just under a kilometre more — it's on a rough track between two farms.'
    The patchwork of green and gold pastures each side were faded with the summer heat. After a long flat stretch, the road curved and they were passing a peach orchard, only part of which appeared to be harvested; uneven grass patches grew between the trees on its far side. Christian lifted one arm to indicate the pathway.
    Turning in, Duclos could see that a hundred yards ahead the peach orchard verged into woodland. The track then ran between the orchard and the woods, and the grass was long and unkempt closest to the woods. The boy was pointing to where he'd left his bike.
    'Just up there on the left, where the grass is long. I tried to hide it so it would be safe until I got back.'
    With the bumpiness of the track, Duclos had changed down to second. Those legs. Those eyes. His pulse quickened with anticipation. Images of what was to come were already forming in his mind. But at the same time he felt nervous and uncomfortable. With Jahlep it was always pre-arranged, the young Algerian boy a willing participant. Now he was facing the unknown. He wasn't sure how to make the first move, that first contact that would break the barrier. Once he'd touched the boy and his intentions were obvious, he knew it would be impossible just to stop there. The only question then was whether he continued with consent or force.
    Duclos pulled the car over to the side of the track and followed the boy out. Only after a few paces and prompted by the boy pointing could Duclos make out the bike lying flat among the tall grass.
    'What went wrong with it?' he enquired.
    'The back brake locked on the wheel. That's why I couldn't move it.'
    Duclos knelt down to examine the wheel, moving it back and forth with difficulty against the locked brake. The boy was only a foot to his side, also kneeling and keenly inspecting. Duclos could smell the faint acid sweetness of the boy's sweat mixed with the scent of grass and ripe peaches. It was then that he noticed the graze and bruise on the boy's thigh. It was the chance he'd been looking for. He reached over and touched the graze, gently stroking it.
    'That looks bad — you should get some antiseptic on it. And the bruise is going to be a real beauty in the morning. Did you get that when the bike broke down?'
    'When the brake jammed, the bike got thrown to the side.' The boy made a dramatic motion with one arm towards the grass. 'My leg got trapped underneath.'
    He was so sweet, thought Duclos. The eyes were hauntingly beautiful, green limpid pools in which he could almost swim. The boy had flinched at the initial touch, but hadn't moved. Duclos continued stroking, working slightly higher. It was in that moment that Duclos saw the change in the boy's eyes; the pupils dilated, the eyes suddenly looked darker and more troubled. The boy knew something was wrong. As the boy's body tensed to move, Duclos reached up and gripped his shorts tight.
    'There's no point in struggling, you'll only get hurt. I don't really want to hurt you.' Duclos voice was both soothing and menacing.
    The motion was sudden. Christian let out a half scream, half gasp as Duclos yanked down his shorts and pushed him face down in the grass.
    Duclos gently stroked the boy's back, lifting his shirt higher and running his thumb up and down the ridge of his spine. The boy's sweat eased the motion, and after a few strokes Duclos lowered his stroking to the boy's buttocks and the cleft in between. Duclos became quickly aroused. The boy's skin was so smooth. He could feel the small body trembling beneath his touch, though after a few moments it became more intense then finally verged into gentle quaking as the boy started sobbing.
    Duclos found the noise disturbing, the mood was being spoilt. 'Be quiet. For God's sake, be quiet. It will do no good.'
    The crying became more muted. Duclos took off his own clothes. He tried to force in other thoughts to distract himself from the crying as he crouched over the boy. Jahlep was beckoning with one finger, smiling back at him and urging on his increasingly urgent thrusts. The Algerian boy's eyes were dancing with mischief and pleasure. He could feel the sun hot on his back, the sweat in the ridge of the boy's back as he ran his hands slowly up and down. Duclos shook his head from side to side. The wind through the nearby treetops momentarily drowned out all other sound, and Duclos felt himself sailing on a wave of pleasure. Jahlep's brown eyes looked at him soulfully, imploring, willing him on to greater heights of pleasure. But the green eyes of the boy beneath him suddenly superimposed — sullen and haunted, frightened, pleading. He shook his head again to shift the image, but it stayed with him obstinately until his final moment of orgasm, his strangled and guttural cry of pleasure lost among the wind rippling through the treetops.
    It took him a moment afterwards to become orientated again. He'd pulled out and ejaculated on the ground and part of his weight was rested on the boy's back, his cheek against the bare skin, suddenly sweaty, sticky. He rolled off.
    In the aftermath he lay on his back and stared up at the sky. He could still hear the boy gently crying, though intermittently it merged with and was drowned out by the rustling of the wind. They became one and the same.
    Duclos looked over. There was a small trickle of blood running down the boy's inner thigh. He reached over and touched the boy's back, but felt him flinch sharply under the touch. He wanted to say 'I'm sorry', but it would sound so empty and futile now. He knew that he would have to be stern to warn the boy off. He sat up and gripped the boy's shoulder tight.
    'Look at me. Look at me!' Duclos gripped tighter and shook the boy until he looked up. The boy's face was streaked with tears and he made a vain effort to wipe away a fresh tear with the back of one hand.
    'What happened today never happened, you understand. It never happened!' Duclos looked at the boy intently, as if by staring and continuing to shake the boy's shoulder he could force his will home.
    'It's our secret, and you're to tell nobody. Nobody! If you do, I'll come after you and kill you. I know where you live now, it will be easy for me to get to you.'
    The boy nodded after a second. Duclos shook his shoulder once more for emphasis. 'You understand!'
    But once again the boy's eyes betrayed him. Mixed with the fear, Duclos could see the uncertainty and confusion. He knew that whatever the boy agreed now, later he would be faced with awkward and insistent questions from his parents about the afternoon, and he would finally talk. The police would be called. With his distinctive car, he would be easily found, would face a trial, public humiliation and a jail term; his life and career would be ruined. His dreams and plans of becoming Assistant Public Prosecutor in Limoges within three years would be over.
    He knew in that moment that he would probably have to kill the boy.

    Duclos sat close to the window in the restaurant. From there, he had a clear view of his car at the far side of the car park. It was out of the direct path of people approaching the restaurant, but still he couldn't be too careful.
    Having decided what to do, it had taken him almost fifteen minutes to secure the boy, ripping up the boy's shirt and using some rags from his car to tie his hands and feet and gag him. Space in the car boot had been very restricted, and he huddled the boy tightly next to the spare tyre in almost a foetal position, the arms draped over the tyre itself. He warned the boy not to make a sound or move about, otherwise he'd feed in a hosepipe from the exhaust and gas him. The boy had nodded fearfully, his eyes wide. It was the last image he remembered as he shut the boot lid — those eyes staring back at him, questioning, pleading.
    At first Duclos wasn't sure why he'd delayed. It had just felt wrong killing the boy then and there on the spot. And he wanted time to think. But was the delay just to steel up courage for what he already knew was inevitable, or was he having second thoughts? In the end what he thought about most was if he had to kill the boy, how best to cover his tracks? He didn't want to take any action hastily.
    The effort of tying up the boy and bundling him into the car in the heat had tired him. Duclos' clearest thoughts only came as he drove away, jig-saw pieces matching with how he saw the crime being re-constructed by investigators based on his past experience with forensics. By the time he reached the outskirts of Taragnon, he'd worked out most of the details, and the restaurant was an integral part of that plan. He checked his watch: 1.41pm. Timing would be the key. Ideally, he should stay just over an hour.
    Duclos had already looked at the menu, and scanned it briefly again as the waiter came over.
    'Plat du jour, but with the veal cassoulett, please. The mushrooms to start and the l' isle flotant to finish.'
    'And for the wine?' the waiter asked.
    'Vin rouge, please, and some water. What is the house red that comes with it?'
    'Chateau Vernet. It's quite good, fairly full.'
    Duclos didn't ask the year. The house wines were nearly all non-descript recent vintage. In any case in the hot weather he normally mixed house wines with water, though if it was good he might savour one glass on its own.
    The restaurant was the first that he saw after Taragnon with a reasonable car park in front. It was important that he could see the car while he ate. Simple and cafe style, it was very close to the village, less than a kilometre, and the roadside sign advertising Plat du Jour at only F3.40 had attracted a reasonable crowd that lunch time. Almost half full, Duclos counted another eight cars and two trucks in the car park.
    The waiter had put his order into the kitchen and now returned with his wine and water. He poured the wine but left the water for Duclos to help himself. Duclos took a sip; it was full bodied, but had a slight acid aftertaste. Palatable but unexceptional. Duclos added some water, and noticed the other waiter behind the bar look over briefly. He was more surly and curious than his own waiter, and had been by the front window serving, looking out as Duclos pulled up and walked in. He could tell the look, he'd seen it a thousand times: young, nice car, nice clothes, Rich kid! Everything bought and paid for by his parents. The waiter, little more than his own mid-twenties, was slaving behind the bar day and night thinking that meanwhile kids like himself whiled away their summers on the coast on their parents' money.
    But in Duclos’ case, the resentment was misplaced. He'd come from a family probably no better than the waiter's, his father just a simple works foreman in a local pottery factory. It had taken his father years to work up to foreman through various positions on the factory floor. Then three years later a badly stacked crate fell and injured his back. After increasing time off for treatment, he was forced to work part time, then the company finally wanted to let him go. The company was inadequately insured, the compensation poor, and it was only by involving a lawyer and the threat of a large suit that his father had finally won the day. The company paid for treatment, gave a six month pay cash settlement and a full time office position for his father handling inventory.
    Only thirteen at the time, the object lesson of how the lawyer had managed to save the family when his father was virtually powerless had stayed strongly with Duclos. The power of being able to wield the law like a heavy sword to get what you wanted from life. He worked hard at school and graduated to take Law and a second of Business studies at Bordeaux University.
    At twenty-one, three months after graduation, he'd joined the Public Prosecutor's Office in Limoges. The first year as a stagiare, then two years with case preparation for the Assistant Public Prosecutor and some lesser cases which he handled himself. But in the last year he'd handled a more important caseload, including two landmark cases for the Head of Public Prosecution who was retiring in three years. Everyone would then move up a rung, and he was one of three lawyers in line for Assistant Public Prosecutor. His success rate with cases was higher than the other two and his file preparation was noted for being meticulous. Three more years of hard application and the job was his.
    The waiter came up with his mushrooms. He looked over towards his car again as he ate. He'd worked too hard for too long to give it all up now.
    The friend that he was staying with in Salernes, Claude, he'd met at Bordeaux University and they'd stayed in close contact since. This was Duclos' sixth visit in four years, invariably for three weeks in August or ten days at Easter. Claude's family owned one of the area's largest vineyards, the main chateau had its own grounds and pool, and the Cote D'Azur was just over half an hour's drive away. Idyllic, particularly for summer vacations. Duclos would usually sneak off at least twice to Marseille to see his pimp and Jahlep, making an excuse about visiting an aunt in Aubagne; a boring but necessary social visit. Claude had never been suspicious.
    Through the years he'd got used to covering up, had become quite professional at it. There had been no steady girlfriends, but he was not unattractive and with his position he'd always been able to find girls for special dinner dates or work related functions. Keeping up appearances.
    Finishing the mushrooms, the main course arrived after a few moments. Duclos checked his watch again. He'd been there twenty-five minutes. He might have to take coffee and brandy to stretch the time.
    There was one small element still missing from his plan, and it began to trouble him increasingly. He dwelled on it through the cassoullet. Only as he was close to finishing, topping up his wine with water for the third time, did something strike a chord; he looked thoughtfully at the bottle. He wondered. It could work, but would there be enough water in the bottle? The thought was still gelling when an out of place movement in the corner of his eye made him look past the bottle towards the car park. His nerves tensed. Two women who had just left the restaurant were approaching the car next to his. As one went to open the car door, the other appeared to be looking over at his car. Was she just admiring it, or had some sound alerted her? She stood there for a moment, then finally looked towards the fence behind and got in. The car backed out and moved away. Duclos relaxed.
    But his peace of mind was short lived. Minutes later a truck pulled in and took the vacant space, obscuring his view of his car. Duclos felt immediately ill at ease; now he could only see part of the furthest rear tail light.
    He found it hard to concentrate on the rest of the meal. When the l' isle flotant arrived, he ordered coffee and brandy from the same waiter to save time. Fifteen minutes more. The waiting was infuriating. His nerves had built to fever pitch by the time the brandy arrived. He had to steady his hand as he lifted the glass. He wasn't sure if it was the aftershock of what had already happened, or what he knew he faced. The other waiter was looking over at him again with that same curious expression. Or was he reading too much into it, seeing imaginary demons and problems? He just knew that he had to get out of the cafe fast. Having steeled his nerves over the past hour, he knew that if he didn't do it soon, he might never be able to. His composure and resolve would be gone.
    Mopping his brow, Duclos signalled to the waiter. The waiter finished up an order three tables away and came over.
    'The bill, please.' The waiter had turned to go when Duclos realized he'd forgotten something. He pointed to the bottle on the table. 'And some bottled water to take with me.'
    The bar was noisy with conversation and the gentle clatter of cutlery. Duclos closed his eyes, fighting to calm himself while he waited for the bill. Had he appeared agitated? Was the timing right? Had the woman by his car earlier heard something? Thoughts of what might have already gone wrong and potential pitfalls yet to come jumbled hopelessly with soul searching. What might have been if he hadn't gone to Aix en Provence that morning? If he had never seen the boy at the roadside? All those years of reading affidavits from people who'd got themselves into hopeless messes, and how he always knew so much better. He shook his head in disbelief.
    It took another six minutes to pay and receive his change, and by that time Duclos was trembling uncontrollably. He smiled and tipped generously, hoping that his nervousness wasn't outwardly obvious. He wanted them to remember him, but not in that way.
    Getting back into the car, Duclos let out a deep sigh and fought to calm his trembling hands as he gripped the steering wheel. He felt nauseous and his mind was spinning with a thousand conflicting thoughts — and finally the build up of nerves overtook him and his body slumped defeatedly. He didn't think he could go through with it.

    In the dark, the first thing Christian became conscious of was the sound of his own breathing.
    He felt hot in the boot, despite being without his shirt. He'd managed to control his tears, but his body still trembled violently. How was he going to explain his shirt being destroyed when he got home, and why did the man have to tie him up and put him in the boot out of sight? He just hoped the man wasn't going to hurt him again. He knew that he would probably have to tell his mother what had happened. She was going to be furious; she had warned him so often about talking to strangers. But the man had reminded him of his cousin Francois who worked with one of the perfume companies in Grasse — not like the rough men he'd imagined.
    Christian began to dwell on the man's threat. If you tell, I'll kill you… I know where you live now, it will be easy for me to get to you. Perhaps he could swear his mother to secrecy; though if she still had to tell the police, surely they would protect him. For what the man had done, would he be locked up so that he couldn't get to him, and for how long?
    Christian listened to the monotonous drone of the car engine and the wheels spinning on the road. He strained to hear noises beyond. After a moment, there was a faint rushing sound, perhaps a lorry or car passing, then nothing. How far had they gone? It was difficult to judge speed, the only guide changing echo tones when they passed buildings. The echo was there for a while, then gone briefly before returning for a long continuous stretch. They were passing through Taragnon, unless they'd branched off and it was Bauriac. Ponteves was too far.
    After a while the echoing stopped, another faint rush of something passing came immediately after, and not long after they slowed; he felt the car turn, then they stopped. And then the long wait.
    The heat built up insufferably in the confined space. His body was hunched up tight and he could feel the twinge of cramps in his legs. For a while he wondered if the man had gone off and left him. At moments he could hear distant voices and thought about kicking the side to attract attention, the only action allowed him with the ties and gag. But they were distant enough that they might not hear, and what if the man was still close by? He waited.
    With time passing, he became more fearful what the man might do to him. He found it difficult to breathe with the extreme heat, the hot air rasping uncomfortably at the back of his throat. He started to feel faint. It was then that he remembered the coin in his pocket: the silver twenty lire given him by his Grandpapa Andre. The luck token he took with him everywhere. It was in his left hand pocket. With his hands tied, it took a minute to fumble in his pocket and finally have it in his grasp. Moving his arms back over the spare wheel, he grasped the coin tight in his right hand and started a silent prayer: That the man wouldn't hurt him again, that he would be home soon, that the police would find the man and lock him up, and that his mother wouldn't be too annoyed when he told her what had happened.
    The heat made him tired. He was on the edge of sleep when some voices snapped him alert. Unlike the other voices they were coming closer, until he could hear them virtually at the side of the car. There was some shuffling and the sound of a car door opening. He pondered on the action only for a moment — then kicked back with his legs against the back metal panel. Then waited, listening. Nothing, except some fumbling and another car door opening. He kicked again, but at that moment everything was smothered by the rushing of a car or truck passing. Then he heard the car doors closing. The engine started. The car backed out and moved away. Christian let out a long sigh and bit his lip.
    Shortly after he succumbed to the heat and dozed off. He had started to think about the farm, and it filled his dream. There was a small stone wall in the main back field against which wild strawberries grew. One summer he'd cut down an area of the strawberry brambles and built a small hideaway house against the wall with wood and patched straw. He was in the hideaway when he heard his father Jean-Luc calling. He decided to stay hidden a minute, then leap up and startle his father. On the third call, he jumped up onto the ridge of the wall. But his father kept scanning the horizon; he hadn't seen him. Christian started waving one arm frantically. Once more his father scanned back and forth, more slowly and purposefully this time, calling his name yet again. For a moment more his father stood looking blankly across the fields, then finally turned resignedly and headed back across the farm courtyard to the back kitchen door.
    Christian jumped down from the wall, calling his father's name desperately as he ran towards him. But as he ran, the grass gradually became longer, obscuring his vision of the courtyard and his father. He became confused and lost. He could never remember the grass being that long, and now that he couldn't see the farm he'd lost all direction. He continued running, calling his father's name frantically; but with still no answer, he felt increasingly lost and was becoming tired. It was getting dark and he was frightened. He called his father's name once more with no response, then sat down defeatedly among the tall grass. He started crying. He felt deserted by his father. Why didn't you come and find me? After a moment the ground seemed to reverberate and shake with the heavy drone of an engine. The noise and movement perplexed Christian, and the only thing he could think of was that his father had brought the tractor out to try and find him.
    That hope only quelled his tears slightly; he was still crying as he awoke to the reality of the boot and the rough track they were driving on. They had obviously turned off again from the main road. How far had they gone? He realized with a sinking feeling that he'd completely lost track of time and distance; they might be too far from Taragnon for his father to find them. Suddenly he felt as lost and alone as in the dream. Fear and dread crept over him and his body started trembling again.
    Then he noticed with sudden panic that something else was wrong. Grandpapa Andre's coin was no longer in his hand. His right hand had relaxed slightly open and it had probably slipped from his grasp with the track's bumpiness. He started feeling for it in the dark. It was not on top of the wheel hub; the top of the hub was smooth metal, except for several small oval holes around its rim. They were too small to reach into, especially with his hands tied; if the coin had fallen through one of them, he wouldn't be able to retrieve it. He started feeling around the edge of the tyre.
    The car had stopped without Christian noticing. He was still searching for the coin when the boot lid opened and the bright sunlight flooded in, blinding him.

THREE

    Provence, August, 1963
    Dominic Fornier sat in Cafe du Verdon and enjoyed his normal breakfast of coffee with hot bread and pate. The coffee was large, in a cup almost big enough to be a soup bowl, and he always kept one piece of bread without butter or pate just to dip in it. It was 3.40 pm. An unusual time for breakfast, but then he had been on all night duty in the police station and had woken less than an hour ago to return for the afternoon shift.
    It was a regular ritual. The cafe owner Louis knew his order off by heart now, and had almost worked out his sequence of shifts. One large coffee with milk, third of a stick loaf sliced in half, one half plain, the other half with pate, coffee refill half way through.
    The cafe overlooked the main square and fountain at Bauriac and the police station was only fifty yards to the right of the square on the road flanking the town hall. The town hall and Louis' cafe were the most imposing structures overlooking the square. Neo-classical, the town hall should have been far more imposing, but Louis had compensated by putting out striped blue canvass awnings and a row of tables with Martini umbrellas. Particularly busy in summer, it was only from Louis' pavement frontage that tourists could appreciate the town hall facade and the ornate fountain at the centre of Bauriac's square.
    There were a few tourists there that afternoon. Dominic could spot them a mile away. Shorts, leather strap sandals and cameras. Always cameras. Louis grunted his way past Dominic's table as he served some of them. The front doors to the cafe were wide open and from the juke box inside came the strains of Stevie Wonder's 'fingertips'. Louis gave a mock bump and grind to it on his way back into the cafe and twirled his tray in one hand. Dominic smiled. It had been his one contribution to Louis juke box: decent music. Stax, Tamla, the Drifters on RCA, Sam Cooke, Ben E King, Booker T, and now a new artist called Stevie Wonder. All of it American soul brought in through his uncle's export business in Marseille, and practically none of it available in France for at least two to three months. Sometimes never. It was improving now, but when he'd first started getting records through his uncle in the late 50s, only a selected few American soul releases made it to French shores.
    None of the tourists on Louis terrace, unless they were American, would have heard Stevie Wonder's new record yet. They seemed oblivious as they sipped their teas and cokes or ambled off for photos in front of the fountain or town hall. They hadn't come to France to listen to American soul. The records were there just for the benefit of himself and Louis and the growing number of discerning late nighters. A welcome escape from the syrupy tones of Sacha Distel, Serge Gainsbourg, the Singing Nun and the endless pop rock which filled the French charts and, since Louis had installed the juke box, it drew an increasing crowd of young locals on their solexes and vespas with a sprinkling of 100 and 150cc bikes. Lightweight rockers. Mostly between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two, they came in heavier numbers on Friday and Saturday nights, nearly all of them locals. Louis' hunch about installing the juke box had worked.
    Those over twenty-two mostly had larger bikes or cars and would head off to the clubs or discos in Aix, Draguignan or even Marseille or Toulon. But for local entertainment, apart from the town cinema and one other bar with music near Taragnon, Louis had the market cornered.
    Bauriac's population was just over 14,000 and, even with the surrounding towns of Taragnon, Varages, Ponteves, St Martin and La Verdiere, which came under the administration of Bauriac's town hall and gendarmerie, overall area population was still under 35,000.
    Dominic Fornier was one of eleven gendarmes stationed in Bauriac, and at twenty-six, was the youngest of two Senior Warrant Officers there, having transferred from Marseille just the year before. Head of Station and the four other area gendarmeries was Captain Tobias Poullain, thirty seven, locally born but now just biding time by tending provincial turf; advancement meant transfer to Aix en Provence or Marseille and a City Administrative position with a shot at Colonel, and Poullain hoped to make it there by forty. Station veteran was Lieutenant Eric Harrault, forty-nine.
    Harrault's knowledge of past Bauriac cases and general procedures between the station and the local courts was absolute, and as a result he spent much of his time desk-bound. Without Harrault for reference or procedural advice, the station just didn't run smoothly.
    Louis was at the side of his table. 'Coming by tonight?'
    'I'm not sure. Depends how heavy my shift is. I might be too tired.'
    'Too tired at your age.' Louis waved one arm dismissively. He nodded towards the boulangerie. 'Why don't you ask Odette? Valerie will probably be coming.'
    'Maybe.' Odette was a fresh faced nineteen year old serving in the bakers whom Dominic had been dating the past four months. Nothing too serious. Dominic tried to restrict dates to no more than two a week, particularly with his other commitments at home. With him not finishing until midnight it would be too late in any case for a full date, though the sight of Louis fighting to win Valerie's affections was well worth a visit. 'I'll probably come by on my own for a quick brandy, keep you company at the bar.'
    On Valerie's last visit, Louis had put on Sam Cooke's 'Another Saturday Night', which Dominic had brought him only a few weeks before. Coming out from behind the bar like a matador, Louis dramatically threw his shirt to one side. Now down to his vest, Louis felt that it showed off his physique, and with his dark and brooding Corsican features he saw himself as another Victor Mature. Dominic teased him that he looked more like Bluto. The wrong side of forty, too much of his own short order cooking had long ago rounded out most of his muscle definition. Louis’ bull like figure trying gracefully to imitate something between the jive and the tango with Valerie was a sight to behold.
    'Should be a good crowd later tonight,' Louis commented.
    Dominic nodded. Calling by when his shift finished at midnight was probably good timing. After 11pm the bikers normally thinned out and more young couples came in on their way back from the cinema. Cleopatra was showing for a second week. Louis was probably right, the turn out should be good. 'I'll only stay an hour though, then I should get home.'
    Louis grimaced understandingly. Dominic not wanting to spend too much time away from his sick mother was by now almost common knowledge. Dominic's elder sister lived in Paris with her husband and only visited periodically, so Dominic had shouldered most of the responsibility. Diagnosed just over a year ago, less than two years after burying his father, his mother's cancer had been the main reason for his transfer from Marseille. Why he restricted his dates and tried not to stay out too late. Dominic knew that there wasn't much time left to spend with his mother.
    Dominic was distracted. Servan, one of the young station Sergeants, was running across the square towards the cafe. Louis stared as well. The last time he'd seen a gendarme running was when the newly installed alarm had gone off by mistake at the jewellers around the corner. Something was wrong.
    Servan was breathless as he approached Dominic's table. 'A young boy has been attacked out towards Taragnon. Poullain's just radioed in. He's on his way there now. He wants you to assist, and take myself, Levacher and another sergeant. We're to meet him there.'
    'Where's Harrault?'
    'He was with Poullain at Tourtin's farm when it happened. One of Tourtin's outbuildings was broken into last night. When Poullain got the call, he left Harrault taking the statement.'
    'How old is the boy?
    'Anything from nine to twelve years old. We still don't have any firm identification.'
    'Is the attack bad? How badly is he hurt?' The surprise came through in Dominic's voice. This was Bauriac. They hardly ever faced anything more serious than a stolen tractor.
    Servan was hesitant and looked away slightly. He either didn't know or didn't want to talk too openly in front of Louis. 'I think you should get the details from Poullain.'

    The 2CV rattled along the rough track alongside the wheat field. The basic black gendarme squad car, it felt as if it was made from old tin cans and powered by a lawnmower engine and rubber bands. Dominic hated them with a vengeance. The track was on a slight incline, and with three passengers the engine whined in protest.
    Servan pointed the way. 'I'm sure this is the right track, the river's to our right. About one hundred and fifty metres up, Poullain said.'
    Rounding a curve, they could see the lane cordoned off with rope fifty metres ahead. Poullain's black Citreon C19 was parked one side with an ambulance behind.
    Poullain was down to his shirt sleeves and his flat gendarme cap was off too. Beads of sweat massed on his receding hairline and he was in the midst of a heated argument with one of the ambulance medics as they parked the car. Poullain was not very tall, but he was quite stocky and in any confrontation fought to make a powerful presence with effusive and rapid arm movements. As they approached, he was almost hitting the medic repeatedly with the back of one hand to emphasize his case.
    Poullain looked past Dominic and snapped at Servan. 'Did you bring the camera?'
    Servan nodded hastily. 'As you asked.' And ran back the few paces to the car to get it.
    Poullain was impatient and flustered. When Servan came back with the camera, an old Leica 35mm with a dented and chipped black frame, Poullain barked, 'Are you any good at taking pictures?' Servan shrugged as if to say 'okay'. 'Then take them yourself so that we can get rid of this prick.' Poullain looked disapprovingly at the medic, then down at the figure of the young boy on a stretcher at the medic's feet. The medic was holding an oxygen mask to the boy's face.
    Poullain turned his back and let out a deep sigh as Servan moved around for best position and angle. Dominic was close behind and studied the boy's face as the shutter clicked away. The medics had obviously cleaned much of the blood from the face. But facial bruising and swelling was so intense that the bone structure looked distorted, and blood was still caked thick in his hair. A bandage was wrapped around part of the boy's skull and under his chin. A few paces to the side, Dominic could see a flattened area of wheat sheaves with dried blood patches. A large oval patch with two smaller patches and some spots and splashes radiating out. Dark brown against the bleached white sheaves. Dominic shuddered.
    After five pictures, Poullain waved the medics away with a few curt words about making contact later, and directed Servan's attention to the blood patches, pointing out some suggested positions for two or three close ups that he would need. The medics loaded the boy aboard the ambulance and backed down the lane. Poullain looked up at Dominic.
    'Sorry about that. First the medics say that they can't move the boy, he could choke on his own blood, and they spend time cleaning him up and putting a pipe down his throat. I say, fine, I need some pictures in any case. But as soon as they're finished, they want to move him. By this time I can see you approaching — but they don't want to wait. I end up arguing with them to gain one minute.' Poullain dabbed at his forehead with the back of one sleeve. 'Look, Fornier, I want you to assist in this. There's two reasons. First, there'll be an awful lot of paperwork and notes. Second, we're going to be talking with a lot of outside units, particularly from Marseille. A forensics team are on their way from Marseille now.'
    'What about Harrault?' Dominic asked. Harrault's seniority would normally have guaranteed his role in assisting, particularly on a major case.
    'Harrault will do what Harrault does best. He'll take our notes and reports and make sure the filing with the Aix Cour d’Assises runs smoothly. This will no doubt end up there, particularly if it becomes a murder case. The medics said that it's going to be a close call whether the boy lives. Harrault's going to spend half his time running reports between us and the examining magistrate and Public Prosecutor's office in Aix. I want you to assist and take notes, ensure the reports reach Harrault in good shape, and liaise and smooth out any problems with the boys from Marseille. I don't want us to lose control on this one.'
    Dominic wondered what was more important. His good shorthand for taking notes or his three years with the Marseille force. Obviously Poullain was worried about getting upstaged by Marseille. The boy wasn't even at the hospital, might not last through the night, and already Poullain was more worried about the politics of the investigation. Afraid of losing a major local case that could boost his career.
    'Who's coming from Marseille?' Dominic asked.
    'I don't know. I radioed in and was advised that a forensics team would be dispatched. Wasn’t given any names.'
    Servan was at their side with the camera held limply, waiting for more directions. WO Levacher was looking thoughtfully towards the river.
    'Have you brought the sticks?' Poullain asked.
    'Yes'. It was Levacher who answered. He turned back to the 2CV to get them. They'd stopped for them at a hardware store on the way, but it was obvious they were still wondering what they were for.
    Poullain pointed towards the wheat field. 'Levacher and Servan, start from three metres out from the blood patches and head out across the wheat field keeping two metres apart. Then at the end turn back and cover the next four metre stretch. Use the sticks to part the sheaves. We're looking for items of clothing, even small fragments of cloth or buttons and sweet wrappers. Any possible clues. And the weapon used in the attack — a heavy stick or iron bar, or perhaps a rock with tell tale blood stains.' Poullain pointed towards the river. 'Then take the bushes along the river bank. Also, look in the shallows. As I say, don't disturb the three metres around the blood stains. Leave that for forensics.'
    Poullain surveyed the wheat field as Servan and Levacher headed out with their sticks. He shook his head slowly after a moment. 'Who on earth would do such a thing?' A rhetorical tone, so Dominic merely joined him for a second silently watching their progress tapping across the field like blind men.
    'Who discovered the boy?' Dominic asked.
    'The man from the farm behind, Marius Caurin. This track provides the only access to his farm. These fields are owned by his friend who is on an engineering contract in Orleans — that's why some of them are untended. Marius just plants the few extra fields he can cope with.'
    A light breeze played across the field. As it shifted direction, they heard the sound of a car approaching. It was a large black Citreon C25 pulling in behind Poullain's car with three men inside. Probably the team from Marseille. Poullain greeted them, then introduced Dominic.
    They walked towards the bloodstained area. Dominic stayed in the background as Poullain pointed and brought them up to date on events. He explained that the boy might be facing an operation in hospital at Aix en Provence, so would be studied by the medical examiner there. They could confer with him later. The main thing now was gaining information from what was left: blood group and some indication of timing for the attack. Were all the stains the same group as the boy, or were any different?
    Dominic smiled to himself. In his fifteen years of policing in Bauriac, Poullain had only seen one murder, an almost predictable domestic crime of passion, and two manslaughters: one domestic, one bar fight. Yet he was handling this with all the casual aplomb of a Marseille veteran used to fishing bodies out of the harbour every day. No doubt driven by his fear of being upstaged from outside.
    None of them were really prepared for this. He'd seen the shock on Servan's face when he'd leant over the boy to take the first photos. Servan had gone deathly white and looked sick. The other rookies had only managed to maintain some composure by keeping in the background. None of them had come close to the boy and studied his face the way he had. Seen the massive bruising and fractures, seen where his small face had been mashed half to a pulp, part of his skull only held in place by a bandage. This was Bauriac, and if they stayed their distance, perhaps they could still cling to the illusion that things like this just didn't happen in their area.
    Even he'd found the sight of the young boy disturbing, despite having been directly involved in five murder cases in Marseille. Perhaps it was because the victim was so young; none of his previous cases had involved children. Who on earth would do such a thing? The one moment, staring silently across the wheat field, when Poullain had shown his true emotions. The rest of the time he'd been too busy sparring to try and prove he was in control.
    One of the forensic team was walking to his car with a set of small clear polythene bags. Another was crouching, now examining further up the rough track. He looked over at Poullain.
    'It's been too dry, and the track is too uneven and dusty. I doubt we'll get any decent imprints.'
    Poullain nodded, and asked the team leader Dubrulle about progress. Dubrulle explained that they would probably be at least another thirty or forty minutes, then they would head over to Aix and see the medical examiner. 'It could be he'll have some information by tomorrow morning. Our first lab test results won't be ready till tomorrow afternoon.'
    Servan and Levacher were half way back on their third sweep and Levacher had his jacket unbuttoned with the heat. Poullain's radio crackled with a sudden harsh, distorted voice. Poullain went over to it.
    Dominic couldn't hear what was said. He saw Poullain look down thoughtfully after a moment. The conversation appeared quite staccato, apart from a stretch towards the end of the call when Poullain waved his arms in a struggle for emphasis and then checked his watch as he finished.
    Poullain was pensive as he approached. 'A call's come in to the station from a woman saying her son's missing. It's the only call of that type they've received today. The boy said that he was going to a friend's house on his bike and should have been there for one-thirty. He never showed up. But it's only four-forty now, it could be too early to jump to conclusions. You know what kids are like. The boy could have gone to another friend's house or disappeared for sweets or to play somewhere else.'
    'How old is her boy?'
    'Ten. The age is right.'
    On a bad month, the station might get three missing person alerts, sometimes two months would go by with none. Most were false alarms, but the timing and age of this one narrowed the odds. Dominic could sense Poullain delaying the inevitable. He recalled the incident of a young boy who'd died falling down a disused well the previous autumn. Facing the relatives with the news had unsettled Poullain for days. This time he would probably send someone else.
    Dominic looked out thoughtfully across the field. 'What's her name?
    'Monique Rosselot.'

FOUR

    Monique Rosselot looked out onto the farm courtyard. From the kitchen, a mass of bougainvillaea covered the wall on one side. Christian had been only six when he'd helped his father, Jean-Luc, plant it; now it was a profusion of pink flowers.
    Christian's bike rested on the corner of the wall just past the bougainvillaea. Jean-Luc had come back with it just twenty minutes before, having followed the path Christian normally took to Stephan's house. At first she'd felt relieved: the bike's brake was jammed. At least that might explain some of the delay, walking would have taken him far longer. But still he should have been there by the latest at 2.30 pm. It was now 5.45 pm. Where had he gone? Perhaps he'd stopped off in Taragnon for a drink or sweets, the walk would have tired him and made him hot and thirsty. Though still that would only account for another forty minutes or so. He must have met another friend in Taragnon, gone off to play somewhere else and lost track of time. It was all she could think of.
    When Jean-Luc had come back with Christian's bike, their daughter Clarisse had asked, 'Is Christian lost somewhere?' Only four, she'd seen her parent's consternation and picked up on part of their conversation.
    'No, it's all right. He's just late seeing his friend because his bike broke down.' Christian was so protective and caring of Clarisse; he was like a second father to her, sharing his own sage past experience of the pitfalls and problems of being five. But she was too young to be worrying along with them.
    Monique bit her lip. It was over an hour since she'd called the police. The nearest phone was over a kilometre away, and in the intense heat the walk had been exhausting. On her return she'd felt sick and went into the bathroom, leaning over the sink. Despite her stomach still churning, in the end nothing came. She'd caught her reflection in the mirror as she looked up; she'd aged five years in the last hour. She felt physically and emotionally drained. Where was he? Why hadn't anyone called by? The waiting was killing her nerves. Jean-Luc had headed off on another search and probably wouldn't be back for forty minutes or an hour. She resolved finally that, despite the long walk, if she hadn't heard anything from the police within half an hour, she was going to put through another call.
    In the end she was saved the trouble. Just ten minutes before planning to leave, the black Citreon 2CV pulled into their courtyard and two gendarmes got out.

    It was almost 1 am. Louis' bar had been crowded, but the numbers were beginning to thin out. Louis had been dancing earlier with Valerie, but now she was talking with a friend in the corner while he put away some glasses and had a Pernod with Dominic at the bar. Dominic was out of uniform, in slacks and a short sleeved polo shirt, nursing a brandy.
    'Who saw her?' Louis asked.
    'Harrault and Servan. Poullain was going to send me at first, but there were too many notes to take from the afternoon, recording times and early findings from forensics and our own team. In the end he sent Servan to pick up Harrault. He's the most senior. Poullain thought if anyone he'd bring the right tone.'
    'Where's Monique Rosselot now?'
    'Probably still at the hospital. Harrault ran her and the father there and stayed with them the first hour, introduced them to the main doctors, got as much information as possible and tried to console them. The doctors were operating at midnight, the boy's probably still in there now. The father headed back with the daughter, but Monique said she would probably stay the night.'
    'What are the boy's chances?'
    'Not good. There's a lot of internal cranial bleeding and damage. If he lasts through the operation and the next twenty four hours, the doctors say his chances will increase. But brain damage is heavy and even if he survives, he could be severely disabled.'
    Louis reached for the bottle and topped up his Pernod, swirling it briefly in its narrow glass before tipping it half back. 'God, this must be rough on her. Have you seen her before? She's quite a woman.'
    'No, I don't think I know her. Harrault said that she was quite pretty.'
    'Quite pretty. Huh! Let me tell you, Monique Rosselot is one of those rare beauties that you only see once in a while. In Bauriac, those once in a while's are even rarer. Even on the coast she'd stand out — I'm amazed you don't know her. When are you seeing her?’
    'Sometime tomorrow. We haven't asked her any questions yet, it seemed inappropriate while she's still grappling with whether or not her son will live. I'll see her with Poullain tomorrow, we'll arrange it around the timing of her hospital visits. If she's at the hospital all day, then we'll go there.'
    Louis raised his glass, taking another quick slug. 'Salut. Let me know what you think when you've seen her. I warn you now, you'll be spoilt for other women.'
    Dominic smiled. Louis the lecher. Louis the connoisseur of women. Three tables could be calling for service and Louis would stop to admire at leisure a beautiful woman passing. The fact that Monique Rosselot was married was immaterial, she was still there for the admiring. Harmless voyeurism. But Dominic wondered if Louis knowledge of Monique Rosselot went deeper than that. 'Do you know her well?'
    'Not personally. She's been in a few times and we've spoken briefly once or twice, but that's all. She used to come in more when her boy was younger. But my barman, Joel, is quite friendly with the father Jean-Luc, and Valerie knows one their neighbours. And you know me, if there's a beautiful woman involved I'll spend half the day talking, I'm not choosy who I speak to. Probably why I spend so much time talking to you.' Louis paused for effect and chuckled. 'No, seriously, you know what Bauriac's like, people talk a lot, and they came here, what, seven or eight years ago — the boy was just a toddler. People are particularly curious about newcomers. Questions were thick and fast the first year they arrived.'
    'Did many of them get answered?'
    'A few. It seems she had her boy when she was under age, no more than fourteen or fifteen when he was conceived. Nobody knows exactly. Jean-Luc's family gave him a hard time, not only about being careless with an under age girl, but her background. Her mother's half Moroccan, half Corsican, and her father's French — but the Moroccan and Corsican blood is predominant in her features. His family's prejudice starts to show through. Cheap young Moroccan whore seduced their poor young boy, which is laughable seeing as he's ten years older than her. Don't they have prostitutes at the age of twelve on the street there? You know the type of comment. In the end they had a bellyful of it and moved. She was more resilient than him, I hear; she could have stayed and put up with it, but he insisted on moving. Cut himself off entirely from his family, had little or no contact with them. When the little girl was born, they just sent a photo, no invitations to the christening, nothing.'
    'Where did they come from?'
    'Beaune, not far from Dijon. But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. What with the fact that they were newcomers and her dusky looks, she attracted more than her fair share of attention. You couldn't really call it prejudice, but it was curiousity so blatant it was almost rude. You know, the way you would expect a lost tribe to react upon seeing their first explorer. I was probably one of the darkest skinned people in Bauriac until she arrived, and I attracted a fair bit of attention in my time, let me tell you. It took a few years for Monique to be accepted here, for them to look beyond her colour and realize what a nice person she is. And by the time your mother and you arrived, they'd practically been numbed into acceptance.'
    So this is what all this was about, thought Dominic. Why Louis had been so inquisitive about Monique Rosselot. It was all Bauriac newcomers together time. Battling against the odds of small town minds and prejudices. It was difficult enough being a newcomer without standing out as one and, true enough, when his parents had arrived four years ago, his mother had encountered a few raised eyebrows. Her lineage was part French Indonesian, part French, and Dominic's father had been pure French Alsace. By the time it reached Dominic, the Indonesian blood had left only a slight almond slant at the corner of his eyes, looking almost out of place with his proud gallic nose. Girls either found it endearing and mysterious, or they didn't like him at all. It might have caused some problems at the station too, but Dominic could never be sure; the fact that he was newly transferred and enjoyed Warrant Officer status so young were reasons enough for resentment.
    Louis had travelled up from Marseille thirteen years ago to be the chef at the Cafe du Verdon, and when the owner had died four years later and the relatives were keen to sell on, he'd mortgaged his neck between the banks and private bills of exchange to take over. Only in the last few years, having cleared the bills of exchange, had Louis enjoyed the fruits of his labour. Dominic could imagine that the locals had not been too keen on a Corsican owning such a prominent local establishment, especially all those years ago. Marseille was teaming with migrant workers and cosmopolitan mixes, and the tide of invasion by outsiders and foreigners was accepted on the coast fifty kilometres away, but not in Bauriac.
    Louis was shaking his head. 'It's hardly believable, something like this. Her and Jean-Luc have been through such a tough time already. They've had to work so hard to make a go of that farm, they were sold a real pig in the poke. Previous owner saw them coming a mile off, as locals often do with people like us from outside. Bastard. Drainage was bad, top soil and yield was poor, it's been a real struggle for them. And she dotes on that boy. I don't know how she'll get over this.'
    Dominic nodded thoughtfully. He was still trying to get a picture of Monique Rosselot. She sounded quite exotic, a rare beauty according to Louis; surely he'd have seen her in the past year. He realized then how closeted and predictable his life had become the past seven months, his time spent between the gendarmerie, home with his sick mother, and the occasional drink at Louis. Even on his dates with Odette, they always went to the same places: the cinema, the Cafe du Verdon, or on the rare occasions they felt more adventurous, on his bike to a favourite club in St Maximin.
    Valerie was up at the bar, ordering drinks for herself and her friend. A Marie Brizard and soda and a glass of red wine. 'You having another dance soon, Louis?'
    'Maybe later. I'm not as young as I used to be.' He smiled as he watched her walk back to the table with the drinks. 'How's Odette these days?'
    'Okay. A bit too demanding. Wants to go out every night. I just don't have the time, even if I did have the energy and the inclination.?'
    'What first attracted you to her?' Louis leant forward slightly. He lowered his voice conspirationally. 'Come on, you must remember that. That first flush of romance.'
    Dominic thought for a moment. 'I think it was when we first went on a picnic. The way she wrapped her mouth around a bread stick sandwich. I knew then she was the girl for me.'
    Louis smiled broadly. 'Is that the only qualification your girls need?'
    'No. I quite like it if they're good at yoga and can put their ankles behind their ears.'
    Louis guffawed so loudly that Valerie and her friend looked over briefly. Still chuckling, Louis poured another Pernod. 'You're a card, Dominic. An absolute fucking card. Excuse me.' He swept out from behind the bar and, half kneeling with a bar towel draped across one arm, asked Valerie to dance. Ray Charles 'Take these chains' was playing on the juke box.
    Dominic took a quick slug of brandy and smiled to himself. Normally, he was quite considerate and romantic with women. But that wasn't the image Louis wanted to hear. Louis would probably have been happier to hear he'd split with Odette, back to how he was the first five months in Bauriac: different dates every other week, screwing his way endlessly through the local girls in search of nirvana. That at least was the idyllic, swashbuckling image in Louis' mind. In reality, half of the dates had been a disaster; Dominic didn't know it was possible to go out with so many girls and still feel so lonely. The only consolation had been, editing the dates down to just the highlights, that he'd kept up his stock of bar stool stories for Louis.
    Dominic watched Louis and Valerie dancing, smiling as one of Louis' rogue hands drifted down towards her bottom in the clinches. After Ray Charles came the Crystals 'Da Doo Ron Ron.' Louis' attempt at the jive looked more like a flamenco dancer in the grips of epilepsy, and Dominic fought to keep a straight face. Louis thought of himself as a good dancer and Dominic didn't want to spoil a good friendship by shattering that illusion. After a moment his thoughts took over and the dancing and music faded into the background.
    Tomorrow would be a big day. They would have the first forensics report, plus the findings of the medical examiner. They should know the timing of the attack, the exact weapon used, any other blood groups found and any other irregularities. They would hopefully get the first responses to appeals for witnesses in the area, and he would meet Monique Rosselot for the first main interview to learn the boy's last movements before the attack.
    They should also know if her son was going to live.

    Dominic wasn't sure if it was the events of the day or the two brandies at Louis, but it took him a long while to get to sleep. He'd checked on his mother on coming in; she was already fast asleep. Often, if she was awake, he would bring her a hot chocolate and they would talk for ten minutes. Her weight loss in the past four months had been more dramatic, but her mind was still lucid, so Dominic grabbed whatever conversations he could. He knew that at any day her mind could slip.
    If the day hadn't been too eventful, they would reminisce: the days from his childhood in Louviers near Paris were the most memorable. Some of the memories jumbled with the events of the day as he tried to get some sleep. Images of the young boy, the dark blood against the bleached white wheat, preparing himself for the interview with Monique Rosselot, flashes from his own chidhood and thinking of his own mother as she was then, how she could have possibly coped with anything so horrific. It was the closest he could come to trying to understand how Monique Rosselot felt.
    His bedroom’s French windows led onto a small first floor patio overlooking the garden. Left partly open with the summer heat, the sound of the wind through the trees outside wafted gently in. After a while, he finally drifted off to sleep.
    The dream came three hours later. He was a boy again in Louviers, and the wheat fields stretched out endlessly before him. The sheaves seemed so tall, he could hide among them and nobody would find him. He walked ten paces into the field and crouched down, holding his breath as he hid; the sheaves were at least a foot above his head.
    Then suddenly he was looking down at the field. He could see the gendarmes tapping across the field with their sticks to find him. He felt suddenly that he'd done something wrong, but didn't know what, and he wasn't sure whether to leap up and let them find him. But in the end he stayed crouched and hidden. He could hear them tapping closer, closer, and his heart pounded with the sound of their nearby movement. Though looking down from above, he could see that they'd already passed him.
    A gentle breeze wafting across the field suddenly became more violent, bending the sheaves almost at a right angle. Their gentle threshing with the sticks was drowned out by the sound. He stood up after a moment and was clearly exposed. But the gendarmes were looking away, holding onto their caps and shielding their faces from the harsh wind stinging their eyes. He called to them, but his voice was lost among the wind and the wild rustling of the sheaves…
    Dominic woke up with a start. He was sweating profusely. Outside, the wind had risen and the branches of the trees close by his window whipped back and forth. He got up and walked onto the small balcony, looking down onto the garden. There was a tall jacarandah tree close by, and its branches and leaves moved like surf rising and falling with the wind. It could be the first stages of a mistral, Dominic thought, or hopefully a small summer storm that would blow over by the morning.
    Dominic's heart was pounding. He wasn't sure if it was the dream or something else that he suddenly remembered would happen the next day. A reporter from La Provencal, the area's main newspaper, had called the station that evening. Two hours later Poullain had released a statement that would no doubt appear in the paper the next morning.
    The attacker would know then that the boy he had left for dead was still alive. He would feel threatened; the boy could possibly later talk and indentify him.

FIVE

    When the phone call came about the accident, at first Stuart thought it was his alarm call, but it was Helena. Stuart’s clock showed 6.08am.
    She was babbling and incoherent, and 'Is terrible.. so sorry,' were repeated among the jumble, along with a number he should ring for the Oceanside police who had called her just ten minutes before. Emerging from his drowsiness, Stuart tried to clarify some points, but Helena was not very forthcoming, as if she either didn't know much or didn't want to be the messenger of bad tidings. The tears and the trembling in her voice betrayed the worst.
    When Stuart got through to the Oceanside police, he was asked to call back in ten minutes. 'Lieutenant Carlson has all the details for that. He should be finished with his interview then.'
    After confirming his relationship as Jeremy's elder brother and Eyran's uncle and godparent, Stuart felt himself go numb as Carlson went through the catalogue of horror, as if it was a routine shopping list: 'We have one female, Caucasian, pronounced DOA at Oceanside County General. The other two occupants of the jeep, a Caucasian male and a young boy are both still in emergency. The boy was critical at one point, but he's more stable now. We're waiting on more updates. Can I ask, sir, do you know of any other relatives the victims might have here in California who we can contact?'
    'No, I can't think of anyone. We're all here… here in England. We've got an uncle in Toronto, but we haven't seen him in years.' Stuart felt lame and helpless due to the distance, an image of Jeremy and Eyran cut off and alone. He knew he should be there with them.
    'Can I rely on you then to make contact with your sister-in-law, Allison Capel's relatives in England.'
    'Yes, yes… of course.' Stuart was still numb, trying desperately to work out how he could get out to California quickly. He'd never actually met Allison's parents, only a sister over six years ago at one of Jeremy's parties. To his side Amanda was stirring, squinting over at him quizzically.
    'From identification found in the car, we have your brother's age, thirty-eight years old, but not that of your sister-in-law or the boy.''
    'Allison was thirty-five, I think. Eyran was just ten years old last April.'
    'What number can we reach you on to inform you of any developments?'
    Stuart gave Carlson his home number then, as an afterthought. 'I'll give you my work number as well, just in case you don't hear anything from the hospital before tonight.'
    But as he said the words, it suddenly hit Stuart that he couldn't possibly just sit there through those hours waiting for the phone to ring, knowing that Eyran and Jeremy were laying in hospital beds ten thousand miles away. He made the decision. 'I'm coming out there. I've been thinking about it as we've spoken. I've got to be there with them.'
    'That's your prerogative, sir, but with all due respect, we might know something within the next hour or so from the hospital. They're both in emergency right now.'
    'That's okay, I'll book the ticket and phone you before I leave for the airport, then again just before the flight leaves. But I've got to start making my way out there.' Amanda was sitting up now, following every word of the conversation.
    'I fully understand, sir. I'll wait to hear from you.'
    It took Stuart only half an hour to make all his travel arrangements, part of which was explaining the situation to an incredulous Amanda and leaving her a few vital numbers to contact. All San Diego flights routed through L.A, though there was an average four hours delay between connecting flights. The first direct flight to L.A was an American Airlines flight leaving at 10.55am from Heathrow, and from there a bus or train could take him down to Oceanside, 55 miles south of LA.

    On the flight out, Stuart tried to read a magazine or a book, anything to distract him. But he just couldn't concentrate, he found himself scanning the words blindly, his thoughts still with Eyran and Jeremy, trying to read something into Carlson's bland status report on the call he'd put through just before the flight announcement. The news from the hospital was that Eyran was out of emergency and had been transferred to intensive care, and that Jeremy was still in emergency.
    Stuart put down the magazine and closed his eyes briefly, knowing that sleep was hopeless, but trying to force some calm into his nerve-racked body. He let the images wash over him slowly: the night they celebrated Jeremy passing his bar exams, Jeremy helping him unload some antique timbers for the cottage, Eyran asking for a ride in the sports car he'd bought to celebrate the first major account of his new agency, the surprise on Jeremy's face when he turned up in the hospital with a half bottle of scotch in his coat pocket the night Eyran was born. 'What, no cigars?'
    Eyran. So much of their lives had revolved around Eyran. He remembered now that it had been almost eight months since he'd seen Jeremy when Eyran was born; yet another futile argument that had forged a divide. As the first born of the two families, Eyran had created a bond that just wasn't there before. A simple focus of love and affection which crossed over any boundaries and past differences between himself and Jeremy. The petty arguments continued, but suddenly Eyran was an overriding force pushing them into the background.
    Probably even Jeremy sensed he had become more than just an uncle, he'd stepped into the role of a second father to Eyran. The fact that he'd been unable to have children with Amanda, despite numerous tests and clinics, had intensified that bond. Eyran became like the son he could never have.
    After another year of trying vainly with Amanda to have a child, they'd applied for adoption, taking Tessa as a two year old eight months later. Amanda had suggested a boy, admitting in the end that she thought Stuart had wanted a boy because of Eyran. He said that he wanted a girl because he didn't want their child seen as some sort of replacement for Eyran. They'd both told only half the truth. Stuart didn't want a child that might eclipse Eyran, perhaps dilute or distract his affection for the boy. A girl could be seen as a separate entity. Amanda had wanted any child that would return Stuart's focus to his own family, breaking what she felt had become an unnaturally close tie between himself and Eyran. He remembered Amanda's anger brimming over one day, as not for the first time he brought home two toys, suggesting that they drive over later to give Eyran his. 'Is this your idea of the perfect family, Stuart? A girl in our family and a boy in your brother's.'
    Throughout, Jeremy had never shut Eyran out of their lives. He could have become jealous and guarded about the relationship, fearing that Stuart might steal some of the limelight of Eyran's love and affection. Yet he seemed to welcome it, as if he understood that somehow it fulfilled something he himself could not provide: a kinship of free spirit and shared likes and dislikes. Jeremy appeared happy in his role as guardian angel, of both of them: warning Stuart about bad business deals and investments in the same way that he would warn Eyran about climbing too high or not going near the electrical sockets. Jeremy didn't feel threatened because he saw them just as two boys playing together, one small, one big.
    With the excuse that he lacked time to organize everything, he'd left Amanda to phone his partner at work and his father in Wales; but the truth was, he just couldn't face phoning their father and telling him this news. Jeremy had always been his favourite. Only their mother when she was alive had any time for Stuart; she'd died of a brain haemorrhage two years before Eyran was born, and their father, at the age of sixty two, had then decided to take early retirement and move back from London to his native Wales. Each month either he or Jeremy had dutifully gone up to Wales to visit. But when Jeremy went to California, he sensed that his own family visits were little compensation.
    Stuart tried to sleep, but found it impossible until much later, almost three hours after he'd washed down lunch with half a bottle of wine. The sleep was fitful, images of Eyran, Jeremy and their father all jumbled together. Eyran was playing, but the image quickly changed to himself as a child. He was with Jeremy in the derelict warehouse where they played hide and seek, but couldn't find him — and in the end decided that Jeremy must have sneaked out and headed home. But when Stuart got home, their father David asked where Jeremy was. He didn't want to say he didn't know in case his father worried that Jeremy was lost. So he said that he would go and get him, and ran back to the warehouse.
    He went looking for Jeremy again along the rows of dusty shelves and empty crates, telling him that their father wanted to see them; but he knew that Jeremy was purposely staying hidden, thinking it was just a trick. He called out Jeremy's name repeatedly, starting to plead, but only the empty echoes of his voice returned. He started to cry, but the tears weren't for Jeremy but for himself, for what he felt certain was some dreadful trick being played on him. How could Jeremy do this, stay lost and let him go home alone to face their father?
    Stuart awoke bathed in sweat. The dream had disturbed him, converging so much of the shock and anguish of the day's events. It washed over him without warning, gentle sobbing shaking his body as he turned away towards the plane window to hide his tears. Guilt compounded his sorrow; so many of his thoughts about Jeremy the past few years had been ungenerous. Anger at him taking Eyran so far away. After a few moments he snapped out of it, telling himself it was only a dream.
    Though four hours later, all of Stuart's worst fears were realized as he phoned Carlson from LAX to hear that his brother had died just over an hour beforehand. And knowing that he couldn't possibly ask Amanda to do this duty, he had to call their father in Wales and above the noise and activity of the crowded terminal, tell him that his favourite son was dead.

SIX

    Dominic drove the DS19 so that Poullain could absorb the teleprinter message which had just arrived headed Palais de Justice, Aix, from the nominated Prosecutor, Pierre Bouteille — declaring that Poullain's jurisdiction had been granted prime investigative control over the case, but he should liaise with Marseille on items such as forensics. Bouteille had already notified an Examining Magistrate, Frederic Naugier, and a commission rogatoire generale had been signed off to empower Poullain's initial investigative stages. A meeting had been arranged for Thursday at 11.30am, two day's time, to establish the full procedural process. The brief teleprinter message gave no options on time: Poullain was being summoned.
    Dominic parked at the far end of the courtyard. The air cushioned suspension settled back as they got out of the car. The Rosselot's farmhouse formed an L-shape around the courtyard, with the garage and some farm store rooms coming out at an angle from the main house. Dominic could see a child's bike resting against the wall of the garage. Pink bougainvillaea grew profusely on the same wall, and positioned equidistant between there and the front door was a small wrought iron table and four chairs. Two palm trees at the end of the courtyard separated the house from the broad expanse of the fields beyond, and a mixture of elm and pine bordered the main road and the short approach to the house. The sound of cicadas was heavy in the air. It was 10.30 am and the temperature was already over 80?F.
    Variegated ivy grew up and around the front door frame. As they rang the bell, they could hear a faint clanking sound coming from the garage, competing with the rhythm of the cicadas. They waited only a moment before Monique Rosselot opened he door.
    At first she was in half shadow as she greeted them and asked them in. Dominic only got a quick impression of dark wavy ringlets, large eyes and a simple beige floral pattern dress — but it was enough to catch his breath slightly. Her eyes looked particularly large and striking in the half light of the porch. They followed her into the kitchen. There was hot coffee on the stove which she offered to them.
    'It's freshly made just ten minutes ago. I've already had mine.'
    Poullain thanked her and said that he would have black coffee, and Dominic followed suit and said yes, but au lait. The kitchen was large, with a small fireplace in the far corner. A large rough wooden table with chairs was close to the fireplace, making up a breakfast area. Monique waved one hand towards the table, 'Please.' Poullain and Dominic took seats on its far side. Dominic observed her closer as she prepared the coffees.
    Louis had been right about Monique Rosselot. A rare beauty. Despite the fact that he should have been prepared by Louis’ description, he'd still found himself taken aback, his mouth suddenly dry. Her wavy dark hair hung half way down her back, her eyes were an intriguing blend of green and hazel, and her mouth was full and generous. It was an open, expressive face with an almost childlike innocence tempering its sensuality, making her look younger than the twenty six years mentioned by Louis. Dominic would have guessed her age at no more than nineteen or twenty, despite the faint dark circles no doubt brought on by the past night of worry. He'd heard that she'd stayed at the hospital till past 4 am. Her skin tone was smooth mocha, the outline of her full breasts pushing against the cotton print dress with her movements. She glanced over at them as she poured the coffees, and Dominic looked hastily away. He felt a momentary flush of embarrassment, as if he'd been an unwelcome voyeur.
    Monique brought their cups over and set them down, then looked towards the garage and the continuing clanking sound. ‘I'd better ask Jean-Luc in now. He probably doesn't realize you're here.' She went out and crossed the courtyard.
    It struck Dominic that he'd only half believed Louis, whose ratings of women's beauty had become increasingly suspect through the years. That was why he'd been caught by surprise. But he felt immediately uncomfortable with those thoughts. He was here to take notes about her son who was barely clinging to life, the last thing she wanted was some gendarme ogling at her.
    Jean-Luc came back in the room ahead of Monique while she made the introductions. By the way she faltered, it was obvious she hadn't remembered their names, and Poullain filled the gaps. Jean Luc took a chair at the far end of the table while Monique poured a coffee for him. His light brown curly hair was deeply receding on both sides, and he was perspiring from his work outside. Some freckles showed on his forehead and arms from the summer sun, his shoulders and forearms were broad from the years of farm work, and there were calluses on his rough hands. But there the farm labourer ended: his eyes were soft and inquisitive and he had a vaguely intellectual air, as if he was an accountant or lecturer who farmed just at the weekends. According to Louis he was in his mid-thirties, but the receding hairline made him look closer to forty, thought Dominic. The contrast in age between him and Monique looked more marked than it was; they could be father and daughter.
    Poullain looked up expectantly at Monique and waited for her to set down her cup and join them. Dominic flipped over to a fresh page in his notebook and Poullain started speaking.
    'First of all, my condolences. On my own part and on behalf of the Gendarmerie. I understand, Madame Rosselot, that you stayed with your son until the early hours of the morning.' Poullain looked pointedly towards Monique. 'To bring you up to date, I managed to check with the hospital just before leaving, and your boy has rallied well after the operation of last night. Though the doctors won't know the full extent of just how successful the operation had been until this afternoon. We can only pray for some improvement.'
    Monique nodded appreciatively. She had gone with Jean-Luc to the nearby phone kiosk only half an hour before their arrival to call the hospital, but it was hardly worth mentioning. Poullain realized she was some distance from a phone and therefore checking was difficult. No point in dampening the good intent of his gesture.
    Poullain placed one hand firmly on the table top, as if he might reach out to Monique's hand for comfort, but stopped halfway short. 'Now, as painful as this might be for both of you, we need to go through the times you last saw your son before the attack. When you first realized there might be a problem, and the timing of you finding the bike.' Poullain looked at Jean-Luc. 'We will also need you to show us afterwards exactly where you found the bike. But for now we are trying to establish the timing of events.'
    Monique and Jean-Luc glanced at each other briefly, as if deciding who should be main spokesperson. Jean-Luc shrugged and held out one hand. 'You first. I was in the fields for much of the time.'
    Monique drew a breath and glanced for a moment out of the window towards the courtyard and Christian's bike. 'I let Christian out to play at about 11.15. He took his bike because he was visiting his friend Stephan who lives five kilometres away on the other side of Taragnon.'
    'What route does he normally take to Stephan's house?' Poullain asked.
    'About six hundred metres down the road, a track cuts between our neighbour and the next farm. It goes between two more farms for half a kilometre, then comes out on the main Taragnon-Bauriac road. He goes along the main road through Taragnon village, and the farm is just over a kilometre past.'
    ‘Which side of the road?'
    'On the left as you come out of Taragnon. It's set back a few hundred metres from the road. From the roadside you can see mainly vines, though they also have some fields for grazing.'
    'What is the family name?'
    'Maillots.'
    'And your son never arrived there.'
    Monique looked down and bit her lip. Dominic noticed that she looked at them directly only at intervals, the rest of the time she looked down at the table or at the notepad as he recorded the interview in shorthand. 'We didn't know straightaway. We're not on the phone, nor are they. I finally called Jean-Luc in from the fields at just past 4 pm. We had expected Christian back by 3 pm, and normally he's very good with coming back on time. Jean-Luc went over to Stephan's house and checked. They hadn't seen Christian. That was when Jean-Luc checked back along the route Christian normally took and found the bike. At first we thought that with the bike broken down he'd decided to walk the rest, which would have taken him far longer — then perhaps he'd got distracted and stopped off in the village.'
    'How far away was the bike?'
    Monique looked at Jean-Luc. Jean Luc answered. 'Almost towards the end of the track down the road. Not far from where it joins the Taragnon road — a few hundred metres at most.'
    'So it looked to you as if Christian had walked the rest of the distance to the main road, then the two kilometres to Taragnon village.'
    Jean-Luc nodded. Poullain paused for a moment, looking over at Dominic's notes and taking stock of the information so far. Christian was found on a farm track little more than half a kilometre from the Maillots' farm, but on the other side of the road bordering the river. But somehow the boy had made it through the village. Poullain voiced the thought. 'The first thing to find out is who in the village might have seen your boy between midday and three pm. Because we will then at least know if he walked through the village or was transported through by someone he met at the roadside.'
    Monique and Jean-Luc looked at each other for a second. Something troubled them about this comment. Jean-Luc was the first to speak. 'If he was on foot, the problem is he could have cut through the fields behind the village. On his bike it's not possible, but on foot there's only a few stone walls and small fences to negotiate.'
    'Is it likely he cut across?' asked Poullain.
    Jean-Luc shrugged. 'It's a possibility. It's something he's done before. In any case, he would probably cut down and walk the last hundred metres of the village heading for Stephan's house. There's another track there.'
    A hundred metres at the end of the village, Poullain considered. It was quiet, the main village establishments petering out. If the one or two shopkeepers there hadn't seen the boy, it proved nothing. Yet if the boy had walked through the entire village, past boulangeries, patisseries, the main square and cafes, without being seen — it would have been a different matter. He'd already assigned three men to call on village shops from early that morning, and had been hopeful of their findings. Now he wasn't so sure. Poullain couldn't even remember what shops there were in those last hundred metres. The disappointment showed on his face.
    On a fresh page Dominic had been making a small diagram of Taragnon: the path from the Rosselots to the main road, the Maillots’ farm, and the track by the river. It was a simple triangular drawing, with distances in metres between Xs marking where the bike was left and the boy was found. While his pen hovered for Poullain to speak again, he took a quick scan of the kitchen: dried flowers, ornaments, flour and spice jars, a plate wall clock with Portofino in scrawly black loops below a background harbour scene, no photos. Little in the kitchen said anything about the Rosselot's lives. Though the kitchen was where the coffee was, Dominic couldn't help wondering if they hadn't been asked into the sitting room for another reason. The Rosselots didn't want too deep an intrusion into their lives.
    'So finally you made the call to the police station just before 5pm, when it was clear that your son had not turned up the Maillots' farm and you had found the bike abandoned.' Monique muttered yes, and Jean-Luc merely nodded. Poullain glanced briefly at Dominic's crude diagram, as if for inspiration. He voiced his thoughts in staccato fashion as they came to him, as if he was at the same time refreshing his own memory. 'Your son was originally discovered at about three-fifteen by a neighbouring farmer, just half a kilometre from the Maillots farm. We arrived on the crime scene within forty minutes and received your call almost an hour later. We subsequently made some confirmations of identity, to be sure the boy was yours — and two officers were sent to you an hour and quarter after you called. We suspect — although we cannot be totally sure until all the medic reports are in — that your son was attacked within an hour of being discovered.' Poullain looked keenly between Monique and Jean-Luc as he related the sequence of events. This was the first time they were hearing this information, and he wanted to see their reactions.
    Jean-Luc stared back blandly, and Monique looked mildly expectant, as if she sensed Poullain wanted to add something vital. Dominic noticed Poullain unclench one hand and wave it to one side. The difficult part was coming, and he was struggling for emphasis before the words were even formed. 'I want you to think about this for a moment before you answer. But are there any relatives, any cousins or uncles, or any friends or neighbours, that have shown a special interest in Christian? In a way that perhaps might be described as a bit over friendly or unusual.'
    Poullain was doing this by the book, though Dominic. Most child molesters were found close to home with a relative or friend. Often the dividing line between a natural fondness for children and an 'unnatural' interest was impossible to determine.
    Monique appeared nonplussed at first. Then finally it dawned on her what Poullain was aiming at and her face clouded. But as she spoke, her voice faltered, as if she was still struggling to comprehend. 'I don't think there's anyone we know like that.' She looked hastily towards Jean-Luc for support. '…But I don't understand. Why do you ask this?'
    Poullain smoothed back his crown. Faint beads of perspiration had broken out on his forehead and
    he looked uncomfortable. 'Believe me, I'm sorry to have to ask you this. But when I checked this morning with the medical examiner, we suspected already that unfortunately your son was sexually assaulted before he was beaten, and this was confirmed. We know only a little about the timing of the attack or the sexual assault, the full details will come out later from forensics and blood sampling. But we do know at this stage that a sexual assault took place.' Poullain exhaled slightly; a part sigh, part release of tension. 'I'm sorry to have to bring you this news.'
    Monique's lip trembled as she stared at Poullain. It took a moment for what he'd said to sink in. Then she turned sharply away, got up and walked over to the window, her back to them. Her shoulders slumped and she cradled her head in one hand, shaking it slowly. Her jaw line tensed as she fought back the tears.
    Jean-Luc stared at his wife's back for a moment, unsure whether to get up and comfort her. There was some awkwardness, some tension between them. In the end he stayed where he was and looked down at the table, smoothing it with one hand. His face was slightly flushed; a mixture of anger at Poullain's news and frustration. He wasn't there to save his son, and now he even felt too impotent to comfort his own wife.
    Dominic noticed the muscle's tensing in Jean-Luc's neck and thick forearms as he struggled for fresh resolve. There was silence for a moment. The sound of cicadas from outside was broken only by the crackling of Poullain's radio.
    Finally, Jean-Luc commented, 'As my wife said, I'm sure we don't know anyone like that. Christian is a very loving, trusting child — but we know nobody who has taken advantage of that trust, or would do so.'
    Poullain grimaced understandingly. 'I'm sorry I had to ask. But as you appreciate, we have to explore every possibility.' As the radio crackled again, Poullain asked Dominic to answer it.
    Dominic left the main door open as he crossed the courtyard to the car. It was Harrault from the gendarmerie. He brought Dominic up to date on progress. Three gendarmes had been out calling on shops in Taragnon from 8.30am, and the item appearing in the morning's La Provencal had also attracted some calls. Harrault felt that Poullain should know about one lead in particular. 'Madame Veillan from the charcuterie was driving out towards Ponteves yesterday and saw Gaston Machanaud on his moped, coming out of the lane where we found the boy. It looks like we might have struck gold quickly.'
    Dominic knew Machanaud. He was a casual farm labourer who filled in with some local poaching. 'What time was this?
    'Just after three. Madame Veillan aimed to be in Ponteves for three-fifteen, so she was quite sure of the time. About fifteen or twenty minutes before the boy was found.'
    Dominic confirmed that they would be returning to the station before heading out to see the medical examiner, so they should have time to go through the call notes. Hanging up, he noticed Monique Rosselot still by the window. She had stopped crying and was staring at him resolutely. Large, soulful eyes which seemed to look right through him.

    Alain Duclos left the Vallon estate early to buy a morning paper, deciding to head to Brignoles for his morning coffee. He wanted to look through the paper in private, not with Claude or his father looking over his shoulder.
    He picked up a copy of La Provencal at a news kiosk close to the cafe, took a seat at one of five outside tables, and folded out the paper. He scanned the front page: Kruschev and the nuclear test ban treaty in Moscow; four dead in floods in Tournin; Marseille warehouse fire, two dead; French Navy aids 6,000 stranded cruise passengers. Nothing there. He felt a twinge of anxiety. A murder should have taken precedence over the warehouse fire — it should have been there. He flicked over the page, and was rapidly scanning page two, when the item caught his eye on page three: BOY SAVAGELY ATTACKED IN TARAGNON.
    It was a sixth of a page entry describing the discovery of the boy by a local farm worker and the police questioning of people in the village. Two thirds of the way down, Duclos froze; he had to read the paragraph over again before it sunk in: The boy suffered severe head injuries and is now in hospital. The police and the family are awaiting news from doctors as to the extent of the injuries. The name of the hospital wasn't mentioned. Duclos felt numb and stared blankly at the same paragraph, the text fading out of focus. He felt suddenly faint, an icy chill gripping him. The boy wasn't dead!
    He'd found the lane only three minutes from the restaurant, his resolve re-building on the way. Everything had gone well, except in the final moments he'd been disturbed by the tinkling bells of a shepherd's goat flock being moved into the adjacent field. But he was sure he'd felt the skull crush, the blood spilling out. Another few seconds and he'd have been able to check the pulse in the neck or wrist. Check that…
    'Monsieur. What can I get you?'
    It took a moment for Duclos to detach himself from the paper and register the waiter's presence. His voice broke slightly as he answered. 'An orange juice, coffee with milk and a croissant.'
    The waiter nodded and moved away. Duclos' hands shook as he closed the paper and folded it on the table. How could he have made such a mistake? The boy could have already identified his car; in no time the police could trace it back to Limoges. A few more phone calls and they would know he was on holiday and where he was staying. The police could be at the Vallon estate that same day, they might even be there on his return. He shivered involuntarily, his stomach churning with fear. Suddenly he felt very alone and vulnerable. He couldn't go back to the estate, and he would also have to change his car. Perhaps he would head for Monte Carlo and the Italian border, or the other direction, to Spain. Then what?
    He wiped the sweat from his brow. He realized he wasn't thinking rationally. Closing his eyes, he fought to calm his nerves and think clearly. His own breathing seemed louder in the self imposed darkness, his heartbeat pounding a solid tattoo through his head along with the sounds of passing traffic; he had to concentrate to filter any clear thoughts through. A few minutes passed before the faint background shuffle and rattle of the tray of the waiter returning made him look up again. Some ideas had started forming.
    As the waiter set down his breakfast, Duclos asked if he had a telephone.
    'Yes, at the back of the cafe.' The waiter pointed.
    The bar was narrow and busy, and Duclos had to edge and push past the workmen and truck drivers having early morning coffees with brandy and pernod chasers. The large directory on the shelf beneath the phone was the first thing Duclos reached for. He leafed through it rapidly. There were only two hospitals he could think of in Aix en Provence where it was likely the boy could have been taken, and one in Aubagne. The name of the second large hospital in Aix had momentarily escaped him, he had to call out to the barman to be reminded. Duclos took a pen from his shirt pocket and grabbed a serviette from the counter to write on as the barman mouthed the word above the noise of the bar: Montperrin.
    Duclos noted the numbers from the directory of the three hospitals on the same serviette, then made his way back to the tables out front. He didn't want to call from the bar — too many people close by who could listen in. He took a quick sip of orange juice and coffee, put down enough money to cover the bill, and left. Turning the corner, he found a phone kiosk. He dialled the Montperrin first.
    'I wondered if you could help me. I understand you have a young boy at your hospital by the name of Christian Rosselot. He would have been brought in just yesterday.'
    'One moment.' Duclos could hear the flicking of paper. It went on a long time, as if the receptionist was checking twice. Finally, 'I'm sorry, I don't see anyone registered by that name.'
    'Thank you,' Duclos called the second Aix-en-Provence hospitals.
    'Centre Hospitalier.'
    'I'm sorry to trouble you. I understand you have a young boy registered at the hospital, brought in yesterday. Christian Rosselot.'
    'And who may I ask is enquiring?'
    'He's a friend of my son Michel from school, Michel Bourdin. I wondered what room he might be staying in — we would like to send some flowers and perhaps visit.'
    'Ne quittez pas. One moment.'
    Duclos was nervous during the wait. He had no idea if she was suspicious or what instructions she was receiving the other end. It was a full minute before she returned.
    'The boy is still in intensive care. But when he can be moved, he will be in one of the five private annexe rooms of Benat ward.'
    'When will that be?'
    'It could be tonight, tomorrow, or even two days or a week from now. He's still in a coma now and can't be moved. Until he's conscious, there are strict instructions in any case for no visitors but family. But if you still want to send some flowers, they'll be put in his room.'
    'Yes. Thank you. That's a good idea.'
    Duclos felt a twinge of relief as he hung up. But he knew it could be short lived. At any time the boy could regain consciousness and talk. He just couldn't sit back and let that happen.

SEVEN

    The light of a single candle reflected against the glass. Monique Rosselot's concerned profile was caught in its glow, looking through the large glass partition towards her son in intensive care. The partition separated the small preparation and observation room, no more than eight foot square, from the main intensive care room. Monique Rosselot sat in one of three chairs close to the glass. She'd been allowed to bring in a candle, only one, and light it as part of her daily bedside vigil, two to three hours each visit.
    The attending nurse had been gone for a full minute. Monique decided to go inside the intensive care room. There was no chair, so she knelt at Christian's side.
    After a second of studying his features thoughtfully, she reached out and started tracing one finger gently down his face. Memories flooded back of the many times she had stroked his face, of him smiling back at her at bedtime, asking her to read him a story.
    His skin had been warmer then, and it felt strange and somehow remote stroking his skin with no response. No smile. No bright eyes turning towards her. She had to be careful as she ran her finger down not to disturb any of the tubes feeding and monitoring. The story read, she would reach out and ruffle his hair. Only now, his head had been shaved clean, his skull marked out for the tests they'd made. Stitches marked a grotesque gash to one side.
    Monique closed her eyes and gripped Christian's hand. But it felt even cooler than his face, and suddenly a pang of fear gripped her inside. Oh God, pleaseplease don't let him die! Her eyes scrunched tight at the unthinkable, Christian's prone figure blurred through tears as they slowly opened again.
    She tried to push from her mind what had been done to him, the cold hard details from the two visting gendarmes: the sexual assault… the repeated blows which had left him for dead. Her tears had mostly been in private — but then that had reflected how she'd felt almost throughout her vigil. Alone. Jean-Luc had merely absorbed himself more in his farmwork to cope. He'd only visited the hospital once with her.
    Now, gripping Christian's small hand in hers, she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. She probably wouldn't have grabbed this moment of intimacy if Jean-Luc had been with her. She'd only done this once before — and then too had felt like a thief sneaking in and stealing something she shouldn't. Stealing a few minutes of intimacy with her son. Perhaps their last…
    She shook her head. No! That wasn't going to happen! She would see Christian smile again… feel the warmth of his embrace. She gripped the small hand tighter, willing the message home. Willing Christian to awake.
    The candle burning reminded her of birthdays, and she remembered then that it would be Christian's birthday soon — her mind flashing back to past birthdays with him smiling in the glow of the candles. Unwrapping presents expectantly. The Topo Gigio doll. A model car racetrack. His bicycle only last birthday. The house filled with joy and laughter. And suddenly she felt more assured: his coming birthday! Something close and real on which she could focus, could actually picture Christian's presence. 'It's your birthday soon, Christian,' she muttered. 'There'll be some great presents for you. I'll bake a cake. Bigger and better than you've ever seen before.' In her mind's eye, she could imagine Christian looking on with wide eyes and smiling at the oversized cake. And in that brief moment, she felt sure that Christian would awaken, was able to ignore the coldness of the small hand in her grasp. 'We'll all be there…'

    'Now let us see what we have here.' Dr Besnard, the Chief Medical Examiner, had a manila folder already opened in front of him, as if he'd been studying it before they entered. A duty nurse ushered Dominic and Poullain to upright seats opposite his large mahogany desk. Poullain knew Besnard from four previous cases, mostly car accidents.
    '…Young boy, Christian Yves Rosselot. Ten years old. Eleven on the 4th September — just over two weeks from now. Admitted on 18th August at 4.38 pm.' Besnard flicked forward a page and then back again. In his early fifties, he was bald except for some long wisps of greying brown hair. He cradled his head for a moment, smoothing the wisps across as he looked up again. 'So. The medics recorded arriving on the scene at 4.03 pm. The boy was wearing shorts but no shirt, and he was laying face down, his back exposed. There was blood visible on his head and shoulder, quite thick, obviously from a wound to the head. Some smaller blood spots were noted on the boy's back — from the same wound — and also a blood trail, mostly coagulated, on the boy's inside thigh. This was obviously from a separate wound. The shorts were therefore cut with surgical scissors, and the blood flow was discovered to have come from the rectal passage. The wound was not active, there was no fresh blood, so their efforts were concentrated on the head wound.' Besnard looked up at Poullain periodically, marking off his position in the file with one finger as he glanced at Dominic, as if waiting for his notes to keep pace.
    X-rays, complex fractures, haemotomas, somatosensory cortex. The pages of Dominic's notepad were already filled with notes from the surgeon who'd operated on Christian the night before. Medical notes in shorthand were a nightmare. Effectively only the conjoining words could be shortened. Poullain had arranged that Dominic take the notes, then wait on Poullain for the meeting with Besnard. But there had been a spare thirty minutes for Dominic in between.
    Pale green tiling and cream emulsion walls. The clatter of heels and voices along bare and stark corridors. Dominic found the atmosphere unsettling. He'd spent far too much of the past year in hospitals. Images of the doctor approaching, footsteps echoing ominously, telling him the results of his mother's biopsy. A year, two years if she was lucky. No, unfortunately there wasn't much they could do except administer morphine in the closing stages to ease the pain. Check ups every three months, but let us know if the pain becomes too much in between…
    '…Clearing the airway of any residual blood was a priority, so a tracheal tube was inserted.' Besnard's finger ran quickly down the page. 'Fortunately, the boy was face down, otherwise he would have probably choked on his own blood before they arrived. The wound was cleaned and the source of the blood flow as a ruptured blood vessel was discovered, as was a likely skull fracture — though not immediately the extent of the fracture. That showed up later on X-ray. Badly bruised and broken skin also on the right cheekbone, blood by then coagulated, possible fracture beneath. The patient was therefore bandaged both to stem the blood flow and support the skull, oxygen was administered once the airway was cleared, then he was transported here to the hospital — from which point on Verthuy in emergency attended. Conclusions from the medics report and Dr Verthuy? First of all, time of the attack.' Besnard looked up pointedly. 'From the extent of blood coagulation around the main wound and rate of new blood seepage, their estimate was that the attack took place any time between an hour and an hour and a half before they arrived. As for the other injury — to the boy's rectal passage — this was more or less the same time, possibly only minutes beforehand. But probably the most interesting factor was from Verthuy's note on the boy's sexual assault. He discovered varying degrees of rectal inflammation and damage — suggesting that in fact two attacks had taken place at entirely separate intervals.'
    Besnard's pause for emphasis had the desired effect on Poullain. Poullain sat forward keenly. 'Two attacks? How far apart?'
    'Thirty minutes, forty minutes — one hour at most. But definitely two separate assaults. One area at the neck of the rectal canal which had been bleeding had almost completely coagulated by the time the second attack was made.'
    Dominic could sense that Poullain was still grappling with the timing of the attack when he was hit with this new information. Dominic had already written on his pad: Attack, 1–1? hours before medics arrive: 2.33 — 3.03 pm. Anything from 12–42 minutes before discovery. Sexual assault minutes beforehand. Now Dominic wrote: Separate sexual attack, 30–60 minutes prior to final assault. That meant that at the outside estimate the attacker had stayed close to the path up to an hour and half, resting a full hour in between; and at the least, he had stayed there almost forty-five minutes, resting for half an hour. Surely someone else would have come along the path in the time. Where had he hidden?
    'Any semen detected on either attack?' asked Poullain.
    'No, none. Verthuy found nothing in the rectal passage apart from blood and inflamed tissue. All the blood is also of one type, B positive, the boy's blood group. Our attacker obviously was careful and pulled out to ejaculate. Did forensics find anything?'
    Poullain pictured the succession of polythene bagged samples taken from the wheat field by the Marseille team. Their report was due the next day. But they didn't know till now that the attacker had probably ejaculated on the ground. Would they have looked for that as a matter or course? A few droplets of semen among the wheat, probably by then hopelessly dried and crystallised by the heat of the sun. If not, by now it had probably been washed away with last night's rain. 'I'm not sure yet,' Poullain commented. 'I'll know tomorrow.'
    'Other points of interest in Verthuy's report…' Besnard's finger skipped a few paragraphs. 'Instrument of attack, a rock or large stone, determined from rock particles found in the boy's hair and embedded in skull tissue. Four blows in total, one breaking the skull and rupturing a blood vessel. Another blow tore heavily through the skin and shattered the right cheekbone. Bone fragments were removed, though constructive surgery will later be required for the cheekbone. Eleven sutures were required for the skull wound, eighteen for the cheek. Suspecting internal cranial haematomas, Verthuy ordered a series of X-rays at 5.32 pm — 54 minutes after the boy's entry into emergency. The boy was comatose throughout — and still remains so — with the only break from intensive care for surgery last night, at the hands of Dr Trichot… notes of which you already have.' Besnard nodded towards Dominic. 'Trichot's full report is expected sometime tomorrow. But I can let you have a copy of Verthuy's report now. You might find something small that I haven't covered in summary.' He passed across a carbon copy.
    While Poullain flicked through, Dominic asked, 'Any estimates for how long for each sexual assault?'
    Besnard looked forward, then back a page. 'No longer than a few minutes for each one, though Verthuy suggests the second was perhaps shorter purely because it was less forceful.'
    They were silent for a second as Poullain continued looking through the folder. Finally he looked up. 'Possibly there'll be some questions when I read it in more detail back at the gendarmerie, but that's fine for now. Thank you. You've been most helpful.'
    Besnard came out from behind his desk to show them out, making small talk about the continuing August heat and how it slowed work. Doctors and gendarmes were probably the only city officials not to disappear for the month en masse to the coast. 'Call of duty or foolhardiness, you tell me?'
    The corridor was quiet as they made their way along and down the stairway. Activity increased as they approached the first floor.
    'What arrangements for Machanaud's interview tomorrow?' Dominic enquired. Poullain had decided earlier they would interview Machanaud the next day, but the time and place hadn't been fixed.
    'I think we should go out to visit him initially, try not to make it look too official and serious. If a second interview is necessary, we'll ask him in. Apparently he's working at Raulin's farm most of tomorrow, but we should try and get to him by eleven-thirty, before he has a chance to hit the bars.'
    'And the other leads that came in today?'
    Poullain looked at Dominic pointedly. 'Let's not lose sight of the fact that at present Machanaud is our main suspect.'
    A curt reminder that earlier that afternoon they'd had words for the first time on the investigation. Machanaud was a drunkard, a part-time poacher and vagabond, and with his wild stories and bar room antics when drunk, was viewed as odd by at least half of Taragnon… but a murderer? It was ridiculous, and Dominic had made the mistake of voicing that thought. But what was the alternative? The enquiries had centred on anything out of place. In Taragnon, imbued strongly with the belief that nobody local could do anything so atrocious, this had translated into people out of place. The only other leads were a van with Lyon markings and a traveller passing through.
    As if appeasing for his previous sharp tone, Poullain commented, 'You'll probably be pleased to hear that another lead came up late this afternoon. Cafe Font-du-Roux, just over a kilometre from where the boy was found. Barman saw a green Alfa Romeo coupe he hadn't seen before, its driver had lunch there.'
    But Dominic wasn't particularly pleased. It was too simplistic: misfits. Machanaud because of his oddball nature at times, and now three others purely because they were strangers. Village thinking was one track, and Poullain and his merry men lacked the imagination to push it that one stage further.
    Ahead a crowd at the reception caused a small bottle jam for people entering and exiting the hospital. Doctors and nurses criss-crossed the passage from the main admittance hall and emergency. A face among the crowd stared at them briefly, startled and concerned. But among the milling confusion of people it hardly registered, and the figure turned and was lost again in the crowd as it made its way swiftly out of the hospital.

    Alain Duclos headed for the coast. At first, he had decided on Cannes and Juan-les-Pins, but then he realized he just couldn't face the people and frenetic activity. He headed instead for St Tropez. The village was quiet and the beach wasn't too crowded; because of its expanse, there were wide open areas where Duclos could walk and think or sit in solitude away from the groups of sunbathers.
    He wondered if the gendarmes had noticed him at the hospital. He kicked himself now for taking such a risk. But he'd found it difficult to think clearly or function since reading the newspaper and phoning the hospital. Leaving the bar that morning, he'd headed out of Brignoles towards Castellane and the mountains. He stopped close to the Point Sublime and looked out over the Canyon du Verdon. The view was breathtaking, the wind sweeping up sharply from the valley floor, ruffling his hair. He closed his eyes and let the refreshing coolness play over his skin. But it did little to clear his thoughts: the wind playing through the treetops in his final moment of pleasure, the rustle of wheat sheaves as he brought the rock down repeatedly on the boy's skull. Shifting wheat, rising and falling on the wind… white noise merging with the sound of waves gently breaking.
    He opened his eyes. Slowly he scanned the horizon of St Tropez bay: two distant yachts and a fisherman's boat showed as white flecks against a deep blue canvass. Children played in the shallows. The view was different now, but the images in his mind remained the same. Perhaps he hoped the grandeur of the vistas would override the images in his mind, or was he simply seeking solitude? Space to think clearly. In the end, none of it touched his soul. He still felt desperately empty inside and confused.
    After the mountains he'd headed back to the Vallon estate for lunch. Claude and his father had hardly seen him in the past twenty-four hours. He'd picked at his food through lunch, struggling even to make small talk, and he was sure they'd noticed his pre-occupation. The obsession haunted every spare moment when his thoughts were free; respites through outside distractions were brief.
    The sun was weak now above the bay. It was almost seven thirty. He hoped to make a better show of it that night for dinner at the estate, and headed back.
    Dinner was impressive: caviar d'aubergines, daurade cuite sur litiere and gelee d'amande aux fruits frais, served by the estate chef. There was vintage '55 red wine from the Vallon cellars, and cheeses, coffee and cognac to finish. The conversation was animated, Claude talking about arranging a day on one of the Carmargue ranches, and Duclos even managed his own anecdote about one of his first disastrous experiences riding a Brittany seaside donkey. Though later his conversation petered out, the images resurging to plague him, and he excused himself early and went to bed.
    It was difficult getting to sleep. He kept replaying in his mind entering the hospital, pushing past the crowd by the reception — then seeing the two gendarmes and turning quickly away. He could have milled with the crowd for a moment, kept his back turned until they'd gone, then continued along the corridor. If only he'd kept his head.
    The night was hot, humidity high, and he turned incessantly to get comfortable. Sleep finally came after almost two hours. The dream was confusing. The boy's eyes were looking back at him from the darkness of the boot, haunting, pleading. Then the boy was playing in the shallows at St Tropez, and Duclos was hovering above him with the rock, silently willing the boy to move away from the crowds. But when the boy looked up at him directly, he was smiling, his eyes suddenly mischievous and defiant. The boy was mouthing some words softly, and Duclos had to move closer to hear what he was saying. The words were a tease, whispers almost lost among the wash of the surf. Thin red strands appeared like spider webbing, slowly thickening, seeping across the clear blue shallows, blood that at any minute others on the beach would see. '… As soon as I open my mouth, they will know… they will know!'
    Duclos awoke with a jolt, almost knocking the clock off his small side table as he grappled to look at the time: 5.10am. His hands were shaking. He knew it would be impossible to get back to sleep, so he went down to the kitchen to make coffee. He decided to sit on the chateau's back terrace overlooking the pool and watch the sunrise. He was on his second cup of coffee just over an hour later when Claude joined him.
    After a few attempts at small talk, Claude sensed his consternation and asked what was wrong. Knowing that he might get the same questions over the following days, he answered that it was a girl he'd met two days ago at Juan les Pins. He'd arranged to meet her on the same stretch of beach the afternoon before, but she hadn't showed.
    Claude half smiled. 'She must have got to you badly. You look quite ill.'
    Quite ill? In different circumstances, Duclos would have burst out laughing. Claude could be such a prat at times. In the end all he managed was a weak smile in return. But at least the past torturous hours had strengthened his resolve. The obsession was destroying him, the constant fight to keep hiding it fraying his nerves, and he just couldn't cope any longer. There was only one way to end it. He would have to return to the hospital.

    Dominic opened the door slowly. The first thing he saw was Monique Rosselot's profile reflected in candlight against the glass screen. Shapes beyond the glass were more indistinct with the reflections.
    Monique didn't notice him immediately, and Dominic gave a small nod of acknowledgement as she finally looked up. Then he looked towards the prone figure of Christian beyond the partition. The wires and intravenous feed tubes looked somehow obscene on such a small body. Desecration. Apart from the tubes, the harsh reminder that doctors were fighting for his life, the boy looked like one of Botticelli's gently sleeping angels. Though his burnished curls had gone, shaved off for the operation the night before.
    The pain of the ordeal, the daily waiting without knowing, was etched on Monique's face. Her anguish was almost tangible, pervading the small room — though he knew that the full depth of her pain was beyond him. He could understand it and feel desperately sorry for her, without really feeling it himself. Would it make him deal with the investigation more effectively if he had? Make the battle he feared was brewing with Poullain over charges against Machanaud any easier?
    Dominic eased the door shut. Monique looked up again fleetingly, a faint pained grimace of thanks or good-bye through the closing gap. He didn't want to disturb her. He'd had to call back to the hospital to pick up the final surgical report, so decided to look in for a moment. Some visual reference to match with the medical descriptions. In answer to his concern about the boy's safety, they'd only been able to allocate a gendarme two hours each day, though when Monique Rosselot wasn't visiting, Besnard had assured that a nurse would always be in attendance.
    Dominic shook his head as he made his way down the corridor. Poullain. Machanaud. The interview with Machanaud hadn't gone well. Still, it had only been a casual visit to the farm where Machanaud had been working that morning, the true test would come tomorrow with the official interview in the gendarmerie. But why would Machanaud lie about his whereabouts? Dominic had no ready answers to that when Poullain posed the question, and Poullain's keenness had been sickeningly transparent: 'Other than to shield his own guilt.' Suddenly the question was rhetorical; Dominic's opinion was superfluous. Dominic could imagine Poullain already preparing the charge statement in his mind, one hand playing distractedly with his handcuffs. The glory of the case solved early.
    Dominic made his way out of the hospital and started up his bike. Evening traffic in Aix was light, and within minutes he was on the N7 heading for Bauriac. Officially, his duty shift had ended half an hour ago, the hospital had been his last call after picking up the forensics report from Marseille. But Poullain wanted summary notes on both reports by 7am, so he would have to do them later that night.
    The day had been busy: the meeting with Pierre Bouteille had taken over an hour and a half in the morning. While a prominent case for Bauriac, filed under grievous assault it was probably just one of many such regional cases on Bouteille's desk. Court clerks with files and the telephone interrupted at intervals throughout. Bouteille would now determine the best point of crossover: general to official enquiry and handing over to the examining magistrate, Frederic Naugier.
    Dominic panned back again through the meeting and the events of the day, trying to pick up on small details that might be significant; but his thoughts were dulled by overload. He found it impossible to focus.
    He pulled back on the throttle. The wind rush was fresh, exhilarating.

    Alain Duclos circled the hospital for the third time. Each time he took a different street a block further away, until he felt sure he'd covered all the streets within reasonable walking distance of the hospital. He didn't want to make the same mistake as the day before, almost walk into two gendarmes.
    The black Citroen 2CVs and DS19s were practically standard police issue. He saw only one black 2CV two blocks away; stopping briefly and looking inside, it had no police radio. He turned the corner and went another two hundred yards before parking. The hospital was now four blocks away; he was conscious too of his conspicuous car, of it not being seen too close to the hospital.
    Duclos kept close to the buildings as he walked along, turning his head from the road as cars approached. It was relatively quiet that time of night: 8.16pm. Only three cars passed in the first two streets. Turning the corner, he passed a busy restaurant with a large picture window looking out onto the street: a babble of voices, some muted laughter and merriment, a lone face catching his eye as he scurried past. It brought home stronger the solitude of his mission now. He should be with Claude and some friends at a restaurant on the coast; instead, he was sneaking through the back streets like a thief, his nerves at fever pitch. His eyes had probably looked wild and startled to the people he'd passed in the restaurant.
    At least this time he'd planned more thoroughly. With a story that his son went to the same school and he wanted to ensure that flowers arrived while Madame Rosselot was there, the receptionist informed him that she normally visited every day, arriving anything between four and five and staying two or three hours. 'Though on two occasions, she also visited in the morning for an hour or so.'
    He timed to arrive just after the evening visit. Rounding the next corner, the hospital entrance was fifty yards ahead. He paused for a second, taking a deep breath, then continued at a steady pace; he didn't want to look hesitant, be stopped at reception and asked what he wanted.
    There was a small crowd at the reception, and the two nurses behind hardly paid attention. One had her head down, studying something in the register, the other was deep in conversation. Duclos only gave them a brief sideways glance, not wanting to attract undue attention as he made his way quickly through the main hallway to the stairway and elevator.
    He waited only a second before deciding on the stairs. Too many prying eyes close by in the elevator, people who might talk to him, ask him which way for so and so ward, notice on which floor he got off. On the stairs he would be far more anonymous. Second floor, far end of corridor, room 4A. His heartbeat seemed to pulse through to his head, its rhythm almost matching the stark echo of his footsteps as he made his way along the second floor corridor. At its end was a T where it split in two directions, with markings and arrows indicating the different departments. It looked like 4A was close to the end. Duclos shortened his step as he got close to the door. Almost unconsciously he held his breath the last few steps, reaching one hand out for the door handle.
    His hand hovered by the handle for a second — then he retracted it, wiping the sweat that had built up on his palm on his trouser leg. The plan was straight in his mind: if anyone was there or he was confronted, he would say that he'd arranged to meet Mrs Rosselot. 'Had he missed her?'
    Another deep breath, forcing the air deep into his lungs to calm his nerves — he reached for the handle, turning it…
    The room opened out before him: A woman's profile, dark hair, a candle glowing… a bed and instruments through a glass partition. A split-second impression. The woman started to look up — Duclos closed the door again equally as swiftly. A sudden exhalation, release of tension, he headed quickly away — afraid that the woman might come to the door and open it, look out to see who had been there. Not daring to look back, Duclos listened intently for sounds behind him. None came. He turned the corner of the T. Safety again.
    He was sure the woman hadn't seen him. It was probably the boy's mother, Madame Rosselot. He cursed his bad luck — she should have left at least fifteen minutes ago. Suddenly a door to his side opened, startling him; he almost jumped out of his skin as a nurse and hospital porter came out. Duclos covered hastily with a sheepish grin, but they hardly paid him any attention as they headed towards the stairs.
    Duclos thought about giving up, heading back out of the hospital, coming back another day. His nerves were shot, a trembling deep in his stomach, his body weak from lack of sleep and nervous anticipation. But he knew that if he left now, he would never come back, he wouldn't be able to face the same ordeal again. He went across to a bench a few paces to one side with a clear view of the stairway and, when he leant across, the full length of the corridor and room 4A at its end. Perhaps he could wait it out. She was already fifteen minutes late, how much longer could she stay?
    He fought to relax again, breathing deeply and steadily. But with each passing minute he became increasingly agitated. Two fresh sets of heels he'd heard, only to lean over and see people coming out of other rooms. False alarms. Only a few minutes had passed, but it seemed like a lifetime.
    Another set of heels, faint at first, started their echoing clipping. He leant across half expecting another false alarm — then pulled back quickly, catching his breath. At last! His pulse raced, counting each beat of the slowly receding footsteps.
    He waited a full twenty seconds after they had faded down the stairway, then concentrated on the sounds around for a moment. No fresh footsteps on the stairway or the corridor.
    He got up and made his way along, covering the distance steadily, half of his senses attuned to the sounds around, the rest focused on what lay ahead: the door… approaching closer the last few footsteps, reaching out for the handle, listening for a brief second for any sounds beyond. Nothing. The corridor was empty, no fresh footsteps approaching. Slowly he turned the handle, the door opened, the view steadily expanding… nobodyinside! A quick release of breath. Then he looked through the glass screen to the larger room beyond, stepping fully into the small ante-room, closing the door quickly behind him.
    The boy lay beyond the glass partition, his skin pallid like yellow porcelain, wires and tubes connected and monitoring. It was certainly the boy from the day before, and there was nobody else in the room. Duclos' mouth was dry with anticipation. The boy's breathing was probably so shallow that all he would have to do was reach out and cover his nose and mouth for a minute to finish him. But he would have to be quick — at any moment somebody could come back in the room.
    His nerves were racing, his palm suddenly clammy on the handle of the door to the main room. His whole body trembled and he felt cold, even though the night air was close to 80?F. With a final deep breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.

    'When this old world starts getting me down, and people are just too much for me to face… I climb right up to the top of the stairs and all my cares just drift right into space. On the roof, the only place I know… where you just have to wish to make it so…'
    Dominic lay on his back on his bedroom terrace, staring up at the star lit sky above Bauriac, the Drifters on his record player, soothing his thoughts. It was one of the best songs of the year, his favourite. The record had been in his collection and on Louis' juke box since early January, just as it was climbing up the American billboard charts. Files and notes lay scattered over his bedroom floor. He'd finished his summary report for Poullain — all but the last paragraph. He'd searched for the right tone, that key phrase which neatly encapsulated everything, before finally giving up after half an hour and deciding on a break to clear his thoughts.
    His mother had gone to bed over an hour before with some hot chocolate and biscuits, just after ten. The day's basic household activities seemed to tire her earlier by the day. He'd positioned his record player close to the double terrace doors so that it didn't disturb her asleep downstairs.
    His mind drifted back to Algeria. The Foreign Legion. Where he'd first found the habit of laying on his back staring up at the stars. The desert sky had been even more spectacular, crystal clear skies of deep blue velvet sprinkled with a snowstorm of stars. After a few months, the idea had caught on with half the platoon. Somebody would light a camp fire, he'd spend a while rigging up his record player to a car battery and would put on some Ray Charles or Sam Cooke, and on occasions some hashish would appear that somebody had picked up at a souq. It was easier to get hashish in Algeria than alcohol. The sessions made him popular with comrades. The thought that they were laying in the middle of the desert, cut off from civilization and all they knew, yet listening to the very latest sounds courtesy of Dominic's uncle almost two months before the rest of France had the privilege. It somehow made them feel in touch, in tune. Compensated for the isolation.
    The legion had left its scars. Not so much on him personally — he'd been a back room radio and communications sergeant and had hardly seen any fighting — but with his present career. The gendarmerie treated ex-Foreign Legion recruits with an air of suspicion, as if they were all unarmed combat experts or reformed cut-throat murderers. At the end of the last century with uprisings in Morocco and Algeria, many recruits had come from the French prison system, an alternative to the Bastille or Devil's Island — but not in the last few decades.
    Dominic didn't trouble to put them right, tell them he'd hardly seen any action during the Algerian war. Sometimes the tough guy image had its advantages; colleagues were careful not to tread on his toes. Local prejudices could be used to advantage — but he feared that they might work against Machanaud if the interview didn't go well tomorrow.
    The forensics report revealed little. The blood tested was the boy's group, no semen deposits were found, and there were no startling fibre discoveries. Rock particles found in the blood confirmed the medical examiner's suspicion about murder weapon. Though no blood stained rock had been found by the search team, nor the boy's shirt, and the few items of paper from the field and a man's torn jacket and shoe by the river bank looked too weathered to be connected. Still they'd been passed to forensics for checking.
    With little or no forensics findings, they became more reliant on the timing of the attack and eye witnesses — which pointed back to Machanaud. But with his protest to Poullain the day before that it was ridiculous to suspect Machanaud, he was just a troublesome drunkard and poacher — if Poullain's look of thunderous reproach was any gauge of local opinion — Dominic feared it could rise swiftly against Machanaud. Like himself and Louis, Machanaud was from outside, originally from the foothills of the Pyrannees, and had been in Bauriac less than three years. More than a few times, Dominic or others from the gendarmerie had been called to a local bar because of Machanaud's drunken antics. Machanaud would usually either want to sing or fight, or both. Having warmed up for the evening's renditions with stories of his wartime exploits, how as a young lad of eighteen in the resistance he tried to blow up a Nazi truck with vital supplies; but the truck spun off the road and hit him and he'd ended up with a metal plate in his head. Most villagers thought he was half mad and treated him with a mixture of suspicion and contempt.
    Perhaps the other leads would prove fruitful and divert attention away from Machanaud. When he'd phoned the gendarmerie earlier, Servan brought him up to date on progress: a green Alpha Romeo had been seen in Pourrieres, the number taken, and they were now putting through a trace request with vehicle registration in Paris. The Lyon van was seen sixty kilometeres away about the time of the attack, and no news yet on the passing traveller.
    Dominic sat up. Filtering down through his thoughts, his summary notes finally gelled. He went back to the folder before the thought flow went, and wrote: Distinct lack of forensic evidence. No other blood groups other than the boy’s, no semen, no fibres. The weapon cannot be found, nor the boy's shirt. Whoever committed this crime was extremely careful. If we are to suspect Machanaud, then we also have to ask ourselves — is he really the type to be this careful and meticulous?
    Dominic scanned quickly back over the report. The time gap between the two attacks had introduced a new, puzzling perspective, but with no specific relevance to suspicion of Machanaud. Whoever had made the attack, the question was the same: Where had they been in that time? No other area of flattened wheat had been discovered, and from the strength of body imprints where the attack was finally made, the Marseille teams' view was that it had been occupied for no more than ten minutes. The supposition was therefore that beforehand the boy and his assailant had been by the riverbank, mostly obscured by trees and bushes from the bordering farm lane, or somewhere else?
    The record had finished without Dominic noticing, the needle clicking repeatedly on the inner circle. Dominic took it off and put on Sam Cooke's 'Another Saturday Night', then came back onto the terrace. He closed his eyes for a moment as he laid back, then opened them again, letting the broad blanket of the sky and the mass of stars sink slowly through his consciousness, suffuse through his body until it touched every nerve end. Touched his soul. Solitude.
    A single candle flickered at the back of his mind. Monique Rosselot's profile, partly in shadow against the dancing light, a raw essence of beauty and motherhood hoping and praying that her only son lived. He remembered in Algeria a woman at the souq in El Asnam. He never normally paid much attention to the local women, generally a non-descript rabble covered from nose to toe in black sheets. This woman had been dressed the same, except that her eyes above her face mask had been large and captivating — and she'd met his stare for a second longer than was probably considered discreet. Her eyes laughed at him provocatively, hazel with green flecks, soulful, bright. Then she was gone, disappearing quickly among the market stalls and back street warrens of the souq. Many times since he had wondered what her face looked like, images forming in the flames of the campfire or from the starry depths of the velvet sky during those long and lonely desert nights. But the image that superimposed now, as the face veil was gently removed, was of Monique Rosselot. He shook the image away.
    Sam Cooke was singing '…It's hard on a fella, when he don't know his way around. If I don't find a honey to help me spend my money, I'm gonna have to blow this town…' It reminded Dominic of one of his last dates with Odette; the song had been playing at a fairground they'd visited in Draguignan. Another Saturday night. Bright lights, candy floss, a fluffy baby blue toy cat he'd won for her at the rifle range. But the single candle burned through, the sullen but proud profile half in shadow reflected against the glass. He found it hard to get the image of Monique Rosselot out of his mind.

EIGHT

    Session 1: 11.06am, 16th February, 1995
    Stuart Capel looked anxiously at the door ahead. Through it he could hear only muted mumbling; only the occasional word could be picked up clearly. He leant forward keenly, his arms resting on his knees.
    Around him were a mixture of diplomas — Dr David Lambourne, PhD, MR Psych — and theatre posters. Collection of magazines on a small coffee table. No receptionist, just an answerphone that would kick in. Only two calls the past fifteen minutes.
    But despite Stuart's posture — every nerve and muscle tense, his jaw set tight — his eyes were dull and unfocused. Dulled by the nightmare of the past two months. Clinging to one last chance as his hands clasped and unclasped. Oh God, I hope this will help. I hope this will help…

    '… and so you'll be twelve soon, Eyran. Is that right?'
    'Yes, in April. The fifteenth.'
    'And what would you like for your birthday?' Lambourne asked. 'Any thoughts?'
    'I don't know, really. I was going to get a surf board in San Diego.' Eyran drifted off for a second, scanning the ceiling. The couch he was laying on was old and over-stuffed, with a fading floral print. It would have looked more at home in a country cottage than a psychiatrist's office in Holborn. 'Perhaps a new bike. Some more computer games.'
    'Have you thought of asking for a pet? A dog, maybe.'
    'No, not really. But the boy two doors away has got a red setter. We went playing in the fields with it a few days back.'
    'Did you get on well with the boy?'
    'Yes, sort of. His name's Kevin. He's two years older than me. He was asking a lot about San Diego, said that he'd like to go there.'
    Fresh faced, light-brown hair. A few faint freckles across the bridge of his nose. It was difficult for Lambourne to relate the boy before him with what he knew from the report on his desk: Accident victim. Nineteen day coma. Temporal and parietal lobe trauma. Both parents lost in the same accident. And now possible psychological discordance: increasingly violent dreams and development of a secondary character to push away acceptance of his parents' death.
    'Have you ever had a pet before?' asked Lambourne.
    'No. But I like them, dogs more than cats.'
    'Maybe you should ask your uncle for one. With all of those fields around, it could be fun. The perfect place for a dog.' It had come out of his discussion with Stuart Capel the day before: new object attachments to help diminish what Eyran had lost. 'And at school. Any friends yet? I understand that you started at the beginning of last week.'
    'Only one. Simon. He was at my primary school from before in England. I didn't know him so well then, but we're becoming friendlier now.'
    'And how are you getting on with Tessa?'
    'Okay. But she's a few years younger than me. She has her own friends.'
    David Lambourne looked down at his notes briefly, was about to ask another question about home or school, trying to gauge how Eyran was settling in, when Eyran continued.
    'My other old friends from before are too far away. Though I went over to Broadhurst Farm the other day with Kevin. Being there with his dog reminded me of Sarah and Salman, her labrador. We used to play there years ago, before I went to America. They were in one of my first dreams.'
    Too early. Lambourne didn't want to explore the dreams yet. His first aim was to put Eyran at ease, establish comfortable ground: birthday, presents, friends, possibly a pet. From his two hour meeting with Stuart Capel the previous day, he'd planned his guideposts well: he knew that the mention of a pet would trigger Eyran mentioning one friend, school another. But the past kept interjecting — San Diego, old friends and memories — spoiling the rhythm.
    'How are you settling in at your Uncle's house. I understand you're right out in the country. It must be nice.'
    'Yes, it's very nice. My room looks over fields at the back.'
    'So, they've given you one of the best rooms in the house.'
    Faint smile from Eyran. The first so far. Stuart Capel had told him Eyran smiled rarely, uneasily, was generally slow to respond. It was one of Stuart's main areas of concern. 'And you've got all your favourite things around you…'
    Lambourne continued building on areas of familiarity — but the answers gradually became more stilted and relied on past reference. Understandable. Eyran had only been in the house six weeks; his main memory of it was from when he lived with his parents nearby. Eyran was still pre-occupied with the old house, its position and distance from his uncle's house.
    'It's only four or five miles away, and Broadhurst Farm is just at the back. When I look out of my bedroom window now, there's a hill in the distance. It's not too far the other side of that.'
    'And that's where you went with Kevin the other day? That's quite a distance to walk.'
    'It wasn't too bad. I wanted to see how it had changed from before. Perhaps I might have bumped into some of my old friends there. It was strange, the pond was much smaller than I remembered. And in one of my dreams, it was enormous.'
    Present. Past. And now the dreams again. It was a hop-scotch. Each time Lambourne dragged him to the present, Eyran leapt back.
    'The week before, I drove past there with Uncle Stuart. But we just looked up from the field behind that leads up to the copse. We didn't go in.'
    'I see.' Stuart Capel had mentioned the significance of the copse, that at least two of Eyran's dreams had taken place there. But Lambourne didn't want to let on that he knew. It was important that Eyran revealed the significance in his own words. Although Lambourne had planned to delay exploring the dreams until the second session — one area of the dreams might be worth exploring now.
    'In the dreams, who do you see most? Your mother or your father — or do they both appear equally?'
    'My father appears more. In the first two dreams, my mother didn't appear at all. Then when I did finally see her, she was distant, out of reach. In another dream, I wasn't even sure whether I saw her or not. It was misty, and I thought she was just ahead of my father, but I might have just been imagining it. It wasn't very clear.'
    'And do either of them speak to you in the dreams?'
    'My father has twice, my mother never. On the one occasion I was sure I saw her, she was turned from me, walking away. And I was trying to catch up.'
    'I see.' Lambourne glanced at his notes. One area where the dreams offered a convenient allegory; it would have been awkward to ask straight out which parent Eyran felt closest to.
    'Did you catch up with your parents in any of the dreams?'
    'No. My father was closest, but he always remained just out of reach.'
    'Do you think there's any reason why your father appears more than your mother in the dreams? Were you closer to him?'
    'When I was younger, no. But as I got older, I felt I could talk to him more. You know, if I was having trouble with someone picking a fight, some problem with my bike, or selection for the school football team. I just felt he'd know more about those things than my mum.'
    'So you went to him for help, confided in him more. But you felt equally close to both of them?'
    'Yes.'
    'And did you love them both equally — mum and dad?' Stupid question, but it was necessary to have Eyran say it, admit the attachment before he started suggesting other object attachments.
    'Yes.'
    'And do you miss them?'
    Longer pause this time; Eyran's brow was slightly furrowed. 'Yes, of course…'

    Clasping. Unclasping.
    The muted voices through the door after a while made Stuart’s mind drift. Back through the nightmare which had finally brought him to David Lambourne's office.
    Hands clasped behind his back as he looked out at the view: two large palm trees like sentinels either side of the garden. A faint mist rising from the swimming pool. December in Southern California.
    Moment's break from packing boxes with Jeremy's personal papers and mementoes. Behind him, Helena, Jeremy's Mexican maid, saying something he didn't quite catch. On arrival, she'd grasped his hand extended in greeting in both hers as she looked deep into his eyes and expressed her sorrow. He could tell that she had been crying, and as she kept grip a second longer, willing home her emotions with eyes brimming with watery compassion, she burst into tears again. He'd cried enough on the flight over and since, identifying the bodies of his brother and Allison in the morgue, seeing Eyran laying helpless and prostrate in the hospital bed — to be able to join her.
    Death. The morning mist somehow mirrored his mood. Looking through the sliding windows towards the pool and patio; happier times. Jeremy at the barbecue, Eyran and Tessa swimming, Allison and Amanda sipping Long Island iced teas and preparing a salad. He snapped himself away, back to packing boxes. Another minefield of memories: Jeremy's diplomas from Cambridge and his bar exams, photos with his old rugby team in Hertfordshire, him and Jeremy sitting at a restaurant table in Mykonos, one of their few holidays together. They'd been in their early twenties and Stuart couldn't even remember the name of Jeremy's girlfriend at the time who had taken the picture. Two boxes had already been filled with a mixture of photos, papers, mementoes and small ornaments. How long did it take to tidy away the personal effects of a lifetime? Leave the room neat and tidy, so no memories, no trace remained.
    The day before had been a nightmare, a blizzard of paperwork and officialdom. Forms to be filled out at the police station and morgue, more at the hospital, then onto Jeremy's employers, Hassler and Gertz, to deal with Jeremy's probate and insurance details.
    It seemed that all he'd done since arriving in California was sign papers; autograph his brother's aftermath. Perhaps it was all part of the grieving process. 'You've now witnessed and signed fifteen papers relating to your brother's death, surely you can now finally accept that he is dead.' Hadn't he read somewhere that the grieving process didn't start until after acceptance.
    Then when Stuart went finally into Eyran's room, the thought of Eyran at that moment in the hospital deep in coma, barely clinging to life — gripped him hard. Posters of Pamela Anderson, the Power Rangers, Jurassic Park, the Daytona racetrack. It was amazing how quickly they grew up. Had he started thinking of girls when he'd been eleven? From the stereo and a small stack of CDs to one side, he picked out four: Janet Jackson, Seal, Madonna, UB40. Quick scan of the rest of the room — probably the last time he would see it: a semi-precious rocks and minerals collection, some model sports cars, an SX25 computer with a small box of disks, a signed baseball bat, a model dolphin from San Diego SeaWorld, a large corner box full of assorted toys — many obviously from when Eyran was much younger.
    Stuart bit his lip as he packed. But at least this duty carried with it a bit more hope. Mementoes for the living.

    Hands clasping.
    Clutched tight to the report as Eyran’s surgeon in California, Dr Torrens, delivered his stark prognosis.
    Traumatic intracranial haemotomas. Two small parietal lobe haemotomas. Larger temporal lobe haemotoma. Risk of oedema. Irregular EEG recording.
    But which one had carried the possibility of later psychological disturbance, thought Stuart. Which one?
    At the time, all he'd hoped and prayed for had been Eyran awaking; he hadn't looked beyond. Torrens had mentioned only the possibility of later disorientation of direction, topography and shapes due to the temporal lobe haemotoma. Usually hardly noticeable outside of reading detailed maps or directions, or sorting out complex puzzles. 'If that's all we're facing, be thankful.'
    In the end there had been two EEG activity recordings: 94 hours and 17 hours respectively before Eyran finally waking. In answer to his key questions — chances of survival, how long the coma might last and degrees of damage that might persist if and when Eyran finally awoke — Dr Torrens seemed reluctant to speculate, hiding mainly behind text book statistics from a cross section of American hospitals. Stuart recalled that 14 % of coma victims made a full recovery and another 14 % made recoveries with impairments so slight as to be unnoticeable, though a daunting 49 % did not survive at all, the mid-ground taken up by cases ranging from moderate disablement to complete vegetative states.
    Easy to get lost in the medical terminology, Stuart thought. Acceptance by conditioning. Concern and grief, all so real when focused on a loved one, swallowed up as part of the grander scale of general statistics affecting all coma patients. The first shock had come learning that Eyran's heart had stopped for 54 seconds when first admitted. Stuart had asked if that might have contributed — but Torrens felt that the direct head injuries and cranial haemotomas were likely the prime cause of coma.
    Clasping — as a nurse had led him finally to Eyran's bedside — an image to match with Torren's stark report. Tubes and wires feeding and monitoring, Eyran's face grey and wan. He found it hard to relate with the Eyran he remembered, so full of curiosity and enthusiasm — and suddenly came to mind a day out in his sports car, Eyran at his side, cheeks rosy with the crisp air.
    Eyran had been only six, and they were driving up Highgate Hill. Stuart pointed theatrically towards the cemetery. 'Do you know who's buried there? Karl Marx!' To which Eyran's eyes lit up with enthusiasm. 'Was he one of the Marx brothers?' It had remained part of Stuart's dinner party repertoire for almost two years.
    Talk to him, Torrens had said. Familiar voices, shared memories. Stuart started with the Karl Marx incident, then went on to relate another story from when Eyran had been seven and asked him what was the rudest word. At first, he'd tried to avoid it by saying he didn't know, but Eyran was persistent. 'But you must know lots of rude words at your age, uncle Stuart.' Knowing that he couldn't easily escape, but not wishing to get into trouble with Jeremy for teaching Eyran rude words, he'd finally offered 'Codswollop'.
    'Is that the rudest word?'
    'Yes, absolutely. It's a terrible swear word — never to be used.'
    'But is it the rudest, rudest?'
    'Yes, it's the rudest, rudest. You must never, ever say codswollop.'
    A moment's thought as Eyran compared with what he'd heard in the school playground. 'Is it ruder than fuck?'
    Jeremy had burst out laughing when Stuart told him, finding Stuart's vain attempt to preserve his son's already tainted innocence particularly amusing; yet another dinner party anecdote. Eyran too had been let in on the joke later when he was old enough. But relating the story to Eyran, hearing only the echo of his own voice, Stuart found it unsettling. Like a comedian on stage with no audience.
    And so half an hour later when his one man dialogue ran out of steam — he turned to the CDs he'd brought from Eyran's room and let Janet Jackson take over. Familiar voices, familiar music. Torrens had arranged for a player.
    But now listening to the muted mumbling beyond Lambourne's door, he recalled with clarity the feeling that had crept over him in that instant. Dreading the moment — if and when his tearful wishes of Eyran awaking were fulfilled — that he would have to tell Eyran his parents were dead.
    And when that moment did finally come, the haunted, lost look in Eyran's eyes — still lingering days and even weeks later. He should have guessed then that a part of Eyran would always cling on, refuse to accept.

    David Lambourne flicked back through Torrens' report. So, what did he know after the first session? The first aim had been to judge Eyran's responsiveness.
    Made just four days after Eyran had revived from his coma, the report showed ten to fifteen percent impairment on conventional thought and speech response. If anything, there had been improvement since then; Eyran's response had been slow on very few questions. Though perhaps when he entered the more complex and problematical areas of Eyran's dreams, responsiveness would drop. The barriers would go back up.
    Thirty eight percent below average on IQ puzzles. Lambourne couldn't help much there: the best indicators would come from maths results at his new school. Or perhaps he could get some standard tests from St Barts for the Capels to do at home.
    But the main problem was Eyran's increasingly violent dreams, and the key question: were they a by-product of the accident and the coma, some chemical imbalance causing dementia; or a defence mechanism of Eyran's subconscious, unwilling to accept that his parents were dead?
    With the first, Lambourne realized he'd have limited control, swept along on the changing tide of the condition, leaving him little range within which to wield influence. Damage limitation. But if it was the latter, he'd have far more control, and at first glance the analysis was straightforward: Eyran couldn't accept that his parents were dead, so his subconscious had manifested various scenarios, played out through his dreams, where he could find them alive. Text book Freud denial/ mourning/object attachment.
    Though Lambourne had conducted his main studies in the Freudian school, he liked to think that he'd kept an open mind on later theories and papers — some of them contradictory to Freud's principals. Jung, Winnicott, Adler, Eysenck, and then the later radicals Lacan, Laing and Rollo May. Twenty-two years in practice, seventeen of them at St Barts, Lambourne prided himself on keeping up to date with his papers and readings, felt that he was better equipped than most to pick and choose at the smorgasbord of psychoanalysis, return with the plate most suited to his patient.
    Lambourne looked around his office. The furniture had hardly changed since St Barts. The same old floral pattern sofa, his upright padded seat chair, a rolled top walnut desk, the dark oak coffee table with a few magazines strategically scattered. Stuffy, country cottage atmosphere which he felt put patients at ease.
    Or perhaps it was all just a replica, a home away from home modelled on the Buckinghamshire country house he'd left his wife in their divorce settlement six years previous. Now he was just a weekend father to their two daughters. He'd learnt more about object loss during the divorce than through the years of study and practice; for the first time he'd actually felt what his patients fought to describe in bland monotones. He could help solve their problems, but not his own.
    He'd left St Barts a year after the divorce and decided to combine costs by living in. He loved the theatre, and the main theatre areas and Covent Garden were a short stroll away, past old book, stamp and curio shops, and one in particular he'd discovered specializing in old theatre posters.
    He never used the armchair, always the straight backed chair. The armchair made him appear too relaxed, distant from his patients; while in the hard back chair, he invariably ended up leaning forward. He looked more interested in them. Throughout the first fourteen years of his practice, he'd smoked a pipe, but with the more responsible age of doctors taking the lead with non-smoking, had given up. He immediately found his pipe hand, his left, at a complete loss, and so sucked at an empty pipe during sessions for another three years, felt that chewing on the mouthpiece helped him concentrate — until one woman patient had been bold enough to question what he was doing. As he'd explained, her puzzled look had made it clear just who of the two of them should be on the couch. So now there was no more pipe, just one orphaned hand.
    Jojo? Eyran's imaginary dream friend who always promised he could find Eyran's parents. A simple invention to support non-acceptance of their death, or a possibly threatening secondary personality? Lambourne wondered.
    One of the key factors was going to be separation from reality, if any illusions in the dreams started crossing over into Eyran's thoughts while awake. And if they did, to what extent might Eyran accept or adopt them? At present, they were at arm's length. But Jojo trampling through Eyran's conscious thoughts could be disastrous.
    There was also the maze of object attachments to fight through: not just Eyran's loss of his parents, but attachments and memories with the house in San Diego, their previous house in England and old play areas — which perhaps due to their closeness to his uncle's house were resurging strongly.
    Finding his way through was not going to be easy. He would need to follow the threads carefully in order to draw out Eyran's perception of Jojo in the right way, then press hard to break Eyran away from Jojo's subconscious influence. Yet too hard and all trust and patient transference would be lost.
    It was going to be a delicate tightrope, and Eyran would probably resist him all the way. No child wanted to face that their parents were dead, and the dreams and Jojo were probably the only sanctuary Eyran had left.

NINE

    The courtyard was in Moorish style, in the Panier quarter of Marseille. Two sides framing the courtyard were the house itself on three floors, the third the blank wall of the adjacent building. The fourth, and the entrance to the courtyard, were large solid wood double gates studded with black iron, with a small door with buzzer inset one side: the brothel's main entrance and all that was visible from the narrow street. Emile Vacheret's establishment was discreet, its facade anonymous, as its many regulars preferred.
    The centrepiece of the courtyard was a small fountain edged with blue and white mosaic tiling, and window sills throughout the building had the same pattern edging. Some white doves played and strutted in and around the fountain. While he waited, Alain Duclos looked out through the ground floor french windows towards the fountain and courtyard.
    Prostitution was legal, so the anonymity of the building was for the benefit of clients and for the small side attractions offered clients which weren't so legal. The room's cleaners, servants and waiters in the bar were all young boys, mostly from Morocco and Algeria, between the ages of twelve and nineteen — though the youngest age on any identity card was sixteen, in the event of a police raid. Vacheret paid heavily to the local precinct each month. The boys' functions as waiters and room cleaners were mostly a cover; they were also there for the client's pleasure, if so required. For heterosexual clients, which was indeed seventy percent of Vacheret's trade, a choice of girls would be paraded in, and the boys just served drinks and made the beds afterwards.
    Duclos sat on the bed as Vacheret introduced two new boys who had arrived in the last week, as possible alternatives to his favourite of the last few visits, Jahlep. The two boys wore claret red baggy harem trousers and round neck white shirts. One was very young, possibly twelve, while the other was closer to fourteen or fifteen. Duclos concentrated on the younger one as Vacheret explained that he was a mulatto from Martinique, exquisite light brown eyes, delicate complexion, brand new the last week, hardly touched. Vacheret might as well have been trying to sell him a used car, Duclos thought. True, the boy was exquisite, cream brown skin, just the age he liked. But he just couldn't concentrate and get up any enthusiasm.
    Noticing his hesitancy, Vacheret commented, 'What's wrong, you want a drink while you decide or is there something private you want to ask me about them. Shall I send the boys away?'
    'I'm not sure. Perhaps. Give me a minute.'
    Vacheret ushered the boys away and sat down beside Duclos. 'Have you decided on Jahlep again, but you didn't want to say so in front of those two. Or are you just undecided between Jahlep and this new boy? Perhaps you could try the two together?' Vacheret raised his eyebrows hopefully.
    Beads of sweat stood out on Duclos' forehead and he looked troubled, his eyes darting as he contemplated the floor. 'Look, I'm sorry. I can't think clearly about the boys for the moment. Maybe later. But there's something on my mind, something I'd like to ask you about first.'
    Vacheret nodded, suddenly pensive, barely containing a half smile; he was sure that Duclos was about to enquire about some bizarre practice or fantasy, something he'd been too coy to mention before. It always tickled him, this part, clients admitting their secret sexual desires; it was almost like being a psychiatrist or priest, finally clients got around to what was really troubling them.
    But as Duclos explained what he wanted, Vacharet's expression became slowly graver. This wasn't what he expected.
    Crossing the courtyard as he left twenty minutes later, Duclos could see the misty shape of a girl rolling up one black stocking through the net curtains at a window to one side. She had wild red hair and was naked except for a garter belt and the one stocking, and was sitting on the edge of the bed facing the window. Because she was close to the window, she saw him and smiled, gradually parting her legs wider. Duclos turned away and headed for the courtyard door. If he'd stayed, she would probably have put on a little show for him, but he wasn't interested.
    He phoned Vacheret that night and, as arranged, Vacheret gave him a name and a time and place to make contact.

    The room where Machanaud was taken to was at the back of the gendarmerie. The main window was open with the heat, its grey wooden shutters closed. Only faint slats of sunlight filtered in, so the main light, a football sized glass sphere screwed to the ceiling, had been switched on. The rooms at the back, away from the traffic and looking onto a car park shared with the Town Hall, were quiet.
    Machanaud had arrived at 11.30am, as scheduled. But Poullain had made him wait in the room on his own for almost twenty minutes. Dominic timed and dated an interview form, and made notes as Poullain started with Machanaud's main background details: Age: 39; Town of birth: St Girons; Place of residence: Seillons; Occupation: farm labourer. Past convictions? Machanaud could recall two past convictions, but not the dates, so Dominic took the details from the past charge sheets: drunken and disorderly in March of that year and poaching the previous October.
    Machanaud looked older than his age, Dominic always thought: closer to mid or late forties. His skin was weathered and pitted, his thick brown hair long and unkempt and heavily greased back in an effort to make it look tidier; though all too often a lank forelock would break loose and hang across his face. When drunk and in one of his more rebellious moods, the one eye that wasn't covered by hair gave the impression of leering wildly.
    Poullain waited for Dominic to stop writing, then started with a general summary of Machanaud's activities on the 18th August, most of it purely skimming details from their interview of the day before. Then Poullain went back to the beginning, going into more specific timings. 'So you left after finishing work at Raulin's farm at about eleven, is that right?'
    'No, closer to twelve.'
    Poullain was testing. Machanaud had told them twice before that it was twelve. Eleven was closer to the time they thought he had left from their interviews the day before both with Raulin and Henri at Bar Fontainouille, who seemed to remember Machanaud calling in and leaving earlier. 'And you went straight on to Bar Fontainouille from there?'
    'Yes, that's right.'
    'How long would that take, do you think?'
    'About fifteen, twenty minutes.'
    Poullain spent the next ten minutes running through Machanaud's movements: Bar Fontainouille at 12.15pm, leaving just before 2 pm for Gilbert Albrieux' farm where he'd planted some vines the February past. Albrieux apparently hadn''t been there to see him, but after a quick check of the vines Machanaud claimed he sat on a stone wall and had a sandwich. After half an hour, he then headed off to Leon's.
    Dominic felt the tension building with each question, or maybe it was because he knew what was coming: Poullain was slowly circling in for the kill.
    'So, it's what — only ten or twelve minutes from Albrieux' to Leon's bar. What time did you arrive there?'
    'About two thirty-five, two forty. But I only stayed about an hour, because I had to be back at Raulin's for the late shift at four o'clock.'
    Dominic looked at his notes. Effectively all that Machanaud admitted to was being on his own for about half an hour after two o'clock. Their various interviews from the day before told a different story. Raulin didn't recall seeing him after 11am and although Henri at Bar Fontainouille wasn't sure what time Machanaud arrived, he was certain of the time he left, at about 1pm, because of when he started serving set lunches that day. Leon too wasn't sure what time Machanaud had called in, but they had the firm sighting from Madame Veillan which would have put Machanaud at Leon's at about 3.15pm. That left almost two hours unaccounted for between 1pm and 3pm.
    'Did you go anywhere on the way back to Raulin's?'
    'Just to pick up some tobacco, but that's just a few doors from Leon's. It only took minutes.'
    'And in all of your travels on that day, did you happen to see a young boy?'
    The question threw Machanaud. All of his answers had been carefully thought out to defend their suspicion of him poaching. Why else would the questions be angled so insistently around the two hours he'd been by the river? The continued questioning, the fact that they seemed to be taking the issue so seriously, for the first time started him wondering. 'A boy? What has that got to do with anything?'
    'I don't know, you tell us.' Poullain's easy manner, asking questions at a steady pace, suddenly went. 'What time did you meet him — half past one, two o'clock? Where was it you first picked him up: in the village, or near the lane?'
    Machanaud was perplexed. He ruffled his hair uneasily. 'I was at Bar Fontainouille, I had at least two drinks with Henri himself serving at the bar. I couldn't possibly have met anyone then.'
    'Except that you left the Fontainouille an hour earlier, at one o'clock. And yes, you went to have lunch with your knapsack. But instead of going to Albrieux' place, you went down to the river by Breuille's land. And on the way there, you met the boy.'
    Machanaud blinked nervously and looked down; then across briefly towards Dominic's notes. So they knew he'd been down by the river at Breuille's, probably guessed that he'd been poaching. But why the insistence about this boy? 'I don't understand why you're asking all this. I don't know anything about a boy.'
    'Oh, but I think you do.' Poullain went in for the kill; he leant forward, his body rigid with intent. 'Your account of the entire day is complete fabrication. Not one bit of it is true. The only thing we know for sure is that you were seen at three o'clock by Madame Veillan, coming out of the lane at Breuille's farm.' Poullain's voice was rising feverishly. 'The same place where minutes beforehand a young boy was left for dead with his skull smashed in!'
    With a sickening sensation, it suddenly dawned on Machanaud why Poullain had been asking about the boy. He'd heard about the attack, it was the talk of the village, but there had been no mention of where. 'Are you trying to tell me that this boy was found on the lane to Breuille's farm?'
    Machanaud's tone of incredulity only served to anger Poullain deeper. 'You know he was, because that's where you left him — just after you smashed his head in with a rock!'
    Machanaud shook his head wildly. 'No! I told you. I had nothing to do with that boy, I never touched him.'
    'So are you now trying to say that you were there and saw the boy — but you never touched him.'
    Machanaud was confused, his voice breaking with exasperation. 'No, no. I never saw the boy. I know nothing about him. I went from the Fontainouille, a short break for lunch, then straight onto Leon's.'
    'Leon doesn't remember seeing you until at least three-fifteen.' It was a bluff, but Poullain was more confident of Madame Veillan's time keeping than Leon's. 'And Henri says that you arrived at eleven and left about one.'
    'That's impossible,' Machanaud spluttered desperately. 'I was still at Raulin's until twelve.'
    'Raulin says that he didn't see you after eleven, and that's the time he has entered in his book for you finishing that day.'
    'There was some extra work on the bottom land. He probably didn't see me there.'
    Poullain ignored it. 'Henri knows for sure you left at one o'clock, because that's when he starts preparing lunches. And between then and Madame Veillan seeing you leave the lane — that's almost two hours.' He leant forward until he was close to Machanaud, his tone low and menacing. 'Two hours in which you calmly took your pleasure with this boy, before deciding that you'd have to kill him. What did you do to keep him quiet in the meantime — tie him up?'
    Machanaud was cold with fear. He had been shaking his head at Poullain's bombardment, stunned by the sudden turn around of events; surely they couldn't really believe that he had attacked this boy. If it was just a ploy to get him to admit to poaching, they'd succeeded. He was so frightened, he'd run for any sanctuary. 'Okay, I admit it, I was there. But I know nothing about the boy — I was poaching.'
    'I see.' Poullain looked down thoughtfully, drawing a deep breath before looking up again. 'And how long were you there?'
    'Two hours.'
    'And have you been to that stretch of river before?'
    'Yes, two or three times, I don't remember exactly.'
    'Any particular reason why you favour there?'
    'The fish are no better than elsewhere — but Breuille is away. Less chance of getting caught, and even if I am, he's not around to press charges.' Machanaud risked a hesitant smile.
    Poullain considered this for a moment. 'So now you're trying to tell us that all of this morning's subterfuge, all of this lying, was purely to cover up the fact that you were poaching. Even though you know Breuille's away and therefore charges can't be pressed.' Poullain looked disgustedly towards Dominic. He waved one hand dramatically. 'Pah! It is not even remotely believable.'
    A swathe of hair had fallen across Machanaud's face. He cut a sad picture; like a lost and bewildered animal. A lamb to Poullain's slaughter. His eyes darted frantically. 'But Marius Caurin is still around caretaking the land — I even saw him head out at one point on his tractor. He could have seen me.'
    'Even if we accept this ridiculous story that you were poaching, you expect us to believe that you spent two hours calmly fishing while a young boy was savagely raped and assaulted not yards away — and you saw absolutely nothing.'
    Machanaud looked pleadingly towards Dominic, clutching out for any possible support. Dominic looked away and back to his notes. Whatever misgivings Dominic might have with Poullain's interview tactics, it was the first golden rule: unless a two pronged assault had been previously agreed, the interview witness remained silent. He had already made his thoughts clear to Poullain about suspicion of Machanaud. Any comment about what arose in the interview itself would have to wait till later.
    Machanaud was desperate, spluttering, 'The river bank dips down at points. The lane is partly obscured by trees and bushes. Somebody else could have come along without me seeing.'
    'Yes, they could. But that same person couldn't possibly have stayed on the lane for all that time without the risk of someone coming along and seeing them. And yet if they hid in the only place possible — down by the riverbank — you would have seen them. But the real reason that you saw nobody else, is that there was only one person down by the river bank — you.'
    'No...no…'
    '…And it was there that you chose as your hiding place, a place you know well from past visits, while you molested the boy. Concealed from anyone passing. Twice you sexually assaulted him; then later, to cover your tracks, afraid that he would talk, you picked up a rock and — '
    'No!..' Machanaud rose to his feet, slamming one hand on the table. His head had been shaking slowly, his low and repeated groans of 'no' finally rising to a crescendo.
    Poullain let out a final exasperated breath, looking towards Dominic. 'Just take him away, I'm sick of hearing his lies.'
    'What do you want me to do with him?'
    'Put him in the holding cell for a few hours, let him cool his heels. Perhaps he'll remember something with a bit more sense. We'll decide then if we're going to hold him longer.'

    The arrangement was that Duclos meet the man in front of the Fort St Nicolas in Marseille. From there, they could walk across Boulevard Charles Livon and into the Parc du Pharo to discuss their business. At dusk, the number of park strollers would be thinning out; it should be quite private.
    The time and place had been arranged through Vacheret, and the man was known as Chapeau; obviously not his real name. Duclos had already waited ten minutes, gradually becoming more anxious, dwelling stronger on what he was waiting there for. Conscious suddenly of every small sound and movement around: the wind ruffling a flag on the fort, a stray cat tugging at a bag in a nearby bush, the shuffle of people approaching and walking by; uncomfortable if someone looked at him as they passed, catching his eye. For God's sake, hurry up. He couldn't take much more of this waiting.
    While he was distracted for a moment by a coach that had pulled up in front, collecting a stream of tourists shepherded aboard by their guide — a man was suddenly at his side. He seemed to emerge from nowhere among the throng leaving the fort, and Duclos was slightly startled. He hadn't seen him approach.
    'Your name is Alain?' the man enquired.
    'Yes.'
    'We have some business to discuss, I believe.'
    Duclos merely nodded. It was obviously Chapeau. There was something familiar about him, but Duclos wasn't totally sure. 'Were you across the road a moment ago, looking over?'
    'Yes I was.' Chapeau didn't offer to explain why, which unsettled Duclos further. They walked in silence towards the park. Duclos took the opportunity to study him closer. No more than thirty, skin quite dark, tight knit curly dark hair, heavy set and jowly; probably Corsican judging by the accent, Duclos guessed. One eye was slightly bloodshot and yellowed in the corner, as if he'd been hit close to it. Or perhaps it was a permanent ailment. The nickname intrigued Duclos; the man wasn't wearing a hat.
    'What is it your friend wants done?' asked Chapeau.
    At the mention of friend, Duclos was wary just how much had already been discussed. 'What did Vacheret tell you? Did he explain the problem and what needed to be done?'
    'No. Just that you had a friend with a problem, nothing more. You know what Vacheret is like, afraid of his own shadow. Doesn't like to get involved.'
    Duclos grimaced weakly. Good. He had spun a story to Vacharet of a married friend who played both sides getting into trouble with a rent boy and his pimp. The pimp was threatening blackmail by informing his friend's wife. Some muscle was required to warn him off. Duclos knew that Vacharet had milieu contacts and would be able to recommend someone. The pimp was streetwise, so it should also be someone with a reasonable reputation, perhaps a few hits to his credit, otherwise the warning would carry no weight. Thankfully, Vacharet had been worried about complicity, didn't want to know too many details. 'I'll just give you a number, the rest is up to you.' For the same reason, Vacharet had obviously said little to Chapeau. Even if he had, Duclos would have covered by claiming that for obvious reasons he hadn't wanted Vacharet to know all the details. Now none of that was necessary, except to maintain the subterfuge that the boy who was laying in hospital in Aix-en-Provence was a rent boy, and that his friend was responsible for the attack.
    'Why did your friend attack him in the first place? Chapeau asked.
    'Blackmail. My friend is married; this is one of his little indulgences on the side that he tells me he's only done a few times and was trying to get over. But this time he got caught out — the boy was threatening to tell.'
    'And your friend didn't finish the boy off?'
    'No.'
    Chapeau pondered over this information. 'So now he's afraid the boy will wake up and tell?'
    Duclos nodded. They'd walked almost two hundred metres into the park. A few evening strollers passed, staccato breaks in a conversation they were both being careful to keep out of anyone else's earshot. At times, the pauses were unsettling; Chapeau left long gaps after people had passed.
    'Why the hospital at Aix?' Chapeau asked.
    'They were driving out of Marseille into the country, and they got into an argument. It just happened that Aix was the nearest town — so the boy was taken to the main hospital on Avenue Tamaris.'
    'What's the boy's name?'
    'Javi. But it's just a nickname. I don't think he knows the boy's real name.'
    'And has he known him long?'
    'I don't think so. Just a few months, at most.'
    Another silence. Something didn't add up, thought Chapeau. Though he thought he knew what was wrong. As usual, Vacheret had been tight lipped, except on one simple question: how was this Alain known to him? A client. For the girls or boys? Boys! And now Alain was talking about problems with a rent boy and a friend. It could be just a case of all gay boys together, but it was too much of a coincidence for comfort. Chapeau was sure the friend was pure invention — it was this Alain himself who had the problem with the boy and now wanted him killed. But there was no point in confronting him and possibly frightening off a good paying client. More fun to see, if pushed, if he still clung to the story. 'Your friend likes fucking young boys, does he? What's wrong — can't he get it up for his wife anymore?'
    'I don't know, you'd have to ask him yourself.' The irritation in Duclos' voice was barely concealed. He bit back, hoping to pique Chapeau a little. 'How did you get the nickname? I don't see a hat.'
    'No that's true, you don't.' Chapeau smiled wryly, as if he was about to elaborate then suddenly decided against it. They walked in silence for a second. Chapeau let out a long breath. 'Hospitals are risky. It's going to cost extra — seven thousand francs.'
    Duclos went pale. Even at what Vacheret had estimated, 5,000 — 6,000 francs, it had been a fortune: over half a year's salary and a third of his savings. Now it was going to cost more. 'I'm not sure if my friend can afford that. He was expecting it to be less.'
    'There's people around in a hospital, more risk of being seen, some sort of diversion will probably have to be created. I'll have to visit at least once beforehand to work out what that diversion might be. It's not worth doing under seven thousand.'
    'But the boy's half dead already. All you have to do is sneak in and cut off his life support, or put a hand over his mouth. My friend even knows the room he's in and the layout.'
    Chapeau's brow furrowed. 'So your friend has actually been there?'
    Duclos faltered, looking away for a second as a young couple passed. The memories of the day before came flooding back. He'd known from the outset that it would be hard to skirt around the issue; it was vital to pass on detailed information so that Chapeau didn't start phoning the hospital. The only way his imaginary friend would know that information was if he'd actually been in the room. 'Yes — at first he thought be might be able to deal with the problem himself.'
    'How close did he get?'
    Heartbeats. The nightmare was still vivid. The sound of his own heartbeat and pulse almost in time with the bleep from the life support machine. Stepping closer… reaching out. Sounds in the corridor. A moment's pause as he went to put his hand over the boy's mouth. Voices outside getting closer, more prominent. '…He was actually inside the room when he got disturbed.'
    Chapeau's tone was slightly incredulous. 'What? Your friend gets a second chance at it — and still he can't manage to finish the boy off?'
    Fighting to control the trembling as his hand closed in, feeling for a second the boy's shallow breath on his palm. Warm vapour, cool against his sweat. Indecision. Then quickly retracted… sudden panic as he heard voices almost upon him… 'I told you, he was disturbed. What else could he do?' Duclos stammered.
    'I don't know. You tell me.' Chapeau half smiled. 'Sounds to me as if your friend's a bit of a gutless shit.'
    Duclos didn't answer, turned away, biting at his lip. Coming out of the room, the worst part had been realizing that the people outside had already passed; he could have stayed a moment longer. He even thought for a moment of going back inside — but his nerve had gone. He had been close, so close.
    Chapeau savoured his discomfort for a moment before commenting more philosophically, 'Still, I suppose if it wasn't for friends like that, there'd be no need for people like me. Shall we conclude matters?'
    It took another ten minutes for them to run through the other details: room number, position and floor, best timing, payment arrangements. Chapeau took the point of the urgency of the situation; at any moment the boy could wake up. He would try and make a reconnaissance of the hospital, work out a diversion and hopefully execute the plan all in the same day: tomorrow.
    They were coming to a point in the park where both the marina and the old harbour could be viewed: a succession of white masts speared the skyline, stretching back towards the town. Again it reminded Duclos that this was his holiday; he should have been out sailing on the Vallon's Jonquet '42, the wind in his hair, then afterwards grilled sea bream or swordfish washed down with a glass of chilled white wine in a cafe overlooking the old harbour. Instead he was negotiating murder and being taunted by this Neanderthal prick, who was also going to take almost half his savings for the privilege. But hopefully the whole sad saga would soon be over. That was what he was paying for. The thought of the freedom ahead, of not having to go through this nightmare again, made it all worthwhile. Means to an end. He took a deep, refreshing breath of the salty air of the harbour.
    As they concluded, Duclos asked how the boy was going to be killed, but Chapeau said that he wouldn't know till after the first visit. Chapeau had given nothing away. Twenty minutes of conversation and Duclos knew nothing about the man; he was still the same shadowy figure as when they'd entered the park.
    Chapeau asked if he was heading back towards the fort, but Duclos said he wanted to enjoy the last rays of sunset over the harbour. Truth was, he couldn't bear to stay in Chapeau's company a moment longer. The man made his skin crawl. Duclos found a bench near the apex of the harbour walk as Chapeau headed back. A part of him felt relieved at the action he'd taken, but yet another felt strangely uneasy.
    Had Chapeau suspected him of lying? He'd kept everything as remote as possible: the friend, a disagreement with a rent boy, the nickname. It was unlikely Chapeau would tie anything in with the recent newspaper article, even if he had seen it. And with the depth of detail provided about the room's position and best timing, he doubted Chapeau would call the hospital. Surely it was unlikely that all his precautions would collapse? The thought of what Chapeau might do in response sent a shiver through his body.
    Duclos looked away from the harbour view for a moment, watching Chapeau's figure as it receded into the distance, faintly silhouetted against the dying light. And for a while his strong will to believe he'd taken the right action fought hard against the fear of what new horrors he might have introduced.

    Dominic was called to the teleprinter as soon as the message came through. It was from the gendarmerie in South Limoges, and read:

    Your enquiry regarding Alain Lucien Duclos. Not at the Limoges address you supplied from vehicle registration. However, Monsieur Duclos is known to us. He is an Assistant Prosecutor attached to the main Cour d'Assises in Limoges. According to work colleagues, he is currently holidaying with friends at the Vallon estate near Cotignac, Provence. Trust this is helpful.

    — Head of Station, Captain Rabellienne

    Dominic ripped the message from the printer. The corridor and reception was busy, and he found Poullain in the back mess room having coffee with Harrault. He handed the message across and waited a moment as Poullain read it.
    'Do you want me to make initial enquiries?' Dominic asked.
    Poullain was hesitant as he lifted his attention from the message. 'No, no — it's okay. I think I'd better phone first — then we'll probably go out there together.' It looked like a waste of time, a complete mis-match, thought Poullain. An Assistant Prosecutor staying with one of the area's largest landowners and more highly regarded citizens: Marcel Vallon. It would need personal kid glove treatment; Vallon was good friends with the Mayor, they played golf together and belonged to the same Masonic lodge. Poullain looked at his watch. They had a meeting about the Rosselot case scheduled for late afternoon with Bouteille, the Prosecutor in Aix en Provence. 'If we can see this Duclos late morning or lunch time, since we have to pass through here again on our way to Aix, do you think you could have the notes typed up and put in some semblance of order before tomorrow's meeting?'
    'Yes, I think so.' Dominic faltered only for a second; another lunch time with a rushed sandwich.
    'Good. Let's plan for then. I'll phone within half an hour. Anything new from Machanaud?'
    'No, not really. Apart from the car sighting he mentioned. As you requested, we got him to sign the forms and hand over his identity card, then let him go just before eleven last night.'
    Without sufficient evidence to hold Machanaud, it was all they'd been able to do: a standard 'local police to be notified if moving' form, and holding his identity card. Without it, new housing, jobs or any form of social registration for Machanaud would be practically impossible.
    Poullain had already half discounted the car sighting. It had been so vague: a dark car, perhaps blue or dark grey, sloping at the back, possibly a Citreon DS. When pressed, Machanaud admitted he'd only caught a quick flash of it between the bushes — but what he was sure of was that it had left only minutes before him. How convenient? Machanaud knew that if he didn't come up with another possible scapegoat things were looking grim for him, and after a couple of hours alone in the jail cell, he came up with one. Quelle surprise.
    Poullain glanced again at the brief message. It looked like it would come to nothing, but you never knew. If nothing else, it would at least demonstrate they were being thorough and exploring all options. A bit of dressing for when they laid Machanaud's head on a plate for Bouteille and Naugier.

TEN

    The car tyres of the Citreon DS19 crunched on the gravel driveway. The front of the building was an imposing but flat three story Provencal masse, its line broken only by frequent window boxes and a long terrace at one end running above the garage. A row of neatly manicured cypress firs framed the semi-circular sweep of the driveway, with two smaller trees in large pots each side of the entrance.
    Vallon's servant came out to greet them and showed them through the house, along a wide main hallway then into a narrower corridor towards the door at its end: the library. Marcel Vallon was nowhere to be seen. He'd ascertained on the phone with Poullain that his presence wouldn't be required. While Poullain had assured him that it was nothing too serious, something just to help with their other enquiries, Vallon had made it patently clear their visit was an intrusion, a favour granted only by his good nature. Don't take advantage, was the silent undertone. Poullain was therefore already nervous about the visit, complaining on the drive over that it would be a waste of time, would serve no purpose other than to upset Vallon. He'd probably get a call from the Mayor in a day or so.
    While they waited in the library, Dominic could sense Poullain's unease returning. Poullain had taken one of three seats by a low round coffee table, while Dominic sat at a small drop leaf desk by the window. A room four metres long and three wide, two walls were lined with books, the atmosphere austere, stuffy. This was old Provence, old money and power. A gentle reminder. They waited almost five minutes before Duclos walked into the room.
    A taut smile upon introduction to Poullain, a brief nod towards Dominic. He was only slightly taller than Poullain, and slim, Dominic noted: short dark black hair swept neatly across, a rounded, almost baby face, eyes so dark green they were almost black. Some women liked that sort of soft, innocent look, thought Dominic; someone to mother. But he couldn't help thinking that some men liked it too.
    Poullain started with the niceties of thanking Duclos for seeing them at such short notice and apologizing for the intrusion; it was just a general enquiry regarding visitors to Taragnon five days ago, on the eighteenth. A young boy had been attacked then. No attempt at subterfuge, Dominic noted; no trap for Duclos by drawing him out before mentioning the main purpose of their visit.
    'We are as a result talking to anyone in the area at the time for information. Your car was seen at the Cafe Font-du-Roux during lunch time that day. I wondered, Monsieur Duclos, do you remember your movements then, last Thursday, particularly before and after your visit to the Font-du-Roux?'
    A moment's thought from Duclos, a slow blink. 'Well, I remember stopping at the cafe. I'd been to Aix-en-Provence for the morning and was on my way back. What exactly did you want to know?'
    'Let's start with the time you arrived at the cafe, if you remember.'
    Duclos looked down, feigning deep thought. A hundred times over he'd worked out his timing and what he'd say if questioned; but coming straight out with it would seem unnatural, pre-prepared. How much hesitance was normal to recall something that happened five days ago? 'It would have been quite late in the lunch period, one thirty, maybe quarter to two. I remember stopping because I knew I wouldn't make it back for normal lunch time here at the estate, and the chef Maurice can be quite strict. He doesn't like preparing separately for late-comers.' Duclos forced a smile. 'Yes, it would have been about then.'
    'And did you stay long?'
    'Maybe an hour or so. Service was a bit slow when I arrived, they were quite busy. And I had coffee and brandy to finish.'
    'So, you left at what — half past two or so?'
    'No, it was closer to three when I asked for the bill. I remember looking at my watch then, because I'd planned to head to Juan les Pins for the afternoon and started to get a bit anxious about being too late. Perhaps five minutes to settle the bill, so about three when I left.'
    'Had you arranged to meet someone in Juan les Pins?'
    'Nothing particular planned. But I'd seen someone on the beach the day before that I hoped to bump into again. A girl. So I wanted to be there more or less at the same time.'
    Poullain looked towards Dominic. 'For our notes, then: you arrived at Cafe Font-du-Roux at a quarter to two and left at three. More or less.'
    'Yes, I suppose it must have been closer to a quarter-to when I arrived. I don't think I stayed as long as an hour and a half.'
    A moment's silence. The sound of Dominic's pen scratching on paper. Some distant splashing from the swimming pool in the rear garden and courtyard, which Dominic could just see at an angle if he looked through the window at his side.
    Duclos' heart pounded. The timing was etched on his mind: arrived at 1.38, left at 2.51, three minutes drive to the farm lane, eight minutes off the road with the boy, heading off again at 3.02. Hopefully he'd buried the eleven minutes without them noticing. Surely the barman wouldn't remember the exact time he left? He fought to control his nerves; it was vital he appeared calm.
    'And after the cafe, did you head straight for Juan les Pins?' Poullain asked.
    'Yes.'
    'Did you stop anywhere or see anyone on the way?'
    'No.' A moment's afterthought: 'Oh, except I stopped off at a garage near Le Muy, filled up with petrol, had an oil check.' Speeds of 110–140 kmph nearly all the way to hopefully bury the eight minutes he'd been off the road with the boy.
    'Do you remember the name of the garage?'
    'No. It was a few kilometres before Le Muy, on the right.' It was the only garage for fifteen kilometres, thought Duclos; they were bound to find it if they bothered to check.
    'And what time did you get to Juan les Pins?'
    'About a quarter to five, maybe five. I don't remember exactly.' Duclos felt small beads of sweat pop on his forehead, but then it was quite hot in the room. Pulse racing, palms clammy as he'd stopped by a bin in a deserted alley at the back of town, pushing deep inside the rock and the boy's shirt wrapped in a large rag from the car.
    'In Juan les Pins, did you go anywhere in particular, perhaps meet the girl you'd hoped to?'
    'No, she didn't show. But the cafe I went to on the beach is one I've been to a few times before. Claude Vallon and I had lunch there just a week ago. The owner knows us.' If the garage didn't remember him stopping, he was sure at least the cafe owner would. Inside his nerves were racing, but it was hopefully going well: pauses at the right juncture, the afterthought of the garage, remembering the timing of leaving the Taragnon cafe but guessing at the arrival time: accurate details, but not too glib too quickly. Though now he sensed, as the questions became more direct and personal, that perhaps he was being too compliant. 'But what has my visit to Juan les Pins got to do with this? I thought you were interested in events around Taragnon and the Font-du-Roux?'
    Quick retreat and apology from Poullain. 'Yes, yes — I'm sorry. We just need to ascertain people's general movements. We're quite happy to accept that you were not in Taragnon later on. So, earlier, on the way into Taragnon, did you see or meet anyone?'
    A barely perceptible flinch from Duclos. Poullain didn't notice it, only Dominic; though it could have been the sudden jump in timing and mood, from hours after the event to before, defensive to offensive. 'Such as this young boy? No, I'm afraid not,' said Duclos. The final masterstroke to throw forensics: inserting a finger in the boy's rectum and working it brusquely around. Hopefully interpreted as a second attack. 'There were people walking about in the main street of Taragnon, but I don't remember anyone in particular.'
    'You stopped nowhere in or near Taragnon except the cafe?'
    'No.' The bottle taken from the cafe. Stripping down to his underpants before striking the boy with the rock. Then washing down with the bottled water and dressing again. No bloodstains.
    Poullain waited for Dominic's note taking to catch up with them, using the gap to collect his thoughts. Then he re-capped on a few points, mainly clarifying times. At one point, he asked Dominic, 'What time do you have noted for the time that Monsieur Duclos arrived at Juan les Pins?'
    'Five or a quarter to.' Dominic was sure Poullain remembered the time; normally statement re-caps were purely to see if the suspect said something different second time around.
    'And the time you stopped at the garage, Monsieur Duclos?' asked Poullain. 'I don't believe we covered that before.'
    Duclos shrugged slightly. 'I don't know, what is it? Just over halfway there. About four o'clock, I suppose.'
    Poullain nodded slowly, as if still pre-occupied with all the prior information. Then he suddenly went off at a tangent. 'Do you visit your friends here, the Vallons very often?'
    'At least once a year. Nearly always in the summer months. Claude Vallon and I went to the same university, Bordeaux.' A slight frown from Duclos. 'Why do you ask?'
    Poullain shook his head hastily. 'No particular reason. It's just that your car was reported in response to our request for any strangers to the area — when in fact it appears you're almost an honorary local.' Poullain grimaced weakly. He could hardly admit that he wanted to know the strength of association between Duclos and the Vallons in case of later problems with his own Mayor. He sighed faintly, bracing his hands on his thighs with an audible slap. 'Well, I think that's just about it, Monsieur Duclos. Thank you for your time.' Poullain stood up, nodded curtly, and shook hands with Duclos. Heading for the door, he turned. 'Oh, I forgot. One thing I meant to ask. You mentioned that when you went through Taragnon, you were on your way from Aix-en-Provence. What time did you leave there?'
    Duclos' hammering nerves had settled slightly with the questioning trailing off, but his keen prosecutor's nose made him suddenly alert again. The throw away question; he'd seen them so often catch defendant's out. The boy's stark green eyes struggling to look back at him as he pushed his face flat down to the earth, raising one arm with the rock… 'Twelve-fifteenish, I suppose. It was just a quick shopping trip. I was there probably no more than an hour and a half.'
    'Pick up anything interesting?'
    'There's a cheese shop and delicatessen I always visit, on Rue Clemenceau. While there I picked up a few other bits and pieces, some olives and pistachios, some aged brandy to take back for my uncle.'
    Poullain nodded and smiled. 'Once again, thank you, Monsieur Duclos. And sorry for the intrusion.'
    Started with an apology and finished with one, thought Dominic. No surprise tactics, no ambush; the nature of their enquiry explained clearly. Quite a contrast to the tactics used with Machanaud. The only thing Poullain had pushed for was trying to get Duclos to say he'd left the restaurant half an hour earlier. The vital half hour in which the boy was attacked. Perhaps Poullain was going to wait until they'd checked some of the details from Duclos, then hit him harder on a second interview.
    They were led out to the main hallway by Duclos, then the servant re-appeared from the adjoining drawing room and took over.
    Duclos went into the drawing room and watched through the window as they crossed the gravel driveway. Overall, he'd been quite convincing, he thought. Controlled his nerves well. Poullain had been easy to handle, had accepted his account of events readily, was almost apologetic; a true system man, obviously daunted by the association with Vallon. The younger one had looked more surly and doubting, but had stayed silently in the background. A junior with no real power, he would present no problem. There was only one thing left to worry about, but hopefully Chapeau would be visiting the hospital soon, if he hadn't already done so. Screaming, pistoning crescendo, hot white light stabbing his mind as he brought the rock down repeatedly… the tinkle of goat's bells from the next field barely breaking through his frenzy and the gentle sough of wind through the trees…
    A slow exhalation of breath; sudden relief and letting loose the overflow of built up tension. But deep in his stomach the butterfly contortions he'd been fighting to control the past hour finally got the better of him. He headed for the bathroom to be sick.

    Chapeau visited the hospital twice within three hours before a plan started to formulate, the time in between filled in with a leisurely lunch and an afternoon stroll along Aix's Cours Mirabeau.
    The hat he wore was a non-descript brown trilby; a habit acquired from a spell working as a bouncer in a Marseille night club, Borsalino's, where he had to wear a bright, wide brimmed trilby. The hat was a distraction, it covered his tight knit curly hair and could be tilted to shade his discoloured eye; it could only be noticed up close, but it was a strong distinguishing feature. He always wore a hat while working, never when not.
    On the first visit, he'd walked along the second floor corridor twice, then sat on a bench at its end for a while, watching the movements of people back and forth. From viewing a hospital porter a few doors down from 4A exit laden with towels, he guessed it was a store room. He didn't notice the porter open or lock the door, so Chapeau waited for a quiet moment when the corridor was empty, then went to check: eight foot long by three foot wide, one side was stacked with linen, towels, cotton swabs, a bucket with mop in the corner, floor cleaner and bleach. No uniforms.
    The room gave him an idea, the rest of it slotting into place over lunch. He would have to get a uniform, lighter fluid and a syringe. He returned to walk the corridor again, re-checking positions between the store room and 4A, distance from the fire alarm and the main wards. Then he sat down on the bench again, one last run through of the plan in his mind.
    He looked up; the door to room 4A had clicked open. He watched a woman walk out, long dark hair in ringlets, pale beige dress.
    As she lifted her eyes towards him, he leant forwards, resting his elbows on his knees while he contemplated his shoes. All she would see was an apparently concerned trilby, waiting for news from one of the nearby rooms. As she went from view, he headed for the stairs and made his exit.
    When they'd gone through best timing, Alain had mentioned that his friend had seen a woman visiting the room — probably a girlfriend or relative of the boy's pimp. Quite a beauty, thought Chapeau; at least partly Arab, but dressed simply and understated, not the gold hoop earrings, heavy make up and high heels of a pimp's girlfriend. So, she was just a 'friend', though probably her main role was as caretaker and guardian for his various boys, as many as twelve or fifteen under the same roof, a surrogate 'aunty'. With pimps mostly male, women invariably took care of the domestics: cooking, cleaning, shopping.
    Over the next few hours he visited three shops in Marseille specializing in hotel and industrial uniforms before finding one close to that of the porters at the hospital. Lighter fluid he picked up at a nearby tobacco shop, the syringe at a pharmacy.
    Now, sitting at a Panier bar, he sipped at a brandy and ran through again the projected sequence in his mind.
    The only thing still to decide was whether he went back that night or waited till the next morning.

    Dominic headed out straight after their meeting with Pierre Bouteille, with Poullain suddenly eager to progress the next stage: alibi verification for all possible suspects, not just Machanaud.
    He made it to the garage near Le Muy by 7.54pm, then made the deduction from the time he passed Cafe Font du Roux: 68 minutes. That meant that if Duclos had left the cafe at just after three, he would have been at the garage by 4.08 — 4.10 pm.
    The garage attendant remembered Duclos car, not only because of the rarity of Giulietta Sprints, but because Duclos had asked for an oil change and whether he might make it to Juan-les-Pins by four thirty. 'Impossible. I told him it would take at least forty minutes — he'd be lucky to make it by four fifty. So it must have been about five past four then.'
    Dominic asked if he'd noticed anything unusual, any bloodstains or clothing in disarray — but no on each. Dominic headed off on his bike for Juan-les-Pins.
    The attendant was right. The road was winding for part of the route and it took him 48 minutes. He parked close to the sea front and walked along the promenade, past the pavement artists and makeshift souvenir stands. The promenade was raised so that he was looking over the rooftops of the bars and restaurants tucked in below at beach level.
    As Dominic came to the third set of steps leading down, he saw the sign for the Rififi to the left. Part bar, part restaurant, at nearly 9 o'clock it was busy with diners. The evening air was still hot, so stepping off the bike he'd taken off his leather jacket. Underneath was his white epaulette shirt, and he put his gendarme cap back on. A waiter asked how he could help or did Monsieur wish to dine?
    Dominic explained the purpose of his visit and was shown to the bar to await the owner, a short, stocky man with bushy grey hair in his early fifties who introduced himself as Pierre Malgarin. He looked slightly flustered at the interruption during the busy dining period.
    Dominic explained the background and confirmed that Malgarin knew the Vallons. 'Apparently, they dined here about what, twelve days ago or so?'
    'About that, yes.'
    'Claude Vallon, the son, had a friend with him — an Alain Duclos. Mid twenties, slim, black hair. Did he come in here about six days ago on his own? It would have been late afternoon, about five o'clock.'
    'I don't know. I'm not usually here then, I come in lunch times and evenings. But possibly my head waiter will know.' Malgarin beckoned the waiter who had shown Dominic to the bar. As Malgarin repeated the question, the waiter nodded.
    'Young friend of the Vallons. Yes, I remember him coming in for about half an hour or so five or six days ago.'
    'Do you remember what time it was?'
    'Not really. Just that it was well after lunch time, because we'd cleared up by then. But for all I remember, it could have been any time between four and six-thirty. Maybe Gilbert will know.' He leant across and involved the barman in the conversation, but the barman shrugged.
    'I don't remember exactly. Only what he drank — Campari and lemon. And he asked me if I'd seen a girl: long dark hair, Italian looking, early twenties. She was wearing an orange bikini when he'd seen her on the beach the day before. We get so many girls, I told him, it was hard to place one just like that. I couldn't remember her.'
    'Did he call into the bar the day before when he saw the girl for the first time?'
    'No. Or at least I don't remember seeing him. Perhaps he saw her from the promenade or from one of the adjoining bars.'
    'Anything unusual about his dress or his manner?'
    'No. Not really. Just that he seemed bothered that he might not see her.'
    Dominic couldn't think of any more immediate questions. In the conversation lull, the waiter excused himself. The owner asked, 'Has that been useful? Would you like to stay for a quick drink — on the house?'
    Dominic was about to decline, then ordered a beer on an afterthought and offered his thanks. Perhaps one of them might remember something else while he waited. He was close to the end of the bar, with only three lines of tables between there and the beach edge. Two sets of large glass windows had been drawn back so that the front of the bar was mostly open onto the beach.
    Dominic sipped at his beer. The sound of gently lapping surf wafted in above the babble of voices and clatter of cutlery. Deep into the bay, Dominic could see the lights of four or five fishing boats; and behind him, from an open air restaurant with a live group by the town square, drifted 'Quando caliente el sol…'
    A sordid investigation with a young boy sexually assaulted and battered? It seemed a million miles from this. Could Duclos really have battered the boy half to death, then come down here and calmly sipped at Campari and lemon while looking for this girl, if she existed? Where had he seen her from the day before? It struck Dominic as a rather convenient underlining of heterosexuality. And if Duclos had been so worried he might miss her, why stop for an oil change and to confirm the time? What was more important: that the attendant remembered him, or to get to see the girl on time?
    But despite the inconsistencies, time would be the deciding factor. And there simply was not enough of it for Duclos to have committed the crime. Even at excessive speeds, he might have had ten or fifteen spare minutes at most. The minimum estimate covering both attacks was forty minutes. Given the background of his debates with Poullain over Machanaud, even mentioning the inconsistencies would be seen by Poullain as obstructive and pointless unless something new came up about Duclos' timing. Dominic wished now he hadn't made the trip; he felt deflated. He had set out in hope of deflecting Poullain's one track case against Machanaud, and instead would be returning with information which would help to further seal his fate.

    Chapeau poured the lighter fluid generously on the cotton sheet, then bundled it into the corner with some other sheets and thick towels.
    He listened for a second to sounds outside on the corridor: nothing audible. It was important that nobody saw him come out of the small store room. Once the sheets were lit, there was no turning back, he would have to exit immediately. The small room would fill with smoke in seconds.
    He lit the sheet and stepped back hastily as the flames leapt. He watched for only a second to ensure the sheets beneath had caught — then exited. The corridor was empty, and he headed past room 4A towards where the corridor angled off at an L, at the end of which was the fire alarm. A few paces past 4A he heard footsteps close to the top of the stairs. He'd been lucky; two seconds more and he'd have been trapped inside the store room. But it was important also that he wasn't seen rushing away from the store room, and he picked up pace — only just making it behind the angle of the L before they reached the top of the stairs.
    The corridor ahead was twenty-five yards long with two doors at its end, three on its right flank and one on the left past a window. The fire alarm was close to the end, just before the two final doors.
    Suddenly, the middle of the three doors on his right opened. A doctor stepped out.
    Merde! From the sound of their footsteps, the people who had come up the stairs were also heading in his direction, just about to turn into the corridor. But there were no cries of alarm, obviously the smoke hadn't yet started seeping through the door.
    Noticing Chapeau hesitate and look around as if he was lost for a moment, the doctor asked, 'Looking for someone?'
    'Dr Durrand,’ Chapeau answered, hastily recalling a name he'd seen on the resident doctors list by the reception. Chapeau fought to control his agitation, appear calm.
    'You won't find him up here, I don't think. First floor, optimology.'
    The two people, an elderly couple heading for a door at the end, passed them. His porter's uniform shouldn't raise suspicions; it was an almost exact match. Optimology? His mind spun, panning frantically for options. His eyes fixed on the number of the furthest door. 'I've just come from optimology, and they said I might find him in 6C.'
    'What's the patient's name?'
    'They didn't say.'
    The doctor shrugged. 'There's nobody in 6C right now. New patient isn't coming in till tonight, and the old patient was moved back to the general ward yesterday.'
    'Okay. I'll try there.' Chapeau headed back the way he'd come. Pacing, calming his breath. He silently cursed: crucial seconds had been lost, and the doctor might later remember him. Behind him, at the end of the corridor, the couple had already disappeared. Calming. The sound of the doctor's footsteps receded beyond his own rapid, shallow breaths. But ahead now, at the angle of the L, he could see the first trails of smoke drifting across, misty grey suffused with stark sunlight from the window. And he begged that the doctor didn't turn around suddenly and see it. He listened intently to the sounds of the doctor’s fading footsteps between his own, a faint shuffle, a door opening… slowly closing. All too slowly.
    Chapeau let out a long breath as it finally shut, then ran the last few steps towards the smoke. A nurse had come out from the general ward at the far end, looking equally startled as she noticed the smoke. Chapeau lifted one arm in acknowledgement and ran back towards the alarm. Halfway along, he heard the plaintive cry of 'Fire!..' from the nurse.
    He took the small brass hammer on a chain at the side of the alarm and swung it sharply, smashing the glass and releasing the alarm button.
    The bell was deafening, echoing from the stark walls and floor. Chapeau ran back swiftly towards the smoke and room 4A. He heard a door open behind him, some muttering, a sudden startled voice — but he didn't look back. As he turned the L and came back into the main corridor, five or six people had come out of their rooms.
    'Is it another fire drill?' someone asked.
    Faint babble of replies, more startled voices rising above, the final realization — as the build up of smoke became evident — that this was the real thing. Sudden mobilization, more people starting to spill out of the rooms, most of them from the large general ward at the end. Some were now heading for the stairs and the five or six quickly grew to over twenty. Panic, confusion.
    Chapeau suddenly felt more secure among the milling crowd; hardly anyone was paying him any attention. He took the syringe from his pocket. The needle was already attached, and he slipped off the plastic protection cap. Room 4A was only a few yards to one side. He tucked the syringe neatly up inside his sleeve, and reached out for the door.
    A quick intake of breath, but he felt confident. His adrenaline was racing because of the fire and activity around, not nerves. The scenario was perfect. It would all be over within a minute.
    It didn't strike him as odd that he'd seen nobody run from 4A until he opened the door wide. No nurse or doctor, nobody in attendance. A split second elation that he'd been lucky and chosen a totally un-guarded moment before realizing — as he looked through the glass screen — that there was no boy either.
    'Shit… Shiiit!' He stood transfixed, staring at the empty space. Around him, pandemonium was building. He was the only person on the second floor not in motion. A steady stream was now heading for the stairs, and a medic with a fire extinguisher was spraying the inside of the store room while a porter rushed for another extinguisher.
    It took a moment for Chapeau to break himself out of his trance and ask someone passing where the boy had gone. He'd stopped three nurses before finding someone who knew. 'He was taken into the operating theatre over an hour ago.'
    'Thanks.' Chapeau merged with the throng heading down the stairs. The porter had joined the medic with a second fire extinguisher. They would probably have the fire out within a few minutes.

    In the first floor operating theatre, the alarm bell rang ominously in the background. The Chief Surgeon, Dr Trichot, asked one of the nurses to find out what was wrong.
    She came back in after a moment. 'Fire on the second floor, apparently.'
    'Is it confined to there?'
    'I don't know, I didn't ask.'
    Trichot nodded for his assisting nurse to dab his forehead, and silently cursed. 'Let's assume that there's no immediate danger, or at least someone will come running in when there is, and continue. Please!'
    The assisting nurse took the scalpel from him as he held it out tersely. She thrust a self-retaining retractor into the same hand.
    The boy, Christian Rosselot, had been on the operating table over thirty minutes now, but they'd lost vital time getting X-rays and angiograms and preparing for anaesthetic. In that time, the temporal skull section by the boy's ear had bulged alarmingly with an active clot.
    But two nights ago he'd operated on the boy for a similar clot in the parietal lobe, snatched him within minutes from the jaws of death — and he was determined not to be defeated now. Fire or no fire. The clanging bell was enfuriating, grating at his nerves. It couldn't have come at a worse time. He needed all his concentration at this point. Implements were placed in his hand and taken back without him looking up, the last an electric burr drill. Its high pitched drone lowered as Trichot cut into the bone of the skull.
    The extradural cortex was exposed. There was no sign of haematoma, and Trichot began to worry. He would have to go deeper. 'We must go into the subdural.'
    Partly gelateneous, Trichot sliced through the dura easily with the scalpel, pulled back with a hook and prompted his assistant to shine a penlight into the aperture.
    Grey and white tissue and vessels reflected brightly under the light; the dark matter of the blood clot only showed up as Trichot widened the arc of the penlight. It was in the upper portion of the temporal. He wouldn't be able to judge its size or remove all of it without a larger incision.
    A nod, a dab. Trichot passed back the penlight. 'I'll have to go higher.'
    The attending anaesthetist announced, 'Pulse rate sixty to sixty-five,' as the sound of the drill cut in again.
    From seventy, seventy-five just a few minutes ago, thought Trichot. He looked across briefly at the blood pressure gauge. It had dropped 20 points to 116 over 67 in the same period. The burr hole made, he started sawing across, joining the two. The bleep rate dropped still further.
    ‘Fifty-four, fifty-one.' Now with a note of urgency.
    Trichot was sweating profusely. Another dab. It was going to be a race against time. Another ten seconds of sawing, fifteen or twenty seconds to cut through the dura and widen the aperture. Then the time needed to suck away the clot itself would depend on how large it was. How much more would the pulse have dropped by then?
    Trichot finished sawing, and pulled back with the hook. All but a small portion of the clot was now visible. The air pressure sucker was passed across.
    'Forty-five….three... dropping fast! Forty!'
    Trichot felt a twinge of panic. Once the pulse rate fell to thirty, thirty-two, it was effectively all over. He'd fought too hard for the boy to let him go now.
    The air sucker ate into the congealed dark red mass of the clot. Within twenty seconds, Trichot had removed almost a third of it.
    '…. Thirty-eight… seven.'
    The rate of pulse drop had slowed, but part of the clot was still out of sight. Trichot glanced at the blood pressure gauge: 104 over 61. It was going to be a close call. If the rupture was behind the last portion of the clot; if it was difficult to reach to cauterize; if the pulse rate dropped more rapidly; if there was more than one rupture. Any one factor meant that he wouldn't make it in time. Beads of sweat massed on his forehead, and his own pulse drummed a double beat to the bleep from the monitor. Trichot moved his way upward with the sucker, praying that the ruptured vessel would soon come into view.
    'Thirty-six… thirty-five!'
    Outside, the alarm bell suddenly stopped ringing. Only the sound of the bleep remained, slowly counting down the seconds Trichot had left to save his patient's life.

    Chapeau found a bar three blocks from the hospital and sat over a Pernod while he pondered what to do. How long would the boy be in the operating theatre: two hours, three? Probably he would be returned to the same intensive care room, but then what? He couldn't use the same fire distraction again, he would have to think of something else.
    Nothing came to mind quickly, and Chapeau sharply knocked back another slug of Pernod. He should have made the hit the night before rather than wait till the morning. His best shot had probably now gone; he was going to be hard pushed to come up with an alternative plan that would be so effective and carry such low risk. Worse still, if the boy died on the operating table, there would be no more chances. He finished his drink, paid, and headed out. He needed a walk to clear his mind.
    Early morning, nine-forty, the streets of Aix were coming to life. But Chapeau was in his own world, oblivious to passers-by: planning, scheming, weighing options. He'd walked for almost twenty minutes, blindly window shopping between his thoughts, when a smile slowly crossed his face. It was cheeky and audacious, but why not? He'd always liked a gamble, and the prospect of shafting that little paedophile prick, Alain, somehow appealed to him. He thought it through once more for possible pitfalls, but it was perfect: the timing matched almost exactly.
    But he would have to wait over two hours to deliver the news: two pre-arranged phone kiosks and times. One in Le Luc for the midday call, one in Brignoles for the ten o’clock call. Chapeau decided to drive back to Marseille to make the call. At one point on the drive, the audacity of what he was about to do tickled him again, and he burst out laughing.
    By the time he made the call, he'd managed to control his mirth. It rang only twice before Alain answered. 'It's done,' said Chapeau.
    'When was this?'
    'Just this morning. I created a diversion, pumped the boy with a syringe, and last thing I knew they were in the operating theatre trying to save him.'
    'Are you sure he's finished?'
    'Don't worry, he won't make it. Also, they won't suspect anything: it will look like he died from complications arising from his coma and the initial injuries.'
    They made arrangements to meet and settle payment at six o’clock the next day at Parc du Pharo. Chapeau was sure Alain would probably phone the hospital that afternoon to check, but it was a reasonable set of odds. If the boy made it, he would just have to come up with another plan. If not, for once he'd get paid without having any blood on his hands.

ELEVEN

    Third Session.
    '…And when you fell back asleep, did the dream return?'
    'Yes. But the wheat field had changed, it was different…'
    A large reel tape whirred silently in the background. Eyran's eyelids pulsed gently as the memories drifted across. The second session had been disappointing, details of the dreams scant, so Lambourne had decided on hypnosis. The practice had become increasingly outmoded in his profession, he used hypnosis on less than four percent of his patients: only in the case of deeply repressed thoughts or where normal transference was poor or non-existent. And hardly ever on children.
    But with the main clues buried in Eyran's dreams and so much either faded or selectively erased — he'd seen little other choice. He hadn't expected anything significant from the dreams until Jojo appeared after the coma — then suddenly sat up sharply as Eyran started describing a dream just before the accident: his mother folding out a map and Eyran staring at the back of her hair, willing himself back into a previous dream.
    'In which way was it different when you went back?' Lambourne pressed.
    'It was flat, not on a slope how I remembered. And suddenly it got dark, I couldn't find my way back. Everything was too flat — I couldn't pick out anything to tell me which way was home.'
    'Was it important that you reached home?'
    'Yes. I had the feeling that if I didn't make it back, something terrible would happen. I might die. Finding my way out of the darkness and home was my way of staying alive.'
    Lambourne clenched one hand tight. If there was a significant gap between the two dreams, the accident could have already taken place by the second dream! Its later corruption after the coma and the introduction of Jojo could speak volumes. 'When did you first start dreaming about the wheat field?'
    'I don't remember exactly. Quite a few years back.'
    'Was it when you first went to California and started missing your friends?'
    'No, I'd dreamt of it before. When we first moved into the house in East Grinstead and I walked into the field, it felt familiar. I had the feeling I'd been there before.'
    'And did the dreams always feature the wheat fields?'
    'No, sometimes it was the copse and the pond they led to, sometimes the woods at the back of the old house that led to the field.'
    'Did you ever dream of the house itself?'
    'I don't remember exactly. Perhaps once before. Then the dream recently where I was looking out of the back kitchen window and saw my parents, and met Jojo again in the woods.'
    So, the wheat field and the copse were more significant than the house itself: his own private play areas, whereas in the house his parents were dominant. The house started to feature again only when he was trying to find them; he took the search partly to their territory. 'In the dream about the time of the accident, when you feared you couldn't make your way back home — how long did you feel had passed since the last moment in the car you remembered being awake?'
    'It seemed to come almost straight after. But I don't know. The other dreams seemed to come with little gap, yet they told me when I awoke that I'd been in a coma for three weeks.'
    Lambourne scribbled a quick note: Timing inconclusive. First significant dream could have occurred before or after the accident. Probably they would never know. 'And was there anyone else in the dream, any of your old friends from the copse?'
    'There was someone, but not really a friend. It was a boy from my old school, Daniel Fletcher. He died just a year before we left for California. And then my father appeared, saying that I didn't belong there, that I should start making my way back. But it was suddenly dark and I couldn't make out anything familiar; and by then he'd disappeared and left me to find my way back on my own.'
    'What was the stronger emotion? Anger that he'd deserted you, or fear that you were suddenly alone and lost?'
    'I don't know, I felt both. Maybe more confused than angry. I just couldn't work out why he'd left.'
    'And was your fear just because you were alone and it was dark, or was it also because you felt you should do as your father said. You were equally afraid to disobey him.'
    Eyran frowned; he looked vaguely uncomfortable. 'It was because I was alone. I wouldn't purposely disobey my father and upset him, but I wasn't afraid of him. He was a very good father.'
    'I know.' Lambourne noted the defensive tone; he changed track. 'Which was the first dream that Jojo appeared in?'
    Moment's silence. Eyran's eyelids pulsed. 'It was the dream straight after that, again in the same place. The small pond in the copse.'
    'And in that dream, tell me what you saw. What happened?'
    Eyran's eyelids pulsed more rapidly. Only grey outline at first, hazy. But gradually the images sharpened, became clear…

    Eyran could only just make out the brook in the darkness of the copse at first. A faint mist lingered across its surface. He moved forward cautiously, a figure on the far side becoming gradually clearer as he got closer. It wasn't Sarah or Daniel, it was a boy of about his age that he hadn't seen before, though the trees and mist cast a shadow over part of his face, so he couldn't be sure. He knew that the boy had seen him because he waved and called out to Eyran, his voice echoing slightly across the water.
    'Who are you?' Eyran asked. 'I haven't seen you here before.'
    'Yes I know, I don't normally come here. But we have met before, don't you remember?'
    Eyran looked hard into the face. It was still indistinct. He felt suddenly uncomfortable admitting that he couldn't remember, the boy seemed so certain they had met before. 'It's the mist… I can't see very clearly across the brook.'
    'Then you should come over this side with me.'
    Eyran peered through the mist, but as part of it cleared, the expanse of water between them appeared to be much wider, a dark and fathomless lake. All the familiar landmarks of the brook were now far away, out of reach across the murky depths. 'I'm looking for my parents,' Eyran said. 'My father was here earlier. Have you seen him?'
    'No, I haven't. I lost my parents as well. Though it was many years ago — I can hardly remember it now.'
    Eyran tried hard to make out the boy's features, tried to remember him, but the shadow across his face and the mist of the lake robbed him of any chance of recognition. 'What's your name?'
    'Gigio.' Though the faint echo that came across the lake sounded more like 'Jojo' to Eyran. The boy looked straight across for a moment in silence. The air was cold, his breath misty. 'You don't remember me, do you?'
    Eyran could see a tear on the boy's cheek, though Eyran couldn't believe he was that upset at not being remembered, it must have been the memory of losing his parents. Which reminded Eyran again why he'd returned to the brook. 'I must find my father. He was here only a short while ago.'
    'I told you, you won't find him over that side. If you cross over, I'll help you find him.'
    Eyran looked down and across the water. It was jet black, murky. He felt afraid of what might lie beneath the surface, imagining water snakes and all manner of creatures, tree roots like tentacles trapping him and dragging him down, thick mud and slime like quicksand. Cold with fear, he shook his head hastily. 'No I can't come over there. It's too dangerous.'
    The boy smiled warmly, raising one arm, beckoning. 'But you must come over. Otherwise you will never find your father.'
    Eyran closed his eyes, steeling himself against what he knew he had to do, feeling the cold of the water as first he put his feet in. He stopped for a second, looking imploringly across to the boy. 'Are you sure? Are you sure I have to do this?'
    The boy was now openly crying. 'I can't promise you'll find your father, Eyran — I looked for my parents and never found them. But I had to be on this side of the lake, and you belong here with me. Then at least if you don't find them, you're not alone.'
    'But I must find them,' Eyran pleaded.
    'I know, I know. I'll help you. If they are here, we'll find them, don't worry.'
    Eyran waded slowly deeper, trying to walk as far as he could before swimming. The cold of the water penetrated deep into his body as it came up above his waist. The mist was moving on the surface of the water, partly obscuring the boy on the far side, then clearing. As the water came up to his chest, Eyran started swimming. The mist became denser towards the centre of the lake and Eyran lost sight of the boy completely for a while — then suddenly he was there again. But he still appeared the same distance away. Eyran didn't feel that he was getting any closer, or perhaps he was losing direction with the mist. Fixing the boy's position when it cleared, Eyran tried to make sure that he stayed swimming in a direct line. During the blind periods he was never sure, and when it cleared again the boy still seemed to be the same distance away. He started to despair and called out, 'Jojo,' seeing clearly the boy's re-assuring smile and his beckoning wave before his figure was swallowed up once more in the mist.
    At that moment he was conscious of the weight in his legs, thick clinging mud and tree roots pulling at his ankles, holding him back. Or perhaps they had been there all along, which was why he hadn't been getting any closer. He fought to break free, but the roots slowly raised like tentacles higher up his legs — pulling at him harder. In blind panic he screamed Jojo's name again, the roots dragging him inexorably downward as he struggled vainly to raise his head… the first icy water filling his mouth.
    'Break away!..'
    He fought hard, thrashing out with his arms, coughing and spluttering as his lungs began to fill, but the grip of the tree roots on his legs was impossible to break.
    He felt tricked, cheated by the boy, led into the cold depths of the lake to die. But as he slid deeper into the watery blackness, the vision of Jojo stayed with him, still smiling re-assuringly and beckoning, reaching out a hand towards him…

    'Slipping deeper… I….. I….'
    'Break away…. Break away!.. '
    '…I… Can't breathe… can't…'
    'Eyran!.. Eyran!.. Break away…'
    The rapid pulsing beneath Eyran's eyelids slowly settled. His tortured breathing eased.
    Lambourne's mouth was dry, a film of sweat on his forehead. He cursed himself: he should have seen it coming! Cut everything short as soon as Eyran started wading into the pond. He could feel his nerves still racing. He waited a few seconds more, watching each beat of Eyran's slowly settling expression.
    He swallowed slowly. 'So. Outside of the dreams, when you're awake — has Jojo ever spoken to you?' Switch to generalities, thought Lambourne. Avoid specifics.
    Eyran's brow knitted slightly; obviously he found it an odd question. 'No.'
    'And how do you feel immediately after waking from the dreams? Are you able to believe just for a moment that your parents might be alive?'
    Long pause from Eyran. 'I don't know. Just confused, I suppose. And afraid.'
    But Lambourne could tell that Eyran was holding back. 'Yet they're enough to convince you that the next time Jojo might succeed and catch up with your parents. You're willing to trade that for the horrors the dreams might bring.'
    Eyran shook his head. 'I don't know. When they start, I don't seem to think about how they might end. I'm just happy that for a few moments I'm somewhere where I might see my parents again.'
    'But do you consciously welcome them — knowing that you might see your parents?'
    'I don't know. No, I don't think so.'
    Lambourne eased back. It was the closest he was likely to get. 'Do most of your dreams occur by the old house in England?'
    Eyran took a second to catch up with the shift in questioning. 'Yes.'
    'Do you know why?'
    Eyran paused; as if for a moment unsure whether the question was rhetorical and Lambourne would suddenly answer. 'I'm not sure. Perhaps in the dreams that's where I think I have most chance of finding them. Or perhaps I don't think I can do it alone, I need Jojo's help — and I know I can find him there.'
    'Are your memories of that particular house stronger than your other house in San Diego? Is that where you recall your happiest times — with your parents, with your friends?'
    Eyran's expression relaxed. Lambourne watched the self-realization sweep slowly across; at least one small piece of the puzzle had slotted in place. 'Yes, I suppose so. I was happier there.'
    Lambourne made a final note: Main object attachments: Father, mother, house in England, old play areas, old friends (possibly now represented through Jojo), house in San Diego. Quick distillation from the sessions so far; he might change the order later and add to the list, but it was a start.
    The session had taken an hour and ten minutes. When he went into the waiting area with Eyran, Stuart and Amanda Capel were already there. Before they left, he arranged and pencilled in the time for the next session.
    Lambourne was pleased with progress so far. Eyran was quite bright and more open and communicative than he'd at first feared. His recall of detail in the dreams strong under hypnosis. But Stuart was right: the smiles were rare. Apart from the dreams, perhaps the only outward sign that Eyran was deeply disturbed.
    But the dreams were becoming more of a refuge where Eyran could believe his parents were alive. Jojo was also becoming bolder — in two recent dreams introducing Eyran's father again to maintain the illusion. Lambourne was convinced it was only a matter of time before Jojo crossed over. Eyran would awake one day to find Jojo's voice still with him. From there, his own core character — and everyone in the outside world telling him his parents were dead — would regress, and Jojo would gain dominance.
    The only way was to confront Jojo now, drag him from the dark recesses of Eyran's dreams and strip him bare, let Eyran face the truth, accept: his parents were dead. Only then would he be able to start mourning, adjust to whatever his new life held without them.
    But it wouldn't be easy, Lambourne reflected. His nerves were still rattled from the session just past. Like Faust with the devil, he could find himself trading all the way through: a truth for a nightmare.

TWELVE

    The news that Christian Rosselot had died reached the Bauriac gendarmerie mid-morning.
    The call came from Dr Besnard, the Chief Medical Examiner at the hospital. Poullain wasn't there at the time, so Harrault took the message. Dr Trichot had fought hard to save the boy, but oedema from an active clot caused unforeseen complications. After more than two hours in the operating theatre and three attempts to re-start the boy's heart, all procedures were finally terminated at 10.52am, and the boy pronounced dead. 'Could you please try and make arrangements to inform his mother straight away, as she normally plans a hospital visit for the afternoon. Thank you. And I'm so sorry to have to bring this news.'
    Harrault was in the small room directly behind the main entrance desk. He fell silent as he put down the phone. It was a moment before he got up and looked for Fornier who, as the main assisting investigator, was the first person he felt should know. Fornier was in the general administration office typing. In the same room was Levacher and a secretary.
    After confirming some details of the call, Dominic looked down thoughtfully at his typewriter. He exhaled audibly; suddenly his body lacked any strength to punch the black metal keys. Levacher mumbled the obvious about how awful it was, then after a brief pause asked who was going to tell the family. When no answers came, everyone wrapped in their own thoughts, he added, 'I suppose we'll have to wait for Poullain to decide.'
    And the secretary, who had stopped typing at the same time, felt she had her emotions under control until the silence and constrained atmosphere suddenly got the better of her and, shielding part of her face, she hurriedly left the room.
    Hushed voices in the corridor, questions, muted surprise then finally, again, silence. The pall spread through the small gendarmerie as if by osmosis; whispers of death seeping through the cream plaster walls.
    Within five minutes, the full complement of nine gendarmes and two secretaries on duty knew. From there, it started spreading through the town. A young sergeant went out to buy some cigarettes; there were two other people in the shop at the time who heard that 'the Rosselot boy had died'. One of the shopper's next calls was the boulangerie, where five more heard the news. It ricocheted through the main town shops.
    Echoes of death which, by the time Dominic had fired up a Solex and started heading out towards Taragnon and the Rosselots, had already changed the atmosphere in the town centre. Or was he just imagining it? A nod of acknowledgement from Marc Tauvel re-stacking his front display of vegetables, but then a look that lingered slightly. Madame Houillon following his progress around the square, staring; she was over-inquisitive at the best of times, but now her head was slightly bowed, as if he was a passing hearse. Respect for the dead.
    Dominic felt that he couldn't wait any longer before heading out. Poullain was expected back soon, but that could be an hour or more, by which time Monique Rosselot could have started her way to the hospital. Or worse still, by the way the news was spreading through the village, her hearing it clumsily from a neighbour or tradesman calling by. 'My condolences, I'm so sorry to hear.' Hear what?
    Dominic didn't want it to happen that way; after a quick consultation with Harrault, they'd jointly agreed to break protocol by not waiting for Poullain, and Harrault signed out a Solex. Twenty five minutes had passed since the call from the hospital.
    Nothing in his past had prepared him for this. All those years stuck in back radio and communications rooms both in the Legion and the Marseille gendarmerie, he'd had so little 'people' contact. Between the code and call signature manuals, the gun range and procedural guides for arrest, filing and administration, there had been no special training on consoling grieving relatives. How should he phrase it? How would he even start?
    On the edge of town, Dominic passed the tannery and leather workshops tucked into a hillside rock outcrop where the road was cut away. Dyes and acids for stripping and treating the skins were heavy in the air; piquant sauce for the smells of death.
    Dominic's eyes watered slightly; he wasn't sure whether they were sensitive with emotions or it was a combination of the fumes and the wind rush on the bike. Eighty yards past, he was clear of the fumes and the smells of the fields took over: ripening vines, lemons, almonds and olives, grass and wheat burnished almost white by the sun. He breathed deeply, but still his eyes watered.
    Images flashed before him — the dark brown blood patches against the wheat, the boy being carried to the ambulance, the gendarmes tapping through the field with their canes, Monique Rosselot opening the door to him on that first visit, and the single candle in her daily bedside vigil of begging and praying to God to spare her son. How could he possibly bring her this news? The well of his emotions finally ebbed, a gentle catharsis washing through him without warning, his body trembling against the vibrations of the bike. He bit at his lip and swallowed back the sobs at the back of his throat; no sound emanated, his steadily watering eyes and his trembling body the only release valves.
    His reaction confused him. He'd witnessed murder before, battle hardened by his years in Marseille. Was it the age of the boy, or Monique Rosselot's strongly displayed devotion for her son bringing him closer to her emotions, too close: her saddened face in half shadow reflected in the glass against the candle light, tears streaming down her cheeks as he told her that her son was dead. Dead! 'No! Oh God, no!' As he uttered the words breathlessly, what lay ahead of him suddenly seemed impossibly daunting: one simple sentence, destroying Monique Rosselot's life, tearing down any remaining vestige of hope. His grip on the throttle relaxed, the bike slowing slightly, apprehension gripping him full force. His conflict was absolute: he knew he had to go. He cared too much to risk her hearing casually from someone else passing. But he dreaded having to utter the words himself.
    And so he switched off part of his mind driving the last few miles. Cared for her? He hardly knew her. Pushed the thoughts back as he turned his Solex bike into the Rosselot's driveway, parked, dismounted. Words shaped in his mind, almost on the edge of his lips, all of them sounding so inept, inadequate. The messenger? Was that what worried him, being the messenger? Always being remembered as the man who brought the news that her son had died.
    As he approached the door, he noticed the boy's bike still against the garage wall, waiting in expectation. His mouth was dry. He took a last deep breath to calm his nerves as he reached for the door knocker and flipped it down twice.
    But it did little good. His nerves built to a crescendo, blood pounding through his head as the door opened and she stood there, her young daughter Clarisse in the shadows behind.
    He fumbled, the words seeming to catch in his throat, but from the quickly distraught look that came back from her, she seemed to already half know, perhaps from his expression and awkwardness, and he only managed to say, 'I'm sorry, I have bad news. I wanted to make sure I caught you before you headed for the hospital…' before she started pleading.
    'No, no, no, no, noNo!' A repetitive and steadily rising mantra to hopefully drive the inevitable away, her eyes imploring him as she slowly collapsed to her knees and, her body finally giving way to convulsive sobbing, she let out a single wailing cry.
    The cry, painful and desperate, pierced the still morning air, echoing from the walls of the small courtyard and rising up the gentle slope of the fields beyond. Jean-Luc Rosselot had been working in the west field out of sight of the courtyard for over an hour, digging to find the leak in an irrigation pipe. He didn't see or hear the Solex approaching; the cry was the first thing he heard. He dropped his spade and started running the fifty yards that would bring him in sight of the courtyard. Halfway, another wailing cry arose; a gap, then another.
    And already he feared what was the cause before he'd thrashed his way through the last of the dried grass in the almond orchard and the courtyard came into view. It was like a frozen tableau: the gendarme trying to stand proud with his wife on her knees before him, one hand clutching out and almost touching his ankles. As another cry of anguish drifted up across the field, he saw the gendarme reach out towards her shoulder as if to re-assure, but the hand hovered just above without connecting.
    Each of them stood alone, grief unshared; though Jean-Luc felt even more distanced and awkward, looking on. He tried not to accept what the tableau told him, force it from his mind in search of other explanations; but in the end the imagery was too strong, left nothing to interpretation. His son was dead.
    His first instinct was to rush towards his wife, comfort her — but after a few paces he stopped. His legs felt weak and he was strangely dizzy, the field seeming to tilt slowly away from him, the light oddly dim in hues of dull grey. And suddenly it seemed ridiculous for him to bound down the hillside, waving, even if his legs still had the strength to carry him, and so he resigned himself and slowly sank down, gave way to the buckle in his knees until he was sitting.
    They hadn't seen him; they were faced away and he was still too distant. And so he watched from a distance through the grey haze, through eyes stinging with tears, watched his life and all he loved, all that he had prayed these past days for God to save, slowly slip away with the tilt of the grey field into nothingness.

    The death intensified the investigation and the mood in Taragnon and the surrounding villages. Questions and speculation peppered much of village conversation. Part nervous reaction, there were few other escape valves. New snippets of information about possible suspects and excitement at an impending apprehension replaced their normal daily routines and pleasures. In a village where local gossip and drama was a large part of the daily fare, this indeed was a lavish banquet. But in the lulls, moods were dark and sullen, silent. It was either feast or famine.
    The first main change in the case came in a call from Pierre Bouteille notifying Poullain that he had passed over his file to Alexandre Perrimond, Aix Chief Prosecutor. 'The main reason is workload. With this now a murder investigation, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to devote the time it deserves. I've brought Perrimond up to date on everything. No doubt he'll make contact soon.'
    The morning after, 'La Provencal' carried the news in a three column band at the bottom of its front page, carrying over onto page two. It was the most complete story they'd carried yet of the Rosselot case, going over the initial assault, its impact on the small village of Taragnon, and police progress. The police were quoted as having a few possible suspects and how they hoped to 'conclude the investigation and press charges within the week.' Poullain had spent almost twenty minutes on the phone the previous afternoon with the reporter. The end of the article went back over other notable child disappearances and murders in Provence over the past decade, mostly from the Marseille and Nice area, underlining the rareness of such incidents in inland villages.
    Perrimond made his mark on the case early. Within an hour of being on morning duty, Poullain received a call from his office in Aix. 'I see from this item in the paper that you have a few possible suspects. That is news to me. From the information I was passed by my assistant, Pierre Bouteille, I understood there only to be one.'
    'It is still only one. The other suspect mentioned to Prosecutor Bouteille, a certain Alain Duclos, was fully interviewed and later my assistant Fornier checked his details. He's a non-runner. We're still left only with the main suspect in the file, Machanaud.'
    'Bouteille might handle things differently, but I like to be informed before having to read it in the newspapers.' The phone was put down abruptly.
    'Headline chaser,' Poullain muttered after hanging up. The call put Poullain in a bad mood for the rest of the day. He pressed and niggled at Dominic about small details in their final report, making him re-type it twice before he was satisfied. Most of it went over Dominic's head. He typed mechanically, the words little more than a blur. He was still pre-occupied with how the Rosselots were coping.
    Most of the news had come from Louis, whose girlfriend Valerie was friendly with the Rosselot's neighbours, the Fievets. They were the Rosselot's closest friends in Taragnon. Clarisse Rosselot had stayed with the Fievets during Monique's daily hospital vigils so that Jean-Luc's farm work wasn't too heavily disrupted.
    Monique Rosselot had hardly left the farm since receiving the news, asking the Fievets to get whatever shopping and essentials were needed. Jean-Luc had meanwhile buried himself back in his farm work, was out in the fields much of the day. The one time she'd left the house was to use the Fievets' phone when she'd finally summoned up courage to call her mother in Beaune to break the tragic news. The mother was going to travel down to console her the next day, a day before the funeral. But, according to Valerie, at the same time Jean-Luc was talking about visiting his parents straight after the funeral; he'd had no contact whatsoever with them in twelve years, but just couldn't break news like this to them over the phone. He had to see them. Monique had complained to the Fievets that while she understood Jean-Luc's reasoning, the timing was bad; she felt as if she was being deserted when she needed him most.
    Louis' message was clear: she was coping, but except for her mother and some neighbourly support from the Fievets, she was coping alone.
    Dominic sipped thoughtfully at a beer Louis had poured for him. The first day back at the bar after having seen the Rosselots, Louis had teased and pressed him until he'd finally admitted, yes, she's very pretty. Now the bonhomie had gone, replaced by sullen camaraderie; trying to understand, through pieces of second hand information, the grief and pain of someone they hardly knew. Dominic wasn't even sure what drove his curiosity: pity for Monique Rosselot, or to assuage his guilt at having brought her the news?
    Late that afternoon, Dominic had his worst argument yet with Poullain over Machanaud. The emotions of the day before, the relentless funnelling of evidence now aimed at Machanaud, the words he'd blindly typed that morning — as the mist of his pre-occupation with Monique Rosselot lifted — all converged; and it dawned on him that they were delivering little more than a death warrant for Machanaud. He once again raised doubts about Machanaud.
    'But you were the one who drove out and actually gained corroboration of Duclos' movements that afternoon,' Poullain defended. 'We know he was in the restaurant when the boy was attacked, and he had little or no time spare after he left. It's all in the report — and half of the facts you gained yourself.'
    'I know. But some of his alibis fall into place too conveniently, almost planned, and something about Duclos makes me uncomfortable. Also, I'm not convinced about Machanaud. Even if Machanaud was accused of raping a woman, I would be doubtful — but a young boy! We have nothing on him in the past more serious than some poaching and drunken and disorderly.'
    'And you're saying that Duclos is the type?'
    'Possibly. Let's face it, we know nothing about him. At least with Machanaud, we have something to go by on past form. And based on that, it just doesn't sit right with me.'
    'Yes, I suppose you're right, we don't know much about him. When they telexed through from Limoges and told us he was an assistant in the Prosecutor's office, they forgot to mention that, oh, by the way our friendly local assistant prosecutor has a history with buggering young boys. Hope that is useful, but as you appreciate we like to keep that sort of thing quiet with public officials. Maybe that will follow in their next communication.' Poullain smiled cynically. 'You think that Duclos looks the type, don't you?'
    Dominic ignored the barb for the second time. 'No, it's more than that, I mean why stop for oil when you're in a rush to see a particular girl and you're worried about being late. Why spend over an hour in a cafe when time is tight?'
    'He probably only remembered the girl and hoped to see her on a whim when he left the restaurant, or perhaps not even until he was at the garage, which is why he asked about timing. There was no specific meeting arranged, as he told us he just hoped she might still be on the beach that time of day. I don't see anything suspicious.'
    'I don't know, it's almost as if he wanted people to remember him visiting at specific times that day. And the girl was just thrown in to underline heterosexuality. Some of the facts are just too convenient the way that-'
    'But they are the facts, and you seem to be ignoring that,' Poullain cut in. 'Or perhaps you can give us your alternative dissertation on how to prosecute, based on type and looks. He's a bit of a pretty boy, a bit soft and erudite in manner — he looks the type who would bugger young boys. So let's sweep aside all the facts for a moment, especially the fact that he was in a restaurant when the attack happened, and aim for him. Perhaps you could explain your thinking to Perrimond. He works with assistant prosecutors all day, he might be able to spot the type quickly. Marvellous! Why didn't we consult you earlier, Fornier.'
    Dominic bit at his lip and went back to his desk. He should have bided his time; only the day before he'd reflected on just this reaction from Poullain. But he realized now that the boy's death had changed everything, changed the mood and pace of the investigation, that the keen scent for Machanaud's blood could soon drive a hungry pack; a fast rising tide of panic that said 'cry halt early' and swept away his previous resolve.
    Bauriac’s church bell sounded in the square, calling the faithful to evening mass. It reminded him that there was a memorial service for Christian Rosselot in three days. Flowers. Incense. Candles burning. Monique Rosselot on her knees before him… her heart rending cry seeming to pierce right through him and drift, unheeded, over the fields and hills beyond. Still the memory of that moment sent a shiver through his body. How much longer before that was him, grieving the loss of his mother. Six months, a year? The bell tolled ominously in the background, and he found himself looking towards the window and the sound filtering in with the muted shuttered dusk light. He felt very alone, cold and distanced from the gendarmerie activities around him, and he tried to escape the fast descending gloom that the bell was striking for the inevitable, for that which he would be helpless to change.

    It was almost 6.30 pm when Machanaud called by the gendarmerie. Briant was on desk duty. Machanaud asked to see Poullain and Briant said that he wasn't there and looked at his watch, adding, 'But if you want to come back in forty minutes or an hour, he should be back then.'
    'Or Fornier, Warrant Officer Fornier, is he here? He would do.'
    'No, I'm afraid that he's with Captain Poullain in Aix en Provence.' Briant noticed Machanaud sway for a moment uncertainly as he took in this information. He'd obviously been drinking and mixing this now with deep thought didn't go well together. 'Is there anything I can help with?'
    A slow blink through bleary eyes, then finally, 'Yes, you can take a note for them.' Machanaud shuffled closer and leant on the counter. 'You can tell them I've now remembered the car that passed. You might want to write it down.' Machanaud waited for Briant to grab a pad and pen from the side, then said the words very slowly, the last part in pronounced syllables. 'It was very low, dark green, a sports coupe. Probably an Alfa Romeo. An AL-FA RO-ME-O COU-PE. Have you got that?'
    'Yes, okay. But you realize that this is only a note. If you want to make this part of any official statement, you'll have to return and speak with Captain Poullain.'
    'Okay, okay, I understand. You have your procedures.' Machanaud held up one hand defensively as he stepped back from the counter. 'I just thought it important that they have that note while I remember.'
    'Yes, certainly. I'll make sure they get it.' Briant watched thoughtfully as Machanaud shuffled back out, probably back to the same bar where he'd found inspiration to suddenly remember the car.

    They'd walked for almost a minute in virtual silence through Parc du Pharo before the package was handed over, waiting for the groups of tourists to thin out. It was a large manila envelope. Chapeau looked briefly inside and saw the small bundles of cash.
    'It went well,' he commented. 'Your friend should be pleased.'
    'Yes, he was.' Duclos looked back at Chapeau directly for the first time. It had been his main worry: that Chapeau would have read the papers and discovered his lie. It had been quite prominent in 'La Provencal', but still easily missed for someone only paying half attention, wedged in at the bottom of the front page with no pictures accompanying. He breathed an inner sigh of relief; obviously Chapeau hadn't seen it. Probably was illiterate or only read comics and gun manuals, Duclos thought cynically. 'I think you'll find it's all there.'
    Chapeau walked to the nearest bench, sat down and, partly shielding with the envelope, counted one of the bundles. Then he measured its depth against the others: three bundles each of 2,000 Francs, one half size. Chapeau shut the envelope, folded it over by the flap and stood up with the closest he'd come to a smile in all of their meetings. 'Hopefully your friend can rest easy now.' And with a curt nod, he headed back the way they'd come, leaving Duclos on the bench.
    Chapeau's car, a Peugeot 403, was parked fifty metres back from the main entrance to the park. He'd arrived ten minutes early so that he could see Duclos arrive, get the registration number of his car. It arrived punctually, just two minutes before six: dark green Alfa coupe. A neat compact car for a neat, compact man. Everything in his life was probably neatly compartmentalized, thought Chapeau. He watched Duclos get out and enter the park and then waited a minute before following.
    Chapeau flipped over the newspaper on his passenger seat and glanced again at the report at the bottom of the front page. He'd already read it twice earlier that day, pondering what to do. The last person to cross him so blatantly he'd left with his throat cut in a Marseille back alley.
    But with this Alain he wanted to bide his time, learn a bit more about him before taking any action. At one point earlier, he'd laughed out loud at the double dupe; in return getting payment for nothing somehow seemed divine justice. But he couldn't get out of his mind the bad intent that had been there, the possible repercussions if he had killed the boy: a high profile murder case with a whole station of rural gendarmes with little else to do but catch the murderer, he'd have probably had to move to Paris for a few years until things had quietened down.
    Ahead, he could now see Duclos getting back into his car. He decided to follow.

THIRTEEN

    '… And in that dream, did you recognize it immediately?'
    'Yes. It was the pond at Broadhurst Farm. It only turned into a lake later.'
    'And you said that Jojo was already there. Could you see him clearly? What did he look like?'
    Stuart Capel tensed as the tape rolled, leaning forward. Lambourne had told him one of the key objectives had been to get a clearer picture of Jojo. Lambourne's notes were in his hand. Headed:
    Session 4. 28th February, 1995.
    He knew how the notes and the tape slotted together from the last tape sent.
    'I couldn't see clearly… it was too misty, and he was too far away.' Then, after a second: 'I only saw him clearly when I was closer… looking up through the water…'
    Silence. Background drone of London traffic. Brief cough from Lambourne.
    Stuart could imagine Eyran struggling for a clearer image. Finally: 'His hair was dark, slightly curly, and his eyes were bright — blue or dark green. I wasn't sure.'
    'Does he remind you of someone you know perhaps? An old friend or someone from school.'
    Longer pause this time. Eyran's low, regular breathing came over clearly for a second. 'No. But there's something familiar about him — yet I don't know why.'
    'Note One.' Lambourne's voice came across in a deeper timbre. Stuart dutifully followed the instruction and read the note: An initial assumption was that Jojo might be modelled on an old friend, someone from Eyran's past. If that's now to be discounted — why the familiarity? After the 'Note One' announcement, an eight second silence, then: 'Continues.' In transferring to cassette, Lambourne had put in the break points. It reminded Stuart of linguaphone tapes with gaps left for student repetition.
    'Did Jojo tell you where you'd met before.'
    'No. I told him I was looking for my parents, and that was when he first offered to help.'
    'And you went back because in the previous dream, you'd seen them there.'
    'Only my father.' Another long silence. Faint rustling of papers. 'That was when Jojo wanted me to cross over… told me that he'd lost his parents as well and hadn't been able to find them until he crossed over?'
    'Did he tell you what happened with them?'
    'Nothing then…' Eyran swallowing, clearing his throat. 'Only in another dream… later. But he said it was years ago — he could hardly remember it.'
    'Note two:' Shared grief, yet Jojo conveniently has no memory of his loss. Eyran's loss is the main focus. Crossing over could symbolize to Jojo that Eyran trusts him, is siding with him. Yet we know from a later dream that they are together in their search — the barrier has by then been crossed.
    Lambourne's voice on tape reminded Stuart. Reminded him of their first meeting: 'When did you first realize there was a problem?'
    And he'd told Lambourne everything. The nineteen day coma. The hospital. The nightmares. Everything except how much he'd resisted finally bringing Eyran to see him. Clinging to the Eyran he remembered.

    Eyran had awoken finally from his coma four days before Christmas.
    When did you first realize…? Had it been when he'd first told Eyran his parents were dead? The hospital staff had been briefed just to say his parents were ill, in another ward — until Stuart arrived. But then Stuart remembered seeing that same look in that first moment of greeting Eyran: something distant and lost in Eyran's eyes, almost as if Stuart was someone he knew only vaguely and couldn't be placed for a moment.
    Yet it remained through those first hours, that split second delay in recognition and response. At first, the explanation in Stuart's mind had been the shock and grief and Eyran struggling to come to terms with the unbelievable, the unacceptable. But by the late evening, as Eyran prepared to sleep, Stuart was keen to know Torrens' assessment. How much of Eyran's slowness of reaction was due to the coma, how much could be attributed to shock and grief, was he under any drugs or medication that might cause such an effect, how long might the condition prevail and, most importantly, might it be permanent?
    Torrens started with the obvious: it's too soon to tell, he's only been out of a coma a day, yes there has been some recent medication, promethazine, to cool his body temperature down — though that shouldn't delay his reaction rate. But possibly the shock of his parent's death could cause such a reaction. 'His mind might be numbed by the collection of recent events. It's just awoken, electrical and chemical connections are flexing their muscles for the first time in almost three weeks, and suddenly it has to deal with the fact that his parents are dead. The numbness, the slowness of reaction, could be a form of protection. I doubt if it's all sunk in yet. Did he cry much when you told him?'
    'Yes, a bit.' But what had struck Stuart the most was Eyran's eyes looking so lost, desolate. He'd hugged Eyran, expecting a catharsis of sobbing which in the end had never come; just the same sad, distant gaze through watery eyes as they broke the embrace.
    'I don't think we should read too much into it for a few days. I'll run some detailed responsiveness checks then.'
    A few days? Stuart had always assumed he'd be flying back with Eyran the next day in time for Christmas.
    Impossible. Apart from the necessary tests and monitoring, there were Eyran's other injuries to consider. 'The cracked rib has a way to go yet, and we'd want to re-strap that and run another X-ray before okaying him for a long flight. Don't reckon on him being able to leave before five or six days.'
    Staying over Christmas? He knew he couldn't possibly leave Eyran alone in hospital over those days, but he wasn't relishing the call to Amanda to tell her he wouldn't be back with her and Tessa for Christmas.
    As it was, it had taken him over a week to talk openly about his grief with Amanda. So many years sparring with Jeremy, fighting over stupid, inconsequential things — it all seemed such a waste now, so pointless. No opportunity left now for amends, except to whisper emptily, 'I love you,' vapoured breath on the chill air as they'd lowered Jeremy into the ground. The only thing to keep them close the past ten years had been Eyran. If it hadn't been for Eyran, he'd have had the same relationship with Jeremy he had with his father.
    It was the nearest he'd ever come to explaining to Amanda his affinity with Eyran. He'd lived part of his life through Eyran, the childhood he felt he had lost, the mistakes and barriers between his father and himself that he could see being repeated between Eyran and Jeremy. But, at times, he'd taken it a step too far, kidded himself he knew better about Eyran's upbringing, tried to be an alternative father. And he felt guilt for that now: in forging his own close bond with Eyran, trying to be honest broker, perhaps he had stolen some limelight from Jeremy; precious years that now couldn't be replaced.
    After explaining Torren's prognosis, brief silence from Amanda. Finally: 'I understand. You have to stay with him.'
    But the silence and the tone said it all: you should be here with us, your family, but how can I possibly protest about favouritism for Eyran, appear heartless by suggesting that you leave him alone in hospital over Christmas.
    'Thanks for understanding. I'll phone Christmas Eve, then again Christmas Day. I can have a long session with Tessa then.'
    Christmas at the hospital was a strange affair. Christmas morning everyone gathered in the canteen for a small show, the highlight of which was one of Torrens' colleagues, Walowski, playing Father Christmas with a heavy Germanic. It was like some exaggerated Robin Williams sketch, with a couple of curvy nurses in short red skirts and black stockings playing his little helpers. Eyran smiled at intervals, but was still too remote and withdrawn for full laughter. Even the first half smiles had only come that morning, opening his presents from Stuart.
    Christmas lunch had been laid on for later, but Stuart wanted something less organized, more personal. He got permission from Torrens to take Eyran into town, and they found a lively restaurant a block back from the sea front. The menu was a curious mix of Tex-Mex and Italian with a sprinkling of Christmas turkey specials. But the atmosphere was wonderfully raucous and joyous, party streamers and cheering, and a small Mexican combo in the corner played a range of Tijuana, Christmas favourites, Tony Orlando, Gloria Estefan and Santana.
    They had Taco dips to start and Turkey for the main course. Stuart finished off with brandy pudding, Eyran with pecan and maple syrup ice cream. They found it difficult to talk above the music and background noise and had to shout Merry Christmas as they'd pulled two crackers. But Eyran enjoyed the atmosphere regardless. At least they could lose their emotions within it, rather than feel obliged to speak to fill a silent void; especially when Stuart knew he'd have to do most of the talking, tip-toeing around such an emotional minefield. He'd already done it for three days at the hospital and was fast running out of safe footholds.
    He noticed Eyran's fingers tapping to the band's version of 'Oye Como Va'. Good, something at least breaking through the barriers built by the coma, a part of him getting back into the rhythm of life. But the smiles were still infrequent, stilted. Stuart had a Southern Comfort with his coffee, Eyran an elaborate butterscotch flavoured milk shake. As they left, half the restaurant was singing along to 'Knock Three Times.' Outside, the fresh salt air hit them, even a block back from the beach.
    'Let's go down there, walk along for a bit,' Stuart suggested on impulse. Eyran merely nodded, a faint smile threatening to escape.
    On the front, the air was bracing. A fresh westerly breeze was struggling to clear some cloud built up, the air warm and moist with salt spray. As they walked, Stuart talked of Tessa looking forward to seeing Eyran. They'd plan something special for New Year's Day when they were all together.
    And it was there, walking with the warm Pacific breeze buffeting them from one side, ruffling their hair, that the dam of Eyran's emotions finally broke and he started weeping. He mumbled, 'I miss my mom and dad,' as Stuart pulled him into an embrace. Then something about remembering Mission Beach where they all used to go for the day together, the words partly muffled against Stuart's chest and then finally lost among the sobbing and the noise of the surf.
    'I miss them too. Terribly.' Stuart said, but it sounded so lame; empty consolation. Stuart felt the small body quaking and trembling against him, and inside he felt his own sorrow rising again, tears welling; but this time it wasn't just for Jeremy, but for the strength of spirit and zest for life in Eyran that now also seemed lost. Bitter tears and silent prayers on the mist of the Pacific surf rolling in, willing that the next days and weeks might see some improvement, bring back the Eyran he remembered.

    Eyran awoke in the middle of the night; eyes blinking, adjusting, consciousness searching in that first moment for a reason.
    Had he dreamt again, or had a noise perhaps disturbed him? He didn't remember any dream, and no sounds came except the faint swish and sway of trees outside his window as he held his breath and listened intently. He tried to judge if the wind was rising, a storm brewing; but the movement of the branches remained gentle and steady, soothing and swaying, white noise to lull him back to sleep again.
    Was he still in the hospital or at his uncle Stuart's house? He looked at the light coming in through the window and tried to pick out shapes in the room. Faint light from a watery moon: the hospital room had been brighter from street lamps outside, the window larger, and the two large trees his side of the hospital he could never hear moving for the thickness of the glazing. Sometimes the days in the hospital and those in England seemed to merge, then suddenly he would be back once again in his room in San Diego, joy and surprise momentarily leaping inside that everything in between had been a bad dream — before the shapes and shadows in the room slowly fell into place.
    The nightmares and the time awake had sometimes been difficult to separate: the friendly face of his uncle Stuart, voice echoing, telling him his parents were dead; doctors with tests and monitors, smiling faces telling him that everything was going to be alright, his uncle was coming to see him, explain. 'You'll stay with us now, we'll take care of you. Everything's going to be fine, Tessa's looking forward to seeing you.' The rhythm of the band pumping through his body, people cheering, smiling as they clinked glasses; everyone seemed so happy except him. And so the sleep became a welcome release, transported him back where he wanted to be: the warmth of the wheat field where he might meet Jojo and they could look for his parents again.
    The first dream had been two nights after awaking from the coma. The doctors said that he'd been asleep for nineteen days, but he couldn't recall anything, not even the accident; the last thing he remembered was his mother reaching back, soothing his brow, staring at her blonde hair as he sunk back into sleep.
    Only when he saw Jojo in the dream, did fragments of the other dreams start coming back to him, that they'd been on this adventure before of trying to find his parents. After the dream by the pond, there had been another with him and Jojo pushing their way uphill through thick woodland and bracken. Jojo had said that there was a clearing towards the brow ahead, and from there they would see his parents waiting for him in the valley below. After thrashing through, a light had shone ahead and Eyran could see the trees and bracken thinning, see the clearing, and he ran expectantly towards it, hardly feeling the barbs of the bracken pricking his legs. But as he finally burst free into the light, he awoke.
    Since that night, he'd willed himself back into the dream each time before sleep to try and reach the brow and find his parents. Though there had been no more dreams with Jojo, only one with him alone sitting in a stark hospital corridor waiting for news on his parents from one of the rooms, expecting Jojo to come out at any minute and say that he'd finally found them. But in the end it was uncle Stuart and a doctor, faces forlorn, eyes sad, saying there was nothing that could be done, the doctors tried their best… but your parents are dead. Dead! He'd hid his face and his tears momentarily in his hands, and when he'd looked up again the corridor was empty, his uncle and the doctor had gone. He began to fear the entire hospital was empty — that he was the only one there. The last thing he remembered was calling out for Jojo, but no answer came except the hollow echo of his own voice from the corridor walls.
    And so all he was left with was the stark solitude of those waking hours; and sometimes those hours seemed like the nightmare, and the hours asleep and his dreams — the possibility of meeting Jojo and being able to find his parents — became a welcoming and warm reality.
    Familiar objects had been placed in his room — his computer, the Daytona racetrack and Baywatch posters — to make him feel at home, as if nothing too much had changed. But unless they could tell him that they'd made a mistake, that his parents were alive and had survived the accident, none of it held any meaning for him. Uncle Stuart and his wife Amanda and Tessa — who tried so hard to play with him and cheer him — became little more than vague, background voices. He was always trying to remember, play vivid scenes in his mind of how it was: picnics on Mission Beach, a visit to DisneyWorld, hot dogs at the Chargers game, going fishing on his father’s boat. Sometimes he could hear his father or mother speaking, recall whole phrases and sentences. The other voices around became an intrusion.
    Eyran wondered how far it was to Broadhurst Farm. Four miles, five? He got up and walked towards the window. He left the light off so that the faint moonlight might pick out objects in the garden and the field beyond. A large oak and two elms had lost nearly all their leaves; only two large fir trees at the end of the garden moved with the wind. The hedgerow separating the garden from the farmer's field beyond, Tessa's climbing frame, the rockery and pond — even small objects became clear as his eyes adjusted. The field beyond was still indistinct, except the faint silhouette of the line of trees on its brow. He wondered if he closed his eyes and willed it hard, if his mind could sail across the farm fields to Broadhurst Farm, put an image in his mind so that when he went back to sleep his dreams might take him there again. But he wasn't even sure which way it was. Was it over the ridge ahead, or over more to the west?
    The moon was a watery half through faint mist and cloud. For a moment he thought he saw the dull shapes of figures moving beyond the garden — but as he looked more intently, they were no longer there. It was just the shadow of tree branches moving on the breeze. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the wheat field beyond the hill, let his mind drift until it was before him. But he'd never been there at night, felt too frightened to let the image linger, and he tried to cast his mind back to how he remembered the wheat field in daylight, running through the sheaves with the warm sun on his back.
    But the image never came, it remained dark and cool; shades of grey under the pale moon. And the field for him in that moment became yet another symbol of death, something that could only serve a purpose in his dreams if he could recall it in daylight. Perhaps he would ask his uncle Stuart to drive past Broadhurst farm the next day.

    The first dream Stuart became aware of was six days into the new year. Eyran had awoken screaming, bathed in sweat. Stuart asked him if he'd dreamt like that before and he'd said yes, but they hadn't turned bad like this one. 'What happened in the dreams?
    'Different things. It was confusing. Some of it was at the hospital, some at the farm where I used to play.'
    'Is that the farm we drove past the other day, just down from your old house?'
    'Yes.'
    Stuart thought it was quite a normal request that Eyran had wanted to see the old house. Relive old and fond memories. They'd stopped while Eyran studied the front of the house, saw the changes, the different colours on the window frames and doors, along with the familiar: the basket ball hoop still above the garage door that Jeremy had put up. Stuart had a quick flash of Jeremy and him playing basket ball, showing off for the kids. Jeremy had twisted his ankle, sending the kids into guffaws of laughter as he'd hobbled off. They thought it was all part of the act: Abbott and Costello do the Harlem Globetrotters. They'd been quite close then, lived only five miles apart; in fact Stuart had been drawn to the area on Jeremy's recommendation. And then after only two years, Jeremy left for America.
    As they drove off, Eyran asked him to turn right at the end of the road. It was a narrow country lane, and after another two hundred yards or so, Eyran asked him to stop again. Stuart pulled into the first available farm gate entrance. This time they got out of the car and stood, misty breath showing on the crisp air, looking out across the fields. Stuart asked him if that was where they used to play.
    'Yes, there's a small pond in the copse over there.' Eyran pointed towards a wooded area in a dip between the fields, oval in shape, no more than a hundred yards at its widest point. 'Then the wheat field on the other side rises up towards the woods at the back of the house.'
    Little more than stubble now, Stuart noted, looking bleak in the cold, misty air. The sun was weak and low in the sky, hardly penetrating a faint mist which obscured its far end. Two crows suddenly crawking loudly and flapping away from a nearby tree broke them out of their moment's reverie.
    It was almost a week ago they'd made the drive. 'What frightened you in the dream?'
    'There was a ledge and a drop I didn't see until too late. I started falling.'
    'Is there a ledge like that in the field?'
    'No, just in the dream.' Eyran blinked slowly. 'Even the pond in the woods is very shallow, at most up to my chest.'
    'Are you all right now?'
    Brief pause for thought. 'Yes.'
    Stuart playfully ruffled Eyran's hair and forced a smile. A vague smile returned. Nothing too harmful, thought Stuart. Just some old memories jumbling, trying to sort themselves out. Probably driving by the old house and the farm fields had sparked it off.
    But over the following two weeks, there were three more dreams, increasingly violent and disturbing, and Stuart began to worry. Most took place in the fields by the old house or at the hospital, though one had been at the house in San Diego, at night with the pool lights on, mist rising from the warm water. Eyran thought he heard voices coming out of the ghostly mist and moved towards it; but it spread quickly and drifted in billows until it engulfed the entire garden and the house, and he couldn't find his way through. Hopelessly lost and frightened, the warm mist clinging all around him, suffocating, he awoke. Stuart asked him if any of the other dreams had involved him looking for his parents, and after a moment's hesitation he'd answered yes, in the hospital dream.
    When Stuart discussed it with Amanda, she'd immediately opted for them taking Eyran to the psychiatrist Torrens had recommended. Stuart wanted to wait, see what the next week or so brought. It had been five days after his return before he'd even mentioned the psychiatrist to Amanda.
    Stuart remembered twirling Lambourne's card in his hand without really reading it as Torrens explained: 'Some electrical activity within the brain concerned me. It occurred on two different occasions, but only on the last did it finally reach any motor senses and lead to Eyran awakening. Which meant for the remainder it was largely confined to the sub-conscious. It could be nothing, but it warrants keeping in check. Given the tremendous grief Eyran has suffered and coming to terms with the loss of his parents, counselling is advisable in any case.'
    'I don't think we should delay,' urged Amanda. 'These dreams are beginning to worry me. Why wait another week or so?'
    'I want to give Eyran some natural period of grieving, some time for him to come to terms with the loss in his own way before sending a psychiatrist into the fray to force the issue.'
    'I just don't see any dramatic change coming quickly. He's not the same bushy tailed, bright-eyed Eyran we remember, and the sooner we accept that and try and do something about it, the better. I don't think delaying will help. With the dreams he's having, it could even do more harm.'
    Stuart was insistent. 'We don't know yet if his unresponsiveness is as a result of his grief and loss, or a by-product of his injuries and the coma. And I'm not sure a psychiatrist would be able to tell that. Only time will tell. Some time for his grieving to subside.'
    Amanda held his gaze for a moment with her best 'you can't be serious' expression. Then slowly shook her head and went into the kitchen. For the next five minutes, he could hear plates and cups moved and stacked and kitchen cupboard doors closed with more gusto than normal.
    Perhaps she was right, delaying was unreasonable. Behind her annoyance, he could almost hear the words she was biting back: you don't want to face it because you're unwilling to accept anything less than the Eyran you remember. Only a miracle recovery will do for the golden boy. But she'd spared him the barb, or perhaps wished to avoid what was now a stale and unnecessary argument between them: absorption with Eyran over and above his own family. But that thin line was probably close to being crossed, and she was painfully close to the truth. Part of him couldn't accept Eyran's current condition, perhaps never would be able to. The psychiatrist was the last line of defence, the final throwing in of the towel: admittance that Eyran was psychologically disturbed and needed help.

    '… There was nobody there, just rows of old weedkillers and pesticides… and I recognized it as the shed from our garden. My father warned me when we first moved in not to go in the shed until he'd fixed it… the floor was rotten and the old jars of weedkillers were dangerous. I was confused… I remembered him clearing them away that summer… and now they were back.'
    ‘Did Jojo say anything? Explain.’
    ‘No. I felt the floor shaky beneath my feet… and he held one hand out to me. But as I stepped forward, I felt the floor give way… and I… I…'
    'It's okay, Eyran. Step back… back!..'
    Stuart was yanked back to the tape. Sharp reminder of the dream when he’d finally relented to Eyran seeing Lambourne. Eyran screaming and Amanda’s rapid footsteps on the landing above.
    '….I was falling… falling… everything spinning…'
    'Back…. Break away. Away!'
    Stuart sat forward. His pulse was pounding hard as it had been that night racing up the stairs. Lambourne had mentioned the danger area of the dream endings; that as much as possible he would generalize or pick out random details. But still he'd been caught out: Eyran in that moment re-living falling, spinning down helplessly.
    Silence finally. Only Eyran's rapid, fractured breathing came across.
    Lambourne waited a few seconds more. 'You must have been disappointed when you didn't see your parents — Jojo let you down. And has he let you down in other dreams?'
    Eyran's breathing easing more. A faint swallow. Stuart picked up on Lambourne's tactic: generalities to shift Eyran's focus. But the sudden leap seemed to have caught Eyran by surprise. Stuart could feel the tension coming across with each beat of silence on the tape: could imagine Eyran struggling to extricate himself from one set of horrors, sifting frantically through time and misty images, probably only to find himself facing still more. A simple consent, and now he'd put Eyran through this! A pang of guilt gripped him, one hand clutching tight at Lambourne's report.
    'I don't remember exactly... I….'
    Eyran either still struggling for images or pushing away acceptance.
    'Do most of the dreams too end abruptly in the same way,' Lambourne prompted. 'Yet with the hope you'll find your parents right up until the last moment.'
    At length a slow exhalation. Final admittance. '…Yes.'
    'Note five:’ No explanation is offered by Jojo for his failures from one dream to the next. Each one starts anew, Eyran filled with fresh trust and hope. Like an incurable gambler, Eyran conveniently blots past form from his mind, and Jojo is there to convince him that this time they'll hit gold.
    Lambourne went back to the early sequence of dreams, before and after the coma, then: 'And during those dreams — the first of running through the wheat field directly after the car accident and the last you remember before awaking in the hospital from the coma — do any other voices reach you? Did you hear anything from outside?'
    'I don't know… I'm not sure.' Eyran sounded flustered, uncertain.
    'Try to concentrate. Take yourself back, and try to remember if you heard anything.'
    Stuart saw immediately where Lambourne was aiming. After the last session Lambourne commented that what went against the theory of Eyran creating Jojo through non-acceptance of his parents' death, was him appearing before Eyran awoke and knew they were dead. Lambourne was digging for subliminal reference. Stuart felt for Eyran in that moment, wished that he'd been alongside to hold Eyran's hand as he delved back through the darkness of his nineteen day coma.
    At length a low, almost indiscernible muttering: 'There was something… a man's voice.' Stuart felt his skin tingle.
    'What did it say?' Eagerness in Lambourne's voice; fear that at any second the images would slip from Eyran's mind.
    '…That… that the woman was gone, nothing could be done…. but there was still some hope for the other two.' Staccato breathing, the words mumbled in between. '…There was the sound of traffic in the background… then I was being lifted, moved to one side.'
    'Was there anything else?'
    'Some other voices, more distant… Someone I thought called my name, but I couldn't be sure.' For Stuart, the images were suddenly too clear, too painful. He was still gripping Eyran's hand, only now he was by the roadside while Eyran's shattered and bloodied body struggled for life. Gasps for life now no more than gasps for words. 'Then a lot of movement… some lights passing which hurt my eyes. A voice closer saying that it looked like another late shift, but he hoped to make it up the next day. And another voice, more muffled… speaking on a radio phone. It was answering and crackling. And the siren… the siren again… the siren and the crackling made me feel sleepy.'
    'Any more voices?'
    Brief pause. 'Only the wheat field then. And Jojo.'
    'Note six:' Memory of medics and police attending and first few minutes in ambulance. Nothing after that. But it appears there was some subliminal reference for Eyran to draw upon. The fact that he knew his mother was already dead might explain why in the dreams she either didn't feature or was more distant.
    Stuart recalled from the Oceanside medical report that Eyran's coma hadn't been caused immediately by the accident injuries, but by the fast accumulating blood clots and oedema soon after. And while the cranial pressure was still building, before… Stuart bit at his lip. Oh God. Eyran had been conscious for a few moments then and, while he was struggling for his own life, had learned of his parents' fate. Stuart could hardly think of a worse scenario.
    Stuart's hand was trembling as he came to Lambourne's summary: Unless we can confront Jojo directly in future sessions, progress could be slow. Working second hand, scant additional light I feel can be thrown on Jojo's core character and motives. My plan would therefore be to side with Eyran over specific questions, instil in him a strong need to know the answers from Jojo — then switch over and try and ask them directly.
    Yet part of that process is in conflict: all other voices are telling Eyran his parents are dead, and Jojo is probably the only crutch supporting that part of Eyran's psyche still clinging on, refusing to accept. The bridge between the two has to be crossed cautiously. Remove it too hastily, destroy the illusion — and Eyran either falls into the void or has to leap towards full acceptance before he is ready. Yet if we don't act quickly, Jojo could become increasingly dominant — it would then be that much harder to wean Eyran away. The threat of schizophrenia would be a stage closer.
    Stuart shook his head. Forty minutes of hell approved by a single signature and now another consent slip was before him: approving Lambourne's foray to confront Jojo. In finally acceding to the sessions, he'd told himself that it was for Eyran's own good — but now he wasn't so sure. He found himself wrestling with the nagging doubt that his own desire to have back the Eyran he remembered might have played a part. This time he wanted to be sure the decision was purely for Eyran's benefit: the pitfalls and dangers against the advantages. Lambourne saw Jojo as a threat, and no doubt he was right; yet in Eyran's troubled mind, with his parents gone, Jojo was probably one of the few friends he felt he had left in this world. And now Lambourne wanted rid of Jojo with another simple signature.
    Stuart picked up a pen, then put it down again. He flicked back through Lambourne's notes for more guidance. But suddenly he found himself biting back tears, and slumped dejectedly, cradling his head in one hand.

FOURTEEN

    The small back room was insufferably hot. A ceiling fan swirled slowly, but Poullain could still feel his shirt sticking to his back. He adjusted a small swivelling desk fan so that its sweep cut across him more directly. The telephone rang.
    It was Perrimond, the Aix Chief Prosecutor. 'I've had a chance now to think about this new information from Machanaud, and I think your assessment is right. It's a little too convenient that he should suddenly now remember an accurate description of the car. Has there been much mention of the car in Taragnon or Bauriac?'
    'Not so much in Bauriac. But we visited quite a few shops in Taragnon and then the restaurant just outside where Duclos had lunch. The village is small, news spreads quickly, and Machanaud hits the bars heavily, spends half his time leaning on the counter swapping stories with barmen. I think that's how he picked up the description of the car.'
    'Yes, yes. I would agree.'
    A brief pause, flicking of papers from Perrimond's end. 'So what do you want me to do?' Poullain asked.
    'It's up to you. But if you should decide not to ask Machanaud in to make the statement official on the basis the description has been manufactured from local gossip, I'd support that assessment.'
    'I understand.' But he suddenly realized the decision was back with him; he'd hoped merely to provide background and let Perrimond decide. The desk fan cut a cool swathe of air across his chest. More papers turning, then, 'Oh, I had a call from Bayet, the Aix Mayor yesterday. Apparently, Marcel Vallon is quite a close friend of his. Mr Vallon expressed concern about the police questioning of one of his house guests, this Duclos character. Of course, this came a day before this new information, so I felt quite safe assuring that Monsieur Duclos had merely assisted with some information and was not in any way a suspect.'
    The message was clear to Poullain: if they made the statement official, they would be duty bound to question Duclos again. Perrimond would have to backtrack on what he'd said and call the Mayor, the Mayor would have to call Vallon, and he'd have to go cap in hand when he phoned Vallon again to arrange a second interview, this time under far less hospitable circumstances. But he felt uncomfortable making the decision without more support from Perrimond. 'So you think it might be awkward to suddenly put Duclos back under the spotlight?'
    'The awkwardness I can argue with the Mayor. This is a murder case and we have to do what's right and damn the awkwardness. But I would like at least to be armed with a good reason. If at the end of the day it couldn't possibly be Duclos because he was in a restaurant at the time, and if you're already suspicious that Machanaud has merely picked up on the car description from town gossip, I'd rather not make the call. I'd sound foolish. You just phone Vallon directly yourself for a second interview and be prepared for a cold blast of air, and I'll wait for the Mayor to phone again. And if and when he does, I'll tell him it's something routine regarding a sighting of Duclos' car. Nothing to worry about. Really, Poullain, It's up to you what you do.'
    'I see.' It would be awkward. It would be foolish. It would serve absolutely no purpose because the person concerned was somewhere else at the time. There was only one sensible decision to be made, and it was now entirely his to make. No more clues or guidance. 'I think I made my views clear at the outset.'
    'Yes you did. Now I've given you my input. I can only deliberate on details you present to me for prosecution, not how or why those details should be gained. While the case is still under a rogatoire general and not yet passed to the examining magistrate — it's an investigative matter. Your jurisdiction.'
    Whichever way it went, he would never be able to say 'Perrimond made the recommendation.' He was on his own. 'I understand. If I should decide to pursue the matter, I'll call you first as a matter of courtesy. Let you know whether or not to expect another call from the Mayor.'
    Perrimond mentioned that the warrant for Machanaud would be ready the next day and that he would be requesting a pre-trial for only three weeks time. 'Machanaud's defence — probably a standard State appointee — will no doubt try and push for anything up to two months. We'll end up somewhere between. How's the statement from this woman he used to live with coming along?'
    'It will be typed up later, delivered tomorrow when we pick up the warrant.' Through Machanaud's old work place on the Carmargue they'd tracked down a divorcee with three children in le Beausset with whom he'd had a relationship. She'd had a child for him, a girl, but he'd disappeared when it was only three. She hadn't heard from him since, nor had a penny been sent for the child. The tale of bitter desertion, of his hard drinking and violent temper tantrums, lashing out at her and sometimes the children, had been an important breakthrough. Built a picture that Machanaud was not just a harmless oddball vagabond, he had a temper, was unpredictable and violent when drunk. 'It's quite a strong statement. I think she'll make a good witness on the stand.'
    'Good.' The case against Machanaud was looking stronger by the day. That was where their energies should be concentrated; not wild goose chases with this Duclos and him having to fend off calls from the Mayor.
    They arranged the time for collecting the arrest warrant for Machanaud, and Poullain commented: 'I should also by then have decided if there'll be any follow up on the car description and Duclos.'
    'Very good. I'll see you tomorrow.' Perrimond bit lightly at his lip just after he hung up. The call had gone well, except at the end he realized he'd sounded too nonchalant; already confident of the decision Poullain would make.

    Dominic finished his shift at 7.00 pm. He changed at home, fried two veal steaks, tossed some salad and fifty minutes later sat with his mother on the back porch, sipping some chilled white Bordeaux in the fading evening light. Pale pink, then crimson streaks along the skyline, finally ochre. In the last of the light, his mother asked if he was going to cut back the mimosa in the next few days.
    He did most of the gardening now, she'd become too frail, and they'd talked about the mimosa the week before. But he'd just been too busy recently with the investigation; workload should be lighter soon. How was it going? she asked. He made light of it, didn't want to burden her with his disasters: that they were probably charging the wrong suspect and there was little he could do about it. He just said there were two strong suspects, but that evidence was light on the one he suspected the most. Difficult.
    They talked about his older sister Janine and her husband possibly visiting from Paris at Christmas; she'd missed the previous Christmas and had come out at Easter instead. Her boy Pascal was now nine, her younger daughter, Celeste, just six. His mother surveyed the garden fondly, probably remembering her grandchildren running around playing earlier in the year. Then her eyes fell back to the tree and the mimosa. 'It's starting to get strangled. We shouldn't leave it too long.'
    'Don't worry, this weekend or next I'll see to it.' The tree. As far as she was concerned, it might as well be the only one in the garden. A young tangerine tree now a bushy six foot high, his father planted it two years before he died. He saw its first blossom, but died before the November when it fruited. His mother viewed it now as a symbol: she'd seen two years full fruit, how many more would she witness from what her dear departed had planted? And now a nearby overgrown mimosa was threatening its continuing blossom and fruit, and she was too weak to cut it back.
    It somehow seemed unjust that after a lifetime’s work and struggle, they'd moved to this quiet backwater in expectation of a long and peaceful retirement, and within four years his father was dead. Another two, and his mother was gravely ill.
    Dominic lit a night light on the table as it became too dark and they sat like two lovers on their first date. Except that the stories swapped were old and familiar, fond memories. Perhaps one of the last chances.
    Fading light. His mother's skin had a pale yellow translucency to it, looking now even more ghostly under the flickering candle light. He drank faster than normal, swilled away the unwanted thoughts; he was on his third glass to his mother's one before he even noticed. He started to mellow. The sound of cicadas and crickets added rhythm to the night, pulsed gently through his veins.
    When his mother finally announced that she was tired and headed for bed, he felt suddenly restless. He sat only five minutes on the empty terrace before resolving to head back into town. She hardly made it past nine these days; the medication sapped her strength as much as the illness. Was this what it would be like when she was finally gone?Empty terraces by candle-light, Odette or some other simple shop girl with the right face and the right smile sat opposite just to fill the void. He needed another drink.
    Louis' was half full. He sat up at the bar and Louis, after pouring a beer, asked if he'd seen Monique Rosselot again. Louis' interest was somewhere between the healthy curiosity he showed in any good looking village woman and genuine concern for how she was coping with her grief. Dominic hadn't seen her, nor anyone else from the gendarmerie as far as he knew. 'We probably won't now until the memorial service. There's been nothing new.' Somebody would probably have to see her straight after arresting Machanaud, tell her that a suspect had been arrested. But he couldn't tell Louis: news could too easily reach Machanaud on the village grapevine.
    'I think a lot of people will be going to the service,' Louis commented.
    'I know.' Originally shunned, now at least in her worst hour the village would be there for her. It took time to be accepted in Taragnon.
    Louis gave him the latest from Valerie through the neighbours. Jean-Luc wasn't coming back from seeing his family for another day or so, might not even make it for the memorial service. Monique was distraught, awkward that she might have to be alone in front of the village. Tongues would wag: either that they were having problems or that he didn't care about his son's service. Both were far from the truth, Monique had protested to the Fievets, but that might be the impression given. Louis shook his head. Louis' distant, slightly glazed expression said it all: if Louis had a woman like that, he certainly wouldn't desert her at a moment like this.
    They indulged in small talk, and it quickly came around to Odette and his love life. He had only seen Odette once since the investigation had started, had been too busy. But Louis was a master at reading between the lines when it came to romance, was astute enough to realize things weren't going well. The glazed look was back, broken prematurely by a renewed throng at the bar. Louis excused himself to serve. The cinema had just emptied out, and two tables in the corner had also filled. Louis was obviously going to be rushed, little time for more talk. After a few minutes Dominic knocked back his drink and said his good-byes to a suddenly harried Louis.
    His first intention was to head home, but as the night air hit him, he decided on another drink. He aimed his bike for the Maison des Arcs bar two kilometres out of town. It was almost empty, just a few die-hards clustered at the bar. He stayed only for a quick beer and a play on their fruit machine, then went on to the Bar Fontainouille near Taragnon.
    Just past eleven thirty when he arrived, this time he ordered a brandy. It was busy, though most of the noise and activity was towards the end of the room with a group of ten or eleven, mostly men, egging on whichever contestant they'd backed in a table football game. Among the noise and throng, it was a moment before he noticed Machanaud; though Machanaud was already staring at him, and he had the uneasy feeling that he probably had been doing so on and off from when he'd walked in. Machanaud raised his glass. Dominic nodded back and smiled.
    He looked just as quickly away from Machanaud, as if he was partly listening in on a conversation of Henri the barman with a customer two bar stools away. In the corner of his eye he could tell that Machanaud was still looking over at intervals. He wondered if unconsciously he'd sought out Machanaud, he knew this bar was one of his regular haunts. See the suspect on his last night of freedom. Reconcile the image in his mind of the harmless vagabond and poacher with how Perrimond would soon portray him before a jury: woman and child beater, child molester, murderer.
    Dominic wasn't convinced by the ex-girlfriend's statement, felt that Poullain had prompted too conveniently. She had a hard face, lined and worn and looking ten years beyond her thirty-five years. Struggling between absent fathers, state aid and part time cleaning jobs to keep food on the table for four children, the bitterness and scars showed in her mannerisms and speech. With Machanaud's illegitimate child she'd probably been unable to get aid. Then suddenly comes the chance of pay-back: 'We can't get you money, but we can get you retribution. Just say the right thing and we'll nail the bastard.' How often did a woman like that get the system working on her side?
    The table football game was breaking up: money was changing hands, coins and notes being slapped on the table side, back patting and jovial abuse, someone suggesting that the loser join the paraplegic's league. Machanaud started singing a ribald version of Lili Marlene to the cheers of some colleagues.
    Perhaps he would simply whisper in Machanaud's ear, 'Go and go now. Get far away. Come tomorrow afternoon there'll be no more chances. They're out to get you and there's nothing I can do to stop them.' Dominic wished now he hadn't come. He felt awkward, could hardly look Machanaud in the eye knowing what was coming the next day. He swilled the last of the brandy in his glass and knocked it back, was suddenly eager to get out. But it was already too late. Machanaud's voice had trailed off mid chorus, he was peeling away from his group and coming across. A swathe of black hair fell across his face, and he tilted his head as if to see better.
    'And how is young Monsieur Fornier this evening?'
    'Fine. I was just leaving. But can I get you one before I go?' He held out a 5F note to get Henri's attention.
    In the same hand as a Gauloise, Machanaud held up a small tumbler with half an inch of pale amber spirit in the bottom. He passed the tumbler across the bar. 'I'll have another eau de vie, if that's okay.'
    Dominic ordered and paid, and Henri poured in his normal elaborate style of pulling the bottle gradually further from the glass.
    After taking the first swig, Machanaud commented, 'I suppose you'll all be over the moon with this new information.'
    Dominic squinted quizzically at Machanaud. Surely the gossip network didn't work that quickly for him to already know about his ex-girlfriend's statement. And was he drunk enough to be sarcastic about his own downfall? 'I don't understand. What information?'
    'The car. The car. I suddenly remembered what that car passing looked like. I came into the station two days ago and told your desk sergeant.'
    'Who was that?'
    'Didn't catch his name. Young chap, brown hair, slightly wavy.'
    Briant or Levacher, thought Dominic. Why hadn't Poullain mentioned it?
    'Can't be many Alfa Romeos like that, at least not in this area. You've probably tracked it down already, but don't want to say much. Salut.' Machanaud took a quick slug, knocked back half his eau de vie. Then he was suddenly thoughtful. 'Isn't that why you've asked me in tomorrow? Make the statement on the car official?'
    Dominic's mind was still reeling. Duclos car! 'Yes, yes,' he answered hastily. Perhaps in all the confusion Poullain had overlooked mentioning it. The past days had been a nightmare of notes, typing statements, reports and filing for the arrest warrant. Or perhaps Poullain intended to mention it only once he had the full statement from Machanaud. Perhaps. It had been Dominic's suggestion to serve the warrant on Machanaud by asking him in to make another statement, rather than trying to serve it outside and risk a scene, fighting to subdue a handcuffed Machanaud all the way back in the car. Now he knew why Poullain had been so keen on the suggestion: Machanaud had expected to be asked in to make his car statement official.
    Machanaud noticed Dominic's consternation and leaned over, whispering conspirationally, 'It's okay, if it's awkard to talk about it, I understand.'
    Machanaud cut a pathetic image, smiling, probably thinking that half the local gendarmerie were busily tracking down the car that would solve their largest case in years, and he'd provided the vital clue. Totally unaware of the sword of Damocles hovering over his own head. Dominic felt a pang of guilt aiding Poullain's false pretence with the statement. Or was he missing something with Machanaud that Poullain and others saw?
    Machanaud with one reassuring hand on Dominic's shoulder, smiling, the harmless poacher. Dominic smiled in return. Tinker, tailor, poacher, murderer. Machanaud leering, one hand raised with the rock to smash down on the boy's skull. Which was the right image? From the end of the room came renewed shouting and cheering. Two new contestants had stepped up to the table football machine. Beyond a plume of gauloise smoke, Dominic could smell the eau de vie on Machanaud's breath. Eau de mort. Water of death. Machanaud swilling down the boy's bloodstains from his clothing. Dominic shook the images away. The atmosphere in the bar was suddenly claustrophobic, suffocating. He stood up.
    'Are you all right?' asked Machanaud.
    'Yes, yes. Fine. It's just someone I should have seen, and I suddenly realized I might now be too late.' He looked at his watch: 12.06am. Officially, Poullain finished today's shift at midnight, but often he was still there up to half an hour afterwards.

    Chapeau backed into a side farm track a hundred yards along from the main gates of the chateau on the opposite side of the road. Some trees and foliage mostly concealed his car, though he had a clear view of its main gates through a small gap. Two days before, when he'd first made the drive, he'd kept a discreet distance from the Alfa Romeo all the way from Marseille, especially on the quieter country road. On that first occasion he waited across from the chateau fifteen minutes.
    Then spent the next day checking with the land registry and vehicle registration in Paris: the chateau was owned by one Marcel Vallon, one of the area's largest vineyard owners and wine producers. But the car was registered to Alain Duclos with a Limoges address. So this wasn't Duclos' family house, he was probably a family friend or business associate visiting.
    Chapeau decided to return, see if Duclos was staying with the Vallons or whether two days ago had been just a one time visit. After half an hour he saw a Bentley leave, then a delivery van arrive fifteen minutes later. Then nothing for over twenty minutes. Chapeau was getting impatient, it was late morning and the heat was building up, he longed to get moving and get some air rush through the car's interior — when finally the green Alfa Romeo appeared. It was heading towards him!
    He quickly ducked down out of sight, heard the engine drone pass, and raised up again. He counted three seconds, fired up the engine, waited for a Renault Dauphine to pass heading in the same direction, and pulled out.

    Harrault was on desk duty and confirmed that Poullain was still in his office, getting ready to leave. Dominic decided to look through the desk register first, then talk to Poullain. Harrault flicked back the page, then stood to one side as Dominic ran one finger down the entries. Nothing. He was halfway through checking back through the entries when Poullain came out of his office.
    He looked between Harrault and Dominic. 'I thought you'd finished a few hours back, Fornier. Looking for anything interesting?'
    'Yes. I just bumped into Machanaud. He asked how our enquiries were going after his statement about the car.'
    Poullain met his stare for a moment, then nodded towards his office. It was obviously going to be awkward discussing this openly in front of Harrault. As soon as the door was shut behind him, he questioned, 'So. What is the problem?'
    'I don't see anything entered in the register.'
    'And you won't. Not until I've discussed the development fully with Perrimond.'
    'But Machanaud came in two days ago.'
    'If he'd come in five or six days ago, or mentioned it on one of our first interviews, it might have been different.' Poullain walked around his desk, stood to one side of his seat. 'Think about it, Fornier. We've been asking about sightings of his car at bars and shops throughout Taragnon. Half the village has probably heard about it. And suddenly, miraculously, Machanaud remembers what it looked like. Don't be so naive! Machanaud has picked up on the description from village gossip.'
    'Is that what Perrimond thinks?'
    'No, it's what we have both discussed at length as a distinct possibility. He'll no doubt tell me what he thinks tomorrow.'
    Dominic shook his head. 'Regardless of what we think, it should be taken as a full statement and entered in the register. We can interpret it any way we wish after that.'
    Poullain was keen to keep some distance in the argument, a pending decision from Perrimond gave him someone detached to blame. 'I have to take Perrimond's guidance as prosecutor. If the statement is so obviously false, is not heading anywhere concrete, there's no point. I can't force him to pursue it. Also, we would probably then have to question Duclos again — an additional waste of investigative time we can ill afford.'
    'Perhaps it wouldn't be such a waste of time. If we mention his car has been sighted, put him on the spot, his story might change. Something new might come to light.'
    Poullain stared dully at Fornier. So they were back again to Fornier's groundless suspicion of Duclos. When he thought about Perrimond's concern about the mayor's call, the whole messy background he was stealthily avoiding mentioning, the eagerness in Fornier's voice was almost laughable. 'And what is going to change? All the waiters who saw Duclos while the attack took place are suddenly going to say they were all wrong. They didn't see Duclos. Or is Duclos going to do it all for us and just say that the waiters were all lying. He wasn't in the restaurant at the time. Wake up! It's not going to happen. There's no point in us even going through the exercise.'
    'Is that your assessment or Perrimond's?'
    Poullain stared back icily. 'Both!'
    It was already clear the answer that would be coming the next day, thought Dominic. The statement wouldn't be made. 'Then I don't agree with it.'
    Dominic noticed Poullain openly flinch; then his head cocked slightly, as if he hadn't heard properly, his eyes darting fleetingly across the desk top for explanations before looking up again. The surprise showed in his face. In their previous disagreements over Duclos, Dominic had always given way.
    For a moment Poullain looked undecided how to rise to this new challenge. Then at length he exhaled audibly and waved a hand to one side. A dismissive gesture, as if the whole affair was suddenly unworthy of his emotions. 'And what exactly do you propose to do?'
    'If the decision is made not to take the statement, then as the assisting investigative officer, I would like my disagreement of that action recorded.'
    'Are you sure that's what you wish to do? You're aware of its seriousness.'
    Dominic felt uncomfortable under Poullain's intense glare, his heart pounding heavily. But he'd gone too far to back down again now. His mouth was dry as he stammered, 'Yes.'
    Poullain stared at him a moment longer, then sat down and rubbed his forehead with one hand. Fornier obviously wasn't going to budge, was forcing the issue to its limit. The procedure, normally used only in extreme cases, was to protect officers who felt that a line pursued in an investigation might later reflect badly on their career records; once filed, the complaint would no doubt end up on his area commanding Colonel's desk in Aix. All manner of awkward questions and complications could arise. Faced with that, perhaps it would be easier to take Machanaud's statement and visit Duclos again, regardless of the fact that it was all a waste of time. Do everything by the book. Perrimond would just have to put up with another call from the Mayor. Poullain sighed. 'Is there anything else?' He looked up only fleetingly, his annoyance evident.
    'No.'
    'Then I'll make your thoughts known to Perrimond when I visit him tomorrow and pick up the arrest warrant. You stay here in case I'm not back before Machanaud arrives.'
    'What shall I tell him if you're not back by then?'
    'Tell him you think it's for a statement, but you won't know for sure until I arrive.' Poullain forced a tight smile. 'If you get your way, you'll be partly telling the truth.'

    Chapeau sat in a cafe in a side street just off Marseille's Rue St Ferreol. Duclos' car was parked twenty yards along in the same road, he could just see its back bumper, was ready to mobilize quickly if it moved, coins already on the table for the black coffee and brandy chaser he was drinking.
    At one point following Duclos from the Vallon estate, he thought of giving up. The road headed towards Aix and Marseille, but most interesting of all it went through Taragnon, the village where the boy was found. For a while he toyed with the enticing possibility that Duclos might stop in Taragnon, perhaps even re-visit the old crime scene — but Duclos headed straight through the village. Shortly after, when Duclos took the Marseille rather than the Aix road, it struck him that Duclos might be visiting Vacheret's for one of his young boys. He decided to continue following.
    They were parked close to the main shopping area, and the Panier district and Vacheret's establishment were over a mile away. He'd followed to the corner and seen Duclos head in the opposite direction towards the Opera and the Palais de Justice, before deciding to find himself a cafe in the small side street and car sit. He'd been there now forty minutes and this was his second coffee and brandy.
    Where was Duclos? Shopping no doubt: buying designer shirts and silk underpants, or whatever gay paedophiles liked wearing. Or perhaps a quick stroll in the Puget gardens, sitting on a park bench and feeding the pigeons while surreptitiously getting his jollies by watching young boys in shorts play with a football. People like Duclos made him sick. Clean on the outside, dirty inside, and with the cheek to look down their noses at people like himself. He might be a thug and a killer for hire, but there was no pretence. What you saw, you got. No false labelling.
    He sharply knocked back another slug of brandy to quell his growing anger. Little shit. Feeding him a false line to commit a murder that would have had half the gendarmes in the Var hunting him down. The irony and sheer joy of stiffing Duclos for the 7,000 francs was already waning. He wanted more, much more. If he'd actually gone through with the murder, he would have probably killed Duclos straight after collecting the money; followed him out into the country lanes beyond Aubagne, pulled up alongside at the first deserted crossroads, pumped two bullets through Duclos head, and drove on. Bliss.
    It had still been a tempting proposition following Duclos to the Vallon estate that first time. But he was glad now he'd shown restraint. If he was patient, nurtured it well, this could turn out to be a long and profitable association. A meaningful relationship. No point in fucking Duclos on the first date. He had been disappointed to discover that Duclos wasn't part of the Vallon family, that would have been a remarkable pot of gold to strike so quickly. But he was obviously a family friend, perhaps came from a similar moneyed background. Waiting and watching, he would soon know.
    Chapeau suddenly pushed back from the table, almost spilling his coffee. Duclos was passing! Heading for his car. Chapeau was poised to stand up and head out, and pointed to the coins on the table for the benefit of the concerned waiter looking over.
    Duclos put a shopping bag in his car, leant over, re-arranged something in the back seat for a moment, then straightened up and locked the door again. He started heading back down past the cafe. Chapeau turned away from the window, looked back towards the bar until Duclos was past, then got up and went out. He hovered by the doorway for a few seconds, until Duclos was about eighty yards ahead and almost at the end of the road, then followed.
    He saw Duclos turn right this time, heading towards La Canebiere and the old port, with the Panier not much further on. Perhaps Duclos would end up at Vacheret's after all. Along Rue St Ferriol towards La Canebiere, the shops gradually became smaller and seedier. Cheap souvenirs and cards, carved wood and ivory, beads and caftans, goat skin drums, a delicatessen with goat's cheese and couscous. They might as well be in the kasbah. Half the shopkeepers and people passing were North African.
    At La Canebiere, Duclos turned left towards the old port, past the quayside cafes and the Hotel de Ville. A brief respite of nice cafes and shops, people dining out and looking out over the kaleidoscope of brightly painted fishing boats in the harbour. Then they turned into the winding Panier back lanes: dark and narrow cobblestone streets, washing strung at intervals between the dank stone buildings to catch what few shafts of sunlight filtered through. Some yorrelling in the distance, a radio playing the latest hit from Morocco: wavering pipes and strings that sounded like cats being strangled.
    An old man in a black djellabah passed Chapeau and, on the corner, in front of a small cafe with a beaded curtain entrance, a young Moroccan was trying to sell lottery tickets. Wearing a stained pale blue shirt, black trousers and flip-flops, his watery eyes behind dark glasses stared distractedly at the corner gable of the house across the street. Chapeau doubted that he was really blind, and listened hard beyond his repetitive sales chant for Duclos' footsteps in the next street. Finally he picked it up: to the left, thirty, forty yards down. He waited a second before following.
    As Duclos took the next right hand turn, Chapeau realized he was heading for Vacheret's. At the end was a short street that wound up some steps, with Vacheret's not far along in the next street. Chapeau kept a block behind, hidden around the corner, waiting until Duclos had receded deeper into the street before walking in. By the time Chapeau reached the start of the steps, Duclos was already at its top, turning left towards Vacheret's. The short street was deserted: one side was a half demolished building, the other the blank stone side of a building plastered with posters. Two cats scavenged around a group of rubbish bins at the top of the street. Now that he knew Duclos was heading for Vacharet's, he might as well head back. But he was suddenly curious to see how long Duclos stayed: twenty minutes, it could be a simple business meeting. Forty or fifty minutes and he was probably with one of the young boys.
    Chapeau decided to wait it out, found a bar not far around the corner with Vacheret's a hundred yards further up on the opposite side. It was a small and seedy bar; sawdust over cream and terracotta patch tiling. The barman was fat and wearing an orange T-shirt two sizes too small. From his accent, he was a local Marseilles, though over half the bar were North Africans: two men playing checkers in the corner, two at the bar, and a group of local workmen in blue overalls at another table. The radio was playing Tony Bennett. The barman poured the brandy Chapeau ordered.
    Chapeau waited.
    An easy listening station, Edith Piaf, Bert Kampfaet and Frank Sinatra followed. A minah bird in the corner chirped in on every other chorus. Chapeau wondered how the Moroccans liked Frank Sinatra: after cats being strangled, it must sound like golden syrup. It was his kind of music, but the accompanying minah bird and the sounds of checkers being banged down to grunts and shouts started to grate on his nerves. Half the afternoon he'd spent tracking this prick Duclos. And now Duclos was probably in some lavish back room with potted palms, getting sponged down by one pre-pubescent boy while getting his rocks off with another, while he sat in a bar surrounded by grunting Moroccans and a minah bird singing along to Frank Sinatra. Great. His hand gripped tightly at his glass. He looked at his watch: almost thirty minutes. Ten minutes more and he'd leave.
    But minutes later, already thinking ahead to the other pieces of the puzzle he'd like to put into place with Duclos, an idea struck him, a smile slowly crossing his face. Perfect. His initial gloating gradually gave way to the worry that it was almost too good, too cheeky, it must somehow be flawed; but after chewing it over some more between brandy slugs, he saw few pitfalls. At the same time it might also get rid of some of his pent up anger and frustration with the little turd. All he had to do was keep close to the end of the bar, look out at an angle until he saw Duclos emerge, then head out a moment beforehand. He put some change on the bar to cover the brandy, ready for a quick exit.
    Chapeau sat through Billie Halliday, Maurice Chevalier, Mario Lanza and Brenda Lee, with minah bird accompaniment and checker-slapping percussion, before Duclos finally emerged.
    Chapeau stepped out briskly, he was at least eighty yards ahead of Duclos, and hoped and prayed that Duclos didn't suddenly recognize his profile from behind. Ten yards more, six, two… he ducked around the corner sharply, taking the steps almost two at a time, now at a half run. He stopped thirty yards down, eyeing up an open doorway in the derelict building for suitability a second before stepping inside. He went two yards in, stepping over the rubbish piled up. And waited.
    The sound of Duclos' footsteps came after a minute. The short street was deserted; Chapeau prayed that nobody else suddenly came into it. A sudden sound from behind. Chapeau jumped, wheeling sharply around to see a cat pulling at a rubbish bag. Its eyes met his for a second in the semi-darkness, then it scampered off. Chapeau's nerves settled back.
    Duclos was close. Very close. Footsteps almost upon him.
    Chapeau held his breath low, shallow — and as soon as Duclos' profile came into view, he stepped deftly from the shadows and struck out quickly. A right fisted blow to Duclos' cheek. Duclos hadn't seen him, had only started to turn towards the approaching sound as Chapeau's ham fist connected.
    Chapeau swung again, hitting Duclos nose from the side this time, feeling the bone crunch and seeing the blood spurt as Duclos crumpled and fell. This felt good. Chapeau got in a quick left to the stomach as Duclos was going down, then as Duclos hit the ground and lay prostrate on his side, all that was left was to kick. He managed one to Duclos' groin before Duclos rolled over and put his hands down, then made do with two swift kicks to his kidneys.
    Duclos started to look back up towards his attacker, so Chapeau pushed one hand against the side of Duclos face, jamming it hard against the ground. Half kneeling now, he took out his gun, a Heckler amp; Koch 9mm, and slid it next to his hand against Duclos' cheek. Duclos' eyes shut tight as the cold steel of the barrel pressed home. Chapeau cocked the chamber. The eyes scrunched tighter, a breathless 'non' escaping. Chapeau savoured Duclos' fear a moment longer before un-cocking and releasing the pressure. Then deftly flipped the gun in the same motion and swung the butt twice sharply against the side of Duclos' ribs; and again lower to his kidneys and stomach. It was a measured attack. He didn't want to kill Duclos: just enough to make him walk like an old man for a week and piss blood.
    Chapeau reached across and took out Duclos' wallet from his inside pocket. Straightening up, he gave one farewell kick to Duclos' groin. Keep him away from the young boys for a few weeks. Then he slipped his gun back inside his jacket and scampered off down the steps to the receding groans from Duclos, which brought a smile to his face.

FIFTEEN

    'We've got a problem.'
    Poullain was in Perrimond's office. The arrest warrant for Machanaud had been duly signed, notarized and stamped. Perrimond passed it across. 'Tell me.'
    Poullain started by explaining that he'd already reached the decision not to make Machanaud's statement official for the reasons they'd discussed the other day, when the problem arose: his assistant Fornier had been told about the car sighting by Machanaud while off duty, and was now of a different mind. So much so that if it wasn't entered officially, he was threatening to file a complaint with the commanding area gendarmerie Colonel. 'Though it might be a complete waste of time pursuing the statement, perhaps under the circumstances it will be less awkward if it is made.'
    'Perhaps. Where did this Fornier meet up with Machanaud.'
    'In a bar in Taragnon.'
    'I see.' Perrimond's nostrils flared and pinched back as if an odious smell had just hit him. Though it was unclear whether his disdain was directed at Fornier or Poullain's lack of control over his staff. 'Leaving aside the implications for a moment, before this happened with Fornier you personally had made the decision not to make the statement official.'
    'No point. It's very obviously fabricated and interviewing Duclos again would serve absolutely no purpose. At least two people saw him at the time of the boy's attack. His alibi is solid.'
    So now it was down to varying degrees of awkwardness, thought Perrimond: another call from the Mayor or questions from the area gendarmerie Colonel. 'Tell me about this Fornier. What's his background?'
    'Young, twenty-six years old. Was with the Foreign Legion in Algeria for four years, then joined the gendarmerie in Marseille.'
    'Did he see any combat action in Algeria?'
    'None that I know of. His work was mainly with radio and communications, back room logistics stuff. He took a similar position with the Marseille gendarmerie.'
    'What made him move to Bauriac from Marseille?'
    'His mother's ill, dying from cancer. He wanted to be close to her, and he put in a request for transfer through Marseille. We had no communications or logistics department, just purely street pounding work, but he took it. He was pretty desperate, feared she might have only six months left, and so was willing to take whatever was offered.'
    'So he has sacrificed career advancement in order to take care of his dying mother. Very noble.' Though from Perrimond's half smile it was difficult to tell if he thought it was noble or just foolish. Then he became more thoughtful. 'Why did you specifically use him to assist on this investigation?'
    'My main assistant, Harrault, was in the middle of another investigation. Plus I thought Fornier's past experience with Marseille might come in useful. A fair degree of liaison with Marseille was necessary, particularly with forensics.'
    'The complaint, if it's made, will probably end up with Colonel Houillon here in Aix, is that correct?'
    'Yes. I get one copy, it's noted and filed, and another goes to Colonel Houillon.'
    'I have quite good contact with Houillon.' Perrimond glanced down, brooded for a second, as if his ink blotter might inspire him. He was slow in looking up. 'Look. Say nothing to Fornier for the time being. Tell him the issue is still being decided and you'll know something tomorrow. But I think I have an idea.'

    'Anything reported for your area?' Chapeau's voice was husky and muted, as if people unseen might be listening in.
    'No. Nothing yet.'
    'When did you check last?'
    'Just before seven when I finished duty.'
    It was over twenty-four hours since the attack, thought Chapeau. It was unlikely the report had been made. His police contact, Jaquin, was a Detective Inspector stationed in the Panier. Revenge for a client who had beaten a club girl was the story Chapeau invented; Jaquin would have little sympathy for such a client. The club wanted to be forewarned of being named in any police statement, or perhaps the incident might be reported simply as a mugging. He'd asked Jaquin to check the station nearest the attack. Nothing filed yet. Not even for a mugging.
    'I'll phone again at the same time tomorrow, just in case. Thanks.' But Chapeau knew that most reports were made within hours and had certainly filtered down within twenty-four hours, even if made from another station. The ploy had confirmed what he'd suspected: Duclos had something to hide, didn't want to report the mugging and risk contact with the police.
    Giving Duclos a beating had put him on a high for several hours. But it was nothing to what he experienced now, as he thought over the information gathered during the day. Duclos wallet had been a veritable treasure chest of information: identity card, credit card for Banque Nationale, business cards — mostly lawyers from the Limoges area — and a recent pay-slip. It was for a Provincial Government office in Limoges, Department E4. Four phone calls later he'd ascertained what Department E4 dealt with and, from scale pay rates, Duclos' position.
    He'd dropped the credit card in a Panier back street a block away. Hopefully someone deserving would pick it up, go on a spending spree. Perhaps the supposedly blind lottery ticket seller: next time by, he'd be wearing crocodile skin shoes and sporting a Rolex. Duclos would have to report the card lost or stolen to the bank, and if it was used fraudulently he would be duty bound to make a police report or be liable for the expense. Hassle with the bank and the police. Perhaps Duclos would just eat the expenditure. Oh, this was fun.
    And he felt sure that the best was to come: Department E4. 15,400 Francs per annum. Duclos was an assistant public prosecutor!
    Chapeau had only been to jail once. For twenty-seven months at the age of eighteen. He'd been a club bouncer since sixteen, and one night threw out three students who were getting out of hand with the bar girls. One of them landed badly as he was thrown out and broke his collar bone. The boy's father was a leading businessman, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the golfing partner of a local prosecutor. Charges for Grievous Bodily Harm were pressed and a three year sentence called for. The trial was a farce, a one-track railroad. Chapeau served all but nine months due to good behaviour.
    But one vision had stayed with him strongly through the years: the prosecutor and his assistant huddled in conspiracy through the Instruction process and the final trial, then smug and elated as the sentence was pronounced. The boy's father had come over and congratulated the prosecutor. Another triumph plotted on the golf course.
    It had been Chapeau's first taste of the system at work. He'd vowed then that if he was to continue making his living from physical enforcement, it would be done in the shadows and with the buffer of an organization that knew how to work the system. Fifteen months out of jail he became a milieu enforcer. At first it was just low key strong arm work: intimidation and threats, the occasional limb broken. The work ranged from small time gambling, protection and loan debts, to non payment on street level drug packets. But within three years he'd progressed to the big league and made his first hit: an area dealer had pocketed heroin with a street value of almost 300,000 Francs, claiming it had been seized in a police raid. Through an inside police contact the milieu discovered that wasn't true. It couldn't go unpunished.
    He thought again now of the two smug prosecutors, smiling, congratulating themselves. Slowly he twirled Duclos' identity card between his fingers, and smiled himself. A gay paedophile Assistant Prosecutor, his entire life and future now resting in his hands. The circle of revenge could hardly be more poetic. This was going to be much more fun than he first thought.

    The memorial service for Christian Rosselot was held at the Church of St Nicholas, fifty yards back from the main Bauriac square. The inside of the church was a microcosm of village life and social stratas.
    The first row nearest the altar was taken up with the Rosselots and immediate neighbours and friends. A dark complexioned woman in her sixties to Monique Rosselot's left, Dominic assumed to be her mother. She was dressed fashionably and well: dark Pierre Cardin blouse and matching pleated skirt, though perhaps a little too much jewellery. Dominic was surprised; when Louis had mentioned Monique's mother visiting, he'd imagined her shrouded in a black djellabah, like the drab old widows he remembered from the streets of Algeria.
    Jean-Luc had made it back in time, and had also brought his brother and his mother. His father had been too ill to travel. The latest updates from Louis through Valerie as they'd filed into the church. They stood to the right of Jean-Luc with the Fievets immediately alongside.
    The next few rows were taken up with village people who had an acquaintance or vague connection with the Rosselots: various shopkeepers Monique visited regularly, Jean-Luc's farm equipment and seed suppliers, the family doctor, Louis and Valerie.
    The gendarmerie was represented five rows back, with an assortment of mostly unconnected villagers who wished to pay their respects filling another four rows behind. The murder had touched Taragnon deeply: sorrow and gentle weeping alongside those who were just curious or open-mouthed, trying to catch a glimpse of the Rosselots in the front row.
    Four days ago, Curate Pierre Bergoin had held a small funeral service for Christian Rosselot at the burial ground chapel between Bauriac and St Maximin. Only Jean-Luc, Monique, her mother and the Fievets were present. The family had wanted a private affair, and the brunt of their grief had already been spent away from onlookers.
    The memorial service started with the Requiem?ternam. Dominic looked up as Curate Bergoin's voice echoed around the church: '…Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion; et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem: hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to thee. Eternal rest. Oh, God, creator and redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of all thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of their sins; that through pious supplications…'
    There were six of them from the gendarmerie: Harrault, Poullain, Servan, Briant, Levacher and himself. Dominic wondered if the division in their ranks was obvious; Poullain and he were at opposite ends of the group. Since the call late in the day before, they'd hardly spoken.
    It had come from Colonel Gastine, his old commanding officer in Marseille. After the preamble of how Dominic was settling in Bauriac, Gastine quickly came onto the subject of the call he'd had from Colonel Houillon in Aix. 'He might call me once in four months, if I'm lucky. So although he tried to make light of it, the fact that he should trouble to call at all over such a matter made me realize there was something much more serious in the background. Apparently, there's some sort of disagreement between you and your commanding officer over an investigation now in progress. Is that correct?'
    So, Pouillain had got to Houillon before him. 'Yes. It's a murder investigation. I don't think my Captain heading the investigation here is looking fully at all the possibilities.'
    'You might have very good cause, Dominic, it's not my position to question. And that's not the problem. Though it hasn't been said directly, only intimated, if anything lands on Houillon's desk, Captain Pouillon is going to request your transfer. He'll argue that he only took you in as a departmental favour to accommodate the fact that your mother was sick and you needed to be close to her. He saw your main usefulness as liaison where Marseille might be involved, such as the investigation in progress; but that if he can't use you effectively, if your working styles clash, there is really nowhere else in the gendarmerie he can deploy you effectively. You'll be surplus to requirement.'
    'Where would they transfer me?' Dominic asked meekly. Perhaps if it wasn't too far away, he could commute.
    'Rouen is one suggestion, Brest another, or possibly Nancy.'
    Dominic felt as if a trap-door had opened. All were at least three hundred miles away. The message was clear: if he didn't tow the line, he'd be sent into exile. His mother would die alone.
    'I'm sorry to bring you this news, Dominic. The way Houillon put it, it was almost as if they were doing you a favour by using me as honest broker, warning you. Giving you the option. If you'd filed the complaint, they'd have just shipped you out.'
    'They?'
    'Houillon was slightly apologetic, as if he felt a bit uncomfortable with all of this as well. So I read into it that someone with far stronger influence than Pouillan was involved. Pouillain couldn't risk directly asking Houillon to get involved like this.'
    Perrimond. So in the end they'd all ganged up together to get their way over Machanaud. Put the lowly gendarme in his place, make sure he didn't cause any waves. It had probably all been done with a few quick phone calls, and now he was powerless. A bloodless coup.
    'Fratres, ece mysterium vobis dico…' Curate Bergoin's voice cut through some stifled sobbing from the front rows. '…In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this, corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin…'
    Death? His mother's pale yellow face before him, smiling softly: 'Don't worry, I understand if you have to go. You're young and you have your work and your career.' And him protesting: 'No! I can't leave you at a time like this. I promised!'
    Machanaud screaming at him as he was being dragged from the interview room by Servan and Harrault: 'You betrayed me! I was meant to be here for a statement about the car. I trusted you!' Probably Pouillain had planned it, left him alone for over an hour with Machanaud before he'd returned with the warrant, knowing fully that Machanaud would get edgy without some reassurance. Busily basting their sacrificial lamb while Poullain and Perrimond cemented the final stages of their coup.
    With the arrest warrant served and Machanaud's rights read out as he was dragged off to the cells, for the first time it struck Dominic what Machanaud faced. If convicted, he would probably get the death penalty or would be exiled to a living death in the penal colonies. With the harshness of colony regimes and disease rife, average life expectancy was little more than six years. From his cell window, Machanaud had probably even heard the church bells announcing the memorial service, rallying the emotions of the village against him.
    It was a daunting, impossible choice: leave his mother alone to die, or stay silent and allow a man whose guilt he questioned be condemned.
    '…Teste David cum Sibylla.' Muted weeping now also from an unknown woman towards the back of the church. '…Quantus tremor est futurus. The last loud trumpet's spreading tone, shall thro' the place of tombs be blown — to summon all before the Throne. Nature and death with fixed eyes, shall see the trembling creature rise — to plead before the last assize. The written book shall be outspread, and all that it contains be read. To try the living and the dead.'
    Curate Bergoin offered little guidance.

SIXTEEN

    Session 5.
    '…Or is it perhaps you're concerned that if we confront Jojo, ask him questions, we'll frighten him off. He won't appear in the dreams to help you again.'
    'I don't know… perhaps a bit.'
    'The dreams are special between you — and you don't want to spoil it.'
    '… It's not knowing what to do.' Eyran's head lolled, as if asking consent of an unseen figure.
    Lambourne let the moment ride, let the thought sink deeper home. He’d spent the last twenty minutes setting the mood to draw out Jojo directly, and finally he sensed he was close. 'I think you're a lot surer of his friendship than you make out. You don't think he'd frighten off easily, do you?'
    After a few seconds, Eyran exhaled slowly; reluctant acceptance. 'No.'
    'But while you might like to know the answers — know how Jojo lost his parents and where, see just how much you have in common — you're not sure how to ask the questions. But that's where I can help you.’ Lambourne left a long silence, watching Eyran's reaction: his brow was furrowed then relaxed, his tongue lightly moistening his lips. The suggestion was fully there now; all he had to do was fill in the gaps. '…You don't need to worry about confronting him — because we can go back to the past dreams and I can talk to Jojo directly.'
    Lambourne could see that Eyran was teetering on the brink, fighting between what he'd like to believe — being able to ask Jojo questions, guide some events for once rather than be just a passenger — and what his senses told him was real: the dreams were over, they were in the past. If he could change the past… the first thing he'd do was bring his parents back alive. Like a boxer with his opponent reeling, Lambourne knew that if he didn't keep up the momentum, he could lose Eyran at any moment.
    '…But I'll need your help Eyran. Jojo is with you, he's part of you — part of your dreams. If you really want to know the answers, Jojo will talk to me. Of that I'm sure. Will you help me?'
    '… I don't know…. how would I help?'
    'By wanting to know the answers as much as me. You do want to know about Jojo, don't you… know why he's a friend, know what happened to him so that you can better understand why he's there to help you?' Lambourne watched each tick of expression on Eyran's face as the messages went home. Eyran was close to coming to terms with it. 'If you really want to know those things — then I'm sure it will work.'
    Eyran swallowed slowly. 'Yes… I would like to know.'
    But Lambourne could read the uncertainty still in Eyran's face. 'If it doesn't work, if Jojo doesn't want to speak to us — then we'll soon know. There'll be nothing lost. We'll just continue as before.'
    And for the first time there was a glimmer of acceptance, an easing in Eyran's expression as the portent of failure was lifted. It wasn't the full acceptance he'd have liked, but probably the best he'd get. He pushed the advantage before the moment was lost. '… So let's go back to the last dream you had… try and find Jojo. Tell me, what's the first thing you see?'
    The sudden leap caught Eyran by surprise, and Lambourne could see that Eyran was suddenly perplexed, fighting for images just out of reach. 'Its okay… take your time,' Lambourne soothed. He counted off the seconds as Eyran's breathing slowly settled back.
    '… It was dusk, the light was fading fast… I was approaching the copse.'
    The dreams were always a tease, thought Lambourne: images not clear, mist that obscured reality, fading light that meant he would be lost in the darkness if he didn't find his parents soon. Jojo always had him on a tight treadmill.
    '…There was a figure on the edge of the wheat field, just before the copse, looking back at me… But I couldn't see clearly who it was.'
    'Did you think that the figure might be your father — or Jojo perhaps?'
    'I wasn't sure… but as I started to run closer to get a clear view, I came into a clearing of wheat which looked like it had been cut neatly away — and Jojo was sitting there, looking down. He looked sad at first, lost… but as he saw me, he smiled and stood up.'
    Lambourne saw an opportunity. 'Did you ask Jojo what was wrong, why he looked so sad?'
    'No… no, I didn't. When he smiled and stood up, I was sure then it was my father ahead — and I was keen to point him out to Jojo.'
    Lambourne could see the mixture of doubt and elation on Eyran's face. Doubt that once again he might have ignored Jojo's emotions and feelings — battling with his elation that it might be his father. He would need to deal with the father's sighting first to get Eyran fully focused.
    Jojo quickly took control. Eyran described the distant shape fading into the shadows as Jojo looked up, saying that Eyran's father had probably gone deeper into the copse. Jojo started to lead the way. Lambourne tensed as the descriptions rolled, tapping his pencil on his notes. Over a week's delay before Stuart Capel finally signed the consent slip, and only then because there'd been another bad dream. Lambourne knew that if he didn't succeed in drawing out Jojo now, there might not be another chance.
    As Eyran described them in pursuit, heading across the field and through the trees towards the brook, Lambourne's nerves bristled — fearing another dream ending. But this time they headed out of the woods and into an open field the other side, and he was lulled into complacency by the setting and his pre-occupation with returning Eyran to where he first met Jojo. He was only alerted by Eyran's sudden change in breathing — suddenly more laboured, his eyelids flickering rapidly. '…Does the dream end badly there?'
    'Yes… we… there was a dip… I… I' Fractured breathing, Eyran swallowing on his words.
    'It's okay… It's okay! You don't need to go there again. Step back from the clearing… step back!'
    Eyran looked startled for a moment. Lambourne realized then that he'd shouted. He quickly introduced a calmer, more soothing tone. 'Let's go back… back away from the clearing. Yes — that's it…. you're away from any danger now…'
    Lambourne left a few seconds gap between each comment, as if waiting for Eyran to catch up with him. '…We're going back to the beginning — back to where you first met Jojo in the first field. He was sitting then in another clearing of wheat. You mentioned that he looked very sad. But we never found out why he was so sad.'
    Eyran's breathing gradually eased. He looked more settled.
    '… You thought perhaps that you should have asked, that he might have been upset you didn't ask. But it doesn't matter — we can ask him now.'
    'I don't know… I'm not sure, I…' Doubt and uncertainty returned, swept across Eyran's face like rising storm clouds.
    Lambourne could see Eyran retreating, a moment more and the chance would be gone completely. 'But you need to know more about Jojo. You never ask him anything, yet he's put in so much time helping you, trying to find your parents. Don't you think it's only fair — he'll be upset if you never ask. One night you'll be dreaming, you'll return to the copse, expecting him to be there to help you find your parents… and you'll be all alone. He won't be there!'
    Lambourne saw Eyran visibly flinch. But as his expression settled back, Lambourne could see that a glimmer of acceptance had returned. It had been the right ploy: remind Eyran that there was just as much risk in not talking to Jojo. It wasn't all one way.
    Lambourne spent the next minutes cajoling and reassuring, one minute enticing and luring, hoping that Eyran would make the decision, then suddenly once again storm-trooping — before Eyran finally relented and he broke through. Entered the elusive world of Jojo.

    Lambourne spent the first minutes getting accustomed to Jojo's voice. The intonation was slightly different, slower and more purposeful, but apart from that it was Eyran's voice. Lambourne asked if he was Eyran's friend, where he knew Eyran from, but Jojo was vague '…from before… it was a long time back.' He got a similar answer when he asked Jojo about losing his parents. Distant memories, obscured by a haze of time. Lambourne wanted to stay for the moment with the present and the recent dreams.
    'Did you lose your parents by the copse where you first met Eyran. You mentioned that you'd had the same experience as Eyran — that he wouldn't be able to find his parents unless he crossed over.'
    '… I only wanted to help. I was over the far side… I couldn't help him unless he crossed over.'
    'Did you see him crossing over as a sign that he trusted you. That he wanted your help?' Lambourne knew that he'd have to be more patient talking to Jojo; each response was being fed in turn through Eyran.
    '… Yes.'
    'But why the copse? Was it familiar — reminded you of where you lost your parents?'
    'There was something about it, I couldn't be sure… but I had the feeling stronger in the wheat field. It was a long time ago, though… I couldn't remember clearly.
    'The same wheat field where you were with Eyran in the last dream?'
    'Yes. But Eyran was running through the wheat field in the first dream… it was that which made me look up and see him from the copse.'
    Eyran too had mentioned that when he first moved in the house the wheat field had seemed familiar… 'as if I'd been there before.' 'You could see him between the trees — running towards you?'
    'Yes, and I… I… felt his concern, his worry as he was running through. I knew that something was wrong.'
    'The same concern that you felt when you lost your parents?'
    'Yes — I'd felt the same.'
    'And that was what first made you feel close to Eyran, made you feel you could help find his parents?' A small nod and a mumble of 'yes' from Jojo. 'Was that the first time you saw Eyran?'
    'Yes — then. But I knew him from before…'
    The past again. 'When was that?'
    'I don't know — it was a while… a while ago. It's not clear.'
    How far back? Lambourne wondered. How many years did it take for events to fade from an eleven year old's memory? Five, six? Even in the unlikely event they had met as children and the memory had now gone — Jojo's memory of losing his parents wouldn't so easily fade. In inventing Jojo, Eyran had simply buried the details in the past — hopefully out of reach.
    Lambourne picked his way through some other dreams for Jojo's interpretation, matching symbolism to a list he'd made earlier: The brook and the wheat field: familiarity, home. Loss of parents: shared experience. Crossing the pond and entering the woodland shed: trust. Now he added: wheat clearing. Mirror images, Jojo filling the gaps that Eyran didn't want to face. But trust had quickly given way to dominance: Jojo always led, Eyran followed.
    Lambourne tried to draw Jojo out on the failure of the dreams, but Jojo seemed as surprised and disappointed as Eyran. Even as Jojo submitted to the reality he knew Eyran would have to face, relinquished control, his sense of failure mirrored Eyran's disappointment. 'Do the failures in the dreams make you despair — wonder if each time you might face the same disappointment?'
    'Yes, sometimes… but when I see Eyran, I feel hopeful again. And I feel I can't let him down.'
    'You feel that he expects it of you — expects you to be able to find his parents?'
    '…Yes.'
    'But how do you feel. Do you feel you can really find his parents?'
    Eyran's head lolled slightly, then turned slowly back until he was again facing the ceiling. 'I don't know… but Eyran feels sure I can find them. And he needs a friend to help him. I couldn't leave him on his own.'
    Lambourne wondered if that was going to be the pattern: Jojo side-stepping, passing the main responsibilities back to Eyran. 'And you think that your own experience with losing your parents will help?'
    'Yes… at least I know how he feels. It seems so… so unfair that it has happened twice.'
    Twice? 'You mean — with you and now Eyran. You both experiencing losing your parents?'
    'Yes.'
    'But you remember so little about your own loss — you said that it was too long ago for you to recall. So how will you be able to help Eyran?' Create doubt, start chipping away at Jojo's dominance, thought Lambourne. He watched intently as Eyran grappled with the thought. Eyran's expression was taut; a muscle pulsed momentarily by his left eye.
    'If I went back… perhaps I would remember clearer. Maybe I hope I'll find my parents at the same time… that's why I've returned. Why I want to help Eyran.'
    'So you were unable to find your parents when you were there before?'
    'No… I never found them.'
    The first small admittance of defeat. If he could build on that, get Jojo to admit that he might fail again, then he would be halfway to breaking his hold. 'Do you fear that you might fail with Eyran as well. That you won't be able to find them?'
    'Yes… sometimes. But I can't just leave him on his own — give up.'
    Lambourne sensed a chink of uncertainty. 'But what if you can't help Eyran find them, in the same way that you have never been able to find your own parents. Eyran believes they're alive — but do you?'
    Eyran shook his head, struggling with images he didn't want to accept. 'I don't know… he needs a friend. He's all alone when he's looking for them. I was alone before — I know how he feels. I must be there to help him.'
    Lambourne retreated; a direct assault wasn't going to work. Eyran was still clinging, resisting. Jojo continuing to hide behind Eyran's desire to find his parents and take the passive role as just a helping friend. 'What was it that felt familiar about the wheat field? Eyran said that when he saw you in the field in the last dream, you looked sad. Can you remember why?'
    'I'm not sure. I just felt alone — deserted.'
    'Who had deserted you?'
    'I don't remember… it was just a feeling. The wheat field, the water running in the nearby brook… it reminded me of something.'
    'Did it remind you of losing your parents? Is that why you were sad?'
    'Yes… but I wasn't sure. It was somehow different. I tried to get a clear picture… but it was too far back.'
    Again the convenient shield. 'If you went back, do you think you'd remember, the images would become clearer?'
    'Yes… I think so.'
    The answer threw Lambourne; he'd expected more hesitance and resistance. Why bury the events conveniently in the past, then invite their exposure? Surely the last thing Eyran wanted was him delving back; yet Jojo seemed to be encouraging it. One area where they were in conflict. Lambourne wanted to stay with the present a bit longer, continue exploring the dreams — but he realized the opportunity to go back might not arise again easily. He decided to take the bait, call what he was certain was a bluff. 'So let's go back Jojo… back to where the memories might be clearer.'
    Lambourne started by taking Jojo back just over three years, to when Eyran was almost eight: the last months at the old house in England. Nothing. No recall, no memories. The process was slow; Eyran left long gaps as he mentally jumped time frames and surfaced again. Lambourne prompted by mentioning their play areas by the old house: the copse and the woods at the back, the wheat field at Broadhurst Farm. But nothing triggered a memory. He decided to make the invitation more open. '… Take me back to when you first met Eyran. Was it when Eyran first moved into the house there? Were you friends together then?'
    'No… it was from before.'
    'Then go back further… back to when you first met.'
    Only Eyran's breathing and the faint whirring of the tape reel punctuated the silence. Lambourne tapped his pen softly on his pad with the passing seconds. As Jojo panned frantically back in his mind through past events and images and almost two minutes had passed with only the sound of Eyran's breathing, now slightly more laboured — Lambourne became sure that nothing would surface. Or that Jojo's recollections would only be vague; the painful memory of losing his parents selectively erased. In the same way that Eyran didn't want to accept his parents were dead — Jojo would have no recall of his.
    When Eyran finally surfaced and Jojo's voice returned, it startled Lambourne. He felt numbed, his mouth suddenly dry, and he had to consciously snap himself out, quickly adjust to the new situation and break the silence by asking the next question.
    He knew that he sounded inept, hesitant — hadn't fully made the leap to what he now confronted. His palms were sticky and he was stumbling as he continued with a few rudimentary questions. For the first time he was eager to end the session, and minutes later he stopped the tape recorder and counted Eyran back awake. He needed time to himself, time to think. He didn't mention anything to Eyran or the Capels as they confirmed arrangements for the next session and said their goodbyes.
    Lambourne sat back and closed his eyes, easing out a slow sigh. Now looking back, the signs had been there clearly: 'It seemed unfair that it should happen twice'…. 'It was long ago — from before.'… 'If I went back — perhaps I would remember clearer.' As much as he suspected Eyran had buried events in the past and so wouldn't want them uncovered, Jojo had been enticing him to go back throughout. Intent on only one track, he'd missed the signals.
    But as the implications sank home, he realized he was out of his depth; he'd need help. Even the few closing questions had made him feel awkward: fishing in areas of psycho-analysis he'd barely touched upon. He looked at his watch. Almost three hours before he could put through a call to the University of Virginia.

SEVENTEEN

    The warrant holding Machanaud was an initial detention order signed off by Perrimond for four days, the maximum any suspect could be held without an official arraignment before an Examining Magistrate.
    On the fourth day, Machanaud was transported from his cell in Bauriac for a ten o’clock hearing at the Palais de Justice in Aix. Frederic Naugier was presiding, though informally dressed in a dark grey suit; his red robes would appear at later hearings. Perrimond was to one side of the room, Briant as police escort behind Machanaud, and a greffier, court clerk, sat alongside Naugier.
    A young duty lawyer was dragged from the floor below to brief Machanaud on what would await him in the proceedings. During a thirty-eight minute hearing, Machanaud provided his main details for the court file, Naugier read the charges against him, and decision on bail was held over to the next hearing in ten days, by which time a state lawyer would have been appointed through the Bar Council.
    At the close of the proceedings, summarily Naugier signed off a four month detention order. In that time, he had to complete the instruction process and pass the case to full trial. On murder cases, it was not uncommon for him to sign off two or three such orders. Peuch had already made it clear to Machanaud that bail was unlikely given the combination of the charge and his transient background. Whether found guilty or not at the final trial, unless dramatic new evidence came up during the instruction, Machanaud was going to spend much of the next year in prison.

    Dominic had bought a TV for his mother four months previous. They were expensive, a luxury item, but it was something to keep her company, especially during his long evening shifts.
    He remembered the first time he saw 'Perry Mason'. French national programming was poor, and slicker American productions predominated. The popular courtroom drama however took time to catch on in France, mainly because the proceedings depicted were alien, bore no semblance to the justice system familiar to the French.
    The quick changing drama of different witnesses, surprises, change of pleas and sudden admissions would in France be spread over several months of the instruction process. Witnesses were grouped and called in different sessions, and testimony from the victim's family, the police, forensics and expert witnesses such as psychiatrists were heard in continuing separate sessions. With usually no more than two instruction hearings in any one month, the process was long and arduous, and complex cases could drag on seven to ten months before presentation to full trial.
    But by that time, evidence and testimony had been boiled down to just the essential facts necessary for a jury and three judges to deliberate. Witnesses could be recalled, but their answers were now no more than distillations of their previous testimony during instruction. No rambling, no surprises, no dramatics or sudden about turn admissions. Just the core evidence the prosecution and defence wished showcased for the jury. As a result even murder trials lasted only a day or two.
    Dominic had followed the early stages of Machanaud's instruction hearings. After a second hearing at which bail was refused, two weeks later Naugier summoned the Rosselots. Apart from confirming vital details about the last time they saw Christian, what he was wearing and who he had headed out to see that afternoon, Naugier had to formally ask them if they wished to press charges against the suspect held. Almost redundant, since if they had answered 'no', the State would have continued with the prosecution regardless — but it had to be recorded. Jean-Luc responded 'Of course' while Monique just nodded.
    The next hearing almost a month later was to clarify police and forensic findings at the initial crime scene. Dominic was concerned the subject of Machanaud's car sighting might be raised, but the hearings were strictly structured: Naugier conducted all questioning directly and any questions proposed by the defence and prosecution had to be presented to Naugier two weeks in advance, with a full schedule of topics to be raised then made available to both sides two days before the hearing. Perrimond had gone rigorously through the schedule with Poullain and Dominic. There was nothing about the car sighting.
    Though in two or three hearings time, Dominic knew that they would start to cover Machanaud's later hearings and statements, and the subject could come up. He was dreading it: having to face Machanaud and his council and change his story for Naugier.
    Four days after the call from Houillon in Marseille, he'd decided to throw in the towel and told Pouillain that he wouldn't be proceeding with a complaint. Poullain wasted no time in sequestering him and Briant into his back office, closing ranks tightly by ensuring their stories matched. Poullain suggested that they both admit the meetings, but modify the details discussed. 'From what I understand, Machanaud was drunk on both occasions. I'd be surprised if he remembers exactly what was said.'
    Dominic agreed numbly along with Briant, but part of him remained uncertain. Hopefully the subject just wouldn't come up.
    From what he heard about Machanaud's lawyer over the following weeks, that hope began to fade. Only twenty-six, Leonard Molet had been in full practice just over three years and divided his time between a private firm and state aid cases. Machanaud had shown alarm at their first meeting that this would be Molet's first murder trial, without fully appreciating how much worse his representation could have been: most state aid lawyers were inexperienced stagiaires still in pupilage, with invariably little or no courtroom experience. Over the weeks, Molet showed his paces and gained Machanaud's confidence, making Perrimond and Naugier at the same time sit up and take notice. Unlike the usual state aid fodder, he gained preliminary notes on time, saw his client regularly, and rebutted with sensible defence-angled questions for Naugier to pose at instruction. The case was going to be tightly contested.
    While reading from his notes in testimony about the initial crime scene, Dominic felt Molet staring at him intently at one point, felt uncomfortable that Molet was perhaps measuring him for a later confrontation. Later, towards the end of Poullain's testimony, Naugier cut in, admitting his confusion at the various positions of Machanaud supposedly fishing, the lane and the wheat field, and where the boy was finally found. Naugier had already gone over the details twice without being fully satisfied, and suggested that everything be re-examined at the scene itself. Perrimond and Molet showed scant surprise. Examining Magistrates often visited crime scenes to question suspects and witnesses. The theory was that suspects found it harder to reconstruct an invented story at the scene itself. Discrepancies started to show.
    Looking at his diary, Naugier saw that the next instruction in sixteen days was for witnesses who had sighted Machanaud on the day of the attack; at that hearing, he would notify both Perrimond and Molet of the date set for a reconstruction.
    Facing Molet had unsettled Dominic. He felt somehow vulnerable, that his guilt about covering up showed. He thought seriously about going back on his agreement with Poullain. His mother's condition had worsened the week before and she'd gone in for more tests: if the prognosis was bad, she might only make it another few months. The instruction covering the police statements and later car references wouldn't be for at least six weeks. If he filed the complaint a few days before the hearing and only then warned Poullain of his upcoming change in testimony, it could take them almost two months to manipulate his transfer. Longer if… Dominic stopped himself sharply, shaking his head, could hardly believe that he was actually weighing the timing of his mother's death just so that he could come clean and salvage his own guilt.
    In the days after giving in to Poullain, he was haunted by images of Machanaud. In one dream Machanaud was alone in the wheat field, calling out as Dominic turned his back and walked away. 'You're deserting me just like the others… Why?' But as he turned and looked back at Machanaud, only then did he notice one of Machanaud's hands covered with blood, could see where it had run down his arm, the bloodied rock discarded at his feet… and he awoke in a cold sweat, catching at his breath. Even in his dreams he was trying to assuage his concern, convince himself that Machanaud was guilty, he was doing the right thing. But it was little consolation knowing that he was merely joining Poullain and the rabble, and Machanaud's plea about desertion lingered stronger than any other image.
    The session with witnesses went smoothly, mostly repetitions of their earlier police statements. Confronted by Naugier with the various witness statements, Machanaud admitted that he'd lied in his own statements only because he thought the police questioning was aimed at his poaching that day. Naugier didn't pursue the mention of cars or go deeper into Machanaud's police statements: one he would tackle at the reconstruction, the other at the session following. Naugier summarized the proceedings and looked at his diary. The next hearing was the reconstruction to take place at Brieulle's farm: present should be the suspect, defence and prosecution, and all relevant police and medics who attended at the original scene. Date set was in nineteen days time, 22nd November.

    Chapeau tried the main Palais de Justice number in Limoges again. When he'd phoned two hours earlier, he was told that 'Monsieur Duclos was in a meeting, but should be free at twelve.' He'd left his name as Emile Vacheret, but no number. He would call back. Originally, he had planned to call closer to the final trial date, but during those months Duclos' memory could have started to fade.
    The second time he was put straight through. 'Monsieur Vacharet, yes. One moment. Ne quittez pas.'
    Then Duclos' voice in hushed tones. 'Emile… why on earth are you phoning me here are work, you know that…'
    'Be quiet,' Chapeau cut in. 'I used Vacheret's name to get through.'
    'Who is this? I don't understand.' Duclos spluttered. But it was a stock reaction; suddenly he did know who it was and understood fully. 'Why are you phoning me? How did you get this number? I'm quite sure Emile wouldn't be so stupid as to give it to you.'
    Chapeau chuckled. 'No, you're right. But your wallet was a treasure chest of information.' Silence from the other end: only the background clatter of typewriters came through to Chapeau for a few seconds.
    'It was you the other month,' Duclos hissed.
    God, this was fun. Chapeau wasn't sure what was more joyous: the outrage in Duclos' voice or the sudden flashback of the incident itself. 'Ah, you guessed. And I wanted so much for it to stay a surprise.'
    'Look, I just can't talk here.' Duclos voice was muted, edgy. 'I'll phone you straight back from outside. Give me a number.'
    Chapeau looked down at the number on the dial and read it out. 'Five minutes, no more. Or I'll be phoning your office back again.' He hung up.
    Duclos made a quick excuse to his secretary about seeing a client on the third floor, he wouldn't be longer than twenty minutes. He headed out along the long corridor, then skipped down instead of up. By the time he reached the main Palais de Justice steps, he was practically at a run.
    Chapeau picked up the phone on the second ring. Less than three minutes: impressive. Duclos was even keener than he thought.
    'Okay, what do you want?' Duclos' voice came breathlessly.
    Obviously no patience left for preamble or politeness, thought Chapeau. What was the world coming to? 'Luckily for you, it looks like they're nailing some poor local poacher for what you did to that young boy.' Chapeau listened intently over the static on the line for Duclos' reaction.
    A short intake of breath. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
    Chapeau had no time for fencing. 'Look, I know all about the boy in Taragnon. I saw the whole story in the papers. And I know that there's no friend. It was you — you attacked him, and that was why you wanted me to finish him off in the hospital. You were afraid he'd awaken and identify you.'
    'You're wrong. It was for my friend. And I know nothing about Taragnon — my friend told me the boy was from Marseille.'
    Chapeau read the bluff, could pick up on the tremor at the back of Duclos' voice. If there was any slight doubt remaining, now he was certain. There was no friend: Duclos had killed the boy. But he would have to push hard to get Duclos to admit it. 'Come on, Duclos. You've got a weakness for the young boys, you're a regular customer at Vacharet's. You want me to believe that this friend of yours has got exactly the same problem. And you drive straight through Taragnon on your way from the Vallon Estate to Aix.'
    'So does my friend. Whether you believe me or not doesn't really concern me.' Flatter, calmer voice now. 'You seem to be forgetting along the way that the boy was still alive in the hospital. You're the one who killed him. You can't tell your little theory to anyone without incriminating yourself.'
    Chapeau allowed Duclos his glorious moment's gloating before dropping the bombshell. 'That's the beauty of it — I never touched the boy. When I got to his room, he was already in emergency, they were fighting to save his life. I was annoyed at first that I'd missed him; and then it struck me that if the boy died that night, you'd have no way of knowing I hadn't made the hit. So I decided to claim the kill and stiff you for the money anyway. I don't think I've ever had so much fun.' Chapeau sniggered. 'Except that is for beating the shit out of you a week later.'
    Longer, deeper silence this time. Chapeau could almost feel the waves of panic at the other end. Duclos' mind racing whether to continue denying, question or retreat. A slow exhalation. 'Why should I believe you now?'
    It was a weak protest, more grudging acceptance than doubt. 'You don't have to. Why don't I call the police and tell them about you hiring me to kill the boy, let them work out if the boy died on the operating table or not. After all, they have access to all the hospital records. And then when they turn up to arrest you, you can tell them all about your little friend. As an accomplice, and seeing as the murder you hired me for never took place, you'd probably only get a few years.'
    'No, no. Don't do that.'
    Chapeau savoured the panic in Duclos' voice before commenting, 'So whether it's you or your friend, at least we've established one thing. You don't want me to go to the police.'
    Duclos was slow to answer, his voice subdued, barely audible. 'No.'
    'That's a shame, because I had such a strong urge to do my citizen's duty this time. The story of that poor poacher in the paper really touched me. So unfair. You know, I probably have a lot more in common with someone like that than… than someone like yourself, Monsieur Prosecutor. It would almost feel like I'm betraying one of my own. I think it would take quite a lot to persuade me to do something like that.'
    'What do you want?' Duclos had no energy left to spar with Chapeau. As it dawned on him that Chapeau was probably telling the truth about not killing the boy and he realized how vulnerable he was, a sinking sensation gripped his stomach. In the past weeks of work, he'd finally started to free his thoughts from the nightmare of Taragnon, but now it was back with him full force. Bleak years of the incident re-kindled with each demand from Chapeau stretched out ahead. He felt physically sick.
    Chapeau paused for breath; like a lion circling his prey, now he had Duclos exactly where he wanted him, ready for the kill. But it was too soon. Besides, only a couple of months had passed since he'd probably cleaned Duclos out. 'I don't know yet. I'll have to think about that one. I'll probably call you again when the date for the final trial for this fellow has been set. There'll still be time then for them to haul someone else in for questioning and acquit him if they get new information.'
    'When will that be?' Flat monotone, defeated, washed along on whatever Chapeau suggested. It had taken him almost a month to fully get over the injuries from the beating in the Marseille alley; he was still haunted by the image of the cold steel barrel sliding against his cheek, sure in that moment he was going to die. Duclos shuddered; now once again he felt powerless and afraid.
    'Two months — maybe as much as four or five. You know probably better than me how slow the wheels of justice turn in France. Why don't I send you regular press clippings, keep you up to date.'
    'No, no, it's okay.' The thought of regular reminders through the post made Duclos' blood run cold. Surely Chapeau wasn't serious? 'Just phone me when you're ready.'
    'I will. In the meantime I suggest you're a good boy and start saving up for when I call. Have you got a piggy bank?'
    'You bastard. You slimy fucking bastard!'
    'Oh, I do love it when you're angry. It gets me so excited.' Chapeau blew an exaggerated kiss close to the mouthpiece and hung up.

EIGHTEEN

    Voices from the rooms, running feet in the courtyard, a ball bouncing, laughter, crying. Christian biting back the tears after being stung by a bee, Jean-Luc running down the field with Christian on his shoulders and her worrying about them falling, Christian at six holding up his favourite puppet doll, Topo Gigio: he'd left it in the courtyard and some chickens had pecked the stuffing out and an arm was almost falling off. She'd re-stuffed it and sewn the arm that night, tucked it back in alongside him while he was asleep. Christian running out of the surf at Le Lavandou, helping Jean-Luc by measuring the boules for a local village game, Christian blowing out the candles on his tenth birthday party.
    Fragments of memories, some old pictures on the shelves and in albums, Christian's old clothes and toys. All that was left.
    Monique had promised herself each time that the next day she'd clear them away… the next day. Each time she looked at his room — with each toy and item of clothing in exactly the same place he'd left them that afternoon — it was easy in that moment to believe that he was simply away, a school trip or summer camp, and soon would return.
    But as the images flooded back — the police drawing up in the courtyard that first day, her candle-light vigil in the hospital, the young gendarme at her door saying he was sorry… so sorry — a cold steel hand of reality reached deep inside her and ripped out her emotions, her very soul, stripped bare every fibre and nerve ending until her pain was rendered down to no more than pitiful numbness, a grey void… whispers in the first empty dawn after his death… 'Oh Christian… Christian'. Knowing in that moment that there would be no more answer, no kisses like soft butterflies on her cheek, no more embraces and feeling the warmth of his body…. clinging now only to the memory, hugging the top cover of his bed around her and rocking gently as her emotions flooded over and once again her body sank into uncontrollable sobbing.
    Most of her crying had been alone, sitting in Christian's room. Now it had come to symbolize catharsis, the only place in the house where she felt comfortable venting her grief. The rest of the house was for cooking, cleaning, sewing, all the day to day mechanical chores to help push her grief into the background. When she cried, it was just her and Christian, alone. A last vestige of intimacy.
    Only once had she been caught, just over a month after Christian's death; Clarisse had been at the door, half hiding behind the door frame, perplexed. Monique had quickly stifled her tears and rushed to comfort her, feeling guilty.
    Clarisse was probably suffering even more than her; at only five, struggling to truly grasp what had happened, let alone come to terms with it. Asking questions about where Christian was now, would he be happy, was it nice in heaven? Drawing pictures of Christian sitting among floating clouds, his Topo Gigio doll at one side, his favourite tree from the garden — an old spreading carob which he used to climb — the other. Clarisse's idea of Christian's heaven.
    All they had was each other for consolation, Jean-Luc had been distant, remote. When they'd lost Christian, they'd lost most of Jean-Luc as well. She had shared her affections equally between the children, but Jean-Luc had always shown more affection for Christian, and now it was more marked. It was as if he was saying: 'I've lost what I care about most in this family, there's little for me here now.'
    Long, bland stares straight through them at the dining table. Little or no interest in any of their activities; whenever any personal involvement threatened to come close, he would make an excuse about cleaning tools or the tractor and head out to the garage. And when his emotions became too much and Monique tried to hug and console him, he'd shrug her off. During the summer evenings he stayed out late in the fields, but as the evenings drew in he'd make an excuse and head for a local bar. It was as if he could no longer bear to be in their company; or perhaps it was the house itself, reminders of Christian.
    Many a time when he was working in the fields, she would look up from the kitchen window and see him sitting on the stone wall at the ridge of the field, staring emptily into space. She would busy herself with chores for a while, and sometimes as much as forty minutes later he would still be in the same position when she looked out.
    The Fievets next door had been helpful and supportive, but they weren't close enough for her to share her innermost thoughts about Christian's death or the worry of Jean-Luc's increasing emotional distance from her and Clarisse. The town had rallied well behind her, she'd been particularly touched by the memorial service — but at some point afterwards she felt unable to face another village shopkeeper, another sympathetic face and heartfelt condolence. For over a month after the service, she had hardly ventured out, the Fievets did her shopping.
    Outside the church, Captain Pouillain had approached and said that someone was in custody, 'a local vagabond. Justice would soon be done.' A satisfied, firm statement, as if he felt assured the news would salve her pain. She'd hardly remembered him from the first interview; the only gendarme she recognized from the line in the church was the one who had called to tell her Christian was dead. He stayed in the background, gendarme cap in hand. Most of it outside the church had been sympathy at arm's length — pats on the shoulder, heads hung in sorrow, muttered condolences with eyes downcast, trite offers of help from people she hardly knew. She'd grimaced afterwards at the irony: it had taken the death of her son to make her feel truly accepted in the village.
    Apart from the week when her mother had visited, there had been nobody to share her grief — until she looked up and saw Clarisse at the doorway. So for the past long weeks she'd shared small stories, comforts and hugs with her daughter, fighting to come to terms with the unacceptable partly through the innocent eyes of a five year old — fill the sickening void with whatever vestiges of love and affection remained in her house.
    The only thing Jean-Luc had shown any interest in was the trial, seeing justice done. While she'd been still too blind with tears and numb to react to Poullain's statement outside the church, Jean-Luc had nodded enthusiastically, asking several questions before they'd parted. For the first time since Christian's death, he appeared animated, drawing hard on each word for comfort, solace. Each week he phoned the police station and was brought up to date on the latest stages of the instruction. 'Next week, they're all going out to the scene of the crime to re-enact it,' he commented one morning at breakfast, but she'd hardly been listening.
    Jean-Luc mentioned it again the morning of the re-enactment, and only then did she pay attention: two mentions, and again a rare show of eagerness — it must be important. Heading out, he said that he would be working in the west pasture. But half an hour later the rising wind made her think about how exposed the west field was, and when she looked to see if Jean-Luc might have moved to the more sheltered fields at the back, she noticed the car was gone.

    As the wind rose, it bent the wheat at an angle. But not evenly: one swathe would be cut sharply at an angle while another remained upright, the path of the wind undulating, weaving patterns through the field like rolling golden surf. The morning air was cool, the wind gusting intermittently, and patches of brief sunshine broke through between the shifting grey clouds, bathing them momentarily in light and warmth.
    Dominic looked thoughtfully at the figures ahead as the light shifted. The shadow of a large cloud floated down the bordering hillside like a giant valkyrie until it hung over them, bathing them in grey, matching the intensity of their mood. Thirteen men in a lonely windswept field, linked only by the death of a ten year old boy. With the shifting light, the wheat sheaves undulating with each pulse of the wind, it was almost as if the field was protesting, trying to evade them and keep its secrets.
    The figures huddled close together to be heard. Naugier was going over information with the attending medics, forensics and Poullain, in no particular order. Servan, Levacher and Harrault were just behind closest to Dominic. A greffier constantly at Naugier's side made notes in shorthand.
    Machanaud stood beyond handcuffed to an Aix prison warden. His turn would come next. Perrimond was to one side of Naugier, Molet the other by the greffier. Dominic noticed Machanaud glancing towards the riverbank, his eyes bleary and distant. Perhaps stung by the wind, or was he still in a daze with it all, hardly believing that he was back in the same spot three months later charged with murder, pleading for his life. He'd had a lot of time to contemplate his story. Naugier looked up at Machanaud sharply at intervals as he went over the forensic details.
    Naugier then clarifed with Machanaud which part of the river he was at that day, and directed Servan to remain standing where the attack took place. Everyone else was then directed down to the riverside.

    'Two hours? And in all of that time, did you see or meet a young boy?'
    Naugier's question cut through the air crisply. The assembled group stood silent, expectant. Naugier had spent the first minutes by the river confirming that Machanaud had been fishing, what he caught, and the time he was there — ten past one to just after three — before coming to the key question.
    'No,' Machanaud said, with stronger emphasis than his previous answers. Even the furthest in the group heard his denial.
    Naugier looked pointedly in both directions. 'Did you see or meet anyone in that time?' Foliage further down the riverbank was thin, the view virtually clear; most of the foliage and trees were clustered along the bank's ridge bordering the farm track.
    'No.'
    Following Naugier's gaze towards the flat bridge a hundred yards downstream, Molet suddenly picked up on the significance. The small bridge connecting the neighbouring farm to Breuille's wheat field was in the police report as 'where we think the boy crossed', mainly because there were no sightings of him walking through the village itself. But he hadn't realized it would be so visible.
    Naugier pointed. 'You are aware that is the only connecting bridge for some distance. Can you see it clearly from here?'
    Molet prayed for Machanaud to suddenly plead short-sightedness, but his 'Yes' came crisply.
    'And you saw nobody crossing that bridge throughout your time here that afternoon?'
    'No.'
    Naugier looked thoughtfully in the other direction, upstream; then he slowly scanned up the river bank towards the path, as if he was following an imaginary line towards where the attack had taken place. 'Monsieur Machanaud. Can you see the gendarme we left standing on the path?'
    'No. I can't see him.'
    'And the afternoon you were fishing — did you see or hear anything from the position where the gendarme is now standing?'
    'No.'
    Naugier nodded. This made sense. The river bank dipped down sharply. The only part of the lane visible was lower down as it sloped towards the road. 'Now let us return to your sighting of vehicles passing that afternoon, starting with the first vehicle. What time would that have been?'
    'Maybe forty minutes after I arrived.'
    'What sort of car was that?'
    'I didn't see. I only heard the noise and the direction it was travelling — up towards Caurin's farm.'
    Caurin? Naugier flicked back a few pages in his file for the reference. Marius Caurin owned the farm behind and was the first to discover the boy. He'd been quickly eliminated: his tractor had been seen by at least three people going through Taragnon at the time of the assault, and Machanaud too had mentioned his tractor leaving in his first statement. 'The same Caurin whose tractor you saw heading down the track. What time would that have been?'
    'Perhaps forty or fifty minutes before I left.'
    Naugier ran through with Machanaud the remaining car sightings and timings, then flicked forward to some blank pages in his file and started writing: First car: up at 1.45–50. Second car: down at 2.15 (not heard by Machanaud). Third car: Caurin's tractor, down at 2.25. Fourth car: up at 2.45–50 (heard by Machanaud). Fifth car: down at 3.00, just minutes before Machanaud leaves himself (heard and seen by Machanaud). 3.03–05: Machanaud leaves on his solex, is sighted by… Naugier looked up towards Poullain. 'What is the name of the woman who saw Machanaud leaving?'
    'Madame Veillan.'
    Naugier wrote in the name, and added: 3.16–18: Caurin returns to his farm and discovers boy.Estimated duration of attack:40–60 minutes. Time of attack: 1.30-3.00. So certainly Caurin's tractor had passed while the attack was in progress, but possibly the first and second cars as well. He took out and lit a Gitane and blew out the first fumes hesitantly. With the various cars passing, if indeed there was someone else there that afternoon, they couldn't possibly have stayed on the lane. The final attack must have been a few minutes at most; any longer exposure in that position would have been too risky. For the rest of the time, they must have…
    Machanaud's voice cut in. 'But it wasn't till later that I remembered that final car clearly. It was an Alfa Romeo.'
    It took a second for Naugier to detach from his previous thoughts. He noticed Molet glaring at Machanaud; probably he had pre-warned his client about making uninvited comments during instruction. 'From your statement, I thought that it was a Citroen you saw?'
    Molet stepped in before Machanaud put his foot completely in his mouth. 'It was — on my clients original statement. But later he went into the police station and advised of the change, which from checking I believe has never been recorded. He also later mentioned the same revised sighting to a gendarme in a local Taragnon bar. We expected this to be covered at a later instruction, at which stage my questions would have been put forward for you to pose to the gendarmes in question.'
    'A bit late for that, isn't it,' Naugier barked. 'Your client seems to have brought the subject up himself.'
    Molet duly nodded and looked down. One of the great inadequacies of the instruction process was that the examining magistrate could freely divert, while the lawyers were restricted by the schedule provided two days in advance of each hearing. Diversions were unchartered territory, to be avoided at all costs. The only consolation was that it also worked against the prosecution: Perrimond looked equally as uncomfortable.
    Dominic's heart was in his mouth at the sudden change in questioning. He'd resigned himself to prepare for the later instruction and tie his answers in with Poullain's. But now with rising panic he realized that Naugier could turn on him at any second and he wouldn't know what to say.
    Naugier turned towards Poullain. ‘I understand, Captain Poullain, you were the officer who took the original statement regarding the Citreon. To your knowledge was this at any later stage changed?'
    Poullain fleetingly caught Perrimond's and Dominic's eye, but hid his concern quickly. 'Yes… I believe so.' He nodded back in the direction of Briant. 'A few days after his initial statement, Machanaud came into the station and saw one of my officers, Sergeant Briant, and he-'
    Perrimond interrupted. 'Sir, I along with the defence council would like to protest. This was something scheduled to go into in more depth at a later meeting. We are therefore — as with Monsieur Molet — totally unprepared with any questions that could add valuable light. I see neither the prosecution or defence case benefiting.'
    'That isn't quite how I feel,' Molet countered. 'I see my client benefiting from pursuit of this line of questioning. It's just that I feel he would benefit more with prepared questions, as is his right.'
    Naugier held up one hand sharply. 'Gentlemen — in case you both need reminding. I, and I alone, will decide the benefit of any line of questioning at this or any future instruction hearing at which you are both present. You may still prepare your questions regarding this subject and propose them at a later date, as originally planned. But this now is for my curiosity.' Naugier pulled hard on his Gitane. 'Captain Poullain — I suggest you finish your answer.'
    'Monsieur Molet was correct to mention inconsistencies, because that is exactly why no record was made of the change in statement.' Poullain was more confident, firm. The few seconds interruption had allowed him to gather his composure. 'Machanaud came into the gendarmerie a few days after his initial statement. It was late in the evening and he was very drunk. He advised that he now remembered more clearly the car that passed — it was an Alfa Romeo sports. An open top sports. In checking, there were no other sightings of such a car, but in any case we were about to ask Machanaud in to make his statement official when a day or so later he met one of my other men in a local bar. This time he said that it was an Alfa Romeo coupe that he saw.'
    Molet exhaled audibly. He could see already where it was heading; his worst fears at the issue being tackled early were being realized.
    Naugier gave him a sharp look, warning off any possible interruption, and turned back to Poullain. 'Well, surely one or the other should have been entered.'
    'Possibly. But with Machanaud changing his description to an Alfa coupe, we started to have doubts. We had already fully investigated the driver of such a car and eliminated him from our enquiry. He was in a local restaurant at the time of the attack — at least three waiters saw him.' Poullain waved one arm. 'With us asking about the Alfa coupe in the village, there was a lot of local talk. It looked as if Machanaud had simply changed his description to suit. And because the car in question had been eliminated, we thought such a change in statement could only further incriminate Machanaud. He'd been drinking on both occasions — so we decided as much for his benefit to stick with the original statement. That was the one we trusted most, free from corruption by village gossip.'
    Molet shook his head, lifting his eyes skyward as if for divine help. 'So now we are supposed to believe that all of this was done for my client's benefit. Ridiculous! My client's later description of the car was consistent on both occasions. I went over this with him several times.'
    'Nice to know you are so certain, monsieur Molet.' Naugier raised a sharp eyebrow. 'Especially when it appears your client was probably drunk.' He turned to Machanaud. 'How much had you drunk the night you went into the gendarmerie to change your statement?'
    'I don't know exactly… perhaps a few eau de vies, some beers.'
    'A few…some? Try to be more precise,' Naugier pressed. 'Did you have more than normal?'
    'Yes… yes, probably. I met with a friend I hadn't seen since we worked together in the Spring.'
    Naugier looked between Poullain and Molet, as if pressing home a final seal of understanding. Machanaud was a known drunkard and bar slouch. A 'few more than normal' meant that he was ratted. 'Hopefully this has cleared up this misunderstanding. You may, as I mentioned earlier, Monsieur Molet, pursue this line of questioning at a later instruction when we go back over previous statements. And Captain Poullain, I would suggest that in future you put everything in files you present to me — and let me decide whether or not they should be disregarded.'
    The noise of the trees swaying in the breeze seemed much louder in the silence following. Poullain muttered 'I understand', while Molet merely nodded and contemplated some dried leaves floating past.
    That was it, thought Dominic. He felt a sudden wave of relief wash over him. Weeks of worry, and in the end hardly any blood had been shed. The fact that the file entry had been buried equally to avoid local hierarchal awkwardness had never even surfaced, and now looked unlikely to at any later date. Dominic had panicked halfway through that Naugier would suddenly wheel around on him. Only now were the knots in his stomach easing. A low sigh escaped, lost among the wind rush through the trees.
    And as quickly Dominic was swept with guilt. How could he be relieved at just avoiding some awkward questions, when what he had witnessed had probably quashed one of Machanaud's last chances of salvation? He followed Molet's contemplative gaze towards the river: some sunshine broke briefly through the trees, flickering off its surface. Glimmers of hope, fading just as quickly as the clouds again rolled across. He had built up a wariness and fear of Molet, and now found himself empathizing with him.
    Naugier drew on the last inch of his Gitane and stubbed it out. He looked upstream again, his thoughts returning to where someone might have hidden… if there was someone else? No possible refuge on the lane with the cars passing, no other area of flattened or disturbed wheat — so where? The view along for the most part looked clear, but he needed a marker to be able to judge distance. Picking out Levacher, he asked him to go up to where his colleague stood. 'Then walk in a straight line until you are halfway down the river bank.'
    As Levacher walked up the river bank, forty yards beyond, Dominic thought he saw a figure peering through the bushes bordering the lane. He was sure it wasn't Servan, he hadn't noticed a gendarme's uniform… but just as quickly the figure was gone.
    Levacher re-appeared after a moment. Naugier waved one arm, directing Levacher until he stood halfway down the bank. 'Can you see the gendarme now standing on the river bank?'
    Slight pause from Machanaud, then, 'Yes.'
    Naugier waved back, shouting, 'Go twenty yards further along and stop.' He asked the same question of Machanaud with Levacher in two more positions further back and received a 'yes' on each one. There were few obstacles along the river bank, the bushes low and sparse.
    Naugier instructed the greffier. 'Let the record show that the suspect could see a figure clearly along the river bank up to sixty yards past a point running parallel with where the attack took place.'
    Molet looked down and slowly closed his eyes, recalling one of the key greffier entries from the last instruction: '...no other area of flattened or disturbed wheat was discovered other than that where the boy was finally found. Due to the risk of exposure of that position, directly beside the lane where cars passed, it has been concluded by the police and attending forensics that the first attack probably took place at some point down the river bank, obscured from the lane.'
    Now the two entries would be linked in the jury's mind and would effectively seal his client's fate.
    He had started the morning with some optimism, but bit by bit it had evaporated. First the car discrepancies dismissed out of hand, now the image of Levacher standing in clear sight of all present. Levacher could have moved another twenty yards back and still been visible. The image had burned home strongly. His client was now on record that he was in clear view of where they thought the boy had crossed the river and where it was presumed the first attack took place. Any hopes he'd harboured of seeding strong doubts about Machanaud's guilt had gone in that moment. Molet knew now that it would take nothing short of a miracle to save his client from being condemned.
    As they made their way back up the river bank and onto the lane, Dominic noticed a figure in the distance towards Brieulle's farm. It took him a moment, squinting against the sting of the strong wind, to recognize that it was Jean-Luc Rosselot. A sad and lonely figure among the shifting blanket of wheat, watching them play out, like markers on a draught board, the scenes that led to his son's death.

NINETEEN

    'What makes you think it's a case for me?'
    'Mainly the boy's use of French.'
    'How fluent is his French?' asked Calvan.
    'I only asked a few questions… I got a bit flustered. When he started talking in French, it caught me completely by surprise. I just asked a few rudimentary questions, went about as far as my pidgin French would take me — then stopped the session. What few answers there were sounded pretty fluent, but I couldn't be sure. I just didn't ask enough questions.'
    Marinella Calvan was flattered that Lambourne had called her. They'd met three years previously at a medical convention in Atlanta, and on average he'd called her three times a year since. But this was the first real professional consultation. The rest had been just minor points of reference, do you know such and such professor, someone who'd usually published a paper Stateside and he thought she might have better knowledge of it than him. Then invariably he'd get around to how she was, how was work, life in general? She had the feeling that if she said on one of the calls, 'I got married the other month or I just met this great guy,' the calls would suddenly stop. Except when there had been the occasional great guy, she hadn't told him; she obviously didn't want him to stop calling.
    At their first meeting, a quick coffee between lectures at the Atlanta convention, they discovered they had a lot in common: he was divorced, she had separated from a common-law husband. She was just coming up to forty, he was forty-four. Light banter, a few quips, some one liners that belonged more to Seinfeld than Freud. Questions and general background, but no hard and fast answers. Two psychiatrists fencing with each other, both knowing that what had partly spoilt their respective relationships was being too deep, too questioning, not fully switching off when home. Keep it light and simple this time.
    They'd snatched a couple more coffees together during the convention, then spent two hours at a cocktail bar on the evening it had closed. But their only real date together had been almost eighteen months later, December 1993. She'd come over to the UK for five days to handle a case in Norfolk and had managed to grab an evening in London. He showed her his office and they went to dinner and the theatre nearby. They'd also been able to find out a lot more about each other, not just personally but professionally: their respective views on psychology. She'd felt guilty at one point that she seemed to be hogging most of the conversation purely because her background with Past Life Therapy (PLT) was more unconventional; though Lambourne had admitted his fascination and seemed to be egging her on.
    In contrast, he'd only had a few cases involving PLT, mostly conventional cures for phobia: regressing a patient initially back to childhood in search of text-book, Freud-induced phobia, discovering nothing, so heading back even further. Patients with inexplicable fears of fire, drowning or enclosed spaces were often found to have had alarming experiences in past lives which explained their phobias. A recent survey showed that twenty-two percent of American psychiatrists used PLT regularly alongside standard therapy, though she had no idea of figures for the UK and Europe.
    'What made you initially regress the boy?' she asked. 'Did you think that part of your problem might lie further back?'
    'Yes, but in early childhood — not in a past life. That was totally unexpected.' Lambourne had already explained the main background to the case: the accident, the coma, the dreams with Eyran clinging to non-acceptance of his parents' death through a secondary character who claimed he could find them. Now he explained that much of the secondary character's memory seemed to be buried in the past, it was impossible to determine if Jojo was a friend from Eyran's infancy who had since faded from conventional memory or a complete invention. 'Jojo also has no specific recall of losing his parents — the main shared experience linking the two characters. He said it was "long ago… from before" — seemed almost to be inviting me to go further back.'
    'My son's almost that age now,' she commented thoughtfully. Sebastian would be ten next September. But the children she had regressed over the past years, now well over a hundred cases, would no doubt provide the strongest points of reference; very little of it did she relate to her own life. 'When the boy surfaced again and started speaking in French, do you know what year it was?'
    'Not exactly. I asked him what he saw on the TV, but he said that they didn't have one, just a radio. I was about to change tack, my knowledge of French radio is non-existent, when he said, "but they have one in the local cafe". So perhaps late fifties, sixties.'
    'Or later if they were very poor or extremely religious — thought TV was a bad influence.'
    'Possibly. The only thing I managed to find out was where he lived: a place called Taragnon. I looked it up on the map. It's a small village in the south. Provence.'
    'Well at least some ground can be gained by verifying his regional accent.'
    They were both silent for a second: only the sound of faint crackles on the line between London and Virginia. Why did she feel hesitant? Was it just her current workload, the nightmare of arranging a week away and leaving Sebastian with her father, or a concentrated period of working close to David Lambourne when she wasn't really sure what she felt about him. Then immediately pinched herself for even having the thought, realized she'd fallen into the trap of thinking that all his calls were just excuses to talk with her masked by a thin professional veneer. This was surely different. Though she was one of the main recognized experts, how many cases of true xenoglossy had she experienced in all her years? Her last paper published claimed twenty-three, but only nine did she count as significant, four of which had been with children. Out of almost three hundred regressive sessions. Xenoglossy: use of a foreign language unknown to the main subject. Parapsychological gold-dust: rare and one of the strongest proofs for real regressions, particularly where children were concerned. She should be grateful Lambourne had called her.
    'Tell me something about Eyran's parents and his godparents. Is the current family environment strong. Are they supportive?'
    'Yes, very.' Lambourne gave her the background: Eyran's parents living in California at the time of the accident, the closeness with his Uncle Stuart and memories of England. '…Particularly a past period which features in most of Eyran's dreams and is only a few miles from where they now live'. Upper-middle class. Thirty-something. Advertising executive. Nice house in the country. One child, a daughter, now just seven. Four-wheel drive. Solid.
    'Sounds ideal.' Probably no disfunctionality stemming from that quarter, she thought. But are they going to let us tap dance through Eyran's brain while we explore this past life? 'The only problem I've got right now David is workload. It sounds exciting and I'd love to jump on the first flight — but I just don't think I'm going to be able to get out of here for almost a week.'
    'If that's the earliest, fine.' But his voice carried a trace of disappointment. 'I don't really want to do any more sessions with you not here, so I'll cancel next week with the boy and hold the week after. Do you think you'll be over by then?'
    'Yes, I think so.' She was already thinking ahead to preparation for the first session. 'We're going to need that time anyway. For a start we'll need a French translator, preferably a native Francophile who can also tell us if the regional accent is correct. And some method of transcription between us so that too many voices don't start interfering with the patient's concentration. There's also a number of things we'll need to know from the boy's godparents. Look — keep the next session date, but use it to counsel the godparents. At this stage, inform them that the secondary voice has spoken in French and your next session will hopefully find out exactly why. But don't tell them or even infer that it might be a voice from the past — after all, we're not even sure of that ourselves.' Only seconds ago the case had started to feel tangible, and already the adrenaline was running: she was afraid of losing it.
    'How many sessions should I schedule initially?'
    'Try and plan two within five days. That at least should get us to the first stage: finding out if the regression and its central character are real.'

    From her room, if she looked out the window at an angle, Marinella Calvan could see the University of Virginia Rotunda in the distance, the half scale copy of Rome's Pantheon which, in the spring and summer, attracted a steady stream of tourists. The centrepiece of the seat of learning founded by Thomas Jefferson which at the US Bicentennial was voted 'one of the proudest achievements of American architecture in the past 200 years.' This was old, grass roots America, hallowed learning halls to some of the founding fathers of the Constitution, and one of the last places you'd expect a department of parapsychology. Yet the University of Virginia had for the past thirty years, largely under the guidance of Dr Emmett Donaldson, been one of the leading centres for the study of parapsychology in America.
    Real? Strange term given that nearly all their time was spent bringing some texture and colour to the unreal, the unexplained, not only to convince themselves within the department, but the army of sceptics faced with each case paper published. In the end, so many of their questions mirrored those of the sceptics: Was the regression's central character somebody famous, somebody with a well documented life? Accessibility of general historical data about the period and area depicted, patient's interest in the same, possible input from relatives or friends? In the case of xenoglossy, because the most startling characteristic was use of a foreign language, most of her questions for Lambourne to pose the Capels revolved around Eyran's prior knowledge of the language: normal school grades in French, school trips to France, any French friends, past family holidays in France, French study books or linguaphone tapes… general dexterity with the language? From hearing Eyran finally speaking as Jojo, hopefully the interpreter would know whether it was not only fluent but also accurate for the region and period described.
    Xenoglossy and conducting sessions under hypnosis had been the main area where her work differed from that of Emmett Donaldson's, her Professor and mentor through the years. Donaldson had built up a reputation as one of America's leading parapsychologists, a fountainhead of knowledge on past life regressions backed by over 1,400 case histories, many of them published, and to date five books. Her contribution paled by comparison: 284 case studies, 178 published, one book. Though one area she had beaten him in already was the talk show stakes, mainly because Donaldson hated personal appearances. One local radio, and two TV: one local, the other a cable science channel. The Oprah Winfreys and Donahues were but distant dreams.
    She had been working with Donaldson on and off since 1979. She'd gained her degree and doctorate at Piedmont college and went into private practice for three years before realizing it didn't suit her and joined Donaldson. She'd admired Donaldson's papers and work with PLR even while at Piedmont. Three years later she’d started living with a local architect, but much to her father's disappointment — except for the compensation that she kept the family name — they never married. After a first miscarriage, Sebastian was finally born in 1985. Donaldson was particularly understanding, allowing her three years off until Sebastian was at pre-school. But the more intensive period of work when she returned put extra pressure on an already strained relationship and within another two years she was separated.
    It was only during that period that she gained her main focus of where she wanted her work to head. Donaldson's work had concentrated almost exclusively on regressions while awake, conventional question and answer sessions. This meant that he could normally only work with children up to seven or eight, beyond that age conventional memory of past lives was invariably erased. Sometimes the memories faded earlier, particularly in societies where reincarnation was not accepted; all too often past recalls were labelled as merely infantile fantasy. Much of Donaldson's work had therefore taken place in India and Asia where re-incarnation was fully accepted, children with recall were not stifled by their parents.
    Apart from the restrictions of conducting conventional sessions, did she really just want to follow in Donaldson's footsteps? The answer to both was no, but where to find her own niche? While she was attracted to the broader parameters of age and culture that hypnotic regressions allowed, Donaldson had pointed out that so many practising regressionists used hypnotism: how would she be different?
    Donaldson had also built up one of the most impressive bodies of PLR work ever recorded with children, and she didn't want to totally turn her back on that legacy. In the end she chose what she hoped was the ideal compromise: hypnotic regressions, but with a high quota of children and specific focus on xenoglossy.
    Most practitioners of hypnotic regressions had quotas of no more than twelve percent with children, largely due to the difficulties of gaining parental approval for hypnosis. She hoped to raise that quota to at least thirty percent. The occurrence of xenoglossy also had stronger significance with children: opportunity to learn the language adopted was far less.
    In the middle of battling through one of her most difficult cases, Donaldson had commented, 'Just satisfy yourself, Marie. If in doing so you also satisfy the doubters and critics, then so be it. Set out just to please the critics and you'll be lost. They'll sense your vulnerability, know that you're just playing to the gallery, and have you for breakfast. Why do you think I never do live appearances?'
    The case had looked ideal at first: nine year old son of a Cincinnati doctor, originally regressed to cure agoraphobia, fear of wide open spaces. A past life as a Mexican Conquistador was uncovered. He became detached from an expedition due to a lame horse and spent days roaming in the Coahuila desert before dying of heat exhaustion and exposure. The Spanish was convincing, and she was already arranging additional sessions to prove the other areas of authenticity — geography, period events, customs and dialect — when the boy's father phoned. His son's main phobia had been cured, he didn't want to risk his son being disturbed with continuing sessions.
    She was destroyed. No Oprahs or Donahues this time either. Donaldson was right: she'd invited the let down, played too much to the gallery. But it was difficult not to be influenced by the years of scepticism. Seeing Donaldson's pre-dominance of regressions in Asia dismissed by one critic as having 'scant relevance. There is far too much suggestion within the society of re-incarnation. Young children, already with over fertile imaginations, could too easily be led.'
    It had been one of her main reasons for avoiding cases from that region. They were less accepted by the gallery. The University would have swallowed any lame excuse: case studies in the US and Europe were less draining on research funds. She knew that one good mainstream case — such as the Cincinnati boy — would not only boost her career but throw fresh light on the whole profession. PLR for the masses. The kid next door with average grades suddenly speaking fluently in a foreign tongue, with a linguistic expert and historian riding shotgun for authentication. Okay, now we believe you!
    Marinella Calvan wondered whimsically if Eyran Capel might be her ticket to Oprah. Probably not. She'd become excited before and been disappointed. Too much could go wrong: the boy's godparents could refuse continuing sessions, the boy could suddenly claim to be Marshal Petain or Maurice Chevalier, his French could turn out to be no better than phrase book rudimentary, or he could have holidayed or gone on school exchanges regularly in France. It was too early to get excited.

TWENTY

    After the reconstruction, Molet's hopes had sunk of being able to clear his client, and the witness instruction before Christmas if anything lowered them still further. Madame Veillan was very sure of the time she saw Machanaud coming out of the lane: 'Just after three o'clock.' Marius Caurin was next with the time he found the boy, and then the other people who had seen Machanaud that day: Raulin where he was working that morning and the various barkeepers; Henri from Bar Fontainouille and Leon who had seen him from three-fifteen onwards. Repeats of the main testimonies which had ripped apart Machanaud's original police statement. Now all officially recorded for full trial.
    Molet could imagine the image that would be built up at full trial for the jury. A day in the life of a low-life vagabond: some casual farm labour followed by a few swift eau de vies, then heading out half drunk for some poaching. Only he sees the boy and decides to spice up his lunch hour with a bit of buggery and murder. Then back to the bars again, to what: Celebrate? Drown his regrets, steady his hands again… or perhaps blot out the horror of the bloodied images still with him? Or was it that Leon's at three-fifteen was part of his regular routine and he wanted to make sure everything appeared as normal.
    Molet knew that the statistics for people cleared at the final trial, having gone completely through instruction, were grim: less than eight percent. The best chances of acquittal were during instruction with the examining magistrate; but that now looked unlikely with Machanaud. He would go the full course.
    The only way to introduce a lesser charge was if Machanaud admitted the assault, said that he'd only hit the boy to knock him out, there had been no intention to kill; try to get a manslaughter charge introduced which normally carried a five to eight year sentence. He'd mentioned it one day to Machanaud, tried to make him realize how heavily all the prosecution evidence weighed against him, but again Machanaud protested his innocence, was almost outraged at the suggestion. '..I'd rather that they did hang me or send me to Devil's Island than admit to something I didn't do.'
    In February, the instruction hearings started to involve witnesses more as character assessments of Machanaud. Molet watched Machanaud's ex-girlfriend give evidence to his unpredictable and sometimes violent nature, then a succession of townspeople testifying to his drinking habits and his oddball nature — and Molet was suddenly struck with an idea. Perhaps he'd be able to save his client's neck after all.

    Each Christmas Dominic spent with his mother, he wondered if it would be her last. Six months to a year, the doctors had said; already seventeen months had passed. Clinking glasses over the Christmas table, was it just seasonal celebration, or partly because they knew she was cheating death? Another year.
    His elder sister Janine, her husband and two children had come down from Paris for the week and for once the house was full. Janine and Guy took the spare room with their daughter Celeste, while their boy Pascal, now just nine, slept on a mattress in Dominic's room.
    When his sister got a moment alone with him, she enquired about the latest round of hospital tests. The message was clear: they could only visit once or, at most, twice a year; was mother still going to be around when they visited in the summer? Dominic didn't know either way. There were times when he counted her time left in weeks, others when it seemed she might soldier on for months.
    Dominic's uncle had sent him another package of the latest sounds from the States: 'Sugar Shack', 'Mocking Bird' and two recent hits from a new producer called Phil Spector: 'Then he kissed me' and 'Be my Baby'. Edith Piaf had died two months previous and his mother, not yet satiated by the many commemorative Piaf hours on the radio, was still playing some of her tracks — so Dominic ended up playing the records for himself and Pascal up in his room.
    Innez Fox's 'Mocking Bird' was Dominic's favourite, but Pascal preferred Phil Spector. The boy had never heard such a powerful sound system, and the strong orchestral background and echoing beat were quite awe inspiring. Dominic started warming to the records more as he edged up the volume. As the music suffused the room and he felt its rhythm washing through him, he found himself smiling. God knows what the neighbours would have thought if they could hear: Phil Spector upstairs and Edith Piaf downstairs. Dominic turned it down a bit.
    Seeing young Pascal's excitement over Christmas — opening presents, getting drunk on wine sneaked from his father's glass, and now bouncing up and down on his bed to Phil Spector — brought home even more to Dominic how terrible it must be to lose a child. What Monique must have suffered, must still be going through.
    Dominic had seen her only once in the village since the memorial service. Louis mentioned that she'd only started to venture out a month before Christmas, and then only rarely. If she could avoid going out, she would — but she felt guilty continuing to rely so heavily on the Fievets. Dominic thought she looked better than at the memorial service, the dark circles beneath her eyes had mostly gone and a faint glimmer of life was back in her eyes. She didn't notice him, and he was careful not to look too long; her beauty he found somehow intimidating, and he didn't want to make her feel awkward.
    Village life in Bauriac and Taragnon had settled back, though news from each instruction filtered back via the various witnesses called. Dominic started to worry about details of Machanaud's car statement arising again at the instruction in January, but it passed without incident.
    The instruction process was due to finish in late April, but at the last moment Molet introduced a new element which kept it going through May — calling character witnesses for Machanaud in the same style that Perrimond had paraded an assortment against. The resultant coup by Molet, probably the main turning point of the case, had Dominic smiling as much as Poullain had been cursing when he brought news of it back to the gendarmerie. Molet was giving Perrimond a run for his money.
    The instruction process ended in early June and twenty-two days later both Perrimond and Molet received notification from the Palais de Justice that the case would be presented to full trial at the Cour d'Assises in Aix, and the date set: 18th October. By then, fourteen months would have passed since the attack on Christian Rosselot.

    'What makes you think I can afford that?'
    'Okay, I'll be generous. One half now and the other in two months time, just two weeks before the trial starts.' They'd done the same as before: Chapeau put a call through to the general Limoges office and Duclos went out and called him back minutes later.
    It was still 5,000 Francs, thought Duclos. Outrageous! Almost as much as he'd paid Chapeau in the first place. 'I don't think I can manage more than four. Even splitting it in two parts.' And even that would mean taking a small overdraft from his bank.
    Chapeau sniggered. 'You know, I should ask you for six thousand for being so cheeky. I'll accept it this time — but next time you try and bargain, I'll put the figure up.'
    'What do you mean — next time. If I pay you this now, I don't want to hear from you again.'
    Chapeau sighed, his shoulders sagging. 'And just when we were getting on so well. You think I phone you just for the money — has it never occurred to you that I might like to hear the sound of your voice…'
    'Oh, fuck off!'
    'It's true. Practically no family left except my brother, and he's away at sea most of the time. Apart from killing people every now and then and phoning you, there's few pleasures left in my life. You think I'm going to pass up on that?' Chapeau smiled slyly and let the silence ride a second, let it sink home that he would be calling regularly. Duclos didn't respond. 'Don't worry, I'm sensible enough to realize that I'll have cleared you out for now. I know your salary, everything about you — so I also know when best to phone. You won't hear from me for a while.'
    'How long's that?' Duclos asked cynically. 'Six months, a year — two years?'
    'I don't know. It depends how quickly I think you can save — or how well you do. But just think, when you get that pay rise or promotion — I could be the first one calling to congratulate you!'
    Duclos didn't rise to the bait this time, sensed the pure joy Chapeau was deriving from his anger. 'Let's just settle the business at hand. When and where?'
    Chapeau said that he'd make a small concession by driving in Duclos' direction to Montpelier, but no further. He suggested a roadside bar on the A7 heading north out of town, 'Eau de Herault'.
    'I don't want to do this in a crowded bar,' Duclos protested.
    'It's okay — the few times I've been there it's not been that crowded. But if you feel uncomfortable, they have a large car park in front. We can stay there. When you see my car, come over and get in.'
    They arranged to meet the following Saturday at 6.15 pm.

    The three judges filed in: the presiding judge in a red robe and the two assessing judges in black robes who took up seats each side of him, the 'pots de fleurs'. The nine jurors were then chosen by picking names out of a pot of thirty-five by the presiding judge, Herve Griervaut and his greffier. The nine selected took their seats flanking the judges.
    Molet had advised Machanaud of his right to challenge up to five jurors, but cautioned that often it aggravated and unsettled the rest of the jury. The defence made no challenges, the prosecution made only one: Perrimond singled out an old man in a crumpled suit and beret. Looked like a farm worker out for the day, thought Molet. Perrimond probably feared he might identify too readily with Machanaud. A replacement juror was picked out of the pot.
    Machanaud was first on the stand. He was asked by Judge Griervaut to first of all provide an account of his activities on the day in question, then was questioned by Griervaut on specific points. This was mainly for clarification rather than angled at areas which might cast suspicion. That would come later with Perrimond, thought Molet. For now Griervaut was merely setting the scene for himself and the jury. The only contentious point he raised was Machanaud lying in earlier statements, confirming if Machanaud considered his final statement and later testimony at instruction to be correct. Hesitant 'Yes.'
    Perrimond was next. He made much of the earlier lies and changes in police statements, sewing a strong opening image in the jury's mind of Machanaud desperately lying to cover up his dark deeds that day. He then focused on Machanaud's claim of not seeing the boy or seeing or hearing an attack, confronting him with the earlier police instruction entry that 'the boy was not seen at any time in the town centre, so must have reached the river by crossing the fields behind.'
    Molet cringed as Perrimond took Machanaud through each stage of the gendarme's position at the reconstuction. Molet tapped his fingers impatiently to each reluctant 'yes' to twenty metres back, forty… sixty.
    'So you saw absolutely nothing, Mr Machanaud,' Perrimond concluded. 'A boy was attacked and killed not yards away, and you had a clear view of the only point where he could have crossed the river. And yet you saw nothing?'
    Perrimond kept Machanaud on the stand for another thirty minutes, ripping apart his earlier statements, magnifying the inconsistencies, and planting clearly in the jury's mind that not only was Machanaud at the scene of the crime, but it was stretching credulity that anyone else could have possibly been there. Machanaud would have seen them. Perrimond closed with the equipment that Machanaud used when fishing. 'Apart from your rod and bait — you had a bucket with water for the fish, and what else?'
    'Some waders if I have to walk into the shallows.'
    'Anything else? Any other sort of plastic protective clothing?'
    'Oh yes, a plastic front apron to go over my shirt or overalls.'
    'And what is that for?'
    'If I have to gut any fish, it stops the blood getting on my clothing.'
    Perrimond passed the floor. 'Thank you.'
    A more complete legal bombardment Molet had hardly witnessed. Machanaud was clearly rattled, his few weak protests and arguments laying in tatters. But Molet wondered why Perrimond had finished with details of Machanaud's fishing equipment; surely a stronger image to close on would have been Machanaud standing in clear sight of where it was suggested the attack took place.

    'Monsieur Fornier, when you realized that the car description given to Briant was different to the one mentioned to you, were you surprised?'
    'I don't know. I didn't really think about it.'
    Molet looked down thoughtfully. The first hour after recess had been taken up with police testimony, dominated by Perrimond asking Poullain carefully weighted questions to support his earlier arguments.
    Molet had gone over the same points with Poullain for almost twenty minutes without finding a significant flaw to build on — then came to Machanaud's car statements and the later changes. After a gruelling quick fire session, Poullain finally conceded that it was incorrect of him not to have passed on the changed statement to instruction, then added hastily '… But as the investigating officer it is my duty to enter the information that I trust the most and feel is accurate.' All early advantages were lost.
    Molet had dismissed him shortly after and called Dominic Fornier. After the first few minutes with Fornier, he had the feeling Fornier was more nervous about the car incident, might be easier to crack than Poullain — if he knew anything.
    'When Machanaud mentioned changing his car statement to you in the bar that evening- you apparently showed surprise. Is that correct?'
    'Yes.'
    'So that was the first time that you had heard about the change in car description?'
    'Yes, it was.'
    'Quite a few surprises and changes that evening, it seems,' Molet commented cynically. Perrimond looked as if he was about to object, then changed his mind. 'As the assistant investigating officer, would it not be normal for you to be advised of such a change in statement the moment it was made?'
    Dominic's hands sweated profusely on the lectern. His chest felt tight, constricted. 'No, not necessarily.'
    'So tell me — what would the circumstances be under which you might not be informed?'
    'As perhaps in this case, where my commanding officer has already determined the information was false.'
    'And when did he share this information with you?'
    'A day or so later perhaps.'
    'Was that the reason for him not entering the change in the file?'
    Dominic was sure his face looked flushed as the blood rushed to his head. He glanced across briefly at Machanaud, but his mother's image was stronger… reaching out to him. Poullain and him being questioned, charged with perjury for their earlier false statements. What price for Machanaud's life? He just couldn't lie! But in the end, as the images receded and he saw Molet staring concernedly and about to prompt, he did the next best thing and only told half the truth. 'Yes, it was — from what he told me later.'
    Molet looked down at his file and flicked back a page.
    If he just asked one more question, thought Dominic: 'Was that the only reason?' He was sure in that moment he would have told him everything, told him about Duclos and the call from Marcel Vallon relayed through Perrimond, the pressure from Poullain to cover up — the whole sorry mess that would probably ruin his career along with Poullain's, yet might at least save Machanaud's neck. And he realized then that he was almost willing it, hoping that Molet would look up and ask the question.
    But Molet nodded to the bench and resumed his seat while Griervaut dismissed Fornier. Molet was still thoughtful. There had been a glimmer of recognition in Fornier's eye, almost a look of apology as he'd glanced towards Machanaud. But then just as quickly it was gone. What was it that Fornier knew? The thought preyed on his mind for a while afterwards, through the remainder of the police testimony and the start of forensic evidence.
    When Perrimond came onto the gap between the two attacks estimated at forty minutes and Dubrulle pointed out that this had been determined mostly by the hospital medical examiner, not forensics — Perrimond ended the session abruptly.
    Molet noted that Perrimond's questioning of Dubrulle, head of the Marseille forensics team, was scant, but put this down to the fact that Griervaut had already covered most of the key points.
    Molet took the floor. 'Monsieur Dubrulle. You had the benefit of blood samples for matching supplied by my client, I believe. Is that correct?'
    'Yes. We were supplied with samples after he had been detained.'
    'And did Monsieur Machanaud's blood match any of that found at the crime scene?'
    'No. We found only the victim's blood present. Type B positive. That of Christian Rosselot.'
    Molet flinched slightly at the mention of the boy's name and blood together: too vivid an image for the jury. 'Items of clothing were also taken from Monsieur Machanaud's house and tested for any fibre matches and blood deposits from the boy. Is that correct?'
    'Yes.'
    'Were any fibre deposits found that matched that of my client's, or any blood deposits on his clothing that matched the boy's blood group?'
    'No, we found no such matches. But in this case, there were no significant-'
    'Is it in fact not the case,' Molet cut in sharply, 'that you found absolutely nothing at the crime scene or after — no deposits left by my client or stains on his clothing — that could have possibly linked him in any way with the crime.'
    'No, we found nothing.'
    Dubrulle was more subdued. But as Molet concluded expecting Griervaut to dismiss him, Perrimond requested a re-examination. Only the second time he had done so.
    'Monsieur Dubrulle. You were about to comment that there were no 'significant' somethings or other, when my colleague interrupted. I wonder if you'd be so kind to now complete your comment.'
    'Well, it was just that we found no significant fibres of any type at the scene of the crime.'
    'Any blood or semen deposits or indeed anything at all linking to any individual?'
    'No, we found nothing.'
    'So the fact that nothing was found linked to Monsieur Machanaud was not particularly significant?'
    'No, not particularly.'
    'But in one area of blood stains, I understand you did find something significant. An area of stains that was weaker and pinker than other areas. How do you think this occurred?'
    Molet tensed, sat forward keenly. He'd known the information would come up at some point. He should have caught on when Perrimond didn't cover it earlier with Dubrulle. Perrimond's earlier tactic of grandstanding the fishing apron suddenly made sense, and now again he'd carefully engineered everything to make it a closing point.
    'It looked as if someone had washed down with water, perhaps from the murder implement or their body. Washed away the boy's blood. It was the same group as the boy's, but had been mixed with water.'
    'Now, if somebody in normal apparel,' Perrimond ran one hand down inside his suit lapel, 'say standard cotton shirt and trousers, had tried to swill off bloodstains in this fashion — would the blood have washed off successfully or left stains?'
    'Very little of it would have washed off. Most of it would have soaked into the clothing.'
    'But if this person was wearing some sort of protective waterproof clothing — say a plastic apron or bib of some type. Would it have washed off in this fashion then?'
    'Yes, probably.'
    'And such a bib would also have protected their clothing from stains, I presume?'
    'Yes, obviously.'
    'Thank you.' Perrimond sat down and Griervaut dismissed Dubrulle from the stand.
    Molet's spirit's sank. Scanning the jury, the impact of the point had gone home strongly.
    Testimony from attending medics and doctors was next. Looking at his watch, Molet realized that part of it was probably going to spill over to the next morning. Little arose as the day's events drew to a close to raise his spirits again. Now that Perrimond had stolen his thunder over forensics, there were precious few ace cards left to play. Any chance of clearing Machanaud had probably now gone. All that remained was the testimony of an ageing resistance fighter, an army doctor, and his own closing arguments to be able to save his client's life.

    'And how long were you practising at the Military Hospital in Aubagne, Doctor Lanquetin?'
    'Over twenty years. Though I'm retired now — just four years ago.'
    'During that time, what did you specialize in?'
    'In treatment of cranial injuries. I was a practising surgeon who dealt almost exclusively with head injuries incurred by soldiers or legionnaires in active service.'
    'I see.' Molet looked down thoughtfully. It was an idea he'd struck on late in the instruction process, seeing the procession of character witnesses from Perrimond testifying to Machanaud's strange and oddball character. One of them had commented, 'I believe he even has a metal plate in his head, from a sabotage operation that went wrong while in the resistance.' Machanaud had originally fought the idea, felt that playing on his old injuries was merely supporting the opposition's case that he was mad and had done something strange that afternoon. Molet admitted then that he thought his chances of clearing Machanaud were remote, and this was probably their only hope of getting a lesser manslaughter charge introduced. Reluctantly, Machanaud had given him the name of the hospital where he was treated.
    His old doctor had since died, but Molet managed to find a retired army doctor, Lanquetin, who was an expert in head injuries. He'd introduced him along with an old resistance colleague at a later instruction and argued strongly that a lesser charge of manslaughter should be introduced. 'Half of the prosecution case rests on the fact that Machanaud is slightly odd. Yet he has never done anything like this before, and in months of talking with my client, if indeed he has done this, he clearly has no memory of it. This is an old resistance fighter, one with a metal plate holding his head together. And we are going to argue on one hand that he is odd and slightly mad, yet on the other claim that he knew exactly what he was doing and condemn him to be hanged. Ridiculous! I move for a lesser charge of manslaughter to be introduced on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and will produce the medical evidence to strongly support it.' Predictably, Perrimond opposed the suggestion. Naugier accepted it reluctantly, but only as an alternative charge. The manslaughter charge would ride alongside that of premeditated murder. It would be up to the jury to decide of which they thought Machanaud was guilty.
    'So your knowledge in the area of cranial injuries is quite extensive?'
    'Yes.'
    'And during this period have you had experience with metal plates and their effects on patients?'
    'Yes, I have. Quite a bit.' Molet merely looked at him expectantly. Lanquetin continued. 'The effects can vary, but the plate is no more than a drastic, emergency solution to hold together two parts of the cranium that could possibly shift. As such, they may be affected by cold or hot weather, or even sudden movement. Electrical and chemical imbalances can be sparked off.'
    'What would be the affect of such imbalances?'
    'It varies enormously. It could be nothing more than a mild headache, slightly irritable behaviour or anxiety. Or at the other extreme, quite irrational, even violent behaviour.'
    'So it is quite conceivable, Doctor Lanquetin, that someone with a metal plate — given the right conditions — could suffer a temporary memory loss. Have absolutely no recall whatsoever.'
    'Yes it is.'
    Molet produced the X-rays Lanquetin had viewed earlier, and Lanquetin confirmed that it was quite an extensive implant and that indeed, given its proximity to the parietal lobe which controlled both some motor and behavioural functions, given the right conditions there could be adverse affects.
    'Thank you, Doctor Lanquetin.'
    Perrimond spent very little time cross-examining Lanquetin, his main thrust was an attempt to discredit Lanquetin's grasp of 'modern medicine' due to the fact that he had now retired. But the ploy partly backfired when Lanquetin reminded him that metal plate implants were not particularly akin to modern surgery, and indeed the practice was fast dying out.
    The conclusion of medical testimony and the various incidental and character witnesses had taken up most of the morning. Only one witness was left to call, Machanaud's old colleague from the resistance, Vincent Arnaud. Molet realized that the closing arguments would probably now have to follow after lunch, there wouldn't be time before.
    Arnaud's testimony transported them back to another age: 1943. He and Machanaud were both in their late twenties, colleagues in the resistance fighting the Germans near Tours. A rag-tag bunch with limited resources doing the best they could. Arnaud described the dynamite set one day so that they could stop and ambush an ammunition truck. But the dynamite was damp, it went off late and the truck veered off the road, striking Machanaud.
    'And was it this that caused your colleague Gaston Machanaud to be hospitalized and have a metal plate inserted?'
    'Yes it was. It was days before we even knew whether he'd live or not.'
    Whatever was decided later, thought Molet, with Arnaud on the stand it was once again Machanaud's finest hour. Machanaud's eyes welled with emotion. Old colleagues, old memories. And confirmation at last for all his doubters and detractors that his day of glory, the story he had spun over so many bar counters, had not just been drunken ramblings. Perhaps now everyone would believe him.

    The first fifteen minutes of Perrimond's closing arguments were predictable. How Machanaud was the only person present, his extensive lying when first questioned, the re-construction which had proved conclusively that he was within sight of not only where the boy crossed the river but also where the first attack had taken place, and the forensic evidence which had demonstrated that blood had been swilled away with water. 'Who else but Machanaud would have been equipped with not only waders and a plastic apron, but also a bucket of water for such an exercise?'
    Perrimond swung around dramatically, surveying each juror in turn. 'Make no mistake, this was a very measured and deliberate act. Machanaud knew that if the boy was found on the lane and it looked like the assault took place there, then if by chance it was discovered he was down by the river that day — he could claim that it was somebody else that committed this atrocity.' Perrimond looked down thoughtfully, giving the jury due time for consideration. 'And lo and behold, when he is confronted with being by the river that day, this is exactly what he claims.'
    Perrimond then started to pre-empt the arguments Molet might propose. 'You will probably hear from the defence that his client was just some poor misfortunate who happened to be in the same place on that dark day. That the first attack might have even taken place elsewhere and the child was transported to the lane for the second attack. But how?' Perrimond scanned the jury. 'Each car that passed up and down the lane while Machanaud was there was accounted for. One was in a restaurant for over an hour just beforehand with his car in full sight in the car park. A friend visiting spent all his time speaking with Marius Caurin, and Caurin himself when leaving was seen at various places in town.'
    Perrimond looked imperiously at the bench. 'This was Taragnon, a small rural village, and it was lunch time. The streets were busy. The police spent painstaking weeks and months questioning, and with only one conclusion: Christian Rosselot did not pass through the town. Nor did he pass through from the farm behind, it was too far out of his way — and besides Marius Caurin would have seen him. So desparate are the defence, that they would have you believe anything. Anything but the facts.'
    Perrimond shrugged and smiled caustically, then quickly became grave again. 'No, the boy crossed at only one point — the small bridge down river fully in sight of where the accused was fishing. It was there that their fatal meeting took place — and it was also there that the accused relentlessly assaulted the boy and left him for dead. A cold, merciless act perpetrated by only one person, who sits before you now — the accused, Gaston Machanaud.'
    Perrimond finished by asking for the harshest possible sentence, that it was ridiculous to consider anything but a guilty verdict on premeditated murder, anything less would not be doing service to themselves, justice, or to the memory of the young boy '…Who can now only beg for justice silently from the grave. And trust that in your hearts and souls you will make the right judgement.'
    Perrimond closed his eyes briefly and nodded as he sat down, as if concluding a prayer, and left the floor to Molet.
    'No blood. No fibres. No semen. Not a single thing that links my client to the crime scene itself. I just want you to remember that when you sentence him to be hanged!' Molet surveyed the jury, audibly drawing breath. 'Except the fact that he was there. There at the time fishing, poaching — as he had been so many times in the past. And yes, the prosecution is right — I am going to suggest that someone else came along and committed this crime. Because that is exactly what happened.'
    Molet paced to one side. 'A thorough police investigation that discounted all other possibilities? This is the same investigative team that could not even enter a change in car description accurately from one day to the next. That when confronted started clinging to the excuse that my client was drunk to hide their error. A vital change not even entered at instruction — that the examining magistrate openly admonished them over. Yet we are supposed to believe that they conducted a thorough investigation. One that eliminated all other possibilities. When they could not even pass a bit of vital evidence from one stage to the next when it was laid on a plate before them!'
    'I think the police merely latched onto the first obvious target, my client, and have been constructing a case out of thin air ever since. One built on a single circumstance — that he was there. And not a single fact or piece of concrete evidence to support this circumstance. What are we all doing here? How could we all have been dragged this far on such a pitiful illusion? A harmless poacher and local drunkard who one day, suddenly, decides to molest and kill a young boy. No history of molesting young boys, no sexual predilections in that area whatsoever — yet we are supposed to believe that this day, this one day, all reason and normal instincts were suddenly thrown to the wind. Unbelievable! How did the prosecution even raise the audacity to try and get us to swallow such a ridiculous story.'
    'So let us think afresh — what are we left with? Let us strip away all the ridiculous coincidences slotted into place by the police and the prosecution — and see what we are left with. A simple man with a long history of poaching and no history whatsoever of harming young boys. We ask him what he was doing that day? What do you think is the most likely explanation? That, as he claims, he was poaching, or the more ludicrous suggestion that then starts to stretch all precepts of credible thinking — that he suddenly broke with past form and harmed this young boy. Because that, exactly that, is what is being suggested today.'
    Molet waved one arm dramatically. 'Even what the prosecution are asking for here today and the evidence they are providing in support are at odds. On one hand, they want you to believe that this was a cold blooded, premeditated murder. On the other, they would have you believe — from the various witnesses they have produced — that the accused is mad half the time and drunk the rest. A complete oddball and misfit. A village idiot who can hardly premeditate his life from one day to the next. Let alone plan a murder like this — so meticulously in fact that the police and a whole team of forensics could not find a single trace of evidence.' Molet slowly shook his head. 'The two just don't go together. The only honesty you have seen here today was just before lunch: Gaston Machanaud's old resistance colleague and the army doctor. That is the real Gaston Machanaud. The resistance fighter who fought bravely for his country, suffered an horrific injury that still plagues him as a consequence, and is now just left with a few fond tales to tell in the local bars. This is the man that the prosecution wants you to hang. Pathetic!'
    Molet drew a long and tired breath. 'Yet I had to fight with my client to bring them here today and to the earlier instruction — even though it was the only way to bring some honesty to this whole charade. Introduce the charge that, if anything at all, my client should be facing — manslaughter. Manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. It is outrageous that any other charge should have even been discussed today.’
    Molet looked down; reluctant dismay. ‘But in doing so, I have partly turned my back on what I believe: that my client is innocent. That only one thing is true about the prosecution's claim — he was there. Nothing more. No blood. No semen. No fibres. No scheming individual who could successfully hide those elements. And no reasonable explanation from the prosecution of what he was doing there that afternoon — except the one he gave himself. That he was there fishing. As he had been so many afternoons before.'
    Molet nodded in turn to the jury and the three judges and sat down.

    The jury returned after almost two hours. Between the nine jurors and three judges the votes — counted painstakingly by the greffier and then passed to Griervaut to announce — were 7 to 5 not guilty of premeditated murder, 9 to 3 guilty of manslaughter.
    Molet felt a twinge of disappointment at no aquittal, followed quickly by relief: it could have been worse. Much worse. But Machanaud looked destroyed. Molet knew from the earlier instruction when he fought with Machanaud over getting the lesser charge introduced, that Machanaud would probably never understand, or accept. Understandable for someone who was probably innocent. Despite his strong closing arguments, Molet knew how strongly the jury had been swayed by much of the prosecution's presentation and witnesses, and that without the mid-ground of the lesser charge they would probably have found Machanaud guilty of premeditated murder.
    Because the charge for manslaughter partly hinged on diminished responsibility, Judge Griervaut raised the subject of medical and psychiatric assessment. Molet argued for private assessment, while Perrimond predictably argued for state assessment. After consultation with his two assessing judges, Griervaut cleared his throat summarily and looked up to pass final sentence: That Machanaud be detained in prison for no less than six years, and that he be treated and assessed twice each year by a state psychiatrist. 'At the end of that period, if not deemed to be mentally fit, he should be released to the care of a state psychiatric hospital where he would undergo suitable treatment until fit for release.'
    At the outside Machanaud would do the full six with maybe another year in an institution, Molet considered. If things went well, he could get parole in four years and be cleared to leave immediately. What Molet hadn't noticed was the look that passed between Perrimond and one of the assessing judges when they were deliberating on the issue of state or private psychiatric assessment. All that struck him as odd was Perrimond's slight smile when the final judgement was passed down. A strange reaction to what surely must have been considered mostly a defeat by Perrimond.

TWENTY-ONE

    Marinella Calvan was still adjusting after the long flight, and the wine had made her feel sleepy. She held one hand up to indicate half a glass more was enough as David Lambourne poured. 'Where did you find Philippe?' she asked.
    'London School of Economics, just down the road. He's not an official translator — just a French student on a social sciences course. But his English is almost word perfect and he's all I could find at such short notice with a south of France background.'
    'How old is he?'
    'Twenty-four. He's from a small village in the Alpes-Maritimes: Peyroules.'
    They'd spent just over an hour in Lambourne's office going over the case before retiring to a small bistro close by. They'd already agreed the only French spoken would be between the patient and the translator. One voice with questions. Marinella would tap them out to appear on a computer screen; Philippe would then pose the questions and tap out the answers in English on the same screen. The session for them would be a series of on-screen questions and answers in English. It was the only way to avoid distraction and confusion.
    'Will his knowledge of patois from the fifties and sixties for that region be good enough?'
    'It hasn't changed that much according to him. Especially in the inland villages.'
    Marinella nodded and sipped her wine. Earlier they'd discussed what Lambourne had discovered through the Capels: Eyran's grades for French were average, there had been one or two holidays to France, but no school exchanges or long stays. Eyran's french was at 'La plume de ma tante' stage. She'd already gained the main background of the Capels, and now filled the gaps. Some details, such as how long they'd been married, Lambourne didn't know. The only thing to cause a chink of concern was Lambourne's flippant remark that the area where they lived, East Grinstead, was 'home to more fringe religious groups than any other part of the country.' When pressed, Lambourne assured her that 'they were normal. Lapsed Church of England.'
    Still, she asked the obvious. 'Do you think they could have staged all this?' She knew that it was one of the first questions she'd be asked by sceptics. Advertising executive. Vivid imagination. From an area noted for fringe religions. In no time the media would have them taped as weirdoes from some obscure cult which not only believed in reincarnation, but that we all live concurrent lives in different dimensions.
    'No, I don't think so. If anything, they were reluctant to enter Eyran into the sessions. Certainly Stuart Capel at least. He admitted that he should have taken Torrens' advice earlier and entered Eyran into counselling almost straightaway. He delayed hoping that Eyran might improve in his own time.'
    'Torrens?' The name struck a faint chord, but Marinella couldn't recall from where.
    'The doctor from California who operated on Eyran and treated him during his coma. He made an initial report recommending Eyran should have psychiatric counselling. Not only due to the loss of his parents, but assessment of impairment after the coma. The boy was under almost three weeks.'
    'Have you got a copy of Torrens' report?'
    'Yes.'
    'Good, good. That will help enormously.' Couldn't be better. Counselling initially recommended by a Stateside doctor.
    'Us or the boy?'
    Marinella calmed her enthusiasm and bit her lip lightly at Lambourne's frown. 'I'm sorry. That probably sounded a bit callous.' Their aims were at odds, she realized. His was to cure the boy, hers was to prove an authentic regression. Only where the regression might help the main subject did they coincide. But grandstanding her own aims above his had been insensitive. She smiled. 'You know, Donaldson always warned me about playing to the gallery. That each time it would land me in trouble. But it's unbelievable what we have to put up with when we get things wrong.' She went on to explain how their critics, many of them from within the profession, sat on the sideline like vultures waiting for them to footfault. 'One bad case, one falsehood we fail to uncover before them, and our credibility can be set back years. Suddenly everything we're doing is false. Questions at each corner, the threat of departmental budget cuts… "Why didn't you find that out before… Is your next case going to be like the so and so fiasco?" It's no wonder we become paranoid, lose sight of other objectives. I'm sorry.'
    Lambourne nodded. He'd put her at ease earlier about their respective objectives by assuring that he couldn't continue with conventional therapy until a regression uncovered more about Jojo. But there was still a gap. To her this was just another research paper; to him, it was an extension of PLT: Eyran's current problems and obsessions partly stemming from his past as Jojo. But there was no point in underlining that gap, spoiling the mood of their association before it had started. 'If we can each get only thirty percent of what we initially hoped for out of this — then we'll at least be doing better than my normal sessions. Cheers.'
    They spent a while talking about the structure of the next day's session, then the conversation became more general, the mood lighter.
    'Anything notable come up since we last met?' he asked.
    'You mean, like the conquistador boy?'
    Lambourne looked down, toying with his dessert. He knew how frustrating the case had been for her, but why the reference now? Was it a warning shot: don't cut me short on this one, put me through that again. 'I was hoping you might have had something more fruitful.'
    'Not really. Lot of conventional regressions, but only two with xenoglossy — both adults. But use of language wasn't exceptional, in both cases it could be argued that the subjects would have been able to learn the language used, especially at that level of proficiency.'
    Beneath Lambourne's look of concern, she noticed a half smile. A smile that said: perhaps tomorrow will change your run of luck. He was obviously more hopeful than he'd made out. The early signs looked promising, she conceded; but her long years of battling with sceptics had made her fear the worst. Even if the first stages of authentication were satisfied, would the Capels agree to continuing sessions, and for how long would Lambourne remain convinced that their aims coincided?

    Session 6.
    'It's dark and warm inside. Outside I can hear the wind through the trees and the birds… or sometimes my father working in the fields nearby.'
    The session had been under way forty minutes and already Marinella Calvan was exhausted. The start had been slow, the rhythm staccato, heightened by the gap waiting for Philippe to type the translated answers on screen and then pose Marinella's typed questions in response. The only words spoken in the room were in French. While the on-screen version in English would provide a useful typescript, they'd decided to run a tape as well; nuances or possible language mis-interpretations could be gone back over later. David Lambourne was at her side.
    Parts had been rambling, the boy spending a long time describing a visit to the beach at Le Lavandou, the seagulls overhead, making a sandcastle with a rivulet for the sea to wash in and form a moat. She'd been eager to move on, but Lambourne put a calming hand on her shoulder, felt it might be better to introduce a more relaxing tone and mood. Minutes before, when they'd asked him about being separated from his parents, his breathing had become rapid and hesitant. He'd mumbled something about a 'bright light… not being able to see…' then laying flat in a wheat field, his face against the sheaves — but by that time his breathing had become too fractured, words little more than spluttered monosyllables in the gaps. She quickly prompted Philippe to interrupt. Whatever had separated him from his parents had obviously been deeply disturbing. They'd return later.
    She guided him towards fonder, more relaxed memories.
    Recall of the day at the beach had been one, and now describing his favourite hideaway camp in the field at the back of the family farmhouse, another. In between the rambling, in the moments Marinella had been able to impose some structure to the session, she'd been able to find out the names of both his mother and father and how far the farm was from the local village, Taragnon. Jojo had been a nickname; two or three corrections passed back and forth with Philippe before they had it right: Ji-jo, Gigot, then finally Gigio, after one of his favourite puppet characters. Asking Gigio what he heard on the radio at home, they'd also identified the period: early 1960s.
    '… Sometimes I jump up from my hiding place and surprise my father.'
    'Does your father spend a lot of time in the fields?'
    'Yes… and in the garage at the side of the house. All his tools are in there.'
    'Is it a big farm?'
    'Yes. At least forty hectares.'
    Just over eight acres, thought Marinella. Small holding. But to a young boy it was probably large. 'And from your hideaway, can you see the house? What does it look like?'
    'The field slopes down… and there's a courtyard before the kitchen door. Sometimes when it's getting dark, I can see my mother working in the kitchen and I know then that it's time to come in. I know if my father is in the garage, because he always has the light on — there are no windows.'
    'Do you have any other favourite places in the house you like to hide? What about your bedroom — do you like your bedroom?'
    'Yes… but I prefer my hideaway. My sister always comes into my bedroom and plays with my toys… She broke one of my toys once, it was a favourite car…'
    Marinella watched patiently as the tale unfolded on screen: Gigio describing how upset he was, how the car had been for his birthday just a few weeks before. He'd shouted and she started crying, his mother took his sister's side and made him even more upset. She was about to interrupt with another question, felt that Gigio was starting to ramble again — when he suddenly became more thoughtful.
    '… I shouldn't have become so angry with her, made her cry. I loved her really… I always helped her if I could. I missed her so much later, as I did my parents.'
    Marinella's skin bristled. Often with regressions accurate detail could only be gained by taking the person back to a specific time and place — a room, a fond memory, an event that stuck out in their mind. But at others they would jump time frames and generalize periods and feelings. 'Did you become separated from your sister as well — and was it at the same time as your parents?'
    'Yes.'
    Either Gigio had lost his entire family, or he had become separated from them. She asked.
    Eyran's head lolled, his breathing suddenly more erratic as his eyelids pulsed, struggling with the images. 'It was me — I became lost from them… I remember thinking how worried they would be. And my father… my father… why didn't he come and try to find me. There was a bright light… so bright… I couldn't see anything. And the field… I recognized it… I thought I might see my father there looking for me any minute… when… when… I… I' Eyran's head started shaking, beads of sweat on his brow, the words subsiding into guttural gasps on fragments of breath.
    Lambourne put one hand on Marinella's shoulder, but she mis-read the signal, tapped out. 'Did you blame your father for not finding you — think that it was partly his fault?'
    Eyran swallowed, fighting to control his erratic breathing. 'Yes — partly… but it was more me… I blamed myself. I kept thinking how they couldn't face that I'd become lost from them — that I'd somehow let them down… their sorrow. My mother's face, so sad… so, so sad... her eyes full of tears, crying… no, it couldn't be real — it couldn't have happened… no, couldn't… not real… No... No!' Eyran's head started rocking wilder this time, his eyes scrunched tight. His laboured breathing rasped in his throat.
    Lambourne reached over frantically to the keyboard, tapped out (Stop it. Stop it now! Move Gigio on from the incident.)
    Marinella looked up quizzically. They'd arranged a code whereby any message between them should be typed in brackets so that Philippe knew not to translate. She'd pushed for Lambourne's benefit, would have been happy just to ask limp questions about Gigio's background and let him ramble at will, build up her research paper — but Lambourne's objective was to find and exorcize the link of shared loss between Eyran and Gigio. It seemed crazy to give up now, just when they might be on the brink. She was about to tap out (We're so close to proving the link — just a few more questions), when reading the intensity of Lambourne's expression she thought better of it. She typed, 'When you were in your hideaway by the old house — how old were you?' Return Gigio to a calmer, happier period.
    They waited over twenty seconds for Eyran to make the leap, for his breathing to settle back and answer. 'I was ten years old then.'
    Marinella knew that Gigio was nine at the time of his day out at Le Lavandou, his sister four. 'Do you recall any memories from when you were older — eleven or twelve?' Marinella was aware of Lambourne's slight intake of breath and him staring intently at her as she waited for an answer. If she could have spoken, she would have explained that general overviews usually posed no danger, didn't get subjects wrapped up as intently as specific recall of incidents.
    'No… after the light and the field, there was nothing… I… uh…' Eyran's head tilted, as if he was grappling for images just out of reach. 'Everything grey… grey behind my eyes… then another light — things distant… too far… can't hear… can't…' Some mumbling, words and thoughts trailing off.
    Lambourne's nerves tensed. This was the second time that field had been mentioned. On impulse, he reached forward and tapped out: 'Was it a wheat field?'
    Short pause as Philippe translated and the answer came. 'Yes… yes, it was.'
    Marinella sensed that it was significant by Lambourne's sudden urgency, but he just gave her a wide-eyed shrug. An 'It's interesting, but I'll tell you later' look. Now that she knew Lambourne wouldn't expect her to push more on the shared loss link between the two boys, she relaxed and returned to general information, filled in gaps from what they'd learned so far: how often Gigio went to the local village, his full name, his school, the name of the street by their farm, and friends and neighbours.
    At only one point did Gigio start rambling again, describing stopping off from school at the local boulangerie, and how the woman there, Madame Arnand, when her husband wasn't in the shop would often give him some free 'pan chocolat'. They were stale, from one or two days before and would soon be thrown out, but her husband was too mean to give them away, she confided one day. It became their little secret, the husband probably puzzled why this young boy came in his shop so often and browsed without buying anything, and the wife winking at Gigio as soon as her husband's back was turned.
    Marinella let Gigio ramble: it was providing some useful extra details to check, and for the first time during the session Eyran had actually smiled. She could feel a stronger bond and trust developing with the lighter mood. If she built on that rapport, by the next session they might have more success breaking through the barriers Gigio had erected and could start tackling the core grief that linked the two boys.
    Marinella was aware of David Lambourne checking his watch and nodding at her. She checked the time: an hour and twelve minutes. More than enough for a first session. She gradually wound things down, let Gigio finish his description of discovering an old car tyre one day on his way home from school with a friend, and how they rolled it back to the farm — then brought Eyran back out of hypnosis.
    While Lambourne escorted Eyran out and she heard him talking with the Capels in the waiting area, she scrolled back on the computer screen. Apart from Lambourne's 'stop it' command, the only other item in brackets was where she'd asked Philippe if the regional French was accurate. She asked him now to elaborate on the basic 'Yes' on screen. 'Was it accurate for the time period as well as the region?'
    'Yes, pretty much. As I said to David, it hasn't really changed through the years. Only on the coast has it been corrupted because of the massive influx of visitors and residents from other parts. Thirty miles inland, it's a different world.'
    'Is it the sort of patois that would be easy for someone to copy or effect?'
    Philippe shrugged. 'Not that easy. Perhaps someone from Paris or Dijon could attempt a reasonable mimicry, but they would still be caught out on some words. But somebody English, already struggling with French as a second language — I don't think so.'
    Marinella clicked the print command. The printer was on the second sheet as Lambourne came back in. Marinella asked him about the wheat field. 'I remember you mentioning a wheat field from one of Eyran's earlier dreams. Is that why you thought it might be significant?'
    'Yes, that, and Eyran mentioning that when he first moved to the old house in England, the wheat field at the back seemed somehow familiar.'
    'Well, at least the main prognosis seems to have been supported,' Marinella commented. Earlier she speculated that if a real regression was proved, probably some memory of loss or grief in the past life had been sparked off by the accident and Eyran's loss. In the same way that many PLT uncovered phobias lay dormant until awoken by a similar incident. 'I think we'll find that if there was much memory or link between the two before the accident, that it was mostly subliminal — little more than fragments of deja vu.'
    'Possibly. But we won't know for sure until we've gone back in more detail through the transcript and compared with the transcripts from previous sessions.'
    Marinella noticed Lambourne glance towards Philippe and picked up on the signal. Either he didn't want to talk openly in front of Philippe, or he wanted more time to consider his prognosis. She too would probably benefit from a few hours to collate her thoughts. 'Of course, we're jumping the gun a bit. The first thing we need to know is if the regression and its main character are real. If not, then we can focus again on the original theory of a secondary character invented by Eyran.' She turned to Philippe. 'How would you like to earn some extra money?'
    Philippe smiled slyly. 'The last time an older attractive woman asked me that, I got into trouble.'
    Marinella explained her problem. They had various names and details from the session, all of which would have to be checked. This would involve a number of calls to town hall registrars and clerks in France, and her French was practically non-existent. Marinella circled the names on the transcript. 'The Rosselots. The boy Christian and his parents Monique and Jean-Luc. Sister named Clarisse. From Taragnon. Early nineteen-sixties. Shouldn't be too hard to find — if they exist.'
    The boy had probably died when he was only ten years old. Everything should therefore start with registration of the death certificate, she explained. Then perhaps they could begin piecing together the details of his life. 'See if those pieces match his descriptions.'

TWENTY-TWO

    Jean-Luc Rosselot sat on the small stone wall and looked down the slope of the field towards the courtyard and the house. It was summer again, eight months after the trial. The scent of the fields reminded him of the day he'd found Christian's bike, of days they'd spent together working on the farm… of the bleak wheat field with the gendarmes placed like markers.
    Christian's small makeshift camp the far side of the wall he'd dismantled just a few months before. The winter winds had made it look dishevelled, no longer a pleasant reminder of the days when Christian used it.
    The images too were fading. Many times before he'd sat on the wall and looked down, imagined Christian running up towards him, waving, calling his name. Now when he summoned up the image, he could see a figure running, but it was indistinct — it could have been any boy. The features were faded, hazy, little more than a Cezanne impression. He wondered whether it was because his eyes were watering with the pain of the memory, blurring his vision — then would suddenly realize his eyes had slowly closed, the images were playing only in his mind.
    The only images that remained clearly, too clearly, were those he'd fought to blot out: the young gendarme in the courtyard with Monique collapsed at his feet, the photos of when Christian was found which he and Monique had to view at instruction, part of the process of official identification before the almost ludicrous question, 'Is it your wish that charges are proceeded with?' The two days in court, his outrage as the defence tactics became clear, and then the judge's final sentence: six years? Six years for the life of his son: not even a semblance of justice. Diminished responsibility? Metal plates, army doctors and old resistance fighter. The whole thing had been a pathetic sham.
    All that he'd clung to all along had been justice. Everything else had already been stripped away. Pride, hope, some reason to explain the ridiculous, the unacceptable that he'd lost Christian. Was that what he'd hoped for that day in court? Some explanation of why it had happened to lay the ghosts to rest. In the end, reason had been as lacking as justice. What were they saying in the end: that the man had murdered his son, but it was partly excusable because he had a metal plate due to being hit by a Nazi truck twenty years ago?
    Jean-Luc shook his head. He felt tired, very tired. The land, the fight to make the farm work, had been sapping him dry the last few years. Christian's death and the ensuing investigation and court case had taken whatever strength and resolve remained. He felt increasingly awkward in Monique's and Clarisse's company, could hardly look them in the eye, knew that they might see what lay beneath: that he just couldn't love them the way he loved Christian. And ashamed that he'd let them down, failed them. The last two letters from the bank he'd stuffed in a drawer without opening them. He knew already what they would say.
    He rose slowly, clearing the welled tears from his eyes as he started down the field towards the courtyard. If he saw Christian now, saw a clear image again waving and calling to him, perhaps that would stop him, make him think again. But there was nothing, only the empty field. Empty and dry under the summer sun, unyielding. Nothing left to cling to any more, not even the memory. As he got closer to the house, he saw a faint flicker behind the kitchen window. Monique was busy in the kitchen, but she hadn't noticed him and didn't look up as he crossed the courtyard to the garage.

    14th December, 1969
    Monique Rosselot tried to make out shapes in the room. Everything was misty, as if looking through a sheet of muslin. The figures moving around were indistinct, blurred, except the nurse when she leaned close, asking her again if she could 'feel anything below her waist?'
    'Yes… yes,' she answered between fractured breaths, now slightly indignant at the nurse's doubting tone.
    Feel was such a lame word for the terrible pain that gripped her, starting deep in her stomach and spreading like a firestorm through her thighs and lower back. She'd never before experienced such intense pain, didn't know it was possible for any human to endure such agony.
    'I don't think the epidural has taken,' she heard a man's voice. 'We might have to give her another shot.'
    'I don't think we can at this stage,' came another.
    And then the nurse leaning over again. 'Can you feel your body relaxing now?'
    'Yes… yes.'
    'But can you still feel the pain from lower down?'
    Monique exhaled the 'Yes' between clenched teeth, her breathing now little more than short bursts as she tensed against the pain.
    Doctor Jouanard contemplated the dilemma. The patient had been given the epidural almost thirty minutes ago. After twenty minutes when it became obvious it hadn't taken because of the patient's continuing pain, the baby was by then engaged in the birth canal. It would be almost impossible for the patient to bend forward to get the right curvature in the spine for a fresh epidural. And the risks of trying to administer it without full curvature were too high. A half centimetre off target and the patient could be paralyzed. In the end he'd ordered a mild general anaesthetic, something to calm and relax nerves, but leave the patient awake so that there was some response muscle control to push with.
    At least that had now taken, but the continuing pain and the fact that the baby didn't seem to have progressed any further in the birth canal, despite concentrated pushes from the patient, began to worry Jouanard. He'd read the patient's history thoroughly: two previous natural births without complications, her pelvic girth was obviously sufficiently large, why the problems now?
    With one hand on the abdomen, he could feel the baby lodged deep in the birth canal; with the other he spread back the vulva to get a clearer view. He thought he saw what looked like the baby's head, and something else — though he couldn't immediately make out what. There was also too much blood, he began to worry that something might have ruptured internally. He felt inside, trying to identify by touch what he thought was the head.
    He worked his hand around, moulding to the shape of the smooth damp flesh: it was a shoulder straight ahead that he'd seen, further down he could feel the thorax and arm, and the head… the head was pushed sharply to one side. And something in between. Jouanard ran his hand around once more to make sure. He looked up sharply.
    'Dr Floirat. Administer the patient immediately with full anaesthetic for surgery.'
    Floirat started issuing instructions: ECG monitor and oscillatometer to be wheeled forward, doses for the thiopentone.
    Jouarnard stepped back, supervising the laying out of instruments with his assistant. The blood loss worried him. Three or four minutes to set up the monitors, another minute for the thiopentone to take effect. How much more would she have lost by then? He directed a nurse to keep swabbing the flow. He noticed the patient's eyes darting, taking in the renewed activity.
    'It's okay… it's okay,' he soothed. 'The epidural hasn't taken fully. We're giving you a general anaesthetic. It will all be over soon. Just relax.'
    Stock phrases. Inside he was panicking. Breach birth with part of the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby's neck. Pushing against the obstruction had obviously caused an internal rupture, and the baby might already be strangled. If the placenta had ruptured, the baby would soon be dead, if it was still alive. If it was the uterus or womb, he could lose the patient as well. And he wouldn't even know where the rupture was until he opened up.
    The nurses were making the last connections on the monitors. Floirat stepped forward and administered the thiopentone. Jouanard looked at his watch, almost counting down the seconds. The blood loss was heavy. Fresh swabs were being dumped in the dish every ten or fifteen seconds. The patient was still alert, responding to the nurse who was talking to check when she was fully under.
    As the questions became totally mundane, Monique began to panic, bringing her anxiety at the renewed activity and the doctors sudden urgent orders to a peak. She asked the nurse, 'What's happening?', only to receive a trite smile in response.
    'Nothing. Don't worry. Just relax.'
    Which only made her panic all the more. She reached one hand up. 'I'd like to see my husband. Please… I'd like him here by me. To help me.'
    'Yes… don't worry. We'll get him.' The same practised smile from the nurse, knowing that the patient would be fully under any second.
    Waves of euphoria started to descend, and suddenly the nurse was right. There was nothing to worry about. Her body felt as if it was floating, drifting away on the echoes and voices around her.
    'You see… my husband will know just what to do,' she offered pathetically, her last words before drifting completely into the darkness.
    In the first moments of darkness, she saw Christian's face. He was running through a field, waving and smiling to her. But it wasn't the field by their house, it was one she didn't recognize: a wheat field, the sheaves blowing gently in the wind. And she thought: yes, it would be nice if it was a boy. Another Christian. She'd take care of him this time, love him, keep him close to her side and never let him be harmed. Oh God, please, please… just one more chance.
    Floirat checked the patient's pupils for responsiveness with a penlight and nodded after a second. Jouanard made the first incision. He'd already resigned himself to the fact that he'd probably lost the baby. The challenge remaining was to save his patient's life.

    28th April, 1974
    Dominic Fornier swung the black Citreon through the narrow Panier lanes, beeping his horn to move some people aside as he negotiated a tight turn. As he picked up speed, the wind rush reverberated from the buildings close each side. Ahead, he could now see the crowd. Most of them were congregated on the far side. He parked behind two black Citreons already there. He recognized Lasnel from forensics and Detective Inspector Bennacer, busy taking notes among the crowd the far side.
    Lasnel looked up from examining the body, grabbed his attention first. 'Inspecteur Fornier. Just in time. Another few minutes and the meat wagon might have taken him away.'
    Dominic knelt beside Lasnel. 'Been here long?'
    'Four or five minutes. Quite straightforward, though. Looks as if the first blow was made here, a straight lunge, quite deep, almost reaching the trachea, then the blade was run across, severing the jugular.'
    'So we know at least it was a knife rather than a razor. That'll narrow it down.' Dominic smiled and patted Lasnel's shoulder.
    The man's body lay face down, the blood from his neck wound spreading out and now a dark maroon, almost brown. He'd been dead now almost an hour. Dominic straightened up and Lasnel too shifted to one side for a moment as a detective moved in and took some photos using flash; though it was afternoon and bright sunshine, the buildings each side heavily shaded the narrow lane. Dominic went over to Bennacer.
    'Any witnesses?'
    Bennacer shook his head and pointed to a middle aged woman, quite dark, probably Moroccan or Algerian. 'She was the first to find him, two other men came up quickly afterwards, one of them went to the nearest phone to make the initial emergency call, the other's here.' Bennacer pointed to an old man not far behind the woman. 'But nobody actually saw the attack.'
    Dominic clarified with Bennacer that the other man, in his twenties, hadn't appeared again but probably wasn't significant. The victim's wallet was missing, there was no available identification, but Bennacer knew him: a local club owner called Emile Vacheret. The attack had been made to look like a robbery, but Bennacer doubted it. It was probably a milieu hit.
    Dominic nodded. Now that Bennacer had mentioned the name, Dominic remembered the file. Their main informant on milieu activities, Forterre, had reported moves to set up stronger drug distribution networks using Marseille clubs. Vacharet was one of the club owners in the file. Vacheret had for years used his clubs as fronts for packets of marijuana, but there was pressure for him to start handling heroine as well. Emile Vacheret was against the idea, but his son Francois, now in his early thirties, was known to be in favour. 'So it looks as if they didn't want to wait the fifteen years for the old man to retire,' Dominic commented sourly. 'Do you think his son might have actually been involved in the hit?'
    'No, I don't think so. He might have disagreed with his father, but he wouldn't have gone that far. With Emile out of the way, they'd get what they wanted anyway with Francois — so no need to implicate him. It also serves as a warning: what better way to make sure the son tows the line.'
    The inner politics of the milieu, thought Dominic. Essential knowledge for much of his past nine years in Marseille. As the drugs market had burgeoned, with Marseille one of the main distillation and shipment centres for Europe, the incidence of reglas de compte, settling of accounts, had increased. As with so many other similar cases, there would be no murder weapon found, no fingerprints, no witnesses. Just the usual list of suspects bounced between departmental files and computers.
    'Are any of his clubs near here?'
    'The nearest is at least three blocks away. Nothing in the immediate streets.'
    Dominic scanned the street beyond the small crowd. Eleven days? Eleven days before he cleared his desk in Marseille and started his two year posting with Interpol in Paris. The case wouldn't have progressed much in that time, would no doubt end up with his Chief Inspector, Isnard, where it would fester in one of his two usual piles: unsolved cases and internal admin overload. If he wanted some movement on the case, some strong leg work while he was gone, his best chance lay with Bennacer.
    Dominic flicked back through his notepad. Too many loose ends to tie up in just eleven days: cases in progress, reminders before he left, now he was adding more. Any work breaks had been filled with organizing packing and moving and rent contracts for their house in Aubagne and their new house in Corbeil, twenty miles south of Paris.
    No doubt there would be a goodbye drink with his department and, if there was time, a last meal at ‘Pierre Tetre’ in Cannes with his wife and son. They'd dined there the night he proposed to her, then again six years back when he received his final exam results and his move from the Marseille gendarmerie to the National Police became official. The two years at Interpol was voluntary and his current ranking would remain the same, but it would broaden his work experience and help his progress to Chief Inspector: two or three years after he returned at most. Without clinking glasses first at Pierre Tetre, the move to Paris would seem somehow incomplete.
    Dominic looked up. The ambulance was approaching, forcing the crowds close to the walls each side in the narrow lane. He wrote on a scrap of paper and handed it to Bennacer. 'I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do on this before I leave. But don't just let the case rot on Isnard's desk. Do the leg work yourself and work your milieu contact as best you can. This will be my number in Paris. Call me directly if anything comes up.'
    As Dominic closed his notepad, he saw the word Machanaud? written on the second to last page. A year after gaining his Inspectorate with the National Police, he'd been driving through Taragnon and was reminded of the case. Machanaud should have been released two years before, might have even been paroled earlier. He tried to contact Molet through the Palais de Justice and his old law firm, only to discover that he had moved practice to Nice; four phone calls later, he gave up on tracking down a phone number. He decided to try finding out what had happened to Machanaud through Perrimond's office. After three calls to Perrimond's secretary and none of them returned, within a week a snowstorm of work had pushed it into the background and it was forgotten.
    It sprang to mind again a year ago when he saw a press cutting about Alain Duclos. He'd seen nothing about Duclos in the ten years since the murder. It was a small sidebar talking about the new candidate for the RPR in Limoges, Alain Duclos, and mentioned his position as Chief Prosecutor the past five years and some notable successes against companies for labour contract infringements: mostly sweat shop use of illegal immigrants, with Duclos quoted that 'it not only imprisoned the immigrant in a cycle of modern day slavery, but also robbed the French people of their workright.' Champion of the People, Dominic thought cynically. Duclos and politics were obviously made for each other.
    He'd made a mental note then to try Perrimond again but had forgotten about it. Then just the week before he'd made the entry in his notepad along with the other loose ends of his life he wanted to deal with before leaving. No doubt he was worrying for nothing. Machanaud had probably been paroled after four years and spent at most another year in an institution receiving therapy. He would try Perrimond again as soon as he got back to his office.

    4th February, 1976
    Rain pattered against the side window of the car. Duclos looked anxiously at his watch. Chapeau was already five minutes late. Perhaps he was having trouble finding the new meeting place.
    The idea had been forming slowly the past year, though subconsciously it had probably been there far longer. Almost three years ago an old uncle of his had died and, together with his cousin, they'd handled the house clearance. Duclos knew a local antiques dealer, but they'd decided to go through the house first to identify the curios, be sure of their ground for when the dealer arrived. In an old attic trunk together with a uniform, brocade and medals, Duclos found an old service revolver, an SACM 7.6mm.
    His uncle had been an army officer during the Vichy government regime, but it wasn't the sort of thing the family would make public, nor did Vichy period army memorabilia have strong re-sale value. The trunk's contents would probably not be passed to the dealer and he doubted that his uncle had even made them known to his family. Yet the gun looked in surprisingly good condition, had obviously been regularly oiled and cleaned, was now tucked away neatly with a box of ammunition at its side. Duclos looked up and listened for a second — his cousin was still busy downstairs — before pocketing the gun and the shells.
    The thought didn't hit him in that moment what he might want it for, but in retrospect he recalled his eagerness to pocket the gun, his worry that his cousin might come up and prevent him being able to take it. Perhaps the intent and purpose had been there subliminally all along.
    But it wasn't until almost eighteen months later, with the next demand from Chapeau, that the significance of the gun really struck him. The demands came almost every year, had worn him down bit by bit. Each step up the ladder, each pay rise or increase in stature, and Chapeau would phone. Congratulations!
    He'd come almost to resent his own success, felt physically sick with each press flashbulb and item printed, knowing that Chapeau would read the clipping and the phone would ring. He began even to question his own motives for striving for such heights of ambition, that secretly he wanted Chapeau to call, that only the continuing punishment might somehow rid him of the nightmares that still haunted him periodically — waking up in a cold sweat as he saw the small boy's piercing green eyes staring back, pleading with him… please don't kill me!
    In the dreams, the car boot and the final moments of attack had become one and the same, the eyes shining back at him from the boot's darkness just before he swung the rock down. The first dream had come six months after the attack and sometimes he would get quick flashbacks as he opened the boot. He'd sold the car shortly after.
    But at other times he'd feel that he'd suffered enough, that the dreams were only still haunting him because each call from Chapeau would remind him, bring the incident alive again. And in those moments he'd want it all ended, the nightmare of the continuing calls and demands, the worry with his career progressing that each year he had more to lose. The price on his head increased.
    And he knew then why he'd picked up the gun, knew that there was only…
    Duclos' thoughts were broken. Chapeau's car had pulled up to one side. Duclos got out hastily, it was vital they weren't inside his car when he pulled the trigger. He felt light rain spots touch his face, and prayed that Chapeau didn't find it strange that he was standing outside.
    Chapeau got out and walked over. New car, Duclos noticed: Citreon CX Pallas. With the money he'd been paying to Chapeau the past years, hardly any wonder he could afford a better car than himself. He put one hand in his coat pocket, touched the cool metal of the gun butt.
    'I didn't know you were a country lover,' Chapeau commented, his breath showing on the cool damp air.
    The weather was ideal. He'd purposely delayed the meeting until it turned damp and cool. He could wear a coat without Chapeau being suspicious.
    Chapeau's feet crunched on loose shale and stone as he shuffled close. The track ran between a small area of woodland twenty miles north of Montpelier. It led to a picnic area further down which in summer would be busy; at this time of year it was deserted. Duclos had made the excuse of not wanting to meet at the usual restaurant car park: 'a waiter was looking out at intervals during our last meeting.' Chapeau said he hadn't noticed, but had agreed to the new meeting place.
    Chapeau's features had become heavier with the years. His neck had a thick jowl and the bags under his eyes gave him the appearance of a sad, malevolent bulldog. He often wore dark or tinted glasses to hide his bad eye, but today there were none: the weather was too dull.
    'It's cold out here,' Chapeau said. 'Has the heater been on inside your car?'
    Duclos glanced at the car, thinking quickly before his hesitance gave him away. 'Probably. But I wanted a bit of fresh air. We'll be finished soon.'
    Chapeau held his gaze for a second. Duclos hand tensed on the gun butt in his pocket. Was Chapeau suspicious, wondering why he wanted some fresh air when it was misty and raining?
    Chapeau looked down thoughtfully, then to one side. 'No worry of any nosy waiters here. Good choice if you like privacy.' Then his gaze swivelled back until it rested on Duclos.
    Duclos felt a faint trembling start to grip his legs. He took the hand hastily out of his pocket.
    'You must be quite proud, Minister. I read that recent press clipping. Impressive stuff. If I didn't know you so well, I'd be tempted to vote for you myself. Amazing how your private life can be so different to your public image.'
    Through the years, Duclos had become used to reading behind Chapeau's comments. What he meant was: Now your public profile has been elevated yet again, is even more polarized from your private life, the threat of downfall has far higher value. I can charge you more.
    '… What a surprise they'd all get if they realized what a prick you really were.' Chapeau laughed. 'No more invites to boy scout or youth club hall openings!'
    And always ended on a rebuke, a tease. Christ, for that alone it was going to feel good to kill him. Duclos sneaked his hand back on the gun, snaked one finger around until it was on the trigger. No more teasing and mocking. No more having to look into Chapeau's sad fish eye to see that the only thing to bring some life into it, some mirth, was his own discomfort.
    The first thought of killing Chapeau had come as much as five years ago, but getting someone else to do it; then he quickly thought again. That was what had landed him in this cycle of blackmail in the first place. He could end up just replacing one blackmailer with another. Yet in that first moment of discovering his uncle's gun, he never dreamt that years later he would be standing on a damp and desolate lane with his own finger on the trigger.
    Each meeting, each rebuke and insult, each payment, the fear of discovery and downfall stronger with each year… had bit by bit built a patchwork quilt of hatred and resolve. He would have to do it himself; there was nobody else.
    'Are you okay?' asked Chapeau.
    'Yes… yes. Fine.' Duclos stuttered. He could feel his nerves returning as he steeled himself, the trembling was back in his legs. 'Let's get it over with. As you say, it's cold out here.' He passed the envelope to Chapeau.
    The gun and ammunition would be untraceable. Nobody had seen him come into the lane, and the location was miles away for both of them. There would be no possible connection. He would have to make the first shot count, hitting the chest or stomach, with two or three in quick succession after. A superficial wound or a miss and Chapeau would start firing back.
    Chapeau was opening the envelope, starting to count the money.
    With Vacharet now dead, the last link between the two of them had also gone. The last traces of 1963 would die with Chapeau. He'd got away with it once, he could do it again. He tightened his grip, felt his palm sweating on the gun butt. The best moment was while Chapeau was looking down, distracted with counting the money.
    'Thirty thousand, wasn't it?' Chapeau confirmed. But he hardly looked up from counting.
    'Yes.' Twelve years focused into a single moment. His legs were trembling uncontrollably and there was a tight constriction in his chest. He swallowed to try and ease it. He'd thought initially of shooting Chapeau through the coat pocket, but then realized that with the mark and powder burns he'd have to dump the coat; it could be traced. But now he began to worry that in lifting the gun out, Chapeau would see it. A flicker in the corner of his eye while he was counting, making him reach for his own gun.
    Chapeau was two-thirds through counting the first bundle. Duclos knew the routine: Chapeau would count the first bundle fully, then would flick quickly through the other bundles and measure them against the first. There were six bundles in all: 5,000 Francs each made up of 100 Franc notes.
    All the months of preparation, and now the moment was upon him, he felt frozen into inaction. He'd even gone out to a deserted field near Limoges one weekend to fire off a few rounds: make sure the ammunition wasn't damp or faulty and get used to the feel of the gun. But what use was that now. This was no longer cardboard targets, but pumping bullets through flesh and bone! His nerves were racing, his whole body starting to shake. Perhaps he should wait until Chapeau had finished counting, started to walk away. Shoot him in the back.
    Chapeau was finishing the second bundle.
    But what if Chapeau suddenly looked up and read into his expression that something was wrong? Chapeau would see that he was in a cold sweat with panic, would reach for his gun before he even had the chance. Chapeau was flicking rapidly through the bundles… starting on the fourth. Any second he could look up and the chance would be gone.
    With one last silent prayer into the misty air, Duclos started to ease the gun from his pocket.

TWENTY-THREE

    Marseille. 3rd October, 1978
    Heartbeats. Their own pulses marking time. All the three men in the car could hear as they waited for the full cover of darkness. They watched as two more people left the bar.
    'How many would that leave now inside, Tomi?' the man behind the wheel asked.
    'Maybe nine or ten.' Twenty minutes earlier Tomi had gone in the bar for a quick reconnaissance, downed a pastis and left. 'I doubt if we'll find a time with less people inside. Later on, it will start filling up again.'
    The driver, Jaques, took out the 11.43mm automatic from his shoulder holster. In the back, Tomi's fingers tapped nervously on the barrel of a pump-action shotgun. Heartbeats. It had all been agreed earlier: they couldn't leave any possible witnesses. When they'd been handed the photos and half the payment two days before, they'd been told that this was the only place they'd find all three at the same time. Tomi had already checked that all three targets were there.
    The sign 'Bar du Telephone' was only partly visible between the trees which shadowed their car. Jaques looked ahead and in his mirror: there was nobody approaching. He nodded and they pulled on the stocking masks. No more words were spoken between them as they followed him briskly into the bar.
    Only two people turned and stared as they walked in and raised their guns to fire. Surprise had hardly registered on their faces as the first volleys rang out, deafening in the confined space. Tomi saw one of the targets towards the far end of the bar and picked him off quickly with a chest shot, then swung to his right and fired at a man diving for cover. Jaques quickly found their second target and picked off two bystanders trying to escape.
    Among the pandemonium of chairs and tables overturning and glasses breaking as people tried frantically to escape the relentless volley of fire, the three went through the bar as if it was a routine military exercize. It had all been agreed beforehand: chest shots, floor as many people as possible quickly, then finish off with head shots. Cries and screams mingled with the groans of those already wounded, and the air was thick with smoke and the smell of burning cordite.
    At one point Jaques held one hand up, in the few seconds lull taking stock of who was left to fell. A small movement in the corner — Tomi swung and fired. Everyone else was already gravely wounded or dead. Jaques nodded and they moved in to finish off the wounded.
    One man in his late twenties looked up and pleaded as Jaques levelled his gun at him. 'Monsieur, please, no… no!
    'Pardon.' Jaques pressed the gun barrel into the soft flesh below the man's ear and fired.
    Within another fifty seconds, they'd delivered a head or neck shot to everyone in the bar. Jaques grimaced disdainfully; with the carnage, the tile floor was slippery with blood. He'd almost fallen over twice. Jaques signalled and they headed out. Less than three minutes had passed since they'd entered.
    Shortly after them leaving, a faint liquid wheezing came from a man by the bar counter. He'd been shot twice in the neck, but miraculously had survived. The gunmen had also failed to notice a faint flicker of movement on the stairway at the back of the bar as they'd entered.
    Nicole Leoni, wife of the bar's owner, saw the lead gunman as she was walking downstairs — quickly heading back up again and barricading herself in an upstairs bedroom. She was unsure whether or not the gunman had seen her, and stared nervously at the door as the shots rang out below, fearful of it bursting open at any moment. She stayed in that position for almost three minutes after the last shots fired, still trembling as she finally ventured close to the door and listened, afraid that it might be a trick and they were creeping up the stairs to surprise her.

    Five days since the shooting. The main division responsible for the investigation was in North Marseille where the incident took place, but then quickly involved divisions covering the Vieux Port and Panier districts where most of the interviews for suspects was centred; and finally Chief Inspector Fornier's division in West Marseille for liaison with Paris and due to his past experience as an Inspector in the Panier district.
    Co-ordinating the investigation was Divisional Police Commissioner, Pierre Chatelain. Dominic had received calls practically every day from Chatelain, anxious that liaison with Paris went smoothly.
    Dominic was keenly aware of the background. Gangland battles between rivals in Nice and Marseille had left almost sixty dead over the past two years. Not a blink from the politicians and police officials in the north. But this was different. Along with three known criminals, six innocents had also been killed. Nine dead: two more than the St Valentine's Day massacre. Apart from the obvious comparisons to Chicago, suddenly it was a concern that tourists might get cut down in a hail of bullets while sampling some local pastis. Holidays were cancelled or re-arranged for the South-West coast, Italy or Spain. With tourism dropping, foreign exchange would be effected too. Suddenly it was a national issue. Ministers and Police Commissioners wanted results. Fast.
    The local crime network, the milieu, felt one of the coldest investigative draughts in years. The message was clear: kill each other by all means, but never let it spread outside of that fraternity.
    Dominic and most of his division had been working virtually round the clock since being brought into the investigation, and now a more concentrated vigil lay ahead. Phones and teleprinters went almost constantly and files arrived at regular intervals by messenger. Towards the end of the second night, as a stack of files shifted and almost knocked the smiling family photo of his wife and two sons off his desk, he was reminded to phone home. 'Just a couple of hours more, I'll be finished then.'
    His wife reminded him that it was their younger son Gerome's birthday in just three days, he'd be six. 'Try and leave at least some time over the next two days to put thought towards his present.'
    'Don't worry, once I've filed this report tomorrow, things will be easier.'
    The two hours turned into four by the time he'd run the report through a phone preview with Chatelain before sending it to Commissioner Aimeblanc.
    The final report was sixteen pages long. A complex and sordid saga of two rival gangs vying for control of casinos, clubs, race-tracks and profitable extortion and prostitution rackets. Background and texture to the final massacre — milieu revenge for the hi-jacking of a shipment of fake Omega, Cartier and Piaget watches from Italy, by three men: Andre Leoni, the Bar du Telephone's owner, and two associates present that fateful night. All others killed were incidental.
    Details of the killings were gruesome. All the victims had been hit first with chest or stomach shots, then finished off executioner style. Miraculously, one man, Francis Fernandez, was shot twice in the throat but survived. But he was purely a casual visitor to the bar, his descriptions of the three killers was vague, apart from the fact that 'they all wore stocking masks and one had a beard.' Three different calibre bullet were found at the scene: 9mm, 11.43mm and 12mm, the last probably from a shotgun.
    Aimeblanc came back within three hours of viewing the report: he wanted the suspect list narrowed. With little firm evidence, successful prosecution might hinge purely on confessions: a more workable interview list was essential. By late the same day, Dominic had narrowed it to just twelve names. Aimeblanc added his own two page summary and passed the file to Interior Minister Bonnet. With an additional foreword summary, Bonnet had the file copied and duly distributed.
    Fourteen ministerial departments were on his direct distribution list, and another eighteen requests had been made. Some were due to ministerial involvement in regional or national crime commissions, or because of the incident’s grave reflection on overall crime trends. Others simply because of the concern of constituents who had business interests, holiday homes or vacationed regularly in the area. Among the request list was the RPR Minister for Limoges, Alain Duclos.

TWENTY-FOUR

    'Was there much in the press about it?'
    'A fair bit. Two or three clippings in La Provencal, at least. It probably even hit Le Figaro or Le Monde at one stage — though possibly lumped together with coverage or other child murders.'
    'When will you know for sure?' Marinella asked. The concern had come through in her voice, she sensed; perhaps even sounded how she felt: desperate, deflated.
    Philippe described being bounced between libraries and news agencies half the morning. 'But I think I've finally found a couple of reliable sources. I've left them my fax number at the LSE. I should get the results of a search and copies from microfiche records within the next few hours.'
    There was nothing she could do but sit it out, wait for Philippe to receive his faxes. David Lambourne was in with a patient, and she felt ill at ease sitting by the phone in his waiting area. She wanted to bounce thoughts off him straightaway. Though was it purely to vent some of her frustrations, or get an alternative viewpoint?
    She glanced at the phone. If it was later in the day, she could have at least put through a call to Sebastian and her father — but it was only 5.10am in Charlottesville. Besides, she'd called them just the day before. Her father had been preparing red snapper with peppers and bean rice for later and the night previous they'd had chicken arroz brut; it was like a restaurant waiter reading out the menu. Sebastian would have been happy to stay with her father for a month. And to phone the university — catch up on activities the last few days and perhaps get some feedback from Donaldson — she'd have to wait even longer, almost four hours. She decided on a walk, burn off some of her restlessness.
    She walked for almost half a mile and found herself on the edge of Covent Garden. She decided to have a coffee in the piazza, found a deli with outside tables in the ground floor courtyard. A string quartet played Vivaldi while she sipped her cappuccino.
    Just the day before she'd been excited about the case. A genuine rush at the first bit of tangible information. Philippe had traced the death certificate in the Bauriac town hall register: Christian Yves Rosselot. Death registered at 9.54 pm, 23rd August, 1963. Parents Monique and Jean-Luc. Address: Rue des Rigouards, Taragnon. The boy not only existed, some of the main details checked out!
    But the registrar had mentioned a coroner's note on the certificate. Marinella asked Philippe to check. Coroner's notes were not in themselves unusual, present in all manner of accidental deaths, so she was not immediately alarmed. Towards the end of the same day, having followed the trail through the coroner's office and the Ministere Publique which had ordered the report, Philippe phoned her and dropped the bombshell: the boy had been the victim of a murder, quite a notable case in the region at the time. It was too late for Philippe to do any more checking that day, libraries and town halls in France were already closed; she'd have to wait till the morning for the confirmations she feared were looming.
    On the edge of the piazza, a mime artist juggled with three red balls, making them disappear dramatically behind his white gloved hands. A bit like this case, she thought: now you see it, now you don't. If she continued and published a paper, they would laugh at her back at Virginia. A prominent murder case that had been splashed across the press. Almost as bad as the boy claiming to be Maurice Chevalier or Joan of Arc. All the details were there for him to regurgitate.
    Stock lines of defence rolled through her mind about the age of the press articles and the family's lack of knowledge of France. But she knew that the sceptics's barrage would be relentless: old newspapers perhaps kept by relatives who had holidayed in the region, current books with prominent murder cases from bygone years, fresh news stories that reflected back to past cases. She knew she couldn't even start to defend her corner until she'd seen the news items from Philippe, weighed the full extent of damage.
    She felt deflated, despondent. Brought to the edge of what looked like an exciting case only for it to evaporate before her eyes yet again. Was this to be the pattern of her life? Each case that looked like it had real promise ending in disappointment. Perhaps she should just get the first flight back to Virginia, erase it quickly, a fresh workload and new cases to occupy her mind. She checked her watch: Lambourne's session would have ended a few minutes ago. She headed back.
    David was sipping at a freshly made tea as she walked back in. He offered her one, but she declined with thanks. 'I've just had coffee.'
    She'd flagged her concerns the evening before and now fleshed out the details: as she feared, the case had been reported heavily — she'd know just how heavily by early afternoon. They'd have to start thinking in terms of the case being completely fabricated or, at best, subliminally influenced. If they didn't adopt that stance, the critics certainly would. The case and any resultant study papers were heading nowhere. 'Sorry, David — but if the news from Philippe supports what I fear, I'm bailing out. I've already been four days away from my family, there's no point in my staying on just to face another disappointment.'
    Lambourne held one hand up, trying to slow her down. 'Wait a minute. Putting aside the sceptics view — what do you think? Do you think the boy's fabricating?'
    'I don't know.' She thought of the frail, lost voice, how convincing it had seemed. She shook her head. 'I'm not sure either way. It looks suspicious, that's all. But I have to take a safe stance, look at the downside. If I don't, someone else will — they'll rap me over the head, beat me senseless with it. Make me look foolish.'
    Lambourne was about to comment, is that the most important thing, that you don't look foolish, then thought better of it. Too harsh. 'Are you sure you're not reading too prematurely into the view the critics might, only might take on this. As Donaldson commented — playing too much to the gallery.'
    'It's okay for Donaldson, he never faces the critics like me. Never does personal interviews. Just goes on his jaunts to India or wherever, compiles his papers and books, and if they don't like his findings — fine. He just lets them stew in their own juices. He's in his own little cocooned academic netherworld, protected from it all. Unlike me, he doesn't have to sit on panels and face Professor Novision, a special study team of nerds from Sceptics Incorporated and flat earth preachers who conveniently forget that over half the world's religions believe in reincarnation. It's okay for Donaldson to pontificate about the gallery, because he has absolutely no idea what-' Marinella cut herself short as she read David Lambourne's expression: shocked at the strength of her feelings, or uncomfortable at her mention of ambivalence with Donaldson? She let out a long, tired breath and apologized, admitted that the stress of another promising case curtailed abruptly had got to her. She hung her head slightly in submission. 'Donaldson has built up a body of work and a reputation within the profession that I can only but hope to emulate. It was wrong of me to criticize. I'm sorry.'
    Lambourne held his palms out. 'So, what do you want to do? Anticipate the flak you might receive from sceptics and give up now — or battle on?'
    'I don't know.' Marinella was thoughtful. Then suddenly she smiled. 'You should worry. If it's all a scam, at least your patient's not ill. Misguided by some inventive, headline seeking weirdo godparents, perhaps — but not psychologically disturbed.'
    Lambourne grimaced meekly. 'Except one problem. I happen to believe the boy. And I'm fully committed to trying to help him through this problem.'
    Marinella nodded slowly. 'For what it's worth — I believe him too. Despite how it might all end up looking to the sceptics.'
    While the mood was right, Lambourne tried to buoy her spirits. Assured her that her concern about critics was both premature and probably unfounded. The weight of evidence both from his own sessions and the initial report from Dr Torrens. A lot of people to all be wrong. 'What did the Capels do — fake the accident and the coma as well?' The statistics would probably also stack up on her side. 'How many regressions have you experienced before where people have been murdered?'
    'Only one. Victim of a carpetbaggers raid just after the American Civil war. No records. But I believe Donaldson has had one or two cases.'
    'I bet if you check the records, you'll find that regressions involving murder reflect almost exactly its incidence in real life compared with other forms of death. One in five hundred, one in a thousand — whatever.'
    Marinella knew that previous studies had shown that regressions accurately reflected real life: 51 % women, 49 % men, regardless of the sex of the subject, most from meagre or mundane backgrounds, very few rich or notable figures. She didn't recall any specific studies for murder victims.
    'And most murders since the turn of the century would have hit the press, so it's not that unusual.' Lambourne raised an eyebrow. 'Have you ever heard of or read the East Kent Gazette. Or perhaps a Mexican newspaper?'
    'No.'
    'Well, the Capels would have had just about as much chance of seeing provincial newspapers from the South of France. And from thirty years ago — forget it!'
    'But it might have also been in Le Monde, perhaps even smaller items in the British press. And then there's the possibility of books compiling various murder cases through the years.'
    'For Le Monde you'll have to wait on news from Philippe. But the rest you could check yourself. There's a good library not far away on Chancery Lane. In a couple of hours, you could have done a full search.'
    Marinella bit lightly at her lip. 'It's not just for them — it's also convincing myself. Building back the confidence and enthusiasm to continue.'
    Lambourne wasn't sure whether he'd convinced her or not. When he went into his next session, she was still there: perhaps waiting for Philippe's call, perhaps still balancing everything out in her mind.
    Though when he came out of the session, she was gone. Two hours later, just twenty minutes after Philippe had called and left a message, she phoned from the library.
    'You were right — there's nothing in the British press. I've searched everything.' The enthusiasm was back in her voice. 'I'm just checking through books now. I'll know for sure in an hour or so.'
    Lambourne gave her the message that Philippe had called and Marinella asked if he had mentioned Le Monde. 'No, he just left his number.'
    'Okay, thanks. I'll call him.' She rang off abruptly.
    Lambourne didn't see her again until early evening. She was in high spirits and brought him up to date quickly: Le Monde did have an entry, but it was only five lines on page twelve the day after the attack and mentioned only the boy's name and the village. No parents' names, no trimmings. 'The boy was alive apparently for five days after that and his later death didn't appear in Le Monde. Three articles in La Provencal, one large, two small. And nothing at all in the British press or books.'
    'You look relieved.'
    'I'm ecstatic. I'm also starving — let's go eat.'
    Over dinner, David could hardly keep pace. This was the Marinella he remembered: confident, optimistic, energetic, eyes sparkling. He felt glad now that he'd calmed her earlier doubts. Though as she talked about the remaining steps ahead of finding the Rosselots or close past friends who could corroborate Eyran's account as Christian Rosselot, he felt the first pang of uncertainty.
    Marinella was talking as if she was suddenly on an open freeway, had been lost for a while on some annoying side road, but now was full speed ahead, not an obstacle in sight. And he began to worry that he might have fired her up too much, that if she suddenly hit an obstacle and was deflated again, he'd feel partly responsible. Having rekindled her enthusiasm, if in a few sessions time he decided that continuing regressions were not in his patient's interests, it would seem heartless to suddenly pull the plug.
    That enthusiasm carried Marinella through the next two days. The first stumbling block was that the Rosselots could no longer be traced in the area. One of the town hall clerks recommended Philippe to the Bauriac gendarmerie. 'They conducted much of the investigation and someone there might know.' Philippe could only find one person at the gendarmerie who remembered the investigation, Captain Levacher. While Levacher personally had no knowledge of the Rosselots or their current whereabouts, he had another number for someone who might be able to help. 'Dominic Fornier, he assisted in the investigation thirty years ago.' He had a number also for Captain Poullain who headed the investigation, but Levacher explained why he thought Dominic Fornier might be more useful. 'Here it is, National Police, Panier district, Marseille. 1974. That's the last number we have for him.'
    Philippe phoned the number and they gave him another number for a division in West Marseille. The people in West Marseille were more circumspect and gave no information, merely asked his name, logged his call, and promised that someone would call back. Philippe didn't get the return call until the next morning, a girl named Therese giving him a number in Lyon. Philippe phoned to be informed: 'Chief Inspector Fornier is in a meeting right now. He'll be free probably about midday.'
    Philippe brought Marinella up to date straightaway.
    She checked her watch: 9.20am. France was an hour ahead, so Philippe planned to try again in almost two hours. 'Great. I'll be sitting by the phone waiting for news.'
    Two more hours and they could hopefully piece together Christian Rosselot's life. But along with the excitement, she suddenly felt restless, ill at ease. The last days of research and Philippe's paper chase across France had obviously told on her nerves. Though as she tried to settle the rising butterflies in her stomach, it struck her that it might also be something else: the portent of possible failure was suddenly there once again. Only two hours away.

TWENTY-FIVE

    8th December, 1978
    'What is this — hit man of the year nomination list?'
    'Close. It's the suspect list for the Bar du Telephone killings.' Duclos watched Brossard's expression keenly as he scanned down and saw his own name on the list. Hardly a flicker of recognition. 'You know what this means?'
    'Yes, it means the police are going to waste their valuable time with nine suspects — and I'm one of them.'
    'It also means that your life will be difficult for the next month or so. You'll be watched, perhaps brought in for questioning whenever it suits the police. Your life will be disrupted — and it will be bad for business. People won't go near you for a while with contracts.'
    'Except one thing. I'm the only one on the list for whom the police have no firm identity. Just a vague photo-kit and an alias I once used. They won't know where to start.'
    Duclos nodded. He knew the history. It was partly why he thought Brossard would be ideal. It had taken him almost a week to set up the meeting through Francois Vacharet. It was over three years since his last visit to Vacharet's, not long after the death of his father. Vacharet had been keen to offer him a new boy from Martinique, but Duclos had wanted to get straight down to business. He showed Vacharet the same list and asked him to pick out the ones he knew. Vacharet came up with three names. 'Forget Tomas Jaumard,' Duclos prompted.' He didn't explain why: that he'd had an association with Jaumard through his father, Emile Vacharet. 'Of the other two, which would you recommend?'
    The quick biography sounded ideal: early thirties, no arrests or convictions, master of disguises, little or nothing on police files except an identikit picture, description and modus operandi: Brossard invariably wore different wigs and glasses to change his appearance. The supposition was therefore that his normal hair style was short. Eugene Brossard was a false name from a door buzzer tag for a flat Brossard had vacated two days before a police raid. He was always one step ahead.
    Duclos was sure the Brossard before him was also heavily disguised: thick blonde wig cut in Beatles style, rounded glasses with a mottled burgundy frame. He looked like a David Hockney caricature.
    The only thing which had initially made Brossard uncomfortable was the tape recorder running. Duclos explained why: that any minute he was going to offer Brossard F100,000 to have someone killed. The reason for the hit was the blackmailing of a close friend. Duclos wanted to be sure that the blackmail wasn't repeated, so the tape would serve as an insurance policy — for both of them. 'Now that I've admitted a dark secret, it's your turn. Tell me about one of your hits.'
    Brossard laughed at the suggestion at first, but Duclos was insistent. 'The tape will never go out of my possession; after all, it would incriminate me as much as you. What have you got to lose? If you don't want to do it, fine. Me and my hundred thousand will walk out of the room.'
    Duclos listened as Brossard described in bland monotones the murder of a Chief Planning Regulator in Nice three years previous. Duclos remembered the case: a planning officer implicated in a milieu bribes scandal. The milieu got to him before the State Procureur. He couldn't help wondering why Brossard had chosen this particular story. Was it partly a warning not to misuse the tape? I've already killed one government official. Fuck with me and one more won't make that much difference.
    Brossard stared coldly at Duclos. Duclos could hardly see his eyes behind the dark glasses except when he blinked. Duclos felt an involuntary shiver run up his spine. He hadn't felt this uncomfortable in someone's presence since… since.
    The memory of his palm sweating on the gun butt was still vivid, lifting it, so slowly... the birds suddenly alighting from a nearby tree, making Chapeau look up. He feared for a minute that Chapeau had seen the gun — had thrust it quickly back in his pocket. In the last seconds of their meeting, that fear had stayed with him, that Chapeau would suddenly wheel around, level his gun and fire. He stayed vigilant as Chapeau walked away, but the moment to take the initiative had gone. He said lamely that he wanted to stay in the lane for a bit more fresh air as Chapeau drove off. Truth was, he was shaking too much to be able to drive. Almost as soon as Chapeau had disappeared from view, he was physically sick. He couldn't face going through that again. It had taken him another eighteen months of suffering Chapeau's blackmail and insults even to be able to summon up the courage to arrange this meeting.
    But despite the precautions, looking at Brossard's lips curled in a slight smile at his description of murder, his deeply hooded eyes blinking behind dark glasses — he couldn't help fearing that he might just be replacing one nightmare with another. The room they were in smelt of pine disinfectant fighting hard to disguise the odour of musky bed linen and bad plumbing. A seedy back street hotel which Vacharet had recommended where clients took hookers. 30 Francs to a cleaning lady for a room for an hour, no questions asked. She'd just raised an eyebrow and grunted at the sight of two men entering, one wearing a strange blonde wig. Duclos was eager to get out.
    Brossard looked back at the list. 'So is the hundred thousand supposed to make me feel better about having my name on this list?'
    'By the time you get the hundred thousand, hopefully your name won't be on the list. I'm paying Vacharet another fifty thousand to spread the right noises in the right places that you were in a friend's restaurant the night of the attack. It happened too early for you to be in one of his clubs. Within a few weeks it should spread on the milieu network and hopefully your name will come off the list.'
    Brossard's eyes flickered. He was impressed. Client's plans were normally clumsy; most planning had to come from his own quarter to compensate. 'So who is it you want hit, and when?'
    'That's another reason for the list. He's there, sixth name down. You probably know him: Tomas Jaumard.'
    Brossard's eyes flickered more rapidly. Hopefully he'd disguised his initial flinch. Tomas Jaumard, alias Chapeau. One of the old reliable milieu die hards. It wouldn't be the first time someone had tried to have Jaumard killed. Of the last two hired guns sent, one died instantly with a bullet through the head, the other was shot in the stomach and groin and spent four hours with surgeons piecing together what was left of his manhood. Jaumard escaped from the fray with only a shoulder wound. ‘Jaumard is a high risk target. For that type of hit, it will cost more. It's not worth doing under F150,000.'
    Duclos stared back. 'Is that because of allegiances, possibly upsetting others within the milieu.'
    'No. I take work from the milieu strictly as an independent — I owe no allegiances on any side. It's because of the extra risk. Jaumard is one of the few men on this list I have some professional respect for. It will take more to set up.'
    Duclos nodded. Strong allegiances with the milieu had been the one remaining area to concern him. Brossard asked where and when.
    'Two months, give some time for your name to come off this list,' said Duclos. 'So you're not quite so hot. The where is up to you. Set it up the way you want.'
    They made the final arrangements and set the time for their next meeting. By then Brossard would have the outline of a plan and Duclos would give him the first payment. Brossard left the room first and asked Duclos not to leave for at least a few minutes after. Duclos assumed it was part of Brossard's obsession with protecting his identity, but Brossard offered no explanation.
    Walking down the corridor, Brossard thought: a total of F200,000 to drop Jaumard including the payment to Vacharet, and the client had hardly blinked. Almost twice what he'd been paid to hit the Nice city planner. Jaumard had obviously stepped on some important toes. Poor old Chapeau. A sly smile crossed Brossard's face after a moment. At least it was nice to know people in his profession were so highly valued. More than a City Planner. He could think of worse tombstone epitaphs.
    Alone in the dank room, Duclos started to feel uncomfortable after only a minute. A sudden shiver of desolation that reminded him just how far he'd sunk to be rid of Chapeau. He packed up the tape recorder and left the room.

    Marseille. 10th January, 1979
    'We're jamming… we're jammin' till the jammin's through… wer' jammin'. To think that jammin' was a thing of the past… wer' jammin'. And I hope this jammin's goin' to last…'
    The motorbike messenger bopped with the rhythm of the music on his walkman as he got off his bike, kicked it on its stand and entered the cafe. The package he was carrying was his arm’s length and half as wide. The cafe was almost an exact ten metre square. There were about fourteen or fifteen people inside, four at the bar and the rest scattered at tables. The messenger's eyes behind dark motorcycle goggles scanned the room quickly. He could see the two people he expected in the far corner, but didn't dwell — his attention shifted quickly to the approaching barman. He lifted out his earpiece.
    'Monsieur Charot?'
    The barman pulled a face and shrugged.
    The messenger tilted the package and read from the label. 'Monsieur Charot. Thirty-eight, Rue Baussenque.'
    Puzzlement from the barman. 'The address is right, but I don't know a Charot. Let me check with my wife.' The barman disappeared behind a bead curtain at the end of the bar.
    Brossard put back the earpiece. Behind the motorcycle goggles, he let his eyes scan slowly across again. He was interested only in one position — the table in the corner with Chapeau and Marichel, the local pimp he'd paid to set things up. He wanted it to look like a casual surveillance. The bored messenger waiting to see if he had the right address, head bobbing lightly to the rhythm on his walkman, fingers tapping on the package.
    '… We all defend the right that your children must unite… life is worth much more than gold. Wer jammin'… jammin'…'
    The barman was back by the bead curtain, now with his wife. The barman pointed, his wife shrugged and returned to the back. As the barman returned, in the corner of his eye Brossard could tell that Marichel was looking over briefly. Don't look! Brossard silently screamed. Just let me blend in, don't bring Chapeau's attention to me.
    He'd made the arrangements with Marichel just the week before. Ten thousand francs to set up the meeting with Chapeau, act as if he was a go-between for a hit contract. Brossard had given Marichel all the details, had practically written the script for him. With a contract on offer, what better way to guarantee Chapeau's attention. But Marichel was probably watching for the timing of the package being opened, the moment he would have to suddenly jump aside.
    Brossard swivelled back the earpiece until it rested on his neck. The barman was explaining that his wife didn't know the name either. Brossard pointed to the corner and asked if he could use the phone. 'Check back with my office to see what happened.'
    The barman nodded, turned to the end of the bar by the door to serve another customer.
    With the package under his arm, Brossard went towards the pay phone on the wall. It was almost directly opposite Chapeau and Marichel's table. He noticed Chapeau look up as he started across, but he couldn't tell if Chapeau's gaze had stayed with him as he approached the phone — couldn't risk turning or glancing back to see.
    He started to worry: was there something in his disguise that didn't fit? Some small detail that Chapeau might have picked up on. He'd tried on several long curly wigs, but most were too bushy to fit comfortably under a crash helmet. Finally he found one that was slightly flatter on top with ringlet curls starting further down, spilling out of the base of the helmet and onto his shoulders. Just another rockin' messenger with some sounds to blot out the drone of city traffic.
    Brossard's fingers tapped on the package as he set it down by the phone. The tone was tinnier pulled away from his ear. '… The love that now exists is the love I can't resist, so… jam by my side. Wer' jammin'… jammin', jammin'…'
    He reached for the receiver, his hand slightly damp as he imagined Chapeau's eyes still burning into his back. He started dialling, fluffing the first numbers so that only the last three counted: the speaking clock. As it rang, he turned and casually surveyed the room. Chapeau was looking back at Marichel, deep in conversation. Marichel drew hard on a cigarette, exhaling smoke in staccato bursts as he talked.
    It was then that Brossard noticed the girl directly in line behind Chapeau, and cursed. He'd told Marichel to choose seats by a wall. The wall was behind them from the bar view, but not from this angle. The girl was fully obscured only when Chapeau leant forward.
    Bob Marley pulsed against his neck, two inches below his earlobe as he listened to the talking clock. '…It will be nine-twelve and twenty…'
    With the sweep of the gun, it was going to be difficult not to hit her at the same time. Brossard wanted the hit to be clean. For a moment, Brossard tensed, a quick window of opportunity appearing as Chapeau leant forward — then just as quickly it was gone. Chapeau relaxed back again. It was a tease. Brossard considered the possibility of stepping to one side as he fired, sharpening the angle so that the wall was behind. But would that split second delay make him more vulnerable?
    Chapeau was listening intently to Marichel explain the hit. It appeared straightforward enough, but some of the details from Marichel were becoming repetitive and he seemed slightly nervous. He'd noticed Marichel look up at the motorcycle messenger at the bar, and had glanced up briefly himself as the messenger had crossed to the phone — before bringing his attention back to the business at hand. But now he noticed that at intervals Marichel would give the messenger a sideways glance, as if trying to judge his position without staring overtly. And he was suddenly conscious of the messenger looking across, his attention shifting between them and the table behind.
    All the other small signals suddenly gelled in that instant. Chapeau tried not to give away the sudden realization, would have averted his eyes to give him a moment more to think — but by the messenger's reaction, he knew it was already too late. The alarm in his eyes had shown.
    The messenger reached for the package as Marichel leapt aside.
    Chapeau's impulse reaction was to raise one hand as he stood, the other reaching inside his jacket for his gun. He saw the package open, the compact Uzi machine gun swing up as the package was tossed aside. But he was sure he'd be able to level his gun first.
    Brossard knew he'd passed the point of no return as soon as Chapeau looked up. He saw the hand raising in a 'stop' motion, a distraction from the other hand reaching for the gun — but he'd already committed himself to swing the arc of the Uzi from the right. The girl behind was suddenly forgotten. He saw the first shots rip through Chapeau's outstretched hand, but the other hand was raising rapidly, the gun barrel almost pointing straight at him.
    Chapeau could see the black leather figure clearly in his sights as the stinging pain hit with the top part of his hand ripped away. He squeezed off his shot virtually at the same time — wondering for a moment why the recoil was so heavy, had tilted him sharply back until he was facing the ceiling.
    The arc of Brossard's fire swung across and caught Chapeau squarely in the chest, throwing off his aim so that his bullet missed Brossard by more than a yard. Marichel was now two yards clear of the table, leering wildly with a mixture of surprise and raw excitement.
    Brossard paused only briefly, then swung across again, continuing the arc — enjoying the moment's total bewilderment that crossed Marichel's face. The hail of bullets shattered Marichel's breastbone and removed the top part of one shoulder. No witnesses or knowledge of the set-up. It was safer. Brossard had decided the action shortly after hiring Marichel.
    Most people in the bar had dived for cover on the floor or behind tables and chairs. Hysterical screaming rose from somewhere near the door. Brossard moved closer to the sprawled bodies. Chapeau was still breathing faintly. Brossard could see his chest moving as it struggled for air from lungs filling rapidly with blood. Chapeau's shattered fingers lay several feet away. Brossard fired a quick final burst to Chapeau's head, then to Marichel's, and ran out.

TWENTY-SIX

    Dominic looked anxiously at the map. Eight or nine kilometres past Bourgoin Jallieu, the motorway branched into two: the A43 to Chambery and the A48 branching off to Grenoble. Radio messages crackled back and forth to two operators to his side.
    It had been one of those mornings. He'd seen the message to phone Marinella Calvan as soon as he came out of an early morning meeting. A number in England, he wondered whether it was something to do with his previous Interpol work, though the name didn't strike a chord. But there were other, more pressing emergencies: there had been a bank robbery in the La Guillotiere area of Lyon, and after a sighting a chase had ensued with three police cars on the A43 heading east.
    But already events had gone tragically wrong. Bullets fired from the robber’s car had struck one of the pursuing cars, shattering its windscreen and causing it to careen into the central barrier; two of the three officers inside had been seriously injured. The only way to avoid more mayhem was to set up a road block, preferably at a turn-off peage.
    ‘Looks like they're heading for Grenoble!' one of the radio operators, Morand, called out.
    Dominic looked up from the map. 'We need a quiet junction, next three turn offs. Somewhere where the peage won't be too busy. Suggestions.'
    'Eleven or twelve could be good,' said Morand.
    Dominic checked the distances: Sixteen kilometres and thirty-four. 'It will have to be twelve. We'll need time to put everything into place.'
    It took another nine minutes: three police cars ahead took up all three lanes, gradually slowing so that a visible jam built up just ahead of junction 12. At the junction 12 peage, three slots would be blocked by queues of at least two vehicles, a mixture of unmarked police cars and an old green van with CRS guards in the back. The fourth peage slot would be left empty.
    All other traffic turning off meanwhile would be waved rapidly through the vacant peage slot without paying. As the robbers car approached the empty slot, at the last second the barrier would come down to slow them; and as they burst through, two teams of CRS guards with rifles would put out the tyres.
    Dominic looked across sharply as the phone rang on his desk. It could be news on the injured officers; he'd asked for anything urgent to be put through on his private line. He picked it up. The girl on desk duty informed him that it was Marinella Calvan phoning again from England, and that she said it was urgent..
    'Okay, put her through.' He’d probably have a spare two minutes.
    As Marinella introduced herself apologetically and started explaining the reason for her call — for Dominic, it was as if the rest of the room and the activities in it had suddenly receded, become little more than incidental background.
    Only the imperatives broke through. At one point, Morand raising a thumb's up and shouting: 'They've gone for it! They've taken the bait and turned off. They're coming up to the peage.'
    On the far side of the peage, four CRS guards with flak jackets aimed their rifles at the empty slot, ready for the car as it burst through.
    When Morand leapt into the air and a quick cheer went up from the radio desk, Dominic knew that everything had gone well.
    He said 'One moment' apologetically to Marinella Calvan as he hit the secrecy button and looked towards Morand. 'So?'
    'One injured. The others came out arms up, no resistance. No injuries our side.'
    Dominic nodded and smiled, but Morand could tell that his attention was fractured. Dominic wasn't sure if he was more distracted through struggling to make sense of what Marinella was saying — a young boy in England, hypnotic sessions and a possible link with Christian Rosselot — or through his suspended belief, the painful nostalgia as the years were stripped away. Dark and hazy memories which he thought had been long buried.
    Dominic unclicked the secrecy button. 'Sorry. Yes, I think I'll be able to help. I do know someone who could verify Christian Rosselot's background.'
    But having made the arrangements, though intrigued as he put down the phone, he was uncertain what ghosts might be unlocked by helping. Re-awakening memories he'd spent so much of his life struggling to forget. He shook his head. Thirty years? Perhaps they had never been truly free of the events of 1963.

TWENTY-SEVEN

    Provence. July, 1965
    In the two months after Jean-Luc Rosselot died, once again Monique stayed on the farm, hid away from the world. The Fievets helped out with her shopping and Dominic didn't see her in the village.
    The investigation into his death was short, the post-mortem over in ten days: verdict of suicide. Jean-Luc had started the tractor and then purposely shut the garage door, had stayed inside until overcome by fumes. The first thing to alert Monique in the kitchen at the time was the throbbing sound of the motor through the walls. As it continued without the tractor emerging from the garage, she went into the courtyard and saw that the doors were closed. Clarisse had run out behind, had seen her father slumped dead over the tractor steering wheel as the doors were swung open.
    Monique tried in vain for a few minutes to revive him, then ran to the Fievets to use their phone and call an ambulance. Running back, seeing Clarisse standing thoughtfully over the prone figure of her father, hugging tight to a small doll as tears ran down her cheek, had been the image to linger most with Monique. The doll. Practically all she had left.
    Dominic hadn't been involved directly in the investigation. Harrault went with Servan assisting. Dominic was thankful, he didn't want to be remembered as the friendly face from the gendarmerie always associated with death in her family. Calling at the door to tell her that her son was dead, then twenty months later taking notes on her husband's suicide. He'd have hardly been able to face her.
    When a few months later she did finally start venturing into the village, Dominic had his own crisis to cope with. His mother had been in hospital the past two weeks, her condition had deteriorated so much that the doctors felt sure that she wouldn't last more than another week. She knew that she was dying too, had begged Dominic to take her home again, said that she didn't want to die surrounded by 'old and ill people.' She'd even managed a taut smile at the irony. She wanted to be surrounded by some life and that which she held fondest: the garden, the sounds of the birds in the trees, and her son close by her side. The doctors argued that she might last longer where they could care for her better, but Dominic was insistent. A few extra days to be surrounded by bed pans and the smell of disinfectant? She was going home.
    She lasted almost three weeks more. It was almost as if she didn't want to leave the beauty and tranquillity of the garden. September temperatures were still in the eighties, bright sunshine practically every day, and Dominic watered the plants early each morning and sat her on the back covered porch with her favourite coffee: Javanese with a hint of chicory and cinnamon. It reminded her of her childhood. Surrounded by the symbols that had marked the stages of her life — the coffee, the tangerine tree that her husband had planted the year before he died, her son — before she could truly feel at ease in leaving it all behind. Everything was in place. It felt right.
    It was a small ceremony. Dominic's sister had travelled down just a few days before his mother's death and stayed for the funeral preparations. Her husband and children joined her for the funeral and Dominic's uncle on his mother's side was also there. He lived in Bordeaux and Dominic had only seen him a handful of times in the past decade.
    Not long after, he saw Monique in a Bauriac cafe. She looked across and acknowledged him with a small nod, eyes downcast. Perhaps she didn't want to greet him with anything nearing a smile, thought it might seem inappropriate. But he had the feeling in that fleeting second that she knew. That her look said: 'I've heard and I'm sorry. Nobody knows better than me how you feel. We've both lost someone we love.'
    Dominic wouldn't have been too surprised if she knew. He'd heard so much about her own plight through Louis, via Madeleine and the Fievets. One point he'd picked up on had been problems with a local bank, though details were sketchy from Louis at first. All the Fievets knew was that Jean-Luc had taken a bank loan for farm improvements and to buy equipment and had fallen behind with the payments. They didn't know how far behind, only that Monique had become increasingly concerned about it. It was also mooted as another possible reason behind Jean-Luc's suicide.
    Marc Fievet helped out on Monique's land when he could and they shared the profits at market, but with him only being able to manage working it at less than thirty percent capacity, only half the monthly bank repayments were covered with no possibility of making a dent on the back payments. With each update from Louis, the situation seemed to get more desperate. She'd put the farm up for sale as soon as she was aware of problems at the bank, but three months had passed with still no takers.
    Listening to Louis explain Monique's dilemma one day, Dominic was struck with an idea. He remembered a farmer he'd reprimanded a month or so back for parking badly on a narrow Taragnon lane. It transpired that he was a tenant farmer and the cottage he'd rented was separated from the land. Because there were no tracks or pull-ins for his car along one side of the land, the farmer had complained he was forced to stay on the road.
    Dominic tracked him down over the next week to find out if the proposition of renting a farm with residence adjoining would appeal. A few details exchanged and the answer was 'yes'. Dominic checked with Louis and some others in the gendarmerie for character reference: it appeared the farmer, Croignon, was diligent, worked the land efficiently and always paid his rent on time.
    A few days later, Dominic missed the opportunity of broaching the subject with Monique. She was just inside the doorway of the local boulangerie as he was passing, and he wasn't sure if it was because there were other people within earshot, or because the subject was delicate and she might be embarrassed that he knew about her personal problems. Or that, as before, he found her beauty intimidating. He felt awkward and shy in her presence. By the time he'd thought about it, the moment had gone.
    Afterwards, he even questioned his motives: was he really trying to help, or was he just using it as an opportunity to speak to her? After a few too many drinks at Louis' one night, with Louis teasing and goading him, he finally admitted with a sly smile that perhaps it was a bit of both. Louis offered to break the ice by getting a message through Valerie and the Fievets. 'She's so desperate, she's probably past caring where help comes from,' Louis ribbed. Dominic smiled and spun a beer mat across the bar counter.
    Despite the ground-laying through the Fievets, Dominic was still nervous when they met. He needn't have worried. After some initial stumbling and condolences exchanged, it went well. Dominic felt at ease, it was almost as if he was talking to a long lost sister. They traded some background and details in between him explaining the proposition, and it suddenly struck him how lonely she was. Not just now with the loss of her son and husband, but that she had always been lonely in the village. In particular from the way she asked about his mother, whether she'd found it difficult at times in the village? It wasn't easy for outsiders to be accepted, he agreed. Shortly after she asked how he had found settling down in the area? He explained that his mother was only half Indonesian, and by the time it reached him it was barely perceptible. But yes, it had been difficult the first year or so, purely because he was from outside. Others in the gendarmerie also resented him because of his past Foreign Legion and Marseille experience. That he wasn't and never could be completely 'one of them.'
    Monique nodded in understanding, her eyes warm and compassionate. She looked down after a second as she met the steadiness of his gaze, toying nervously with her coffee spoon. Perhaps that was how she viewed him, he thought. Another outsider battling against the hostilities of the close-knit village community, the two of them now also bonded by grief. They'd both lost someone they loved.
    She went back over some of the details of the proposition. 'If this Croignon rents my farm in its entirety, are you sure about my staying at your mother's house?'
    Dominic assured her that it was too big for him and, besides, he'd prefer not to stay with the memories it held. 'You probably feel the same way about your place.' They'd already discussed most of the main details. She would move into his mother's house and he would stay in a small apartment above Louis. The only initial stumbling block had been that Louis' current tennant didn't vacate for another four months. In the end the Croignons offered that Dominic could stay temporarily in the fourth bedroom above the garage. Repayment for broking the deal. Dominic wouldn't charge Monique anything the first year; then they'd discuss a peppercorn rent to cover his basic costs at Louis’.
    Monique reached out and clasped his hand with a smile. 'Thank you.' She was deeply appreciative of the help, but had put up a bit of a fight that she should pay him something straightaway before seeing how strongly he was resolved. He wouldn't hear of accepting anything the first year. Dominic flinched a little at the electricity of her touch, felt his face flush slightly.
    She was excited by the proposition: not only was the farmer paying a good rent, for the first two years he would share thirty percent of the profits on the fields already fully planted and cultivated. She could cover the bank payments and start getting her life back in order; a new house would also remove some of the memories and emotional burden. But she wanted to sleep on it overnight and speak briefly with the Fievets. Could they meet again the next day at the same time and place?
    It took another two meetings to arrange everything: the loan details were complex and although the rent would easily cover the fresh payments, the back payments would need re-scheduling. Dominic showed her a couple of rescheduling options, but still Monique looked slightly lost and awkward. 'Jean-Luc always dealt with the accounts.' She asked Dominic if he would mind coming to the bank with her to help explain everything to the manager. So much of it had been his plan anyway, and he would be better equipped to propose the rescheduling options. She might fumble or leave out something vital.
    Dominic was eager to help, contemplating a diary busy with reasons to see Monique stretching out ahead. By the next day, he had an appointment arranged with the manager at Banque Agricole du Vars, Bertrand Entienne. Monique gripped his hand again and this time kissed him on both cheeks.
    A handful of meetings and already his feelings for her were running strong. Not only was she beautiful, but warm and compassionate, sincere. He hadn't met a woman like her before. He wondered if she had any of the same feelings for him — then quickly shook his head. He was being ridiculous. He hardly knew her, nor she him. It was a relationship so far based entirely on reliance and help. If he failed with the bank manager and his little scheme evaporated, there would hardly be any reason for her to see him again, he reminded himself soberly.

    Bertrand Entienne was in his early forties with dark brown hair greased back and a rounded, slightly ruddied face. He smoked a pipe and his gestures were curt and formal as he showed them into his office. But at least he was smiling, looked eager to help, Dominic thought hopefully.
    It didn't take long for the smile to disappear as Dominic explained the proposition.
    'I'm sorry, we appear to be at crossed purposes,' Entienne commented. 'I thought you were here with a proposition to clear the loan in full. Some sort of sale or other arrangement going through. I would have thought my last letters were quite clear that that is all the bank would be able to accept at this stage.'
    Dominic ignored the rebuff and pressed on, explaining politely that Monique Rosselot had tried for four months to sell the property with no success. The market was severely depressed, it could be many months before a buyer was found, if at all. 'Surely it's better to get something secure now, get a rescheduled loan on track with the secure knowledge that all the future repayments will be met.'
    Entienne rested his pipe in an ashtray to one side. He opened his hands out. 'I would if I could, but it's impossible. The papers went through to the judiciaire department a few weeks ago. My last letter I thought explained very clearly that this action was impending. Once the papers are with them, there's nothing I can do. It's out of my hands.' Arms folded again, hands inter-clasped. A closed gesture.
    Dominic was sure it was still just an opening gambit. That Entienne would soften his stance once he'd seen some figures. 'I managed to work everything out.' Dominic passed across the folder he'd worked on earlier. 'As you will see, all of the fresh payments are covered, plus the back payments are amortized in either three or four years. I suppose that could be adjusted to two years in the bank's favour if need be.' But Dominic could tell that Entienne was paying scant attention as he pointed out the key figures on the schedule.
    Entienne shook his head. 'I'm sorry, but the intervention by the judiciaire department makes consideration of this sort of suggestion out of the question. Once the file is with them, the loan is due in full as part of the preparation for court action. Also, there's far higher interest accruing to cover the extra costs of the legal department's action. So these figures are already inaccurate, I'm afraid.'
    Dominic asked what sort of levels of interest. Entienne opened a file before him and perched some glasses on the end of his nose as he scanned down the columns. He picked up his pipe for another few pulls as he read out some figures.
    Dominic added them together and felt his stomach sink. It was outrageous: 42 % per annum. Almost as bad as a Marseille loan shark. 'And what other options are there, apart from paying the loan in full before the papers are passed through for court action?'
    'Hardly any, I'm afraid. If all the back money and accrued higher interest are cleared straightaway, a continuance on the existing schedule might be possible. But it will still have to go before the bank's loan committee, with no guarantees. And a week or so from now, even that option will probably be gone. The papers will be too far advanced. You see, in any court papers the bank is obliged to press for the full amount.'
    Dominic was outraged. But he remained outwardly calm, explained that it would be virtually impossible for Madame Rosselot to find that sort of money at such short notice. He tried yet again to sell the virtue of the rental and a rescheduled loan. 'The tenant is extremely reliable. It would give the bank a firm schedule now, she could probably clear two back payments straightaway from the deposit as a gesture of good faith, and everything would roll forward cleanly from that point.'
    Entienne wouldn't budge. Clearly he wasn't bluffing. 'I'm really sorry. But there's nothing I can do. Perhaps if you'd come here one or two months back, things would have been different.'
    Dominic felt deflated. Monique was glancing down at the floor, embarrassed at the exchange. He'd let her down. He tried one last desperate plea. 'Surely even from the bank's point of view, what I am suggesting is far better than waiting on for a sale in such an uncertain market. There would be no guarantee at all of a buyer materializing before the due court date.'
    Entienne's face flushed slightly, impatient now at Dominic's persistence. His hands unfolded and quickly back again. 'That, I'm afraid, will be a problem to be resolved between Madame Rosselot and the bank's judiciaire department. As I've explained to you already, Monsieur Fornier, quite clearly I thought, it really is all out of my hands now.'
    Dominic saw red. Entienne's smug attitude. The pipe, the glasses, the hands folded over the folder — all defences against confrontation with real life and humanity. How to ruin lives without getting involved. He felt like leaping across and burying his fist in the middle of Entienne's smug little face.
    Dominic took a long breath. 'Let me explain something to you, Monsieur Entienne — hopefully equally as clearly. Probably you know of the Rosselots, or at least as much as your little folder will tell you. What you might or might not know is that two years ago Monique Rosselot lost her only son — victim of a murder. I was one of the investigating officers. Then, just a few months ago, she lost her husband to suicide. Either he couldn't face life without his beloved son, or perhaps the demand letters you kept sending him pushed him over the brink.'
    'I am quite aware of the situ-'
    Dominic held one hand up sharply. 'Yes, yes — I'm quite sure that you are, Monsieur Entienne. That is obvious by your attitude today.' Entienne, already uncomfortable at the path the conversation was taking, glowered at the sarcasm. 'Monsieur Rosselot made a loan agreement with this bank almost three years ago. But he is no longer here and his commitments have fallen behind. And faced with that, Mrs Rosselot has summoned both the bravery and the good faith to come here today. Not only her first visit but her first proposal to this bank. A very clear and straightforward offer, I might add. With what she has suffered, with the loss of her son and her husband, she has had to make a lot of adjustments with her life — and all that she is asking today is that the bank make some small adjustments and meet her halfway.'
    Entienne continued glowering. His hands were clasped even tighter than before. 'I'm sorry. As I've already explained, there really is nothing I can do.'
    'You put everything forward to the legal department, what — three or four weeks ago? Are you really trying to tell me that you don't have the power to reverse what you enacted in the first place?'
    'It's not as simple as that. I would have to argue a strong case to get the file back from judiciaire and approved by the loan committee. Such as I mentioned to you before — if all the money and penalty interest were cleared almost immediately.'
    'And don't you think this is a strong enough case to argue: a young mother who has lost her son and her husband.'
    Entienne shrugged uncomfortably. 'It's difficult to introduce such personal situations at this level with other departments. Behind every file there's a story, some sort of tragedy.'
    'Oh, so now we're getting closer to the truth. It's not impossible, it's just awkward. You're willing to sacrifice what's left of a family's life so that you're not faced with any awkwardness — anything that might look bad on your future record — in front of the judiciaire and the loan committee.'
    Entienne's glower had turned to abject hatred. He smiled tightly. 'As with you, Monsieur Fornier, I am just a functionary. As you are bound to impose the rules of French law, I have to follow the rules of the bank. I'm sorry. I wish things were different.'
    No options left, thought Dominic. He'd tried being nice, both gentle and harsh cajolement, the candy bar and the sledgehammer. Entienne wasn't going to shift. They left.
    'Shithead!' Dominic spluttered under his breath once they were outside. 'I'm sorry. I probably did more harm than good in there.'
    Monique gripped his hand and pecked him on each cheek, said that she was touched by how he had stood up for her. 'Don't feel so bad. You did your best.'
    But in the end it had all been impotent bravado, he thought; none of it had done an ounce of good. Worse still, he'd probably alienated Entienne so strongly that he'd block any chances of later compromises over the loan, if they arose.
    As she walked away, he wondered how on earth she was going to cope with this new crisis on top of all else. It also struck him with a sinking feeling that he'd messed up so badly, she might not want to see him again.

    'Fucking shits! All of them. Especially at the Agricole du Vars. And that Entienne's a prize dry prick. I could have told you that for nothing before you went to see him.'
    Louis' insight into the world of local banking. Bauriac's regular 'Standard and Poors', expletive version. Just what Dominic needed to make him feel good, especially since three beers and two brandy chasers had so far failed miserably. His anger at Entienne burned with a vengeance, and Louis happily stoked with stories about banks in general and Agricole du Var and Entienne in particular.
    'I wouldn't be too surprised if one of the du Var bank directors has his eye on the property. They know she's a widow, won't be able to find a lump sum easily.' Louis had seen it all before. It had happened to a friend of his. The director after the property ensures it's pushed it into the legal department early, high interest mounts up, the court fees add even more — in the end it's an impossible mountain of cash to find. The prices at auction are rock bottom and the bank director picks it up at little more than half price. 'It's a legal racket. What with the high interest and the court fees, my friend was left with virtually nothing from the auction.'
    Dominic looked into his drink for inspiration. He could see practically the same scenario rolling out ahead for Monique, with nothing but an outright sale of the farm to stop it. 'What's the average time for a farm to sell in this area?'
    'The market's never been worse. Eight, ten months — sometimes a lot longer. People have them on the market with no takers as much as two years before giving up and taking them back off again.'
    Louis returned to his diatribe about the banks, in particular Entienne's hypocrisy because of his current situation with a young mistress. Dominic was only half listening. Eight months? Four had gone already. Could Monique make it in the four remaining? Dominic suddenly snapped himself back to Louis' conversation. 'What was that you said?'
    'What — the girl, or about Entienne being a fucking hypocrite?'
    'The girl. How long has it been going on?'
    'Practically a year now.'
    'And does his wife know. How many people do know?'
    'His wife certainly has no idea. The rest's just a few guarded whispers around the village. Maybe it will get back to his wife eventually, maybe it won't.'
    'Do they have any particular meeting places, or does it change each time?'
    'She works at the jewellers not far away from him, but she walks around the opposite block from the bank and he usually picks her up there.' Louis leant slightly across the bar. 'Apparently they head to the l'Espigoulier hotel on the way to Aubagne. He makes the excuse of having a long lunch with clients.'
    'Which days?'
    'Mondays and Thursdays.'
    The following Thursday lunch time, Dominic turned his solex into the car park of the l'Espigoulier Hotel. He had already identified Entienne's Citreon from in front of the bank and, sure enough, it was there. Dominic swung the solex out of the car park and fifty yards along to the first turn-off. And waited.
    It was a small slip road and very few cars passed him. Probably thought that he was checking for cars speeding. It was over forty minutes before Entienne's car emerged.
    Dominic revved up the solex. He would have to time his exit perfectly — too soon and he could go under Entienne's wheels.
    Entienne's car turned out, was starting to pick up speed. Okay… now!
    Dominic flew out of the slip road and into the side of Entienne's car. In the end, his worry about being too early had made him time it slightly too late — instead of sprawling across the bonnet, he hit the windshield, one knee smashing through the passenger window as he spun dramatically over the top of the car and down the far side.
    The fall looked good and Dominic broke it with his hands the far side. But he'd connected badly with the windshield, one shoulder felt stiff and his nose had banged against the glass; it was bleeding profusely, soaking his shirt. Still, all the better for effect, he thought as he straightened up.
    Dominic feigned dizziness for the first thirty seconds, as if he was having trouble orienting what had happened and where he was. Entienne was in shock at first before turning his attention to the girl beside him. Her initial hysterical screams had subsided into sobbing.
    Entienne got out slowly as Dominic took out a pad and started making notes. In that instant, beyond the blood and Dominic's dishevelled appearance, he recognized Dominic and mouthed, 'Oh, it's …' Then quickly bit his tongue and fumbled into '…are you all right? I'm sorry, I just didn't see you. You came out of nowhere.' Apology quickly turned to anger. 'What on earth were you thinking of, coming out suddenly like that?'
    'I could ask you the same question,' Dominic said coldly. Dominic noted the registration and asked Entienne for the car's papers.
    'What do you mean?'
    'I mean that when I looked both ways from my turning, the road was clear. And then you came out suddenly from nowhere and hit me!'
    'But that wasn't how it happened at all. It was all clear ahead of me — then suddenly you shot out. I didn't even see you, only heard the thud as you hit me.'
    Dominic grimaced. 'Well — you'll get the opportunity of putting your side across in court. Papers, please!'
    Entienne's face glowed red. 'This is outrageous! You know full well that's not how it happened,' Entienne spluttered. But his tone was now more hesitant and uncertain.
    'I know nothing of the sort. Only that you're a menace on the roads and I could have been killed. I'm laying charges for dangerous driving. And if I don't have your papers in my hand in thirty seconds, I'll add obstruction of justice to the charge sheet!'
    Entienne scampered back to the car and dug them out of the glove compartment. Suddenly he was not on familiar territory, not in control. Unprotected by his office walls, bank files, his pipe and glasses, he was vulnerable. A little flustered boy. Dominic was enjoying every minute. He leant over menacingly as Entienne passed the papers out.
    Dominic noted the details and then asked Entienne's full name and address. Entienne enunciated the last words between clenched teeth, then said. 'I know why you're doing this, and you won't get away with it. I have a witness.'
    Dominic looked across to the girl, now dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, trying not to smudge more eye makeup. 'Oh yes, I forgot. Your witness. Of course. Name and address please?'
    The girl and Entienne exchanged glances. Entienne's face was now bright puce. 'Look — does she really need to be involved in all this?'
    'But she's your witness, Monsieur Entienne. She's the one person who can stand up in court and support your account of the accident. Why on earth wouldn't you want her to be involved?' Dominic smiled.
    'It's awkward, that's all.' Entienne's hands fumbled in his lap. 'If she didn't appear in court on my behalf, what would happen?'
    'I would give my account, you'd give yours. Because I'm an officer of the law, my account would no doubt stand and you'd be charged with dangerous driving and vehicular assault. Three year driving ban and possibly an additional three to six months jail term — depends on the judge. I'm not sure how the bank would view such a charge.' Dominic watched each word strike home. Mallets of realization and then finally acceptance as Entienne's head slumped. In the same way that Entienne's words had beaten Monique into submission just days before. Retribution at its most divine. 'Oh, and I forgot one thing. Even though your friend wouldn't be speaking on your behalf as a witness, I'd still need to take her details. Along with the time and the hotel you were driving away from. Essential background for the hearing. I daresay some local reporter could also be arranged to cover the court case. So, Mademoiselle — your details please?'
    Entienne slowly shook his head, his voice low and dejected. 'I don't think that will be necessary.' His eyes lifted up only fleetingly. 'Can we come to some other arrangement? I'm sure having gone to all this trouble, you have something in mind.'
    Dominic looked sharply at Entienne. 'Are we talking about bending the rules now, Monsieur Entienne. The very same rules which you told me just the other day in your bank couldn't be bent?'
    'Yes, yes. We are.' Total defeat.
    'Well, I suppose we could have a meeting later this afternoon in your office to discuss the relative rules of our two professions. I will still need to take all the girl's details. But if we reach agreement, my file won't be going anywhere. And I'm sure, Monsieur Entienne, you have a similar file.'
    Entienne nodded without looking up. They arranged to meet at four-thirty.
    Dominic let them drive off first, and on the way back to Bauriac on his solex he ignored the occasional stares from passing cars — curious why the gendarme was smiling with such a badly bloodied nose.

    The new loan schedule was approved within ten days. Dominic even managed to tweak the final conditions to allow five years on the back money and get the penalty interest struck off. Entienne totally erased the judiciaire period; it was as if the file had never gone there.
    They celebrated with a bottle of champagne at Louis'. Dominic had made light of it when he told Monique, mentioned only that Entienne had a small skeleton in his closet which he used to advantage. But as the drink flowed, Louis couldn't resist telling the full story.
    Monique looked horrified at Louis' dramatic account of Dominic spinning over Entienne's car bonnet. 'You shouldn't have, Dominic. You could have been seriously hurt.' He basked momentarily in the glory as she gripped his arm and kissed him. The third in as many weeks.
    Croignon moved in a few days later, the day before taken up with moving suitcases of clothes and personal items between their homes, with Louis helping out with his van.
    When they came to the room above the garage with Christian's clothes and toys piled on the bed, she looked on awkwardly. 'Do you mind if I take them to your place, put them in one of the rooms.'
    'No, not at all. There's three bedrooms. It's up to you how you use them.' Dominic was more perplexed by the fact that two years had passed and she was still clinging to the memory. And not just one or two personal items, the room had been left as practically a shrine. He also hadn't realized till that moment that the room he would be occupying temporarily had previously been Christian's.
    Two weeks later, Monique invited him over to dinner. Symbols of two cultures: lamb and aubergine cassoulet with cous-cous. He brought a bottle of Chateauneuf red and a Pinocchio colouring book for Clarisse. As things mellowed over dinner, she mentioned that she still felt guilty about not paying him any rent the first year and wanted to make a concession by inviting him over to dinner once every week. It would also, she pointed out, compensate for the fact that his own cooking arrangements were far from ideal, having to fit in for those first months around the Croignons. It was the least she could do.
    He initially shrugged off the need for any return gesture, but she was insistent and, besides, it was an opportunity to see her regularly. He accepted with gracious reluctance.
    The dinners were every Friday night or the first free weekend night if he had Friday night duty. It was difficult to mark the exact time when their friendship transformed first to strong affection, then finally to love. For him, it was probably much earlier than her.
    At first it was just small signs. A look in her eyes, a smile, light kisses of thanks on his cheek for the wine or presents he brought. Even when her eyes seemed to openly invite him, he could see the hurt and pain beneath, and he held back. Felt suddenly fearful that he might be taking advantage, was reminded how damaged and frail she might still be.
    Even the night when they first made love, five months after the regular dinners started, couldn't be taken as the main point of transition in their relationship. She'd had more to drink than normal that night, was more affectionate. After the meal, over coffee and brandy when Clarisse had gone to bed, she sat on his lap and kissed him, said that she'd like to show him what she'd done to his room.
    She led him upstairs and, before opening his door, asked him to close his eyes and wait a second. He opened his eyes to the soft glow of five night lights burning. Their flickering picked out a flokati rug on the floor and ikat fabric draped on the wall above the bed as his eyes adjusted. She kissed him and they tumbled onto the bed, his mumbled 'It's beautiful' quickly lost.
    She broke off only to ask him to close his eyes again — and when she prompted him to open them, she was standing at the foot of the bed naked, mocha and cream skin beneath the soft candlelight. She leant across and started taking off his clothes, planting soft butterfly kisses on his skin — then finally rolled her body on top of his. Her body slithered easily against him, glistening with the scented oil she'd applied, a slow and sensuous movement until he was fully aroused.
    Their lovemaking was slow and gentle at first, gradually becoming more urgent. Her eyes were deep and soulful, and he traced their contour, the gentle almond slant at their corner, running the same finger slowly down her cheek and her neck. But there was something else in her eyes beyond the joy and abandon, a faint flicker of ghosts from the past that seemed to be holding her back — that the sudden urgency of her frenzy was as much to exorcize herself of them as to lose herself in joyous oblivion. A race between the two.
    And as his own climax came, his head lolling breathlessly to one side, the image of the night lights and the soft tears of ecstasy on her cheeks reminded him again of the hospital. Of her long nightly vigils praying that Christian might live.
    Some look in his eye, or perhaps the new tension she felt in his body — made her roll away suddenly. She too stared thoughtfully at the night-lights, one finger at her lips in contemplation. 'I'm sorry,' she murmured.
    Later that night back with the Croignons in Christian's old room, the wind rose steadily. Dominic could hear it rustling through the trees and the field at the back of the house. He thought of the day that they were down by the river and the wind was high, the gendarmes placed like markers in the field. Uncomfortable, ghostly reminders; it took him a while to get to sleep.
    For the next three weeks, Monique came up with an excuse for each of their regular dinner dates. On the fourth, she phoned and said that she wanted him to come over, but that it should be with them just as good friends, as it was before. 'I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done what I did that night. I wasn't ready — and it wasn't fair on you. I'd perfectly understand if you didn't want to see me again.'
    He came over. It was a lesson that the ghosts from her past would sometimes stand between them; and perhaps if he'd read the signals deeply, he'd have realized that that would always be the case. Part of her heart, her soul, would forever be buried with Christian and Jean-Luc.
    It was another three months before they became lovers again. Monique promised that this time she wouldn't leave his bed. But over the coming months, as spring arrived, there would still be times when she felt she just couldn't. She would suddenly be cocooned again in the past, the ghosts and memories ripping her apart — and she would feel that she had nothing to give to the present, to him and Clarisse.
    Dominic was always understanding when those times came, would phone her the next day to see if she was better. Her grey moods usually didn't last long, a few days at most.
    As the summer arrived, they took to eating outside at night on the back patio. Monique had also found a babysitter nearby and they started to go out more. He took her to see Lawrence of Arabia and they held hands and kissed in the back row like two teenagers. On her birthday, he took her to a new restaurant in Cannes he'd discovered: Pierre T'etre. It was on a narrow lane full of restaurants that meandered gently down to Cannes harbour with small candle-lit tables on each staged terrace. Monique found the atmosphere magical.
    It was late summer when he finally proposed. She looked concerned. She reminded him not only that she had a daughter but the scars the past had left on her. Part of her heart might always be dragged back there. Could he live with that?
    He said that he could, but deep down he was thinking that she would gradually improve — he had seen marked improvement already in the past months — until finally the ghosts and the pain of her memories faded to insignificance or went completely. And he felt very close to Clarisse; with gifts every few visits and occasional hugs, if he was still some way from becoming a surrogate father, he was at least a favourite uncle.
    Monique made him wait two months before she answered; to be sure that any impulsiveness on his part had mellowed. They were married the next February, 1967. Louis was best man and looked comical in a dress suit. The small reception was also held at Louis’, and he had trouble totally escaping from his proprietary role, occasionally barking orders at the waiters. Harrault and Levacher were the only ones present from the gendarmerie.
    And Dominic was right, the ghosts from the past did subside — until their first born. A son. Apart from it being an horrific breach birth which could have cost Monique's and the baby's life, Dominic should have read the warnings when she first mentioned during pregnancy that she hoped for a boy.
    The second sign that she might see it somehow as a replacement for Christian was when she asked, if it was a boy, if they could call him Yves — Christian's middle name. He began to wish that it was a girl purely to avoid any possible complications. A gain to replace a past loss: a macabre tangle of emotions that could only lead to problems.
    But in the end he resigned himself to fate, consoled himself that if it was a boy and somehow managed to bury Monique's reliance on the past — that in an obscure way it might be a godsend.
    He didn't know how wrong he would be.

    Monique didn't tell him about the dream until two months after the birth. That moments after urging the nurses that she'd like her husband by her side, when she was fully under the anaesthetic and the doctors were fighting to save her life, she'd seen Christian.
    In the dream, they were dining at Pierre T'etre. Dominic had taken her there the night she'd announced she was pregnant; perhaps that was what had made the connection, he thought. She saw Christian in the distance as she looked up the street. As she left the table and walked towards Christian, the other people and the tables in the street seemed to fade into the background — only the steps and the candlelight from the tables remained prominent. Guide lights marking the path to the solitary figure of Christian ahead, the harbour a misty silhouette far behind her. She'd seen his face clearly, seen the gentle tears in his clear green eyes. As she came closer, she thought she heard him say, 'It's all right… it's all right' — but it was barely a whisper. And in that moment she had reached out to touch him — though their hands never quite connected. She'd awoken then. A nurse was leaning over and telling her that everything was all right. 'You have a little boy.'
    She hadn't mentioned the dream earlier, she explained, because at the time the joy of having Yves had consumed all else.
    For the first few years, her absorption with Yves seemed natural: the love and affection of a doting mother to her new-born child. But as the years progressed, he began to notice how fearful and protective she was. It became an obsession: never letting Yves out of her sight, ensuring that there was never an unguarded moment in his life. Dominic railed against it. It wasn't a natural childhood, he argued: Yves was unable to have any freedom, could not play with his friends out of sight of her for any length of time.
    Monique promised repeatedly that she would change, but any easing in her protectiveness was minimal. The only thing to help was the birth of Gerome a few years later — though mainly when Gerome was old enough to play with Yves, keep him company. They could partly watch and protect each other.
    Her intense protectiveness became a recurring argument through their years together. She was well aware that it was a fault: 'But I could never again go through the trauma of losing a child.' She and Jean-Luc partly blamed themselves for Christian's death. Felt they'd allowed him too much freedom, he'd been let loose to play in the fields or with friends most days. Only natural, Dominic supported; he himself had enjoyed such a childhood in Louviers. She had stifled Yves terribly and now Gerome too was heavily under her protective wing.
    In turn, Monique's advice with his career was equally as incisive. Drawing it out of him that he'd only stayed in Bauriac because of his ailing mother, she pushed him to take a transfer a year after they were married. Career-wise, he was stagnating in Bauriac. At heart, part of him had recognized that fact, but he'd become numbed into acceptance by routine. It had taken Monique to bring it to the surface.
    It was also Monique's encouragement that led him to take his Inspectorate exams not long after, and she had advised on many of his career moves since. Her style was gentle, no more than a series of questions, so that in the end he felt he had all but arrived at the decision himself.
    It was ironic, Dominic thought. She had such intuitive views about his career in the same way that he could see the errors she was making as a mother. A clear picture only gained by being detached from the problem, taking an overview. But in the case of Yves, he wished he'd been wrong.
    In his teens came the backlash effect of Monique's protectiveness. At fifteen he left home and got in with the wrong crowd. He started off with sporadic promotional work for a chain of clubs and discotheques, handing out cards on street corners. He would turn up at the clubs late evening and started drinking heavily, peppered later with some drugs — marijuana at first, then cocaine. He started free-basing and took extra work as a drugs packet 'runner' to some of the clubs to pay for his habit. Often he was paid half in cash, half in cocaine. Dominic picked him up one night after one of the clubs had been raided.
    Yves had been lost to them for almost two years. Throughout, Monique had been inconsolable. Where had she gone wrong? She'd done everything to shield him, to guide him on the right path, but still he'd drifted away. Not once did Dominic say, 'I told you so,' suggest that her obsessive protectiveness might have caused the problem, made Yves crave freedom and rebel.
    Dominic kept Yves' name clear of any charge sheets, but added a condition: that he remain with them at least six months and attempt to dry out before deciding what he wanted to do with his life. In the end he stayed ten months — a painful period of adjustment and regular visits to a drugs counsellor — before embarking on his national service. He joined the French navy.
    The two years of discipline combined with the frisson of travel broadened Yves outlook. He came back a changed person and enrolled for another year, taking a special course in maritime communications. When he returned, he joined the national police in Marseille as a sergeant. History was repeating itself.
    Within two years, he was covering the Vieux Port area attached to narcotics. His maritime communications background and his knowledge of the drugs trade was invaluable in an area where most shipments came in by sea. Gerome was at Nice University, studying pure maths with a second in IT software architecture, hoping later for a career in computer programming. He had never been a problem.
    Monique had long ago ceased to view either of them as any form of replacement for Christian, but she still worried about Yves, especially with his current work. That one day he might swing open the wrong warehouse door to face a milieu gun in the shadows.
    Throughout the years of arguing against her unreasonable protectiveness, a recurring fear for Dominic had been that one day he might be wrong. That having urged her to loosen the reigns, told her not to worry, nothing would happen — against all odds it might. He'd often contemplated how he'd face her given such a circumstance. For it to happen twice and him feel that he was partly to blame: it was unthinkable.

    When Marinella Calvan's call caught up with Dominic in Lyon, Yves was a DI still stationed in Marseille and Gerome was working for a computer company in Sophia Antipolis. Clarisse was married with three children — two girls and a boy — and lived with her husband, a sales manager for an agricultural feed company, near Ales.
    Dominic maintained an apartment for himself and Monique in Lyon, but six years ago had bought a four bedroom farmhouse just north of Vidauban, only thirty-five kilometres from Taragnon. Gerome stayed there and commuted to work, and they came down at least every other weekend. Some weekends Yves would also join them and Clarisse and her family would visit every few months.
    The words echoed in his mind. 'Yes, I do know someone who could verify Christian Rosselot's background.' But apart from the ghosts that might be awoken in Monique's mind, he had also buried his own secrets through the years: he'd never told Monique that he had doubted Machanaud's guilt. Since the light sentence had been so controversial and Monique felt that it was partly at the root of Jean-Luc's suicide, it would have been insensitive and mocking. It would have hinted that Jean-Luc's suicide was completely in vain rather than just misguided. He couldn't do that to her.
    For the same reason, when years later he discovered just how long Machanaud had been incarcerated — fourteen years between prison and mental institutions — he didn't tell Monique. The fact that Jean-Luc could have smiled from his grave because Machanaud had received just punishment would have been scant compensation. The overriding image would be that his suicide had been pointless.
    Marinella Calvan said that she would send over a tape and accompanying transcript by messenger. It would be with him early tomorrow. His first reaction was that it was all nonsense, would probably all quickly evaporate to no avail. Though he wondered if his underlying curiosity was because of the terrible injustice he suspected might have been wielded against Machanaud, compounded by his own guilt at discovering later, too late, the severity of that injustice. But how many ghosts and secrets from the past would he need to trade to discover the truth?

TWENTY-EIGHT

    Limoges, May 1982
    Alain Duclos picked up the smoked salmon on a small octagonal wedge of bread and popped it in his mouth. The waiter paused to see if he'd choose another: caviar, prawns or pate with chives. Duclos just nodded and the waiter moved on.
    RPR celebrations for victory at the local elections. The last bash two years ago had been held in a grand downtown civic hall, replete with marble columns, ornate chandeliers and filigreed plaster ceilings. But parking had been atrocious, so they'd opted for a modern hotel function room on the edge of town. The waiters with their liveried costumes and silver trays looked somehow out of place in this room with its low ceilings and suffused fluorescent lighting.
    For the first forty minutes of the reception, Duclos had done little more but nod like a toy dog on a car's back shelf at the incessant chain of congratulations. 'Thank you. I'm so glad that you could make it. And thank you for your support during our campaign'. Once or twice, he'd even made the mistake of asking, 'And how's business?' to be caught up in endless tales of corporate woe that invariably ended: 'Perhaps there might be some influence you could bring to bear.'
    Trite smiles in response. 'I'll see what I can do,' but thought: assholes. Even if he could affect entire industry sectors at the local level, invariably an opposing sector would start whinging and lobbying. Just smile, convince them they're your friends, look concerned, really, really concerned; and if pressed, tell them how theirs is an industry and an issue with the highest possible priority on your list. But in the end do fuck all. It was safer. Less friends and votes were lost keeping the status-quo as it was.
    He was glad now of a moment alone at last. A chance to survey the room fully rather than just surreptitious sweeps between nods and smiles at some fawning local businessman or Chamber of Commerce representative. His wife was not far away, just visible beyond a small group towards the bar, talking to one of his main female PR aides — friends from before they were married when the two girls worked together in his offices. She'd made few friends since.
    Eighteen months of marriage. No euphoria or bliss, that had certainly never even been expected by him; and, if he'd troubled to ask, possibly her too. Just convenient. Useful. Cut the right image for the electorate. They looked good together, and he had become increasingly aware that as he approached his mid-forties and still wasn't married, questions were beginning to get asked.
    She'd been working in his offices almost fifteen months before he really noticed her and started asking about her; before he'd been too pre-occupied with his problems with Chapeau to think about anything else. Her application file also helped provide some background: Betina Canadet. Thirty-two years old. Single. Studied and gained a degree in social economics from the Sorbonne. Worked mainly in civic offices in Rouen where her family originally lived. Joined the RPR in 1976 and applied to the Limoges party offices in late 1979 when her family moved to the area.
    The rest he discovered from one of his main aides, Thierry: 'What, the ice maiden?' Duclos was intrigued. Thierry was a mine of information on office gossip and politics. Two people in the office had already tried their luck and struck out. Thierry covered the obvious quickly: No, she wasn't a lesbian, and certainly one of the men she'd liked. 'Went out with him for three months before coming clean with her problem.' She just didn't like sex. Tragic case: victim of a date rape in her early twenties, it was many years afterwards before she could even bear to be in the company of men, let alone start feeling comfortable with them or, God forbid, actually touching them. Had to give her time; be gentle with her. The relationship only lasted another six weeks. 'Who has time to spend as an emotional counsellor in the hope that after a year or so she might, just might come in from the cold. Maybe she never will. Who knows?'
    Duclos started dating her a month later. 'What is this, the ultimate challenge?' Thierry teased him. 'It's not enough just to swing the electorate, now the challenge is the ice maiden. See if you can succeed where all others have failed?'
    Duclos' droll smile in return hinted that the North Pole had already been conquered. 'All it took was the right man to hit the defrost button. Some have it, some don't.'
    In reality, it was a relationship built almost entirely on her veneration of his political stature and power and his patience with her sexual and emotional instability. She had never met anyone so patient and understanding.
    He looked across at her now and she gave him a tight little smile. She'd hardly changed in the two years: somewhere between Twiggy and Piaf, with large blue eyes that pleaded ‘help me, save me, I'm frail’.
    It was far from love. It had been like taking some frightened little deer in from the forest, making her feel comfortable and secure. He'd become her protection from the world outside, from all those nasty, grabbing men and their demands. Yet she carried guilt too, was worried that she wasn't pleasing him the way she should, despite his countless reassurances: he didn't see her like that. She shouldn't worry. He loved her for her soul, her character, her kindness and vulnerability — the sex was far less important. When she was ready, it was okay with him.
    She would literally be tearful at his patience, his understanding. And between her summoning the effort, the work that made him tired or him pleading that he felt uncomfortable because he sensed she was forcing herself just for him — they made love at best once every other month. He could manage that, and from certain angles she even had a slight boyish quality. Perhaps that was what had made him first notice her. And, to cap it all, his work colleagues were slightly in awe at his sexual prowess in melting the 'ice maiden', succeeding where they had failed, bringing out the woman in her.
    His only worry was that one day she would thaw out. She would look at him with those big eyes suddenly brimming with passion rather than vulnerability and uncertainty. That as she became more insistent and demanding and he was still reluctant, making excuses, she would finally guess his secret. The lie would be out.
    He shook off a faint shiver. That wasn't now or even in the near future; hopefully never. And he'd had three years now out of the shadow of Chapeau. No calls or demands in the dead of night, the constant bleeding him dry, Chapeau's goading smile and sly humour.
    Three years? It felt as if ankle chains and a yoke had suddenly been removed. He'd never known such freedom. Or happiness. He looked back towards his wife and smiled.

    Muffled sounds of the city. Faint drone of traffic, the occasional car horn beeping. Somewhere in the distance, a siren wailing. Dominic was more intent on the words on the tape that drifted through the half open door into the hallway.
    '… Madame Arnand usually gives me some pan chocolat, if her husband isn't there.'
    'How many times a week do you call by there?'
    'Maybe two or three times. But sometimes he's there, and she doesn't give me any. Just winks when he's not looking as if to say, 'next time' and nods sideways. Madame Arnand explained once that he was too mean, she'd get into trouble if she gave it away while he was there. He'd rather feed it to the chickens or let it rot.'
    'And the boulangerie is on your way from school to the farm?'
    'Yes. It's only a few hundred metres from the school. I have to walk almost another half kilometre to the farm. But usually I have a friend with me.'
    Monique was two-thirds of the way through listening to the tape sent by Calvan. Dominic had played it twice as soon as it arrived at the station, then replayed some selected segments. Except for the main, obvious details, little of it meant anything to him — and it struck him, listening to the tape, how little he'd really known about Christian. He'd dealt with the investigation, typed up endless reports about the attack and murder — had eaten, slept and dreamt little but the case for months. But really, at heart, he had known little or nothing about the boy. He'd been dealing with his death, not his life.
    Christian's life had taken up ten whole years of his wife's existence — from her mid-teens to mid-twenties — and as he became immersed in the voice on the tape, he realized how little he knew about those ten years. Ridiculous, pathetic. Married to the same woman for thirty years and yet whole segments of her life were still strange to him.
    And through the years, he'd never asked. Always thought it would be too painful, too awkward, something to be swept away and relegated to the past, to history, where it belonged. Yet this ten year old boy — this boy whose last hours on earth he knew everything about, every last shocking, gory detail, yet whose life was a complete void to him, a tome of blank pages — had always been with them. At the birth of their first son, Yves. At Gerome's birth. At the two christenings. At the moments they might drive past a field and Monique would survey the shifting wheat thoughtfully. At her gaze across a candle-lit dinner table, when she would suddenly focus on the flickering flame and he would be lost beyond it. Her eyes would water and he knew in that moment that the memory had drifted back.
    Each time it showed in her eyes as the years were stripped away. A look burdened with pain and anguish, yet with just a dash of joy and irony — a thick emotional soup sieved through misty veils of time. Then finally serenity, acceptance mellowing the sorrow. A look that said: Of course I remember. How could I forget? Sad, lost memories. The few pathetic tokens remaining of the love that was.
    A love that Dominic had never witnessed, never been party to, never asked about. Never been able to put flesh and blood and words and actions to — except those looks in his wife's eyes through the years. Sudden, threatening grey clouds that invariably as quickly drifted away.
    Until the tape. And he thought: Oh God. God. Could that really be the voice? Substance suddenly put to the ghost, the memory that had lurked in the shadows of his life the past thirty years? Or was it just a hoax? Conflicting emotions wrenched at his gut, made him feel empty inside yet strangely excited at the same time. Taragnon. The village shops. The farm. At least those parts seemed accurate. Playing, rewinding, playing again — agonizing over small nuances and phrases before finally settling back. How could he be sure? How could he possibly know? He hardly knew anything about the boy. He was nothing but a shadow, a shadow of memory that only flickered alive again now and then in his wife's eyes.
    But at least he'd answered the main question: it seemed real enough to be given a hearing by Monique. The main details were accurate, it wasn't some ridiculous account which had fallen at the first hurdle over inaccurate village descriptions or the boy heading in the wrong direction back to the farm.
    Dominic wondered if deep down that was what he'd hoped for. Something that meant he could pack the tape back to London without even troubling Monique. Consign it back to history where he'd so far safely corralled everything by not asking questions, by not raising the issue, by never mentioning the police investigation or the trial and its aftermath, Jean-Luc or Machanaud. Safe.
    But another part of him wanted desperately for it to be real. For what? To know what really happened in 1963? To assuage his own guilt over Machanaud? Was that the trade-off? Satisfying his own guilt at the expense of Monique's peace of mind. Re-awakening the ghosts after all these years, bringing the pain and shadows back to her eyes. He sweated and agonized over the tape as it played, was tempted to rip it out and sent it back at one point, before the weight of detail and the small lost voice got to him, grabbed hard at his insides and fired an intense, burning curiosity. He wanted to know. He wanted desperately to know if it was real.
    And that was when he started convincing himself that he was doing it equally for Monique. She would want to know too. How would she feel if she discovered that he'd covered up? That he'd sent the tape back without even letting her hear it. To protect her from the horrors of memories past? She would see only that she had been robbed of the opportunity of some link with her long lost son, however tenuous and remote. Too many buried secrets. It would be almost as bad as staying silent, not speaking out in court on behalf of Machanaud. Almost.
    The tape was rewinding. A button clicked. A segment was being played over again.
    '… when we finally did take the rubber ring to the beach, it was so big I almost fell through the hole.'
    'Where was that?'
    'Nartelle beach… near St Maxime.'
    When he'd first handed the tape to Monique, she'd showered him with a deluge of questions: Where? When? Who? Which psychiatrists? He'd answered mainly with stock terminology from Marinella Calvan; he'd called her back shortly after the first playing to clarify key points: Past life regressions. University of Virginia. Started as a standard psychiatric session. Young English boy of a similar age to Christian's — lost both his parents in a car accident. Xenoglossy: use of a foreign language unknown to the main subject. 'The regional patois has already been authenticated, but now they need to know about the main details on the tape.' As he spoke, he could see Monique become increasingly perplexed and confused, staring at the tape blankly — and in the end his shoulders slumped in exasperation. He held his arms out. 'Look — I know it sounds strange. I have no idea if it's real or just a hoax either. But details of the village are at least accurate. Play the tape and let's talk afterwards, we'll go into the details and background then. If necessary, you can phone this woman in England yourself — let her explain everything directly.'
    Click. Stop. Rewind. Click again.
    '… the tyre was quite big… as if it belonged to a van or truck. My friend and me decided to pick it up and roll it home. It took two of us to roll it home.'
    'What was your friend's name?'
    'Gregoire.'
    'And he went to the same school?'
    'Yes.' A pause. The boy swallowing, his throat clearing. 'When we finally got it home to the farm, the inner tube only had one puncture. My father was able to fix it easily so that we could take it to the beach one day. I could use it as a big rubber ring…'
    Dominic hovered halfway between the hallway and the kitchen, listening. He wanted to leave Monique alone while she listened to the tape. Alone with her thoughts and emotions. Hadn't wanted to see the expression on her face or look on expectantly like some eager schoolboy waiting for exam results. So? So? He'd made an excuse about making a snack in the kitchen — had got as far as spotting some Brie in the fridge and some rye biscuits in the biscuit tin — but had been drawn back into the hallway by the sound of the tape playing before putting the two together.
    Click. Stop. Rewind. Play.
    '… The camp's one of my favourite places. I built it against the back of a stone wall in the field at the back of the house.'
    'How far away from the house is it?'
    'A hundred metres or so. From there, I can clearly see the back courtyard and the front door, see if anyone…'
    Ring, Ring. Ring, Ring. The sudden loud jangling of the telephone in the hallway crashed abruptly into Dominic's thoughts, made him jump. He suddenly remembered he'd asked to be phoned at home for any news from the hospital on the police officer. One was out of danger, but the other was still critical.
    He picked it up, nodding numbly to the first words, his mind still on the tape and his wife. 'I see. I see. When was this? I see. Crippled, you say?' He realized his voice sounded bland; detached, disinterested. He injected more enthusiasm. 'When will they know for sure the damage done by the shattered vertebrae?'
    '…can see my mother working in the kitchen and I know then that it's time to come in. I know if my father is in the garage, because he always has the light on… there's no windows.'
    'They're doing more X-rays now. Then as soon as they have those back apparently they're scheduling another operation. They should know more soon after that.'
    'I see. So, how long? Six hours, twelve?'
    'Ten or twelve probably. I doubt we'll know much more till tomorrow morning.'
    '… I always helped her if I could. I missed her so much later, as I did my parents.'
    'I see.' Dominic's skin bristled. Distracted. Trying to take in the two voices together.
    'But don't expect any miracles. They're pretty sure he won't get the use of his legs back. They just don't know yet how bad the rest might be.'
    '…and I remembered thinking, my father… my father… why didn't he come and try to find me…'
    'I understand.' Scant relief. No tricolours on coffins, but a home visit nevertheless. A hospital visit. A meeting with his wife and close relatives. Stumbling condolences.
    '… kept thinking how they couldn't face that I'd become lost from them… that I'd somehow let them down… their sorrow. My mother's face, so sad…so, so sad… her-'
    Click. Stop. Silence.
    Dominic listened out for the machine clicking again, but there was nothing. Monique had obviously finished with the tape.
    '…That's all there's left to know now. Whether the rest of his body will also be affected. Arms and upper body.'
    'I see. I understand.' Attention completely gone now. Only one thing he wanted to know. 'Let's talk again tomorrow morning — hopefully more will be known then.' Dominic rang off.
    Walking back into the lounge to confront Monique, despite his wish not to pressure her or make her feel awkward in any way, his impatience he was sure came through — he probably did look like a schoolboy anxious for his exam results. Not saying anything, but his eyes saying it all, and thinking: So? So?
    Monique didn't answer for a moment, looked down and away before finally lifting her gaze to speak. But the words themselves were secondary, he had already read it in her eyes. The storm clouds, the grey shadows, had returned. And this time he feared that they would take far, far longer to drift away.

TWENTY-NINE

    Marseille, October 1982
    MARC JAUMARD, brother of TOMAS JAUMARD, alias 'Chapeau'. Would the aforementioned, or anyone with knowledge of the aforementioned or his current whereabouts, please contact as a matter of urgency the offices of FOURCOT amp; GAUTHEREAU, 3?19, Rue Andre Isaia, Marseille. Tel: 698564.

    Marcelle Gauthereau checked the small entry in the personal column of La Provencal, as he had done every six months for the past three and a half years. He wondered why he bothered sometimes. The copy was exactly the same as the first entry, they were obviously just printing from the first plate. Still he found himself mechanically checking the address and phone number. Particularly the phone number. Then he would consider its position on the page — see if it was placed well and didn't get lost too much among the heavier box adverts and the mass of pleas for instant romance.
    The envelope had been signed, sealed and left with the notary for six years now. He had been the lawyer witnessing on behalf of his client, Tomas Jaumard, and it had also fallen to him to carry out Jaumard's instructions regarding the envelope in the event of his death. Tomas's brother Marc was to be notified and he, Marcelle Gauthereau, would then accompany Marc to the notary's office where, upon due presentation of identification and signing of a receipt, Marc would be handed the envelope left by his brother. Simple.
    Except that when he originally sent out the notification, Marc Jaumard had moved. His letter was returned with no forwarding address. Gauthereau sent a clerk by the building a week later to discover that Marc had gone back to sea, but not with his old company. After phoning his old company and another number they recommended, the trail petered out with a past work colleague and an old flat mate. The only faint light that could be thrown on his whereabouts was that he might have joined up with a merchant company sailing out of Genoa. 'Perhaps he maintains a place there when he's back on shore.'
    There were still some funds from the retainer Tomas Jaumard had left him to execute his will. The will simply couldn't be executed without Marc Jaumard; no other relatives were named. Gauthereau started placing the adverts. One every six months in Marseille, one a year in a Genoa paper in Italian. There was enough cash to cover a total of twelve insertions. Gauthereau was intrigued what might be in the envelope. Names, dates and vital contacts? Drug routes and stashes, details of Chapeau's account in Switzerland perhaps? Could he have earned that much as a milieu button man?
    La Provencal had peppered the account of his death with his nickname. They seemed to all have nicknames: Tomi 'The Wall' Boisset, Jaques 'Tomcat' Imbert, Pierre 'The Priest' Cattaneo. Somehow added to the mystique and fear. Chapeau? The newspapers hadn't explained, nor had he ever asked. Getting through their few brief business meetings had been torturous enough; he'd always found himself clock-watching towards the end, uneasy under Jaumard's slow fish eye, without adding superfluous questions.
    Two more insertions to go in Marseille, one in Genoa, before the retainer was finished. After that the envelope would stay gathering dust in the notary's office, with little chance of anyone knowing its contents.

    Session 7.
    Marinella Calvan listened to Lambourne's voice in the background as he induced Eyran Capel into hypnosis. The three questions Dominic Fornier wanted asked were on a piece of paper before her.
    As before, Lambourne would spend the first ten minutes or so getting Eyran comfortable and asking general, everyday questions — then would slowly regress Eyran back and draw out Gigio.
    Then Philippe would take over in French and Marinella would tap out her first question on the screen. Though Fornier's English was good, the questions had originally been in French and Philippe had translated. She would start with her own questions first, get Christian Rosselot settled more naturally into the mood and period, then lead into Fornier's questions.
    Though Fornier was sat at the back of the room just as a casual observer, his presence created an added tension. Was it because of what he represented: someone who had been close to, had feelings for Christian Rosselot. What was before just a detached voice was suddenly tangible, real. A young boy who people once cared about, loved, just as her with Sebastian. Fornier's presence and the background he'd explained with his wife, the boy's mother, brought it all suddenly home to her.
    Or was her concern that the voice and the details wouldn't stand up as real, and in a few questions time she would know. Nothing left but to pack her bags and fly back to Virginia that evening. Another disappointment. Perhaps it was just the number of them cramped in the small room, hanging on each word of a young boy long since dead, each laboured syllable, not speaking themselves, subduing even the faintest cough or sigh. And all them, except Philippe, with different hopes and ambitions of what might be gained from the session.
    The differing aims of her and Lambourne had been underlined acutely at their meeting over dinner the night before. A discussion previously delayed; it seemed pointless to air their respective views on the link between Eyran and Christian until they knew whether the regression was real. Fornier had called the previous morning and told them that the details on the tape seemed accurate both to him and his wife, but there were a few extra questions to be totally sure: 'These are more personal, things which only Christian would know.'
    David Lambourne was particularly anxious after his recent conversation with Stuart Capel. 'Eyran is still having his dreams, though not as intensely or frequently as before — at most maybe one every other week. But Stuart Capel is asking some pretty pointed questions about how we think putting an explanation to this regression will help Eyran.'
    'Does Gigio still feature as prominently in them? Marinella asked.
    'Maybe not quite as much — he's only in half of the dreams. But Eyran claims to be equally as distressed and frightened with Gigio not there. He doesn't have a friend to keep him company, face the dangers and pitfalls alongside him.'
    'Or lead him astray, lead him into danger.'
    Lambourne shrugged. 'The point is, Stuart Capel is starting to question our exploration of the link between the two boys. Suggesting that it might not be helping.'
    'I see.' Amateur armchair analysis; all they needed to add to the already contrasted principles between herself and Lambourne. The chasm between standard psychiatry and parapsychology — with Lambourne's brief dabbling with PLT as a rickety rope bridge between the two. And in addition Fornier was now asking oddly-angled questions.
    Fornier had seemed particularly curious if more accurate descriptions around the time of the murder might be gained beyond the sketchy and fractured details on the tape. Marinella explained that — as Fornier had no doubt gauged from the reaction on the tape — it was an area which obviously disturbed Christian the most and had therefore been almost totally blotted out. 'As a result it would probably be one of the hardest areas in which to gain more information. Why?'
    Fornier brushed it aside with an offhand, 'Nothing in particular.' But his tone and the way he'd been hanging on her answer made Marinella wonder. They discussed briefly some of the general circumstances surrounding the murder: sexual assault before the final attack; blunt instrument, probably a rock; wheat field by a river; coma for five days.
    Wheat field?
    Lambourne held the view that the coma and even the brief fifty-four second period of death had fired the connection between the two boys. Why Eyran had no previous recall of Gigio-Christian until after then. 'It was a major physical event that linked both lives. Object loss opened the door, was a shared emotional experience, but the coma was the shared physical experience to swing it wide.'
    Marinella agreed, but felt that subliminally the link had been there long before. 'Eyran had a sense of deja vu with the wheat field when they first moved to the house in England. He didn't dream of those fields purely due to fond memories of England or that he truly feels he might find his parents there — but because of Christian. Eyran knows deep down he's lost his parents on a Californian highway — whether he accepts it or not — but the wheat field is clearly Christian Rosselot territory. It's Christian who can't accept separation from his parents. Eyran's merely aboard for the ride.'
    Lambourne shook his head. He disagreed. Their respective views started to head in different directions. Lambourne threw at her the obvious that Christian's parents hadn't featured in any of the dreams, Eyran's had, and that both boys focused only on finding Eyran's parents. Wheareas she felt this theory supported that of the two boys battling with non-acceptance of loss, Christian's was the strongest. In his case, it had been pushed further away. Eyran's had been tackled head-on in practically every dream.
    But with Lambourne's reluctance to accept her view, at one point she'd blurted out: 'What's wrong? Are you afraid that by accepting the theory, it pushes it further away from what you know best — conventional analysis.' And immediately regretted it, saw clearly that she'd hit a raw nerve. It threw too stark a spotlight on what they both knew: as soon as Gigio had been identified as Christian Rosselot, a tangible past existence rather than a protective figment of Eyran's psyche — most of Lambourne's conventional theories went out of the window. This was her territory. Past Life Regression versus Freud. The irreconcilable divide between psychiatrists and parapsychologists. Psychiatrists branding them hardly better than tribal witchdoctors, and para-psychologists retaliating by labelling psychiatrists as 'too conventional and myopic'. Far too many of hers and Donaldsons critics through the years had been 'conventionalists' — but it was unfair to start taking it out now purely on Lambourne. She softened quickly with: 'Are you afraid that if I'm right, I might be camping out in your office a bit longer?'
    Lambourne raised his glass and smiled. 'Now that, as you know, I would never complain about.'
    Perhaps it was her. She was drawing the lines of divide too simplistically: she dealt with the past, Lambourne with the present. Each of them sought the explanation where their knowledge was strongest. But Lambourne's smile and comment brought uncomfortably close what she'd feared at the outset: that their views were poles apart and Lambourne had only picked up the phone because he was suddenly out of his depth and it was a good excuse to see her again. He liked her company. But as soon as that novelty wore off, the differences would start to show again. It hadn't taken long, she thought: eight days.
    But she was glad nevertheless that he'd called. She could be only three questions away from compiling one of the strongest case studies and papers of her career. For that, David Lambourne could smile and ingratiate her as much as he pleased.
    She brought her attention back to the session as David Lambourne's voice trailed off and he nodded towards her. Philippe leaned forward and she tapped out the first question on the PC screen.

    Dominic wasn't sure of the precise moment when the thought first struck him of being able to use information from the tapes to re-examine the details surrounding Christian Rosselot's murder. The first initial thoughts — shortly after the first call from Marinella Calvan — had been so fleeting and indistinct, he'd hardly paid it attention. Possibly a hoax; obscure or unsubstantiated information — discarded after the second hurdle, with still the hurdles of insufficient detail to support a renewed investigation and legal complexities in the far distance and only paid scant consideration. That consideration only arrived full force after seeing Monique's reaction to the tape.
    But after his last conversation with Marinella Calvan, those hurdles appeared suddenly to have been raised and were now almost insurmountable: 'Due to it being an area which has obviously disturbed Christian the most, the murder has been largely blotted out.' Details would be difficult to gain.
    He'd replayed those segments of tape the most: '… And then there was a bright light… so bright… I couldn't see anything. And the field… I recognized it…' What could have caused a sudden, blinding light? It was a bright, sunny day. Perhaps Christian had been heavily concealed in bushes down the river bank, then had suddenly emerged into the brightness of the lane and the wheat field? Or perhaps he'd been blindfolded as well as tied up and it had suddenly been taken off.
    There had also been an earlier reference to the light 'hurting his eyes' not long before he was face down on the ground. '… the sheaves were against the side of my face… my own breathing against it. All I could hear… nothing else… nothing…' The voice trailed off as breathing became heavier, more sporadic. '…I struggled to look back, but couldn't… couldn't… I… I.' After that the voice became increasingly catatonic and garbled. Philippe's voice broke him quickly away. It wasn't even clear if Christian had fallen in the wheat or been pushed over, whether he'd already been struck or the blows were still to come.
    Calvan was right. Recall of the murder had been heavily erased. Dominic couldn't see how pressing on subsequent sessions would reveal anything more than the same garbled, disjointed account. Someone with passing knowledge of the case, primed by a handful of newspaper articles, could have constructed a more detailed account. Even the few details that were fresh — such as the sudden light — were vague and could be interpreted any number of ways. A re-examination of the case based on fresh information wasn't even a remote possibility. And from a boy dead these past thirty years, his voice speaking from the grave through another boy who had entered therapy because he was psychologically disturbed? The first prosecutor he took it to would laugh him clean out of the room.
    But the intense curiosity to know still nagged at him, so in the end he removed that final hurdle: blotted out consideration of a renewed official investigation. Convinced himself that he was eager to know for his own sake; for the curiosity of an old police officer who wants to know the truth before he retires. A final closing of the book. And for Machanaud, or at least for-
    Philippe's voice broke abruptly into his thoughts. ‘C’est l’ete. C’est le mois de mai. The year is nineteen sixty-one. You are eight years old. You worked with your father Jean-Luc towards the end of that month. What did you help him with?'
    Monique's first question. Dominic looked on expectantly, felt his mouth dry with anticipation, the atmosphere tense in the small room.
    A frown, a creasing of the boy's brow, as if he was scanning frantically back through images and memories long past. The boy looked very different to how he remembered Christian: wavy light brown hair, a few freckles across the bridge of his nose, his eyes pale brown. Christian's hair had been darker and curlier, his skin tone olive, his eyes a piercing green. It was difficult to relate the two.
    The thought lines in his forehead slowly eased. 'We were clearing some long grass from the grapevines my father had planted at the beginning of the year.'
    Marinella picked up on the frown, wondered if Eyran was thrown by the questions being suddenly more specific, rather than the very generalized questions of the last session.
    'And what happened while you were helping your father in the field?'
    Faint lines returned; uncertainty with the question. After a moment: 'It was very hot. I er… I became worried at one point that I wasn't being of much help. My father was working very fast, I wasn't keeping up with him very well.'
    'But something happened that day to make you finally stop working,' Philippe prompted. 'What was it?'
    Gradual realization, the lines easing again. 'I was stung by a bee.' A pause. Marinella tapping at the keyboard. Philippe was about to prompt when Eyran continued. 'But my mother didn't have a plaster or any antiseptic. She applied some vinegar, then some baking powder on cotton wool. It took out a lot of the sting. She said that it was something she'd learnt from her mother.'
    Dominic felt the back of his neck tingle. When he'd gone through the questions with Monique, she'd mentioned Christian helping Jean-Luc and getting stung by a bee. Her applying vinegar and baking soda because they had no antiseptic. Dominic shivered involuntarily as the tingle spread down through his body. It was Christian's voice. There remained little doubt.
    Listening first hand was dramatically different to just the detached voice on the tape, he thought. Seeing the small face struggling with the thoughts and images, the brow knitted, tongue gently moistening his lips as the words were finally found. The words of another boy from another era. The description of Christian and Jean-Luc working side by side in the fields, father and son, both dead now these past thirty years, cut a powerful and poignant image. Dominic's hand clenched, emotions of sadness and nostalgia gripping him hard.
    He'd arranged to fax the transcript to Monique and wait in London for her to answer; if her response was positive, he wanted to stay to talk with Marinella Calvan in more depth. But if little additional information surrounding the murder could be gained, what would be the point?
    The second question was about a game of boules in the village square one Sunday. Christian was nine, it was only a couple of months after his birthday. Philippe pinpointed the day: Christian had gone with Jean-Luc to watch the village boules games on several occasions. But this particular Sunday something had occurred.
    '…There was an accident.' Eyran's eyes flickered, the right image finally falling into place. 'Nothing serious. But two cars going around the square, one went into the other. The two drivers, both men, were very angry, shouting loudly at each other. Most of the men playing were distracted, it looked like any minute a fight might break out.'
    'And what happened then?'
    Eyran had settled into the rhythm of the more specific, narrowly targeted questions. Pauses were now less marked. 'One of the players, Alguine — when he thought that everyone was looking towards the road, moved to stand by his own boule, then nudged it closer to the cochonnet with one foot.'
    'What did you do?'
    'Looking around, I realized that nobody had noticed but me. Alguine had moved quickly away from his boule, so I moved gradually towards it and, as the other players' attention drifted back, I looked down suddenly and apologized: "Sorry. I must have kicked this boule while I was looking at the accident. I'll put it back where it was." I could see Alguine glaring at me, but he said nothing. Later, when I told my father, he couldn't stop laughing.'
    Jean-Luc had told Monique, Dominic reflected, then in turn Monique had told him just the other day when she'd prepared the questions. Batons passed down through the years. A few faint brush strokes depicting an era of Monique's life previously strange to him.
    Thirty years? Machanaud had died over ten years ago. Fourteen years in prison. Only six years of freedom in between. A handful of twilight years to swill back some eau de vies and spin out his long forgotten glory days in the resistance, poach a last few rivers. Rough justice.
    If four years ago he hadn't bumped into Molet, Machanaud's lawyer, in the recess halls at the Lyon Palais de Justice, he might never have known. Molet was there on a hearing for a Nice-based client. They both recognized each other straightaway — but it took some prompting from Dominic for Molet to finally recall from where and when. After some initial pleasantries, they turned to the subject of Machanaud. Molet did most of the talking while Dominic registered in turn surprise, guilt, and finally, outrage.
    Molet obviously read the guilt, because he commented that he himself had not realized Machanaud was still being held under psychiatric care until year eleven. 'I thought he would have been released ages ago. But it still took three years to press for his release. There was a review only once a year.'
    Molet went on to describe Perrimond's undue influence with hospital governors and state psychiatrists to ensure Machanaud was not released. Provence establishment favour swapping — at the golf club or masonic lodge — at its very worst. 'Each time a negative psychiatric report came through. Machanaud wasn't finally released until a year after Perrimond's death.'
    '… I got a boule close to the white, only a few centimetres away. My father was quite surprised. Only one of the other players got so close — and in the end they had to measure to see who had won.'
    Dominic looked down. It wasn't part of the prepared question sheet. Marinella Calvan had obviously let him ramble; perhaps happy of a diversion allowing Christian to relax, establish a more natural rhythm. It was obviously also an incident he remembered with fondness.
    The boy's faint smile. Dominic found it vaguely disturbing. A reminder of lost happiness, lost years.
    Molet had looked sharply at Dominic, as if perhaps expecting a reciprocal disclosure of guilt. But Dominic said nothing. What could he say? That year seven had been the first time it had occurred to him to check on Machanaud, and when he couldn't trace Molet's number he had finally called Perrimond's office. Three calls later with no reply, his workload had quickly swamped his concern. And on the few occasions since that the thought had arose, he'd convinced himself that Machanaud had probably been released years back. He had never troubled to pick up the phone and check. Too busy.
    And even if he had explained all that, Molet would have questioned why he was concerned. And he would have felt inclined to explain the rest: his past doubts about Machanaud's guilt, the police cover-up over the car description, how he had been pushed into going along with everything because of the veiled threat of being shipped off to a gendarmerie in northern France. That his mother would have been left to die alone. He could explain none of that — so in the end he said nothing.
    But Dominic was sure that in that moment Molet had seen it all in his face, seen the quickly rising burden of guilt and shock as it struck him just how long Machanaud had spent locked away.
    '… it was on a trip to Alassio. We went there for a weekend.'
    'And that was where you bought it?'
    'Yes. I had some pocket money, but it wasn't enough. So I talked my parents into letting me have the rest of the money to buy it.'
    The third question, Dominic noted. A trip to Alassio in Northern Italy. Alassio. Portofino. He remembered seeing a wall plaque for Portofino on his first trip to the Rosselots, sitting in their kitchen asking questions about the last hours they saw their son.
    'How did you talk them into it?'
    'I told them I'd read more. That if I had a bedside lamp like that, so nice, I'd promise to read more. Every night.'
    'What did the lamp look like?'
    'It was made of shell, in the shape of an old galleon. The light inside made the shell almost luminescent and direct light would also shine through the portholes. It was beautiful.'
    'So in the end that promise convinced your parents to give you the extra money for it?'
    'Yes it did.'
    'And did you keep your promise and read more?'
    'Yes. Practically every night in bed I did some reading before going to sleep.'
    Dominic looked down and bit his lip. He could hardly bear it. He didn't realize that sitting in on the session would have such a profound affect on him. Christian's voice, all these years later, telling them what a good boy he'd been. As if it was still somehow important to him.

THIRTY

    Dominic was staying at the Meridien Waldorf, half a mile from David Lambourne's office in Holborn. He'd stayed over the previous night, but hoped to leave without spending a second night. He was therefore in hotel limbo: bags packed and in a store room, though still using their facilities. Particularly their fax.
    It had taken Philippe almost two hours to put the transcript back in its original French from the on-screen English, and another fifty minutes for it to arrive by messenger at his hotel. He scanned it through for any obvious errors and faxed it straight to Monique in Lyon. He'd already phoned her to expect its arrival, could imagine her standing by the fax machine in his office at home, practically ripping the pages out as they hummed through.
    Beep. Dominic waited a few minutes by the machine for a reply. Then, telling the clerk where he would be if one came through, he went to the bar downstairs and ordered an armagnac.
    As the drink hit his stomach, warming it, soothing his nerves, he started thinking about the transcript he'd just read through. The depth of detail came through even more than in the session itself. The contrast to the fractured, garbled descriptions around the murder itself was absolute. He took another quick slug, feeling it cut a warm path. Just his luck: marvellous detail about games of boules, pan chocolat and trips to Alassio — but little or nothing of use about the murder itself.
    Almost twenty minutes had passed when the office clerk came down with a fax. Dominic was on his second armagnac. Hand-written, it read simply:

    I'm convinced it's Christian's voice. Nobody else could possibly know those personal details. I don't know how or why — but it's his voice.

    Twenty minutes? Reading through the transcript would have taken only five minutes. Had Monique cried, caught up in a wave of emotions that stopped her putting pen to paper immediately? Or had she sat and laboured over the brief message she was going to send back, eager not to show sentimentality or the mixture of suspicion and outrage she'd voiced immediately after playing the tape. That had now been boiled down to simply, 'I don't know how or why'. When she'd initially prepared the questions, she'd commented in a subdued, almost acid tone. 'I don't profess to understand the tape that has been sent. But if these questions are answered correctly, Dominic, for God's sake don't expect me to believe that this strange English boy is Christian reborn. Some vague, unexplained psychic link perhaps. But that's as far as I'll go.'
    Dominic checked his watch, timing: phone through to Marinella Calvan and give her the news, arrange a meeting, forty minutes or so for the meeting itself, then back to the hotel to collect his luggage and out to Heathrow airport for 6.35 pm. It was going to be tight, particularly if traffic was bad.
    Dominic wondered whether to forget the meeting with Calvan. Just fax through Monique's message, a brief follow up phone call, and head out to the airport. When he'd originally thought of a meeting, it had been inspired by the foolhardy idea that he might be able to use the information to re-open the case. Now it was just his own curiosity. But Calvan would probably still insist that details surrounding the murder were too scant. Even that last vestige he'd clung to — salving whether all those years of doubt and guilt had been misplaced — wouldn't be satisfied. The meeting would have no purpose.
    The decision made, in a way Dominic felt relieved. He knocked back the last of his armagnac. Fine. No meeting. Perhaps as well. Even if Marinella Calvan had complied, he'd have had to face Monique and explain. Explain everything he'd kept hidden the past thirty years. He'd been dreading that part, and at least that would now also remain buried.

    'I don't understand. A suspect was found, charged and sentenced — at least that's what came out of the few newspaper articles Philippe translated for me. I thought the case was closed all those years back.'
    'You're right. It was. But there were discrepancies with the case that I was never happy with.' Marinella was staring sharply at him, still getting to grips with his suggestion of using information from the session to re-open the murder investigation. Discrepancies? What could he say to this woman he hardly knew? That he'd been press-ganged into joining a cover-up so that he could stay with his dying mother, the resultant years of guilt, re-doubling when he'd learned how long a possibly innocent man had spent imprisoned. Yet proving Machanaud's innocence would only heighten that guilt, and then his wife would know his part in the cover-up and that her last husband's suicide had been in vain. Marinella Calvan's eyebrow would merely arch more acutely. What did he want out of it all? Perhaps proving Machanaud's guilt: closing the door once and for all on that chink of doubt. In the end, the only other useful thing he could find to say was: 'I was very young then, merely assisting in the investigation. I had very little influence on the way it was conducted. To me, this is like a second chance. How many of us really get a second chance?'
    Second chance? The poignancy of the phrase stung Marinella for a second. 'I can appreciate how much you would like to get to the truth, even after all these years. If I can, I would love to help. But you've listened to the tape of that first session when we stumbled on those final moments of the murder. Eyran's almost catatonic. Apart from the obvious risk of dragging him back through recall of the murder — I just don't think we'll gain anything of any help. Most of it has been pushed away. He doesn't want to think about it.'
    Clatter of cutlery from two tables away, a waitress with an Australian accent talking to one of her colleagues. Dominic was distracted briefly. When he'd phoned at four o’clock and spoken to Marinella, David Lambourne had just started a fresh session. He'd mentioned how tight he was for time with his flight out, and they arranged to meet twenty minutes later at Cafe Opera in Covent Garden.
    Detail? The contrast between the depth of detail in the transcript and the vague garbled accounts surrounding the murder was what first gave Dominic the clue. What made him suddenly phone Marinella Calvan and arrange the meeting: Christian expanded, detail was stronger relating stories where he felt more relaxed, at ease. This in turn explained why the murder account was so vague and fractured. But forty minutes to an hour earlier, when Christian first met his murderer, before either of the sexual attacks, before Christian even realized he might be in danger — he would have been more relaxed, at ease. Now, explaining these thoughts to Marinella Calvan, words he had already spun over in his mind on the way to the cafe — he watched her expression closely. 'If nothing else, he would hopefully be able to give a clear, accurate account of those moments. The moments when he first met his murderer.' A chink of acceptance halfway through, then something else: doubt or intrigue, Dominic wasn't sure.
    Marinella shook her head. 'I don't know, it's a possibility, I suppose.' She felt her emotions tugged sharply. An image of a young inexperienced gendarme on the edge of an investigation, unable to wield any real influence yet harbouring a strong doubt nevertheless. A doubt carefully tended through the years, intensified and brought uncomfortably close to home by his marrying the dead boy's mother. Like Javert in 'Les Miserables', never entirely giving up on the investigation — until finally, a generation later, the opportunity arises to uncover the truth. Second chance? Wasn't that how she felt about the case: a chance to prove herself after the Cincinnati case and the other failures?
    Then reality hit. Simple and unequivocal. David Lambourne would never go for it. Let alone Stuart Capel. Unless she could build a strong case to convince them. Intrigue and her desire to help started to bite back. But apart from Fornier's thumbnail account the day before, to her the murder was just a chain of breathless, disjointed words sifted through the decades via Eyran Capel. 'Tell me more about the investigation. All I know so far is from the newspaper coverage and what you told us the other day: the wheat field, sexual assault, blunt instrument, and that Christian was in a coma for five days before dying. The man convicted — what makes you doubt his guilt?'
    'Too circumstantial. He was just a local casual farm labourer and poacher who happened to be there at the time. No history of sexual assault or incidents with young boys. No violence. But the prosecution nevertheless built a convincing case out of that circumstance.'
    'But I understand from the newspaper coverage that he wasn't convicted of murder. In the end he got off with manslaughter.'
    ‘“Got off with”, I'm afraid, is not the most appropriate phrase given what finally happened to Machanaud.' Dominic related the sorry tale of Perrimond playing favours with hospital governors and state psychiatrists. 'Machanaud ended up spending a total of fourteen years imprisoned.'
    Between sips of coffee, Marinella intook breath sharply. 'God. That's ludicrous. I'm sorry. Sounds almost like a personal vendetta.' And immediately wondered why she was saying sorry to Fornier, except that he seemed to care what had happened to Machanaud.
    'It practically was.' Dominic explained how it had quickly developed into an establishment protection case. That the person he suspected was a young assistant prosecutor staying with one of the area's largest landowners. 'A personal friend of the mayor. It was unthinkable that such a person could possibly commit such an atrocity. Whereas Machanaud was a low-life poacher and village drunkard. He was seen as a far easier target, less troublesome — and the weight of circumstantial evidence built up strongly against him.'
    'What happened with the assistant prosecutor?'
    'He was questioned only once. The timing of his car being seen in a restaurant appeared to give him an alibi. He went on to become a leading politician, RPR candidate for Limoges.' Dominic raised his coffee cup as if saying salut, and smiled. 'Now he's one of France's illustrious representatives in Brussels. An MEP. He's done very well has our dear Monsieur Alain Duclos.'
    Images of Javert were back. Relentlessly pursuing through the decades. And now a name had been attached: Alain Duclos. But Marinella felt uncomfortable with Dominic's suddenly maudlin tone. A lifetime of battling the odds against the police and the establishment, and now she might let him down yet again. What was she hoping for, what niche to prise open the barricades she knew would confront her if she requested more sessions? 'And Machanaud. What happened to him after he was finally let out.'
    'He died eight years ago. Had only six years of freedom in between.'
    Marinella grimaced, her eyes flickering down slightly. But she began to worry that, like Javert, Fornier's pursuit of Duclos might be equally unfounded. 'If this Duclos' car was seen somewhere that supposedly gave him an alibi, then what makes you suspect him?'
    Dominic ran one finger absently down the side of his coffee cup. How could he explain? A look, a glimmer in the eye from thirty-two years ago? Something that told him Duclos was nervous, had something to hide. Or his supercilious, pretty-boy appearance. That he looked like the type who might molest young boys. Calvan would just laugh at him in the same way Poullain had all those years back. In the end all he said was: 'There were discrepancies with the car sightings. Some of the details I wasn't happy with.' Discrepancies again. His standard trench when shots fired. Stumbling through an account of the car sighting cover up — even if Marinella Calvan might find sympathy with his motive of his ailing mother — he was sure overall wouldn't aid his cause.
    'Do you think the people who saw Duclos' car were lying?'
    'No. But Machanaud said that he saw it passing on the lane while he was poaching — just minutes before he left himself.'
    'But he could have been lying to save his own neck.'
    'Yes. That's what the prosecution said.'
    Marinella forced a wan smile. 'I see. Sorry.' She sensed there was more, but Dominic looked away awkwardly after a second. They were silent, the clatter of the cafe imposing. Whatever it was, he obviously found it still worth keeping to himself after thirty-two years. If Dominic Fornier truly believed that more information could be gained by avoiding the murder and keeping to when Christian Rosselot first met his attacker — then when and where? All Fornier had mentioned so far was 'forty minutes to an hour beforehand.' 'Where do you think Christian first met his attacker: by the lane and the wheat field, or somewhere else?'
    'Probably close by, at least. The supposition was that whoever he met, they probably hid down by the river bank for most of the time. A few cars passed on the lane. If they'd stayed for any length of time in the wheat field, they'd have been seen.'
    'Is that where the sexual assault also took place — down by the river bank?'
    'Yes. There were two assaults, with a gap of anything from thirty to fifty minutes in between. Certainly the second took place by the lane, and possibly the first close by.'
    'If it was Duclos, not Machanaud — is that where you think Christian met him?'
    'I don't know. That's one of the details I hoped further sessions might uncover.' Faint shadows from a ceiling fan moved across the floor. Dominic glanced down, memories of the reconstruction drifting. Stormclouds across the shifting white wheat. 'Machanaud admitted poaching in that same position for almost two hours. That became one of the prosecution's strongest arguments. If Christian met someone else there, Machanaud would have seen them.'
    Two assaults? Thirty to fifty minutes gap in between. Marinella was trying to assimilate the rest of the sequence of events, get a clearer picture. 'You realize that details regarding either of the sexual assaults would probably be equally as vague. As with the murder, Christian has very likely blotted it out.'
    'Yes.'
    'Apart from the fact that they would have been deeply disturbing in their own right, Christian might have already suspected that his attacker would later kill him.'
    'I understand.'
    'Probably the only clear detail we'll get, as you have suggested, is from when Christian first met his attacker. Before he realized that anything might happen. But that might only be a few minutes at most.'
    'Then you'll help?'
    'I don't know. As I say, it's difficult.' Marinella bit at her lip. The possible obstacles came back full force: Lambourne's and Stuart Capel's reaction to the sessions suddenly becoming an appendage to a murder investigation. She would be lucky to get to first base. 'If it was just up to me, fine. I'd help. But it's not. My colleague David Lambourne has been given charge to cure Eyran Capel's current condition. And Eyran's stepfather Stuart probably wouldn't be too pleased knowing that Eyran's course of therapy has been suddenly hi-jacked to head somewhere else. But I'll do what I can.'
    She could have added, 'Don't hold your breath,' but Dominic's shoulders had already slumped, the eagerness in his eyes suddenly dulled. She studied his face for a moment. The dark hair, greying heavily at the sides, the enticing, almost imperceptible slant at the corner of his eyes. Laughter lines as he'd first greeted her now etching the pain of those long years. It couldn't have been easy, she thought: marrying the dead boy's mother and still harbouring the doubt through all those years. 'I'll do my best. I promise.'
    'Thank you.'
    Marinella flinched slightly as Dominic touched her hand fleetingly in thanks. It wasn't the touch itself, but something she wasn't able to define until they'd parted and she watched him walk away — shoulders still slumped, or perhaps buoyed by her parting promise? But it hit her then how much Dominic was depending on her, and again the worry came that she might end up letting him down.
    There was only one session left to fill in some of the remaining details of Christian Rosselot's life before her flight back to Virginia and Sebastian. But even armed with this incredible story — the quest of a man still searching for the truth in a murder from thirty years ago — with both Lambourne and Stuart Capel already railing against continued probing in the past, she feared their reaction was a foregone conclusion.
    Fornier's quest had touched her deeply, but how was she even going to start to convince them?

    Genoa, January 1983
    Marc Jaumard looked at the brief entry in the newspaper personal column. He'd already read it twice and now read it through again, trying to measure each word, judge any hidden intent. He only had the single page with the personals, ripped out from La Provencal and sent by a friend in Marseille.
    Jaumard had been with the same Genoa-based company now for over four years. Away at sea when his brother died, he hadn't even known until six weeks later when he returned to Genoa. Folded clippings in an envelope from the same friend in Marseille: 'Cafe Slaying'; ' Milieu war hots up'; 'Cafe au Sanguin'. The main report in La Provencal described his brother as a 'known milieu associate.' Quite flattering considering that he had mainly killed people for money.
    And now this new clipping almost four years later. Jaumard wondered if it really was what it appeared on face value: connected somehow with his brother's death? He'd left Marseille in something of a rush: rent un-paid for three months, a bank loan on a car he'd taken with him left hanging, and his ex-wife screaming for maintenance. The advert could be just a ruse by the bank or his wife's lawyer to flush him out. Create the illusion that it was somehow connected with his brother's death, a small inheritance from blood money stashed away perhaps. Then slap an injunction on him.
    A bit extreme for the bank, playing on sympathies with his long-buried brother — but he'd put nothing past his ex-wife. He wondered. He contemplated the nearby phone briefly before his eyes fell back to the advert. Dissecting sentences and then individual words, silently mouthing, trying to imagine his ex-wife across a lawyer's desk as it was worded.

THIRTY-ONE

    Shallow breathing. Half light from the hallway spilling across Eyran's profile as he slept. Stuart Capel stood over the bed, contemplating. In some lights, at some angles, he could see Jeremy's features in Eyran's face. Remember Jeremy as he was as a child, the two of them playing together. Eyran was the last link with those memories.
    Lost now, all so distant — and pushed away even further by the confusion and nightmares running riot in Eyran's mind. Still, the Eyran he remembered — the carefree smiling boy from their trip to California before the accident — was out of reach.
    Seven sessions in five weeks. Had Eyran's state of mind improved? Certainly, the frequency of dreams had diminished. Two a week had been the average before the sessions, now they were at least a week or ten days apart and less violent and upsetting. Of the four dreams over those five weeks, two dreams had been with Gigio, two without.
    The latest development Stuart found hardest to accept: Past life regressions? Gigio no longer an invented, protective character from the part of Eyran's psyche refusing to accept the loss of his parents — but a real life in its own right. A life that Eyran had supposedly lived in France from 1953 to 1963. Christian Rosselot. He shook his head. It was unreal, ludicrous, another turn-off along the nightmarish road they'd been led down since Jeremy's death. Yet this one had no familiar landmarks, no signposts, dragged him abruptly away from the only tangible element with Eyran's condition he'd clung to: Eyran's non-acceptance of his parents death. He could relate to that. He had felt the emotion strongly himself, had spent the last long weeks struggling to come to terms with Jeremy's death and had barely succeeded. A friendly face in his dreams taking him to see Jeremy, he imagined could be quite reassuring, soothing. Make him feel somehow that Jeremy hadn't completely gone.
    But his reservations about entering Eyran into therapy had lingered until the second session when David Lambourne brought up the possible danger of a predominant character pushing Eyran over the edge into schizophrenia. Only then did he feel assured he'd made the right decision. His earlier fears were allayed.
    Now with that premise thrown out of the window, Stuart's doubts were back. Before the final session with Marinella Calvan, he'd voiced his concerns to Lambourne of continued probing into Eyran's past. Lambourne had defended that because the past real character of Gigio/Christian had also experienced sudden separation from his parents, secondary influence was still significant. How even apart from that core shared experienced of loss, there were other elements linking the two lives: a period of coma in both boys, Eyran's brief death, the wheat field in Eyran's dreams which was also the last place to feature in Christian's life. By knowing more about Christian Rosselot, they would be better armed to tackle Eyran's current condition.
    Stuart had only been partially swayed, and perhaps it had shown in his face because Lambourne added. 'With this one final session with Mrs Calvan, the main forays into the past will be complete. We can then assess afresh where we want future sessions to head.'
    Though Stuart didn't totally agree with Calvan's views, he appreciated her courage of conviction. After the last session, she'd thanked him and Amanda for allowing her to delve into Eyran's past and explained how she hoped it might help: that it wasn't only a question of symbols, it was determining where they had stronger relevance. In which life was there stronger non-acceptance of loss and separation? Hopefully the two sessions and the notes and transcripts would provide the answers to that. Provide a stronger framework for conventional therapy to continue.
    Calvan had nodded towards Lambourne at that point, but Stuart noted a slight clouding in Lambourne's eyes, as if he disagreed or previously had had words with her on the subject. But Lambourne made no comment. Just smiled tightly at Calvan's nod.
    The only time Stuart had spoken with Calvan before was for twenty minutes after her first session with Eyran, when she'd provided some of her background with regressions, children and xenoglossy. She preferred cases of xenoglossy in children because of the unlikelihood of them learning the language by other means. Fluent Spanish, medieval German, Phoenician, obscure regional dialects. Hundreds of authenticated case studies and papers compiled between herself and her mentor, Dr Emmett Donaldson. Impressive stuff, incredible. Somehow too incredible to be real. Stuart hadn't voiced any doubt, but Calvan somehow sensed it, had suddenly asked him if, apart from Eyran, he knew anyone who had been in a coma. No, he hadn't. But, she pressed, he had probably heard of people who after being in a coma had afterwards suffered amnesia. Memory loss. 'Yes,' he'd answered. Calvan had succinctly pointed out that if a period of coma had the ability to wipe out memory, then a death certainly would. 'People tend not to believe in past lives simply because they themselves have no personal recall of a past life. Nothing tangible with which to relate. But that doesn't mean they haven't occurred. Most people under hypnosis do in fact recall past lives. And my colleague Dr Donaldson has had great success in sessions with young boys up to the age of seven while awake. After that, the ability to recall diminishes.'
    Stuart could just imagine Calvan back in Virginia, pacing in front of first year students, dazzling the class with the same graphic example. Why was he still so sceptical?
    Marinella Calvan's parting words after the last session still rang in his mind: 'At least now we know it's a real past life, the danger of possible schizophrenia has gone. No more worries about a secondary character taking over.'
    But Stuart hadn't felt any relief. Replacing something tangible — something with which he could strongly relate — with a concept he still couldn't quite grasp, just didn't sit right. Regardless of the obvious benefits stressed by Calvan.
    When he'd first mentioned his doubts to Amanda about the continuing sessions, she'd quickly thrown in his face that he'd never been keen on them, and now at the first obstacle, the first turn in the road with which he didn't agree — he was ready to throw in the towel. 'Leave it to the experts, Stuart. It's their problem. Why their walls are full of diplomas in psychoanalysis and yours aren't. You're never going to second guess them at their own game.'
    So that was how she saw it. The age old argument. While it was their problem, he wasn't so obsessed with Eyran, he had more time to devote to his own family. To Tessa and herself. Eyran had conveniently been shoved off to the sidelines: someone else's problem. If Stuart called an end to the sessions, the problem of Eyran was back fully in their laps.
    But Amanda's comment, however mis-guided, threw a starker light on his own doubt. He had originally hoped that the sessions would break down the barriers and imaginary characters in Eyran's mind. He would feel closer to Eyran again. The Eyran he remembered. But now the character was real, not imaginary. Not one that would be shifted by a few couch-side questions from Lambourne. And apart from worrying where the future sessions with Eyran might now head, he wondered whether at heart it wasn't scepticism, but more that he didn't want to believe. Accept the reality of a secondary character who would always be with Eyran, however deeply buried in his subconscious. Yet again he would be sharing Eyran.

    Time was too tight for the evening flight to Lyon, so Dominic decided to stay over another night at the Meridien. He opted for an afternoon flight the next day so that he would be readily available through the morning for any news from Marinella Calvan. They had the final session at eleven o’clock, and he imagined that she would broach what he'd proposed either directly before or after the session, while both the Capels and Lambourne were present.
    Though she'd voiced caution and doubt, her questions and keen interest had also displayed strong eagerness to help. Dominic was hopeful.
    No call by eleven. She either hadn't yet broached the subject, or it was too awkward to hold up the session or make the call while the Capels were still there. Or, if she got agreement, she might even plough straight in and ask some pertinent questions straight away. Another hour or so to wait.
    Dominic felt at a loose end. He'd earlier phoned his Lyon office and gained an update on activities while he was away from Inspector Guidier, his second in command. He now phoned Guidier back and asked him to make contact with the Lyon Public Prosecutor's office. 'Try Verfraigne. It's just a hypothetical situation at this stage.' Dominic explained what he wanted: the likely prosecution procedure for a murder case re-opened after over thirty years. Any obvious pitfalls and obstacles. 'It wouldn't come under Lyon's jurisdiction, but Aix-en-Provence. So the names of prosecutors and any likely chains of command for such a scenario there would also be helpful.'
    Guidier was curious. 'Anything interesting?'
    'Could be. Could be.' Dominic didn't want to say anything until Marinella Calvan had called, didn't want to tempt fate. But by starting the process, at least he had the feeling something was in motion. 'I'm leaving here at one-forty. But I won't be back in the office in Lyon until probably six or seven. Just time to pick up some files before I head down to Vidauban for the weekend.' He gave the hotel telephone number for any immediate news.
    Dominic's second call was to Pierre Lepoille at Interpol. Lepoille was one of the best Interpol intelligence officers he knew. A researcher in his mid-twenties when they'd worked together at Interpol in Paris; now thirty-four, Lepoille was a true scion of the electronic age. A walking encyclopaedia of random knowledge, with whatever he didn't know a few keystrokes away: Interpol's own secure network, the FBI's AIS programme, Minitel or surfing the Internet.
    Lepoille was part of the permanent backbone of intelligence staff who supported the shifting quotas of officers, like himself, on two year assignments with Interpol. Or liaised with the myriad of police forces world-wide. Gaining access, breaking codes, smashing deftly through virgin cyberspace barriers — few secrets could be safely cocooned from Lepoille's probing keystrokes. The thought of a criminal being apprehended in Kuala Lumpur from an initial enquiry from a backwater police station in Tupelo, Mississippi, all through a succession of quick-fire keystrokes, Lepoille found addictive.
    His only other addiction was Gauloise, but since smoking was not allowed in the computer room, Lepoille's two vices were in serious conflict. Lepoille would grasp at any excuse to head to the canteen, lighting up as soon as he was out of the computer room, then would chain smoke, practically lighting one from the embers of another. But at some stage Lepoille's withdrawal symptoms of being away from his computers would become stronger and he'd be eager to return. Dominic recalled many a chain-smoking canteen meeting with Lepoille.
    'Dominic. Nice to hear from you. Been a while.'
    They spent a few minutes catching up on the eight months since their last meeting before Dominic got to what he wanted: 'Psychics. Cases proven through psychic phenomena, as well as failed cases involving the same. With the latter, any obvious legal obstacles that came out of why the cases failed.'
    'In France, or beyond.'
    'Mainly France. But any big landmark cases outside might also be useful.'
    'Okay.' Lepoille didn't ask what it was for. Countless intelligence enquiries every week had numbed him to the unusual. Lepoille had become used to not asking.
    Dominic left Lepoille his number at Vidauban for anything that might come through in the next day or two, then took a long deep breath and sat back. It was done. Everything put in motion. Nothing left but to see what came back in. He looked at his watch: 11.52am. Calvan would be finished in just eight minutes. The phone could ring and he would know whether his efforts of the last fifty minutes had been wasted or not.

    By twelve-fifteen, when there was still no call from Marinella Calvan, Dominic's nerves were frazzled and his doubts returned full force. He realized he'd probably been foolish, allowed his blind enthusiasm to take control, burying the doubts Calvan had flagged. Blot them out in the same way that Christian didn't want to recall the murder. Alternative, mostly lame, excuses started to spring to mind of why she hadn't yet called — and finally Dominic picked up the phone. The thought of another hour's phone-watching before he headed off for his flight, waiting anxiously to know, was unbearable.
    'I'm afraid she's not here.' David Lambourne's voice. 'She's gone shopping. Some bits and pieces she needed to pick up apparently before her flight back to Virginia.'
    'When is she preparing to leave?'
    'Later this evening. Six-thirty, seven o'clock.' Brief silence. 'Anything I can help with, Inspector Fornier?'
    'It was just that she mentioned she might call me.' If Lambourne knew anything, hopefully he'd speak up. But he just responded blandly, 'I see.' Dominic didn't want to prompt by asking, Didn't she discuss the matter with you? Too clumsy. 'Do you expect to see her later, or will she go straight back to her hotel?'
    'She said that she'd probably call by for half an hour or so between three and four, there's some final notes she'd like to go over with me before leaving.'
    Final notes? Dominic wondered if that was when she'd chosen to raise the subject with Lambourne, perhaps explained why she hadn't called so far. But by then he realized he'd either be waiting himself to board a flight or mid-air to Lyon. 'Can you tell her I called. It's very important. I'm flying out myself soon, but she could leave a message at my office or reach me over the weekend on this number.' Dominic gave Lambourne his Lyon HQ and Vidauban numbers and rang off.
    Over the next twenty-four hours, Dominic see-sawed hopelessly between doubt and hope over what news might come from Calvan.
    There was no news or message when he arrived at his office in Lyon at 6.40pm, only an urgent file on his desk from Guidier which needed to be checked before an instruction hearing Monday, and a note: Verfraigne is in court until Monday. More information then. But his assistant knew the name of the Aix Chief Prosecutor: Henri Corbeix.
    Dominic picked up the file and the note and phoned Monique to tell her he was on his way. He'd already phoned her once before boarding his flight, pre-warned her they would be heading down to Vidauban for the weekend. Hopefully she would already have most things packed and prepared.
    When he arrived, the suitcases were by the door, but she'd pan fried some sea bass with peppers and dill on a bed of rice. His favourite. A glass of white Bordeaux was at its side. She'd already had hers, but she thought he might want something before the drive.
    He grimaced apologetically. 'I'm sorry. I already ate on the flight. I'm not that hungry,' he lied. 'I should have told you when I phoned.
    Monique looked back towards the food. He wasn't sure if she was put out by his refusal, or simply working out what to do with the fish. He was eager to get away, see if there was a message on his Vidauban answerphone from Marinella Calvan — but now he felt guilty. 'How long will you be?'
    'Five or six minutes. I just need to finish my make-up and throw a few more things in the overnight bag.'
    'Well, now that you've prepared it. It looks too good to go to waste. I'll see what I can manage.'
    By the time Monique was ready, he'd finished all of the fish, two-thirds of the rice, and downed the last gulp of Bordeaux as he picked up the first bags.
    'Fire somewhere?' Monique asked halfway through the drive.
    Dominic didn't realize till that moment how fast he'd been driving: 168kmph, when his normal average was 130-140kmph. He eased back to just over 150 kmph.
    After the flight and the day's events, Dominic was tired. The oncoming headlights stung his eyes towards the end of the drive. Particularly their stark glare on the unlit roads approaching Vidauban and the farmhouse. The drive had taken two hours-twenty minutes rather than the normal two hours-fifty.
    But when he pressed the replay button on the answerphone, there were no messages from Calvan. Only one from Lepoille: 'Psychics. Interesting subject. Nothing much come up in France yet, but I'm still trying. Quite a lot from America though, some of them big cases. I'm on a short shift tomorrow — four hours starting at midday. We'll speak then.'
    Monique caught his expression as he looked up from the machine. 'Anything wrong?'
    'No, nothing. Nothing.' It was probably more his anxiety she sensed than the short message on the tape. Calvan would be in the middle of a long flight back to Virginia, no more messages would come through that night. And with the time difference, the earliest he could now receive a call would be early afternoon the next day.

    Monique sensed his restlessness the next morning. Conversation was stilted over coffee and hot bread. If it was warm enough, Monique usually served up outside, but with this morning's early crispness she wore a thick towelling robe over a T-shirt and jeans. Dominic wore a sweat shirt.
    She wondered whether his tension was connected with the tape and transcript she'd read and his trip to London. Analysts, past-life regressionists, voices from the past, and now messages on their answerphone about psychics. Possibly it was all as strange to him as to her.
    With the first tape, she'd pushed whatever emotions she might have had away, harboured doubts and used the mechanical exercise of preparing the questions both as a shield and to throw it back quickly in the lap of whoever sent it: analysts, hoaxers, or whatever they were.
    But with the transcript, she'd found herself wrestling with a fast changing range of emotions: disbelief, anger, outrage that it might be a hoax, rereading segments over and over and searching for fault or possible invention, not wanting to believe — before final acceptance; an acceptance that cut through her and chilled her to the bone. It was Christian's voice. There was no doubt. She didn't know how or why, or even pretend to comprehend. But it was him. She did her duty; after three attempts to express her thoughts in a few lines without rambling or being too sentimental, she had faxed the short note back to London.
    There had been no tears, then. They hadn't come till the next morning when she read back through the transcript. The first time she'd read it purely clinically, objectively: is this Christian's voice? As if she was an expert character or voice analyst. But the second time, she actually attached Christian's voice, recalled its soft tones, its joy and vibrance, so open and innocent: '…It was made of shell, in the shape of an old galleon. The light inside made the shell almost luminescent and direct light would also shine through the portholes. It was beautiful.' And in that moment, she recalled Christian's face clearly, full of joy as Jean-Luc paid the rest of the money and the shop-keeper took the galleon down from the shelf and handed it to Christian. And all the other moments of him smiling suddenly flooded back: looking up at her with pride with one of his first drawings from school, her sewing the arm back on his Topo Gigio doll and his kiss of thanks, him asking for a story as she tucked him in bed, bright green eyes sparkling up at her. The soft touch of his small hands against her cheek. All gone now. Gone. Gone for so many years. So many.
    The tears convulsed her in a sudden tidal wave, heavy racking sobs that shook her whole body uncontrollably. And she'd rocked slightly with their rhythm, muttering so many at intervals, as if it was a mantra that would finally return some control, some normality. Sudden grief rising up and mugging her after so many years felt strange to her. She hadn't cried for Christian for fourteen years, since Gerome's tenth birthday party, when she'd suddenly recalled a similar party for Christian, his last. But that didn't help, the recalled shame of not having grieved for so many years merely added poignancy.
    Perhaps to cover her tears and confusion, she'd prepared one of Dominic's favourite dishes when he arrived. There. See. Everything's fine. Normal.
    She didn't say much on the drive, not wishing to bring up the subject in case her emotions and the tears welled up again. She'd read the transcript and identified the voice. She'd sent her fax back to London. She'd cried. It was over.
    But then she became aware that Dominic wasn't saying much either and he seemed tense and anxious, was driving faster than normal. Now, this morning, sipping his coffee, she could feel the same tension.
    'Did something happen in London? You seem anxious, as if you're waiting on some news.'
    'Just tired.' Dominic forced a smile. 'And now having to face catching up on work. You know what it's like whenever I go away. Things back up.'
    'I thought it might have been something to do with the tapes and transcripts. That they'd somehow upset you.'
    Dominic looked back at her. The stark morning light caught the lines of pain etched in her face. Lines he'd hoped had mellowed years ago and wouldn't return. She was still incredibly beautiful, a dusky Sophia Loren with just a fleck of salt in her dark pepper hair. And if he smiled, she would smile in return, and he could look upon them as laughter lines… the pain and sad memories would suddenly melt away. But he sensed she was speaking more for how she felt than for him: the tapes and transcripts had upset her. He reached one hand out and touched hers.
    'Of course I was upset by them. But it was more concern for the effect they might have on you.'
    'I cried a bit. But I'm okay now.' She forced a smile, felt the eyes welling slightly again. She'd planned not to mention her crying; some quick sympathy and a smile from Dominic and suddenly the words were out. He had that effect on her.
    'Are you sure?'
    She just nodded, looked down and sipped at her coffee.
    Dominic wondered whether he'd done the right thing coming down to Vidauban for the weekend. It had seemed a good idea to get away, both for him and Monique. But now, having left his number with half the world, hoping to just sit back and relax while the calls flooded back in, he felt suddenly cut off, restless. Four hours to wait before Lepoille made contact, five or six for anything from Calvan. He could start on Guidier's file to kill the time, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to apply his mind effectively. He was too pre-occupied.
    And for Monique, he wondered whether Vidauban might be too nostalgic coming straight after her reading the transcript. The thought hadn't hit him until the night before as he turned into the driveway, as the farmhouse and its small courtyard were caught in the headlamps.
    When they'd bought it six years ago, time enough seemed to have passed from Christian and Taragnon for it not to be a reminder. Just a nostalgic link with an area they loved. It had also looked different to the Taragnon farmhouse — the front facade was flat. But three years ago he'd added a small office that jutted out into the courtyard, and from that moment it held a far stronger resemblance. Except that instead of the blank wall of the side of Jean-Luc's garage, a large window looked from his office onto the courtyard. And rather than looking out across open fields, a small rockery garden sloped up to a few pine trees and a half stone wall twenty metres away, separating them from the property next door. The only open fields were beyond the garden the other side of the house.
    After breakfast, Dominic retired to his office for lack of anything else to do. He shuffled some papers and files and glanced through the first pages of Guidier's file without it really grabbing his attention. Just after ten o'clock, Gerome appeared on the patio for breakfast and Dominic came back out to say hello. Work was fine. Jaqueline was fine, Gerome grimaced. She hadn't come over because he was heading off to see a friend in Montpelier. He would be staying overnight in Montpelier and would see them about midday the next day. 'A couple of hours work on the computer and then I'm off.'
    Computer. Dominic thought again of Lepoille. Three hours before he was in his office.
    Dominic finally got into Guidier's file: motorbike mugging spree. Two youths on a bike averaging twelve muggings a week over seven months had caused practically a mini crime wave. When they were finally apprehended, reported drive-by muggings dropped to no more than five a month.
    When the phone rang at 1.10pm, he was fully immersed in the report, it broke his attention abruptly. It was Lepoille. His enthusiasm was infectious, but Dominic found it hard to take it all in just over the phone: several cases in America tracked down through psychics, many of them notable: 'Son of Sam' killings, the Boston Strangler, the case of Mona Tinsley, Manson/Bugliosi: proving psychic influence over others to commit a murder. Some departments even had regulars they went to when everything else failed: Gerard Croiset and Peter Hurkos were the names that came up the most. But very little so far in France — 'Except relatives in the Petit Gregoire case contacting a psychic early on to discover if the boy was dead or just missing. The police here hardly ever seem to involve psychics, just relatives or sometimes the press. And rarely does it feature in official police filing or trial evidence. I'm tracking down a couple of leads in Paris, I'll know more on Monday. There's a stack of Interpol print-outs and e-mails on my desk. Some arrived late yesterday, but most of it came through this morning. I'll bike it over to you Monday.'
    'Great. I'll look forward to going through it.' Hopefully in the reading something would leap out; nothing immediately had from Lepoille's quick fire descriptions. 'And thanks for the help, Pierre.'
    Though six hours later, when there was still no call from Marinella Calvan, Dominic's excitement had dissipated, doubt set in again. Though this time, unlike before, it was set in concrete. Midday now in Virginia, his urgent messages left with Lambourne. She wasn't going to call. Perhaps she'd even been by the phone when he'd called Lambourne, signalling to make an excuse. When the package arrived from Lepoille, he'd probably just throw it straight in the bin. He'd been foolish to build up his hopes.

    Marinella Calvan was on a United Airlines 19.50 flight back to Virginia. In the next seat was an overweight and over-friendly sales manager named Bob returning to Richmond, who she’d finally managed to extricate herself from with a few curt smiles to get back into the file on her lap.
    She made notes on a fresh sheet of paper as she scanned back through the transcripts. Depth of detail had been remarkable. They effectively knew everything about Christian Rosselot's life: where he lived, went to school, daily and weekly habits, and a variety of rich recollections, some of which only the boy himself could have possibly known.
    The last session she’d used mostly to fill in any gaps. But at one point she’d sat up sharply, her skin bristling as Christian talked about his best friend Stephan. ‘He also went to my school, but he lived on the far side of the village. It was Stephan I was going to see the day I became lost in the wheat field… I never made it to his house.'
    'And did you ever see Stephan again?'
    'No… no.'
    Marinella was about to tap out: 'Tell me more about that day. Did you meet someone else? What stopped you from reaching Stephan's house?' But Lambourne was looking across sharply, and even Eyran's simple 'No' had been nervous and hesitant, his breathing more rapid. She could almost feel Fornier at her shoulder, pushing, urging. But even if she got past the first question without Lambourne cutting in, any upset to Eyran's mood and she might get nothing more the rest of the session. Her last opportunity. She moved Eyran away, back to earlier, happier times when he'd played with Stephan.
    Now she wrote: The wheat field is not just a symbol for Christian's separation from his parents, but also perhaps his best friend. Christian might see Eyran as a replacement for that best friend — the friend he never got to see that fateful day.
    She'd tried to broach the subject of Fornier's quest at first gently, mentioning only that there might be a few more questions. But Lambourne looked immediately dismayed, mentioned that on the last tape Stuart Capel had complained about the pointed, angled questions making Eyran hesitant, almost defensive. 'I'd assured him that this last session would be far more open, allow Eyran freer range. What questions?' And she'd fluffed that they were nothing important: 'They'll wait.' With Lambourne and Stuart Capel concerned about even a few pointed questions, hoping to de-rail into a full murder investigation was hoplessly out of reach. At least she'd tried.
    Shortly after the last session she'd been struck with another link: There was a river running close to where Christian Rosselot's body was found, and in one of Eyran's dreams the brook by Broadhurst Farm featured, expanding into a large lake. Perhaps Christian believed somehow that if he'd have been able to cross that river, he would have escaped his attacker and avoided his fate. And in Eyran's dream the lake symbolized separation from his parents. But it is obviously Christian's separation which has the strongest connection with water.
    The debate with Lambourne over whose sense of separation was stronger — Christian's or Eyran's, past or present — was irrelevant. The links were all there. The Freud-devotees and conventionalists were going to love it. Object loss symbols were classic.
    And if they started to wriggle and defend, she had more than enough information with which to bury them: Dr Torrens initial recommendation to therapy, his earlier EEGs recording brain wave disturbance, Lambourne's sessions — his concern about dominance of the secondary character and schizophrenia — then finally Eyran speaking in French under hypnosis and her being called in. Over sixty pages of notes and files even before the three tapes and forty-six pages of transcript from her own sessions — now fully corroborated by a French Chief Inspector and his wife. Not some fringe new-wave religion nutcases who name their children Rainbow or Stardust.
    It was going to be a good paper, one of her strongest yet. Correction, it was going to be a great paper.
    Marinella put on the headphones and flicked through the pop and comedy channels until she found some classical music: Offenbach's Barcarolle was playing.
    When she got back to Lambourne's from shopping, she'd heard that Dominic Fornier had called. She felt guilty about not phoning him back. The image of him walking away from their meeting, the die-hard detective shouldering the doubt through all those years, now clinging to one last hope, had stuck in her mind. She reached tentatively for the phone just before leaving her hotel for the airport — then decided against it. She'd call him tomorrow. Not sure immediately if she was just delaying facing his disappointment, or hoping for better words of explanation to settle in the meantime.
    Grieg's 'Morning'. Soothing, relaxing. Hopefully she'd doze off soon. To her side, Bob was flicking through the in-flight magazine. But the next tunes — Brahm's Hungarian Dance and Tchaikovsky's March Slav — broke her slightly out of her half slumber, roused her spirits. She found herself tapping the armrest to the rhythm of March Slav as she imagined the key points of her final paper being pounded home to the army of sceptics who had plagued her through the years.
    Only when Mozart's Andante came on could she feel waves of calm and relaxation again descending, sleep once more in sight.
    But at the start of the third stanza, the thought hit: Politician.
    The man Fornier had suspected was now a prominent politician! An MEP. Murder case. Re-opened after thirty years. Implicating one of the country's leading politicians! If Fornier's suspicions were right, then it was going to be a big case. Enormous case! And one of the first ever proved through a past-life regression. The thoughts hit her in such quick-fire succession that it took her breath away.
    She could see it all rolling out ahead: Oprah Winfrey was a given, she was already reading clippings from the New York Times and Washington Post in between make up for Maury Povich and Larry King: 'I understand that in France this case is as big as O.J. Simpson. But the added factor of core evidence coming from a past life regression has literally split the French legal establishment in two.'
    The case was already great, but now within her grasp was the opportunity to make it phenomenal. If Fornier's hunch was correct and she played it right, it could dominate the American media throughout the trial. Eight months, a year? It would do more to aid the acceptance of PLR than anything previously conceived. The thoughts and images hit like so many cluster bombs: speeches, increased department funding, books, chat shows… Newsweek
    Breathless as they pounded home, suspended belief batting helplessly against the audaciousness, the ridiculous magnitude of it all — a laugh suddenly burst free. A laugh that quickly lost its hesitance and became more raucous.
    Bob was looking over and mouthing something. She pulled off her headphones.
    'Is that the Bill Cosby?' he asked. Funny, isn't he?'
    'Yeah. But not half as funny as Mozart.'
    He looked puzzled and quickly buried his face back into the flight magazine. Should keep him quiet for a while, she thought.
    Marinella put back the headphones and sunk back into the Mozart, slowly closing her eyes. Even if it turned out not to be the politician Fornier suspected, proving the guilt or innocence of the person already charged would still grab a few good headlines, be something of a first. She had to at least try. She'd forever punish herself over the possibly lost opportunity if she didn't. It was probably best to phone Fornier after she'd spoken with Lambourne and Stuart Capel; she'd already raised his hopes once and let him down.
    It wasn't going to be easy. All the obstacles with Lambourne and Capel that had made her finally step back from a hard push with Fornier's proposal, still held true. She would need to be convincing.

THIRTY-TWO

    Marseille, October 1983
    Marc Jaurmard followed close behind Marcelle Gauthereau. If it was to happen at all, it would be inside, thought Jaumard. He would sign everything, Gauthereau and the notary would nod courteously, and then someone would slip from the shadows and slap down the summons. Stepping through the notary's door, he glanced back to check that Gauthereau didn't lock the door behind him. He'd also checked the brass plaque downstairs before following Gauthereau up the two flights: Patrice Roussel, Notarie.
    Roussel was in his late fifties, wispy greying hair, thin, pinched features, and tight economical gestures. Polite nods, quick half smiles without showing teeth as he took details, the same meaningless smile as he handed Jaumard's identity card back.
    It was taking far longer than Jaumard had expected. The door to the reception had been half open at the beginning, he'd been able to keep one eye on the receptionist, see if she made a move to lock the door. See if anyone else suddenly came in. But she'd shut the connecting door on her way out from dropping a file on Roussel's desk halfway through.
    The blood pounded through Jaumard's head as the papers were passed back and forth between him and the notary. Another question, another line filled in. Another stamp and seal with the notary's elaborate signature on top. Jaumard found himself half looking at the closed door in between — expecting it to burst open at any second and the summons be served. He wiped the sweat from his palms on his trouser legs.
    And suddenly the envelope was being passed across. Though maybe this was the summons, he thought with a jolt. He studied its front cautiously. Just his name and c/o of Patrice Roussel underneath. It certainly looked like his brother's handwriting. He hesitated — suddenly deciding against opening it in front of these two sets of prying eyes. He wanted to get out and away as fast as possible. Slipping it quickly into his back pocket, he stood up. 'Thank you, gentlemen.'
    'I thought you might want to open it in my presence,' Gauthereau invited. 'In case there's something that needs my attention straightaway.'
    'No…no. It's okay.' Jaumard backed away to the door. 'I'll call you if there's anything. Thank you.' He opened the door and was out, quick smile to the receptionist, another door, and he was on the stairs — taking them two and three at a time, bounding frantically down the last flight until he was out on the street.
    Gauthereau stared bemusedly after Jaumard for a second before saying his own good-byes to Roussel. All those years of waiting, contact not made until a year after his last advert, and then all over in minutes. Gautherau's curiosity had grown over those years as to what was inside the envelope: a hidden stash, secret bank account, drugs routes, black book with key milieu contacts? Now he would probably never know.
    Only once sixty yards clear, around the next corner, did Jaumard pause, let out a long deep breath as he rested his back against a wall. His nerves were still racing. He decided not to risk opening the envelope even there, and didn't do so until he was sequestered at the back of a small cafe almost half a mile away.
    Apart from the barman only three people were in the cafe, the lunch time rush hadn't yet arrived. Jaumard felt safe from prying eyes as he opened the envelope. He had to read it twice before its significance really hit him. A smile slowly crossed his face. Quite a legacy his brother had left him. Alain Duclos. RPR Minister for Limoges. Child murder case from 1963. A hit contract that was never fulfilled. Incredible. The three page letter even suggested two possible courses of action. Though he thought he knew already which he would take.

    Marinella Calvan had been on the phone for over ten minutes with Stuart Capel, and whatever hopes she'd had earlier in the call she felt suddenly slipping away.
    Her thoughts had gelled over the weekend of how best to broach the subject. Telling the truth wouldn't work. Eyran's therapy diverted to aid a murder investigation just wouldn't be accepted. But if she kept close to what she at heart believed, that Christian's non-acceptance of separation was far stronger than Eyran's, she might succeed. The sincerity and enthusiasm would come through in her voice. It also did much to bury her initial apprehension on reflection over her motives. By the time she'd worked up the story in her mind, adding embellishment from her notes, it had become the lead chariot, helping the murder investigation was merely tagging along behind.
    But despite the strong case she put forward now to Stuart Capel — Christian's almost total erasure of the last hour of his life, the symbols in Eyran's dreams of the lake and the wheat field having far stronger relevance in Christian's life than Eyran's, that before they could fully get to grips with Eyran's acceptance of loss and detachment, they first had to tackle Christian's — he wasn't convinced. He hadn't said no, only that he wanted to think it over, 'we should speak again tomorrow’. But she had the feeling that he was merely delaying so that he could let her down softly.
    She needed to add support to her argument. 'This isn't just my view, but also that of my previous department head, Dr Donaldson. He's had more years of experience in this than myself and David Lambourne put together.' Donaldson might well support her view, but during their earlier meeting he had merely nodded thoughtfully and passed a few minor comments. She wouldn't know his full opinion for probably a few days when he'd had a chance to study her notes and transcripts in more detail.
    Silence from the other end. Perhaps he was becoming swayed. She pushed the advantage. 'Look — it would just be for two weeks. Four sessions at the most. I think that should do it. Then Eyran would be back to conventional therapy with David Lambourne.'
    'It was actually David Lambourne I wanted to speak to before I decided,' Stuart commented. 'Have you spoken to him already?'
    'No, I haven't.' If she had phoned Lambourne, he'd have said no. If Stuart Capel now contacted him, put out by the fact that she'd gone behind his back, that 'no' would be even stronger. Lambourne had given her Stuart Capel's number after the last session purely for her to verify some of Eyran's personal details for her paper. Last ditch hope: brutal honesty. 'I didn't speak to him because I already know his point of view. He doesn't agree with my prognosis. That's why I called you directly. If you phone him, he'll only tell you the same.'
    'I see.'
    Swaying again, or perturbed by her slight of hand? At least the ball was back between them. The main excuse for delay had gone.
    Stuart recalled the look that Lambourne had fired Calvan when she'd broached the subject after the last session; he'd thought then they'd previously had words. At least she was telling the truth about that. 'Since you seem to know already what Lambourne's objections are, why don't you tell me?'
    'It's simple. He thinks the solution is with Eyran in the present, I think it's with Christian in the past. Difference is, I have a stronger case to back up my argument. David's direction was floundering when I arrived, and all we've discovered since is that the imaginary character is a real life. Nothing more. Where's David going to head from here? He doesn't even have the secondary character to explore any more — conventional Freud is out of the window, and his expertise with PLT is limited. He's at a dead end.'
    'What if you're wrong?'
    'There's always that possibility. But what is there to lose? Four sessions over two weeks and then I'm gone. David Lambourne has Eyran back to pursue whatever he wants to pursue. But if I'm right, it could be the breakthrough we've been looking for.' Hearing her own voice, its enthusiasm, she felt a sudden twinge of shame.
    Two weeks? Stuart reflected. Eyran had already been in therapy five weeks and they were virtually back to square one. It didn't seem a lot to ask, and Calvan's arguments were convincing. But still he held strong reservations — partly his reluctance to accept this past character, partly the problems that might be caused with Lambourne — when another thought suddenly hit him: Amanda. If she learned he'd said no, she would probably seen it as just another prime example of him being obstructive, trying to be an armchair psychiatrist and map out what was best for Eyran despite expert advice to the contrary. 'Okay — I'll agree to the sessions. But just the four. That's it. And you'll have to phone Lambourne yourself and smooth the way with him. If he phones me afterwards, I'll confirm what we've agreed — but I don't want to get in the middle of any conflict between you.'
    Stuart could tell by the brief pause at the other end that Marinella Calvan had been caught off guard by the sudden turn around.
    'Yes… yes. Certainly. I'll call him.' One more obstacle to go. But Marinella was sure that Lambourne wouldn't roll over nearly so easily.

    12.14pm in Lyon. The session in London would already have started.
    When the call had finally come through on Tuesday, Dominic had practically given up on hearing from Marinella Calvan. He'd phoned Lambourne's office on Monday only to get an answerphone. He didn't leave a message.
    Marinella had started by apologizing for the delay. She'd wanted to work out what she was going to say, develop a particular theory in her mind before approaching Lambourne or Stuart Capel. She explained the theory and the agreement that had resulted to Dominic.
    Surprise suddenly tempered his enthusiasm. 'They don't know it's to aid a murder investigation?'
    'No. They'd have never agreed. But I'd already been partly exploring this theory for the benefit of Eyran's therapy anyway. It was something I'd voiced previously to Dr Lambourne, and later discussed with my colleague Dr Donaldson. He agreed with my prognosis: the main key lies with Christian in the past, not with Eyran. As much I was keen to help you at the outset, I'm sure you can appreciate that ethically it would have been wrong to put your case before Eyran Capel's mental stability and health. It's just fortunate that in the end those aims coincide.'
    Calvan went on to explain that if it got out that it was to aid a murder investigation, it would cause problems. Dr Lambourne, in particular, had been difficult to persuade; he would no doubt quickly claim the investigation had been the prime aim all along, and try and halt the sessions. Later, particularly if anything worthwhile was uncovered from the sessions, details of the murder investigation would obviously come out — though by then hopefully the sessions would either be over or far progressed. 'Even then it should be admitted to only as a by-product of these extra sessions rather than the main feast. That you only saw the possibility of a renewed investigation when you saw the first transcripts. That is, if anything is uncovered.'
    If. If. If. Dominic stared at the fax machine in the corner. The arrangement was that she'd fax through the transcript straight after the session. Thirty years of waiting to know and now only an hour remained. While he understood the reasoning, the duplicity of his little agreement with Calvan somehow added to his nerves. Only the two of them knew. It was almost incestuous. In the same way that he was keeping the secret from his wife, she in turn was duping Lambourne and Capel. So many secrets. Something was bound to go wrong.
    Like two conspirational children playing hide and seek, hunting cloak and dagger style through the shadows of memories from thirty years ago. Excited by their little secret as much as the adventure. Unable to tell the adults who would say that they knew better and stop their little game.
    The night before he'd had a clear opportunity to tell Monique — but still he put it off. If nothing was uncovered by Calvan or if it merely supported Machanaud's guilt, there was no point. If. If. If.
    To support the theory Calvan had sold, he should be absent from the first sessions. Perhaps he could turn up at the third or fourth. They'd discuss it later. Meanwhile she'd fax transcripts through and would readily admit to doing so to Lambourne and Stuart Capel on the pretext of authentication and gaining 'advice on questions for future sessions.' How to guide Christian in the right direction. If Dominic then showed up for later sessions it wouldn't seem strange; would follow more naturally that he had by then 'stumbled' on information which might help the investigation.
    But the forced detachment, his purposely being kept away from the activities in London, only made him more anxious. His nerve ends bristling because something was happening in a small room four hundred miles away over which he had no control. Christian's frail voice at that moment telling them the secrets of over thirty years ago and he wouldn't know for an hour. Or they would be close to finding out when Christian suddenly headed off at a tangent, and if he was there he could whisper sharply in Calvan's ear. 'No, no… take him back! Ask him this!'
    The squad room was hectic: phones ringing, people calling across the room, typewriters clattering. Dominic had shut his door to concentrate on the normal morning's mountain of papers that required his quick attention: final approval of files to go to the procureur's office, an enquiry from St Etienne over a pattern of regional car thefts, medical report on a rape case. The noise of the squad room was muffled beyond his door, but still Dominic couldn't concentrate. The most he'd manage was a half page before his thoughts once again drifted, wondering what was happening at that moment in London. And he would glance back at the fax machine: frustration because it symbolized his detachment and impotence at that moment, yet also hope. It was his only link with what was happening.
    In the two days since Marinella Calvan's call, he'd received even more papers from Lepoille on cases involving psychics to add to Monday's package. He'd hardly looked at them. The last days he'd been through a ridiculous see-saw of hope and disappointment without putting himself through it again to no avail. Verfraigne from the Lyon procureur's office had called and given him the prosecution pecking order in Aix en Provence together with some names. He'd written them down, but hadn't called anyone. The list was tucked into the front of Lepoille's top file at the edge of his desk.
    A stack of papers and thirty years of doubt waiting on one fax.

    Session 9.
    'Did you play much by the river with Stephan?'
    'Yes, quite a bit.'
    'What sort of games did you play — did you ever swim in it?'
    'No. It was too cold. But we used to play on the river bank.'
    River bank. Where the police thought the boy was probably held between the sexual assaults. The memories from before open, carefree, not yet linked in Christian's mind. Only minutes before he'd mentioned the field close by. Marinella knew from her last session that Stephan was one of his closest friends. It seemed as good a place to start as any.
    The first ten minutes of the session had been with Lambourne taking Eyran back before she took over. Perhaps it was her imagination, but Lambourne seemed to be taking longer than normal. Showing his resentment in the only way left to him.
    She'd started with other times he'd played with Stephan, their favourite places and games, introducing a general, relaxed mood. Christian was free to ramble, no constraints. But ever so slowly she circled in like a cat stalking its prey. The trick was that hopefully Christian was never aware of it. Already she'd struck out once and missed her target. Thinking that she'd asked enough general questions, she'd asked what happened the day he headed off to see Stephan but never made it. 'Did you meet up with someone else? What happened?'
    Again Christian mentioned a searing bright light after a period of darkness, knowing in that moment that he was close to Stephan's house as he recognized the field — but as recall of the attack flooded back, he quickly became incoherent. Eyran's head lolled, his breathing becoming laboured. She'd sensed Lambourne about to reach over to the keyboard as she broke Christian hastily away.
    She circled more warily now. River bank? She didn't want to pounce too early this time. 'What sort of games did you play on the river bank?'
    'We used to build a dam. There was a small stream higher up that flowed down from the hillside and into the river. In the summer it was usually dried up, but in the spring it used to flow in quite fast.'
    'How did you and Stephan make the dam?'
    'We would get sticks and leaves and pack them in with mud. Stephan would bring a spade with him so that we could dig a hollow. One day we dug an enormous hole to one side, then diverted the stream into it by blocking the way with sticks and leaves.' A fond memory, speech animated, excited. Eyran's eyes glistened. 'The water built up and built up, until finally it started overflowing. It was incredible… almost like a small lake.'
    Marinella remembered a segment from one of Lambourne's earlier taped sessions: 'The pond seemed suddenly to be much larger — like a huge black lake.' She shot a meaningful glance at Lambourne. His face remained bland. Reluctance to admit any breakthrough, or perhaps he simply hadn't picked up on the connection.
    '…We would leave a narrow passage leading out, then block it with sticks and mud. Then, when it was full and almost overflowing, we would break the dam and run down alongside the sudden torrent until it hit the river.' A pause, excitement ebbing slightly. Eyran's expression more thoughtful. 'My mother didn't like me playing there. I would come back too muddy and dirty.'
    Marinella let the moment settle. 'Did you ever play lower down the river bank?'
    'Only a few times.'
    'Were you often lower down the river bank on your own? For instance, when you cut across the fields and had to cross the bridge there?'
    'Yes, sometimes.'
    Gently. Gently. 'And at any time, did you meet anyone else there — at the lower part of the river?'
    'No… no, I don't think so.' Eyran's brow creased. 'I don't remember.'
    'The day you left to meet Stephan but never made it. The day your bike broke down. Did you meet someone lower down the river that day?'
    'No… I didn't meet anyone there. I didn't cross the river there… I… I… there was…' Eyran broke off, swallowing hastily. He looked for a moment as if he was about to say more, but then the thought was lost.
    Strike two. Marinella could almost feel Lambourne gloating behind her. When he'd discovered she'd gone behind his back, they'd had their worst argument yet. She said a lot of things she immediately regretted: too staid, limited PLT experience, merely clinging to what he knew for safety's sake, not for the patient. Confirming his conventional status or perhaps his Englishness, Lambourne had been far less personal, kept mainly to patient/counsel ethics: it was his patient, he should have been consulted first, made the main decision. It had been wrong of her to contact Stuart Capel directly to sell her theory.
    Fait accompli. The argument about what was already done predictably headed nowhere. She quickly put Lambourne on the spot by asking pointedly where he planned the sessions to head next, then — in the face of a faltering and hesitant reply — rammed in with her own solution. 'If I'm wrong, what have you lost? Two weeks. After that, you've got the patient back to explore what you like.' She wasn't doing this for her health: she already had what she wanted, more than enough to compile a paper. And she'd just been away from her son for a week. 'I need another two weeks away like a hole in the head. I'm only doing this because I strongly believe it will work.'
    Gradual teetering with each blow. Lambourne was stuck for an answer. But it was a reluctant submission with a cautionary note. He was still far from convinced about her theory. 'One foot-fault, one hint that you're getting close to an area that might adversely affect my patient — and I'll stop the sessions.'
    She could feel Lambourne hovering now. Gloating that he hadn't even needed to intervene. She'd made her own foot fault. The session wasn't heading where she wanted. He'd been right, she'd been wrong.
    She suddenly felt the pressure of the small room closing in on her. Lambourne's gloating, Fornier waiting in a squad room in the middle of France for her fax, the ridiculous chess game of secrets they were both playing, Philippe waiting expectantly to translate her next question, her own ambitions… now slipping away again by the second.
    She'd followed Dominic's cue to go back to when Christian first met someone, before the boy sensed any danger. But all she'd discovered was that Dominic was right: it probably wasn't Machanaud, unless Christian met him later. Christian hadn't met anyone by the river. But if not there, where?
    'When your bike broke down, did you cut across the fields behind the village? Where did you go?'
    'I hid my bike in some long grass, then I headed down towards the road.'
    'Then where?'
    'I started walking along the road towards the village.'
    Fornier had mentioned that nobody in the village had seen the boy. 'Did you reach the village. Did you see or meet anyone there?'
    'No… a car stopped. A man offered me a lift.'
    Marinella controlled her hands from shaking on the keys. The information had in the end come up suddenly, like a mugger in a dark alley. She quickly hid her surprise. Lambourne wouldn't expect the information in itself to be particularly alarming; it was only her, what she knew it would signify to Fornier.
    'What sort of car was he driving?'
    'It was a sports car. A green sports car.'
    'What make was it?'
    'I don't remember. The man told me… but I forgot.'
    Marinella's hands paused on the keys. Perhaps she would return later. The information was there somewhere. 'And what did the man look like?'
    'He was quite thin with dark hair.'
    'Was he young or old?' Marinella noted Eyran's brow creasing as Philippe translated. Remembering that to a ten year old everyone seems old, she added: 'Was he younger or older than your father?'
    'Younger. At least five years younger.'
    'What happened then? Did you drive through the village?'
    'No. He offered to drive me back to where the bike had broken down. I told him it was all right — but he insisted. He stopped at the side, turned, and started driving back.'
    As Christian described heading back along the road, then them turning into the rough farm track which led to his bike, Marinella tried to imagine herself in the car alongside him. This young boy from over thirty years ago who had less than an hour to live. What did he see or notice that might now help? Faint beads of sweat had broken out on Eyran's top lip. She could sense his nervousness. She asked him what the car was like inside.
    'The dashboard was wood, and there was hardly any back seat — just a narrow bench.'
    'As you went up the lane, did you see anyone else — even in the distance?'
    'No… the field was empty. I pointed where to stop… my bike was… was hidden in the long grass.'
    Tension was thick in the small room. Eyran's breathing was laboured, his eyes flickering slightly. Anticipation and fear of what lay ahead starting to grip him harder.
    She feared that at any second Lambourne would reach forward and stop her. Knew that if she pushed too hard, pushed Eyran over the edge into a catatonic state — it could be the last session. But the desire to know what happened next was too compelling. Like an incurable gambler, she couldn't resist one last bet, one last question. 'When you reached the bike — what happened?'
    'The brake was jammed on the wheel. The man tried to free it — then suddenly he reached out and touched me… then he… he… gripped me… me haaarrd… pulling… I… th.. theerrr'
    Marinella could see Christian's panic descending like an express elevator — and went to break him away before Lambourne intervened. But Christian's expression suddenly changed, settling slightly.
    '…Theerre was… something… something from before… before we turned into the lane. A truck passed us.'
    It took Marinella a second to catch up with the sudden leap. 'Did the driver see you?'
    'I don't know… I'm not sure.'
    'What did the truck look like? What did it say on the side?'
    'It was grey, very long. It had MARSEILLE on the side… and the letters V-A-R… N.'
    'Anything else? Can you see anything else?'
    'No, just Marseille…. Marseille. I remember going there once with my father. We went to the harbour and watched the fish being landed… the fishermen with their nets…'
    Marinella lost Christian at that moment. A day out in Marseille with his father. Bright coloured fishing boats. Bouillabaisse in a harbourside cafe. A pleasant, rambling story: happy memories again. She was happy of a break in mood from the clawing tension — but frustrated minutes later when, letting the story run its course, she wasn't able to get Christian back again to the lane. The thread had gone.
    Quite a move. Christian had shifted to where he knew she would be keen for more information, jumped back a question — then deftly skipped to where he felt more comfortable. His influence over the direction of questions was stronger than she'd given him credit for.
    Though twenty minutes later when she faxed the transcript to Dominic Fornier, as pleased as she was with the information gained, it struck her that between weaving around threatening chasms of panic and Christian shifting scenes to suit — it might be the only information they would get.

    The transcript had arrived only minutes before and Dominic was scanning frantically down. A short hand-written note from Marinella Calvan was at the front: Breakthrough! You were right — it wasn't the poacher Machanaud. Or at least it doesn't sound like him. Hope it's helpful.
    Dominic was eager to get to the part that revealed it wasn't Machanaud — but his attention was wavering. He could see Guidier standing by the door expectantly.
    'It's just the report from St Etienne,' Guidier said. 'There's some urgency involved because they already have someone in custody. They've either got to file and charge him quickly or release him. They need the comparison report on car thefts back from us straightaway.'
    '…The day your bike broke down. Did you meet someone lower down the river that day?'
    'No… I didn't meet anyone there. I didn't cross the river there…'
    Dominic looked up sharply. Only St Etienne, urgency and custody had registered. 'Yes, yes… I know. I'll deal with it. But I need ten minutes alone. Ten minutes!' Dominic made a pushing gesture with one hand. 'Shut the door behind you and make sure nobody else disturbs me. And no calls.'
    Dominic looked straight back to the transcript, his mind screaming where? who? He hardly heard the click as Guidier shut the door, one finger tracing rapidly down the page… Christian walking down the road from where he left his bike — they'd been wrong, he hadn't cut across the fields — until a few lines later the words hit him like a hammer blow: Sports car. Green car. Slim, dark hair. Duclos! Duclos had picked up Christian before he even reached the village!
    Dominic closed his eyes for a second. He'd always suspected, though now it struck him that it had never been more than that. He'd buried his suspicion, his doubt, in the instruction and trial process, in the witnesses who said they'd seen Duclos in the restaurant, in the general throng pushing towards Machanaud and away from Duclos. And the thirty years since had buried it still further. Amazing that any glimmer of doubt had survived, he thought sourly. Just enough to occupy his mind for a few minutes every decade. Pathetic. If he'd really believed, had been convinced of Duclos' guilt — then he wouldn't have been so shocked as he read the words, felt suddenly cold and desolate, his stomach sinking still further as he forced his eyes open again and read Christian's description of the car turning and heading back, the rough farm track and him pointing to where his bike was hidden among the long grass, Christian's growing panic as Duclos reached out and touched him…
    Or was it his own guilt at staying silent suddenly hitting him? Machanaud's innocence and the long years he'd spent locked away. Until a moment ago that too had been no more than a nagging doubt.
    V-A-R-N? Marseille-based truck? Nothing immediately sprung to mind. Dominic read the remaining page of the transcript, then went back, honing in on where Christian was with Duclos, re-reading individual lines for finer detail and small nuances. Then he went back to the beginning of the transcript and read it through for anything else he might have missed.
    At length he looked up, rubbing his eyes. The elation that he had something that put Christian in Duclos' car, finally after all these years, rose slowly above the shock and emptiness, and he clung to that, forcing it home stronger, yes! Rapped one hand sharply against the desk, urging himself on. The possible start of a new case where before he had nothing. Something he could send a Prosecutor. He drew on that new energy over the next hours.
    Immediately after dealing with the St Etienne enquiry, he tackled the mounting stack of papers from Lepoille at the corner of his desk — Manson, Hurkos, Joseph Chua, Geller, Berkowitz — sifting through the murky depths of murder cases involving psychics. Searching for the few key points that might entice a Prosecutor's interest. By late afternoon, he had finished his notes and put them into a five page covering letter to Henri Corbeix. After background of the original case and trial, much of the letter was exploratory, questioning. Seeking the best way forward, procedural process, what they should look for in the sessions remaining and requisite validation beyond Monique's confirmation and the credentials of Calvan and Lambourne. His reference notes to past cases involving psychics came at the end of the letter, and he attached the relevant files from Lepoille.
    Despite the exploratory tone of the letter, it struck Dominic that his underlying aim had still shone through: convincing Corbeix that this most unlikely of cases stood some chance of successful prosecution.

THIRTY-THREE

    Limoges, May 1985
    Large eyes, full of passion, willing him on. Light hazel with grey flecks. The edges of the dream were less distinct, hazy, but the sensations burned through strongly. Alain Duclos was excited.
    The boy was quite young, not yet twelve. It was the boy he'd been with on his last trip to Paris. He couldn't remember his name, only that he was a half Haitian, half French mulatto.
    He could see the faint sheen of sweat on the boy's cream brown skin, but the main excitement of the dream was that it was all so tactile — he could feel the sweat, feel its warm moistness as he slid back and forth and the boy looked back at him. Feel the smooth contours of the boy's body, the lean plane of his back, one thumb sliding slowly up the ridge of his spine. Then spreading slowly, out and around the stomach as he leant forward, feeling the warmth of the body tight against him… moving the hands slowly up the boy's rib cage and onto his chest… until he felt… felt something… something was wrong! The chest was too developed, too soft and fleshy. He recoiled suddenly in horror. The boy had breasts!
    The boy's smile turned slowly to a leer, and as Duclos looked closer through the haze of the dream, he could see that the hair was not dark and wavy but short and blonde. It was Betina. She'd tricked him!
    She slowly pouted and blew him a kiss, but he felt suddenly repulsed. Sweat that smelt now like acid and roses, its stickiness against his skin, her attempt at a look of burning passion little more than leering stupidity… she made him sick. A sour bile rose in his stomach, a sense of utter disgust, and he mouthed 'You tricked me!' as he went to push her away.
    But suddenly she was below him and holding tight, looking up with big liquid eyes staring straight through him, not saying anything but silently pleading: 'I want you… I want you. Give me a child!' Gripping tight with her arms and legs wrapped solidly around his back, pulling him closer into an embrace, her tongue darting out and moistening her lips… he couldn't get away. The stickiness of her skin clung all around him, the grip of her arms and legs like some slithering, repulsive reptile… the musty, acrid smell of her sweat, the darting snake's tongue — and he started protesting, screaming: '…No… no… You tricked me! Let me go… let me go… let me…'
    Duclos sat up in bed with a jolt, his eyes slowly adjusting in the dark. The sweat felt suddenly cold on his skin. He looked over. Betina was still asleep, he hadn't disturbed her.
    I want a child. The first time she'd mentioned it had been almost three years ago. She would be thirty-six next birthday; if they didn't have one or two children by the time she was forty, by then it might be too late. Two? He was still struggling with the unthinkable of one. She'd mis-read his look, fought to be re-assuring. 'I know it hasn't been easy for you with me at times… and mostly my fault because of my past problem. But this is important to me. I'll make an effort, I promise.'
    A nightmare come true. He was sick with flu for over two weeks. Probably psychosomatic. But then he had to become more inventive: headaches, allergies, sprained muscles, sudden business trips, stress and overwork… the chain of excuses became laughable, pathetic. She wore him ragged, he virtually broke out in a cold sweat each time she smiled at him approaching bedtime.
    But between the various excuses and trips away, miraculously he managed to succumb to sex no more than once every eight to ten weeks. Even then he would fail the occasional performance halfway through, claiming that he was too tense or that he could sense she was nervous, was perhaps trying too hard. At most there would be three or four occasions a year where she could possibly conceive.
    But it was probably the worst possible time for the problem to have arisen. The calls from Marc Jaumard had started only ten months before her drastic bid to have a child. Five years with no calls; then one out of nowhere. Duclos could hardly believe it. Only months after Chapeau's death, he'd erased thoughts of any possible repercussions from his mind; felt confident he was free of the problem once and for all. All those years with no blackmail, the first years of happiness with Betina, and now both problems were plaguing him at the same time. Duclos shook his head. It was like some ridiculous cruel joke.
    Marc Jaumard didn't have the same abrasive, taunting style of his brother, but on several occasions he'd been drunk, as if he needed Dutch courage before making the call. Duclos didn't want Jaumard calling his office, so gave him his home number. Often the calls would come through at night, probably after Jaumard had staggered out of some bar, and with him having to subdue his voice and often leaving for an impromptu meeting, Betina had become suspicious.
    During one of their failed lovemaking sessions, she'd rolled over furiously and asked him if he was having an affair — who was it that kept phoning? The thought of him in bed with the unkempt, overweight Jaumard, invariably Pernod-breathed, made him laugh out loud. One time when Jaumard woke them up with a 2am call and Betina was staring at him accusingly, he'd thrust the phone out angrily: 'See for yourself. It's just some drunken asshole.'
    A second's silence from the other end as Jaumard got over the surprise, then slurringly Jaumard apologized for phoning so late. 'It's jussst… jusst some business with your husband.'
    He'd thought the jealousy, her concern that he might be having an affair, could have partly been behind her new amorousness — but removing that worry had made little difference. She was as relentless as ever. Finally, eight months later, she became pregnant. All his efforts had been to no avail. She was now in her fourth month.
    The first moment she told him, a cold chill had crept up his spine. His reaction perplexed him at first. He should have been relieved. The ordeal was over. No more bedtime demands. She finally had what she wanted. What had worried him more? His loathing of their having sex or her getting pregnant?
    But months later, when she suggested a scan to check that the baby was healthy, he found himself about to protest the idea — before realizing he had no good, rational grounds against a scan. Except one. In that moment, the root of his worry suddenly hit him. He was afraid to know it might be a boy! A girl, fine, and even a boy in those early years. But as it became older, started to remind him of the boys he sneaked off to see in Paris and Marseille, he would feel unsettled. His own son. Those big, innocent eyes staring straight through him… somehow sensing his awful secret. He could hardly think of a worse nightmare.

    Dominic spoke to Corbeix late Friday. Corbeix had been busy in court most of the day, apologized that as yet he'd only had half an hour to skim through the letter and the files sent. 'It looks intriguing. But give me the weekend to look through it in more detail. Let's speak Monday.'
    Shortly after sending everything to Corbeix, the questions started turning in Dominic's mind: What happened immediately after Christian was by his bike with Duclos? According to the original medical report, the first sexual assault. But where had Duclos kept Christian afterwards, between the two attacks? Tied up somewhere near his bike, or did Duclos take him straight to where he was finally found, perhaps hidden in the woods somewhere upstream from Machanaud? Whichever, the cafe in between had obviously been to create an alibi. It never occurred to them that Christian might have been tied up and left alone for all that time, it was always assumed that his attacker had stayed with him throughout, wouldn't risk leaving him to be found by someone else. If the boy had been discovered, his attacker could have returned straight into the arms of a gendarme welcoming party. Duclos had taken quite a risk.
    '… But I didn't realize it till I came out of the darkness. The field…'
    Darkness mentioned again. A period of darkness between the first and second attacks. Probably a blindfold. He'd discussed it on the phone with Marinella Calvan late Thursday, linking details from the transcript with what was known from the original investigation. Guide points for the next session.
    Green sports car? Christian hadn't said that it was an Alfa Romeo. It could be argued that there were other green sports cars in the area at the time. Already he found himself pre-proposing the points that Corbeix might raise.
    By mid-afternoon Monday with no call from Corbeix, other concerns sprang to mind: Perhaps Corbeix was staunch RPR and wouldn't dream of going near the case? He phoned Verfraigne and, at the end of a conversation about Corbeix' overall strength and track record as a prosecutor, asked casually about his political leaning. 'He's a socialist, I think.'
    Surely he'd made allowances for the tenuous nature of the case in his opening letter? He was just seeking guidance at this stage, what they should be looking for in the remaining sessions, what might help turn the case from something purely tentative, exploratory, into something prosecutable. Surely Corbeix wouldn't just cast it aside at this first stage, surely…
    Corbeix' call came through finally at just after five o’clock, suggesting a meeting for eleven-thirty the next day. Dominic remembered that at that time Marinella Calvan would be in the midst of the second session, and suggested a delay until two-thirty or three. 'By then, I could bring another transcript with me which might throw more light on the case.'
    Corbeix agreed to three o'clock. No indication either way as to what he thought, reflected Dominic. It had taken him a moment to recognize Corbeix' voice. Husky, slightly breathless, it was almost a different voice to that on Friday. Corbeix had kept things short and seemed eager to get off the line.
    When the transcript arrived the next day, the period between the two attacks, the darkness was no longer a mystery: '…just a spare wheel. Space was very tight. I was curled up around it… I could hardly move.' Dominic's hands were trembling by the time he finished reading. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, fighting to settle his nerves. Forcibly tried to return some calm and rationality before he left to see Corbeix.

    Dominic had photo-copied the transcript. He followed down in his copy as Corbeix read his:
    '…Let's move on to after when you were by the bike. You mentioned a period of darkness. Why was it dark?'
    'I was in the boot of the car… the man's car.'
    'The same man with you by the bike?'
    'Yes.'
    'Was there anything else in the boot with you — any bags or luggage? Anything that you could see or feel?'
    'No… just a spare wheel. Space was very tight. I was curled up around it… I could hardly move.'
    'Were you tied up?'
    'Yes… my hands and my feet. And a cloth around my mouth.'
    'Could you move at all?'
    'Just a little… backwards with my legs. But I only tried once — when we'd stopped and I heard some voices outside. I kicked against the side of the car.'
    'Do you think they heard you?'
    'No. After a second I heard a car door shut and the sound of a car starting and driving away.'
    'Was it a woman or a man you heard?'
    'Two women.'
    'And while you were stopped, did you hear anything else?'
    'Only traffic passing. Some other cars pulling up and leaving… but most were more distant. No other voices.'
    'Going back before — before you stopped. Could you hear anything? Could you tell which way you were heading?'
    'No… not really. After a moment I could tell that we were passing some buildings — but I wasn't sure if it was Taragnon or Bauriac. I couldn't tell which way we'd headed.'
    'When you stopped — how long did it seem you were there for?'
    'At least half an hour… I'm not sure. I became tired. It was very hot inside there. At one point I fell asleep. I was thinking about my father as I fell asleep… I started dreaming about him.'
    'What did you dream?'
    'I dreamt that I was in my camp at the farm, and my father was in the courtyard at the bottom of the field. I leapt up to surprise him and started waving… but he couldn't see me.'
    'Were you upset that he couldn't see you?'
    'Yes, I started running towards him, waving more frantically and shouting… but still he didn't see me. And finally he just turned and walked back towards the house. I felt that he'd deserted me. I kept thinking — why doesn't my father come out and find me… why doesn't he… he…'
    'Was the camp somewhere you used to play often?'
    'Yes… it was one of my favourite hideaways.'
    'And did you ever take your friends there?'
    'Only Stephan once. But there was another place we used to go together. A camp we made in a tree hollow not far from where he lived… we would…'
    Christian went off at a tangent describing his hideaway games with Stephan, which linked in turn to recall of other times Christian had hidden: the roof eaves at the farm, a stock cupboard at school. Marinella Calvan wasn't able to get him back to the car boot to discover what happened next.
    The early part of the session had been general detail to settle Christian into the mood, then Calvan had tried to continue from where Christian had left off last time: sitting by his bike with Duclos touching him. Christian's responses were mostly garbled, incoherent — and two aborted attempts later Calvan changed tack abruptly to after the bike, honing in on the period of darkness. As Corbeix came to that part, Dominic noticed him flinch slightly, his mood discernibly darker and more intense.
    Dominic had felt his blood run cold at the thought of Christian tied like a trussed chicken in the cramped darkness of the car boot while Duclos sat in the restaurant and sipped at a glass of chilled Chablis. Was it just for an alibi, or was Duclos calmly deciding, while he sipped at his wine, what he was going to do next with the boy? Kill him, or perhaps a bit more buggery beforehand? Perhaps he should choose his dessert first and then decide. Bastard!
    Despite conscious effort to calm himself the past two hours, Dominic knew his reaction might still be volatile if Corbeix started to propose soft options.
    Corbeix rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked up. 'In your initial letter you mentioned that Duclos' main alibi was him being seen in the restaurant. How long was he there?'
    'An hour, an hour and a quarter perhaps.'
    'So in total the boy could have been in the car boot as much as an hour and a half?'
    'Yes.'
    As Corbeix went back to reading, for the first time Dominic glanced around the room: trophy for racquetball, Toulon, 1988; three more trophies with inscriptions too small for him to read. Harbourside photo with Corbeix, his wife and two young girls, presumably his daughters, smiling proudly beside a speedboat that hardly looked big enough to carry them all. Family photo with Corbeix, wife and four young girls ranging from seven or eight to early teens. Corbeix the sportsman and family man.
    Late forties, Corbeix was a few inches smaller than Dominic, broad and quite lean, a squat bullish figure. 'A powerful presence in court,' according to Verfraigne. 'Relentless' if he strongly believed in a case. He had thick wavy black hair swept back and piercing dark brown eyes, his eyelids deeply hooded. Eyes that seemed to tire slightly with the reading, or perhaps simply more sullen and grave as Duclos' actions sank home.
    Computer replacing the old black typewriter; air-conditioning instead of a fan; beige carpet over the tile floor. Minitel and fax. Apart from that the Palais de Justice offices were much as they were thirty years before.
    It seemed somehow surreal that all those years had passed since he sat in a similar office with Perrimond, Poullain and Naugier. A young gendarme merely washed along on the tide of events. This time he had the chance to make his mark. But despite that, he couldn't help reflecting ironically if today might not be that different. He would still be a passenger aboard the direction Corbeix chose.

    When Corbeix had finished reading the transcript, he spent the first fifteen minutes going back between the two transcripts and Dominic's original letter and files sent, mostly clarifying points with Dominic from the original investigation: timing of the attack, forensics, Duclos' reported movements before and after, and the prosecution path and trial procedure pursued with Machanaud. Finally returning to the current information and how it tied in.
    When the file had initially arrived with Corbeix, he'd started reading the attached transcript as if it was from a new witness, before realizing it was meant to be the victim's voice gained through a past life regression on a psychiatrist's couch. He'd almost sent the file straight back with a note: 'You must be joking!' But then he read beyond the first page of the covering letter from Fornier and started through the attached files: Calvan and Lambourne's credentials, medical and psychiatric evaluations, past authenticated PLR cases, past investigations involving evidence from psychics. Struck not so much by the credibility they strived to lend the transcript, but the strong plea he sensed behind. Fornier had gone to a lot of trouble to prove this case was prosecutable. More effort than most investigators went to from the slough of mediocre police paperwork which crossed his desk. And then he saw why: Fornier had married the victim's mother. The first hurdle to be tackled.
    Not sure how to broach the subject tactfully, Corbeix went through the thought processes very much as they'd hit him. 'Someone else's name should be on the file as leading the investigation. If your name's there, it could be argued there's personal bias. Your judgement has been coloured.' Corbeix suggested a name: Gerard Malliene, an Aix based Inspector. Fornier didn't know him. Corbeix quickly salved Fornier's look of concern. 'It would still be very much your investigation. It's just a name to head the files. It's his jurisdiction and he's detached from any personal involvement. You'll be named in an advisory capacity for input from the original investigation. In reality, the investigation will run the other way around: you'll lead, Malliene will lend an impartial voice, advise where he can.'
    Initially put out by the suggestion, Dominic understood Corbeix' rationale. At least it meant Corbeix had been thinking seriously about the case. 'So you think there's a chance of launching this case successfully?'
    Corbeix held one hand up. 'That's not what I'm saying. There's grounds for an investigation, no more. Enough to re-open the case for a rogatoire general which I'll get an examining magistrate to sign off first thing tomorrow. But a case for prosecution is another matter. We don't have nearly enough yet, and I'm still waiting on some outside input.' Corbeix glanced towards the files Dominic had sent. 'One of them is the prosecutor mentioned in the petit Gregoire case you sent through. The other a legal expert at the Sorbonne, apparently strong on 'procedural structure for the unorthodox’.'
    A weekend of notes and two twenty minute phone conversations earlier that day and the prospects looked dismal. Psychics were used, but their testimonies rarely featured in case preparation. In the Yorkshire Ripper case the suspect had already been interviewed and eliminated, but a psychic later described his truck and the police returned to question him. Final trial papers were prepared on other evidence uncovered and subsequently a confession. The psychic's lead didn't feature. The cases with le petit Gregoire, Stanley Holliday and Son of Sam were similar. Final prosecution relied almost exclusively on other evidence or a final confession. As Corbeix delivered his stark summary, Dominic's expression clouded.
    Corbeix grimaced apologetically. 'It's almost as if investigators are afraid to mention the involvement of psychics in court. I suppose going to a psychic is a sort of admission of defeat for them: all our normal investigative skills and channels have failed, so now we're coming to you. Investigators are reluctant to admit that. Or perhaps they're advised of the difficulty of convincing a jury by a prosecutor like myself.'
    'But in the case of Therese Basta…' Dominic tried to recall the name from his file notes a few days back. 'I thought there was quite a lot of psychic evidence presented in court.'
    'Teresita Basa. Joseph Chua recalling details of her murder through voices in his dreams. Yes, nearly all of his evidence was presented in court — but the first hearing resulted in a hung jury. If it hadn't been for the killer's confession and a change of plea to guilty, the case probably wouldn't have been successfully prosecuted.’ Corbeix observed Dominic look down and to one side, as if searching for a thought just out of reach. 'I noticed a lot of your files were from Interpol General Reference.' Corbeix knew that only Central reference carried official police and court records. General was from outside, mostly newspapers, independent reports or extra-curricula police notes. Corbeix patted the files. 'Newspapers are often keen to report on cases involving psychics. Good copy. In cases with no other leads, the police will also admit to speaking with psychics. But preparing for the trial, the psychics invariably get forgotten.'
    'What about the Manson/Bugliosi case?' Dominic asked.
    'Different. More thought transference and influence than pure psychic evidence, and even then still a very difficult case to prove. A landmark case at the time. The case was built mainly on the premise of one person strongly influencing others — which is quite widely accepted. Whereas what we have here — past lives and re-incarnation — is not. There's never been a case like this before.'
    'There has, apparently — two. Both in India.' Dominic relished the brief surprise on Corbeix' face. One small victory swimming against the increasing tide of defeat. ‘Marinella Calvan will get more information from her colleague Dr Donaldson and let me know tomorrow.'
    'Yes… yes. I'd be interested. But I'm not sure how much it will help us.' Corbeix shrugged. 'India. In a way it underlines my last point. There, re-incarnation is accepted — here it is not.'
    Initially Dominic thought Corbeix was hopeful; there was a case to answer. Now it seemed all the avenues were blocked. They were almost back to where he'd been at the outset: thinking that approaching a prosecutor was pointless.
    'Many of the cases you've mentioned appear to have succeeded through the police re-questioning suspects and gaining confessions,’ Dominic commented. ‘With this new evidence we might be able confront Duclos from the perspective that we know how he did it, know that he sat in the restaurant with the child in the car boot between the two attacks. The position is surely now far stronger to achieve that.' Tone too venturesome, tenuous, thought Dominic. Sounded how he felt: clutching at straws.
    'It helps. But in most of those cases, there was usually some other hard evidence in place before the police pressured for a confession. That's what we're missing. And in the case of Duclos, a wily politician and past prosecutor, we'd be lucky to get past his hot-shot lawyer who'd first review how we got all of this marvellous information. Even if we were lucky enough to get Duclos in for questioning, he'd either say nothing or deny; either way he'd know we couldn't pursue with what we had.'
    Dominic gripped tight at the transcript in his hand. To get this far and let everything slip? An image of Duclos raising his glass, gloating. A sense of loss, of despair that what before seemed so close within grasp was now slipping away. A cold sinking pall that jarred against his nerves, against every precept of true justice — however much he should have been hardened the past thirty-five years to the fact that the law and justice were so often at odds. However much he realized Corbeix was probably right.
    At Fornier's crestfallen look, Corbeix felt the need to buoy his spirits. 'Hopefully in the next day or so we might get some useful input from the people I've been in touch with,' Corbeix said. Concerned that Fornier's personal links and absorption with the case might lead to false expectancies, he'd accentuated the negative so there were no illusions about the enormous obstacles faced. But now he feared he might have painted too dark a picture. 'I prepared this earlier — key points which I thought would help strengthen the case. Some are essential, others merely desirable.'
    Dominic took the single sheet from Corbeix and read:

    1. Psychic evidence. Little or no presentation of it in trial papers or court. Strong angle required beyond purely authentication of PLR. 2. Fresh clues or tangible evidence, uncovered from the sessions, that clearly ties Duclos in with the boy and can be corroborated independently. Perhaps someone who saw the boy in Duclos car. 3. Duclos' background with young boys. Duclos is apparently married. A claim that he has no history with young boys, yet this one day, totally out of the blue, he sexually molests and kills this particular young boy, would not appear credible to an examining magistrate or jury. 4. Authentication of sessions taking place in London. A French notary would have to sit in on one of the sessions, confirm that in his view it was real and was conducted correctly, within whatever guidelines prevail for hypnotic psycho-therapy. In other words, not faked.

    Corbeix was leaning over, pointing. 'The first point we've mostly covered. The last is essential if we want to present any of the tapes or transcripts in court. I'll arrange it. When are the final two sessions?'
    'Next Tuesday and then Thursday.'
    'Tuesday's too tight. I'll lay it on for Thursday, phone you tomorrow with the details.' Corbeix made a quick note on a pad. 'But the main key to the case will rest with points two and three. If you manage to get some background on Duclos and young children, then we might have a chance of pressuring him in an interview situation, as you suggested earlier. It's unlikely he'll confess to murder faced purely with child molestation — but even if we get him on just that, he's facing up to five years. And even if he's finally cleared, with the surrounding publicity it will certainly mean the end of his political career.'
    So they had a shot at destroying Duclos' career and possibly a few year's prison, if he could find something. Not the justice due, scant consolation, but a start. Minutes ago Corbeix had been a stone wall; now at least he was throwing down a lifeline, however thin.
    'I'm sure you have your contacts to track down such things.' Corbeix opened his hands out. 'But our main hope rests with you finding some tangible clue in the remaining sessions. Something which can be corroborated. Then we might, just might be able to successfully prosecute for murder. Go the full course.'
    'A tangible clue…' Dominic mimicked Corbeix blandly, as if saying it to himself would help. And then the ludicrousness hit him: thirty years? What earthly chance was there? Even if they were lucky enough to uncover something, half the people who could possibly corroborate were dead. But for the first time that afternoon Corbeix appeared hopeful, enthusiastic. So in the end — as they went through the final details and next contact times and concluded their meeting — Dominic rode aboard that wave. Pushed his doubts and sense of hopelessness to the back of his mind. Applied a singular focus and let it shine through all else — the daunting odds, the potential drawbacks and obstacles — until finally it was the only thing left in view: a tangible clue. And only two sessions left to find it.

THIRTY-FOUR

    Limoges, June 1985
    A boy. Betina had gone ahead with the scan.
    Duclos focused his attention back as the windscreen wiper swung across. The rain had been heavy earlier, but now it was just light drizzle. The wipers were on intermittent. The lights had turned green, but the car ahead was slow in moving off.
    Charity function, the fourth already this year. Annoying but necessary. Betina was beside him in a satin blue evening dress which hid her five month pregnancy well until she sat down. Baby blue.
    It would be all right, he told himself. Any worries were years ahead. While the boy was a baby, he would be Betina's responsibility, something to keep her occupied. She would be busy with nappies and feeding, and he could use the excuse of the baby waking and crying to sleep in the second bedroom. Away from the occasional night time grabs that increasingly made his skin crawl. The pregnancy had been marvellous. She hadn't touched him in all of the five months. The first eighteen months would probably be just like an extended pregnancy.
    Then when he was a toddler, she would be busy knitting mittens and running after him to make sure he didn't fall down the stairs or stick his fingers in the electricity sockets. Father would retire to his study with the excuse of a heavy evening workload and lock the door. Solitude. The whole sad saga might not be so bad, might actually provide some good opportunities for him to keep his distance from Betina.
    Traffic was moving faster along Rue Montmailler. Duclos picked up speed, keeping up.
    It wouldn't be until his son was older, at least six or seven, that he might be reminded of other boys and events he'd rather not think about, the secret life he'd been so careful to keep away from home. He never went with boys while in Limoges and tried as much as possible not to even think about them. It was only on his trips away, to Paris or Marseille, that he indulged himself. Everything kept away, in thought and in deed, from his own doorstep.
    Under his own roof? A questioning or quizzical look… and he would wonder if his son somehow knew. He would flash back on the various times he'd seen the boy changing or dressing from the bath or shower, and wonder if on any of those occasions his gaze had lingered a second longer than it should, unconsciously sparked off the boy's suspicion. And if he had been guilty of that, he would torture himself whether it was because in that moment he'd been reminded of someone else or some past pleasurable instant. Because surely he would never look at his own son in that way, surely…
    The brake lights loomed suddenly ahead, blurred through the raindrops on the windshield. A moment suspended — and then he braked. The wheels locked and the car started skidding…
    He remembered most about the incident looking back at it. He wasn't hurt badly, just a bump on the head which had given him a few moments blackout. Betina's side of the car had received the brunt of the smash. And as he rode with her in the ambulance, in the moments she drifted back to consciousness, she gripped his hand, muttering, 'My baby… my baby. Please…' The bottom of her silk dress was soaked in blood and one of the medics had cut through it with scissors, swabbing away the excess blood and feeling her stomach concernedly.
    The final moment of the accident replayed in his mind, and he kept wondering: why had he been so late in braking, and why at the last moment did he swing to one side — let Betina's side catch the main impact? Pre-occupation, the delay in detaching from his thoughts partly answered the first, and some dumb throwback reflex from being used to driving alone, the second.
    But even in that moment, as his guilt was at its zenith and he clutched his wife's hand and she clung in turn to the life inside her, part of him — some small part nesting the rest of the dark secrets and shadows of his life — was already coming around to recognizing the real reason. He pushed the thought away and clutched tighter at his wife's hand.

    Tired, so tired. The afternoons were usually worse than the mornings. Henri Corbeix was still in his office, the light on the past half hour as dusk approached. Sitting in the same position for so long making notes, his back felt stiff. He straightened up, paced to one side to ease it. But even with that effort his legs trembled uncertainly with the fresh weight.
    He looked ruefully towards his office cabinet. He hadn't played racquetball for more than two years. He'd battled on a year after the diagnosis before it had finally become too much. At first, he'd felt it just on stretching for the low balls — the ones almost beyond reach he had always previously been able to get. But soon his legs started to twinge and spasm on even the easy shots, and he would be breathless and exhausted after the first fifteen minutes. He gave up before it became embarrassing for his opponents.
    The only thing he'd managed to keep up were the weekend summer outings on their boat moored at les Leques. A day's fishing. Bread, Brie and pate. A bottle of wine and some soft drinks in the polystyrene cooler for the girls. Maybe head across the bay to Ile Verte.
    But this summer, even that he feared might be out of the question. The last time out, he'd felt the twinges and muscle spasms come on increasingly, particularly if the sea was choppy. He'd hardly been able to brace his legs against the repetitive pounding, a staccato reminder of how the disease had ravished his body. Bit by bit attacking his muscle tissue and nerves until finally the simplest action tired him. Moving around a courtroom. A period of concentration and making notes.
    MS. Multiple Sclerosis. The drugs to treat it were crammed in his bottom drawer: steroids, Baclofen, Oxybutin, Methylprenistolne. There was no cure, but they would 'help him cope. Ease the muscle spasms when they struck,' according to the doctor. Some days were better than others. He wondered why he still hid the drugs under papers in his bottom drawer. Habit from the first period of knowing he had the condition. But now half of his department knew and had done so for almost the past year. Soon after he'd announced his staged retirement: full time up until the coming August recess in order to clear his current caseload, then he would step down as Chief Prosecutor and work mornings only for a year in an advisory capacity to his successor, Herve Galimbert, at present his assistant. Then he would retire completely, unless his illness went into remission.
    Unlikely. The past few months had been the worst. He'd feel exhausted immediately upon waking up, then would gain a burst of energy from his steroids which might, if he was lucky, last through till late afternoon. But if he had a heavy day or courtroom appearances, he would start to flag earlier.
    Often when he came home from a day's work his youngest Chantelle, only seven, would jump up in his arms and he'd hardly have the strength to carry her more than a few feet. The anguish of his disease would hit him strongest in those moments. He was denying them. His other three daughters he'd been able to happily lift and swing around at leisure. He would become increasingly a burden, until finally there was nothing left but to sit quietly in the corner and occasionally rub his cramped legs while his daughters asked him if he wanted another coffee or something else to read. His anger and defiance rose up strongly. They were going out on the boat this year if it killed him!
    Corbeix sat down and looked at his notes. The next session was tomorrow morning, final session Thursday. Notary arranged to travel with Fornier to London.
    He hadn't told Fornier about his illness and that he wouldn't be able to pursue any trial cases beyond August. No point. Whatever stage the case was at then, he would merely hand over to Galimbert who was perfectly capable. Fornier had enough on his plate with trying to track down paedophile leads and find tangible clues from the remaining two sessions, without having to worry about a change of prosecutor halfway through.
    Corbeix looked at his calendar: three weeks left in April. August. Even if something came up quickly and he was able to file charges within a month, they would be lucky to be through the first four or five instruction hearings by then.
    Going back through his notes and Fornier's files, the enormity of the case struck him. Leading politician. Murder. A landmark procedural case — the first of its kind in France based on such unorthodox evidence. It would make the Tapie scandal look like a parking ticket.
    But it was all so tenuous, out of reach. Too many obstacles, too many contingencies — which was probably another reason why he hadn't mentioned anything to Fornier. He doubted that Fornier would even cross the first hurdle. There wouldn't be a case to prosecute. Yet a corner of his mind — where he also contemplated what he would do if he won the lottery or woke up one morning with his illness suddenly gone — realized that if Fornier defied all odds and found something, it would certainly be the biggest case of his career. A fitting curtain bow. It would be tempting to see it all the way through.
    Corbeix shook his head. He would file and put it in motion, set it on the right track, then hand over to Galimbert in August, as he'd originally planned. He didn't have the energy left for glory.

    Session 12.
    The tape rolled silently. The sound of Marinella Calvan tapping on the computer keys and then Phillipe's voice in French. With five of them in the room looking on expectantly at the lone figure of Eyran Capel on the couch, the atmosphere was tense. Or perhaps it was because Dominic knew this was their last chance.
    'Did you go into the local village with your parents often?'
    'Yes, but mostly at the weekend. Hardly ever in the week when I was at school.'
    'What sort of places did you go in the village with your parents?'
    'Mostly the shops with my mother… sometimes we would stop at a cafe for a drink. And there was a farm provision store four kilometres beyond Bauriac where I would sometimes go with my father. At the back they…'
    Dominic tuned it out. Marinella had mentioned the first moments were normally general background to settle Christian into the mood. Dominic looked back at the transcript from the last session and his own notes in the margin:
    '…When you finally came out of the darkness of the car boot and your eyes adjusted to the light, what did you see?'
    'The field… the wheat field and the lane by the river.'
    'Anything else. Was there anyone that you could see there apart from yourself and the man who'd taken you there in his car?'
    'No… there was nobody?'
    'Tell me what you heard there? Could you hear anything out of place?'
    'No… not really. Just the river running in the distance… the sound of the wind through the trees.'
    'Think hard. Was there anything else? Even the smallest sound at any time while you were in the wheat field?'
    'Some other water running… spilling on the ground…'
    'Anything else?'
    '…Some bells, faint, in the distance… but the light was fading. And another light… reaching out… but I couldn't feel my hand… the pain.. the…'
    (Garbled and incoherent here. Words mostly unintelligible. Eyran moved on).
    Dominic had scribbled in the margin: Church bells?Sound of water: how far away? He brought his attention back as he heard Marinella mention church. She'd moved deftly from other places Christian regularly visited in the village to church visits.
    '…And while you were there with your parents, either before or afterwards, do you remember the sound of the church bells ringing?'
    'Yes… sometimes. Usually before we went they were ringing.'
    'Can you fix that sound in your mind and remember it clearly now?' Muted 'yes' from Eyran. 'And going back again now, back to when you had come out of the darkness of the car boot and into the light — you mentioned the sound of a bell ringing. Was it the same sound you remember from the church, or something else?'
    'No… it was different. Not so distant… and higher pitched, a tinkling sound.'
    Goats bells! Dominic remembered Machanaud in his statement leaving at that moment because a farmer was moving his goats into the adjoining field. The same farmer had probably disturbed Duclos, and Christian was obviously still conscious in those final few moments. Dominic was suddenly hit with a thought. He scribbled a hasty note and passed it to Marinella Calvan.
    She was halfway through tapping out a fresh question, but realized it would be difficult to later backtrack to his. She back-deleted and typed: 'About that same time, did you hear the man's car starting up or moving?'
    'No… I don't remember that… I didn't hear anything else… I…th.. there was nothing.'
    So Christian had blacked out between the farmer approaching and Duclos moving his car. A minute or two at most. Dominic had noticed Lambourne look over sharply as he'd passed Marinella the note. Lambourne had appeared uncomfortable at the introduction of the notary, Fenouillet, who made periodic notes while observing the inter-play between Marinella, Philippe and Eyran Capel. Dominic had claimed a desire to file some of the transcripts along with other official papers about the murder; for that, notary authentication was necessary. It was the closest Marinella felt they could come to the truth. Fenouillet didn't speak sufficient English for Lambourne to question him directly, and thankfully Philippe had kept in the background.
    'Before that, you recalled clearly the sound of water running and splashing. Not the river running, but something else. How far away was that sound? Could you tell what it was?'
    'It was quite close… only a few yards. Water spilling from something onto the ground.'
    'Was the sound coming from where the man with the car was standing?'
    'Yes… I think so.'
    Memories of Perrimond claiming Machanaud had washed down the blood from his apron front with a bucket of water from the river. But where had Duclos got water from? He hadn't left the boy long enough to go down to the river and back.
    Silence. Marinella flicking a page forward in some notes before tapping out again. 'After those moments in the wheat field, do you have any recall of incidents with your parents?'
    'No… can't remember… rememm.' Muted mumbling that faded away. Eyran's eyelids pulsed and he strained slightly, as if images were there but he couldn't see them clearly.
    'And do you think that's why the wheat field has come to symbolize separation from your parents. Why you keep returning to it in your thoughts?'
    'No, no… it's not that.. not…' The pulsing settled, images clearing. 'It's just that when I try to think beyond it, I can't… can't.'
    Marinella pressed while she felt the advantage. The first gambit had perhaps been too hopeful: getting Christian to admit the influence of the wheat field on Eyran's dreams. 'And your friend. Did the field become a symbol of separation from him too?'
    'No… I used to play there with Stephan that's all. It reminded me of that. That was all I thought of when I saw the wheat field. Playing… us playing there together.'
    'Do you go back to the wheat field in your thoughts to play with Stephan?'
    'No… no more.' Eyran swallowed slowly.
    'And since? How do you feel about it now? What do you feel when you think about the wheat field?'
    'I don't know… somm.' Eyran looked away slightly. Nerve muscles tensed at his temples. Christian's thoughts clawing up through three decades of darkness, fighting to surface. 'Something warm… bright… but I can't feel the warmth… can't feel…' Eyran's head started shaking slowly from side to side. 'I…thh… there was nothing after… only a faint light beyond the darkness… but I can't feel… can't feee…'
    Dominic noticed Lambourne sit forward sharply. Marinella had told him about Lambourne threatening to end the sessions if Eyran looked in danger of verging into a catatonic state, and she had already come close a few times. Now again she was walking the tightrope.
    'Let's go back… back. Break away!' Marinella could sense Lambourne's hand hovering on the desk beside her, about to reach out for the keyboard. She didn't dare look around, kept her eyes fixed between Eyran and the keyboard.
    Marinella had explained that the field was central to Eyran's therapy, and how she had hoped to leap from there to a vital element Dominic had related from Corbeix: getting Christian to admit that the man with the car, Duclos, had killed him. 'If not, the defence could wriggle out by claiming culpability only for the sexual assaults. That the boy was left unharmed after that.' But as Marinella had warned Dominic initially, it was the hardest possible thing to get the boy to admit. And now any possible opportunities to make the leap had probably gone.
    'I understand that those memories are unpleasant, that you don't wish to recall them. But beneath that — beneath the detail that I know is painful for you — you know that something bad happened to you that day. You know that, don't you?'
    Eyran's brows knitted. A slight swallow. 'Yes…I.'
    'And you know that somehow the man in the car was responsible. Why you weren't able to see your friend that day. You know that the man hit you and stopped you from going.' Marinella knew the word 'kill' would produce another rush reaction. 'Do you remember the man hitting you?'
    Dominic tensed as he realized she was going for it after all; he'd felt sure she would move Eyran on to another memory. He saw Lambourne look incredulously between her and the computer as Eyran's brow knitted harder.
    'If it wasn't the man with the car,' Marinella pressed. '…If it was someone else — then tell us. Was it someone else who hit you?'
    Eyran's head started shaking again. Small beads of sweat popped on his forehead. 'No… no… it was him.'
    Lambourne's voice came almost immediately. 'I can't believe you did that!'
    Eyran's head tilted, his brow creasing again. He looked suddenly perplexed.
    Marinella tapped out on the screen: 'And I can't believe you did that either! Broke the one-voice rule.'
    Philippe looked up from the screen and shrugged, smiling. She'd forgotten to put it in brackets, but he knew not to translate.
    Marinella continued tapping: 'We've already got the problem of non-acceptance with two children. Let's not add another to the list: that you can't accept I might be right.'
    Lambourne's expression was thunderous. He looked frustratedly between the screen and her. This was great, she thought. Argument by computer. Except that Lambourne couldn't answer because she was hugging the keyboard, and he couldn't risk speaking again. Just the sort of argument she liked.
    Dread gripped Dominic as he expected Lambourne to suddenly stop the session. Quickly overrode his brief amusement and admiration at Calvan's feistiness. Philippe was still beaming, and Fenouillet had merely paused in his note-taking, had no idea what was going on. But finally Lambourne just shook his head and waved one hand dismissively, as if the whole argument was suddenly unworthy. Though some last fleeting shadow in Lambourne's eye, the way he looked quickly between Marinella, himself and Fenouillet, made Dominic suspect Lambourne might already be thinking: so many questions around the murder, and was a notary really necessary for just a filing?
    'Going back to where you left your bike. The field and the farm track — did you hear anything there. Tell me what you heard?'
    'There was nothing, really. Just the wind slightly.'
    'Anything else. Are there any sounds in the background? Anything you can hear at all?'
    Dominic noted the change from past to present tense: Are there? After the last session, Marinella told him about a special New York based FBI unit which specialized in hypnotizing crime witnesses to gain more accurate descriptions. The present tense put the witness directly back in the scene. Detail was usually far more accurate and in depth. Marinella had used the same technique in the last session with Eyran, but the results had been disappointing. Apart from the segment with the water running and the bells ringing, they'd gained little of value. She'd asked Christian if he remembered any shops they'd passed in the man's car; if he saw anyone on the way to where his bike was; if he saw anyone in the field or on the track by his bike; if any other vehicles passed apart from the Marseille truck. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
    He'd banged his desk and kicked filing cabinets in frustration reading the transcript. Now she was asking if he heard anything by his bike: again nothing. They were fast running out of areas to explore. Marinella went back to the Marseille truck, asking Christian to concentrate on the letters on the side. 'Are there any other letters or words you can see?'
    'L-E. Le something. P-O-N…T…'
    'Anything else?'
    It was hopeless, thought Dominic. Fragments of words from a truck from over thirty years ago. Even if by some miracle they traced it — a driver flashing by just for a few seconds all those years back? What on earth would he remember? Goats bells? They'd interviewed the farmer shortly after Machanaud mentioned him, but he'd seen nothing; tree coverage was too thick by the river. What else was there: water splashing? A woman's voice in a car park. Pathetic!
    Dominic looked anxiously at the clock: twenty minutes left. The letters had fizzled out with an E-I. Pontei: not even a full word. Marinella was flicking back in her notes, as if searching desperately where to head next — and in that moment the realization finally struck him, dissolved his anxiety and clinging expectation to a sinking hollowness. Concrete to jello: they weren't going to find anything! She'd exhausted all the main avenues and now was just scrambling around the edges at fragments. He could almost imagine Duclos smiling at them, gloating...
    Marinella moved back to the subject of separation: this time other people Christian had felt separation from that day apart from his parents and his friend. Probably best, Dominic conceded dolefully; with no new clues forthcoming, at least she could satisfy the main aim of the therapy.
    … Gloating as he sat in the restaurant sipping wine… as he untied and assaulted Christian for a second time… as he smashed down the rock repeatedly on Christian's skull, bludgeoning the life out of him. Dominic shook his head. The images were unbearably intense, because now they knew that Duclos had done it, but would have little choice but to sit back and watch him walk away. And Dominic would feel the same sense of loathing and disgust each time he saw Duclos' face in a newspaper, smiling, gloating… as he opened some new industrial park, smiling from a campaign rostrum, gloating at them that he'd got away with it… his arm coming down repeatedly to strike home his campaign points in the same way that he'd brought the rock down on Christian's head that day. And he would hardly be able to bear to look, knowing... knowing that…
    'Grandpapa Andre?' The name cut abruptly into Dominic's thoughts. One name among Christian's recital of separation he hadn't heard before: father, mother, Clarisse… but not Grandpapa Andre.
    Dominic read the full line on the computer screen: '…I remember thinking about Grandpapa Andre. I clung to the luck he gave me.'
    Dominic scribbled a frantic note — What luck? Why? Where is he? — and handed it to Marinella Calvan.
    She typed: 'What luck was it that Grandpapa Andre gave you?'
    'It was a coin… a lucky coin.'
    'And were you holding the coin when you thought about Grandpapa Andre?'
    'Yes… I was gripping it tight in my hand before I fell asleep. And then I realized suddenly when I awoke that it had dropped from my hand.'
    'Where were you when it dropped?'
    'In the boot of the man's car.'
    'And were you able to find the coin?'
    'No, it was dark… I felt around. But there was only the spare wheel… I couldn't feel it on the wheel or around the sides. I was still feeling for it when the boot opened… the light stung my eyes.'
    'And when you realized you'd dropped the coin — did it make you fear that something bad might happen?'
    'Yes… yes. In the darkness, it helped me. It was something I knew, a reminder of home. But then when it had gone…'
    As Marinella returned to attachment and loss, Dominic touched her arm lightly, silently nodded his excuse, and left the room. Nothing else of interest was likely to come up and he couldn't bear waiting the ten minutes remaining to know. He went through Lambourne's reception and out into the street, dialling out on his mobile to Monique in Lyon.
    On the third ring it answered, and he cut quickly through the preambles. 'A coin. A lucky coin that Christian's grandfather gave him. Do you remember it?'
    'Yes… I do.' Hesitance; flustered by the sudden jump to a memory from thirty years ago. 'But why?'
    'It's important. Something's come out of the sessions in London. I'll tell you later.' Sudden chill as he realized he wouldn't be able to delay any longer; that night he would have to tell her everything: his buried doubts, the car sighting, Machanaud, Jean-Luc's wasted suicide. 'What sort of coin was it?'
    'An Italian twenty lire, silver. 1928.'