zondag 15 mei 2016

Chateau Rouge: Chapter 10

10. A dangerous statement

After François had made a long telephone call, Katarina saw that something was not right. She knew François a bit better being her twins sister's boyfriend. Katarina knew most of his facial expressions, but the one he now put on she had never seen. It was one of pain, anger and at the same time of shame.
He gestured her she had to follow him, without giving her further explanation. She supposed he couldn't speak freely in the company of his men or her employees. Those were still moving back and forth in the rooms they were allowed to by the police.
When they arrived in Katarina's office room, he closed the door behind her. 'Just sit down for a moment, Katarina.' He was on a first-name basis with her because she had asked him so for a while already. He wasn't a stranger to her, considering the fact he was sleeping with her sister and had been at the castle on different occasions.
'Chief Inspector Leclercq and Jean-Pierre have been ambushed during their ride to headquarters.'
'Jean-Pierre...!' Katarina shouted while she stretched her arm in the direction of the deputy inspector in an attempt to keep the imminent evil away.  
'No, according to our first impressions Jean-Pierre isn't hurt, however..., Chief Inspector Leclercq has died during his transportation to the closest hospital. He was wounded deadly by a bullet in the abdominal area.'
Katarina held her breath. She was upset because that sweet man had died, but her fear for Jean-Pierre was equally present. She was ashamed to show she was happy in her inner self because the bullet didn't hit Jean-Pierre.
'I'm sorry for your boss, François, my sincerest condolences for your loss. But how is he? Is he..., is he still there?
Now she saw the glance of shame in his face again, and she looked questioningly and frightened at him. 'What's the matter, François, tell me, where is he?'
François obviously was embarrassed about the situation, but he didn't want to keep his girlfriend's sister in the dark. 'There no sign of Jean-Pierre. We don't know where he is. The Chief Inspector's Mégane has been discovered with only the driver behind the wheel, Chief Inspector Leclercq of course.'
'But how is that possible, where's Jean-Pierre then?' While she asked the question, she was already calling the mobile number of her boyfriend, but nobody answered.
For a moment, François stood there a bit bashful. He apparently had still something to say and Katarina eventually, in all her despair, noticed it. 'There's something more, isn't it, François?' She took him by the arms and shook him a bit back and forth. 'Come on, tell me everything, I have to know.'
The deputy inspector cleared his throat. 'Before the Chief Inspector died, he has said something to the doctor of the ambulance. Of course, it can mean anything, but I have to assume the worst case scenario, Katarina.'
'What do you mean, you said he wasn't hurt, what can be worse?'
'The Chief said the attackers knew Jean-Pierre. That was all, but if...' There he stopped midway his sentence. François knew Katarina wouldn't be pleased to hear this, but he was, first of all, a police officer and after that he was the boyfriend of Cecile, Katarina's sister. He would investigate this case just like his boss would have done. He owed it to him, and he wanted the perpetrators, whoever it was, convicted by a judge and behind bars.
'If the attackers knew Jean-Pierre, Katarina, and when Jean-Pierre during the gunfire didn't get hurt, then I have to think about the possibility he knew about the raid or that he, one way or the other, could have warned those men.' 
'No, François, listen to yourself, that's not possible. You do know Jean-Pierre too. He would never in his life do such a thing. He's not a gangster, and he certainly wouldn't allow that somebody kills a police officer. For some reason, he has been taken hostage by these men. The want..., I don't know what they want, but I can't accept Jean-Pierre has something to do with this. And you know it too!'
   François looked quite ashamed because of his statement but still went on with his explanation. 'I'm a police officer, Katarina and of course, I suspect Jean-Pierre has nothing to do with it. But knowing the last words of the Chief Inspector and with the murder here in the castle where his shawl was around the neck of the caretaker, I have to look at all the possible solutions. Even the most unlikely ones. Because of our friendship, I'm very sorry for this, and I want to apologize in advance.' 
At that moment, one of the investigators called for him. It gave Katarina the time to sort things out or, at least, to recover from this disturbing message. Would the murder at the castle have a connection with the raid on the car of the French police officer? How did those men know her boyfriend?
At that moment, one of the investigators called for him. It gave Katarina the time to sort things out or, at least, to recover from this disturbing message. Would the murder at the castle have a connection with the raid on the car of the French police officer? How did those men know her boyfriend? She got dizzy from all those questions in her head. She didn't know what was happening to her, but she knew who would listen to her.
She pushed a telephone number she knew by heart. A few seconds later she heard a familiar voice. 'Hey, Katarina, Cecile here, how is it there at the castle. Do the preparations for the party come along?'
When Cecile heard Katarina sobbing, she knew something bad had happened. Katarina told her in fits and starts about the events of the last hours. She hadn't got the chance yet to inform her sister after the fire in the caretaker's building, the discovery of the murder in the Chambre Rouge and the raid on the car and the 'abduction' of Jean-Pierre. Because deep inside she knew Jean-Pierre would never have gone willingly with the attackers.
'Katarina, stay where you are, I jump in my car and will be there in a moment. Arrange it with François that they let me in because I suppose the crime scene is secured. Be brave, Sis, you don't have to do this alone, I'm coming.'     
When she pushed off the telephone conversation, Katarina was feeling a little better. She knew she could trust her sister and she received a lot of support from her. Together they would find a solution for all these improbabilities, and it would clear Jean-Pierre of any culpability.
She saw François approach with an, even more, longer face.
'Sorry, Katarina, I've just heard from one of the technicians they have found an empty can of fire accelerant in your shared room, hidden in one of the closets behind some rubbish. That makes...'
Katarina was furious. 'Don't you see this is all a set-up, François. If the can is there, I too can be the culprit, it's also my room and not of Jean-Pierre alone. Arrest me then, maybe I'm a great criminal mind.'
François shook his head. 'No, Katarina, you haven't touched that can, because we've tested it and the only ones on it were those coming from Jean-Pierre!'

© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere

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