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Authors: J. Robert Janes

Flykiller

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Flykiller

A St-Cyr and Kohler MysteryJ. ROBERT JANES

AMysteriousPress.com

Open Road Integrated Media Ebook

Contents

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3

4

5

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Preview:Bellringer

This is for Frances Hanna, of Acacia House, my agent of a good many years, who has persevered in spite of all my uncertainties. It is also for her husband, Bill, whom I first met nearly thirty years ago and who later became my editor onThe Alice Factor.Both are very dedicated people in an age when such an attribute is often so hard to find.

To each a moment, let time alone decide.

Author's Note

Flykilleris a work of fiction in which actual places and times are used but altered as appropriate. As with the other St–Cyr–Kohler novels, the names of real persons appear for historical authenticity, though all are deceased and the story makes of them what it demands. I do not condone what happened during these times, I abhor it. But during the Occupation of France the everyday crimes of murder and arson continued to be committed, and I merely ask by whom and how were they solved.

1

Ruefully the line, which stretched alongside the waiting train, advanced one footstep: bundled-up, grey travellers in all but complete darkness, colds, coughs – sneezes – and, under a dim blue wash of light, two railed walkways below a distant signboard that read in heavy black letters on white:HALT!DEMARKATIONS-LINIE, and in very polite but much smaller French,Êtes-vous en règie? Are your papers in order?

Hermann, as usual, thought it a great joke. His partner would be scrutinized, accosted, searched, perhaps even roughed up, simply because he was French and the boys on duty hatedSchweinebullenmore than anything else but dared not touch their own cops!

‘Relax. It'll go easy this time. I can tell,' confided Kohler. ‘Just act normal anddon'tget hot under the collar.'

‘It's too cold for that. It's snowing heavily, or hadn't you noticed?'

Emptied out of the train from Paris, Louis wasn't happy. It was Thursday, 4 February 1943 – 2.47 a.m. Berlin Time, 1.47 the old time. Ever since 11 November last, when the Wehrmacht had moved into the South in response to massive Allied landings in North Africa, the whole of France had been occupied, yet still there was this wait, this frontier between what had since June 1940 been thezone occupéeand thezone libre.Here, too, at Moulins, some fifty-five kilometres by road to the north of Vichy, the international spa that had become the capital.

‘Did you bring your vaccination certificates?'

‘Andmy Great War military demobilization, my ration card and tickets, residence card,carte d'identité, Sûreté ID, the letter from Gestapo Boemelburg – from your chief, not mine – authorizing the visit. MyAusweis– mylaissez-passer– my last tax declaration, and yes a thousand times, my letter exempting me from three years of forced labour in your glorious Third Reich because I work in a reserved job and am considered necessary, though I cannot for the life of me understand this since no one among the higher-ups cares a fig about common crime or that hardened criminals freely walk the streets because the SS and Gestapo employ them and have given them guns!'

‘Gut.I'm glad you've finally got that off your chest. Now be quiet. Leave it all to me. This one won't understand a word of French, so don't even try it.'

‘Name?' demanded the portly Feldwebel, a grey blob with sickly blue-washed bristles under a pulled-down cap, the greatcoat collar up and a scarf knotted tightly around the throat. Leather gloves – real leather! – thumbed the crushed fistful of carefully cared-for papers.

‘St-Cyr. Sûreté.'

‘Mein Herr, that is not complete,' grunted the staff sergeant, his eyes straying from the torchlit identity card.

Nom de Jésus-Christ, must God prolong the torture? ‘Jean-Louis St-Cyr, Oberdetektiv der Sûreté Nationale.'

‘Age?'

‘We've a murder investigation in Vichy. It's urgent we get there.'

‘It can wait.'

‘Murder never does!'

‘Easy, Louis. Just go easy.'

‘Hermann, the humiliation I am suffering after two and a half years of this sort of thing has at last frayed my nerves!'

‘Dummkopf, just give him your age.'

‘Fifty-two.'

‘Hair?' asked the Feldwebel, still studying the card.

‘Brown.'

‘Eyes?'

‘Brown. Nose normal. Look,mein lieberGeneral, would I attempt to legally cross the Demarcation Line between two now fully occupied zones if my nose were that of a communist, a Gypsy, arésistant– aterrorist– or even some otherRassenverfolgte, some racially undesirable person, and I knew exactly what would happen to me if caught?'

‘Nose?'

‘Normal, but broken twice – no, three times, though years ago.'

‘He was a boxer at the police academy.'

‘Hermann, who the hell asked you to interfere?'

‘Bitte, Herr Oberdetektiv St-Cyr.Diese Papiere sind nicht gültig.'

Not good … ‘Ach! was sagen sie?' What are you saying? ‘They're perfectly in order,' shrilled St-Cyr.

‘Argue if you wish.'

Two corporals with unslung Schmeissers leaped to assist.

‘Hermann …'

Kohler was let through with a crash of heels, a curt salute and a, ‘Pass, Herr Detektiv Aufsichtsbeamter. This one must, unfortunately, be detained.'

‘Louis, I'll wait in the barracks.'

‘You do that. Enjoy the stove, the coffee and outlawed croissants but ask for real jam not that crap we French have had to become accustomed to!'

Oh-oh. ‘Louis, I'll go with you. I think that's what he wants.'

‘Gut! Mein Partnerfinally realizes what is required of him!'

‘I knew it all the time.'

‘You didn't. You were simply enjoying my predicament!'

‘Then you tell me who those three are who've been waiting all this time for a quiet word?'

They were standing outside the barracks, standing side by side like a little row of increasingly broad-shouldered, overcoated and fedora-ed set of steps. ‘Bousquet is the middle one. The others I don't recognize.'

‘The shorter, thinner one will reluctantly tell us who he is; the taller, bigger one will wish to remain nameless.'

French, then, and Gestapo. Occupied and Occupier, with the Préfet of France as the cement between them.

‘Things must be serious,' confided Kohler.

‘Aren't they always?'

Hermann had never met René Bousquet, but then the partnership didn't move in exactly the same circles. ‘Monsieur le Secrétaire Général,' said St-Cyr, convivially swallowing pride and extending a hand, but with a crushing lump in the throat, for this one had already become a legend.

‘Chief Inspector, and Detektiv Aufsichtsbeamter Kohler, it's good of you to have come on such short notice.'

‘And of you to have waited out here half the night,' countered Kohler in French.

These two had a reputation. ‘We've been warm and you haven't,' chuckled Bousquet. ‘But, please, we must still stamp the feet until your suitcases have been cleared through customs. No currency you've agreed to pass on for friends in the north, eh?' he quipped. ‘No letters to post?'

The pre-printed postcards, with their word gaps to fill in and words to cross out or use, were still mandatory.

‘Not even a train novel,' snorted Kohler. ‘No British detective novels or spy thrillers. Not even any chicory. No time to get them, eh, Louis?'

A huge, illicit trade in Belgian chicory existed on themarché noir, the black market. The number one coffee substitute and better than cash! ‘Just a kilo of dried horse chestnuts,' offered St-Cyr drolly. ‘For personal use – it's an old Russian remedy for aching joints, Secrétaire. You boil them until soft, then mash them up before spreading the poultice on a towel and wrapping the inflicted joint. My left knee. An old wound from the Great War.'

Horse chestnuts! St-Cyr was known to have a White Russian girlfriend in Paris, a very popular chanteuse, Gabrielle Arcuri, hence the remedy! ‘Then perhaps you'll have time for the thermal baths.'

‘Are they still open?'

‘A select few.'

Cigarettes were offered and accepted and why not, wondered Kohler, with tobacco in such short supply, and certainly Bousquet didn't know it wasn't Louis's left knee but that of his partner! Only when the flame of a decently fuelled lighter was extended did the Secrétaire confide, ‘Monsieur de Fleury, Inspecteur des Finances, felt it might be useful for him to join us, since the latest victim was his mistress.'

The gloved hand was cold and stiffly formal. ‘Inspectors,' muttered de Fleury uncomfortably, ‘whatever you wish to know from me I will gladly confide but please, you must be discreet. My wife and family … My mother …'

‘Of course,' said St-Cyr with a dismissive wave of his cigarette. ‘Please don't give it another thought.'

The third man, the taller one, had still not said a thing or come forward, in any way. Darkness clung to him like a second overcoat. Beneath the pulled-down snap-brim, a watchful gaze took in everything from behind rimless glasses.

Kohler shuddered inwardly. He knew that look only too well, as would Louis. It was one of ruthless assessment chilled by a total lack of conscience, and it said, Don't even wonder who I am. Just understand that I am here.

‘Ah!' exclaimed Bousquet. ‘Your bags have been cleared. Gentlemen, the car. We can talk en route and I will fill you in as best I can.'

‘Céline Dupuis née Armand,' mused Louis, pausing as he always did over the victim's name. Kohler knew his partner would be thinking of the girl's family and of her past – he'd be letting his imagination run free, the cinematographer within him probing that name for everything he could dredge, savouring it, too, as a connoisseur would.

‘Married, but a widow as of June 1940 and three days before the Maréchal's radio broadcast to the nation on the 17th,' said Bousquet, who was sitting in the back of the car next to Louis, with the nameless one on his left.

‘“It is with a heavy heart, I tell you today that it is necessary to stop the fighting,”' said St-Cyr, quoting the Maréchal and remembering the tears he, himself, had shed at the news. ‘And then on the 20th, “We shall learn our lesson from the lost battles.” What lesson, I wonder? Any children?' he demanded harshly.

‘A daughter, age four and a half, domiciled with the victim's parents,' answered Bousquet – this one had had it all memorized, thought Kohler. Préfets weren't normally good at such things. They were friends of friends in high places and had been chosen so as to keep the existing hierarchy in power, and were either reasonable or abysmal at police work and the same at what they were supposed to do.

But not Rene Bousquet, age thirty-three and the youngest secrétaire général, probably, in the past two hundred years. ‘Brilliant,' some said; ‘Exceptional,' others. ‘A man we can trust,' Himmler, head of the SS and Gestapo, had enthused. ‘Our precious collaborator.'

‘Age: twenty-eight, therefore pregnant at twenty-three,' Louis went on, knowing exactly what his partner had been thinking. ‘Was it love? I ask simply so as to know the victim better.'

‘Love,' grunted Bousquet. ‘When word came through that her husband had been killed, she tried to join him and very nearly succeeded. Aspirins, I believe, but now they are in such short supply one never hears of similar attempts.'

‘And since then?' asked Louis, using his sternest Sûreté voice.

‘Back to dancing. A contract to work in Vichy at the Théâtre du Casino and other places and to teach part-time at the ballet school.'

Teaching the offspring of the elite? wondered Kohler, mentally making a note of it. Everyone was smoking Gitanes, the tobacco black and strong. De Fleury was squeezed between himself and the driver, chain-smoking and nervous as hell. The road ahead wasn't good. Visibility was down to thirty metres, if that. Snow everywhere andAch!a Schmeisser on the floor at his feet. Had they been expecting trouble? The son of a bitch behind the wheel had half his gaze on the road and the other half on the woods and fields. ‘Want me to drive?' he asked, implying, Would it help?

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