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"What about that eyeball?"
"The police think the Vipers put it on my car to discourage further interest in their history."
A pause. On-screen, a man mouthed the news while stock prices ticked by below.
"I think I'm going to look into school when I get back home. Try a few courses. See how it goes."
"I think that's a wonderful idea, Kit."
"You must think I'm about as dumb as a largemouth ba.s.s."
"Maybe a perch."
"I hope you don't give up on me."
Embarra.s.sed, he changed the subject.
"How's your boss?"
"Much better. He's starting to give the nurses a hard time."
"I'm with him there. And Ryan?"
"Don't push it, fish brain."
"How long do you think he'll be moonin' around here, expecting flowers and caramel cl.u.s.ters?" Harry stood in the doorway, a smile on her lips, a vase in her hand. Both were the same geranium red.
Leaving the hospital, I drove home, had dinner with Birdie, and began a series of household tasks. A return to normalcy by immersion in the mundane. That was the plan and it was working.
Until the doorbell chirped.
Dumping an armload of dirty sweaters, I glanced at my watch. Eight-fifteen. Too early for Harry.
Curious, I went to check the security screen.
What the h.e.l.l?
Sergeant-Detective Luc Claudel stood in my vestibule, hands clasped behind his back, weight s.h.i.+fting from the heels to the b.a.l.l.s of his feet.
"So much for normalcy," I muttered as I buzzed him in.
"Bonsoir, Monsieur Claudel."
"Bonsoir. I apologize for disturbing you at your home, but there has been a development." His jaw tensed, as though what he had to say was pus.h.i.+ng him to the limits of civility. "I thought that you should know."
Courtesy from Claudel? In English? What now?
Birdie did a figure eight around my ankles, but offered no conjecture.
I stepped back and gestured the detective inside. He entered and waited stiffly as I closed the door, then followed me to the living room sofa. Settling into the armchair opposite, I remembered my conversation with Ryan's partner, Jean Bertrand, and the thought of Ryan brought the usual stomach clutch.
G.o.d, please let him be safe!
I pushed the thought aside and waited for Claudel to speak.
He cleared his throat and looked away from me.
"You were right about George Dorsey. He did not kill Cherokee Desjardins."
There was a revelation.
"Nor did Lyle Crease."
I stared at him, too surprised to respond.
"Shortly before her death Jocelyn Dion mailed a letter to her mother giving information about a number of illegal biker activities. Among the subjects discussed were the shooting of Emily Anne Toussaint and Richard 'Spider' Marcotte, and the murder of Cherokee Desjardins."
"Why did she do that?"
"Her motives were complex. First and foremost, she feared for her own life and felt the letter might confer protection. In addition, she was angry over Dorsey's murder, which, by the way, was ordered by his own gang. Jocelyn Dion was living with George Dorsey at the time of his death."
I felt heat climb the sides of my neck, but did not let on what Jocelyn had said about Dorsey's death.
"Was Dorsey killed because he spoke with me?"
Claudel ignored the question.
"Dion also felt remorse for certain of her own actions, including the killing of Cherokee Desjardins."
"What?" I blurted in astonishment.
"That is correct. Jocelyn Dion killed Desjardins."
"But Jocelyn told me she heard Crease bludgeon and shoot him."
"It seems your clerk was somewhat economical with the truth."
He tented his fingers under his chin.
"According to the young lady's letter, she'd gone to Desjardins for drugs when Crease showed up, wanting the infamous barroom photo. The men argued, Crease knocked Cherokee unconscious with a pipe, then began ransacking the apartment. Hearing noises in the bedroom, he panicked and fled.
"It seems your Jocelyn had a big habit and a short budget. She went over there high on drugs, and saw the situation as an opportunity to stock her medicine chest. When Crease left, she battered Desjardins' unconscious body, dragged it to a chair, and used a shotgun to remove his face."
"Why bother to shoot him?"
"She didn't want Desjardins coming after her. Also, she was stoned, but sober enough to realize that she had to cover her tracks, so she made it look like a biker hit." Claudel dropped his hands. "On that point you were correct."
More throat clearing, then he went on.
"Thinking it contained more pharmaceuticals, Dion retrieved a package Crease had dropped. It contained an old photograph of Crease and Desjardins. Later, she cooked up a blackmail scheme, figuring that if Crease wanted the picture badly enough to fight for it, he might be willing to pay."
"In the meantime, the Heathens heard about my meeting with Dorsey and ordered his death." Again the tension in my neck.
"Yes. Fearing for her own safety, Dion cooked up and floated the story that Crease had murdered Desjardins. The Vipers got wind and decided payback was due. Desjardins had been an Angel, his killer was an Angel dropout, despised by the brothers, and his killer had to die. Also, they had not settled the Spider Marcotte account, as far as they were concerned. They phoned New York for outside help, persuaded Dion to lure Crease to Dorsey's funeral, and decided they would settle several Heathen scores at the same time."
"It must have been Jocelyn who left the picture on my desk."
"To throw suspicion toward Crease."
I thought of something else.
"That's why Cherokee's blood was on that jacket."
"For once the little lizard was telling the truth. The jacket belonged to Jocelyn, but Dorsey couldn't admit that if he wanted to protect her."
"And meeting with me got him killed." I bit down on my lip.
"Dorsey was killed because his brothers feared he was about to turn on them. Had it not been you, he'd have contacted someone else."
I felt myself swallow.
"Do you believe Dion's letter?"
"Largely, yes. We'd already had reason to suspect Lecomte in the Marcotte-Toussaint murders. We are keeping him under close surveillance. The prosecutor feels that what you heard Dion scream as she was shot is not enough to arrest him now, but in time, we will know."
"Undoubtedly Jocelyn was the leak at our lab."
"She got the position there to spy for the Heathens, but wasn't averse to an occasional chat with the press."
"When approved by the home office."
Claudel drew air through his nose, exhaled.
"These biker gangs are the mafia of the new millennium, and have tremendous power over those attracted to them. Jocelyn Dion was among those who feed at the bottom of the chain, the hookers, the pimps, the strippers, the petty street dealers. She probably needed clearance to take her mother to Sunday Ma.s.s.
"One rung up are the more successful entrepreneurs, the chop shop operators, the fences, the bar owners, those who are allowed to hang around because they wash dirty money or perform some service useful to the club. Climb higher and one finds the full-patchers who run their own drug cells. At the very top are men with links to cartels in Mexico and Colombia, and to their counterparts in gangs worldwide."
I'd never seen Claudel so animated.
"And who are these degenerates who make their living off the weak? Most have neither the moral nor intellectual ability to complete a traditional educational process or function in an open market. They use women because, deep down, they fear them. They are uneducated, self-deluded, and, in many cases, physically inadequate, so they have themselves tattooed, create nicknames, and band together to reinforce their shared nihilism."
He took a deep breath and slowly shook his head.
"Sonny Barger is in retirement, probably writing his autobiography. Millions will buy the book, and Hollywood will make a film. The Wild Ones The Wild Ones will be romanticized anew, and the myth will deceive another generation." will be romanticized anew, and the myth will deceive another generation."
Claudel rubbed his face in his hands.
"And the flow of drugs will continue to our school yards, and to the ghettos of the hopeless."
He shot his sleeves, straightened each gold cuff link, and stood. When he spoke again, his voice was hard as tempered steel.
"It is ironic. As the Angels carried out their slaughter at the cemetery, their opponents were sending forth a.s.sa.s.sins of their own. I do not know which of these subhumans killed George Dorsey, and I do not have the evidence to prove that Lecomte shot Jocelyn Dion, Spider Marcotte, and Emily Anne Toussaint, but I will. One day I will."
He looked me dead in the eyes.
"And I will not rest until this evil is driven from my city."
"Do you believe that can be done?"
He nodded, hesitated, then, "We will be a team?"
Without hesitation, I nodded back.
THE NEXT MORNING I I SLEPT LATE, WENT TO THE GYM, THEN SLEPT LATE, WENT TO THE GYM, THEN brought coffee and doughnuts home and shared them with my sister. When Harry left for the hospital, I phoned the lab. There were no anthropology cases, so I was free to reactivate the plan interrupted by Claudel's visit. brought coffee and doughnuts home and shared them with my sister. When Harry left for the hospital, I phoned the lab. There were no anthropology cases, so I was free to reactivate the plan interrupted by Claudel's visit.
I soaked the sweaters, then launched myself full speed at the refrigerator. Items older than one month, I threw away. Ditto for anything that could not be identified.
My mood was better than it had been in weeks. Claudel had come around once again to admitting my value as a colleague. I was confident that he, Charbonneau, and Quickwater would pursue the investigation until the Dorsey and Dion killers were behind bars.
I had apologized to Martin Quickwater, and the man seemed to hold no grudge. He'd even smiled in my direction.
LaManche was recovering.
Savannah Osprey's murder had been resolved, and her bones were heading to her family.
Katy would be home in two weeks. My nephew was going to be fine, in every sense of the word.
And my hair was showing signs of growth.