“So, this is where the Airbus crashed nearby, right? During a test flight.”
“…Oui.” He said while sipping from a cup of Caffé Latte, “Why?”
“Such a shame, they are great airplanes. I would’ve liked to see the Airbus HQ in Toulouse” He replied as he ran his fingers over the cold surface of the desk.
“Maybe on your way to Seysses prison.” The young detective smirked.
“…Maybe.” He said, in a way it humored him but the grim vision of jail time did not.
“It’s just some buildings near the airport. Gray mostly, some glass. Toulouse has better architecture than these. I like it better here in Perpignan anyway.”
“Are you not proud of Airbus? They will defeat Boeing, remember these words.” He replied, speaking with his hands – the cuffs rattled against the desk.
“They already did years ago…” The detective insisted and looked outside without saying a word too much.
“I would’ve liked to work in aerospace engineering.” The mortician sighed. The detective bobbed his head without saying a word.
The door opened with a creak and another detective stepped in, older and well-fed. Files under his arm, laptop bag over his shoulder and some coffee in the other hand.
“Bonjour.” The older detective said and sat his files down, the younger detective took the laptop from his shoulder. “Merci.” The older man said.
“Pas de problème.” His young colleague insisted and clicked the cord into a wall plug.
The older man scraped his throat while opening his files, looking up from his paperwork several times to study the mortician.
“…So, did you talk about anything interesting?” The older detective mumbled.
“Airbus…” The mortician replied. The detective looked up and smiled at his young co-worker who shrugged.
“Airbus? I don’t think you will be flying anywhere soon mister Lemaire.” The veteran detective grinned while shaking his head, “You have caused quite a hassle for us.”
“My apologies.” The mortician mumbled while sipping from a plastic cup of lukewarm coffee, the policemen were smart enough not to hand out too warm a beverage. Scourging hot coffee or tea was a weapon too.
“Too late for apologies, Gérard.” The veteran said as he scribbled something down, lay his pen down and crossed his hands while looking at him.
“…I never meant for this t-”
“Never meant for this to happen?!” The veteran laughed, “Can you believe him, Nicolas!?”
The young detective quietly shook from laughter while refilling his cup.
“How did you never mean for this to happen? While you were filling the barrels? Or when you were emptying them out in nature? Or in the sewers? Hmmm?” The older detective pushed.
Gérard kept quiet and stared at his cuffs.
The phone rang, it buzzed and hovered over the desk on vibrations.
“Nicolas, do you mind?” He said to his colleague, the younger detective nodded and picked up the phone.
“l’Inspecteur Charpentier… Oui! Salut!” He spoke through the phone before exiting the room.
For a moment it was quiet as Gérard stared at the door and then at the large envelope with his belongings.
“Probably someone from the Département Santé.” The detective said calmly.
“Are they coming here?”
“Of course, they are the Health Department are they not? Did you think they have no questions?”
Gérard shrugged and sighed.
“If I take off your cuffs, will you tell me where it went wrong?” The detective proposed.
“Bien sûr, no use lying anymore now.” Gérard agreed, it was obvious.
The veteran stood up, took out his keys and undid the cuffs. Gérard sighed with relief and rubbed the skin.
“Relieved?” The detective smiled, Gérard nodded. “I have another way to find relief…”
“Let me guess, coming clean, no?”
“Very observant.” He smiled and clicked a microphone on the table into the laptop, “Can you say something for me?”
“…I hope Les Bleus does better in Brazil…” He grumbled, the detective smirked.
“Maybe they will let you watch it in jail, non?”
The door opened and a tall, fairly handsome man stepped in with the younger detective, a fashionable suit, leather briefcase and impeccably trimmed gray and black hair.
“Salut, l’Inspecteur…” He said and reached his hand out to the veteran, “Yves Lautrec, Département Santé.”
“Salut, Maurice Allard.” The older detective introduced himself, “You’ve already met my colleague Nicolas Charpentier.”
“Yes…” The man turned to Gérard with a deadly serious look, “You must be Mr. Lemaire.”
Gérard kept quiet but could feel his face flushing.
“Have a seat.” Detective Allard said, running his hand through his gray hair. “We were just about to discuss where it went wrong for Mr. Lemaire… Were we not?”
“Excellent.” The inspector of the Health Department said and sat himself.
“Would you like something to drink?” Nicolas asked him, the inspector pointed at a coffee and smiled.
“So, Gérard – may we call you Gérard?” The inspector said and smiled at detective Allard, Gérard nodded. “Excellent – start with the beginning… Why and when did you first do this?”
“About two years ago.” Gérard replied, “I… I could not make enough money.”
“Were you broke?” Allard asked.
“Not yet, but I wasn’t planning on becoming so.” Gérard insisted, “It’s too expensive.”
“The proper disposal?” The health inspector replied while sitting back and listening closely.
“Yes… Why do they ask a small fortune for this? Where is the honesty in their pricing? Have we become this bureaucratic in France that we cannot even-…”
“It’s the law Gérard.” Det. Allard spoke calmly, the health inspector nodded gently. “It counts for all of us… You, me – the inspector here.”
“Tell us, how many bodies did you treat per year?” The health inspector inquired.
“Somewhere between… …Six- and eight hundred.” He replied and for a moment covered his face in shame.
“Okay, so let’s say… Seven hundred, for easy counting, and for two years you said?” The inspector replied. Gérard nodded while still covering his face.
“Okay, so that’s fourteen hundred.” Det. Allard counted.
“Times five litres.” The health inspector added. Allard made a calculation on his laptop and grew big eyes. “Seven thousand litres, right?”
“Oui.” Allard said shaking his head.
“Incroyable.” The health inspector sighed in disbelief, “And all of this you disposed of?” A tone of anger in his voice.
“Oui…” Gérard sighed, slightly his throat closed up. This was the first time he felt true guilt for it.
Detective Charpentier stepped back in with coffee for the inspector from a fresh pot. They exchanged some mumbling.
“Seven thousand!?” Charpentier mumbled just a bit too loud.
“…Nicolas!” Allard said slightly agitated and pointed his head in the direction of Gérard, who was deeply in thoughts, depressed ones undoubtedly. His younger colleague apologetically waved and sat down. “Gérard…?” Allard asked.
“Huh?” He looked up as if snapping out of a dream.
“Are you still with us?”
“Yes, of course…”
“What were you thinking of?” The health inspector asked.
“My wife and son.”
“Did they know?”
“I think they had suspicions.”
“Because of the barrels?” Allard added.
“Did they ever ask?”
“No… I told them it was just Formaldehyde.”
“That you kept in your garage? That seems unbelievable.” Charpentier noted.
“If they have enough respect for you they will believe whatever it is you say.”
“Oh? Do you think they still respect you now?”
“Nicolas! Enough!” Allard bit as his young colleague. The health inspector didn’t twitch a muscle. “Excuser, Gérard… Go on.”
“I dumped about three-quarters in the open… Anywhere in nature or waste-water. Only about a quarter did I release into the sewers, but only when it was too cold or impossible to go outside.”
“Oh, ‘only when impossible to go outside’?” The health inspector snickered sarcastically, “Well, I suppose we should thank you for that then?”
“Do you remember these locations?” Allard asked.
“Sure. At least some of them.”
“Can you write them down on a map?” The health inspector insisted. Gérard nodded his head.
“Nicolas, will you bring a map of the area and some paper?” Allard asked.
Detective Charpentier walked out of the room.
Again a phone buzzed, Allard’s.
“Oui? …Salut, monsieur.” He touched the health inspector on the shoulder. “Un moment!” And excused himself.
“Who is that?” Gérard asked.
“I don’t know, the district prosecutor maybe?”
“Do you realize what you have done? …Some of those people had HIV, contagious diseases and other terrible things in their systems. You flushed it all out into nature and the sewers. You could’ve waged biological warfare with that if it ended up in the wrong water source. Thousands could’ve fallen ill.”
“I’m sorry…” He sighed and bit his lips on the inside, “I’ve been disrespectful to their bodies and families too…”
“That’s right.” The health inspector said, “You just mingled the blood and the innards of all these people together in barrels and flushed them out as if it was nothing, what was going on in your mind?
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.” He replied and looked at the ceiling above with watery eyes, “Do you think I’ll be in jail long?”
“I’m a doctor… Not a lawyer. Or a judge. I can’t tell you…”
“Certainly years – I’m sorry, Gérard.” The health inspector concluded.
The door opened and detective Charpentier walked in with a map, some papers and a marker.
“There you go.” He said, “Try to be as accurate as you can… It would really help us solve things.”
“Sure.” Gérard said and took the cap off the marker, starting to figure out locations on the map.
“The district prosecutor would like to talk to you, if you don’t mind?” Charpentier said to the health inspector.
“Oh, yes – of course. Now?”
“Yes, but feel free to finish your coffee and I’ll come and get you in a few minutes.”
“Perfect.” The health inspector smiled as Charpentier left the room. “I’ll ask someone for some water, do you want some?” He asked Gérard.
“No, I’m fine. Thank you… Yves – right?”
“Right.” The health inspector smiled as Gérard was scribbling on a paper intensely. He stood up and opened the door of the interrogation room and gestured at an officer, but as the officer approached he accidentally let go of the door – it clicked shut behind him with Gérard inside by himself. “Merde!” The inspector cursed, the officer laughed and gestured he would get a key.
Gérard sat all alone, quiet, writing away while occasionally glancing at the map spread out before him. He could vividly recollect every place he had dumped them. The remains. The smell they had.
In a weird way he had even enjoyed seeing the contents run down the side of hills or into the water, it almost felt as if he was setting them free. But perhaps it was just his inner egotism he sat free.
He looked at the big envelope on the table, and for one last time looked at the time at his own watch, flipping through his wallet and the pictures in it. A little deeper into the envelope were his belt and shoelaces, they made him take them off. “Standard protocol.” They said.
With a click the door to the interrogation room opened again, a relieved Yves stepped in and apologized to the officer. The two exchanged giggles.
“I’m sorry, Gérard! I’m not used to this normally. How is your map coming along? I see you’ve written a lot – directions?”
“…Yes, directions.” He smiled with the friendliest smile a man facing prison time could give.
“Excellent, thank you for your cooperation. It means a lot to us.” The health inspector replied, “I hope you better your life once you come out of jail. Maybe this was all for the better? Non?”
For a moment Gérard stopped scribbling and looked at the health inspector and reached out his hand.
“Yes, maybe it was…” He smiled and the two shook hands.
With another click the door opened and Charpentier gestured at Yves, who politely nodded at Gérard as he walked off. Charpentier picked up the envelope with Gérard’s possessions and quickly glanced into it,
“We’ll be back in about fifteen minutes, so you can take your time with the map. Is that okay?”
“Sure…” Gérard replied calmly, “I’ll be right here.” He joked, Charpentier snickered.
“I’ll see you then.”
In a room across the office floor detective Allard and Charpentier, the health inspector and the district prosecutor discussed the situation.
“So this is how serious the situation is?” The prosecutor said.
“Yes, the end result could’ve been absolutely devastating… I think we’ve been very lucky, presuming indeed no one got sick.” The health inspector explained.
“Alright… And he’s been cooperative thus far?”
“Yes.” All three men replied and smiled at each other.
“I see… Okay, I’ll be going back to the courthouse and we’ll keep each other up to date…”
“Perfect, a pleasure meeting you.” The health inspector said and shook hands. Allard playfully saluted the prosecutor before he and Charpentier shook hands with him.
The prosecutor picked up his briefcase and accidentally swiped off the envelope with Gérards belongings.
“Excuser!” He said quickly.
“No problem, sir!” Allard smiled and began picking it up, “I’ll take care of it – you have a good day, sir.”
“Thank you, detective. Au revoir!” And quickly ran for the elevators.
“Nicolas…” Allard said as he looked through the belongings.
“…Didn’t he have shoelaces?”
“Of course, what do you mean?”
“…They’re not in there.”
“They’re not on the floor!?” Charpentier asked panicked.
“I can’t find them!” Allard yelled worried, “Go check on him! Now!”
Charpentier rushed out across the floor towards the interrogation room, closely followed by the health inspector. With a single peak inside they could see it: Gérard had tied his shoelaces together with one end tied to a table leg and jumped over the other end of the table – choking himself as the laces pulled tight. His head red and purple, eyes turned back and a wet stain on his pants and the carpet.
“Merde!” Charpentier cursed and opened the door.
“Let me through, I’m a doctor!” The health inspector, yelled and rushed in.
“Mon dieu!” Allard yelled as he saw the scene, the health inspector trying to get the laces untangled from Gérard’s neck.
“Get scissors! Hurry!” He yelled as Charpentier stormed out to get them, “You! Get a first aid kit!” He said to Allard.
After a few moments Charpentier rushed back in and cut through the strings. They laid Gérard out on the floor and the inspector began CPR.
“Un! Deux! Trois! Quatre! Cinq!” He counted as he pressed Gérard’s chest and gave him mouth-to-mouth.
Allard ran in with a first aid kit and opened it. But the health inspector shook his head.
“Do you have a light?” He said, Allard gave him a small pocket light. The inspector checked for a pupil response but as there was none he sighed.
Charpentier grabbed the paper sheet from the table, “Shit… He wrote a suicide note.”
“What does it say?” Allard asked regretfully.
“…A lot of things… That he apologizes to his wife… He wants his son to become an aerospace engineer…”
“…Jesus…” The health inspector sighed and slowly raised to his feet.
“Says right here he wants to donate his body to science.” Charpentier said nearing the end of the letter.
“Oh?” Allard sighed, behind them the whole department began gathering at the commotion.
“He doesn’t want a proper burial himself… Because of what he did… ‘By the barrel.'”