The First Fingerprint

Free The First Fingerprint by Xavier-Marie Bonnot

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Authors: Xavier-Marie Bonnot
pointed beard—presumably a French or history teacher—then left him and started walking down rue Jean-De-Bernardy. He let her turn the corner into boulevard National, then almost at a run he covered the hundred meters that separated them.
    When he reached the boulevard, he spotted her inside her Mercedes A-Class, working away at her steering wheel in an attempt to turn out of a tight parking space between two plane trees. He quickly went back to his motorbike and followed her.
    She drove up boulevard de la Libération, which was heavily congested because it was lunchtime. He had to ride around several blocks to avoid remaining stationary among the cars—a motorcyclist who does not zigzag through a traffic jam looks decidedly conspicuous.
    In avenue de Saint-Barnabé, the congestion eased. He noticed that Julia was a fast and nervy driver. She even ran a red light outside the engineering school. After that, he followed her from a distance of two hundred meters.
    He watched as, to his amazement, she turned into chemin du Vallon, just by Saint-Julien church. Driving past her front door, he noted it was number 36. He quickly drove round the block again and went home.
    His plan had to be ready within a fortnight: if not, the new moon would be imminent and he might run out of time. The goddess could not wait any longer.
    First task: reconnaissance of the area. Julia’s house was surrounded by high walls topped with shards of broken glass. It would be difficult to break in without being spotted, especially as her street was so narrow. It would be a stupid risk and should be avoided.
    He laid out a map of the neighborhood on his metal bed and studied it closely. Behind Julia’s house there was an old canal which wound past several gardens. He followed its course with his finger, and stopped when it turned into a dotted line: the canal ran through a tunnel before re-emerging on the far side of the cemetery.
    In a sudden, feverish state he was filled with joy; the base of his neck tingled and sweat pearled his forehead. The hunt, his sole purpose in life, was about to begin again.
    His plan was taking shape: he would go along the canal as far as Julia’s house and break in from the back. But first he had to find out more.
    And so he watched Julia for a few days, but without risking going back to the lycée.
    She lived alone, the goddess had made no mistake about that. He never saw her go home with a man or another woman. She did not have a guard dog, and she never went out in the evening. The canal could be reached easily over a low wall at the far end of the cemetery.

    The girl waiting on the second floor of headquarters, in the corridor outside the offices of the murder squad, did not even look twenty-five years old. A few rebellious curls of blond hair tumbled over her pretty face and half hid her emerald stare. From time to time she blew aside her locks out of the corner of her mouth, the movement of her lower jaw making her fleshy lips twist like a real Lolita.
    She had told the officer in reception that she wanted to see Commandant de Palma in person. She claimed that she had some important revelations for him. So she had been escorted to the offices of the murder squad and left there to wait. The wait could well be a long one.
    As she stood in the harsh brightness of the “guaranteed daylight” striplights she watched the comings and goings of members of the squad as they emerged from one office to go into another for no apparent reason.
    At about 10:00, de Palma burst into the corridor and saw this platinum doll twisting her feet at every angle to get a better look at her monumental platform heels. She was obviously losing her patience.
    â€œAre you waiting for someone, young lady?”
    He sensed that she knew him.
    â€œYes, I want to speak to Monsieur de Palma.”
    â€œYou’re speaking to him. Come with me.”
    This unexpected meeting did not suit de Palma at all. He

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