Christian Malraux peered at what was left of the headstone and grinned. ‘Aw, that’s sad, isn’t it? Mummy died when he was only a kid.’ He straightened. ‘Can turn you into a complete arsehole, that.’
The crime-scene photographer lowered his camera. ‘Shift,’ he said. ‘And mind where you put your feet.’
The immediate area was still littered with flower debris.
‘Yeah, wouldn’t want to spoil them.’ Malraux trod with exaggerated care between the chewed-up blooms. ‘I don’t know, Marcel, I call in as a courtesy and this is all the thanks I get? I’m over in Cannes now, you know. Full lieutenant.’
‘We miss you terribly.’
The camera’s motor drive whirred away.
‘Our paths will still cross, my friend.’ Malraux winced, screwing up his eyes. ‘Ah, shit.’ He reached under his overalls and took out two small plastic vials. Tilting his head back, he emptied one of them into his pink, lashless left eye. ‘And he had his guitar nicked didn’t he? Talk about a bad week.’
The camera went silent once more. ‘You’re still in the way.’
Blinking like a faulty light bulb, Malraux repeated the procedure with the other eye. ‘Captain Fantastic having his arse nearly shot off… I tell you, if I was still around, it wouldn’t have happened. I’ve saved his life once already.’ His head still tilted back, Malraux shuddered, freezing cold, suddenly. Trying to force his eyes open, ghastly images started crowding into his head. He pictured the entombed body beneath him rising through the stone slab and coming for him. The skeletal hands of a woman reaching out and closing around his throat. Blinking blindly, Malraux staggered backwards, dropping the vials.
More camera whirrs. ‘Sting, do they?’ Marcel said. ‘The drops?’
Gulping in air, Malraux put his hands to his neck and felt all around it. His eyes clearing, he kept them on the grave as he retreated another couple of paces. ‘Just cold,’ he said at length. ‘The stuff does that.’
‘I never realised you were such a sensitive soul.’
Malraux’s vision settled. He began to calm down. Not that he would ever admit to anyone that he’d just suffered a panic attack. ‘Because that’s definitely what it was,’ he said aloud, still staring warily at the grave.
‘What was definitely what?’
Slowly, Malraux gathered himself. He looked at his watch. ‘Got to go. Hate hanging around these places anyway. Give me the fucking creeps.’
The whirring stopped. ‘Oy! Don’t leave your shit behind.’
‘You chuck them,’ Malraux said, not looking back.
It is carnival time in Nice, and for three weeks the boulevards are alive with dancers, jugglers and musicians. Amid the colour and pageantry, a man suffers a fatal fall the first in a series of suspicious deaths.
Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is sure the answer lies in the mystery surrounding a daring bank heist, supposedly resolved years ago. But the reopening of the case awakens powerful enemies, and soon the safety of his friends, his colleagues and his family is at stake.