I went out on deck for no other reason that to assert my right to be there. That young creep wasn’t going to scare me into hiding my face. I sensed there was something about him that just wasn’t right. His cheeks seemed even paler than before, his eyes sunk deeper into his skull. He stood up lethargically and, without a word to me, he slunk away into the yacht’s cabin. I was glad to see the back of him. When I went back below it was because I needed to, not because of him.
Brigitte came out to join me in the saloon shortly after. She was in her usual state of undress, but that no longer surprised me. We were too close to the town centre for her to appear semi-naked out on deck, so she planted herself firmly on a seat in the saloon. From the dark looks she gave me, I guessed that she was still smarting from my refusal of her charms the previous night. After a few moments she shook her head and snapped, “Americans! Huh!”
“Good morning, Brigitte.” I wasn’t going to be put off by a damn stupid little teenager’s fractious behaviour. Not at that time of the morning.
“I did not sleep well.”
“Really? Why not?”
“Because you would not make the loving with me.” A pout was followed by, “I wanted it.”
“Seems to me, Brigitte, that you want too much from life. Learn to loosen up a bit. You’ll live long enough without constant sex. Maybe longer.”
She gave me a sultry look and sidled away to her cabin.
An hour later I left Brigitte sprawled across a saloon seat, reading a magazine and sucking her thumb. She was still acting sore and the only feelings I could find for her were centred around the administration of a severe spanking.
I headed off towards the local food stores. I couldn’t find a supermarket, but it was only a short walk to a small grocery store where they spoke enough English to sell me what I needed. On my way back from the town back to the basin, I had to cross a busy main highway and I stopped on the sidewalk to wait for a break in the traffic. And there, directly across the road from me, was the swarthy faced watcher: the one who had set about the big youth on the marina quay at St. Malo. The same guy I suspected of dropping his cigar ash in the Breton Belle.
Hell! Was every villain trying to haunt me in this town? The man didn’t see me at first, being more interested in the Breton Belle down in the basin.
“Hey, you!” I shouted to him as I dashed out between the traffic. A little Citroen 2CV screeched to a halt just inches away from me, but I raced on across the road, ignoring the driver’s angry curses. He’d soon forget me.
The watcher must have heard me because he suddenly swung round. He had been smoking a cigar, but it fell from his hand. Probably the shock of seeing me. His mouth fell open to speak, but he seemed to think the better of it and raced away down a side street. The guy was fast on his feet and I was carrying an armful of groceries so I let him go. At that speed he would have escaped me anyway. Damn! Why the hell was he on my tail?
On my tail? Was he also the one who had been on Viola’s tail?
That swarthy-faced man was still bugging my thoughts when I got back to the boat which was why I didn’t immediately notice something odd. It struck home only when I was coming down the steps to the pontoon. A red Renault saloon was parked at the side of the road, directly above the Breton Belle. And a black shopping bag was left lying on the deck. The little car looked smart, expensive and very appealing.
I could hear an argument going on in the saloon even before I boarded the Sunseeker. I didn’t need any guesses to picture what was happening down below. Mama had turned up and was giving Brigitte hell. And Brigitte was giving mama a real hard time in return. It was just one big domestic ding-dong. How the local police didn’t get to hear about it God alone knew.
I went down the companionway.
“What the blue blazes is going on here?” It was a stock opening which did no more than put me in the firing line between Brigitte and her mama.
Mama responded in machine gun French, gesturing wildly. When she stopped for breath Brigitte took over, with more wild gestures. “Mama says I must go back home. She will not understand that I want to go down to La Roche Bernard. She is impossible!”
“You mean… she didn’t know where you were travelling with me?”
“I forgot to tell her.”
I rounded on her fiercely. “You mean you didn’t want to tell her. Dammit all Brigitte! Do you want to go back with her?”
“But you told me you missed your family.”
“Oui, but that is different. I must see Monsieur Hassim.”
At the name Hassim, mama once again broke into a loud rattle, which went right over my head. I waited until the volume subsided and then addressed Brigitte again. “You just sort this out for yourself with mama. I’ll be out on deck. Tell me what’s happening when you’ve finished.”
Out in the warm air I could still hear the muffled noise of the two women fighting. Passers-by ignored it as if it was an everyday natural occurrence, so I did my best to ape their indifference. Not an easy task.
After a while Brigitte came out on deck, head lowered sheepishly.
“I will go back with mama.”
“Good.” The sense of relief must have brought a grin to my face.
Brigitte, by contrast, wore a dark sour expression for the rest of the short time I saw her in Redon. Even when Mama’s Renault pulled out into the traffic, I could still see Brigitte in the passenger seat, scowling. If I’d had any sense I suppose I’d have said good riddance to Brigitte L’Orly and her mother, but I just wasn’t put together that way. Something was spooking me about the L’Orlys and their association with Hassim and I knew I had to find out what it was. I was certain that it was tied in with Viola’s death.
The young couple’s yacht was still moored across the basin and as I sat and pondered what to do next I noticed the girl leave it and head off in the direction of the town. It was around half an hour after Brigitte and her mother had departed. Seeing the girl walk away seemed to present a possible opportunity to explore the yacht, provided I exercised a high degree caution in case the youth was still aboard.
I made my way around the marina basin and crept quietly down onto the yacht’s deck. No one gave me a second look so I paused, knelt down and looked in through the cabin porthole.
There were two people inside, naked and copulating with such a wild frenzy that they would never have noticed me even if I had been banging a bass drum and singing the Marselliaise. A mass of pale flesh marked out the youth who lay on the bunk with his partner astride him. I gasped when I saw that the girl was coloured. Dammit! It was the same girl who had taken Viola’s place on the Breton Belle.
I watched them for some minutes without even being aware that I was behaving like a voyeur. God, what sort of woman would actually want to screw that huge jerk? Whoever she was, I now had another positive connection and that made the whole story somewhat more complicated. And it seemed like the white girl was not the gorilla’s girlfriend after all. Or was there a cosy threesome going on here?
I paused to let my thoughts juggle around the matter. What the hell did all this mean? After a couple of minutes I decided this wasn’t the moment to find out so I withdrew and walked back to the Breton Belle.
What lead should I now follow? Should I home in on the coloured girl? Or should I spend a bit more time finding out exactly what sort of games Brigitte and Mama L’Orly had been playing? And what was their connection with Hassim?
The coloured girl was an interesting suspect and I was strongly tempted to bide my time and catch her on her own. But would she lead me to the right answers? I had a suspicion she might be only a bit player. The deciding factor was the L’Orly’s link with Hassim: that had to be important. On balance, I decided to concentrate my attention on the L’Orly’s and pay them another visit at their farm. I would go there unannounced and—almost certainly—highly unwelcome. Maybe I would learn something by sheer bravado.
I went up to the Redon marina office and checked in the boat for a few days. They spoke pretty good English there and they gave me the number of a local car rental company. Within half an hour I’d hired a little Citroen diesel and I was on the highway heading out of town in the direction of the L’Orly farm.