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.They headed towards a glassed-in cubicle.Inside there were filing cabinets and a dozen or so desks.They wove their way past them to join a little group in the middle.D’Humières made the introductions: Captain Rémi Maillard, head of the gendarmerie in Saint-Martin; Captain Irène Ziegler, from the research unit in Pau; the mayor of Saint-Martin – a short, broad-shouldered fellow with a lion’s mane and a burnished face – and the manager of the power plant, an engineer who looked like an engineer: short hair, glasses and a sporty air in his rollneck jumper and lined parka.‘I’ve asked Commandant Servaz to give us a hand.When I was a deputy public prosecutor in Toulouse, I often had reason to call on his services.His team assisted us in getting to the bottom of several sticky cases.’‘Assisted us in getting to the bottom of…’ That was d’Humières all over.It was just like her to want to get right in the middle of the photograph.But he immediately told himself that it wasn’t really fair to think like that: he knew she was a woman who loved her job – and who did not keep track of either her time or her sweat.That was something he appreciated.Servaz liked conscientious people.He thought that he too belonged to this category: conscientious, tough, probably boring.‘Commandant Servaz and Captain Ziegler will be handling the investigation jointly.’Servaz saw Captain Ziegler’s fine face crumple.Once again he told himself that this must be a major incident.An investigation that was handled jointly by the police and the gendarmerie was an inexhaustible source of quarrels, rivalry and withholding of evidence – but that too was a sign of the times.And Cathy d’Humières was sufficiently ambitious never to lose sight of the political angle.She had climbed up all the rungs: assistant public prosecutor, deputy public prosecutor … She had become head of the public prosecutor’s office in Saint-Martin five years earlier and Servaz was sure she did not intend to stop there when she was doing so well: the office in Saint-Martin was too small, too far from the spotlight, for someone whose ambition was as consuming as hers.He was convinced that in the next year or two she would make presiding judge at a more important tribunal.Now he asked, ‘Was the body found here, at the power plant?’‘No,’ answered Maillard, pointing to the ceiling, ‘up there, at the cable car terminus, two thousand metres up.’‘Who uses the cable car?’‘The workers who go up to maintain the machines,’ answered the plant manager.‘It’s a sort of underground factory that functions by itself; it channels the water from the upper lake into the three pressure pipelines you can see outside.The cable car is the only way to get up there under normal circumstances.There is of course the helicopter pad – but that’s only used in the event of a medical emergency.’‘There’s no path, no road?’‘There’s a path that goes up there in the summer.In the winter it’s buried under metres of snow.’‘You mean that whoever did this used the cable car? How does it work?’‘Nothing could be simpler: there’s a key; then you press a button to start it.And another big red button to bring everything to a halt if there’s a problem.’‘The keys are kept in a locker, here,’ Maillard interrupted, pointing to a metal box on the wall.‘It seems to have been forced open.The body had been strung up on the last support tower, at the very top.There can be no doubt: the perpetrator must have used the cable car to transport it.’‘No fingerprints?’‘No visible traces, in any case.We’ve got hundreds of latent prints in the cabin.The samples have been sent to the lab.We’re in the process of getting all the employees’ prints to compare them.’He nodded.‘And what was the body like?’‘Decapitated.And dismembered: the skin peeled back on either side like great wings.You’ll see it on the video: a truly macabre sight.The workers still haven’t recovered.’Servaz stared at the gendarme, all his senses suddenly on alert.Even though this was an era of extreme violence, this incident was far from ordinary.He noticed that Captain Ziegler wasn’t saying anything, just listening attentively.‘Any make-up?’ He shook his hand.‘Fingertips cut?’In French police jargon, ‘make-up’ meant hindering identification of the victim by destroying or removing anything that could be used for ID: face, fingers, teeth …The officer opened his eyes wide, astonished.‘What … you mean they didn’t tell you?’Servaz frowned.‘Tell me what?’He saw Maillard cast a panicked look at Ziegler, then the prosecutor.‘The body,’ stammered the gendarme.Servaz felt he was about to lose his patience – but he waited for what came next.‘It was a horse.’* * *‘A horse?’Servaz looked at the rest of the group, incredulous.‘Yes.A horse.A thoroughbred, probably a year old, according to what we know.’Now it was Servaz’s turn to look at Cathy d’Humières.‘You made me come all the way up here for a horse?’‘I thought you knew,’ she said defensively.‘Didn’t Canter tell you anything?’Servaz thought back to Canter in his office and the way he’d feigned ignorance.He knew.And he also knew that Servaz would have refused to come all this way for a horse, since he had the murder of the homeless man on his hands.‘I’ve got three kids who’ve murdered a homeless bloke and you drag me up here for a nag?’D’Humières’s reply was instantaneous, conciliatory but firm.‘It’s not just any horse.A thoroughbred.A very expensive animal.Which in all likelihood belonged to Éric Lombard.’So that’s it, he thought.Éric Lombard, the son of Henri Lombard and grandson of Édouard Lombard … A financial dynasty, captains of industry, entrepreneurs who had reigned over this patch of the Pyrenees, over the département and even over the region, for six decades or more.With obviously unlimited access to all the antechambers of power [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]