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Aforisma di Edward Gibbon
“L’assassinio è l’ultima risorsa dei vigliacchi”.
Society called him Handsome Signoles. His name was Viscount Gontran-Joseph de Signoles.
An orphan, and possessed of an adequate income, he cut a dash, as the saying is. He had a good figure and a good carriage, a sufficient flow of words to pass for wit, a certain natural grace, an air of nobility and pride, a gallant moustache and an eloquent eye, attributes which women like.
He was in demand in drawing-rooms, sought after for valses, and in men he inspired that smiling hostility which is reserved for vital and attractive rivals. He had been suspected of several love-affairs of a sort calculated to create a good opinion of a youngster. He lived a happy, care-free life, in the most complete well-being of body and mind. He was known to be a fine swordsman and a still finer shot with the pistol.
“When I come to fight a duel,” he would say, “I shall choose pistols. With that weapon, I’m sure of killing my man.”
One evening, he went to the theatre with two ladies, quite young, friends of his, whose husbands were also of the party, and after the performance he invited them to take ices at Tortoni’s.
They had been sitting there for a few minutes when he noticed a gentleman at a neighbouring table staring obstinately at one of the ladies of the party. She seemed embarrassed and ill at ease, and bent her head. At last she said to her husband:
“There’s a man staring at me. I don’t know him; do you?”
The husband, who had seen nothing, raised his eyes, but declared:
“No, not in the least.”
Half smiling, half in anger, she replied:
“It’s very annoying; the creature’s spoiling my ice.”
Her husband shrugged his shoulders.
“Deuce take him, don’t appear to notice it. If we had to deal with all the discourteous people one meets, we’d never have done with them.”
But the Viscount had risen abruptly. He could not permit this stranger to spoil an ice of his giving. It was to him that the insult was addressed, since it was at his invitation and on his account that his friends had come to the cafe. The affair was no business of anyone but himself.
He went up to the man and said:
“You have a way of looking at those ladies, sir, which I cannot stomach. Please be so good as to set a limit to your persistence.”
“You hold your tongue,” replied the other.
“Take care, sir,” retorted the Viscount, clenching his teeth;” you’ll force me to overstep the bounds of common politeness.”
The gentleman replied with a single word, a vile word which rang across the cafe from one end to the other, and, like the release of a spring, jerked every person present into an abrupt movement. All those with their backs towards him turned round, all the rest raised their heads; three waiters spun round on their heels like tops; the two ladies behind the counter started, then the whole upper half of their bodies twisted round, as though they were a couple of automata worked by the same handle.
There was a profound silence. Then suddenly a sharp noise resounded in the air. The Viscount had boxed his adversary’s ears. Every one rose to intervene. Cards were exchanged.
Back in his home, the Viscount walked for several minutes up and down his room with long quick strides. He was too excited to think. A solitary idea dominated his mind: “a duel”; but as yet the idea stirred in him no emotion of any kind. He had done what he was compelled to do; he had shown himself to be what he ought to be. People would talk of it, would approve of him, congratulate him. He repeated aloud, speaking as a man speaks in severe mental distress:
“What a hound the fellow is!”
Then he sat down and began to reflect. In the morning he must find seconds. Whom should he choose? He searched his mind for the most important and celebrated names of his acquaintance. At last he decided on the Marquis de la Tour-Noire and Colonel Bourdin, an aristocrat and a soldier; they would do excellently. Their names would look well in the papers. He realised that he was thirsty, and drank three glasses of water one after the other; then he began to walk up and down again. He felt full of energy. If he played the gallant, showed himself determined, insisted on the most strict and dangerous arrangements, demanded a serious duel, a thoroughly serious duel, a positively terrible duel, his adversary would probably retire an apologist.
He took up once more the card which he had taken from his pocket and thrown down upon the table, and read it again as he had read it before, in the cafe, at a glance, and in the cab, by the light of each gas-lamp, on his way home.
“Georges Lamil, 51 rue Moncey.” Nothing more.
He examined the grouped letters; they seemed to him mysterious, full of confused meaning. Georges Lamil? Who was this man? What did he do? Why had he looked at the woman in that way? Was it not revolting that a stranger, an unknown man, could thus disturb a man’s life, without warning, just because he chose to fix his insolent eyes upon a woman? Again the Viscount repeated aloud:
“What a hound!”
Then he remained standing stock-still, lost in thought, his eyes still fixed upon the card. A fury against this scrap of paper awoke in him, a fury of hatred in which was mingled a queer sensation of uneasiness. This sort of thing was so stupid! He took up an open knife which lay close at hand and thrust it through the middle of the printed name, as though he had stabbed a man.
So he must fight. Should he choose swords or pistols?–for he regarded himself as the insulted party. With swords there would be less risk, but with pistols there was a chance that his adversary might withdraw. It is very rare that a duel with swords is fatal, for mutual prudence is apt to restrain combatants from engaging at sufficiently close quarters for a point to penetrate deeply. With pistols he ran a grave risk of death; but he might also extricate himself from the affair with all the honours of the situation and without actually coming to a meeting.
“I must be firm,” he said. “He will take fright.”
The sound of his voice set him trembling, and he looked round. He felt very nervous. He drank another glass of water, then began to undress for bed.
As soon as he was in bed, he blew out the light and closed his eyes.
“I’ve the whole of to-morrow,” he thought, “in which to set my affairs in order. I’d better sleep now, so that I shall be quite calm.”
He was very warm in the blankets, but he could not manage to compose himself to sleep. He turned this way and that, lay for five minutes upon his back, turned on to his left side, then rolled over on to his right.
He was still thirsty. He got up to get a drink. A feeling of uneasiness crept over him:
“Is it possible that I’m afraid?”
Why did his heart beat madly at each familiar sound in his room? When the clock was about to strike, the faint squeak of the rising spring made him start; so shaken he was that for several seconds afterwards he had to open his mouth to get his breath.
He began to reason with himself on the possibility of his being afraid.
“Shall I be afraid?”
No, of course he would not be afraid, since he was resolved to see the matter through, and had duly made up his mind to fight and not to tremble. But he felt so profoundly distressed that he wondered:
“Can a man be afraid in spite of himself?”
He was attacked by this doubt, this uneasiness, this terror; suppose a force more powerful than himself, masterful, irresistible, overcame him, what would happen? Yes, what might not happen? Assuredly he would go to the place of the meeting, since he was quite ready to go. But supposing he trembled? Supposing he fainted? He thought of the scene, of his reputation, his good name.
There came upon him a strange need to get up and look at himself in the mirror. He relit his candle. When he saw his face reflected in the polished glass, he scarcely recognised it, it seemed to him as though he had never yet seen himself. His eyes looked to him enormous; and he was pale; yes, without doubt he was pale, very pale.
He remained standing in front of the mirror. He put out his tongue, as though to ascertain the state of his health, and abruptly the thought struck him like a bullet:
“The day after to-morrow, at this very hour, I may be dead.”
His heart began again its furious beating.
“The day after to-morrow, at this very hour, I may be dead. This person facing me, this me I see in the mirror, will be no more. Why, here I am, I look at myself, I feel myself alive, and in twenty-four hours I shall be lying in that bed, dead, my eyes closed, cold, inanimate, vanished.”
He turned back towards the bed, and distinctly saw himself lying on his back in the very sheets he had just left. He had the hollow face of a corpse, his hands had the slackness of hands that will never make another movement.
At that he was afraid of his bed, and, to get rid of the sight of it, went into the smoking-room. Mechanically he picked up a cigar, lit it, and began to walk up and down again. He was cold; he went to the bell to wake his valet; but he stopped, even as he raised his hand to the rope.
“He will see that I am afraid.”
He did not ring; he lit the fire. His hands shook a little, with a nervous tremor, whenever they touched anything. His brain whirled, his troubled thoughts became elusive, transitory, and gloomy; his mind suffered all the effects of intoxication, as though he were actually drunk.
Over and over again he thought:
“What shall I do? What is to become of me?”
His whole body trembled, seized with a jerky shuddering; he got up and, going to the window, drew back the curtains.
Dawn was at hand, a summer dawn. The rosy sky touched the town, its roofs and walls, with its own hue. A broad descending ray, like the caress of the rising sun, enveloped the awakened world; and with the light, hope–a gay, swift, fierce hope–filled the Viscount’s heart! Was he mad, that he had allowed himself to be struck down by fear, before anything was settled even, before his seconds had seen those of this Georges Lamil, before he knew whether he was going to fight?
He washed, dressed, and walked out with a firm step.
He repeated to himself, as he walked:
“I must be energetic, very energetic. I must prove that I am not afraid.”
His seconds, the Marquis and the Colonel, placed themselves at his disposal, and after hearty handshakes discussed the conditions.
“You are anxious for a serious duel? ” asked the Colonel.
“Yes, a very serious one,” replied the Viscount.
“You still insist on pistols?” said the Marquis.
“You will leave us free to arrange the rest?”
In a dry, jerky voice the Viscount stated:
“Twenty paces; at the signal, raising the arm, and not lowering it. Exchange of shots till one is seriously wounded.”
“They are excellent conditions,” declared the Colonel in a tone of satisfaction. “You shoot well, you have every chance.”
They departed. The Viscount went home to wait for them. His agitation, momentarily quietened, was now growing minute by minute. He felt a strange shivering, a ceaseless vibration, down his arms, down his legs, in his chest; he could not keep still in one place, neither seated nor standing. There was not the least moistening of saliva in his mouth, and at every instant he made a violent movement of his tongue, as though to prevent it sticking to his palate.
He was eager to have breakfast, but could not eat. Then the idea came to him to drink in order to give himself courage, and he sent for a decanter of rum, of which he swallowed six liqueur glasses full one after the other.
A burning warmth flooded through his body, followed immediately by a sudden dizziness of the mind and spirit.
“Now I know what to do,” he thought. “Now it is all right.”
But by the end of an hour he had emptied the decanter, and his state of agitation had once more become intolerable. He was conscious of a wild need to roll on the ground, to scream, to bite. Night was falling.
The ringing of a bell gave him such a shock that he had not strength to rise and welcome his seconds.
He did not even dare to speak to them, to say “Good evening” to them, to utter a single word, for fear they guessed the whole thing by the alteration in his voice.
“Everything is arranged in accordance with the conditions you fixed,” observed the Colonel. “At first your adversary claimed the privileges of the insulted party, but he yielded almost at once, and has accepted everything. His seconds are two military men.”
“Thank you,” said the Viscount.
“Pardon us,” interposed the Marquis, “if we merely come in and leave again immediately, but we have a thousand things to see to. We must have a good doctor, since the combat is not to end until a serious wound is inflicted, and you know that pistol bullets are no laughing-matter. We must appoint the ground, near a house to which we may carry the wounded man if necessary, etc. In fact, we shall be occupied for two or three hours arranging all that there is to arrange.”
“Thank you,” said the Viscount a second time.
“You are all right?” asked the Colonel. “You are calm?”
“Yes, quite calm, thank you.”
The two men retired.
When he realised that he was once more alone, he thought that he was going mad. His servant had lit the lamps, and he sat down at the table to write letters. After tracing, at the head of a sheet: “This is my will,” he rose shivering and walked away, feeling incapable of connecting two ideas, of taking a resolution, of making any decision whatever.
So he was going to fight! He could no longer avoid it. Then what was the matter with him? He wished to fight, he had absolutely decided upon this plan of action and taken his resolve, and he now felt clearly, in spite of every effort of mind and forcing of will, that he could not retain even the strength necessary to get him to the place of meeting. He tried to picture the duel, his own attitude and the bearing of his adversary.
From time to time his teeth chattered in his mouth with a slight clicking noise. He tried to read, and took down Chateauvillard’s code of duelling. Then he wondered:
“Does my adversary go to shooting-galleries? Is he well known? Is he classified anywhere? How can I find out?”
He bethought himself of Baron Vaux’s book on marksmen with the pistol, and ran through it from end to end. Georges Lamil was not mentioned in it. Yet if the man were not a good shot, he would surely not have promptly agreed to that dangerous weapon and those fatal conditions?
He opened, in passing, a case by Gastinne Renette standing on a small table, and took out one of the pistols, then placed himself as though to shoot and raised his arm. But he was trembling from head to foot and the barrel moved in every direction.
At that, he said to himself:
“It’s impossible. I cannot fight in this state.”
He looked at the end of the barrel, at the little, black, deep hole that spits death; he thought of the disgrace, of the whispers at the club, of the laughter in drawing-rooms, of the contempt of women, of the allusions in the papers, of the insults which cowards would fling at him.
He was still looking at the weapon, and, raising the hammer, caught a glimpse of a cap gleaming beneath it like a tiny red flame. By good fortune or forgetfulness, the pistol had been left loaded. At the knowledge, he was filled with a confused inexplicable sense of joy.
If, when face to face with the other man, he did not show a proper gallantry and calm, he would be lost for ever. He would be sullied, branded with a mark of infamy, hounded out of society. And he would not be able to achieve that calm, that swaggering poise; he knew it, he felt it. Yet he was brave, since he wanted to fight I … He was brave, since….
The thought which hovered in him did not even fulfil itself in his mind; but, opening his mouth wide, he thrust in the barrel of his pistol with savage gesture until it reached his throat, and pressed on the trigger.
When his valet ran in, at the sound of the report, he found him lying dead upon his back. A shower of blood had splashed the white paper on the table, and made a great red mark beneath these four words:
“This is my will.”
(Guy de Maupassant)
adequate (adjective): pretty good
carriage (noun): posture; the way you carry your body
gallant (adjective): bold; heroic; impressive
eloquent (adjective): expressive
in demand (adjective): highly desired
valse (noun): waltz (French)
obstinate (adjective): stubborn
ill at ease (adjective): uncomfortable
vile (adjective): dirty
intervene (verb): to break up a conflict
adversary (noun): person one is in conflict with; opponent
duel (noun): a battle between two people
insolent (adjective): disrespectful
prudence (noun): good judgement
valet (noun): a manservant; a man’s personal male attendant
elusive (adjective): difficult to achieve
palate (noun): the roof of one’s mouth
agitation (noun): anxiousness
fatal (adjective): causing death
inexplicable (adjective): can’t be explained
sully (verb): to spoil one’s reputation
poise (noun): gracefulness; elegance
hover (verb): to hang over something for a while
Aforisma di Paolo Crepet
“Il tossico seme della infelicità odierna non è forse rintracciabile in quel muto accalcarsi, in quello sfuggire/sfuggirsi, in quella perdita di identità individuale e collettiva? Certa frenesia metropolitana non somiglia all’angosciante fuga continua di criceti in una gabbia troppo stretta, costretti a rincorrere la propria coda? L’uomo contemporaneo cerca invano di scappare per non dover riconoscere l’ombra della propria anima, per non fare i conti con la propria inaudita infelicità”
Aphorism by Paolo Crepet
“Is not the toxic seed of today’s unhappiness found in that silent crowd, in that escape / escape, in that loss of individual and collective identity? Does not certain metropolitan frenzy resemble the agonizing continuous escape of hamsters in a too narrow cage, forced to chase their own tail? The contemporary man tries in vain to run away in order not to have to recognize the shadow of his own soul, in order not to come to terms with his own unheard-of unhappiness “
La scoperta di un corpo nella metropolitana di Parigi una mattina presto non era particolarmente insolita. Che fosse senza testa mandò un briciolo attraverso il sesto arrondissement, ma l’incidente passò inosservato fuori Parigi.
Eppure c’era chiaramente qualcosa di strano nel caso. Difficilmente il corpo era stato decapitato per frustrare l’identificazione, perché era completamente rivestito e nessuno degli effetti personali del proprietario era stato rimosso, salvo ovviamente per la sua testa. La polizia di Parigi legò presto il contenuto del portafoglio del morto con prove forensi dal corpo. In aggiunta a ciò, Madame Charente, la moglie del morto, poteva identificare il corpo in modo molto intimo. (Aveva già riferito che suo marito era scomparso.)
Alcuni uomini furono inviati a curiosare nei caldi e bui tunnel su entrambi i lati della stazione di Odéon, dove era stato trovato il cadavere. Dall’altra parte della strada fu fatta un’altra ricerca, ugualmente infruttuosa, e all’ispettore Dutruelle sembrò che il caso non si sarebbe risolto.
Due settimane più tardi, a quattro chilometri di distanza a ovest, un corpo senza testa fu trovato alla stazione di Courcelles, di nuovo nel tunnel non lontano dalla piattaforma. Come nel caso precedente, la causa della morte era apparentemente il taglio della testa, che sembrava essere stato fatto con una certa precisione. Di nuovo, il corpo era completamente vestito e facilmente identificabile, e nient’altro che la testa era stata apparentemente rimossa.
“Cosa posso dire a questi benedetti reporter?” L’ispettore Dutruelle disse mentre dava a sua moglie i due pezzi di pane che di solito comprava sulla strada di casa. “Vogliono risposte per tutto, e non sono solo i giornali, anche i politici si stanno preoccupando, sto segnalando al Préfet su questo”.
“Se ci fossero risposte immediate per tutto, mon petit chou, non avrebbero avuto bisogno di te” disse la signora Dutruelle. “E dove sarebbero senza di te?” Chi ha chiarito quel terribile caso Clichy l’anno scorso, e il bagno acido a Reuilly Diderot? ”
Il piccolo ispettore di divisione, chef, si tirò lo stomaco, gonfiando il petto e alzandosi in tutta la sua altezza. Un sorriso si allargò sulla sua faccia rotonda. Nel suo elegante abito scuro e negli occhiali cerchiati d’oro, avresti potuto prenderlo per un direttore di banca provinciale piuttosto che per uno dei poliziotti di maggior successo di Parigi.
“Pensa,” disse ironico, “stavano davvero per chiudere il dossier sul dottor Gomes prima che prendessi in carico le indagini.”
“Sono pazzi, tutti loro.”
The discovery of a body in the Paris Metro early one morning was not particularly unusual. That it was headless sent a frisson through the sixth arrondissement, but the incident went unnoticed outside Paris.
Yet there was clearly something strange about the case. It was hardly as though the body had been decapitated to frustrate identification, for it was fully clothed and none of the owner’s personal effects had been removed, save of course for his head. The Paris police soon tied up the contents of the dead man’s wallet with forensic evidence from the body. Added to that, Madame Charente, the dead man’s wife, could positively identify the body in the most intimate ways. (She had already reported her husband as missing.)
A few men were despatched to poke around in the warm, dark tunnels on either side of Odéon station, where the body had been found. Above ground another search was made, equally fruitlessly, and to Inspector Dutruelle it looked as though the case would linger on unsolved.
Two weeks later, four kilometres away in the west, a headless body was found at Courcelles station, again in the tunnel not far from the platform. As in the earlier case, the cause of death was apparently the severing of the head, which appeared to have been done with some precision. Again, the body was fully clothed and easily identified, and nothing but the head had apparently been removed.
“What can I tell these blessed reporters?” Inspector Dutruelle said as he handed his wife the two sticks of bread he usually bought on the way home. “They want answers for everything. And it’s not just the papers now, the politicians are getting worried too. I’m reporting to the Préfet on this one.”
“If there were instant answers for everything, mon petit chou, they’d have no need of you,” said Madame Dutruelle. “And where would they be without you? Who cleared up that terrible Clichy case last year, and the acid bath at Reuilly Diderot?”
The little inspecteur divisionnaire-chef pulled in his stomach, puffed out his chest and rose to his full height. A smile spread across his round face. In his smart dark suit and gold-rimmed glasses you could have taken him for a provincial bank manager rather than one of Paris’s most successful policemen.
“Just think,” he said wryly, “they were actually about to close the file on Dr Gomes before I took charge of the investigation.”
“They’re fools, all of them.”
“Comunque, mia cara, non so dove andare su questo, non ci sono indizi, non c’è motivo apparente, ed è un modello bizzarro, presumendo che, naturalmente, sia un modello. Non ne sarai sicuro fino a quando ce ne sarà un altro. ”
L’ispettore Dutruelle non ha atteso molto che il suo schema emergesse. Una telefonata alle cinque e mezza del mattino seguente lo trascinò fuori dal suo letto.
“È un altro, signore,” disse la voce dall’altra parte.
“Un altro cosa?”
“È identico, un altro cadavere senza testa, proprio come gli altri: maschio, di mezza età, bianco.”
“Dove?” chiese l’ispettore Dutruelle armeggiando per una sigaretta.
“Sì signore, appena dentro il tunnel, nel pozzo anti-suicidio tra i binari.”
“Chiudi la linea – se non l’hai già. Sarò presto con te. E non muoverti, d’intuito?”
L’ispettore Dutruelle rimise il ricevitore con un sospiro mentre sua moglie entrava nella stanza.
“Odio questi casi mattutini”, mormorò. Si accese la sigaretta.
“Prendi un caffè prima di andare, un altro cadavere manterrà”.
“Ma abbiamo chiuso il confine ed è l’altro lato della città, mia cara, a nord di Parigi.”
Si sedette pesantemente e osservò cupamente la moglie mentre preparava il caffè. La signora Dutruelle era una donna semplice di quarantasei, il cui viso lungo e dalle labbra sottili era incorniciato da peli grigi. Le sue mani forti e pratiche erano mani di campagna e non si era mai abituata alla vita di città. Ha vissuto per il giorno in cui lei e suo marito si sarebbero ritirati nel loro villaggio natale a Les Pyrénées. L’ispettore Dutruelle sospirò di nuovo tra sé. Povera Agnese. Ha provato così tanto a piacergli. Come poteva sapere che desiderava essere libero da lei? Come poteva sapere di Vololona, il giovane malgascio che aveva incontrato durante il caso Clichy? Per lui era stato amore a prima vista.
“E anche per me, mia cara,” Vololona si era affrettata a concordare, i suoi grandi occhi marroni erano pieni di lacrime mentre lo fissavano attraverso il fumo della Chatte et Lapin dove lavorava, “un vero colpo di fulmine”. Parlava bene il francese, con un accento maligno e una raffinatezza che ti lasciavano un senso di mistero e promessa. L’ispettore Dutruelle era un uomo felice; ma fu attento a dire a nessuno tranne il signor Chébaut, il suo migliore amico, sulla fonte della sua felicità.
“Non mi sono mai sentito così, Pierre, sono affascinato da lei”, disse una sera quando portò Monsieur Chébaut a vedere Vololona che ballava.
È stata un’esperienza rara, anche per il faticoso Monsieur Chébaut. Nei frenetici riflettori colorati della Chatte et Lapin Vololona danzava da solo e nella sua vitalità percepivi la natura selvaggia del Madagascar. Le sue membra nere sferzavano l’aria alla musica, che era pura e sensuale.
“Sai, Pierre, in trent’anni di matrimonio non sono mai stato infedele Beh, lo sai già, c’era sempre il mio lavoro, i bambini, ed ero abbastanza felice a casa, non mi è mai capitato di guardare un altro ma qualcosa è accaduto quando ho incontrato Vololona, mi ha mostrato come si vive, mi ha mostrato la vera estasi, guardala, Pierre, non è la cosa più squisita che tu abbia mai visto e mi adora. su di me, ma perché, ti chiedo, cosa può vedere in me – tre volte la sua età, panciuta, calva … sposata?
L’ispettore Dutruelle si appoggiò allo schienale della sedia e si girò a guardare gli altri clienti che applaudivano Vololona dall’ombra. Sorrise con orgoglio a se stesso. Sapeva esattamente cosa c’era nelle loro menti. La vita era strana, pensò, e non si potrebbe mai dire. Alcuni di loro erano giovani, alti, belli e virili, eppure nessuno di loro conosceva Vololona come la conosceva.
Il signor Chébaut finì il suo whisky.
“Vedo,” disse, “che un uomo nella tua posizione potrebbe avere certe attrazioni per un immigrato senza documenti che lavorano in uno dei quartieri più pericolosi di Parigi.” Il signor Chébaut era un avvocato.
“Sei un cinico, Pierre.”
“E dopo trent’anni di forza non sei?”
“Personalmente, le credo quando dice che mi ama, ma non so perché, un altro whisky?”
“Be ‘, una cosa è certa, Régis, non può andare avanti così. In un modo o nell’altro si arriva a una testa, ma devo essere d’accordo, è squisita, come una squisita Venere acchiappamosche. momento geniale, sai, quei petali morbidi e succulenti si chiuderanno intorno a te come un vizio. ”
L’ispettore, normalmente placido, fu stuzzicato dall’atteggiamento irragionevole del suo amico.
“Come puoi dirlo?” ha schioccato. “Quando non le hai nemmeno parlato.”
“Ma tutte le donne sono uguali, Régis, non lo sai? Dovresti essere un avvocato, quindi lo sapresti, non possono farci niente, sono costruite in quel modo … credimi, puo ‘ andare avanti senza che succeda qualcosa. ”
L’ispettore Dutruelle guardò torvo il suo vecchio compagno e non disse nulla. Il signor Chébaut vedeva che aveva toccato un nervo scoperto. Sorrise amichevolmente e si sporse per schiaffeggiare scherzosamente il suo amico sulla spalla.
“Guarda Régis, sto solo dicendo, stai attento, non hai avuto la mia esperienza.
“All the same, my dear, I don’t know where to go on this one. There’re no leads. There’s no apparent motive. And it’s a bizarre pattern. Assuming, of course, it is a pattern. We can’t be sure of that until there’s been another.”
Inspector Dutruelle did not have long to wait for his pattern to emerge. A telephone call at half past five the next morning dragged him from his bed.
“It’s another one, sir,” said the voice at the other end.
“It’s identical. Another headless corpse, just like the others – male, middle-aged, white.”
“Where?” asked Inspector Dutruelle fumbling for a cigarette.
“In the Metro?”
“Yes sir, just inside the tunnel. In the anti-suicide well between the tracks.”
“Close the line – if you haven’t already. I’ll be with you soon. And don’t move it, d’you hear?”
Inspector Dutruelle replaced the receiver with a sigh as his wife padded into the room.
“I hate these early morning cases,” he muttered. He lit his cigarette.
“Have a coffee before you go. Another dead body will keep.”
“But we’ve closed the line. And it’s the other side of town, my dear. North Paris.”
“All the same.”
He sat down heavily and watched his wife sullenly as she made the coffee. Madame Dutruelle was a simple woman of forty-six whose long, thin-lipped face was framed by stern grey hair. Her strong, practical hands were country hands, and she had never got used to city life. She lived for the day when she and her husband would retire to their home village in Les Pyrenées. Inspector Dutruelle sighed to himself again. Poor Agnes. She tried so hard to please him. How could she know that he longed to be free of her? How could she possibly know of Vololona, the young Malagasy he had met while on the Clichy case? For him it had been love at first sight.
“And for me too, my darling,” Vololona had been quick to agree, her large brown eyes welling with tears as they gazed at him through the smoke of the Chatte et Lapin where she worked, “a veritable coup de foudre.” She spoke French well, with a Malagasy accent and huskiness that left you with a sense of mystery and promise. Inspector Dutruelle was a happy man; but he was careful to tell no-one except Monsieur Chébaut, his closest friend, about the source of his happiness.
“I’ve never felt like this before, Pierre. I’m captivated by her,” he said one evening when he took Monsieur Chébaut to see Vololona dancing.
It was a rare experience, even for the jaded Monsieur Chébaut. In the frantic coloured spotlights of the Chatte et Lapin Vololona danced solo and in her vitality you sensed the wildness of Madagascar. Her black limbs lashed the air to the music, which was raw and sensual.
“You know, Pierre, in thirty years of marriage I was never unfaithful. Well, you know that already. There was always my work, and the children, and I was happy enough at home. It never occured to me to look at another woman. But something happened when I met Vololona. She showed me how to live. She showed me what real ecstasy is. Look at her, Pierre. Isn’t she the most exquisite thing you ever saw? And she adores me. She’s crazy about me. But why, I ask you? What can she see in me – three times her age, pot-bellied, bald . . . married?”
Inspector Dutruelle leaned back in his chair and swung around to look at the other customers applauding Vololona from the shadows. He smiled proudly to himself. He knew exactly what was on their minds. Life was strange, he thought, and you could never tell. Some of them were young men, tall and handsome and virile, yet none of them knew Vololona as he knew her.
Monsieur Chébaut finished his whisky.
“I can see,” he said, “that a man in your position might have certain attractions for an immigrant without papers working in one of the more dangerous quarters of Paris.” Monsieur Chébaut was a lawyer.
“You’re a cynic, Pierre.”
“And after thirty years in the force you’re not?”
“Personally, I believe her when she says she loves me. I just don’t know why. Another whisky?”
“Well, one thing’s for sure, Régis, it can’t go on like that. One way or another things’ll come to a head. But I must agree, she’s exquisite all right. Like an exquisite Venus flytrap. And at the germane moment, you know, those soft, succulent petals will close around you like a vice.”
The normally placid Inspector was piqued by his friend’s unreasonable attitude.
“How can you say that?” he snapped. “When you haven’t even spoken to her.”
“But all women are the same, Régis. Don’t you know that? You should be a lawyer, then you’d know it. They can’t help it, they’re built that way. Believe me, it can’t go on without something happening.”
Inspector Dutruelle glowered at his old schoolfriend and said nothing. Monsieur Chébaut could see he had touched a raw nerve. He grinned amicably and leaned across to slap his friend playfully on the shoulder.
“Look Régis, all I’m saying is, be careful, you haven’t got my experience.
“Certo, era vero. Quando si trattava di donne, pochi uomini avevano l’esperienza di Monsieur Chébaut. O la sua fortuna, del resto. Era una di quelle persone che attraversano la vita isolata dalle difficoltà. Ha attraversato strade senza guardare. Non ha fretta per i treni. Non ha mai riconciliato conti bancari. Alto, magro, con bell’aspetto fanciullesco e capelli neri folti e ondulati, era l’antitesi dell’ispettore Dutruelle.
“Guarda, hai due donne coinvolte, Régis,” continuò Monsieur Chébaut, “e le donne non sono come noi, Agnes non è stupida, deve sapere che sta succedendo qualcosa.”
“Non ha detto niente,” disse l’ispettore bruscamente. Accese un’altra Gauloise.
“Certo che no, è più intelligente di te, intende tenerti con te.”
“Intendiamoci,” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle a malincuore, “ha avuto qualche strano sogno di recente – così dice lei – di me e di un’altra donna, ma in ogni caso ride solo e dice che non può crederci.”
“Ma Régis, devi sapere che ciò che diciamo e ciò che pensiamo raramente sono gli stessi.”
“A volte mi chiedo se dovrei dirle qualcosa, se non altro per decenza.”
Il signor Chébaut quasi soffocò con il fresco whisky che gli aveva appena messo alle labbra.
“No,” gridò con una passione che sorprese l’ispettore, “mai, non devi mai dirglielo, Écoute Régis, anche se lei ne ha parlato, tu devi negare tutto, anche se ti ha sorpreso in azione, Devi negarlo, puoi dire a una donna che ce n’è un’altra quando hai deciso definitivamente di lasciarla, e anche allora potrebbe non essere sicuro. ”
“Così tanto per la logica.”
“È inutile cercare la logica nelle donne, Régis. Te l’ho detto, non sono come gli uomini, anzi, sono giunto alla conclusione che non sono nemmeno le stesse specie degli uomini.” Uomini e donne non sono Mi piacciono i cani e le cagna, sono più come cani e gatti, ma bizzarri, non? In ogni caso, so che non puoi tenere due donne in movimento senza che succeda qualcosa. ma qualcosa. ”
Ora la stampa europea aveva raccolto la storia e il piccolo ispettore non sapeva come trattare con i giornalisti internazionali che si aggiravano come mosche fuori dai vecchi muri di pietra della Préfecture de police. Le loro storie erano incentrate sulla bizzarra natura delle uccisioni e l’idea che ci fossero tre teste mozzate da qualche parte a Parigi le eccitava particolarmente. Volevano costantemente saperne di più. Quindi, naturalmente, l’ispettore Dutruelle.
“Vi assicuro, signori”, ha detto in una conferenza stampa, “siamo almeno ansiosi quanto voi di recuperare le parti mancanti, stiamo facendo tutto il possibile, potete dire ai vostri lettori che ovunque si trovino, li troveremo “.
“Possiamo avere fotografie delle vittime per i nostri lettori?” ha chiesto uno dei giornalisti stranieri.
“Così come sappiamo quali teste stiamo cercando”, ha aggiunto un giornalista di Londra.
Era uno scherzo che non era condiviso dal popolo di Parigi. All’improvviso l’atmosfera di carnevale della Metro era evaporata. I busker non lavoravano più gli autobus tra le stazioni. Burattinai e giocolieri non intrattenevano più i passeggeri con esibizioni estemporanee. Persino i mendicanti, che abitualmente erano appesi alle stazioni affollate o facevano discorsi appassionati nelle carrozze, se n’erano andati. E i pochi passeggeri rimasti erano seduti più a lungo che mai, o camminavano più in fretta lungo i lunghi corridoi tra le piattaforme.
L’ispettore Dutruelle disperava di aver mai risolto il caso. La sua mente, già eccitata per Vololona, era ora in tumulto. Vololona aveva improvvisamente, e piangendo, annunciato che era incinta. Poi, dopo aver accettato la sua assistenza finanziaria per interrompere la gravidanza – ma rifiutando la sua offerta di portarla in clinica – gli disse un giorno al telefono: “Pensavo che avessi intenzione di chiedermi di sposarti.” L’ispettore Dutruelle era stordito.
“Ma sai che sono sposato, ma chérie,” disse.
“Pensavo che avresti lasciato Agnese”, rispose lei. “Volevo stare con te, volevo condividere tutto con te … mio figlio … la mia vita … il mio letto.” L’ispettore Dutruelle poteva sentire il suo singhiozzare.
“Ma cara, possiamo ancora vederci.”
“No, è troppo doloroso. Ti amo troppo.”
L’ispettore Dutruelle non riuscì a concentrarsi sul suo lavoro. Giorno e notte i suoi pensieri erano su Vololona; desiderava ardentemente stare con lei. Se solo Agnese lo lasciasse. E se solo Vololona si accontentasse di ciò che le aveva già dato – le cene, i regali, l’appartamento. Perché le donne devono possederti? Sembrava che più tu dava loro più prendevano, finché non c’era più niente da dare se non te stesso. Forse Pierre aveva ragione dopo tutto, quando ci hai pensato.
Of course, that was true. When it came to women few men had Monsieur Chébaut’s experience. Or his luck, for that matter. He was one of those people who go through life insulated from difficulties. He crossed roads without looking. He did not hurry for trains. He never reconciled bank accounts. Tall, slim, with boyish good looks and thick, black, wavy hair, he was the antithesis of Inspector Dutruelle.
“Look, you’ve got two women involved, Régis,” Monsieur Chébaut continued, “and women aren’t like us. Agnes isn’t stupid. She must know something’s going on.”
“She hasn’t said anything,” said the Inspector brusquely. He lit another Gauloise.
“Of course she hasn’t. She’s cleverer than you are. She intends to keep you.”
“Mind you,” said Inspector Dutruelle grudgingly, “she has had some odd dreams recently – so she says. About me and another woman. But anyway, she just laughs and says she can’t believe it.”
“But Régis, you must know that what we say and what we think are seldom the same.”
“Sometimes I wonder if I ought to tell her something, if only out of decency.”
Monsieur Chébaut nearly choked on the fresh whisky he had just put to his lips.
“No,” he cried with a passion that surprised the Inspector, “never, you must never tell her. Écoute Régis, even if she did mention it, you must deny everything. Even if she caught the two of you in the act, you must deny it. You can only tell a woman there’s another when you’ve definitively made up your mind to leave her, and even then it may not be safe.”
“So much for logic.”
“It’s no use looking for logic in women, Régis. I told you, they’re not like men. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re not even the same species as men. Men and women aren’t like dog and bitch, they’re more like dog and cat. C’est bizarre, non? In any case, I do know you can’t keep two women on the go without something happening. I don’t know what, but something.”
Now the European press had picked the story up and the little Inspector did not know how to deal with the international reporters who hung around like flies outside the old stone walls of the Préfecture de police. Their stories focussed on the bizarre nature of the killings, and the idea that there were three severed heads somewhere in Paris particularly excited them. They wanted constantly to know more. So of course did Inspector Dutruelle.
“I assure you, gentlemen,” he told a press conference, “we are at least as anxious as you to recover the missing parts. We are doing everything possible. You can tell your readers that wherever they are, we’ll find them.”
“Can we have photographs of the victims for our readers?” asked one of the foreign reporters.
“So as we know which heads we’re looking for,” added a journalist from London.
It was a joke that was not shared by the people of Paris. Suddenly the normally carnival atmosphere of the Metro had evaporated. Buskers no longer worked the coaches between stations. Puppeteers and jugglers no longer entertained passengers with impromptu performances. Even the beggars, who habitually hung around the crowded stations or made impassioned speeches in the carriages, had gone. And the few passengers who remained sat more long-faced than ever, or walked more hastily down the long corridors between platforms.
Inspector Dutruelle despaired of ever clearing the case up. His mind, already excited over Vololona, was now in a turmoil. Vololona had suddenly, and tearfully, announced that she was pregnant. Then, having accepted his financial assistance to terminate the pregnancy – but refusing his offer to take her to the clinic – she told him one day on the telephone: “I thought you were going to ask me to marry you.” Inspector Dutruelle was stunned.
“But you know I’m married, ma chérie,” he said.
“I thought you’d leave Agnes,” she replied. “I wanted to be with you. I wanted to share everything with you . . . my child . . . my life . . . my bed.” Inspector Dutruelle could hear her sobbing.
“But darling, we can still see each other.”
“No, it’s too painful. I love you too much.”
Inspector Dutruelle could not concentrate on his work at all. Day and night his thoughts were on Vololona; he longed to be with her. If only Agnes would leave him. And if only Vololona would be satisfied with what he gave her already – the dinners, the presents, the apartment. Why did women have to possess you? It seemed that the more you gave them the more they took, until there was nothing left to give but yourself. Perhaps Pierre was right after all, when you thought about it.
Le indagini sugli omicidi della metropolitana stavano procedendo in modo spiacevole. L’ispettore Dutruelle non aveva sospetti, nessun comando, nessun movente. I suoi superiori si sono lamentati della sua mancanza di progresso e la stampa lo ha ridicolizzato senza pietà. “Sembra,” ha commentato France-Soir, “che l’unica cosa che l’ispettore Dutruelle può dirci con certezza è che con ogni nuova atrocità il nome della stazione della metropolitana cresce più a lungo.” Gli investigatori sotto di lui non riuscivano a capire cosa fosse successo al loro ispettore normalmente astuto, e si sentivano senza capo e demoralizzati. Era stato affidato alla polizia di sicurezza della Metro per evidenziare un fatto piuttosto ovvio: che le tre stazioni in cui erano stati rinvenuti dei cadaveri avevano una cosa in comune – le loro linee intersecate a Metro Barbes Rochechouart, e sembrava che qualcosa potesse essere imparato da prendendo la metropolitana tra di loro.
All’ispettore Dutruelle non piaceva il trasporto pubblico, e in particolare non gli piaceva la metropolitana. Era angusto, puzzolente e claustrofobico nel migliore dei casi, e in estate faceva caldo. Stavi sul bordo stesso della piattaforma solo per sentire la brezza mentre i treni blu e bianchi arrivavano alla stazione. Erano anni che l’ispettore aveva usato la metropolitana.
“Non posso prendere molto di più, Marc,” disse al giovane agente investigativo che stava viaggiando con lui, “fa troppo caldo. Scendiamo alla fermata successiva.”
“Sono Barbes Rochechouart, signore, possiamo cambiare lì.”
“No, Marc, possiamo andare là fuori, qualcun altro può fare una sauna, ne ho avuto abbastanza, comunque, dobbiamo dare un’occhiata in giro.” L’ispettore Dutruelle si asciugò la fronte. Sembrava irritabile. “Dio sa come va normalmente”, ha aggiunto.
Quando il treno si fermò, imboccarono l’uscita per Boulevard de Rochechouart.
“Almeno adesso possiamo passare,” disse il poliziotto investigatore mentre risalivano il corridoio verso la scala mobile.
“Come vuoi dire?” chiese l’ispettore Dutruelle.
“Beh, di solito questa stazione è piena di mendicanti, passeggeri, busker, venditori ambulanti, oltre a tutti i loro tavoli e bancarelle, è come una grande fiera e il mercato si fonde in uno solo: da Eiffel Towers a cavoli e patate – non per menzionare un punto di cannabis o eroina. ”
“Oh, sì,” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle, vagamente. “Io ricordo.” Passò di nuovo un fazzoletto sulla fronte.
Ai turnstyles un uomo distribuiva cartoline pubblicitarie e ne mise uno nella mano dell’ispettore Dutruelle. Gettando uno sguardo verso l’alto e socchiudendo gli occhi alla luce del sole, l’ispettore ha letto a voce alta: “Il professor Dhiakobli, Grand Médium Voyant può aiutarti a raggiungere rapidamente tutti gli aspetti della vita …”
Si interruppe a metà frase con uno sbuffo.
“Che sacco di mumbo-jumbo! Polli senza testa e magia voodoo.”
“Può darsi che sia per te un mumbo-jumbo, signore,” disse il detective dell’agente con una risata, “ma qui attorno prendono sul serio questo genere di cose, e non solo qui intorno – dopotutto, usiamo alcune di queste tecniche nel polizia, no? ”
“Oh davvero? Come?”
“Bene, la grafologia per cominciare – difficilmente puoi chiamare basare un caso di omicidio sulle dimensioni della scrittura scientifica di qualcuno, vero signore? O che dire dell’astrologia – impiegando persone sulla base delle stelle? O della numerologia.”
“Sì, Marc,” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle, spingendo la carta nella tasca superiore, “forse hai ragione, e forse quando sarai più grande non ne sarai così sicuro, ora vai in macchina e chiama la macchina. ”
Il caldo luglio si è trasformato in agosto più caldo e umido. Niente più cadaveri furono trovati nei tunnel soffocanti della metropolitana, ei media, annoiati dalla mancanza di sviluppi, lasciarono l’ispettore Dutruelle alla sua oscurità originaria. Parigi, abbandonata dai suoi cittadini nell’esodo annuale verso la costa, era tollerabile solo ai turisti con gli zaini che si affollavano negli alberghi economici e ricominciarono ad affollare la metropolitana. Poi, a settembre, i parisiens tornarono e la vita tornò alla normalità.
The investigation into the Metro murders was proceeding dismally. Inspector Dutruelle had no suspect, no leads, no motive. His superiors complained about his lack of progress and the press ridiculed him without pity. “It appears,” commented France-Soir, “that the only thing Inspector Dutruelle can tell us with certainty is that with each fresh atrocity the Metro station name grows longer.” The detectives under him could not understand what had happened to their normally astute Inspector, and they felt leaderless and demoralised. It was left to the security police of the Metro to point out one rather obvious fact: that the three stations where bodies had been found had one thing in common – their lines intersected at Metro Barbes Rochechouart, and it seemed that something might be learned by taking the Metro between them.
Inspector Dutruelle did not like public transport, and he especially did not like the Metro. It was cramped, smelly and claustrophobic at the best of times, and in the summer it was hot. You stood on the very edge of the platform just to feel the breeze as the blue and white trains pulled into the station. It was years since the Inspector had used the Metro.
“I can’t take much more of this, Marc,” he said to the young Detective Constable who was travelling with him, “it’s too hot. We’ll get off at the next stop.”
“That’s Barbes Rochechouart, sir. We can change there.”
“No, Marc. We can get out there. Someone else can take a sauna, I’ve had enough. Anyway, we need to have a look around.” Inspector Dutruelle wiped his brow. He sounded irritable. “God knows what it’s like normally,” he added.
When the train pulled in they took the exit for Boulevard de Rochechouart.
“At least we can get through now,” said the Detective Constable as they walked up the passage towards the escalator.
“How d’you mean?” asked Inspector Dutruelle.
“Well, normally this station’s packed – beggars, passengers, buskers, hawkers, plus all their tables and stalls. It’s like a damn great fair and market rolled into one. You can get anything here, from Eiffel Towers to cabbages and potatoes – not to mention a spot of cannabis or heroin.”
“Oh, yes,” said Inspector Dutruelle, vaguely. “I remember.” He passed a handkerchief across his brow again.
At the turnstyles a man was handing out publicity cards and he thrust one into Inspector Dutruelle’s hand. Glancing down at it and squinting in the bright sunlight, the Inspector read aloud: “‘Professor Dhiakobli, Grand Médium Voyant can help you succeed rapidly in all areas of life . . .'”
He broke off in mid-sentence with a snort.
“What a lot of mumbo-jumbo! Headless chickens and voodoo magic.”
“It may be mumbo-jumbo to you, sir,” said the Detective Constable with a laugh, “but round here they take that sort of thing seriously. And not only round here – after all, we use some of these techniques in the police, don’t we?”
“Oh really? Such as?”
“Well, graphology for a start – you can hardly call basing a murder case on the size of someone’s handwriting scientific, can you sir? Or what about astrology – employing people on the basis of the stars? Or numerology.”
“Yes, Marc,” said Inspector Dutruelle, pushing the card into his top pocket, “maybe you’re right, and maybe when you’re older you won’t be so sure. Now get on the blower and call the car.”
The hot July turned to hotter and more humid August. No more bodies were found in the sweltering tunnels of the Metro, and the media, bored with the lack of developments, left Inspector Dutruelle to his original obscurity. Paris, deserted by its citizens in the yearly exodus to the coast, was tolerable only to the tourists with backpacks who flocked to the cheap hotels and began again to crowd the Metro. Then, in September, the Parisiens came back and life returned to normal.
Ma la passione dell’ispettore Dutruelle per Vololona non si è raffreddata con la stagione. Vololona aveva finalmente accettato di vederlo, ogni tanto; ma riusciva sempre (con le lacrime agli occhi) a deviare le sue avances più amorose. Per l’ispettore Dutruelle era sotto di lui osservare che continuava a pagare l’affitto nel suo appartamento, ma stava diventando sempre più frustrato. L’idea che lei avesse un altro amante lo ossessionava, e la sera andava a vagare per l’ampio Boulevard de Clichy tra il suo appartamento e la Chatte et Lapin. A volte rimase per ore a guardare la sua porta, mentre i locali passavano con i loro cani o sedevano sulle panchine sotto i platani. Ora, negando l’unica cosa che voleva, la scena lo riempì di sgomento. Il denaro e la musica erano nell’aria. Gli amanti sorseggiavano il caffè all’aperto e guardavano le puttane nelle loro porte. I piccioni svolazzarono mentre ragazze in minigonne strette si affrettavano a lavorare. I turisti con i loro marchi tedeschi sono arrivati a bordo dell’autobus e gli addetti ai lavori in occhiali scuri hanno lavorato duramente per convincerli nei costosi spettacoli di sesso e nei club di video al neon. Da qualche parte in profondità correva la metropolitana; ma l’ispettore Dutruelle non aveva più interesse in ciò. I suoi superiori avevano perso la speranza di risolvere gli omicidi della metropolitana e lo avevano spostato su altre cose. A volte rimaneva per tutta la notte, lasciando il tintinnio dei vetri rotti mentre gli operai prendevano il volo dopo le feste notturne. Ogni tanto vedeva Vololona uscire dal suo appartamento per comprare le sigarette, ma non l’aveva mai vista sul braccio di un altro uomo, o aveva visto un visitatore maschio prendere l’ascensore fino al settimo piano.
Una sera, a fine ottobre, tornò dal Boulevard de Clichy poco dopo mezzanotte. La signora Dutruelle, avendo saputo che suo marito stava lavorando a un caso e forse credendo, stava già dormendo. Se fosse stata sveglia, sicuramente sarebbe stata sorpresa di vederlo gettare la giacca su una sedia, perché l’ispettore Dutruelle era sempre stato meticoloso con i suoi vestiti, il tipo di uomo che stacca le sue stringhe. Ma la giacca mancò e cadde sul pavimento. Borbottando tra sé, l’ispettore si chinò e lo raccolse, e mentre lo faceva qualcosa cadde dalla tasca superiore. Lo fissò per un momento senza espressione. Poi si rese conto che era la carta che aveva ricevuto alla stazione della metropolitana, un po ‘peggio per essere stata una o due volte agli addetti alle pulizie, ma comunque leggibile. Lo raccolse e lentamente iniziò a leggere:
Grand Médium Voyant può aiutarti ad avere successo rapidamente in tutti gli ambiti della vita: fortuna, amore, matrimonio, attrazione dei clienti, esami, potenza sessuale. Se desideri farti un altro amore o se la persona amata se ne è andata con un’altra, questo è il suo dominio, sarai amato e il tuo partner tornerà. Il professor Dhiakobli verrà dietro di te come un cane. Creerà tra di voi un rapporto perfetto sulla base dell’amore. Tutti i problemi risolti, anche casi disperati. Tutti i giorni dalle 9 alle 21. Pagamento dopo i risultati.
13b, rue Beldamme, 75018 Parigi
scala B, 6 ° piano, porta a sinistra
Metro: Barbes Rochechouart
L’ispettore Dutruelle stava in piedi tra le calze e le bretelle leggendo la carta più e più volte. “Tutti i problemi risolti …” Era assurdo. Eppure, era allettante. Che male poteva esserci in un piccolo momento di pace quando tutto il resto aveva fallito? Dopotutto, tutti sapevano che persino la polizia usava i chiaroveggenti quando erano davvero contrari.
Rue Beldamme era una strada secondaria di edifici popolari nel diciottesimo distretto di Parigi, una zona popolare con gli immigrati dall’Africa francofona. Si trovava vicino al trafficato crocevia a cavallo di Metro Barbes Rochechouart. L’ispettore Dutruelle parcheggiò nella strada successiva e percorse il resto della strada, imprecando perché non aveva portato l’ombrello. La porta del numero 13b ondeggiava nel vento, la sua vernice scura si stava scrostando male. Entrò in uno stretto cortile e si diresse verso la porta del sesto piano su cui una targa di ottone diceva: “Professor Dhiakobli Spécialiste des travaux occultes Perfavore suonate”. Rimase lì, respirando affannosamente dalle scale, e prima che potesse premere il campanello la porta si aprì e apparve un uomo.
“Per favore, entra, mio caro signore,” disse l’uomo con un elegante gesto della mano e una cortesia esagerata. “Io sono Dhiakobli e ho l’onore di incontrare …?”
Come l’immaginario Dutruelle aveva immaginato, il professor Dhiakobli era nero. Aveva una figura breve ma autorevole, ed era vestito con un completo grigio ben fatto. Un grande fazzoletto di seta cadde dalla tasca superiore. “
But Inspector Dutruelle’s passion for Vololona did not cool with the season. Vololona had at last agreed to see him, occasionally; but she always managed (with tears in her eyes) to deflect his more amorous advances. For Inspector Dutruelle it was beneath him to observe that he continued to pay the rent on her apartment, but he was growing increasingly frustrated. The notion that she had another lover obsessed him, and in the evenings he took to prowling the broad Boulevard de Clichy between her apartment and the Chatte et Lapin. Sometimes he would stand for hours watching her door, as locals strolled past with their dogs or sat on the benches under the plane trees. Now, denied the one thing here he wanted, the scene filled him with dismay. Money and music were in the air. Lovers sipped coffee in the open and watched the whores in their doorways. Pigeons fluttered as girls in tight mini-skirts hurried to work. Tourists with their Deutschmarks arrived by the busload and the touts in dark glasses worked hard to coax them into the expensive sex shows and neon-lit video clubs. Somewhere deep below ran the Metro; but Inspector Dutruelle had no more interest in that. His superiors had given up hope of solving the Metro murders and had moved him on to other things. Sometimes he would stay all night, leaving to the tinkle of broken glass as workmen swept up after the night’s revelries. Occasionally he would see Vololona leave her apartment to buy cigarettes, but he never once saw her on the arm of another man, or saw a male visitor take the lift to the seventh floor.
One night, late in October, he returned from the Boulevard de Clichy just after midnight. Madame Dutruelle, having been told that her husband was working on a case, and perhaps believing it, was already asleep. Had she been awake she would surely have been surprised to see him throw his jacket over a chair, for Inspector Dutruelle had always been meticulous with his clothes, the sort of man who irons his shoelaces. But the jacket missed and dropped to the floor. Muttering to himself, the Inspector bent and picked it up, and as he did so something fell from the top pocket. He gazed at it blankly for a moment. Then he realised it was the card he had been given at the metro station, a little the worse for having been once or twice to the cleaners, but still legible. He picked it up and slowly started to read:
Grand Médium Voyant can help you succeed rapidly in all areas of life: luck, love, marriage, attraction of clients, examinations, sexual potency. If you desire to make another love you or if your loved one has left with another, this is his domain, you will be loved and your partner will return. Prof. Dhiakobli will come behind you like a dog. He will create between you a perfect rapport on the basis of love. All problems resolved, even desperate cases. Every day from 9am to 9pm. Payment after results.
13b, rue Beldamme, 75018 Paris
staircase B, 6th floor, door on left
Metro: Barbes Rochechouart
Inspector Dutruelle stood in his socks and braces reading the card over and over again. “All problems resolved . . .” It was preposterous. And yet, it was tempting. What harm could there be in a little hocus pocus when everything else had failed? After all, everyone knew that even the police used clairvoyants when they were really up against it.
Rue Beldamme was a backstreet of tenement buildings in Paris’s eighteenth arrondissement, an area popular with immigrants from francophone Africa. It lay close to the busy crossroads straddled by Metro Barbes Rochechouart. Inspector Dutruelle parked in the next street and walked the rest of the way, cursing because he had not brought his umbrella. The door to number 13b was swinging in the wind, its dark paint peeling badly. He stepped through into a narrow courtyard and found his way to the sixth-floor door on which a brass plaque read: “Professor Dhiakobli Spécialiste des travaux occultes Please ring”. He stood there, breathing heavily from the stairs, and before he could press the bell the door opened and a man appeared.
“Please enter, my dear sir,” said the man with an elegant wave of the hand and exaggerated courtesy. “I am Dhiakobli. And I have the honour to meet . . . ?”
As Inspector Dutruelle had imagined, Professor Dhiakobli was black. He had a short yet commanding figure, and was dressed in a well-tailored grey suit. A large, silk handkerchief fell from his top pocket.”
Per il momento,” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle, “il mio nome non è importante, sono venuto solo in risposta al tuo annuncio”.
“Il signor Monsieur ha forse qualche piccolo problema con il quale posso aiutarti?” Una piccola indiscrezione? “Si sieda, signore, e parliamo della faccenda.”
L’ispettore Dutruelle consegnò il cappotto e i guanti al professore e si sedette sulla grande sedia imbottita a cui era stato diretto. Il professor Dhiakobli si sistemò dietro una grande scrivania di mogano, in cima alla quale stava sdraiato un chihuahua appena più grande di un topo, con gli occhi grandi e umidi che fissavano sdegnosamente il nuovo arrivato.
“Ah, vedo che Zeus ti approva,” disse il Professore, accarezzando il piccolo cane con la punta delle dita ben curate, i suoi stessi occhi impassibili fissati anche sull’ispettore Dutruelle. “Povero Zeus, mon petit papillon, è devoto a me, ma deve restare qui ogniqualvolta esco dalla Francia e tu sei fortunato, monsieur, è solo ora che ritorno dalla Costa d’Avorio. È il mio paese che conosci , Vi ritorno per alcuni mesi ogni estate, Parigi in estate è così sgradevole, non siete d’accordo? ”
Il professor Dhiakobli brillava di successo. Le montature degli occhiali, il pesante braccialetto al polso destro e l’orologio alla sua sinistra, gli anelli tempestati di gemme sulle dita, erano tutti d’oro. Dalle sue maniere e dal suo acculturato accento francese era evidente che era un uomo colto. Intorno a lui la grande stanza era come un santuario. Tende pesanti escludevano la luce del giorno (l’unica illuminazione era una piccola scrivania in ottone) e le pareti scure e rosse erano addobbate di lance, costumi, fotografie e altri cimeli africani. Nell’aria c’era un odore dolciastro, e in un angolo della stanza le piume di un copricapo africano da cerimonia erano appoggiate in modo improprio su un enorme frigorifero americano. Non si può fare a meno di essere colpiti dall’incongruenza di questa bizzarra scena nel quartiere più rozzo di Parigi.
“Come ho detto”, iniziò l’ispettore Dutruelle, ignorando la domanda del professore, “ho visto la tua carta e mi sono chiesto come lavori.”
“E si può chiedere quale sia la piccola difficoltà di monsieur?”
L’ispettore Dutruelle si schiarì la gola e cercò di adottare un’aria più disinvolta che poteva.
“Bene,” – tossì di nuovo – “prima di tutto, mi chiedevo che tipo di cose puoi aiutare le persone.”
Le sopracciglia del professore si sollevarono.
“Qualsiasi cosa,” disse lentamente, il suo sorriso rivelò una serie di grandi denti bianchi che brillarono brillantemente nella penombra contro la sua pelle nera. “Mio caro signore, niente di niente.”
“E poi, mi chiedevo, come operi?” Che dire, che cosa fai esattamente … e come fai a pagare? ”
“Ah, signore, non parliamo di soldi, prima devo imparare come posso aiutarti, e per questo è necessaria una consultazione.”
L’ispettore Dutruelle si spostò sul sedile.
“E cosa comporterebbe una consultazione? Che cosa costa?”
Il professor Dhiakobli si strinse le mani e scrollò le spalle amichevolmente.
“Mon cher monsieur, capisco quanto sia spiacevole per te discutere di una questione così volgare come il denaro, anche io mi ritrovo al solo pensiero: è stata la mia missione nella vita aiutare coloro che hanno sofferto di disgrazie. alcuni donano un piccolo segno della loro gratitudine, chi sono io per rifiutare la loro offerta? Pagano secondo i loro mezzi, per aiutare quelli che hanno poco da offrire. Ma per una consultazione preliminare, monsieur, una somma nominale, come segno di buona la fede, di solito è in ordine.Per un gentiluomo della tua ovvia posizione, una sciocchezza, solo duecento franchi E lascia che ti assicuri, signore, della mia assoluta discrezione.Niente che tu possa scegliere di dirmi andrà oltre queste mura. ” Fece una pausa. Poi ha gettato le mani e ha aggiunto con un sorriso: “Hanno la santità del confessionale”.
“Sono felice di sentirlo”, disse l’ispettore.
“Ma monsieur ha ancora il vantaggio di me …” ha continuato il professor Dhiakobli.
L’ispettore Dutruelle decise che non aveva nulla da perdere parlando. Prese il nome di Monsieur Mazodier, un commerciante di vino parigino, e cominciò a raccontare al professore il dilemma che stava dilaniando la sua anima. Gli raccontò della giovane ragazza malgascia che aveva incontrato mentre intratteneva i clienti; del loro amore istantaneo e appassionato l’uno per l’altro; del suo improvviso rifiuto irrazionale non più di darsi a lui; e della moglie ora sapeva che non avrebbe mai dovuto sposarsi ma a cui non aveva il coraggio di andarsene. Il signor Mazodier era alla fine e ora anche i suoi affari stavano soffrendo. Temeva che se non avesse trovato una soluzione al suo problema, avrebbe potuto fare qualcosa di cui lui o altri si sarebbero pentiti. Il professore ascoltò attentamente, ponendo domande appropriate nei momenti appropriati.
“For the moment,” said Inspector Dutruelle, “my name is hardly important. I’ve only come in response to your advertisement.”
“Monsieur has perhaps some small problem with which I can help? A minor indiscretion? Please be seated, sir, and let us talk about the matter.”
Inspector Dutruelle handed his coat and gloves to the Professor and sat in the large, well upholstered chair to which he had been directed. Professor Dhiakobli himself settled behind a large mahogany desk, on top of which a chihuahua hardly bigger than a mouse was lounging, its wide, moist eyes gazing disdainfully at the newcomer.
“Ah, I see that Zeus approves of you,” said the Professor, stroking the tiny dog with the tips of his manicured fingers, his own unblinking eyes also fixed on Inspector Dutruelle. “Poor Zeus, mon petit papillon, he is devoted to me, but he must remain here whenever I leave France. And you are fortunate, monsieur. It is only now that I return from Côte d’Ivoire. It is my country you know, I return there for a few months each summer. Paris in summer is so disagreeable, don’t you agree?”
Professor Dhiakobli glittered with success. The frames of his glasses, the heavy bracelet on his right wrist and the watch on his left, the gem-studded rings on his fingers – all were of gold. From his manner and cultured French accent it was evident that he was an educated man. Around him the large room was like a shrine. Heavy curtains excluded the daylight (the only illumination was a small brass desklamp) and the dark, red walls were festooned with spears, costumes, photographs and other African memorabilia. There was a sweet smell in the air, and in one corner of the room the feathers of a ceremonial African headgear lay draped inappropriately over an enormous American refrigerator. You could not help being struck by the incongruity of this bizarre scene in the roughest quarter of Paris.
“As I say,” began Inspector Dutruelle, ignoring the Professor’s question, “I saw your card and I wondered just how you work.”
“And may one enquire as to monsieur’s little difficulty?”
Inspector Dutruelle cleared his throat and tried to adopt as nonchalant an air as he could.
“Well,” – he coughed again – “first of all, I wondered what sort of things you can help people with.”
The Professor’s eyebrows rose.
“Anything,” he said slowly, his smile revealing a set of large white teeth that shone brilliantly in the dimness against his black skin. “My dear sir, anything at all.”
“And then, I wondered, how do you operate? That’s to say, what exactly do you do . . . and how do you charge?”
“Ah monsieur, let us not talk of money. First I must learn just how I can help you. And for that a consultation is in order.”
Inspector Dutruelle shifted in his seat.
“And what would a consultation involve? What does it . . . cost?”
Professor Dhiakobli wrung his hands and shrugged amicably.
“Mon cher monsieur, I do understand how distasteful it is to you to discuss so vulgar a matter as money. I too recoil at the mere thought of it. It has been my mission in life to help those who have suffered misfortune. And if some donate a small token of their gratitude, who am I to refuse their offering? They pay according to their means, to assist those who have little to offer. But for a preliminary consultation, monsieur, a nominal sum, as a mark of good faith, is usually in order. For a gentleman of your obvious standing, a trifle, a mere two hundred francs. And let me assure you, monsieur, of my absolute discretion. Nothing you may choose to tell me will go beyond these walls.” He paused. Then he threw out his hands and added with a grin: “They have the sanctity of the confessional.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” said the Inspector.
“But monsieur still has the advantage of me . . .” continued Professor Dhiakobli.
Inspector Dutruelle decided that he had nothing to lose by talking. He adopted the name of Monsieur Mazodier, a Parisien wine merchant, and began to tell the Professor of the dilemma that was tearing at his soul. He told him of the young Malagasy girl he had met while entertaining clients; of their instant and passionate love for one another; of her sudden irrational refusal any longer to give herself to him; and of the wife he now knew he should never have married but whom he had not the heart to leave. Monsieur Mazodier was at his wits’ end and now even his business was suffering. He feared that if he did not find a resolution to his problem he might do something that he or others would regret. The Professor listened intently, asking appropriate questions at appropriate moments.
Infine l’ispettore Dutruelle disse: “Bene, professoressa Dhiakobli, penso che sia tutto ciò che posso dirti, non penso di poterti dire altro, da quanto ti ho detto, credi che puoi aiutarmi?”
Per molto tempo c’è stato silenzio. Il professore sembrava essere in un altro mondo. Fissò l’ispettore Dutruelle, ma sembrò guardarlo attraverso.
“Mio caro Monsieur Mazodier,” disse alla fine, molto lentamente, quasi meccanicamente, “la storia che mi hai raccontato è la più toccante, ognuno di noi ha un angolo nascosto nella sua vita, un segreto di jardin. uomini per venire da me con problemi come i tuoi Forse è naturale che la maggior parte dei miei clienti innamorati siano donne. In balia della loro complessa struttura fisica, c’è da meravigliarsi che le donne siano creature così emotive? quelli smarriti, i loro partner da molti anni, per ricreare di nuovo il rapporto con la loro gioventù, capirai che non è facile, ma questo è il mio lavoro, il mio dominio. ”
“Quindi non puoi aiutarmi?” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle, aggiungendo disperatamente: “Forse quello di cui ho veramente bisogno è un brutto scherzo”.
Il professore ha dato un inizio. Di nuovo, per molto tempo non ha risposto. Poi i suoi denti lampeggiarono nell’oscurità.
“Écoutez monsieur, questo è il mio lavoro, il mio dominio”, ha ripetuto. “Certo che posso aiutarti, ma devi capire che non sarà facile, richiede una cerimonia speciale, in primo luogo, sei sposato e mi verrà richiesto di esercitare la mia influenza su non una ma due donne. Nel secondo, siamo entrambi uomini del mondo, monsieur, e non ti offenderesti se osservassi l’estrema disparità della tua età e, infine, è chiaro per me che questa giovane ragazza ha incatenato il tuo cuore con la sua magia Sai, la magia del Madagascar è molto forte No, signore, non sarà facile, l’amore duraturo non può essere comprato con il denaro da solo. Esitò e guardò l’ispettore Dutruelle dritto negli occhi, i suoi occhi improvvisamente freddi e vuoti. “A volte”, ha detto, “dobbiamo fare sacrifici”.
“Che tipo di sacrifici?” chiese l’ispettore Dutruelle in tono sordo.
“Oh, mio caro signore, devi lasciarlo a me, ma non si può fare una frittata senza rompere le uova”. I suoi occhi freddi rimasero fissi sull’ispettore e lui parlò in tono monotono senza fermarsi a riprendere fiato. “Non devi preoccuparti dei tecnicismi, signore, la tua mente deve essere fissa sul futuro, sulla vita che hai sognato, devi immaginare tua moglie, felice tra le braccia di un altro, devi immaginarti il fragile bambino piccolo brama … sicuro tra le tue braccia … condividere la tua vita … i tuoi giorni … le tue notti … la soluzione perfetta per tutti i tuoi problemi … non vale una somma considerevole?
“Sicuramente varrebbe molto …” L’ispettore Dutruelle mormorò mentre le parole del professore prendevano vita nella sua mente.
“Dobbiamo dire trentamila franchi?”
“Mi dispiace?” mormorò l’ispettore.
“Diciamo quindicimila prima e quindici dopo”, continuò il professore come se il suo visitatore non avesse parlato. “Vedi, signore, quanto sono sicuro del successo?”
L’ispettore Dutruelle non ha risposto. Era confuso. Non si aspettava che il professore fosse così schietto, o che proponesse un segno abbastanza generoso. Ma non sembrava importare. Dopo tutto, cosa significava trentamila franchi per ottenere ciò che desiderava così disperatamente? E, in ogni caso, nel peggiore dei casi erano solo quindicimila.
Gli occhi del professore erano ancora fissi sull’ispettore Dutruelle.
“Certo, signore, ho fiducia nella vostra gratitudine, so che non dimenticherete, nella vostra gioia, che quello che ho fatto, posso disfare, e ora, signore, non dovete permettermi di trattenervi ulteriormente. Abbiamo molto lavoro da fare, tra otto giorni tornerai con fotografie e dettagli di Madame Mazodier e dei Malgasci e con alcuni piccoli articoli di abbigliamento, qualcosa di simile ai loro pensieri, ad esempio una sciarpa o un cappello. “
Finally Inspector Dutruelle said: “Well, Professor Dhiakobli, I think that’s all I can tell you. I don’t think I can tell you any more. From what I have told you, do you believe you can help me?”
For a long time there was silence. The Professor appeared to be in another world. He stared at Inspector Dutruelle, but seemed to be looking through him.
“My dear Monsieur Mazodier,” he said at last, very slowly, almost mechanically, “the story you have told me is most poignant. Each of us has a hidden corner in his life, a jardin secret. Yet it is rare indeed for men to come to me with problems such as yours. Perhaps it is natural that most of my lovelorn clients should be women. At the mercy of their complex physical structure, is it any wonder that women are such emotional creatures? I help them find their lost ones, their partners of many years, to recreate again the rapport of their youth. You will understand that it is not easy. But this is my work. My domain.”
“So you can’t help me?” said Inspector Dutruelle, adding despondently: “Perhaps what I really need is a headshrink.”
The Professor gave a start. Again, for a long time he did not answer. Then his teeth flashed in the dimness.
“Écoutez monsieur, this is my work, my domain,” he repeated. “Certainly I can help you. But you must understand that it will not be easy. It calls for a special ceremony. In the first place, you are married, and I shall be required to work my influence on not one but two women. In the second, we are both men of the world, monsieur, and you will not be offended if I remark upon the extreme disparity in your ages. And finally, it is clear to me that this young girl has chained your heart with her magic. You know, the magic of Madagascar is very strong. No, monsieur, it will not be easy. Enduring love cannot be bought with money alone. Sometimes . . .” He hesitated and looked Inspector Dutruelle straight in the eye, his own eyes suddenly cold and vacant. “Sometimes,” he said, “we must make sacrifices.”
“What sort of sacrifices?” asked Inspector Dutruelle dully.
“Oh, my dear sir, you must leave that to me. But one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.” His cold eyes remained fixed on the Inspector and he spoke in a monotone without pausing for breath. “You must not concern yourself with technicalities, monsieur. Your mind must be fixed on the future, on the life you have dreamed of. You must envisage your wife – happy in the arms of another. You must picture the fragile young child you so yearn for . . . secure in your arms . . . sharing your life . . . your days . . . your nights. The perfect solution to all your problems. Is it not worth a considerable sum?”
“It certainly would be worth a lot . . .” Inspector Dutruelle muttered as the Professor’s words came to life in his mind.
“Shall we say thirty thousand francs?”
“I’m sorry?” muttered the Inspector.
“Let’s say fifteen thousand before and fifteen afterwards,” the Professor went on as though his visitor had not spoken. “Do you see, monsieur, how confident I am of success?”
Inspector Dutruelle did not reply. He was confused. He had not expected the Professor to be so blunt, or to propose quite so generous a token. But it did not seem to matter. After all, what was thirty thousand francs to achieve what he craved so desperately? And, in any case, at worst it was only fifteen thousand.
The Professor’s eyes were still fixed on Inspector Dutruelle.
“Of course, monsieur, I have faith in your gratitude. I know that you will not forget, in your delight, that what I have done, I can undo. And now, monsieur, you must not allow me to detain you further. We have much work to do. In eight days you will return with photographs and details of Madame Mazodier and the Malagasy. And with some little articles of clothing, something close to their thoughts, say a scarf or a hat. You can arrange this?”
L’ispettore Dutruelle annuì con espressione assente.
“Eccellente, signore, devo conoscerli in ogni dettaglio – se devo avere un tête-à-tête spirituale con ciascuno di essi. Quindi, tra quindici giorni, tornerete per la cerimonia, che si svolgerà al di là di queste tende , nello spazio riservato agli spiriti ancestrali, nessuno, tranne io ei miei assistenti, possono entrare lì, ma tuttavia è imperativo che tu sia presente nel giorno, deve essere all’alba e devi venire senza fallo, la cerimonia non può essere Differito, puoi gestire le sei del mattino, dovremmo dire lunedì il sedicesimo?
L’ispettore Dutruelle non ha dormito bene la notte del 15 dicembre. Alle quattro del mattino scese dal letto. Sebbene sua moglie si sia svegliata, non si è svegliata. Ha fatto la doccia e vestito. Aveva i nervi a fior di pelle mentre giocherellava in cucina, facendo bollire l’acqua per il suo caffè. Ne bevve due tazze, forti e nere, ma guardò impotente i croissant che aveva diffuso goffamente con la marmellata. Accese un Gauloise e percorse la stanza. Poi aprì le finestre e si appoggiò alla ringhiera, finendo la sigaretta. Sotto di lui il cortile era buio e silenzioso, e sopra di lui il cielo era nero. Ma a est, attraverso l’estremità aperta della corte, una sfumatura viola stava strisciando su Parigi. Guardò l’orologio. Erano le cinque e un quarto e il tempo di prendere la macchina. Sembrerebbe strano, partire a quell’ora del mattino senza un’auto e un autista ufficiali. Si chiese che cosa ne avrebbe fatto il concierge – era certo che avrebbe lucidato gli ottoni quando avesse raggiunto il piano terra. Diede un brivido e chiuse i finestrini.
Poi mise le chiavi della Renault nella tasca del cappotto e controllò che avesse tutto. Guardò nella camera da letto. Delicatamente, tirò indietro il piumone e guardò sua moglie mentre dormiva, le braccia incrociate attorno alle sue ginocchia. Si sporse e toccò le sue labbra sulla sua guancia. Poi chiuse silenziosamente la porta della camera da letto dietro di lui, spense le luci nel soggiorno e nella cucina e aprì la porta principale. Mentre lo faceva, squillò il telefono. Lo spaventò e imprecò ad alta voce. Chiuse di nuovo la porta e si affrettò a rispondere al telefono in modo che sua moglie non si svegliasse.
“Ispettore Dutruelle?” disse la voce dall’altra parte.
“Mi dispiace disturbarla a quest’ora del mattino, signor Ispettore, è la prefettura.”
“Non preoccuparti del tempo,” disse l’ispettore Dutruelle con tanta irritazione quanto la sua voce sussurrante poteva trasmettere. “Sono fuori servizio oggi.”
“Beh, questo è il punto, ispettore, il Préfet ci ha ordinato di chiamarti appositamente, lui apprezza che tu non sia di turno, ma lui ti vuole comunque.”
“È abbastanza impossibile.”
“Temo che insista, signore.”
“Insiste che tu venga subito in servizio, signore, stiamo mandando una macchina per te.”
“Sì, sì, capisco, ma perché?”
“È di nuovo la metropolitana, signore.”
“Sì, signore, hanno trovato un altro cadavere sulla linea, decapitato di nuovo.”
L’ispettore Dutruelle non ha risposto. Stava maledicendo a se stesso. Stava maledicendo il Préfet, la polizia, questo maniaco omicida, sua moglie. Perché oggi? Perché mai oggi?
“Signore, ciao signore, la macchina sarà con te fra cinque minuti.”
“Sì, va bene, sarò pronto tra cinque minuti.”
La grande Citroen nera stava rapidamente allontanandosi da Rue Dauphine e dirigendosi a nord attraverso Pont Neuf. L’ispettore Dutruelle guardò le nebbie invernali che salivano dalla Senna. I suoi sogni, sembrava, stavano evaporando altrettanto sicuramente.
«Faresti meglio a informarmi su questo più velocemente che puoi», disse stancamente al sergente investigativo che aveva trovato ad aspettarlo in macchina. “Dove è stato trovato il corpo?”
“Barbie Rochechouart, signore.”
Un brivido freddo passò attraverso l’ispettore.
“Presumo che sia lo stesso degli altri?” chiese.
“Beh, in quanto non c’è niente da fare, è lo stesso, signore. Altrimenti non potrebbe essere più diverso. Per cominciare, abbiamo appena sentito che hanno trovato due di loro ora. E questa volta loro Sono donne, una bianca, sulla quarantina e una nera, una giovane ragazza nera, ancora adolescente, dall’aspetto delle cose.
Ma l’ispettore Dutruelle non stava ascoltando. Stava fissando senza espressione il vetro alla sua destra, e mentre giravano verso Place du Châtelet le strade vuote non erano altro che una fredda e grigia macchia a lui. L’auto si spostò sull’ampio Boulevard de Sébastopol e accelerò verso nord per coprire i tre chilometri fino a Metro Barbes Rochechouart. Era la strada che avrebbe dovuto prendere con la sua macchina.
Fuori dalla stazione, ora chiusa ai passeggeri, la gente era in piedi sotto i lampioni con i collari alzati. L’ispettore Dutruelle scese dall’auto. Esitò. Guardò verso Rue Beldamme (a un tiro di schioppo attraverso il desolato Boulevard de Rochechouart) dove il Professore lo stava aspettando. Si strinse nelle spalle e scese i gradini della stazione.
Inspector Dutruelle nodded blankly.
“Excellent, monsieur. I must know them in every detail – if I am to have a spiritual tête-à-tête with each of them. So, in fifteen days, you will return for the ceremony. It will take place beyond those curtains, in the space reserved for the ancestral spirits. Nobody but I and my assistants may enter there, but nevertheless it is imperative that you be present on the day. It must be at dawn, and you must come without fail – the ceremony cannot be deferred. Can you manage six in the morning, shall we say Monday the sixteenth?”
Inspector Dutruelle did not sleep well on the night of the fifteenth of December. At four o’clock in the morning he got out of bed. Though his wife stirred she did not wake. He showered and dressed. His nerves were on edge as he fiddled around in the kitchen, boiling water for his coffee. He drank two cups, strong and black, but he looked helplessly at the croissants he had spread clumsily with jam. He lit a Gauloise and paced the room. Then he pulled the windows open and leaned on the railing, finishing his cigarette. Below him the courtyard was dark and silent, and above him the sky was black. But away in the east, through the open end of the court, a violet hue was creeping over Paris. He glanced at his watch. It was a quarter past five and time to fetch the car. It would seem strange, leaving at that time of the morning without an official car and driver. He wondered what the concierge would make of it all – she was bound to be polishing the brasses by the time he reached the ground floor. He gave a shiver and pushed the windows shut.
Then he put the keys of the Renault in his coat pocket and checked that he had everything. He looked into the bedroom. Gently, he drew the duvet back and looked at his wife as she slept, her arms clasped about her knees. He leaned over and touched his lips to her cheek. Then he closed the bedroom door silently behind him, switched the lights off in the living room and kitchen, and opened the front door. As he did so the telephone rang. It startled him and he cursed aloud. He closed the front door again and hurried to answer the phone so that his wife should not wake.
“Inspector Dutruelle?” said the voice at the other end.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Sorry to disturb you at this time of the morning, Monsieur l’Inspecteur. It’s the Préfecture.”
“Never mind the time,” said Inspector Dutruelle with as much irritation as his whispering voice could convey. “I’m off duty today.”
“Well, that’s the point, Inspector. The Préfet’s ordered us to call you specially. He appreciates you’re not on duty, but he wants you anyway.”
“It’s quite impossible.”
“I’m afraid he insists, sir.”
“He insists you come on duty immediately, sir. We’re sending a car round for you.”
“Yes, yes, I understand, but why?”
“It’s the Metro again, sir.”
“Yes, sir. They’ve found another corpse on the line, decapitated again.”
Inspector Dutruelle did not reply. He was cursing to himself. He was cursing the Préfet, the police, this homicidal maniac, his wife. Why today? Why ever today?
“Sir? Hello sir? The car’ll be with you in five minutes.”
“Yes, all right. I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
The big black Citroen was soon speeding away from Rue Dauphine and heading north across Pont Neuf. Inspector Dutruelle looked at the winter mists rising from the Seine. His dreams, it seemed, were evaporating just as surely.
“You’d better brief me on this as quick as you can,” he said wearily to the Detective Sergeant he had found waiting for him in the car. “Where was the body found?”
“Barbes Rochechouart, sir.”
A cold shiver passed through the Inspector.
“I presume it’s the same as the others?” he asked.
“Well, in as much as there’s nothing to go on, it’s the same, sir. Otherwise it couldn’t be more different. For a start, we’ve just heard they’ve found two of them now. And this time they’re women. One white, in her forties, and one black. A young black girl – still in her teens, by the look of things.”
But Inspector Dutruelle was not listening. He was staring blankly through the glass to his right, and as they turned at Place du Châtelet the empty streets were no more than a cold, grey blur to him. The car swung onto the broad Boulevard de Sébastopol and accelerated northwards to cover the three kilometres to Metro Barbes Rochechouart. It was the route he should have been taking in his own car.
Outside the station, now closed to passengers, people were standing around under the street lights with their collars up. Inspector Dutruelle got out of the car. He hesitated. He glanced towards Rue Beldamme (just a stone’s throw away across the bleak Boulevard de Rochechouart) where the Professor would be waiting for him. He shrugged and went down the station steps.
Sottoterra, sulla linea numero quattro, c’era un’aria cupa. Entrambi i corpi giacevano dove erano stati avvistati dai primi macchinisti per quella mattina. L’ispettore Dutruelle guardò impassibile il primo. Era il corpo di una donna di mezza età, del tutto ineccepibile, rozza e ispida, come sua moglie.
“Ha quarantasette anni, signor l’ispettore,” disse qualcuno accanto a lui. “Francese, nome di Madame Catherine Dubur, non come l’altro.”
“L’altra?” disse l’ispettore senza capire.
“Te l’ho detto in macchina, signore,” disse il sergente investigativo al suo orecchio, “ce ne sono due.”
“Farai meglio a mostrarmelo.”
Passeggiarono nei loro soprabiti fino all’altra estremità della piattaforma e scesero i piccoli gradini che portavano alla pista. Un poliziotto in uniforme tirò indietro la coperta che copriva il secondo corpo, che giaceva sulla sua schiena. L’ispettore Dutruelle fissava spassionatamente gli arti neri e rigidi che sporgevano goffamente attraverso le linee della ferrovia. All’improvviso rabbrividì di allarme. Anche nelle luci fioche del treno che si trovava dietro di te si poteva vedere la somiglianza con Vololona.
“Identità?” chiese. Ha cercato di controllare la sua voce.
“Non lo sappiamo, signore – è tutto quello che abbiamo trovato”, disse un poliziotto, porgendogli una cartolina di auguri sbrindellata. All’interno, con una calligrafia grande e verde, c’erano le parole: “Buon compleanno del diciannovesimo compleanno, da tutti in Antananarivo”.
“Pensi che sia malgascia, signore?” chiese il poliziotto. L’ispettore scrollò le spalle, poi tese una mano aperta.
“La tua torcia, per favore” disse.
Suonava il suo raggio sul corpo, su e giù per le lunghe gambe sottili, attraverso i vestiti. Almeno non ha riconosciuto i vestiti. Eppure le dimensioni del corpo, la sua corporatura, il suo colore, tutto indicava Vololona. Si chinò e fece lampeggiare la luce sulle dita della mano sinistra e rise debolmente tra sé mentre vedeva gli anelli turbolenti che si riflettevano su di lui. Si alzò in rilievo. Non era certamente Vololona. Eppure era strano come quel corpo gli ricordasse lei e l’altra di Agnes, del resto. Anche le età erano le stesse.
Fumava mentre si fermava a fissare il cadavere senza testa. Lui non poteva capire. La magia del Madagascar era davvero così forte che ora vedeva Vololona ovunque? E che dire di Agnes? Come lo spiegherebbe il professor Dhiakobli? Come ha potuto spiegarlo, quando sei arrivato a pensarci? Quando sei arrivato a pensarci, aveva spiegato molto poco. Era stato abbastanza felice da prendere i soldi, e abbastanza libero dalle sue parole: tutte quelle grandiose nozioni di missione, sacrificio e tête-à-têtes spirituali. . .
L’ispettore Dutruelle sussultò.
“Il diavolo” mormorò a se stesso. All’improvviso capì tutto.
“Il cosa, signore?” disse qualcuno accanto a lui.
“Non importa,” rispose tranquillamente, mettendo la mano nel taschino della giacca. Il suo cuore aveva iniziato a battere con un senso di pericolo e la sua testa improvvisamente doleva di domande. Tirò fuori il suo portasigarette e accese un’altra Gauloise. Attraverso il suo fumo blu che si arricciava, illuminato dalle luci del treno, le membra nere erano divise in una danza grottesca, mentre accanto a lui le voci degli uomini gli pulsavano nell’orecchio. Perché non c’era tempo per pensare, per districarsi da questo incubo? Si maledisse. Come poteva essere stato così stupido? Ha maledetto sua moglie e Vololona. E il professor Dhiakobli. Quale follia lo aveva spinto a questo? Poi si maledisse di nuovo e si voltò bruscamente verso uno degli uomini che gli balbettava al fianco.
“Che ore sono?”
“Sei e un quarto, signore.”
Per un attimo, esitò. Quindi chiamò il sergente investigativo che era con il fotografo dell’altro corpo.
“Écoute Guy, quando ha le sue foto, possono spostare i corpi e sistemare le cose”, ha detto. “Adesso prendimi il Préfet.”
Il Préfet era fuori di sé dalla rabbia per questo ulteriore turbamento del sonno, ed esplose con indignazione quando l’ispettore Dutruelle offrì le sue dimissioni.
“Sei pazzo, amico? Sei nel mezzo di un’indagine!”
“L’indagine è finita, Monsieur le Préfet.”
“Allora hai finalmente l’assassino!”
“Tra quindici minuti, monsieur, fra quindici minuti.”
“Allora perché in nome di Dio stai chiedendo di essere sollevato dal dovere?”
“Monsieur le Préfet, la mia posizione è impossibile, in questa occasione sono stato io a pagare l’assassino,” rispose calmo mentre prendeva un’altra sigaretta dal portasigarette d’argento.
(Di Josef Essberger)
Underground, on the number four line, there was an air of gloom. Both bodies lay where they had been spotted by the first train drivers through that morning. Inspector Dutruelle looked impassively at the first one. It was the body of a middle-aged woman, quite unexceptional, coarse and wiry, like his wife.
“She’s forty-seven, Monsieur l’Inspecteur,” said somebody beside him. “French. Name of Madame Catherine Dubur. Not like the other one.”
“The other one?” said the Inspector blankly.
“I told you in the car, sir,” said the Detective Sergeant at his ear, “there’s two of them.”
“You’d better show me.”
They strolled in their overcoats to the other end of the platform and went down the little steps that led to the track. A uniformed policeman pulled back the blanket that covered the second body, which lay on its back. Inspector Dutruelle stared dispassionately at the stiff, black limbs that stuck out awkwardly across the railway lines. Suddenly he shuddered in alarm. Even in the dim lights of the train that was pulled up beyond you could see the resemblance to Vololona.
“Identity?” he asked. He tried to control his voice.
“We don’t know, sir – this is all we found,” said a policeman, handing him a tattered greetings card. Inside, in large, green handwriting, were the words: “Happy Nineteenth Birthday, from Everyone in Antananarivo.”
“D’you think she’s Malagasy, sir?” asked the policeman. The Inspector shrugged his shoulders, then held out an open hand.
“Your torch, please,” he said.
He played its beam over the body, up and down the long, slender legs, across the clothes. At least he did not recognise the clothes. Yet the body’s size, its build, its colour, everything pointed to Vololona. He bent down and flashed the light onto the fingers of the left hand and laughed weakly to himself as he saw the tawdry rings that glinted back at him. He stood up in relief. That was certainly not Vololona. Yet it was uncanny how this body reminded him of her – and the other of Agnes, for that matter. Even the ages were the same.
He smoked as he stood staring at the headless corpse. He could not understand. Was the magic of Madagascar really so strong that now he saw Vololona everywhere? And what of Agnes? How would Professor Dhiakobli explain that? How could he explain it, when you came to think of it? When you came to think of it, he had explained very little. He had been happy enough to take the money, and free enough with his words – all those grandiose notions of mission and sacrifice and spiritual tête-à-têtes . . .
Inspector Dutruelle gasped.
“The devil,” he muttered to himself. Suddenly he understood everything.
“The what, sir?” said somebody beside him.
“Never mind,” he answered quietly, putting his hand to his breast pocket. His heart had started to pound with a sense of danger and his head suddenly ached with questions. He took out his cigarette case and lit another Gauloise. Through its curling blue smoke, back-lit by the lights of the train, the black limbs were splayed out in a grotesque dance, while beside him men’s voices were thrumming in his ear. Why was there no time to think, to extricate himself from this nightmare? He cursed himself. How could he have been so stupid? He cursed his wife and Vololona. And Professor Dhiakobli. What madness had driven him to this? Then he cursed himself again, and turned abruptly to one of the men babbling at his side.
“What time is it?”
For a moment, he hesitated. Then he called for the Detective Sergeant who was with the photographer at the other body.
“Écoute Guy, when he’s got his pictures they can move the bodies and fix things up,” he said. “Now get me the Préfet.”
The Préfet was beside himself with rage at this further disturbance to his sleep, and he exploded with indignation when Inspector Dutruelle offered his resignation.
“Are you insane, man? You’re in the middle of an investigation!”
“The investigation is over, Monsieur le Préfet.”
“So, you have the killer at last!”
“In fifteen minutes, monsieur, in fifteen minutes.”
“Then why in the name of God are you asking to be relieved from duty?”
“Monsieur le Préfet, my position is impossible. On this occasion it was I that paid the killer,” he answered calmly as he took another cigarette from his silver cigarette case.
(By Josef Essberger)
The Metro vocabulary
The meaning given for each word is contextual meaning, that is to say it is the specific meaning of the word within the context of the story. Some of these words have other meanings not shown here.
For each word, an example sentence is shown in italics.
approaches of a sexual nature
The waitress didn’t appreciate the advances from the men in the bachelor party.
in a friendly way
The taxi driver amicably offered the poor lady a free ride.
full of passion
The couple that met on the beach had an amorous relationship for one week.
the complete opposite
Even though they are identical twins, Joe and John are the antithesis of each other.
The astute fisherman had the hole in the boat patched before it sank.
very cruel happening or treatment
It was an atrocity when George’s friends locked him outside in the snow with no shoes or socks.
It was so bizarre when the clown at the party knelt down and asked Judy to marry him.
I couldn’t believe that homeless people were living in that bleak alley.
(slang) the telephone
Sandy got on the blower with her sister as soon as she heard the juicy gossip.
brief somebody (v)
give somebody the background information/details they need
“Can you brief me on the condition of the patient?” the doctor asked the nurse.
The woman brusquely pointed out the thief in the line up of criminals.
people who beg or entertain for money on the street
I gave the buskers a few dollars to play my favourite song.
drug from a hemp plant
The police found cannabis in the house where the thieves were living.
captivated (past participle)
unable to stop looking at something
The young children were captivated by the fireworks display.
caught in the act (idiom)
found in the middle of doing something (here, having sex)
I caught my aunt and uncle in the act in our basement when I was a child.
tiny breed of Mexican dog
Chihuahuas have huge eyes for such little dogs.
people who claim they are able to see the future
I asked Becky if she was a clairvoyant because she always knows when I am dating someone new.
not having enough space for people to feel comfortable
I tried to sleep in the tiny attic, but it was too claustrophobic.
Can I coax you into buying some chocolates for charity?
come to a head (v)
come to a point where you can’t ignore something any more
The couple’s financial problems came to a head when Nancy became pregnant.
resident caretaker for apartments or hotel
I asked the concierge to call a taxi for room 101.
a meeting to discuss possible future action or business
The bride often goes for a hair consultation before her big day in the salon.
The shipmates buried the corpse at sea.
having no spare room
It was so cramped on the bus that we had to sit on our bags.
want badly (often food)
My sister craved peaches through her whole pregnancy.
use bad or rude language
My uncle was cursing as the Christmas lights fell off the roof.
a person who doesn’t believe another is being sincere
I never vote because I’m a cynic when it comes to politicians.
cut someone’s head off
Long ago, prisoners were decapitated after committing serious crimes.
put off until later
My holiday time was deferred because our company was so busy this summer.
I always deflect phone calls from people trying to sell me something.
having lost hope
The demoralized cyclist put his damaged bike on his shoulders and walked to the finish line.
Amanda despaired because her husband was more than three hours late from work.
I despondently called for help but I knew there was nobody home.
German currency (pre-Euro)
I transferred my American savings into Deutschmarks before I went to Germany.
without respect, with dislike
My grandmother stared at my new boyfriend disdainfully because of his long hair.
gloomily, without hope
The children stared dismally out the window until the sun finally came out.
Rebecca was full of dismay when we jumped out from behind the couch.
There was quite a disparity between Anne and George’s accounts of why their marriage failed.
send to do something (often emergency services)
The police dog team was dispatched to an area in the woods where the criminal had been spotted.
subject of interest or expertise
Since I was five years old dancing has been my domain.
heavy quilt filled with feathers
We don’t use our duvet on the bed in the summer; we just use a sheet.
great pleasure (often sexual)
Eileen had never known true ecstasy before she started dating Charles.
come out from somewhere
The mouse finally emerged from under the fridge.
lasting a long time
The minister wished the newlyweds enduring happiness and love.
I envisage my first home as an old farm in the country.
All of the water in the frog’s tank had evaporated by the time we got home from our weekend away.
There was an exodus of young people on the Monday of spring break.
very beautiful, wonderful
The queen looked exquisite in her royal gown.
free someone from a difficult situation
The car was badly smashed up but he managed to extricate himself.
The hotel was festooned with streamers and balloons to welcome the celebrities.
go and get
If you want the dog to fetch the bone you have to throw it into the ocean.
fiddle around (v)
do casual work using one’s hands
Ben fiddled around with the wires until he got the computer working again.
go as a group
The children flocked to the ice cream truck.
forensic evidence (n)
scientific proof at a crime scene (for example: blood)
The forensic evidence proved that the murderer was male.
wild and scared
The people grew frantic as the tornado got closer to the city.
When I watched the car accident on the news it sent a frisson up my back.
The baby fruitlessly pulled at the top of the jar of candy.
stare at with wide eyes
The children gazed at the field of sunflowers.
related to the situation
At the germane moment the father walked in and heard the baby saying “Dad” for the first time.
I glowered at the bus driver who closed his doors just as I arrived at the stop.
large and impressive
The couple had grandiose dreams about winning the lottery.
the study of handwriting
Police use graphology to tell if a suspect is nervous.
The students showed their gratitude by sending their retired teacher flowers.
disgusting, hard to look at
The horror movie was so grotesque I had to walk out of the theatre.
without wanting to
The child grudgingly took the garbage out for his mom.
quickly and with little thought
We packed so hastily that I forgot my bathing suit.
people who sell goods on the street
I bought this necklace from some hawkers in Amsterdam.
Annie cries so much I think she might need a headshrink.
strong narcotic drug derived from morphine
People who use heroin often need help getting over their addiction.
hocus pocus (n)
It was like hocus pocus when the door shut by itself.
likely to kill someone
The police were extremely concerned, because the criminal that got away was homicidal.
shades of colour
When painting, artists often blend many hues.
rough and dry voice
Smokers often speak with a distinct huskiness.
It is imperative that you wear your seat belt during take-off.
without being planned
We took an impromptu vacation to Hawaii at Christmas.
quality of being out of place
The only female felt the incongruity as the men stared at her during her workout.
something, especially a sexual relationship, that might be embarrassing or morally wrong
His indiscretion cost him his marriage.
The front seat passengers were insulated by the car’s air bags.
eagerly, with interest
We watched intently as Monica jumped from the airplane.
The two highways intersected at the downtown core.
I’m always irritable when it’s this hot outside.
tired or lacking enthusiasm after having too much of something
The jaded playboy had completely lost interest in women.
Mark got stung after he lashed at the bee in his hair.
clue to solving a crime
We don’t have any leads except that the thief is driving a brown car.
The photocopy of my driver’s license is barely legible.
a route on a subway or metro
I took the wrong subway line so I was late for my date.
sad because one is not loved back by another
The lovelorn man wrote 100 letters to his sweetheart but never got one in return.
reddish coloured wood
The mahogany bookshelf doesn’t go with the maple furniture.
My manicured nails would get ruined if we didn’t have a dishwasher.
things you buy that remind you of somewhere (for example: hats, postcards, magnets)
They sell lots of 1950’s memorabilia in the front lobby of the diner.
My father is meticulous when it comes to balancing his finances.
sound with no change in pitch
My science teacher is so boring because he speaks in a monotone.
Most parenting books tell you a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about how you should raise your kids.
The driver was pretty nonchalant about the accident even though his car was destroyed.
(of money) small amount, a token
There is just a nominal fee to cover the cost of coffee and sandwiches.
(informal) immigration forms that legalize a person to work or stay in another country
Migel was living in America without his papers so he wasn’t able to find legal work.
The drivers were piqued by the way the cyclist slowed down the traffic.
The placid woman sang a song in the elevator until the power was restored.
a flat ornament on which celebratory or memorializing words are written
Each member on the baseball team got a plaque for coming in second place.
The movie was so poignant I cried at the end.
Janice paints her nails with such precision it looks like she gets them done professionally.
ridiculous, impossible to be true
It was preposterous that the fourteen year old needed a babysitter.
move about and search stealthily
The thief was prowling through our jewellery box when we got home.
publicity card (n)
small piece of paper (business card) that advertises your career or title
My publicity card has my picture and my company’s email address on it.
I have a good rapport with my boss, so I’m not afraid to ask for vacation time.
move back in fear
I can’t help but recoil when they show operations on television.
settle or reorganize (finances)
I reconciled my loans and savings accounts after getting my inheritance.
the giving up of a job
The president of the company offered his resignation after he found out his illness was very serious.
good times, festivities
Our New Year’s Eve revelries kept the neighbours awake until 5:00 am.
made fun of
Leslie ridiculed her brother for always wearing mismatching socks.
The sanctity of the church was questioned after the minister was arrested.
save for (prep)
All of the girls at the party were wearing dresses save for Andrea, who always wears jeans.
the cutting off of
The severing of his own arm was what saved the climber’s life.
a place dedicated to a religious or important figure
My aunt’s bedroom is like an Elvis Presley shrine.
We were all sobbing at Angelica’s farewell party.
spread wide apart
The woman’s arms were splayed out as her husband stepped off the plane.
My grandfather was so stern that we had to eat every crumb on our dinner plate before we got up from the table.
move in one’s sleep, wake slightly
The child stirred when the phone rang but thankfully went back to sleep.
stand on both sides
When I went travelling, I often straddled borders for photographs.
I was stunned when my best friend told me she was moving to the other side of the world.
The succulent watermelon was exactly what we needed on such a hot summer day.
The dog stood sullenly beside our suitcases before we left for our vacation.
very hot and humid
The bus was sweltering because there was no air conditioning.
cheap, of fake appearance
The hostess was wearing a tawdry pearl necklace that looked like it came out of a cereal box.
a house divided into separate residences
Our salon is in a tenement building until we can buy our own place.
put an end to
I tried to terminate my magazine subscription but they keep sending me new issues.
push or give forcibly
Eric thrust Mia into the pool because she was taking so long to go in.
just barely able to accept
I can’t stand talking to the man next door, but his wife is tolerable.
person who bothers you to buy something
The touts on the street pressured us to buy their perfumes and colognes.
a very small amount
This year’s Christmas bonus was a trifle compared to last year’s.
great uncertainty and confusion
Everyone is quitting because there is so much turmoil with our new boss.
entrance with revolving metal arms
You pay for the subway at the turnstiles.
difficult to explain
It was uncanny how much the child looked like his adopted mother.
not keeping a promise to only have one sexual partner
Mrs. Jones divorced her husband when she learned that he was being unfaithful to her.
covered with thick material
My grandfather’s upholstered chair needs to be vacuumed.
I vaguely remember meeting you many years ago.
The papers said the parade was a veritable disaster because of the poor weather.
There were many virile competitors in the body-building event.
I was filled with a sense of vitality following the graduation ceremony.
a practice which involves sticking pins in dolls in order to cause pain to human beings
I was so mad when I saw my boyfriend with another woman that I actually thought about making a voodoo doll of her.
filling with liquid
The sink was welling with soap and about to overflow.
prostitute; person who has sexual relations with strangers for money
The whores stand on the street and wait for men to pick them up.
wits’ end (idiom)
unable to find a solution; no longer able to tolerate
I am at my wits’ end trying to keep these ants out of the house.
clasp, squeeze tightly
The woman wrung her hands while the policeman wrote up her speeding ticket.
using dry, mocking humour
“Adam got caught trying to steal another car,” his ex-girlfriend said wryly.
yearn for (v)
My parents tell everyone how much they yearn for grandchildren.