I let him have the guest room now that Pistache and the children were gone. He was no trouble, keeping to himself, making his own bed and keeping things tidy. A lot of the time you’d hardly have noticed him, and yet he was there, calm and unobtrusive. I felt guilty that I had ever thought him slow. In fact he was quicker than I was in some ways; certainly it was he who finally made the connection between the Snack-Wagon and Cassis’s son.
We spent two nights watching for trespassers-Paul from ten till two, and I from two till six-and already I was beginning to feel more rested and more able to cope. Just sharing the problem was enough for me just then; just knowing there was someone else… Of course, the neighbors began to talk almost at once. You can’t really keep a secret in a place like Les Laveuses, and too many people knew that old Paul Hourias had left his shack by the river to move in with the widow. People fell silent as I came into shops. The postman winked at me as he delivered letters. Some disapproving glances came my way, mostly from the cur'e and his Sunday-school cronies, but for the most part there was little but quiet, indulgent laughter. Louis Ramondin was heard to say that the widow had been behaving strangely in recent weeks, and now he knew why. Ironically, many of my customers came back for a while, if only to see for themselves whether the rumors were true.
I ignored them.
Of course, the Snack-Wagon hadn’t moved, and the noise and nuisance from the daily crowds did not abate. I’d given up trying to reason with the man, the authorities, such as they were, seemed uninterested, which left us-Paul and I-with only one remaining alternative.
Every day Paul took to drinking his lunchtime demi at La Mauvaise R'eputation, where the motorcyclists and the town girls came. He questioned the postman. Lise, also helped us, even though I’d had to lay her off for the winter, and she set her little brother, Viannet, onto the case too, which must have made Luc the most watched man in Les Laveuses. We found out a few things.
He was from Paris. He’d moved to Angers six months ago. He had money and plenty of it, spending freely. No one seemed to know his last name, though he wore a signet ring with the initials L. D. He had an eye or two for the girls. He drove a white Porsche, which he kept at the back of La Mauvaise R'eputation. He was generally reckoned to be all right, which probably meant he bought a lot of rounds.
Not a great deal for our trouble.
Then Paul thought of inspecting the Snack-Wagon. Of course I’d done that before, but Paul waited until it was closed and its owner was safely in the bar of La Mauvaise R'eputation. It was sealed, locked, padlocked, but at the back of the trailer he found a small metal plate with a registration and a contact telephone number inscribed on it. We checked the telephone number and traced it…
To the restaurant Aux D'elices Dessanges, Rue des Romarins, Angers.
I should have known from the start.
Yannick and Laure would never have given up so easily on a potential source of income. And knowing what I did now, it was easy to see where I’d recognized his features. That same slightly aquiline nose, the clever, bright eyes, the sharp cheekbones…Luc Dessanges. Laure’s brother.
My first reaction was to go straight to the police. Not to our Louis but to the Angers police, to say I was being harassed. Paul talked me out of it.
There was no proof, he told me gently. Without proof there was nothing anyone could do. Luc hadn’t done anything openly illegal. If we could have caught him, well, that would have been something else, but he was too careful, too clever for that. They were waiting for me to cave in, waiting for just the right moment to step in and make their demands.-If only we could help you, Mamie. Just let us try. No hard feelings.
I was all for taking the bus to Angers there and then. Find them in their lair. Embarrass them in front of their friends and customers. Screech to all and sundry that I was being hounded, blackmailed-but Paul said we should wait. Impatience and aggression had already lost me more than half my customers. For the first time in my life, I waited.