Monday, 12 August, 1901
Duilio eyed the scene, handkerchief held to his nose, but didn’t touch anything.
The body had been moved. Duilio sighed inwardly, wishing people would learn not to do that. It annoyed the police, although Inspector Remelieu was being polite about the gaffe. The inspector had to, since this involved the aristocracy.
The Duc de X had been laid out neatly on his bed, already dressed in evening attire. His shaped dinner jacket with its silk lapels was still perfectly pressed, the tails neatly arranged under the dead man’s body. The trousers had a stripe down the side, and the low-cut white waistcoat was the height of fashion. His dark hair was neatly oiled back, highlighting an appropriately patrician nose and thin lips. With the exception of the vivid splash of blood staining the breast of the man’s shirt, he looked as if he’d simply laid down for a quick nap before heading to the finest of soirees or the opera. No, it was Monday, so not the opera.
“Who do you think laid him out here?” Remelieu mused, half to himself.
“His valet,” Duilio answered. “With the aid of one of the footmen, I expect. But only the valet would be that careful with his master’s clothing.”
Remelieu shot a glance in Duilio’s direction, pale eyes narrowed. A short and florid man nearing the end of his career without much glory to show for it, Remelieu had been tapped to escort around the strange Portuguese visitor to the police station. Duilio had been in several countries in the past few years, studying police forces across the continent and in Britain and Scotland. The Paris police had given him the iciest reception so far, despite letters of recommendation from the English, Scots, and Germans that touted him as an investigative asset.
No one ever said why that was the case in those letters, and the French didn’t want to know.
Remelieu turned to the young gendarme who’d accompanied him. “Bring me the valet.”
This was apparently one of the days when Remelieu listened to him. Duilio surveyed the scene in silence, keeping his hands behind him. The duc’s eyes had been closed, his arms positioned at his side. His patent leather oxfords—custom made, Duilio could tell—had a drop of blood on the welt, an easy place to miss. How did that happen?
Duilio turned to the dressing table where the man had died. The shield-backed chair had been pulled out a foot or two, but between the chair and the dressing table, Duilio saw a blot on the wine-colored Aubusson carpet that didn’t fit the pattern. He went closer, kneeling to peer at the spot about the size of a small apple.
“What is it?” Remelieu snapped.
“Blood, sir,” Duilio said. “He bled enough to leave a mark here, so he didn’t die immediately.”
“Well don’t touch it.” Remelieu bustled over and interposed himself.
Duilio rose to his feet and stepped away. The door opened then, the gendarme returning with the valet. The man was older than Duilio expected but fit, with silver hair and a pained expression. A damp spot on the white cuff on his left sleeve showed yellowish remains of blood where he’d tried to clean it off. His watering blue eyes turned to the body lying on the bed, and then dropped to the floor.
“So you are the valet,” Remelieu said as he rose. “What is your name?”
The valet straightened, recognizing authority. “Marcellin, sir.”
“And were you the one who found the body?” Remelieu didn’t take out a notebook to write the man’s responses down. He tried to stare the servant out of countenance instead.
The valet seemed unimpressed by the inspector’s regard. “No, sir, the duchess did.”
“Did you help him dress?”
The valet blinked, apparently surprised by that query. “Of course, sir.”
It was a rather stupid question, since the duc likely never dressed himself. Duilio kept his mouth shut.
“And you laid him out here?” Remelieu gestured toward the bed.
“Yes, sir. Her ladyship was greatly distressed by the thought of her husband sitting as he was. Hunched over, sir.”
Of course, the duc could not care less about being hunched awkwardly over his dressing table, being dead, but Remelieu let that comment pass as idiocies of the aristocracy.
TO BE CONTINUED…