(Excerpt from "Plan d'affaires," p. 15-22.)
Montreal, 9:42 pm
As he entered the nude bar, follow by Constable Crépeau,
Sergeant Théberge was intercepted by the doorman.
Théberge showed his badge.
"Police business," he said, continuing forward.
"Do you have a warrant?" retorted the doorman holding
"This is not a search. I'm here to serve papers on someone."
"If you don't have a warrant, you have to pay."
Théberge suppressed his simmering impatience.
He re-explained very calmly that he had not come to "consume":
he had simply come to give a letter to a person who worked in
"Everybody pays," insisted the doorman.
"I'm certainly not going to pay to inform someone about
The walking refrigerator stepped up to Théberge and looked
him in the eyes from his two-metre height, with a smile filled
"The rule is the same for everyone," he said.
"You hydrocephalic pithecanthropus! Rouse those fatty masses
you use for a brain and telephone Dupré!" He gave
him a number and pointed towards the public telephone in the
entranceway. "Explain to him that I'm trying to do my job
discreetly. But that, if I have to get a warrant, I'll go get
one. And that I'll come back with a real raid. That I will seize
equipment, arrest customers... Explain that to him! And while
you're at it, remind him that he still owes me twenty bucks from
our last fishing bet!"
In the eyes of the pithecanthropus in the pin-stripped suit,
the gleam waned for an instant. His smile shrank conspicuously.
"You know Mr. Dupré personally?"
"No, I just invented that to liven up the discussion!...
What the hell do you think? That the head of the vice squad can
retire and invest his savings in a nude bar downtown without
his two greatest friends knowing about it? Do you take us for
"Who do you want to talk to?"
Théberge's voice softened.
"I don't have her name," he said. "I know only
that she's a dancer and that she has cat eyes."
"Dominique! She's not a dancer, she's a shooter girl...
Come. I'll get you a table and send her over."
As soon as they stepped through the door, their ears were assaulted
by the music, which was quickly drowned out by an emcee's voice.
"That was the charming Charlène!... Charlène!..."
The ultraviolet lighting made the atmosphere seem unreal,
transforming all pale clothing into patches of luminosity.
"Do you want a table or a stool by the stage?" asked
the doorman leaning over to Théberge.
"I told you we're here on police business."
"Okay, follow me."
I remind you that our charming dancers are available to dance
at your tables! Take advantage of our special: two dances for
the price of one! You still have forty minutes left...
"She'll be with you in a minute," said the doorman
after leading them to a corner, at the far end of the room.
The plaintive, syncopated voice of Mick Jagger was launching
And now, for part two of her show, the ravishing Audrey!...
A big hand of applause for Audrey...
The dancer climbed onto the stage with a blanket in her hands,
spread it out on the floor and lay down. Then she stood up with
a quick movement and froze in a theatrical position to begin
Théberge's eyes moved back and forth between the stage
and the spectators. He noticed that his assistant's eyes were
glued permanently on the dancer. He could imagine his wife's
reaction if she had a chance to see the profound fascination
etched on Crépeau's face. The policeman would have had
trouble convincing his spitfire Italian wife that he was just
here on business.
Théberge was roused from his thoughts by the arrival of
a young woman dressed in a sleeveless T-shirt that barely reached
to her navel and ultrashort shorts. Around her waist, she wore
a leather belt that held several bottles of strong drink. But
it was her eyes that the policeman could not help staring at.
With each flash of light, her vertical pupils narrowed, like
cat's eyes, until they became two narrow slits.
"Victor told me you wanted to see me," she said in
a nonchalantly playful tone of voice.
Théberge took a few seconds to answer. He couldn't take
his eyes off the young woman's face.
"Can I offer you something to drink?" she continued.
"Excuse me," the policeman finally said. "You
find me speechless and dumbfounded, on the verge of stammering
and mental confusion. For an ordinary biped, condemned to the
dreary normality and soporific banality of the commonplace, this
is bedazzlement, and fundamental and definitive astonishment."
The young woman's smile broadened.
"I'm Dominique Weber. Victor told me you had something for
"Indeed. But first I have a few questions to ask you. Do
you know a certain Stephen Semco?"
"Would it be overly indiscreet to ask you what your relationship
with him was?"
"'Was'?... Did something happen to him?"
Théberge could have kicked himself. But he was too late
to take it back. Best to be direct and to the point.
"Yes. Something did happen to him."
The young woman took a long breath and closed her eyes. When
she opened them again, there was a look of cold determination
on her face.
Théberge had already observed this phenomenon. After hysteria,
it was one of the most frequent reactions. People "go cold,"
as if they were cutting off all contact with their emotions in
order to be able to deal with the demands of the situation. The
reaction would come later, probably when she was alone.
"When did it happen?"
"I don't believe it was an accident."
"I thought... He often worked late, in the evening. When
"In your opinion, are there people who had an interest in
"No. Not that I know of. Was he...?"
"He jumped from the roof of the building where he had an
"Stephen, suicide! That's impossible..."
"I know it can seem difficult to accept."
The young woman shook her head in denial. The idea of suicide
seemed to have shaken her more than the news of Semco's death.
"It's impossible," she continued. "He doesn't
have an apartment."
"What do you mean?"
"We have been living together for a year now. The only apartment
he has now is a pied-à-terre in a house in Old Longueuil.
That was the very alluring Audrey. In a few moments, Charlène
will be back to treat us to part two of her show... In the meantime,
I would like to remind you that..."
"The security guard confirmed that he had an apartment
in the building," Théberge continued.
"I'm sure that's a mistake."
"I met your friend's associate, just now..."
Théberge observed that the young woman's face had gone
expressionless. Her voice had become colder. She must not have
great reserves of sympathy for Semco's associate.
"Yes," he said. "Brochet." "I mentioned
to him the location where the incident transpired and he did
not seem at all surprised."
"It makes no sense! Brochet has an apartment in the city!
Stephen found one for him as a favour, three months ago... That
must be it."
The young woman now had difficulty keeping her composure.
"What makes you think that it wasn't suicide?" asked
"We were supposed to get married next month. He wanted to
give his son, Yvan, a normal family."
"He was very close to him?"
"He adored him. He was a real father hen."
Théberge thought of Semco's mention of his son at the
end of his letter. If that was a loving father...
"It seems he had financial difficulties," he said.
"For the past two weeks he's been saying that everything
was working out."
"According to his associate, the company is bankrupt."
"Brochet told you that?"
The young woman's features had hardened again.
"Yes," was all Théberge answered.
He didn't elaborate, hoping that the silence would induce her
"He's a real little shit, that one!" she finally said.
"If you could explain to me..."
"They were together when I met them. Brochet had come to
the bar five nights in a row. Each time, he asked me to go out
with him. On the sixth evening he came with Semco. Semco could
have had any girl in the place... One week later, when Brochet
learned that we were going out together, he came and made a scene
while I was working. The next day, he sent me flowers and a note
"Did he come back to the bar after that?"
"No. But he sometimes came to the house with Stephen. He
was always very polite. No out-of-place remarks... The last time,
though, there was something peculiar in his eyes. At a given
moment, he looked at me and he had an expression... of triumph,
I would have called it. Then his expression returned to normal...
You should keep an eye on him."
"In any case, with respect to the company, it seems he was
right. We're going to ask an expert to check, but if what Brochet
discovered in Semco's computer is real, they really are bankrupt."
"I don't get it. Why would Stephen have told me, just last
week, that everything was working out?"
Théberge thought about the contents of the envelope, in
the inside pocket of his raincoat. Semco's letter left few doubts
about his suicide as well as his reasons. He was also quite brutal
about his relationship with the young woman.
"This is for you," he said, handing her the envelope.
"He left you a message."
The young woman opened the envelope, unfolded the pages and immediately
Crépeau took advantage of the lull in the conversation
to concentrate on the central stage. Kim Carnes' husky voice
provided the beat for the movements of the dancer, who swathed
her body in languorous gestures.
Théberge discretely elbowed his colleague.
"This can't be," murmured the young woman, without
looking up from the text. "It wasn't Stephen who wrote this.
Just the way he talks about Yvan. It sounds like he's asking
me to take care of his dog!"
"We found the letter on his desk. There was an electronic
copy in his computer."
""It's not signed. There's no proof he's the one who
"I understand your reaction. But if it wasn't him, who could
it have been?"
Théberge had many times observed this denial of reality
when people were faced with an intolerable situation.
"Who else could have had access to his computer?" he
"Assuming that Brochet could have written the letter, that
still doesn't explain the financial situation of the company...
"I'm sure he's the one behind all this. Brochet's the one
who killed him!"
Half an hour later, the policeman left the premises promising
the young woman to keep her informed of any new developments.
In the meantime, Dominique would take care of notifying Stephen's
parents, who lived in a senior citizens home. They were very
ill and she would do her best to break the news as gently as
Semco also had a younger sister. Given her condition, it was,
however, pointless going to see her: complications during birth
had severely affected her brain. Her mental age was no more than
that of a three-year-old child...
© 2001 Éditions
Alire & Jean-Jacques Pelletier
find out what happens next...