Chapter 10

So Dan set off for Orleans. It was good to be back on the Raleigh bike again for a fairly long ride. He had no appointment, but the private detective, who looked rather older than Dan would have expected, greeted him warmly. Must be short of trade, thought Dan. He decided not to mention Ollie at first and began by asking if following people and obtaining evidence of wrongdoing was one of the services he offered. 'Of course Monsieur. An affair of the heart I suppose.' 'No. Criminal activity,' replied Dan.  Laurent's face lit up. He was evidently bored with pursuing faithless spouses. 'Who?,' he asked. 'Someone in Aire-sur-Loire. His name is Didier Benoit.' Laurent appeared horrified. 'Ah non, monsieur. Absolument pas. Didier Benoit? Alors là c'est non, non et non.'That sounds like a "no", thought Dan. It was a knock-back, but he continued. 'I think my friend Ollie may have come to see you.' 'Ah, Oliver, yes. Very polite young man.' Yes, when he wanted something thought Dan. 'He left something in my safe,' continued Laurent. 'What?' Dan asked. He explained that Ollie had gone missing and any clue might help, but the man would not be persuaded. 'For Oliver only. I gave my word. But I can tell you that it concerned Didier Benoit. I think you must do your own detective work Monsieur Markham. I can sell you a device that will record all phone conversations if you like.' Dan hesitated. He had no idea where Didier's office was, or even if he had one. Any phones of Didier might be completely inaccessible for all he knew, but he decided to take a risk and buy it anyway. It wouldn't be cheap, he thought. He looked round the dingy room and he had a sudden urge to get out into the fresh air. He thanked Laurent, handed over the ridiculously large number of hundred franc notes and walked quickly out into the sunshine.

It seemed a good idea to stop off at Jim's on the way back, to keep him up with developments. 'What a good time to appear! You can witness a momentous event,' Jim said on his arrival. 'Our landlord, Picard, has just rung and asked us to do him a favour. We need to get rid of an old rifle. It's practically an antique by the look of it. He says his father bought it to shoot rabbits, but the old boy also made it known locally that he had a gun, hoping that it would deter intruders'. 'And did it?' asked Dan. 'Yes. Well, that and the fact that old Picard had nothing much to steal. We found it and objected. Someone could have used it on us. Anyway in the end young Picard, the landlord, asked us to deal with it. I was walking down to throw it in the river. I'll keep off the trigger or it'll probably blow up in my face'. They made their way down to the river bank. Jim held the gun high above his head and threw it into the water. It made quite a splash. 'It would probably have been worth a small fortune in an antique shop in Blois,' Jim said laughingly, 'But we're not in favour of guns.' Yes, they're particularly unpleasant when they're being pointed at you, thought Dan. He found the incident strangely satisfying and they walked up the hill together to the house.

When he got back Kazzie was sitting on the sofa with her head in a book. 'Just keeping up with the latest research,' she explained. 'I can do that here as well as anywhere.' She smiled. 'Why did Ollie become so obsessed with Didier?' Dan asked her. Kazzie sighed. 'Well I said I wouldn't spread it but I suppose I'll have to tell you now. Ollie always wanted his generosity kept quiet. He was like that.' Dan felt rather scared. She said "was" not "is". A slip of the tongue no doubt, but nevertheless it was disquieting. 'It began with an old school friend of Lydie's. She and her mother rented a small place from Didier. It's not really fit to live in quite honestly, especially in winter. I suppose you'd call it a chalet. It was all they could afford. Anyway Didier wanted them out because he'd decided to do it up and use it as a holiday cottage. It would be quite suitable for that with a few improvements. He went round and made threats. He said he'd throw all  their belongings into the street and hinted at what he'd do to them if they didn't move out in the next couple of weeks. He does his own dirty work, partly because he enjoys it. So the two women, terrified and of course homeless, went to Lydie's in desperation. They were completely stuck, so Ollie stepped in and found them a small flat near the town centre. He came to an arrangement with the landlord and everything was fine really. In fact it's a much better place. All this happened just before Easter. No real harm done. It's just that it made Ollie very angry.' She paused. 'So that's why he started investigating,' Dan said. 'And I suppose one thing led to another.' 'That's right,' said Kazzie. 'But we don't know yet exactly it led to.'

Just then they heard a noise coming from the hall. Something had dropped through the letterbox. Kazzie went out and came back carrying a card. 'It's for both of us,' she said. 'Some sort of invitation. We'll have to go. Round here it's considered rude to turn down invites.' She read out loud. 'Bla bla bla requests the pleasure of the company of etc. etc. for the aperitif on Saturday next at 6pm. Please reply to the following address. Looking forward to seeing you very soon. Yours amicably, your friend and close neighbour, Monsieur Didier Benoit. Dan leaned forward and put his head in his hands and groaned. Oh no, he thought.

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