Jan 10 2017 4:00pm
Cast Iron: New Excerpt
Cast Iron by Peter May is the latest Enzo Macleod Investigation in the Enzo Files (available January 12, 2017).
In the 1980s, a murderer dumped the body of much cherished twenty-year-old Lucie Martin, only daughter of a well-known judge, into a lake in the West of France. To her family she disappeared without trace, leaving them bereft. It took fourteen years and a drought within a summer heat wave to expose her remains—bleached bones starkly laid to rest in the dry mud.
No one was ever convicted of her murder and Lucie’s father, now elderly, seeks out forensic expert, Enzo Macleod to review the stone cold case. It is the toughest of those Enzo has been challenged to solve so far. Yet when Enzo finds a flaw in the original evidence surrounding Lucie’s murder, he opens a box of worms that not only raises old ghosts but endangers his entire family.
All of Enzo’s fatigue was banished in an instant. He stood up, taken aback by Martin’s outburst. ‘I’m only telling you what Tavel told me.’
‘So why didn’t he tell anyone at the time? It’s just lies. Lies!’
Madame Martin had rounded the table and placed both hands on her husband’s arm, crooking her elbow around his and looking up with great concern into the old man’s face.
‘Calm yourself, Guillaume. Monsieur Macleod’s just doing his job. I’m sure that nothing said between us will go any further than this room.’ She glanced at Enzo for confirmation, and he shrugged noncommittally, hoping that Martin might interpret that as an affirmative. There was no way he could guarantee keeping any of his findings private.
‘Now, you go and make that copy of the autopsy report for Monsieur Macleod, and I’ll pour you a small cognac.’
Martin took a moment to control himself, breathing stertorously through his nose. And then he swivelled and strode out of the kitchen.
His wife took a deep breath and turned towards Enzo. ‘I am so sorry, monsieur. Guillaume has always been inclined to a quick temper, and when it comes to anything to do with Lucie he’ll not hear a word against her.’ She righted Martin’s chair and sat down where he had been sitting, gazing off into space. ‘Personally, I always thought Richard was a rather nice young man.’ She turned worried eyes on Enzo. ‘Did he really say he’d seen Lucie with that man?’
Enzo nodded, and she lowered her eyes to stare at her hands in front of her. ‘Oh dear,’ was all she said.
Enzo sat down and reached for the bottle of Saint-Emilion, pouring another glass with slightly trembling hands. Martin’s reaction, at the end of a long and difficult day, had caught him off balance and a little more alcohol seemed like a good idea.
‘I’ll pour us all a cognac,’ Madame Martin said, and she stood and went off to get glasses and a bottle. When she returned, she poured generous measures into the glasses, and she and Enzo sat in awkward silence, waiting for her husband to return.
It was nearly fifteen minutes before Martin came back into the kitchen clutching a photocopy of his daughter’s autopsy – a meagre document, which led Enzo to wonder what had taken him so long to copy it. All trace of his temper tantrum had vanished, and he handed Enzo the document as if nothing had happened. ‘It’s not very long,’ he said. ‘The médecin légiste had, in truth, very little to work on. And I’m not sure you’ll find much illumination from it. I have read it many times. I keep imagining I’ll see something I’ve missed. But I never do.’
‘I’ve poured us a brandy,’ Madame Martin said, holding out a glass towards him.
But he waved it aside. ‘I’ve had enough tonight, Mireille. It’s time for bed, I think. Don’t you agree, Monsieur Macleod?’ And no matter how much Enzo might have enjoyed a glass or two of cognac, his host was making it clear that their evening was over.
For the second night running Enzo sat up in his bed at Château Gandolfo, unable to sleep. An hour ago he would have drifted away the moment his eyes closed, but Martin’s outburst had brought the events of the day back into sharp focus, and he couldn’t stop it all going round and round in his mind. Bétaille’s cool assertion that none of the Bordeaux Six, including Lucie, could be linked to Régis Blanc’s short, lethal and completely inexplicable killing spree. Richard Tavel’s revelation that Lucie had dropped him for a relationship with Blanc – something that chimed very much with Enzo’s reading of intimacy in Blanc’s letter. His adventure, or misadventure, at Château Duras. Who had left him that note, and why had they wanted to meet him? And then Martin’s extraordinary display of temper at the merest suggestion of a romantic link between Lucie and Blanc. What concerned Enzo most was that everything he had learned in the course of today had brought no greater clarity. If anything, he had simply stirred up more mud in the water.
He turned, finally, to the autopsy report lying on the quilt beside him. It weighed almost nothing as he lifted it. A life summed up in a few pages of observation gleaned from a handful of bones. And it didn’t take long to read. Identity had been confirmed by comparing teeth to dental records. DNA
had not been required. The three hyoid bones had been recovered individually, and it was impossible to tell whether or not they had been separated by force in the act of strangulation, or whether they had subsequently separated as the soft tissue decayed or was eaten by fish. But there was no doubt that the left, greater horn, or cornu, had been fractured, as in one of Blanc’s victims. Cause of death, however, was impossible to determine.
Enzo knew that a baby was born with 270 bones, some of which would gradually fuse together, leaving it with 206 as a mature adult. Lucie would not have reached full skeletal maturity at the age of twenty, and so she would have had more than 206 bones. Only 178 were actually recovered.
But what most interested Enzo was a fracture to the left side of the skull, which the pathologist had attributed to damage done when it was being retrieved from the mud. According to his report it had been necessary to dig the bones out of the dried silt in the exposed bed of the lake, and that whoever had been sent to do it had been less than careful with the blade of his shovel.
Unfortunately, the photocopied photographs that accompanied the report were not clear enough to allow Enzo to examine the fracture. It seemed to him extraordinarily careless to have damaged the skull in that way, when the bones would almost certainly have been considered those of a murder victim. And yet in all likelihood it would have been a low-ranking gendarme without crime-scene training who had been dispatched to do the job. So was it really that surprising? Still, Enzo was troubled, and knew that he was going to have to pursue it further.
Copyright © 2017 Peter May.
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Peter May was an award-winning journalist at the age of just twenty-one. He left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series and accruing more than 1,000 television credits. Peter May's novel, Entry Island, was a top 3 Sunday Times bestseller. He is published in 30 countries and has sold several million copies worldwide. The Lewis Trilogy has sold over 5 million copies in the UK alone. See http://www.petermay.info for more details.