Taken on Face Value
Detective Benedict Blewett is tasked with discovering the identity of a man whose badly decomposed body has been discovered in a landfill site. The corpse has no finger tips, no face, and his insides have been eaten by rats. Within days, a woman’s body floats to the surface of Canal St. Martin in Paris. She, too, has had her face removed. There are no DNA matches for either victim, and the woman’s fingerprints are meaningless because of the time she spent underwater.
Benedict’s relationship with his boss, Lieutenant Jérôme Bérenger becomes increasingly strained as he struggles to discover the truth. Only his fiancée, Nicole, keeps him anchored to the idea of living and working in France. As a forensic pathologist for the city, Nicole is able to help him resolve the identities of the bodies. But when a group of hired thugs try to kill Benedict and Nicole, the pair realise the danger their investigation puts them in. And they discover that a shadowy figure called Anton is the one who ordered their elimination. It’s sure to end badly for someone.
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TAKEN ON FACE VALUE
With the last swallow of coffee gone, he beckoned them over. “Another murder for you to solve,” he said, as they stood in front of him like naughty school children. He held up his hand and flicked out a clean, well-manicured finger. “One, there’s a faceless man with no fingertips and all his innards missing. Dumped in a landfill site inside a plastic bin bag, and dissolving into a human sludge before our very eyes.” He flicked out a second, polished finger. “And two, what have we got here? Some woman with no face and one leg, polluting our canal system. It looks, Blewett, like you’ll want to join these two murders together.” He paused. “You did just hear the word murder, didn’t you, Blewett? I’ll let Pelletier explain what that means. She’s only a lonely Gardien de la Paix, but she catches on to things real quick. Unlike some people I know.”
Benedict shook his head and tutted. “With both of them having no faces, I can see the connection, Lieutenant.”
“I’m glad that simple fact didn’t escape you Blewett. I don’t suppose you’ve made any progress with the man, have you?” Bérenger liked to add a bit of drama so had adopted a voice with operatic depth, like a barrister strutting his stuff in a court of law.
“I have —”
“Don’t interrupt me while I’m interrupting. While I think there’s a slim chance you could maybe tell the difference, at a push, between Colonel Mustard and Professor fucking Plum, I’m not sure what you’ve actually achieved. Which makes you what? A glorified tea boy? And that’s ten times worse.”
“As I explained earlier —”
“Shhh, Benny, there’s a good boy. I’ll tell you when it’s your turn. Don’t want to lose my train of thought here. Where was I? Ah yes, so you’ve made zero progress on the man with bits missing. But I’m a fair man, as you know, so I like to give the benefit of the doubt.”
“Benny, third time. Shut… The… Fuck… Up. The problem is that I have an open case file and my superiors want me to produce results. So, God help me, they send me an English rookie and think that will work. If you don’t get this resolved pronto, you and me are going to have a parting of the ways, Blewett. Which means you’ll be looking for another job. Stage comedian might suit you. Now go away and see if you can actually achieve something.” He cricked his fingers, stood up, and brushed down his suit where some ash had fallen from his cigarillo. He looked up. “You still here? No wonder you can’t solve any crimes. Just go and get on with it will you? You’re using up all the oxygen.”
“Can I say anything yet?”
Bérenger threw his hands up in the air as though through with the whole sorry situation. “Oh, what the ever-loving shit do I care anymore? Fine, what excuse do you want to make?”
“Two days, Lieutenant. That’s how long we’ve had the file for – two working days. In fact, not even. You gave us that file on Friday morning and right now it’s Monday mid-day. So a day-and-a-half.”
“So what’s keeping you? Get it sorted. It can’t be that bloody difficult.” Bérenger turned and walked off with a smile that wasn’t a smile. It left Benedict feeling tired, angry, and as out of place as a cat at Crufts.
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