An Eventful Saturday Morning for Roger
Springing up the stairs from the rez- de- jardin with a surprising enthusiasm, given the wine and whisky overload from the night before, Roger Scott was reassured. The warm sun blasting the entrance of the residence meant that he had made the right call on what to wear for his Saturday morning run.
‘Bonjour Monsieur Scott. Bon footing!’ Giselle Vermersch, the gardienne was hunched over her mop as usual, cigarette in mouth, watching the world go by, or at least early birds like him. Giselle was as intimate with the lives of her residents as she was fierce in defending their privacy against hawkers and what she called ‘colporters’, which Roger thought sounded vaguely musical.
With a ‘Bonjour Giselle’ and something incomprehensible in either French or English, his words trailed off into a faltering low groan. The French loved to end their conversations with ‘bon this’ or ‘bon that’ but somehow ‘bon mopping’ didn’t sound quite right.
He did a half-hearted stretch and clumsily configured the running App on his iPhone. ‘You’re all set, Roger, let’s hit the trail’ said the jaunty female in his ears. Probably from California, he thought, and set off. Passing the queue at the boulangerie, he turned a corner and ran into the sun, along the beach to the Pointe de la Croisette. It was going to be a good day. The sky was a vivid blue, the sea was restful and sparkling and a few gentle waves rinsed the sand.
Nodding at fellow joggers and dog walkers and sometimes jogging dog walkers, he ran around the tip of the peninsula, past the Casino and all the way into town along the Boulevard de la Croisette till he reached the concrete bunker known by the locals as the Palais des Congrès.
‘Good work out there, today Roger. That record never stood a chance,’ said the Californian, as he caught his breath and stretched out. He must remember to work out how to switch off motivational messages next time. ‘Do you want to share this run?’ said the Californian, which was clearly a logical impossibility and in a satisfying display of user-power, Roger summarily closed her down.
Five minutes later he reached the Marché Forville, and passed the Rotisserie Christophe. Its owner had caused quite a stir in the previous couple of weeks and a goodly amount of raised eyebrows amongst the town’s foodies. Christophe advertised himself as the best maître rotisseur in Cannes and prided himself on his very special free-range birds. Unfortunately, he had been caught out roasting chickens of more humble origin –more swizzle than sizzle apparently– and had paid a whacking fine. But whatever their origin, Christophe did know how to cook chicken; and sausages; and pork ribs; and shoulders of lamb that would tempt the resolve of all but the most committed vegetarians; and for them Christophe proposed wicked baby golden roast potatoes and red peppers dripping in olive oil.
Unfortunately for Christophe, Roger had other things on his shopping list today. Soon his day sack was brimming with muscular beef tomatoes, a tub of burrata, peaches and pears with little red wax stalks, a sheet of thinly sliced ham and a pouch of ravioli with truffle oil. Did he really have to wait till this evening to eat this lot? Oh yes, he remembered: he’d got supper with Mary and Jane, the women of the Wardrobe Department or ‘Gowns’ as his theatre chums like to be called.
He had now earned a spuntino, a mid-morning alcoholic energizer that to his opinion was one of the best Italian habits to have made it over the border–unlike the knock-off Louis Vuitton bags and the camper vans that in high summer blocked up the beach roads and were full of little suntanned kids packed like sardines. He took a seat in his usual spot in the shade at the Cafe de L’Horloge. The Café was run by Charles and Virginie a chic couple in their early thirties and central casting French all right. Charles came from a well-heeled family and had thown up his posh business school education and investment banker career to serve cafés express and bières pression at the zinc counter. When officiating, Charles wore his signature scarlet braces with denim jeans, and with his short-cropped hair, he looked a bit like a skinhead.
Virginie was gorgeous and a walking health and safety risk. Tottering in her bootee heels and micro skirt and balancing a tray of glasses, nibbles and other essential bar paraphenalia, she was arguably as much a threat to herself as to the blood pressure of her older male regulars. Virginie had family in Marylebone and she had worked in a bar in Clerkenwell before joining up with Charles the year before last. Virginie had that wonderfully French customer service ability to disable– at least when it suited her– the capacity to understand English or indeed to speak it.
‘Ciao, monsieur Roger. You’ve been running again by the looks of things, so now you can sin a little? What can I get you today?’
He ordered, and she returned with a small glass of rosé –where did they find glasses this microscopic from? — and a small bowl of what looked wood shavings but smelled of cheese and was delicious. Virginie gave him a smile and went off for a cigarette and a flirt with one of the waiters from the oyster bar across the square.
Roger opened the copy of Nice Matin on the table next to him and started scanning for any news about Valeria’s murder. He couldn’t see anything. He took a sip of wine and thought about Mike. He’d been pretty upset last night —quite understandably and had drunk probably too much. Frankly, Mike’s theory about Russian gangsters being involved seemed a million miles from ‘The Comedy of Errors’, which was this year’s summer production and which they had spent the last few weeks preparing for.
Suddenly, a shadow fell across his newspaper and a man speaking to him in English.
‘Sir, excuse me for disturbing, but you are Monsieur Roger Scott?’
‘I am Jimmi Roustan, Bureau des Etrangers in Cannes. Madame Vermersch at your Residence told me I would probably find you here. Will you permit me to sit?’ The policeman was in his mid twenties and wore a lightweight blue business suit. He held out his ID with its badge which said ‘Gardien de la Paix.’
‘Of course Monsieur’, Roger indicated the chair opposite. ‘Would you like to drink something?’
‘Non, merci.’ Monsieur Scott, can I ask you where you were last night?’
‘I was in La Bocca drinking with a friend at his apartment’
‘Monsieur Mike Green, he’s a teacher of English. We are both members of a drama group in Antibes.’
‘What time did you leave his apartment last night?’
‘About 11.30 or so We had dinner at a pizzeria on the Plage du Midi and then went back to his flat.’
The policeman nodded and made a note.
“Would you mind if I ask you what this is all about, Monsieur Roustan? Is it anything to do with Valeria, the Russian estate agent, sorry, immobilière?’
‘It is strange, perhaps, you should ask that, Monsieur Scott. No, it’s about your friend, Monsieur Green. I’m sorry to say we found his body this morning and we are now investigating his death as murder.’