arranging the antemortem radiographs to the right and the postmortem to the left. His long, bony fingers located a small bump on each X ray, and, one by one, he oriented them, placing the dot face up. When he’d finished, each antemortem radiograph lay in identical alignment to its postmortem counterpart.
He compared the two sets for discrepancies. Everything matched. Neither series showed missing teeth. All roots were complete to their tips. The outlines and curvatures on the left mirrored perfectly those on the right. But most noticeable were the stark white globs representing dental restorations. The constellation of shapes on the antemortem films was mimicked in detail on the films Daniel had taken.
After studying the X rays for what seemed an interminable time, Bergeron selected a square from the right, placed it over the corresponding postmortem X ray, and positioned it for my inspection. The irregular patterns on the molars superimposed exactly. He swiveled to face me.
,” he said, leaning back and placing an elbow on the table. “Unofficially, of course, until I finish with the written records.” He reached for his coffee. He would do an exhaustive comparison of the written records in addition to a more detailed X-ray comparison, but he had no doubt. This was Isabelle Gagnon.
I was glad I wouldn’t be the one to face the parents. The husband. The lover. The son. I’d been present at such meetings. I knew the look. The eyes, pleading. Tell me this is a mistake. A bad dream. Make it end. Say it isn’t so. Then, comprehension. In a millisecond, the world changed forever.
“Thanks for looking at this right away, Marc,” I said. “And thanks for the preliminary.”
“I wish they could all be this easy.” He took a sip of coffee, grimaced and shook his head.
“Do you want me to deal with Claudel?” I tried to keep the distaste out of my voice. Apparently I didn’t succeed. He smiled knowingly.
“I have no doubt you can handle Monsieur Claudel.”
“Right,” I said. “That’s what he needs. A handler.”
I could hear him laughing as I returned to my office.
My grandmother always told me there is good in everyone. “Just look fer it . . .” she’d say, the brogue smooth as satin, “. . . and ye’ll find it. Everyone has a virtue.” Gran, you never met Claudel.
Claudel’s virtue was promptness. He was back in fifty minutes.
He stopped in Bergeron’s office, and I could hear their voices through the wall. My name was repeated several times as Bergeron forwarded him to me. Claudel’s cadence signaled irritation. He wanted a real opinion, but now he’d have to settle for me again. He appeared seconds later, his face hard.
Neither of us offered greeting. He waited at the door.
“It’s positive,” I said. “Gagnon.”
He frowned, but I could see excitement collecting in his eyes. He had a victim. Now he could begin the investigation. I wondered if he felt anything for the dead woman or if it was all an exercise for him. Find the bad guy. Outwit the perp. I’d heard the banter, the comments, the jokes made over a victim’s battered body. For some it was a way to deal with the obscenity of violence, a protective barrier against the daily reality of human slaughter. Morgue humor. Mask the horror in male bravado. For others it went deeper. I suspected Claudel was among the others.
I watched him for several seconds. Down the hall a phone rang. Though I truly disliked the man, I forced myself to admit that his opinion of me mattered. I wanted his approval. I wanted him to like me. I wanted all of them to accept me, to admit me to the club.
An image of Dr. Lentz flashed into my mind, a hologram psychologist, lecturing from the past.
“Tempe,” she would say, “you are the child of an alcoholic father. You are searching for the attention he denied you. You want Daddy’s approval, so you try to please everybody.”
She made me see it, but she couldn’t