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The Federal Criminal Police arrive in a van and a sedan around 10:15, lights flashing and sirens blazing as if it’s necessary. Muller knows it is just the Swiss FCP means of scaring people out of their way and to travel at high speeds on the motorway. There are three men in the squad car and a man and a woman in the van. Muller introduces himself to the FCP officers. He finds them to be surly and distant, two of them reeking of wine. Their eyes matching the rouge of the liquid they would have drank to excess the night before, never expecting to be called out to a possible homicide on a gazetted holiday.
The man in charge is, funnily enough, called Inspector Frost. Muller doesn’t make a joke of it. Firstly because he hasn’t previously met any of these men and secondly that Frost is not a very Swiss name. He certainly cannot afford to openly offend an officer from the FCP in front of his colleagues. An indiscretion like that could mean finishing his career picking up stray dogs and looking for their owners.
The woman comes across much friendlier than the men. She’s a forensic photographer. A very attractive, French Swiss girl by the name of Officer Madeline Perren. While the FCP officially tape off the death scene and do a closer inspection of the dead man she politely talks with Officer Muller about his Christmas Day plans. Muller thinks she looks and sounds like someone he has seen on New York CSI. Even wrapped and padded up in a ski jacket and dark blue denim jeans he can tell that she leads a very active outdoor life.
‘Hopefully I will be at home in time to have lunch with my wife and daughter.’ Muller says wistfully glancing into her grey, almond shaped eyes. No, it may have been Miami CSI that he may have been thinking of. ‘What about you?’ He asks, also trying to keep an eye on the experts from Lausanne, as they went about their preliminary investigations.
‘My boyfriend and I have been up at our chalet in Gruyeres for three days. I’ll be back up the mountain as soon as I download these photos into the system.’
Officer Perren’s smile puts a bit of warmth into Muller’s tired body. He decides it is definitely New York CSI. He can even recall the episode. It’s the one about a man they find frozen to death in a service elevator. His hands and feet had been cut off and his face sandblasted. They eventually find his hands and feet in a freezer in the kitchen of some high class restaurant on the east side and solve the case. Muller thinks it all a bit coincidental. That this woman looks like the forensic photographer in that episode about a frozen body and here in Rolle they now have their own frozen body, albeit his limbs are still all intact. Very strange indeed.
Frost motions Officer Perren to where the dead man lay. Officer Muller wanders off to the stone wall at the corner of the Chemin and the Rue to watch how these experts work. The moss along the wall on the northern side looks like a mixture of polished green cushions and white crystals as it catches the morning sun. The snow clouds have blown away leaving the snow covered landscape contrasting with the pale blue sky looking like a postcard. A group of twenty rugged up locals have gathered in the parking area at the entry of the Chemin, on the lake side of the old farm house and barn. Muller can imagine the content of their huddled conversations.
‘I hear it is some itinerant foreigner who was robbed and killed by one of those other immigrants from Africa.’
‘Someone told me he was kicked to death then shot.’
‘That house is definitely a bad omen. Many years ago a French foreigner living there died in a helicopter crash at St. Moritz. A terrorist attack I recall. Very sinister. They never found his body.’
‘And his wife went mad in that house after his death.’
‘Worse still their daughter became a Muslim.’
‘I never knew that.’
‘Yes. And she started wearing one of those face masks. I still see her occasionally up at the cemetery.’
‘I never knew that.’
‘There is certainly a curse on that house. And a murder on Christmas day. It is not good for Rolle.’
‘It will be the curse of that Muslim woman. The government should never have allowed them in this country. I read they want to build their strange churches here now.’
‘Yes, I am sure.’
‘I never knew that.’
‘This country is going too soft since the EEU was formed.’
‘But we have do our own constitution.’
‘Still we are much too easy with foreigners. They have no money. They come and take ours.’
‘That’s true. We do all the hard work and they get our money.’
‘And then they kill each other on Christmas Day. That’s not something a Christian would do.’
‘That is true.’
Inventing the truth. That is what these Rolle old-timers will be doing. Their theories will be all around the village before the next issue of 24 Heures.
Muller takes his attention back to the FCP. They do not look like they have found anything of interest. Officer Perren is putting her camera back in it’s case. He strolls casually back to where the FCP are talking near the victim’s body.
‘ Officer Muller.’ Inspector Frost says when he is an arm’s length away from them. ‘Thank you for your prompt attention to this situation. We have not found any thing that can confirm the victim’s identity or the cause of death. I have ordered a full post-mortem to be carried out after the holiday period. Any information you can squeeze out from your local constituents, please inform me about immediately. There was quite a large sum of money in the possession of the dead man, you know.’
‘Really?’ said Muller trying to act very surprised. ‘So that rules out murder for robbery Inspector.’
‘Well, we will need to see what the post mortem tells us before we completely rule that out. He may have had more money than that on him and the thieves left it behind to cover their tracks.’
‘I didn’t think of that.’ replied Muller not totally convinced of the Inspector’s logic.
‘Well these foreigners do some strange things.’
‘He is a foreigner then?’ Muses Muller.
‘That’s only an assumption at this stage. We’ve got all we need from here. You can ask the paramedics to come in now and prepare the body to take to the FCP Criminal Investigation morgue in Lausanne, Officer Muller. And please keep all spectators clear of the area until we have left. Thank you again for you assistance. We will talk to you again shortly after the holiday period.’
The Inspector tells Officer Perren to meet him at the FCP morgue where they can take more detailed photos. The two FCP officers that arrived with him, leave the scene of the terrible circumstances without as much as a grunt. Madeleine Perren shakes his hand politely and bids him a ‘merry Christmas’ which he returns. Muller cannot work out why these FCP police are paid so much more money that the commune gendarmes. They certainly do not work any harder and their manners are terrible.
It takes a further half an hour before the dead man is zipped into a body bag and transferred to the ambulance. After they leave Muller retrieves the police tape that has sealed off the area. The remaining locals stand back as the ambulance passes and then slowly amble over to the steps of the old farmhouse. They attempt to engage Officer Muller in conversation concerning the ‘murder’. But Muller is polite and shaking his head says he knows no more than they do. After a few minutes of scuffing their shoes in the snow the group of locals walk down the Rue de la Gare and out of sight towards the main street.
When Muller is satisfied he has attended to everything he walks around the old farm house to where his Saab 93, Gendarmarie vehicle is waiting. It’s time to get home to his family. Not to forget lunch and a cold Heinekin. He can do all the necessary paperwork after the holidays. Besides he wants to do a bit of investigating for himself. Who knows, if he finds information that can help the FCP solve this case it may lead to a promotion. Or even the opportunity to transfer to the FCP in Lausanne. He would enjoy that extra money.
After Muller’s vehicle exits the car park, a lone figure walks unobserved from the northern end of Rue de la Gare towards the farmhouse. When she reaches the single stone stair she crouches down and sits on the heels of her red leather boots. There is nothing to see here but interruptions to the snow on the path and bare patches of stone where the body had lain. There’s an endless silence playing harmony to the cold air. Even the bare branches of the overhanging trees are paying their respect. She can feel the tears looking for a way out around the bottom rim of her Ray Bans. Their heat makes her lenses fog. She resists the urge to sob and forces herself upright, stands looking down for a brief moment then walks back up the Rue to where she had watched the morning’s proceedings. News travels fast in Rolle. Sometimes that can be a good thing. Other times... well... this was is one of those other times.