“No, no, I insist,” said Bernard firmly. “Henri will ‘throw his guts’ to me. We have twenty minutes until the dinner service begins, so now is an excellent time to speak to him. Come with me.”
McCormick followed the waiter to the front of Chez Pierre, where Henri was carefully inspecting napkins.
Bernard stood at attention and cleared his throat. When the maitre d’ turned to him, he spoke. “Henri, it is time for you to wash up. We have discovered that you are the one who placed the berries on the plate of Monsieur Farkas and you must tell us all.”
Henri turned pale, grabbed the back of a chair and shut his eyes firmly. “Non, non,” he murmured. “Ce n'était pas moi.” He wobbled visibly, gripping the chair even tighter.
Carefully, McCormick told hold of Henri and lowered him into the chair. “It’s okay, Henri. We just want you to tell us about it.”
“It was Couteux,” the maitre d’ exclaimed, eyes still firmly shut. “He has made my life,” he risked a glance at them, “all our lives so miserable with his rages and his . . . his jalousie.”
Mark looked at Bernard. “I think even I understood that one.”
“So come, mon vieux,” Bernard encouraged the frightened maitre d’, “you must tell us. Why did you help Couteux to poison that silly Farkas if he has made you so miserable?”
Henri opened both eyes widely and stared at the two men in front of him. “But I did not help that Couteux, that crazy man! I wanted to help Monsieur Farkas! He has been, ah . . . how shall I say, paying his attentions to Madame Couteux and I knew that they were to meet that night. I thought only to help Monsieur Farkas in his badinage dans l’amour, his capacité. You see?”
McCormick and Bernard stared at each other. “You mean,” asked Mark hesitantly, “that you thought the berries were, um . . . an aphrodisiac?”
“Yes! An aphrodisiaque, exactly! That,” Henri clasped his hands pleadingly, “is what Monsieur Mon D’Or told me. You do . . . you do believe me, hein?” he quavered.
The other two looked at each other, then Mark spoke.
“Yeah, we believe you, but why didn’t you tell the cops about Mon D’Or giving you the berries? They’d’ve believed you, too.”
Henri shrugged elaborately. “The police? Monsieur Mon D’Or has told me he will say to them that I am the guilty one. That Monsieur Farkas has blamed me for the inferior dishes he has received and I have paid to him revenge.”
“I gotta call the judge,” was McCormick’s response, “He’s over at the cop shop right now and they’ll have an idea of where Mon D’Or is. Hah, this’ll show him that TV shows are good for something!”
“Be easy, Henri,” soothed Bernard. “We do indeed believe you and now everything will be right.”
Hardcastle took the call from McCormick in Harper's office. “Yeah, got it. We’ll get over there as soon as we can find out where Mon D’Or is.” From the corner of his eye, the judge caught the lieutenant waving at him.
“Mon D’Or’s on his way to Chez Pierre.” Harper stopped waving and started beckoning Hardcastle to follow him out the door. “If he gets there before we do, tell Mark to keep him there.”
Hardcastle relayed the message. “Mon D’Or’s coming over to the restaurant. We’re on our way, but make sure he stays there, okay? And hey!” he added urgently as Harper tugged on his sleeve. “We just found out Farkas’ paper ran a phooey review on the place yesterday and he was dumb enough to tell Mon D’Or all about it when he wrote it up last week!”
Frank took the phone from his grasp, hung it up, and pulled him from the office.
Bernard and Joe Fingers peered around the front door of Chez Pierre, then hastily ducked back inside.
“He’s just parked his Jaguar out front,” relayed Joe. “You guys keep him busy for a few minutes, okay?”
He and Bernard sped toward the back of the restaurant as Mon D’Or walked into the tastefully-decorated antechamber of Chez Pierre to find a committee of two awaiting him.
“And what is this?” said Mon D’Or gruffly. “You do not have jobs to attend to, that you should be waiting for me? Or perhaps some new atrocity has been committed by one of you? An insect in the rice, perhaps.”
McCormick stepped forward, tugging Henri behind him. “We need to have a word with you, Mon D’Or. Maybe we could go to your office, you know, keep it kinda private?”
Mon D’Or look at them suspiciously, then spread his hands and spoke suavely. “But of course, If there is something to discuss, we can speak together in my office. Henri, are you quite well? You look,” he peered at the maitre d’ closely, “rather pale.”
Henri, lightly perspiring, gulped and sent a piteous look at McCormick as he said, “Monsieur, it is nothing. I am . . . there is . . .”
Mark patted Henri on the back, and gestured for Mon D’Or to precede them to the rear of the restaurant. “He just had some bad frog legs for lunch. We really do need to talk to you, though, so –”
Mon D’Or took one more piercing glance at Henri, then turned and raced out the front door just in time to see the judge and Lieutenant Harper striding up the sidewalk toward Chez Pierre. Mon D’Or leapt into his Jaguar convertible as Hardcastle yelled “Get him!” to McCormick.
Mark looked frantically down the street where he’d parked the Coyote and ran instead to the door of the Jaguar just as Mon D’Or turned and the key and the engine roared into life . . . then immediately sputtered and died.
A stream of French invective was only slightly impeded by the police hauling Mon D’Or from the Jaguar and cuffing him. Harper stood close by and made sure the suspect’s rights were read from the card, then he and Hardcastle joined McCormick and Fingers on the sidewalk. Henri was conspicuously absent.
“Well,” commented the judge to McCormick, “you got lucky, sport. He woulda gotten away if his engine hadn’t given out on him.”
“Given out? Huh!” Fingers nudged Bernard slyly and winked at Hardcastle. “We took care of that while Mark kept him busy inside.”
“It is my own recipe for Pomme Frites Tuyère,” said Bernard proudly.
“He means,” said Fingers with a sly grin, “that we shoved a potato into his tailpipe.”