Finally, I have come to the solution of this web of scandal and lies; it is true as I suspected that Valérie du Bois was the only person able to commit the murder that night and cover it up easily. Yet there was something else missing from the investigation; the ease with which Valérie committed the murder undetected given that she was a guest in a house, the missing evidence of what Pierre de Cavaignac was going to announce, the organized desk, the piece of paper on the fax machine, the boy Paul du Bois, etc. How did they fit together?
And then an epiphany occurred to me when I pondered the guest list again: Pierre’s lawyer, his friends from college – some of whom had scorn for him, his mother, a biographer, his company successor, and – most importantly – his mistress. Each one alone would have seemed rather strange; the lawyer Jean Trudeau, for example, is an intelligent but rather asocial person who is more comfortable amidst stacks of paper than a cocktail party. And his biographer, who was only supposed to work for him in private separate from all other business dealings. But together, in accordance with the meeting of his estranged son Paul, a story appears. For it appears to me that that night he was going to reveal the scandal to all parties he thought had a right to know!
Think of it; his college friends, who knew Valérie; his mother; his biographer, who was studying the life of Pierre de Cavaignac as well; his ultimate successor at the company. Further he wanted to codify the revelation in a document; a new testament that would conceivably resolve the scandal. This new testament must have been waiting on the desk for the official signatures, witnessed by his lawyer and all who attended the party, interested or not, so that he could finally find redemption. But what could it be? We only had one piece of the puzzle; the removal of Valérie du Bois’ allocations from the testament. How would he find redemption in this? Then it occurred to me that perhaps he was removing Valérie du Bois from the will because he was going to reallocate his holdings directly to his son which he met just that morning – perhaps, even, make Paul du Bois the new heir of the de Cavaignac fortune.
Now, everything comes into place! Why this will had disappeared, why a sheet was sent to Valérie that indicated her removal, why Valérie was able to commit the murder so easily and why Valérie went missing merely days after the murder without telling anyone or taking belongings away: Valérie was just a pawn in somebody else’s plot. Someone who was able to know what Pierre de Cavaignac was going to announce, who had an interest in making sure he wouldn’t announce it, who wanted to use the most bitter and persuadable guest to commit the act, who made explicit effort to exonerate herself in the murder with her action that night, who was able to remove the barriers that could interfere with the murder… and who had access to the will, and could easily send it to the fax machine. And that could surely only be one person.
Dame Elise de Cavaignac.
Surely it would be her who had the true motive and not Valérie; for years she sat by and watched as her husband paid for the silence of this scandal and stayed obedient, and now what, I presume, was he about to do? Give away his wealth to that boy, that blemish on their name; satisfy himself with redemption without regard for the loyalty of his wife who by no fault of her own was medically unable to produce children. She would not stand by as she had done so many times before! Yet it would be official by the night of the party; she had to move quickly. And if she wanted her due, surely she could not do the deed herself. But who then? Who would be willing and able to do the act for her?
That was when she considered Valérie du Bois. The only woman who had as much to bitter about by Pierre de Cavaignac as she, perhaps. But if she knew the nature of the will, she would surely not be inclined to murder him; would she not be satisfied that her son was finally cared for? So Valérie lied by sending her a message that Pierre planned to remove her from the will, validated with true evidence that was without context in the form of this faxed copy that I found. Surely if he was going to remove her, Valérie would have to move quickly to get her due! Then having recruited Valérie to the task, Elise made sure that she removed the barriers and ease the committing of the act; Elise removed the waiters, and even provided Valérie with gloves to cover her fingerprints… and she made sure that she had solemnly cleared her name from the murder, by mingling intently and making sure people knew where she was at all times. Then when it was long enough, she excused herself to ‘check’ on Pierre, took the will from his desk and in the machine, and removed it – burned it, perhaps. And by that token, she thought, they would never know.
Except that there was one who could know; that day Pierre met with the child Paul and told him that he would make things right for him and his mother, and perhaps hearing this from the son Valérie got suspicious. For Elise there was only one way to remove the risk that Valérie would expose her – remove Valérie herself. That is why she disappeared without telling anybody – Valérie must have been murdered herself!
I do not know where Valérie lies; however I do know that the police discovered correspondence between the two on the eve of the murder and were compelled by the evidence to arrest Elise as an accomplice. Someday I hope that the full horror of her crime is revealed. And as for Paul, with the wife and his mother removed from their ability to keep holding of Pierre’s assets, he will be granted their fortune by the charity of Jean Trudeau, their lawyer.