by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 3: Reconfiguration
part 1 of 2
Monday 19 October
So, one full week until I take the next call from Xérus.
I don’t have to tell Gustin Aignant about which bank we’re hitting. Or anything about Plan B. He didn’t know much about Plan A anyway. So I won’t need to contact him at all.
Bertrand Irvoise can drive the approach car. But I must get him to find us a second driver very soon. He should know his competition by reputation. So I’ll leave him a special signal before seven o’clock, and talk to him tonight.
First things first, though. I need to do another full day’s detailed research on the ground now, checking out all the approaches to Rue Alberti and the bank, deciding exactly where we’re going to set up that road block, and foot-slogging the options for the getaway route.
And I must make sure I know just when it gets dark here in late November.
* * *
‘Is that B?’
‘Of course it is, Luc! You signalled me today!’
‘Right. Remember my name?’
‘It’s Luc! I already said it!’
‘The rest of it, I mean ...’
‘Hang on — yeah, it’s Gazelle, right?’
‘OK. Happy with the money?’
‘Yeah! So is there a problem?’
‘Not a problem, my friend. Just a small change of plan. We’re now going to use two cars. We’ll be arriving at the bank in one of them, and you’re going to be our first driver. We’ll definitely need a big long station wagon for that job, OK?’
‘And I’d like you to suggest who the new getaway driver could be. I’m sure you’re aware of other car thieves in Nice who know the city streets really well ...’
‘Of course I am.’
‘But are there any you’ve never met before?’
‘One or two ...’
‘Good. So please have a very careful think about it, and be back at this call box again, at nine-fifteen on Wednesday evening, with a name for me. Remember, it must be someone you don’t know at all. And he must be good. And able to keep a secret. OK?’
‘And here’s where you’ll be picking me up, and where you’ll then be taking us in that nice big car you’re going to steal ...’
Wednesday 21 October, 9:15 p.m.
‘This is B.’
‘And this is Gazelle. So what do you have for me?’
‘I’ve found the perfect guy for the getaway car, Luc. And I’ve never met him. We’ve just talked on the phone ...’
‘What? You’ve spoken to him already?’
‘Yeah, last night. But I didn’t tell him my real name. And he wants to be known only as “Théo” — but that’s not his real name either.’
‘What the hell did you tell him?’
‘Just that I knew someone who needed a driver for a nice little job ...’
‘And that’s all?’
‘Hang on a minute, B. I need to think about this ...’
Is it manageable? Probably. I can put a lot of pressure on this dim little weed if I get any problems with his shy Théo character.
And the clock’s ticking away. Guess I’ll have to live with it ...
‘All right, B. But I’m holding you fully responsible for him, OK?’
‘No buts. Now, get straight back to Théo and say I’ll be calling him at nine-thirty tomorrow evening, and he can expect some cash then too. Here’s the phone box location ...’
Thursday 22 October, 9:30 p.m.
‘Bonsoir. I understand you might like to earn some good money for borrowing a nippy little car and taking me and a couple of friends for a nice safe drive around the city one evening ...’
‘What’s it worth?’
‘One million balles at the end of the trip, plus another hundred thousand up-front, here and now.’
‘You’re on. But if you don’t deliver, I’ll break your neck on the spot.’
‘That seems fair, Théo. Care to pick up that old Gitanes pack from the floor of the call box?’
‘OK ....... Yeah, that’s a very good start.’
‘Right on the spot, I’d say.’
‘And now you need a name for me, Théo. Think of a bird, please.’
‘Fine. I am now “Luc Pigeon” to you and you alone. And here’s how you and I will be keeping in touch .......’
Sunday 25 October, 8 p.m.
‘Good evening, Paul. I trust your revised plans are all in place?’
‘Yes, X, they are. We’ll be doing the job exactly as I suggested last week. I’ve reconnoitred the streets as fully as necessary, and the team now includes two drivers. I’ll give everyone their final briefing after this call.’
‘Very good. And I assume you’ve been using some sort of messaging system to signal the need for any unplanned telephone contact?’
‘So we must now establish one of our own.’
‘I’ve been wondering when you would realise that ...’
‘Ah, Paul, your lack of confidence continues to disappoint me. I have always had a little system in plan. Mais naturellement, hein? It is only now that I wish to deploy it.
‘So, if you should ever feel it necessary to speak to me urgently, please go to the junction of Rue Lamartine and Rue Pertinax at exactly eight-thirty that evening, and chalk the number 88 on the pavement at the corner of the wall of the grocery shop. You must then walk straight up to Café Racine, two blocks to the north, and remain inside. At nine o’clock precisely the barman will receive a call for you under the name of Stéphane Garaune.
‘And if I should desperately need to talk to you, I shall simply phone to speak to Monsieur Garaune at that time, at that café. So please ensure you are in there by nine o’clock every evening from now on, for at least fifteen minutes, ready for a possible call.’
‘But assuming we shall never need to use that special system, Paul, you must now await my final communication. You will be at the phone box at the junction of Rue Rossini and Rue Gounod at precisely eight o’clock every Sunday evening from the eighth of November onwards, and you will wait there for thirty minutes. If I do not call, you may relax for another full week. But if I do telephone, it will simply be to advise you that the robbery is to take place the following Monday evening, exactly as planned, and to give you any special new information.’
‘Understood. But what about a backup call box, in case I find that phone is broken?’
‘Indeed. Please go straight along to the one at Rue Hérold.’
‘And I suggest that your team should also be waiting at individual phone boxes for your possible call to action, from eight-thirty on each of those Sunday evenings.’
‘But of course.’
‘Good. So do you have any further questions, Paul?’
‘Until we speak again, then ...’
Monday 26 October
OK. Today I’ll need to leave the coded messages in each of the three bars. Then I can make the final briefing calls tonight.
And after that, we’ll all be ready for Xérus’ shout.
* * *
So, that’s done. They’ll all be waiting at their own phone boxes each Sunday evening.
Hmmm. Aignant had a lot more questions than I’d expected. He still seems very uncomfortable with taking orders. And he wanted to bring his own gun to the party. But at least he finally agreed not to, and promised to do the job exactly as I want it done. Glad I still haven’t told him which bank it is!
Irvoise was a pushover, of course. He’s never even asked for the name of the bank! He may be dim, but I’m certain I can rely on him.
I’m not very happy about Théo. When I asked him to repeat what I’d said about the plan, it took him a while, but it was almost word perfect. I hope he wasn’t writing it down, despite my instructions. It sounded as if he’d had a lot to drink. And he said ‘Yes’ when I asked him if he had. Well, at least he’s honest. And at least he promised to drink nothing on the day.
Thursday 29 October, 9:15 p.m.
‘This is B.’
‘And this is Gazelle. OK, I got your special signal today. What’s the problem?’
‘I just heard Théo broke his arm in a bar brawl two nights ago.’
‘Oh, wonderful! How the hell is he going to drive the getaway car now?’
‘Ah, I didn’t expect you to ask me that, Luc. Well, I suppose he could ...’
‘No, you idiot, it wasn’t a serious question! You’ve really let me down, haven’t you?’
‘Well, I hope not, because ...’
‘Oh yes you have! This thing could be happening in just a few days’ time, and now we’ve lost our damned getaway driver!’
‘I told you I don’t want any buts! Théo was your idea and your responsibility, remember? So what are you going to do about it?’
‘I keep trying to tell you, Luc! I’ve already found us a very good substitute ...’
‘Ah. All right then, keep talking ...’
‘His name’s Arthur Narone. Only in his early twenties, but he’s a bit of a legend around here already. I’ve never met him, I’ve just heard about what he often does with his nights ...’
‘And what is that, exactly?’
‘He steals the best cars off the street — always after midnight — and drives around the city and the hills like they were Monte Carlo. Then he delivers ’em back, one block away from where he took ’em, and strolls home while it’s still dark. Probably wears a new pair of cheap gloves every time and dumps ’em straight in a litter bin. No-one ever knows their car’s been lifted till they find it missing the next day. And when they call the police, they now get told to check out the surrounding streets for themselves. There’s never any damage, just a lot less gas in the tank! The flics have never caught him red-handed — their cars just aren’t fast enough! But the rumour is they’ve now stopped worrying about him. Harmless, they reckon. I’d say he’s actually got a lot of their drivers’ respect as well.’
‘Sounds as if he has yours too, B. But you didn’t suggest him to me before ...’
‘Well, I figured he might be a bit young for you, and he’s got no real jobs under his belt, if you know what I mean. But now that Théo’s out of the picture ...’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK, Narone does sound like a good bet. So where does he live?’
‘Oh, I don’t know that, Luc. Decided I’d better not go sniffing around this time, ’cos I could tell you weren’t happy after I’d contacted Théo myself ...’
‘No, I wasn’t. So you’ve got no idea how I can find the kid?’
‘Oh, sure I have. He works at old man Soron’s little repair garage out on Rue Fontaine de la Ville. They say he lives near there too.’
‘Aha! And where exactly is that?’
‘North-east of the port. Pretty rough area. Take care if you go down there alone.’
‘Thanks a lot ...’
‘I mean it, Luc.’
‘OK. Sorry, B. And ... well, I’m grateful for what you’ve done to try and sort this for me.’
‘Oh, thank you!!’
‘All right, all right, man! So, what does Narone look like?’
‘Never seen him myself, Luc. But I’ve heard them say he’s quite slim, with a big wave of hair and dark eyes.’
‘OK, that’ll do. Right — if you don’t get any more signals from me, you can assume I’ve hired the guy and we’re back on track. And you can call Théo now to tell him he’s off the team. OK?’
‘Sure. And ... well, good luck.’
‘Thanks, B. Yeah, thanks a lot.’
I thought it was all going too smoothly.
Need to get stuck straight back into it. Hope the rain lets up soon. But at least there’s not too much wind!
I don’t think Xérus needs to know about this little hiccup. One getaway driver’s much the same as another. But I’m going to have to take some bigger risks than usual. Time really is running out fast. Can’t mess around with any more phone calls. No, I must make direct contact with this Arthur Narone as soon as I can. I’ll check out the garage tomorrow, and when he finishes work I’ll follow him for a few hours and develop my persuasion plan ...
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd