Missing Emilie

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents   Chapter Synopses


Book I: Self Above All

Chapter 6: The Birds in the Trees

part 1 of 2

Central Police Station, Nice
Tuesday 24 November, 1 a.m.


‘All right, Inspector. I’ve been thinking about it. And I certainly don’t want to make you angry. As long as you promise ...’

‘I’ll do my best, Bertrand.’

‘Well, I swear I know nothing at all about Luc. But I do know just a little more about our getaway driver.’

‘Go on ...’

‘I think his name’s Narone. Young guy. Works at Jean Soron’s repair garage on Rue Fontaine de la Ville. He may live round there too, but I don’t know where, and I don’t want to know.’

‘Description?’

‘No idea, Inspector. He was wearing a big hat, and I was sitting right behind him in the escape car, remember? And after the crash I didn’t stop to take a better look, if you know what I mean.’

‘OK, Bertrand. I still don’t think you’ve told me all you know, but it’ll do. It may even get you another cup of coffee. Because we already have descriptions from several other witnesses. And we’ve heard a few rumours about Monsieur Narone ourselves ...’

Hmmm. He’s probably still living on the same street. But we’ll check that out first, so we don’t hit the wrong apartment ...

* * *

‘I’m sorry, sir. We still haven’t found a home address or a phone number for Jean Soron.’

‘This is crazy, Brigadier Lebrun. What is it?’

‘Crazy, sir.’

‘Too right. It’s nearly three hours since Irvoise sang! OK, I’m going home to get some sleep. You can take a little nap right here. Because at six o’clock you’ll be going down to that garage with one of the others to wait for Soron to arrive. Call me by seven at the very latest, or as soon as you confirm Narone’s address. And then you can get that lazy Magistrate out of bed and tell him we need an arrest warrant at once ...’


Rue Fontaine de la Ville, Nice
Tuesday 24 November, 8:30 a.m.

What a dump this corner of town is! Just a few labourers walking to work, a couple of cheap run-down businesses, and some very rough-looking apartment blocks.

And that must be the garage up ahead on the left. Surprised I can deduce even that after only two hours’ sleep. But the two waiting squad cars give it away ...


‘Got the warrant, Lebrun?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Good. Checked it thoroughly?’

‘Yes, sir!’

‘Even better. Maybe we’ll pay you this month.’

‘Thank you, sir. And I reckon you should see the morning newspaper before we go in ...’

DARING RAID ON INSECURE CITY BANK!!!

Four armed men held up staff and customers of the Banque Artisanale in Nice at gunpoint yesterday evening and made off with a haul estimated at over 100 million Old Francs. The robbers appear to have known in advance that this huge sum of money was being stored in the main hall at that time.

Eyewitnesses report that several shots were fired at a dozen terrified customers. Thankfully they all missed their targets. But a senior manager was seriously wounded, and the bank’s lone security guard was gunned down in cold blood and is in a critical condition at the city’s Saint-Roch Hospital.

The robbers then crashed their getaway car during a reckless high-speed police chase through the busy rush-hour streets. Two of them managed to escape in a second hijacked car, after assaulting its unlucky owner. But after putting up violent struggles, the others were mercifully arrested at the scene by heroic members of the Nice citizenry.

Unidentifiable sources report that the two captured bank robbers were found to be in possession of a total of some eight million Old Francs. But where, we ask, is the ruthless gang leader, who apparently made off with the rest of the haul after he and his partner dumped the hijacked driver near Rue Trachel??

‘How come they always seem to know a lot more than we do?’

‘Perhaps they make much of it up, sir, and double all the numbers as a matter of course.’

‘Yes, Lebrun. Perhaps they do. So, where is he?’

‘Just two hundred metres down the street, sir.’

‘And ...?’

‘I kept all the uniforms back here and cased the building on my own, thirty minutes ago. It’s a tacky old block set at a sharp angle to the street. Narone’s apartment is on the second floor, third door to the right after the stairs. There’s no lift. Fire escape’s at the other end of the corridor, but I’ll bet that door’s locked anyway. If he jumps out of his only window he’ll land on some very nasty-looking old iron. And that’s it, sir. I suggest we cruise down in quiet convoy and pull up just past the building, out of sight of anyone inside. And maintain silence till we make our entry.’

‘Good work, Brigadier. OK, let’s go. I’ll be right behind you all ...’

* * *

CRASH!

‘What the hell ...??’

‘Hands above your head! And don’t move!’

‘Still in bed and fully dressed, well after eight o’clock, Narone? A fit young man like you should be hard at work by now. Late night, perhaps?’

‘I don’t know what ...’

‘OK, he’s secure, sir.’

‘Right. Check that jacket first, Lebrun ...’

‘Yes, sir ... Jackpot, sir!’

‘Well, well, well. This is a bit out of your league, isn’t it, Narone? A nice fat wad of used 5000 Old Franc notes, answering perfectly to the description of a lot of others that went missing yesterday evening. You wouldn’t happen to know where the rest of them are?’

‘No!’

‘Or the boss man with the silly voice?’

‘What silly voice?’

‘OK, Brigadier, you do the honours with Stirling Moss here. The rest of you can get started on a full search — it won’t take very long in this pokey little mouse-hole. And I’ll see you down at the station, Narone. After I’ve had some breakfast.’


Central Police Station, Nice
Tuesday 24 November, 12 noon

‘Right, Arthur — you don’t mind if I call you Arthur, do you? — I’ve had a good read through your statement again, and I’d like you to reconsider a few things before you sign it, OK?’

‘Whatever. It’s rather cold in here, isn’t it, Inspector? Any chance of a nice cup of tea ...?’

‘I also think you might do well to show a bit more interest in making me a much happier man, Arthur. I have this instinctive dislike of people who associate themselves with attempted murderers ...’

‘What?’

‘You heard me.’

‘OK. I guess I’d better try a bit harder.’

‘You’d better come to mean it eventually, my boy. Right, let’s stick with that subject for starters. Did you know the others were all carrying guns?’

‘No. Not until the guys in the back of the car handed theirs in to Luc, just before the crash.’

‘Did they talk about what happened inside the bank?’

‘No. Well, one of them did say he’d had to deal with a guard. But I didn’t know what he meant by that.’

‘He meant he’d nearly put him in a coffin, Arthur. And there’s still a fair chance he has ...’

‘Ah, merde!’

‘Very apposite. And your pal “Luc” is also very handy with a gun ...’

‘He’s not my pal! ... What? Did he shoot somebody too?’

‘Oh yes, Arthur. The Deputy Manager. Not a very pretty picture, is it? Not quite the same as borrowing a little MG for a quick run round the hills ...’

‘No.’

‘Going to be a little more helpful now? You know it makes sense ...’

‘Yes, Inspector.’

‘Good. So let’s move on to Monsieur Luc Comet. Did you make that name up all on your own?’

‘Well, half of it, yes.’

‘Pah! So, when he got out of the car on Boulevard Gambetta, he took the money bag with him, right?’

‘I’ve already told you that. If you’d met him yourself, you’d realise he wouldn’t have let go of it in a hurry!’

‘Unless ...’

‘Unless what?’

‘Unless he was hurt in the accident and couldn’t carry it. The driver of the car you hijacked said he thought the boss man had been injured.’

‘It was just a bump on the head. He told me he was fine as he left the car.’

‘Hmmm. And where does he live, Arthur? Near where you dropped him off?’

‘I’ve told you that too — I have no idea!’

‘All right. Now ... remind me what time you got back last night.’

‘A little after midnight.’

‘Yes. So it took you nearly five hours to walk home after you dumped the car on Avenue Depoilly. Did you perhaps go via Cannes?’

‘Very funny.’

‘Where were you all evening, Arthur?’

‘I was wandering around the city, trying to work out what to do for the best. You know — get out of town, or give myself up, or hope I’d got away with it and just go home. It took me all that time to decide to carry on as planned. I had the money Luc had promised me in my pocket, so I was happy enough. Of course, you’ve got it now.’

‘That single wad of notes was your only payoff from that huge haul?’

‘Yes. I don’t know how much was in the bag altogether, but it looked like an awful lot.’

‘Well, you certainly came cheap compared with the other two.’

‘I don’t care. I didn’t actually rob a bank, did I? Or shoot anybody ... Hang on — how do you know how much they were paid?’

‘Oh, we have them both tucked up nicely here already. And their pay packets.’

Merde! Now I understand how ...’

‘Don’t jump to any reckless conclusions, Arthur. Just concentrate on making the best of things by helping us as much as possible in the hours and days to come, eh? So, you’d never seen any of them before?’

‘No. And I hardly saw the other two on the day. They just jumped in the back seat outside the bank and then got out again fast after the crash. Luc had told me not to turn round and look at them, and I didn’t.’

‘What about “Luc” himself?’

‘He press-ganged me in a dark alley in the Old City three weeks ago, and stayed out of sight behind me the whole time. And yesterday he was wearing a big old hat and sunglasses and a bushy false moustache. I wouldn’t recognise him again, not even if ... no, you’re actually a lot taller than him, Inspector.’

‘Don’t push me, Arthur. Now, you said in your statement that he had a sort of gruff Marseilles accent. That’s strange, because I have witnesses from the bank who say he spoke in a high-pitched Italian accent ...’

‘So what does a senior detective like you make of that?’

‘I won’t warn you again, Narone!’

‘OK, OK.’

‘Right, I’ve got three of you already, and before the week is out I’m going to find “Luc” and the insider who must have set him up. But I’m not convinced you’ve told me the whole story ...’

‘Yes, I have.’

‘Hmmm. We found three thousand balles in your trousers pocket when we arrested you, didn’t we?’

‘So what?’

‘Well, I’m guessing that’s all you have left over from last Friday’s wages, after paying your rent and buying some food.’

‘With insight like that, I suspect you’ll make it to Chief Inspector very soon.’

‘I’ll take that as a “yes”. So what’s a poor church mouse like you doing with another thirty-five thousand in his bedside drawer?’

‘That’s none of your business. But I’ll save you the effort of trying to find out. It’s my savings.’

‘Pah! You’ve managed to save a whole month’s wages in the few years you’ve been out at work and probably earning a pittance? You must really think I’m stupid!’

‘No comment.’

‘Right, that’ll do for now, Arthur. Unless — is there anyone you’d like to pay you a visit?’

‘What? Oh ... No, I don’t think so. Well, maybe ...’

‘Yes?’

‘No, forget it. Waste of time.’

‘Let me know if you change your mind.’

‘I shan’t.’

‘Fair enough. You can have that cup of tea now. And I’ll be talking to you again soon, I’m sure.’

‘I can’t wait, Inspector.’


‘So what do you think, Lebrun?’

‘About Narone, sir?’

‘No, about the origin of the universe.’

‘I think he’s being so bloody cocky because he’s got nothing more to hide, so he has no fear of being caught out. I think we’ve learnt all we’re going to learn from him.’

‘And I think you’re probably right. But I’m going to leave him to think he might be coming under a lot more pressure. So get yourself some lunch, then go back to the garage, talk to his workmates and see if there’s anyone we can use to squeeze a bit more out of him ...’

‘Yes, sir. And where will you be?’

‘Interviewing the poor sods who got shot — if the doctors will let me. And then following my nose ...’


Proceed to part 2 ...

Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd

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