by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 6: The Birds in the Trees
part 2 of 2
Saint-Roch Hospital, Nice
Tuesday 24 November, 2 p.m.
‘And what happened then, Monsieur Orceau?’‘Well, I caught the bag he’d thrown at me, and left it on the counter, and opened the safe behind me, and grabbed a handful of wads, and took them back to the bag. My three nearest colleagues had rushed over to the safe by now, collecting more handfuls and passing them across to me. It had all gone very quiet. Then the leader started complaining we were going too slowly. I tried to concentrate on getting on with it as fast as I could. But maybe I gave him a bit of a dirty look at one point. Because he suddenly pointed the gun straight at me, and everything seemed to slow down, and then he shot me!’ ‘Madame Padroux has told us you made rather more objections than you’ve just suggested ...’ ‘Huh! Well maybe I did, Inspector. I was very angry. But it probably wasn’t a good idea to show it.’ ‘Indeed. So, please continue.’ ‘Well, nobody came to help me at first. I think Christine took over filling the bag. Then I heard more shouting, then nothing for a while, and then another shot and people screaming. Then the door was slammed and Christine knelt down at my side. I don’t remember much more after that — until I found the ambulance man kneeling beside me too, and talking to me ...’ ‘Thank you, Charles-Pierre. That was very helpful, and you have all my sympathy. What have the doctors told you?’ ‘They say my injury is not too serious. Two or three more days in here, then lots of bed-rest at home.’ ‘Yes, that’s as I understand it too.’ ‘And they said Marco was very badly hurt, but he’s stable ...’ ‘Indeed. We shan’t be able to talk to him for some time, though. Now, have you seen the morning paper?’ ‘Yes, I have. A lot of lies and exaggerations, of course, but it did say that two of the robbers have already been caught. Well done, Inspector!’ ‘Thank you. And I’m pleased to say that early this morning we also apprehended the getaway driver.’ ‘Excellent!’ ‘Yes. But the leader is still missing, and we’re pretty sure he has the money. Well, most of it, anyway — we’ve recovered the payoffs he made to the other lowlifes. We have witnesses who say he was carrying the bag when he was seen over on Rue Biscarra and later on Rue de Villeneuve, and when the getaway driver finally dropped him off he was apparently still holding on to it.’ ‘That’s no surprise!’ ‘No, it’s not. Now, please tell me again, for the record, Charles-Pierre — which of the robbers were carrying guns?’ ‘All three, for heaven’s sake!’ ‘And once again — are you certain which one of them shot you?’ ‘The leader, of course! The one with the moustache and the squeaky voice.’ ‘Yes, that all ties up with what Madame Padroux told us. And it’s what the other little guy said too. Now, about the Manager of your bank ...’ ‘Monsieur Tillier? He was away all day, at our Head Office in Marseilles.’ ‘Indeed. And he was halfway back to Nice by the time anyone thought about trying to telephone him there. So he only learnt about the robbery when his train arrived at eight-thirty and he found my brigadier waiting at the station with one of your staff to point him out.’ ‘He must have been shocked!’ ‘Yes, I believe so. But all the indications are that this was an inside job. So we are naturally obliged to question him about it, and we have already done that. He seems totally surprised by the whole affair, and very keen to understand who was behind it ...’ ‘But of course he is. And so am I! You don’t really suspect Raoul, do you?’ ‘We always need to keep an open mind on these things, Charles-Pierre. But I must say we now have a more promising lead to follow ...’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yes. We have spoken again with Madame Padroux, and she has now remembered that your junior clerk Giuseppe Hauvert did not turn up yesterday morning. Are you able to confirm that for us?’ ‘Oh yes! I’m afraid I had completely forgotten too, but yes, we spoke about it briefly, and we concluded he was unwell and not able to telephone us. It is rare for him to be absent from work.’ ‘I see. Well, we have already visited his apartment, and he is not there. The concierge has told us that she received an urgent phone call for Hauvert at nine o’clock on Sunday evening, and had to go upstairs to get him to come and take it. As soon as he put down the receiver, he told her he would be going away for a while. ‘And at eight o’clock on Monday morning, two of his neighbours bumped into him as he was locking his front door. He was carrying a suitcase, and when they asked if he was leaving, he said his grandmother was dangerously ill back in Genoa, and he was going to her at once.’ ‘I see. You do know his father is French, Inspector ...’ ‘Indeed. We’re trying to locate him — and his wife. And we’ve asked the Italian police to help us check whether young Hauvert has crossed the border, and to establish his grandparents’ address, and to pick him up if he ever arrives at their house. But I think it’s more likely he’ll just hole up in somewhere like Sanremo with that suitcase — it’s probably empty — and wait for his share of the loot to be delivered, probably by the guy who made that alibi call for him. If he’s very lucky ...’ ‘You suspect him that strongly?’ ‘Well, all the evidence points his way, doesn’t it, Charles-Pierre?’ ‘Yes, it certainly seems to.’ ‘So, I’ll be concentrating on him for the rest of the day. I’ll keep in touch.’ ‘Thank you, Inspector.’
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd