Missing Emilie

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents   Chapter Synopses


Book I: Self Above All

Chapter 8: Back Down the Rabbit Holes

part 1 of 2

Central Police Station, Nice
Wednesday 25 November, 9 a.m.


‘Ah, good morning, sir. I trust you’ve had a good night’s sleep after your little trip to the border ...’

‘Only what I need and deserve, Brigadier. If the Italians had actually given us a bit more co-operation on the phone, I would not have had to waste my time chasing them up in person.’

‘And may I assume we have not yet unearthed Giuseppe Hauvert ...?’

‘You may. But we shall, believe me, as soon as they decide to give him some real attention. Now, what about young Narone’s pals?’

‘Well, he doesn’t really seem to have any, sir. His workmates at the garage are nothing more than that. They told us he used to hang around with an old school friend when he first started work there, but he hasn’t mentioned him for years. We did pick up something about a girlfriend, though. So did the writer of the article about Narone in the evening paper, of course ...’

‘I didn’t see anything about her in it!’

‘That part only made the final edition, sir — on the streets at five o’clock. If you’d been here yesterday evening ...’

‘I knew he had a girlfriend! Cherchez la femme ...

‘That’s exactly what we have been doing, sir. We visited the club where she works — turns out she’s a very popular singer — and got a name. Emilie Courbier.’

‘I’ve heard of her. In fact I’ve seen her show! Was it the Casa della Musica?’

‘Indeed, sir. The owner gave us her address after a bit of persuasion, but he said she wasn’t likely to be at home on such a nice afternoon. He was right. We got there at three — no reply. Tried again at six, but she was still not there. So I decided to visit the club at seven-thirty — she was due in by then, to do an early evening spot — and I waited for over an hour, but she never arrived. The owner was very surprised and extremely annoyed. So at nine o’clock the lads and I went back to her apartment and got the concierge to open up.’

‘And ...?’

* * *

‘Is there anything more you’d like to tell me now, Arthur?’

‘No, Inspector. I told you everything yesterday.’

‘Very well. But you’ll remember I asked if there was anyone you’d like to see?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And you almost mentioned your pretty little girlfriend, didn’t you?’

‘What? How did you know that?’

‘I must have been using some of that senior detective’s intuition ...’

‘And how did you find out about her, anyway?’

‘By spending the taxpayers’ money on making a few enquiries. It’s what we do around here, most days. But I’m sorry to say we’ve drawn a blank. Your precious Mademoiselle Courbier disappeared before we could even make her acquaintance. So of course I’m forced to wonder why ...’

‘You mean you went to her apartment and she just wasn’t there at the time ...?’

‘Nothing so simple, I regret. On our third attempt we invited the concierge to unlock her door for us. Nothing left but the furniture. She’s gone, Arthur.’

‘What? Why would she suddenly do that?’

‘Why indeed? Carry on thinking like that and we’ll make a senior detective out of you too. And to answer your question, I’m thinking that maybe it was actually you who made off with the money after dumping the injured “Luc”. And maybe you took it to Emilie’s place and left it with her before you finally went home on Monday night ...’

‘What???’

‘It’s a perfectly good theory. We even have a statement from a neighbour who lives on the same floor as Emilie, saying she thinks she heard knocking on one of the front doors late that evening.’

‘Pah! So what? I think it’s a ridiculous theory. But ... maybe someone else believes it too, Inspector.’

‘Well, there was a passing reference to her in the evening paper ...’

‘What? You shouldn’t have told the press about her! Maybe she’s been attacked or even kidnapped!’

‘I’ve told them nothing, Arthur. And the paper didn’t even mention her name. I don’t think anyone has got to her. Another neighbour told us later that he’d seen her leaving with a large suitcase around eight o’clock yesterday evening. And I’ve just spoken to the manager of the club where she works. Used to work. She called him at nine-thirty last night to say she wasn’t coming in and wasn’t coming back. He was not amused, but she wouldn’t explain why. No, Emilie must have seen that press report and simply walked out on him and you and everybody else. Probably all because of what you did on Monday ...’

‘But she just wouldn’t! Someone must have put her under pressure! How do you know she made that call of her own free will? You have to start a proper search for her at once! Please!’

‘I can’t waste my resources like that. She’s a big girl now.’

‘She’s nineteen, Inspector!’

‘Exactly. Almost twenty, in fact. A lot of Frenchwomen of her age have been married for nearly five years.’

‘But you believe she’s holding the money from the robbery!!’

‘Oh no, I never really thought that, Arthur. And you have now convinced me I was right. Merci beaucoup.

‘What? Oh, damn you and your devious methods!’

‘That’s a rather poor line to take, young man. But then you’re not too skilled at holding onto those who actually care about you, are you ...?’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘I’ll leave you to work it out. And by the way — I don’t really think “Luc” left you to look after the money bag. We now have a statement from someone who lives at the far end of Avenue Depoilly. She reports seeing you from her window — emerging from the car, locking it, and walking back up towards the crossroads. She soon lost you in the shadows, but she swears you weren’t carrying anything. She thought nothing more of it at the time, apart from mild annoyance that you’d parked in her exclusive cul-de-sac. But a few hours later she saw us examining the car, and she came forward.’

‘Well thank you very much for telling me, at last!’

‘But I didn’t have to, did I, Arthur? It’s just by way of illustrating what I was saying about nurturing your friends ...’


Saint-Roch Hospital, Nice
Wednesday 25 November, 7 p.m.

‘It is very good to see you again, Charles-Pierre. And the reports of your colleagues are clearly accurate ... you are looking a lot stronger than you were on my first visit!’

‘Ah, thank you, Monsieur Tillier. I am fortunate to have received so much kind attention and concern. And yes, I am indeed feeling much better today. But if only ...’

‘If only what?’

‘If only they knew how to serve hard-boiled eggs properly here.’

Mon Dieu! What is the problem, my friend?’

‘They should always be of moderate dimensions and served at the correct temperature, sir. Too small and warm, and they are like tagliatelle on fire; too large and cold, and they are like rubbery, tepid ice-cream. But when heated and presented comme il faut, a hard-boiled egg of the ideal size — bitten, not sliced, naturellement — is a match for a spoonful of the finest Russian caviar or a perfect Martini, and should be consumed within the space of ten seconds. With no salt or pepper, of course.’

‘Ah, the life of the gourmet has regrettably never been mine, Charles-Pierre.’

‘No, sir. But I suppose I should not really expect it in this place. I have experienced perfectly-served eggs only four times in my life — in Turin, Edinburgh, Paris, and would you believe it, Aix-en-Provence!’

‘Such is life.’

‘Indeed. But thankfully I expect to be discharged tomorrow.’

‘Ah, that is excellent news! But it does nothing to alleviate my discomfort and embarrassment for what happened to you on Monday, my friend.’

‘Sir, you must not feel in any way responsible ...’

‘However, I’m very happy to be able to tell you that the Head Office people have now confirmed that we will cover all your hospital costs, and allow you as much sick leave as you need to fully regain your strength.’

‘Oh, thank you, sir!’

‘And I’m also discussing an appropriate ex gratia payment as compensation for everything you have bravely suffered in the line of duty.’

‘That’s very kind of you, sir, but I really don’t expect ...’

‘Hush, Charles-Pierre! And don’t let me hear you say that in front of any of them! Just leave it to me, all right?’

‘Very well. And — oh dear, how can I put this, sir? — have the police and the Marseilles people been giving you a hard time? Because the Inspector did tell me he would need ...’

‘No, not really. Of course they’ve all asked me a lot of loaded questions, but such inquisitions are never difficult to handle when you’re telling the truth, are they?’

‘Of course not, sir.’

‘And how about you?’

‘Oh, the Head Office people just wanted to hear my account of events for themselves, of course. And Inspector Hardy has been a real gentleman. He’s visited me twice a day, and kept me up to date with all the developments — well, I assume he’s told me all of them! — and he seems pretty confident they’ll pick up Hauvert soon, one way or another ...’

‘You know, I’m not at all convinced that Giuseppe was the insider. He always seemed such a good lad, and I can’t see how he could have gathered enough information to be able to get it all set up ...’

‘Yes, I agree it’s hard to credit, sir. And maybe everyone is jumping to the wrong conclusions about him. But who else could it have been?’

‘Well, if they’re willing to believe it was him, then it could have been anybody working in the branch, no? Anybody. Or someone from another branch. Or even an employee of the security van company. Or maybe even Marco Charnière ...’

‘What? You don’t seriously think he organised all of this and then got shot in the chest for his pains?’

‘No, I don’t, Charles-Pierre! I have every sympathy for our faithful servant and his family. And we shall be looking after them appropriately too, I can assure you. No, I was simply making a point about how difficult this sort of investigation must be for the police and the bank.’

‘Indeed, sir. Yes, indeed ...’

‘So — I shall leave you to relax again now. Enjoy your bed-rest at home as much as you can! Ensure your eggs are boiled to warm and perfect hardness! And take plenty of gentle exercise once you’re up and about, before you even think about coming back to work.’

‘I shall, Monsieur Tillier. And thank you once again for all your kindness and support.’

‘Ah, it is nothing, Charles-Pierre. No more than a hero deserves at this sorry time!’


Proceed to part 2 ...

Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd

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