by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 9: Marking Time
Six weeks later: January 1960
Still no news of the money being found.
And I’m the only one who knows that Arthur Narone took the bag. Unless he was spotted with it after he abandoned the car. Unlikely — it was dark, he’s a bright lad and he’s used to evasion on the streets of Nice.
So I must carry on assuming that he managed to hide it. And that he didn’t double-cross me in any way. ’Cos there’s still no benefit in wondering if he did. Unless I’m going to give up on it completely — and I’m not doing that. But I’ll only know for certain when the opportunity to contact him eventually arises.
And I definitely can’t attempt that yet.
For one thing, he’s still in the Nice jailhouse awaiting trial, and even if he were out on bail it would be madness to let myself be associated with him in any way, at this time. And I can’t try to get anyone else to approach him on my behalf either. Anybody watching him — and a lot of people will be watching him for a long time, won’t they? — would spot what was happening at once, and start wondering if he really did make off with the money. No, I must always keep that secret to maman and myself alone, and accept I am going to have to play a long, deep game.
And apart from that, I’m in even worse shape than I was on the day I came home. Maman is doing all she can, and without any argument, so I guess I should be grateful for small mercies. But I’m not convinced her so-called doctor friend knows what he’s doing. I might have to persuade her to find another one. But that would just double the risk of exposure again!
If only I’d been able to get some proper treatment in those first few hours! But it just wasn’t on, was it?
Thank god I’m out of Xérus’ reach now, and maybe forever. Until the day I make a move on Narone, of course. That might put him straight back in business. And who the hell is Xérus, anyway? Must be the manager, Raoul Tillier. What a cheek to set it up like that, and then the luck of getting away with it — ’cos the newspapers say he’s still in charge of the bank! But he never got his huge cut, did he? He never got anything. Yeah, give him a glimmer of a chance and he’ll be coming after me someday, somehow, somewhere, on a count of gross betrayal. And without that bagful of cash, I’ll have nothing to bargain with. That’s why Narone will always be crucial ...
And Tillier is only part of the problem. That deputy manager — Orceau — will have been after my blood ever since he went back to work just before Christmas with his arm in a sling and all that sickly press attention. I’ve turned him into a bloody celebrity, but he won’t be looking for me just to express his gratitude ...
No, I’m not about to make any more stupid moves. Head down, and keep it down.
Four weeks later: February 1960
No-one to talk to properly about the whole damned mess, of course.
This is when I miss Sarah the most. And little Colin. He’d have been twenty-one next month!
But it’s hypocritical even to think like that. I set the whole thing up to try and forget them, and start some sort of new life at last, and have a bit of fun after all the years of mourning and emptiness.
So it’s a good thing I’m not even pretending to talk to them about it.
Ruford never did hide my money where we agreed he would.
So did the bastard hold onto it all for himself? Or did he keep his word on the contingency plan, and hide it somewhere else “to be advised”?
He hasn’t answered any of my prearranged calls. Maybe he was there waiting for the ones I didn’t make in the shambles of the early days, and then he stopped bothering. Or maybe he never went to any of the phone boxes at all.
But there’s no point in banging my head against that brick wall any more.
And there’s been no message left in the dead letter boxes either.
The other three losers will go to trial sooner or later, and they’re sure to end up with long sentences. And I wouldn’t like to be in the big monkey’s shoes, in particular, with Charnière’s family and friends baying for his blood ... in prison or not.
But Ruford is out there somewhere, with my money. Is he still in Nice? Or did he go back to Marseilles? Or somewhere else? And has he got it all with him? Or just some of it? Or none at all?
I can’t risk making any enquiries about him. Or trying to contact any of the others. I must keep myself completely disassociated from the whole gang.
He swore he would keep his side of the deal, and he hasn’t, even though he managed to get away from that utter screw-up. So my new life of ease will have to stay on hold till he surfaces and I can settle the score, in spades — and finally get my hands on the money.
That could take a very long time, of course. And require a great deal of effort on my part. Especially if I were to just let things follow their natural course. But those Old Franc notes won’t be valid currency forever. So perhaps I will eventually have to help things along a bit instead, and find some way of flushing Ruford out. But how, and when?
Well, I’m going to have to bide my time, at least until the trial is over and probably well beyond that, and just keep watching and listening very carefully.
But when I do catch up with him, I’m going to want my thirty-four million, no messing. And I’m going to get as much of his cut as I can as well, to pay him back for all of this.
And Arthur Narone is still my only real route to Ruford, isn’t he? Because by the time I started looking for his little girlfriend, she was long gone ...
Four months later: June 1960
LONG JAIL SENTENCES FOR THE ROBBERS!
Today, at the Palais de Justice in Nice, sentences were finally passed on the three ruthless villains who in late November stole almost fifty million Old Francs from a city bank and seriously injured two of our upstanding, heroic citizens.
Gustin Aignant will go to prison for twenty years for armed robbery and attempted murder, Bertrand Irvoise was given sixteen years for armed robbery, and Arthur Narone, the gang’s getaway driver, will serve ten years for armed robbery. They will all pay their penalty to society in the Baumettes Prison in Marseilles.
The fourth member of the gang, believed to be known only as “Luc” by his associates, is also expected to face charges of attempted murder once apprehended. This newspaper maintains full confidence in our city’s illustrious police force, and looks forward to the early arrest of this enemy of the Republic and the recovery of the large sum of money still believed to be missing.
The initial presumptions of the existence of a fifth member of the gang, rumoured at once to be an employee of the bank itself, have slowly evaporated over the past six months as the police have steadily eliminated all possible suspects from their enquiries.
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd