by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 3: Reconfiguration
part 2 of 2
Casa della Musica
Rue Benoît Bunico, Nice
Friday 30 October, 11 p.m.
‘Move your bar stool, Arthur. I’ve still got a lot more sweeping up to do!’
‘OK, Max, OK ...’
‘It’ll be time to go soon, son.’
‘Yeah, I know ...’
‘And please don’t go doing anything more to upset Emilie. She’s too precious to me!’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You know what I mean, Arthur.’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘Well, I suggest you think about it.’
‘Give me another beer, Max, and maybe I’ll try ...’
‘OK. But you’ve got ten minutes, no more.’
‘It’s a deal.’
Did she really have a headache? And why did she insist on going home on her own straight after the show?
It’s getting worse, isn’t it? But I don’t know why.
Wish I wasn’t so bloody poor! She’s earning so much more than I am. Wish I could sing or play an instrument, let alone do both brilliantly like she does!
The gros mec and the fine artiste. Sounds like one of those silly old fables!
She really doesn’t talk to me the way she used to. Or smile like she did most of the time on our little holiday in Italy. Can’t believe that was only six weeks ago ...
I don’t understand her.
But last night was just amazing! Managed to keep it up for over an hour! Nobody does it better. Maybe if she’d been with me she’d have understood the beauty of a Jaguar.
They’ll never catch me.
I fancy a convertible tonight ...
‘Time’s up, Arthur. And you make sure she’s smiling again when she gets here tomorrow evening.’
‘Huh! G’night, Max.’
So, should I go straight up to Place Garibaldi and have a few more beers in the dive? Or get a couple of strong coffees inside me and then find a pretty little Merc to take for a ride?
‘Arthur, please don’t turn around, if you know what’s good for you. Just move straight into the alley on the left ...’
Merde! I’m going to get mugged.
‘That’s fine. Stop there. And please don’t worry. I have no intention of harming you. In fact I want to lend you a helping hand. How would you like half a million balles in your pocket by the end of November?’
‘Hah! Who do I have to murder for that?’
‘Nobody. You just have to steal a small, very ordinary car — not a snazzy fast one like you’re used to taking ... yes, I know all about your little joyrides — and help me and a couple of friends make a sharp exit from a bank.’
‘Here in the centre of Nice. I understand you know the streets very well indeed ...’
‘Are you serious about this?’
‘Yes. And I’ll prove it. There’s forty thousand in this paper bag. I’d guess that’s about one month’s wages for a junior mechanic like you. And you’ll get another year’s worth as soon as the job is done. So I’ll just toss the bag down at your feet ... there you are ... and you can pick it up, and take a look, and keep it.’
‘And what if I refuse?’
‘Can you really afford not to?’
‘Well, in that case I’ll make sure there’s some solid evidence against you from every one of your future night-time escapades. And I might already have something on you from the last one.’
‘You’re not worrying me one little bit.’
‘Are you sure about that? And then there’s your precious Emilie, of course ...’
‘How do you know about her??’
‘I just watch and listen, Arthur. It’s very easy.’
‘You leave Emilie alone!’
‘I certainly will, my friend. As long as you agree to help me with this job. So why don’t you pick up the bag and do yourself a nice little favour?’
I don’t think I have a choice. At least not for the moment ...
‘All right .......’
‘So, happy with that?’
‘It’s exactly what you said.’
‘Yes, it is. Now, I’ll be calling you just “A” from now on, and you can call me ... well, why don’t you suggest a name? An aeroplane, perhaps?’
‘Of course. Very modern. I’m now “Luc Comet” to you and you alone.’
‘You will never try to identify me in any way. And you won’t be saying a word of this to anybody, will you?’
‘Good. Now, you’ll need to be waiting for us early one evening outside the Banque Artisanale on Rue Alberti, and then getting us smoothly up to the north-west, near the Gare du Sud. So I want you to make a full mental plan of all the possible routes and detours. Nothing written down. OK, partner?’
‘And here’s how you and I are going to contact each other, as and when we need to ...’
* * *
I don’t believe this. Ten minutes ago everything was normal. Nothing in the world to worry about. Well, almost nothing. And now I’ve signed up to a bank robbery.
Pennies from heaven.
But maybe I should say ‘No’ when Comet telephones me, and give him back the money. And take the risk of getting shopped for the joyriding. And promise myself never to do any more of that.
But he dropped those nasty hints about Emilie too.
She’d go crazy if she heard about this. So I’d better not tell her.
Hmmm. I need to think it all through properly at work tomorrow. And if I do decide to go ahead with it, I can spend all day Sunday making the plan. Just as Luc suggested.
I’m not in the mood for that little Merc now. It’ll have to be the beers instead.
Sunday 1 November
I really don’t like the city so much in the autumn. Too many reminders that summer has gone. I love the summers. Especially this year’s. Those wonderful afternoons trying to get comfortable on the stony old beach with Emilie! And our few days on real beaches in Italy. Pity about the little disagreements ...
It’s going to rain again soon. Most of the people out on the streets haven’t come prepared for that. They’ll soon be scurrying!
The old violoniste isn’t fretting about it, though. She’s here in all weathers. But I’ve hardly ever seen anyone give her a sou ...
‘Voici, madame ...’
‘Ah, merci m’sieur! Si gentil!’
Look at those palm trees now! Even they seem fearful of what’s around the corner.
And around the next corner ... I can hear him already ... yes, there’s the accordionist as usual, singing his heart out. He makes a lot more money than the old lady. Probably ’cos he’s a lot better looking than her. C’est la vie. And no wonder Emilie makes a small fortune in tips every week!
The cicadas are still singing too. But they’ll be hungry soon. Ah, la Bise, la Bise ...
Fais bise, Emilie!!
* * *
So, into Rue Alberti. Luc said it’s the bank up near the next junction.
Yes, there it is. Just keep strolling, don’t look at all interested in it ...
OK. I’ll lift a car near Place Garibaldi, with plenty of time to spare in case of problems. Then I’ll come in via Avenue Félix Faure, and park up and wait right here. When it’s time to go, we can quickly turn out of sight onto Rue Pastorelli, and wind our way through the streets up to Rue Marceau, and then head west towards the Gare du Sud.
I’ll walk the whole route very carefully now, and then all the way back again.
* * *
Right, that’ll work. It’s time for some lunch, on my way back down. And after that I’ll walk it all over again, and memorise the best detours at every corner. And check all of them for any big new road works. That’s going to take me the rest of the afternoon.
* * *
OK. It’s all completely clear in my mind now. But I’ll borrow a bicycle late on Monday afternoon and check it out again, just after dark and after the rush hour. ’Cos that’s exactly when Luc said it’ll be happening, didn’t he?
I deserve a beer and a long rest on the beach now!
* * *
Nearly time to go home. Only one thing left to check today .......
OK, I’m back at the bottom of Rue Alberti. Let’s see — it’s five-thirty now, and dusk is coming on fast. It’ll be almost dark in about half an hour. So I’ll borrow that bike at six tomorrow, straight after work.
But by the end of the month, it’ll be dark about forty minutes earlier, of course.
Wow, the palm trees seem even more worried now, with that backdrop of heavy thunderclouds building over the sea! And ... oh, that huge mass up there in the south is like a great big human fist — with three or four separate fingers!
Merde! Can I never forget?
Sunday 22 November, 8 p.m.
Third weekend in a row waiting here for Xérus’ call. And everyone else at the ready again too.
Very heavy clouds this evening. It’s really dark now ... and getting cold. Only one more Sunday left in November. Surely this hasn’t been a huge wind-up all along?
Mon Dieu, it’s ringing!
‘Yes. Tomorrow evening, six-forty-five. Just as planned, no changes.’
‘All OK with you?’
‘Good. Don’t let me down.’
* * *
‘Is that A?’
‘Is that Comet?’
‘Be in place by six-thirty.’
‘Is that B?’
‘Is that Gazelle?’
‘RV at six-thirty-five.’
‘Is that G?’
‘Is that Rose?’
‘RV at six-thirty-six.’
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd