by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 5: Slight Change of Plan
part 1 of 3
Central Police Station
Rue Gioffredo, Nice
Monday 23 November, 11:30 p.m.
‘So, Bertrand, let us move on to the point where you left the bank ...’
Luc and I walked out and hurried down to the waiting car. The engine was already running, of course. Luc took the front seat, as planned, and I got in behind the driver, who just kept looking straight ahead. I was surprised when G didn’t pile in next to me at once, and Luc was already cursing him out loud. But as I turned round to do my last little job, he dived in and slammed the door, and Luc screamed ‘OK, go, go, go!’
And we went. We were just twenty metres from the green light, and there was no queue because of our little road block, of course, and we turned right at once and headed east along Rue Pastorelli, and Luc said ‘Well?’ I knew he was talking to me.
‘We’re probably clear. Only fourteen seconds from reaching the car to turning the corner. And the lights have changed now. Could have been much worse ...’
We turned left into Rue Foncet.
‘Nobody came out of the bank. Only three passers-by stopped to watch. None of them seemed to be looking at the number plate. But one of them did start moving towards the bank. He won’t have seen our faces, but he’s probably giving them a description of the car by now, for what that’s worth.’
‘OK. Keep watching behind. And you — take it steady, no speeding, remember? But be ready to hit the gas if the police pick us up ...’
The driver just nodded. We were now heading west along Boulevard Dubouchage.
‘And what was that noise inside the bank after we left?’
‘I had to deal with the guard.’
‘You fool! OK, weapons back now!’
But at that moment I spotted a police officer strolling along in the same direction as us, and I hissed ‘Flic!’ and automatically looked away! As soon as we’d taken a sharp right into Ruelle des Prés we passed our guns forward to Luc, who stuck them in his coat pockets. Then he took four wads of notes from the bulging holdall on his lap and handed them across to me, as he’d promised. And he pulled out five more for G to grab from behind. But the guy wasn’t happy ...
‘I want more than this now, Luc, after having to sort out the guard. I’m gonna need a lot of protection ...’
‘Want me to show how tough I can be? I’m sitting right behind you, remember ...?’
Luc cursed again, passed two more wads back over his shoulder, then zipped up the bag. G grunted and started to say ‘I’m still not ...’
We were running north up Rue Docteur Balestre, and approaching the junction with Rue Biscarra. There are no lights at that one, and everybody has to be careful and give way. But suddenly there was this big truck coming in from the left, just as we were about to shoot across. Our driver swerved to the right and hit the brakes, but the road was wet and we skidded into a signpost on the corner of the kerb. We weren’t going too fast by then, but the Fiat wasn’t built to handle even that. The front wing just folded, Luc was thrown forward onto the dashboard and the windscreen, with the money bag up against his chest, and his door sprung open.
The truck just kept going — the driver probably had no idea there’d been an accident — but the car behind it slowed down and stopped. Luc was obviously hurt, and he was already shouting ‘Everybody out and get away!’ But then he looked at our driver and said ‘Wait ... not you. You’re helping me! Now!’
I didn’t mess around. I jumped out and ran off up Rue Biscarra. But I could hear people chasing me. I’m not as fit as I should be, but I reckon I could have outrun them. Then three guys up ahead of me saw what was going on, and now I was trapped, and they all pounced on me and that was that.
I don’t know what happened to the others.
‘Happy to sign that for me too, Bertrand?’
‘Excellent. At this rate there won’t be much left for the Magistrate to investigate.’
‘No, Bertrand — I was being just a little ironical. But I’ll come back to that in a minute ...
‘As for what happened to the others ... well, your back seat pal didn’t make it much farther either. He ran back down the street with a few people after him too, lost his hat on the way, turned the corner and bumped straight into the police officer you’d passed, who recognised him at once. No contest. It was lucky for them both he’d handed over his gun in the car, or we might have another attempted murder on our hands. Because he had blood spattered all over his coat, Bertrand, and we already have witnesses to say it was the tall man who shot the security guard. And if the poor guy makes it through, I’m sure he’ll be making a formal identification.
‘But we know exactly how to handle our old friend G, as you call him, and he and I have already had another long and very persuasive discussion. And I’m now convinced he really doesn’t know any of your names. Even inviting him to spend a few hours with the gentlemen at the Soviet consulate in Marseilles wouldn’t drag much more out of him, I’m pretty sure.
‘Whereas we haven’t begun to question you in that way at all, have we, Bertrand? Because you’ve been so very co-operative already. And I don’t really think you were the little guy with the moustache who shot the Deputy Manager. Although ...’
‘No, no, no, Inspector, it wasn’t me, I swear! I didn’t want any violence!’
‘But you know, Bertrand, I do feel you could tell me more than you’ve been willing to, so far. And I hope you’ve been thinking very carefully about that. It could do your case a lot of good, you know ...’
‘I’ve told you already I don’t know any names, Inspector.’
‘And I still don’t believe you. So please have another nice little think, OK ...?’
* * *
‘I am very sorry to have kept you waiting, Monsieur Jareau. But at least I have some good news for you. We have found your car, and it is undamaged.’
‘Ah, that is good news, Inspector.’
‘Indeed. The bad news, of course, is that you won’t be able to use it for a while. And then you’ll be needing a new set of keys. Now, I’m listening ...’
Well, as I drove across the junction, I saw a small Fiat had just crashed into a signpost. There were four people still inside, so I pulled over and stopped a little way past it. But by the time I was out of the car, the men in the back seats were running away, and the driver was helping a little guy with a stupid moustache out of the front door. That’s when I realised why no-one else was already helping them. The passenger had a gun and he was keeping everyone away. Then he looked straight at me and shouted ‘Open your back door and start the car!’ Well, you do what you’re told when someone’s pointing a gun at you, don’t you?
The little guy was holding a heavy bag in his other hand, but he was wincing and was obviously injured. The young driver helped him make it into my car, then he got in too, and they slammed the doors. The little guy said ‘Move it! Fast!’ and I sped off down Rue Biscarra. Then he turned to his pal and said: ‘Get him back onto our route, OK!’ And then he started moaning gently to himself.
The young guy sent me left at the lights, then left again along Avenue du Maréchal Foch, and then right, which brought us onto Rue Hancy, just one block up from the crash. Then we went north for some time ... up into Rue Miron, and then into Rue Diderot. He wanted me to go west at Rue Marceau, but there was a traffic queue a bit farther along, so he made me carry on north for another block. We finally took a left at Avenue Mirabeau and crossed into Rue Vernier. Then the little guy suddenly took charge again, and said ‘Turn left here! Now!’
I swung into the side street — I later found out it was Rue de Villeneuve — and drove down past the big closed doors of a furniture factory. Then the boss man said ‘OK, stop here, get out, and stand well back in that alcove. Don’t move for at least five minutes. I’ve got the car’s number, and if we get caught in it, I’ll find you and you’ll pay, I swear!’ The minute I was out, his mate was in the driving seat, and they shot off up to the lights and turned right into Rue Trachel. I stayed put for several minutes, just as I’d been told to, and then I found the nearest café and called the police.
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd