by Michael E. Lloyd
Book I: Self Above All
Chapter 5: Slight Change of Plan
part 2 of 3
Rue Trachel, Nice
Earlier that evening: Monday 23 November, 7 p.m.
‘You need to get to a doctor, Luc ...’
‘Don’t be stupid. Shut your mouth and keep driving. Straight ahead until you reach Boulevard Gambetta. OK?’
This has all gone so wrong. At least there are no police cars behind us — yet. Maybe they’re waiting up ahead. But what the hell’s he going to do now? It’s almost two kilometres back round to the planned stopping point. We should all have split up and disappeared by now! Instead of that I’m stuck in another hot car next to a bagful of hot cash and an injured bank robber. And did that other guy actually shoot someone in there ...??
‘Hey, wake up, kid! This is Gambetta. Take a left, then go south as slowly as you can.’
‘Left? Are you sure?’
Ah, he must be planning to get out. And I don’t care if he forgets to pay me. I just want out of here myself. But — oh, he’s unzipping the holdall again, and stuffing some of the money in his pockets ...
‘OK — I promised you half a million. That’s one of these wads. Well, here’s two ... but you’re going to earn them.’
‘No, I ...’
‘Take them and shut up. My chest and my shoulder are hurt. I’ve probably got a few broken ribs too. Aaaggh! And my head’s just started killing me. I must have banged it on the door column. I can hardly lift the bag now, let alone carry it along the street or up any stairs. I’ve taken a few wads for myself, but I can’t risk getting caught with too much on me. Aaaggh! So I’m leaving the bag on the back seat. You’re going to have to look after it for a while.’
‘No buts. Right, pull up now, under that big tree. It’s even darker just there.’
‘And keep your head down. Now, you’re going to dump the car as soon as you can, then take the money, stay in the shadows and hide it somewhere safe. But not at your own place! And listen — if you should get caught later, I KEPT THE BAG. Got that? I don’t want anyone hounding you for it. So when I get out, I’ll pretend I’m carrying something big under my coat, in case anyone sees me. And I’ll be in touch when the heat is off. Don’t leave town, and don’t do anything stupid, or else. I know where you live and work, and a whole lot more — and don’t forget I know about Emilie, too. So be a smart kid ... aaaggh! ... and do exactly what I’ve said.’
‘All right, Luc ...’
‘Good. Any action in the rear-view mirror?’
‘Anyone hanging around the car?’
‘OK, I’m getting out now. Aaaggh! Right, drive away nice and easy as soon as I close the door .......’
Merde! What did I do to deserve this? Well, I’m certainly not staying in this awful little rat-trap for long. I’ll lose it in one of the dead-end streets further down on the right. Thank god it’s really dark now .......
OK. Next right is Avenue Depoilly. That’ll be perfect. Here we go ...
Now slowly along to Rue François Aune. Yes, there are several empty spaces beyond the junction, all the way up to the wall at the far end. And hardly any street lighting. It’s particularly dark under those trees on the right. I’ll pull into the first big gap and have another little think .......
OK, nobody’s watching me. What now?
Think I’ll back up a little, then shift across to the passenger seat and creep out into the shadow of the trees. No-one will spot me there ...
Now I’ll grab the bag from the rear seat and shove it under the bumper of the Citroën behind me ...
Phew, it’s heavier than I expected. No wonder Luc decided he couldn’t carry it in his condition!
So, back inside and shift across again. Then wait and watch for a bit .......
Still nice and quiet. OK, I’ll pull out now, drive along another fifty metres, and park up near the end of the avenue. If anyone sees me walking away from the car, they’ll report that I wasn’t carrying a thing, and Luc will be happy.
OK. Lock the other doors from the inside. Now get out, nice and nonchalant. Lock the driver’s door. Cut behind the car onto the pavement and under the trees. Now stroll quietly back up the avenue ...
Still no-one around. And no sign of life in any of the windows opposite. Bend down to tie my shoelace when I reach the Citroën, and haul out the bag ...
... and now keep walking back towards Rue François Aune, and stop just around the corner.
So, what next?
The wind’s getting up, and I think I can smell more rain in the air.
But first things first. This bag’s too closely associated with the robbery, and there were plenty of witnesses to the accident. Where can I get a big suitcase at this time of day?
Up in the African bazaars right behind Nice-Ville station, that’s where!
Hmmm. The people at the scene of the crash will also remember my shiny old suit. I’ll need to do something to hide that too, and fast.
And this ridiculous hat is almost as incriminating. I’ll stick it in the bag for now.
But these car keys will be going to the bottom of a litter bin very soon.
OK, I’ll carry on north up Rue François Aune, cut over to Gambetta, cross under the railway lines, turn right into Rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, and then go around the square. I’ll hold the bag close to the wall all the time, and use all my joyriding experience to make sure I’m not being followed.
Concentrate hard now, Arthur. It’s time to make your run — at a walking pace.
Rue Reine Jeanne at last! But I’m certain there was never anyone behind me.
And it’s finally starting to rain again. Just right!
Yes, lots of bazaars still open on the other side of the street. There’s the one that always has a dozen suitcases lined up on the pavement. And I’m sure there’s a men’s clothing shop a bit further along ...
Yes, just where I remembered! That’s perfect.
OK, it’s worked once tonight, and it can work again. Up to the end of the block, cross the road and turn the corner .......
Nobody hanging around. Good. And lots of tightly parked cars here, as usual. Shove the bag under the rear bumper of this one. Then stroll back down to the bazaars ...
‘Ah, bonsoir m’sieur ...’
‘Bonsoir. I think we might get a real downpour soon. Do you have a full-length grey raincoat, please? Nice and cheap, eh!’
‘Not so cheap, m’sieur, but very good quality. Let me help you try this one for size ... Ah, it is exactly right, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Yes, it is. And I’d like a black beret too, please.’
‘Et voilà! Très chic, m’sieur. What else may I get for you?’
‘That’s all I need. Here ...’
‘And here is your change. Merci bien, m’sieur, et au revoir.’
And now for the suitcase .......
OK, all set. But if that’s bag’s been nicked, I’m on the first jet plane to Mars .......
It’s still there. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Got it! Now into the first alcove I can find ...
Damn! It’s too fat for the case. I’ll have to pull out a few bundles and stuff them down the sides.
So this is what a fortune feels like!
But whose fortune? Not mine. Good fortune? Or ...?
Don’t be tempted, Arthur.
There, it all fits now.
Hah! I sound like Hercule Poirot. But I hate Agatha Christie. Why did Emilie make me read those stupid stories out loud to her on the beach?
Wake up, man! And carry on walking. You’re just another dull visitor to Nice now, right?
But I’m only a couple of blocks down from where we dumped the driver of that car, for heaven’s sake! He might still be hanging around. I need to get off the streets and well away from here ...
Got it! There’s a main bus route only two blocks further along Rue Reine Jeanne .......
Nobody waiting at the stop. I’ll stand a few metres away, back in the shadows .......
Here comes a bus. Don’t move forward to stop it till the last moment ...
Perfect. No-one suddenly appeared and got on. So I’m still in the clear.
And we’re going north, away from the city centre. Maybe I can relax for a few minutes ...
No, of course I can’t! I need time and a safe space. There are far too many people on this bus! Have they heard about the robbery yet? Have they heard a description of any of us? Nobody’s looking at me. Or are they just pretending not to?
But any one of them might remember me later. Reckon I’d better double back to the city centre and find somewhere nearer home where I can sit and think in the dark, without being watched or disturbed.
A secluded little public garden would be ideal. Plenty of those in Nice, but they all close at dusk, don’t they?
Maybe I could just hole up on the Esplanade, right under the noses of the police on Rue Gioffredo? That’s the last place anyone would look for a bank robber, less than two hours after the event. Especially now he’s kitted out like a bourgeois Parisian.
OK. We’re on Avenue Borriglione, and no-one else is about to get off the bus. I’ll stop it at the next corner.
All clear again. I really can relax now. I’ll wait here quietly for a bus back down to Masséna. Then I will just be that new kid in town.
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd