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Missing Emilie

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents   Chapter Synopses

Book I: Self Above All

Chapter 5: Slight Change of Plan

part 3 of 3

Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, Nice
Monday 23 November, 8:45 p.m.

Made it! And it’s not too busy. Still plenty of people around, though. And those unhappy palm trees, of course. But the cicadas have finally run out of voice, haven’t they?

OK. I just need to find a small bench and plonk myself right in the middle of it .......

So what do I do now?

Give myself up? No need for that, surely? At least not yet — I’m still convinced I made a clean getaway.

Go on the run? But where to? With all the money in this big suitcase? Ridiculous idea! With just some of it, then? But what to do with the rest?

Or should I return it all anonymously? How? When? Well, it would be easy enough to dump it under another car, here and now, and make a quick call to the police, and then try and forget it had happened. But that wouldn’t change things very much, would it? I’ll still have been part of an armed robbery.

And Luc would not like any of those options, would he?

Or I could do exactly as he instructed, and hide the money, and carry on as normal.

As normal? Hah! Until he resurfaces, I mean ...

I don’t have any real option. I can’t risk turning him into an enemy. For Emilie’s sake, if nothing else.

So, where can I hide it? Not in my own pokey apartment. There’s nowhere I could store it out of sight there, even if I wanted to. But of course that would be a really stupid thing to do anyway. And Luc said that was the one place I should not hide it.

But there’s nowhere else, is there? I don’t have any real mates, and I wouldn’t trust any of the guys at work, or the ones I’ve spoken to occasionally in the Old City bars. And it wouldn’t be fair to drag any of them into this, anyway.

That only leaves Emilie’s place ...

It’s quite small, but it’s a lot bigger than mine! And there’d be plenty of room for the suitcase under her bed, and it has a cover that goes down to the floor all the way round. And I’d probably only have to leave it there for a few days, till Luc contacts me and I’m able to get shot of it.

But then again it wouldn’t be fair on Emilie either, would it? She’d certainly object. And she seems to have been in an even worse mood with me recently, so maybe she’d actually refuse. But I’d simply have to insist, wouldn’t I? She’d just have to stand by her man. Because there really is no other option.

Why is that bloody statue pointing its finger at me? It deserves to have ...

But it’s not pointing at me at all, is it? Just a trick of the light. Just my stupid imagination again, dammit!

OK. She’s doing the early spot at the club again tonight, so she’ll be finished soon. Hah! Then she’ll be “Emilie Cigale.”

She should get home by ten. I’d better sit tight here for a while. Then I’ll grab a bus up to Place Garibaldi, and walk down towards her place like a visitor looking for cheap digs. I’ll be a bit too close to home for comfort, but it’ll be very dark and no-one will associate me with this old man’s get-up!

Rue Bavastro, Nice
Monday 23 November, 10:30 p.m.

No-one has followed me. Front door’s wide open, as usual. And the lobby’s deserted.

OK, straight up to the second floor, then along to the far end ...

Glad there are no windows on the corridor. I can still be certain nobody’s spotted me.

But there’s no light showing under Emilie’s door. Surely she’s not still out? Must remember to knock very quietly — I don’t want anyone else poking their nose into things tonight.

No answer. Damn! Knock a bit louder, but only once more ...

Still nothing. And the door’s locked. She must still be at the club. Or maybe she got involved in a spot of après-spectacle.

If only she had a phone — but then she isn’t in there to answer it, is she? Think harder, you idiot ...

That neighbour across the corridor! What was her name? Ah yes, Danielle — older woman, some sort of nursing assistant, works nights at the hospital. Found me standing here late one afternoon, waiting for Emilie to get back from the shops. Invited me into her apartment and sat me on a lumpy old sofa and made me drink that awful instant coffee while she spent thirty minutes telling me her life story.

But she also told me I could wait in there any time I needed to, didn’t she? ‘I’m always losing things, Arthur! So I daren’t risk locking the door and then losing my key. I’ve got nothing in here that anyone would want to steal, and all the furniture belongs to the landlord ...’

The sofa! In a furnished apartment! So even if she were to move out in the near future, the sofa would stay put! And if I then had to break in to collect the money, well, too bad.

Right, I’ll do it. Should I knock first? No, she’s sure to be out at work by now. And I have her permission anyway!

Fingers crossed ...

It’s not locked! OK, locate the light switch ... yes, same position as Emilie’s ... but mustn’t touch it till I’m inside with the door closed and I’ve checked out the window on the end wall ...

Can’t see much, but there’s the window ...

Not directly overlooked, of course. Just like Emilie’s. I’ll close the curtains. Then I can risk the light switch ...

Yes! The sofa’s still in the same place, opposite the front door. What an awful shade of pink!

Right, let’s get on with it. Tip it all the way forward. What do we have? Just a long run of thumbtacks all the way round, holding the bottom fabric onto the wooden base. No problem. Need to find a table knife and prise four of them off the back edge ...

There! Easy. Now I can post the wads of banknotes through the gap, one by one, and flick them out to the sides as much as I can. And I’d better count them as I go ...

Finished. Seventy-four in all. Wow! I’ll work that out later — it’s time to move now. Push the thumbtacks firmly back in again ... and give them each a very gentle tap with the knife for good measure. Done.

Now tilt the sofa back the other way, to spread the wads around a bit. That’s it. Now upright again, and back in place. Perfect! It looks no different — just as lumpy, but the cash is all underneath the springs and the stuffing.

Right. Knife back in place. Holdall back in the suitcase. Light out. Curtains open again. Shut the door as quietly as I can behind me. And get out of here fast .......

Now, what am I going to do with the rest of this junk? Spread it around all over Nice? No, there’s too much chance of one item being found.

Keep it all together, then? Shove my new raincoat and beret into the case with the empty bag and the silly hat, and take them all for a ride up into the hills, and lose them over a convenient cliff edge? That would give me an alibi, too — that pretty little Alfa-Romeo’s been waiting patiently for me to steal her for the last three days. I’d rather get done for borrowing a car than for robbery with probable violence.

No, that’s all far too complicated, and it’ll take a long time and add loads of unnecessary risk. I need to cut and run fast now.

OK, I will stuff everything into the suitcase, but I’ll add a dozen bricks from that demolition site over on Rue Cassini, and then I’ll take a little stroll down one of the harbour walkways, and come back empty-handed ...

Rue Fontaine de la Ville, Nice
Monday 23 November, 11:30 p.m.

Right, that’s the last anyone should see of that lot for a very long time.

God, I’m tired. But I’ll be home in a couple of minutes. Gotta get to bed!

Hang on. I’ve still got both of my own wads of cash on me. Might be a good idea to take a leaf out of Luc’s book and split them up. Just in case ...

I have to go past the garage. Praise be to old Soron for letting me have a key! He only did it to encourage me to arrive early every morning and make the coffee. Well, now I get the payback. I’ll leave one of the wads in there for a few days ...

But where the hell am I going to hide it so the other guys don’t sniff it out? This isn’t going to be easy ...

Got it! Wrap it up in a page of an old newspaper, and then in a scrap of rubber sheeting to protect it, and then use a bit of sticky tape to hold it together — and then push it under that huge old tool-bench in the side bay. If it will fit. Better check that first ...

Yes! There’s a gap of five centimetres between the bottom drawer and the floor. If I shove the package half-way back, no-one will spot it even when the drawer’s well open. And the best thing is, I can push it out again from the side, any day I fancy! Good thinking, Arthur!

Job done! And the drawer moves in and out without disturbing it.

OK, lock up again, and I’ll be home in less than a minute.

* * *

Made it!

Jeez, I’m starving, but I’m too exhausted to look for anything to eat. This is worse than being drunk!

What’s the time now?

God, it’s after midnight! Hey, maybe this has all just been a bad dream. But I don’t think so.

I’m switching off the alarm clock. I’m not going in tomorrow morning. I’ll tell them I got sick during the night.

But is that a good idea? Hell, I don’t know ...

Concentrate, Arthur. Jacket off first, right? Then ...

Nah, can’t be bothered with the rest.

To be continued ...

Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd

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