Nada - Excerpt

That same evening (Monday), Épaulard bartered his Cadillac in Ivry for two hundred and fifty .32 ACP cartridges, which the Manurhins would swallow with ease; the promise of his picking up, on Friday at 2:00 p.m., a completely decrepit old green Jaguar with another few hundred kilometers in it for sure; and a registration card that was not obviously fake. Being a practical man, Épaulard demanded some extra cans of oil and, seeing that the hand brake was of course quite useless, made a mental note to get a wooden chock in case he had to park on a hill. His visit to Ivry and his negotiations there gave him the opportunity to eat an excellent meal in a cheap local café and to chat about the good old days with the Gypsy who had haggled with him over the Jaguar. They recalled the Mediterranean, and the shoot-outs with SFIO pistoleros and ex-Gestapo men infiltrated into the DGER, with not a few dead but quite a few survivors.* Épaulard went home seriously drunk and in rather good spirits.

Meanwhile, Buenaventura and Treuffais were meeting in the Catalan’s room. Treuffais stated that he did not intend to take part in the operation and gave his reasons. The upshot was a rather short but bitter and distressing conversation, and the two friends did not eat dinner together. Later that evening Buenaventura informed D’Arcy that they would meet the next day at Épaulard’s and asked him to let Meyer, who had no telephone, know about this.

On Tuesday morning Buenaventura joined Épaulard at his place and apprised him of Treuffais’s defection. He explained that the disagreement was theoretical in nature and that therefore there was nothing to fear from Treuffais, who was a friend and could not be suspected of being in touch with the police and would keep his mouth shut.

“I don’t like it,” declared Épaulard.

“I can vouch for Treuffais’s loyalty,” said Buenaventura somewhat stiffly. “I have as much confidence in him as in you.”

Épaulard reflected for a moment.


On Tuesday night, Meyer, D’Arcy, Buenaventura and Épaulard met in Épaulard’s office. Meyer and D’Arcy were told that Treuffais had dropped out. Meyer made no comment. D’Arcy commented in obscene terms but added that he couldn’t give a shit. Both agreed with the Catalan that this defection did not worsen the risks.

Then, so far as possible, they decided on the order of events during the kidnapping of Ambassador Poindexter and the days following.

It may be noted that at the same moment the aforesaid Poindexter was attending a performance of Tristan and Isolde after going to a reception in the function rooms of Hôtel George V. The ambassador was a tall man with a pointy balding head and watery blue eyes behind gold-rimmed eyeglasses. He wore an expression of perpetual mild surprise, distinct interest, and congenial amusement. Wagner’s music brought a slight change in this attitude: interest won out over surprise and amusement disappeared. All of it was carefully measured. The ambassador’s wife was by his side, very tall with a scrawny neck and horsey teeth—beautiful and classy, no doubt, in the eyes of her uptight peers. She was very bored all the time, but had not noticed it for over forty years. They made a handsome couple. They had separate bedrooms. They did number two once a day. Apart from them their box was empty, but outside the door stood two cops—blond, young, resolute, muscled, trained by the FBI and the NSA; two more sat in a Citroën DS21 parked not far from the Opéra, while a third, in a chauffeur’s uniform, was smoking a Pall Mall by the official Lincoln.

In Épaulard’s office, Buenaventura was passing around photos of Poindexter clipped from American magazines, some of them in color. Before long the meeting came to an end.

On the Wednesday the terrorists stayed in. Except for Véronique Cash, who got her rusty Renault Dauphine out of the farmhouse garage and began her shopping. She would buy a six-pack of beer and two boxes of pasta at one place, five kilos of potatoes and ham at another, wine and canned meat at yet another, other things elsewhere again, and so on. She returned to the farmhouse between trips to unload. Perishables piled up in the fridge, and other items went into the old stables.

On the Thursday nobody did anything. Treuffais lay in his bedroom smoking nonstop; the room stank of cold tobacco smoke, warm tobacco smoke, and dirty feet. The young man had three days’ worth of stubble. He bit his nails. He tried in vain to read. He got up once to call Buenaventura on the phone but hung up before he finished dialing the number of the Longuevache Hotel.

On the Friday, the anarcho-terrorist squad kidnapped the U.S. Ambassador.

*SFIO: Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (1905–1969), forerunner of France’s Socialist Party; DGER: Direction Générale des Études et Recherches, Free French intelligence service.

Nada Cover Image
By Jean-Patrick Manchette, Donald Nicholson-Smith (Translated by), Luc Sante (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781681373171
Availability: available for order
Published: NYRB Classics - August 27th, 2019