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«That's at four o'clock on the square in front of the Gare de Montparnasse. He chose the place himself. As you know work has already started on the foundations for the new station, which will be set back five hundred metres from the present site. Where the station buildings now stand is due to become an office block and shopping precinct. If construction goes ahead according to plan it may be the last Liberation Day that the old facade of the station remains untouched.»

«What about crowd control?» asked Lebel.

«Well, we've all been working on it. Crowds are to be kept back at every ceremony further than ever before. Steel crowd barriers go up several hours before each ceremony, then the area inside the barrier ring is searched from top to bottom, including the sewers. Every house and flat is to be searched. Before each ceremony and during it there will be watchers with guns on every nearby roof-top surveying the opposite roofs and windows. Nobody gets through the barriers except officials, and those taking part in the ceremonies.

«We've gone to some extraordinary lengths this time. Even the cornices of Notre Dame, inside and out, will be infiltrated by policemen, right up on the roof and among the spires. All the priests taking part in Mass will be searched for concealed weapons, and the acolytes and choirboys. Even the police and CRS are having special lapel badges issued tomorrow morning at dawn, in case he tries to masquerade as a security man.

«We've spent the past twenty-four hours secretly slipping bullet-proof windows into the Citroen the President will ride in. Incidentally, don't breathe a word of that; not even the President must know. He'd be furious. Marroux will drive him as usual, and he's been told to speed up the pace faster than usual, in case our friend tries for a snap shot at the car. Ducret has drafted in a posse of especially tall officers and officials to try and hedge the General round without him noticing.

«Apart from that, everybody who comes within two hundred metres of him is going to be frisked-no exceptions. It will create havoc with the Diplomatic Corps, and the Press is threatening a revolt. All press and diplomatic passes are going to be suddenly changed at dawn tomorrow in case the jackal tries to slip in as one of them. Obviously, anyone with a package or a lengthy-looking object will be hustled away as soon as spotted. Well, have you any ideas?»

Lebel thought for a moment, twisting his hands between his knees like a schoolboy trying to explain himself to his headmaster. In truth he found some of the workings of the Fifth Republic rather overpowering for a cop who had started on the beat and had spent his life catching criminals by keeping his eyes open a bit wider than anyone else.

«I don't think,» he said at length, «that he will risk getting killed himself. He is a mercenary, he kills for money. He wants to get away and spend his money. And he has worked out his plan in advance, during his reconnaissance trip here in the last eight days of July. If he had any doubts, either about the success of the operation or of his chances of getting away, he would have turned back before now.

«So he must have something up his sleeve. He could work out for himself that on one day of the year, Liberation Day, General de Gaulle's pride would forbid him staying at home, no matter what the personal danger. He could probably have worked out that the security precautions, particularly after his presence had been discovered, would be as intensive as you describe, Monsieur le Ministre. And yet he didn't turn back.»

Lebel rose and, despite the breach of protocol, paced up and down the room.

«He didn't turn back. And he won't turn back. Why? Because he thinks he can do it, and get away. Therefore he must have hit on some idea that nobody else has ever thought of. It has to be a bomb triggered by remote control, or a rifle. But a bomb could well be discovered, and that would ruin everything. So it's a gun. That was why he needed to enter France by car. The gun was in the car, probably welded to the chassis or inside the panelling.»

«But he can't get a gun near De Gaulle!» cried the Minister. «Nobody can get near him, except a few, and they are being searched. How can he get a gun inside the circle of crowd barriers?»

Lebel stopped pacing and faced the Minister. He shrugged.

«I don't know. But he thinks he can, and he's not failed yet, despite having some bad luck and some good. Despite being betrayed and tracked by two of the best police forces in the world, he's here. With a gun, in hiding, perhaps with yet another face and identity card. One thing is certain, Minister. Wherever he is, he must emerge tomorrow. When he does he must be spotted for what he is. And that comes down to one thing-the old detective's adage of keeping your eyes open.

«There's nothing more I can suggest as regards the security precautions, Minister. They seem perfect, indeed overwhelming. So may I just wander round each of the ceremonies and see if I can spot him? It's the only thing left to do.»

The Minister was disappointed. He had hoped for some flash of inspiration, some brilliant revelation from the detective whom Bouvier had described a fortnight earlier as the best in France. And the man had suggested he keep his eyes open. The Minister rose.

«Of course,» he said coldly. «Please do just that, Monsieur le Commissaire.»

Later that evening the jackal laid out his preparations in Jules Bernard's bedroom. On the bed were the pair of scuffed black shoes, grey woollen socks, trousers and open-necked shirt, long military greatcoat with a single row of campaign ribbons, and black beret of the French war veteran Andre Martin. He tossed on top the false papers, forged in Brussels, that gave the wearer of the clothes his new identity.

Beside these he laid out the light webbing harness he had had made in London, and the five steel tubes that looked like aluminium and which contained the stock, breech, barrel, silencer and telescopic sight of his rifle. Lying beside them was the black rubber stud into which were stuffed five explosive bullets.

He took two of the bullets out of the rubber, and using the pliers from the tool-box under the kitchen sink carefully prised the noses off them. From inside each he slid the small pencil of cordite they contained. These he kept; the cases of the now useless cartridges he threw in the ash-can. He still had three bullets left, and these would suffice.

He had not shaved for two days, and a light golden stubble covered his chin. This he would shave off badly with the cut-throat razor he had bought on his arrival in Paris. Also lying on the bathroom shelf were the flasks of after-shave that in fact contained the grey hair-tint he had once used already for Pastor Jensen, and the solvent spirit. He had already washed out the chestnut-brown tint of Marty Schulberg, and sitting in front of the bathroom mirror he cut his own blond hair shorter and shorter, until the tufts stuck up from the top of the head in an untidy brush-cut.

He made one last check to see that all the preparations for the morning were in order, then cooked himself an omelette, settled in front of the television and watched a variety show until it was time for bed.

Sunday, August 25th, 1963, was scorching hot. It was the height of the summer heatwave, as it had been just one year and three days previously when Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry and his men had tried to shoot Charles de Gaulle at the roundabout at Pent-Clamart. Although none of the plotters of that evening in 1962 realised it, their action had sent off a chain of events that were only to terminate once and for all on the afternoon of the summer Sunday that now blazed down on a city on holiday.

But if Paris was on holiday to celebrate its own liberation from the Germans nineteen years earlier, there were seventy-five thousand among them who sweated in blue-serge blouses and two-piece suits trying to keep the rest in order. Heralded by ecstatic columns of press publicity, the ceremonies to mark the day of liberation were massively attended. Most of those who came, however, hardly had a glimpse of the Head of State as he stalked through solid phalanxes of guards and policemen to officiate at the commemorations.