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WITHOUT NAPIER • by Michael Ehart

“You are my heart and muscle, Yardi,” Napier would say. “There is no criminal in all of Marseilles who can stand against us.” Indeed, for over 30 years I had helped Napier solve crimes, but I had not his wit nor his eloquence. Napier would gather the suspects and through his incisive logic and clarity of argument so inescapably present the facts that the malefactor saw no choice but to confess.

But Napier was dead. His inestimable mind was no match for the cancer that had raced through his body, succeeding in weeks where half the underworld population of France had struggled and failed.

The call for aging street apaches was small and Napier’s partner was all I had been since before the war. So I did nothing. I spent my days working through the newspaper, my nights alone in my loft with a glass of Pernod listening to Edith Piaf on the record player. But soon I was seeing the little connections that Napier so often spoke of. Here the theft of a cargo of cigarettes, there a puzzling murder. A policeman gone missing, a prostitute arrested.

I wrote a note to the Commissaire de Police about what I suspected. Days passed, but at last came a reply, begging forgiveness, asking my health and thanking me for my service. He would look into what I had written. In the envelope was tucked a new 100 francs note.

I would hear no more from him. After all, Yardi without Napier was only an aged thug.

I must solve this puzzle myself. I was not Napier, but had he not many times called me his heart and his muscle? It needn’t be elegant and I had spent 30 years with the greatest detective in France, a country of great detectives.

I soon learned the name of this new Wellington of Crime, who after all was not so new. It was one of our old nemeses, the murderous, clever Michel Guerry, the one great criminal even Napier had never been able to see pay for anything more than his smallest crimes. His name was whispered in the brothels, hinted at on the docks, spoke with trembling and fear in the dark underworld cafes and filthy bars of the Old Port. Released from his term at le Centre penitentiaire de Fresnes where Napier had put him, in mere months he was again a power in the city.

I asked questions and made careful maps of thefts and disappearances. I walked the Corniche which ran from the Old Port, timing the trucks with their 3 AM cargoes. Napier would have known in days. It took me three months.

Guerry’s response to my note was to send a car for me the next day. They drove me to his residence, a narrow building overlooking the Le Jardin des Vestiges by the Centre Bourse.

Guerry rose as I was ushered in. “Yardi!” he exclaimed, with unforced delight. “I have never before enjoyed seeing you. How much more pleasant it is to meet you without Napier!”

He was elegant as always, a bit thicker about the middle than in years before, but so are we all. He sat across from me, his two toughs silent behind him. “Please, join me in dining as we talk. The bourride is excellent, as are the pieds-paquets.”

I shook my head. “I am here on business. As I indicated in my note, I have discovered a great deal of your illicit doings. I am here to ask you to surrender yourself to the police.” I leaned back a little and crossed my legs. The young toughs were big and fearsome looking, but they were inexperienced. In the pocket of one I could see the outline of the gun they had taken from my waistband.

Guerry laughed. It was like a stab in the chest. “My old friend. If you had anything you would have brought the police. I have no doubt that you have done good detective work. And were you Napier, that would be enough. In three sentences he would have had me tongue-tied, in six convicted. But you? You have numbers and names and lists. No more. You cannot bring proof enough and you cannot even convince the police with whom you worked so many years to even listen. You have done well, but it is time for you to go home. After all, you are not Napier.”

I nodded sadly and pulled the Luger from my stocking. The first two shots went into the chest of the thug with my gun, the next into his companion. Guerry blanched through the haze of burnt cordite. I stood and pointed at the center of his forehead.

“You are right, Guerry.” I gently pulled the trigger.

“I am not Napier.”

[01-Dec-2009]

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, read by Adam Kerby. “Without Napier” was originally published in EDF on April 09, 2008, and is included in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Artwork by: Lindsay Joy


Michael Ehart‘s stories have appeared recently in Ray Gun Revival, The Sword Review, Every Day Fiction, Flashing Swords and Fear and Trembling, and in anthologies including Damned in Dixie, Return of the Sword and Unparalleled Journeys II. His book The Servant of the Manthycore from DEP is considered by several critics to be one of the best fantasy books of 2007. You can find out more about what he is up to at http://mehart.blogspot.com.

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WITHOUT NAPIER • by Michael Ehart, 3.9 out of 5 based on 105 ratings
Posted on April 9, 2008 in Mystery/Suspense, Stories
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40 Responses to “WITHOUT NAPIER • by Michael Ehart”


  1. K.C. Ball Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Nice.

  2. rumjhum Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Wonderful! Positively wonderful! :-)

  3. mike Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Pitch perfect and totally satisfying.

  4. Brian Dolton Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 4:18 am

    The beginning read a little dry, as if I were reading a synopsis of what should have been a longer story. But the payoff is excellent and you do capture Yardi’s character perfectly.

    Very well done.

  5. Sarah Wagner Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 4:21 am

    A delight to read! Well done!

  6. Bill Ward Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 5:10 am

    Really excellent. ‘Wellington of crime’ is great.

  7. Walt Giersbach Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 5:37 am

    Wonderful story, Michael. So enjoyable.

  8. Scott M. Sandridge Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 6:47 am

    IMHO, it rocks! Good job Michael! :)

    I just looove the ending.

  9. Kevin Shamel Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 6:59 am

    This is a great story. I like so much about it, I’ll just say that I like so much about it. Thank you.

  10. Erin Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    I enjoyed this one a lot!

  11. Janet Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Thumbs up.

  12. Madeline Mora-Summonte Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:05 am

    What I liked about it was that it felt fully-realized and fleshed-out in the way a longer short story or novella would. It came across as solid and grounded.
    Good job!

  13. Gay Degani Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Wow! Totally wonderful. This is terrific writing. Some one up there said “pitch-perfect” which describes it to a T. Loved it. Really really well-conceived and carried out.

  14. Crystalwizard Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Perfect. I really enjoyed that. The ending took me completely by surprise.

  15. Jean Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Excellent!!! LOVED the end.

  16. Nik Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I like Yardi’s style. Nice story, Mike.

  17. Alexander Burns Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:52 am

    This is excellent!

  18. Jim Cobb` Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 10:15 am

    A solid short. Well done!

  19. JR Hume Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Excellent story. The ending did not surprise me, but it was well done anyhow.

    Yardi, of course, will walk away and never be suspected, so we can see him in further adventures, right?

    Right?

    jim

  20. Firlefanz Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, up to and including the end. Very well done!

  21. Ramon Rozas Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Love the “Wellington” / “Napoleon” transposition; perfidious Albion, indeed!

  22. barb smethurst Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    great story ending well real content

  23. DJ Barber Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Great story, Michael! 5*****

  24. Nathan Trader Says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    What an ending!

  25. Suanne Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 4:29 am

    Wonderful plot execution–if you’ll excuse the pun. :) I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  26. Lyn Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Good flash! I liked this line: “I had spent 30 years with the greatest detective in France, a country of great detectives.” lol Congrats!

  27. Steven Smethurst Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Brilliant, Very enjoyable.
    Thank you!

  28. Michael Ehart Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you all for making this story one of EDF’s top 25! http://www.everydayfiction.com/features/top-stories/

  29. Scott M. Sandridge Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Crap! “Shadows” isn’t in the top 10 anymore. Oh well, at least I still got Michael beat. ;p

    For now anyway. 😉

    Speaking of Michael, there’s a certain book I noticed over at B&N that my evil twin purchased while I was napping….has something to do with a manthycore….

  30. Jordan Lapp Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve read it. It’s awesome! You too should read. 8)

  31. jennifer walmsley Says:
    April 12th, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Excellent. A great sense of place and build up to a surprising end.

  32. Jason Says:
    April 12th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Wow, very impressive piece, Michael – it totally lives up to the fanfare preceding it elsewhere.

    Nicely rendered character in a complete tale that is a delightful read. Very worthy of a Top 25 placement.

  33. Ty Says:
    May 1st, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Fantastic short tale. Loved it!

    Stupid me just forgot to comment on it until now.

  34. Michael Ehart Says:
    May 7th, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Wow! Without Napier is now ar #15! Thank you all for your kind words and votes!

  35. Interview with Michael Ehart | Every Day Fiction Says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 12:05 am

    […] of our readers singled out Michael Ehart’s Without Napier as one of the best stories that we’ve published so far, and sent it soaring up EDF’s […]

  36. The Lure of a strong first sentence » Flash Fiction Chronicles Says:
    June 22nd, 2009 at 7:54 am

    […] Napier would say. “There is no criminal in all of Marseilles who can stand against us.” Without Napier, by Michael […]

  37. August’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:03 am

    […] As usual, we have stories from newcomers to EDF including Polenth Blake and Petra Michiko Gentleman. We also have some familiar names reappearing, such as Gustavo Bondoni and Erin M. Kinch, and a new story by Michael Ehart, author of the all-time top-ten-listed “Without Napier“. […]

  38. At Orycon « Says:
    November 28th, 2009 at 7:54 am

    […] in a couple of panel discussions before I crumpled. Also said hello to Michael Ehart, who wrote Without Napier , one of my favorite stories at Every Day Fiction, to Mary Rosenbaum, of Long Ridge Writers Group, […]

  39. December’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    November 30th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    […] Without Napier by Michael Ehart, read by Adam Kerby. “Without Napier” was originally published in EDF on April 09, 2008, and is included in The Best of Every Day […]

  40. 102 Story Links in Honor of Short Story Month 2011 « Flash Fiction Chronicles Says:
    June 5th, 2011 at 5:02 am

    […] WITHOUT NAPIER by Michael Ehart suggested by Alexander Burns […]

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