The N'Gustro Affair by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Excerpt from “The N'Gustro Affair”

Source: L'Affaire N'Gustro. Paris, Série Noire, 1971;
Translated: by Joel Tannenbaum;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2016.

This early novel by Manchette is based loosely upon the infamous kidnapping of Moroccan left-wing politician Ben Barka, who disappeared in Paris in 1965. The opening chapter presents a chillingly dispassionate description of the assassination of Henri Butron, a member of the far-right paramilitary Organisation de l'armée secrète, the story’s central character.

Chapter 1

Henri Butron is sitting alone in a dimly lit office. He wears a military jacket. His face is pale. He sweats lightly. There are black-framed glasses on his eyes and a white hat on his head. In front of him is a tiny tape recorder. Butron smokes little cigars and speaks into the microphone. He struggles with certain words.

It is late at night and the silence is overwhelming in the building, located outside the Port of Rouen.

Butron is finished. He smoothes his mustache and turns off the tape recorder. He rewinds the cassette. He intends to listen. His life fascinates him.

The door handle creaks. Butron jumps from his chair. Sweat bursts from his forehead like oil from an olive press. The door does not open immediately because it is locked. Butron hiccups nervously. There’s no exit from the office, save through this door. If only he'd built another. Oh well, too late to think about. Someone kicks through the door at lock-height. It flies open, broken. Burton tries foolishly to camouflage himself against the far wall. He pushes backward, his hands clawing a vase of paper flowers until the plaster breaks.

Two men march into the office. A white man, leather-jacketed, throws a glance at Butron and, deeming him inoffensive, turns to the tape recorder. It finishes rewinding, the tail of the tape whipping through the air. The white man stops the machine. The other fellow, black, wearing a blue cap and Royal Navy jacket, stops in front of Butron and produces a Spanish Astra pistol with a silencer. Butron can no longer control his natural functions. He wets his trousers. The black man fires, the bullet piercing Butron’s heart and exiting under his left shoulder blade, leaving a hole the size of a tomato. His heart has exploded. His head slams against the wall and bounces forward, finally landing on the carpet. He continues to urinate for three or four seconds after he dies.

The black man removes the silencer from the Astra and places it in his pocket. He drops the gun in the corner of the room.

The white man places the reel of tape in an envelope and the envelop inside his leather coat.

The black man picks up the telephone next to the tape recorder and dials a number. v“Butron has just committed suicide,” he announces. “Come over.”

Moments later, the police surround the house. Two cops in waterproof jackets and a round man, who must be the medical inspector, go inside. The killers shake hands with the two police

“Good,” says the white man. “We're saved.”

“Goodbye,” says the round man, who is in fact the police commissioner.

The two men leave. They get in a Ford Mustang and drive toward Paris.The radio plays “Melody for Melanie” by Jackie McLean. The white man taps in time on the leather steering wheel cover, occasionally bleating along with the melody. The black man, on the other hand, is inert. He falls asleep and begins to snore.

He wakes up shortly after the Mustang has left the highway. They are traveling down a country road near Montfort Amaury. They arrive at a house covered in vines and hollyhocks. There is a light on. They are expected.

They enter an office. Behind a table, before a library of fine bindings, is a black man with a long, thin nose, of rather Dankali appearance. He wears an Italian suit, and several rings on his fingers. He smokes a Bastos. He is Marshal George Clemenceau Oufiri. The two killers present him with the envelope containing the reel of tape, and leave.

The Marshal produces a small tape recorder from a desk drawer. He places the reel on the machine. He listens and laughs. When he laughs, we see that his teeth have been filed.