27. Morning Love Song

THIS IS WHAT WE know of the last hours of Nicolas 'Nico' Fourchaud. On the morning of 20 September, the day of the regional elections, he visited the Caisse d’Épargne in Aubagne and withdrew his life savings, amounting to slightly more than 127,000 euros, and proceeded to the town hall to vote. As an organiser for the National Front, it’s presumed he voted for the FN candidate, Michel Rastiocq. He returned to his home and called his daughter Stéphanie in Lille. They spoke for over 40 minutes and seem to have had an argument about money. She has since made a statement attesting that her father told her that he was bankrupt. This, she says, shocked her, as her father had always assured her that she need not worry about her financial future following his death because he had made certin arrangements (about which he did not elaborate) to secure her future and that of her family. That evening, after eating his usual solitary dinner of canned lentils and a boiled egg, he left his apartment block in Aubagne in his Citroen and drove towards Toulon to attend a meeting of the Ligue des Poètes de Marianne, a poetry appreciation society consisting only of veterans of the Algerian war. While he was there, he recited the poem ‘Croire’ ('To Believe') by the collaborationist poet and Vichy deputy minister of youth Franck Mistrac, which was not known by the six other members of the Ligue in attendance that night (total membership is 15, but this includes several members who have attended once or twice). A number of the attendees agree the poem made quite an emotional impact. Though not a founder of the Ligue, Fourchaud was one of the Ligue’s noted reciters of poetry: it is said that he brought poems to life when he recited them, usually from memory, and this particular night was no exception, according to transcripts of police interviews with other attendees. However, these same transcripts reveal nothing about what subsequently happened. After the meeting, Fourchaud drove back towards Aubagne on the motorway, stopping as he usually did at a 24 hour truckstop café-restaurant called Le Minotaure, where staff report he was a regular drinker. He drank four 1664s in quick succession as he always did, stepping outside in between each for a cigarette as the management of Le Minotaure no longer allowed customers to smoke inside, even regulars like Fourchaud, who had been a customer for some years. As he paid the bill, he made his habitual proposal of marriage to the caissière Francine Pistorius, which as usual she declined with a graceful, wordless smile. He then got back into the Citroen and drove to an industrial estate on the outskirts of Aubagne, where he rented a warehouse. Surveillance camera footage has recorded him entering the estate at 2:16am. Police have since discovered that inside his warehouse, Fourchaud had built a padded cell, not quite big enough for a grown man to stand up in. The cell included plumbing, electricity, an automated feeding device that served water and soup twice a day, and a television screen that played the same 12 minute footage of hardcore pornography on a continuous loop. Police have revealed the pornography was ‘conventional’. Fourchaud seems to have kept someone captive in this structure for some time, judging by the evidence, although precisely who it was, or how long, is impossible to say. Fourchaud had leased the warehouse for almost two years. Forensic study has suggested its occupant was male and wore ‘S’-size t-shirts displaying the logos of well-known sports clothing manufacturers. Surveillance footage shows Fourchaud leaving at 5:14am, accompanied by a hooded figure. His credit card records indicate he bought a train ticket at an automated ticket dispenser at the Aubagne railway station to Marseille and then on to Lyon with an immediate departure, but Fourchaud reappears at his apartment 43 minutes later, suggesting the ticket was not for himself, but possibly for his companion. Back in his apartment, Fourchaud boiled himself another egg and filled his cat’s eating bowl with fish-flavoured pellets. After cleaning the dishes, he sat down at his desk to write a poem on a typewriter, but only managed to write a title, ‘Aubade’, a reference to a traditional French poetic form, the morning love song, usually on the subject of the parting of lovers. It seems that before he could make any further progress Fourchaud suffered a brain aneurysm and died at his desk. While Fourchaud was a noted reciter of poetry, none of the interviewees police questioned were aware he also wrote his own poems. Police have found no trace of the 127,000 euros withdrawn the previous morning but they are not treating his death as suspicious.