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Graphic Literature

False Faces: An Imagined Life of the Wig Gang

French graphic superstars David B. and Hervé Tanquerelle track a bank heist in this graphic novel excerpt.
Simon Adjaj was a guy from the neighborhood.
He took hostages at the Place de la République, but the police didn't ID him.
Since then, he'd pulled robberies and break-ins with Kuszner and Levert.
He thought about methods, means, and risks.
He compared his ways with other gangs whose deeds he read about in the papers.
"Not too shabby!"
He often discussed it with Kuszner during target practice on the outskirts of Paris.
Robert Kuszner was from Belleville, too.
The son of a scrap-metal dealer, he was hard and twisted as the metal he'd grown up around.
He'd seen all sorts of people come by his dad's, guys with metal to sell or melt down.
He said he was born the day he found himself at a jeweler's with a gun in his hand.
He liked shooting just fine, but hitting people even more.
After his last hold-up, he brought the safe to his dad's junkyard to open it.
"Are you crazy, Robert? Bringing that thing here in broad daylight? What if the cops came?"
"No chance! Besides, I'll leave you the safe to make it up to you."
"Eh? Nice piece of metal, ain't it?"
"Don't talk to your father like that!"
"Well if you're gonna be like that, I'll make you buy it!"
"Enough, you guys, cut it out!"
This is Régis Mélingue. He's from Montreuil.
While in the army he found he had a passion for weapons.
Sometimes he ran them. He had a few stashes around Paris.
While burying his trunks in the woods, he discovered Gaea, Mother Earth.
Suddenly, all alone, he found himself in communion with her.
"I spoke with her, see? I entrusted my guns to her, put them in her belly like a baby."
"She watches over them. Pigs'll never find them."
"Fuck, you're crazy! Truly fuckin' crazy!"
"That's not crazy. That's called mysticism."
"Mysti-what? In French, we call that bullshit!"
"But whatevs! Guess Mother Earth's gonna help us rob banks!"
"There are telluric currents we can use to find out which banks to go for."
"Well how 'bout that? Got any other tricks up your sleeve?"
"I copy the American Indians. They talked to nature, stones, the wind. I talk to my guns."
"You talk with your guns?!"
"Well, yeah. We communicate."
"Y'know, I've never had a gun jam up on me? It's a sign."
"It's a sign all right! But not the kind you think!"
"All right, enough you two. Let's talk about the job."
His name was Lesage. The only one in the group to have "traditional" connections.
A pretty boy. He'd started out plucking girls from clubs and putting them out on the street.
Soon it bored him. He found his girls homes, and tried a bit of everything: smuggling, rackets, fencing, cons, burglary, robbery . . .
He had a little black book filled with names of Jewish gangsters from Paris, gypsies from Lyon, Corsicans from Marseille
But there he was, with others who were just friends, because he felt freer around them than around mobsters.
Jean Gaouti didn't give a shit about the mob.
He was a loner, an independent cat burglar.
He was a cat. Every job was a feat. He put himself to the test by making them harder.
He took a little break to hold up a gold depot with Lesage and Levert.
The cops were waiting for them outside.
Lesage and Levert went at them guns blazing.
Gaouti scaled the front of the building and got away over the rooftops.
It netted him a hundred times more than any of his burglaries.
He figured it was worth teaming up, so he came.
Bernard Levert wasn't a joker or a talker. Like Mélingue, he was passionate about guns, but he didn't talk to them. He used them.
During the gold job, he cut his way through the gathered cops.
He always shot a few inches away from them, just enough to keep them down.
No one was wounded. The cops never got to fire a single shot.
Even though he never talked, he liked being around the other guys.
And the others liked having him around, even though he never talked.
The guy next to him was Rouve, a gypsy from Montreuil.
He was the youngest of six brothers and had worked in their shadow.
His obsession was the history of Parisian felons: Cartouche, Lacenaire, the Gang des Tractions Avant, the Angel Gang . . .
He read all he could find on the subject, and hit up old crooks for their memories.
With his knowledge, he found a tunnel under the Île St.-Louis that Cartouche had used in the eighteenth century.
A tunnel that went all the way to the cellars of the Société Financière Parisienne.
Since then, three of his brothers died in a gunfight, and the other two in prison.
He came because he was feeling kind of alone.
Jean-François Tchoubitchevsky, known as Tchou. An odd duck.
Hadn't done much up till now besides boosting a few cars.
He'd come out of a three-year paratrooper stint at once hardened and broken.
His friends hadn't noticed yet, but there was a crack in him, growing wider all the time.
"So what's your plan, then?"
"Our plan is to hold up banks and clean 'em out!"
"All the windows up top and the cellar vaults too!"
"In broad daylight!"
"Safe doors are wide open during business hours."
"There's all the safe deposit boxes plus a lotta dough inside!"
"Yeah, but we gotta break the boxes! We'll never have enough time!"
"We'll take our time just like we take the money."
"Remember that safe I carried off with Adjaj and Bernard and opened at my dad's?"
"There were individual boxes inside. Cracking them was cake!"
"A good kick, and they open. Same kind in the banks."
"Reminds me of something. You know Marcel Schwob?"
"Schwob? Jew name! He from around here?"
"He's a Jew, but not from around here. He was a writer. He's dead now."
"He wrote a lot about crooks. Talks about a gang from medieval times in one of his stories: highwayman knights in the Hundred Years' War."
"Like in The King's Outlaw?"
"Better than The King's Outlaw!"
"This gang was called the False Faces. They wore masks painted like faces to hide their own."
"So what?"
"So we should do like them! Not ski masks or panty hose—real disguises!"
"We'll wear wigs, fake mustaches, beards, hats, glasses—"
"We'll walk in like real customers! Tellers won't suspect a thing!"
"Hey, yeah!"
"That's great!"
"That's it! Walk in disguised, then split into two teams . . ."
The job
Paris. November 5, 1980.
"There's only 17,000 francs in here!"
"Tryin' to rob us?"
"You're gonna take us to the vault."
"But Monsieur—we have no vault here . . ."
"C'mon I'll give you a tour of the place!"
"Get set up. I'll be back!"
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"The door's not locked."
"We know it's not locked. We know everything."

From Les Faux Visages. Published 2012 by Futuropolis. Copyright 2012 by Futuropolis. By arrangement with the publisher. Rights arranged through Nicolas Grivel Agency for the Sylvain Coissard Agency, France. Translation copyright 2012 by Edward Gauvin. All rights reserved.


From Les Faux Visages. Published 2012 by Futuropolis. Copyright 2012 by Futuropolis. By arrangement with the publisher. Rights arranged through Nicolas Grivel Agency for the Sylvain Coissard Agency, France. Translation copyright 2012 by Edward Gauvin. All rights reserved.

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