THE EXPLOITS OF JUVE
Being the Second of the Series of the "Fantomas" Detective Tales
EMILE SOUVESTRE and MARCEL ALLAIN
New York Brentano's 1917
Copyright, 1917, by Brentano's
I. THE COMRADES' TRYST 1
II. ON THE TRACK 14
III. BEHIND THE CURTAIN 22
IV. A WOMAN'S CORPSE 33
V. LOUPART'S ANGER 42
VI. THE LARIBOISIERE HOSPITAL 50
VII. A REVOLVER SHOT 58
VIII. THE SEARCH FOR THE CRIMINAL 64
IX. IN THE REFRIGERATORY 70
X. THE BLOODY SIGNATURE 75
XI. THE SHOWER OF SAND 81
XII. FOLLOWING JOSEPHINE 90
XIII. ROBBERY; AMERICAN FASHION 99
XIV. FLIGHT THROUGH THE NIGHT 107
XV. THE SIMPLON EXPRESS DISASTER 113
XVI. A DRAMA AT THE BERCY WAREHOUSE 118
XVII. ON THE SLABS OF THE MORGUE 131
XVIII. FANTOMAS' VICTIM 142
XIX. THE ENGLISHWOMAN OF BOULEVARD INKERMANN 147
XX. THE ARREST OF JOSEPHINE 153
XXI. AT THE MONTMARTRE FETE 165
XXII. THE PUGILIST'S WHIM 176
XXIII. "STATE'S EVIDENCE" 185
XXIV. A MYSTERIOUS CLASP 192
XXV. THE TRAP 204
XXVI. AT THE HOUSE OF BONARDIN, THE ACTOR 212
XXVII. THE MOTHER SUPERIOR 222
XXVIII. AN OLD PARALYTIC 230
XXIX. THROUGH THE WINDOW 238
XXX. UNCLE AND NEPHEW 245
XXXI. LOVERS AND ACCOMPLICES 256
XXXII. THE SILENT EXECUTIONER 268
XXXIII. A SCANDAL IN THE CLOISTER 280
XXXIV. FANTOMAS' REVENGE 291
EXPLOITS OF JUVE
THE COMRADES' TRYST
"A bowl of claret, Father Korn."
The raucous voice of big Ernestine rose above the hubbub in the smoke-begrimed tavern.
"Some claret, and let it be good," repeated the drab, a big, fair damsel with puckered eyes and features worn by dissipation.
Father Korn had heard the first time, but he was in no hurry to comply with the order.
He was a bald, whiskered giant, and at the moment was busily engaged in swilling dirty glasses in a sink filled with tepid water.
This tavern, "The Comrades' Tryst," had two rooms, each with its separate exit. Mme. Korn presided over the first in which food and drink were served. By passing through the door at the far end, and crossing the inner courtyard of the large seven-story building, the second "den" was reached—a low and ill-lit room facing the Rue de la Charbonniere, a street famed in the district for its bad reputation.
At a third summons, Father Korn, who had sized up the girl and the crowd she was with, growled:
"It'll be two moons; hand over the stuff first."
Big Ernestine rose, and pushing her way to him, began a long argument. When she stopped to draw a breath, Korn interposed:
"It's no use trying that game. I said two francs and two francs it is."
"All right, I won't argue with a brute like you," replied the girl. "Everyone knows that you and Mother Korn are Germans, dirty Prussians."
The innkeeper smiled quietly and went on washing his glasses.
Big Ernestine glanced around the room. She knew the crowd and quickly decided that the cash would not be forthcoming.
For a moment she thought of tackling old Mother Toulouche, ensconced in the doorway with her display of portugals and snails, but dame Toulouche, snuggled in her old shawl, was fast asleep.
Suddenly from a corner of the tavern, a weary voice cried with authority:
"Go ahead, Korn, I'll stand treat."
It was the Sapper who had spoken.
A man of fifty who owed his nickname to the current report that he had spent twenty years in Africa, both as a soldier and a convict.
While Ernestine and her friends hastened to his table, the Sapper's companion, a heavily built man, rose carelessly and slouched off to join another group, muttering:
"I'm too near the window here."
"It's Nonet," explained the Sapper to Ernestine. "He's home from New Caledonia, and he doesn't care to show himself much just now."
The girl nodded, and pointing to one of her companions, became confidential. "Look at poor Mimile, here. He's just out of quod and has to start right off to do his service. Pretty tough."
The Sapper became very interested in the conversation. Meanwhile Nonet, as he crossed the tap-room, had stopped a few moments before a pretty girl who was evidently expecting some one.
"Waiting again for the Square, eh, Josephine?" Nonet inquired.
The girl, whose big blue eyes contrasted strikingly with her jet black hair, replied:
"Why not? Loupart doesn't think of quitting me that I know of."
"Well, when he does let me know," Nonet suggested smilingly.
Josephine shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, and, glancing at the clock above the bar, rose suddenly and left the tap-room.
She went rapidly down the Rue Charbonniere and along the boulevard, in the direction of the Barbes Metropolitan Station. On reaching the level of the Boulevard Magenta, she slackened and walked along the right-hand pavement toward the centre of Paris.
"My little Jojo!"
The girl who, after leaving the tavern, had assumed a quiet and modest air, now came face to face with a stout gentleman with a jovial face and one gleaming eye, the other eye being permanently closed. He wore a beard turning grey and his derby hat and light cane placed him as belonging to the middle class.
"How late you are, my adored Jojo," he murmured tenderly. "That accursed workshop been keeping you again after hours?"
The mistress of Loupart checked a smile.
"That's it!" she replied, "the workshop, M. Martialle."
The man addressed made a warning gesture.
"Don't mention my name here; I'm almost home." He pulled out his watch. "Too bad; I'll have to go in or my wife will kick up a row. Let's see, this is Tuesday; well, Saturday I'm off to Burgundy on my usual half-monthly trip. Meet me at the Lyons station, platform No. 2, Marseilles express. We won't be back till Monday. A delightful week-end of love-making with my darling who at last consents.... What's that!"
The stout man broke off his impassioned harangue. A beggar, emerging from the darkness, importuned him:
"Have pity on me, kind sir."
"Give him something," urged Josephine.
The middle-aged lover complied and tenderly drew away the pretty girl, repeating carefully the details of the assignation:
"Lyons Station; a quarter past eight. The train leaves at twenty to nine."
Then suddenly dropping Josephine's arm:
"Now, sweetheart, you'd better hurry home to your good mother, and remember Saturday."
The outline of the portly personage faded into the night. Loupart's mistress shrugged her shoulders, turned, and made her way back to the "Tryst," where her place had been kept for her.
At the back of the tavern, the group which Nonet had joined were discussing strange doings. "The Bear," head of the band of the Cyphers, had just returned from the courthouse. He brought the latest news. Riboneau had been given ten years, but was going to try for a reduced sentence.
The talk suddenly dropped. A hubbub arose outside, a dull roar which waxed louder and louder. The sound of hurrying footsteps mingled with shrill cries and oaths. Doors in the street slammed. A few shots were fired, followed by a pause, and then the stampede began again.
Father Korn, deserting his bar, warily planted himself at the entry to his establishment, his hand on the latch of the door. He stood ready to bar entrance to any who might try to press in.
"The raid," he warned in a low tone.
His customers, glad to feel themselves in safety, followed the vicissitudes of what to them was almost a daily occurrence.
First came the frenzied rush of the "street walkers," deserted by their sinister protectors and fleeing madly in search of shelter in terror of the lock-up. Behind the shrieking herd the constables, in close ranks, swept and cleared the street, leaving no corner, no court, no door that remained ajar unsearched. Then the whirl swept away, the noise died down, and the street resumed its normal aspect: drab, weird and alarming.
Father Korn laughed. "All they've bagged is Bonzville!" he cried, and the customers responded to his merriment. The police had been fooled again. Bonzville was a harmless old tramp, who got himself "jugged" every winter on purpose to lay up for repairs.
The passage of the "driver" had caused enough stir in the tap-room to distract attention from the entry at the back of a stoutly built man with a bestial face, known by the title of "The Cooper."
Swiftly he passed to the Beard's table, and, taking the latter aside, began:
"The big job is fixed for the end of the week. On my way back from the station I saw Josephine palavering with the swell customer...."
Suddenly the Beard stopped him short.
The general attention had become fixed on the street entrance to the tap-room. The door had opened with a bang and Loupart, alias "The Square," the popular lover of the pretty Josephine, came on the scene, his eyes gleaming, his lips smiling under his upturned moustache.
Then there broke out cries of stupefaction. Loupart was between two policemen, who had stopped short in the doorway.
The Square turned to them: "Thank you, gentlemen," he said in his most urbane tone. "I am very grateful to you for having seen me this far. I am quite safe now. Let me offer you a drink to the health of authority!"
However, the two policemen did not dare to enter the tavern, so they briefly declined and made off. Josephine had risen, and Loupart, after pressing a tender kiss upon her lips, turned to the company.
"That feazes you, eh! I was just heading this way when I ran into the drive. As I'm a peaceful citizen, I got hold of two cops and begged them to see me safely home. They thought I was really scared."
There was a burst of general laughter. No one could bluff the police like the Square.
Loupart turned to Josephine: "How are things going, ducky?"
The girl repeated in a low tone to her lover her recent talk with M. Martialle.
Loupart nodded approvingly, but grumbled when he found the meeting was fixed for Saturday.
"Hang the fellow! Must hustle with all the jobs on hand this week. Anyway, we won't let this one slip by. Plenty of shiners, eh, Josephine?"
"You bet. He carries the stuff to his partners every fortnight."
"That's first rate, but in the meantime there's something doing to-night. Here, kiddy, take a pen and scratch off a letter for me."
The Square dictated in a low voice:
"Sir, I am only a poor girl, but I've some feeling and honesty and I hate to see wrong done around me. Believe me, you'd better keep an eye open on some one pretty close to me. Maybe the police have already told you I am the mistress of Loupart, alias the Square. I'm not denying it; in fact, I'm proud of it. Well, I swear to you that this Loupart is going to try a dirty game."
Josephine stopped writing.
"Look here, what are you at?"
"Scribble, and don't bother yourself. This doesn't concern you," replied Loupart drily.
Josephine waited, docile and ready, but the Square's attention was now focussed upon Ernestine, her young man and the generous Sapper.
"Yes," Ernestine was explaining to Mimile while the Sapper nodded approvingly, "the Beard is, as you might say, the head of the band of Cyphers, next to Loupart, of course. To belong to the Beard's gang you've got to have done up at least one guy. Then you get your Number 1. Your figure increases according to the number of deaders you have to your credit."
"So then," inquired Mimile, with eager curiosity, "Riboneau, who has just been sentenced, is called number 'seven' because ..."
"Because," added the Sapper in his serious voice, "because he has killed off seven."
In a few curt questions the Square posted himself as to young Mimile, who had impressed him favourably.
Josephine turned to Loupart: "What else am I to put in the letter? Why are you stopping?"
For answer, the Square suddenly sprang to his feet, seized a half-empty bottle and flung it on the floor, where it broke. This act of violence sent the company scattering, and Loupart roared out:
"It's on account of spies that I'm stopping! By God! When are we going to see their finish? And besides," he added, staring hard at Ernestine, "I've had enough of all this nonsense; better clear out of here or there'll be trouble."
Cunningly, with bloodshot eyes, her fists clenched in fury, but humbly submissive, the girl made ready to comply. She knew the Square was master, and there was no use standing out against his will.
The Sapper himself, growling, picked up his change, little disposed to have a row, and beckoning to his comrade, Nonet, effected a humble exit under cover of the girl Ernestine.
Loupart's arm fell upon the shoulder of Mimile, who alone seemed to defy Josephine's formidable lover.
"Hold on, young 'un," ordered Loupart. "You seem to have some nerve; better join us."
Mimile's eyes lighted up with joy.
"Oh!" he stammered, "Loupart, you'll take me in the Cypher gang?"
"Maybe," was the enigmatic reply. Then with a shove he sent the young man to the back of the den. "Must go and talk it over with the Beard." Without paying heed to the thanks of his new recruit, Loupart continued his dictation to Josephine.
As the Sapper and Nonet went quickly down the Rue Charbonniere, Nonet inquired:
"Well, chief, what do you think of our evening?"
The individual that the hooligans of La Chapelle knew by the nickname of the Sapper, and who was no other than Inspector Michel, slowly stroked his long beard:
"Not much," he declared, "except that we've been bluffed by the Square."
"Why not round up the bunch?" suggested Nonet, who was known as Inspector Leon.
"It's easy enough to talk, but what can two do against twenty? Who wants to take such risks for sixty dollars a month?"
In the meantime Josephine was writing at the Square's dictation:
"I know, sir, that to-morrow Loupart will be at Garnet's wine-shop at seven o'clock, which you know is to the right as you go up the Faubourg Montmartre, before you reach the Rue Lamartine. From there he will go to Doctor Chaleck's to tackle the safe, which is placed, as I told you, at the far side of the study, facing the window, with its balcony overlooking the garden. I wouldn't have meddled in the matter except that there'll be something worse regarding a woman. I can't tell you any more, for this is all I know. Make the best of it, and for God's sake never let Loupart know the letter was sent to you by the undersigned.
About to sign her name, Josephine looked up, trembling and anxious.
"What does it mean, Loupart? You've been drinking, I'm sure you have!"
"Sign, I tell you," calmly replied the Square, and the girl, hypnotised, proceeded to trace in her large clumsy hand, her name, "Josephine Ramot."
"Now put it in an envelope."
From the end of the saloon the Beard was signalling Loupart.
"What is it?" the latter cried, annoyed at the interruption.
The Beard came near and whispered:
"Important business. The dock man's scheme is going well—it'll be for the end of the week, Saturday at latest."
"In four days, then?"
"In four days."
"All right," declared Josephine's lover, "we'll be on hand. It'll be a big haul, I hear."
"Fifty thousand at least, the Cooper told me."
Loupart nodded, waved the Beard aside and resumed:
"Address it to
"Commissioner of Safety,
"At the Prefecture, Paris."
ON THE TRACK
The daily paper, The Capital, was about to go to press. The editors had handed over the last slips of copy with the latest news.
"Well, Fandor," asked the Secretary, "nothing more for me?"
"You won't spring a 'latest' on me?"
"Not unless the President of the Republic should be assassinated."
"Right enough. But don't joke. Lord, there's something else to be done just now."
The "setter up" appeared in the editor's rooms:
"I want sharp type for 'one,' and eight lines for 'two.'"
Discreetly, as a man accustomed to the business, Fandor withdrew on hearing the request of the "setter up," avoiding the searching glance of the sub-editor, who forthwith to meet the demands of the paging, called at random one of the reporters and passed on the order to him.
"Some lines of special type; eight lines. Take up the Cretan question on the Havas telegrams. Be quick!"
Fandor picked up his hat and stick and left the office. His berth as police-reporter meant a constantly active and unsettled existence. He was never his own master, never knew ten minutes beforehand what he was going to do, whether he might go home, start on a journey, interview a minister or risk his life by an investigation in the world of thugs and cut-throats.
"Deuce take it!" he cried as he passed the office door and saw what the time was. "I simply must go to the courts, and it's already very late...." He ran forward a few paces, then stopped short. "And that porter murdered at Belleville!... If I don't cover that affair I shall have nothing interesting to turn in...."
He retraced his steps, looking for a cab and swearing at the narrowness of the Rue Montmartre, where the inadequate pavements forced the foot passengers to overflow on to the roadway, which was choked with costermongers' carts, heavy motor-buses, and all that swarm of vehicles which gives a Paris street an air of bustle unequalled in any other capital in the world. As he was about to pass the corner of the Rue Bergere, a porter laden down with sample boxes, strung on a hook, ran into him, almost knocking him down.
"Look where you're going!" cried the journalist.
"Look out yourself," replied the man insolently.
Fandor, with an angry shrug of his shoulders, was about to pursue his way, when the man stopped him.
"Sir, can you direct me to the Rue du Croissant?"
"Follow the Rue Montmartre and take the second turning to the right."
"Thank you, sir; could you give me a light?"
Fandor could not repress a smile. He held out his cigarette. "Here; is that all you want to-day?"
"Well, you might offer me a drink."
Fandor was about to answer sharply when something in the man's face seemed vaguely familiar. He was about sixty. His clothes were threadbare and green with age, his shoes down at the heels, his moustache and shaggy beard a dirty yellow.
"Why the devil should I stand you a drink?"
"A good impulse, M. Fandor."
In a moment the man's features seemed to change. He appeared quite a different person and Fandor recognised who was speaking to him. Accustomed by long habit to conceal his impressions, the journalist spoke nonchalantly:
"All right; let's go to the 'Grand Charlemagne.'"
They started off together, reached the Faubourg Montmartre and entered a small wine-shop. Having taken their seats and ordered drinks, Fandor turned to the porter.
"What's up?" he asked.
"It takes you a long time to recognise your friends."
Fandor scrutinised his companion.
"You are wonderfully made up, Juve."
On hearing his name mentioned, the man gave a start. "Don't utter my name! They know me here as old Paul."
"But why the disguise? Who are you after? Is it anything to do with Fantomas?"
Juve shrugged his shoulders. "Let's leave Fantomas out of it," he said. "At least for the moment. No, my lad, it's a very commonplace affair to-day, and I wouldn't have bumped into you except that I have an hour to while away and wanted your company."
"This disguise for a commonplace affair?" cried Fandor. "Come, Juve, don't keep me in the dark."
Juve laughed at his friend's eagerness.
"You'll always be the same. When it's a matter of detective work, there's no keeping you out of it. Well, here's the information you're after. Read that."
He passed Fandor a greasy, ill-written letter. Fandor took it in at a glance.
"This refers to Loupart, alias the Square?"
"And you call it a commonplace affair? But, look here, can you trust information given by a loose woman?"
"My dear Fandor, the police largely depend upon such tips, given through revenge by women of that class."
"Well, I'm going with you."
"No, I won't have you mixed up in this business; it's too dangerous."
"All the more reason for my being in it! What is really known about this Loupart?"
"Very little, unfortunately," rejoined Juve. "And it's the mystery surrounding him which makes us uneasy. Although he has been involved in some of the worst crimes, he has always managed to escape arrest. He is supposed to be one of an organised gang. In any case, he's a resolute scoundrel who wouldn't hesitate to draw his gun in case of need."
"His arrest will make bully copy."
"And for the pleasure of writing a sensational story you want to put your life in peril again!" Juve smiled sympathetically as he spoke. He had known the young journalist, when, scarcely grown up, he had been involved in the weird affairs of "Fantomas."
Fandor was an assumed name. Juve recalled the young Charles Rambert, victim of the mysterious Fantomas, the most redoubtable ruffian of modern times, whom Juve declared to be Gurn and still alive, although Gurn had supposedly died on the scaffold. He recalled the sensational trial and the terrible revelations that had appalled society. Gurn he had then affirmed to be the lover of the Englishwoman, Lady Beltham. Gurn it was who had killed her husband, and Gurn was no other than Fantomas.
He recalled the tragical morning when Gurn, in the very shadow of the scaffold, had found means to send in his stead an innocent victim, Valgrand, the actor.
"When will you begin to draw in your net?" inquired Fandor.
Juve motioned to his companion to be silent and listen.
"Fandor, you hear what that man's singing; the one drinking at the bar?"
"Yes, 'The Blue Danube.'"
"Well, that gives me the answer. We shall soon be on Loupart's tracks. By the way, are you armed?"
"If you won't run me in for carrying concealed weapons I'll confess that Baby Browning is in my pocket."
"Good. Now, then, listen to my directions. Loupart was seen at the markets this morning by two of my watchers, and you may be sure he hasn't been lost sight of since. Reports I have received indicate that he will presumably go to the Chateaudun cross-roads and from there to the Place Pigalle, in the direction of Doctor Chaleck's house. We shall nab him at the cross-roads. Needless to say we are not going to keep together. As soon as our man comes in sight you will pass on ahead, walking at his pace on the same pavement and without turning round."
"And if Loupart doesn't appear?"
"Why then—" began Juve. "The deuce! There's another customer whistling 'The Blue Danube.' It's time to be off."
"Are those your agents whistling?" asked Fandor, as they left the shop.
"What! Isn't it a signal?"
"It is, and you'll be able to find your trail by the passers-by who whistle that air."
While talking, the journalist and the detective arrived at the Chateaudun cross-roads. Juve cast an eye over the ground.
"It's six o'clock. Be off and prowl around Notre Dame de Lorette. Loupart will probably come out of that wine-shop you see to the right. You can easily recognise him by his height and a scar on his left cheek."
"Look here, Juve, why should these people whistle 'The Blue Danube' if they are not detectives?"
Juve smiled. "It's quite simple. If you whistle a popular tune in a crowd, some one is bound to take it up. Well, the two men I put to watching Loupart this morning were whistling this same tune, and now we are meeting persons who caught the air."
Fandor crossed the road and proceeded toward Notre Dame de Lorette to the post the detective had allotted to him. The man hunt was about to begin.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN
The Cite Frochot is shut in by low stone walls, topped by grating round which creepers intertwine.
The entry to its main thoroughfare, shaded by trees and lined with small private houses, is not supposed to be public, and a porter's lodge to the right of the entrance is intended to enforce its private character.
It was about seven in the evening. As the fine spring day drew to a close, Fandor reached the square of the Cite. For an hour past the journalist had been wholly engaged in keeping track of the famous Loupart, who, after leaving the saloon, had sauntered up the Rue des Martyrs, his hands in his pockets and a cigarette in his mouth.
Fandor allowed him to pass at the corner of the Rue Claude, and from there on kept him in view.
Juve had completely disappeared.
As Loupart, followed by Fandor, was about to enter the Cite Frochot, an exclamation made them both turn.
Fandor perceived a poorly dressed man anxiously searching for something in the gutter. A curious crowd had instantly collected, and word was passed round that the lost object was a twenty-five-franc gold piece.
Fandor, joining the crowd, was pushed close to the man, who quickly whispered:
"Idiot! Keep out of the Cite."
The owner of the gold piece was no other than the detective. Then, under cover of loud complaint, Juve muttered to Fandor, "Let him go! Watch the entrance to the Cite!"
"But," objected Fandor in the same key, "what if I lose sight of him?"
"No fear of that. The doctor's house is the second on the right." The hooligan, who had for a moment drawn near the crowd, was now heading straight for the Cite.
Juve went on: "In a quarter of an hour at the latest join me again, 27 Rue Victor Masse."
"And if Loupart should enter the Cite in the meantime?"
"Come straight back to me."
Fandor was moving off when Juve addressed him out loud: "Thank you, kind gentlemen! But as you are so charitable, give me something more for God's sake."
The other drew near the pretended beggar and Juve added:
"If anyone questions you as you pass through, say you are going to Omareille, the decorator's; you'll find me on the stairs."
Some moments later the little crowd had melted away and a policeman, arriving as usual too late, wondered what had been going on.
Fandor carried out Juve's instructions to the letter. Hiding behind a sentry box he kept an eye on the doctor's house, but nothing out of the way happened. Loupart had vanished, although he was probably not far away. When the fifteen minutes were up Fandor left his post and entered No. 27 Rue Victor Masse. As he reached the third floor he heard Juve's voice:
"Is that you, lad?"
"The porter didn't question you?"
"I've seen no one."
"All right, come up here."
Juve was seated at a hall window examining Doctor Chaleck's house through a field glass.
"You've not seen Loupart go in?" he inquired as Fandor joined him.
"Not while I was on watch."
"It's well to know one's Paris and have friends everywhere, isn't it?" continued Juve. "It occurred to me quite suddenly that this might be an excellent place from where to follow citizen Loupart's doings. You would have spoiled everything if you had followed him into the Cite. That's why I devised my little scheme to hold you back."
"You are right," admitted Fandor, who, the next moment, gave a jump as Juve's hand gripped him hard.
"Look, Fandor! The bird is going into the cage!"
The journalist, excited, saw a figure already familiar to him in the act of slipping into the little garden which separated Dr. Chaleck's house from the main thoroughfare.
The detective went on: "There he goes, skirting the house until he reaches the little door hidden in the wall. What's he up to now? Ah! He's fumbling in his pocket. False keys, of course."
They saw Loupart open the door and make his way into the house.
"What comes next?" inquired Fandor.
"We are going to tighten the net which the silly bird has hopped into," rejoined Juve, as he bolted down the stairs, and added as a precautionary measure: "While I question the porter, you slip by me into the main street. I have every reason to believe that M. Chaleck has been absent for two days, and as soon as I get this information, I shall pretend to go away, and then—the rest is my concern."
Juve's program was carried out in all points.
To his questions, the porter replied:
"Why, sir, I can't really say. I saw Doctor Chaleck go off with his bag and I haven't seen him come back. However, if you care to see for yourself——"
"No, thanks," replied Juve, "I'll return in a few days. But look out, your lamp's flaring!"
As the porter turned to remedy the trouble, Juve, instead of going off to the right, quickly followed the direction Fandor had taken and caught up with the latter just outside Doctor Chaleck's house.
"Now for our plan of campaign," he said. "It's darker now than it will be later when the street lamps are lit and the moon rises. That excellent Josephine sent me a rough plan of the house. You see there are two windows on the ground floor on either side of the hall. Naturally they belong to the dining-room and drawing-room. The window to the right on the first floor is evidently that of the bedroom. On the left, this window with a balcony belongs to the study of our dealer in death! That's where we must plant ourselves. Understand, Fandor?"
The journalist nodded. "I understand."
The two men advanced carefully, holding their breath and halting at every step. To catch the ruffian in the act they must reach the study without giving the alarm.
The first story of Doctor Chaleck's house was only slightly raised above the ground: by the aid of a drain-pipe, Juve and Fandor managed without difficulty to hoist themselves on to the balcony.
"Here's luck," cried Juve. "The study window is wide open!"
After putting on a pair of rubbers and making Fandor remove his boots, the two men entered the room. Juve's first precaution was to test the two halves of the window. Finding that their hinges did not creak, he fastened the latch and drew the curtains.
"We'll risk a light," he whispered, taking out a pocket-lamp, which lit up the room sufficiently to allow him to take his bearings.
The study was elegantly furnished. In the middle was a huge desk piled with papers, reports, and files. To the right of the desk in the corner opposite the window and half hidden by a heavy velvet curtain was the door leading to the landing. A large corner sofa occupied the space of two wall panels. A set of book-shelves covered a whole wall. Here and there cosy armchairs invited meditation.
"I don't see the famous safe," Murmured Fandor.
"That's because your eyes aren't trained," replied the detective. "Look at that corner sofa, topped by that richly carved bracket. Observe the thick appearance of the delicate mahogany panel. You may be quite sure that it hides a solid steel casket which the best tools would have no easy job to cut through. That little moulding you see to the right can be easily pushed aside."
Here Juve, with the precision of an expert, set the woodwork in motion and showed the astonished Fandor a scarcely visible key-hole.
"Now, let's put out the light and hide ourselves behind the curtains. Luckily they are far enough from the window for our presence not to be noticed."
For about an hour the men remained motionless, then, weary of standing, they squatted on the floor. Each had his revolver ready to hand.
Ten had just struck from a distant clock when suddenly a slight sound reached their attentive ears.
The two had whiled away the time of waiting by drilling the curtains with a small penknife. These holes were invisible at a distance, but enabled them to see what was going on in the room.
The noise continued, slow and measured; some one was walking about in the adjacent rooms without any attempt to disguise the sound. Evidently Loupart believed himself quite alone in the house of the absent doctor.
The steps drew nearer, and Fandor, in spite of his courage, felt the rapid beating of his heart. The handle of the door leading from the hall to the study was turned, and some person entered the room.
There was an instant of silence, and then the desk was suddenly lit up. The new-comer had found the switch. But he was not Loupart.
He seemed a man of forty and wore a brown beard, brushed fan-shape; a noticeable baldness heightened his forehead. On his strongly arched nose a double eye-glass was balanced. Suddenly, having looked at the clock which marked half-past eleven, he began to loosen his tie and unbutton his waistcoat and then went out, leaving the study lit as if intending to come back.
"It's Chaleck!" exclaimed Fandor.
"Just so," replied the detective. "And this complicates matters; we may have to protect him as well as his safe."
Indeed, Juve's first impulse was to go straight to Doctor Chaleck, apprise him of the situation, and, under his guidance, search the house thoroughly. But that would have put Loupart on the alert. It would be taking too great a chance. If Juve should lay hands on him outside of Chaleck's house he would have no right to hold him. For the subtle power of Loupart, that well-loved hooligan of the purlieus of Paris, lay in his remaining constantly a source of fear, always a suspect without ever being caught with the goods.
Coming back to his first idea of insuring Chaleck's safety, Juve said to himself: "The doctor is coming back here, that's sure, and we must protect him without his knowing it. That is the best plan for the present."
Sure enough after an absence of ten minutes Chaleck returned to the study and seated himself at his desk. He had now changed into his pajamas.
When the little Empire time piece which decorated the mantel struck three, Fandor, for all his anxiety, could not repress a yawn: the night was long and thus far had been devoid of incidents. From their hiding-place, he and Juve kept an eye on Doctor Chaleck. When did the man sleep?
Nothing in the physician's countenance betrayed the slightest weariness. He examined numerous documents spread out on the desk, and also wrote a letter which he sealed by lighting a candle and melting some wax. He lingered a good twenty minutes afterwards, then finally put out the lights and left the room.
The room was now in total darkness. The journalist and the detective listened a few moments longer as a precaution, but nothing happened to break the hush of the waning night.
Half an hour more and the outlines of the two would be visible on the thin curtains. It was high time to be off.
Fandor and Juve rose with difficulty to their feet, so cramped were their legs from the enforced rigidity.
"What now?" asked Fandor.
"Listen!" Juve abruptly gripped the other's arm as a fresh noise came to their ears. This time it was not the footsteps of a man walking carelessly, but weird creakings, sly gropings. The noise stopped, began again and again stopped. Where did it come from?
"This room is a mass of hangings," muttered Juve.
"It's impossible to locate those sounds or determine their origin."
"You would suppose," began Fandor——
But he stopped short. The door had opened, the light was switched on and Doctor Chaleck appeared once more, probably disturbed in his sleep by the mysterious noises.
Chaleck gave a quick glance round the room, and then, to the consternation of the two men, he took a few steps toward the window, revolver in hand. At this moment dull creakings were heard, apparently coming from the landing. Chaleck turned quickly, and, leaving the door open, went out. An increase of light indicated that the other rooms in the house were being searched, and as the lights were gradually switched off again, it was apparent that Chaleck was concluding his domiciliary visit without having noticed anything abnormal.
The two remained still for an hour longer, although they had heard Chaleck go back to his room and lock himself into it.
Meantime the daylight was growing brighter, and in a little while the neighbourhood would be awake.
"We must slip out," decreed Juve, as he turned the hasp of the window with infinite care and set it ajar to reach the balcony.
A few moments later Juve had shed his disguise and the two men drew breath in the middle of the Place Pigalle, having fled ignominiously like common criminals.
A WOMAN'S CORPSE
"Well, Juve, I suppose you'll agree with me that Josephine's information was a piece of pure fiction," said Fandor as they turned into the Rue Pigalle.
"You are talking nonsense," replied Juve.
"But," protested the other, "we arrived punctually at the place appointed, and most assuredly nothing happened there."
"We were punctual, it is true, but so was Loupart. Josephine's letter gave us two items of information: That her lover would be at Doctor Chaleck's house and that he would rob the safe. Events have proved her correct in one case. As to the second, while he did not break open the safe, nothing proves that he had not that intention. He may have been frustrated by the unexpected appearance of Doctor Chaleck, or he may have discovered that we were following him."
At this moment Fandor pointed out to Juve three men who were running toward them, violently gesticulating.
"What does that mean?" he asked.
Before Juve could reply one of the men, much out of breath, inquired: "Well, chief!"
"Why, it's Michel and Henri and Leon!" Then, turning to Fandor, he explained: "Three inspectors."
Michel repeated the question: "Well, chief, what's up?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've just come from the Cite Frochot, chief?"
Juve was amazed. "Look here," he said, "where do you come from, Michel? The Prefecture?"
"No, chief, from the head office of No. IX."
"Then how do you know we were at the Cite Frochot?"
Taken aback, Michel replied: "Why, from seeing you here, after the affair."
"What affair?" insisted Juve.
"Well, chief, it's this way. The three of us were on duty this morning at the Rue Rochefoucauld Station. About twenty minutes ago the telephone rang and I heard a woman asking in a broken and choked voice if it was the police station. On my answering it was, she begged me to come to the rescue, crying, 'Murder! I'm dying!'"
"What then?" questioned Juve.
"Then I asked who was speaking, but unfortunately Central had cut me off."
"You made inquiries?"
"Yes, chief, and after a quarter of an hour Central told me that only one subscriber had called up the police station, the number being 928-12, name of Doctor Chaleck in the Cite Frochot."
"I suppose you asked for the number again?"
"I did, but I could get no reply."
After a pause, during which Juve was lost in thought, the officer added timidly: "We'd better hurry if a crime has been committed."
Juve beckoned Michel to him.
"There are too many of us," he said. "You come along, Michel; the other two must go back to the station and be ready to join us in case of need."
The two officers and Fandor went hurriedly up the Rue Pigalle and came to a halt by Doctor Chaleck's door.
A loud ringing brought no reply. It was repeated, and finally a voice cried: "Who is there; what's the matter?"
"Open," ordered Juve.
"To whom do you wish to speak?"
"To Doctor Chaleck." And Juve added: "Open, it's the police."
"The police! What the deuce do they want with me?"
"You'll soon find out," answered Michel. "Do you suppose we'd be making this row if we were criminals?"
Doubtless convinced by this reasoning, Doctor Chaleck decided at length to open his door.
"What do you want with me?" he repeated.
Juve quickly explained matters.
"We've just had a telephone message to say that some ruffians, possibly murderers, are in your house."
"Murderers!" cried Chaleck in amazement. "But whom could they murder? I'm living here alone."
At this assertion, Juve, Fandor and Michel looked at each other, mystified.
"Well, in any case we must search your house from top to bottom," said Juve, and added as an afterthought: "I suppose you are thoroughly satisfied that we come with honest intentions?"
Doctor Chaleck smiled:
"Oh! Inspector Juve's features are very well known to me, and I place myself entirely at his disposition."
The three men, led by Chaleck, ransacked all the rooms on the ground floor; finding nothing suspicious, they then went up to the floor above.
"I have only three more rooms to show you, gentlemen," said the doctor. "My bathroom, my bedroom and my study."
The bathroom disclosed nothing of interest, and Chaleck, throwing open the door of another room, announced, "My study."
Scarcely had Fandor set foot in the study, from which he and Juve had so recently made their escape, when a cry burst from his lips:
"Good God! How horrible!"
The apartment was in the greatest disorder. Overturned chairs bore witness to a violent struggle. One of the mahogany panels of the desk had been partly smashed in. A window curtain was torn and hanging, and the small gas stove was broken.
Fandor, at the first glance, saw what appeared to be a long trail of blood, extending from the window to the desk. Stepping forward quickly, he discovered the body of a woman frightfully crushed and covered with blood.
"Dead some time," cried Fandor. "The body is cold and the blood already congealed."
Juve tranquilly examined the room, and took in its tragic horror. "The telephone apparatus is overturned," he muttered to himself. "There has been a struggle between the victim and the murderer. Ah!—theft was the object of the crime."
"Theft!" cried Doctor Chaleck, coming forward.
"Look, doctor, your safe has been overturned, broken in and ransacked," answered Juve, as he and Fandor cautiously lifted the woman. The body was a mass of contusions and appeared to be one large wound.
Juve turned to the doctor, who, livid with consternation, was holding up a small grey linen bag which had contained his bonds.
"Come, doctor, calm yourself and give us some information. Can you make anything of it?"
"Nothing! nothing! I heard nothing. Who is this woman? I don't know her!"
Fandor pointed to a small shoe lying in a corner.
"A fashionable woman," he said.
"Quite so," was Juve's reply, and putting his hands on Chaleck's shoulders he inquired: "A friend of yours, a mistress, eh? Come now, don't deny it."
"Deny!" protested the doctor, "deny what? You are not accusing me, are you? I know nothing of what has taken place here, and, as you see, have been robbed into the bargain."
"Is she a patient of yours?"
"I don't practise."
"A visitor, perhaps?"
"No one has been to see me to-day."
"It is not your maid?"
"No; I tell you. I am living here all by myself."
"Have you noticed this, sir?" put in Michel, as he gave Juve a handkerchief on which some vicious, greyish substance was spread in thick layers.
"Shoemakers' wax," Juve explained, after a brief glance at it. "That explains the burns we noticed. The murderer covered his victim's face with the handkerchief to prevent identification." Then, turning to Fandor, he went on in a low tone:
"But it doesn't explain how and when the crime was committed. Less than an hour ago we were in this very room, and the burgling of the safe alone would take fully an hour."
Michel, ignorant of this fact, was for arresting the doctor.
"Look here," he said sharply to Chaleck, "we've had enough yarns from you; now tell us the truth."
"But, good God! I have told you the truth!" cried Chaleck.
"And you heard nothing, although you were only a few yards away?"
"Nothing at all. I sat up working very late last night. When I went to bed, nothing had happened in the least suspicious. Oh, by the way, toward morning I did hear a slight noise. I rose and went over the house, even coming into this room. I found everything in order."
"That's a likely tale!"
"Here's a proof of what I say! When I returned to this study I used that candle and sealing wax to seal my letter, which, as you can see, is still here. Your ring at the bell awoke me not more than twenty minutes later, just as I was getting to sleep again."
"Lies!" cried Michel, turning to Juve. "Shall I arrest him?"
"The doctor is telling the truth," replied Juve, half regretfully.
Chaleck seemed very much relieved.
"Oh, you'll help me, won't you? Get me out of this abominable affair!"
As a matter of fact, Chaleck had accounted for his time with exact truthfulness.
Juve crossed the room and drew aside the curtains; upon the floor he pointed out to Fandor traces of mud. It was there that he and the journalist had stood.
"Doctor," said Juve at length, "I must ask you not to go out this morning. I am going to headquarters to ask them to send experts in anthropometry. We must photograph in detail the appearance of your study; then I will come back and make an extended inquiry and I shall want you. Michel, remain here with the doctor."
Without further words, Juve, followed by Fandor, left the house of mystery, jumped into the first cab that passed and, mopping his forehead, cried:
"It's astounding! This murder presents mysteries worthy of Fantomas himself!"
Loupart was taking a fruit cure. It was about ten in the morning, and along the Rues Charbonniere, Chartres and Goutte d'Or the women hawkers, driven from central Paris by the police, were making for the high ground of the populous quarters.
Loupart strolled along the pavement, making grabs at the barrows, picking a handful of strawberries or cherries as he went by. If by chance the dealer complained, she was quickly silenced by a chaffing speech or a stern glance.
The hooligan stopped at the "Comrades' Tryst," in front of which Mother Toulouche had set out a table with a large basket of winkles.
"Want to try them?" suggested the old woman on catching sight of Josephine's lover.
"Hand me a pin," he answered harshly, and in a few moments had emptied half a dozen shells.
"Friend Square, I've something to say to you."
"Out with it, then."
But before the old woman could reply, a noise of roller skates coming down the pavement made her turn.
Loupart looked round with a smile.
"Why here comes the auto-bus," he cried.
A cripple moving at a great pace came plump into the basket of shell-fish. The speed with which he travelled had earned him the nickname of the Motor. He was said to be an old railway mechanic, who had lost both legs in an accident.
"Motor," cried Mother Toulouche, "I have to be away for ten minutes or so; look after my basket, will you?"
Following the old dame to her den Loupart entered with difficulty, on account of the great quantity of heterogeneous objects with which it was crowded. The product of innumerable thefts lay heaped up pell-mell in this illicit bazaar.
Dame Toulouche, having shut the door, plunged into her subject.
"Big Ernestine is furious with you, Loupart."
"If she's threatening me," the hooligan replied, "I'll soon fix her."
"No, big Ernestine didn't want to fight, but she was annoyed at the public affront put upon her by Josephine's lover when he drove her from 'The Good Comrades' the evening before last without any reason."
"Without any reason!" growled Loupart. "Then what was her business with those spies, the Sapper and Nonet?"
"That can't be! Not the Sapper!"
"Spies, I tell you; they belong to headquarters."
The old receiver of stolen goods cast up her eyes. "And they looked such decent people, too! Who can one trust?"
Loupart, for reply, suddenly picked up a scarf pin set with a diamond, and, tossing the old Woman a five-dollar piece, said as he left the room: "You can tell Ernestine that I bear her no malice."
Loupart had hardly gone a few steps along the Rue Charbonniere, when, at the corner of the Rue de Chartres, he bumped into a passer-by who was coming down the street.
Loupart burst out laughing: "What! Can this be you, Beard? What's happened to you?"
It certainly needed a practised eye to recognise the famous leader of the Cypher gang. For the Beard, who owed his name to an abnormal hairy development, was clean shaved; in addition, he wore a soft, greenish hat and was clad in a suit with huge checks.
"You told me to make up as an American."
"I did, and you've made yourself look like a hayseed juggins. For Heaven's sake, take it off. By the way, what about young Mimile?"
"He's with us."
"Well, get him the togs of a collegian for the job at the docks. What night do we bring it off?"
"Saturday night, unless the Cooper changes the time."
Loupart bent close to the ear of his lieutenant.
"Is he—easy to recognise?"
"No chance of making an error. Lean, togged in dark clothes and with one goggle eye."
Loupart touched the "Beard's" arm.
"First-class tickets for everybody."
"How many will there be?"
"Five or six."
"No, only my girl. But you can bet we shan't be bored!" With these words, Loupart walked away. He stopped a little later at the second house in the Rue Goutte d'Or, a decent-looking house with carpet on the stairs.
On reaching the fifth floor, he knocked several times on the door facing him, but without reply. This annoyed him; he didn't like Josephine to sleep late, and he expected her to be always ready when he condescended to come and fetch her.
Josephine was a pretty burnisher from Belleville, and Loupart, who had met her at a ball in that quarter six months ago had made her his favourite mistress.
Among the bullies and drabs that frequented the place, Josephine had appeared to him seductive, charming, almost virginal, and the popular hooligan had promptly chosen her from her sisters of the underworld.
Certainly Josephine had no reason to complain of her lover's conduct, and if at times he demanded of her a blind submission, he never treated her with that fierce brutality which characterised most of his fellows. But if Josephine had felt any leaning toward a good life, or any scruples of conscience, she must necessarily have thrown them overboard as soon as her connection with Loupart began. With a different start in life she might have become an honest little woman, but circumstances made her the mistress of a hooligan ring-leader, and, everything considered, she had a certain pride in being so, without imitating the vulgar and brutal behaviour of her companions.
At the third summons, Loupart, none too patient, drove the door in with a vigorous shove of his shoulders.
Josephine's apartment, a comfortable and spacious room, with a fine bird's-eye view of Paris, was empty.
Fancying his mistress was at some neighbour's gossiping, he bawled: "Josephine! Come here!"
Heads appeared, looking anxiously out of rooms on the same floor.
"Where is Josephine?" Loupart cried.
Mme. Guinon came forward.
"I don't know," she replied, stammering. "She complained of pains in her stomach last evening, and I was told she's gone."
"Gone? Gone where?" stormed Loupart.
"Why, I don't know; it was Julie who told me."
A freckled face, half hidden by a matted shock of hair, appeared. Julie was not reticent like her mother. She explained in a hoarse, alcoholic voice:
"It's quite simple. When I came in last night about four I heard groans in Josephine's room. I went to see and found Josephine writhing in pain as if she had been—poisoned."
"What did you do then?"
"Oh, nothing," declared Julie. "I just trotted away again; it wasn't my business, but the Flirt came and meddled in it."
"The Flirt! Where is she?"
The Flirt, a faded, wrinkled woman of fifty, appeared from a doorway where she had been listening.
"Where is Josephine?" demanded Loupart.
"At Lariboisiere hospital, ward 22, since you want to know."
After a moment's amazement, Loupart broke out furiously:
"You sent off Josephine in the middle of the night! You took her to a hospital for a little indigestion! Without asking my consent! Why she's no more ill than I am!"
"Have to believe she is," replied the Flirt, "since the 'probes' have kept her."
Loupart turned and tramped downstairs swearing.
"She'll come out of that a damned sight quicker than she went in!"
A few moments later Loupart entered Father Korn's saloon. Having set forth his plans to that worthy, the latter proceeded to demolish them.
"You can't do anything to-day, so there's no use trying. You'll have to wait till to-morrow at midday, the proper visiting hour."
Loupart recognised the truth of the publican's assertion and, calling for writing paper, sat down and scrawled a letter to his mistress.
"Motor," he cried to the cripple who was still at Mother Toulouche's basket, "tumble along with this note to Lariboisiere; look sharp, and when you get back I'll stand you a glass."
As the cripple hurried away he was all but knocked down by a newsboy, running and shouting:
"Extra! Extra! Get The Capital. Extraordinary and mysterious crime of the Cite Frochot. Murder of a woman."
"Shall I get a copy?" asked the publican.
Loupart stalked out of the saloon without turning.
"Oh, I know all about that," he cried.
Father Korn stood rooted to the spot at Loupart's answer.
"What! He knows already!"
THE LARIBOISIERE HOSPITAL
The clerk, who had admitted Juve, withdrew, and M. de Maufil, the amiable director, gave the police officer his most gracious smile.
"When I applied this morning at headquarters for an officer to be sent here, I scarcely expected to receive so celebrated a detective, upon a matter which is really very commonplace."
"Your letter to M. Havard mentioned a person I have been looking for with the greatest interest for the past two days. Loupart, alias 'The Square,'" replied Juve, "that is why I came myself. What is it about, sir?"
"Well, the day before yesterday, we took in at the instance of Doctor Patel, a patient suffering from acute gastric trouble. The woman gave us for identification the name of Josephine, no calling, residing in Paris, Rue de Goutte d'Or, in furnished rooms. Some hours after her admission to the hospital, she received a letter, brought by a messenger, which threw her into a violent state of terror. The nurse on duty sent for me, and I succeeded, after great difficulty, in quieting her; but she insisted most emphatically on leaving the hospital at once. The poor creature was in a high fever, and to grant her request would have been sending her to her death. At length she intrusted me with the letter which had excited her so. Here it is, kindly look it over."
Juve took the letter and read:
"Am just back from the doss. You ain't there, and I don't want any more of these dodges. You are no more ill than I am. See here, you'll either leave the hospital and slope back to the house right off or to-morrow, Friday, at visiting time, as sure as my name's what it is, you'll get two bullets in your hide to teach you to hold your tongue."
Juve gave a grunt of satisfaction.
"You understand what is going on?" asked the director.
"Yes, but please go on with your story."
"Well, sir, you can guess that having read this letter, I easily got from the girl some information as to the writer. According to what she told me this Loupart is her lover, and he seems to have in a high degree that inconceivable pride which causes folks of his class, when they have sworn to kill some one, to carry out their threat, no matter what risk they may run themselves. The girl, Josephine, is convinced that to-morrow Loupart will come and kill her."
"You have told her that all precautions will be taken?"
"Of course. I pointed out to her that people do not come in here as they do into a bar; that being warned, I should have all the visitors watched who come here and asked to see her. I repeated to her that her lover probably wanted to frighten her, but that he could not do anything to injure her. I insisted that in the state she was in it was physically impossible for her to obey that wretch's bidding."
"And what was her answer to that?"
"Nothing. Her attack of alarm having subsided she seemed to fall into a condition of extreme prostration. I realised quite well that she regarded herself as condemned, that she had a far higher opinion of Loupart's daring than of my watchfulness, and, lastly, if she stayed it was because she realised that it was out of the question for her, in her weak state, to go back to her home."
While the director was speaking, Juve had retained a smiling and satisfied expression, seeming but little affected by Josephine's terrible plight.
"I should very much like to know," continued the director, "why you said you knew the reasons for the threat being sent by this man to his mistress?"
Juve hesitated some moments; then, without going into details, said: "It would take too long to recount the motives which prompted Loupart to write that letter. This Josephine whom you see to-day trembling at her lover's threat not so long ago supplied the police with valuable hints concerning him. Has he learned that? Does he know the woman has rounded on him? Did he fear, above all, that she would tell tales again here at the hospital? It is quite possible. You see he must have had very strong reasons for giving her the order to come home——"
Juve here broke off, fingering Loupart's letter; then at length he placed it in his pocketbook.
"I will keep this document, director; it is a tangible proof of Loupart's criminal intentions. If he should put his threats into practice it would be difficult after that to deny premeditation."
"You think that such a thing is possible?"
"Loupart declares he will come to the hospital before three and kill his mistress, but surely it must be easy to render that impossible."
"You think the police are all-powerful, that we can arrest would-be murderers and render them incapable of harm? That is an error. We are prevented from taking effective action by a swarm of regulations. If I met Loupart on the street I would not be able to arrest him. I have no warrant. When a man holds his life cheap and is determined to risk everything, he has a pretty good chance of succeeding. Of course I shall take every measure to prevent Loupart killing his mistress, but I'm not at all sure of success."
"But M. Juve, we must have this girl Josephine transferred to another hospital if necessary."
Juve shook his head.
"And show Loupart we are aware of his purpose? Flatter the ruffian's vanity? No, we must let Loupart come, and catch him as he is about to commit the crime."
"What do you propose to do?"
"Study the hospital; arrange where to place my men," replied Juve.
"In that case, I will do everything I can to help you." M. de Maufil rang for an attendant and bade him take Juve to Doctor Patel's department.
Juve thanked the obliging director and took leave. The attendant pointed to a row of windows under the roof.
"Doctor Patel's division begins at the corner window and runs to the window near the cornice."
"What are the means of access to the female ward?"
"Oh, that's quite simple, sir; you get into the woman's ward either by the door on the staircase or by the door at the back, which leads into the laboratory of the head physician, the room of the house surgeon on duty, and the departmental offices."
"And how do visitors pass in?"
"Visitors always go up the main staircase."
"Now," said Juve, "show me over Doctor Patel's division."
"Very good, sir. It will be all the more interesting to you, as it is just the visiting hour."
When Juve made his way into the woman's ward, Doctor Patel was actually in process of seeing his patients. He was passing from bed to bed, questioning each of the women under treatment and listening to the comments of the house staff who followed him.
"Gentlemen," the doctor was saying as Juve joined the group, "the patient we have just seen affords a very excellent and typical instance of intermittent fever. The serum tests have not given any appreciable result; it is therefore impossible to arrive at——"
A hand was laid on Juve's shoulder.
"Why, the tests are always absolutely indicative! Palpable typhoid, eh? What do you think?"
Juve turned his head and could not suppress a cry of surprise.
"What! M. Juve!—You here! Were you looking for me?"
Juve was dumbfounded. He drew Chaleck aside.
"Then you're attached to this hospital?"
"Oh, I have only leave to attend the courses."
"And I came here out of curiosity."
"In any case, allow me to thank you for the service you rendered me the other day. The officer who was with you seemed to take me for the guilty man."
"Well, you see, appearances...."
"But if anyone was a victim it was I. Apart from the finding of the murdered woman in my house, I have been robbed!"
Here the doctor broke off. A house surgeon was beckoning to him.
"Forgive me," he said to Juve. "I cannot keep my colleague waiting."
Leaving Chaleck, Juve went back to the attendant who had patiently waited for him.
"Stranger than ever!" he murmured. "There is no making it all out. Josephine writes that Loupart means to rob Chaleck. I track Loupart and he gives me the slip. I spend a night in a room where I see nothing, and where nevertheless a horrible amazing crime is committed. The murder takes place scarce a yard from me, and the doctor, the tenant of the house, sees nothing either, and does not even know the victim who is found next morning on his premises! Thereupon our informant, Josephine, goes into hospital; pain in the stomach, they say—hem! Poison, maybe? Then she gets a threatening letter from Loupart. And when I come to the hospital to protect her, whom do I meet but Doctor Chaleck!"
Juve, turning to the attendant who was escorting him, asked:
"You know the person I was speaking to just now?"
"Doctor Chaleck? Yes, sir."
"What is his business here?"
"He is a foreign doctor, I believe. I should fancy a Belgian. Anyhow, he is allowed by the authorities to follow the clinical courses and make researches in the laboratory."
A REVOLVER SHOT
Doctor Patel's division presented an unusually animated appearance that afternoon. Not only were the patients allowed to receive visitors, but quite a number of strange doctors had spent the day going from bed to bed, note-books in hand, studying the patients and their temperature charts. The nurses hesitated to call these individuals doctors, and the patients, too, seemed aware of their true status. Whispers were hushed, and all eyes turned toward the far end of the ward.
There, in a bed set slightly apart and near the house staff's quarters, lay Josephine, a prey to a racking fever and breathing with difficulty.
Exactly opposite her was the bed of an old woman who had been admitted that morning. Her face had almost entirely disappeared under voluminous bandages.
As the ward clock struck a quarter to three, an attendant appeared and announced:
"In ten minutes visitors will be requested to leave."
Two of the staff who had paced the ward since early in the day exchanged a smile.
"Here's the end of the farce," remarked one; "Loupart isn't coming."
"He said three; there are still thirteen minutes left," replied the other.
"Well, every precaution is taken."
"Precautions are of no use with men like Loupart."
"Eleven minutes left."
"What the devil could happen? There is no longer admission to the hospital; the visitors are leaving."
"Look here, you'll end by making me think..."
"Well, own yourself beaten!"
Bang! Bang! Two shots from a revolver suddenly startled the silent ward.
There was a moment's consternation and uproar. The patients leaped from their beds and sought refuge in the corners of the ward, while the two house surgeons and the policemen, passing as doctors, rushed in a body toward Josephine's bed. Doors slammed. People came hurrying from all quarters.
Above the hubbub rose a calm voice.
"What the devil! Here I am drenched! What does that mean?"
The house surgeon reached the bed where the hopeless Josephine lay, white as a corpse, motionless. A large red blood stain was spreading on her sheet. Quickly the doctor uncovered the wounded woman and examined her.
"Fainted, she has only fainted!" And, silencing all comments, he called:
"Monsieur Juve! Monsieur Juve!"
The old woman who, a few moments before, had been dozing, now quickly sprang out of bed, and, tearing off her bandages, revealed the placid features of detective Juve.
"I understand everything except that I'm drenched to the bones," declared Juve, as he crossed to Josephine's bed, oblivious to the amazement his appearance caused.
"That's easily explained," said the house surgeon. "The girl was lying on a rubber mattress filled with water. One of the bullets punctured it."
"What damage did she receive?"
"A contusion on the shoulder. The murderer aimed badly owing to her recumbent position."
Juve beckoned to the officers.
"Your report? You've seen nothing?"
"That's strange," declared the detective. "I kept an eye on Josephine myself, thinking that a movement on her part would betray the entrance of Loupart. She made no sign; but, however Loupart may have got in, he can't get out without falling into a trap. I have fifty men posted round the building. Now, the first point to clear up is the exact place from where the shot was fired."
"How can we get at that?"
"Very simply. By drawing an imaginary line between the spot where the bullet struck the mattress and where it went into the floor—extend this line and we find the quarter from where the shot was fired." A doctor came forward.
"M. Juve," he said, "that would bring us to the door of the staff's room."
"Ah, it's you, Doctor Chaleck! I'm glad to see you! You are quite right in your surmise. Do you see any objection to my reasoning?"
"I do. I came into the ward barely two seconds before the firing. No one was behind me and no one was walking before me."
Juve crossed to the door.
"It is from here that the shots were fired!"
And the detective added triumphantly as he stooped and picked up an object from the floor:
"And this backs up my assertion!"
He held out a revolver, still loaded in four chambers. "A precious bit of evidence!" He turned to the doctor:
"Can a stranger get into the wards by this door?"
"Utterly impossible, M. Juve! Only those thoroughly familiar with Lariboisiere can get into the ward through the laboratory. You must pass through the surgical divisions."
The detective seated himself at the foot of the sick woman's bed and mechanically laid the revolver beside him. But scarcely had he done so when he sprang up. Upon the sheet was a tiny red speck left by the muzzle of the weapon.
"Ah!—that's very instructive!" he cried. And as the others crowded round, puzzled, Juve added: "Don't you see? The murderer ran his finger along the barrel to steady his aim, and as the barrel is very short, the bullet grazed the tip of his finger which extended slightly beyond it. If I find anyone in the hospital with a wounded finger, I've got the murderer! Gentlemen, I am going to ask the director to issue orders for everyone within the hospital gates to pass before me. I reckon that in two hours at most the culprit will no longer be at large."
* * * * *
The attempted murder happened at three o'clock; about six o'clock, those who had first been examined by Juve had received permission to leave the hospital and were beginning to depart.
With a careless step Doctor Chaleck made for the exit by which he issued every evening from Lariboisiere. As he was about to pass out, a police inspector barred his way.
"Excuse me, sir. Have you a pass?"
"Yes, sir; no one is allowed to leave to-day without a pass from M. Juve."
The doctor looked at his watch.
"The deuce," he said. "I'm late as it is. Where am I to get this pass?"
"You must ask M. Juve himself for it. He is in the director's private room."
"All right, I'll go there." And Doctor Chaleck retraced his steps.
THE SEARCH FOR THE CRIMINAL
"It's astounding!" declared M. de Maufil. "We have already examined nearly two hundred persons and found nothing."
"That may be," replied Juve, "but we may discover the culprit by the two hundred and first hand held out to us."
"There is one thing you forget, M. Juve."
"What is that?"
"If the culprit gets wind of our method of investigation, if he has any notion that you are inspecting the hands of all those who desire to leave the hospital, he won't be such a ninny as to come and submit to your inspection."
Juve nodded approval of the comment.
"You are right; but I have taken means to obviate that difficulty."
Since he had begun his inquiry on the spot, from the very moment when the revolver shots had rung out, the great detective was growing more and more sure that the arrest of the mysterious offender would be a matter of considerable time. The buildings of the establishment were extensive, and it was easy for a man to move about them without attracting attention. They offered really strange facilities for hiding.
"Mr. Director," said Juve, "I fancy we have inspected pretty well all the persons who leave Lariboisiere as a rule, at this time?"
"That is so."
"Then we must now change our plan. Let us leave a nurse here to detain those who come to ask for passes, and begin a search of the hospital ourselves. I shall post my officers in line, each man keeping in sight the one behind and the one before him. At the foot of every staircase I shall leave a sentry. Then, beginning at the outer wall of the building we will drive everyone on the ground floor toward the other end. If we don't round up our man there, we will proceed to the floor above."
"A good idea," replied M. de Maufil. "We shall catch him in a trap."
When Doctor Chaleck found that the inspector watching the exit leading to the main door in the Rue Ambroise Pare refused him leave to pass out of the hospital without the sanction of the great detective, he had perforce to retrace his steps. Skirting the bushes in the courtyard he took his way toward the medical wards, turning his back on the directoral offices, where he might have encountered our friend Juve. He had taken off his white uniform and was dressed in his street clothes. He halted at the entrance to the long glazed gallery which extends to the operating rooms of the surgical department. Turning suddenly, he saw in the distance and coming his way Inspector Juve, accompanied by the director. He noticed at the same time the cordon of officers preparing to sweep the hospital from end to end. Mechanically, and as if bent on putting a certain distance between him and the new-comers, he turned into the glazed gallery, and reached the far end of it. He was about to go into the surgical ward when a nurse stopped him.
"Doctor, you can't go in just now; Professor Hugard is operating and has given express orders that no one is to be admitted."
Chaleck turned up the gallery again, but abruptly swung round again as he caught sight of Juve and the director just entering the gallery, driving before them half a dozen patients and orderlies. Chaleck joined this little group, which had pulled up at the end of the gallery and was making laughing comments on the rigid inspection to which Juve was just about to subject them.
"Now's the time to show clean hands," joked a non-resident, "eh, Miss Victorine?" he added, smiling at a buxom nurse whom the chances of duty had blockaded in the corridor.
"Depend upon it," growled one of the accountants of the administrative department, shrugging his shoulders, "they are making a great fuss over nothing. After all, no one is hurt. Just one more pistol shot; in this neighbourhood we have ceased to count them."
An old man, who had his hand bandaged, suggested: "Perhaps they'll be wanting to arrest me since the culprit is wounded in the fingers, they say."
Dignified and calm, Juve did his best to restore liberty to each of the persons brought together. They had only to show their two hands held up in front of the face, the fingers apart. M. de Maufil, at a sign from Juve, immediately bade the attendant hand the person in question a card bearing his name and description. Armed with this "Sesame" he could come and go unimpeded all over the hospital.
Pointing to a large door at the extreme end of the corridor, Juve asked:
"What exit is that?"
The other smiled. "You want to see everything, don't you?"
The director, opening the heavy door, made room for Juve, who entered a very narrow passage, damp and quite dark. The passage, a short one, opened on a vast apartment, much like a cellar, lighted by air-holes in the ceiling and intensely cold. A noise of running water from open taps broke with its monotonous splash the silence of this place, solely furnished with a huge slab of wood running from one end to the other. Upon the slab dim and lengthy white shapes were outstretched, and when his eyes grew accustomed to the twilight, Juve recognised the vague outline of these weird bundles. They were corpses swathed in shrouds. The heads and shoulders alone were visible, and on the brows of the dead trickled icy water, dispensed sparingly but regularly by duck-billed taps that overhung the inclined plane.
The director explained: "This is the amphitheatre where we keep the bodies for post-mortems. Do you want to stay any longer?"
"There is no access to the room except by the door we came in at?"
"In that case," rejoined Juve, "and as there is no furniture here for a person to hide in, let us look elsewhere. It's a rather gruesome place."
"You're not used to the sight, that's all," replied the director, as he led the way back to his office.
Juve looked at his watch. "Well, I must leave you now and make a report to M. Havard. I'm afraid the murderer has slipped through our fingers."
"But you'll come back?"
"What am I to do meanwhile?"
"Nothing, unless you care to go over the hospital again."
"And the passes? Are they to be in force still? We have no one in the place but the staff."
"That is essential," replied Juve. "I must know with certainty who comes in and goes out. However, anyone known to your doorkeeper who wishes to leave need only sign in a register."
IN THE REFRIGERATORY
It was light in the evening. One by one the rooms in Lariboisiere were being lit up.
The one exception was the grim amphitheatre, whose occupants would never need to see again.
Suddenly—and if anyone had been present, he would have experienced the most frightful impression it is possible to conceive—a corpse stirred.
Having assured himself that the door between the amphitheatre and the gallery was shut, the corpse, shivering with cold, threw off the shroud which enveloped him, and set to work to move his legs and arms about to start up his circulation. Then at the far end of the apartment this living corpse discovered, under a zinc basin attached to the wall, a bundle of linen and garments, which he seized upon.
His body shaking with cold, the man dressed himself in haste, and then waited until he considered his clothes sufficiently dry not to attract attention.
Carefully ascertaining that the gallery was deserted, he then entered it and walked rapidly to the courtyard. To the right of the main gateway, the smaller gate leading into the Rue Ambroise Pare was open.
The man passed under the archway, and in a moment would have been clear of Lariboisiere, when the doorkeeper barred his way.
"Excuse me, who goes there?"
Then, having looked more closely:
"Why it's Doctor Chaleck! You're late in leaving us this evening, doctor. I suppose you've been kept pretty busy in ward 22?"
"That's so," replied Chaleck, for it was he. "That's why I'm in a hurry, Charles."
And Chaleck, with an impatient gesture, was about to slip out, but the porter stopped him again.
"One moment, doctor; you must register first."
"Is this a new hospital regulation?"
"No, doctor, it's the police who have ordered everyone entering or leaving the hospital to sign his name in this book."
The porter, having taken Doctor Chaleck into his lodge, opened a new register, and pointing to half a dozen names already written on the first page, he added:
"You'll not be in bad company; you're to sign just below Professor Hugard."
Chaleck smiled. "Tell me the latest news, Charles. Do they suspect anyone?"
"All I know is that fifty of them came here with dirty shoes, made a hubbub round the patients, put the service out of gear, and in the end caught nobody at all. But if the culprit is still here, he won't get out without the bracelets on his wrists!"
An equivocal smile touched the pale lips of Chaleck. It might be the weird inhabitant of the little house in Cite Frochot was not so sure as the porter was of the astuteness of the police. Perhaps he was thinking that a few hours before a certain Doctor Chaleck, hemmed in a passage with no exits and about to be compelled to show, like everyone else, the tips of his fingers, had, under the nose of the officers, and even of the artful and astute Juve, suddenly vanished, gone out of the world of the living and thought it necessary, for reasons he alone knew, to assume the rigidity of a corpse, the stillness of death. But the smile in a moment became frozen.
The doctor who had kept both hands in his pockets while talking to the porter, suddenly felt a sharp twinge in the fingers of his right hand, and it became moist and lukewarm. This happened as the porter held out the register for him to sign.
"Charles," he cried, "I'm in a great hurry; while I'm signing, please go out and stop the first taxi that passes."
"Certainly, sir," replied the man.
Scarcely had the doorkeeper turned his back when the doctor, with infinite precautions drew out his right hand and with evident difficulty began to write, holding the pen between the third and fourth fingers, as though unable to use the fore and middle ones.
As he was finishing his entry, he made what was doubtless an unintended movement, something unexpected happened, for he suddenly turned pale and repressed a heavy oath. Charles was just coming back to the lodge.
"Your taxi is here, Doctor."
"Right. Thank you."
Chaleck closed the register abruptly, jumped into the motor, threw an address to the driver, who got under way. On seeing the doctor shut the register, Charles cried: "The devil—there's no blotting paper in it, it will be sure to blot!"
And, though it was too late, the careful man rushed to the book and opened it. His eyes became fixed on the page where the signatures were. He stared, wide-eyed.
"Oh!—Oh!—" he murmured.
THE BLOODY SIGNATURE
M. de Maufil was exceedingly nervous.
"As soon as you went back to headquarters," he declared to Juve, some moments after that officer had been shown into his private room, "I continued the search with redoubled efforts. Neither the ward-nurses, in whom I place complete confidence, nor the heads of my staff, whom I have known for ever so long, passed the doors of the hospital. In fact, I took every precaution and obeyed your instructions to the letter—yet all in vain."
"You found nothing?"
"Nothing. Not only did we not discover the criminal, but we did not come upon any trace of him."
"It is maddening. It would seem that from the instant the man fired those two shots in the woman's ward in Patel's department he vanished, unaccountably. Your notion of examining the hands of all those in the hospital was an excellent one, but nothing came of it.
"He must have known the snare we were preparing for him and did not turn up at the hospital exit, so we must naturally conclude he is still inside the gates, hidden in some remote corner, or underground. However, the first thing to do is to protect the girl, Josephine. By the by, she saw nothing, I suppose?"
"She declares she did not see Loupart come in, but she asserts with a sort of perverse pride that it was certainly Loupart who fired at her because he had threatened to do so."
A knock at the door was followed by the timid entrance of the doorkeeper.
"Is that you, Charles? Come in," cried the director. "What do you want?"
"It's about the signature, sir. There is blood on my book."
In a moment Juve leaped from his chair and tore the register out of the porter's hands.
Feverishly he turned the pages until he came to the writing. Without waiting for de Maufil's permission, he dismissed the porter.
"Very good, I'll see you presently."
Scarcely had the door shut, when Juve pointed to the page. "Look! Doctor Chaleck's signature! And just below it this mark of blood! What do you say to that, sir?"
"But it's sheer madness. Chaleck cannot be guilty!"
"Because he is known to me. He was recommended to me seven months ago by an old comrade of mine. Chaleck is a man of brains, a foreign physician, a Belgian. He comes here specially to study intermittent fevers. M. Juve, I tell you he has nothing whatever to do with this affair." Juve picked up his hat and stick. He was restless and uneasy; the directors' outburst had not greatly impressed him.
"Doctor Chaleck could not explain how his finger came to be hurt and he did not inform us of the fact."
"A mere coincidence."
"Possibly, but it is a terrible coincidence for that man," replied Juve.
On leaving the director's room, the distinguished detective could not refrain from rubbing his hands. "This time I have him!" he muttered. He went rapidly down the stairs, crossed the great courtyard of the hospital, and proceeded to knock at the porter's lodge.
"Tell me, my friend, precisely how Doctor Chaleck's leaving the hospital came about?"
The worthy man with much detail, for he now felt very proud of having played a part in the affair, related how Doctor Chaleck came to the gate, sent him after a cab while signing his name, then made off, after having, no doubt by an oversight, closed the register.
"Very good! Thank you," was Juve's comment, bestowing a liberal tip on the man.
This time he was leaving Lariboisiere for good.
"Very characteristic, that piece of impudence," he reflected; "very like Doctor Chaleck that device of shutting the register he had just stained with blood in order to give himself time to make off!" On reaching the Boulevard Magenta he hailed a cab.
"Rue Montmartre. Stop at the Capital office. You know it?"
A few minutes later Juve was shown into Fandor's office. But the detective no longer wore a smiling face, and his air of abstraction did not escape his friend.
"Anything fresh?" inquired Fandor.
"Much that is fresh! That's why I came here to see you."
The journalist smiled. "Thanks, Juve. It is, indeed, owing to you that the Capital is the best posted sheet in town."
Then the detective proceeded to tell the reporter the startling discovery he had just made at Lariboisiere. He concluded:
"There, I suppose you can turn that into a thrilling story, eh?"
"I certainly can."
"The arrest is now scarcely more than a matter of time."
"And how are you going to set about it?"
"I don't quite know. Well, good-bye."
Fandor let the officer reach the door of the office, then called him back.
"You are hiding something from me."
"Yes," persisted Fandor. "You are concealing something. Don't deny it. I know you too well, my friend, to be content with your reticences."
"You didn't come here merely to give me copy."
"No. You had some idea in coming to look me up and then you changed your mind. Why?"
"I assure you you are mistaken."
"All right, if you won't tell me, I shall follow you." At the journalist's announcement Juve shrugged his shoulders.
"That's what I feared. But it's absurd to be always dragging you into risky affairs."
"Where are we going?" asked Fandor briefly, as he lit a cigarette.
"We are going to-night to Doctor Chaleck's. If he's there we will force a confession from him; if he's not there, we will ransack his house for clues," and Juve added, smiling, "like good burglars. I have a whole bunch of false keys. We shall be able to get into Doctor Chaleck's without ringing his bell. Here's a snapshot I took of Josephine at the hospital." And throwing the proof on Fandor's desk, he said smilingly:
"The young woman's not bad looking, is she?"
THE SHOWER OF SAND
"I'm afraid it's not quite the thing to enter people's houses in this fashion," whispered Juve, as the two men found themselves in the hall of Doctor Chaleck's little house in the Frochot district.
It was about midnight, and through the fan-light of the outer door a dim twilight enabled the detective and the journalist to get an idea of the place in which they stood.
It was a fairly large hall with double doors on either hand, leading into the drawing-and dining-rooms. At the far end rose a winding staircase, and under it a door to the cellar. A hanging lamp, unlit, was suspended from the ceiling and the walls were covered with dark tapestries.
Juve and Fandor remained silent and motionless for some moments. They might well be perturbed, for they had just entered the house in the most unwarrantable manner, and they knew the doctor to be at home. The lodge-keeper of the Cite had seen him return about two hours ago. For one moment Juve had asked himself whether he should not ring in the most natural manner in the world, and afterwards contrive some explanation; but the silence, the peace which prevailed and the conviction that Doctor Chaleck, quite off his guard, must be enjoying deep slumber, prompted him to try and get into the house unannounced. If the door was only bolted, if it was not secured from within by a latch, the officer might reckon on finding among his pass keys one that would allow him to open it. Juve was, indeed, equipped like the prince of burglars.
Well, the attempt had succeeded. Without trouble or noise, journalist and officer had made their way into the place.
Before imparting to Fandor his plan of operations, Juve handed him a pair of rubbers, and then at a signal they both ascended to the first floor.
The detective's plan was to make a sudden incursion into Chaleck's bedroom, and in the surprise of a sudden awakening, question him and inspect the fingers of his right hand, which, presumably, had left on the register a tell-tale trace of blood.
Juve had scarcely entered the room when Fandor switched on the lights; the two men started back in disgust; the room was empty!
Without pause, Juve cried: "To the study!"
A moment later they found themselves in the room they knew so well from having spent a whole night there, behind the window curtains.
Chaleck was not there either. Fandor searched the bathroom near by, careless of the noise he made, then hurried after Juve to the floor below in the fear that the doctor might already have made his escape.
Juve quickly reassured him the windows and shutters of the rooms were hermetically closed; the hall door had not been touched.
Suddenly slight sounds became audible from the floor above. A crackling of the boards, the muffled sounds of hasty footsteps, faint rustlings.
"Chaleck knows we are here," whispered Juve. "We must play with our cards on the table."
The two men cocked their pistols and made a rush upstairs. They had left the electric light burning on the floor above, and at first their eyes were dazzled by the sudden brightness, multiplied by the reflection from the glass which lined the octagonal-shaped landing.
Again the noises were heard. Chaleck or some one else was in the study.
Juve disappeared. In half a minute he returned and bumped into Fandor.
"Where are you coming from?" he cried. "I thought you were behind me."
"So I was," replied Fandor, "but I left you to take a look in the study."
"But it was I who was in the study!"
Fandor stared in amazement. "Are you losing your senses?"
"I've just come from there myself!"
"Well, we weren't there together, that's certain. Let's try again."
The two proceeded in the dark to the head of the staircase. With their heels they verified the last step; then Juve said in a low voice:
"I will go forward four paces. I am now in the middle of the landing; I lift the curtain, turn and go in."
The steady tick of the little Empire clock on the mantelpiece assured Juve that he was indeed in the study.
"Well, here I am," and mechanically he flung his hat on the sofa. But scarcely had he uttered these words when Fandor's voice, very clear, but some way off answered
"I am in the study, too."
Juve now switched on the light. Fandor was not there. Rushing back to the landing he ran full tilt into his friend and the two gripped each other in amazement.
"Look here," exclaimed Fandor, "if I'm not mistaken, you turned to the right past the curtain while I went to the left; there may be two separate entrances to the study."
"Let us keep together this time," replied Juve; "I propose to get to the bottom of this mystery."
As they came out of the darkness of the passage and plunged into the full light of the room, Juve stopped short. His hat was no longer on the sofa.
Fandor went to the mantelpiece, turned and confronted the detective.
"I stopped the clock some moments ago, and here it is going and keeping exact time! How do you account for it?"
Juve was about to reply, when suddenly with a dry click the light went out.
Fandor, at the same moment, gave a startled cry: "Juve! the door is fastened; we are shut in!"
With one bound Juve leaped for the window; but after opening the casement he perceived that thick iron shutters, padlocked, banished all hope of escape in that quarter. Fandor was ashy pale; Juve staggered as he moved toward him.
"Walled in!" he cried. "We are walled in!"
But a new terror suddenly confronted the two men. The floor appeared to be giving way, and as the descent proceeded regularly, they realised that they were in a strange form of elevator.
The study, however, did not drop very far. With a slight shock it reached the end of the run and stopped short.
Juve cried with an air of relief, "Well, here we are, and it now remains to find out where we are."
The existence of two studies identical in every particular, one of which was housed in an elevator, explained not only the events of the evening, but also the tragedy of two days before.
"Juve! did you feel anything?"
"What is it?"
"I don't know."
Both had just experienced a weird sensation, impossible to define. Upon their hands and faces slight prickings irritated the skin. The air at the same time seemed heavier and more difficult to breathe. There was, besides, a soft, vague crackling. With some difficulty Juve lighted his pocket-lamp. By its faint glimmer the two men made a discovery. A fine rain of sand was falling from the ceiling.
"It's collapsed!" cried Fandor.
"We're done for!" replied Juve.
They passed through some awful moments. All around the sand gathered and rose.
Juve tried to comfort his friend:
"It would need an enormous amount of sand to fill this room and bury us alive. It will cease to fall presently."
But horrible to relate, as the level of the sand rose on the floor, they observed by the flickering gleam of the lamp, that the ceiling was now being lowered little by little.
Fandor raised his arm and touched it. They were about to be crushed.
"Juve, do not let me die this way. Kill me!"
His comrade made no reply. At first paralysed by the shock he now felt an unspeakable fury rise up in him. He began beating the walls with his fists, shaking the furniture. He seized a chair and drove it against the door. The chair struck with a ring upon metal and broke.
Uttering a loud sigh, the detective drew out his revolver; he would, at least, save his friend the torments of an awful death. Suddenly a fearful crash resounded. The moving mass of sand was falling away from them into some gaping hole below, while at the same time fresh, moist air reached them and refreshed their lungs. Evidently some communication with the outside world had been established.
Juve relit his lamp and was bending over to examine what had taken place when the floor all at once gave way under his feet and he fell, dragging Fandor with him.
They found themselves up to mid-leg in water, but unhurt.
Juve's voice rang out: "We are saved! I see now what happened! Our trap had a thin flooring, and, when down, it rested on a fragile arch. That arch gave way, and with the sand we have tumbled into the sewer of the Place Pigalle, which, if I am not mistaken, connects with the main of the Chaussee d'Autin. Come along, friend Fandor, we'll find means to get out of this before long."
Floundering in the mud, they made their way along the drain until Juve halted and uttered a cry of triumph. On the left wall of the vault his hand encountered iron rings one above the other. It was a ladder leading to one of the manholes in the pavement. He quickly climbed up and, with a vigorous push, raised the heavy slab. In a few moments both men emerged and fell exhausted in the roadway.
When Fandor recovered his senses he was lying in a large, ill-lighted hall. The first sound he heard was Juve's voice arguing hotly and volubly.
"Why, you're nothing but a pack of idiots! We burglars! It's utter rot. I tell you I'm Juve, Inspector of Public Safety!"
The captives had been recognised, and had been set at liberty. They had scarcely got a few yards from the police station, when Juve took the journalist's arm.
"Let's make haste!" he cried. "This foolish arrest has made us lose precious hours."
"You have a plan, Juve? What is it?"
"We must now turn our attention to Josephine; we must use her as a bait to catch the others. The girl won't be much longer at Lariboisiere. She will be extremely anxious to leave that place and——"
"And go back to clear herself of treachery in Loupart's eyes? Is that it?" added Fandor.
"Exactly. Accordingly here is our plan of action. I must go at once to the Prefecture and advise M. Havard of our adventure. Meanwhile you go to the hospital. Contrive to see Josephine, make sure she has not left, watch her and then—wait for me; in two hours, at the latest, I shall be with you."
"All right, Juve, you can reckon on me. Josephine shall not escape me."
Fandor was already moving off when Juve called him back.
"Wait! If ever for one reason or another you want an appointment with me, telegraph to the Safety, room 44, in my name. I will see that the messages always reach me."
A quarter of an hour later Fandor was turning into the Rue Ambroise Pare, when all at once as he passed a woman he gave a start.
"Hullo!" he cried; "that's something we didn't bargain for!..."
The woman walked along the Boulevard Chapelle toward the Boulevard Barbes. Fandor followed her.
When the great clock which adorns the main front of the Lariboisiere buildings struck six, the nurses in the hospital were busy finishing their preparations for the night.
The surgeon in Dr. Patel's division was just concluding his evening visit to the patients. With a word of encouragement and cheer he passed from bed to bed until he reached the one at the end of the ward. The young woman occupying it was sitting up.
"So you want to be off," exclaimed the surgeon.
"Then you're not comfortable here?"
"Yes, doctor, but——"
"But, what? Are you still afraid?"