The Crystal Stopper/Chapter III

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The Crystal Stopper by Maurice Leblanc
Chapter III: The home life of Alexis Daubrecq


THE HOME LIFE OF ALEXIS DAUBRECQ

When Daubrecq the deputy came in from lunch on the day after the police had searched his house he was stopped by Clemence, his portress, who told him that she had found a cook who could be thoroughly relied on.

The cook arrived a few minutes later and produced first-rate characters, signed by people with whom it was easy to take up her references. She was a very active woman, although of a certain age, and agreed to do the work of the house by herself, without the help of a man-servant, this being a condition upon which Daubrecq insisted.

Her last place was with a member of the Chamber of Deputies, Comte Saulevat, to whom Daubrecq at once telephoned. The count's steward gave her a perfect character, and she was engaged.

As soon as she had fetched her trunk, she set to work and cleaned and scrubbed until it was time to cook the dinner.

Daubrecq dined and went out.

At eleven o'clock, after the portress had gone to bed, the cook cautiously opened the garden-gate. A man came up.

"Is that you?" she asked.

"Yes, it's I, Lupin."

She took him to her bedroom on the third floor, overlooking the garden, and at once burst into lamentations:

"More of your tricks and nothing but tricks! Why can't you leave me alone, instead of sending me to do your dirty work?"

"How can I help it, you dear old Victoire?[1] When I want a person of respectable appearance and incorruptible morals, I think of you. You ought to be flattered."

"That's all you care about me!" she cried. "You run me into danger once more; and you think it's funny!"

"What are you risking?"

"How do you mean, what am I risking? All my characters are false."

"Characters are always false."

"And suppose M. Daubrecq finds out? Suppose he makes inquiries?"

"He has made inquiries."

"Eh? What's that?"

"He has telephoned to the steward of Comte Saulevat, in whose service you say that you have had the honour of being."

"There, you see, I'm done for!"

"The count's steward could not say enough in your praise."

"He does not know me."

"But I know him. I got him his situation with Comte Saulevat. So you understand..."

Victoire seemed to calm down a little:

"Well," she said, "God's will be done... or rather yours. And what do you expect me to do in all this?"

"First, to put me up. You were my wet-nurse once. You can very well give me half your room now. I'll sleep in the armchair."

"And next?"

"Next? To supply me with such food as I want."

"And next?"

"Next? To undertake, with me and under my direction, a regular series of searches with a view..."

"To what?"

"To discovering the precious object of which I spoke to you."

"What's that?"

"A crystal stopper."

"A crystal stopper... Saints above! A nice business! And, if we don't find your confounded stopper, what then?"

Lupin took her gently by the arm and, in a serious voice:

"If we don't find it, Gilbert, young Gilbert whom you know and love, will stand every chance of losing his head; and so will Vaucheray."

"Vaucheray I don't mind... a dirty rascal like him! But Gilbert..."

"Have you seen the papers this evening? Things are looking worse than ever. Vaucheray, as might be expected, accuses Gilbert of stabbing the valet; and it so happens that the knife which Vaucheray used belonged to Gilbert. That came out this morning. Whereupon Gilbert, who is intelligent in his way, but easily frightened, blithered and launched forth into stories and lies which will end in his undoing. That's how the matter stands. Will you help me?"

Thenceforth, for several days, Lupin moulded his existence upon Daubrecq's, beginning his investigations the moment the deputy left the house. He pursued them methodically, dividing each room into sections which he did not abandon until he had been through the tiniest nooks and corners and, so to speak, exhausted every possible device.

Victoire searched also. And nothing was forgotten. Table-legs, chair-rungs, floor-boards, mouldings, mirror- and picture-frames, clocks, plinths, curtain-borders, telephone-holders and electric fittings: everything that an ingenious imagination could have selected as a hiding-place was overhauled.

And they also watched the deputy's least actions, his most unconscious movements, the expression of his face, the books which he read and the letters which he wrote.

It was easy enough. He seemed to live his life in the light of day. No door was ever shut. He received no visits. And his existence worked with mechanical regularity. He went to the Chamber in the afternoon, to the club in the evening.

"Still," said Lupin, "there must be something that's not orthodox behind all this."

"There's nothing of the sort," moaned Victoire. "You're wasting your time and we shall be bowled out."

The presence of the detectives and their habit of walking up and down outside the windows drove her mad. She refused to admit that they were there for any other purpose than to trap her, Victoire. And, each time that she went shopping, she was quite surprised that one of those men did not lay his hand upon her shoulder.

One day she returned all upset. Her basket of provisions was shaking on her arm.

"What's the matter, my dear Victoire?" said Lupin. "You're looking green."

"Green? I dare say I do. So would you look green..."

She had to sit down and it was only after making repeated efforts that she succeeded in stuttering:

"A man... a man spoke to me... at the fruiterer's."

"By jingo! Did he want you to run away with him?"

"No, he gave me a letter..."

"Then what are you complaining about? It was a love-letter, of course!"

"No. 'It's for your governor,' said he. 'My governor?' I said. 'Yes,' he said, 'for the gentleman who's staying in your room.'"

"What's that?"

This time, Lupin had started:

"Give it here," he said, snatching the letter from her. The envelope bore no address. But there was another, inside it, on which he read:

     "Monsieur Arsene Lupin,
      c/o Victoire."

"The devil!" he said. "This is a bit thick!" He tore open the second envelope. It contained a sheet of paper with the following words, written in large capitals:

     "Everything you are doing is useless and dangerous... Give it up." 

Victoire uttered one moan and fainted. As for Lupin, he felt himself blush up to his eyes, as though he had been grossly insulted. He experienced all the humiliation which a duellist would undergo if he heard the most secret advice which he had received from his seconds repeated aloud by a mocking adversary.

However, he held his tongue. Victoire went back to her work. As for him, he remained in his room all day, thinking.

That night he did not sleep.

And he kept saying to himself:

"What is the good of thinking? I am up against one of those problems which are not solved by any amount of thought. It is certain that I am not alone in the matter and that, between Daubrecq and the police, there is, in addition to the third thief that I am, a fourth thief who is working on his own account, who knows me and who reads my game clearly. But who is this fourth thief? And am I mistaken, by any chance? And... oh, rot!... Let's get to sleep!..."

But he could not sleep; and a good part of the night went in this way.

At four o'clock in the morning he seemed to hear a noise in the house. He jumped up quickly and, from the top of the staircase, saw Daubrecq go down the first flight and turn toward the garden.

A minute later, after opening the gate, the deputy returned with a man whose head was buried in an enormous fur collar and showed him into his study.

Lupin had taken his precautions in view of any such contingency. As the windows of the study and those of his bedroom, both of which were at the back of the house, overlooked the garden, he fastened a rope-ladder to his balcony, unrolled it softly and let himself down by it until it was level with the top of the study windows.

These windows were closed by shutters; but, as they were bowed, there remained a semi-circular space at the top; and Lupin, though he could not hear, was able to see all that went on inside.

He then realized that the person whom he had taken for a man was a woman: a woman who was still young, though her dark hair was mingled with gray; a tall woman, elegantly but quite unobtrusively dressed, whose handsome features bore the expression of weariness and melancholy which long suffering gives.

"Where the deuce have I seen her before?" Lupin asked himself. "For I certainly know that face, that look, that expression."

She stood leaning against the table, listening impassively to Daubrecq, who was also standing and who was talking very excitedly. He had his back turned to Lupin; but Lupin, leaning forward, caught sight of a glass in which the deputy's image was reflected. And he was startled to see the strange look in his eyes, the air of fierce and brutal desire with which Daubrecq was staring at his visitor.

It seemed to embarrass her too, for she sat down with lowered lids. Then Daubrecq leant over her and it appeared as though he were ready to fling his long arms, with their huge hands, around her. And, suddenly, Lupin perceived great tears rolling down the woman's sad face.

Whether or not it was the sight of those tears that made Daubrecq lose his head, with a brusque movement he clutched the woman and drew her to him. She repelled him, with a violence full of hatred. And, after a brief struggle, during which Lupin caught a glimpse of the man's bestial and contorted features, the two of them stood face to face, railing at each other like mortal enemies.

Then they stopped. Daubrecq sat down. There was mischief in his face, and sarcasm as well. And he began to talk again, with sharp taps on the table, as though he were dictating terms.

She no longer stirred. She sat haughtily in her chair and towered over him, absent-minded, with roaming eyes. Lupin, captivated by that powerful and sorrowful countenance, continued to watch her; and he was vainly seeking to remember of what or of whom she reminded him, when he noticed that she had turned her head slightly and that she was imperceptibly moving her arm.

And her arm strayed farther and farther and her hand crept along the table and Lupin saw that, at the end of the table, there stood a water-bottle with a gold-topped stopper. The hand reached the water-bottle, felt it, rose gently and seized the stopper. A quick movement of the head, a glance, and the stopper was put back in its place. Obviously, it was not what the woman hoped to find.

"Dash it!" said Lupin. "She's after the crystal stopper too! The matter is becoming more complicated daily; there's no doubt about it."

But, on renewing his observation of the visitor, he was astounded to note the sudden and unexpected expression of her countenance, a terrible, implacable, ferocious expression. And he saw that her hand was continuing its stealthy progress round the table and that, with an uninterrupted and crafty sliding movement, it was pushing back books and, slowly and surely, approaching a dagger whose blade gleamed among the scattered papers.

It gripped the handle.

Daubrecq went on talking. Behind his back, the hand rose steadily, little by little; and Lupin saw the woman's desperate and furious eyes fixed upon the spot in the neck where she intended to plant the knife:

"You're doing a very silly thing, fair lady," thought Lupin.

And he already began to turn over in his mind the best means of escaping and of taking Victoire with him.

She hesitated, however, with uplifted arm. But it was only a momentary weakness. She clenched her teeth. Her whole face, contracted with hatred, became yet further convulsed. And she made the dread movement.

At the same instant Daubrecq crouched and, springing from his seat, turned and seized the woman's frail wrist in mid-air.

Oddly enough, he addressed no reproach to her, as though the deed which she had attempted surprised him no more than any ordinary, very natural and simple act. He shrugged his shoulders, like a man accustomed to that sort of danger, and strode up and down in silence.

She had dropped the weapon and was now crying, holding her head between her hands, with sobs that shook her whole frame.

He next came up to her and said a few words, once more tapping the table as he spoke.

She made a sign in the negative and, when he insisted, she, in her turn, stamped her foot on the floor and exclaimed, loud enough for Lupin to hear:

"Never!... Never!..."

Thereupon, without another word, Daubrecq fetched the fur cloak which she had brought with her and hung it over the woman's shoulders, while she shrouded her face in a lace wrap.

And he showed her out.

Two minutes later, the garden-gate was locked again. "Pity I can't run after that strange person," thought Lupin, "and have a chat with her about the Daubrecq bird. Seems to me that we two could do a good stroke of business together."

In any case, there was one point to be cleared up: Daubrecq the deputy, whose life was so orderly, so apparently respectable, was in the habit of receiving visits at night, when his house was no longer watched by the police.

He sent Victoire to arrange with two members of his gang to keep watch for several days. And he himself remained awake next night.

As on the previous morning, he heard a noise at four o'clock. As on the previous morning, the deputy let some one in.

Lupin ran down his ladder and, when he came to the free space above the shutters, saw a man crawling at Daubrecq's feet, flinging his arms round Daubrecq's knees in frenzied despair and weeping, weeping convulsively.

Daubrecq, laughing, pushed him away repeatedly, but the man clung to him. He behaved almost like one out of his mind and, at last, in a genuine fit of madness, half rose to his feet, took the deputy by the throat and flung him back in a chair. Daubrecq struggled, powerless at first, while his veins swelled in his temples. But soon, with a strength far beyond the ordinary, he regained the mastery and deprived his adversary of all power of movement. Then, holding him with one hand, with the other he gave him two great smacks in the face.

The man got up, slowly. He was livid and could hardly stand on his legs. He waited for a moment, as though to recover his self-possession. Then, with a terrifying calmness, he drew a revolver from his pocket and levelled it at Daubrecq.

Daubrecq did not flinch. He even smiled, with a defiant air and without displaying more excitement than if he had been aimed at with a toy pistol.

The man stood for perhaps fifteen or twenty seconds, facing his enemy, with outstretched arm. Then, with the same deliberate slowness, revealing a self-control which was all the more impressive because it followed upon a fit of extreme excitement, he put up his revolver and, from another pocket, produced his note-case.

Daubrecq took a step forward.

The man opened the pocketbook. A sheaf of banknotes appeared in sight.

Daubrecq seized and counted them. They were thousand-franc notes, and there were thirty of them.

The man looked on, without a movement of revolt, without a protest. He obviously understood the futility of words. Daubrecq was one of those who do not relent. Why should his visitor waste time in beseeching him or even in revenging himself upon him by uttering vain threats and insults? He had no hope of striking that unassailable enemy. Even Daubrecq's death would not deliver him from Daubrecq.

He took his hat and went away.

At eleven o'clock in the morning Victoire, on returning from her shopping, handed Lupin a note from his accomplices.

He opened it and read:

"The man who came to see Daubrecq last night is Langeroux the deputy, leader of the independent left. A poor man, with a large family."

"Come," said Lupin, "Daubrecq is nothing more nor less than a blackmailer; but, by Jupiter, he has jolly effective ways of going to work!"

Events tended to confirm Lupin's supposition. Three days later he saw another visitor hand Daubrecq an important sum of money. And, two days after that, one came and left a pearl necklace behind him.

The first was called Dachaumont, a senator and ex-cabinet-minister. The second was the Marquis d'Albufex, a Bonapartist deputy, formerly chief political agent in France of Prince Napoleon.

The scene, in each of these cases, was very similar to Langeroux the deputy's interview, a violent tragic scene, ending in Daubrecq's victory.

"And so on and so forth," thought Lupin, when he received these particulars. "I have been present at four visits. I shall know no more if there are ten, or twenty, or thirty... It is enough for me to learn the names of the visitors from my friends on sentry-go outside. Shall I go and call on them?... What for? They have no reason to confide in me... On the other hand, am I to stay on here, delayed by investigations which lead to nothing and which Victoire can continue just as well without me?"

He was very much perplexed. The news of the inquiry into the case of Gilbert and Vaucheray was becoming worse and worse, the days were slipping by, and not an hour passed without his asking himself, in anguish, whether all his efforts--granting that he succeeded--would not end in farcical results, absolutely foreign to the aim which he was pursuing.

For, after all, supposing that he did fathom Daubrecq's underhand dealings, would that give him the means of rescuing Gilbert and Vaucheray?

That day an incident occurred which put an end to his indecision. After lunch Victoire heard snatches of a conversation which Daubrecq held with some one on the telephone. Lupin gathered, from what Victoire reported, that the deputy had an appointment with a lady for half-past eight and that he was going to take her to a theatre:

"I shall get a pit-tier box, like the one we had six weeks ago," Daubrecq had said. And he added, with a laugh, "I hope that I shall not have the burglars in during that time."

There was not a doubt in Lupin's mind. Daubrecq was about to spend his evening in the same manner in which he had spent the evening six weeks ago, while they were breaking into his villa at Enghien. To know the person whom he was to meet and perhaps thus to discover how Gilbert and Vaucheray had learnt that Daubrecq would be away from eight o'clock in the evening until one o'clock in the morning: these were matters of the utmost importance.

Lupin left the house in the afternoon, with Victoire's assistance. He knew through her that Daubrecq was coming home for dinner earlier than usual.

He went to his flat in the Rue Chateaubriand, telephoned for three of his friends, dressed and made himself up in his favourite character of a Russian prince, with fair hair and moustache and short-cut whiskers.

The accomplices arrived in a motor-car.

At that moment, Achille, his man, brought him a telegram, addressed to M. Michel Beaumont, Rue Chateaubriand, which ran:

       "Do not come to theatre this evening.
        Danger of your intervention spoiling everything."

There was a flower-vase on the chimney-piece beside him. Lupin took it and smashed it to pieces.

"That's it, that's it," he snarled. "They are playing with me as I usually play with others. Same behaviour. Same tricks. Only there's this difference..."

What difference? He hardly knew. The truth was that he too was baffled and disconcerted to the inmost recesses of his being and that he was continuing to act only from obstinacy, from a sense of duty, so to speak, and without putting his ordinary good humour and high spirits into the work.

"Come along," he said to his accomplices.

By his instructions, the chauffeur set them down near the Square Lamartine, but kept the motor going. Lupin foresaw that Daubrecq, in order to escape the detectives watching the house, would jump into the first taxi; and he did not intend to be outdistanced.

He had not allowed for Daubrecq's cleverness.

At half-past seven both leaves of the garden-gate were flung open, a bright light flashed and a motor-cycle darted across the road, skirted the square, turned in front of the motor-car and shot away toward the Bois at a speed so great that they would have been mad to go in pursuit of it.

"Good-bye, Daisy!" said Lupin, trying to jest, but really overcome with rage.

He eyed his accomplices in the hope that one of them would venture to give a mocking smile. How pleased he would have been to vent his nerves on them!

"Let's go home," he said to his companions.

He gave them some dinner; then he smoked a cigar and they set off again in the car and went the round of the theatres, beginning with those which were giving light operas and musical comedies, for which he presumed that Daubrecq and his lady would have a preference. He took a stall, inspected the lower-tier boxes and went away again.

He next drove to the more serious theatres: the Renaissance, the Gymnase.

At last, at ten o'clock in the evening, he saw a pit-tier box at the Vaudeville almost entirely protected from inspection by its two screens; and, on tipping the boxkeeper, was told that it contained a short, stout, elderly gentleman and a lady who was wearing a thick lace veil.

The next box was free. He took it, went back to his friends to give them their instructions and sat down near the couple.

During the entr'acte, when the lights went up, he perceived Daubrecq's profile. The lady remained at the back of the box, invisible. The two were speaking in a low voice; and, when the curtain rose again, they went on speaking, but in such a way that Lupin could not distinguish a word.

Ten minutes passed. Some one tapped at their door. It was one of the men from the box-office.

"Are you M. le Depute Daubrecq, sir?" he asked.

"Yes," said Daubrecq, in a voice of surprise. "But how do you know my name?"

"There's a gentleman asking for you on the telephone. He told me to go to Box 22"

"But who is it?"

"M. le Marquis d'Albufex."

"Eh?"

"What am I to say, sir?"

"I'm coming... I'm coming..."

Daubrecq rose hurriedly from his seat and followed the clerk to the box-office.

He was not yet out of sight when Lupin sprang from his box, worked the lock of the next door and sat down beside the lady.

She gave a stifled cry.

"Hush!" he said. "I have to speak to you. It is most important."

"Ah!" she said, between her teeth. "Arsene Lupin!" He was dumbfounded. For a moment he sat quiet, open-mouthed. The woman knew him! And not only did she know him, but she had recognized him through his disguise! Accustomed though he was to the most extraordinary and unusual events, this disconcerted him.

He did not even dream of protesting and stammered:

"So you know?... So you know?..."

He snatched at the lady's veil and pulled it aside before she had time to defend herself:

"What!" he muttered, with increased amazement. "Is it possible?"

It was the woman whom he had seen at Daubrecq's a few days earlier, the woman who had raised her dagger against Daubrecq and who had intended to stab him with all the strength of her hatred.

It was her turn to be taken aback:

"What! Have you seen me before?..."

"Yes, the other night, at his house... I saw what you tried to do..."

She made a movement to escape. He held her back and, speaking with great eagerness:

"I must know who you are," he said. "That was why I had Daubrecq telephoned for."

She looked aghast:

"Do you mean to say it was not the Marquis d'Albufex?"

"No, it was one of my assistants."

"Then Daubrecq will come back?..."

"Yes, but we have time... Listen to me... We must meet again... He is your enemy... I will save you from him..."

"Why should you? What is your object?"

"Do not distrust me... it is quite certain that our interests are identical... Where can I see you? To-morrow, surely? At what time? And where?"

"Well..."

She looked at him with obvious hesitation, not knowing what to do, on the point of speaking and yet full of uneasiness and doubt.

He pressed her:

"Oh, I entreat you... answer me just one word... and at once... It would be a pity for him to find me here... I entreat you..."

She answered sharply:

"My name doesn't matter... We will see each other first and you shall explain to me... Yes, we will meet... Listen, to-morrow, at three o'clock, at the corner of the Boulevard..."

At that exact moment, the door of the box opened, so to speak, with a bang, and Daubrecq appeared.

"Rats!" Lupin mumbled, under his breath, furious at being caught before obtaining what he wanted.

Daubrecq gave a chuckle:

"So that's it... I thought something was up... Ah, the telephone-trick: a little out of date, sir! I had not gone half-way when I turned back."

He pushed Lupin to the front of the box and, sitting down beside the lady, said:

"And, now my lord, who are we? A servant at the police-office, probably? There's a professional look about that mug of yours."

He stared hard at Lupin, who did not move a muscle, and tried to put a name to the face, but failed to recognize the man whom he had called Polonius.

Lupin, without taking his eyes from Daubrecq either, reflected. He would not for anything in the world have thrown up the game at that point or neglected this favourable opportunity of coming to an understanding with his mortal enemy.

The woman sat in her corner, motionless, and watched them both.

Lupin said:

"Let us go outside, sir. That will make our interview easier."

"No, my lord, here," grinned the deputy. "It will take place here, presently, during the entr'acte. Then we shall not be disturbing anybody."

"But..."

"Save your breath, my man; you sha'n't budge."

And he took Lupin by the coat-collar, with the obvious intention of not letting go of him before the interval.

A rash move! Was it likely that Lupin would consent to remain in such an attitude, especially before a woman, a woman to whom he had offered his alliance, a woman--and he now thought of it for the first time-- who was distinctly good-looking and whose grave beauty attracted him. His whole pride as a man rose at the thought.

However, he said nothing. He accepted the heavy weight of the hand on his shoulder and even sat bent in two, as though beaten, powerless, almost frightened.

"Eh, clever!" said the deputy, scoffingly. "We don't seem to be swaggering quite so much."

The stage was full of actors who were arguing and making a noise.

Daubrecq had loosened his grasp slightly and Lupin felt that the moment had come. With the edge of his hand, he gave him a violent blow in the hollow of the arm, as he might have done with a hatchet.

The pain took Daubrecq off his guard. Lupin now released himself entirely and sprang at the other to clutch him by the throat. But Daubrecq had at once put himself on the defensive and stepped back and their four hands seized one another.

They gripped with superhuman energy, the whole force of the two adversaries concentrating in those hands. Daubrecq's were of monstrous size; and Lupin, caught in that iron vise, felt as though he were fighting not with a man, but with some terrible beast, a huge gorilla.

They held each other against the door, bending low, like a pair of wrestlers groping and trying to lay hold of each other. Their bones creaked. Whichever gave way first was bound to be caught by the throat and strangled. And all this happened amid a sudden silence, for the actors on the stage were now listening to one of their number, who was speaking in a low voice.

The woman stood back flat against the partition, looking at them in terror. Had she taken sides with either of them, with a single movement, the victory would at once have been decided in that one's favour. But which of them should she assist? What could Lupin represent in her eyes? A friend? An enemy?

She briskly made for the front of the box, forced back the screen and, leaning forward, seemed to give a signal. Then she returned and tried to slip to the door.

Lupin, as though wishing to help her, said:

"Why don't you move the chair?"

He was speaking of a heavy chair which had fallen down between him and Daubrecq and across which they were struggling.

The woman stooped and pulled away the chair. That was what Lupin was waiting for. Once rid of the obstacle, he caught Daubrecq a smart kick on the shin with the tip of his patent-leather boot. The result was the same as with the blow which he had given him on the arm. The pain caused a second's apprehension and distraction, of which he at once took advantage to beat down Daubrecq's outstretched hands and to dig his ten fingers into his adversary's throat and neck.

Daubrecq struggled. Daubrecq tried to pull away the hands that were throttling him; but he was beginning to choke and felt his strength decreasing.

"Aha, you old monkey!" growled Lupin, forcing him to the floor. "Why don't you shout for help? How frightened you must be of a scandal!"

At the sound of the fall there came a knocking at the partition, on the other side.

"Knock away, knock away," said Lupin, under his breath. "The play is on the stage. This is my business and, until I've mastered this gorilla..."

It did not take him long. The deputy was choking. Lupin stunned him with a blow on the jaw; and all that remained for him to do was to take the woman away and make his escape with her before the alarm was given.

But, when he turned round, he saw that the woman was gone.

She could not be far. Darting from the box, he set off at a run, regardless of the programme-sellers and check-takers.

On reaching the entrance-lobby, he saw her through an open door, crossing the pavement of the Chaussee d'Antin.

She was stepping into a motor-car when he came up with her.

The door closed behind her.

He seized the handle and tried to pull at it.

But a man jumped up inside and sent his fist flying into Lupin's face, with less skill but no less force than Lupin had sent his into Daubrecq's face.

Stunned though he was by the blow, he nevertheless had ample time to recognize the man, in a sudden, startled vision, and also to recognize, under his chauffeur's disguise, the man who was driving the car. It was the Growler and the Masher, the two men in charge of the boats on the Enghien night, two friends of Gilbert and Vaucheray: in short, two of Lupin's own accomplices.

When he reached his rooms in the Rue Chateaubriand, Lupin, after washing the blood from his face, sat for over an hour in a chair, as though overwhelmed. For the first time in his life he was experiencing the pain of treachery. For the first time his comrades in the fight were turning against their chief.

Mechanically, to divert his thoughts, he turned to his correspondence and tore the wrapper from an evening paper. Among the late news he found the following paragraphs:

     "THE VILLA MARIE-THERESE CASE"

     "The real identity of Vaucheray, one of the alleged murderers of 
     Leonard the valet, has at last been ascertained. He is a miscreant 
     of the worst type, a hardened criminal who has already twice been 
     sentenced for murder, in default, under another name.

     "No doubt, the police will end by also discovering the real name of 
     his accomplice, Gilbert.  In any event, the examining-magistrate is 
     determined to commit the prisoners for trial as soon as possible.

     "The public will have no reason to complain of the delays of the law."

In between other newspapers and prospectuses lay a letter.

Lupin jumped when he saw it. It was addressed:

     "Monsieur de Beaumont, Michel." 

"Oh," he gasped, "a letter from Gilbert!"

It contained these few words:

     "Help, governor!... I am frightened. I am frightened..." 

Once again, Lupin spent a night alternating between sleeplessness and nightmares. Once again, he was tormented by atrocious and terrifying visions.


  1. See The Hollow Needle by Maurice Leblanc, and later volumes of the Lupin series.