Monsieur Lecoq, by Émile Gaboriau

XX

When one of the investigating magistrates of the Tribunal of the Seine wishes to examine a person confined in one of the Paris prisons, he sends by his messenger to the governor of that particular jail a so-called “order of extraction,” a concise, imperative formula, which reads as follows: “The keeper of —— prison will give into the custody of the bearer of this order the prisoner known as — — in order that he may be brought before us in our cabinet at the Palais de Justice.” No more, no less, a signature, a seal, and everybody is bound to obey.

But from the moment of receiving this order until the prisoner is again incarcerated, the governor of the prison is relieved of all responsibility. Whatever may happen, his hands are clear. Minute precautions are taken, however, so that a prisoner may not escape during his journey from the prison to the Palais. He is carefully locked up in a compartment of one of the lugubrious vehicles that may be often seen waiting on the Quai de l’Horloge, or in the courtyard of the Sainte-Chapelle. This van conveys him to the Palais, and while he is awaiting examination, he is immured in one of the cells of the gloomy jail, familiarly known as “la Souriciere” or the “mouse-trap.” On entering and leaving the van the prisoner is surrounded by guards; and on the road, in addition to the mounted troopers who always accompany these vehicles, there are prison warders or linesmen of the Garde de Paris installed in the passage between the compartments of the van and seated on the box with the driver. Hence, the boldest criminals ordinarily realize the impossibility of escaping from this ambulatory prison.

Indeed, statistics record only thirty attempts at escape in a period of ten years. Of these thirty attempts, twenty-five were ridiculous failures; four were discovered before their authors had conceived any serious hope of success: and only one man actually succeeded in alighting from the vehicle, and even he had not taken fifty steps before he was recaptured.

Lecoq was well acquainted with all these facts, and in preparing everything for May’s escape, his only fear was lest the murderer might decline to profit of the opportunity. Hence, it was necessary to offer every possible inducement for flight. The plan the young detective had eventually decided on consisted in sending an order to Mazas for May to be despatched to the Palais de Justice. He could be placed in one of the prison vans, and at the moment of starting the door of his compartment would not be perfectly secured. When the van reached the Palais de Justice and discharged its load of criminals at the door of the “mouse-trap” May would purposely be forgotten and left in the vehicle, while the latter waited on the Quai de l’Horloge until the hour of returning to Mazas. It was scarcely possible that the prisoner would fail to embrace this apparently favorable opportunity to make his escape.

Everything was, therefore, prepared and arranged according to Lecoq’s directions on the Monday following the close of the Easter holidays; the requisite “order of extraction” being entrusted to an intelligent man with the most minute instructions.

Now, although the van in which May would journey was not to be expected at the Palais de Justice before noon, it so happened that at nine o’clock that same morning a queer-looking “loafer” having the aspect of an overgrown, overaged “gamin de Paris” might have been seen hanging about the Prefecture de Police. He wore a tattered black woolen blouse and a pair of wide, ill-fitting trousers, fastened about his waist by a leather strap. His boots betrayed a familiar acquaintance with the puddles of the barrieres, and his cap was shabby and dirty, though, on the other hand, his necktie, a pretentious silk scarf of flaming hue, was evidently quite fresh from some haberdasher’s shop. No doubt it was a present from his sweetheart.

This uncomely being had the unhealthy complexion, hollow eyes, slouching mien, and straggling beard common to his tribe. His yellow hair, cut closely at the back of the head, as if to save the trouble of brushing, was long in front and at the sides; being plastered down over his forehead and advancing above his ears in extravagant corkscrew ringlets.

What with his attire, his affected jaunty step, his alternate raising of either shoulder, and his way of holding his cigarette and of ejecting a stream of saliva from between his teeth, Polyte Chupin, had he been at liberty, would undoubtedly have proffered a paw, and greeted this barriere beauty as a “pal.”

It was the 14th of April; the weather was lovely, and, on the horizon, the youthful foliage of the chestnut trees in the Tuileries gardens stood out against a bright blue sky. The “ethereal mildness” of “gentle spring” seemed to have a positive charm for the tattered “loafer” who lazily loitered in the sunlight, dividing his attention between the passers-by and some men who were hauling sand from the banks of the Seine. Occasionally, however, he crossed the roadway, and, strange to say, exchanged a few remarks with a neatly dressed, long-bearded gentleman, who wore gold-rimmed spectacles over his nose and drab silk gloves on his hands. This individual exhibited all the outward characteristics of eminent respectability, and seemed to take a remarkable interest in the contents of an optician’s shop window.

Every now and then a policeman or an agent of the detective corps passed by on his way to the Prefecture, and the elderly gentleman or the “loafer” would at times run after these officials to ask for some trifling information. The person addressed replied and passed on; and then the “loafer” and the gentleman would join each other and laughingly exclaim: “Good! — there’s another who doesn’t recognize us.”

And in truth the pair had just cause for exultation, good reason to be proud, for of some twelve or fifteen comrades they accosted, not one recognized the two detectives, Lecoq and Father Absinthe. For the “loafer” was none other than our hero, and the gentleman of such eminent respectability his faithful lieutenant.

“Ah!” quoth the latter with admiration, “I am not surprised they don’t recognize me, since I can’t recognize myself. No one but you, Monsieur Lecoq, could have so transformed me.”

Unfortunately for Lecoq’s vanity, the good fellow spoke at a moment when the time for idle conversation had passed. The prison van was just crossing the bridge at a brisk trot.

“Attention!” exclaimed the young detective, “there comes our friend! Quick! — to your post; remember my directions, and keep your eyes open!”

Near them, on the quay, was a large pile of timber, behind which Father Absinthe immediately concealed himself, while Lecoq, seizing a spade that was lying idle, hurried to a little distance and began digging in the sand. They did well to make haste. The van came onward and turned the corner. It passed the two detectives, and with a noisy clang rolled under the heavy arch leading to “la Souriciere.” May was inside, as Lecoq assured himself on recognizing the keeper sitting beside the driver.

The van remained in the courtyard for more than a quarter of an hour. When it reappeared, the driver had left his perch and the quay opposite the Palais de Justice, threw a covering over his horses, lighted his pipe, and quietly walked away. The moment for action was now swiftly approaching.

For a few minutes the anxiety of the two watchers amounted to actual agony; nothing stirred — nothing moved. But at last the door of the van was opened with infinite caution, and a pale, frightened face became visible. It was the face of May. The prisoner cast a rapid glance around him. No one was in sight. Then as swiftly and as stealthily as a cat he sprang to the ground, noiselessly closed the door of the vehicle, and walked quietly toward the bridge.

Lecoq breathed again. He had been asking himself if some trifling circumstance could have been forgotten or neglected, thus disarranging all his plans. He had been wondering if this strange man would refuse the dangerous liberty which had been offered him. But he had been anxious without cause. May had fled; not thoughtlessly, but with premeditation.

From the moment when he was left alone, apparently forgotten, in the insecurely locked compartment, until he opened the door and glanced around him, sufficient time had elapsed for a man of his intellect and discernment to analyze and calculate all the chances of so grave a step. Hence, if he had stepped into the snare laid for him, it must be with a full knowledge of the risks he had to run. He and Lecoq were alone together, free in the streets of Paris, armed with mutual distrust, equally obliged to resort to strategy, and forced to hide from each other. Lecoq, it is true, had an auxiliary — Father Absinthe. But who could say that May would not be aided by his redoubtable accomplice? Hence, it was a veritable duel, the result of which depended entirely upon the courage, skill, and coolness of the antagonists.

All these thoughts flashed through the young detective’s brain with the quickness of lightning. Throwing down his spade, and running toward a sergeant de ville, who was just coming out of the Palais de Justice, he gave him a letter which was ready in his pocket. “Take this to M. Segmuller at once; it is a matter of importance,” said he.

The policeman attempted to question this “loafer” who was in correspondence with the magistrates; but Lecoq had already darted off on the prisoner’s trail.

May had covered but a short distance. He was sauntering along with his hands in his pockets; his head high in the air, his manner composed and full of assurance. Had he reflected that it would be dangerous to run while so near the prison from which he had just escaped? Or was he of opinion that as an opportunity of flight had been willingly furnished him, there was no danger of immediate rearrest? This was a point Lecoq could not decide. At all events, May showed no signs of quickening his pace even after crossing the bridge; and it was with the same tranquil manner that he next crossed the Quai aux Fleurs and turned into the Hue de la Cite.

Nothing in his bearing or appearance proclaimed him to be an escaped prisoner. Since his trunk — that famous trunk which he pretended to have left at the Hotel de Mariembourg — had been returned to him, he had been well supplied with clothing: and he never failed, when summoned before the magistrate, to array himself in his best apparel. The garments he wore that day were black cloth, and their cut, combined with his manner, gave him the appearance of a working man of the better class taking a holiday.

His tread, hitherto firm and decided, suddenly became uncertain when, after crossing the Seine, he reached the Rue St. Jacques. He walked more slowly, frequently hesitated, and glanced continually at the shops on either side of the way.

“Evidently he is seeking something,” thought Lecoq: “but what?”

It was not long before he ascertained. Seeing a second-hand-clothes shop close by, May entered in evident haste. Lecoq at once stationed himself under a gateway on the opposite side of the street, and pretended to be busily engaged lighting a cigarette. The criminal being momentarily out of sight, Father Absinthe thought he could approach without danger.

“Ah, well,” said he, “there’s our man changing his fine clothes for coarser garments. He will ask for the difference in money; and they will give it him. You told me this morning: ‘May without a sou’— that’s the trump card in our game!”

“Nonsense! Before we begin to lament, let us wait and see what happens. It is not likely that shopkeeper will give him any money. He won’t buy clothing of the first passer-by.”

Father Absinthe withdrew to a little distance. He distrusted these reasons, but not Lecoq who gave them.

In the mean while, in his secret soul, Lecoq was cursing himself. Another blunder, thought he, another weapon left in the hands of the enemy. How was it that he, who fancied himself so shrewd, had not foreseen this emergency? Calmness of mind returned, however, a moment afterward when he saw May emerge from the shop attired as when he entered it. Luck had for once been in the young detective’s favor.

May actually staggered when he stepped out on the pavement. His bitter disappointment could be read in his countenance, which disclosed the anguish of a drowning man who sees the frail plank which was his only hope of salvation snatched from his grasp by the ruthless waves.

What could have taken place? This Lecoq must know without a moment’s delay. He gave a peculiar whistle, to warn his companion that he momentarily abandoned the pursuit of him; and having received a similar signal in response, he entered the shop. The owner was still standing behind the counter. Lecoq wasted no time in parleying. He merely showed his card to acquaint the man with his profession, and curtly asked: “What did the fellow want who was just in here?”

The shopkeeper seemed embarrassed. “It’s a long story,” he stammered.

“Then tell it!” said Lecoq, surprised at the man’s hesitation.

“Oh, it’s very simple. About twelve days ago a man entered my shop with a bundle under his arm. He claimed to be a countryman of mine.”

“Are you an Alsatian?”

“Yes, sir. Well, I went with this man to the wine-shop at the corner, where he ordered a bottle of good wine; and while we drank together, he asked me if I would consent to keep the package he had with him until one of his cousins came to claim it. To prevent any mistake, this cousin was to say certain words — a countersign, as it were. I refused, shortly and decidedly, for the very month before I had got into trouble and had been charged with receiving stolen goods, all by obliging a person in this way. Well, you never saw a man so vexed and so surprised. What made me all the more determined in my refusal was that he offered me a good round sum in payment for my trouble. This only increased my suspicion, and I persisted in my refusal.”

The shopkeeper paused to take breath; but Lecoq was on fire with impatience. “And what then?” he insisted.

“Well, he paid for the wine and went away. I had forgotten all about the matter until that man came in here just now, and after asking me if I hadn’t a package for him, which had been left by one of his cousins, began to say some peculiar words — the countersign, no doubt. When I replied that I had nothing at all he turned as white as his shirt; and I thought he was going to faint. All my suspicions came back to me. So when he afterward proposed that I should buy his clothes, I told him I couldn’t think of it.”

All this was plain enough to Lecoq. “And this cousin who was here a fortnight ago, what was he like?” asked he.

“He was a tall, rather corpulent man, with a ruddy complexion, and white whiskers. Ah! I should recognize him in an instant!”

“The accomplice!” exclaimed Lecoq.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing that would interest you. Thank you. I am in a hurry. You will see me again; good morning.”

Lecoq had not remained five minutes in the shop: and yet, when he emerged, May and Father Absinthe were nowhere in sight. Still, the young detective was not at all uneasy on that score. In making arrangements with his old colleague for this pursuit Lecoq had foreseen such a situation, and it had been agreed that if one of them were obliged to remain behind, the other, who was closely following May, should from time to time make chalk marks on the walls, shutters, and facings of the shops, so as to indicate the route, and enable his companion to rejoin him. Hence, in order to know which way to go, Lecoq had only to glance at the buildings around him. The task was neither long nor difficult, for on the front of the third shop beyond that of the second-hand-clothes dealer a superb dash of the crayon instructed him to turn into the Rue Saint-Jacques.

On he rushed in that direction, his mind busy at work with the incident that had just occurred. What a terrible warning that old-clothes dealer’s declaration had been! Ah! that mysterious accomplice was a man of foresight. He had even done his utmost to insure his comrade’s salvation in the event of his being allowed to escape. What did the package the shopkeeper had spoken of contain? Clothes, no doubt. Everything necessary for a complete disguise — money, papers, a forged passport most likely.

While these thoughts were rushing through Lecoq’s mind, he had reached the Rue Soufflot, where he paused for an instant to learn his way from the walls. This was the work of a second. A long chalk mark on a watchmaker’s shop pointed to the Boulevard Saint-Michel, whither the young detective at once directed his steps. “The accomplice,” said he to himself, resuming his meditation, “didn’t succeed with that old-clothes dealer; but he isn’t a man to be disheartened by one rebuff. He has certainly taken other measures. How shall I divine what they are in order to defeat them?”

The supposed murderer had crossed the Boulevard Saint-Michel, and had then taken to the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, as Father Absinthe’s dashes of the crayon proclaimed with many eloquent flourishes.

“One circumstance reassures me,” the young detective murmured, “May’s going to this shop, and his consternation on finding that there was nothing for him there. The accomplice had informed him of his plans, but had not been able to inform him of their failure. Hence, from this hour, the prisoner is left to his own resources. The chain that bound him to his accomplice is broken; there is no longer an understanding between them. Everything depends now upon keeping them apart. Yes, everything lies in that!”

Ah! how Lecoq rejoiced that he had succeeded in having May transferred to another prison; for he was convinced that the accomplice had warned May of the attempt he was going to make with the old-clothes dealer on the very evening before May’s removal to Mazas. Hence, it had not been possible to acquaint him with the failure of this scheme or the substitution of another.

Still following the chalk marks, Lecoq now reached the Odeon theatre. Here were fresh signs, and what was more, Father Absinthe could be perceived under the colonnade, standing in front of one of the book-stalls, and apparently engrossed in the contemplation of a print.

Assuming the nonchalant manner of the loafer whose garb he wore, Lecoq took his stand beside his colleague. “Where is he?” asked the young detective.

“There,” replied his companion, with a slight movement of his head in the direction of the steps.

The fugitive was, indeed, seated on one of the steps at the side of the theatre, his elbows resting on his knees and his face hidden in his hands, as if he felt the necessity of concealing the expression of his face from the passers-by. Undoubtedly, at that moment, he gave himself up for lost. Alone in the midst of Paris, without a penny, what was to become of him? He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was being watched; that his steps were being dogged, that the first attempt he made to inform his accomplice of his whereabouts would cost him his secret — the secret which he plainly held as more precious than life itself, and which, by immense sacrifices, he had so far been able to preserve.

Having for some short time contemplated in silence this unfortunate man whom after all he could but esteem and admire, Lecoq turned to his old companion: “What did he do on the way?” he asked.

“He went into the shops of five dealers in second-hand clothing without success. Then he addressed a man who was passing with a lot of old rubbish on his shoulder: but the man wouldn’t even answer him.”

Lecoq nodded his head thoughtfully. “The moral of this is, that there’s a vast difference between theory and practise,” he remarked. “Here’s a fellow who has made some most discerning men believe that he’s only a poor devil, a low buffoon. Well, now he’s free; and this so-called Bohemian doesn’t even know how to go to work to sell the clothes on his back. The comedian who could play his part so well on the stage has disappeared; while the man remains — the man who has always been rich, and knows nothing of the vicissitudes of life.”

The young detective suddenly ceased moralizing, for May had risen from his seat. Lecoq was only ten yards distant, and could see that his face was pallid. His attitude expressed profound dejection and one could read his indecision in his eyes. Perhaps he was wondering if it would not be best to return and place himself again in the hands of his jailers, since he was without the resources upon which he had depended.

After a little, however, he shook off the torpor that had for a time overpowered him; his eyes brightened, and, with a gesture of defiance, he left the steps, crossed the open square and walked down the Rue de l’Ancienne-Comedie. He strode onward now with the brisk, determined step of a man who has a definite aim in view.

“Who knows where he is going now?” murmured Father Absinthe, as he trotted along by Lecoq’s side.

“I do,” replied the young detective. “And the proof is, that I am going to leave you, and run on in advance, to prepare for his reception. I may be mistaken, however, and as we must be prepared for any emergency, leave me the chalk-marks as you go along. If our man doesn’t come to the Hotel de Mariembourg, as I think he will, I shall come back here to start in pursuit of you again.”

Just then an empty cab chanced to be passing, and Lecoq hastily got into it, telling the driver to take him to the Northern Railway Station by the shortest route and as quickly as possible. As time was precious, he handed the cabman his fare while on the road, and then began to search his pocket-book, among the various documents confided to him by M. Segmuller, for a particular paper he would now require.

Scarcely had the cab stopped at the Place de Roubaix than the young detective alighted and ran toward the Hotel de Mariembourg, where, as on the occasion of his first visit, he found Madame Milner standing on a chair in front of her birdcage, obstinately trying to teach her starling German, while the bird with equal obstinacy repeated: “Camille! where is Camille?”

On perceiving the individual of questionable mien who had presumed to cross her threshold, the pretty widow did not deign to change her position.

“What do you want?” she asked in a curt, sharp voice.

“I am the nephew of a messenger at the Palais de Justice,” replied Lecoq with an awkward bow, in perfect keeping with his attire. “On going to see my uncle this morning, I found him laid up with rheumatism; and he asked me to bring you this paper in his stead. It is a summons for you to appear at once before the investigating magistrate.”

This reply induced Madame Milner to abandon her perch. “Very well,” she replied after glancing at the summons; “give me time to throw a shawl over my shoulder, and I’ll start.”

Lecoq withdrew with another awkward bow; but he had not reached the street before a significant grimace betrayed his inward satisfaction. She had duped him once, and now he had repaid her. On looking round him he perceived a half-built house at the corner of the Rue St. Quentin, and being momentarily in want of a hiding-place he concluded that he had best conceal himself there. The pretty widow had only asked for sufficient time to slip on a shawl before starting; but then it so happened that she was rather particular as to her personal appearance — and such a plump, attractive little body as herself, having an eye perhaps to renewed wedlock, could not possibly be expected to tie her bonnet strings in less than a quarter of an hour. Hence, Lecoq’s sojourn behind the scaffolding of the half-built house proved rather longer than he had expected, and at the thought that May might arrive at any moment he fairly trembled with anxiety. How much was he in advance of the fugitive? Half an hour, perhaps! And he had accomplished only half his task.

At last, however, the coquettish landlady made her appearance as radiant as a spring morning. She probably wished to make up for the time she had spent over her toilet, for as she turned the corner she began to run. Lecoq waited till she was out of sight, and then bounding from his place of concealment, he burst into the Hotel de Mariembourg like a bombshell.

Fritz, the Bavarian lad, must have been warned that the house was to be left in his sole charge for some hours; for having comfortably installed himself in his mistress’s own particular armchair, with his legs resting on another one, he had already commenced to fall asleep.

“Wake up!” shouted Lecoq; “wake up!”

At the sound of this voice, which rang like a trumpet blast, Fritz sprang to his feet, frightened half out of his wits.

“You see that I am an agent of the Prefecture of Police,” said the visitor, showing his card. “Now, if you wish to avoid all sorts of disagreeable things, the least of which will be a sojourn in prison, you must obey me.”

The boy trembled in every limb. “Yes, mein Herr — Monsieur, I mean — I will obey you,” he stammered. “But what am I to do?”

“Oh, very little. A man is coming here in a moment: you will know him by his black clothes and his long beard. You must answer him word for word as I tell you. And remember, if you make any mistake, you will suffer for it.”

“You may rely upon me, sir,” replied Fritz. “I have an excellent memory.”

The prospect of imprisonment had terrified him into abject submission. He spoke the truth; he would have been willing to say or do anything just then. Lecoq profited by this disposition; and then clearly and concisely gave the lad his instructions. “And now,” added he, “I must see and hear you. Where can I hide myself?”

Fritz pointed to a glass door. “In the dark room there, sir. By leaving the door ajar you can hear and you can see everything through the glass.”

Without another word Lecoq darted into the room in question. Not a moment too soon, however, for the bell of the outer door announced the arrival of a visitor. It was May. “I wish to speak to the landlady,” he said.

“What landlady?” replied the lad.

“The person who received me when I came here six weeks ago —”

“Oh, I understand,” interrupted Fritz; “it’s Madame Milner you want to see; but you have come too late; she sold the house about a month ago, and has gone back to Alsace.”

May stamped his foot and uttered a terrible oath. “I have come to claim something from her,” he insisted.

“Do you want me to call her successor?”

Concealed behind the glass door, Lecoq could not help admiring Fritz, who was uttering these glaring falsehoods with that air of perfect candor which gives the Germans such a vast advantage over the Latin races, who seem to be lying even when they are telling the truth.

“Her successor would order me off,” exclaimed May. “I came to reclaim the money I paid for a room I never occupied.”

“Such money is never refunded.”

May uttered some incoherent threat, in which such words as “downright robbery” and “justice” could be distinguished, and then abruptly walked back into the street, slamming the door behind him.

“Well! did I answer properly?” asked Fritz triumphantly as Lecoq emerged from his hiding-place.

“Yes, perfectly,” replied the detective. And then pushing aside the boy, who was standing in his way, he dashed after May.

A vague fear almost suffocated him. It had struck him that the fugitive had not been either surprised or deeply affected by the news he had heard. He had come to the hotel depending upon Madame Milner’s assistance, and the news of this woman’s departure would naturally have alarmed him, for was she not the mysterious accomplice’s confidential friend? Had May, then, guessed the trick that had been played upon him? And if so, how?

Lecoq’s good sense told him plainly that the fugitive must have been put on his guard, and on rejoining Father Absinthe, he immediately exclaimed: “May spoke to some one on his way to the hotel.”

“Why, how could you know that?” exclaimed the worthy man, greatly astonished.

“Ah! I was sure of it! Who did he speak to?”

“To a very pretty woman, upon my word! — fair and plump as a partridge!”

“Ah! fate is against us!” exclaimed Lecoq with an oath. “I run on in advance to Madame Milner’s house, so that May shan’t see her. I invent an excuse to send her out of the hotel, and yet they meet each other.”

Father Absinthe gave a despairing gesture. “Ah! if I had known!” he murmured; “but you did not tell me to prevent May from speaking to the passers-by.”

“Never mind, my old friend,” said Lecoq, consolingly; “it couldn’t have been helped.”

While this conversation was going on, the fugitive had reached the Faubourg Montmartre, and his pursuers were obliged to hasten forward and get closer to their man, so that they might not lose him in the crowd.

“Now,” resumed Lecoq when they had overtaken him, “give me the particulars. Where did they meet?”

“In the Rue Saint-Quentin.”

“Which saw the other first?”

“May.”

“What did the woman say? Did you hear any cry of surprise?”

“I heard nothing, for I was quite fifty yards off; but by the woman’s manner I could see she was stupefied.”

Ah! if Lecoq could have witnessed the scene, what valuable deductions he might have drawn from it. “Did they talk for a long time?” he asked.

“For less than a quarter of an hour.”

“Do you know whether Madame Milner gave May money or not?”

“I can’t say. They gesticulated like mad — so violently, indeed, that I thought they were quarreling.”

“They knew they were being watched, and were endeavoring to divert suspicion.”

“If they would only arrest this woman and question her,” suggested Father Absinthe.

“What good would it do? Hasn’t M. Segmuller examined and cross-examined her a dozen times without drawing anything from her! Ah! she’s a cunning one. She would declare that May met her and insisted that she should refund the ten francs he paid her for his room. We must do our best, however. If the accomplice has not been warned already, he will soon be told; so we must try to keep the two men apart. What ruse they will employ, I can’t divine. But I know that it will be nothing hackneyed.”

Lecoq’s presumptions made Father Absinthe nervous. “The surest way, perhaps,” ventured the latter, “would be to lock him up again!”

“No!” replied the young detective. “I want his secret, and I’ll have it. What will be said of us if we two allow this man to escape us? He can’t be visible and invisible by turns, like the devil. We’ll see what he is going to do now that he’s got some money and a plan — for he has both at the present moment. I would stake my right hand upon it.”

At that same instant, as if May intended to convince Lecoq of the truth of his suspicion, he entered a tobacconist’s shop and emerged an instant afterward with a cigar in his mouth.

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