Juve in the Dock
A Fantômas Detective Novel
Fantômas having just escaped into the sewers of Paris, Juve and Fandor find themselves with few clues to go on until the great detective is approached by a Committee of Insurance Companies against Theft with a mission—to protect a secret document which details the precise location of the jewels of Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. Knowing Fantômas will try to steal this priceless treasure map, Juve sets a trap for the Arch-Criminal in the pleasure resorts of the Parisian suburbs in this, the thirty-fourth book of the series.
“From the imaginative standpoint Fantômas is one of the richest works that exist.”
“Absurd and magnificent lyricism.”
- One and One Make Three!
- Fandor Disobeys Orders
- In the Hands of Fantômas
- Fandor’s Recklessness
- The Pleasures of Traveling
- Juve’s Temper Is Ruffled
- “I’ll Give You Something to Cry For”
- Kingly Generosity
- The Last Word
- Revenge Is Sweet
- The Calamities of Bouzille
- A Stern Sense of Duty
- The Palais de Justice
- Politeness to the Fair Sex
- Where? When? How?
1. One and One Make Three!
Discreetly, on tiptoe, with the tread of men who find themselves de trop, Juve and Fandor had just quitted Josette de Vautreuil’s dwelling. Rescued from the hands of the dread Fantômas, the girl had no further need of their help, nor were they, either of them, the sort of men to wait for thanks.
Out of doors the morning was splendidly fine, the brilliant April sunshine lending a holiday aspect to the day.
“Glorious weather!” muttered Juve. “Fandor, my lad, I’d just love to be off for a run in the country… Pity there’s never a chance of it!”
“Why! because the fight’s still on! Fantômas is not the man to give us any respite!”
A touch of suppressed bitterness marked Juve’s tone. A note of anger quivered in Fandor’s reply.
“So much the better!” the young man protested. “Juve, I am all eagerness to join battle afresh. I tell you, when I remember the way he has just escaped us, I feel like going mad with rage!”
As he spoke, Fandor’s heel struck one of those iron plates that cover the openings giving access to the sewers. Was it not, alas! by diving down one of these apertures, contrived for the convenience of the sewer men, that Fantômas had once again made good his escape? Where was he now, the scoundrel? Where had he vanished to? Was he still creeping along beneath the Paris streets, or had he already regained the open air? It was barely five minutes since the wretch had disappeared.
But now, as the iron plate rang under Fandor’s impatient foot, the journalist gave a sudden start.
“Why, good Lord!” he grunted.
“What’s wrong with you?” demanded Juve.
“We’re a pair of fools!”
“Eh? what say?… Well, what’s to do now!”
Juve in fact might well wonder. His companion’s behavior was certainly bewildering. Dropping his friend’s arm, entirely regardless of passersby who turned round to stare at the young man, Fandor had fallen on his knees on the pavement and then lain down full length on the ground, gluing his ear to the slot to be found in the middle of these sewer covers for inserting the levers employed in raising them.
“What’s taken you?” Juve repeated his inquiry.
“Hush!” ordered the journalist, and vouchsafed but one word more in full and sufficient explanation of his odd behavior—“speaking tube!”
Why yes, Fandor’s notion was of the simplest! But it is just these very simple ideas that are often the most ingenious. No doubt, it was an impossibility to pursue Fantômas through the sewers, but could not these same sewers be utilized to spy on his movements? It is a well-known fact that subterranean passages of all kinds constitute excellent conductors of sound. Along their walls spoken words are carried to great distances with great distinctness.
“Fantômas is there!” Fandor reasoned. “He is there with his accomplices. Is he not sure to speak to them?… and are we not bound to try and hear what he says?”
Juve for his part was too keen a police officer not to guess, in one second, the nature of his companion’s plan.
“Not bad!” he muttered approvingly, and bending motionless over the young man’s shoulder, he breathed an almost soundless question in his ear:
“Yes, someone speaking. Wait a bit… Ah! damnation!” swore the journalist. Along the neighboring Avenue Mozart a streetcar was rattling noisily down the hill, preventing him from catching properly what was being said, perhaps a long way off, in the underground ramifications.
“Well?” whispered Juve breathlessly, when the car had gone by.
“Nothing more now!”—and Fandor got to his feet. He was very pale, but his eyes were lit with a flame of eagerness and determination.
“Well?” insisted Juve. “Speak out! You heard something?”
“Yes… but only something very vague.”
“All I could hear, Juve, was a few words, barely a half-dozen words. The tram passing prevented me catching the whole sentence…”
“And it was Fantômas speaking?”
“Yes, it was He! He said this…” Fandor paused a moment to think, then declared:
“He said this, Juve: ‘Now we must separate, all to meet tomorrow at the Admiral’s. It’s going to be a fine stroke of business…’”
“A fine stroke of business!” Juve repeated the words like an echo. Then a heavy silence reigned between the two friends. Both well knew the full importance of those brief words their grim foe had pronounced.
“A fine stroke of business!” Fantômas had declared. So he was evidently planning some fresh scheme of villainy. Having but just come off victorious, or nearly so, from one battle, he was resolved to carry his grim enterprises to some yet more sinister conclusion.
Juve’s fists clenched in a spasm of fury. But now he had declared “The game is up!” but lo! the game was to begin afresh—and already, it seemed, the challenge was thrown down. Fantômas had bidden his accomplices to a rendezvous. Manifestly he was acting on a definite, deliberately thought-out plan.
And to fight the enemy, to win the victory, Juve and Fandor possessed but one vague, inconclusive hint—that “an Admiral” was destined to be the next victim of the Lord of Terror’s monstrous machinations.
For a while the two men did not exchange a word. Both were thinking hard, striving to understand something of the new police problem facing them. But surely all conjecture was premature at present. Were they not bound of necessity to wait for further and more detailed information?
Juve was the first to break the silence.
“An Admiral!” he exclaimed, “but there are numbers of Admirals! Do you know how many, Fandor?”
“My word, no!”
“No more do I! Anyway, it’s an Admiral now in Paris… Is it an Admiral on the active list or an Admiral on half pay? We don’t even know that,”—and the worthy detective, usually so calm, shook his head angrily.
“We know something,” he declared, “and it is exactly as if we knew nothing at all. Look you, Fandor, I’d give ten years of my life for one single supplementary detail.”
Then, hurrying on, Juve hailed a taxi.
“Rue Tardieu, driver, No. 1.”
“We’re going home?” Fandor asked him.
“Yes, to dress. In an hour’s time we shall be paying a visit at the Ministry of Marine. Possibly they’ll be able to tell us if an Admiral is at the moment the possessor of some precious object, some great sum of money—something, I can’t tell what, of a sort to tempt Fantômas. What say you? We must make inquiries on the chance,”—and with a discouraged sigh, the police officer observed:
“The public often poke fun at the police, but the public little realize the real difficulties of the work. By God! here’s a definite enough case in point. We know an ‘Admiral’ is to be the object of a felonious attempt by Fantômas, and our object is to prevent Fantômas from succeeding. Now, to do that, we must discover what Admiral is in question… I should very much like to see how the wise men who make fun of us detectives would set about gaining the day under these circumstances!”
Juve proceeded to extract a cigarette from his case, lit up and resumed quietly:
“And we shall succeed! We must succeed!”—and said no more.
Passionately devoted to his profession, delighting in the never-ending struggle, policeman against criminal, he might feel distressed by the difficulty of the task at hand, but he was never the man to give way to discouragement.
At his side, Fandor sat absorbed, like his friend, in somber reflections:
“Ah! if only,” he told himself, “if only I had thought of listening to what was being said in the sewer five minutes sooner. All I actually caught was the few final words Fantômas addressed to his accomplices before leaving them…”
Twenty minutes later the taxi pulled up at Juve’s door.
“Here we are,” cried the latter. “What says the dial, eh?”—then he paid off his driver, stepped across the narrow sidewalk and made to enter the doorway, when he was accosted by a man who halted before him, cap in hand.
“Excuse me, sir!… I have been waiting for you. You are Monsieur Juve, I think?”
“I have a letter—to be delivered into your own hands.”
“Who from, my man?”
“I don’t know, sir. It was a gentleman sent me on the errand, Place Pigalle. Seems it’s urgent—very urgent.”
As he spoke the man was searching his pockets and presently produced a yellow envelope, which he held out to the police officer.
For a moment Juve hesitated, examining the messenger’s general appearance. The latter was a man of fifty or so, poorly but decently dressed, and wearing a shiny brass plate on his bosom.
“You are a licensed commissionaire?” he asked him.
“Yes, sir. Monsieur Juve doesn’t know me by sight? I know Monsieur Juve. I’ve been living in the district the last twenty years.”
“And the individual who sent you, you know him also?”
“No, sir. It was a gentleman in a motorcar. He pulled up when he saw me, called me to him and gave me the letter, saying: ‘Whatever you do, look out for Monsieur Juve himself. Don’t just deliver the thing at his address. He must get my letter before he goes up to his rooms. Five minutes’ delay might spoil everything.’… But if you would look inside the envelope, sir, you’d no doubt see…”
“Who is my correspondent. Why, certainly.”
Juve took the letter and opened it. Not a muscle of his face moved as he scanned the short message it contained. But he called Fandor to him: “I’ll stand you a drink, my boy… at the Hermitage… yes, close by.” And added, turning to the messenger: “Thank you, my man. There, there’s a trifle for your trouble.”
When the fellow was gone, Juve handed the note to his companion, with a curt: “Read that!”
“Who’s it from, Juve!”
“Read it, I tell you!”
The missive was of the briefest:
“At a quarter to twelve be at the Hermitage café-restaurant. When they summon M. Durand to the telephone, stand by!… A message of grave importance; impossible to give details here; impossible to sign. But for God’s sake, come. I dare not phone you at your house; line perhaps tapped.”
“And no signature?” asked Fandor in much astonishment. But Juve only shrugged his shoulders.
“What do you make of that final ‘e,’ with the broken loop? I know the machine that letter was typed on.”
“Whose machine is it, Juve?”
“Havard’s… Head of the Criminal Investigation Department, my lad!”
A quarter of an hour later Juve and Fandor were taking their seats under the veranda of the café indicated, without a word spoken. The same doubts filled the minds of both, to the exclusion of everything else. Certainly M. Havard was not a man to have sent a letter of this sort without some serious motive. But what could be the nature of this “message of grave importance,” which he had not even dared to address to the police officer’s home?
In less than three minutes the two friends were to know. A pageboy appeared, calling out:
“Monsieur Durand!… Monsieur Durand—wanted at the telephone!”
“Here you are!” cried the detective, and sprang to the instrument.
“You, Fandor, take the other receiver, and listen too. I have no secrets from you,”—and in a ringing voice Juve answered the call:
“Hello! Chief! here I am. It is I, Juve.”
But the poor man had to grasp his companion’s arm to save himself from falling. A mocking voice had replied:
“Hello!… ‘Chief’ do you call me, Juve? Oh! you flatter me… Hello! it is I, Fantômas speaking!”—and next moment the voice grew harsh, curt, imperious:
“It is about Fandor, Juve, I’m phoning you. Don’t cut me off, Juve! It is Fandor’s life is at stake.”
Nor was the warning needless. On recognizing the voice, but too familiar, of the Lord of Terror, Juve had in fact been on the point of leaving the instrument. But Fandor’s name and the threat that went with it kept him at his post.
“Juve,” the voice went on again, “you refuse to believe that I think very highly of you, feel great admiration for your talents… Yet here’s a proof of what I say… Juve, I have chosen to give you fair warning. I have chosen to act honorably. Listen to me! I am going to start on a new enterprise—an enterprise that is to be a signal triumph for me… Well, Juve, do not concern yourself with it. Do not attempt to frustrate my plans. Leave off interfering with me!… Yes, give it up, I say, for…”
Fantômas paused for a moment, while Juve ground his teeth in impotent fury.
“For,” proceeded Fantômas, “I give you fair warning, if I find you in my road, it is Fandor I shall punish—Fandor I shall kill!… And so, it will be you, yes! you, who will be answerable for his death.”
Then came a sharp click. The speaker had hung up his instrument. Communication was cut off.
Ah! this time the scoundrel had struck home. Impervious to all personal fear, Juve could not fail to be terrified by this menace to Fandor’s life. With unsteady steps, the police officer stumbled out of the telephone box, only to hear a great guffaw behind him.
“Why, Fandor, what do you mean?”
“Oh! let me have my laugh out, Juve! For my part, I just love these Bluebeard tales of terror.”
“But all the same…”
“No, no! say no more, Juve, not a word! Oh, ho! so I am to be killed, am I? A fine story, truly! And I’m to take it lying down, am I?… Come, let’s be off to breakfast. Jean must be sick and tired of waiting for us.”
Fandor was not afraid, not he! And he would not let Juve be alarmed either.
So Juve said no more. He knew his friend’s high courage and felt no surprise at sight of the young man’s laughing face. He just grasped the journalist’s hand and pressed it hard. “You’re going to give me your word… that you will be prudent and run no risks… You won’t go anywhere without me?”
“Good! very good!… There are new potatoes, and we shall find ’em burnt to a cinder. Hurry up, Juve, hurry up!… By the by, you were finely mistaken, old man, with your ‘e’ final and your Havard’s typewriter!”
“I admit it. Fantômas must know the defect in the keyboard of that machine, so he copied it to give me confidence.”
“Very possible! But why did he telephone you at the café here instead of at your own place? In the Rue Tardieu he was still more sure of getting you on the wires, eh?”
“All the same, Fantômas does nothing at random. You can’t suppose, Juve, he did it without a good reason.”
“Not a bit of it, Fandor…”
Juve was answering mechanically. He could not get the abominable communication he had just received out of his head. Indeed, was Fandor not talking simply and solely with the object of distracting his companion’s thoughts?
The two friends left the café and returned to the police officer’s abode.
“Fandor, my boy,” Juve spoke at a venture as the pair climbed the stairs, “do you know what you ought to do? You should take a sea voyage. Why not go—go to Australia?”
“Juve, you are not logical. Two minutes ago you wanted me to stick by you, to sit tight under your wing…”
“By going away you’d be playing Fantômas a fine trick…”
“Hold your tongue, do!”—and the young man rang the bell… He was perfectly well aware of the agonies of apprehension his old friend was enduring, but he could not for one second accept his counsels of prudence.
The door opened and Jean, the police officer’s old servant, appeared.
“Monsieur has got back—and that’s a good thing. Those gentlemen must be getting tired of waiting…”
“What gentlemen?” demanded his master.
“Monsieur doesn’t know about it?” Jean asked in return. “I thought the gentlemen had an appointment…”
“But, God bless us! who are the gentlemen?”
“I don’t know, sir. They didn’t give their names. They simply said they’d wait till Monsieur came in.”
“Good! I’ll go and see them,”—and, winking in an odd way, Juve added:
“Just step into my bedroom, Fandor, will you?”
Throwing off his topcoat and hat, Juve opened the door of his sitting room—and gave a start of surprise. Of the two callers awaiting him, one at any rate was perfectly well known to him. It was the President of the Associated Committee of Insurance Companies against Theft.
As to his other visitor, Juve had never set eyes on him. He was a man of average build and bulk, tall rather than short, with a keen eye and an energetic bearing. Dressed in a closely buttoned blue cloth frock, at once elegant and unobtrusive, he presented the bluff, martial figure of a soldier or sailor.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Juve addressed him.
“Admiral, I am pleased to meet you…”
But no sooner had he spoken than he was biting his lips with vexation. His visitor had burst out laughing.
“Admiral?” he protested, “but I’m no Admiral!… I am a businessman, Monsieur Juve, a dealer in antiquities,”—and little suspecting how strange his remarks sounded, he concluded:
“Yes, I am a businessman… Alas! if I was an Admiral, I should not be in such anxiety, such alarm about Fantômas—at least I imagine so…”
* * * * *
At this point, to tell truth, Juve indulged in a very ugly grimace. Albeit he was not vain enough to deem himself infallible, he was nevertheless chagrined at his blunder.
“Worse and worse!” he thought to himself. “Three mistakes running! First, I thought I recognized M. Havard’s typewriter. Then, I believed it was Havard was going to phone me. Now, I take an antiquary for an Admiral! Verily I have reason to be proud of myself!”
But making the best of a bad job, the police officer broke into a laugh.
“Very good, sir!” he declared, “so you are an antiquary and you are afraid of Fantômas. That’s clear enough so far. Now will you tell your story.”
He pointed to an armchair, and then offering his hand to the President of the Associated Committee:
“It was you, I presume, sir, who advised this gentleman…”
“…advised Monsieur Thévenot to apply to me.”
“As a matter of fact, it was I, and it was Havard…”
“You have seen the Chief?”
“Not an hour ago. M. Havard sent us on to you, and commissioned me to tell you that he gave you full powers to carry through the matter we are going to lay before you…”
“Well, I’m all attention,” observed the detective, whose eyes had turned for an instant to a piece of drapery that masked one corner of the room, though no one noticed the fact.
“My dear Juve,” the President went on, “it’s like this. I can explain the thing in three words. M. Thévenot has applied to me with a view to insuring, for a very substantial sum—close to five million francs—a certain letter, or to be more precise, a document. The fact is M. Thévenot is afraid this letter may be stolen from him, for the mere perusal of its contents would entail for him the probable loss of an amount equal to what he wishes to insure it for. You follow me?”
“Perfectly. But I should like to have some details…”
“We are here to answer your questions.”
“Well then, what exactly is this letter you speak of?”
The President threw a questioning look at M. Thévenot, as though asking his permission to speak out, then continued:
“This letter, my dear Juve, or rather this document, for it is a document we have to do with, is strictly speaking a plan—the plan of a place where a treasure is hidden…”
“A treasure? Ho, ho!”
“No need to laugh—I repeat, a treasure, an historical treasure… Anyway, here are the particulars in full…”
The President half closed his eyes, and resumed:
“You are no doubt aware that, when the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, left the Tuileries, that is to say on September 4, 1870, she dispatched her jewels to her mother, Madame de Montijo, at Madrid, by a special messenger…”
“And those jewels never reached their destination!… Yes, I know that much.”
“Well, sir, they never got there for the very good reason that the messenger who carried them, as it was given out, had really nothing at all in his wallets. The jewels never left Paris. They were buried in some place unknown. It is the plan of this locality that is in M. Thévenot’s hands…”
“All quite plain!” Juve agreed. “But I don’t see what Fantômas…”
“Wait a moment! The plan in question came by pure chance into this gentleman’s hands. He discovered it concealed in an old timepiece, behind the dial. Now this precious paper had not been ten minutes in M. Thévenot’s possession when he received a message by pneumatic—and here it is…”
As he spoke the President stood up, took a pocketbook from his pocket, and drew a pneumatic dispatch-form from it, which he handed to Juve.
One look sufficed the police officer to master the contents:
“Order to M. Thévenot to take no steps in regard to the plan he has just discovered. Order to the said M. Thévenot to deliver it to me into my own hands. The above injunctions to be obeyed under pain of death. Signed by my proper hand—Fantômas.”
“The devil!” was the detective’s sole comment. Then after a moment’s thought, he questioned:
“When did this message come?”
“Only just now.”
“So you hurried off at once to the Department?”
“At once, yes!” declared M. Thévenot. “I was able to get admission to M. Havard through one of my friends, an Inspector…”
“Excellent! and M. Havard sent you on here?”
“No, not exactly. M. Havard thought at first, so I suppose that it was a practical joke… He simply advised me to insure against theft.”
“Better and better!” laughed Juve. “Havard has shown he possesses a sense of humor… To proceed—what next?”
“Next, at my earnest request, he allowed me to telephone from his office to the President of the Insurance Committee…”
“And I,” the President took up the tale, “I brought M. Thévenot here. I am quite ready to insure this letter, this document—but on one condition.”
“And that is?”
“That you undertake to protect this paper.”
Juve might have been looking to hear these very words. In a moment he was on his feet, rubbing his hands. “So,” he cried, “so! Let me tell you this, then!”
Then he went on again, speaking very fast:
“Shall I give you a piece of advice, my dear Monsieur Thévenot? Don’t lose a moment! Go to the spot indicated! Get hold of the treasure!… Call up the newspapermen… The jewels once in your hands and the Press publishes the news, your risk is at an end. A find like this will make such a noise the jewels will be unsaleable. No receiver would dare to buy them from Fantômas… What now? You’re smiling.”
This was true. As he listened to the officer, the antiquary had broken into a smile. “Monsieur Juve,” said he, “you tell me exactly what M. Havard told me. Yes! the advice is excellent, but I cannot follow it…”
“Because the jewels are in a place where I cannot institute a search without formal permission—and this permission I shall not have before a week is out, or longer!”
“The devil! May I ask…”
“Where the place indicated is. Certainly! It is the Ministry of Marine.”
“The Ministry of Marine?… The devil’s in it, surely!”—and dropping into an armchair, Juve took his head between his hands, for once nonplussed. He had never looked for such a piece of news!
And yet, was it so extraordinary for the Ministry of Marine to be mixed up in the affair? Under his breath Juve muttered:
“The Ministry—the very place all the Admirals are necessarily bound to visit. And I know how Fantômas… Well, upon my word!”—and then, springing up, he marched straight to the curtain hanging at the far end of the room, with the remark:
“This is a serious matter, gentlemen. So I must have someone to help me… I have your permission? Come in, Fandor!”
As he spoke, Juve tore back the curtain. Behind it, the wall showed a wide opening. Standing in this aperture, which communicated with the police officer’s bedroom, appeared the journalist.
“Come in,” Juve reiterated, and turning to his visitors: “You know Jerome Fandor, gentlemen?” he asked. “Good! and you, Fandor, have heard what has just been said?”
“Without losing one single word.”
“And you have a suggestion to make? a plan to propose?”
Never before had the journalist seen Juve so agitated, no doubt of that—and never had he found his friend so much inclined to listen to his advice.
“Juve,” the young man began very calmly, “all this seems to me as simple as A B C and absolutely providential. Here we have the bait to catch Fantômas… The gentleman must keep his document. He must go back quietly home. We, you and I, Juve, must hide there. When Fantômas comes this time, by God! we’ll arrest him.”
Fandor had spoken with breathless eagerness. The gallant journalist’s youthful optimism admitted no doubt or hesitation. But suddenly he felt a qualm. Juve had checked his enthusiasm with a look: “Idiot!” he ejaculated. “Madcap!”
Then he asked a question: “You have five million francs to play with?”
“Why, yes—to repay the insurance… and suppose we don’t arrest Fantômas?”—and folding his arms as he strode up and down his sitting room, Juve proceeded:
“For, after all, we must have a conscience! These gentlemen don’t care a hang whether we arrest Fantômas or not. If they appeal to us, it is simply because they wish to safeguard this paper. Therefore, if we fail to do so, if Fantômas beats us, as honest men we shall be bound to pay the five millions. Have you got them, my boy?”
“Not I,” laughed Fandor.
“Another thing now,” Juve went on again. “It is evident that M. Thévenot, a man of honor, cannot make his search without proper permission from the authorities, but it is equally evident that Fantômas, on his side, will not be troubled by any such scruples. He will go straight to the hiding place. So we must remember that the risk is conditioned in this way: M. Thévenot can do nothing till a week is out, while Fantômas can act at once… Come now, I begin to see daylight in the matter!”
Juve wore the little look of covert irony that always characterized him when he was studying a problem that really interested him. Discussing the thing in so many words, he appeared to be exposing his inmost thoughts, but one never knew if he was really sincere, if the phrases he used did not conceal some trap or trick.
“To proceed,” he added, “the whole question is to find out if we can prevent the theft… No, no, this is no everyday affair. Ordinarily folks send for the police when something untoward has happened. This time I am asked to stop the untoward something from occurring. A very odd, a very exceptional state of affairs!”
Then suddenly the police officer swung round on his heels, to face M. Thévenot.
“You know what Fantômas is?” he asked.
“The most redoubtable brigand that ever lived—and a genius into the bargain, the genius of Evil. He is all-daring, all-powerful, his cunning is limitless. You know that.”
“Yes, Monsieur Juve…”
“Then you will understand I must lay down conditions if I am to intervene—and you must agree to them,”—and Juve resumed his seat. He was a trifle pale and the veins in his forehead were swollen. His whole soul was absorbed in a mighty effort of concentrated thought.
“Then again,” he began again presently, “I start with the axiom that Fantômas is a man, like you and me. He has a body. He is not an immaterial spirit…”
“Now, now!” broke in Fandor, “you are joking, Juve?”
“Hold your tongue!… But I admit one thing,” Juve continued, “that the man is gifted with amazing powers. I know no strongbox capable of defying him, no lock he cannot open, no walls he cannot break through. In one word, I confess there is no place where we can secure your document in safety…”
“Let me finish, Mister President! Starting from these premises, I say there is but one way to safeguard the document and defy his efforts, and that is to keep it in our own hands…”
“In our own hands!”
“Exactly. What you have under your very eyes cannot be spirited away. The one thing is, to guard the holder from being murdered…”
“Hear me out, Monsieur Thévenot! The point is then to secure the paper on one’s own person, for a week, and not to be murdered. That’s plain enough, I think… Plain as daylight, eh, Fandor?”
“Now, not to be murdered,” Juve concluded, “the best way is not to allow anyone to come near you. Well, I will undertake to guard the document if Monsieur Thévenot agrees to spend a week in my company in a place where no one can possibly get near us from any direction—neither from the right, nor from the left, neither in front nor behind, neither above nor below…”
But the detective might as well have been talking Chinese for anything his audience could understand.
“Neither above, nor below!” M. Thévenot repeated the words. “Where the deuce do you propose to imprison us then, sir?”
“In a summer house.”
“A summer house!”
Fandor had sprung impetuously from the chair where he was sitting, but Juve went on calmly:
“Do you know, Monsieur Thévenot, what Robinson is?”
“I have never been there… I am a Belgian…”
“This is what Robinson is—a hamlet in the Paris suburbs consisting of… of a collection of restaurants. It is a pleasure resort. Young people flock there in crowds every Sunday… Now let me tell you, sir, Robinson has this special peculiarity—there are very big trees there, and in the branches of these same big trees, summer houses, kiosks, if you like, are contrived, where you can breakfast and dine. Each of them forms a special private room. You get there by means of narrow winding stairways encircling the tree trunks, and meals are served by hauling up with ropes and pulleys the baskets in which the waiters pack the dishes.”
“And you propose?…”
“I propose this, Mister President—to shut myself up with Monsieur Thévenot in one of these kiosks. We put the document on a table before us—under our eyes. And we stay there a week, till the proper permission comes. Of course, I organize a system of surveillance. Fandor will keep guard halfway up the stairs, the sole means of access from below. In addition, four Inspectors will take post in the trees round, who will keep a watch on the four sides of our eyrie, and look down on its roof. In this way Fantômas will find it impossible to approach, whether from the sides, from above or from below.”
Juve had said his say. Taking a cigarette from a box on the table, he was now smoking composedly. Round him his auditors stood lost in thought, while, with eyes fixed on the floor, M. Thévenot pondered the pros and cons.
No doubt the police officer’s proposal took one’s breath away, but after all, was there not a touch of genius about the scheme? Undoubtedly, in such a kiosk, isolated in midair, on which a rigorous watch was kept from every quarter, no theft would be practicable. Ingenious as Fantômas was, it was surely self-evident he could not possibly circumvent the precautions Juve suggested.
The President of the Associated Companies was the first to break the silence.
“Certainly I was not expecting anything of the kind,” he confessed, “but I can see that in this way absolute safety will be secured… Yes, if Monsieur Thévenot agrees to your conditions, Juve, I think nothing untoward can happen.”
“And you consent to insure my document for a week?” demanded the antiquary.
“Well then, I am ready to sign the policy.”
“Very good! The thing won’t take two minutes,”—and going to the table, the President extracted a form of contract from his pocketbook and proceeded to fill in the blanks, while Fandor drew Juve aside. He was not satisfied with the turn of events, not he!
“Juve,” grumbled the young man, “your plan is excellent, but we are losing a unique opportunity to capture Fantômas…”
“You think so?”
“God, yes! We had a marvelous fine bait—and we are spoiling it. We knew what Fantômas wanted to steal. We ought…”
“To let him take it?” mocked Juve.
“We ought to leave him the hope of taking it…”
“Why, yes! Look you, it is a question of five millions. Well, I have a mind to open a subscription among readers of La Capitale. The funds once got together, you would have no more scruples, and we would lie in wait for Fantômas with the document in our hands…”
“Fandor, you are talking foolishness,”—and Juve, his hand on his comrade’s shoulder, breathed low in his ear:
“What, don’t you understand then?”
“Understand what, Juve?”
“That that is just what we are going to do—to wait in ambush.”
“Oh, Juve! you go too fast. Fantômas this time will never be able to do anything.”
“Why, what do you suppose…”
But Fandor did not complete his sentence. Juve’s strong hand gripped his shoulder till the fingers almost entered into the flesh.
“I suppose nothing, Fandor,” declared his friend. “But I know one thing—that this, this affair is a challenge I am throwing down to Fantômas, and that he will know it is. Yes, I know that much, Fandor, and that Fantômas is not the man not to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by me.”
“Then you think?…”
“I think nothing,” Juve cut him short. “And there is nothing hidden, is there, in all this? You know as much as I do. You know what Juve is going to do. It is open to you to discover what Fantômas will attempt. If you guess it, you are his master, or as good as his master. That’s all I have to say. But as for supposing he will make no attempt…” and the police officer shrugged his shoulders. Truly, he felt no doubt in the matter. Well he knew that the man he was tracking down was capable of performing positive miracles. He knew that the word impossible was not in his vocabulary. He knew, above all, that his pride as a brigand would not brook his refusing the challenge offered him by his enemy.
For the first time, indeed, the roles were reversed. It was no longer Fantômas who was defending himself against Juve; it was Juve on the defensive against Fantômas. No longer was it the officer of justice attacking the malefactor; it was the malefactor who was to attack the representative of the law. In this deadly encounter Juve was playing his game with all the cool deliberation that was his, all the ingenuity he possessed.
“Shall we be going, gentlemen? Are you ready?” asked the detective.
“Yes,” replied M. Thévenot, “the policy is signed.”
“Excellent. Let us be off then.”
“Without a doubt. From this instant war is declared.”
“War? H’m! You use expressions that make one shudder. But in war men are armed… You have…”
“My browning? Certainly. And you, you would like a revolver, Monsieur Thévenot?”
“No, I thank you… I am near-sighted… and, and I do not know how to shoot…”
“In that case, I say no more. Fandor, telephone for a motor, will you?”
“Right, Juve. But you’re not calling up the Inspectors?”
“Yes, I am. Jean will take a letter to the Criminal Department. I am asking for Henri and Theo, who will bring two comrades with them… Now, gentlemen, shall we start?”
Ten minutes later a car was making its way across the city, carrying M. Thévenot, Juve, and Fandor. The President of Committee had taken his leave, being required elsewhere on business matters.
“I shall go and dine this evening at Robinson,” he announced as he shook Juve’s hand. “I want to see your fortalice.”
No doubt the Insurance magnate found the adventure entertaining. How was he to know that at that moment, for all their cheerful looks, Juve and Fandor, for their part, felt their hearts beating wildly in their bosoms?
A fresh struggle was beginning. Once again Juve and Fantômas were going to face each other…
Who would win the day, the honest men or the criminal?
(End of excerpt from Chapter 1 of Juve in the Dock)
This Antipodes edition, first published in 2017, is a republication of the work first published by Stanley Paul & Co, London, in 1925. The original translation has been altered to reflect modern spelling and usage.
Antipodes books are distributed worldwide by Ingram Content Group