The Revenge of Fantômas
A Fantômas Detective Novel
After leaving the captured Fantômas in the custody of Jerome Fandor, Inspector Juve is shocked to learn that the journalist has let him escape. With Fandor under suspicion of being an accomplice of the Genius of Evil, the two friends follow separate paths to track down their nemesis, with the final chapters of this, the thirty-sixth of the Fantômas novels, comprising what is surely the most dizzying, breakneck action sequence of the series.
“From the imaginative standpoint Fantômas is one of the richest works that exist.”
“Absurd and magnificent lyricism.”
- One Thing Certain
- Diamond Cut Diamond
- Mystery of the Châtelet
- Fandor’s “Prudence”
- Juve’s Fate, and Fandor’s
- A Desperate Adventure
- What Talking Means
- Hot on the Scent
- Good Old Juve!
- A Vision of Beauty
- “It Is I!”
- Shooting the Moon
- A Fatal Mistake
- An Atrocious Revenge
1. One Thing Certain
“Quicker, man! Get a move on, do!”
“But how about fines, sir?”
“Don’t care a hang!”
“Perhaps not you, sir, but what about me?”
“Same for you! Only drive ahead. I’ll be answerable. They’ll never punish you… I am Juve!”
“Yes, Juve, by God! Get on, my lad, get on! I’ve just arrested Fantômas.…”
Hanging halfway out of the window of the taxi he had hailed at the Paris barrier, the renowned police officer was yelling to his driver. Nor was it any exaggeration to say his guarantee would clear the poor Jehu of all pains and penalties for excessive speed and breach of bylaws.
Fantômas arrested, Fantômas a prisoner—a noxious beast in chains and harmless henceforth—here was the end of a hideous nightmare that had brooded over the world for long years. All Paris, all France, the whole earth would be holding high holiday in a few hours’ time, soon as ever the news should be known—scattered broadcast by the Press, by telephone, by wireless, to the uttermost confines of the universe.
“Drive on! drive on!” Juve reiterated—and a sharp jolt of the cab told him the driver had realized the news.
“Fantômas! Fantômas a prisoner!” stammered the fellow, his face white with excitement, “and you are Juve!”
The Paris cabby and taxi-man is well used to being mixed up in the most sensational affairs, but the knowledge that he was driving the great Juve, the police officer of genius and gallantry, and that his fare had just arrested Fantômas, put the man in a perfect fever.
“Drive on! drive on!” screamed Juve once more—and the man started off his taxi at racing speed. Its passage was marked by whistling, shaking of fists, even a motorcycle from the Préfecture of Police in hot pursuit; but Juve was undismayed and continued to urge on his Automedon:
“Get on! get on! I take all responsibility!”
To the terror of the public, the rage of brother cabbies, the impotent fury of the police, the vehicle shot across Paris, swung onto the quays, pulled up at last before the vast building facing the Palais de Justice that houses the police administration of the city.
With one bound Juve was on the sidewalk. Fatigue, exhaustion were gone, banished by the joy of victory; vigorous as ever, he felt all the spirit and elasticity of youth. Two steps and he was at the porter’s lodge.
“The Préfet? Out? In?”
“But—” stammered the official.
“Answer my question! In his room?”
“That’s to say… I—I think—”
“Good day!”—and swinging round on his heels, with a boyish glee worthy of Fandor, half mad with triumph, the weight lifted that had for so long oppressed his spirit, Juve dashed four steps at a time up the grand staircase leading to the private room of the Police Préfet, supreme head of the department entrusted with the detection and punishment of evildoers.
An usher sat half asleep in the sumptuously furnished anteroom, sorting papers that clerks came from time to time to collect and dispatch to the individuals concerned. Juve sprang at the man and shook him.
“The Chief?” he demanded.
“Monsieur le Préfet?”
“Busy, M’sieur Juve! The mail…”
“Oh, that all?… Take my name in.”
“Impossible! I have orders—”
“Idiot!”—and losing all patience, knowing indeed that all orders counted for nothing before the importance of the news he brought, Juve darted to the door of the great man’s room. Turning the handle, he tried to open, but the door refused to yield.
“Locked!” grinned the usher.
“Well, unlock it!”
“Can’t be, M’sieur Juve!”
“When I tell you—”
“Maybe! But my orders!”
A trivial obstacle, the silly obstinacy of a humble menial who cannot realize there are orders, even important ones, which must be disobeyed, when an unlooked for emergency comes—Juve ground his teeth.
“I take all responsibility!” he declared.
“M’sieur Juve, I’m ever so sorry, but I can’t risk the sack to oblige you.”
“But, in God’s name, listen here! I’ve just arrested Fantômas!”
“Oh, in that case I can’t say now what I ought to do—I can’t!”
The poor fellow’s hesitation indeed was so manifest that Juve suddenly clenched his fists in a spasm of rage. He knew, of course, quite well that the Préfet’s sanctum is barred against importunate callers—it must be so. He was perfectly well aware of the existence of a special lock securing the door, of which only the usher on duty and the Préfet have keys. He had often and often been in the room and had seen how four heavily padded doors separated it from the anteroom, so that his loudest appeal could never reach the Préfet’s ears.
Yet it was imperative the Chief should be informed, and every second was of priceless value. To capture Fantômas was well; to keep him better still; and, to make sure this ever-elusive Prince of Daring should not again escape, instant measures must be taken, measures which none but the Préfet of Police could organize. What was to be done then?
“One… two… three—have you made up your mind?” demanded the police officer. “The Préfet’s got to see me now, this instant.”
“So be it then!”—and he prepared for action. No! Juve was never at a loss for a plan. Juve was not the man to be balked by so childishly simple a difficulty. True, visitors might shout and bang their fists on the outer door, and never be heard inside the guarded room. Granted. But the explosion of a firearm?
Juve hauled out his revolver—Monsieur Havard had provided him with one—pointed the weapon at the ceiling, and emptied the six chambers one after the other.
“You’re going mad!” screamed the usher.
But at that same moment the doors opened and the Préfet appeared.
“Juve!” he cried.
“Myself!” the police officer assured him. “I knocked—”
“And fired. I was bound to see you instantly.”
“Very good! very good! But I was afraid—”
“I apologize, but—”
“No need to apologize, Juve—come along in!”
The Préfet was a man of energy and prompt decision. Needless to say he knew Juve and felt the same admiration for his talents as everyone else. Could he fail then to guess that the police officer had not behaved as he had just done without weighty and serious reasons?
“Come in,” he repeated. “Quick’s the word”—and the instant the door was relocked and the heavy curtains dropped, he demanded:
“What’s to do?”
Juve never hesitated a second. Another man perhaps would have boasted—couched the tremendous news he had to tell in some grandiloquent phrase; he out with it in two words:
“What’s to do, sir? A very interesting to-do, Monsieur le Préfet. Fandor and I have just arrested Fantômas.”
“A couple of hours ago.”
“Arrested Fantômas!” exclaimed the Préfet again.
“Right and tight!” asseverated Juve.
“Mercy on us!” groaned the puissant Chief, and there and then, as though a spasm of sheer terror had mastered him for the moment, he staggered, his legs all but gave away under him, and he had to grasp the back of a chair not to fall. Was it mere joy, triumphant joy at a capture that must make his period of office forever famous? So ghastly was the man’s face that Juve was filled with a nameless terror. Men of his type, accustomed to see the most unlikely, the most unlooked for occurrences come to pass, have strange presentiments. There is nothing to account for them, yet are they real enough. Juve demanded breathlessly:
“‘Mercy on us?’… Why?”
The words were incoherent, but the meaning plain. “Why do you say ‘Mercy on us?’” reiterated the police officer. “Why so upset at a moment like this?”
No answer for a space; then, trembling still, the Préfet continued:
“You have left Fantômas to his guards?”
“Yes, ten minutes after his arrest.”
“No, no! rather say prudence. Fandor and Havard are bringing him in a car—”
“To the Depot. I came away at once to inform you. A system of surveillance must be organized, precautions must be taken—”
“Besides Fandor and Havard, who guards the scoundrel on his road here?”
“Fifteen or twenty constables, Monsieur le Préfet. Oh, make your mind easy, sir.”
“My mind easy?”
“He can’t escape.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure—and more than sure! Just listen to the arrangements made. An open car heads the march, seven or eight inspectors of the Department in it, revolver in fist, never losing sight of the car behind. In the second car rides Fandor and the prisoner. He and Fantômas are alone in the vehicle, no complicity possible therefore.”
“Hear the rest. Behind this car comes a third, in which Monsieur Havard sits, surrounded on every side by constables, all armed to the teeth. All eyes are riveted on the car containing Fandor and Fantômas. With all this, Monsieur le Préfet, you must agree Fantômas could not escape, if he were the devil himself. Impossible to stir a limb without Fandor seeing; impossible to spring from the car without a score of shots greeting his appearance. Into the bargain, he is wounded, half dead, and tied hand and foot.”
Juve said no more. After detailing the conditions under which the prisoner was being conveyed, he had recovered all his calm equanimity. If the Préfet had manifested such keen anxiety on hearing of the momentous arrest, this was evidently because he was filled with alarm at the mere possibility of an escape. But an escape was impossible—a sheer impossibility! Juve was no daydreamer—far from it. His was one of the most practical and well-balanced minds in all the world. He never paltered with facts actually verified, but on the other hand, he was not one to be scared off by the improbability of apparently nonsensical suppositions.
All smiles, he turned to the Préfet. But, paler than ever, the great man was staring at the police officer, his eyes wide with bewilderment.
“We are being tricked!” he announced suddenly.
“Tricked?” Juve repeated the words.
“Yes! Made a mock of. Hideously deceived! Oh, Juve, my poor Juve, what a disgrace!”
“Disgrace? Who’s disgraced?”
“Why, you—and me. I—”
“I must be going crazy!” thundered the detective. “What the devil are you telling me?”
“There, read for yourself, then you’ll know”—and with dragging steps the Préfet crossed to his desk. With a shaking hand he opened a drawer, drew out a crumpled sheet of paper, and held it out to Juve.
“Read that,” he bade him—adding in a faltering voice: “I may as well tell you straight away how I came by it.… Three quarters of an hour ago I was working here quietly. Suddenly a crash of broken glass, and a stone drops on my desk.”
“So an attempt on your life, eh?”
“I thought so, at first. But no! The stone they’d pitched through my window was ballast for a piece of paper—a letter—the letter there. Take it—read it! I—when I’d read it—I locked myself in my room. I felt half mad. Yet I still thought it only some grim jest. But now, now I’ve heard your story…” and a wild gesture said more than words could express.
Juve, meantime, hearing his Chief’s account of the way the paper had reached him, frowned darkly. He could not fathom—that was impossible—the precise cause of the Préfet’s extreme agitation, but he suspected something sinister, something monstrous—and his presentiment grew graver every moment. Mastering his feelings, however, fighting down the fears that beset him, he merely said, after glancing at the letter:
“Hmm! it’s typewritten, I see. No handwriting to recognize, consequently nothing for the experts to make out”—and with these two remarks, that showed how his sagacity as a detective was ever on the alert, he proceeded to read the missive the Chief of Police had received under such odd circumstances. It ran as follows:
Dear Sir,—Juve and Fandor, whose recklessness defies all peril surely, have just arrested me. Havard, a bigger fool than they, gave them a free hand. They have just arranged for my return to Paris, by motorcar, with an elaboration of safeguards that robs me of all chance of escape. You will realize that this is disturbing for me—disturbing in the highest degree. Well, my dear sir, in face of these facts, I do not hesitate to address this note to you—which I have decided, for greater safety, to deliver to you personally.… Here is what I have to say: I have but a few orders to give you, but these are of the highest importance. I recommend you therefore to treat me with all the consideration that is my due. To begin with, you will free me of my handcuffs and fetters. Then you will summon to my bedside, to attend me, a Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris; I have a horror of your general practitioner. Lastly, if I have not a temperature, you will have a good meal ready for me about nine o’clock, and send to the Place de l’Opera to fetch a good motor-brougham from a first-class garage. Needless to add that all the necessary formalities of my discharge from custody will be carried out while I am at breakfast. Thus you will be setting me at liberty say at ten o’clock at latest.
By the way, supposing you are disposed to act contrary to these formal instructions, I am then bound to consider this eventuality of your not agreeing to what I wish.… Accordingly, please understand this: If you fail to obey me to the letter, you will die in the course of the day and with you some hundred or hundred and fifty thousand Parisians. I cannot, of course, say for certain; but I am persuaded you will realize where your true interest lies, and that is why, relying on your docility, I permit myself to assure you of my very best wishes for your welfare.
“The deuce!” growled the police officer.
“You understand now?” questioned the Préfet.
“Not the very least!” declared Juve.
“Yet it’s perfectly plain, alas!”
“Perfectly plain, eh?”
“Why yes! Fantômas is poking fun at us. And if he pokes fun at us, that means he’s free; it means, he has escaped; it means he has taken to his heels the moment your back was turned.”
But Juve shook his head positively. “That,” he protested, “is impossible!” And Juve closed his eyes a moment. Anyone seeing him thus would have deemed him entirely calm, almost indifferent in fact. Yet the veins on his forehead were swollen and the whole face seemed frozen in an expression of rage and savage determination. The truth is the police officer was thinking intensely. Fantômas escaped? No! he could not bring himself to fear that. He was positive—absolutely positive—that an escape was physically impossible. Yet the wording of the first part of the letter clearly implied that he was free; there was one sentence read word for word: “I address this note to you—which I have decided to deliver to you personally!”
“True,” Juve continued his soliloquy, “but, then, the end of the letter contradicts the beginning. If Fantômas is a free man, what can this order mean about having to set him free tomorrow morning?”—and the detective gave a sudden shrug. Yet certainly this strange letter that had so mysteriously reached the Préfet’s hands was like the brigand’s work, but for all that, for once, the thing was impossible. The villain could not have written it! And lifting his head and reopening his eyes, Juve announced:
“I understand now, Monsieur le Préfet.”
“You understand? Understand what?”
“That we are indeed tricked.”
“But not by Fantômas?”
“Not by Fantômas?”
“No, but by an impostor. The letter is the letter of a practical joker. It’s just a silly jest. It can’t be anything else. And besides, everything goes to show this.”
“No, sir, it’s sense. Just consider the threat it contains: ‘If you fail to obey, you will die, and with you some hundred or hundred and fifty thousand Parisians; I cannot of course say for certain.’ It’s too silly. Do you know any sure way of killing a hundred or hundred and fifty thousand men at one blow?”—and again Juve shrugged his shoulders.
“Grotesque!” he reiterated, tossing down the letter contemptuously on the desk.
At that moment a crash was heard and a wild scream for help.
“What!” exclaimed the Préfet, while Juve made a headlong dash for the padded doors—from the inside of the room they open easily enough—and flung them wide in frantic haste.
Then an oath broke from the police officer’s lips. In the anteroom he had caught sight of two men still struggling together savagely as they lay sprawling on the floor. One held the other at his mercy, his fingers gripping his adversary’s throat, ready to strangle him.
The victor looked round, and Juve gave another cry—a cry of utter bewilderment:
“Fandor! Why, it’s Fandor!”
Yes, it was no other than Fandor who had just borne down the unfortunate usher and seemed on the point of choking him to death!
* * * * *
So little was Juve at that moment expecting to see Fandor—Fandor, who was not to quit Fantômas’ side under any pretext whatever—in the Préfet’s anteroom, above all so little did he expect to find him busy throttling the usher on duty, that for an instant the sight he beheld left him speechless. “Never,” so Fandor used to say in his picturesque diction, “never did old Juve lose his nut.” Yet on this occasion there was no doubt he was dumbfounded as he stood there staring about him in all directions with haggard eyes.
“Midsummer madness!” the Préfet was declaiming, while Fandor got up quietly and deliberately from the floor, like a man who has completed a complicated job and is not sorry to have got done so easily with an unpleasant duty.
“Yes, perfect madness,” he chimed in calmly. “The obstinacy of that fellow!”—and pointing to the usher he concluded: “And, to top all, he has buttons to his trousers’ pockets, so I couldn’t manage to search him.”
“Search him?” put in Juve.
“Why, of course!” Fandor assured his friend. “I was choking him because I wanted to go through his pockets. Anyway, it was only a ‘very little’ choking—a mere strangling for form’s sake.”
“I’m dreaming!” stammered Juve, but the journalist strode up to his friend and administered a friendly slap on the back.
“Not you, not a bit of it,” he cried. “Only, my good old Juve, you don’t grasp the thread of my discourse. This is it—I wanted to join Monsieur le Préfet and you as quickly as possible, and the usher refused to take in my name, under some preposterous pretext or other.”
“So you threw yourself on the man?”
“Anything else you would have had me do, eh?”
“Why, certainly,” grinned Juve. “You might have called out, shouted, fired off a revolver, so there!” And, signing to the Préfet not to say a word, the detective drew to one side and invited the young man to enter.
“Yes, in a moment,” Fandor agreed. “But first…” And with the word he marched straight for the usher, who had now got to his feet, though still looking bewildered.
“No ill feeling, eh? I warned you, old chap! I just had to get by!”
He wrung the fellow’s hand, and without more ado joined Juve and the Chief of Police in the room so jealously guarded.
But then, as Fandor made his way into the Préfet’s office, all his natural lightheartedness seemed instantly to desert him. In fact, the young man was hardly inside and the door shut, assuring the privacy of the communications to follow, when Juve, springing to his friend’s side, adjured him to speak.
“Speak? Speak about what?” asked the other teasingly.
“Oh! a truce to chaff, I beg and beseech you, Fandor.”
“Very good, Juve!”
“What have you come here to tell us?”
“To tell you? Hmm! I was hoping not to have anything to say to Monsieur le Préfet.”
“So it was to me—”
“Faith, yes, Juve, it was to you I wanted to talk.”
“To me alone?”
“I should so much have liked—”
“Oh! Beg pardon, Juve,” interrupted the journalist, “but don’t let’s go putting the cart before the horse. That’s no way to get on. First let me say what I have to say.”
“Well, go ahead! Go ahead, pray!”
“Sit down, friend Juve. There, facing me. Monsieur le Préfet, tell him to sit down.”
But the latter was at that moment passing his hand over his brow with the look of a man awaking from a terrifying and incomprehensible dream. These remarks exchanged by the two friends left him more dumbfounded than ever, manifesting as they did a state of breathless suspense and nervous tension in Juve, and imbued with a quality of rather grim and somewhat forced humor on Fandor’s part.
“Sit down, Juve!” he ordered nevertheless.
“Now speak, Monsieur Fandor… Fantômas?”
“Fantômas? No! Juve, it’s Juve is in question.”
“What, I?” cried the police officer.
“Why, certainly!” declared the journalist. “You are past your prime, old man.”
“Past my prime?”
“Yes! And that, Monsieur le Préfet, explains the hallucinations, the blunder… In one word, you mustn’t blame him for it.”
“Mustn’t blame me if—if what?” cried Juve. “Have done! You’re killing me!”
“There, there! Calm yourself, my dear fellow. No, we mustn’t be angry with him, this poor effete Juve, if now and again he commits gross blunders.”
“Gross blunders? I have committed—?”
“Why, yes! But I’m not talking to you, my dear man. As I find you in company with Monsieur le Préfet, it’s to him I address myself. Anyway, let’s get done with it.”
But as he said the words, Fandor seemed to hesitate—and fell silent.
“By all means let’s get done with it!” stammered the Préfet. “So, then…?”
“So, then, it’s all quite simple—or it ought to be quite simple. Hmm! All the same, I hardly know how to put it.”
“Put what, Fandor?”
“Hush, Juve! See here, Monsieur le Préfet, what has Juve been telling you since he has been with you?”
The Préfet of Police turned white as paper, and it was in a barely audible voice he brought out:
“Juve told me—reported to me, in fact—that he and you, the two of you, had arrested Fantômas.”
“And that you were bringing him here with Monsieur Havard.”
“And police constables?”
“Yes, and police constables.”
“Well, Monsieur le Préfet, that’s just what I was fearing.”
“I say ‘that’s just what I was fearing!’ If only I’d got here quicker, I’d have stopped Juve telling you these cock-and-bull stories.”
“These cock-and-bull stories!” shouted Juve, who had sprung from his seat. Now, running up to the journalist, seizing his arm, shaking him soundly, he yelled:
“You call this a cock-and-bull story?”
“Faith, yes, I do!”
“But you’re mad.”
“Oh, no, Juve! Not a bit of it!”
“To have Fantômas in custody—a mere nothing!”
“Why, yes, Juve, because—”
“Because what? Speak out, for God’s sake!”
“Because Fantômas is not in custody, you poor old chap.”
“Not in custody?”
“Why, no! No more in custody than I am!”
“He escaped, then?”
“Escaped? Not he! He couldn’t have escaped.”
“Then, Juve, the rest is plain enough, seems to me.”
“But it just isn’t plain to me! It’s enough to drive a man mad! You say he hasn’t escaped—you say he’s not in custody. That’s to say he’s free.”
“Free? Yes, that’s so!”
“Free! Free! Free, when I put him in your charge—yours, Fandor, and Havard’s.”
“No, Juve, Monsieur Havard has nothing to do with it. I did it all.”
“But did what, man?”
“Yes, what? I tell you Fantômas is not in custody. I tell you also he could not escape. Draw your conclusion!”
Juve turned a more ghastly color still. He was glaring at Fandor with eyes like gimlets that seemed bent on piercing the young man’s skull in their effort to discover beneath the reticence of his words the actual thought that he would not out with. Then suddenly:
“Oh, ho! Fandor, you haven’t…?”
“Yes, I have!”
“You’ve let him go?”
“Yes, Juve, I’ve let him go—or as good as…”
“Or as good as?”
“Oh, it’s all one! Let’s say I’ve let him go.”
“But you have a motive, a reason?”
“Yes, that seems likely.”
“Well, then, tell us.”
“No! I shall tell you nothing.”
“Yes, I refuse to tell, Juve. Listen, here—here’s all I can—for the moment, you understand, for the moment—let you know. Fantômas was sitting beside me. We had a talk. As we talked we came to think alike in several important points. In one word, I put myself in his hands.”
“You! You, Fandor!”
“Myself. Then, next instant, I started the engine off full blast. I had a first-rate car, quick and sensitive. Full blast. You take me?”
“The obstinacy of the man! I tell you you’re not dreaming! I clapped on the gas—a quick turn, to the right—another like lightning to the left—and then straight ahead. The first car, with the constables, dropped out instantly—bad driving! Havard’s stuck to it longer. His shots pierced the woodwork. It’s a mercy I was not killed. But I left him behind on a downgrade. He did not dare to make as sharp a turn as I did.”
“Very plucky. Kept telling me: ‘Go ahead! Go ahead!’ What would you have, Juve? I went ahead.”
“But in the end—”
“Let me speak, Juve,” broke in the Préfet. “Now, Monsieur Fandor, do you realize the gravity of your statements?”
“Certainly, sir, I do!”
“And that they can’t be accepted?”
“Still, they’ll have to be accepted, Monsieur le Préfet!”
“Hmm! We shall see. In any case, I know you—I know you are a hero—I know you’ve risked your life a hundred times, a thousand times over, to arrest Fantômas.”
“Precisely so! And today I’ve risked my poor little life to save him.”
“Just what I was going to say!” declared the Préfet. “After that, to guess that an overmastering, a supreme motive, actuated you is a short step.”
“Monsieur le Préfet, you are more perspicacious than Juve!”
“But you had no right to—”
“Hush, Juve! Say no more. Leave me to talk things out with your friend Fandor. Very good then. An overmastering motive urged you to set Fantômas at liberty.”
“Hmm! That’s true enough, if you put it so! But go on, sir.”
“Well now, read this letter I’ve had—note the threats it contains. And, that done, speak! Tell us what you’re bound to tell us.”
Fandor bowed. Ever since his entry into the Préfet’s room he had avoided looking Juve in the face, seeming to fight shy of his impetuous friend. Was he aware, then, of the monstrous strangeness, the incomprehensibility of his behavior? But, if so, why had he come to visit the high Chief of all police officials? Fandor had helped Fantômas to escape—a thing that staggered the imagination. He had betrayed Juve, joining hands with the murderer, the villain, the grim Lord of Terror—surely the maddest of all the mad turns of fortune that so often marked the career of Fantômas!
The young journalist, now looking rather white, held out his hand for the paper the Préfet handed him and read it slowly through, weighing the contents.
“Well?” broke in Juve, boiling with impatience.
“Well, it’s very evident—”
“What? What’s very evident, pray?”
“That I did well to act as I did.”
“At this moment? No!”
“But, come, you take into account—”
“Everything, Juve, you want me to. And of something else you seem to forget.”
“And that is?”
Fandor rose from his seat and stepped up to Juve. With simple directness, paying no heed whatever to the presence of the Préfet of Police, he held out his two hands to the police officer.
“It is this, Juve,” he cried. “You love me like a son, and I love you like a father. We two have always shared the same dangers. We two have always fought side by side. You would give your life for me, and I would kill myself ten times over to save yours. Then you cannot, you must not, you have not the right to suspect me!”
This time the young man spoke slowly, in his voice a tone of infinite earnestness and acute distress. Till that moment, it may be, Jerome Fandor had tried to smile, to defy the storm, to pretend an indifference he was far from feeling. But suddenly he had thrown off the mask. Pale and trembling, his brow wrinkled in anxious thought, he was speaking gravely, sorrowfully. It was the heartrending call of a lifelong friendship to a friendship no less enduring.
“God forgive me!” groaned the detective. For one second, one fraction of a second, he held back. Now he understood! If Fandor had acted as he had, it was because it was right for him to have acted so. It was because honor and duty commanded him to do what he had done. If he still refused to speak, it was the same honor, the same scruple of duty, that sealed his lips. And Juve gripped the two hands Fandor held out to him. He drew Fandor to his breast and pressed him to his heart.
“Fandor, my little lad!”
“Juve, my dear old Juve!”
But the embrace was brief, fugitive, over in a moment, and Juve went on:
“Listen here, Fandor, let’s see how we stand. Yes or no, can you let us know the secret of your behavior?”
“No, Juve, I cannot.”
“Yet you admit you released the prisoner?”
“I admit having carried him off in a car.”
“Then you understand where my duty lies?”
“Your duty, Juve?”
“Yes, Fandor. So long as you have not spoken out, justified your conduct.”
“You are bound to arrest me, Juve?”
“I am bound to arrest you, Fandor.”
“But I won’t let you do it!”
“Too late!” The cry burst from the Préfet of Police. “Hands up, Fandor!”—and he leveled the service revolver he always kept within reach of his hand.
The Chief of Police hesitated no longer. For some moments, as he marked the cordiality of the embrace that had thrown Fandor and Juve into one another’s arms, the Préfet had experienced an uncomfortable feeling of suspicion. Who in his place could have done otherwise? So dark and tortuous were the machinations in which the sinister name of Fantômas never failed to recur, like a refrain, no man could boast of having ever fathomed the exact truth.
The Préfet thundered: “One step, and I fire!”
But in a bound Jerome Fandor was on his feet.
“It is I you threaten?” he demanded.
“In the name of the law I arrest you!”
“Well, in the name of my duty I defy you”—and, quicker than lightning, Jerome Fandor sprang for the door.
His hand was on the knob; in another second he would have escaped, when a sharp click reached his ear, a sound only too easy to recognize; the Préfet had snapped off the safety catch of his weapon.
“Hands up!” he ordered, “or I fire!”
“Oh, but you’ll never fire on Fandor!” protested Juve—and in an instant, mechanically, without a thought of the risk he ran, Juve threw himself between the great official and the simple journalist!
“It is I you will kill!” he declared calmly.
“Thank you, Juve!” cried his friend, and he was already outside the door by the time the detective had rushed at his Chief, barring his way, seizing him by the shoulders, crying in a voice of frantic distress:
“No, no! You cannot suspect Fandor! I stand sponsor for him! If he has let Fantômas go, it is because it was his duty to release him.”
“It only means you are his accomplice!” stormed the Préfet.
“I? Then why should I have come to see you?” Breathlessly the two men stood staring at each other. True, the Préfet was not, could not, like Juve, be convinced of Fandor’s innocence; still, he felt somehow that Juve must yet be right. No arguments surely, however cogent, no suspicions, however well founded, ought to prevail against the plain fact: Jerome Fandor was an honorable man; nay, more—a hero.
“There is one thing certain—” began the Préfet, but at that moment the door of the room, left unlatched by Fandor in his hasty flight, opened again to admit a fresh arrival.
This was Monsieur Havard. The famous Head of the Criminal Bureau was smothered in dust. His face was livid. He caught and echoed the Préfet’s last words. “You are right,” he approved. “There is one thing certain—at this present moment either Jerome Fandor is dead, or—”
“Or?” queried Juve.
“Or he is the most abandoned villain still unhanged!” And the Head of the Criminal Bureau sank into an armchair like a man utterly exhausted, incapable of further battling either with fatigue or agitation.
(End of Chapter 1 of The Revenge of Fantômas)
This Antipodes edition, first published in 2017, is a republication of the work first published by Stanley Paul & Co, London, in 1927. The original translation has been altered to reflect modern spelling and usage.
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