CHAPTER I : NUMBER 514, SERIES 23 --- 5/10
Two days later, M. Gerbois walked across the courtyard of the Credit Foncier. He was shown in to the governor and handed him number 514, series 23. The governor gave a start:
"Oh, so you have it? Did they give it back to you?"
"I mislaid it and here it is," replied M. Gerbois.
"But you said.... There was a question...."
"That's all lies and tittle-tattle."
"But nevertheless we should require some corroborative document."
"Will the major's letter do?"
"Here it is."
"Very well. Please leave these papers with us. We are allowed a fortnight in which to verify them. I will let you know when you can call for the money. In the meanwhile, I think that you would be well-advised to say nothing and to complete this business in the most absolute silence."
"That is what I intend to do."
M. Gerbois did not speak, nor the governor either. But there are certain secrets which leak out without any indiscretion having been committed, and the public suddenly learnt that Arsene Lupin had had the pluck to send number 514, series 23, back to M. Gerbois! The news was received with a sort of stupefied admiration. What a bold player he must be, to fling so important a trump as the precious ticket upon the table! True, he had parted with it wittingly, in exchange for a card which equalized the chances. But suppose the girl escaped? Suppose they succeeded in recapturing his hostage?
The police perceived the enemy's weak point and redoubled their efforts. With Arsene Lupin disarmed and despoiled by himself, caught in his own toils, receiving not a single sou of the coveted million ... the laugh would at once be on the other side.
But the question was to find Suzanne. And they did not find her, nor did she escape!
"Very well," people said, "that's settled: Arsene has won the first game. But the difficult part is still to come! Mlle. Gerbois is in his hands, we admit, and he will not hand her over without the five hundred thousand francs. But how and where is the exchange to take place? For the exchange to take place, there must be a meeting; and what is to prevent M. Gerbois from informing the police and thus both recovering his daughter and keeping the money?"
The professor was interviewed. Greatly cast down, longing only for silence, he remained impenetrable:
"I have nothing to say; I am waiting."
"And Mlle. Gerbois?"
"The search is being continued."
"But Arsene Lupin has written to you?"
"Do you swear that?"
"That means yes. What are his instructions?"
"I have nothing to say."
Maitre Detinan was next besieged and showed the same discretion.
"M. Lupin is my client," he replied, with an affectation of gravity. "You will understand that I am bound to maintain the most absolute reserve."
All these mysteries annoyed the gallery. Plots were evidently hatching in the dark. Arsene Lupin was arranging and tightening the meshes of his nets, while the police were keeping up a watch by day and night round M. Gerbois. And people discussed the only three possible endings: arrest, triumph, or grotesque and pitiful failure.
But, as it happened, public curiosity was destined to be only partially satisfied; and the exact truth is revealed for the first time in these pages.
On Thursday, the 12th of March, M. Gerbois received the notice from the Credit Foncier, in an ordinary envelope.
At one o'clock on Friday, he took the train for Paris. A thousand notes of a thousand francs each were handed to him at two.
While he was counting them over, one by one, with trembling hands?for was this money not Suzanne's ransom??two men sat talking in a cab drawn up at a short distance from the main entrance. One of these men had grizzled hair and a powerful face, which contrasted oddly with his dress and bearing, which was that of a small clerk. It was Chief-Inspector Ganimard, old Ganimard, Lupin's implacable enemy. And Ganimard said to Detective-Sergeant Folenfant:
"The old chap won't be long ... we shall see him come out in five minutes. Is everything ready?"
"How many are we?"
"Eight, including two on bicycles."
"And myself, who count as three. It's enough, but not too many. That Gerbois must not escape us at any price ... if he does, we're diddled: he'll meet Lupin at the place they have agreed upon; he'll swap the young lady for the half-million; and the trick's done."
"But why on earth won't the old chap act with us? It would be so simple! By giving us a hand in the game, he could keep the whole million."
"Yes, but he's afraid. If he tries to jockey the other, he won't get his daughter back."
"What other?"
Ganimard pronounced this word "him" in a grave and rather awe-struck tone, as though he were speaking of a supernatural being who had already played him a nasty trick or two.
"It's very strange," said Sergeant Folenfant, judiciously, "that we should be reduced to protecting that gentleman against himself."
"With Lupin, everything is upside down," sighed Ganimard.
A minute elapsed.
"Look out!" he said.

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