CHAPTER I : NUMBER 514, SERIES 23 --- 6/10
M. Gerbois was leaving the bank. When he came to the end of the Rue des Capucines, he turned down the boulevard, keeping to the left-hand side. He walked away slowly, along the shops, and looked into the windows.
"Our friend's too quiet," said Ganimard. "A fellow with a million in his pocket does not keep so quiet as all that."
"What can he do?"
"Oh, nothing, of course.... No matter, I mistrust him. It's Lupin, Lupin...."
At that moment M. Gerbois went to a kiosk, bought some newspapers, took his change, unfolded one of the sheets and, with outstretched arms, began to read, while walking on with short steps. And, suddenly, with a bound, he jumped into a motor-cab which was waiting beside the curb. The power must have been on, for the car drove off rapidly, turned the corner of the Madeleine and disappeared.
"By Jupiter!" cried Ganimard. "Another of his inventions!"
He darted forward and other men, at the same time as himself, ran round the Madeleine. But he burst out laughing. The motor-car had broken down at the beginning of the Boulevard Malesherbes and M. Gerbois was getting out.
"Quick, Folenfant ... the driver ... perhaps it's the man called Ernest."
Folenfant tackled the chauffeur. It was a man called Gaston, one of the motor-cab company's drivers; a gentleman had engaged him ten minutes before and had told him to wait by the newspaper-kiosk, "with steam up," until another gentleman came.
"And what address did the second fare give?" asked Folenfant.
"He gave me no address.... 'Boulevard Malesherbes ... Avenue de Messine ... give you an extra tip': that's all he said."
During this time, however, M. Gerbois, without losing a minute, had sprung into the first passing cab:
"Drive to the Concorde tube-station!"
The professor left the tube at the Place du Palais-Royal, hurried into another cab and drove to the Place de la Bourse. Here he went by tube again, as far as the Avenue de Villiers, where he took a third cab:
"25, Rue Clapeyron!"
No. 25, Rue Clapeyron, is separated from the Boulevard des Batignolles by the house at the corner. The professor went up to the first floor and rang. A gentleman opened the door.
"Does Maitre Detinan live here?"
"I am Maitre Detinan. M. Gerbois, I presume?"
"That's it."
"I was expecting you. Pray come in."
When M. Gerbois entered the lawyer's office, the clock was striking three and he at once said:
"This is the time he appointed. Isn't he here?"
"Not yet."
M. Gerbois sat down, wiped his forehead, looked at his watch as though he did not know the time and continued, anxiously:
"Will he come?"
The lawyer replied:
"You are asking me something, sir, which I myself am most curious to know. I have never felt so impatient in my life. In any case, if he comes, he is taking a big risk, for the house has been closely watched for the past fortnight.... They suspect me."
"And me even more," said the professor. "I am not at all sure that the detectives set to watch me have been thrown off my track."
"But then...."
"It would not be my fault," cried the professor, vehemently, "and he can have nothing to reproach me with. What did I promise to do? To obey his orders. Well, I have obeyed his orders blindly: I cashed the ticket at the time which he fixed and came on to you in the manner which he ordered. I am responsible for my daughter's misfortune and I have kept my engagements in all good faith. It is for him to keep his." And he added, in an anxious voice, "He will bring back my daughter, won't he?"
"I hope so."
"Still ... you've seen him?"
"I? No. He simply wrote asking me to receive you both, to send away my servants before three o'clock and to let no one into my flat between the time of your arrival and his departure. If I did not consent to this proposal, he begged me to let him know by means of two lines in the Echo de France. But I am only too pleased to do Arsene Lupin a service and I consent to everything."
M. Gerbois moaned:
"Oh, dear, how will it all end?"
He took the bank-notes from his pocket, spread them on the table and divided them into two bundles of five hundred each. Then the two men sat silent. From time to time, M. Gerbois pricked up his ears: wasn't that a ring at the door-bell?... His anguish increased with every minute that passed. And Maitre Detinan also experienced an impression that was almost painful.