The Knight’s Gambit
Translated by Anita Conrade
Une pensée contient toujours deux sortes de choses,
celles qui y sont venues par inspiration
et celles qui y sont venues par alluvion.
Victor Hugo, Choses vues, 1846
Dupin and I understand each other so well, that, in truth, were it not so enjoyable for us to exercise our tongues by expostulating from time to time, we would scarcely find conversation necessary. In many ways, we were similar to the two mathematicians described by Voltaire: having grown hoarse after long dissertations on the circumference of the Dog-Star, they had finally realized that their opinions were as near as possible to identical, and that the convex curves of one’s reasoning nested perfectly in the concave curves of the other’s. Thus, in order to preserve their lungs, whenever a problem arose, they contented themselves with an exclamation of “ha!” or “ho,” embellished with the appropriate intonation. For example, while they were lunching, one might show the other his proof of the equations of Micromégas determining the relative sizes of our own globe and his own. “Ha!” the first would say; “Ho,” the other would reply. Perhaps the issue was the degree to which the faculties of the mind defined by the term analytical influence the faculties of the body described as physical in exercises which demand muscular activity. “Ha!” commented the former; “Ho,” rejoined the latter. Was the subject the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology which unquestionably proves that every effect is the result of a specific cause, a theory Pangloss was teaching at the castle of the baron of Thunder-den-Tronckh? “Ha,” followed by “Ho!” For there wasn’t a single aspect of the principles of this famous doctrine, studied by Candide in Westphalia, which had the power of eliciting a more astonished reaction from them. It was exactly the same with the riddle of the hieroglyphs, the enigmatic rebuses, and Oriental ideograms: whatever it was, it could be solved by a “Ho!” and a “Ha,” followed by an especially intense, silent, and contemplative game of draughts, according to the rules of the pastime known as Gallant Maidens in Great Britain and as English Ladies in certain states of the young American Republic.But the playing piece standing on the checkered game board at the source of the mystery which occupied the congruent minds of Dupin and myself early in the month of October 18— , and which I shall now relate, came from a game of chess, not draughts.
We were perusing the evening edition of La Gazette des Tribunaux when our attention was riveted by the following paragraph:
“LE ROI SOLITAIRE. – On Monday morning, Mr. Bouscatel, a wine dealer from Saint-Flour, had an appointment with an attorney named Mr. Petiot, whose offices are located on Rue des Chartreux. The worthy Auvergne gentleman Bouscatel was interested in leasing one of the properties Petiot manages, an old butcher-shop located at the Barrière d’Enfer. Although the building had been closed for eons and was in extremely dilapidated condition, one of Mr. Bouscatel’s countrymen had suggested it to him as a possible storage place for the kegs of Chanturgue, Madargue, and Châteaugay he has shipped from the Cantal to Paris, via the Briare Canal or the railway. Mr. Petiot quoted a rental fee – which happened to be quite reasonable – and gave Bouscatel the key, inviting him to visit the premises that very day.
“When he returned to Petiot’s offices late that afternoon, Mr. Bouscatel reported a surprising discovery: on the second floor, in a filthy room, he had found a magnificent gaming table dating back to the Ancien Régime. It was immaculate: unmarred by a single speck of dust. He had also noted a single playing piece on the chessboard, an ebony king, but – grisly detail – the king was decapitated! Moreover, the square on which the headless king had been placed, which originally had been a white one, had been stained with red ink.
“At first, Mr. Petiot chuckled at this story, but, upon reflection, he found it odd that someone had gone to the trouble to break into such a sordid shack solely for the pleasure of playing a game of chess amid the cobwebs. Concerned about his responsibilities to the owner of the property – a stingy, quarrelsome, petty landlord – he delegated his first clerk, Robin, to alert the authorities. The report led to an inquiry, which stated that the gaming table was a small, finely crafted pedestal table; the top, made of bur walnut, bore a large chessboard made of marble and slate, one of the squares of which had been stained with red India ink; that the king, of somewhat larger-than-average size, was of finely sculpted ebony; that the missing head had been separated from the rest of the body by a stroke of the saw blade. The meager evidence was registered and deposited at the main Rue de Jerusalem depot, amid a multitude of curious objects, seized in the course of other legal investigations.
“As soon as Mr. Bouscatel signed the lease for the old butcher shop which he intended to use as a wine warehouse, he returned with a mason to make an estimate of the plastering work to be done. Imagine his astonishment when he saw that a second gaming table was standing exactly where the first one had been found. Again, a single piece – a willfully mutilated black king – stood on a single scarlet square of the chessboard. Mr. Bouscatel’s patience is finite: angry that the mysterious marauders had the gall to break into the building a second time, and fearing for the safety of the liquor he intended to store there, as the lessor of the property, he now insists he is entitled to a careful police investigation of the incident.”
Dupin gave me the impression that he was paying considerable attention to this strange news report – to judge by his pensive air, at least, for he did not make the slightest comment while he was reading. It was only after he had put aside the newspaper and lit his meerschaum pipe that he asked me what I thought of the whole matter. I confessed that I was totally mystified by it, and unable to see any adequate means of arriving at a solution.
“It is a mistake,” he mused, “to apply the judgement of adequacy to an embryonic form of reasoning. The Parisian police, so often praised for their sagacity, generally proceed by extremely empirical methods. Granted, the agents are generally quite cunning, but they have given little thought to the many alternatives available. Amazing as their accomplishments may be, they are usually the product of simple promptitude and stubbornness. When these qualities fail, the police can be foiled. Take François Vidocq, for example: an energetic man, gifted with great patience, but a man who lacks a certain type of vision. Our friend often thwarts his own purposes by failing to distance himself from an event. He may observe two or three important details – and, I admit, his vision is then quite keen – but due to the microscopic nature of his insight, he does not perceive the whole formed by all the parts of an affair. Call it “diving blindly into the heart of things.” The truth is not always to be found slumbering at the bottom of a well. In fact, to return to the case at hand, I believe the clarification lies right on the surface. We plumb the depths in our quest for an explanation, whereas, were our minds open to the idea, we would find the solution on the tip of the iceberg. As for the enigma offered by the gaming table and its headless king, why not visit the premises and examine the clues ourselves, before we formulate an opinion? This inquiry will be a pleasant distraction from our daily routine.”
François Vidocq himself accompanied us to the empty house located at the Barrière d’Enfer. We went upstairs to the second floor and he showed us the small gaming table, which had been left intact. Dupin studied it attentively. It was a cheaply-made piece of furniture, of spruce stained with walnut. Rather than being inlaid, the chessboard was simply a broad pine board, with black squares painted on; a single white square had been reddened with ink. As for the king with the missing head, it was only a child’s plaything, a doll which had been blackened with dabs of pitch.
My companion took note of all these details in his little book. We were about to bid good-bye to Vidocq when he noticed a leather strap lying on the floor, in a dark corner of the room. He picked it up.
“Well, imagine that! A cartridge case!” Vidocq exclaimed, when he saw it.
Yes, it was indeed that military accessory, known to all who have ever wielded a blunderbuss. Dupin examined it from every angle, pointing out to us that all the powder pouches were empty. Then, compelled by a notion which had struck him like a thunderbolt (as he told me later), he strode over to a nearby window, opened it, and leaned outside. It presented a view of a high, windowless wall obstructing the horizon on the opposite side of the street. Scrutinizing it further, my friend noticed, at human height, pits characteristic of a volley of bullets.
“What do those traces of bullets on a wall, six feet from the ground, remind you of?” he asked Vidocq, after having pointed them out to him.
“Holy cow!” grumbled the latter, to conceal his ignorance.
“All right. I’ll give you another hint: Lecomte...”
The police officer scratched his head.
“Lecomte, the regicide?” he murmured, gaping.
“Who else? You must remember the rifle loaded with bullets, fired onto a carriage loaded with notables – Louis-Philippe and his retinue – as it drove past his window?”
“I shall never forget! I was escorting His Majesty’s landau, with three of my men. We were deployed in formation around the vehicle, walking at the same pace as the horses. When the explosion occurred, the king was chatting with Madame, and he seemed to be quite absorbed in what he was saying. Had he been less attentive to this activity, he would no doubt have caught sight of Lecomte when he leaned out over the window frame to take aim. I was watching the other side of the street. When the first shot rang out, someone in the escort cried, “That must be a hunter emptying his rifle.” I promptly became suspicious: “Rather odd of a hunter to fire the rest of his cartridges during a royal procession.” Just as I’d finished uttering the observation, the second shot was fired. “An assassin!” I shouted. His Majesty leaned out of the coach and scolded me. “Come now, Monsieur Vidocq! Let’s not jump to conclusions. Soon, there will be a logical explanation for all of this.” Quite characteristic of our sovereign, is it not, Dupin? Serene and imperturbable, almost benevolent towards the man who had tried to shoot him. Just then, Madame beckoned to me discreetly, and when I went to see her, she mutely showed me the rifle plug which had landed on her lap. Her silence implied an inner peace which was solemn and inspiring. The King’s sister screams when her carriage tilts a bit; she will dismount and walk rather than ride over a bridge; she crosses herself during a thunderstorm. Yet when a man attempts to assassinate her brother in her presence, she is perfectly placid. Delicious paradox. Indeed, we were astoundingly lucky that nothing serious happened. Not a drop of blood was spilled; the walls were riddled with holes, but no one was injured in the slightest. It was a miracle, of the sort that Heaven grants us nowadays. In olden times, according to legend, miracles could stop the Sun, make mountains dance, and give speech to animals. Today, the divine powers confine themselves to muddying the mind of a wretch planning a dastardly crime. They convince him to load two bullets into the barrel of the rifle, but lull him into forgetting that, at twenty paces, the two bullets are bound to deviate from their trajectory by twenty feet. They persuade him to load the adjacent gun even more heavily, but cause him to remain unaware that the shot it will fire will fly wild by six paces.”
“Lecomte explained that he had carefully calculated the charge he loaded into the gun,” I broke in. “He was planning to assassinate the king and wound several people in the procession, so that those who had survived uninjured would be too busy caring for the victims to give chase.”
“By laying the plans for his own salvation so carefully, the scoundrel ensured that of Louis-Philippe,” Dupin remarked.
After a brief silence, he went on:
“At present, I have every reason to believe that a criminal mind has carefully crafted this tableau for the purposes of casting suspicion upon an innocent person, making it look as though he were plotting an attempt on the king’s life. The man would thus be punished for the atrocious crime of regicide before it had ever been committed!”
Vidocq and I stared at one another in astonishment as we heard this singular speech; then, both of us cried,
“What on earth do you mean?”
“By Jove, yes! What do you mean?”
“I am simply pointing out, as I have so often in the past,” Dupin smoothly replied, “that the truth is often on the surface of things, by definition. In many cases, we mistakenly attribute greater profundity to it simply because we have sought it in the depths of the abyss rather than all around us, where it is staring us in the face. In other words, I am now absolutely certain that the person whom I shall designate as Z sought to incriminate Y – I am referring to the victim – for a crime of high treason Y had absolutely no intention of perpetrating. Here is how Z went about it: first, he purchased an antique gaming table – from a dealer who had been storing it since the Great Revolution, I imagine. He carried it up to the second floor of the house where we are standing, and, in plain sight, placed a beheaded king, carved in ebony, on the single red square of the chessboard. Once the police had confiscated the table, Z repeated his performance, bringing a second table to the same spot. It was a pedestal table less valuable than the first, stolen from Y’s apartment. In fact, the owner’s name is carved on the surface.”
“It is too neat of a parcel to be the truth!” scoffed Vidocq, at this point in the Chevalier’s explanation.
“The parcel is as neat as you please. Behold this, my friends!”
At my friend’s bidding, the chief of the Sûreté police bent over and peered at the chessboard, and so did I. On the right edge, between the lines of filigree where Dupin’s finger pointed, we were able to read the name “Robin,” burned into the wood in a minuscule script.
“Robin... Robin... Give me a moment, gentlemen,” muttered Vidocq, scratching his head. “I believe I recall that name. By Golly, of course! That’s the name of Attorney Petiot’s first clerck.”
“Quite right,” affirmed Dupin calmly.
“Instead of a fine ebony figurine,” he continued, “it was a crudely hewn pine puppet, daubed with tar which Z placed on the single scarlet square of the second chessboard. He had carefully sawn off its head, just as he had done with the first one.
“Next, to put the finishing touches on his machiavellian plot, Z – whose real identity I have yet to discover – engaged in the following activities: he took a hunting rifle, loaded its double barrels with gunpowder and bullets, opened the window, and took aim at a spot which would correspond to the height of a man, or, to be more precise, the height of a man seated in a carriage. He then pulled the trigger and let loose the volley... to suggest that an event was being rehearsed – a performance of the Théâtre Français, as it were! And Z made certain that an empty cartridge case was lying in plain sight on the floor, where a relatively intuitive investigator would come upon it, and, just as Z planned and expected, interpolate a series of events which brought it there!”
“The maimed black figurine, standing on the scarlet square of the chessboard, signifies an attempt on life and person of his Royal Majesty. The volley of bullets shot from the window means: the premeditated shooting assassination of King Louis-Philippe.”
“Criminy!” growled Vidocq. “A pungent brew! But what does Robin have to do with any of this? I did catch sight of that twisted little man, as ugly as a gargoyle, at Petiot’s offices. What is his role in preparing this heinous crime?”
“My own conjecture, in light of my initial deductions,” said Dupin, “could be summed up by this observation: Robin has nothing to do with the crime, directly; but he is the linchpin of the plot – indirectly!”
And, without allowing Vidocq to do more than sputter in surprise at what he had just said, he added:
“However, I believe that you should call on Attorney Petiot promptly, and take his first clerk into custody. While you’re at the business, I recommend that you be quite noisy and belligerent about it. Shower Robin with public accusations of fomenting criminal sedition against His Majesty, clamor to all within earshot that regicides should be decapitated or locked up, that they don’t deserve a trial, and so on! I’m sure I can trust you to behave in such a way as to sow a tempest in the peaceful offices of the attorney. Keep this in mind: the liberty of an innocent man is at stake, as is the punishment of an abominable blackguard!”
“I shall carry out your instructions to the letter, Mr. Dupin.”
“Thank you, Vidocq. Please keep Robin in a safe place. I wish to question him as soon as possible.”
Dupin called at the Rue de Jérusalem the next morning, after Vidocq had taken Robin, Attorney Petiot’s clerk, into custody. He returned to our dwelling at dusk and said to me, “I have seen Robin. Mr. Hugo’s Quasimodo is handsome by comparison! Furthermore, Robin is the gentlest boy in the world: he wouldn’t harm the wings on a blue-tail fly. We had a long talk in Vidocq’s office, and I believe that I have explored every ramification of the sordid conspiracy to cast opprobrium upon him. The only task that now remains is to nab the scoundrel who was manipulating him like a puppet. I have laid a snare for him, much like the one I resorted to during the horrors in the Rue Morgue. On my way to the station, I stopped in at the offices of La Presse, to place an advertisement in their columns. It appeared four hours ago. It’s only a crude ploy, I admit, but I am confident that it will produce the desired result.”
My friend held out a newspaper clipping to me, and I read:
“FOUND: This morning, on the Rue des Chartreux, a handsome, hand-painted piquet set, with no pieces missing. The design on the back of the playing cards shows four hands clasping one another, as if swearing an oath of friendship like Mr. Dumas’s Musketeers. The king of clubs bears an address written with a quill. It is difficult to decipher because the script, which is quite fine, was blurred when the card fell into the gutter. However, it is possible to distinguish the letter “M” and the last three letters “ard”; the name may be “Moniard” or “Mignard.” The owner of this piquet set is welcome to claim his property after providing a satisfactory description of it and reimbursing the cost of this advertisement to the finder of the object. The address: Third floor, No. 33, Rue Dunot, Faubourg St. Germain.”
“If I may, I should like to draw your attention to the following facts,” Dupin said with a grave smile. “The last three convicts to be hanged in France were named Chevrier, Leprêtre, and Lafontaine, although they were better known by their underworld aliases Cabri, Ratichon, and Blavet. They were daring forgers who, until the end, refused to reveal the name of the fourth rascal, the one who counterfeited the bills of exchange that the other three would then have converted into cash at one of the swindle joints of the Rue Quincampoix or elsewhere. They fiercely persisted in keeping his name a secret, even at the foot of the gallows. Though the judges offered to postpone the death sentence in order to file a request for a royal pardon, they were unable to obtain the name. As for Vidocq, he knew only the man’s alias: Momignard, which was not of any real help. The day after the three forgers were executed, General Lafayette extended a dinner invitation to Leprêtre’s son, to show that the prejudice which caused sons to bear the onus of their fathers’ crimes was truly a thing of the past. As a token of his gratitude, the poor boy, who stood only four feet high and bore humps fore and aft, but whose generous, mild nature more than compensated for his physical ugliness, presented his illustrious host with a magnificent piquet game he had inherited from his father, despite the fact that the elder Leprêtre, in a letter from prison, had warned him never to let the game out of his possession. A few weeks later, after losing a large amount of money at a frenetic game of piquet, Lafayette, in a rage, hurled the playing cards into the fire. Nevertheless, one of the cards was saved from the blaze by Lafayette’s valet, who entered the employ of the Sûreté Brigade when his master died. The valet gave the modest artifact to François Vidocq, who set it on his desk, where it has stood ever since. That is where Robin saw it, to his great surprise, in the course of our interview this morning. For the poor clerk was none other than the bastard son of Leprêtre, alias Ratichon. As you know, thieves and their ken often adopt aliases based on their surnames. As a result, Leprêtre – “the priest” – had become Ratichon, the slang word for a curate; Chevrier (“Goat-boy”) was Cabri, and Lafontaine (“the fountain”) was Blavet.”
Just then, we heard someone climbing the stair. Dupin immediately rose from his armchair and extinguished his pipe.
Removing a pair of pistols from a drawer, he handed them to me, saying, “Put these in your pockets. Be ready to draw, but do not do so unless I give you the signal.”
The street door was not locked. Thus our visitor had entered the building without having had to ask permission, and was now climbing the stairs. He had just set foot on our landing when we heard him hesitate. Had he realized it was a trap? With a grimace, my friend glided closer to the door, breathing, “Damn! He may give us the slip!” A second later, though, we heard the sound of footsteps confidently approaching, in the corridor leading to our door.
“Come in!” Dupin cried cordially, once three sharp little raps had resounded. The visitor pushed the door ajar and stepped into the vestibule.
He was a man in the prime of life, of average height, with a sturdy frame. He was dressed in a long waistcoat buttoned all the way up to his chin, and he wore a shabby top hat. His features, which were of the sort that usually arouse suspicion, were partially shielded from our view by a thick beard. He greeted us without removing his hat, wishing us a good evening in a voice that was firm, but muffled.
“Please pull up a chair, sir,” said the Chevalier, with an affable smile. “I assume you have come to claim the piquet game I found in a sack, in the street?”
“That is correct. Do you have it here?”
Dupin replied by pulling a deck of cards out of his pocket. The emblem of the four joined hands was clearly visible on the back of the top card. At the sight of it, the stranger flinched. At the same time, his left eyebrow raised itself at an odd angle to his temple and remained there, lending a curiously ferocious and savage frown to his gaze.
My companion pretended to be unaware of this abrupt change in the man’s attitude.
“Can you give me some proof that you are indeed the owner of the game?” he inquired politely.
“Yes, of course.”
“Fine. I will really regret having to part with it,” continued Dupin, toying with the deck of cards affectionately. “The person who painted the figures and signed the king of clubs was assuredly a great artist.”
“Naturally, I intend to give you a generous reward for the care you took to have an advertisement printed in La Presse,” our visitor hastened to say. “I shall do so all the more willingly that this piquet game is a memento of a youthful escapade. It was given to me by an art student one night when we were boozing it up on the Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, in guise of payment for a round of ale.”
A benevolent smile blossomed on Dupin’s face.
“I understand,” he replied. He edged a bit closer to the visitor and went on, “Let us see. What will I be wanting, in exchange for this memento? Ah! Now I’ve got it: You shall give me a confession signed by your own hand, relative to the somber machinations which were to lead Robin to the guillotine.”
My friend had uttered these last words in the lightest and most casual tone of voice in the world, without betraying any emotion. He sidled over to the door with the same serenity and locked it tight. Then he took a writing-desk amply supplied with paper, ink, and quills, and set it in front of our visitor, with a polite, expectant nod. The face of the latter grew purple with wrath. He leaped to his feet and balled up his fists, having decided, no doubt, to strike a blow to his host and make an escape. But, a second later, staring at the pistols I had taken out and cocked at the signal from my friend, he collapsed into the chair, defeated. He was trembling violently and had death on his visage.
“The house is surrounded by the police,” Dupin informed him, crossing his arms on his chest. “The only way out is through the window and over the rooftops... But, before you can give that path a try, you must give me the confession I mentioned earlier. By the way, you can also remove your false beard. I recognize you, Attorney Petiot... alias Momignard, the forger!”
How can words express the volcano that erupted in my consciousness at that moment? I shall simply confide that Dupin’s speech electrified my nerves to such a degree that I nearly dropped the pistols. With the speed of a lynx, the scrivener, taking notice that I was thunderstruck, seized the opportunity to bound towards the window. In a trice, he had unlatched it, thrown his leg over the sash, and was standing on the ledge. The ornamental ventilation holes wrought in the shutter offered him an excellent handhold. From that precarious perch, he sprang out of range, to the facade. I recalled that a lightning rod cable descended to the earth nearby, along a gutter, and I realized that a man of the acrobatic flexibility he had just displayed could easily swing himself down to the ground by this means. I poked my head out of the window. The Rue Dunot is short, and lit along its entire length by a single lamp. As I leaned out, I saw Petiot had already reached the paving stones and was running for dear life. Twice, I fired at him, and missed. He vanished into the Passage Saint-Guillaume.
“To hell with him, in that case,” said Dupin philosophically.
“Good heavens!” I exclaimed. “Haven’t Vidocq and his men been striving to capture him?”
The only reply my friend deigned to provide was a shrug of his shoulders. He then took me affectionately by the elbow and led me to an armchair in the drawing-room. There, he offered me a cigar from the humidor, and, after taking a seat himself and lighting his meerschaum, he at last gave me the following explanation:
“Petiot was none other than Momignard, the fourth accomplice who had eluded arrest, unlike Chevrier, Leprêtre, and Lafontaine, alias Cabri, Ratichon, and Blavet: the trio of counterfeiters. Note that the snollygoster was silly enough to adopt an alias as transparent as those of his co-conspirators: as anyone knows, Momignard means “small child” in argot, just as Petiot always has. He might have feared that someone would notice the coincidence, and make a connection between the counterfeiter and the attorney.
“Not long after his partners in crime were executed, Petiot hired Robin, who knew nothing of Petiot’s criminal past in cahoots with his late father. Momignard was still on the run, and time was passing.
“One day, while visiting the cemetery at the Barrière d’Enfer, Robin made the acquaintance of a young milliner of easy virtue who went by the name of Zéphine. The daguerreotype portrait I have of her shows her to be a creature of great charm, although her expression suggests that vanity far outweighs wisdom and reason in the composition of her nature. The minx was amused by the effect of her appearance upon the young clerk, who had invited her to accompany him to the Musard concert hall. The poor boy was so mesmerized by her beauty that, all through the livelong evening, he cajoled and courted her with every nicety and filled her ears with the type of praise she never tired of hearing. But what passion could ever take root, what romance could ever flourish, from the encounter of a twisted hunchbacked lad and a damsel who glowed with youth, freshness, and grace? She seemed to have been fashioned to captivate the attention of the finest connoisseurs of the pleasure domes. The fervor was altogether unilateral, although Robin was foolish enough to believe that Zéphine was sincere when she accepted his effusive thanks for the ecstatic transport she had been gallant enough to provide.
“However, the grisette did seem to share Robin’s enthusiasm for gaming. She was an excellent playing partner, a zestful bidder at cards, checkers, and dominos; she spent her Sundays in interminable matches of skill, in her admirer’s garret on the Rue des Chartreux. Robin had tackled the arduous endeavor of teaching her to play chess, and, as Zéphine seemed to find the game enjoyable, he had presented her with a small chessboard on a pedestal table, which he had had pyro-engraved with his name.”
My friend released a huge puff of smoke and looked towards me expectantly.
“And so, of course...” he prompted me, with a chuckle.
“I’m still completely baffled,” I admitted.
“Surely not now. Come, give it some thought!”
“I have, but I understand nothing.”
“In that case, I’ll be perfectly explicit. Zéphine was being kept as a mistress by Petiot, who had just engaged Robin as an employee merely to keep him under surveillance. The attorney was obsessed with recovering the playing cards from the piquet game, engraved by his own expert hand in his earlier incarnation as Momignard, which bore his incriminating signature on the king of clubs. Forced to keep mum on the subject to his employee in order to avoid arousing his suspicion, he was never aware that Robin had made a gift of the cards to General Lafayette. As a result, he directed Zéphine to seduce Robin in order to recover the deck. In her role as a decoy, the damsel doubtless took advantage of her trysts with the young hunchback to rummage through every nook and cranny of his quarters. Naturally, the search was fruitless. Petiot then made an extreme decision. Unable to get his hands on the vital piece of evidence and destroy it, he would rid himself of the man who was in possession of it. He surmised that the modest gaming table which was Robin’s gift to Zéphine was the opportunity to achieve his goal. Petiot thus wove the deadly web of which we saw the results, with the certainty that the police, like a pack of hounds, would follow the trail from the empty warehouse at the Barrière d’Enfer to Leprêtre’s son, and that Robin would be accused of plotting an attempt on the King’s life – a crime punishable by decapitation. The attorney was exposing himself to a dreadful risk, but he calculated that it was a lesser one than someday being caught, judged, and executed if the accursed game of piquet resurfaced.
“Luckily, Providence was looking out for Robin. When he recognized the king of clubs in Vidocq’s office at the Sûreté police, where I was about to question him, the explanation he gave me on the subject of the playing card and the deck to which it had belonged, the details Vidocq added, Zéphine’s activities, and the loving gift of the gaming table inscribed with Robin’s name were all significant clues. My special analytical power, as you so kindly termed it in the article you published about the murders in the Rue Morgue, did all the rest, enabling me to dispel the veil of mystery entirely.
“To incriminate Petiot, all I had to do was lure him to the Rue Dunot by means of a spurious newspaper advertisement. I then took from my pocket a normal deck of cards, carefully stacked so that the only card remaining from the set he had given to Leprêtre so many years earlier was the one on top. My purpose in doing this was to lead the scoundrel to believe I possessed the entire deck of playing cards ornamented with four intertwined hands on the back, an obvious symbol of his own skillful hand united in crime with those of his three accomplices: “all for one, one for all.”
“And that is how, by using a crude trick of sleight-of-hand which would be disdained by the lowliest Pont-Neuf street entertainer, you and I managed to awaken the acrobat slumbering within the respectable attorney,” Dupin concluded, with a joyful little laugh. “Mr. Petiot’s somersaults, from our drawing-room carpet to the cobblestones in our street, prove that he could give lessons in gymnastic science to Mr. Amoros. According to the article on the subject in La Presse, which I happen to have right here, the quest for a healthy and muscular physique is guaranteed to endow the subject with a fine and generous heart, a love of order, respect for the law and the King, and perfect subordination to established rule!”

I shall end this tale by mentioning that Petiot, also known as Momignard, was taken into custody some time later by the Sûreté Brigade, and justly punished for his crimes. As for Zéphine, she came to a tragic and mysterious end much like that of the other grisette known as Marie Rogêt: her body was found floating in the Bièvre, near the Gobelins tapestry works, at a slight distance downstream from the unsavory neighborhood of the Barrrière d’Italie.