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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, February 09, 1913, Image 5

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Donaque the Detective
and "Monsieur X"
Arthur Train
Author of "McAllister and His Double." !
(Copyriaht. 1011, by Ererybody's Magazine.*
iiY* N garde, M'sieu!"
JLLa Donaque leaped broad
awake from his iron cot, to
which he had retired but three
hours before, and, seizing a fencing
sabre from Dupre, his assistant,
threw himself into position in the
centre of the room. Outside, Paris
was just graying with the dawn
of an autumn day. Inside the apart
ment, flooded with light from the cor
nices, resembled the evening school of
a maitre d'armes. For a moment the
two men —the master short, flery,
alert, the assistant, tall, light, agile—
faced each other tensely, then, like
a "figure a droite," drew the other's
parry and cut a banderol across his op
ponent's chest
"Touche," murmured Dupre. "En
barde once more, M'sieu!"
Again their sabres, whirling, filled
the air as with a shower of sunlit spray
and the walls rattled to the uninter
rupted clash of steel against steal. But
this time Donaque made no touche;
faster and faster flew the swords; the
assistant steamed with sweat and his
breath hissed with each unsuccessful
"The devil!"
"Well, that's enough,'' replied Dc >
ague, tossir . his sabre upon the cot,
while Dupre, panting, threw open an
Iron door and turned on a set of elec
tric lights, which disclosed a double
shower bath in a tiled room. The next
instant both were blowing and splut
tering under a small deluge of icy
water. A moment more and Donaque
had Blipped into his clothes and entered
his study, ready for his day's work. Al
though his veins throbbed with the
violence of the bout just concluded, he
had not lost breath, and he was as
fresh as if newly arisen from a ten
hours' sleep. In point of fact, he had
just returned on the Oriental Express
from Constantinople, where he had
been sent as a secret emissary from the
Minister of War to the leaders of the
Young Turks, and he had remained at
his desk almost until daylight com
pleting his report.
Now, as he glancod around his study
with its huge map of the world, its
wireless apparatus, its shelves filled
with tiny phials, its rows of electric
buttons and collection of telephones
upon the desk, he had much the same
feeling of having returned home as if
he had come back to a cozy sitting
room In which a wife awaited tim and
a child played upon the hearth, for to
Donaque his profession was his life,
and the cold, inscrutable paraphernalia
of his mysterious calling caused his
heart to leap and his pulses to bound
as much as the sight of an adored mis
tress would thoso of some other man.
As has already said, R?ne Don
ate, described in the reports of the
French Secret Service by the imper
sonal number A 124, had no friends. His
identity, hidden under a hundred
aliases, was known only to Dupi"\ his
assistant, an ex-offlcer of die Foreign
Legion and his companion in a thou
sand adventures. Those who had the
pleasure of his acquaintance knew
him only as M. Clement, wine mer
chant of the Porte d'Aubervilliers, as
Prof. Otto Snitzler, psychologist, as!
Hans Blatt, Muenchener student at;
the Sorbonne, or as Dr. Katz of Lelp-'
sic; but, had these various friends!
ever had the opportunity of a con-!
certed interchange of ideas concern
ing these various personalities they
would all have agreed that their M. !
Clement, their Prof. Snitzler, their
Hans Blatt and their Dr. Katz were
the most irreconcilably different sorts
of persons in the world.
It was only with Dupre that Don
aque reduced himself to his lowest
terms- He never laughed, and yet
Dupre knew that each thought of his
master's was touched with a glow of
elfin humor. He rarely spoke, and
yet his silence was charged with
almost audible thought. He ate little,
slept little, drank little, smoked not
at all, read enormously and each week
frequented the Deutscher Verein, the
Scuola di Garibaldi and the cafe of
the Hotel Continental to keep pure his
flawless German, Italian and English.
"Bah!" Dupre would say to himself.
"He is no man—he is a machine! Like
that in the Bank of Commerce—the
American adding machine. Yes. the
adding machine! '
Yet, even if in his mental processes
he were cold as wire drawn .from
steel, Dupre knew that Donaque loved
him like a brother, for when in one
of their bouts b sharp thrust had
broken a button and the unprotected j
blade had gashed deep into the assist
ant's breast, Donaque for three weeks I
never left his side—sitting beside his!
bed while a Grand Duke was blown!
to atoms in the Avenue dv Trocadero,'
a bordereau was stolen from the Min
istry of War and a priceless railroad
concession was given away to the
Germans by the Shah of Persia. Don
aque had disconnected his telephones
and had ceased to exist, either as
A 124 or as anybody else, until Dupre
was out of danger.
The astounding success of Donaque i
lay entirely in his simplicity, for his'
thoughts were never complicated by
emotion or clouded by self-interest.
He considered his intellectual equip
ment much as he would have regard
ed a typewriter or a theodolite. Of
it he required a certain amount of I
work and an absolute accuracy of re
sult. He discarded all else and used
the residuum known as common sense
—that is to say, pure logic
More than any one else he was like
Pasteur, and he brought to bear on
the problems presented to him the
same broad powers of analysis, the
same calm judgment, the same cold
reason and endless patience that
characterized that greatest of scien
tists, who applied to the most com
plex of difficulties the simplest meth
ods of deduction. "If Ais B and B is
C, then A is C" —and, despite appear
ances to the contrary, Donaque would
affirm the A-ity of C until its truth
was demonstrated.
Thus, although he was nominally
attached only to the Ministry of the
Interior, gradually all the bureaus had
come by various means of indirec
tion to seek his aid. The blue slips
that might send him flying to Vladi
vostok or Valparaiso would drop from
the pneumatic tube upon his desk,
reading: "By application of His Ex
cellency the Minister of War and
with the approval of M. le President,
you are respectfully requested, &c,"
to find out what would kill brown
tailed moths, perhaps, or why the
Seine was so high that year or why so
much forgery was going on. In the
end Donaque wrote ironically to the
Minister of Finance, his most frequent
annoyer.as follows:
"Your Excellency:
"Much of my time has been occu
pied recently in investigating isolated
cases of forgery in different parts off
France—at your request, made through |
the Minister of War. This is in addi- \
tion to my regular duties. It would !
be an economy of my time if you j
would permit me to assume charge of i
the investigation of all forgeries of J
importance throughout the country. A
haphazard inquiry of disconnected
cases has no ultimate or permanent
value- The subject should be studied I
as a whole and the relation of appar
ently unrelated crimes established. I
shall be glad to relieve you of this
task and on receiving the proper au
thority will establish under my per-;
sonal supervision a Central Bureau of'
Now the Minister of Finance, seeing
no reflection upon his official capac j
ity in this communication, welcomed i
with open arms a proposition which I
relieved him of so great a responsibil- I
ity, and Donaque duly organized in:
his official residence, in its unobtru
sire situation in a rear building in j
the Rue Montesquireu, a Mireau of:
his own which, by the simplest meth-1
od in the world and by the aid of a j
single expert assistant, actually did.;
without any apparent difficulty, tabu-1
late, investigate and study all the j
forgeries committed in France which !
iv any way baffled the abilities of th< I
local police.
Donaque's reasoning was childishly i
simple—to Donaque. So long as, for :
example, the police of Valence ran
down one crime and those of MoLte-■'
de-Marsan another, the facts elicited i
by the first could not be availed of by
the second. Whereas, were all these
cases reported to one central bureau j
it would be a comparatively easy mat
"You have the devil's luck! Yesterday there was
a touch at Havre for forty thousand francs!'*
ter to make a profitable use in new
cases as they arose of the information
theretofore obtained in others. Don
aque assumed, and assumed correctly,
that the skilful professional forgers
were few and moved rapidly from
place to place the better to accom
plish their ends.. By a careful study
of the methods pursued in different
instances the peculiarities of the per
petrators could be recognized and
proper means taken for their identifi
cation and capture.
As soon as a forgery of significance
occurred in any part of France the
*'I am going to lunch at the Palais Royal! Ta-ta."
police of that particular department
forwarded the document itself to Paris j
with a detailed statement of the fact 3!
surrounding the crime and the nam* i
of the perpetrator, if known or sus
pected. These were immediately
transmitted to Donaque's assistant,
M. Bazac, who undertook an analytical
study of each case, made an enlarged
photograph of the forgery itself and
compared it with other forgeries of
similar general character in other lo
calities- Thus Donaque created, as
It were, a "clearing house" where tne
information from different depart
ments could be compared and utilized.
Strange that no one else con
ceived so simple an idea, yet one so
far reaching and effective! It was
simply the doctrine of central** o-i
at.plied tc the detection of crime.
Seating himself at his desk, which
in truth, with its telephones and elec
tric signals, was more like a conning
tower ihan the office of a detective,
Donaque opened a small drawer and
rapidly turned the edges of the cards
contained within until he came to one
bearing the da;e of which we speak.
It bore but three entries:
"Nov. B. 100 .
"Lect.. rad. Sor':. 8
"M. G. 12.
"B. F. 'X' Bordeaux (?)"
Properly interpreted, these .-ymbols!
Indicated that Donaque (under the 1
name of Hans Blatt) planned to a:
tend a lecture upon radiurj io be
given at the Sorbonne at 8 o'clock by
Mme. Curie, that he had an appoint
ment with the Minister of War jft
noon and th?t the Bureau of Forge--i
ies demanded his attention to "X" I
wfth possible reference to Bordeaux.
By "X." otherwise known as "Mon
sleur X," Donaque referred to an ex-!
traordinarily skilful band, of forgers-j
whose fine work had recently shown I
itself in various cities and large towns
of the Republic. The perpetration of;
these forgeries had been marked by '•
certain idiosyncrasies which indicated J
that they had their origin in one mas
ter mind.
The little travelling clock on the
desk pointed at 7 o'clock. Donaque j
closed the drawer Just as Dupre ap- j
peared, bearing a tray of steaming
coffee and smoking crescent rolls.
"la Bazac ready to report?" in-
quired the detective shortly as he
poured out a fragrant cup and dis
posed of a couple of the rolls.
"He is outside,'' answered Dupre.
"Let him come in."
A door to the right opened and a
young man in spectacles with a
bundle of papers in his hand entered
and bowed stiffly.
"What have you got?" asked Don
aque over the edge of his cup.
Bazac bllnkee deprecatingly and,
coming forward, unrolled what
seemed like a chart with a Merca
torial projection.
"Since my last report, eleven weeks
ago," he began. " 'X' has appeared
in Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand and
Grenoble. In each case the method
was the same—raising the figures to
larger amounts —ninety francs to nine
thousand francs, sixteen francs to one
hundred and sixty thousand francs,
eight francs to eight thousand francs.
At Bordeaux the check was passed by
a young girl, at Clermont-Ferrand by
a tall man with a black beard, at
Grenoble by a middle-aged woman.
The figures were painted, not written,
and the microscope at six hundred
and forty diameters indicates that the
same brush was used—presumably of
camel's hair. In every instance the
original figures were erased with
chemicals. They all respond to the
litmus paper test and that of iodine
\ajor. A distinct odor of chlorinated
lime is also apparent. And the orig
inal figures respond to the fumes of
->:r<~>onla sulphide."
h - paused respectfully.
"\uy gocd," remarked Donaque,
crushing another crescent roil into his
mouUi and draining hair a r>up D f his
coffee. "How many cities have been
"I have prepared a little chait," re
plied Bazac, "showing, tin dates and
places where 'Monsieur X' has operat
ed. The only towns of any size where
nothing has been done are Le Havre
and Lyons."
""And the last?" asked Donaque.
"Grenoble—two weeks ago." _
"That would put them in Le Havre
next week."
Bazac nodded.
"Exactly, M'sleu. Unless they go to
Lyons. The cities are a long distance
"Permit me to examine your dia
gram," said Donaque, finishing his
i coffee and pushing aside tne cup in
order that Bazac might have more
room to display his handiwork.
Dupre, who was smoking a cigarette
and looking on, uttered a grim laugh.
"M. X." remarked he, "has travelled
all over France. He is like the flea—
i just like that, eh? You put the finger
i here and pst! he is away again! Now
tyou see him and then again you do
;not!" »
"But there are only two more places
! where he can safely Jump," eagerly mi
i terrupted Bazac. "Three —If you add
"He will not jump to Paris," com
mented Donaque.
"Then it Is between Le Havre and
; Lyons," announced Dupre. "But one
i cannot be in both at the same time."
"True, but 'Monsieur X' can be
forced to select," said Donaque quietly.
They glanced at him, expectant.
"Were it not for the fact," continued
the detective, "that I must be in Zan
zibar in January I would waft for him
to choose for himself. As It is, I must
dispose of this forger now. Lyons is
much more comfortable than Le Havre.
The trains are better. He shall select
Lyons. Dupre, you will to-day insert
in all the newspapers of Le JJavre the
announcement that a forged draft for
seventy thousand francs was cashed
there upon a well known house, the
name of which is for the present with
held. Under the resumption that the
pclice of Le Havre for the next week
or so will be looking for forgersrhe
will probably avoid It"
Bazac smiled for the first time.
"And so he will skip to Lyons!" he
exclaimed. 'And you will catch him
there! I know. You do not fall. You
are like the astronomer. You say, 'On
June 3 there will be an eclipse,' and on
June 3 there is an eclipse."
"You had best wait until June 3 ar
rives," said Eonaque shortly. "Dupre,
give me Biatt's clothes."
An hour later Herr Blatt, Muench
ener student at the Sorbonne (carrying
hi 3 books in a waterproof satchel and
his lunch in a paper bag), attended a
lecture on radium by Mme. Curie.
The next morning In a shabby stud'o
in Montmartre the dim November sun
light filtered its way through dirty
panes upon the yellowish bald head of
a little old man 1 ending over a small
table upon which lay several plates of
glass. He worked with infinite pains,
sighing from time to time as he care
fully applied a brush, fine as an eye
brow, to an oblong sheet between the
glasses upon which his hand rested.
On a sofa, her feet elevated upon a pile
of Turkish cushions, a young girl lay
extended, lazily puffing at a cigarette
and reading the morning paper. Sud
denly she gave a low, musical laugh.
"Hem, papa! You have the devil's
luck! Yesterday there was a touch a:
Le Havre for 40,000 francs!"
"Just in time," muttered Tessier
without raising his eyes. "It is just as
well that his royal excellence the
•Lizard' went to Lyons. You will recall
that a flip of a sou decided the matter
—nothing else."
"He, too, is in luck! There Is no
pleasure except in the game! What is
there in it for me here, eh? Why did
you not let me go with him?" cried
the girl eagerly.
"A plague on you!" grumbled the
other. "You two would have set all
Lyons by the ears. It is not enough
for you to make your touch „d get
out with the money, but you must at
the same time fall in love, hold a car
nival and land in the prefecture of
police. That is the trouble with you
young folks!"
The girl laughed again.
"I am glad I am young, papa," she
i drawled. "You are too old to enjoy
{anything but drawing your little pic
tures. By the way, what does Henri
Papa Tessier laid down his brush
' ! and stretched his right arm above his
' head.
"The 'Lizard' is worth a thousand
]ot you others!" he asserted. "He goes
| like a machine. My only complaint is
j that he is too elaborate. Each case
' must be like a novel—of Boisgobey.
; Npw think of the letters he made me
| write! Fjve of tnem—all different
I mind you. Number 1 'To His Grace le
Due de Chateau-Mailly from his friend
le Baron Mom-Vendome, introducing
his esteemed friend and brother le
i Comte Henri de Parmontier.' Number
i 2 'To His Grace le Due de Chateau-
I Mailly from His Eminence the Arch
j bishop of Austun, introducing le
Comte de Parmentier,' &c. It made me
sick! Would not one have bsen suffi
cient! But no, he must have a full
I collection."
"Henri spends too much!" went on,
| Tessier resentfully. "He must go to
! Lyons in an automobile! Why? In
order to make his escape without ex- i
i posing himself on the train, he says;
[but it is really that he likes to ride
like a count! Bah! It costs me fifty
francs a day for his hotel alone. What
do you think, he asks me to send him
a thousand francs that he may lose it
to his dear friend, the Due de Cha
teau-Mailly! He drips money, this
"But he is an artist!" answered
Lolotte, who was in love with Henri.
"Yes, he is an artist!" retorted Tes
sier- "He rides to Lyons in his motor;
he goes to the Hotel dv Parnasse, en
gages a fine suite, hires a valet and |
presents his letters to this fool of a
Duke, who is old enough to be his
father. Naturally the Duke is charmed
with him. Now Henri could get a bit
of His Grace's paper or a sample of
his handwriting in two days, could he
not? And could mail it to me and get
it back neatly raised to 100,000 francs
in forty-eight hours more. But no!
He is not satisfied with that! He must
linger on at Lyons, meeting the Duke's
friends, playing cards, taking all kinds
of chances, making love"
The girl sprang to her feet with an
oath. Then she tossed away her cigar
ette with a short laugh.
"You are an old fool, yourself, papa!"
she remarked. "Henri loves no one
! but me —his little Lolotte. Well, I am
| going out to lunch at the Palais Royal.
Ta-ta, old bald head!"
Tessier made a face at her across the
table. There was much of good fellow
ship between "hese two, for these two
were the head —and legs—of "Monsieur
c c • c * c c
Two days later, acting upon the ex
plicit orders of Donaque, Dupre took
the train to Lyons and introduced him
self at the Bank of Commerce. The
night before they had gone over the ;
i matter in detail.
"Monsieur .<- follows an inevitable j
plan," Donaque nad said as he glanced .
through an accumulation of mail and j
made a few notes on a pad beside him. j
"Inevitable because experience has j
demonstrated it to be nearly perfect. J
He always procures a genuine check ;
from some well known person whose ;
signature Is perfectly familiar to the I
banking officials of the city or town in
which the latter resides. This check
is immediately raised to as large an
amount as it is likely the account will
stand. The actual alteration Is prob
ably executed by a specialist who does
nothing else—very possibly it Is for
warded to Paris for the purpose. Mean
time 'Monsieur X' secures an introduc
tion at the bank, if possible from the
very person whose signature is to be
utilized. He then presents the raised
check, secures the money—and van
"•Exactly, M'sleu," echoed Dupre re
"Now, we are reasonably sure that
Lyons Will be the scene of the next at
tempt. We may be wrong. If so, no
harm is done. We shall have lost a
little time, that Is all. It Is always the
largest and richest bank that is at
tacked —in Lyons, naturally, the Bank
of Commerce. You will go there and
arrange to see every check presented
in amounts over five thoisand francs.
When the forgery is presented—you
will detect it by microscope No. 37 |
(second shelf), which you will take
with you—lso diameters- instruct the
clerk to pay over the money, first tele
phoning to me at"—Donoque th.-ew
open a lower drawer i»nd selected a
card marked "Lyon3' ; from his cata
logue—"at the house of 81 Paul Valen
tin. 16 Place de Lille." he continued.
'Very good. M'sleu," answered Dupre.
San Francisco Sunday Call
j "But the bank may not desire to pay
I over so large a sum to a criminal,
fearing not to get :: back."
"In the third drawer or my chiffon
lei in a leather wallet you will find
notes for two hundred thousand
francs," said Donaque. "Delay the pay
ment (under pretext that the vault will
60\# to be opened to procure so largi
an amount of ready money) until six
minutes have elapsed. You will then
take the microscope and return to
Paris. This card will serve to intro
duce you at the bank. I shall need
valise No. 11 and pocket case No. 2;
also see that my pistol is in good
l'upre had done a= he had been tola,
Ustj now for five day* had sat *:i an im
provised seat beneath the paying
teller's counter at the Bank of Com
merce with microscope No. 17 between
his legs. His position was cramped to
be sure, but he was kept moderately
busy thrusting the various check,-,, as
they were presented beneath the lens
and applying the litmus paper test (in
which he had been instructed by
Bazac), so that he bad little time to
think of his extremities. This good
soldier way as enthusiastic In his cam
paign against crime under his General
Donaque as he had been while an officer
)f the Foreign Legion In leading sorties
against the Arabs of Fez. But for five
days no check had appeared at the
bank which had aroused his suspicion.
Mechanically every quarter of an hour
or so he went through the same per
formance. There would be a scuffling
on the marble floor outside and a voice
would say:
"Good morning, M'sleu. Will you be
po amiable as to cash for me this
"Certainly, M'sieu!" the cashier
.vpuld roply. Down would come a hand
behind the counter containing the
check. Whist! Dupre had it under the
microscope. There would be no sign of
an erasure. Out again with it while
the cashier counted over the notes, and
once more to his interrupted perusal
cf "Soddy on the Interpretation of
Radium," a study required of him by
Donaque, who saw in this new element
of the Curies a key to the mysteries of
the universe.
The day following the arrival of
Dupre ;.t the Bank of Commerce there
had emerged out of a third class com
partment of the accommodation train
from Paris -a little brown faced man
whose French had an unmistakable
Italian accent. He was clad in the
dusty clothes of an artisan, and carried
a small hand satchel. After applying
at the principal garage for work as a
mechanic and making a tour of such
others as were attached to the hotels,
including that of the "Parnasse," he
had concluded his journey by entering,
after nightfall, the mansior of T I. Paul
Vafentin, No. 16 Place de Lille, but a
throw '.he 8.-.nk of Com
merce. Here he patiently waited in an
upper chamber until it might be that
Dupre should need his services, but in
the Aye days of this enforced idleness
and with the aid of M. Valentin, who
was incidentally an agent of the Min
istry of War, besides being an optician
of local eminence, he gained a compre
hensive knowledge of the aristocracy
living in the neighborhood, and inci
dentally on his own account read and
digested a work on astronomical mathe
matics by an English barrister, a mono
graph on "Questioned Documents" by
Albert S. Osborn of Rochester, U. S. A..
a history of Poland, and two novels of
H. G. Wells.
The apparent certainty with which
Donaque had made his diagnosis of the
probabilities governing "Monsieur X's"
activities will seem less extraordinary
when it is realized that the detective
had made a profound study of the oper
ations of this particular criminal or
ganization during the on-ceding eigh
teen months. Bazac*? tab!?-- and exam
inations had Indicated beyond per
adventure the similarity of practically
all the significant forgeries of this
character committed throughout Francs
during this period. As the reader al
ready knows, the chief banting house
in almost every large city In France
had been victimized, and the crimes
had occurred with the utmost regular
ity. Moreover, while the police had 1
already gleaned in a general way some
thing of the personalities composing
the composite referred to by Donaque
as "Monsieur X," the rapidity with
which the forgeries had besn "uttered"
in divergent places entirely baffled
their efforts to identify the members of
t.bis criminal organization de luxe. But
Donaque had been studying the meth
ods of Papa Tessier for so long that,
now that his time had come, he felt no
more concern and experienced no more
hesitation than did yon Moltke who.
irhen he was told that wa- with France
had been declared, continued what be
was doing, with the casual remark,
"You will And your marching orders in
the upper left hand drawer of my writ
ing desk." Thus Donaque had known
for nearly a year that some day or
other he would be waiting for the ring
ing of a telephone in No. 16 Place de
Lille or some similar place of conceal
ment. When the bell eventually did
ring it found him in the middle of the
sixteenth chapter of "Tono Bungay,"
and at the signal he carefully marked
the place, put the book in his pocket,
and, taking his little black satchel,
walked across to th.j Bank of Com
(To Be Continued Next Week.)

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