TRACKED TO DOOM
The Mystery of the Rue de Peychaud
by O. Henry
'Tis midnight in Paris.
A myriad of lamps that line the Champs Elysees and the
Rouge et Noir, cast their reflection in the dark waters
of the Seine as it flows gloomily past the Place Vendome
and the black walls of the Convent Notadam.
The great French capital is astir.
It is the hour when crime and vice and wickedness reign.
Hundreds of fiacres drive madly through the streets
conveying women, flashing with jewels and as beautiful
as dreams, from opera and concert, and the little bijou
supper rooms of the Cafe Tout le Temps are filled with
laughing groups, while bon mots, persiflage and repartee
fly upon the air--the jewels of thought and conversation.
Luxury and poverty brush each other in the streets. The
homeless gamin, begging a sou with which to purchase a
bed, and the spendthrift roue, scattering golden louis
d'or, tread the same pavement.
When other cities sleep, Paris has just begun her wild
The first scene of our story is a cellar beneath the Rue
The room is filled with smoke of pipes, and is stifling
with the reeking breath of its inmates. A single flaring
gas jet dimly lights the scene, which is one Rembrandt
or Moreland and Keisel would have loved to paint.
A garcon is selling absinthe to such of the motley crowd
as have a few sous, dealing it out in niggardly portions
in broken teacups.
Leaning against the bar is Carnaignole Cusheau--generally
known as the Gray Wolf.
He is the worst man in Paris.
He is more than four feet ten in height, and his sharp,
ferocious-looking face and the mass of long, tangled gray
hair that covers his face and head, have earned for him
the name he bears.
His striped blouse is wide open at the neck and falls
outside of his dingy leather trousers. The handle of a
deadly looking knife protrudes from his belt. One stroke
of its blade would open a box of the finest French
"Voila, Gray Wolf," cries Couteau, the bartender. "How
many victims to-day? There is no blood upon your hands.
Has the Gray Wolf forgotten how to bite?"
"Sacre Bleu, Mille Tonnerre, by George," hisses the Gray
Wolf. "Monsieur Couteau, you are bold indeed to speak to
"By Ventre St. Gris! I have not even dined to-day. Spoils
indeed. There is no living in Paris now. But one rich
American have I garroted in a fortnight.
"Bah! those Democrats. They have ruined the country. With
their income tax and their free trade, they have destroyed
the millionaire business. Carrambo! Diable! D--n it!"
"Hist!" suddenly says Chamounix the rag-picker, who is
worth 20,000,000 francs, "some one comes!"
The cellar door opened and a man crept softly down the
rickety steps. The crowd watches him with silent awe.
He went to the bar, laid his card on the counter, bought
a drink of absinthe, and then drawing from his pocket a
little mirror, set it up on the counter and proceeded to
don a false beard and hair and paint his face into wrinkles,
until he closely resembled an old man seventy-one years
He then went into a dark corner and watched the crowd of
people with sharp, ferret-like eyes.
Gray Wolf slipped cautiously to the bar and examined the
card left by the newcomer.
"Holy Saint Bridget!" he exclaims. "It is Tictocq, the
Ten minutes later a beautiful woman enters the cellar.
Tenderly nurtured, and accustomed to every luxury that
money could procure, she had, when a young vivandiere at
the Convent of Saint Susan de la Mountarde, run away with
the Gray Wolf, fascinated by his many crimes and the
knowledge that his business never allowed him to scrape
his feet in the hall or snore.
"Parbleu, Marie," snarls the Gray Wolf. "Que voulez vous?
Avez-vous le beau cheval de mon frere, oule joli chien
de votre pere?"
"No, no, Gray Wolf," shouts the motley group of assassins,
rogues and pickpockets, even their hardened hearts appalled
at his fearful words. "Mon Dieu! You cannot be so cruel!"
"Tiens!" shouts the Gray Wolf, now maddened to desperation,
and drawing his gleaming knife. "Voila! Canaille! Tout le
monde, carte blanche enbonpoint sauve que peut entre nous
revenez nous a nous moutons!"
The horrified sans-culottes shrink back in terror as the
Gray Wolf seizes Maria by the hair and cuts her into
twenty-nine pieces, each exactly the same size.
As he stands with reeking hands above the corpse, amid
a deep silence, the old, gray-bearded man who has been
watching the scene springs forward, tears off his false
beard and locks, and Tictocq, the famous French detective,
stands before them.
Spellbound and immovable, the denizens of the cellar gaze
at the greatest modern detective as he goes about the
customary duties of his office.
He first measures the distance from the murdered woman
to a point on the wall, then he takes down the name of
the bartender and the day of the month and the year.
Then drawing from his pocket a powerful microscope, he
examines a little of the blood that stands upon the
floor in little pools.
"Mon Dieu!" he mutters, "it is as I feared--human blood."
He then enters rapidly in a memorandum book the result
of his investigations, and leaves the cellar.
Tictocq bends his rapid steps in the direction of the
headquarters of the Paris gendarmerie, but suddenly
pausing, he strikes his hand upon his brow with a gesture
"Mille tonnerre," he mutters. "I should have asked the
name of that man with the knife in his hand."
* * * * * *
It is reception night at the palace of the Duchess Valerie
The apartments are flooded with a mellow light from
paraffine candles in solid silver candelabra.
The company is the most aristocratic and wealthy in
Three or four brass bands are playing behind a portiere
between the coal shed, and also behind time. Footmen in
gay-laced livery bring in beer noiselessly and carry out
apple-peelings dropped by the guests.
Valerie, seventh Duchess du Bellairs, leans back on a
solid gold ottoman on eiderdown cushions, surrounded by
the wittiest, the bravest, and the handsomest courtiers
in the capital.
"Ah, madame," said the Prince Champvilliers, of Palais
Royale, corner of Seventy-third Street, "as Montesquiaux
says, 'Rien de plus bon tutti frutti'--Youth seems your
inheritance. You are
to-night the most beautiful, the wittiest in your own
salon. I can scarce believe my own senses, when I remember
that thirty-one years ago you--"
"Saw it off!" says the Duchess peremptorily.
The Prince bows low, and drawing a jewelled dagger, stabs
himself to the heart.
"The displeasure of your grace is worse than death," he
says, as he takes his overcoat and hat from a corner of
the mantelpiece and leaves the room.
"Voila," says Beebe Francillon, fanning herself languidly.
"That is the way with men. Flatter them, and they kiss your
hand. Loose but a moment the silken leash that holds them
captive through their vanity and self-opinionativeness,
and the son-of-a-gun gets on his ear at once. The devil
go with him, I say."
"Ah, mon Princesse," sighs the Count Pumpernickel, stooping
and whispering with eloquent eyes into her ear. "You are too
hard upon us. Balzac says, 'All women are not to themselves
what no one else is to another.' Do you not agree with him?"
"Cheese it!" says the Princess. "Philosophy palls upon me.
I'll shake you."
"Hosses?" says the Count.
Arm and arm they go out to the salon au Beurre.
Armande de Fleury, the young pianissimo danseuse from the
Folies Bergere, is about to sing.
She slightly clears her throat and lays a voluptuous cud
of chewing gum upon the piano as the first notes of the
accompaniment ring through the salon.
As she prepares to sing, the Duchess du Bellairs grasps
the arm of her ottoman in a vice-like grip, and she watches
with an expression of almost anguished suspense.
She scarcely breathes.
Then, as Armande de Fleury, before uttering a note, reels,
wavers, turns white as snow and falls dead upon the floor,
the Duchess breathes a sigh of relief.
The Duchess had poisoned her.
Then the guests crowd about the piano, gazing with bated
breath, and shuddering as they look upon the music rack
and observe that the song that Armande came so near singing
is "Sweet Marie."
Twenty minutes later a dark and muffled figure was seen
to emerge from a recess in the mullioned wall of the Arc
de Triomphe and pass rapidly northward.
It was no other than Tictocq, the detective.
The network of evidence was fast being drawn about the
murderer of Marie Cusheau.
* * * * * *
It is midnight on the steeple of the Cathedral of
It is also the same time at other given points in the
The spire of the Cathedral is 20,000 feet above the
pavement, and a casual observer, by making a rapid
mathematical calculation, would have readily perceived
that this Cathedral is, at least, double the height of
others that measure only 10,000 feet.
At the summit of the spire there is a little wooden
platform on which there is room for but one man to
Crouching on this precarious footing, which swayed
dizzily with every breeze that blew, was a man closely
muffled, and disguised as a wholesale grocer.
Old Francois Beongfallong, the great astronomer, who
is studying the sidereal spheres from his attic window
in the Rue de Bologny, shudders as he turns his telescope
upon the solitary figure upon the spire.
"Sacre Bleu!" he hisses between his new celluloid teeth.
"It is Tictocq, the detective. I wonder whom he is
While Tictocq is watching with lynx-like eyes the hill
of Montmartre, he suddenly hears a heavy breathing beside
him, and turning, gazes into the ferocious eyes of the
Carnaignole Cusheau had put on his W. U. Tel. Co. climbers
and climbed the steeple.
"Parbleu, monsieur," says Tictocq. "To whom am I indebted
for the honor of this visit?"
The Gray Wolf smiled softly and depreciatingly.
"You are Tictocq, the detective?" he said.
"Then listen. I am the murderer of Marie Cusheau. She
was my wife and she had cold feet and ate onions. What
was I to do? Yet life is sweet to me. I so not wish to
be guillotined. I have heard that you are on my track.
Is it true that the case is in your hands?"
"Thank le bon Dieu, then, I am saved."
The Gray Wolf carefully adjusts the climbers on his feet
and descends the spire.
Tictocq takes out his notebook and writes in it.
"At last," he says, "I have a clue."
* * * * * *
Monsieur le Compte Carnaignole Cusheau, once known as
the Gray Wolf, stands in the magnificent drawing-room
of his palace on East 47th Street.
Three days after his confession to Tictocq, he happened
to look in the pockets of a discarded pair of pants and
found twenty million francs in gold.
Suddenly the door opens and Tictocq, the detective, with
a dozen gensd'arme, enters the room.
"You are my prisoner," says the detective.
"On what charge?"
"The murder of Marie Cusheau on the night of August 17th."
"I saw you do it, and your own confession on the spire
The Count laughed and took a paper from his pocket.
"Read this," he said, "here is proof that Marie Cusheau died
of heart failure."
Tictocq looked at the paper.
It was a check for 100,000 francs.
Tictocq dismissed the gensd'arme with a wave of his hand.
"We have made a mistake, monsieurs," he said, but as he
turns to leave the room, Count Carnaignole stops him.
"One moment, monsieur."
The Count Carnaignole tears from his own face a false beard
and reveals the flashing eyes and well-known features of
Tictocq, the detective.
Then, springing forward, he snatches a wig and false eyebrows
from his visitor, and the Gray Wolf, grinding his teeth in
rage, stands before him.
The murderer of Marie Cusheau was never discovered.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~