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30: Conclusion


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« on: January 11, 2023, 06:03:25 am »

WHEN La Touche’s senses returned he found himself lying in the open air, with Farol, his other assistant, bending over him. His first thought was for his companion in misfortune.

“Mallet?” he whispered feebly.

“Safe,” answered Farol. “We got him out just in time.”

“And Boirac?”

“The police are after him.”

La Touche lay still. He was badly shaken. But the fresh air rapidly revived him, and he was soon able to sit up.

“Where am I?” he asked presently.

“Just round the corner from Boirac’s. The firemen are at work.”

“Tell me about it.”

Farol’s story was short. It seemed that Boirac had returned home that afternoon about three. Shortly after, the detective had been surprised to observe a regular exodus of servants from the house. Cabs and taxis took away two men and four women, all with luggage. Lastly, about four o’clock, came François, also with luggage, and with him Boirac. François closed and locked the door, handing the key to his master. The two then shook hands and, stepping into separate vehicles, were driven away. It was evident the house was being closed for a considerable period.

Farol, entering the taxi he kept in waiting, followed. They drove to the Gare St. Lazare, where the manufacturer dismissed his vehicle and entered the station. But instead of taking a ticket, he simply walked about the concourse and in a few minutes left by another door. Travelling by the Metro, he reached Alma Station, walked down the Avenue, and, with a hurried look round, re-entered the house. To Farol it was obvious that something was in the wind. He withdrew to some distance and watched.

His surprise at these strange proceedings was not lessened when he saw La Touche and Mallet drive up to the door and ring. He hurried forward to warn them, but before he could do so the door opened and they disappeared within. Growing more and more anxious, Farol waited till, after a considerable time, he saw Boirac leave the house alone. Now certain that something was wrong, he decided he must let the manufacturer go, while he telephoned his suspicions to the Sûreté. A car with some men was sent immediately, and they drove up to the door just as Farol returned to it on foot. Smoke was beginning to issue from the upper windows, and one man was sent for the fire brigade, while others attempted to break into the house. In this they succeeded only after considerable trouble. Through the smoke they saw La Touche’s body lying half in the hall and half in François’s room. Only just in time they got the men out, the back of the hall being a sheet of flame before they reached the open air.

“We'd better go to the Sûreté,” said La Touche, who, by this time, had practically recovered.

Twenty minutes later M. Chauvet was in possession of the facts, and operations for the tracing of Boirac had begun.

La Touche then confidentially told the Chief all that he had learnt about the mystery. M. Chauvet was utterly astounded, and chagrined beyond measure at the blunder he and his men had fallen into.

“Clever devil!” he exclaimed. “He knew that nothing but the absolute truth would put you off your guard. But we’ll get him, M. La Touche. He can’t get out of the city. By now, every route will be barred.”

The Chief’s prophecy was fulfilled earlier than even he expected. Only an hour later they had news. Evidently believing himself secure in the destruction of the only two men who, so far as he was aware, knew enough to convict him, Boirac, after setting the house on fire, had gone openly to his club. A detective who went there to make inquiries, found him calmly sitting smoking in the lounge. He had, it appeared, made a desperate effort to escape arrest, and attempted to shoot the officer. Then, seeing it was all up with him, he turned the revolver upon himself, and, before he could be stopped, shot himself through the head.

So perished one of the most callous and cold-blooded criminals of the century.

In a curious manner Felix received his reparation. Heppenstall, who had learnt to respect and appreciate his client, engaged him to paint a portrait of his wife. While thus occupied the artist made the acquaintance of the K. C.’s daughter. Six months later they were quietly married, and, his bride bringing a not inconsiderable dot, Felix threw up his appointment and moved to a new St. Malo on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean. Here he divided his attention between his wife and the painting of that masterpiece which had so long remained an unattainable dream.

THE END
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