“They knew they were being watched, and were endeavoring to divert suspicion.”
“If they would only arrest this woman and question her,” suggested Father Absinthe.
“What good would it do? Hasn’t M. Segmuller examined and cross-examined her a dozen times without drawing anything from her! Ah! she’s a cunning one. She would declare that May met her and insisted that she should refund the ten francs he paid her for his room. We must do our best, however. If the accomplice has not been warned already, he will soon be told; so we must try to keep the two men apart. What ruse they will employ, I can’t divine. But I know that it will be nothing hackneyed.”
Lecoq’s presumptions made Father Absinthe nervous. “The surest way, perhaps,” ventured the latter, “would be to lock him up again!”
“No!” replied the young detective. “I want his secret, and I’ll have it. What will be said of us if we two allow this man to escape us? He can’t be visible and invisible by turns, like the devil. We’ll see what he is going to do now that he’s got some money and a plan—for he has both at the present moment. I would stake my right hand upon it.”
At that same instant, as if May intended to convince Lecoq of the truth of his suspicion, he entered a tobacconist’s shop and emerged an instant afterward with a cigar in his mouth.
So the landlady of the Hotel de Mariembourg had given May money. There could be no further doubt on that point after the purchase of this cigar. But had they agreed upon any plan? Had they had sufficient time to decide on the method that May was to employ with the view of baffling his pursuit?
It would seem so, since the fugitive’s manner had now changed in more respects than one. If hitherto he had seemed to care little for the danger of pursuit and capture, at present he was evidently uneasy and agitated. After walking so long in the full sunlight, with his head high in the air, he now slunk along in the shadow of the houses, hiding himself as much as possible.
“It is evident that his fears have increased in proportion with his hopes,” said Lecoq to his companion. “He was quite unnerved when we saw him at the Odeon, and the merest trifle would have decided him to surrender; now, however, he thinks he has a chance to escape with his secret.”
The fugitive was following the boulevards, but suddenly he turned into a side street and made his way toward the Temple, where, soon afterward, Father Absinthe and Lecoq found him conversing with one of those importunate dealers in cast-off garments who consider every passer-by their lawful prey. The vender and May were evidently debating a question of price; but the latter was plainly no skilful bargainer, for with a somewhat disappointed air he soon gave up the discussion and entered the shop.
“Ah, so now he has some coin he has determined on a costume,” remarked Lecoq. “Isn’t that always an escaped prisoner’s first impulse?”