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Monsieur Lecoq by Émile Gaboriau
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by Emile Gaboriau


At about eleven o'clock in the evening of the 20th of February, 186--,
which chanced to be Shrove Sunday, a party of detectives left the police
station near the old Barriere d'Italie to the direct south of Paris.
Their mission was to explore the district extending on the one hand
between the highroad to Fontainebleau and the Seine, and on the other
between the outer boulevards and the fortifications.

This quarter of the city had at that time anything but an enviable
reputation. To venture there at night was considered so dangerous
that the soldiers from the outlying forts who came in to Paris with
permission to go to the theatre, were ordered to halt at the barriere,
and not to pass through the perilous district excepting in parties of
three or four.

After midnight, these gloomy, narrow streets became the haunt of
numerous homeless vagabonds, and escaped criminals and malefactors,
moreover, made the quarter their rendezvous. If the day had been a lucky
one, they made merry over their spoils, and when sleep overtook them,
hid in doorways or among the rubbish in deserted houses. Every effort
had been made to dislodge these dangerous guests, but the most energetic
measures had failed to prove successful. Watched, hunted, and in
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