فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER 5

“Caught”

But let us look now at the murders themselves. Here is a woman strangled to death and then pushed up into a chimney. Would an ordinary murderer push his victim up a chimney? Don’t you think that it is a bit excessive? A little absurd even? Do you think that it is something a normal human being would do?

“Remember also that it took four men to pull her down from the chimney. The murderer must be incredibly strong. And there is other evidence to suggest this almost superhuman strength. On the fireplace there were several lengths - very thick lengths - of human hair. Now you and I know that it is extremely difficult to pull even twenty or thirty hairs together from the human head. But our murderer pulled perhaps half a million hairs from the head of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye. And then the throat of the old lady was not simply cut: the head was completely separated from the body. But the instrument the murderer used was a simple razor. Then we must also consider the terrible ferocity of these actions.

“Now we almost have a complete picture of the murderer: incredibly agile with superhuman strength, brutally ferocious but without motive, inhuman in his reasoning and actions and with an extremely strange voice that is foreign to the ears of men from many different countries. What is your opinion?”

“A madman,” I said. “Some maniac escaped from a psychiatric hospital.”

“An interesting idea,” said Dupin, “but madmen come from some nation. It is true their language is often incoherent but it does contain recognisable words. And the hair of madmen is not like the hair I now hold in my hand. I found this piece of hair in Madame L’Espanaye’s hand. What do you think?”

“Dupin!” I said, completely shocked; “this is no human hair.”

“I didn’t say that it was,” said Dupin. “but before we decide its true nature I want you to look at this drawing. It is a facsimile drawing of the bruises and fingermarks that were found on the throat of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye.

“You see that this drawing gives us the idea that the hands of the murderer easily encircled the throat. They did not move until she was dead. Now, take this cylinder of wood which is approximately the diameter of the throat and wrap the drawing around it.”

I followed Dupin’s instructions.

“Now I want you to try to place your fingers over the fingermarks of the murderer.”

I tried to do this but it was impossible. The hands on the paper were too big, the fingers too long.

“This,” I said, “is the mark of no human hand.”

“Now read this article that I found in a book on ethology.”

I took the book that Dupin offered me and read. It was a detailed description of the large orangoutang of the East Indian islands. I knew very well the beast’s enormous size, its incredible strength and ferocity and its capacity to imitate human sounds and actions. I now understood completely the horrors of the murders in the Rue Morgue.

“The description of the fingers is exactly the same as those in the drawing,” I said. “The orang-outang is the only animal that could make these marks. Also the hair that you showed me is identical to that of the beast described in the book. But I cannot understand the details of the mystery. For example, the fact that there were two voices arguing and one of them was clearly that of a Frenchman.”

“This is true,” said Dupin, “and we also know that it was the voice of the Frenchman who said the words ‘My God!’. Certainly this Frenchman knew about the murders. It is probably, however, that he was innocent of the bloody act itself. I imagine that the orang-outang escaped from him and that he followed it to the house in the Rue Morgue. But after the confusion of the incident I do not believe that he recaptured it. It is still free. But this is just my intuition. If the Frenchman is innocent of the murders, the advertisement which I left at the office of Le Monde last night will bring him to our house.”

He gave me a newspaper and I read:

CAUGHT

In the Bois du Boulogne early in the morning (of the morning after the murder) a very large red orang-outang. The owner of the animal (believed to be a sailor from a Maltese ship) may come to collect it at No. - Rue - , Faubourg St. Germain.

“How could you possibly know,” I asked, “that the man was a sailor, and from a Maltese ship?”

“I do not know it,” said Dupin. “I am not sure of it. But I found this piece of ribbon at the bottom of the lightning rod. It is the type of ribbon that sailors use to tie their hair in a ponytail. If you look at the knot you will see that it is the kind that only sailors can tie. And this particular knot is peculiar to the Maltese.

“Our man is innocent of the murders,” Dupin continued, “but he knows about them. Certainly he will hesitate before replying to the advertisement - and before coming here and asking for the orang-outang. But he will also think: I am poor; my orang-outang is of great value - particularly to someone poor like me; why should I be afraid? Why should I lose it because of some imagined danger? After all, the beast was found in the Bois du Boulogne - a very great distance from the scene of the murders. And no-one could possibly think that an animal was responsible for them. Above all, the advertiser knows me. I don’t know how much he knows about the atrocity, but if I do not collect the animal I will attract suspicion, both to it and to me. And I do not want to do that. Therefore I will answer the advertisement and get the orang-outang back and keep it with me until everyone has forgotten this horrible incident.’

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