Tales from the Morgue: Surviving Bluebeard, Part 5

2014-07-25T10:00:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Surviving Bluebeard, Part 5Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 25, 2014 10:00 am  • 

Her lover's secret work, a mysterious trip to Gambais and a hasty departure the next morning might have worried Fernande, but Henri cleared her mind of such matters by announcing that the impediments to their marriage would soon be gone.

At the time, he probably said this to keep her from asking questions about his behavior, but that would not be a problem for long in any case.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Saturday, Jan. 7, 1922:

Fateful Errand of Love Resulted

        in French "Bluebeard's" Downfall,

                He Faces Death on the Guillotine

_____

Mlle. Segret Tells of the Closing Scenes With Her False Lover

_____

By FERNANDE SEGRET

CHAPTER V.

The routine of out life in Paris had been resumed when a few days leter, Lucien came to me in fine spirits and made an announcement that brought me joy.

He said there was only one remaining obstacle to our marriage and that this would be cleared away in a very short time. He expected to make a great deal of money, I gathered from his words, then to marry me and surround me with luxury. I believed him then and I still believe he was sincere at that particular moment.

The morning of April 11 dawned brightly and Lucien—who was destined to be recognized that very day—proposed that I should go out with him. He had a little business to attend to, he said, and after that had been disposed of we should be free to stroll.

We came at length to a little shop in the Rue de Rivoli where we noticed in the window some dishes with a raised design in gold exactly matching an incomplete set that we had at home.

That apparently trivial incident, as I afterward learned, was the immediate cause of the astounding events that swiftly followed. None can say what would have been Landru's fate or mine, if his glance that morning had not strayed to that particular window. I shall presently show why.

Since the pattern of the dishes was like ours Landru insisted that we should have them. He had only 100 francs in his pocket, but he would arrange to make a deposit and pay the rest on delivery. We went in and made the bargain giving our address. The dishes were to be sent there the next day.

But Landru had been recognized by a relative of one of those women who are said to have been the victims of his crimes. The recognition was not made known immediately, for this person was too cunning for that. But the address that Landru had given was learned and was communicated the same day to the police. Why they did not act at once I do not know. In any event we were not disturbed until the next day.

Landru, after making the purchase had walked out with me a few blocks more, then put me on a bus to go home while he attended to some affairs—I don't know what.

When I awoke the next morning he had gone out but he soon returned looking, I thought a little haggard. I was preparing our breakfast when there came a knocking at the door. He answered it and I, from the next room heard his voice in conversation with two men. I did not wish to show myself at that hour because my toilet was incomplete. Suddenly I heard Landru cry out:

"Under arrest? In my own home?"

I rushed into the room. The men had seized Landru and were fitting handcuffs to his wrists. Stupefied, I demanded to know what it was all about. But the officers evaded questions and directed me to dress and accompany them.

Mechanically, scarcely knowing what I did, I obeyed. We were all conducted first to one bureau of the police and then to another. Finally I was left alone in an ante room outside of a chamber in which Landru was being questioned. Much of what they said was too low for me to catch, but at one moment the voice of an inquisitor rose to a high pitch and I heard distinctly:

"Do you know, Monsieur, the charges against you? Four murders!"

I did not swoon, but I felt my senses reeling, my limbs became weak and limp. I was sick—sick and possessed by a wild and uncomprehending terror. My brain was no longer capable of distinguishing ideas from words. And yet I remained conscious and made a numb effort to assemble my faculties. Never had it been so necessary to think calmly—never had it been so utterly impossible.

The door opened. Men came out. Landru followed, his wrists held together with steel. Others followed him, but it was his face that held my gaze after the first swift mental photographing of the scene as a whole.

His features were as motionless as those of a dead man. the pallor of the skin and the dullness of the eye were the only visible sign that he had been moved at all. His self mastery then, as before and later, was perfect. I learned afterward that a breakfast had been immediately served to him, and that he had eaten with apparent composure and excellent appetite.

Food was offered to me but I could not touch it. They questioned me but I could not answer coherently. Finally in the afternoon they escorted me back to what had been our home. There I remained motionless while they searched every corner of the apartment. I do not know what it was they sought—evidence of some sort.

Sometimes they asked me questions, simple household questions that I could answer. But for the most part they left me alone while they prosecuted their search. When it was terminated, they directed me to accompany them once more to the Bureau of Police for more questioning. Toward evening they told me I could go, I was free.

Not once since his arrest had I been permitted to speak to the prisoner. I now asked permission to see him, if only for a moment. It was granted, but our interview was conducted under the watchful eye of the guards.

Landru met me with a steady gaze—and I thought—just the shadow of an ironic smile. I did not know what to say. Even then I could not realize that he was in grave trouble. It seemed inconceivable that he would fail to give some explanation which would dissolve the nightmare.

I asked him where I should find the money to meet some current bills. He said quietly that he would instruct his counsel in the matter. A silence fell between us followed by a subtle change in his expression. He asked me for a kiss.

In that last embrace Landru, superb as ever, whispered in my ear and he managed a faint smile as he spoke—the words from two dramas, that of the stage and that of our own domestic play—words that will always haunt me.

"Adieu, notre petite table."

You ask me if Landru is guilty. And I answer that a great struggle is taking place within me. Surely, I sometimes tell myself, all those women could not have disappeared without reason—and yet I cannot believe him capable of crimes so abominable. I believe there are many who think as I do. To me Landru was always charming—and correct. I cannot picture him to myself as capable of so great a change.

THE END

These days Landru would be known as a serial killer, a term unheard of in the earliest part of the 20th century. It's a shame we all know what a serial killer is now.

Henri Landru's trial began in November 1921, and lasted about a month. He refused to answer questions or defend himself. The jury convicted him after only two hours of deliberation. He was sentenced to death by guillotine.

But wait! There's more.

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About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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