File No. 113

File No. 113

FILE NO. 113 EMILE GABORIAU I In the Paris evening papers of Tuesday February 28 1866 under the head of /Local Items/ the following announcement appeared: "A daring robbery committed against one of our most eminent bankers M. Andre Fauvel caused great excitement this morning throughout the neighborhood of Rue de Provence. "The thieves who were as skilful as they were bold succeeded in making an entrance to the bank in forcing the lock of a safe that has heretofore been considered impregnable and in possessing themselves of the enormous sum of three hundred and fifty thousand francs in bank-notes. "The police immediately informed of the robbery displayed their accustomed zeal and their efforts have been crowned with success. Already it is said P. B. a clerk in the bank has been arrested and there is every reason to hope that his accomplices will be speedily overtaken by the hand of justice." For four days this robbery was the town talk of Paris. Then public attention was absorbed by later and equally interesting events: an acrobat broke his leg at the circus; an actress made her debut at a small theatre: and the /item/ of the 28th was soon forgotten. But for once the newspapers were--perhaps intentionally--wrong or at least inaccurate in their information. The sum of three hundred and fifty thousand francs certainly had been stolen from M. Andre Fauvel's bank but not in the manner described. A clerk had also been arrested on suspicion but no decisive proof had been found against him. This robbery of unusual importance remained if not inexplicable at least unexplained. The following are the facts as they were related with scrupulous exactness at the preliminary examination. II The banking-house of Andre Fauvel No. 87 Rue de Provence is an important establishment and owing to its large force of clerks presents very much the appearance of a government department. On the ground-floor are the offices with windows opening on the street fortified by strong iron bars sufficiently large and close together to discourage all burglarious attempts. A large glass door opens into a spacious vestibule where three or four office-boys are always in waiting. On the right are the rooms to which the public is admitted and from which a narrow passage leads to the principal cash-room. The offices of the corresponding clerk book-keeper and general accounts are on the left. At the farther end is a small court on which open seven or eight little wicket doors. These are kept closed except on certain days when notes are due; and then they are indispensable. M. Fauvel's private office is on the first floor over the offices and leads into his elegant private apartments. This private office communicates directly with the bank by means of a narrow staircase which opens into the room occupied by the head cashier. This room which in the bank goes by the name of the "cash-office" is proof against all attacks no matter how skilfully planned; indeed it could almost withstand a regular siege sheeted as it is like a monitor. The doors and the partition where the wicket door is cut are covered with thick sheets of iron; and a heavy grating protects the fireplace. Fastened in the wall by enormous iron clamps is a safe a formidable and fantastic piece of furniture calculated to fill with envy the poor devil who easily carries his fortune in a pocket-book. This safe which is considered the masterpiece of the firm of Becquet is six feet in height and four and a half in width made entirely of wrought iron with triple sides and divided into isolated compartments in case of fire. The safe is opened by an odd little key which is however the least important part of the mechanism. Five movable steel buttons upon which are engraved all the letters of the alphabet constitute the real power of this ingenious safe. Before inserting the key into the lock the letters on the buttons must be in the exact position in which they were placed when the safe was locked. In M. Fauvel's bank as everywhere the safe was always closed with a word that was changed from time to time. This word was known only to the head of the bank and the cashier each of whom had also a key to the safe. In a fortress like this a person could deposit more diamonds than the Duke of Brunswick's and sleep well assured of their safety. But one danger seemed to threaten that of forgetting the secret word which was the "Open sesame" of the safe. On the morning of the 28th of February the bank-clerks were all busy ...