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The Crystal Stopper

2. Eight From Nine Leaves One
Notwithstanding my friendly relations with Lupin and the many flattering proofs of his
confidence which he has given me, there is one thing which I have never been quite able
to fathom, and that is the organization of his gang.
The existence of the gang is an undoubted fact. Certain adventures can be explained only
by countless acts of devotion, invincible efforts of energy and powerful cases of
complicity, representing so many forces which all obey one mighty will. But how is this
will exerted? Through what intermediaries, through what subordinates? That is what I do
not know. Lupin keeps his secret; and the secrets which Lupin chooses to keep are, so to
speak, impenetrable.
The only supposition which I can allow myself to make is that this gang, which, in my
opinion, is very limited in numbers and therefore all the more formidable, is completed
and extended indefinitely by the addition of independent units, provisional associates,
picked up in every class of society and in every country of the world, who are the
executive agents of an authority with which, in many cases, they are not even acquainted.
The companions, the initiates, the faithful adherents-- men who play the leading parts
under the direct command of Lupin--move to and fro between these secondary agents and
the master.
Gilbert and Vaucheray evidently belonged to the main gang. And that is why the law
showed itself so implacable in their regard. For the first time, it held accomplices of
Lupin in its clutches--declared, undisputed accomplices--and those accomplices had
committed a murder. If the murder was premeditated, if the accusation of deliberate
homicide could be supported by substantial proofs, it meant the scaffold. Now there was,
at the very least, one self-evident proof, the cry for assistance which Leonard had sent
over the telephone a few minutes before his death:
"Help!... Murder!... I shall be killed!..."
The desperate appeal had been heard by two men, the operator on duty and one of his
fellow-clerks, who swore to it positively. And it was in consequence of this appeal that
the commissary of police, who was at once informed, had proceeded to the Villa Marie-
Therese, escorted by his men and a number of soldiers off duty.
Lupin had a very clear notion of the danger from the first. The fierce struggle in which he
had engaged against society was entering upon a new and terrible phase. His luck was
turning. It was no longer a matter of attacking others, but of defending himself and saving
the heads of his two companions.
A little memorandum, which I have copied from one of the note-books in which he often
jots down a summary of the situations that perplex him, will show us the workings of his
brain:
 
 
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