Edgar Allan Poe - The Purloined Letter
One evening in Paris, during the autumn of 1845, I went to visit a friend, Auguste Dupin. We were smoking our pipes and talking when the door of his apartment opened. Mr. Germont, the head of the Paris police force, came into the room.
"I came to ask your advice," Germont said to my friend Dupin. "I am trying to solve a very important case. It is also a very simple case, so I really need your help. But I thought you would like to hear about it, because it is so strange.
"The wife of a very important person needs help. I cannot tell you her name, because her husband is a powerful man in the French government. Let us just call her Madame X. Three months ago, someone stole a letter from Madame X. She is offering a large amount of money to anyone who can return the letter to her.
"We know that her husband's political enemy, Mr. D'Arcy, stole the letter. We also know it is somewhere in his apartment. D'Arcy plans to use the letter to embarrass Madame X's husband and destroy his political power.
"We opened every book. We removed the boards of the floor. We even took the tops off the tables to see if he had hidden the letter in the table legs. But we cannot find it. What do you advise me to do?"
"Of course! Of course," Dupin said. "Once, a rich old man met Abernathy at a party. The old man was not feeling very well. He decided he would get a medical opinion from the doctor without paying for it. So he described his problems to Abernathy. 'Now doctor,' the old man said, 'suppose you had a patient like that. What would you tell him to take?'"
Dupin smiled at Germont. "How much money did you say the reward was?" he asked. Germont sighed. "I do not want to tell you the exact amount. But I would give fifty thousand francs to the person who helps me find that letter."
"It was simple, my friend," he said. "Germont and his policemen could not find the letter, because they did not try to understand the mind of the man who stole it. Instead, they looked for the letter where they would have hidden it.
"Mr. D'Arcy is not a policeman. He is, however, very intelligent. He knew the police would search his apartment. He also knew how police think. So, he did not hide the letter where he knew they would look for it.
"So I went to visit D'Arcy in his apartment. I took a pair of dark green eyeglasses with me. I explained to him that I was having trouble with my eyes and needed to wear the dark glasses at all times. He believed me. The glasses permitted me to look around the apartment while I seemed only to be talking to him.
"I paid special attention to a large desk where there were a lot of papers and books. However, I saw nothing suspicious there. After a few minutes, however, I noticed a small shelf over the fireplace. A few postcards and a letter were lying on the shelf. The letter looked very old and dirty.
"This letter had a large green stamp on it. The address was written in small letters in blue ink. I memorized every detail of the letter while I talked to D'Arcy. Then when he was not looking, I dropped one of my gloves on the floor under my chair.
"The next morning, I stopped at his apartment to look for my glove. While we were talking, we heard people shouting in the street. D'Arcy went to the window and looked out. Quickly, I stepped to the shelf and put the letter in my pocket. Then I replaced it with a letter that looked exactly like it, which I had taken with me. I had made it the night before.
"The trouble in the street was caused by a man who had almost been run over by a horse and carriage. He was not hurt. And soon the crowd of people went away. When it was over, D'Arcy came away from the window. I said good-bye and left.