François-Eugène Vidocq, a somewhat rehabilitated petty crook and enthusiastic police informant, became in 1809 the first chief of the Sûreté, the French equivalent of Scotland Yard. Wise in the ways of wascals, the Descartes of disguise, Vidocq drifted through Paris like some rancid reminder of the Bastille, striking terror into thieves and thugs. Also, occasionally, criminals.
Please do not quarrel over the window seats; while the vehicle is in motion, it is forbidden to jab, prod, or otherwise molest the driver with your pitiful replicas of the Eiffel Tower; and let Citoyen Vidocq be your dour guide as we cruise in air-conditioned comfort down the grim boulevards and sinister alleys once patrolled by this extraordinary officer of the Law.
April 5, 1815
The intrepid Vidocq [Vidocq commonly referred to himself in the third person; 'twas all the rage, in the 'Leonic Age. -- Trans.] has infiltrated a filthy gang of counterfeiters, large unwashed brutes, who mint treasure which meets with limited acclaim in the market, for it is the truth, that a French merchant's kindly eye grows narrow when presented with coin which is grossly misshapen and also a vivid hue of mud. The encrusted conspirators are consequently not men of great happiness but instead are greatly talented at recrimination and insult. Little do the spattered scoundrels suppose, the insoluble Vidocq, incredibly disguised as a barrel of dirt, gathers fistfuls of evidence underneath their very noses! And how the viscous villains guffaw with dread as Vidocq tumbles from Vidocq's confinement, leaps to Vidocq's feet, brushes off Vidocq's trousers, brushes off Vidocq's waistcoat, brushes off Vidocq's château [ "(n., m.) Castle; palace; country seat or manor." I give up -- you figure it out. I go now, to rest. -- Trans.] and lets fly Vidocq's terrible cry!
"I am Vidocq!"
As the impetuous Vidocq abruptly departs via the rooftop, Vidocq ponders briefly whether Vidocq's intrusion was perhaps at a bad time. While tending to Vidocq's various complaints and abrasions, Vidocq resolves to in the future announce Vidocq's presence in a more discreet fashion, ideally by post. A telephone call would be even better, but Vidocq has not yet gotten around to inventing the telephone.
May 13, 1817
Unbustably disguised as Vidocq's beloved Maman, the indescribable Vidocq returns to Vidocq's office to do paperwork as Vidocq's doctor has recommended. Where are those pesky scissors, Vidocq mutters, mutters . . . what is this? Does Vidocq detect the foul odor of treachery, or does Vidocq need a bath?
No, it is the foul odor of treachery! Vidocq alertly deduces that Vidocq's agents have again located Vidocq's confidential cask of cognac, for Vidocq's agents dance a merry quadrille atop Vidocq's confidential cask of cognac while swapping slanderous jests about their esteemed chief, Vidocq! Vidocq is this, Vidocq is that -- how Vidocq's ears blaze at such impudence! Vidocq's reprimand mows down the rioters like a whiff of grapeshot!
"I am Vidocq!"
"And I am the Empress Josephine!"
"And I am drunk, stinking drunk!"
"Hit the road, bewhiskered Grandmaman, before we decide to nail you up on a morals rap."
The imperturbable Vidocq will retreat, but not before Vidocq sustains many wounds in glorious combat.
December 3, 1822
Buoyantly disguised as a swirling haystack, the innavigable Vidocq has a band of demented river pirates under surveillance. Blinded by greed to Vidocq's elaborate trap, the crazed corsairs broadside Vidocq most cruelly with their black-bannered raft, and as hideous, mocking laughter and unspeakably vile curses explode across the water, the rabid raiders lasso their prize with a fusillade of grappling hooks. In retrospect, Vidocq suspects that Vidocq's hideous, mocking laughter and unspeakably vile curses were in tactical error, as Vidocq is soon implicated, and even Vidocq's splendid Declaration of the Rights of Vidocq fails to enlighten the barmy buccaneers, though it does provide them considerable amusement. Vidocq is plunged into depression, not to mention inSeineity, and it is rather more invigorating than Vidocq would prefer.
January 10, 1827
The incorruptible Vidocq has been summoned by Vidocq's superior, the Chevalier Duplessis, to discuss rumors of the Sûreté's complicity in a recent bank heist. An indignant Vidocq unbelievably disguises Vidocq as the Chevalier Duplessis in a gesture of tribute and also hoping to benefit from any confusion.
"Vidocq, you doorknob, will you knock off this disguise nonsense already? You look like a perfect nitwit."
"Oho! Then it is agreed, there is a resemblance?"
"We have had reports that during the infamous hijacking of the Banque DuGauche, one of the bandits was seen to discard his mask, and then, with a melodramatic flourish which was apparently intended to strike awe, but which in fact struck most observers as stagy, affected, and utterly lacking in the delicate but rich texture that enhances the finest French street theatre -- exemplified best, in my opinion, by the wry, yet poignant antics, of Bou-Bou, the Deformed Boy of Lyons . . . hmm, hmm! . . . er, proclaim, 'I am Vidocq!' Ring any bells?"
The indivertable Vidocq marches smartly off so that Vidocq might devote Vidocq's maximum attention to the case. It is of course only an educated speculation by Vidocq, but this atrocity sounds awfully like the handiwork of Vidocq's diabolical twin brother, Eugène-François, most likely in Switzerland or Tahiti or good golly knows where by now.