by Emile Gaboriau
At about eleven o'clock in the evening of the 20th of February, 186--,
which chanced to be Shrove Sunday, a party of detectives left the police
station near the old Barriere d'Italie to the direct south of Paris.
Their mission was to explore the district extending on the one hand
between the highroad to Fontainebleau and the Seine, and on the other
between the outer boulevards and the fortifications.
This quarter of the city had at that time anything but an enviable
reputation. To venture there at night was considered so dangerous that
the soldiers from the outlying forts who came in to Paris with
permission to go to the theatre, were ordered to halt at the barriere,
and not to pass through the perilous district excepting in parties of
three or four.