Detective Marie Francois Goron and the Gouffe Case Part 2

About the famous detective Marie Francois Goron and the Gouffe Case, account of the crime and clues, history of the chase.


The Chase

On Monday, July 29, Goron went to bailiff Gouffe's office. The safe was still locked, but the desk had been rifled and the floor was littered with burned matches. For weeks he questioned Gouff's clients and girl friends, but as precious time slipped past him, Goron failed to uncover any solid clue as to the missing man's fate.

By Aug. 17, three weeks had passed and no one had seen Gouffe. Examining the newspapers. Goron spied a report of a strange event outside the village of Millery near Lyons. The local road commissioner, encountering a repulsive stench near the bank of the Rhone, had investigated and discovered inside a truck a sack containing the partially decomposed nude body of a man with black hair.

Gouffe's hair, everyone knew, was auburn, and many of the other characteristics of the Lyons corpse failed to jibe with the physiognomy of the missing bailiff. Goron was insistent, however, and reluctantly Examining Magistrate Dopffer instructed Gouffe's brother-in-law and a Surete investigator to go to Lyons and examine the body. They proceeded according to Dopffer's instructions, but the stench in the Lyons morgue and the sight of the sickening remains scared off the brother-in-law after a quick glance; for his part, the Surete investigator lingered only long enough to confirm the color of the dead man's hair.

Goron was enraged. Although unshaken in his belief as to the identity of the Lyons corpse, he could do little more. Then in September he learned that a disreputable character named Michel Eyraud and his mistress, Gabrielle Bompard, had been missing from Paris since July 27--the day after Gouffe had last been seen. Goron issued a bulletin to police departments throughout France to be on the watch for the pair, but in keeping with nearly everything else he had tried in this case, the search produced nothing.

By November the case was more than four months old, and Goron looked bad. He was a man who throve on adulation, but the newspapers were now calling him a failure. There was only one place to go, one place that might provide some clue to the bailiff's baffling disappearance, and Goron was soon on his way to Lyons.

The lecture room at the University of Lyons was, for the most part, empty. In the rows of benches ascending from front to back, only Goron's assistant, Inspector Jaume, was seated. Jaume had taken a seat in the topmost row in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the disgusting stench emanating from the slate table at the front of the room.

Around the table stood Goron, the state prosecutor, the doctor who had performed the initial autopsy on the mysterious Lyons corpse, and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne and his assistant. It was 46-year-old Dr. Lacassagne who had been assigned to examine the exhaumed corpse, which had been decomposing quite tranquilly since it was buried the previous August following the failure of Gouffe's brother-in-law and the Goron subordinate to identify it. It was now Nov. 12, and all that appeared on Dr. Lacassagne's examining table were some bones and hair; decay had eaten away nearly all of the flesh.

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