Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Crime Passionnel

The Redhead

As they grew up, the Chevallier boys began spending playtime with the three children of a wealthy neighbor couple, Jeanne and Leon Perreau.

Like Pierre and Yvonne, they seemed a mismatched pair.

Mr. Perreau was middle-aged, bald, short and rotund. Owner of one of Orleans most prestigious and profitable department stores, Leon ran the business with a heavy hand that kept him away from home from sunrise until well after sundown six days a week.

His wife, 15 years younger, was a redheaded siren who could set mens teeth chattering with a withering come-hither look.

Jeanne Perreau
Jeanne Perreau
An independent spirit, she traveled in intellectual and literary circles. She dressed stylishly and comported herself with confidence.

The couples began socializing, and dinner parties with the Perreaus were the only social events that would consistently draw Pierre Chevallier back home from Paris.

Yvonne soon heard gossip about Jeanne Perreau: Women whispered about her romantic affairsa string of lovers that could stretch across the Loire.

In the meantime, Yvonne had grown increasingly anxious about her standing with Pierre.

She developed a case of nerves that led to doctors visits, prescription drugs and addiction to Maxiton, an amphetamine, and Veronal, a barbiturate.

When she wasnt popping pills, she was chain-smoking cigarettes and slugging down coffee. Her sleep became sporadic, and she developed hooded eyes.

In the spring of 1951, Mrs. Chevallier received an anonymous letter suggesting that her husband had become Jeanne Perreaus latest triumph.

She searched Dr. Chevallier's closet and, in a jacket, found a crumpled "Dear Pierre" love letter. It read, "Without you life would have no beauty or meaning for me." The letter was signed "Jeannette."

The French rules of marital manners demanded discretion, if not fidelity. Yvonne made inquiries and learned that the affair was an open secret in Paris and Orleans.

She left her sons with a maid and took a train to Paris to confront the philanderer.

But the trip became a series of humiliating indignities.

National Assembly building in Paris
National Assembly building in Paris

First, she was turned away at the National Assembly by an usher who had been warned by Chevallier that his wife was not welcome there.

In tears, she retreated to his Paris pied-a-terre. She waited all night, but he did not come home. This she took as confirmation of the affair.

Yvonne retreated to Orleans, where she paid a visit to Jeanne Perreau. The women accused one another of various moral and marital gaffes, and the meeting ended acrimoniously and without resolution.

She next confronted Leon Perreau, her counterpart cuckold. Yes, he said he understood that his wife was Dr. Chevallier's lover. But he had no intention of interceding.

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