L'improbable Monsieur Owen
by Georges Simenon
First published in Police Roman magazine in N° 12, July 15, 1938.
First published in book form in
uvres Complètes, Éditions Rencontre, Gilbert Sigaux, ed., Lausanne, 1967-73.
in Tout Simenon, tome 25, Presses de la Cité, 1992.
translated from the French by Stephen Trussel as:
The Unlikely Monsieur Owen
It was wonderful to be there, eyes closed, eyelids prickling under the caresses of a sun filtered by the yellow curtains... and even more wonderful to think that it was possibly two-thirty or three o'clock in the afternoon, and that that scourge of existence called a clock was entirely unnecessary.
And that wasn't all! At this very moment, by some miracle he was surrounded by boundless marvels. Beginning with the landscape, which Maigret couldn't see, as he had his eyes closed, but which he knew was there if he merely chose to look: the unruffled surface of the Mediterranean such as one can only discover from the grand hotels of Cannes1, the swarm of varnished masts of the most luxurious port of the world on his right, and far, far off, in the blaze of the sky, the Îles de Lérins2.
Even the sounds which reached Maigret from below resonated with luxury. The honking horns were not those of ordinary cars, but for the most part the calls of long, gleaming limousines, driven by chauffeurs in livery. That woman he'd heard arguing in the neighboring suite was a famous Viennese3 movie actress, with a dozen autograph hounds waiting by her door at all hours. And the ceaseless ringing of the telephone below would almost certainly have become annoying, if he hadn't known that the tenant of the suite in question was the Prime Minister of a great state on the Danube4.
Maigret was taking a siesta! Maigret, for three days, had been living in a palace, the Excelsior5, on the Croisette6 in Cannes not to chase some jailbird or international swindler, but to relax! For this miracle to have taken place had required a whole combination of circumstances, beginning with Aunt Émilie (Mme Maigret had eleven aunts!) being taken seriously ill in Quimper7, with no one to look after her...
"If you come with me you'll be bored to tears, and besides, you have to be careful after that bout of bronchitis you had this winter and which is hardly cured. Didn't you always tell me you had a friend in the Midi who'd invited you to come down any time?"
Maigret's friend was none other than M. Louis.
For most people, M. Louis was only a porter of a luxury hotel in a frock coat decorated with gilded keys, and the majority of those imbeciles believed themselves superior to him because they gave him a tip. In fact, M. Louis had passed his baccalauréat7a, was fluent in five languages, and had been director of a large hotel in Deauville8 for many years. He had concluded from his experience that the only means of earning money in the hotel trade... was to fulfill the functions of a porter. He'd fulfilled them on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and many times had rendered minor services to Maigret, when he was still active, and the Superintendent had frequently returned the favor, as when he'd once managed the recovery of the sum of 100,000 francs which had been flushed down a toilet.
"If you ever come down to the Midi..."
"I'm afraid it won't happen until I'm retired..."
And it had happened! Maigret was taking a siesta, like a sultan! On the chair were his white flannel trousers, while under it his white and red shoes positively gleamed.
People came and went in the corridors, spoke, sang, telephoned in nearby suites; cars passed in the street and women roasted themselves in the sun; in Paris a government made pronouncements in the Chambers, and hundreds of thousands of Frenchman worried about the Stock Exchange prices; here, the elevator went up and went down with a small click on each floor.
What more could one ask for?
Maigret was happy! He'd eaten like four, drunk like six, absorbed the sun through all his pores like fifty candidates in a bathing beauty contest.
Aunt Émilie? Well, if this were her time, she'd had a long life, and the only rub would be that he'd have to leave these wonders to go to the funeral in Brittany where, in March, there was nothing but rain.
He groaned, and lifted his cheek from the pillow, noticing that while all the sounds had previously blended into a symphony, a stronger noise was essentially making a solo.
"Come in!" he shouted, finally recognizing the strange humming as a knock on his door. "Is that you, M. Louis?"
"Were you sleeping? I'm really sorry to disturb you, but something terrible has happened."
"Presumably nothing that would impede you from opening the curtains for me?"
And so he could regard the sea, as blue as a watercolor painting, with a white yacht on the horizon, and a speedboat going round and round humming like a hornet.
"Would you mind bringing me a glass of water?" as his nap, after the fine lunch, had left his mouth feeling woolly.
"You said 'something terrible'?"
"A crime has been committed in the hotel."
M. Louis was an intelligent man, distinguished even, with a small brown mustache and a very fine smile. However he hardly expected to hear Superintendent Maigret, or rather ex-Superintendent Maigret, murmur dreamily, "Is that so?"
"A crime in which everything is extremely mysterious."
Was it the half-sleep which gave Maigret this vulgarity, or did he affect it as a protest against his elegant surroundings? Again he groaned, "Well, old man..."
"It concerns M. Owen..."
"Tell me, Louis, have you informed the police?"
"The local Superintendent9 has just arrived. The Examining Magistrate10 should be here at any moment."
"I don't understand..."
"Tell me, Louis. When, by chance, you travel and stay at a hotel, is it you who gives the guests their room keys and delivers them their mail?"
Maigret got up, his hair in disorder, sought his pipe, stuffed it, found one blue slipper and had to kneel to fish the other out from below the bed.
"I believed that it would interest you," responded M. Louis, a little peevishly.
"Me? Not at all."
"That's a shame..."
"I don't see why."
"Because I know that the local police won't be able to find out anything, and that you're the only one who could decipher this enigma."
"Well then, so much the worse for this enigma!"
"You didn't even ask me who M. Owen is"
"That's fine with me."
"Even better, because no one knows."
This time, Maigret, trying to catch the ends of his suspenders hanging behind his back, shot M. Louis a dirty look. "Hold on. Nobody knows?"
"We thought he was Swedish11. He seemed to be, and that's what was written on his registration card. You know that in deluxe hotels of our class, we don't require the guest's passports, and they write whatever they like. But when M. Owen's room was searched they didn't find any identity papers. And the Swedish consul, which is near the Excelsior, says that there had been an Ernst Owen, but he died ten years ago."
Maigret brushed his teeth, took up his pipe again, and ran a wet comb through his hair. "Why are you telling me all this?"
"For nothing! Here's this Ernst Owen, arriving at our premises three weeks ago, accompanied by a pretty nurse, one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen and in our trade the occasions are numerous -"
Maigret sought a tie to his taste among the six new ones his wife had presented him for this voyage.
"A blonde with gray eyes. A peach of a girl, graceful, well-built but not heavy, with luscious skin..."
The former superintendent still didn't want to acknowledge that he was listening.
"We even joked about it while doing the mail. You know how it is: while eating, one chatters. The hotel managers hear this or that... the hall-boys and the bellhops bring their information... the chambermaids have their intimate pipelines... In short, this M. Owen and his nurse..."
"Was he sick?"
"Not at all! Or at least, I don't know anything about it. You'd had to have seen him on the terrace without knowing who he was. A tall gentleman, almost as tall as King Gustav12, dressed completely in gray gray flannel suit, gray shirt, gray silk tie, with only a natural Panama hat and white deerskin shoes. Gray glasses, and even gray linen gloves."
"Yes! And that's not all. He came down every morning at ten o'clock, and always settled himself into the same wicker armchair on the terrace, the one under the third parasol. He remained there until one, his cane between his hands, looking out at the sea in front of him. Then he'd lunch, and return to the terrace until five or six, that is, until the moment when it started to get cool. Then he'd go up to his suite, where a cold dinner was served to him, and he wouldn't be seen again that evening."
"Someone killed him?"
"Rather someone was killed in his room..."
"So he wasn't the victim?"
"More likely he was the..."
M. Louis told himself that Maigret was nibbling the bait, and that from now on he could progress in a less mysterious way.
"I'll tell you the story in a few words. This morning, at the time when we sort the newspapers from Paris, which arrive a little before eleven, I noticed that M. Owen wasn't in his usual place. I even mentioned it to one of the bellboys. I happened to glance at the board, and I saw that his key was missing. Later, at apéritif time, as I was making my rounds on the terrace, I again noted the absence of M. Owen. This time, I went to the front desk and asked M. Henry, 'Is M. Owen ill?'"
"I don't know."
"At that moment, sometime between a quarter past and twelve-thirty, I saw his nurse leaving, in a pale green dress which suited her to perfection. As she didn't give me her key, I didn't have a chance to say anything. I'd assumed she was going out to seek some medication, and I would have told her that the pharmacies were closed."
"Finally, at two o'clock, the fourth-floor hallman telephoned me to ask about 412, M. Owen's suite. The door was always closed and no one answered his knocks. I arrived and opened the door with a master key, and was surprised to find an empty whisky bottle on the table, beside a broken glass. In the bathroom, in the tub, I found the naked body of a man..."
"And then?" Maigret asked in spite of himself.
"Then nothing! It wasn't M. Owen."
"Just that it wasn't M. Owen. Moreover, since my trade obliges to me to be something of a physiognomist, I know everyone who enters or leaves the hotel on sight. I can affirm that I never saw this young man..."
"Excuse me as for M. Owen?"
"That's precisely where the story becomes extraordinary. His clothing was on the coat rack and his luggage in the suite, everything there. On the other hand, though it is obvious that the young man did not very well enter naked into the Excelsior, there was no clothing belonging to him in 412."
Maigret, installed in front of the vast picture window, was contemplating the sea, from which the heads of swimmers emerged. M. Louis, behind him, thinking that he hadn't yet sunk the hook, played out some more line.
"Notice that, as I told you, the pretty nurse left between twelve-fifteen and twelve-thirty. Now the doctor has stated that the death of the young man who is not M. Owen was sometime around dawn..."
"Hmm! Hmm!" Maigret continued to resist.
"And that's not all. M. Owen, whether for fear of being taken ill or some other reason, had wanted his nurse close by, and so she was in the adjoining suite, 413, with the communicating door between them always open."
"So much the worse for her!" Maigret sighed.
"I think so too. The gentlemen of the Flying Squad13 have already broadcast his description. They are all the more inclined to believe in his culpability since the testimony of a hallman fits. At nine o'clock in the morning, passing in the corridor and listening at the doors as usual, he clearly heard the voice of the nurse in 412. However, by that time, the crime had already been committed."
Maigret almost wanted, as a protest against all these stories and his own deplorable instinct of the chase, to put on his bathing suit and red beach robe, and go down and lie on the sand to watch the swimmers.
"That's not all," continued the relentless M. Louis, who, with his stern delivery, was sometimes reminiscent of a Protestant minister.
"Well, go on, what else?"
"I didn't tell you how the young man died."
"I don't care!" countered Maigret in a last burst of resistance. "I've half a mind to move to a boarding house and pay a stiff price, and where I'd eat veal at every meal. I've had enough of it, you hear, Louis? If I have to pay for my stay and start all over..."
"I beg your forgiveness," murmured the caretaker, humbly backing towards the door. He knew the Maigret of old. He knew that he wouldn't let it lie. Moreover, the former superintendent presented his solid back, which was always good sign. And he avoided turning his head as he asked, "What did he die of?"
At which M. Louis declared, in the same tone in which he would had said "Madam's car has arrived," "He was drowned in the bath-tub."14
M. Louis had got him! Maigret had taken the hook. In his time he'd dealt with enough crimes and had leaned on enough corpses to populate a nice provincial cemetery.
"If you want to come to see..."
"No, my old friend! Now listen well to what I have to say: I absolutely make it a point of having no part in this investigation. Do you hear? The first line on me in the newspapers, and I'm gone from your establishment, which is however extremely pleasant. Furthermore, I will not deal directly with anything at all... If you want to keep me current from time to time, fine. If I have a small idea, which is unlikely, I don't claim that I will refuse to communicate it to you."
"But don't you want to see the body?"
"They'll photograph it, won't they? Arrange with the Criminal Records15 office to get a proof copy."
Was it impermissible for him to enjoy the sun and perfume of this Mediterranean spring in peace? Even now he was ferreting around his room as if he were looking for something, and he didn't even know what. He pretended to be in a foul mood, but the fact remains that when he suddenly saw his reflection in a mirror, he couldn't refuse himself a tiny smile. "These guys remember!" he thought.
And moreover, among them, M. Louis was in a good position to judge the skill of a police officer. Well, he hadn't forgotten the Maigret of old, in spite of his retirement. The Superintendent of the Flying Squad, who had been called in, might well be first-rate. The fact remained that Louis had, in a quarter of an hour, craftily obtained the assistance of Maigret! And he was certainly not acting for himself alone. The owner of the Excelsior was surely behind him.
"Provided that I have nothing to with it!" he repeated.
Something else made him smile: to see himself in his white flannel trousers and shirt, with a striped tie in the colors of an English university, which he had chosen without being aware of it.
"Owen, Owen, all in gray! Gray suit, gray shirt, gray tie. Oh! Don't forget the gray linen gloves! Yes, I'd really like to know why M. Owen wore gray linen gloves to lounge in the sun."
He no longer heard the telephones, the comings and goings, the discrete click of the elevator. A little later, he went down, using the staircase so that he could avoid running into the official police. He noticed small groups in the lobby, where despite the precautions, the news had leaked out.
Without stopping, he passed in front of M. Louis, who was bustling about in front of his table of keys, and he found himself on the Croisette, in such an ideal atmosphere that it seemed positively criminal to annoy people by dying suddenly in the bath-tub of M. Owen.
It was time to write to his wife, and from a kiosk he chose a multi-colored card, of yachts costing five million apiece.
"Perfect weather. Sun. Took a nap. Life is beautiful!" he wrote.
He didn't want to give M. Louis the satisfaction of throwing himself into this business like misery on the poor world. He made himself walk up and down the Croisette three times, and not without paying attention to the swim-suited personnel devoting themselves to physical culture on the beach.
"Owen, Owen." It was like the buzzing of a captive fly. And he would have been perfectly unable to say what was bothering him.
"Owen, Owen, let us see!"
When the sun went down, he had to control himself not to hurry his pace, accepted the salute of the bellboy standing in front of the revolving door, and saw M. Louis deep in conversation with two Englishmen who couldn't figure out the railway timetable.
As he didn't give him his key, and pretended not to see that he was there, Maigret waited, his pipe in his teeth. And so he had to listen to a long discussion on the advantages and the disadvantages of two different trains, until the Englishmen decided to leave.
"There's been an arrest!" M. Louis announced.
"His nurse. At the precise moment she got off the autorail16 at Nice17. The police telephoned me at once."
"What does she say?"
"That she doesn't know anything. An inspector will be here soon with the details."
Maigret extended his hand to take his key, which had a heavy white metal star marked with the number.
"That's not all."
"They had the entire staff march in front of the corpse. No one had ever seen him on the premises. The night man, my colleague Pitois, whom you know, is sure he'd never seen him. Moreover, last night there was a police officer in the hall, because of the presence in the Excelsior of the minister whom you also know, and he confirms what Pitois says."
Maigret once more extended his hand toward his spangled key.
M. Louis insisted, "When can I meet you?"
"To bring you up to date on the new information I'll receive soon. I go off duty at eight. There's a quiet bar close to the port, the Pétanque. If you accept..."
There were already people in dinner jackets. Maigret, himself, so as not to get dressed, preferred dinner at the grill. The sky was mauve, the sea also, of a darker shade.
"M. Owen..." he groaned.
How much better if he'd sent Louis to the devil instead of torturing himself as he did now!
He grimaced nevertheless on arriving at his floor and seeing two men carrying a heavy oblong object, a coffin surely, which had been wrapped in cloth to make it less sinister. They hugged the walls like thieves, in this hotel where joy and pleasure alone reigned.
The coffin reminded him of Aunt Émilie, whose demise would no doubt be announced by telegram at some hour or another, and leaning on his terrace, he ended up lighting a pipe and shrugging his shoulders as the sounds of the apéritif concert drifted up to him.
"M. Owen... gloves of gray linen! What was that all about!"
"For me, a demi," sighed Maigret with satisfaction, emptying his pipe onto the ground. A true demi, finally, in a thick tankard with a handle, and not a small bottle of foreign beer served preciously in crystal as at the Excelsior.
At the Pétanque the former superintendent felt in his element, and at once his gaze became at the same time heavy and acute, as renowned at the P.J., and he took on that strange placidity which seized him precisely when his spirit was working most actively.
M. Louis, next to him, looked quite dignified in his black suit, and not a minute passed without someone coming up to greet him or offer his hand as a mark of respect. However, in the bar, at the zinc counter piled high with ham sandwiches, there were actually more dinner jackets and tails than suits, more women in evening dresses than in lounging wear. But those in dinner jackets were croupiers; in tails, with black tie, row chiefs; with white, professional dancers. The pretty women were all entertainers at the Casino.
"Anything new?" Maigret questioned while letting his glance wander around this small world which he knew so well.
"So much that I took notes on a bit of paper. You don't want to copy them?"
Maigret shook his head, taking small puffs on his pipe, seemingly engrossed in all that was taking place around him, whereas not a detail of M. Louis's speech escaped him.
"First of all, no one has yet been able to identify the victim, and his fingerprints, sent to Paris by tele-photo18, do not appear in the files at the Palais de Justice19. He was a man of about twenty-five or twenty-six, in delicate health, and addicted to morphine20. At the time of his death, he was under the influence of the drug."
"You're certainly not going to claim that this man entered Room 412, stripped himself to take a bath in M. Owen's tub, and having immersed himself in the hot water, drowned accidentally?"
"Hardly! On his neck and shoulders were bruises made before his death, by the person who held his head under the water."
"The time of death, Louis?"
"Wait while I check... six o'clock in the morning. But I learned a curious detail. You know how the suites are set up. At the back of each bathroom is a separate toilet. These toilets have a small window of approximately twenty inches square21. Now, the pane of this one, in 412, was cut out using a diamond, which would suggest that someone entered by it. Outside, in fact, there is a fire escape, or rather an iron ladder, which passes near the window. A man suitably endowed for acrobatics could get into the hotel by this means."
"Yes, so that he could strip himself naked in M. Owen's room and take a bath in his tub!" Maigret repeated, not giving an inch. "You don't find that a funny idea?"
"I don't try to explain. I'm just repeating what was told to me."
"The fair young nurse has been questioned?"
"She is called Germaine Devon. She really does have her nursing diploma, and before entering the service of M. Owen, she was taking care of another Swede, a M. Stilberg, who died here a little more than a year ago."
"Of course, she doesn't know anything!"
"Absolutely nothing. She'd met M. Owen in Paris, in the lobby of a large deluxe hotel where she'd gone for an interview. He engaged her, and since then she has accompanied him. M. Owen, according to her, was an extremely high-strung person who feared from one moment to the next a bout of madness. Apparently his father and his grandfather died insane."
"And yet he didn't have an attending physician?"
"He was wary of doctors, fearing that one of them would have him committed."
"How did he spend his time every night?"
"But..." On rereading his notes, M. Louis was astonished. "Wait... I don't believe that the question was asked. That would have struck me. Presumably he slept?"
"When does Mlle. Germaine, as she is called, claim to have seen her employer for the last time?"
"According to her, she entered his suite around nine o'clock this morning, as usual, to bring him his breakfast, as he didn't like to be served by the hotel staff. She didn't notice anything unusual. The door of the bathroom was closed and she didn't think of opening it. M. Owen, she claims, was the same as every other morning, and while seated in his bed eating his toast and tea, he requested her to go to Nice for him to bring a letter which was on the night table to a certain address, on the Avenue President-Wilson, if I remember correctly."
"Wait! Mlle Germaine took the autorail and was met at the station by the police. She had the letter in her bag, or rather an envelope which contained only a blank sheet of paper. As for the address on the envelope, it didn't exist, addresses on the Avenue President-Wilson not going up as high as 317."
Maigret beckoned to the waiter to serve him another demi and smoked a good moment in silence, his companion not daring to disturb him.
"Well?" he suddenly demanded impatiently, "Is that all of it already?"
"Oh, sorry! I believed..."
"You believed what?"
"That you were occupied reflecting."
Then the former superintendent shrugged, as if it had been stupid to believe him capable of reflection!
"You inform me badly, Louis."
"The proof is that you've omitted telling me about a whole part of the investigation. Didn't the police ask the names of the guests who left the hotel last night?"
"That's quite true. But since it didn't lead anywhere, it slipped my mind. Moreover, strictly speaking it wasn't one of today's departures, since it had been announced as of yesterday evening."
Maigret became more attentive.
"It was Suite 133, M. Saft22, a very distinguished Polish23 young man, who requested a wake-up call at four a.m., and who left the Excelsior at five to take the plane to London24."
"Why did you say that it didn't mean anything?"
"The person in the bath-tub died at six o'clock."
"Of course, you never saw M. Saft and M. Owen together?"
"Never! Moreover, they would have had some difficulty meeting, since M. Saft passed most of his nights at the Casino or Monte Carlo25, and during the day, he rested.
"And Mlle Germaine?"
"What do you mean?"
"Did she go out much?"
"Well actually I never paid much attention. If I had seen her going out in the evening, I believe that I would have been struck by it. In my view, she seemed to pass a rather unobtrusive existence."
Through the windows, one could see the brilliantly illuminated Casino and the white yachts which became blurred in the night.
"Big games?" asked M. Louis of an inspector of the Gaming Squad who came to make a small tour of the Pétanque for a change of air.
"There were bancos of a hundred thousand..."
Maigret formed a unit with his corner of the counter, where the smoke was denser than anywhere else in the café. Suddenly he rose, struck the table with a coin, paid the waiter and took his hat, not appearing to worry about his companion, who followed him. Hands in his pockets, he seemed to have no other goal than to walk on the pier looking at the sea, silver-plated by the moon.
"It's much too complicated." He finished by murmuring to himself.
"I believe," said M. Louis with diplomacy, "that you have unraveled much more complex problems than this...."
Maigret stopped, looked at him heavily, and shrugged. "That's not what I meant."
And he again took up his walk, the course of his reflections. Cars stopped unceasingly in front of the entrance to the Casino and pages in sky-blue precipitated towards the doors. Through the bay windows, one could make out silhouettes leaning on the roulette and baccarat tables.
M. Louis was almost holding his breath, so much did he fear a new rebuff. At every moment, it seemed to him that the superintendent was going to raise his head with a categorical declaration. But no! He began a sentence, stopped, dreamily shook his head negatively, with an air of erasing from the blackboard a badly posed problem.
"Tell me, Louis..."
"Yes," hastened the other.
"Could you get through the toilet window yourself?"
"I've never tried, but I believe I could. It is true that I'm not very big".
"M. Owen wasn't very big either. And the young man in the tub?"
"Rather tall and thin."
What did he mean by his "and yet"? M. Louis walked on tip-toe, made a half turn when Maigret did, stopped when he stopped in front of certain boat which he did not even look at. M. Louis feared only to hear his companion declare: "Oh well, after thinking about it, I won't deal with this business..."
For he had promised the owner of the Excelsior that his friend Maigret would clear up this affair in a few hours, as he had often seen him do.
"Tell me, Louis..."
That became like a refrain, and each time the porter gave a start.
"Those windows, are they identical throughout all the hotel? For example, mine is of frosted glass. It has a string which makes it possible to open and close it, but I noticed that it always remained half-opened..."
"For ventilation." M. Louis specified.
"Then why did someone work so hard to cut out the pane with a diamond? You can see that I'm right, that it's too complicated! Remember what I'm telling you: only amateurs make things complicated. Professional work, in general, is clear, flawless. Just what it is necessary, nothing more! If M. Owen had wanted to leave the hotel in the morning, he could simply have walked out the door, unobstructed, since the corpse had not yet been discovered. Why the devil would someone cut out the pane?"
"And if it were to enter the suite?"
Definitely, on this day, Maigret was in an argumentative mood, for he grumbled, "Then it is too simple."
"I don't understand any more."
"I certainly hope not! For if you did, you'd be impressively strong. You who have seen thousands of people up close in your life, have you often seen someone who's worn gloves at all hours of the day?"
"I've heard it said of Clemenceau26, that he made a point of hiding his disfigured hands. I also knew an old Englishwoman who was missing a finger and whose glove contained an artificial digit."
Maigret sighed and looked around him with a really disgusted air.
"It's like this envelope containing a blank sheet... Wait a minute! Do you want me to tell you what I think?"
Nothing could have pleased M. Louis more, and his face beamed.
"Well I think, that if one put an imbecile and an extremely intelligent man together... No, not exactly that. Suppose a professional and an amateur... Each one giving his small idea, each one with his own plan. Each wants to put his hand in, and that provides about what you saw. The toilet window, for example, is the amateur, for it's been a long time since people in the trade cut open windows with a diamond. But the letter to be carried to Nice..."
"You believe that the nurse..."
They passed in front of an open window from which music escaped, and Maigret shot a belligerent look at the couples who were dancing.
"What if, during this time, my wife's aunt... I almost wish that it were over, that a telegram awaited me at the hotel, forcing to me to take the first train to go and lead the mourners at Quimper. Have you noticed anything, at least, you who have caused me all these worries?"
"No! You didn't even notice that Mlle Germaine started by taking care of a Swede. Specifically, she was the nurse of a true Swede, who was an authentic patient and who, furthermore, died. In fact, I wonder where...?"
"The nurse, of course!"
"They've released her. Of course, she remains under police surveillance and has been asked not to leave Cannes. For the moment, she must be in the hotel."
"And you didn't tell me, idiot?"
"I didn't know it was..."
"And she's still in her suite?"
Maigret, turning his back on the pier, now strode the Croisette with great decisive steps. From time to time, in the shadows, one saw a motionless couple.
"An inspector is posted at her door?"
"Not exactly. There's one on her floor, and another in the lobby."
It was less than ever the moment to oppose Maigret, who finally appeared to have an idea and to want to push it through to the end.
"Tell me, Louis..." Maigret smiled as he pronounced this morsel of a sentence, which had definitely become a refrain. "What did M. Owen drink?"
"On this point, I can answer you. Indeed, from my post I could see him all day on the terrace, and I noticed that there was never anything in front of him but bottles of mineral water."
"And Mlle Germaine?"
"I don't know. She didn't sit on the terrace. Tomorrow, I'll be able to confirm it with her floorman and bellboy."
All the same, an empty whiskey bottle had been found in the room. Someone had to have drunk it!
"You can't get me this information before tomorrow?"
"I'll ask the night wine waiter."
Which they did. The lobby was deserted. A police officer, who Maigret pretended not to see, was reading a newspaper on a crimson velvet bench. The night porter greeted his day colleague and handed Maigret his key.
A few words exchanged on the phone.
"Yes... Come down a moment."
Half the lobby was in shadow, and it was in this half that Maigret went to question the night wine waiter.
"412 and 413? Wait... No, I never served them any alcohol. Or rather... Let me check my stubs."
When he returned, it was categorical. "I never served any whisky to 412 or 413. I've just consulted my records and no one did during the day either. Only mineral water."
M. Louis was constantly afraid that Maigret might become discouraged. It seemed to him that each new piece of information had the effect of making the problem even more obscure, and he glanced surreptitiously at the superintendent.
"You want me to take you to her?"
"I'll go alone."
"Should I wait for you?"
"No, I'll see you tomorrow. Keep current on what the police find out."
He returned initially to his room, ran a comb through his hair and even passed a rag over his shoes, soiled by the dust of the Croisette. His first idea had been to knock on the nurse's door, which was on the floor below his. But as he made for the staircase, he realized that he'd have to talk through the door, which would attract the attention of the Flying Squad inspector.
He retraced his steps and closed the window, for the spectacle of the streaming sea glistening silver light at every moment interrupted his thoughts. On the table was a telephone. He picked it up, and heard a woman's voice, "Hotel operator, may I help you?"
"Give me 413, please."
In spite of himself, he was a little anxious. He imagined the operator inserting a plug into one of the holes of the switchboard and announcing, "Hello! 413? I have a call for you."
But it must have been more complicated than that, for time passed and there were several clicks, several confused calls before an astonished voice demanded, "Who is calling?"
Maigret imagined he could see the young woman lying down, possibly frightened, who knows? Not having had time to turn on the lights.
"Hello," he said, "is this Mlle Germaine Devon? Good evening, Mademoiselle."
"Good evening, Monsieur."
She was disturbed, that was certain. She was wondering what he wanted of her.
"The person speaking to you, by chance, has just found the whisky bottle which was in M. Owen's room this morning."
"Hello! Can you hear me?"
Silence at the other end of the line, then a click which indicated that the girl had found the light switch.
"I know you're still on the line. And it would be very embarrassing for you if I hung up!"
He had triumphed! The "why" was full of anguish. It still revealed some defensiveness, certainly, but it was strained.
"I might be willing to return this bottle to you... only it would be necessary for you to come to my suite..."
"You're staying in the hotel?"
"On the floor above yours."
"What do you want of me?"
"To return the bottle to you."
"Don't you have any idea?"
Once more, there was silence, and Maigret's nerves were so taut that the stem of his pipe cracked between his teeth.
"Come up to 517. It's right at the end of the corridor. The corner room. Don't bother to knock. The door will be half-open."
Why did she ask, "What should I bring?"
"I see you understand. I'm sure you know as well as I do what it's worth. And it would be preferable not to attract the attention of the police officer who's watching your floor."
He listened a little longer, hung up, and remained motionless a good moment, his hand poised on the receiver, which he picked up again, fearing he wouldn't have time to do all he had to do.
"Hello." He lowered his voice. "The switchboard? Is M. Louis still there? He's just left? Yes, 517. He's brought you up to date? Well, here's what I'd like you to do. In a moment, 413 will ask you to put through a call. Can you set it up so that I can listen in? What? Yes. If not, I can come down, but it would be preferable... What? Yes... Yes... I'll wait."
The telephone operator had just requested him to hang up for a moment, because someone was calling. An instant later she rang back.
"Hello, 517? You were right. 413 has just asked me to place a call to Geneva27."
"You're sure it was Geneva?"
"I can even specify that it is to the Hôtel des Bergues28, for the number is familiar to me. I'll do what's necessary to connect you. There'll be a ten minute wait."
Time to fill a pipe and to straighten up the room before receiving Mlle Germaine there was clothing lying all over, for Maigret had never acquired a sense of orderliness."
During the next ten minutes, Maigret would have given a lot to slap with all his might the Maigret of ten, twelve, or fifteen years old that he had been, and who at school had invariably brought back only three prizes: that of French composition, oratory, and lastly, gymnastics.
Somewhere, far off, a woman's voice repeated, "Hello. Hôtel des Bergues, Geneva..." Then, automatically, as on the radio, the voice translated the same formula into English and German.
"Hello? May I help you?"
"Please give me M. Smith," said a closer voice, that of Germaine Devon.
And Maigret guessed that in addition, the telephone operator of the hotel was on the line, for he had aroused her curiosity. With surprising enough speed, the voice of a man was not long in answering, "Hello?"
Then Germaine Devon, in English, something which no doubt meant, "Is that M. Smith on the line?"
Something else in English from the other end of the line, and then suddenly from the French side, an animated burst in a language which was no longer English, but Polish or Russian. Maigret could only stare at the carpet bitterly. The voice of the nurse was emotional, pressing, that of the man, initially astonished, then grumbling. She told a long story and he stopped her to raise questions. Then she must have asked what to do and he was annoyed, reproaching her on a subject which escaped the former superintendent completely.
Suddenly looking at the table, Maigret realized the absence of an important accessory, and without releasing the telephone, rang for the night boy.
"Bring me up a whisky bottle immediately," he ordered, the receiver to his ear.
"Full? How many glasses?"
"Full or empty! No glasses."
What could she be saying, now in a subdued voice, almost begging? If only he hadn't so little aptitude in the study the languages and could understand!
Was the other, there in Geneva, really furious? Certain conversations in foreign languages give this impression to those who don't understand, and Maigret was wary. According to the rhythm, it would seem to be something like "So much the worse for you. Make your own plan! Leave me in peace!"
But those sentences could just as well have meant exactly the opposite...
"Excuse me," said someone in the room.
It was the night wine waiter who asked, "What kind of whisky would you like?"
"Anything in a brown, square bottle, empty preferably."
"But quickly, damn it! Can't you see that you'll spoil everything!"
He was hot. He was furious. If it had kept M. Louis with him, he, at least, would have been able to translate the telephone conversation.
"Hello, Geneva?" murmured a French voice finally, "Have you finished?"
"Yes, finished," Geneva answered.
"Hello, Excelsior? Finished? That was three units..."
"Thank you. Good evening." replied the hotel operator.
And the wine waiter arrived finally, scornful, with his empty bottle on a silver tray. Maigret had hardly time to get him out the door when he heard steps on the staircase. He left the door half-open, turned, and hands behind his back, grumbled, "Come in," as soon as he heard the furtive steps on the carpet.
Germaine Devon, ever suspicious, was in his room, and keeping his back to her he commanded, "Please close the door."
Since he had never been able to learn languages, it was necessary for him to compensate for the gap as best he could, and he stood up, facing the window, turning only after a long while, his face as uninviting as possible, and said, aggressively, "How much did he tell you to offer?"
"Geneva... How much?"
He had new proof of the divergence of opinion with regard to female beauty. M. Louis had said, "a pretty blonde," and, as he had added that she was well-built, he had imagined her plump. However, as beautiful as Mlle Germaine might have been, she was not pretty. If her features were regular, they were hard, far too sharp to give any impression of feminine vulnerability.
"Answer. How much?"
"How much do you want?"
The bottle was there, on the table between them, and if it hadn't been, the former superintendent would have lost all his assets.
"It should be worth a lot," he grumbled, trying to make himself sound like a blackmailer."
"On the bottle. You'll allow me...?"
"One moment. How much?"
She was stronger than he had at first believed, for he saw a look of suspicion clearly passing over her face.
"First I'd like to examine it."
"And first I'd like to know how much."
"In that case..." she said, moving toward the door to leave.
"As you wish!"
"What will you do?" she asked, turning.
"I'll call the inspector who is on your floor. I'll show him this bottle. I'll tell him that I found it in M. Owen's room..."
"They've affixed seals..."
"I realize that. I will acknowledge, if necessary, that I broke certain seals. I will advise him to make an analysis of the contents, or rather of the previous contents, of this bottle."
"And what did it contain?"
"How much?" he repeated.
"And if it isn't the true bottle?"
"Too bad! Take it or leave it."
"How much are you asking?"
"It will be very costly. Don't forget that it means the freedom of one or two persons and even, no doubt, someone's head."
At the moment he said that, he reddened to his ears from shame, for he suddenly realized that he'd made an unforgivable error. If he hadn't understood the young woman's conversation, wasn't it likely that the hotel telephone operator, who was surely a polyglot, had? It would have been enough to call her before Germaine Devon's arrival...
So much the worse! It was too late! The poker game had begun, and it was necessary to keep raising through to the end.
"Who are you?" she asked, teeth clenched, eyes hateful.
"Let's say that I am nobody."
"You're French, aren't you?"
"As you are, I believe."
"On my father's side. My mother was Russian."
"How do you know?"
"Because I have just listened in on the conversation you had with Geneva."
He couldn't help admiring her, for he had seldom had before him an adversary of such sang-froid. She didn't avert her glance for a moment, and never had he been subjected to such perceptive, detailed scrutiny. Even her pout said clearly, "In any case, you're just small fry."
And she managed to approach the table imperceptibly, from which Maigret, as if by chance, moved away. When she was no more than a few feet away, she suddenly extended her arm, grabbed the empty bottle and sniffed it, and immediately her nostrils quivered with such rage that if she'd had a revolver in her hand, Maigret would not have put much value on his life.
At this point she muttered some phrases the ex-superintendent couldn't understand, apparently in Russian, which no doubt clearly expressed the young woman's contempt.
"Isn't that the correct bottle?" he bantered, while moving to place himself between her and the door.
A frozen, terrible glance.
"I'm terribly sorry. I must have made a mistake. I suppose I returned the bottle which contained the substance in question to the wine waiter, and kept this one in error. I'll ring for him to make sure."
"What is this comedy? Who are you? What do you want with me? Admit that it's not money you're looking for."
"You've guessed correctly."
"Then? Let me pass."
"What have you discovered?"
"Up to now, nothing precise. However, I am sure that between the two of us we will establish the whole truth. What did your first employer die of?"
"I won't answer you."
"As you wish. In that case, I will request the inspector to come up, and we can continue our conversation in his presence."
"By what right?"
"That's of no concern of yours."
She began to feel a terror of this man who revealed nothing of himself and who managed, little by little, to take on a powerful influence over her.
"You're not a blackmailer," she noted with regret.
"You are not completely wrong. I asked you a question. What was M. Stilberg's illness which obliged him to always have a nurse nearby?"
At this moment, he wondered whether she would answer or not. He was playing double or nothing, his eyes never leaving hers.
"He was a morphine addict," she murmured, after a struggle.
"Just as I thought. Undoubtedly he was attempting to be detoxified and had taken a nurse to help him in that direction?"
"He didn't succeed."
"Exactly. He died. But, during one year and more, you had the leisure to closely observe a morphine addict's reactions. You already had a lover at that time?"
"Towards the end only."
"What was he? A student, undoubtedly?"
"How did you know?"
"It doesn't matter. He was student, wasn't he? Probably studying chemistry. He was in poor health. During his illness, he was obliged to have recourse to morphine, which is usually how these addictions begin."
It had been years since he had had the occasion to subject someone to an interrogation of this kind, on nerve alone, as it were, an interrogation where it was necessary to learn everything without ever showing his empty hand. He was hot. He had let his pipe go out, and he chewed on its stem as he spoke. He paced back and forth, missing the Quai des Orfèvres, where at least he could have had someone take over for him when he got tired.
Fortunately, keeping her unsettled was the knowledge that there was an inspector on duty on the floor below, resting peacefully on a well-padded bench.
"You became his mistress. You had no job, nor did he. Could it be that the abuse which he made of the narcotic prevented him from passing his exams?"
It took but a glance at her to be sure that all that the former superintendent had said was the exact expression of the truth.
"Who are you?"
"It doesn't matter! To get morphine, it is probable that your lover had to avail himself of certain special circles in Paris, and that you accompanied him... Please stop me if I am mistaken..."
And he continued in this way to carry on his investigation by the sweat of his brow.
"Why are you doing this?"
"You became acquainted with a man whom we can for the time being call M. Saft, which is certainly not his true name. A Pole or a Russian. Russian before war and Pole afterwards, probably. Now, if you don't like this name Saft, we can call him Smith and telephone him at the Hôtel des Bergues..."
It was at this moment that Germaine sat down, without saying anything. A simple movement, but how much more significant than all the long tirades! Her legs must have felt weak. She looked around, as if seeking something to drink, but it was not yet the moment give her any slack.
"He told you something, didn't he, your M. Saft or Smith, during your telephone conversation? That it's your own fault, Mlle Germaine! Here is a man who understands his trade, who is an international swindler of a certain scale. But yes! Do not protest! He would tell you, if he were here, that in your situation it's better be a good loser. Wait! I acknowledge that I am still unaware of his specialty. Is it checks, drafts, false titles or identity papers? Well that's of no importance whatsoever!"
"You're bluffing!" she risked, recovering her composure a little.
"And you? Let us say that we're both bluffing. But I at least have an advantage: you don't know what I know and you are even unaware of what I am..."
"A private detective!"
"You're getting warm! However, not exactly that. M. Saft, therefore, suggests you avail yourself of your lover's acquaintances. What shall we call him?"
"Let's say Jean."
At that moment, a neighbor, someone prevented from sleeping, pounded on the wall.
"Let's say Jean. And here is this Jean, patient and morphine addict, who becomes the center, in fact, of an organized band. He is the only amateur among professionals. He only asks to have his shot at a fixed hour and to live without concern. It was here, Mlle Germaine, that you wanted to be more intelligent than your accomplices and that you made a mistake."
She could not prevent herself from asking, "Which was...?"
"You didn't want to confine yourself with your lover in a room in Montmartre or the Latin Quarter. Nor did you want to live in various low-class hotels. You believed yourself clever enough to give your Jean a new aspect and identity. You'd just been the nurse of a Swede. You thus made him up as your Swedish friend of a certain age like the other, staying, like the other, at deluxe hotels, dressed up in gray like the other, and spending hours and hours in an armchair... "
She looked away and Maigret continued.
"Those who are unable to create, imitate a model fatally. You manufactured M. Owen while remembering M. Stilberg. And thus your Jean Owen was rather quiet, warming himself in the sun during most of the day, taking his shot at a fixed hour, but not without, I am persuaded, having to provide his small work before..."
"What work? Admit that you don't know anything."
"I acknowledge that I knew almost nothing at the outset of this discussion. Calm down! Don't look at the door so longingly. You wouldn't arrive at the bottom of the stairs before I telephoned the doorman. Three things bothered me, three details which jarred with the rest: the gray gloves, the pane cut out with a diamond, and the whisky bottle. Those three details were like the touches a schoolboy had added to the work of a master. Let us say that Saft is the master in question and that you are the schoolgirl... Note that beginners always want to improve on the works of the master."
What he would have given for a well-drawn demi, or even a whisky, of which he had an empty bottle in front of him, but he couldn't risk losing his momentum. He was satisfied to light his pipe, which was to die out a few seconds later.
"Those gloves... that was childish, your first mistake. One wears gloves all the day, including at meals, only to hide damaged hands, and in fact, it was difficult not to think of acid burns. The bottle I only thought of this evening. I remembered suddenly that a morphine or cocaine addict is never at the same time an alcoholic, and this whisky bottle made me wonder... I asked whether you drank. I was told that you didn't. I assured myself that the bottle had not been provided by the hotel..."
"Where is it, now?" the young woman questioned. She was pale, but had not lost hope, and listened with a critical ear to Maigret's explanations.
"It must be always in its place, in the room, where nobody thought of sniffing it. As for the cut-out pane... I am sure, Mlle Germaine, that your friend Saft or Smith is not proud of you. I'd bet it was an idea which came to you afterwards. A painter friend of mine often said that on completing a painting, he had to resist the temptation to make a last final improvement, because this final improvement, usually, would only botch the whole job. Let's think about it..."
He took a chair, straddled it, and sat down. And in spite of himself, he took on a good-natured tone, as if it were a discussion between colleagues in the same trade.
"First of all, can you really picture M. Owen inviting some person unknown to enter by a window, strip himself naked to accept a small shot of morphine and then, to finish the festival merrily, inviting him to take a bath in his bath-tub?"
"Still, if the pane had not been cut out, one might not have been struck by certain improbabilities. But you wanted to too clearly lead the trail to someone from outside. Just like the letter you said you'd been told to deliver by hand to some address in Nice."
He was amazed to hear her articulate, at the moment when he expected it least, "How much?"
"But no, my dear! That was good a few minutes ago, to get you in. Don't you understand yet?"
"Twenty thousand pounds?"
"Twenty thousand francs... Forty... Fifty thousand?"
He shrugged his shoulders and emptied his pipe onto the carpet, for the first time since he'd been in the Excelsior.
"But no, no! What do I... Wait! Simply tell me if my little story is correct or not. Your sick and addicted student, Jean, as we'll call him, becomes your lover. You become acquainted with M. Saft, who shows you how to use him to your advantage. Then, instead of doing things as they should be done, instead of locking your student up in some secluded furnished room in Paris, you come up with this story of M. Owen, with his false Swedish identity, his wig, his gray clothing, his made-up face and, as a final touch, to hide his corroded hands, the terrible linen gloves."
"All that, you see my dear, reeks of amateurism. And I'm convinced that Saft told you the same thing more than once."
"But you rendered services to him, Jean Owen especially, who laundered his checks or drafts and could skillfully imitate signatures..."
"I would bet a hundred to one that you became this Saft's mistress, and that your other lover discovered it. I'd also bet that he threatened to reveal everything to the police, if you continued to deceive him."
"And so, you decided to remove him. Saft, craftily, left first, giving you free rein, getting off the London plane in Lyons29 and switching to one for Geneva."
"You imagined a scenario... You told yourself that the more mysterious the crime, the less chance you'd have of being discovered."
"First, to kill your lover, not as Owen, but under his true appearance."
"But the six o'clock in the morning bath was a new mistake! For who takes a bath at six o'clock in the morning? Someone who rises early or someone who goes to bed late."
"Now M. Owen only appeared late in the morning and retired early."
"What did he do in his suite until six o'clock in the morning, I asked myself."
One could believe that she'd given up. She didn't move. Her gaze remained riveted to Maigret's.
"For, no matter what you may think, it's not so easy to strip someone and then to carry him to his bath-tub, against his will. That night, Owen worked as usual. And unless I'm sorely mistaken, to facilitate your task, you increased his morphine dose. When he was in his bath, it was easy for you to... May I not skip this step? A dirty moment..."
"And afterwards, you continued to refine it! So much and more! Conversation aloud at nine o'clock in the morning! The pane! The letter to be carried to Nice! And the wig, the gloves, the vanity case which you carried to make it appear a crime of the non-existent M. Owen.
"You've lost, my dear woman!"
He shivered, astonishing even himself with these last words, the tone of his voice, for after several years, he'd suddenly taken on again, in spite of himself, the tone of the "Maison", the Quai des Orfèvres.
It was so obvious that instead of protesting she murmured, with an instinctive movement of binding her wrists with shackles, "You're arresting me?"
"Me? Not at all..."
He was almost as disconcerted as she was at the stupid end of this tumultuous conversation.
"But..." began Germaine.
"But what? You want me to arrest you when I'm no longer any part of the police force?"
"Then, in that case..."
"No! Don't count on getting away. There's an inspector on the fourth and another in the lobby."
"You'll allow me to return to my suite?"
"What do you want to do?"
She responded by looking him in the eye, murmuring tragically, "You can't guess?"
"Go!" he sighed.
So much the worse! It was the best way for things to finish! But the fact remains that he did not lie down, that soon he went into the corridor to listen, and heard muffled noises, and learned a little later than the young woman had broken the seals of the communicating door with 412. By the time he arrived, the whisky bottle had disappeared. An inspector had handcuffed Germaine Devon. The night porter was there as well.
"And that's what you wanted to do?" said Maigret, disgusted.
She was satisfied to smile.
And, at that time, he did not yet suspect what this smile held for him, for the inquest would last six months, and twenty times during those six months, Maigret would be called as a witness, put in the presence of a woman who denied all, including the most obvious.
She continued to deny everything at the Assizes, where the former superintendent had to appear in court, and where it was natural for the defense counsel to try to make a fool out of him. "Certain people," said he, "cannot be resigned to retirement, even when the most proper authorities have decided that they have reached the age..."
She failed to be acquitted. In the end, she profited from the benefit of a doubt and drew some five years, while Maigret, in a bistro near the Palais de Justice, turned down M. Louis's invitation to come and spend a few more days in Cannes.
And Aunt Émilie is still hanging on!
1. Cannes. [seaport and commune, SE France, Alpes-Maritimes dept. pop. 1968: 67,152. On the Mediterranean 18 mi. SW of Nice. International resort.] Although Cannes is mentioned in some 30 Maigret investigations, Maigret himself visited in only two others: investigating the murder of William Brown in Liberty Bar, and that of Mimi Clark in Maigret and the Hotel Majestic.
2. Îles de Lérins. [Two small islands about 2 km off the Pointe de la Croisette in Cannes, Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat, about half an hour by small boat from the point. On the closer and larger Île Sainte-Marguerite is the 17th fort where the "Man in the Iron Mask" was imprisoned by Louis XIV in 1687-98.] Not mentioned in any other Maigret episode.
3. Viennese. Of the half dozen or so mentions of "Viennese" in Maigret episodes, nearly all are in the context of music orchestra, waltz, musical comedy... In the short story The Man in the Street, the body of Ernest Borms, a Viennese doctor, was found in the Bois de Boulogne; and in Maigret Sets a Trap, he had been studying all the historical cases which bore some resemblance... Jack the Ripper, the Düsseldorf Vampire, the Viennese lamplighter...
4. Danube. [The second longest river in Europe (after the Volga), 1776 miles long, formed by the confluence of the Breg and Brigath rivers in the Black Forest, Baden-Würtemberg, Germany, 37 mi. NW of Lake Constance. It flows E across SW Germany, crosses N Austria and central Hungary, enters Yugoslavia, forms a section of the Romanian-Bulgarian border, then crosses SE Romania and E into the Black Sea.] Not mentioned in any other Maigret episode.
5. Excelsior. Another hotel named Excelsior appears in Death of a Nobody, where the shot that killed Maurice Tremblet was fired from a fourth floor room of the seedy Hôtel Excelsior, in Paris.
6. Boulevard de la Croisette. (formerly the Promenade de la Croisette.) Elegant promenade, with luxury hotels and shops, bordered by palm trees and gardens, overlooking the sandy beach of the Golfe de la Napoule of Cannes, from the Casino to the Pointe de la Croisette.
Maigret had been on or near the Croisette for his investigations in Liberty Bar, and in Maigret and the Hotel Majestic, when he went down to check out the Brasserie des Artistes, the club Prosper Donge's girlfriend, Charlotte, had called. Philippe Jave, the murderous doctor of Maigret's Little Joke, was said to have sometimes walked along the Croisette, where he usually took his apéritif at the bar of the Majestic.
7. Quimper. [manufacturing and commercial commune, NW France, capital, Finistère dept. pop. 1968: 52,496. near Bay of Biscay, 112 mi. W of Rennes; sardine fisheries, pottery (Quimper or Brittany ware), tourism.] Quimper is mentioned in a few investigations, but was never a location for one. In the Sailor's Rendez-vous, it was a letter from his old schoolmate Jorissen, who lived in Quimper, which sent Maigret to Fécamp for his vacation with Mme Maigret, and he mentions passing through Quimper five years later and seeing Pierre Le Clinche in front of his rope-maker's shop. Emma, the waitress in Maigret and the Yellow Dog had a postcard from Quimper among her things; One of the gang members in Maigret and the Killers, Yvon Demarle, had been born there; In the short story Rue Pigalle, the trunk containing Martino's body was being shipped to Quimper; and it had been one of the places Léontine Antoine, of Maigret and the Madwoman, had visited with her husband.
7a. baccalauréat. A level of French schooling more or less equivalent to the British A-levels, somewhat higher than a U.S. high school diploma.
8. Deauville. [commune, NW France, Calvados dept. pop. 1962: 5,239. on the Bay of the Seine about 20 mi. NE of Caen; resort, racecourse, just east of Normandy invasion coast, 1944.] Mentioned in passing in some 16 investigations, most often as a destination of travelers, associated with luxury.
9. local Superintendent. le commissaire central.
10. Examining Magistrate. le juge d'instruction.
11. Swedish. Of the half-dozen or so references to "Swedish" in the Maigret episodes, two are for ships, one for a knife, and others for 'vaguely Scandinavian'; In Maigret's War of Nerves, Edna Reichberg, Kirby's mistress and his wife's friend, was a "little Swedish girl with very blond hair."
12. King Gustav. [Presumably King Gustav V, of Sweden, 1858-1950, reigned 1907-1950.] Not mentioned in any other Maigret episodes.
13. Flying Squad. la Brigade mobile.
14. drowned in the bath-tub. In Maigret and the Millionaires Maigret was called to the Hôtel George-V, a luxury hotel in Paris, where the English multimillionaire, Colonel David Ward, had been found drowned in his bathtub, the marks on his shoulders indicating murder.
15. Criminal Records. l'Identité judiciaire.
16. autorail. la micheline. Micheline. railcar. a type of electric train, originally running on tires, invented and equipped by the Michelin Tyre Company. [Joe Richards, 2/24/03, reports that "...it was a diesel powered railbus."]
17. Nice. [seaport, SE France, capital, Alpes-Maritime dept. pop. 1968: 322,442. 98 mi. ENE of Marseilles. The leading resort city of the French Riviera.] Although Nice is mentioned in some 35 episodes, Maigret only investigated there in person once, in Maigret and the Millionaires, when he flew down following the Countess Louise Paverini [Palmieri], although in Liberty Bar he was close by. He called the Criminal Police in Nice, to put out a search for Justin of Toulons, the killer in Maigret and the Fortune Teller, who was picked up there. Lapointe had called the Flying Squad (Brigade mobile) in Nice for information on the Countess von Farnheim in Maigret and the Strangled Stripper, and Maigret himself called the Sûreté Nationale in Nice to locate Judge Forlacroix's wife in Maigret in Exile. In Maigret's Revolver, it was a visit from Lourtie, "once one of M's inspectors, who had been assigned to the flying squad in Nice" which caused him to get home late, indirectly resulting in the theft of his revolver.
18. tele-photo. bélino. belinogramme. photo-telegraph system invented by Edouard Belin (b. 1876, Vesoul), who also developed a tele-autograph system.
19. Palais de Justice. Police Headquarters at the Quai des Orfèvres in Paris.
20. morphine. The other two references to morphine in the Maigret episodes are in Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, where Maigret tells Judge Coméliau that he'd taken morphine for the pain of his wound, and in Maigret and the Strangled Stripper, where the strangled Countess von Farnheim had been addicted to morphine for 15 years.
21. twenty inches square. 50 x 50 cm.
22. Saft. Two other Safts, also Polish, appear in the Maigret episodes: Boris Saft, called "the Beard", one of the gang members in the short story Stan the Killer; and a married couple at Mlle.Clement's boarding house in Maigret Rents a Room, she French, he Polish, working as a pharmacist's assistant and studying chemistry.
23. Polish. References to 'Polish' and 'Poles' appear in some three dozen Maigret episodes, more than any other foreign group, and more often than not, in negative contexts. In Maigret's Memoirs, Maigret apparently felt obligated to explain, "Let me hasten to say that I have nothing against Poles as such. If I happen to speak of them fairly often, it's not because I consider them a particularly aggressive or delinquent people. The fact is merely that at that time thousands had been imported to France to work in the mines in the north. Most were good workers, but there was also a percentage of trouble-making riff-raff...."
24. London. Mentioned peripherally in over thirty episodes; Maigret went to London in Maigret's Revolver, following Alain Lagrange and Jeanne Debul; he spent nearly all his time in the Savoy Hotel. In the short story Storm in the Channel, where Maigret and his wife were delayed in Dieppe because of a storm, they were on their way to their first trip to England together; Mme Maigret had long wanted to see England and Maigret said he could look up his colleagues at Scotland Yard he'd worked with during the war during their two weeks in London. In The Methods of Maigret, Inspector Pyke of Scotland Yard accompanied Maigret to Porquerolles as an observer, as when the Chief of Police had visited the Lord Mayor of London and Scotland Yard, he'd found that they knew of Maigret there.
25. Monte Carlo. [commune, Monaco, on coast to the N of Monaco commune. pop. 1961: 9,516. tourist resort with casino and many hotels.] Mentioned peripherally in a dozen episodes, but never the scene of the action.
26. Clemenceau. [Georges Clemenceau, 1841-1929, statesman and journalist who was a dominant figure in the French Third Republic and, as premier (1917-1920), a major contributor to the Allied victory in WWI and a framer of the postwar Treaty of Versailles.] In Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, when Maigret was wounded, Mme Maigret was impressed that he'd had the same surgeon as Clemenceau, Dr. Courteline. In Arizona, in Maigret at the Coroner's Maigret found that the old man in the courtroom with a huge white mustache reminded him of Clemenceau. And in Maigret and the Calame Report, the Minister Auguste Point's father, Evariste Point, owned a well-known hotel at Sainte-Hermine [Vendée], Clemenceau's town.
27. Geneva. Geneve. [city, capital of Geneva canton, SW Switzerland, at S tip of Lake of Geneva on Rhone river. pop. 1970: 173,618.] Mentioned in four episodes; in Maigret and the Millionaires, Countess Louise Paverini [Palmieri] caught the Swissair plane for Geneva on arrival at Nice, and Maigret followed her to Lausanne the next day.
28. Hôtel des Bergues. [A five-star hotel in Geneva, 33, quai des Bergues; 123 rooms.]
29. Lyons. Lyon. [manufacturing and commercial city, EC France, Rhône dept. pop. 1968: 527,890. At the confluence of the Rhone and Saôone rivers, 58 mi. NW of Grenoble.] Mentioned peripherally in some 17 investigations, Maigret passed through by train in Maigret and the Hotel Majestic, where just after Lyons, around Montélimar, the train was running through a tunnel in the mist. In Maigret and the Informer, when M flew down to Marseilles to go to the funeral in Bandol, he promised himself to look at the scenery, as he was especially fond of the scenery south of Lyons, but he was asleep before they flew over the Rhône.