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Emergency Services

Besides 36, Quai des Orfèvres, there’s another important location for police work—the premises of Police-Secours, Emergency Services, located in the Préfecture de Police building. Police-Secours is mentioned in many novels, sometimes when Maigret receives a call from them, sometimes when he calls them himself to learn if something has happened in Paris… or sometimes he just goes over, to “take the pulse” of the capital…

The first mention of this locale occurs in the story L’Etoile du Nord, where it’s a call from the officer on duty at Police-Secours which will clinch Maigret’s investigation.. The novel Signé Picpus opens at Police-Secours“Three minutes to five. A white bulb lights up on the immense map of Paris which covers one entire section of wall. A worker sets down his sandwich, inserts a plug into one of a thousand holes of a telephone switchboard.” (SIG: 1). Further along, the locale is described as a “room which is like the brain of Police-Secours.” It’s there that Maigret has come to await the announcement of the possible murder of a fortune-teller…

The story Maigret et l’inspecteur Malgracieux begins at Police-Secours…. Maigret, “bored, alone in his office,” awaiting an important phone call, crosses the street. “It was comfortable, a little heavy, in the vast room of Police-Secours, where Maigret had come for refuge.” There he found his nephew Daniel, with whom he exchanged some family news. There follows next in the text a lengthy explanation of Maigret’s relationship with the place… “Maigret had always liked this immense room, calm and neat like a laboratory, but which was, however, the very heart of Paris. At every intersection in the city, there are red-painted devices, with a glass that has simply to be broken to connect automatically with the police station of the district by telephone, as well as with the central station. Does someone call for help for some reason or another? Immediately one of the lights goes on on the giant map. All day long, all night long, the dramatic life of the capital comes thus to be written in little lamps on a wall. Maigret had always maintained that young inspectors should be required to serve at least a year in this department to learn the criminal geography of the city.” It’s precisely the breaking of the glass of a call box which is the origin of the investigation which unfolds for Maigret…

Maigret's World
pp. 99-100

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