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Happy New Year!
by Murielle Wenger
The streets were icy. Maigret turned up the collar of his overcoat and rushed into the little bar in the middle of the Pont-Neuf. He ordered a grog, and the hot liquid immediately gave him a feeling of well-being, reminding him, though he didn’t quite know why, of the flu he’d had when he was ten. In fact it had been the very same time of year, around the 31st of December, and he’d been in Nantes, at his aunt’s house. He’d spent Christmas in Saint-Fiacre with his father, and then he’d left on the little night train. Had it been at the church that he’d caught cold? He remembered that he’d shivered during the midnight mass. Or maybe on the way back to the château, with the wind chasing the leaves before him? There hadn’t been any snow that year either, and the Chief Inspector felt the same disappointment as when he’d been a child.
By the time he’d arrived at his uncle’s bakery in Nantes, he'd been sneezing constantly, his nose red from blowing it during the entire trip. His aunt had immediately noticed that his eyes were too bright, put her hand to his already burning forehead, and sent him to bed. Little Jules hadn’t protested. She’d brought him some herb tea, in which she’d put some rum. Maybe a little too much, for the child had felt himself slipping into an agreeable drowsiness, accentuated by the dampness of the bed already soaked with his sweat. He’d had strange dreams, whose content he couldn’t exactly remember, except that they’d been pleasant, and that when he woke up, he’d tried to prolong the feeling by keeping his eyes tightly shut.
Maigret swallowed his second grog, pushed open the door of the bar and found himself once more in the cold air. The difference in temperature made his blood pulse quickly at his temples, and he felt a bit dizzy. He walked quickly, crossed the bridge, and came to the Quai de la Mégisserie, which he followed to the Place du Châtelet. He headed towards Hôtel de Ville, taking Rue de Rivoli to the great department store, Les Grands Magasins du Louvre. There, slipping between the passers-by, he pressed his face to the window and watched, in the illuminated display, the running of an electric train through a snow-covered landscape. The passengers were teddy bears, and dolls in frilly dresses.
It was when he saw next to him a boy with a mop of red hair, the string of a red balloon clutched tightly in his cold hand, that he made his decision. He walked on, crossed the Place des Vosges, where the fountains sent forth water so silver they seemed frosted, and reached the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Climbing the stairs, he put on a haggard face, but he could hardly hide the little flame gleaming in his eyes.
Mme Maigret opened the door, needing but a glance to understand, when her husband said... "I think I’m coming down with the flu." Not taken in, she smiled and sent him to bed, making him some herb tea with plenty of rum.
That evening the Maigrets didn’t go out to a restaurant to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The Chief Inspector spent the night sweating in his bed, having strange dreams. But it was all quite pleasant. And when, in the morning, his wife awoke him with his coffee, he kissed her tenderly, and promised to take her to Alsace that day. Who knows, the two sisters might find time to prepare some fragrant cinnamon pastries, and his brother-in-law might notice that there was still an old bottle of sloe gin to uncork…
Happy New Year fellow Maigretphiles!
translation: S. Trussel
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