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While M is concerned with the disappearance of an English tourist, Muriel Britt, he is called into the Chief's office. The Minister of the Interior has requested that he take care of Ferdinand Fumal, a wealthy butcher who'd donated millions to the party funds. M meets Fumal, only to realize that they'd gone to school together in Saint-Fiacre, that he'd disliked him, and that his father had hated Fumal's father as well. Fumal has apparently received anonymous death threats, and M agrees to send a man to watch his house. Shortly afterwards, Fumal's secretary, Louise Bourges appears, and says that she'd seen the letters, and that in fact Fumal had written them himself. M arranges for Lapointe to go to the house in the morning, to accompany Fumal on his daily rounds, but before he can start, Fumal is found murdered in his study, shot in the back. A man had been stationed outside the house, but it becomes clear that anyone could have entered through a back entrance. M finds Fumal's wife a drunk, happy her husband is dead. In fact, almost everyone is happy, for he was universally disliked. Only his mistress, Martine Gilloux is upset, for she'll have to search for a new means of support.
A likely candidate, Roger Gaillardin, whom Fumal had ruined, had visited Fumal the night before. He'd been found near the Seine, a suicide, not long after, his gun not matching the one which killed Fumal. Jeanne Fumal, the wife, has a derelict brother, Émile Lentin, who sometimes secretly spends time in the house. He is located, but appears innocent. M realizes that Louise Bourge's boyfriend, Félix, the chauffeur, has windows overlooking Fumal's study, where the safe is located. He goes up to check, suddenly realizing the truth. He returns to the study, where a locksmith has been brought. The safe, which had contained 15 million francs, is empty. M immediately searches for Victor Ricou, the manservant Fumal had brought from Saint-Fiacre, realizing that he had hated Fumal and had ample opportunity to learn the safe combination by spying on Fumal over the years. But he has escaped, and isn't found until 5 years later, returning from Panama, down and out, under a false passport. The Englishwoman was found only two years later, married and running a boarding house in Australia.
Maigret of the Month: February, 2008