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Émile Gallet, apparently a commercial traveler, had been found dead in a hotel room in Sancerre. But actually for 18 years, unknown to his wife, he had been bilking money from Royalists as M. Clément, using the subscription lists from his wife's father's Royalist newspaper, Le Soleil to find his sources. M discovers that he had been to see the owner of the neighboring estate, Tiburce de Saint-Hilaire, apparently attempting to raise 20,000 francs he needed to pay off a blackmailer he didn't know the identity of, who threatened to reveal his dual existence. When M locates the "blackmailer", M. Jacob, he turns out to be a newsdealer who merely received the packages for Gallet's son's fiancée, Éléonore Boursang, who with Henri Gallet, the son, had been blackmailing him. A visit to a tax agent who had known Gallet in Indo-China leads M to the discovery that Gallet and Saint-Hillaire had switched identities many years earlier, when the real Gallet, in Indo-China, had discovered that Saint-Hillaire was to be the beneficiary of a large inheritance. At the time Saint-Hillaire was impoverished, and so agreed. Since then, after discovering the truth, he had visited Gallet-Saint-Hillaire from time to time to ask for money. This time, unable to pay his debts, he'd worked out an elaborate suicide to look like murder, so that his wife could receive the 300,000 franc policy payment he'd been paying off for the past five years.
Maigret of the Month: February, 2004
Maigret's Journeys in France