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M, in retirement in Meung, is awakened early one morning by his nephew, Philippe Lauer, Mme M's sister's son, from Alsace, whom he'd gotten into the Quai des Orfèvres. He'd been assigned by Inspector Amadieu, who'd taken M's place when he retired, to watch Pepito Palestrino, proprietor of the Floria in the Rue Fontaine, who was to be arrested the next morning in connection with the knifing murder of Barnabé the week before. Philippe had hidden himself in the Floria, and heard shooting. He found Pepito dead, and realized the murderer was still there. Panicking, he picked up the gun, rushed around, and finally left, having placed the gun in Pepito's hand. As he was leaving he bumped into a man, Joseph Audiat, who later testified. M returns to Paris with his nephew and checks into a hotel. After not too long Philippe is arrested.
M goes to the Floria, reopened already with a new owner, and see's Germain Cageot, "the Lawyer", who he's convinced is behind the whole thing. M enlists the aid of a bar-girl, Fernande, who goes to the Tabac Fontaine, and reports to M about Eugène Berniard, a brothel owner. M spends an entire day in the Tabac de Fontaine, and follows Audiat out after a card game. Berniard tries to run down M with his car, but injures Audiat. M convinces the Chief to interrogate all concerned, but they all deny knowing each other. Finally M arranges a plan with Lucas. He goes to Cageot's house in Montmartre, where he fixes the phone so that Lucas can listen in at Headquarters and transcribe the conversation. He tricks Cageot into admitting that he was behind the murders, at which point Eugène dashes in. Cageot is arrested and gets a life sentence. But Eugène escaped, fleeing to Istanbul with Fernande, where he set up a night-club.
Maigret of the Month: July, 2005