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M was in Nemours to take care of some business with Captain Pillement of the gendermerie, when a call came in that a car had gone into the Loing between Nemours and Montargis, near an inn, Auberge des Pêcheurs, called L'Auberge aux Noyés, the Drowned Men's Inn, because of the number of drownings there. A truck driver, Joseph Lecoin, said he'd run into a car parked on the roadside and pushed it into the river, after which he'd heard shouts for help. A bargeman from the Belle-Thérèse said he'd heard shouts too. No bodies were found, but when the car was pulled out, the dead body of a woman was found in the trunk, killed three days earlier with a razor. The young couple who'd driven to the inn in the car had registered as Jean Vertbois and spouse. Germain La Pommeraye, a notary from Versailles came, and said the girl was his daughter, Viviane La Pommeraye, who'd run away with Vertbois.
M has the driver reconstruct that evening's drive, and he's set up a car in the same place, which this time the driver avoids hitting. When he has Lecoin cry for help, the bargeman says that was similar to the voice he'd heard. M has Lecoin continue on to Montargis, as the night before, when he hadn't stopped to use the phone at the inn. They wind up at his friend Paul Benoît's gas station, where M elicits the story. The couple had paid him to drive them away, with a story of an elopement. He'd taken them to Benoît's, but the girl had fled when she saw the newspaper report of the body in the trunk. Vertbois was still there, but overheard them talking and jumped from the window, breaking his leg, and was arrested. The girl had taken a taxi to her aunt's in Bourges.
Maigret of the Month: April, 2011
Maigret's Journeys in France