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M, the head of the crime squad at Nantes, has spent the past two days reconstructing the crime at the inn, Le Pont du Grau, owned by Frédéric Michaux. M had known arrested him in Paris ten years earlier, where he'd been known as Fred the Boxer, along with his more-or-less wife, Julia, of the Place des Ternes. Two men had come from out of town for the auction of the farm of Groux, one of the men who played belote at the inn every night, along with Père Nicolas and the exciseman, Gentil. One, Borchain, had been killed in his bed, while the four men played cards, and the two women, Julia and Thérèse, the maid, who'd come from Paris with Fred and Julia, were in or out of the kitchen. Except for Canut, the other buyer from out of town, all had had a chance to bludgeon Borchain and steal his wallet. But the wallet couldn't be found.
M reenacts the evening over and over, until finally the details of Fred's plan to run away with Thérèse to Panama come to light. It would happen when he turned 50, and collected his insurance policy. M realizes that in all his searching he'd never found any insurance policy or other papers, so Fred leads them to the kitchen where he'd devised a secret safe. Only Julia had known about it, as she revealed when she said she'd known of the policy and Fred's plans. When Fred shows the hiding place his jaw drops, for the missing wallet is within. "Well, Julia?" says M. She'd hoped that by coming up with a big sum on her own initiative, Fred would forget Thérèse and remain with her...
Maigret of the Month: January, 2012
Maigret's Journeys in France