Maigret Gets Angry, page 1
* * *
MAIGRET GETS ANGRY
Translated by Ros Schwartz
About the Author
Praise for Georges Simenon
1. The Old Lady in the Garden
2. The Tax Collector’s Second Son
3. Family Portrait in the Drawing Room
4. The Top Kennel
5. Maigret’s Accomplice
6. Mimile and his Prisoner
7. Madame Maigret’s Chick
8. The Skeleton in the Cupboard
EXTRA: Chapter 1 from Maigret in New York
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
First published in French as Maigret se fâche by Presses de la Cité 1947
This translation first published 2015
Copyright © 1947 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright © 2015 by Ros Schwartz
GEORGES SIMENON ® Simenon.tm
MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited
All rights reserved.
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
The moral rights of the author and translator have been asserted.
eBook ISBN: 9781101992449
Cover photograph © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Georges Simenon was born on 12 February 1903 in Liège, Belgium, and died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life. Between 1931 and 1972 he published seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories featuring Inspector Maigret.
Simenon always resisted identifying himself with his famous literary character, but acknowledged that they shared an important characteristic:
My motto, to the extent that I have one, has been noted often enough, and I’ve always conformed to it. It’s the one I’ve given to old Maigret, who resembles me in certain points … ‘understand and judge not’.
Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels.
MAIGRET GETS ANGRY
‘I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov’
– William Faulkner
‘A truly wonderful writer … marvellously readable – lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the world he creates’
– Muriel Spark
‘Few writers have ever conveyed with such a sure touch, the bleakness of human life’
– A. N. Wilson
‘One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century … Simenon was unequalled at making us look inside, though the ability was masked by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his stories’
‘A novelist who entered his fictional world as if he were part of it’
– Peter Ackroyd
‘The greatest of all, the most genuine novelist we have had in literature’
– André Gide
‘Superb … The most addictive of writers … A unique teller of tales’
‘The mysteries of the human personality are revealed in all their disconcerting complexity’
– Anita Brookner
‘A writer who, more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal’
– P. D. James
‘A supreme writer … Unforgettable vividness’
‘Compelling, remorseless, brilliant’
– John Gray
‘Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century’
– John Banville
1. The Old Lady in the Garden
Madame Maigret sat shelling peas in the warm shade, the blue of her apron and the green of the pea pods making rich splashes of colour. Her hands were never still, even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon on the hottest day of a sweltering August. She was keeping an eye on her husband as if he were a babe-in-arms. Madame Maigret was anxious:
‘I bet you’re already getting up.’
And yet the deck chair in which Maigret lay hadn’t creaked, nor had the former detective chief inspector of the Police Judiciaire let out the faintest sigh.
Probably because she knew him so well, she had seen his face shiny with sweat quiver imperceptibly. She was right, he was about to get up. But he forced himself to remain horizontal out of a sort of human respect.
This was the second summer they were spending in their house in Meung-sur-Loire since he had retired. Maigret had ensconced himself contentedly in the comfortable canvas chair, puffing away gently at his pipe. He savoured the coolness of the air around him all the more since only two metres away, on the other side of the boundary between shade and sunshine, it was an inferno buzzing with flies.
The peas tumbled into the enamel basin at a regular rhythm. Sitting with her knees apart, Madame Maigret had an apronful, and there were two big basketfuls picked that morning for bottling.
What Maigret loved most about his house was this spot where they were sitting, a place that had no name, a sort of partially roofed courtyard between the kitchen and the garden which they had gradually furnished, even putting in an oven and a dresser, and where they ate most of their meals. Slightly reminiscent of a Spanish patio, it was paved with red floor tiles that gave the shadows a very special character.
Maigret held out for a good five minutes, maybe a little longer, gazing through his half-closed eyelids at the vegetable garden that seemed to be steaming under a blistering sun. Then, setting aside all human respect, he got up.
‘Now what are you going to do?’
Off-guard in this domestic intimacy, his expression was that of a sulking child caught misbehaving.
‘I’m sure the aubergines are covered in Colorado beetles again,’ he grumbled, ‘and that’s because of your lettuces …’
This little battle over the lettuces had been going on for a month. Since Madame Maigret had put her lettuce seedlings in the gaps between the aubergine plants.
‘It’s a pity to waste the space,’ she had said.
At that point, he had not protested, because he hadn’t realized that Colorado beetles love aubergine leaves even more than potatoes. But he couldn’t spray them with an arsenic mixture because of the lettuces.
And ten times a day, Maigret, wearing his huge straw hat, would go and bend over the pale-green leaves, as he was doing now, turning them over gently to pick off the little striped insects. He kept them in his left hand until it was full, and then he tossed them into the bonfire, looking disgruntled and darting a defiant glance at his wife.
‘If you hadn’t planted those lettuces …’
The fact was that since he had retired she
There he was, in the heat of the sun, barefoot in his wooden clogs, his blue linen trousers riding down his hips, making them look like an elephant’s hindquarters, and a farmer’s shirt with an intricate pattern that was open at the neck, revealing his hairy chest.
He heard the sound of the door knocker echoing through the dark, empty rooms of the house like a bell in a convent. Someone was at the front door, and, as always when there was an unexpected visitor, Madame Maigret became flustered. She looked at him from a distance as if to seek his guidance.
She lifted up her apron, which formed a huge pouch, wondered what to do with her peas, then finally untied the strings, because she would never go and open the door looking unkempt.
The knocker clanged again, twice, three times, imperiously, angrily, from the sound of it. Maigret thought he could make out the gentle purr of a car engine through the quivering of the air. He continued to tend his aubergines while his wife tidied her grey hair in front of a fragment of mirror.
She had barely disappeared inside the dark house when the little green door in the garden wall that led on to the lane, and was used only by people they knew, opened. An elderly lady in mourning appeared in the doorway, so stiff, so severe, and at the same time so comical that he would recall the sight of her for a long time.
She stood there for only a moment, and then, with a brisk, decisive step that belied her great age, she marched straight towards Maigret.
‘I say, gardener … There’s no point telling me that your master’s not at home … I know for a fact that he is here.’
She was tall and thin, with a crinkled face caked in a thick layer of powder streaked with sweat. The most striking thing about her was her extraordinarily lively eyes of an intense black.
‘Go at once and tell him that Bernadette Amorelle has come a hundred kilometres to talk to him.’
She certainly hadn’t had the patience to linger at the front door. She would not be kept waiting! As she said, she had asked the neighbours and had not been deterred by the closed shutters.
Had someone told her about the little garden door? It wouldn’t have mattered, she was capable of finding it for herself. And now she was walking towards the shady courtyard where Madame Maigret had just reappeared.
‘Kindly tell Detective Chief Inspector Maigret …’
Madame Maigret was baffled. Her husband followed with a lumbering tread, an amused twinkle in his eye. It was he who said:
‘If you would like to trouble yourself to come in.’
‘He’s having a nap, I’ll wager. Is he still as fat?’
‘Do you know him well?’
‘What business is it of yours? Go and tell him that Bernadette Amorelle is here and never mind anything else.’
She had second thoughts, rummaged in her bag, an outmoded kind, a black velvet reticule with a silver clasp, the sort that was fashionable around 1900.
‘Here,’ she said, proffering a small banknote.
‘Forgive me for not being able to accept, Madame Amorelle, but I am former Detective Chief Inspector Maigret.’
Then she said something hilarious, which was to go down in the annals of the Maigret household. Looking him up and down from his clogs to his dishevelled hair – for he had removed his huge straw hat – she proclaimed:
‘As you wish …’
Poor Madame Maigret! She gesticulated to her husband, but he didn’t notice. She was trying to signal discreetly to him to take the visitor into the sitting room. One doesn’t entertain in a courtyard that serves as a kitchen and everything else.
But Madame Amorelle had sat herself down in a little rattan armchair where she was perfectly comfortable. It was she who, noticing Madame Maigret’s nervousness, said to her impatiently:
‘Let the inspector be!’
She all but asked Madame Maigret to leave them, which is exactly what the latter did, because she didn’t dare continue with her task in the presence of the visitor, and she didn’t know where to put herself.
‘You recognize my name, don’t you, inspector?’
‘Amorelle, of the sand quarries and tug-boats?’
‘Amorelle and Campois, yes.’
He had carried out an investigation in the Haute Seine in the past, and all day long he had watched convoys of boats going past bearing the green Amorelle and Campois triangle. When he was based at Quai des Orfèvres, he often used to glimpse the offices of Amorelle and Campois, quarry and ship owners, on the Île St Louis.
‘I have no time to waste and you must understand me. Earlier, I took advantage of the fact that my son-in-law and daughter were at the Maliks’ to tell François to get the old Renault going … They don’t suspect anything … They probably won’t be home before this evening … Do you understand?’
‘No … Yes …’
What he did understand was that the elderly lady had sneaked out, unbeknown to her family.
‘I assure you that if they were to find out I was here—’
‘Excuse me, where were you?’
‘At Orsenne, of course,’ she answered, the way a queen of France might have said: ‘At Versailles!’
Didn’t everyone know, shouldn’t everyone know, that Bernadette Amorelle, of Amorelle and Campois, lived at Orsenne, a little hamlet on the banks of the Seine between Corbeil and the forest of Fontainebleau?
‘There’s no point looking at me as if you think I’m mad. They’ll probably try and have you believe I am. I assure you it’s not true.’
‘Forgive me, madame, but may I ask your age?’
‘You may, young man. I’ll be eighty-two on the seventh of September … but my teeth are all my own, if that’s what you’re looking at … And I’ll probably outlive the lot of them … I’d be very happy to see my son-in-law go to his grave.’
‘Would you like something to drink?’
‘A glass of cold water, if you have some.’
He poured it himself.
‘What time did you leave Orsenne?’
‘At eleven thirty … As soon as they’d gone … I had already asked François … François is the gardener’s boy, he’s a good boy … I helped his mother bring him into the world … None of the family knows that he can drive an automobile … One night when I couldn’t sleep – I should tell you, inspector, that I never sleep – I found him trying his hand at driving the old Renault by moonlight. Does this interest you?’
‘It does indeed.’
‘It doesn’t take much … The old Renault, which wasn’t even in the garage but in the stables, is a limousine that belonged to my late husband … Since he died twenty years ago, it must be … Well, the boy somehow managed to get it going and would take it for a spin on the road at night.’
‘Did he drive you here?’
‘He’s waiting for me outside.’
‘You haven’t had lunch?’
‘I eat when I have time … I hate people who constantly feel the need to eat.’
And she couldn’t help darting a disapproving look at Maigret’s paunch.
‘Look how you’re sweating. It’s none of my business … My husband, he also insisted on having his own way and he’s been gone for a long time … You’ve been retired for two years now, isn’t that so?’
‘Nearly two years, yes.’
‘So you’re getting bored … You will agree to my proposal, then. Th
‘Forgive me, madame, but—’
‘I know you’re going to protest. But I absolutely need you to come and spend a few days at Orsenne. Fifty thousand if you’re successful. And, if you find nothing, let’s say ten thousand plus your expenses.’
She opened her bag and took out a wad of notes.
‘There’s an inn. There’s no chance of mistaking it as it’s the only one. It’s called L’Ange. You’ll be extremely uncomfortable there, since poor Jeanne is half-crazy. Another one I knew as a baby. She might not want to put you up, but you’ll find a way of winning her over, I’m sure. Just start talking to her about ailments, and she’ll be happy. She’s convinced she’s got them all.’
Madame Maigret brought in a tray with some coffee, and the elderly lady, indifferent to this gesture, rebuffed her:
‘What’s this? Who told you to bring us coffee? Take it away!’
She took her for the maid, as she had mistaken Maigret for the gardener.
‘I could tell you lots of stories, but I know your reputation and I know that you are clever enough to find things out for yourself. Don’t be taken in by my son-in-law, that’s my only piece of advice. He has hoodwinked everyone. He is polite, more so than anyone you’ve ever met. He’s sickeningly polite. But one day his head will roll—’
‘I’m sorry, madame—’
‘Stop saying sorry, inspector. I had a granddaughter, just one, the daughter of this wretched Malik. My son-in-law is called Malik, that too you should know. Charles Malik … My granddaughter, Monita, would have turned eighteen next week—’
‘You mean she’s dead?’
‘Exactly seven days ago. We buried her the day before yesterday. She was found drowned, on the weir downstream … And, when Bernadette Amorelle tells you that it was no accident, you can believe it. Monita could swim like a fish. People will try and have you believe that she was reckless, that she used to go swimming alone at six o’clock in the morning and sometimes at night. That wouldn’t have caused her to drown. And if they insinuate that perhaps she wanted to commit suicide, you can tell them that they’re lying.’
Other author's books:
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