The case, which turned out to be extremely painful for Commissioner Mehre, began with an anonymous letter: an unknown person reported that a murder would soon take place. Megre immediately notices the expensive vellum paper of an unusual format. Thanks to this circumstance, it is possible to quickly find out that the letter was sent from the house of lawyer Emil Parandon, a specialist in the law of the sea. Having made the necessary inquiries, the commissioner finds out that Parandon has made a very profitable party: he is married to one of the daughters of Gassin de Beaulieu, the chairman of the cassation court.
Maigret calls Parandon to ask for a meeting. The lawyer accepts the commissar with open arms: it turns out that he had long dreamed of discussing with a professional the sixty-fourth article of the criminal code, which defines the criminal’s sanity. Megre carefully examines the owner of the house: this is a miniature and very moving man in glasses with thick glasses – in a huge, luxuriously furnished office, he looks almost gnome. Parandon instantly identifies his paper and reads a strange message, not showing any surprise, but jumps out of the room when an elegant woman of about forty with a tenacious gaze enters silently into the office. Madame Parandon is burnt with a desire to know the reason for the visit, but the men pretend they do not notice it. After her departure, the lawyer without any coercion talks about the inhabitants of the house
Maigret tries not to spread too much about this matter. He is a little ashamed for doing trivial things. There is no reason to suspect that a drama is brewing in the house of Parandon – in appearance everything here is orderly, orderly, orderly. Nevertheless, the Commissioner again goes to the lawyer. Mademoiselle Wag answers his questions with reserved dignity. She frankly admits that they have moments of intimacy with the patron, but always with snatches, because there are too many people in the house. Madame Parandon, perhaps, knows about this relationship – once she went into her husband’s office at a very inopportune moment. The secretary’s room itself is a real house, and Madame is just ubiquitous. You never know when it will appear – by its order the floors are everywhere covered with carpets.
The second anonymous letter comes to the police: an unknown one warns that as a result of the embarrassing actions of the commissioner, the crime can be committed from one hour to another. Megre again meets with the secretary – he likes this clever, calm girl. She is obviously in love with her patron and believes that the danger threatens him. The house is run by Madame Parandon. With her daughter, the relationship is bad – Bambi finds his father a victim of his mother. Perhaps there is some truth in this: the Gassen family prevailed over the Parandons – neither the family nor the friends of the lawyer are actually there. Gyus adores his father, but hesitates to show his feelings. Megre begins to worry more and more. He already knows that his spouses have weapons. Madame Parandon, with whom he has not yet spoken, herself calls the police. She is impatient to enlighten the Commissioner about her husband: unfortunate Emil was born prematurely, he never managed to become a full-fledged person. For twenty years she has been trying to protect him, but he is getting deeper and completely fenced off from the world. The marriage relations had to be stopped a year ago – after she found her husband with this girl-secretary. And his maniacal interest in one of the articles of the criminal code – is this not psychosis? She was afraid to live in this house.
Megre gets acquainted with lawyers’ assistants and servants. Julien Bod argues that the connection of the patron with Mademoiselle Wag is known to all. This is a very nice girl. The future playwright believes that he was lucky: the married couple Parandonov – ready characters of the play. They meet in the corridor, like passers-by on the street, and sit at the table like strangers in a restaurant. Rene Tortu behaves very restrainedly and only notes that in place of the patron would lead a more active life. Butler Ferdinand openly calls Madame Parandon a bitch and a devilishly cunning woman. The soul master with Ney was not lucky, and talking about his insanity – complete nonsense.
Megre receives a third message: the anonymous author states that the commissioner actually provoked the killer. The house is constantly monitored: Inspector Lalouent is on duty at night, in the morning he is replaced by Janvier. When the bell rings, Maigret involuntarily clenches his heart. Janvier reports on the murder. With the couple, Parandon is all right – Mademoiselle Vag is slaughtered.
Together with the investigation team, Megre hurries to a familiar house. Julien Bod weeps, not ashamed of tears, self-assured René Tortu is clearly depressed, Madame Parandon, according to the maid, has not yet left the bedroom. It is established that the girl was cut in her throat at about half-past nine. She knew the killer well, because she continued to work quietly and allowed to take a sharp knife from her own table. The commissioner goes to the lawyer – he sits in complete prostration. But when Madame Parandon appears with a plea to confess to the murder, a small lawyer begins to stamp his feet in fury-to the full satisfaction of his wife.
After her departure, Gus burst into the office with the clear intention of protecting his father from Mehre. The commissar had already guessed who the author of the mysterious anonymous letters was – it was a purely boyish undertaking. After talking with Bambi, another suggestion of Meghre is confirmed; children are burdened by the way of life that the mother imposes on them. But Bambi, in contrast to his brother, considers Parandona a rag and dislikes Mademoiselle Bar.
The commissioner leaves the interrogation of Madame Parandon last. She keeps saying that she took sleeping pills for the night and woke up around twelve. Murder was undoubtedly committed by her husband – probably this girl was blackmailing him. However, he could do this without any reason, for he is possessed by the fear of illness and death – no wonder he refuses to deal with people of his own circle.
In the meantime, Inspector Louka interrogates the tenants of the house opposite. Among them there is a disabled person, who spends his days at the window. From his apartment is clearly visible the living room of the Parandons. Madame left about half past nine – she was supposed to see a maid cleaning up. Pinned to the wall Lisa no longer unlocks and asks forgiveness from the hostess.
In the toilet box, Maigret finds a small Browning. When Madame Parandon came out, the revolver lay in her pocket in her dressing gown. Most likely, at that moment she was going to shoot her husband, but then another thought occurred to her. Killing the secretary, she could not only strike him, but bring him all suspicions. The revolver was not needed, because on the table at Antoinette lay a sharp knife to clean up typos.
Having ordered to deliver the suspect to the quay Orfevr, Megre again comes to the lawyer – Parandon has a reason to study the article in detail sixty-fourth. In the car, the commissar recalls the horrendous formulation of his vagueness: “There is no crime if, during the commission of the act, the accused was in a state of insanity or was forced to a force that he could not resist.”