Hercule Poirot's Christmas. Agatha Christie. Page 2. 2. My dear James. You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers, and I was. Two of the characters she created, the brilliant little Belgian Hercule Poirot and This book was previously published under the title “Murder in the Calais Coach. Agatha Christie Death on the Nile A Hercule Poirot Mystery. To my old friend Sybil Bennett Death Death on Hercule Poirot's Christmas By Agatha Christie.
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Berkley books by Agatha Christie THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE. MURDER IN rkley Book. Agatha Christie A Hercule Poirot Mystery - Editions Lakemont. Find Novels featuring Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie - the best selling novelist in history, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Other Books by Agatha Christie friend, the Belgian ex-detective, Hercule Poirot. .. Hercule Poirot, should make myself ridiculous by lying down (possibly on.
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The Big Four. The Mystery of the Blue Train. Peril At End House. Lord Edgware Dies. The missing stick not having been discovered which was not surprising , Poirot uttered more apologies and we withdrew. We returned to the village at a great pace, and Poirot made a bee line for the Anchor Inn.
Possibly you thought I meant it. But no - you observed Mrs Maltravers' face when she caught sight of this young Black? She was clearly taken aback, and he - eh bien, he was very devoted, did you nor think so? And he was here on Tuesday night - the day before Mr Maltravers died. We must investigate the doings of Captain Black, Hastings. Poirot went out and accosted him and presently brought him up to the room we had engaged. Now, you were here just before the occurrence, and can give us equally valuable information.
You see, although Maltravers was an old friend of my people's, I didn't know him very well myself. I went up to town early Wednesday morning, as my boat sailed from Tilbury about twelve o'clock.
But some news I got made me alter my plans, as I dare say you heard me explain to Mrs Maltravers. I've been out there ever since the War - a great country. Now what was the talk about at dinner on Tuesday night? The usual odd topics. Maltravers asked after my people, and then we discussed the question of German reparations, and then Mrs Maltravers asked a lot of questions about East Africa, and I told them one or two yarns, that's about all, I think.
You have told us all that your conscious self knows, I want now to question your subconscious self. Any word, the first one you think of. Shall we begin? Then he took from his pocket his big turnipfaced watch and laid it on the table beside him. Perhaps you could spare me a few minutes in about half an hour's time? To begin with, Black answered well within the normal time limit, with no pauses, so we can take it that he himself has no guilty knowledge to conceal.
I began work with 'Bernard' which might have suggested the local doctor had he come across him at all. Evidently he had not. After our recent conversation, he gave 'Dinner' to my 'Tuesday,' but 'Journey' and 'Country' were answered by 'Ship' and 'Uganda,' showing clearly that it was his journey abroad that was important to him and not the one which brought him down here. I proceed to 'Rook Rifle' and he answered with the totally unexpected word 'Farm. A man he knows committed suicide with a rook rifle on a farm somewhere.
Remember, too, that his mind is still on the stories he told at dinner, and I think you will agree that I shall not be far from the truth if I recall Captain Black and ask him to repeat the particular suicide story which he told at the dinner-table on Tuesday evening.
Chap shot himself on a farm out there. Did it with a rook rifle through the roof of the mouth, bullet lodged in the brain.
Doctors were no end puzzled over it - there was nothing to show except a little blood on the lips. But what -" "What has it got to do with Mr Maltravers? You did not know, I see, that he was found with a rook rifle by his side.
Well, I must get on the telephone to London. He went off by himself in the afternoon, and it was not till seven o'clock that he announced that he could put it off no longer, but must break the news to the young widow. My sympathy had already gone out to her unreservedly.
To be left penniless, and with the knowledge that her husband had killed himself to assure her future was a hard burden for any woman to bear. I cherished a secret hope, however, that young Black might prove capable of consoling her after her first grief had passed. He evidently admired her enormously.
Our interview with the lady was painful. She refused vehemently to believe the facts that Poirot advanced, and when she was at last convinced broke down into bitter weeping. An examination of the body turned our suspicions into certainty. Poirot was very sorry for the poor lady, but, after all, he was employed by the Insurance Company, and what could he do?
As he was preparing to leave he said gently to Mrs Maltravers: You are mediumistic, you know. But you do not believe in Spiritualism, surely? You know that they say in the village that this house is haunted? We had just finished our soup, when there was a scream outside the door, and the sound of breaking crockery. We jumped up. The parlormaid appeared, her hand to her heart.
She thought of it too, I am sure, for a minute later, she caught Poirot's arm with a scream. Those three taps on the window?
That's how he always used to tap when he passed round the house. The parlormaid was obviously unstrung, and when the meal was over Mrs Maltravers besought Poirot not to go at once.
She was clearly terrified to be left alone. We sat in the little morning-room. The wind was getting up, and moaning round the house in an eerie fashion.
Twice the door of the room carne unlatched and the door slowly opened, and each time she clung to me with a terrified gasp. He got up and shut it once more, then turned the key in the lock. The locked door slowly swung open. I could not see into the passage from where I sat, but she and Poirot were facing it.
She gave one long shriek as she turned to him. He was staring down at her with a puzzled face, then shook his head. You are not well - unstrung -" "I am perfectly well, I - Oh, God! Out of the darkness carne three loud raps. I could hear Mrs Maltravers moaning. And then - I saw! The man I had seen on the bed upstairs stood there facing us, gleaming with a faint ghostly light. There was blood on his lips, and he held his right hand out, pointing. Suddenly a brilliant light seemed to proceed from it.
It passed over Poirot and me, and fell on Mrs Maltravers. I saw her white terrified face, and something else! It's all red! I killed him.
I did it. He was showing me, and then I put my hand on the trigger and pressed. Save me from him- s ave me! He's come back! The lights went on as if by magic. And you, Everett? Oh, by the way, this is Mr Everett, rather a fine member of the theatrical profession. I 'phoned to him this afternoon. His make-up is good, isn't it? Quite like the dead man, and with a pocket torch and the necessary phosphorescence he made the proper impression. I shouldn't touch her right hand if I were you, Hastings.
Red paint marks so. When the lights went out I clasped her hand, you see. By the way, we mustn't miss our train. Inspector Japp is outside the window. A bad night - but he has been able to while away the time by tapping on the window every now and then.
The doctor seemed to think the deceased was a Christian Scientist, and who could have given him that impression but Mrs Maltravers? But to us she represented him as being in a grave state of apprehension about his own health. Again, why was she so taken aback by the reappearance of young Black? And lastly, although I know that convention decrees that a woman must make a decent pretense of mourning for her husband, I do not care for such heavily-roughed eyelids!
You did not observe them, Hastings? As I always tell you, you see nothing! There were the two possibilities. Did Black's story suggest an ingenious method of committing suicide to Mr Maltravers, or did his other listener, the wife, see an equally ingenious method of committing murder? I inclined to the latter view.
To shoot himself in the way indicated, he would probably have had to pull the trigger with his toe - or at least so I imagine. Now if Maltravers had been found with one boot off, we should almost certainly have heard of it from some one.
An odd detail like that would have been remembered. Hence the elaborate little comedy you saw played tonight. An accident gives her that - the young soldier's strange story. The next afternoon when monsieur le capitaine, as she thinks, is on the high seas, she and her husband are strolling round the grounds. Do show me if it is possible! He places the end of the rifle in his mouth. She stoops down, and puts her finger on the trigger, laughing up at him. In the events I am now about to chronicle, a remarkable chain of circumstances led from the apparently trivial incidents which first attracted Poirot's attention to the sinister happenings which completed a most unusual case.
I had been spending the evening with an old friend of mine, Gerald Parker. There had been, perhaps, about half a dozen people there beside my host and myself, and the talk fell, as it was bound to do sooner or later wherever Parker found himself, on the subject of house-hunting in London.
Houses and flats were Parker's special hobby. Since the end of the War, he had occupied at least half a dozen different flats and maisonnettes. No sooner was he settled anywhere than he would light unexpectedly upon a new find, and would forthwith depart bag and baggage. His moves were nearly always accomplished at a slight pecuniary gain, for he had a shrewd business head, but it was sheer love of the sport that actuated him, and not a desire to make money at it. We listened to Parker for some time with the respect of the novice for the expert.
Then it was our turn, and a perfect babel of tongues was let loose. Finally the floor was left to Mrs Robinson, a charming little bride who was there with her husband. I had never met them before, as Robinson was only a recent acquaintance of Parker's. We've got a flat - at last!
In Montagu Mansions. It's dirt cheap. Eighty pounds a year! Big handsome buildings. Or are you talking of a poor relation of the same name stuck in the slums somewhere? That's what makes it so wonderful. It's a blinking miracle.
But there must be a catch somewhere. Big premium, I suppose? And it's beautifully furnished! A little pucker appeared between her dainty brows. You don't think that - that - the place is haunted? Unburden yourself to him, Mrs Robinson. Hastings is a great unraveler of mysteries. And we went there straightaway in a taxi, for, after all, you never know.
It's already let. We were shown over it by the maid, and then we saw the mistress, and the thing was settled then and there. Immediate possession and fifty pounds for the furniture.
We signed the agreement next day, and we are to move in tomorrow! I rather wished Poirot had been there. Some times I have the feeling that he rather underestimates my capabilities.
The whole thing was rather amusing, and I propounded the thing as a mock problem to Poirot on the following morning. He seemed interested, and questioned me rather narrowly as to the rents of flats in various localities. He laid his stick on the table, and brushed the nap of his hat with his usual tender care before he spoke. We can devote ourselves wholly to the present investigation. I have just ascertained that from the landlord's agents.
And yet this particular flat is being sublet at eighty pounds! Perhaps it is haunted, as Mrs Robinson suggested. That is the only possible solution. The fact still remains that numerous other applicants were sent to see it, and yet, in spite of its remarkable cheapness, it was still in the market when Mrs Robinson arrived.
Very curious, is it not? Did she impress you as being a truthful woman, Hastings? Describe her to me, then. Do you know anything about these people? Does Parker know them well? But surely, Poirot, you don't think for an instant -" Poirot raised his hand. Have I said that I think anything?
All I say is - it is a curious story. And there is nothing to throw light upon it; except perhaps the lady's name, eh, Hastings! Something seemed to be amusing him vastly. Calm yourself, Hastings. Do not put on that air of injured dignity. Come, we will go to Montagu Mansions and make a few inquiries. The Mansions were a handsome block of buildings in excellent repair. A uniformed porter was sunning himself on the threshold, and it was to him that Poirot addressed himself: He hardly looked at us and grunted out: Second floor.
Can you tell me how long they have been here? The lady I mean is tall and fair with reddish gold hair and -" "That's 'er," said the porter. Just six months ago. I followed Poirot outside. Poirot had steered his way into Brompton Road before I asked him what he was going to do and where we were going. I have a great desire to have a flat in Montagu Mansions. If I am not mistaken, several interesting things will take place there before long.
Poirot promptly took it for a month. Outside in the street again, he silenced my protests: Why should I not indulge a whim?
By the way, Hastings, have you a revolver? It is quite possible. The idea pleases you, I see. Always the spectacular and romantic appeal to you. The flat was pleasantly furnished.
It occupied the same position in the building as that of the Robinsons, but was two floors higher. The day after our installation was a Sunday. In the afternoon, Poirot left the front door ajar, and summoned me hastily as a bang reverberated from somewhere below.
Are those your friends?
Do not let them see you. Wait awhile. With a sigh of satisfaction, Poirot tiptoed back into the flat. After the master and mistress, the maid. The flat should now be empty. Poirot had trotted briskly into the scullery and was hauling at the rope of the coal-lift. The Sunday concert, the Sunday 'afternoon out,' and finally the Sunday nap after the Sunday dinner of England - le rosbif - all these will distract attention from the doings of Hercule Poirot.
Come, my friend. Poirot's answer was not too reassuring: Pulling on the rope, we descended slowly till we reached the second floor.
Poirot uttered an exclamation of satisfaction as he perceived that the wooden door into the scullery was open. Never do they bolt these doors in the daytime. And yet anyone could mount or descend as we have done. At night yes - though not always then - and it is against that that we are going to make provision.
The operation only occupied about three minutes. Then Poirot returned the tools to his pocket, and we reascended once more to our own domain. On Monday Poirot was out all day, but when he returned in the evening he flung himself into his chair with a sigh of satisfaction. A story after your own heart and which will remind you of your favorite cinema? Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard will vouch for its accuracy, since it was through his kind offices that it came to my ears.
Listen, Hastings. A little over six months ago some important Naval plans were stolen from an American Government department.
They showed the position of some of the most important Harbor defenses, and would be worth a considerable sum to any foreign Government - that of Japan, for example. Suspicion fell upon a young man named Luigi Valdarno, an Italian by birth, who was employed in a minor capacity in the Department and who was missing at the same time as the papers. The papers were not on him. Now for some time past Luigi Valdarno had been going about with a Miss Elsa Hardt, a young concert singer who had recently appeared and who lived with a brother in an apartment in Washington.
Nothing was known of the antecedents of Miss Elsa Hardt, and she disappeared suddenly about the time of Valdarno's death. There are reasons for believing that she was in reality an accomplished international spy who has done much nefarious work under various aliases. The American Secret Service, whilst doing their best to trace her, also kept an eye upon certain insignificant Japanese gentlemen living in Washington. They felt pretty certain that, when Elsa Hardt had covered her tracks sufficiently, she would approach the gentlemen in question.
One of them left suddenly for England a fortnight ago. On the face of it, therefore, it would seem that Elsa Hardt is in England. Height 5 ft. Therefore, mon ami, I fear that you must forswear your beauty sleep tonight, and join me in my all-night vigil in the flat below - armed with that excellent revolver of yours, bien entendu!
Nothing is likely to occur before then. Under Poirot's manipulation, the wooden door quickly swung inwards, and we climbed into the flat. From the scullery we passed into the kitchen where we established ourselves comfortably in two chairs with the door into the hall ajar.
To me, the waiting appeared endless. I was terrified of going to sleep. Just when it seemed to me that I had been there about eight hours - and had, as I found out afterwards, in reality been exactly one hour and twenty minutes - a faint scratching sound came to my ears.
Poirot's hand touched mine. I rose, and together we moved carefully in the direction of the hall. The noise came from there. Poirot placed his lips to my ear. They are cutting out the lock. When I give the word, not before, fall upon from him from behind and hold him fast. Be careful, he will have a knife. It was extinguished immediately and then the door was slowly opened. Poirot and I flattened ourselves against the wall. I heard a man's breathing as he passed us.
Then he flashed on his torch, and as he did so, Poirot hissed in my ear: The whole affair was quick and noiseless. I twisted a dagger from his hand, and as Poirot brought down the scarf from his eyes, whilst keeping it would tightly round his mouth, I jerked up my revolver where he could see it and understand that resistance was useless.
As he ceased to struggle Poirot put his mouth close to his ear and began to whisper rapidly. After a minute the man nodded. Then enjoining silence with a movement of the hand, Poirot led the way out of the flat and down the stairs. Our captive followed, and I brought up the rear with the revolver.
When we were out in the street, Poirot turned to me. Give me the revolver. We shall not need it now. The scarf had been unwound from the stranger's face, and I gave a start of surprise.
Nothing escapes you. No, the man is not a Jap. He is an Italian. I was by now completely fogged. I did not like to ask Poirot where we were going in front of our captive, and strove in vain to obtain some light upon the proceedings. We alighted at the door of a small house standing back from the road. A returning wayfarer, slightly drunk, was lurching along the pavement and almost collided with Poirot, who said something sharply to him which I did not catch.
All three of us went up the steps of the house. Poirot rang the bell and motioned us to stand a little aside. There was no answer and he rang again and then seized the knocker which he plied for some minutes vigorously. A light appeared suddenly above the fanlight, and the door was opened cautiously a little way.
My wife is taken ill. He became suddenly a perfect caricature of an infuriated Frenchman. I will have the law of you. You must come! I will stay here and ring and knock all night. With a neat push Poirot sent him staggering down the steps. In another minute all three of us were inside the door and it was pushed to and bolted. Not a minute too soon. Just as he disappeared from view a woman rushed into the room. She was tall with reddish hair and held a scarlet kimono round her slender form.
I observed that he had slippers on his feet, and that his dressing-gown was a warm one. What are you doing in my house? It is especially to be regretted as one of our number has come specially from New York in order to meet you. To my horror I observed that he was brandishing my revolver, which Poirot must doubtless have put down through inadvertence in the cab. The woman gave a piercing scream and turned to fly, but Poirot was standing in front of the closed door.
We dared not move. What shall we do? I can assure you that our friend will not shoot until I give the word. It was more than I was, but the woman turned to Poirot like a flash. He stood aside from the door. I will detain your friend from New York whilst you make your getaway.
But the weapon merely clicked harmlessly and Poirot's voice rose in mild reproof. I do not care for my friends to carry loaded pistols about with them and never would I permit a mere acquaintance to do so.
No, no, mon ami. Poirot continued to address him in a tone of mild reproof: I have saved you from being hanged. And do not think that our beautiful lady will escape. No, no, the house is watched, back and front. Straight into the arms of the police they will go. Is not that a beautiful and consoling thought? Yes, you may leave the room now. But be careful - be very careful.
I - Ah, he is gone! And my friend Hastings looks at me with eyes of reproach. But it was all so simple! It was clear, from the first, that out of several hundred, probably, applicants for No. What was there that singled them out from the rest - at practically a glance? Their appearance? Possibly, but it was not so unusual. Their name, then! Sapristi, but exactly! That was the point. Elsa Hardt and her husband, or brother or whatever he really is, come from New York, and take a flat in the name of Mr and Mrs Robinson.
Suddenly they learn that one of these secret societies, the Mafia, or the Camorra, to which doubtless Luigi Valdarno belonged, is on their track. What do they do! They hit on a scheme of transparent simplicity. Evidently they knew that their pursuers were not personally acquainted with either of them. What then can be simpler? They offer the flat at an absurdly low rental. Of the thousands of young couples in London looking for flats, there cannot fail to be several Robinsons.
It is only a matter of waiting.
If you will look at the name of Robinson in the telephone directory, you will realize that a fair-haired Mrs Robinson was pretty sure to come along sooner or later. Then what will happen? The avenger arrives. He knows the name, he knows the address.
He strikes! All is over, vengeance is satisfied, and Miss Elsa Hardt has escaped by the skin of her teeth once more. By the way, Hastings, you must present me to the real Mrs Robinson - that delightful and truthful creature! What will they think when they find their flat has been broken into! We must hurry back. Ah, that sounds like Japp and his friends arriving.
You use your gray cells at last. Now for a little surprise for Japp. But they hadn't got the goods with them. So you come to search. Well, I am about to depart with Hastings, but I should like to give you a little lecture upon the history and habits of the domestic cat.
It is still regarded as a symbol of good luck if a black cat crosses your path. This cat crossed your path tonight, Japp. To speak of the interior of any animal or any person is not, I know, considered polite in England. But the interior of this cat is perfectly delicate. I refer to the lining. He held out his hand, and for a moment speech failed him.
Then he rose to the occasion. I myself had been the first sufferer from the disease. Poirot in his turn had gone down. He was now sitting up in bed, propped up with pillows, his head muffled in a woolen shawl, and was slowly sipping a particularly noxious tisane which I had prepared according to his directions.
His eye rested with pleasure upon a neatly graduated row of medicine bottles which adorned the mantelpiece. Figure to yourself, mon ami, that I have a little paragraph to myself in Society Gossip.
But yes! Here it is! Hercule Poirot - and believe me, girls, he's some Hercules! You are becoming quite a public character. And fortunately you haven't missed anything of particular interest during this time. The few cases I have had to decline did not fill me with any regret.
Says he must see Monsieur Poirot or you, Captain. Seeing as he was in a great to-do - and with all that quite the gentleman - I brought up 'is card.
Poirot motioned with his head towards the bookcase, and I obediently pulled forth "Who's Who. Married Zoe, fourth daughter of William Crabb. I remember she married some young man about town just before the War. Make him all my excuses. His face, however, was haggard, and he was evidently laboring under great agitation. You are Monsieur Poirot's partner, I understand. It is imperative that he should come with me to Derbyshire today. My uncle, the best friend I have in the world, was foully murdered last night.
I was in town and received a telegram from my wife this morning. Immediately upon its receipt I determined to come round and beg Monsieur Poirot to undertake the case. I rushed upstairs, and in a few brief words acquainted Poirot with the situation.
He took any further words out of my mouth. I see. You want to go yourself, is it not so? Well, why not? You should know my methods by now. All I ask is that you should report to me fully every day, and follow implicitly any instructions I may wire you. An hour later I was sitting opposite Mr Havering in a first-class carriage on the Midland Railway, speeding rapidly away from London.
Our real home is near Newmarket, and we usually rent a flat in town for the season. Hunter's Lodge is looked after by a housekeeper who is quite capable of doing all we need when we run down for an occasional week-end. Of course, during the shooting season, we take down some of our own servants from Newmarket. My uncle, Mr Harrington Pace as you may know, my mother was a Miss Pace of New York , has, for the last three years, made his home with us.
He never got on well with my father, or my elder brother, and I suspect that my being somewhat of a prodigal son myself rather increased than diminished his affection towards me.
Of course I am a poor man, and my uncle was a rich one - in other words, he paid the piper!
But, though exacting in many ways, he was not really hard to get on with, and we all three lived very harmoniously together. Two days ago my uncle, rather wearied with some recent gayeties of ours in town, suggested that we should run down to Derbyshire for a day or two. My wife telegraphed to Mrs Middleton, the housekeeper, and we went down that same afternoon. Yesterday evening I was forced to return to town, but my wife and my uncle remained on.
This morning I received this telegram. Without doubt the police are in charge. From there a fivemile drive brought us to a small gray stone building in the midst of the rugged moors. Havering nodded. I could never live here again. The Scotland Yard inspector grinned at me in a friendly fashion before addressing my companion.
I've been sent down from London to take charge of this case, and I'd like a word with you, if I may, sir. I won't keep you a moment, but I'm anxious to get back to the village now that I've seen all there is to see here.
Captain Hastings here, he knows me, and he'll go on up to the house and tell them you're coming. What have you done with the little man, by the way, Captain Hastings? I'm sorry to hear that. Rather the case of the cart without the horse, your being here without him, isn't it? I rang the bell, as Japp had closed the door behind him. After some moments it was opened to me by a middle-aged woman in black. I have come down with him from London to look into the case. Perhaps you can tell me briefly what occurred last night.
He asked to see Mr Pace, sir, and, seeing that he spoke the same way, I thought it was an American gentleman friend of Mr Pace's and I showed him into the gun-room, and then went to tell Mr Pace.
He wouldn't give any name, which, of course, was a bit odd, now I come to think of it. I told Mr Pace, and he seemed puzzled like, but he said to the mistress: At the same time, the mistress she comes out too, and just then there was a shot and then a dreadful silence.
We both ran to the gun-room door, but it was locked and we had to go round to the window. It was open, and there inside was Mr Pace, all shot and bleeding. Five miles to walk it was. They came back with me, and the constable he stayed all night, and this morning the police gentleman from London arrived. Beyond the fact that he spoke like an American I didn't notice much about him. Now I wonder if I can see Mrs Havering? Shall I tell her?
Tell her that Mr Havering is outside with Inspector Japp, and that the gentleman he has brought back with him from London is anxious to speak to her as soon as possible. Japp had two or three hours' start of me, and his anxiety to be gone made me keen to be close at his heels. Mrs Havering did not keep me waiting long. In a few minutes I heard a light step descending the stairs, and looked up to see a very handsome young woman coming towards me.
She wore a flame-colored jumper, that set off the slender boyishness of her figure. On her dark head was a little hat of flame-colored leather. Even the present tragedy could not dim the vitality of her personality. I introduced myself, and she nodded in quick comprehension.
You have done some wonderful things together, haven't you? It was very clever of my husband to get you so promptly.
Now will you ask me questions?
That is the easiest way, isn't it, of getting to know all you want to about this dreadful affair? Now what time was it that this man arrived? We had finished dinner, and were sitting over our coffee and cigarettes. One came out from the garage in Elmer's Dale to fetch him in time for the train.
Most normal in every way. I didn't see him. Mrs Middleton showed him straight into the gun-room and then came to tell my uncle. It was about five minutes later that I heard the sound of raised voices. I ran out into the hall and almost collided with Mrs Middleton. Then we heard the shot. The gun-room door was locked on the inside, and we had to go right round the house to the window. Of course that took some time, and the murderer had been able to get well away.
My poor uncle -" her voice faltered - "had been shot through the head. I saw at once that he was dead. I sent Mrs Middleton for the police. I was careful to touch nothing in the room but to leave it exactly as I found it.
A pair of revolvers of my husband's were mounted upon the wall. One of them is missing. I pointed this out to the police, and they took the other one away with them. When they have extracted the bullet, I suppose they will know for certain. The police have finished with it. But the body has been removed. At that moment Havering entered the hall, and with a quick apology his wife ran to him. I was left to undertake my investigations alone.
I may as well confess at once that they were rather disappointing. In detective novels clues abound, but here I could find nothing that struck me as out of the ordinary except a large bloodstain on the carpet where I judged the dead man had fallen.
I examined everything with painstaking care and took a couple of pictures of the room with my little camera which I had brought with me. I also examined the ground outside the window, but it appeared to have been so heavily trampled underfoot that I judged it was useless to waste time over it. No, I had seen all that Hunter's Lodge had to show me. I must go back to Elmer's Dale and get into touch with Japp. Accordingly I took leave of the Haverings, and was driven off in the car that had brought us up from the station.
I found Japp at the Matlock Arms and he took me forthwith to see the body. Harrington Pace was a small, spare clean-shaven man, typically American in appearance. He had been shot through the back of the head, and the revolver had been discharged at close quarters. The one Mrs Havering handed over to us was fully loaded and I suppose the other one was also. Curious what darn fool things people do. Fancy keeping two loaded revolvers hanging up on your wall.
Oh, yes! When he was a boy at Oxford there was some funny business about the signature on one of his father's checks. All hushed up of course. Then, he's pretty heavily in debt now, and they're the kind of debts he wouldn't like to go to his uncle about, whereas you may be sure the uncle's will would be in his favor.
Yes, I'd got my eye on him, and that's why I wanted to speak to him before he saw his wife, but their statements dovetail all right, and I've been to the station and there's no doubt whatever that he left by the 6: That gets up to London about He went straight to his club, he says, and if that's confirmed all right - why, he couldn't have been shooting his uncle here at nine o'clock in a black beard! Americans that I've met are mostly clean-shaven.
Yes, it's amongst Mr Pace's American associates that we'll have to look for the murderer. I questioned the housekeeper first, and then her mistress, and their stories agree all right, but I'm sorry Mrs Havering didn't get a look at the fellow. She's a smart woman, and she might have noticed something that would set us on the track.
I was able to add various further items of information before I posted the letter. The bullet had been extracted and was proved to have been fired from a revolver identical with the one held by the police. Furthermore, Mr Havering's movements on the night in question had been checked and verified, and it was proved beyond doubt that he had actually arrived in London by the train in question.
And, thirdly, a sensational development had occurred. A city gentleman, living at Ealing, on crossing Haven Green to get to the District Railway Station that morning, had observed a brown-paper parcel stuck between the railings. Opening it, he found that it contained a revolver.
He handed the parcel over to the local police station, and before night it was proved to be the one we were in search of, the fellow to that given us by Mrs Havering. One bullet had been fired from it. All this I added to my report.
A wire from Poirot arrived whilst I was at breakfast the following morning: I also fancied he was a shade jealous of my position on the spot with full facilities for handling the case.
His request for a description of the clothes worn by the two women appeared to me to be simply ridiculous, but I complied as well as I, a mere man, was able to. At eleven a reply wire came from Poirot: He swore softly under his breath. If he says so, there's something in it. And I hardly noticed the woman. I don't know that I can go so far as arresting her, but I'll have her watched. We'll go up right away, and take another look at her. Mrs Middleton, that quiet middle-aged woman, who had appeared so normal and respectable, had vanished into thin air.
Her box had been left behind. It contained only ordinary wearing apparel. There was no clue in it to her identity or as to her whereabouts.
From Mrs Havering we elicited all the facts we could: I get all my servants from there. They sent several women to see me, but this Mrs Middleton seemed much the nicest, and had splendid references.
I engaged her on the spot, and notified the Agency of the fact. I can't believe that there was anything wrong with her. She was such a nice quiet woman. Whilst it was clear that the woman herself could not have committed the crime, since at the moment the shot was fired Mrs Havering was with her in the hall, nevertheless she must have some connection with the murder, or why should she suddenly take to her heels and bolt?
I wired the latest development to Poirot and suggested returning to London and making inquiries at Selbourne's Agency. Poirot's reply was prompt: The means of transport in Elmer's Dale were limited.
The local garage had two battered Ford cars, and there were two station flies. None of these had been requisitioned on the date in question. Questioned, Mrs Havering explained that she had given the woman the money for her fare down to Derbyshire and sufficient to hire a car or fly to take her up to Hunter's Lodge. There was usually one of the Fords at the station on the chance of its being required.
Taking into consideration the further fact that nobody at the station had noticed the arrival of a stranger, black-bearded or otherwise, on the fatal evening, everything seemed to point to the conclusion that the murderer had come to the spot in a car, which had been waiting near at hand to aid his escape, and that the same car had brought the mysterious housekeeper to her new post. I may mention that inquiries at the Agency in London bore out Poirot's prognostication.
No such woman as "Mrs Middleton" had ever been on their books. They had received the Hon Mrs Havering's application for a housekeeper, and had sent her various applicants for the post. When she sent them the engagement fee, she omitted to mention which woman she had selected.
Somewhat crestfallen, I returned to London. I found Poirot established in an arm-chair by the fire in a garish silk dressing-gown.