A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.A wealthy family receives threats to kidnap their young son. The Waverlys are told exactly what time and place the kidnapping will happen. Even with the details and the police standing guard the boy is snatched from underneath their noses and it is up to Poirot to find him…
The Adventure of Johnny Waverley
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)
Copyright © 1999 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Ebook Edition © MAY 2013 ISBN: 9780007526444
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The Adventure of Johnny Waverley
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‘The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly’ was first published as ‘The Kidnapping of Johnnie Waverly’ in The Sketch, 10 October 1923.
‘You can understand the feelings of a mother,’ said Mrs Waverly for perhaps the sixth time.
She looked appealingly at Poirot. My little friend, always sympathetic to motherhood in distress, gesticulated reassuringly.
‘But yes, but yes, I comprehend perfectly. Have faith in Papa Poirot.’
‘The police –’ began Mr Waverly.
His wife waved the interruption aside. ‘I won’t have anything more to do with the police. We trusted to them and look what happened! But I’d heard so much of M. Poirot and the wonderful things he’d done, that I felt he might possibly be able to help us. A mother’s feelings –’
Poirot hastily stemmed the reiteration with an eloquent gesture. Mrs Waverly’s emotion was obviously genuine, but it assorted strangely with her shrewd, rather hard type of countenance. When I heard later that she was the daughter of a prominent steel manufacturer who had worked his way up in the world from an office boy to his present eminence, I realized that she had inherited many of the paternal qualities.
Mr Waverly was a big, florid, jovial-looking man. He stood with his legs straddled wide apart and looked the type of the country squire.
‘I suppose you know all about this business, M. Poirot?’
The question was almost superfluous. For some days past the papers had been full of the sensational kidnapping of little Johnnie Waverly, the three-year-old son and heir of Marcus Waverly, Esq., of Waverly Court, Surrey, one of the oldest families in England.
‘The main facts I know, of course, but recount to me the whole story, monsieur, I beg of you. And in detail if you please.’
‘Well, I suppose the beginning of the whole thing was about ten days ago when I got an anonymous letter – beastly things, anyway – that I couldn’t make head or tail of. The writer had the impudence to demand that I should pay him twenty-five thousand pounds – twenty-five thousand pounds, M. Poirot! Failing my agreement, he threatened to kidnap Johnnie. Of course I threw the thing into the wastepaper basket without more ado. Thought it was some silly joke. Five days later I got another letter. “Unless you pay, your son will be kidnapped on the twenty-ninth.” That was on the twenty-seventh. Ada was worried, but I couldn’t bring myself to treat the matter seriously. Damn it all, we’re in England. Nobody goes about kidnapping children and holding them up to ransom.’
‘It is not a common practice, certainly,’ said Poirot. ‘Proceed, monsieur.’
‘Well, Ada gave me no peace, so – feeling a bit of a fool – I laid the matter before Scotland Yard. They didn’t seem to take the thing very seriously – inclined to my view that it was some silly joke. On the twenty-eighth I got a third letter. “You have not paid. Your son will be taken from you at twelve o’clock noon tomorrow, the twenty-ninth. It will cost you fifty thousand pounds to recover him.” Up I drove to Scotland Yard again. This time they were more impressed. They inclined to the view that the letters were written by a lunatic, and that in all probability an attempt of some kind would be made at the hour stated. They assured me that they would take all due precautions. Inspector McNeil and a sufficient force would come down to Waverly on the morrow and take charge.
‘I went home much relieved in mind. Yet we already had the feeling of being in a state of siege. I gave orders that no stranger was to be admitted, and that no one was to leave the house. The evening passed off without any untoward incident, but on the following morning my wife was seriously unwell. Alarmed by her condition, I sent for Doctor Dakers. Her symptoms appeared to puzzle him. While hesitating to suggest that she had been poisoned, I could see that that was what was in his mind. There was no danger, he assured me, but it would be a day or two before she would be able to get about again. Returning to my own room, I was startled and amazed to find a note pinned to my pillow. It was in the same handwriting as the others and contained just three words: “At twelve o’clock”.
‘I admit, M. Poirot, that then I saw red! Someone in the house was in this – one of the servants. I had them all up, blackguarded them right and left. They never split on each other; it was Miss Collins, my wife’s companion, who informed me that she had seen Johnnie’s nurse slip down the drive early that morning. I taxed her with it, and she broke down. She had left the child with the nursery maid and stolen out to meet a friend of hers – a man! Pretty goings on! She denied having pinned the note to my pillow – she may have been speaking the truth, I don’t know. I felt I couldn’t take the risk of the child’s own nurse being in the plot. One of the servants was implicated – of that I was sure. Finally I lost my temper and sacked the whole bunch, nurse and all. I gave them an hour to pack their boxes and get out of the house.’
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