The Submarine Plans: A Hercule Poirot Short Story
The Submarine Plans: A Hercule Poirot Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.After plans for a new submarine are stolen, Poirot is summoned by the head of the Ministry of Defence to find the traitor in their midst…
The Submarine Plans
A Hercule Poirot Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Ebook Edition © JUNE 2014 ISBN 9780007560158
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A note had been brought by special messenger. Poirot read it, and a gleam of excitement and interest came into his eyes as he did so. He dismissed the man with a few curt words and then turned to me.
‘Pack a bag with all haste, my friend. We’re going down to Sharples.’
I started at the mention of the famous country place of Lord Alloway. Head of the newly formed Ministry of Defence, Lord Alloway was a prominent member of the Cabinet. As Sir Ralph Curtis, head of a great engineering firm, he had made his mark in the House of Commons, and he was now freely spoken of as the coming man, and the one most likely to be asked to form a ministry should the rumours as to Mr David MacAdam’s health prove well founded.
A big Rolls-Royce car was waiting for us below, and as we glided off into the darkness, I plied Poirot with questions.
‘What on earth can they want us for at this time of night?’ I demanded. It was past eleven.
Poirot shook his head. ‘Something of the most urgent, without doubt.’
‘I remember,’ I said, ‘that some years ago there was some rather ugly scandal about Ralph Curtis, as he then was—some jugglery with shares, I believe. In the end, he was completely exonerated; but perhaps something of the kind has arisen again?’
‘It would hardly be necessary for him to send for me in the middle of the night, my friend.’
I was forced to agree, and the remainder of the journey was passed in silence. Once out of London, the powerful car forged rapidly ahead, and we arrived at Sharples in a little under the hour.
A pontifical butler conducted us at once to a small study where Lord Alloway was awaiting us. He sprang up to greet us—a tall, spare man who seemed actually to radiate power and vitality.
‘M. Poirot, I am delighted to see you. It is the second time the government has demanded your services. I remember only too well what you did for us during the war, when the Prime Minister was kidnapped in that astounding fashion. Your masterly deductions—and may I add, your discretion?—saved the situation.’
Poirot’s eyes twinkled a little.
‘Do I gather then, milor’, that this is another case for—discretion?’
‘Most emphatically. Sir Harry and I—oh, let me intoduce you—Admiral Sir Harry Weardale, our First Sea Lord—M. Poirot and—let me see, Captain—’
‘Hastings,’ I supplied.
‘I’ve often heard of you, M. Poirot,’ said Sir Harry, shaking hands. ‘This is a most unaccountable business, and if you can solve it, we’ll be extremely grateful to you.’
I liked the First Sea Lord immediately, a square, bluff sailor of the good old-fashioned type.
Poirot looked inquiringly at them both, and Alloway took up the tale.
‘Of course, you understand that all this is in confidence, M. Poirot. We have had a most serious loss. The plans of the new Z type of submarine have been stolen.’
‘When was that?’
‘Tonight—less than three hours ago. You can appreciate perhaps, M. Poirot, the magnitude of the disaster. It is essential that the loss should not be made public. I will give you the facts as briefly as possible. My guests over the week-end were the Admiral, here, his wife and son, and Mrs Conrad, a lady well known in London society. The ladies retired to bed early—about ten o’clock; so did Mr Leonard Weardale. Sir Harry is down here partly for the purpose of discussing the construction of this new type of submarine with me. Accordingly, I asked Mr Fitzroy, my secretary, to get out the plans from the safe in the corner there, and to arrange them ready for me, as well as various other documents that bore upon the subject in hand. While he was doing this, the Admiral and I strolled up and down the terrace, smoking cigars and enjoying the warm June air. We finished our smoke and our chat, and decided to get down to business. Just as we turned at the far end of the terrace, I fancied I saw a shadow slip out of the french window here, cross the terrace, and disappear. I paid very little attention, however. I knew Fitzroy to be in this room, and it never entered my head that anything might be amiss. There, of course, I am to blame. Well, we retraced our steps along the terrace and entered this room by the window just as Fitzroy entered it from the hall.
‘ “Got everything out we are likely to need, Fitzroy?” I asked.
‘ “I think so, Lord Alloway. The papers are all on your desk,” he answered. And then he wished us both good night.
‘ “Just wait a minute,” I said, going to the desk. “I may want something I haven’t mentioned.”
‘I looked quickly through the papers that were lying there.
‘ “You’ve forgotten the most important of the lot, Fitzroy,” I said. “The actual plans of the submarine!”
‘ “The plans are right on top, Lord Alloway.”