The buxom dame waddled across to the lift briskly enough. Her husband, who had been talking to me, looked at Poirot inquiringly.
‘Madame your wife is so amiable as to insist on showing me her pearl necklace,’ explained the latter.
‘Oh, the pearls!’ Opalsen smiled in a satisfied fashion. ‘Well, they are worth seeing. Cost a pretty penny too! Still, the money’s there all right; I could get what I paid for them any day – perhaps more. May have to, too, if things go on as they are now. Money’s confoundedly tight in the City. All this infernal EPD.’ He rambled on, launching into technicalities where I could not follow him.
He was interrupted by a small page-boy who approached him and murmured something in his ear.
‘Eh – what? I’ll come at once. Not taken ill, is she? Excuse me, gentlemen.’
He left us abruptly. Poirot leaned back and lit one of his tiny Russian cigarettes. Then, carefully and meticulously, he arranged the empty coffee-cups in a neat row, and beamed happily on the result.
The minutes passed. The Opalsens did not return.
‘Curious,’ I remarked, at length. ‘I wonder when they will come back.’
Poirot watched the ascending spirals of smoke, and then said thoughtfully:
‘They will not come back.’
‘Because, my friend, something has happened.’
‘What sort of thing? How do you know?’ I asked curiously.
‘A few minutes ago the manager came hurriedly out of his office and ran upstairs. He was much agitated. The liftboy is deep in talk with one of the pages. The lift-bell has rung three times, but he heeds it not. Thirdly, even the waiters are distrait; and to make a waiter distrait –’ Poirot shook his head with an air of finality. ‘The affair must indeed be of the first magnitude. Ah, it is as I thought! Here come the police.’
Two men had just entered the hotel – one in uniform, the other in plain clothes. They spoke to a page, and were immediately ushered upstairs. A few minutes later, the same boy descended and came up to where we were sitting.
‘Mr Opalsen’s compliments, and would you step upstairs?’
Poirot sprang nimbly to his feet. One would have said that he awaited the summons. I followed with no less alacrity.
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