The ABC Murders
Агата Кристи

<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... 15 >>

‘Some madman or other, I suppose.’

‘That is all you have to say?’

‘Well—doesn’t it sound like a madman to you?’

‘Yes, my friend, it does.’

His tone was grave. I looked at him curiously.

‘You take this very seriously, Poirot.’

‘A madman, mon ami, is to be taken seriously. A madman is a very dangerous thing.’

‘Yes, of course, that is true…I hadn’t considered that point…But what I meant was, it sounds more like a rather idiotic kind of hoax. Perhaps some convivial idiot who had had one over the eight.’

‘Comment? Nine? Nine what?’

‘Nothing—just an expression. I meant a fellow who was tight. No, damn it, a fellow who had had a spot too much to drink.’

‘Merci, Hastings—the expression “tight” I am acquainted with it. As you say, there may be nothing more to it than that…’

‘But you think there is?’ I asked, struck by the dissatisfaction of his tone.

Poirot shook his head doubtfully, but he did not speak.

‘What have you done about it?’ I inquired.

‘What can one do? I showed it to Japp. He was of the same opinion as you—a stupid hoax—that was the expression he used. They get these things every day at Scotland Yard. I, too, have had my share…’

‘But you take this one seriously?’

Poirot replied slowly.

‘There is something about that letter, Hastings, that I do not like…’

In spite of myself, his tone impressed me.

‘You think—what?’

He shook his head, and picking up the letter, put it away again in the desk.

‘If you really take it seriously, can’t you do something?’ I asked.

‘As always, the man of action! But what is there to do? The county police have seen the letter but they, too, do not take it seriously. There are no fingerprints on it. There are no local clues as to the possible writer.’

‘In fact there is only your own instinct?’

‘Not instinct, Hastings. Instinct is a bad word. It is my knowledge—my experience—that tells me that something about that letter is wrong—’

He gesticulated as words failed him, then shook his head again.

‘I may be making the mountain out of the anthill. In any case there is nothing to be done but wait.’

‘Well, the 21st is Friday. If a whacking great robbery takes place near Andover then—’

‘Ah, what a comfort that would be—!’

‘A comfort?’ I stared. The word seemed to be a very extraordinary one to use.

‘A robbery may be a thrill but it can hardly be a comfort!’ I protested.

Poirot shook his head energetically.

‘You are in error, my friend. You do not understand my meaning. A robbery would be a relief since it would dispossess my mind of the fear of something else.’

‘Of what?’

‘Murder,’ said Hercule Poirot.

Chapter 2 (#ulink_18c90995-c6c9-5b07-b184-91e6d191492c)

Not from Captain Hastings’ Personal Narrative (#ulink_18c90995-c6c9-5b07-b184-91e6d191492c)

Mr Alexander Bonaparte Cust rose from his seat and peered near-sightedly round the shabby bedroom. His back was stiff from sitting in a cramped position and as he stretched himself to his full height an onlooker would have realized that he was, in reality, quite a tall man. His stoop and his near-sighted peering gave a delusive impression.

Going to a well-worn overcoat hanging on the back of the door, he took from the pocket a packet of cheap cigarettes and some matches. He lit a cigarette and then returned to the table at which he had been sitting. He picked up a railway guide and consulted it, then he returned to the consideration of a typewritten list of names. With a pen, he made a tick against one of the first names on the list.

It was Thursday, June 20th.

Chapter 3 (#ulink_65b663e7-5db5-5289-9aea-acd703bfdfcd)

Andover (#ulink_65b663e7-5db5-5289-9aea-acd703bfdfcd)

I had been impressed at the time by Poirot’s forebodings about the anonymous letter he had received, but I must admit that the matter had passed from my mind when the 21st actually arrived and the first reminder of it came with a visit paid to my friend by Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard. The CID inspector had been known to us for many years and he gave me a hearty welcome.

‘Well, I never,’ he exclaimed. ‘If it isn’t Captain Hastings back from the wilds of the what do you call it! Quite like old days seeing you here with Monsieur Poirot. You’re looking well, too. Just a little bit thin on top, eh? Well, that’s what we’re all coming to. I’m the same.’

I winced slightly. I was under the impression that owing to the careful way I brushed my hair across the top of my head the thinness referred to by Japp was quite unnoticeable. However, Japp had never been remarkable for tact where I was concerned, so I put a good face upon it and agreed that we were none of us getting any younger.

‘Except Monsieur Poirot here,’ said Japp. ‘Quite a good advertisement for a hair tonic, he’d be. Face fungus sprouting finer than ever. Coming out into the limelight, too, in his old age. Mixed up in all the celebrated cases of the day. Train mysteries, air mysteries, high society deaths—oh, he’s here, there and everywhere. Never been so celebrated as since he retired.’

‘I have already told Hastings that I am like the prima donna who makes always one more appearance,’ said Poirot, smiling.

‘I shouldn’t wonder if you ended by detecting your own death,’ said Japp, laughing heartily. ‘That’s an idea, that is. Ought to be put in a book.’

‘It will be Hastings who will have to do that,’ said Poirot, twinkling at me.

‘Ha ha! That would be a joke, that would,’ laughed Japp.
<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... 15 >>