Hercule Poirot 3-Book Collection 1: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder on the Links, Poirot Investigates
‘I should like to speak to you in private,’ said Dr Bauerstein. He turned to John. ‘You do not object?’
We all trooped out into the corridor, leaving the two doctors alone, and I heard the key turned in the lock behind us.
We went slowly down the stairs. I was violently excited. I have a certain talent for deduction, and Dr Bauerstein’s manner had started a flock of wild surmises in my mind. Mary Cavendish laid her hand upon my arm.
‘What is it? Why did Dr Bauerstein seem so—peculiar?’
I looked at her.
‘Do you know what I think?’
‘Listen!’ I looked round, the others were out of earshot. I lowered my voice to a whisper. ‘I believe she has been poisoned! I’m certain Dr Bauerstein suspects it.’
‘What?’ She shrank against the wall, the pupils of her eyes dilating wildly. Then, with a sudden cry that startled me, she cried out: ‘No, no—not that—not that!’ And breaking from me, fled up the stairs. I followed her, afraid that she was going to faint. I found her leaning against the banisters, deadly pale. She waved me away impatiently.
‘No, no—leave me. I’d rather be alone. Let me just be quiet for a minute or two. Go down to the others.’
I obeyed her reluctantly. John and Lawrence were in the dining-room. I joined them. We were all silent, but I suppose I voiced the thoughts of us all when I at last broke it by saying:
‘Where is Mr Inglethorp?’
John shook his head.
‘He’s not in the house.’
Our eyes met. Where was Alfred Inglethorp? His absence was strange and inexplicable. I remembered Mrs Inglethorp’s dying words. What lay beneath them? What more could she have told us, if she had had time?
At last we heard the doctors descending the stairs. Dr Wilkins was looking important and excited, and trying to conceal an inward exultation under a manner of decorous calm. Dr Bauerstein remained in the background, his grave bearded face unchanged. Dr Wilkins was the spokesman for the two. He addressed himself to John:
‘Mr Cavendish, I should like your consent to a postmortem.’
‘Is that necessary?’ asked John gravely. A spasm of pain crossed his face.
‘Absolutely,’ said Dr Bauerstein.
‘You mean by that –?’
‘That neither Dr Wilkins nor myself could give a death certificate under the circumstances.’
John bent his head.
‘In that case, I have no alternative but to agree.’
‘Thank you,’ said Dr Wilkins briskly. ‘We propose that it should take place tomorrow night—or rather tonight.’ And he glanced at the daylight. ‘Under the circumstances, I am afraid an inquest can hardly be avoided—these formalities are necessary, but I beg that you won’t distress yourselves.’
There was a pause, and then Dr Bauerstein drew two keys from his pocket, and handed them to John.
‘These are the keys of the two rooms. I have locked them and, in my opinion, they would be better kept locked for the present.’
The doctors then departed.
I had been turning over an idea in my head, and I felt that the moment had now come to broach it. Yet I was a little chary of doing so. John, I knew, had a horror of any kind of publicity, and was an easygoing optimist, who preferred never to meet trouble half-way. It might be difficult to convince him of the soundness of my plan. Lawrence, on the other hand, being less conventional, and having more imagination, I felt I might count upon as an ally. There was no doubt that the moment had come for me to take the lead.
‘John,’ I said, ‘I am going to ask you something.’
‘You remember my speaking of my friend Poirot? The Belgian who is here? He has been a most famous detective.’
‘I want you to let me call him in—to investigate this matter.’
‘What—now? Before the post-mortem?’
‘Yes, time is an advantage if—if—there has been foul play.’
‘Rubbish!’ cried Lawrence angrily. ‘In my opinion the whole thing is a mare’s nest of Bauerstein’s! Wilkins hadn’t an idea of such a thing, until Bauerstein put it into his head. But, like all specialists, Bauerstein’s got a bee in his bonnet. Poisons are his hobby, so, of course, he sees them everywhere.’
I confess that I was surprised by Lawrence’s attitude. He was so seldom vehement about anything.
‘I can’t feel as you do, Lawrence,’ he said at last, ‘I’m inclined to give Hastings a free hand, though I should prefer to wait a bit. We don’t want any unnecessary scandal.’
‘No, no,’ I cried eagerly, ‘you need have no fear of that. Poirot is discretion itself.’
‘Very well then, have it your own way. I leave it in your hands. Though, if it is as we suspect, it seems a clear enough case. God forgive me if I am wronging him!’
I looked at my watch. It was six o’clock. I determined to lose no time.
Five minutes’ delay, however, I allowed myself. I spent it in ransacking the library until I discovered a medical book which gave a description of strychnine poisoning.
Chapter 4 (#ulink_593c52fb-8902-51e7-8fde-d59f68b30656)
Poirot Investigates (#ulink_593c52fb-8902-51e7-8fde-d59f68b30656)
The house which the Belgians occupied in the village was quite close to the park gates. One could save time by taking a narrow path through the long grass, which cut off the detours of the winding drive. So I, accordingly, went that way. I had nearly reached the lodge, when my attention was arrested by the running figure of a man approaching me. It was Mr Inglethorp. Where had he been? How did he intend to explain his absence?
He accosted me eagerly.
‘My God! This is terrible! My poor wife! I have only just heard.’
‘Where have you been?’ I asked.