"Your cabin is on the lower deck-on the starboard side, is it not?" "Yes, yes, that is so. And I hear the big splash." His arms flew up once more to describe the bigness of the splash.
"Can you tell me at all what time that was?" Signor Richetti reflected.
"It was one, two, three hours after I go to sleep. Perhaps two hours." "About ten minutes past one, for instance?" "It might very well be, yes. Ah! but what a terrible crimehow inhuman So charming a woman…" Exit Signor Richetti-still gesticulating freely.
Race looked at Poirot. Poirot raised his eyebrows expressively. Then shrugged his shoulders. They passed on to Mr. Ferguson.
Ferguson was difficult. He sprawled insolently in a chair.
"Grand to-do about this business!" he sneered. "What's it really matter? Lot of superfluous women in the world!" Race said coldly: "Can we have an account of your movements last night, Mr. Ferguson?" "Don't see why you should. But I don't mind. I mooched around a good bit.
Went ashore with Miss Robson. When she went back to the boat I mooched around by myself for a while. Came back and turned in round about midnight." "Your cabin is on the lower deck-starboard side?" "Yes. I'm not up among the nobs." "Did you hear a shot? It might only have sounded like the popping of a cork." Ferguson considered.
"Yes, I think I did hear something like a cork… Can't remember when-before I went to sleep. But there were still a lot of people about then-commotion, running about on the deck above." "That was probably the shot fired by Miss de Bellefort. You didn't hear another?" Ferguson shook his head.
"Nor a splash?" "A splash? Yes, I believe I did hear a splash. But there was so much row going on I can't be sure about it." "Did you leave your cabin during the night?" Ferguson grinned.
"No, I didn't. And I didn't participate in the good work, worse luck."
"Come, come, Mr. Ferguson, don't behave childishly." The young man reacted angrily.
"Why shouldn't I say what I think? I believe in violence." "But you don't practise what you preach?" murmured Poirot. "I wonder." He leaned forward.
"It was the man, Fleetwood, was it not, who told you that Linnet Doyle was one of the richest women in England?" "What's Fleetwood got to do with this?" "Fleetwood, my friend, had an excellent motive for killing Linnet Doyle. He had a special grudge against her." Mr. Ferguson came up out of his seat like a Jack-inthe-Box.
"So that's your dirty game, is it?" he demanded wrathfully. "Put it on to a poor devil like Fleetwood who can't defend himself-who's got no money to hire lawyers. But I tell you this-ff you try and saddle Fleetwood with this business you'll have me to deal with." "And who exactly are you?" asked Poirot sweetly.
Mr. Ferguson got rather red.
"I can stick by my friends anyway," he said gruffly.
"Well, Mr. Ferguson, I think that's all we need for the present," said Race.
As the door closed behind Ferguson he remarked unexpectedly: "Rather a likeable young cub, really." "You don't think he is the man you are after?" asked Poirot.
"I hardly think so. I suppose he is on board. The information was very precise.
Oh, well, one job at a time. Let's have a go at Pennington."
Andrew Pennington displayed all the conventional reactions of grief and shock. He was, as usual, carefully dressed. He had changed into a black tie. His long clean-shaven face bore a bewildered expression.
"Gentlemen," he said sadly. "This business has got me right down! Little Linnet-why, I remember her as the cutest little thing you can imagine. How proud of her Melhuish Ridgeway used to be too! Well, there's no point in going into that. Just tell me what I can do-that's all I ask." Race said: "To begin with, Mr. Pennington, did you hear anything last night?" "No, sir, I can't say I did. I have the cabin right next to Dr. Bessner's, No.
38-39, and I heard a certain commotion going on in there round about midnight or so. Of course I didn't know what it was at the time." "You heard nothing else? No shots?" Andrew Pennington shook his head.
"Nothing whatever of the kind." "And you went to bed?" "Must have been some time after eleven." He leaned forward.
"I don't suppose it's news to you to know that there's plenty of rumours going about the boat. That half-French girl-Jacqueline de Bellefort. There was something fishy there, you know. Linnet didn't tell me anything but naturally I wasn't born blind and deaf. There'd been some affair between her and Simon some time, hadn't there? Cherchez la femme-that's a pretty good sound ruleand I should say you wouldn't have to cherchez far."
"You mean that in your belief Jacqueline de Bellefort shot Mrs. Doyle?" "That's what it looks like to me. Of course I don't know anything…" "Unfortunately we do know somethingl" "Eh?" Mr. Pennington looked startled.
"We know that is quite impossible for Miss de Bellefort to have shot Mrs.
He explained carefully the circumstances. Pennington seemed reluctant to accept them.
"I agree it looks all right on the fact of it-but this hospital nurse woman-I'll bet she didn't stay awake all night. She dozed off and the girl slipped out and in again."
"Hardly likely, M. Pennington. She had administered a strong opiate, remember. And anyway a nurse is in the habit of sleeping lightly and waking when her patient wakes.' · "It all sounds rather fishy to me," said Pennington.
Race said in a gently authoritative manner:
"I think you must take it from me, Mr. Pennington, that we have examined all the possibilities very carefully. The result is quite definiteJacqueline de Bellefort did not shoot Mrs. Doyle. So we are forced to look elsewhere. That is where we hope you may be able to help us."
Pennington gave a nervous start.
"Yes. You were an intimate friend of the dead woman's. You know the circumstances of her life, in all probability, much better than her husband does, since he only made her acquaintance a few months ago. You would know, for instance, of any one who had a grudge against her-you would know, perhaps, whether there was any one who had a motive for desiring her death."
Andrew Pennington passed his tongue over rather dry looking lips.
"I assure you, I have no idea… You see Linnet was brought up in England.
I know very little of her surroundings and associations."
"And yet," mused Poirot, "there was some one on board who was interested in Mrs. Doyle's removal. She had a near escape before, you remember, at this very place, when that boulder crashed!own-ah! but you were not there, perhaps?"
"No. I was inside the temple at the time. I heard about it afterwards, of course. A very near escape. But possibly an accident, don't you think?"
Poirot shrugged his shoulders.
"One thought so at the time. Now-one wonders."
"Yes-yes, of course." Pennington wiped his face with a fine silk handkerchief.
Colonel Race went on:
"Mrs. Doyle happened to mention some one being on board who bore a grudge-not against her personally-but against her family. Do you know who that could be?"
Pennington looked genuinely astonished.
"No, I've no idea."
"She didn't mention the matter to you?"
"You were an intimate friend of her father's-you cannot remember any business operation of his that might have resulted in ruin for some business opponent?"
Pennington shook his head helplessly.
"No outstanding case. Such operations were frequent, of course, but I can't recall any one who uttered threats-nothing of that kind.' "In short, Mr. Pennington, you cannot help us?" "It seems so. I deplore my inadequacy, gentlemen." Race interchanged a glance with Poirot, then he said: "I'm sorry too. We'd had hopes."
He got up as a sign the interview was at an end.
Andrew Pennignton said:
"As Doyle's laid up, I expect he'd like me to see to things. Pardon me, Colonel, but what exactly are the arrangements?"
"When we leave here we shall make a non-stop run to Shellal, arriving there to-morrow morning."
"And the body?"
"Will be removed to one of the cold storage chambers." Andrew Pennington bowed his head. Then he left the room.
Poirot and Race again interchanged a glance.
"Mr. Pennington," said Race, lighting a cigarette, "was not at all comfortable."
"And," he said, "Mr. Pennington was sufficiently perturbed to tell a rather stupid lie. He was not in the temple of Abu Simbel when that boulder fell. Ii qui vous parle--can swear to that. I had just come from there." "A very stupid lie," said Race, "and a very revealing one." Again Poirot nodded.
"But for the moment," he said, and smiled, "we handle him with the gloves of kid, is it not so?"
"That was the idea," said Race.
"My friend, you and I understand each other to a marvel."
There was a faint grinding noise, a stir beneath their feet. The Karnak had started on her homeward journey to Shellal.
"The pearls," said Race, "that is the next thing to be cleared up."
"You have a plan?"
"Yes." He glanced at his watch. "It will be lunch time in half an hour. At the end of the meal I propose to make an announcement-just state the fact that the pearls have been stolen, and that I must request every one to stay in the dining saloon while a search is conducted."
Poirot nodded approvingly.
"It is well imagined. Whoever took the pearls still has them. By giving no warning beforehand, there will be no chance of their being thrown overboard in a panic."
Race drew some sheets of paper towards him. He murmured apologetically:
"I like to make a brief precis of the facts as I go along. It keeps one's mind free of confusion."
"You do well. Method and order, they are everything," replied Poirot.
Race wrote for some minutes in his small neat script. Finally he pushed the result of his labours towards Poirot.
"Anything you don't agree with there?"
Poirot took up the sheets. They were headed: MURDER OF MRS. LINNET DOYLE Mrs. Doyle was last seen alive by her maid Louise Bourget. Time: 11.30 (approx).
From 11.3012.20 following have alibis-Cornelia Robson, James Fanthorp, Simon Doyle, Jacqueline de Bellefort-nobody e/se-but crime almost certainly committed after that time, since it is practically certain that pistol used was Jacqueline de Bellefort's which was then in her handbag. That her pistol was used is not absolutely certain until after post mortem and expert evidence re bullet but it may be taken as overwhelmingy probable.
Probable course of events: X (murderer) was witness of scene between Jacqueline and Simon Doyle in observation saloon and noted where pistol went under settee. After the saloon was vacant, X procured pistol his or her idea being that Jacqueline de Bellefort would be thought guilty of crime. On this theory certain people are automatically cleared of suspicion.
Cornelia Robson since she had no opportunity to take pistol before James
Fanthorp returned to search for it.
N.B. Fanthorp is not definitely excluded from suspicion since he could actually have pocketed pistol while declaring himself unable to find it.
Any other person could have taken the pistol during that ten minutes' interval.
Possible motives for the murder:
Andrew Pennington. This is on the assumption that he has been guilty of fraudulent practices. There is a certain amount of evidence in favour of that assu. mption, but not enough to justify making out a case against him. If it was he who rolled down the boulder he is a man who can seize a chance when it presents itself. The crime, clearly, was not premeditated except in a general way. Last night's shooting scene was an ideal opportunity.
Objections to the theory of Pennington's guilt. Why did he throw the pistol overboard since it constituted a valuable clue against].B.
Fleetwood. Motive, revenge. Fleetwood considered himself injured by Linnet Doyle'. Might have overheard scene and noted position of pistol. He may have taken pistol because it was a handy weapon rather than with the idea of throwing guilt on Jacqueline. This would fit in with throwing it overboard. But if that were the case, why did he write]. in blood on the wall!
N.B. Cheap handkerchief found with pistol more likely to have belonged to a man like Fleetwood than to one of the well-to-do passengers.
Rosalie Otterbourne. Are we to accept Miss Van Schuyler's evidence or Rosalie's denial? Something was thrown overboard at that time and that something was presumably the pistol wrapped up in the velvet stole.
Points to be noted. Had Rosalie any motive? She may have disliked Linnet Doyle and even been envious of her-but as a motive for murder that seems grossly inadequate. The evidence against her can only be convincing if we discover an adequate motive. As far as we know there is no previous knowledge or link between Rosalie Otterbourne and Linnet Doyle.
Miss Van Schuyler. The velvet stole in which pistol was wrapped belongs to Miss Van Schuyler. According to her own statement she last saw it in the observation saloon. She drew attention to its loss during the evening and a search was made for it without success.
How did the stole come into the possession of X? Did X purloin it some time early in the evening? But if so, why? Nobody could tell in advance that there was going to be a scene between Jacqueline and Simon. Did X find the stole in the saloon when he went to get the pistol from under the settee? But if so, why was it not found when the search for it was made? Did it ever leave Miss Van Schuyler's possession?
That is to say: Did Miss Van Schuyler murder Linnet Doyle? Is her accusation of Rosalie Otterbourne a deliberate lie? If she did murder her, what was her motive? Other possibilities.
Robbery as a motive. Possiblesince the pearls have disappeared and Linnet Doyle was certainly wearing them last night.
Some one with a grudge against the Ridgeway family. Possibleagain no evidence.
We know that there is a dangerous man on board-a killer. Here we have a killer and a death. May not the two be connected? But we should have to show that Linnet Doyle possessed dangerous knowledge concerning this man.
Conclusions. We can group the persons on board into two classes-those who had a possible motive or against whom there is no definite evidence, and those who, as far as we know, are free of suspicion.
Andrew Pennington Fleetwood.
Miss Van Schuyler.
Louise Bourget (Robbery?) Ferguson (Political?)
Poirot pushed the paper back.
"It is very just, very exact, what you have written there." "You agree with it?" "Yes." "And now what is your contribution?" Poirot drew himself up in an important manner. "Me, I pose to myself one question! "Why was the pistol thrown overboard?" "That's all?" "At the moment, yes. Until I can arrive at a satisfactory answer to that question, there is no sense anywhere. That is-that must bthe starting point.
You will notice, my friend, that in your summary of where we stand, you have not attempted to answer that point."
Race shrugged his shoulders.
Poirot shook his head perplexedly.
He picked up the sodden velvet wrap from the table and smoothed it out, wet and limp, on the table. His finger traced the scorched marks and the burnt holes.
"Tell me, my friend," he said suddenly. "You are more conversant with firearms than I am. Would such a thing as this, wrapped round a pistol, make much difference in muffling the sound?"
"No, it wouldn't. Not like a silencer, for instance."
Poirot nodded. He went on.
"A man-certainly a man who had had much handling of firearms-would know that. But a woman-a woman would not know." Race looked at him curiously.
"No. She would have read the detective stories where they are not always very exact as to details."
Race flicked the little pearl-handled pistol with his finger.
"This little.fellow wouldn't make much noise anyway," he said. "Just a pop, that's all. With any other noise around, ten to one you wouldn't notice it."
"Yes, I have reflected as to that."
He picked up the handkerchief and examined it.
"A man's handkerchief-but not a gentleman's handkerchief. Ce cher Woolworth, I imagine. Threepence at most."
"The sort of handkerchief a man like Fleetwood would own."
"Yes. Andrew Pennington, I notice, carries a very fine silk handkerchief."
"Fergu'son?" suggested Race.
"Possibly. As a gesture. But then it ought to be a bandana."
"Used it instead of a glove, I suppose, to hold the pistol and obviate fingerprints," Race added with slight facetiousness: "The Clue of the Blushing Handkerchief."
"Ah, yes. Quite ajeunefille colour, is it not?" He laid it down and returned to the stole, once more examining the powder marks.
"All the same," he murmured, "it is odd "
Poirot said gently:
"Cette pauvre Madame Doyle. Lying there so peacefully With the little hole in her head. You remember how she looked?" Race looked at him curiously.
"You know," he said, "I've got an idea you're trying to tell me something-but I haven't the faintest idea what it is."
There was a tap on the door.
"Come in," Race called.
A steward entered.
"Excuse me, sir," he said to Poirot. "But Mr. Doyle is asking for you."
"I will come."
Poirot rose. He went out of the room and up the companion way to the promenade deck and along it to Dr. Bessner's cabin.
Simon, his face flushed and feverish, was propped up with pillows.
He looked embarrassed.
"Awfully good of you to come along, M. Poirot. Look here, there's something
I want to ask you."
Simon got still redder in the face.
"It's-it's about Jackie. I want to see her. Do you think would you mind- would she mind, d'you think-if you asked her to come along here. You know I've been lying here thinking That wretched kid-she is only a kid after all and I treated her damn badly-and " He stammered to silence.
Poirot looked at him with interest.
"You desire to see Mademoiselle Jacqueline? I will fetch her." "Thanks.
Awfully good of you." Poirot went on his quest. He found Jacqueline de Bellefort sitting huddled up in a corner of the observation saloon. There was an open book on her lap but she was not reading.
Poirot said gently.
"Will you come with me, Mademoiselle? M. Doyle wants to see you." She started up. Her face flushed-then paled. She looked bewildered.
He wants to see me-to see me?" He found her incredulity moving.
"Will you come, Mademoiselle?" "I-yes, of course I will." She went with him in a docile fashion like a child--but like a puzzled child.
Poirot passed into the cabin.
"Here is Mademoiselle." She stepped in after him, wavered, stood still… standing there mute and dumb, her eyes fixed on Simon's face.
"Hallo, Jackie " He, too, was embarrassed. He went on: "Awfully good of you to come. I wanted to say-I mean-what I mean is-" She interrupted him then. Her words came out in a rush breathless desperate.
"Simon-I didn't kill Linnet. You know I didn't do that I-I-was mad last night.
Oh, can you ever forgive me?" Words came more easily to him now.
"Of course. That's all right! Absolutely all right! That's what I wanted to say.
Thought you might be worrying a bit, you know "
A bit? Oh! Simon!"
"That's what I wanted to see you about. It's quite all right, see, old girl? You just got a bit rattled last night-a shade tight. All perfectly natural."
"Oh, Simon! I might have killed you… "
"Not you. Not with a rotten little peashooter like that…"
"And your leg! Perhaps you'll never walk again… "
"Now, look here, Jackie, don't be maudlin. As soon as we get to Assuan they're going to put the X-rays to work, and dig out that tinpot bullet and everything will be as right as rain."
Jacqueline gulped twice, then she rushed forward and knelt down by Simon's bed, burying her face and sobbing. Simon patted her awkwardly on the head. His eyes met Poirot's and with a reluctant sigh the latter left the cabin.
He heard broken murmurs as he went…
"How could I be such a devil… Oh, Simon!… I'm so dreadfully sorry…
Outside Corneila Robson was leaning over the rail.
She turned her head.
"Oh, it's you, M. Poirot. It seems so awful somehow that it should be such a lovely day."
Poirot looked up at the sky.
"When the sun shines you cannot see the moon," he said. "But when the sun is gone-ah, when the sun is gone." Cornelia's mouth fell open. "I beg your pardon?"
"I was saying, Mademoiselle, that when the sun has gone down, we shall see the moon. That is so, is it not?"
"Why-why, yes-certainly.' She looked at him doubtfully.
Poirot laughed gently.
"I utter the imbecilities," he said. "Take no notice."
He strolled gently towards the stern of the boat. As he passed the next cabin he paused for a minute.
He caught fragments of speech from within.
"Utterly ungrateful-after all I've done for you-no consideration for your wretched mother…, no idea of what I suffer…"
Poirot's lips stiffened as he pressed them together. He raised a hand and knocked.
There was a startled silence and Mrs. Otterbourne's voice called out:
"Is Mademoiselle Rosalie there?"
Rosalie appeared in the doorway. Poirot was shocked at her appearance. There were dark circles under her eyes and drawn lines round her mouth.
"What's the matter?" she said ungraciously. "What do you want?"
"The pleasure of a few minutes' conversation with you, Mademoiselle. Will you come?"
Her mouth went sulky at once. She shot him a suspicious look.
"Why should I?"
"I entreat you, Mademoiselle."
"Oh, I suppose--"
She stepped out on the deck, closing the door behind her.
Poirot took her gently by the arm and drew her along the deck, still in the direction of the stern. They passed the bathrooms and round the corner. They had the stern part of the deck to themselves. The Nile flowed away behind them.
Poirot rested his elbows on the rail. Rosalie stood up straight and stiff.
"Well?" she said again, and her voice held the same ungracious tone.
Poirot spoke slowly, choosing his words.
"I could ask you certain questions, Mademoiselle, but I do not think for one moment that you would consent to answer them."
"Seems rather a waste to bring me along here then."
Poirot drew a finger slowly along the wooden rail.
"You are accustomed, Mademoiselle, to carrying your own burdens… But you can do that too long. The strain becomes too great. For you, Mademoiselle, the strain is becoming too great."
"I don't know what you are talking about," said Rosalie.
"I am talking about facts, Mademoiselle plain ugly facts. Let us call the spade the spade and say it in one little short sentence. Your mother drinks, Mademoiselle."
Rosalie did not answer. Her mouth opened, then she closed it again. For once she seemed at a loss.
"There is no need for you to talk, Mademoiselle. I will do all the talking. I was interested at Assuan in the relations existing between you. I saw at once that, in spite of your carefully studied unfilial remarks, you were in reality passionately protecting her from something. I very soon knew what that something was. I knew it long before I encountered your mother one morning in an unmistakable state of intoxication. Moreover, her case, I could see, was one of secret bouts of drinking-by far the most difficult kind of case with which to deal. You were coping with it manfully. Nevertheless, she had all the secret drunkard's cunning. She managed to get hold of a secret supply of spirits and to keep it successfully hidden from you. I should not be surprised if you discovered its hiding-place only yesterday.
Accordingly, last night, as soon as your mother was really soundly asleep, you stole out with the contents of the cache, went round to the other side of the boat (since your own side was up against the bank) and cast it overboard into the Nile."
"I am right, am I not?"
"Yes-you're quite right." Rosalie spoke with sudden passion. "I was a fool not to say so, I suppose! But I didn't want every one to know. It would go all over the boat. And it seemed so-so silly-I mean-that I-"
Poirot finished the sentence for her.
"So silly that you should be suspected of committing a murder?"
Then she burst out again.
"I've tried so hard to-keep every one from knowing… It isn't really her fault. She got discouraged. Her books didn't sell any more. People are tired of all that cheap sex stuff… It hurt her-it hurt her dreadfully. And so she began to-to drink. For a long time I didn't know why she was so queer. Then, when I found out, I tried to-to stop it. She'd be all right for a bit-and then suddenly, she'd start and there would be dreadful quarrels and rows with people. It was awful."
She shuddered. "I had always to be on the watch-to get her away…
"And then-she began to dislike me for it. Sheshe's turned right against me.
I think she almost hates me sometimes "
"Pauvre petite," said Poirot.
She turned on him vehemently.
"Don't be sorry for me. Don't be kind. It's easier ffyou're not." She sighed a long heartrending sigh. "I'm so tired… I'm so deadly, deadly tired."
"I know," said Poirot.
"People think I'm awful. Stuck up and cross and bad-tempered. I can't help it.
I've forgotten how to be-to be nice."
"That is what I said to you-you have carried your burden by yourself too long."
Rosalie said slowly:
"It is a relief to talk about it. You-you've always been kind to me, M.
Poirot. I'm afraid I've been rude to you often."
"La politesse, it is not necessary between friends."
The suspicion came back to her face suddenly.
"Are you-are you going to tell every one? I suppose you must because of those damned bottles I threw overboard."
"No, no, it is not necessary. Just tell me what I want to know. At what time was this? Ten minutes past one?"
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