THE BIG FOUR 3 "No, my friend Hastings," he would say; "we leave that to Giraud and his friends. Hercule Poirot's methods are his own. Order and method, and. Big Four · Read more · Big Four. Read more · The Big Four · Read more Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot 05 - Big Four. Read more. Agatha Christie - Big Four. Home · Agatha Christie - Big Four Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot 05 - Big Four · Read more.
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Here you are you will find The Big Four (Hercule Poirot, #5) PDF with mix The Big Four (Hercule Poirot, #5) Audiobook CD, Kindle The Big Four (Hercule Poirot. All five Tommy & Tuppence novels in a collectable box to coincide with the new BBC TV series. Tommy and Tuppence, two young people short of money and. actress, but the quartet must soon fight a dangerous battle with the Big Four, a secret Free download or read online The Big Four pdf (ePUB) (Hercule Poirot.
If one man does not make a move, the other must, and by permitting the adversary to make the attack one learns something about him. Poirot enters the world of international espionage in this novel created from a reworked collection of short stories.
The original stories were published in and it was in that Agatha Christie, in need of a new book, gathered them together with the help of her brother-in-law and submitted them to her publisher. The story became a graphic novel in , illustrated by Alain Paillou, and published in France.
It was translated and published in English in the UK in Skip to main navigation Skip to content. Home Stories The Big Four. The Big Four download. It is an eight-day clock, you comprehend?
Some idea of a false scent by making the crime appear to have taken place at four o'clock? Exercise your little gray cells. You are Mayerling. You hear something, perhaps--and you know well enough that 18 Agatha Christie your doom is sealed.
You have just time to leave a sign. Four o'clock, Hastings. Number Four, the destroyer. He asked for Hanwell. What is that you say? A little moment, if you please. Will you repeat that? There has been no escape. A minute or two after, on recovering my voice, I said: He was a man of very pronounced personality.
I think not.
Agatha Christie - Big Four
He was burly and bluff and red-faced, with a thick moustache and a hoarse voice. He will be none of those things by this time, and for the rest, he has nondescript eyes, nondescript ears, and a perfect set of false teeth.
Identification is not such an easy matter as you seem to think. Next time--" "You think there will be a next time? Poirot's face grew very grave. You and I on the one side, the Big Four on the other. They have won the first trick; but they have failed in their plan to get me out of the way, and in the future they have to reckon with Hercule Poirot!
If he intended to return later for the body, I can see some point in his visit. He would at least be removing the evidence against himself; as it is, he does not seem to have gained anything. True, we have a body, but we have no proof even that the man was murdered--prussic acid, when inhaled, leaves no trace. Again, we can find no one who saw any one enter the flat during our absence, and we have found out nothing about the movements of our late friend, Mayerling His visit we may call a reconnaisance.
Perhaps he wanted to make quite sure that Mayerling was dead, but more likely, I think, he came to see Hercule Poirot, and to have speech with the adversary whom alone he must fear. Can we produce anything to impress a coroner's jury of your solid Britishers? Is our description of Number Four of any value? No; we shall allow them to call it 'Accidental Death,' and may be, although I have not much hope, our clever murderer will pat himself on the back that he deceived Hercule Poirot in the first round.
We saw no more of the man from the asylum, and the inquest, at which I gave evidence, but which Poirot did not even attend, aroused no public interest. As, in view of his intended trip to South America, Poirot had wound up his affairs before my arrival, he had at this time no cases on hand, but although he spent most of his time in the flat I could get little out of him.
Big Four alumni: who’s working at the audit regulator?
He remained buried in an arm-chair, and discouraged my attempts at conversation. But I found he was not communicative. Even when I asked where we were going, he would not answer. Poirot loves being mysterious. He will never part with a piece of information until the last possible moment.
John Ingles. To all intents and purposes, he is a retired Civil Servant of mediocre intellect, with a house full of Chinese curios with which he bores his friends and acquaintances.
Nevertheless, I am assured by those who should know that the only man capable of giving me the information I seek is this same John Ingles. Ingles's residence was called. Personally, I did not notice a laurel bush of any kind, so deduced that it had been named according to the usual obscure nomenclature of the suburbs. We were admitted by an impassive-faced Chinese servant and ushered into the presence of his master. Ingles was a squarely-built man, somewhat yellow of countenance, with deep-set eyes that were oddly reflective in character.
He rose to greet us, setting aside an open letter which he had held in his hand. He referred to it after his greeting. Halsey tells me that you want 22 Agatha Christie some information and that I may be useful to you in the matter. I ask of you if you have any knowledge of a man named Li Chang Yen?
How did you come to hear about the man? And I know something of him-not quite as much as I should like to. But it surprises me that any one else in England should even have heard of him. He's a great man in his way--mandarin class and all that, you know--but that's not the crux of the matter.
There's good reason to suppose that he's the man behind it all. The world-wide unrest, the labour troubles that beset every nation, and the revolutions that break out in some.
There are people, not scaremongers, who know what they are talking about, and they say that there is a force behind the scenes which aims at nothing less then the disintegration of civilisation. In Russia, you know, there were many signs that Lenin and Trotsky were mere puppets whose every action was dictated by another's brain. I have no definite proof that would count with you, but I am quite convinced that this brain was Li Chang Yen's.
How would a Chinaman cut any ice in Russia? But continue, I pray, monsieur. Ingles; "but I assume his disease is one that has attacked great brains from the time of Akbar and Alexander to Napoleon—a lust for power and personal supremacy.
Up to modern times armed force was necessary for conquest, but in this century of unrest a man like Li Chang Yen can use other means. I have evidence that he has unlimited money behind him for bribery and propaganda, and there are signs that he controls some scientific force more powerful than the world has dreamed of.
Ingles's words with the closest attention. I know personally every man who counts for anything in China to-day, and this I can tell you: They are marionettes who dance to the wires pulled by a master hand, and that hand is Li Chang Yen's. His is the controlling brain of the East to-day.
We don't understand the East—we never shall; but Li Chang Yen is its moving spirit. Not that he comes out into the limelight—oh, not at all; he never moves from his palace in Pekin. But he pulls strings—that's it, pulls strings—and things happen far away.
Ingles leant forward in his chair. Any one of them might in time have interfered with his plans. One wrote an article, and mentioned Li Chang Yen's name in connection with the riots in Pekin, and within two days he was stabbed in the street. His murderer was never caught. The offences of the other two were similar. In a speech or an article, or in conversation, each linked Li Chang Yen's name with rioting or revolution and within a week of his indiscretion each was dead.
One was poisoned; one died of cholera, an isolated case--not part of an epidemic; and one was found dead in his bed. The cause of the last death was never determined, but I was told by a doctor who saw the corpse that it was burnt and shrivelled as though a wave of electrical energy of incredible power had passed through it. Ingles shrugged. And once I found a man who would talk, a brilliant young Chinese chemist who was a protege of Li Chang Yen's.
He came to me one day, this chemist, and I could see that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He hinted to me of experiments on which he'd been engaged in Li Chang Yen's palace under the mandarin's direction--experiments on coolies in which the most revolting disregard for human life and suffering had been shown. His nerve had completely broken, and he was in the most pitiable state of terror.
I put him to bed in a top room of my own house, intending to question him the next day-and that, of course, was stupid of me. I woke that night to find my house in flames, and was lucky to escape with my life. Ingles was a man mounted on his hobby horse, and evidently he, too, realised that he had been carried away, for he laughed apologetically. We ourselves are more than a little interested in Li Chang Yen.
Didn't fancy a soul in England had ever heard of him. I'd rather like to know how you did come to hear of him--if it's not indiscreet.
A man took refuge in my rooms. He was suffering badly from shock, but he managed to tell us enough to interest us in this Li Chang Yen. He described four people--the Big Four--an organisation hitherto undreamed of. My informant died. Tell me, monsieur, is that phrase known to you at all? The Big Four. No, I can't say it is. But I've heard it, or read it, just lately--and in some unusual connection too. Ah, I've got it.
He returned with a letter in his hand. Note from an old sea-faring man I ran 26 Agatha Christie against once in Shanghai. Hoary old reprobate—maudlin with drink by now, I should say. I took this to be the ravings of alcoholism. Do me another now. I must have money to get out of the country. I'm well hid here, I hope, but any day they may get me. The Big Four, I mean. It's life or death. I've plenty of money, but I daren't get at it, for fear of putting them wise.
Send me a couple of hundred in notes. I'll repay it faithful—I swear to that. I'm afraid I regarded it as rather a crude method of relieving me of a couple of hundred which I can ill spare. If it's any use to you—" He held it out. I start for Hoppaton a I'heure memo. Supposing I came along too? Any objection? We shall not reach Dartmoor until close on nightfall, as it is.
Hoppaton was a small village clustering in a hollow right on the fringe of the moorland. It was reached by a nine-mile drive from Moretonhamstead. It was about eight o'clock when we arrived; but as the month was July, the daylight was still abundant. The old man pointed to a small gray cottage at the end of the street.
Do yee want to see t'lnspector? A shocking business t'was seemingly. Pools of blood, they do say. The Inspector was inclined to be stiff at first, but at the magic name of Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard, he unbent. A shocking business. They 'phoned to Moreton, and I came out at once. Looked a mysterious thing to begin with. The old man --he was about seventy, you know, and fond of his glass, from all I hear--was lying on the floor of the living-room.
There was a bruise on his head and his throat was cut from ear to ear. Blood all over the place, as you can understand. The woman who cooks for him, Betsy Andrews, she told us that her master had several little Chinese jade figures, that he'd told her were very valuable, and these had disappeared. That, of course, looked like assault and robbery; but there were all sorts of difficulties in the way of that solution.
The old fellow had two people in the house; Betsy Andrews, who is a Hoppaton woman, and a rough kind of manservant, 28 Agatha Christie Robert Grant. Grant had gone to the farm to fetch the milk, which he does every day, and Betsy had stepped out to have a chat with a neighbour.
She was only away twenty minutes--between ten and half-past--and the crime must have been done then. Grant returned to the house first. He went in by the back door, which was open--no one locks up doors round here--not in broad daylight, at all events--put the milk in the larder, and went into his own room to read the paper and have a smoke.
Had no idea anything unusual had occurred--at least, that's what he says. Then Betsy comes in, goes into the living-room, sees what's happened, and lets out a screech to wake the dead. That's all fair and square. Some one got in whilst those two were out, and did the poor old man in. But it struck me at once that he must be a pretty cool customer. He'd have to come right up the village street, or creep through some one's back yard.
Granite Bungalow has got houses all round it, as you can see. How was it that no one had seen him? And I began to look about me. Those jade figures, now. Would a common tramp ever suspect that they were valuable? Anyway, it was madness to try such a thing in broad daylight. Suppose the old man had yelled for help? Inspector," said Mr.
Ingles, "that the bruise on the head was inflicted before death? First knocked him silly, the murderer did, and then cut his throat. That's clear enough. But how the dickens did he come or go? They notice strangers quick enough in a little place like this. It came to me all at once--nobody did come. I took a good look round. In the living-room there were two sets of footprints only Betsy Andrews' stopped at the door --Mr.
Whalley's he was wearing carpet slippers and another man's. The other man had stepped in the blood-stains, and I traced his bloody footprints--I beg your pardon, sir.
Ingles, with a faint smile; "the adjective is perfectly understood. Point Number One. On the lintel of Robert Grant's door was a faint smear--a smear of blood. That's point Number Two. Point Number Three was when I got hold of Grant's boots--which he had taken off--and fitted them to the marks. That settled it. It was an inside job. I warned Grant and took him into custody; and what do you think I found packed away in his portmanteau?
The little jade figures and a ticket-of-leave. Robert Grant was also Abraham Biggs, convicted for felony and housebreaking five years ago. This Biggs, or Grant, he must be a man very foolish and uneducated, eh? No idea of what a footprint may mean.
Well, Inspector, I congratulate you. We may look at the scene of the crime. I'd like you to see those footprints. Yes, yes, very interesting, very ingenious. Ingles and the Inspector 30 Agatha Christie forged ahead. I drew Poirot back a little so as to be able to speak to him out of the Inspector's hearing. Is there more in this than meets the eye? Whalley says plainly enough in his letter that the Big Four are on his track, and we know, you and I, that the Big Four is no bogey for the children.
Yet everything seems to say that this man Grant committed the crime. Why did he do so? For the sake of the little jade figures? Or is he an agent of the Big Four? I confess that this last seems more likely. However valuable the jade, a man of that class was not likely to realise the fact—at any rate, not to the point of committing murder for them. That, par exemple, ought to have struck the Inspector.
He could have stolen the jade and made off with it instead of committing a brutal and quite purposeless murder. Ah, yes; I fear our Devonshire friend has not used his little gray cells. He has measured footprints, and has omitted to reflect and arrange his ideas with the necessary order and method. A door at the farther end led into the small kitchen. From there another door led into the scullery where the back door was situated , and another into the bedroom which had been occupied by Robert Grant.
Having explored the ground, Poirot commented upon it in a low running monologue. Traces of carpet slippers and 'number nine' boots, you observe, but all very confused.
Then two sets of tracks leading to and from the kitchen; whoever the murderer was, he came in that way. You have the boot, Hastings? Give it to me. He came in that way, killed the old man, and went back to the kitchen.
He had stepped in the blood; see the stains he left as he went out? Nothing to be seen in the kitchen--all the village has been walking about in it. He went into his own room--no, first he went back again to the scene of the crime--was that to get the little jade figures?
Or had he forgotten something that might incriminate him? On one of the outgoing footmarks stained with blood there is superimposed an ingoing one.
I wonder what he went back for--the little jade figures as an afterthought? It is all ridiculous --stupid. I tell you, Hastings, it goes against reason. It offends my little gray cells. Robert Grant's footmarks, and his only, near the body --Robert Grant the only man who went near the house. Yes, it must be so. She might have killed him and then gone out. Her feet would leave no prints if she hadn't been outside.
I wondered whether that hypothesis would occur to you. I had already thought of it and rejected it.
Betsy Andrews is a local woman, well known hereabouts. She can have no connection with the Big Four; and, besides, old Whalley was a powerful fellow, by all accounts. This is a man's work--not a woman's. I know, Hastings, that you have an imagination of the most fertile--but I implore of you to keep it within bounds. Poirot continued to wander about, poking into rooms and cupboards with a profoundly dissatisfied expression on his face. Suddenly he uttered an excited yelp, reminiscent of a Pomeranian dog.
I rushed to join him. He was standing in the larder in a dramatic attitude. In his hand he was brandishing a leg of mutton! Have you suddenly gone mad? But regard it closely! It seemed to me a very ordinary leg of mutton. I said as much. Poirot threw me a withering glance. Poirot had just accused me of being imaginative, but I now felt that he was far more wildly so than I had ever been. Did he seriously think these slivers of ice were crystals of a deadly poison?
That was the only construction I could put upon his extraordinary agitation. New Zealand. He knows everything--but everything! How do they say--Inquire Within Upon Everything.
Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot 05 - Big Four
That is my friend Hastings. Then he looked through the window. It is well. I have seen all I want to see here. Monday, is it? A bad day of the week. To commit a murder on a Monday is a mistake. An orthodox English summer's day. The other gave a slow smile. I'm a connoisseur of some things, but not of this. So I just stand back and keep out of the way.
I've learnt patience in the East. He insisted on taking us over most of the ground again, but finally we got away. Inspector," said Poirot, as we were walking down the village street again.
I have not the least interest in the body. I want to see Robert Grant. But I must see him and be able to speak to him alone. But it's very irregular.
Who is. He drove up to Granite Bungalow in a trap, which he left outside. He went in, committed the murder, came 36 Agatha Christie out, and drove away again. He was bare-headed, and his clothing was slightly bloodstained. Any amount of wheeled vehicles have passed along outside. There's no mark of one in particular to be seen. I was utterly bewildered, but I had faith in Poirot.
Further discussion ended in our all driving back to Moreton with the Inspector. Poirot and I were taken to Grant, but a constable was to be present during the interview.
Poirot went straight to the point. Relate to me in your own words exactly what happened. He looked a jailbird if ever a man did. It was a frame-up, that's what it was. I went straight to my rooms when I came in, like I said. I never knew a thing till Betsy screeched out. S'welp me, God, I didn't. I tell you solemnly--on my word of honour--that to be frank now is your only chance.
I came in, and went straight to the master--and there he was, dead on the floor and blood all round. Then I got the wind up proper. They'd ferret out my record, and for a certainty they'd say it was me as had done him in. My only thought was to get away--at once--before he was found--" "And the jade figures? You had heard your master say that they were valuable, and you felt you might as well go the whole hog.
That, I understand. Now, answer me this. Was it the second time that you went into the room that you took the figures? Once was enough for me. Now, when did you come out of prison? Bloke met me when I came out. Soft black hat and mincing way of talking. Got a broken 38 Agatha Christie front tooth. Spectacled chap. Saunders his name was. Said he hoped I was repentant, and that he'd find me a good post.
I went to old Whalley on his recommendation. I know all now. Have patience. But how did you know? After a word or two to the Inspector, the three of us went to the White Hart and discussed eggs and bacon and Devonshire cider. Whalley was killed by order of the Big Four--but not by Grant.
A very clever man got Grant the post and deliberately planned to make him the scapegoat--an easy matter with Grant's prison record. He gave him a pair of boots, one of two duplicate pairs. The other he kept himself. It was all so simple. When Grant is out of the house, and Betsy is chatting in the village which she probably did everyday of her life , he drives up wearing the duplicate boots, enters the kitchen, goes through into the living-room, fells the old man with a blow, and then cuts his throat.
Then he returns to the kitchen, removes the boots, puts on another pair, and, carrying the first pair, goes out to his trap and drives off again. Why did nobody see him? Everybody saw him—and yet nobody saw him. You see, he drove up in a butcher's cart!
Everybody swore that no one had been to Granite Bungalow that morning, but, nevertheless, I found in the larder a leg of mutton, still frozen.
It was Monday, so the meat must have been delivered that morning; for if on Saturday, in this hot weather, it would not have remained frozen over Sunday. So some one had been to the Bungalow, and a man on whom a trace of blood here and there would attract no attention. Number Four. My friend threw me a glance of dignified reproach. That is enough for one day. The case which he had built up against Grant--the man's record, the jade which he had stolen, the boots which fitted the footprints so exactly--was to his matter-of-fact mind too complete to be easily upset; but Poirot, compelled much against his inclination to give evidence, convinced the jury.
Two witnesses were produced who had seen a butcher's cart drive up to the bungalow on that Monday morning, and the local butcher testified that his cart only called there on Wednesdays and Fridays. A woman was actually found who, when questioned, remembered seeing the butcher's man leaving the bungalow, but she could furnish no useful description of him. The only impression he seemed to have left on her 41 42 Agatha Christie mind was that he was clean-shaven, of medium height, and looked exactly like a butcher's man.
At this description Poirot shrugged his shoulders philosophically. He disguises himself not with the false beard and the blue spectacles. He alters his features, yes; but that is the least part. For the time being he is the man he would be. He lives in his part. I should never for a moment have dreamt of doubting that he was genuine. It was all a little discouraging, and our experience on Dartmoor did not seem to have helped us at all.
I said as much to Poirot, but he would not admit that we had gained nothing. At every contact with this man we learn a little of his mind and his methods. Of us and our plans he knows nothing. You don't seem to me to have any plans, you seem to sit and wait for him to do something.
Always the same Hastings, who would be up and at their throats. Perhaps," he added, as a knock sounded on the door, "you have here your chance; it may be our friend who enters. Poirot threw an extra log on the fire, and brought forward more easy-chairs. I brought out glasses and the whisky and soda. The captain took a deep draught, and expressed appreciation. He was interested in some concern that went by the name of the Big Four, and he asked me to let him know at any time if I came across a mention of it in my official line of business.
I didn't take much stock in the matter, but I remembered what he said, and when the captain here came over with rather a curious story, I said at once, 'We'll go round to Moosior Polrot's. Poirot, that a number of torpedo boats and destroyers were sunk by being dashed upon the rocks off the American coast. It was just after the Japanese earthquake, and the explanation given was that the disaster was the result of a tidal wave. Now, a short time ago, a round-up was made of certain crooks and gunmen, and with them were captured some papers which put an entirely new face upon the matter.
They appeared to refer to some organisation called the 'Big Four,' and gave an incomplete description of some powerful wireless installation --a concentration of wireless energy far beyond anything so far attempted, and capable of focusing a beam of great intensity upon some given spot.
Halliday--and I'm not likely to, by all accounts. His wife came to us in a great state. We did what we could, but I knew all along it would be no good. Went over there on scientific work--so he said.
Of course, he'd have to say something like that. But you know what it means when a man disappears over there. Gay Paree and all that, you know. Sick of home life. Halliday and his wife had had a tiff before he started, which all helps to make it a pretty clear case.
The American was looking at him curiously. He is known as Number One. Number Two is an American. Number Three is a Frenchwoman. Number Four, the 'Destroyer,' is an Englishman. Maybe there's something in this. What's her name? I know nothing about her. Poirot nodded, as he arranged the glasses in a neat row on the tray. His love of order was as great as ever. Are the Big Four a German stunt? Ie Capitaine. Their aim is world domination. Who are these men who send a portion of your navy to destruction simply as a trial of their power?
For that was all it was. Monsieur, a test of this 46 Agatha Christie new force of magnetical attraction which they hold. Well, you've heard Captain Kent's story. Anything further I can do for you? You can give me the address of Mrs. Halliday--and also a few words of introduction to her if you will be so kind. Halliday received us at once, a tall, fair woman, nervous and eager in manner.
With her was her little girl, a beautiful child of five. Poirot explained the purpose of our visit. Monsieur Poirot, I am so glad, so thankful. I have heard of you, of course. You will not be like these Scotland Yard people, who will not listen or try to understand. And the French Police are just as bad-worse, I think.
They are all convinced that my husband has gone off with some other woman. But he wasn't like that! All he thought of in life was his work. Half our quarrels came from that. He cared for it more than he did for me. All those things they take au grand serieux. Now, madame, recount to me exactly, in detail, and as methodically as you can, the exact circumstances of your husband's disappearance. He was to meet and visit various people there connected with his work, amongst them Madame Olivier.
She had been decorated by the French Government, and was one of the most prominent personalities of the day. On the following morning, he had an appointment with Professor Bourgoneau, which he kept. His manner was normal and pleasant. The two men had a most interesting conversation, and it was arranged that he should witness some experiments in the professor's laboratory on the following day.
He lunched alone at the Cafe Royal, went for a walk in the Bois, and then visited Madame Olivier at her house at Passy. There, also, his manner was perfectly normal. He left about six. Where he dined is not known, probably alone at some restaurant. He returned to the hotel about eleven o'clock and went straight up to his room, after inquiring if any letters had come for him.
On the following morning, he walked out of the hotel, and has not been seen again. At the hour when he would normally leave it to keep his appointment at Professor Bourgoneau's laboratory? He was not remarked leaving the hotel. But no petit dejeuner was served to him, which seems to indicate that he went out early.
His bed had been slept in, and the night porter would have remembered any one going out at that hour. We may take it, then, that he left early on the following morning--and that is reassuring from one point of view.
He is not likely to have fallen a victim to any Apache assault at 48 Agatha Christie that hour. His baggage, now, was it all left behind?
Halliday seemed rather reluctant to answer, but at last she said:-"No--he must have taken one small suit-case with him. If we knew that, we should know a great deal. Whom did he meet? Madame, myself I do not of necessity accept the view of the police; with them is it always 'Cherchez la femme. You say he asked for letters on returning to the hotel. Did he receive any? Nevertheless, it is there that we must seek. Our inquiries necessarily went over old ground, and we learnt little to add to what Mrs.
Halliday had already told us. Poirot had a lengthy interview with Professor Bourgoneau, during which he sought to elicit whether Halliday had mentioned any plan of his own for the evening, but we drew a complete blank. Our next source of information was the famous Madame Olivier. I was quite excited as we mounted the steps of her villa at Passy.
It has always seemed to me extraordinary that a woman should go so far in the scientific world. I should have thought a purely masculine brain was needed for such work. The door was opened by a young lad of seventeen or thereabouts, who reminded me vaguely of an acolyte, so ritualistic was his manner. Poirot had taken the trouble to arrange our interview beforehand, as he knew Madame Olivier never received any one without an appointment, being immersed in research work most of the day.
We were shown into a small salon, and presently the mistress of the house came to us there. Madame Olivier was a very tall woman, her tallness accentuated by the long white overall she wore, and a coif like a nun's that shrouded her head.
She had a long pale face, and wonderful dark eyes that burnt with a light almost fanatical. She looked more like a priestess of old than a modern Frenchwoman. One cheek was disfigured by a scar, and I remembered that her husband and co-worker had been killed in an explosion in the laboratory three years before, and that she herself had been terribly burned.
She received us with cold politeness. I think it hardly likely that I can help you, since I have not been able to help them. To begin with, of what did you talk together, you and M.
His work--and also mine. It was chiefly of those we spoke. I do not agree. My own line of research has been somewhat similar, though not undertaken with the same end in view. I have been investigating the gamma rays emitted by the substance usually known as Radium C.
Indeed, I have a theory as to the actual nature of the force we call magnetism, but it is not yet time for my discoveries to be given to the world.
Halliday's experiments and views were exceedingly interesting to me. Then he asked a question which surprised me. In here? In the laboratory. It opened on a small passage.
We passed through two doors and found ourselves in the big laboratory, with its array of beakers and crucibles and a hundred appliances of which I did not even know the names. There were two occupants, both busy with some experiment. Madame Olivier introduced them.
Poirot looked round him. There were two other doors besides the one by which we had entered. One, madame explained, led into the garden, the other into a smaller chamber also devoted to research. Poirot took all this in, then declared himself ready to return to the salon.
Halliday during your interview? My two assistants were in the smaller room next door. I am almost sure it could not. The doors were all shut. One thing more: did M.
Halliday make any mention of his plans for the evening? Pray do not trouble--we can find our way out. A lady was just entering the front door as we did so.
She ran quickly up the stairs, and I was left with an impression of the heavy mourning that denotes a French widow. Yes, she--" "Mais non, not Madame Olivier. Cela va sans dire!
There are not many geniuses of her stamp in the world. No, I referred to the other lady--the lady on the stairs. She never looked at us. Mille tonnerres! A tree had crashed down on to the side walk, just missing us. Poirot stared at it, pale and upset.
But clumsy, all the same-for I had no suspicion--at least hardly any suspicion. Yes, but for my quick eyes, the eyes of a cat, Hercule Poirot might now be crushed out of existence--a terrible calamity for the world. And you, too, mon ami-- though that would not be such a national catastrophe. Yes, here and now, we are going to exercise our little gray cells. This M. Halliday now, was he really in Paris?
Yes, for Professor Bourgoneau, who knows him, saw and spoke to him. He was last seen at eleven Friday night--but was he seen then? A man comes in, sufficiently like Halliday--we may trust Number Four for that--asks for letters, goes upstairs, packs a small suit-case, and slips out the next morning.
Nobody saw Halliday all that evening--no, because he was already in the hands of his enemies. Was it Halliday whom Madame Olivier received? Yes, for though she did not know him by sight, an impostor could hardly deceive her on her own special subject. He came here, he had his interview, he left. What happened next? You love footprints, do you not?
See--here they go, a man's, Mr. He turns to the right as we did, he walks briskly--ah! See, she catches him up--a slim young woman, in a widow's veil. Now where would the young woman take him? She does not wish to be seen walking with him. Is it coincidence that she catches up with him just where a narrow alleyway opens, dividing two gardens.
She leads him down it. The ambush is there.
Men pour out, overpower him, and carry him into the strange villa. So, and only so, could it have happened. Come, let us go back to the house. Madame's secretary? Would you be so kind as to ask her to speak to us for a moment. He soon reappeared. Madame Veroneau must have gone out again. Hercule Poirot, and say that it is important I should see her at once, as I am just going to the Prefecture. This time the lady descended. She walked into the salon. We followed her. She turned and raised her veil.
To my astonishment I recognised our old antagonist, the Countess Rossakoff, a Russian countess, who had engineered a particularly smart jewel robbery in London.
What do you want of me, M. You are a terrible man. You hunted me from London. Now, I suppose, you will tell our wonderful Madame Olivier about me, and hunt me from Paris? We poor Russians, we must live, you know. Halliday, if he is still alive. I know everything, you see. She bit her lip. Then she spoke with her usual decision. Come, monsieur, I will make a bargain with.
Freedom for me--and M. Halliday, alive and well, for you. By the way, are the Big Four your employers, madame? Instead, "You permit me to telephone? You may give it to the police--the nest will be empty when they arrive.
I am through. Is that you, Andre? It is I, Inez. The little Belgian knows all. Send Halliday to the hotel, and clear out. I expected that. I could see by Poirot's face that he was perplexed.
The thing was almost too easy. We arrived at the hotel. The porter came up to us. He is in your rooms. He seems very ill. A nurse came with him, but she has left. Sitting in a chair by the window was a haggard young fellow who looked in the last stages of exhaustion. Poirot went over to him. John Halliday has a mole just below the left elbow. The mole was there. Poirot bowed to the countess.
She turned and left the room. A glass of brandy revived Halliday somewhat. Those fiends are devils incarnate. My wife, where is she? What does she think? They told me that she would believe--would believe--" "She does not," said Poirot firmly. She is waiting for you--she and the child.
I can hardly believe that I am free once more. They have unlimited power. If I remain silent, I shall be safe--if I say one word--not only I, but my nearest and dearest will suffer unspeakable things. It is no good arguing with me. I remember--nothing. Poirot's face wore a baffled expression. What is that you are holding in your hand, Hastings?
He read it. Just a coincidence, perhaps, that they also stand for Four. Undoubtedly his experience in the villa had broken his nerve, and in the morning we failed completely to extract any information from him. He would only repeat his statement about the unlimited power at the disposal of the Big Four, and his assurance of the vengeance which would follow if he talked.
After lunch he departed to rejoin his wife in England, but Poirot and I remained behind in Paris. I was all for energetic proceedings of some kind or other, and Poirot's quiescence annoyed me. Up where, and at whom? Be precise, I beg of you. But how would you set about it? Poirot smiled. We have nothing to go upon--nothing whatever. We must wait. See now, in England you all comprehend and adore Ie boxe. If one man does not make a move, the other must, and by permitting the adversary to make the attack one learns something about him.
That is our part--to let the other side make the attack. To begin with, see, they try to get me out of England. That fails.
Then, in the Dartmoor affair, we step in and save their victim from the gallows. And yesterday, once again, we interfere with their plans. Assuredly, they will not leave the matter there.
Without waiting for a reply, a man stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He was a tall, thin man, with a slightly hooked nose and a sallow complexion.
He wore an overcoat buttoned up to his chin, and a soft hat well pulled down over his eyes. I was about to spring up, but Poirot restrained me with a gesture. Will you kindly state your business? Poirot, it is very simple. You have been annoying my friends.
Monsieur Poirot. You do not seriously ask me that? You know as well as I do. Then he picked them up and returned them to his case, which he replaced in his pocket. And what do your friends suggest? Hercule Poirot. But regrets, however poignant, do not bring a man to life again. They were for ten thousand francs each. To you, monsieur, I will say this. What is to prevent me ringing up the police and giving you into their custody, whilst my friend here prevents you from escaping?
Ring up the police and have done with it. I was ready for him. In another minute we were locked together, staggering round the room. Suddenly I felt him slip and falter. I pressed my advantage. He went down before me. And then, in the very flush of victory, an extraordinary thing happened. I felt myself flying forwards. Head first, I crashed into the wall in a complicated heap.
I was up in a minute, but the door was already closing behind my late adversary. I rushed to it and shook it, it was locked on the outside. I seized the telephone from Poirot. Stop a man who is coming out. A tall man, with a buttoned-up overcoat and a soft hat. He is wanted by the police. The key was turned and the door flung open. The manager himself stood in the doorway.
No one has descended. It is incredible that he can have escaped. Do not distress yourself, mon ami.
All went according to plan-his plan. That is what I wanted. It was a slim pocket-book of brown leather, and had evidently fallen from our visitor's pocket during his struggle with me. It contained two receipted bills in the name of M. Felix Laon, and a folded-up piece of paper which made my heart beat faster.
It was a half sheet of note-paper on which a few words were scrawled in pencil but they were words of supreme importance. And to-day was Friday, and the clock on the mantelpiece showed the hour to be We must start at once--though. What stupendous luck. Come on, Poirot, don't stay daydreaming there. No, no--they are subtle--but not so subtle as Hercule Poirot. Did our visitor really hope to succeed in bribing me?
Or, alternatively, in frightening me into abandoning my task? It seemed hardly credible. Why, then, did he come?
And now I see the whole plan --very neat--very pretty--the ostensible reason to bribe or frighten me--the necessary struggle which he took no pains to avoid, and which should make the dropped pocket-book natural and reasonable--and finally--the pitfall! Rue des Eschelles, 11 a. Poirot was frowning to himself. If they wanted to decoy me away, surely night time would be better?
Why this early hour? Is it possible that something is about to happen this morning? Something which they are anxious Hercule Poirot should not know about? Here I sit, mon ami. We do not stir out this morning. We await events here. Poirot tore it open, then handed it to me. It was from Madame Olivier, the world-famous scientist, whom we had visited yesterday in connection with the Halliday case. It asked us to come out to Passy at once.
We obeyed the summons without an instant's delay.He came here, he had his interview, he left. You say he asked for letters on returning to the hotel. Regard around you, my friend. No, I can't say it is. Today, the firms have a very uncertain future. Always the same Hastings, who would be up and at their throats. Poirot stood facing me. One intention of this book is to help prepare us all for those implications. A bad day of the week.
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