The Murder on the Links/Chapter 18

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“By the way, Poirot,” I said, as we walked along the hot white road, “I’ve got a bone to pick with you. I dare say you meant well, but really it was no business of yours to go mouching round to the Hôtel du Phare without letting me know.”

Poirot shot a quick sidelong glance at me.

“And how did you know I had been there?” he inquired.

Much to my annoyance I felt the colour rising in my cheeks.

“I happened to look in in passing,” I explained with as much dignity as I could muster.

I rather feared Poirot’s banter, but to my relief, and somewhat to my surprise, he only shook his head with a rather unusual gravity.

“If I have offended your susceptibilities in any way, I demand pardon of you. You will understand better soon. But, believe me, I have striven to concentrate all my energies on the case.”

“Oh, it’s all right,” I said, mollified by the apology. “I know it’s only that you have my interests at heart. But I can take care of myself all right.”

Poirot seemed to be about to say something further, but checked himself.

Arrived at the Villa, Poirot led the way up to the shed where the second body had been discovered. He did not, however, go in, but paused by the bench which I have mentioned before as being set some few yards away from it. After contemplating it for a moment or two, he paced carefully from it to the hedge which marked the boundary between the Villa Geneviève and the Villa Marguerite. Then he paced back again, nodding his head as he did so. Returning again to the hedge, he parted the bushes with his hands.

“With good fortune,” he remarked to me over his shoulder, “Mademoiselle Marthe may find herself in the garden. I desire to speak to her and would prefer not to call formally at the Villa Marguerite. Ah, all is well, there she is. Pst, mademoiselle! Pst! Un moment, s’il vous plaît.

I joined him at the moment that Marthe Daubreuil, looking slightly startled, came running up to the hedge at his call.

“A little word with you, mademoiselle, if it is permitted?”

“Certainly, Monsieur Poirot.”

Despite her acquiescence, her eyes looked troubled and afraid.

“Mademoiselle, do you remember running after me on the road the day that I came to your house with the examining magistrate? You asked me if any one were suspected of the crime.”

“And you told me two Chilians.” Her voice sounded rather breathless, and her left hand stole to her breast.

“Will you ask me the same question again, mademoiselle?”

“What do you mean?”

“This. If you were to ask me that question again, I should give you a different answer. Some one is suspected—but not a Chilian.”

“Who?” The word came faintly between her parted lips.

“M. Jack Renauld.”

“What?” It was a cry. “Jack? Impossible. Who dares to suspect him?”

“Giraud.”

“Giraud!” The girl’s face was ashy. “I am afraid of that man. He is cruel. He will—he will—” She broke off. There was courage gathering in her face, and determination. I realized in that moment that she was a fighter. Poirot, too, watched her intently.

“You know, of course, that he was here on the night of the murder?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied mechanically. “He told me.”

“It was unwise to have tried to conceal the fact,” ventured Poirot.

“Yes, yes,” she replied impatiently. “But we cannot waste time on regrets. We must find something to save him. He is innocent, of course, but that will not help him with a man like Giraud who has his reputation to think of. He must arrest some one, and that some one will be Jack.”

“The facts will tell against him,” said Poirot. “You realize that?”

She faced him squarely, and used the words I had heard her say in her mother’s drawing-room.

“I am not a child, monsieur. I can be brave and look facts in the face. He is innocent, and we must save him.”

She spoke with a kind of desperate energy, then was silent, frowning as she thought.

“Mademoiselle,” said Poirot observing her keenly, “is there not something that you are keeping back that you could tell us?”

She nodded perplexedly.

“Yes, there is something, but I hardly know whether you will believe it—it seems so absurd.”

“At any rate, tell us, mademoiselle.”

“It is this. M. Giraud sent for me, as an afterthought, to see if I could identify the man in there.” She signed with her head towards the shed. “I could not. At least I could not at the moment. But since I have been thinking—”

“Well?”

“It seems so queer, and yet I am almost sure. I will tell you. On the morning of the day M. Renauld was murdered, I was walking in the garden here, when I heard a sound of men’s voices quarrelling. I pushed aside the bushes and looked through. One of the men was M. Renauld and the other was a tramp, a dreadful looking creature in filthy rags. He was alternately whining and threatening. I gathered he was asking for money, but at that moment maman called me from the house, and I had to go. That is all, only—I am almost sure that the tramp and the dead man in the shed are one and the same.”

Poirot uttered an exclamation.

“But why did you not say so at the time, mademoiselle?”

“Because at first it only struck me that the face was vaguely familiar in some way. The man was differently dressed, and apparently belonged to a superior station in life. But tell me, Monsieur Poirot, is it not possible that this tramp might have attacked and killed M. Renauld, and taken his clothes and money?”

“It is an idea, mademoiselle,” said Poirot slowly. “It leaves a lot unexplained, but it is certainly an idea. I will think of it.”

A voice called from the house.

Maman,” whispered Marthe, “I must go.” And she slipped away through the trees.

“Come,” said Poirot, and taking my arm, turned in the direction of the Villa.

“What do you really think?” I asked, in some curiosity. “Was that story true, or did the girl make it up in order to divert suspicion from her lover?”

“It is a curious tale,” said Poirot, “but I believe it to be the absolute truth. Unwittingly, Mademoiselle Marthe told us the truth on another point—and incidentally gave Jack Renauld the lie. Did you notice his hesitation when I asked him if he saw Marthe Daubreuil on the night of the crime? He paused and then said ‘Yes.’ I suspected that he was lying. It was necessary for me to see Mademoiselle Marthe before he could put her on her guard. Three little words gave me the information I wanted. When I asked her if she knew that Jack Renauld was here that night, she answered ‘He told me.’ Now, Hastings, what was Jack Renauld doing here on that eventful evening, and if he did not see Mademoiselle Marthe whom did he see?”

“Surely, Poirot,” I cried, aghast, “you cannot believe that a boy like that would murder his own father.”

Mon ami,” said Poirot, “you continue to be of a sentimentality unbelievable! I have seen mothers who murdered their little children for the sake of the insurance money! After that, one can believe anything.”

“And the motive?”

“Money of course. Remember that Jack Renauld thought that he would come in to half his father’s fortune at the latter’s death.”

“But the tramp. Where does he come in?”

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

“Giraud would say that he was an accomplice—an apache who helped young Renauld to commit the crime, and who was conveniently put out of the way afterwards.”

“But the hair round the dagger? The woman’s hair?”

“Ah,” said Poirot, smiling broadly. “That is the cream of Giraud’s little jest. According to him, it is not a woman’s hair at all. Remember that the youths of today wear their hair brushed straight back from the forehead with pomade or hairwash to make it lie flat. Consequently some of the hairs are of considerable length.”

“And you believe that too?”

“No,” said Poirot with a curious smile. “For I know it to be the hair of a woman—and more, which woman!”

“Madame Daubreuil,” I announced positively.

“Perhaps,” said Poirot, regarding me quizzically.

But I refused to allow myself to get annoyed.

“What are we going to do now?” I asked, as we entered the hall of the Villa Geneviève.

“I wish to make a search amongst the effects of M. Jack Renauld. That is why I had to get him out of the way for a few hours.”

“But will not Giraud have searched already?” I asked doubtfully.

“Of course. He builds a case, as a beaver builds a dam, with a fatiguing industry. But he will not have looked for the things that I am seeking—in all probability he would not have seen their importance if they stared him in the face. Let us begin.”

Neatly and methodically, Poirot opened each drawer in turn, examined the contents, and returned them exactly to their places. It was a singularly dull and uninteresting proceeding. Poirot waded on through collars, pajamas and socks. A purring noise outside drew me to the window. Instantly I became galvanized into life.

“Poirot!” I cried. “A car has just driven up. Giraud is in it, and Jack Renauld, and two gendarmes.”

Sacré tonnerre!” growled Poirot. “That animal of a Giraud, could he not wait? I shall not be able to replace the things in this last drawer with the proper method. Let us be quick.”

Unceremoniously he tumbled out the things on the floor, mostly ties and handkerchiefs. Suddenly with a cry of triumph Poirot pounced on something, a small square cardboard, evidently a photograph. Thrusting it into his pocket, he returned the things pell-mell to the drawer, and seizing me by the arm dragged me out of the room and down the stairs. In the hall stood Giraud, contemplating his prisoner.

“Good afternoon, M. Giraud,” said Poirot. “What have we here?”

Giraud nodded his head towards Jack.

“He was trying to make a getaway, but I was too sharp for him. He is under arrest for the murder of his father, M. Paul Renauld.”

Poirot wheeled to confront the boy who leaned limply against the door, his face ashy pale.

“What do you say to that, jeune homme?

Jack Renauld stared at him stonily.

“Nothing,” he said.