Lord Edgware Dies人性记录05
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Chapter 5
The following day was the 30th June.
It was just half-past nine when we were told that Inspector Japp was below and anxious to see us.
It was some years since we had seen anything of the Scotland Yard inspector.
‘Ah! ce bon Japp,’ said Poirot. ‘What does he want, I wonder?’
‘Help,’ I snapped. ‘He’s out of his depth over some case and he’s come to you.’
I had not the indulgence for Japp that Poirot had. It was not so much that I minded his picking Poirot’s brains – after all, Poirot enjoyed the process, it was a delicate flattery. What did annoy me was Japp’s hypocritical pretence that he was doing nothing of the kind. I liked people to be straightforward. I said so, and Poirot laughed.
‘You are the dog of the bulldog breed, eh, Hastings? But you must remember that the poor Japp he has to save his face. So he makes his little pretence. It is very natural.’
I thought it merely foolish and said so. Poirot did not agree.
‘The outward form – it is a bagatelle – but it matters to people. It enables them to keep the amour propre.’
Personally I thought a dash of inferiority complex would do Japp no harm, but there was no point in arguing the matter. Besides, I was anxious to learn what Japp had come about.
He greeted us both heartily.
‘Just going to have breakfast, I see. Not got the hens to lay square eggs for you yet, M. Poirot?’
This was an allusion to a complaint from Poirot as to the varying sizes of eggs which had offended his sense of symmetry.
‘As yet, no,’ said Poirot smiling. ‘And what brings you to see us so early, my good Japp?’
‘It’s not early – not for me. I’ve been up and at work for a good two hours. As to what brings me to see you – well, it’s murder.’
Japp nodded.
‘Lord Edgware was killed at his house in Regent Gate last night. Stabbed in the neck by his wife.’
‘By his wife?’ I cried.
In a flash I remembered Bryan Martin’s words on the previous morning. Had he had a prophetic knowledge of what was going to happen? I remembered, too, Jane’s easy reference to ‘bumping him off ’. Amoral, Bryan Martin had called her. She was the type, yes. Callous, egotistical and stupid. How right he had been in his judgment.
All this passed through my mind while Japp went on:
‘Yes. Actress, you know. Well known. Jane Wilkinson. Married him three years ago. They didn’t get on. She left him.’
Poirot was looking puzzled and serious.
‘What makes you believe that it was she who killed him?’
‘No belief about it. She was recognized. Not much concealment about it, either. She drove up in a taxi –’
‘A taxi –’ I echoed involuntarily, her words at the Savoy that night coming back to me.
‘– rang the bell, asked for Lord Edgware. It was ten o’clock. Butler said he’d see. “Oh!” she says cool as a cucumber. “You needn’t. I am Lady Edgware. I suppose he’s in the library.” And with that she walks along and opens the door and goes in and shuts it behind her.
‘Well the butler thought it was queer, but all right. He went downstairs again. About ten minutes later he heard the front door shut. So, anyway, she hadn’t stayed long. He locked up for the night about eleven. He opened the library door, but it was dark, so he thought his master had gone to bed. This morning the body was discovered by a housemaid. Stabbed in the back of the neck just at the roots of the hair.’
‘Was there no cry? Nothing heard?’ ‘They say not. That library’s got pretty well soundproof doors, you know. And there’s traffic passing, too. Stabbed in that way, death results amazing quick. Straight through the cistern into the medulla, that’s what the doctor said – or something very like it. If you hit on exactly the right spot it kills a man instantaneously.’
‘That implies a knowledge of exactly where to strike. It almost implies medical knowledge.’
‘Yes – that’s true. A point in her favour as far as it goes. But ten to one it was a chance. She just struck lucky. Some people do have amazing luck, you know.’
‘Not so lucky if it results in her being hanged, mon ami,’ observed Poirot.
‘No. Of course she was a fool – sailing in like that and giving her name and all.’
‘Indeed, very curious.’
‘Possibly she didn’t intend mischief. They quarrelled and she whipped out a penknife and jabbed him one.’
‘Was it a penknife?’
‘Something of that kind, the doctor says. Whatever it was, she took it away with her. It wasn’t left in the wound.’
Poirot shook his head in a dissatisfied manner.
‘No, no, my friend, it was not like that. I know the lady. She would be quite incapable of such a hot-blooded impulsive action. Besides, she would be most unlikely to have a penknife with her. Few women have – and assuredly not Jane Wilkinson.’
‘You know her, you say, M. Poirot?’
‘Yes. I know her.’
He said no more for the moment. Japp was looking at him inquisitively.
‘Got something up your sleeve, M. Poirot?’ he ventured at last.
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘That reminds me. What has brought you to me? Eh? It is not merely to pass the time of day with an old comrade? Assuredly not. You have here a nice straightforward murder. You have the criminal. You have the motive – what exactly is the motive, by the way?’
‘Wanted to marry another man. She was heard to say so not a week ago. Also heard to make threats. Said she meant to call round in a taxi and bump him off.’
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘You are very well informed – very well informed. Someone has been very obliging.’
I thought his eyes looked a question, but if so, Japp did not respond.
‘We get to hear things, M. Poirot,’ he said stolidly.
Poirot nodded. He had reached out for the daily paper. It had been opened by Japp, doubtless while he was waiting, and had been cast impatiently aside on our entry. In a mechanical manner, Poirot folded it back at the middle page, smoothed and arranged it. Though his eyes were on the paper, his mind was deep in some kind of puzzle.
‘You have not answered,’ he said presently. ‘Since all goes in the swimming fashion, why come to me?’
‘Because I heard you were at Regent Gate yesterday morning.’
‘I see.’
‘Now, as soon as I heard that, I said to myself, “Something here.” His lordship sent for M. Poirot. Why? What did he suspect? What did he fear? Before doing anything definite, I’d better go round and have a word with him.’
‘What do you mean by “anything definite”? Arresting the lady, I suppose?’
‘You have not seen her yet?’
‘Oh! yes, I have. Went round to the Savoy first thing. Wasn’t going to risk her giving us the slip.’
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘So you –’
He stopped. His eyes, which had been fixed thoughtfully and up to now unseeingly on the paper in front of him, now took on a different expression. He lifted his head and spoke in a changed tone of voice.
‘And what did she say? Eh! my friend. What did she say?’
‘I gave her the usual stuff, of course, about wanting a statement and cautioning her – you can’t say the English police aren’t fair.’
‘In my opinion foolishly so. But proceed. What did milady say?’
‘Took hysterics – that’s what she did. Rolled herself about, threw up her arms and finally flopped down on the ground. Oh! she did it well – I’ll say that for her. A pretty bit of acting.’
‘Ah!’ said Poirot blandly. ‘You formed, then, the impression that the hysterics were not genuine?’
Japp winked vulgarly.
‘What do you think? I’m not to be taken in with those tricks. She hadn’t fainted – not she! Just trying it on, she was. I’ll swear she was enjoying it.’
‘Yes,’ said Poirot thoughtfully. ‘I should say that was perfectly possible. What next?’
‘Oh! well, she came to – pretended to, I mean. And moaned – and groaned and carried on and that sour-faced maid of hers doped her with smelling salts and at last she recovered enough to ask for her solicitor. Wasn’t going to say anything without her solicitor. Hysterics one moment, solicitors the next, now I ask you, is that natural behaviour, sir?’
‘In this case quite natural, I should say,’ said Poirot calmly.
‘You mean because she’s guilty and knows it.’
‘Not at all, I mean because of her temperament. First she gives you her conception of how the part of a wife suddenly learning of her husband’s death should be played. Then, having satisfied her histrionic instinct, her native shrewdness makes her send for a solicitor. That she creates an artificial scene and enjoys it is no proof of her guilt. It merely indicates that she is a born actress.’
‘Well, she can’t be innocent. That’s sure.’
‘You are very positive,’ said Poirot. ‘I suppose that it must be so. She made no statement, you say? No statement at all?’
Japp grinned.
‘Wouldn’t say a word without her solicitor. The maid telephoned for him. I left two of my men there and came along to you. I thought it just as well to get put wise to whatever there was going on before I went on with things.’
‘And yet you are sure?’
‘Of course I’m sure. But I like as many facts as possible. You see, there’s going to be a big splash made about this. No hole and corner business. All the papers will be full of it. And you know what papers are.’
‘Talking of papers,’ said Poirot. ‘How do you account for this, my dear friend. You have not read your morning paper very carefully.’
He leant across the table, his finger on a paragraph in the society news. Japp read the item aloud.
Sir Montagu Corner gave a very successful dinner-party last night at his house on the river at Chiswick. Among those present were Sir George and Lady du Fisse, Mr James Blunt, the well-known dramatic critic, Sir Oscar Hammerfeldt of the Overton Film Studios, Miss Jane Wilkinson (Lady Edgware) and others.
For a moment Japp looked taken aback. Then he rallied.
‘What’s that got to do with it? This thing was sent to the Press beforehand. You’ll see. You’ll find that our lady wasn’t there, or that she came in late – eleven o’clock or so. Bless you sir, you mustn’t believe everything you see in the Press to be gospel. You of all people ought to know better than that.’
‘Oh! I do, I do. It only struck me as curious, that was all.’
‘These coincidences do happen. Now, M. Poirot, close as an oyster I know you to be by bitter experience. But you’ll come across with things, won’t you? You’ll tell me why Lord Edgware sent for you?’
Poirot shook his head.
‘Lord Edgware did not send for me. It was I who requested him to give me an appointment.’
‘Really? And for what reason?’
Poirot hesitated a minute.
‘I will answer your question,’ he said slowly. ‘But I should like to answer it in my own way.’
Japp groaned. I felt a sneaking sympathy with him. Poirot can be intensely irritating at times.
‘I will request,’ went on Poirot, ‘that you permit me to ring up a certain person and ask him to come here.’
‘What person?’
‘Mr Bryan Martin.’
‘The film star? What’s he got to do with it?’
‘I think,’ said Poirot, ‘that you may find what he has got to say interesting – and possibly helpful. Hastings, will you be so good?’
I took up the telephone-book. The actor had a flat in a big block of buildings near St James’ Park.
‘Victoria 49499.’
The somewhat sleepy voice of Bryan Martin spoke after a few minutes.
‘Hello – who’s speaking?’
‘What am I to say?’ I whispered, covering the mouthpiece with my hand.
‘Tell him,’ said Poirot, ‘that Lord Edgware has been murdered, and that I should esteem it a favour if he would come round here and see me immediately.’
I repeated this meticulously. There was a startled exclamation at the other end.
‘My God,’ said Martin. ‘So she’s done it then! I’ll come at once.’
‘What did he say?’ asked Poirot. I told him.
‘Ah!’ said Poirot. He seemed pleased. ‘So she’s done it then. That was what he said? Then it is as I thought, it is as I thought.’
Japp looked at him curiously.
‘I can’t make you out, M. Poirot. First you sound as though you thought the woman might not have done it after all. And now you make out that you knew it all along.’
Poirot only smiled.