ABC谋杀案 33
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Conference again.
The Assistant Commissioner, Inspector Crome, Poirot and myself.
The AC was saying:
“A good tip that of yours, M. Poirot, about checking a large sale of stockings.”
Poirot spread out his hands.
“It was indicated. This man could not be a regular agent. He sold outright instead of touting fororders.”
“Got everything clear so far, inspector?”
“I think so, sir.” Crome consulted a file. “Shall I run over the position to date?”
“Yes, please.”
“I’ve checked up with Churston, Paignton and Torquay. Got a list of people where he went andoffered stockings. I must say he did the thing thoroughly. Stayed at the Pitt, small hotel near TorreStation. Returned to the hotel at 10:30 on the night of the murder. Could have taken a train fromChurston at 9.57, getting to Torre at 10.20. No one answering to his description noticed on train orat station, but that Friday was Dartmouth Regatta and the trains back from Kingswear were prettyfull.
“Bexhill much the same. Stayed at the Globe under his own name. Offered stockings to about adozen addresses, including Mrs. Barnard and including the Ginger Cat. Left hotel early in theevening. Arrived back in London about 11.30 the following morning. As to Andover, sameprocedure. Stayed at the Feathers. Offered stockings to Mrs. Fowler, next door to Mrs. Ascher, andto half a dozen other people in the street. The pair Mrs. Ascher had I got from the niece (name ofDrower)—they’re identical with Cust’s supply.”
“So far, good,” said the AC.
“Acting on information received,” said the inspector, “I went to the address given me byHartigan, but found that Cust had left the house about half an hour previously. He received atelephone message, I’m told. First time such a thing had happened to him, so his landlady toldme.”
“An accomplice?” suggested the Assistant Commissioner.
“Hardly,” said Poirot. “It is odd that—unless—”
We all looked at him inquiringly as he paused.
He shook his head, however, and the inspector proceeded.
“I made a thorough search of the room he had occupied. That search puts the matter beyonddoubt. I found a block of notepaper similar to that on which the letters were written, a largequantity of hosiery and—at the back of the cupboard where the hosiery was stored—a parcel muchthe same shape and size but which turned out to contain—not hosiery—but eight new A B Crailway guides!”
“Proof positive,” said the Assistant Commissioner.
“I’ve found something else, too,” said the inspector—his voice becoming suddenly almosthuman with triumph. “Only found it this morning, sir. Not had time to report yet. There was nosign of the knife in his room—”
“It would be the act of an imbecile to bring that back with him,” remarked Poirot.
“After all, he’s not a reasonable human being,” remarked the inspector. “Anway, it occurred tome that he might just possibly have brought it back to the house and then realized the danger ofhiding it (as M. Poirot points out) in his room, and have looked about elsewhere. What place in thehouse would he be likely to select? I got it straight away. The hall stand—no one ever moves ahall stand. With a lot of trouble I got it moved out from the wall—and there it was!”
“The knife?”
“The knife. Not a doubt of it. The dried blood’s still on it.”
“Good work, Crome,” said the AC approvingly. “We only need one thing more now.”
“What’s that?”
“The man himself.”
“We’ll get him, sir. Never fear.”
The inspector’s tone was confident.
“What do you say, M. Poirot?”
Poirot started out of a reverie.
“I beg your pardon?”
“We were saying that it was only a matter of time before we got our man. Do you agree?”
“Oh, that—yes. Without a doubt.”
His tone was so abstracted that the others looked at him curiously.
“Is there anything worrying you, M. Poirot?”
“There is something that worries me very much. It is the why? The motive.”
“But, my dear fellow, the man’s crazy,” said the Assistant Commissioner impatiently.
“I understand what M. Poirot means,” said Crome, coming graciously to the rescue. “He’s quiteright. There’s got to be some definite obsession. I think we’ll find the root of the matter in anintensified inferiority complex. There may be a persecution mania, too, and if so he may possiblyassociate M. Poirot with it. He may have the delusion that M. Poirot is a detective employed onpurpose to hunt him down.”
“H’m,” said the AC. “That’s the jargon that’s talked nowadays. In my day if a man was mad hewas mad and we didn’t look about for scientific terms to soften it down. I suppose a thoroughlyup-to-date doctor would suggest putting a man like A B C in a nursing home, telling him what afine fellow he was for forty-five days on end and then letting him out as a responsible member ofsociety.”
Poirot smiled but did not answer.
The conference broke up.
“Well,” said the Assistant Commissioner. “As you say, Crome, pulling him in is only a matterof time.”
“We’d have had him before now,” said the inspector, “if he wasn’t so ordinary-looking. We’veworried enough perfectly inoffensive citizens as it is.”
“I wonder where he is at this minute,” said the Assistant Commissioner.

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