فصل 20

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فصل 20

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CHAPTER TWENTY

At eleven o’clock, Hercule Poirot called a meeting in the library. ‘Please listen carefully to what I have to say. I have been a friend for many years of Mr Entwhistle’s and he was very upset by some words spoken on the day of Richard Abernethie’s funeral by Mrs Lansquenet and asked me to investigate.’

No one spoke.

Poirot threw back his head. ‘Eh hien, you will all be delighted to hear that as a result of my investigations - it is my belief that Mr Abernethie died a natural death. That is good news, is it not?’

They stared at him and in all but the eyes of one person there still seemed to be doubt and suspicion.

The exception was Timothy Abernethie. ‘Of course Richard wasn’t murdered,’ he said angrily. ‘Well, Mr whatever your name is, I’m pleased you’ve had the sense to come to the right conclusion, though if you ask me, Entwhistle went far beyond his duty as Richard’s lawyer to get you to come nosing about here. If the family’s satisfied…’

‘But the family wasn’t satisfied, Uncle Timothy,’ said Rosamund. ‘And what about Aunt Helen this morning?’

‘Nonsense,’ said Maude. ‘Helen felt ill, came down and phoned the doctor, and then…’

‘But she didn’t phone the doctor,’ said Rosamund. ‘I asked him…’

Susan said sharply, ‘Who did she phone?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Rosamund. ‘But I’m sure I can find out’

Hercule Poirot was sitting in the summerhouse. He had told everyone that he was leaving on the twelve o’clock train. There was still half an hour until then. Half an hour for someone to come to him. Perhaps more than one person.

He waited - like a cat waiting for a mouse to come out of hiding.

It was Miss Gilchrist who came first. ‘Oh, Mr Pontarlier - I can’t remember your other name,’ she said. ‘I had to come and speak to you, although I don’t like doing it. I did listen at the door that day Mr Richard Abernethie came to see his sister and he said something like, “There’s no point in talking to Timothy. He simply won’t listen. But I thought I’d like to tell you, Cora. And though you’ve always liked to behave as if you are simple, you’ve got a lot of common sense. So what would you do about it, if you were me?”

‘I couldn’t hear exactly what Mrs Lansquenet said, but I heard the word police - and then Mr Abernethie said loudly, “I can’t do that. Not when it’s a question of my own niece.” And then I had to run into the kitchen because something was burning, and when I got back Mr Abernethie was saying, “Even if I die an unnatural death, I don’t want the police called in. You understand that, don’t you, my dear girl? But now that I know, I shall take all possible precautions.” And then he said he’d made a mistake over her marriage because she had been happy with her husband.’

Miss Gilchrist stopped.

Poirot said, ‘I see - I see… Thank you, Miss Gilchrist, for coming to see me.’

Miss Gilchrist had no sooner gone before Gregory Banks came.

‘At last!’ he said. ‘I thought that stupid woman would never go. You’re wrong about everything. Richard Abernethie was killed. I killed him.’

Hercule Poirot showed no surprise. ‘How?’

Gregory Banks smiled. ‘It wasn’t difficult for me. I worked out how I didn’t need to be anywhere near Enderby at the time.’

‘Clever,’ said Poirot. ‘Why did you kill him? For the money that would come to your wife?’

‘No. No, of course not. I didn’t marry Susan for her money! Abernethie thought I was no good! He sneered at me! People can’t do that to me and not be punished!’

‘A most successful murder,’ said Poirot. ‘But why give yourself away - to me?’

‘Because I had to show you that you’re not as clever as you think you are - and besides - besides - It was wrong, wicked… I must be punished… I must go back there - to the place of punishment.!’

Poirot studied him for a moment or two. ‘How badly do you want to get away from your wife?’

Gregory’s face changed. ‘Why couldn’t she let me alone? She’s coming now - across the lawn. Tell her I’ve gone to the police station. To confess.’

Susan came in breathlessly. ‘Where’s Greg? I saw him.’

‘Yes. He came to tell me that it was he who poisoned Richard Abernethie.’

‘What absolute nonsense! He wasn’t even near this place when Uncle Richard died!’

‘Perhaps not. Where was he when Cora Lansquenet died?’

‘In London. We both were.’

Hercule Poirot shook his head. ‘No, no. You went to Lytchett St Mary. My inquiries say that you were there on the afternoon Cora Lansquenet died. You parked your car in the same quarry where you left it the morning of the inquest. The car was seen and the number was noted.’

Susan stared at him. ‘All right. What Cora said at the funeral worried me. I decided to go and see her, and ask her what had put the idea into her head. I got there about three o’clock, knocked and rang, but there was no answer. I didn’t go round to the back of the cottage. If I had, I might have seen the broken window. I went back to London without any idea there was anything wrong.’

‘I know something of your husband’s history,’ said Poirot. ‘He has a punishment complex.’

‘You don’t understand, Monsieur Poirot. Greg has never had a chance in life. That’s why I wanted Uncle Richard’s money so badly. I knew Greg needed to feel he was someone. Everything will be different now. He will have his own laboratory. No one will tell him what to do.’

‘Yes, yes - you will give him everything - but you cannot give to people what they are not capable of receiving. At the end of it all, he will still be something that he does not want to be.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Susan’s husband. Where Gregory Banks is concerned you have no sense of right or wrong. You wanted your uncle’s money - for your husband. How badly did you want it?’

Angrily, Susan turned and ran away.

‘I thought,’ said Michael Shane, ‘that I’d just come and say goodbye.’

‘Your wife Rosamund,’ said Poirot, ‘is a very unusual woman.’

Michael raised his eyebrows. ‘She’s lovely, I agree. But she’s not known for her intelligence.’

‘She will never be clever,’ Poirot agreed. ‘But she knows what she wants.’ He sighed. ‘So few people do.’ Poirot placed the tips of his fingers together. ‘There have been inquiries made, you know. Not only by me.’

‘You mean - the police are interested? And they’ve been making inquiries about me?’

Poirot said quietly, ‘They are interested in the movements of Mrs Lansquenet’s relations on the day that she was killed.’

‘That’s extremely awkward. I told Rosamund that I was having lunch with Oscar Lewis on that day. Actually I went to see a woman called Sorrel Dainton - and though that’s satisfactory as far as the police are concerned, Rosamund won’t be pleased.’

‘I see - I see - and this Miss Dainton, she will confirm your alibi?’

‘She won’t like it - but she’ll do it.’

‘She would do it, perhaps, even if you were not having an affair with her.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The lady is in love with you. When they are in love, women will swear to what is true - and also to what is untrue.’

‘Do you mean to say that you don’t believe me?’

‘It does not matter if I believe you or not. It is not me you have to satisfy.’

‘Who then?’

Poirot smiled. ‘Inspector Morton - who has just come out through the side door.’

Michael Shane turned round quickly.

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