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CHapter twenty

Conversation

‘Well,’ said Mrs Sutcliffe doubtfully. ‘I don’t really know what to say -‘

She looked at Hercule Poirot. ‘It’s been very upsetting,’ she continued, ‘and I’m glad to have Jennifer safely at home with me. Two murders and a girl kidnapped!’

‘I would not worry too much about the kidnapping, Madame,’ said Poirot. ‘If I may tell you a secret, I suspect a romance.’

‘Do you mean the girl just ran away to marry somebody?’

‘I can say no more,’ said Hercule Poirot. ‘And I am sure that you too will say nothing of this.’

‘Of course not,’ said Mrs Sutcliffe, very pleased. She looked down at the letter that Poirot had brought from Inspector Kelsey. ‘So Monsieur - er - Poirot, you want to talk to Jennifer? I’m afraid she’s not a girl who notices things.’ She called her daughter into the room.

‘How do you do?’ said Poirot. ‘I am a friend of Julia Upjohn. She came to London to see me and ask my advice. She is now back at Meadowbank,’ Poirot added.

Jennifer looked at her mother, annoyed. ‘So she hasn’t been taken away.’ Mrs Sutcliffe decided to leave the room rather than argue again with her daughter.

‘All this fuss!’ said Jennifer. ‘I told Mummy it was silly - no pupils have been killed. I wish I was back there.’

‘I have come to ask, Mademoiselle Jennifer,’ said Poirot, ‘about the woman who came and gave you the new tennis racquet - what did she look like?’

‘I don’t really know,’ said Jennifer. ‘I didn’t look at her much. She had blonde hair, and was wearing a blue dress and a big hat. I think she was American.’

‘Had you ever seen her before?’ asked Poirot.

‘Oh no,’ said Jennifer.

‘Are you sure?’ said Poirot. ‘She was not, perhaps, one of the girls, dressed up - or one of the teachers?’

Jennifer looked puzzled. ‘Dressed up?’

Poirot showed her the picture of Mademoiselle Blanche that Eileen Rich had drawn.

‘Was this the woman?’

‘It’s a bit like her,’ said Jennifer, ‘but I don’t think so. I didn’t really look at her face.’ She obviously didn’t realize that the drawing was of Mademoiselle Blanche. ‘I was looking at my new racquet.’

‘I see,’ said Poirot. After a pause, he asked, ‘Did you ever see anyone at Meadowbank who you’d seen in Ramat?’

‘In Ramat?’ Jennifer thought. ‘Oh no - at least - I don’t think so.’

‘But you are not sure, Mademoiselle Jennifer.’

‘Well,’ Jennifer looked worried. ‘I often see people who look like other people,’ she explained.

‘Perhaps you recognized Princess Shaista?’ suggested Poirot. ‘You may have seen her in Ramat.’

‘I don’t think so,’ said Jennifer, frowning. ‘Of course I think most people do look alike. I only notice if someone has a strange sort of face, like Miss Rich.’

‘Have you seen Miss Rich somewhere before?’ Poirot asked. ‘No,’ said Jennifer. ‘I think I saw someone who just looked like Miss Rich. This person was much fatter than she is.’

‘Someone much fatter,’ said Poirot thoughtfully.

‘And Miss Rich was away ill last term,’ added Jennifer. ‘So she couldn’t have been in Ramat.’

‘And the other girls?’ asked Poirot, ‘had you seen any of the girls before?’

‘Only the ones I knew already,’ said Jennifer. ‘But I don’t really notice people very much.’

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