فصل 03

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER THREE

A Red Dressing Gown and a Metal Button

In the restaurant carriage, everything was ready - a pile of passports and tickets, a plan of the carriage with the names of the passengers marked on it, and writing paper, a pen and ink.

‘Excellent,’ said Poirot. ‘Our first interview will be with the conductor. You probably know something about his character, M. Bouc. Should we believe his evidence?’

‘Definitely,’ replied M. Bouc. ‘Pierre Michel has worked for the company for fifteen years. A Frenchman - very honest.’ Michel entered the carriage. He seemed less upset than he had been earlier, but he was still very nervous.

‘Now, Michel,’ said M. Poirot gently, ‘we have to ask you a few things about last night. M. Ratchett went to bed - when?’

‘Soon after dinner, Monsieur - before we left Belgrade.’

‘Did you see anyone go into his compartment afterwards?’

‘His manservant, Monsieur, and his secretary. No one else.’

‘And was that the last time you saw or heard from him?’

‘No, Monsieur. He rang his bell at about twenty to one. I knocked, but he called out, ‘Ce n’est rieti. Je me suis trompe.’

‘And where were you at a quarter past one?’

‘Most of the time I was at my seat at the end of the corridor. Soon after one - I don’t know when exactly - I went to the next carriage to talk to a colleague about the snow. Then Mrs Hubbard rang, and I spoke to her for a few minutes. Then I brought you some water, Monsieur.’

‘And later?’

‘At about two o’clock M. MacQueen asked me to make his bed. The English Colonel from number 15 was there with him. When they had gone to bed, I sat at my seat until morning.’

‘Did you sleep?’

‘I don’t think so, Monsieur.’

‘Did you see any of the passengers in the corridor?’

The conductor thought for a moment. ‘One of the ladies went to the toilet.’

‘Which one?’

‘I don’t know, but she was wearing a red dressing gown. It had a Chinese-style picture on the back.’

‘And after that?’

‘You yourself opened the door and looked out for a second.’

‘Good,’ said Poirot. ‘I wondered if you would remember that. Now, if the murderer came onto the train last night -‘

‘There were no strangers on the train last night, Monsieur. The door to the next carriage was bolted on the inside. I opened the side door when we stopped at Vincovci at twenty past twelve, but I was standing there all the time. No one came through it.’

‘What about the side door beyond the restaurant carriage?’

‘That is always bolted on the inside at night.’

‘It isn’t bolted now.’

The man looked surprised for a moment. ‘Perhaps one of the passengers opened it to look at the snow,’ he said finally. ‘Monsieur, you do not blame me?’

Poirot smiled at him kindly. ‘Of course not, my friend. Ah! I have one other thing to ask you. Another bell rang just after you knocked on M. Ratchett’s door. Whose was it?’

‘Princess Dragomiroff’s, Monsieur. She wanted her maid.’

‘You called the maid?’

‘Yes, Monsieur.’

‘That is all. Thank you for your help.’

The conductor left the restaurant carriage and Poirot called Mr MacQueen for another interview.

When MacQueen learnt that his employer had been the criminal Cassetti, he was very angry. ‘How terrible that I helped an evil man like that!’ he cried.

‘You seem to feel very strongly about this, M. MacQueen.’

‘Yes, I do. My father was on the legal team in the Armstrong case. He knew that Cassetti was guilty, but things went wrong in court and it couldn’t be proved. Well, I’m glad that he’s dead - although I didn’t kill him myself, you understand.’

‘Of course, of course. Now, I must check the movements of everyone on the train. What did you do last night after dinner?’

‘Well, I talked to some of the other passengers. At about ten o’clock, I went into Mr Ratchett’s compartment and he asked me to write some letters for him. Then I got into a long conversation with Colonel Arbuthnot.’

‘Do you know what time you went to bed?’

‘About two o’clock, I think.’

‘Did you leave the train at any time?’

‘Arbuthnot and I got out at - what was the name of the place? - Vincovci. But it was bitterly cold, so we soon came back in.’

‘By which door did you leave the train?’

‘By the one next to the restaurant carriage.’

‘Do you remember if it was bolted?’

MacQueen stopped to think. ‘Yes, I believe it was.’

‘And did you bolt it again when you got back on the train?’

‘I got on last, and no, I don’t think 1 bolted it.’

‘When you were with Colonel Arbuthnot,’ continued the detective, ‘the door of your compartment was open, I think. Please tell me who passed along the corridor after the train left Vincovci.’

‘The conductor - and a woman too, going towards the restaurant carriage.’

‘Which woman?’

‘I don’t know. I just remember seeing a thin red dressing gown. She was probably going to the toilet.’

‘Did you see her return?’

‘Well, no, I don’t remember seeing her.’

‘One more question. Do you smoke a pipe?’

‘No, sir, I don’t,’ replied MacQueen.

‘I think that is all at present. Thank you for your time. I would now like to speak to M. Ratchett’s manservant.’

The American left and the thin, pale Englishman arrived. The detective picked up his passport.

‘You are the manservant of M. Ratchett - Edward Henry Masterman, age thirty-nine, a British citizen?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘You have heard that your employer has been murdered?’

‘Yes, sir. A terrible crime.’

‘Please tell me when you last saw M. Ratchett.’

‘It was at about nine o’clock last night, sir. I went to Mr Ratchett as usual, and helped him to get ready for bed.’

‘What sort of mood was he in?’

‘Not a good one, sir. He had just read a letter and I think he was upset about it. He criticised everything that I did.’

‘Was that unusual?’

‘No, sir. He lost his temper easily.’

‘Did M. Ratchett ever take any medicine to help him sleep?’ Dr Constantine moved forward a little to hear his answer. ‘Always, sir, when he was travelling. He said that he could not sleep without it.’

‘Did he take it last night?’

‘Yes, sir. I poured it into a glass for him myself.’

‘Did you like your employer, M. Masterman?’

The manservant’s face showed no emotion. ‘He paid me well, sir - but I’m not very fond of Americans.’

‘Have you ever been to America?’

‘No, sir.’

‘And what did you do after leaving M. Ratchett last night?’

‘I told Mr MacQueen that he was wanted. Then I went back to my own compartment and read.’

‘You were in compartment number 4.’

‘Yes, sir, with a big Italian man.’

‘Does the Italian speak English?’

‘Well, a kind of English, sir. He’s been in America - Chicago, I understand. We do not talk much. I prefer to read.’

‘What time did you go to sleep?’

‘I went to bed at about ten thirty, sir, but I didn’t sleep. I had toothache.’

‘Did you not sleep at all?’

‘Yes, in the end. But not until about four in the morning.’

‘Did you leave your compartment during the night?’

‘No, sir.’

‘And the Italian?’

‘No, sir. He slept all night.’

‘One last question. Do you smoke a pipe?’

‘No, sir. I only smoke cigarettes.’

‘Thank you, Mr Masterman. I think that is all.’

‘Excuse me, sir, but the American lady, Mrs Hubbard, says she knows all about the murderer. She is very upset, sir.’

‘Then we should see her next, I think,’ said Poirot, smiling. Mrs Hubbard entered the restaurant carriage talking excitedly. ‘Now who’s in charge here, because I have some very important information. Very important.’

‘Please, Madame, sit,’ said Poirot. ‘Then tell me everything.’

‘Well, I will tell you this. There was a murder on the train last night, and the murderer was in my compartment!’

‘You are sure of this, Madame?’

‘Of course I’m sure! I was asleep, and suddenly I woke up. It was dark - and I knew that there was a man in my compartment. I was so frightened that I couldn’t scream. I thought, “I’m going to be killed!” It was so terrible - these nasty trains, and the horrible things that happen on them! And then I thought, “Well, he won’t get my jewellery,” because I’d hidden it under my pillow. Very uncomfortable, I can tell you. But that’s not important. Where was I?’

‘You realised that there was a man in your compartment.’

‘Yes, well, I just lay there with my eyes closed for some time. Then I felt for the bell with my hand and pressed it to call the conductor. I rang and rang, but nothing happened. “Maybe they’ve already murdered everyone else on the train,” I thought. Then finally the conductor came in. I switched on the lights, but there wasn’t anyone there at all.’

Judging by Mrs Hubbard’s voice, she thought that her last words were the most exciting part of her story.

‘And what happened next, Madame?’

‘Well, I told the conductor what had happened, and he didn’t seem to believe me. Clearly the man had got away, but the conductor only wanted to calm me down! Well, at the time I was worried that the man was the one from the next-door compartment. I asked the conductor to look at the door between the compartments, and of course it wasn’t bolted. Well, I bolted it immediately, and put a suitcase against it too.’

‘And do you think the man in your compartment went into Mr Ratchett’s compartment, or out into the corridor?’

‘How could I know that? My eyes were tight shut. Oh, if my daughter knew how frightened I was!’

‘Perhaps, Madame, you heard someone not in your own compartment but in the compartment of the murdered man.’

‘Certainly not! And I can prove it!’

From her handbag, she produced a small metal button.

‘You see this? I found it this morning in my compartment.’ As she placed the button on the table, M. Bouc cried, ‘This is a button from a conductor’s uniform!’

‘It probably fell off Michel’s uniform when he was helping Madame Hubbard last night,’ said Poirot.

‘Why don’t you people believe me?’ cried the American woman. ‘At bedtime last night I was reading a magazine. When I switched off the light, I put the magazine on the floor near the window. Last night, after the man had been in my room, the conductor went nowhere near the window, but in the morning the button was on top of the magazine. What do you call that?’

‘I call that evidence, Madame,’ replied the detective seriously. ‘Now, can I ask you a few questions?’

‘Of course,’ said Mrs Hubbard.

‘You were nervous of this man Ratchett. So why had you not already bolted the door between the compartments?’

‘I had. Or at least, I had asked that Swedish lady if it was bolted, and she had said that it was.’

‘Why couldn’t you see for yourself?’

‘I was in bed and my sponge bag was hanging on the door handle.’

‘When was this?’

‘About half past ten, I think. The Swedish lady had come to ask me for an aspirin.’

‘Do you remember the case of the Armstrong kidnap?’

‘Of course I do. I didn’t know the Armstrongs personally. They moved in higher society than I. But I’ve always heard that they were a lovely couple. Oh, that evil man Cassetti -‘

‘Ratchett was Cassetti,’ said Poirot.

‘Cassetti, on this train! I can’t believe it! I must tell my daughter.’

‘Now, Madame, just one more thing. Do you have a red dressing gown?’

‘What an odd question! No, I don’t.’

Poirot helped her towards the door. At the last moment he said, ‘You have dropped your handkerchief, Madame.’

She looked at the little piece of material that he was holding out to her. ‘That isn’t mine. It’s much too small - mine are a sensible size.’

‘Ah!’ said the detective. ‘It had an H on it. I thought it must be yours.’

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