فصل 01

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter one

The Majestic Hotel

No seaside town in the south of England is, I think, as attractive as St Loo. I believe the coast of Cornwall, where it is situated, is just as fascinating as that of the south of France.

‘Don’t you agree?’ I asked my friend, Hercule Poirot.

He was smiling to himself and did not answer my question immediately. I repeated it.

‘A thousand pardons, Hastings. I was thinking of that part of the world you mentioned just now and the last winter that I spent there and of the events which occurred.’

I remembered. A murder had been committed on the Blue Train, the luxurious night train that runs between Paris and the French Riviera. Thanks to Poirot’s investigations, the killer had been found.

‘How I wish I had been with you,’ I said.

‘I, too,’ said Poirot. ‘I missed your lively imagination, Hastings. One needs some amusement.’

‘Tell me, Poirot,’ I said, ‘are you never tempted to begin your detective work again?’

‘No, this retired life suits me. What could be a greater thing to do than to retire at the height of my fame? They say of me: “That is Hercule Poirot - the great - the detective unique! There was never any one like him; there never will be again!” I ask no more. I am modest.’ He sat back with self-satisfaction.

We were sitting on one of the terraces of The Majestic, the biggest hotel in St Loo, which stands overlooking the sea. The sky was clear and the August sun was shining. If these weather conditions continued, we would have a perfect holiday. I picked up the morning newspaper. ‘Still no news of that pilot, Seton, in his round-the-world flight,’ I said. ‘That seaplane of his, The Albatross, is a great invention. It makes me feel proud to be an Englishman.’ My attention then went to the political news. ‘They seem to be giving the Home Secretary a bad time of it.’

‘He has his troubles, that one. Ah! Yes. He needs my help…’ I stared at him. With a slight smile, Poirot took a letter from his pocket which he threw across to me. I read it with a feeling of excitement.

‘Poirot,’ I cried. ‘He begs you to investigate this matter for him - as a personal favour.’

‘I know that, my dear Hastings. I have read the letter myself.’

‘This will put an end to our holiday,’ I cried.

‘No, no - there is no question of that. I will write very politely that I have retired - I am finished.’

‘You are not finished,’ I exclaimed warmly.

Poirot smiled. ‘There speaks the good friend. And the little grey cells of my brain, they still function - the order, the method - it is still there. But when I have retired, my friend, I have retired! Hercule Poirot has solved his last case.’

‘How can you be so sure that someone or something won’t persuade you?’

‘Impossible,’ he replied, ‘that anyone could change the decision of Hercule Poirot.’

‘Impossible, Poirot?’

‘You are right, mon ami, one should not use such a word. If a bullet hits the wall by my head, I would certainly investigate the matter! One is human after all!’

I smiled. A little stone had just hit the terrace beside us, and Poirot picked it up. ‘Yes - one is human.’

Suddenly he rose and went down the steps that led to the garden. Just then, a girl came running towards us. I had just noticed how pretty she was, when Poirot fell. The girl and I helped him to his feet.

‘A thousand pardons,’ said Poirot. ‘Mademoiselle, you are most kind. It is a twisted ankle, that is all. But if you could help me, Hastings…’

With me on one side and the girl on the other, we got Poirot on to a chair. I suggested calling a doctor, but my friend said no. ‘It is nothing. Painful only for the moment. Mademoiselle, I thank you a thousand times. You were most kind. Sit down, I beg of you.’

She took a chair and joined us.

‘What about a cocktail?’ I suggested. ‘It’s just about the time.’

‘Well,’ she hesitated. ‘Thanks very much.’

‘Martini?’

‘Yes, please - dry.’

On my return, I found Poirot and the girl in conversation. ‘Imagine, Hastings,’ he said, ‘that house there on the top of the cliff that we have admired so much belongs to Mademoiselle.’

‘Indeed?’ I said, though I couldn’t remember having expressed any admiration. ‘It looks rather lonely.’

‘It’s called End House,’ said the girl. ‘I love it - but it’s in very poor condition. There have been Buckleys here for two or three hundred years and I’m the last of the family.’

‘That is sad. You live there alone, Mademoiselle Buckley?’

‘Oh! I’m away a lot and when I’m at home there’s usually a crowd of friends coming and going.’

‘So modern. I was picturing you in a dark mysterious mansion, full of ghosts and dark family secrets,’ Poirot said.

‘What an imagination! No, there’s no ghost - or if there is, it’s a kind one. I’ve had three escapes from sudden death in as many days, so I must be lucky!’

‘Escapes from death? That sounds interesting, Mademoiselle.’

‘Oh! They were just accidents you know.’ She shook her head as a bee flew past. ‘I hate the way these bees come right past your face. That’s the second time in just a few minutes.’ Miss Buckley took off the hat she was wearing and put it down beside her. ‘Too hot!’ she laughed.

I looked at her with interest. Her untidy dark hair made her look young and delicate. The small, vivid face, the enormous dark-blue eyes, and something else. Was it a love of danger? There were dark shadows under her eyes.

From round the corner a red-faced man appeared. ‘Nick,’ he was saying. ‘Nick - Nick!’

Miss Buckley rose to her feet. ‘George - here I am.’

‘Freddie’s desperate for a drink. Come on, girl,’ he said.

She introduced her friend. ‘This is Commander Challenger…?’

But to my surprise Poirot did not give his name. He rose, bowed, and said, ‘Of the English Navy? I have great admiration for the English Navy.’

This type of comment is not typical for an Englishman. Commander Challenger’s face went even redder. Nick Buckley took control of the situation and said energetically, ‘Come on, George. Let’s find Freddie and Jim.’ She smiled at Poirot. ‘I hope the ankle will be all right.’

With a nod of the head to me she put her hand through Challenger’s arm and they disappeared round the corner together.

‘So that is one of Mademoiselle’s friends,’ said Poirot thoughtfully. ‘Give me your expert opinion, Hastings. Is he what you would call a “good fellow” - an honest, respectable man?’

‘He seems all right - yes.’

The girl had left her hat behind. Poirot picked it up and twirled it round on his finger. ‘Has he feelings for her? What do you think, Hastings?’

‘My dear Poirot! How can I tell? Here - give me that hat. I’ll take it to her.’

Poirot gave a little laugh, then laid a finger against the side of his nose. ‘We will return the hat - to End House - and so we will see the charming Miss Nick again. She is a pretty girl - eh?’

‘Well - you saw for yourself. Why ask me?’

‘Because, sadly, I cannot tell. To me, nowadays, anything young is beautiful. But you are more modern than I am. She has s@x appeal?’

‘The answer is very much a yes. Why are you so interested in the lady?’

‘Mon ami, I am much more interested in her hat. But look, my dear old imbecile - it is not necessary to employ the grey cells - the eyes are all that is needed. Look, look!’

And at last I saw what he had been trying to show me. His finger was stuck neatly through a hole in the edge of the hat.

‘Did you observe the way Mademoiselle Nick moved suddenly when a bee flew past? She said it was the second time in a few minutes.’

‘But a bee couldn’t make a hole like that.’

‘Exactly, Hastings! But a bullet could! A bullet like this.’

He showed me a small object in the palm of his hand. ‘A used bullet, mon ami. This was what hit the terrace when we were talking, not a little stone!’

‘You mean…’

‘I mean that one inch of a difference and that hole would not be through the hat but through the head. Now do you see why I am interested, Hastings? You were right, my friend, when you told me not to use the word “impossible”. Ah! that would- be murderer made a bad mistake when he shot at his victim within yards of Hercule Poirot! You see now why we must go to End House and talk with Mademoiselle Buckley? Three near escapes from death in three days. That is what she said. We must act quickly, Hastings. The peril is very close at hand.’

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