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CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
After Dinner Speech
Jane and Poirot returned to England. When Norman met Jane at Victoria station, he told her that the newspapers had reported that a Canadian lady had committed suicide in the Paris-Boulogne express, but nothing more. There was no mention of any connection with the aeroplane murder. ‘The police may suspect her of killing her mother, but they probably won’t continue with the case now,’ he said. ‘And until the general public believes that she is guilty, we must remain suspects ourselves!’
Norman repeated his concern to Poirot when he met him in a London street, a few days later.
Poirot smiled. ‘You think I am an old man who achieves nothing! Come and have dinner with me tonight. Inspector Japp and Mr Clancy are also coming. I have some things to say that may be interesting.’
At the end of a pleasant meal, Poirot sat back and prepared to speak. ‘My friends, Mr Clancy here is interested in the way I work, so I am going to explain to you all my methods in dealing with this particular case.’ He paused to look at some notes. ‘I will start with the flight of the Prometheus from Paris to London. When, just before we reached Croydon airport, Dr Bryant went with the steward to examine the body of the woman, I went with him. Because I, too, have a professional opinion where deaths are concerned. Dr Bryant confirmed that the woman was dead, but he could not confirm the cause of death. Jean Dupont suggested the death was due to allergic shock, following a wasp sting, and showed us a wasp that he himself had killed. This was a believable theory. There was a mark on the woman’s neck that looked like a sting. But at that moment I looked down and saw what might have been the body of another wasp. In fact, it was a long thorn, tied with yellow and black thread. Mr Clancy explained that it was a dart shot from a native blowpipe. A blowpipe was later found on the plane.
‘By the time we reached Croydon several ideas were working in my mind: the true nerve of one who could commit a crime in such a way; the fact that nobody saw it happen; the wasp; the blowpipe. Why did the murderer not get rid of it through the ventilating hole in the window? The dart might be difficult to identify, but a blowpipe which still had a piece of the price label on it was a very different thing. Obviously, the murderer wanted it to be found. If a poisoned dart and a blowpipe were found, everyone would think that the murder had been committed by a dart shot from a blowpipe. But perhaps the murder had not been committed that way? The cause of death was certainly the poisoned dart but what is the most successful way to place a poisoned dart in the jugular vein? The answer is, by hand. The blowpipe suggested distance, but if I was right then Madame Giselle’s killer had walked up to her table and bent over her. Either of the stewards could have leaned over Madame Giselle, and nobody would notice. Mr Clancy had also passed Madame Giselle’s seat - and it was he who first mentioned the blowpipe and dart theory.’
Mr Clancy jumped to his feet. ‘I protest!’
‘I have not finished, my friend. Neither Mitchell, Davis, nor Mr Clancy seemed likely murderers. So, next, I considered the wasp. It was strange that nobody saw it until coffee was served. I worked out a possible method for the crime. The murderer wanted people to think that Madame Giselle was stung by a wasp and had died of heart failure. The success of that idea depended on whether or not the murderer could get the dart back afterwards. It could be done, as long as the death was not suspicious. This is why he replaced the original red silk with black and yellow thread, in order to make the dart look like a wasp. So, our murderer walks up to the victim, sticks the dart in her neck, and immediately releases the wasp! The powerful poison causes almost instant death, but if anyone noticed a cry, the wasp would explain it. The poor woman had just been stung. But the poisoned dart was discovered before the murderer could collect it. The theory of the natural death is now impossible. So, he hides the blowpipe down the side of a seat, and when the plane is searched it is identified as the murder weapon.
‘If the murderer had brought the wasp on to the plane, in order to release it at the right moment to cause a distraction, he must have had something in which to keep it. I examined the contents of the passengers’ pockets and hand luggage, and found an empty matchbox in Mr Norman Gale’s pocket. But Mr Gale had never walked down the aisle. He had only visited the toilet and returned to his seat. It was the right clue on the wrong person. But in fact there was a method by which Mr Gale could have committed the crime, as the contents of his briefcase showed.’
‘My briefcase?’ Norman looked puzzled. ‘I don’t even remember what was in it.’
Poirot smiled. ‘I will come to that. So, I had four people who could possibly have committed the crime: the two stewards, Clancy and Gale. If I could match a motive to a possibility, I would have my murderer! Who would benefit from Madame Giselle’s death? Her daughter, who would inherit a fortune. And certain people who were in Madame Giselle’s power. I only knew of one passenger who was definitely mixed up with Giselle. Lady Horbury. She had visited Giselle in Paris the night before, she was desperate, and she knew a young actor who might easily have been the American who bought the blowpipe and bribed the clerk in Universal Airlines to ensure that Giselle travelled by the 12 o’clock service. She had the motive, but I did not see how it was possible for her to commit the crime; and I could not see a motive for the stewards, Mr Clancy, or Mr Gale.
‘Were any of my suspects married - and if so, could one of the wives be Anne Morisot? Mitchell’s wife, and the girl that Davis was seeing did not fit the picture. Mr Clancy was not married. And Mr Gale was in love with Miss Jane Grey. I investigated Miss Grey’s background, and confirmed that she was not Madame Giselle’s daughter.
‘The stewards did not benefit by Madame Giselle’s death. Mr Clancy was planning to write a book on the subject. Mr Gale was losing patients from his dental business. Apparently he lost, not gained, by the death of Giselle. I decided to get to know him better. I asked him to help me. I involved him in the fake blackmailing of Lady Horbury. He was a good actor and played his part perfectly. Lady Horbury did not recognize him. This convinced me that he could have disguised himself as an American in Paris and also have played the necessary part in the Prometheus.
‘By now I was very worried about Mademoiselle Jane. Either she was also involved in the crime, or she was completely innocent. And in that case, she might wake up one day to find herself married to a murderer. In order to prevent this, I took her to Paris as my secretary. And while I ‘was there, the missing heiress came to claim her fortune. She reminded me of someone, but I did not realize in time who that person was. The discovery that she had actually been in the plane seemed to destroy my ideas. Here, clearly, was the guilty person. But who was her accomplice - the man who had bought the blowpipe and bribed Jules Perrot? Her husband?’
‘I saw the answer. But if I was right, Anne Morisot should not have been on the plane. Then Lady Horbury told me that her maid, Madeleine, only travelled in the plane because of a last- minute change of plan.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,’ said Mr Clancy
‘When did you stop thinking that I was the murderer?’ asked Norman.
Poirot turned to him. ‘I never stopped. You are the murderer. For the last week Japp and I have been busy investigating you. You became a dentist to please your uncle, John Gale, and took his name when you joined his practice - but you were his sister’s son, and your real name is Richards. It was as Norman Richards that you met Anne Morisot in Nice last winter, when she was there with her employers. She did, in fact, know her mother’s maiden name. You identified Giselle in Monte Carlo, and realised that there was a large fortune waiting for Anne if she died. From Anne, you learnt of Lady Horbury’s connection with Giselle, and you planned the murder so that suspicion would fall on her. You bribed the clerk in Universal Airlines so that Giselle would travel on the same plane as Lady Horbury. You did not expect Anne to be on the plane. It threatened your plans. If anybody found out that Giselle’s daughter and heiress had been on the plane, suspicion would naturally fall on her. Your idea was that she should claim her inheritance with a perfect alibi, since she would have been on a train or boat at the time of the crime. Then you would marry her. The girl was in love with you. But you only cared about her money. And at Le Pinet you fell in love ‘with Jane Grey. So, your game became much more dangerous. You wanted to win both the money and the girl you loved. You told Anne Morisot that if she came forward immediately to prove her identity, she would be suspected of the murder. You asked her to take a holiday, and you went together to Rotterdam in Holland, where you married her. Then you told her how to claim the money. She must not mention her job as a lady’s maid, and she must make it clear that she and her husband had been abroad at the time of the murder.
‘Unfortunately, Anne arrived in Paris to claim her inheritance at the same time as Miss Grey and myself. You were worried that we might recognize Lady Horbury’s maid. So you came to Paris yourself, but Anne had already gone to see the lawyer. When she returned, she told you about her meeting with me. Things were becoming dangerous. You had not planned that your new wife would live long after inheriting her wealth. I believe you would have gone to Canada, using the excuse of your failed business, where you would have changed your name back to Richards. Your wife would have joined you there, but it would not have been long before Mrs Richards sadly died, leaving a fortune to her grieving husband. You would then have returned to England as Norman Gale, and said that you had made your fortune by a lucky investment in Canada! But now, this plan was in trouble and there was no time to be lost.’
Norman Gale gave an angry laugh. ‘I have never heard such nonsense!’
‘Perhaps not. But I have evidence.’
‘Evidence as to how I killed Giselle? Everyone knows I never went near her!’
‘I will tell you exactly how you committed the crime. You were on holiday. So why did you take a dentist’s coat with you? The answer is, because it looked like a steward’s coat. When coffee was served and the stewards had left, you went to the toilet, put on your white coat, came out, took a coffee spoon from the pantry, and hurried down the aisle using the spoon as the excuse. You pushed the dart into Giselle’s neck, released the wasp from the matchbox, returned to the toilet, changed your coat and walked back to your seat. It only took a couple of minutes. Nobody notices a steward. The only person who might have recognized you was Mademoiselle Jane. But you knew that when a woman is travelling with an attractive man, she will take any chance to look into her hand mirror, and repair her make-up.’
‘Yes. You once worked on a farm in South Africa. A snake farm.’
Fear showed in Gale’s eyes. He tried to speak, but the words would not come.
‘They recognized a photograph of you there. The same photograph was identified in Rotterdam as the Richards who married Anne Morisot.’
Norman Gale seemed to change before their eyes. The handsome, confident man had become a rat-like creature, looking round desperately for a way to escape.
‘The head of the Convent of Saint Marie made you change your plans when she contacted Anne Morisot. You could not ignore that telegram, but you persuaded your wife that unless she hid certain facts, either she or you might be suspected of murder, because you had both been on the plane when Giselle was killed. As I had been present at Anne’s interview in Paris, you were afraid I might discover the truth. Perhaps Anne herself was beginning to suspect you. So you hurried her out of the hotel and onto the train for Boulogne, where you injected her with hydrocyanic acid and left the empty bottle in her hand. You left your fingerprints on the bottle.’
‘Damned lies! I wore…’
‘Gloves, Monsieur? An admission, I think.’
‘You damned, interfering little…!’ Gale ran towards Poirot, his face red with anger. But Japp caught him by the shoulders and held on tightly. ‘James Richards, alias Norman Gale,’ he said, ‘I hold a warrant for your arrest on the charge of murder.
I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down and used in evidence.’
The police took Norman Gale away. Left alone with Poirot, Mr Clancy sighed happily. ‘Monsieur Poirot, that was wonderful!’
Poirot smiled. ‘Inspector Japp deserves as much credit as I do. He has done great work, identifying Gale as Richards.’
‘Poor little Jane Grey.’
‘She has courage. She will survive.’ Poirot picked up a pile of magazines that Norman Gale had knocked over, and noticed a photograph of Venetia Kerr at a race meeting, ”talking to Lord Horbury and a friend”. He showed it to Mr Clancy. ‘You see that? In a year’s time there will be an announcement: “A marriage will shortly take place between Lord Horbury and the Hon. Venetia Kerr.” And do you know who will have arranged that marriage? Hercule Poirot! And there is another marriage that I have arranged, too, between Jean Dupont and Miss Jane Grey. You will see.’
A month later, Jane came to see Poirot. She looked pale, and tired. ‘I should hate you, Monsieur Poirot.’
‘If you must. But I think you would rather know the truth than live a lie. And I do not think you would have lived that particular lie for very long. Getting rid of women is a habit that grows.’
‘I shall never fall in love again.’
Jane nodded. ‘But I need to work - I want something interesting to do, to forget about all of this.’
‘Then I advise you to go to Persia with the Duponts.’
‘But I thought that was only a trick of yours.’
‘Not at all. I have become so interested in prehistoric pottery that I sent them the donation I had promised. And they are expecting you to join them on their expedition. Can you draw?’
‘Yes. I’m rather good, actually.’
‘Excellent. Then you will enjoy yourself.’
‘It would be wonderful to get away!’ Jane’s cheeks grew pink, and she looked at him suspiciously. ‘Monsieur Poirot, you’re not - being kind?’
‘Kind? Mademoiselle, where money is concerned I am strictly a man of business!’
Poirot seemed so offended that Jane apologised for her thought at once. ‘Well, then,’ she said, ‘I’d better visit some museums and look at some prehistoric pottery.’
Eh, bien, that is a very good idea,’ smiled Hercule Poirot.
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