فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Probabilities

‘Now,’ said Japp, ‘there were eleven passengers in the rear cabin of that plane, and two stewards. That’s twelve people who could have murdered the old woman. Monsieur Fournier can investigate the French passengers. I’ll take the English ones. There are also inquiries to be made in Paris, Fournier.’

‘Not only in Paris,’ said Fournier. ‘In the summer, Giselle did a lot of business at resorts on the coast - Deauville, Le Pinet, Wimereux. She went south, too, to Antibes, Nice, and all those places.’

‘Then we must investigate the murder itself, and prove who could possibly have used that blowpipe.’ Japp unrolled a large plan of the cabin, and laid it out on the table. ‘We can cross Monsieur Poirot off the list, which brings the number down to eleven. The stewards are unlikely suspects, but they moved around the cabin, and so they could have stood in a place where they could have used that blowpipe - although I don’t think that a steward could shoot a poisoned dart out of a blowpipe in a cabin full of people without someone noticing. Of course, the same thing is true for every other person. Whoever did it was extremely lucky!’

‘It is, perhaps, a person with a sense of humour,’ said Fournier.

‘And now we must think about the passengers. Let’s start with seat number 16. Jane Grey - she won a lottery prize, and spent the money on a trip to Le Pinet. That means she’s a gambler. It’s unlikely that she borrowed money from Giselle. And I don’t think a hairdresser’s assistant could get hold of snake poison. They don’t use it as a hair dye. In fact, the murderer made a mistake by using snake poison. Not many people could get hold of it.’

‘Which makes one thing clear,’ said Poirot. ‘The murderer belongs to one of two categories. He might be a man who has travelled to foreign lands, and knows something about poisonous snakes and the native tribes who use the poison to kill their enemies. Or he is involved in scientific research. Winterspoon told me that snake poison is sometimes used in medicine. But neither of those categories fit Jane Grey. A motive seems unlikely. Look, actually using the blowpipe is almost impossible for her.’

The three men studied the plan.

‘Here’s seat 16,’ said Japp. ‘And here’s Giselle’s seat, number two. If Grey didn’t move from her seat - and everybody says she didn’t - then she couldn’t possibly have shot Giselle in the neck with the blowpipe from there. Number 12, opposite, is the dentist, Norman Gale. He’d have a better chance of getting hold of snake poison through his work, or from a scientist friend - but he only left his seat once - to go to the toilet, which is in the opposite direction. And to shoot a blowpipe on his way back that could hit the old lady in the neck, he’d need a magic dart that could turn round the corner. Very unlikely’

‘I agree,’ said Fournier.

‘We’ll cross the aisle now. Number 17.’

‘That was my seat originally,’ said Poirot. ‘I gave it to one of the ladies, who wanted to sit beside her friend.’

‘The Honourable Venetia Kerr is very well known in London. She might have borrowed money from Giselle. It doesn’t look as though she had any guilty secrets, but maybe she interfered with the results of a horse race or something. If Giselle had turned her head to look out of the window, Venetia Kerr could have shot her diagonally across the cabin, but only if she stood up to do it. She’s the sort of woman who goes shooting in the autumn. Shooting a native blowpipe must need similar kinds of skills and she’s probably got friends who’ve been big-game hunting around the world, who could get hold of snake poison for her. What nonsense it all sounds, though!’

‘I saw Mademoiselle Kerr at the inquest.’ Fournier shook his head. ‘It is not easy to connect her with murder.’

‘Seat 13,’ said Japp. ‘Lady Horbury I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a guilty secret or two.’

‘She has been losing money at the baccarat table at Le Pinet.’

‘Ah. And she’s the type of person to be mixed up with Giselle. But how could she have done it? She’d have had to kneel up and lean over the top of her seat, with ten people looking at her!’

‘Seats nine and ten,’ said Fournier, moving his finger on the plan.

‘Hercule Poirot and Dr Bryant,’ said Japp. ‘Dr Bryant is unlikely to go to a French woman moneylender; but you never know. And he will know medical research people. He could easily have stolen some snake poison while he was visiting a laboratory. But then, why did he mention poison? Why didn’t he just say that the woman had died from heart failure?’

‘I think that was his first thought,’ said Poirot. ‘It looked like a natural death, possibly as the result of a wasp sting; there was a wasp, remember?’

‘We’re not likely to forget. You’re always talking about it.’

‘However, when I found the poisoned dart on the ground, everything pointed to murder.’

‘The dart would have been found anyway.’

Poirot shook his head. ‘The murderer could have picked it up secretly.’

‘A bit of a risk.’

‘You think so now,’ said Fournier, ‘because you know that it is murder. But when a lady dies suddenly of heart failure, who will notice if a man drops his handkerchief and then picks it up again?’

‘True,’ agreed Japp. ‘Well, Bryant is definitely on the list. He could have leaned round the corner of his seat and blown in the pipe diagonally across the cabin. But nobody saw him!’

‘I think there is a reason for that,’ said Fournier. ‘If you were travelling on a train, and you passed a burning house, everyone would look out of the window at it. At that moment, a man might take out a knife and stab someone, and nobody would see him do it.’

‘That is true,’ said Poirot. ‘And if such a moment occurred during the journey of the Prometheus, it would have been created by the murderer.’

‘Well, we’ll add it to our list of questions,’ said Japp. ‘Now, seat number eight - Daniel Michael Clancy. A crime writer could easily pretend to have an interest in snake poison and persuade a chemist to show him some. And he was the only passenger to go past Giselle’s seat. He could have used that blowpipe without needing the ”moment”. And he knows all about blowpipes. It looks suspicious to me. Seat number four was Ryder - right in front of Giselle. He went to the toilet, and could have taken a shot at her on the way back. But he’d have been right next to the archaeologists when he did so, and they would have noticed.’

Poirot shook his head. ‘You do not know many archaeologists, perhaps? If they were discussing a really important point - eh bien, my friend, they would be blind and deaf to whatever was happening around them. They would be living in 5,000 BC. At that moment AD 1935 would not exist for them.’

Japp did not look impressed. ‘What can you tell us about the Duponts, Fournier?’

‘Armand Dupont is one of the most famous archaeologists in France.’

‘That doesn’t matter to us. Their position in the cabin is pretty good. And they’ve travelled to a lot of strange places; they might easily have got hold of snake poison.’

Fournier shook his head. ‘The Duponts are devoted to their profession. It is unlikely that they are mixed up in this business.’

‘All right. I will find out if Clancy, Bryant and Ryder have ever needed money; if they have seemed worried lately; where they have been during the last year and so on. Wilson can check up on the others. And Monsieur Fournier will investigate the Duponts.’

Fournier nodded. ‘I shall return to Paris tonight. There may be more information to find out from Elise, Giselle’s maid. And I will check where Giselle had been during the summer. I know she was at Le Pinet once or twice.’

‘I would like to go with Monsieur Fournier to Paris,’ said Poirot.

Japp looked at Poirot curiously. ‘Do you have some ideas?’

‘One or two; but it is very difficult. One thing that worries me is the fact that the blowpipe was hidden behind a seat.’

‘Whoever did it had to hide the thing somewhere,’ said Japp.

‘But, my friend, in each window of the plane there is a ventilator, a circle of holes which can be opened or closed by turning a wheel of glass. Those holes are wide enough to push the blowpipe through. What could be simpler than to get rid of it that way?’

‘The murderer was afraid of being seen.’

‘He was not afraid of someone seeing him put the blowpipe to his lips and sending the fatal dart, but he was afraid that they would see him trying to push it through the window?’

‘It gives you an idea?’ asked Fournier.

‘Perhaps… Do you have that detailed list of the passengers’ belongings that I asked you to get me?’

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