The Murder on the Links - 5 in English Thriller by Agatha Christie books and stories PDF | The Murder on the Links - 5

The Murder on the Links - 5

The Murder on the Links

by Agatha Christie

5

Mrs. Renauld’s Story

We found M. Hautet awaiting us in the hall, and we all proceeded

upstairs together, Françoise marching ahead to show us the way. Poirot

went up in a zigzag fashion which puzzled me, until he whispered with a

grimace:

“No wonder the servants heard M. Renauld mounting the stairs; not a

board of them but creaks fit to wake the dead!”

At the head of the staircase, a small passage branched off.

“The servants’ quarters,” explained Bex.

We continued along a corridor, and Françoise tapped on the last door to

the right of it.

A faint voice bade us enter, and we passed into a large sunny apartment

looking out towards the sea, which showed blue and sparkling about a

quarter of a mile distant.

On a couch, propped up with cushions, and attended by Dr. Durand, lay a

tall, striking-looking woman. She was middle-aged, and her once dark

hair was now almost entirely silvered, but the intense vitality and

strength of her personality would have made itself felt anywhere. You

knew at once that you were in the presence of what the French call

“_une maitresse femme___.”

She greeted us with a dignified inclination of the head.

“Pray be seated, monsieurs.”

We took chairs, and the magistrate’s clerk established himself at a

round table.

“I hope, madame,” began M. Hautet, “that it will not distress you

unduly to relate to us what occurred last night?”

“Not at all, monsieur. I know the value of time, if these scoundrelly

assassins are to be caught and punished.”

“Very well, madame. It will fatigue you less, I think, if I ask you

questions and you confine yourself to answering them. At what time did

you go to bed last night?”

“At half-past nine, monsieur. I was tired.”

“And your husband?”

“About an hour later, I fancy.”

“Did he seem disturbed—upset in any way?”

“No, not more than usual.”

“What happened then?”

“We slept. I was awakened by a hand being pressed over my mouth. I

tried to scream out, but the hand prevented me. There were two men in

the room. They were both masked.”

“Can you describe them at all, madame?”

“One was very tall, and had a long black beard, the other was short and

stout. His beard was reddish. They both wore hats pulled down over

their eyes.”

“H’m,” said the magistrate thoughtfully, “too much beard, I fear.”

“You mean they were false?”

“Yes, madame. But continue your story.”

“It was the short man who was holding me. He forced a gag into my

mouth, and then bound me with rope hand and foot. The other man was

standing over my husband. He had caught up my little dagger paper-knife

from the dressing-table and was holding it with the point just over his

heart. When the short man had finished with me, he joined the other,

and they forced my husband to get up and accompany them into the

dressing-room next door. I was nearly fainting with terror,

nevertheless I listened desperately.

“They were speaking in too low a tone for me to hear what they said.

But I recognized the language, a bastard Spanish such as is spoken in

some parts of South America. They seemed to be demanding something from

my husband, and presently they grew angry, and their voices rose a

little. I think the tall man was speaking. ‘You know what we want!’ he

said. ‘_The secret!___ Where is it?’ I do not know what my husband

answered, but the other replied fiercely: ‘You lie! We know you have

it. Where are your keys?’

“Then I heard sounds of drawers being pulled out. There is a safe on

the wall of my husband’s dressing-room in which he always keeps a

fairly large amount of ready money. Léonie tells me this has been

rifled and the money taken, but evidently what they were looking for

was not there, for presently I heard the tall man, with an oath,

command my husband to dress himself. Soon after that, I think some

noise in the house must have disturbed them, for they hustled my

husband out into my room only half dressed.”

“_Pardon___,” interrupted Poirot, “but is there then no other egress

from the dressing-room?”

“No, monsieur, there is only the communicating door into my room. They

hurried my husband through, the short man in front, and the tall man

behind him with the dagger still in his hand. Paul tried to break away

to come to me. I saw his agonized eyes. He turned to his captors. ‘I

must speak to her,’ he said. Then, coming to the side of the bed, ‘It

is all right, Eloise,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid. I shall return

before morning.’ But, although he tried to make his voice confident, I

could see the terror in his eyes. Then they hustled him out of the

door, the tall man saying: ‘One sound—and you are a dead man,

remember.’

“After that,” continued Mrs. Renauld, “I must have fainted. The next

thing I recollect is Léonie rubbing my wrists, and giving me brandy.”

“Madame Renauld,” said the magistrate, “had you any idea what it was

for which the assassins were searching?”

“None whatever, monsieur.”

“Had you any knowledge that your husband feared something?”

“Yes. I had seen the change in him.”

“How long ago was that?”

Mrs. Renauld reflected.

“Ten days perhaps.”

“Not longer?”

“Possibly. I only noticed it then.”

“Did you question your husband at all as to the cause?”

“Once. He put me off evasively. Nevertheless, I was convinced that he

was suffering some terrible anxiety. However, since he evidently wished

to conceal the fact from me, I tried to pretend that I had noticed

nothing.”

“Were you aware that he had called in the services of a detective?”

“A detective?” exclaimed Mrs. Renauld, very much surprised.

“Yes, this gentleman—M. Hercule Poirot.” Poirot bowed. “He arrived

today in response to a summons from your husband.” And taking the

letter written by M. Renauld from his pocket he handed it to the lady.

She read it with apparently genuine astonishment.

“I had no idea of this. Evidently he was fully cognizant of the

danger.”

“Now, madame, I will beg of you to be frank with me. Is there any

incident in your husband’s past life in South America which might throw

light on his murder?”

Mrs. Renauld reflected deeply, but at last shook her head.

“I can think of none. Certainly my husband had many enemies, people he

had got the better of in some way or another, but I can think of no one

distinctive case. I do not say there is no such incident—only that I am

not aware of it.”

The examining magistrate stroked his beard disconsolately.

“And you can fix the time of this outrage?”

“Yes, I distinctly remember hearing the clock on the mantelpiece strike

two.” She nodded towards an eight-day travelling clock in a leather

case which stood in the centre of the chimney-piece.

Poirot rose from his seat, scrutinized the clock carefully, and nodded,

satisfied.

“And here too,” exclaimed M. Bex, “is a wrist watch, knocked off the

dressing-table by the assassins, without doubt, and smashed to atoms.

Little did they know it would testify against them.”

Gently he picked away the fragments of broken glass. Suddenly his face

changed to one of utter stupefaction.

“_Mon Dieu!___” he ejaculated.

“What is it?”

“The hands of the watch point to seven o’clock!”

“What?” cried the examining magistrate, astonished.

But Poirot, deft as ever, took the broken trinket from the startled

commissary, and held it to his ear. Then he smiled.

“The glass is broken, yes, but the watch itself is still going.”

The explanation of the mystery was greeted with a relieved smile. But

the magistrate bethought him of another point.

“But surely it is not seven o’clock now?”

“No,” said Poirot gently, “it is a few minutes after five. Possibly the

watch gains, is that so, madame?”

Mrs. Renauld was frowning perplexedly.

“It does gain,” she admitted, “but I’ve never known it to gain quite so

much as that.”

With a gesture of impatience, the magistrate left the matter of the

watch and proceeded with his interrogatory.

“Madame, the front door was found ajar. It seems almost certain that

the murderers entered that way, yet it has not been forced at all. Can

you suggest any explanation?”

“Possibly my husband went out for a stroll the last thing, and forgot

to latch it when he came in.”

“Is that a likely thing to happen?”

“Very. My husband was the most absent-minded of men.”

There was a slight frown on her brow as she spoke, as though this trait

in the dead man’s character had at times vexed her.

“There is one inference I think we might draw,” remarked the commissary

suddenly. “Since the men insisted on M. Renauld dressing himself, it

looks as though the place they were taking him to, the place where ‘the

secret’ was concealed, lay some distance away.”

The magistrate nodded.

“Yes, far, and yet not too far, since he spoke of being back by

morning.”

“What times does the last train leave the station of Merlinville?”

asked Poirot.

“Eleven-fifty one way, and 12:17 the other, but it is more probable

that they had a motor waiting.”

“Of course,” agreed Poirot, looking somewhat crestfallen.

“Indeed, that might be one way of tracing them,” continued the

magistrate, brightening. “A motor containing two foreigners is quite

likely to have been noticed. That is an excellent point, M. Bex.”

He smiled to himself, and then, becoming grave once more, he said to

Mrs. Renauld:

“There is another question. Do you know any one of the name of

‘Duveen’?”

“Duveen?” Mrs. Renauld repeated, thoughtfully. “No, for the moment, I

cannot say I do.”

“You have never heard your husband mention any one of that name?”

“Never.”

“Do you know any one whose Christian name is Bella?”

He watched Mrs. Renauld narrowly as he spoke, seeking to surprise any

signs of anger or consciousness, but she merely shook her head in quite

a natural manner. He continued his questions.

“Are you aware that your husband had a visitor last night?”

Now he saw the red mount slightly in her cheeks, but she replied

composedly.

“No, who was that?”

“A lady.”

“Indeed?”

But for the moment the magistrate was content to say no more. It seemed

unlikely that Madame Daubreuil had any connection with the crime, and

he was anxious not to upset Mrs. Renauld more than necessary.

He made a sign to the commissary, and the latter replied with a nod.

Then rising, he went across the room, and returned with the glass jar

we had seen in the outhouse in his hand. From this, he took the dagger.

“Madame,” he said gently, “do you recognize this?”

She gave a little cry.

“Yes, that is my little dagger.” Then—she saw the stained point, and

she drew back, her eyes widening with horror. “Is that—blood?”

“Yes, madame. Your husband was killed with this weapon.” He removed it

hastily from sight. “You are quite sure about it’s being the one that

was on your dressing-table last night?”

“Oh, yes. It was a present from my son. He was in the Air Force during

the War. He gave his age as older than it was.” There was a touch of

the proud mother in her voice. “This was made from a streamline

aeroplane wire, and was given to me by my son as a souvenir of the

War.”

“I see, madame. That brings us to another matter. Your son, where is he

now? It is necessary that he should be telegraphed to without delay.”

“Jack? He is on his way to Buenos Ayres.”

“What?”

“Yes. My husband telegraphed to him yesterday. He had sent him on

business to Paris, but yesterday he discovered that it would be

necessary for him to proceed without delay to South America. There was

a boat leaving Cherbourg for Buenos Ayres last night, and he wired him

to catch it.”

“Have you any knowledge of what the business in Buenos Ayres was?”

“No, monsieur, I know nothing of its nature, but Buenos Ayres is not my

son’s final destination. He was going overland from there to Santiago.”

And, in unison, the magistrate and the commissary exclaimed:

“Santiago! Again Santiago!”

It was at this moment, when we were all stunned by the mention of that

word, that Poirot approached Mrs. Renauld. He had been standing by the

window like a man lost in a dream, and I doubt if he had fully taken in

what had passed. He paused by the lady’s side with a bow.

“_Pardon___, madame, but may I examine your wrists.”

Though slightly surprised at the request, Mrs. Renauld held them out to

him. Round each of them was a cruel red mark where the cords had bitten

into the flesh. As he examined them, I fancied that a momentary flicker

of excitement I had seen in his eyes disappeared.

“They must cause you great pain,” he said, and once more he looked

puzzled.

But the magistrate was speaking excitedly.

“Young M. Renauld must be communicated with at once by wireless. It is

vital that we should know anything he can tell us about this trip to

Santiago.” He hesitated. “I hoped he might have been near at hand, so

that we could have saved you pain, madame.” He paused.

“You mean,” she said in a low voice, “the identification of my

husband’s body?”

The magistrate bowed his head.

“I am a strong woman, monsieur. I can bear all that is required of me.

I am ready—now.”

“Oh, tomorrow will be quite soon enough, I assure you—”

“I prefer to get it over,” she said in a low tone, a spasm of pain

crossing her face. “If you will be so good as to give me your arm,

Doctor?”

The doctor hastened forward, a cloak was thrown over Mrs. Renauld’s

shoulders, and a slow procession went down the stairs. M. Bex hurried

on ahead to open the door of the shed. In a minute or two Mrs. Renauld

appeared in the doorway. She was very pale, but resolute. Behind her,

M. Hautet was clacking commiserations and apologies like an animated

hen.

She raised her hand to her face.

“A moment, messieurs, while I steel myself.”

She took her hand away and looked down at the dead man. Then the

marvellous self-control which had upheld her so far deserted her.

“Paul!” she cried. “Husband! Oh, God!” And pitching forward she fell

unconscious to the ground.

Instantly Poirot was beside her, he raised the lid of her eye, felt her

pulse. When he had satisfied himself that she had really fainted, he

drew aside. He caught me by the arm.

“I am an imbecile, my friend! If ever there was love and grief in a

woman’s voice, I heard it then. My little idea was all wrong. _Eh

bien!___ I must start again!”

****

Rate & Review

Yash Patel

Yash Patel Matrubharti Verified 2 years ago