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The Murder on the Links - 18

The Murder on the Links

by Agatha Christie

18

Giraud Acts

“By the way, Poirot,” I said, as we walked along the hot white road,

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you. I dare say you meant well, but

really it was no business of yours to go mouching round to the Hôtel du

Phare without letting me know.”

Poirot shot a quick sidelong glance at me.

“And how did you know I had been there?” he inquired.

Much to my annoyance I felt the colour rising in my cheeks.

“I happened to look in in passing,” I explained with as much dignity as

I could muster.

I rather feared Poirot’s banter, but to my relief, and somewhat to my

surprise, he only shook his head with a rather unusual gravity.

“If I have offended your susceptibilities in any way, I demand pardon

of you. You will understand better soon. But, believe me, I have

striven to concentrate all my energies on the case.”

“Oh, it’s all right,” I said, mollified by the apology. “I know it’s

only that you have my interests at heart. But I can take care of myself

all right.”

Poirot seemed to be about to say something further, but checked

himself.

Arrived at the Villa, Poirot led the way up to the shed where the

second body had been discovered. He did not, however, go in, but paused

by the bench which I have mentioned before as being set some few yards

away from it. After contemplating it for a moment or two, he paced

carefully from it to the hedge which marked the boundary between the

Villa Geneviève and the Villa Marguerite. Then he paced back again,

nodding his head as he did so. Returning again to the hedge, he parted

the bushes with his hands.

“With good fortune,” he remarked to me over his shoulder, “Mademoiselle

Marthe may find herself in the garden. I desire to speak to her and

would prefer not to call formally at the Villa Marguerite. Ah, all is

well, there she is. Pst, mademoiselle! Pst! _Un moment, s’il vous

plaît.___”

I joined him at the moment that Marthe Daubreuil, looking slightly

startled, came running up to the hedge at his call.

“A little word with you, mademoiselle, if it is permitted?”

“Certainly, Monsieur Poirot.”

Despite her acquiescence, her eyes looked troubled and afraid.

“Mademoiselle, do you remember running after me on the road the day

that I came to your house with the examining magistrate? You asked me

if any one were suspected of the crime.”

“And you told me two Chilians.” Her voice sounded rather breathless,

and her left hand stole to her breast.

“Will you ask me the same question again, mademoiselle?”

“What do you mean?”

“This. If you were to ask me that question again, I should give you a

different answer. Some one is suspected—but not a Chilian.”

“Who?” The word came faintly between her parted lips.

“M. Jack Renauld.”

“What?” It was a cry. “Jack? Impossible. Who dares to suspect him?”

“Giraud.”

“Giraud!” The girl’s face was ashy. “I am afraid of that man. He is

cruel. He will—he will—” She broke off. There was courage gathering in

her face, and determination. I realized in that moment that she was a

fighter. Poirot, too, watched her intently.

“You know, of course, that he was here on the night of the murder?” he

asked.

“Yes,” she replied mechanically. “He told me.”

“It was unwise to have tried to conceal the fact,” ventured Poirot.

“Yes, yes,” she replied impatiently. “But we cannot waste time on

regrets. We must find something to save him. He is innocent, of course,

but that will not help him with a man like Giraud who has his

reputation to think of. He must arrest some one, and that some one will

be Jack.”

“The facts will tell against him,” said Poirot. “You realize that?”

She faced him squarely, and used the words I had heard her say in her

mother’s drawing-room.

“I am not a child, monsieur. I can be brave and look facts in the face.

He is innocent, and we must save him.”

She spoke with a kind of desperate energy, then was silent, frowning as

she thought.

“Mademoiselle,” said Poirot observing her keenly, “is there not

something that you are keeping back that you could tell us?”

She nodded perplexedly.

“Yes, there is something, but I hardly know whether you will believe

it—it seems so absurd.”

“At any rate, tell us, mademoiselle.”

“It is this. M. Giraud sent for me, as an afterthought, to see if I

could identify the man in there.” She signed with her head towards the

shed. “I could not. At least I could not at the moment. But since I

have been thinking—”

“Well?”

“It seems so queer, and yet I am almost sure. I will tell you. On the

morning of the day M. Renauld was murdered, I was walking in the garden

here, when I heard a sound of men’s voices quarrelling. I pushed aside

the bushes and looked through. One of the men was M. Renauld and the

other was a tramp, a dreadful looking creature in filthy rags. He was

alternately whining and threatening. I gathered he was asking for

money, but at that moment _maman___ called me from the house, and I had

to go. That is all, only—I am almost sure that the tramp and the dead

man in the shed are one and the same.”

Poirot uttered an exclamation.

“But why did you not say so at the time, mademoiselle?”

“Because at first it only struck me that the face was vaguely familiar

in some way. The man was differently dressed, and apparently belonged

to a superior station in life. But tell me, Monsieur Poirot, is it not

possible that this tramp might have attacked and killed M. Renauld, and

taken his clothes and money?”

“It is an idea, mademoiselle,” said Poirot slowly. “It leaves a lot

unexplained, but it is certainly an idea. I will think of it.”

A voice called from the house.

“_Maman___,” whispered Marthe, “I must go.” And she slipped away

through the trees.

“Come,” said Poirot, and taking my arm, turned in the direction of the

Villa.

“What do you really think?” I asked, in some curiosity. “Was that story

true, or did the girl make it up in order to divert suspicion from her

lover?”

“It is a curious tale,” said Poirot, “but I believe it to be the

absolute truth. Unwittingly, Mademoiselle Marthe told us the truth on

another point—and incidentally gave Jack Renauld the lie. Did you

notice his hesitation when I asked him if he saw Marthe Daubreuil on

the night of the crime? He paused and then said ‘Yes.’ I suspected that

he was lying. It was necessary for me to see Mademoiselle Marthe before

he could put her on her guard. Three little words gave me the

information I wanted. When I asked her if she knew that Jack Renauld

was here that night, she answered ‘He _told___ me.’ Now, Hastings, what

was Jack Renauld doing here on that eventful evening, and if he did not

see Mademoiselle Marthe whom did he see?”

“Surely, Poirot,” I cried, aghast, “you cannot believe that a boy like

that would murder his own father.”

“_Mon ami___,” said Poirot, “you continue to be of a sentimentality

unbelievable! I have seen mothers who murdered their little children

for the sake of the insurance money! After that, one can believe

anything.”

“And the motive?”

“Money of course. Remember that Jack Renauld thought that he would come

in to half his father’s fortune at the latter’s death.”

“But the tramp. Where does he come in?”

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

“Giraud would say that he was an accomplice—an apache who helped young

Renauld to commit the crime, and who was conveniently put out of the

way afterwards.”

“But the hair round the dagger? The woman’s hair?”

“Ah,” said Poirot, smiling broadly. “That is the cream of Giraud’s

little jest. According to him, it is not a woman’s hair at all.

Remember that the youths of today wear their hair brushed straight back

from the forehead with pomade or hairwash to make it lie flat.

Consequently some of the hairs are of considerable length.”

“And you believe that too?”

“No,” said Poirot with a curious smile. “For I know it to be the hair

of a woman—and more, which woman!”

“Madame Daubreuil,” I announced positively.

“Perhaps,” said Poirot, regarding me quizzically.

But I refused to allow myself to get annoyed.

“What are we going to do now?” I asked, as we entered the hall of the

Villa Geneviève.

“I wish to make a search amongst the effects of M. Jack Renauld. That

is why I had to get him out of the way for a few hours.”

“But will not Giraud have searched already?” I asked doubtfully.

“Of course. He builds a case, as a beaver builds a dam, with a

fatiguing industry. But he will not have looked for the things that I

am seeking—in all probability he would not have seen their importance

if they stared him in the face. Let us begin.”

Neatly and methodically, Poirot opened each drawer in turn, examined

the contents, and returned them exactly to their places. It was a

singularly dull and uninteresting proceeding. Poirot waded on through

collars, pajamas and socks. A purring noise outside drew me to the

window. Instantly I became galvanized into life.

“Poirot!” I cried. “A car has just driven up. Giraud is in it, and Jack

Renauld, and two gendarmes.”

“_Sacré tonnerre!___” growled Poirot. “That animal of a Giraud, could

he not wait? I shall not be able to replace the things in this last

drawer with the proper method. Let us be quick.”

Unceremoniously he tumbled out the things on the floor, mostly ties and

handkerchiefs. Suddenly with a cry of triumph Poirot pounced on

something, a small square cardboard, evidently a photograph. Thrusting

it into his pocket, he returned the things pell-mell to the drawer, and

seizing me by the arm dragged me out of the room and down the stairs.

In the hall stood Giraud, contemplating his prisoner.

“Good afternoon, M. Giraud,” said Poirot. “What have we here?”

Giraud nodded his head towards Jack.

“He was trying to make a getaway, but I was too sharp for him. He is

under arrest for the murder of his father, M. Paul Renauld.”

Poirot wheeled to confront the boy who leaned limply against the door,

his face ashy pale.

“What do you say to that, _jeune homme?___”

Jack Renauld stared at him stonily.

“Nothing,” he said.

*****

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