"Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница

Between them he and Cornelia got the weeping, struggling girl out of the saloon and along the deck to her cabin. There they had more trouble with her. She fought to free herself; her sobs redoubled.

"I'll drown myself... I'll drown myself. I've... Oh, Simon - Simon!"

Fanthorp said to Cornelia: "Better get hold of Miss Bowers. I'll stay while you get her."

Cornelia nodded and hurried out.

As soon as she left, Jacqueline clutched Fanthorp.

"I'm not fit to live... His leg - it's bleeding - broken... He may bleed to death. I must go to him... Oh "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница, Simon - Simon - how could I?"

Her voice rose. Fanthorp said urgently: "Quietly - quietly. He'll be all right."

She began to struggle again.

"Let me go! Let me throw myself overboard... Let me kill myself!"

Fanthorp, holding her by the shoulders, forced her back onto the bed. "You must stay here. Don't make a fuss. Pull yourself together. It's all right, I tell you."

To his relief, the distraught girl did manage to control herself a little, but he was thankful when the curtains were pushed aside and the efficient Miss Bowers, neatly dressed in a "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница hideous kimono, entered, accompanied by Cornelia.

"Now then," said Miss Bowers briskly, "what's all this?" She took charge without any sign of surprise and alarm.

Fanthorp thankfully left the overwrought girl in her capable hands and hurried along to the cabin occupied by Dr Bessner. He knocked and entered on the top of the knock.

"Dr Bessner?"

A terrific snore resolved itself, and a startled voice asked: "So? What is it?" By this time Fanthorp had switched the light on. The doctor blinked up at him, looking rather like a large owl.

"It's Doyle. He "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница's been shot. Miss de Bellefort shot him. He's in the saloon. Can you come?"

The stout doctor reacted promptly. He asked a few curt questions, pulled on his bedroom slippers and a dressing-gown, picked up a little case of necessaries and accompanied Fanthorp to the lounge.

Simon had managed to get the window beside him open. He was leaning his head against it, inhaling the air. His face was a ghastly colour. Dr Bessner came over to him.

"Ha? So? What have we here?"

A handkerchief sodden with blood lay on the carpet and on the carpet "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница itself was a dark stain.

The doctor's examination was punctuated with Teutonic grunts and exclamations. "Yes, it is bad this... The bone is fractured. And a big loss of blood. Herr Fanthorp, you and I must get him to my cabin. So - like this. He cannot walk. We must carry him, thus."

As they lifted him Cornelia appeared in the doorway. Catching sight of her, the doctor uttered a grunt of satisfaction.

"Ach, it is you? Goot. Come with us. I have need of assistance. You will be better than my friend here. He looks a little pale "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница already."

Fanthorp emitted a rather sickly smile.

"Shall I get Miss Bowers?" he asked.

Dr Bessner threw a considering glance over Cornelia.

"You will do very well, young lady," he announced. "You will not faint or be foolish, hein?"

"I can do what you tell me," said Cornelia eagerly.

Bessner nodded in a satisfied fashion.

The procession passed along the deck.

The next ten minutes was purely surgical and Mr Jim Fanthorp did not enjoy it at all. He felt secretly ashamed of the superior fortitude exhibited by Cornelia.

"So, that is the best I can do," announced Dr Bessner "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница at last.

"You have been a hero, my friend." He patted Simon approvingly on the shoulder. Then he rolled up his sleeve and produced a hypodermic needle.

"And now I will give you something to make you sleep. Your wife, what about her?"

Simon said weakly: "She needn't know till the morning."

He went on: "I - you mustn't blame Jackie... It's been all my fault. I treated her disgracefully - poor kid - she didn't know what she was doing..."



Dr Bessner nodded comprehendingly.

"Yes, yes - I understand..."

"My fault -" Simon urged. His eyes went "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница to Cornelia. "Someone - ought to - stay with her. She might - hurt herself -"

Dr Bessner injected the needle. Cornelia said, with quiet competence: "It's all right, Mr Doyle. Miss Bowers is going to stay with her all night..."

A grateful look flashed over Simon's face. His body relaxed. His eyes closed. Suddenly he jerked them open. "Fanthorp?"

"Yes, Doyle."

"The pistol... ought not to leave it... lying about. The boys will find it in the morning."

Fanthorp nodded. "Quite right. I'll go and get hold of it now."

He went out of the cabin and along the deck "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница. Miss Bowers appeared at the door of Jacqueline's cabin.

"She'll be all right now," she announced. "I've given her a morphine injection."

"But you'll stay with her?"

"Oh, yes. Morphia excites some people. I shall stay all night."

Fanthorp went on to the lounge. Some three minutes later there was a tap on Bessner's cabin door.

"Dr Bessner?"

"Yes?" The stout man appeared. Fanthorp beckoned him out on the deck.

"Look here - I can't find that pistol."

"What is that?"

"The pistol. It dropped out of the girl's hand. She kicked it away "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница and it went under a settee. It isn't under that settee now."

They stared at each other.

"But who can have taken it?"

Fanthorp shrugged his shoulders.

Bessner said: "It is curious, that. But I do not see what we can do about it."

Puzzled and vaguely alarmed, the two men separated.

Chapter 12

Hercule Poirot was just wiping the lather from his freshly shaved face when there was a quick tap on the door, and hard on top of it Colonel Race entered unceremoniously. He closed the door behind him.

He said: "Your instinct was quite correct "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница. It's happened."

Poirot straightened up and asked sharply: "What has happened?"

"Linnet Doyle's dead - shot through the head last night."

Poirot was silent for a minute, two memories vividly before him - a girl in a garden at Assuan saying in a hard breathless voice, "I'd like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger," and another more recent memory, the same voice saying, "One feels one can't go on - the kind of day when something breaks" - and that strange momentary flash of appeal in her eyes. What had been the matter "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница with him not to respond to that appeal? He had been blind, deaf, stupid with his need for sleep.

Race went on: "I've got some slight official standing; they sent for me, put it in my hands. The boat's due to start in half an hour, but it will be delayed till I give the word. There's a possibility, of course, that the murderer came from the shore."

Poirot shook his head.

Race acquiesced in the gesture.

"I agree. One can pretty well rule that out. Well, man, it's up to you. This is "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница your show."

Poirot had been attiring himself with a neat-fingered celerity. He said now, "I am at your disposal."

The two men stepped out on the deck.

Race said: "Bessner should be there by now. I sent the steward for him."

There were four cabins de luxe, with bathrooms, on the boat. Of the two on the port side one was occupied by Dr Bessner, the other by Andrew Pennington. On the starboard side the first was occupied by Miss Van Schuyler, and the one next to it by Linnet Doyle. Her husband's dressing cabin was next door "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница.

A white-faced steward was standing outside the door of Linnet Doyle's cabin. He opened the door for them and they passed inside. Dr Bessner was bending over the bed. He looked up and grunted as the other two entered.

"What can you tell us, Doctor, about this business?" asked Race.

Bessner rubbed his unshaven jaw meditatively.

"Ach! She was shot - shot at close quarters. See - here, just above the ear - that is where the bullet entered. A very little bullet - I should say a twenty-two. The pistol, it was held close against her head; see, there "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница is blackening here, the skin is scorched."

Again in a sick wave of memory Poirot thought of those words uttered at Assuan. Bessner went on: "She was asleep; there was no struggle; the murderer crept up in the dark and shot her as she lay there."

"Ah! non!" Poirot cried out. His sense of psychology was outraged. Jacqueline de Bellefort creeping into a darkened cabin, pistol in hand - No, it did not "fit," that picture.

Bessner stared at him through his thick lenses.

"But that is what happened, I tell you."

"Yes, yes. I did not "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница mean what you thought. I was not contradicting you."

Bessner gave a satisfied grunt.

Poirot came up and stood beside him. Linnet Doyle was lying on her side. Her attitude was natural and peaceful. But above the ear was a tiny hole with an incrustation of dried blood round it.

Poirot shook his head sadly.

Then his gaze fell on the white painted wall just in front of him and he drew in his breath sharply. Its white neatness was marred by a big wavering letter J scrawled in some brownish-red medium.

Poirot stared at it, then he leaned over the "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница dead girl and very gently picked up her right hand. One finger of it was stained a brownish-red.

"Nom d'un nom d'un nom!" ejaculated Hercule Poirot.

"Eh? What is that?"

Dr Bessner looked up.

"Ach! That."

Race said: "Well, I'm damned. What do you make of that, Poirot?"

Poirot swayed a little on his toes.

"You ask me what I make of it. Eh bien, it is very simple, is it not? Madame Doyle is dying; she wishes to indicate her murderer, and so she writes with her finger, dipped in her own "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница blood, the initial letter of her murderer's name. Oh, yes, it is astonishingly simple."

"Ach! but-"

Dr Bessner was about to break out, but a peremptory gesture from Race silenced him.

"So it strikes you like that?" he asked slowly.

Poirot turned round on him nodding his head.

"Yes, yes. It is, as I say, of an astonishing simplicity! It is so familiar, is it not? It has been done so often, in the pages of the romance of crime! It is now, indeed, a little vieux jeu! It leads one to suspect that our murderer is - old-fashioned "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница!"

Race drew a long breath.

"I see," he said. "I thought at first -" He stopped.

Poirot said with a very faint smile: "That I believed in all the old clichés of melodrama? But pardon, Dr Bessner, you were about to say -?"

Bessner broke out gutturally: "What do I say? Pah! I say it is absurd; it is the nonsense! The poor lady she died instantaneously. To dip her finger in the blood (and as you see, there is hardly any blood) and write the letter J upon the wall - Bah - it is the nonsense - the melodramatic "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница nonsense!"

"Ces l'enfantillage," agreed Poirot.

"But it was done with a purpose," suggested Race.

"That - naturally," agreed Poirot, and his face was grave.

"What does J stand for?" asked Race.

Poirot replied promptly: "J stands for Jacqueline de Bellefort, a young lady who declared to me less than a week ago that she would like nothing better than to -" he paused and then deliberately quoted, "'to put my dear little pistol close against her head and then just press with my finger.'"

"Gott im Himmel!" exclaimed Dr Bessner.

There was a momentary silence. Then Race drew a deep breath and "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница said:

"Which is just what was done here?"

Bessner nodded.

"That is so, yes. It was a pistol of very small calibre - as I say probably a twenty-two. The bullet has got to be extracted, of course, before we can say definitely."

Race nodded in swift comprehension. Then he asked: "What about time of death?"

Bessner stroked his jaw again. His finger made a rasping sound.

"I would not care to be too precise. It is now eight o'clock. I will say, with due regard to the temperature last night, that she has been dead certainly "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница six hours and probably not longer than eight."

"That puts it between midnight and two A.M."

"That is so."

There was a pause. Race looked round.

"What about her husband? I suppose he sleeps in the cabin next door."

"At the moment," said Dr Bessner, "he is asleep in my cabin."

Both men looked very surprised.

Bessner nodded his head several times.

"Ach, so. I see you have not been told about that. Mr Doyle was shot last night in the saloon."

"Shot? By whom?"

"By the young lady, Jacqueline de Bellefort."

Race asked sharply, "Is he badly "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница hurt?"

"Yes, the bone was splintered. I have done all that is possible at the moment, but it is necessary, you understand, that the fracture should be X-rayed as soon as possible and proper treatment given such as is impossible on this boat."

Poirot murmured, "Jacqueline de Bellefort."

His eyes went again to the J on the wall.

Race said abruptly: "If there is nothing more we can do here for the moment, let's go below. The management has put the smoking-room at our disposal. We must get the details of what happened last night."

They left "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница the cabin. Race locked the door and took the key with him.

"We can come back later," he said. "The first thing to do is to get all the facts clear."

They went down to the deck below, where they found the Manager of the Karnak waiting uneasily in the doorway of the smoking-room.

The poor man was terribly upset and worried over the whole business, and was eager to leave everything in Colonel Race's hands.

"I feel I can't do better than leave it to you, Sir, seeing your official position. I'd had "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница orders to put myself at your disposal in the - er - other matter. If you will take charge, I'll see that everything is done as you wish."

"Good man! To begin with I'd like this room kept clear for me and for Monsieur Poirot during the inquiry."

"Certainly, sir."

"That's all at present. Go on with your own work. I know where to find you."

Looking slightly relieved the Manager left the room.

Race said, "Sit down, Bessner, and let's have the whole story of what happened last night."

They listened in silence to the doctor's "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница rumbling voice.

"Clear enough," said Race, when he had finished. "The girl worked herself up, helped by a drink or two, and finally took a pot shot at the man with a twenty-two pistol. Then she went along to Linnet Doyle's cabin and shot her as well."

But Dr Bessner was shaking his head.

"No, no. I do not think so. I do not think that was possible. For one thing she would not write her own initial on the wall; it would be ridiculous, nicht wahr?"

"She might," Race declared, "if she were as blindly "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница mad and jealous as she sounds; she might want to - well - sign her name to the crime, so to speak." Poirot shook his head.

"No, no, I do not think she would be as - as crude as that."

"Then there's only one reason for that J. It was put there by someone else deliberately to throw suspicion on her."

Bessner nodded.

"Yes, and the criminal was unlucky, because, you see, it is not only unlikely that the young Frдulein did the murder; it is also I think impossible."

"How's that?"

Bessner explained Jacqueline's hysterics and "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница the circumstances which had led Miss Bowers to take charge of her.

"And I think - I am sure - that Miss Bowers stayed with her all night."

Race said, "If that's so, it's going to simplify matters very much."

"Who discovered the crime?" Poirot asked.

"Mrs Doyle's maid, Louise Bourget. She went to call her mistress as usual, found her dead, and came out and flopped into the steward's arms in a dead faint. He went to the Manager, who came to me. I got hold of Bessner and then came for you."

Poirot nodded.

Race said "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница: "Doyle's got to know. You say he's asleep still?"

Bessner nodded. "Yes, he's still asleep in my cabin. I gave him a strong opiate last night."

Race turned to Poirot.

"Well," he said, "I don't think we need detain the doctor any longer, eh? Thank you, Doctor."

Bessner rose. "I will have my breakfast, yes. And then I will go back to my cabin and see if Mr Doyle is ready to wake."

"Thanks."

Bessner went out. The two men looked at each other.

"Well, what about it, Poirot?" Race asked. "You're the "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница man in charge. I'll take my orders from you. You say what's to be done."

Poirot bowed.

"Eh bien," he said; "we must hold the court of inquiry. First of all, I think we must verify the story of the affair last night. That is to say, we must question Fanthorp and Miss Robson, who were the actual witnesses of what occurred. The disappearance of the pistol is very significant."

Race rang a bell and sent a message by the steward.

Poirot sighed and shook his head. "It is bad, this," he murmured. "It is bad."

"Have "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница you any ideas?" asked Race curiously.

"My ideas conflict. They are not well arranged; they are not orderly. There is, you see, the big fact that this girl hated Linnet Doyle and wanted to kill her."

"You think she's capable of it?"

"I think so - yes." Poirot sounded doubtful.

"But not in this way? That's what's worrying you, isn't it? Not to creep into her cabin in the dark and shoot her while she was sleeping. It's the cold-bloodedness that strikes you as not ringing true?"

"In a sense, yes."

"You think that "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница this girl, Jacqueline de Bellefort, is incapable of a premeditated cold-blooded murder?"

Poirot said slowly: "I am not sure, you see. She would have the brains - yes. But I doubt if, physically, she could bring herself to do the act..."

Race nodded. "Yes, I see... Well, according to Bessner's story, it would also have been physically impossible."

"If that is true it clears the ground considerably. Let us hope it is true."

Poirot paused and then added simply: "I shall be glad if it is so, for I have for that little one much sympathy."

The door "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница opened and Fanthorp and Cornelia came in. Bessner followed them.

Cornelia gasped out: "Isn't this just awful? Poor, poor Mrs Doyle! And she was so lovely too. It must have been a real fiend who could hurt her! And poor Mr Doyle; he'll just go half crazy when he knows! Why, even last night he was so frightfully worried lest she should hear about his accident."

"That is just what we want you to tell us about, Miss Robson," said Race. "We want to know exactly what happened last night."

Cornelia began a little confusedly, but a "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница question or two from Poirot helped matters.

"Ah, yes, I understand. After the Bridge, Madame Doyle went to her cabin. Did she really go to her cabin, I wonder?"

"She did," said Race. "I actually saw her. I said good-night to her at the door."

"And the time?"

"Mercy, I couldn't say," replied Cornelia.

"It was twenty past eleven," said Race.

"Bien. Then at twenty past eleven, Madame Doyle was alive and well. At that moment there was, in the saloon, who?"

Fanthorp answered: "Doyle was there. And Miss de Bellefort. Myself and Miss Robson."

"That's so "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница," agreed Cornelia. "Mr Pennington had a drink and then went off to bed."

"That was how much later?"

"Oh, about three or four minutes."

"Before half past eleven, then?"

"Oh, yes.

"So that there were left in the saloon you, Mademoiselle Robson, Mademoiselle de Bellefort, Monsieur Doyle and Monsieur Fanthorp. What were you all doing?"

"Mr Fanthorp was reading a book. I'd got some embroidery. Miss de Bellefort was - she was -"

Fanthorp came to the rescue. "She was drinking pretty heavily."

"Yes," agreed Cornelia. "She was talking to me mostly and asking me about things at home. And she kept "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница saying things - to me mostly, but I think they were kind of meant for Mr Doyle. He was getting kind of mad at her, but he didn't say anything. I think he thought if he kept quiet she might simmer down."

"But she didn't?"

Cornelia shook her head.

"I tried to go once or twice, but she made me stay, and I was getting very, very uncomfortable. And then Mr Fanthorp got up and went out -"

"It was a little embarrassing," said Fanthorp. "I thought I'd make an unobtrusive exit. Miss de Bellefort was "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница clearly working up for a scene."

"And then she pulled out the pistol," went on Cornelia, "and Mr Doyle jumped up to try and get it away from her, and it went off and shot him through the leg; and then she began to sob and cry - and I was scared to death and ran out after Mr Fanthorp, and he came back with me, and Mr Doyle said not to make a fuss, and one of the Nubian boys heard the noise of the shot and came along, but Mr Fanthorp told him it was all right; and then we "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница got Jacqueline away to her cabin, and Mr Fanthorp stayed with her while I got Miss Bowers."

Cornelia paused breathless.

"What time was this?" asked Race.

Cornelia said again, "Mercy, I don't know," but Fanthorp, answered promptly: "It must have been about twenty minutes past twelve. I know that it was actually half past twelve when I finally got to my cabin."

"Now let me be quite sure on one or two points," said Poirot. "After Madame Doyle left the saloon, did any of you four leave it?"

"No."

"You are quite certain Mademoiselle de Bellefort "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница did not leave the saloon at all?"

Fanthorp answered promptly: "Positive. Neither Doyle, Miss de Bellefort, Miss Robson, nor myself left the saloon."

"Good. That establishes the fact that Mademoiselle de Bellefort could not possibly have shot Madame Doyle before - let us say - twenty past twelve. Now, Mademoiselle Robson, you went to fetch Mademoiselle Bowers. Was Mademoiselle de Bellefort alone in her cabin during that period?"

"No, Mr Fanthorp stayed with her."

"Good! So far, Mademoiselle de Bellefort has a perfect alibi. Mademoiselle Bowers is the next person to interview, but, before I send for her, I should "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница like to have your opinion on one or two points. Monsieur Doyle, you say, was very anxious that Mademoiselle de Bellefort should not be left alone. Was he afraid, do you think, that she was contemplating some further rash act?"

"That is my opinion," said Fanthorp.

"He was definitely afraid she might attack Madame Doyle?"

"No." Fanthorp shook his head. "I don't think that was his idea at all. I think he was afraid she might - er - do something rash to herself."

"Suicide?"

"Yes. You see, she seemed completely sobered and heartbroken at what she had done. She was full of "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница self-reproach. She kept saying she would be better dead."

Cornelia said timidly: "I think he was rather upset about her. He spoke - quite nicely. He said it was all his fault - that he'd treated her badly. He - he was really very nice."

Hercule Poirot nodded thoughtfully.

"Now about the pistol," he went on. "What happened to that?"

"She dropped it," said Cornelia.

"And afterward?"

Fanthorp explained how he had gone back to search for it, but had not been able to find it.

"Aha!" said Poirot. "Now we begin to arrive. Let us, I "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница pray you, be very precise. Describe to me exactly what happened."

"Miss de Bellefort let it fall. Then she kicked it away from her with her foot."

"She sort of hated it," explained Cornelia. "I know just what she felt."

"And it went under a settee, you say. Now be very careful. Mademoiselle de Bellefort did not recover that pistol before she left the saloon?"

Both Fanthorp and Cornelia were positive on that point.

"Précisément. I seek only to be very exact, you comprehend. Then we arrive at this point. When Mademoiselle de Bellefort leaves the saloon the pistol is "Linnet Ridgeway!" 9 страница under the settee, and, since Mademoiselle de Bellefort is not left alone - Monsieur Fanthorp, Mademoiselle Robson or Mademoiselle Bowers being with her - she has no opportunity to get back the pistol after she left the saloon. What time was it, Monsieur Fanthorp, when you went back to look for it?"

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