Monday, October 21, 2013

Hercule Poirot, The Letter, Episode 3

“I don’t know what happened, Miss Lemon! I turned my back—”

“Oh really, Mr. Hastings, that’s just the point, isn’t it? He was in a very precarious situation, and yet you—Oh dear, oh dear, I warned him not to go when he got the letter. I am just sick about this. Sick, do you hear? And if you were a child, Captain Hastings, I should send you to your room without any supper.”

“W-well . . . I’m not, now am I, Miss Lemon?  But you are quite right, I should have protected him.”

“There’s the doorbell. It's Chief Inspector Japp. You sit down and don’t move a muscle.” (leaves the room)

(Hastings mutters) “I say, jolly rude that. The day I take orders from a woman is the day I resign from the human race.” (eyes Hercule Poirot’s desk) "Hmm . . . where could that letter be?” (quickly breaks open the lock on a center drawer and pulls out a lavender-scented pink envelope just before Japp enters the room. He shoves the envelope in his coat pocket and hastily takes a seat)  “Ah, good morning, Inspector.”

“Is it? Dragging me out of bed at one in the morning is not my cup of tea. So, the most famous detective in the world has gone missing. You seem awfully cheery about it.” (eyes Hastings suspiciously)

“No my good man, quite the opposite. I'm positively devastated by what happened to my dearest friend.”  (Fingers the letter in his pocket)

“Right. Give me the skinny, then, if you please, Captain Hastings.”

"Not much to tell, really. I accompanied Poirot to his midnight appointment. We were standing there chatting amiably when I heard a noise. I went to investigate. Took only a minute, really. By the time I returned, he was gone.”

(Miss Lemon chimes in) “I still can't believe you turned your back on Mr. Poirot.”

(A huffy Hastings) “You can berate me to kingdom come, Miss Lemon, but it can’t be any worse than what I’ve said to myself a thousand times already.”

(Inspector Japp clears his throat) “Right, right. No need for self-recrimination at this stage of the game. Let’s move on. What did you find when you investigated the noise?”

"N-nothing, really. My imagination must have playing tricks on me."

"Are you absolutely sure, Captain Hastings? It could be a vital clue." (stares hard at the Captain)

(Miss Lemon chimes in) "If you ask me, the 'noise' was probably a cat."

(Hastings flushes) "Really, Miss Lemon. Were you there? I think not.”

(Inspector Japp looks amused) “Could it have been a cat, Captain Hastings?” 

(Hastings squirms as he lies) No. No . . . Certainly not. Although . . . now that I think on it, anything's possible, I suppose." 

“Right." (Japp stares hard at Hastings) "This letter Poirot received. Where is it?”

“I-I’m not quite sure." (Hastings nervously touches the letter) "Poirot wouldn’t let me read it. Said it was for my own protection, or some such nonsense. Contained clues and codes, or whatnot, but I got the distinct impression he simply wanted to keep the information to himself.”

(Miss Lemon snorts most unladylike) “More like he didn’t trust you with that information, Mr. Hastings. And we know why, don’t we?”

(Inspector Japp’s eye light up) Oh right, the case where the Captain here escorted a female suspect into the evidence room and left her alone to . . . fetch a glass of water was it? Then the murder weapon went missing."

(A huffy Hastings mumbles) "I suppose I'm going to pay for that the rest of my life."

"Right. Well, time to hobnob it off to St. Mary Metfelon and look ‘round the premises. Do you mind coming with me, Captain Hastings, seeing as to how you were there when the alleged crime occurred?”

“Not only was he there, Inspector Japp, but you would do well to remember that Mr. Poirot disappeared right out from under his nose.”

(Hastings expels an irritated sigh) “I must say, Miss Lemon, you do on and on about that. Like a broken record you are. Time to lift the needle I should think.”

(Japp’s had enough of the bickering) "Right. We best get a move on then. The more time wasted, the worse it is for our little friend, eh? As you know, the first few hours are critical in a kidnapping.”

“KIDNAPPING? Surely, you don’t think Mr. Poirot was kidnapped? . . . Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” (Miss Lemon wrings unadorned, lily-white hands)

“What else could it be, Miss Lemon? You have any other ideas?”

“N-not really. I’m afraid I’m so entirely undone by what's happened, I’m not thinking clearly. And it’s all so sordid. And sad. He was such a fussy little man, you know. I can’t bear to think he may not be able to groom or bathe himself properly, or eat properly, or even trim his adorable little mustache. He must be suffering horribly right now.” (red-lacquered fingernails agitatedly pull on a lengthy pearl necklace)

He's only been gone an hourMiss Lemon. Chin up, eh? We’ll find him. In fact, we should have a message from the kidnapper soon.”

“Will the kidnapper . . . will he hurt Mr. Poirot do you think, Inspector Japp? Oh, I can’t bear the thought . . . ”

“Now, now, Miss Lemon, don't upset the applecart. You do have the expert help of Scotland Yard at your disposal. Doesn’t get any better than that. Right, Captain? . . . . . . RIGHT, CAPTAIN HASTINGS?”

“Oh . . . what? Applecart? Where? . . . I mean right. Help. Of course. Yes.” (itching to open lavender-scented pink envelope. Crumpling it nervously.)

Miss Lemon wrinkles her nose. “What is that vile lavender smell?”

(Hastings is unpleasantly startled) “Smell? I don’t smell anything, Miss Lemon. Do you smell anything, Japp?”

“Hmm, yes . . . there is a lavender scent . . . mixed with . . . tobacco, or maybe day-old cheese. Certainly not my wife’s type of perfume.” (eyes Miss Lemon)

(Miss Lemon crosses her arms indignantly) “Well, it's most certainly not mine! I wear Chanel. Mr. Hastings knows that quite well.”

“Er yes . . . I do. I think. Well, off we go. Cheerio, Miss Lemon.”

(Japp starts to walk out with Hastings, but pauses to speak with Miss Lemon) “Now mind you, stay close to the phone and the post box. Be sure to let me know right away when the ransom demand comes in.”

“Of course, Inspector Japp." (whispers right before closing door) "And do please remember not to let Mr. Hastings out of your sight.”

“I must say, that is jolly well rude!” (Hastings lifts hand to ring the bell)

“Don’t push it, mate. (snort) Women. Like wind-up toys. Don't get them started, eh?"

Author note:  There is a jolly good reason why Dame Agatha Christie was the wonderful author of the Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings short stories! Do you know why? I do. Now.