Monday, December 30, 2013

Hercule Poirot, Episode 4

Phone rings. Miss Lemon dashes over to it. “Hello? Miss Lemon speaking. To whom am I speaking? . . . Hello, hello, is anyone there?” (Nervously twisting her pearls. Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings have been gone an hour) If you do not reply by the time I count to three, I shall hang up . . . One . . . Two . . . Two-in-a-half . . . Three!” (bangs down the receiver) How very rude!”  (Begins to pace. Then mutters), “Oh, what was I thinking? What if that call came from the kidnappers? I should have been more patient.”  (stares at phone, willing it to ring again. It does.)

“Hello, hello, hello . . . This is Miss Lemon speaking. I won’t hang up this time, I promise. Please don’t hurt Mr. Poirot. Please, please, please. We’ll do anything to get him back. Anything.”

Bonjour, Miss Lemon. This is Hercule Poirot speak—”

“Oh Mr. Poirot I am so glad to hear your voice, are you alright? did they hurt you? where are you?”

“Please listen to me very carefully, Miss Lemon, and do not reply to anything I say.”

“What? I don’t—Mr. Poirot are you—?”

“Miss Lemon. I will repeat once more, and only once more. You must not reply to anything which I may say to you . . . anything. Is that understood?”


Tres bien. The letter I received a few days ago, I must have. If not, there will be dire consequences. Very dire. The entire security of our nation rests in your hands, Miss Lemon. Now, I will tell you where to find this letter. Listen very carefully. It is in the center drawer of my desk, in a lavender envelope. Unlock the drawer with a key. The key I have taped underneath the third bookshelf.  Look to the center of the bookcase. There will be a book called, “Muses and Criminals,” by Hercule Poirot. After you have retrieved the letter, immediately, and without fail, take it to the post box.”

(Replies in a rush) “Mr. Poirot, have you been kidnapped? And for the love of all that's holy, why are you are phoning in your own ransom demand?!”

“Miss Lemon, please. Do not say another word if you value my life. I will repeat my carefully worded instruction concerning the letter: immediately, and without fail, take it to the post box. Au revoir, mademoiselle.

“Wait, wait, Mr. Poirot. Please — oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” (runs over to the bookcase. Does not see the book. Runs over to the the desk and tries the drawer. It opens immediately. She’s briefly puzzled. But then panics when she doesn’t find the letter) “This can’t be. What shall I do now? Oh, why is Inspector Japp never around when you really need him.” (She straightens up resolutely) “Well, there’s nothing for it. I shall just have to go out to Whitechapel myself and find him.” (She marches out the front door. A few seconds later, the phone rings. )


“Captain Hastings, exactly where were you and Mr. Poirot standing when he disappeared?” (Inspector Japp himself is standing on a sidewalk beside a long hedge that borders a flower garden and the courtyard of the church)

“Ah, I believe we were standing in the center of the garden looking out over the courtyard. Although . . . wait . . . now that I think more about it, maybe we were standing closer to the courtyard and away from the center of the garden. When I heard the noise, I left Poirot, for just a second mind you. I then distinctly remember leaving the courtyard, and going round to about where you’re standing now, Inspector Japp.”

“Can you show me where the noise originated from, Captain Hastings?” 

“Yes, as a matter of fact.” (He heads toward a suspicious looking gap in the middle of the hedge).  Right here, old boy. There’s even a tell tale sign that I was here. Look how the hedge is frumpled.”

(Inspector Japp takes a gander) “Hmm . . . so Mr. Poirot was standing approximately 10 feet away at the time you had your nose in this hedge. You then left the hedge to return to his side, but he was gone.”

“Yes, I believe that’s exactly quite the way it was, Inspector Japp. Though I can’t be certain as to some of the details as the lighting was very poor.”

(Inspector Japp walks over the spot where Hastings and Poirot had stood together) “So, let’s review the circumstances, shall we? You were standing side by side with Mr. Poirot off center of the garden and near the courtyard with your backs to the hedge. You were conversing. Then you heard a noise from behind. You immediately left Mr. Poirot, and walked over to the hedge, where you thought you heard the noise, and ruffled the leaves looking for god knows what before returning to Mr. Poirot. But he’d disappeared. Are you quite sure you heard nothing else, Captain Hastings? Perhaps footsteps, or scruffling, anything to indicate that Mr. Poirot was forceably taken away only ten feet away from you? Seems hard to believe you wouldn’t hear that . . . (Japp scrunches his face) Unless . . .

“Unless what, Chief Inspector?”

“Unless . . . Mr. Poirot  wasn’t  forced.”

“What are you saying, old boy? That Poirot planned this whole charade? Why would he do that? And to me, his nearest and dearest friend?”

“Hard to say. The little Belgian is quite peculiar in his ways, brilliant though he may be. You above all should know that. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t put it past him to create such theatrical goings on just to have a case to work on. Things been a bit slow lately, have they?” (Japp sneezes and pulls out a hanky)

(Dismay, then outrage crosses Hastings face) “What? I beg your pardon, Japp, but that’s going much to0 far.  Much too far! Such mindless conjecture is not only a insult to my dear friend, but an insult to me as well.”

“It’s just a theory is all, Captain Hastings. As you know, I have to consider every possibility when a crime is suspected but not proven to have been committed.”

“But the letter. He told you about the letter. How much more proof do you need?”

“I’ve seen no letter, Captain Hastings. For all I know it’s a red herring.”

“Well . . . it’s not. I happen to have it right here in my pocket.” (He turns it over) “I found it just before you walked into the apartment. I didn’t let that cat out of the bag in case . . . well . . .”

(Sternly, as stern as Hastings has ever seen Japp) “In case wot, Captain Hastings? You lied to me. By omission. I could charge you with perverting the course of justice if we find out that Mr. Poirot was kidnapped. Worse, the delay may cost him his life. What do you have to say for yourself, man?” 

“I . . . I . . . don't know really . . . I guess . . . I guess I just wasn't thinking . . . And I s'pose I wanted the challenge of solving this case myself. It was Miss Lemon who called you into it.

"I see.  Well . . . what's done is done." (glaring at Hastings) And don't you ever withhold evidence again!"

"No chance of that, old man. I quite learned my lesson. Now, where do we go from here?"

(Still glaring at Hastings)"You go home. I'll take charge of this case. I'll let you know if there are any new developments. And you will not go careening off on your own, understood?"

"Yes, of course. And I do most sincerely apologize for my foolishness. Goodnight, Chief Inspector Japp." (walks away, dejected)