“Come in, come in, Japp old man. I must regretfully tell you that Miss Lemon has now disappeared! She was not here when I arrived at Poirot’s very tidy apartment. I have tried to call her seven times this morning, but she has not answered any of my calls. I am at a loss as to what to do next.” Captain Hastings leads Inspector Japp into the front room where the two men slump onto the couch.
“It was a right nasty night and now you bring me more bad news.” Inspector Japp takes the letter out of his pocket. “Maybe we’ve missed a clue in the letter, eh Mr. Hastings?” He reads the letter out loud. “Meet me at the gardens of St. Mary Metfelon in Whitechapel at midnight. Come alone. Do not bring the police. Do not bring your assistants. If you do, all will be lost. Heed this letter well, Mr. Poirot. If you do not, the entire fate of our government, of our country, rest on your response to my urgent request!” The inspector stares at the letter as if he thinks there is a secret code embedded in it.
Captain Hastings stands up and begins to pace. “I read that demme bloody letter until I practically went blind, Inspector. I have it memorized. It is melodramatic to the extreme and makes no real sense on the face of it.”
“Well, now, Mr. Hastings, I think we can be sure of two things: one, that it was written by a hysterical, or, and what is more likely, a desperate woman; two, she is quite familiar with our Mr. Poirot and his living habits.”
“And just how do you arrive at those two conclusions, Inspector Japp?”
“Simple . . . first, the lavendar perfume clinging to the letter tells me the author of this missive is female. Second, it is obvious this woman knows the great Poirot has assistants; you and Miss Lemon to be precise. Which means she has made a mistake, however small.” Inspector Japp stands. “In that vein, I will need a list of all his clients, friends and acquaintances, past and present.”
Hastings stops his pacing. “Of course, Inspector. In the meantime, what shall I do?”
“You will wait. There will doubtless be a ransom demand. Either through postal or the phone.” The detective taps a forefinger on his nose. “A word of caution if I may, Mr. Hastings. You will do well to stay clear-headed, and not leap to dire conclusions. I am sure we will see Mr. Poirot through this alright.”
“But what about Miss Lemon, Inspector Japp? Something surely has happened to her!”
Inspector Japp shakes his head ruefully, “Now, now, that’s just the sort of thing I’ve been talking about, Mr. Hastings. I imagine Miss Lemon is running a wee bit late. Doubtless she will walk through the door not five minutes after I have left.” He heads for the door, then turns around, and says sternly, “Keep your wits about you, man! We are in a pickle of a situation here to be sure. And remember, you are to call me the very instant a ransom demand comes in. No matter what the kidnapper says. Do you understand? Any delay, Hastings, could mean the difference between . . . well, I don’t think I need spell it out, do you?” Inspector Japp stares hard at Hastings. The former soldier rings his collar and bobs his head up and down with the energy of a woodpecker carving a masterpiece.
“Good.” Japp leaves. Hastings heads to the phone and tries to call Miss Lemon again. There is no reply. Torn between a strong desire to check up on her, or stay by the phone to wait for the ransom demand, the conflicted man decides to do the former. After all, Miss Lemon has never ever been late to work he tells himself. There has to be a connection, he thinks. Off he goes. Five minutes later, the phone rings.
“‘Ere now, wot you on about then? Ge’ off wit’ you! Don’ take kindly to strangers ‘round ‘ere. This is a roight respectable place it is.” A portly pint-sized woman stares hard at Hastings with hands on hips, the lines on her face scrunched together. Hastings stands in front of Miss Lemon’s apartment door looking sheepish having pounded on it for a bit.
“Oh, I’m very sorry Madam. But, I’m looking for Miss Lemon. She didn’t show up for work this morning. Concerned for her welfare you see.”
“Well, I don’ know nuvvin about that. I ain’ seen ‘er Ladyship(snicker, snicker) since yest’day.”
(Affronted) “I say, no need to be rude is there?”
(Snort) ‘ave you seen ‘er nose lately?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It were up in the clouds, it were, wit’ those hoity-toity airs of ‘ers. Someone roightly needs to bring ‘er down a peg or two. Or mebbe . . . they already ‘ave, eh?” She cackles and stumps off.
“There’s a right nasty woman,” Hastings mumbles. He heads back to Poirot’s apartment. Once inside he takes a seat beside the phone on Poirot’s desk and opens the newspaper. Occasionally, he glances at the phone willing it to ring. It finally does.
Hastings jumps. He grabs, then briefly fumbles the receiver. . . . “Hello, Hello, Hello! . . . I say, is anyone there? . . . What’s that you say? Speak up, man . . . A battery what? . . . NO, we don’t have need of a battery eliminator. Good day.” Hangs up with sufficient force, shakes his head in frustration, then mumbles . . . “Battery eliminator indeed.” The phone immediately rings again. Hastings snatches it up. “Hello, who is this, and it better be demmed important!” The color drains from his face. “Oh, it’s you Japp ol’ man. WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? . . . A woman’s body? It couldn’t be . . . I see . . . yes, I’ve got it . . . in Whitechapel near St. Mary Metfelon. Of course, I’ll meet you there.” He slams down the phone and flies out of the apartment, a feeling of dread overtaking him!
Meanwhile, a shadowy figure in black, watches Hastings from across the street as the harried man jumps into his roadster and blasts down the road. The figure slips into the apartment building Hastings has just vacated.