ABC谋杀案 35

时间:2024-01-30 08:52:34


It was a clear November day. Dr. Thompson and Chief Inspector1 Japp had come round to acquaintPoirot with the result of the police court proceedings2 in the case of Rex v. Alexander BonaparteCust.
Poirot himself had had a slight bronchial chill which had prevented his attending. Fortunately hehad not insisted on having my company.
“Committed for trial,” said Japp. “So that’s that.”
“Isn’t it unusual?” I asked, “for a defence to be offered at this stage? I thought prisoners alwaysreserved their defence.”
“It’s the usual course,” said Japp. “I suppose young Lucas thought he might rush it through.
He’s a trier, I will say. Insanity3’s the only defence possible.”
Poirot shrugged4 his shoulders.
“With insanity there can be no acquittal. Imprisonment5 during His Majesty’s pleasure is hardlypreferable to death.”
“I suppose Lucas thought there was a chance,” said Japp. “With a first-class alibi6 for the Bexhillmurder, the whole case might be weakened. I don’t think he realized how strong our case is.
Anyway, Lucas goes in for originality7. He’s a young man, and he wants to hit the public eye.”
Poirot turned to Thompson.
“What’s your opinion, doctor?”
“Of Cust? Upon my soul, I don’t know what to say. He’s playing the sane8 man remarkably9 well.
He’s an epileptic, of course.”
“What an amazing dénouement that was,” I said.
“His falling into the Andover police station in a fit? Yes—it was a fitting dramatic curtain to thedrama. A B C has always timed his effects well.”
“Is it possible to commit a crime and be unaware10 of it?” I asked. “His denials seem to have aring of truth in them.”
Dr. Thompson smiled a little.
“You mustn’t be taken in by that theatrical11 ‘I swear by God’ pose. It’s my opinion that Custknows perfectly12 well he committed the murders.”
“When they’re as fervent13 as that they usually do,” said Crome.
“As to your question,” went on Thompson, “it’s perfectly possible for an epileptic subject in astate of somnambulism to commit an action and be entirely14 unaware of having done so. But it isthe general opinion that such an action must ‘not be contrary to the will of the person in thewaking state.’”
He went on discussing the matter, speaking of grand mal and petit mal and, to tell the truth,confusing me hopelessly as is often the case when a learned person holds forth15 on his own subject.
“However, I’m against the theory that Cust committed these crimes without knowing he’d donethem. You might put that theory forward if it weren’t for the letters. The letters knock the theoryon the head. They show premeditation and a careful planning of the crime.”
“And of the letters we have still no explanation,” said Poirot.
“That interests you?”
“Naturally—since they were written to me. And on the subject of the letters Cust is persistentlydumb. Until I get at the reason for those letters being written to me, I shall not feel that the case issolved.”
“Yes—I can understand that from your point of view. There doesn’t seem to be any reason tobelieve that the man ever came up against you in any way?”
“None whatever.”
“I might make a suggestion. Your name!”
“My name?”
“Yes. Cust is saddled — apparently16 by the whim17 of his mother (Oedipus complex there, Ishouldn’t wonder!)—with two extremely bombastic18 Christian19 names: Alexander and Bonaparte.
You see the implications? Alexander—the popularly supposed undefeatable who sighed for moreworlds to conquer. Bonaparte—the great Emperor of the French. He wants an adversary—anadversary, one might say, in his class. Well—there you are—Hercules the strong.”
“Your words are very suggestive, doctor. They foster ideas….”
“Oh, it’s only a suggestion. Well, I must be off.”
Dr. Thompson went out. Japp remained.
“Does this alibi worry you?” Poirot asked.
“It does a little,” admitted the inspector. “Mind you, I don’t believe in it, because I know it isn’ttrue. But it is going to be the deuce to break it. This man Strange is a tough character.”
“Describe him to me.”
“He’s a man of forty. A tough, confident, self-opinionated mining engineer. It’s my opinion thatit was he who insisted on his evidence being taken now. He wants to get off to Chile. He hoped thething might be settled out of hand.”
“He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever seen,” I said.
“The type of man who would not like to admit he was mistaken,” said Poirot thoughtfully.
“He sticks to his story and he’s not one to be heckled. He swears by all that’s blue that hepicked up Cust in the Whitecross Hotel at Eastbourne on the evening of July 24th. He was lonelyand wanted someone to talk to. As far as I can see, Cust made an ideal listener. He didn’tinterrupt! After dinner he and Cust played dominoes. It appears Strange was a whale on dominoesand to his surprise Cust was pretty hot stuff too. Queer game, dominoes. People go mad about it.
They’ll play for hours. That’s what Strange and Cust did apparently. Cust wanted to go to bed butStrange wouldn’t hear of it—swore they’d keep it up until midnight at least. And that’s what theydid do. They separated at ten minutes past midnight. And if Cust was in the Whitecross Hotel atEastbourne at ten minutes past midnight on the morning of the 25th he couldn’t very well bestrangling Betty Barnard on the beach at Bexhill between midnight and one o’clock.”
“The problem certainly seems insuperable,” said Poirot thoughtfully. “Decidedly, it gives one tothink.”
“It’s given Crome something to think about,” said Japp.
“This man Strange is very positive?”
“Yes. He’s an obstinate20 devil. And it’s difficult to see just where the flaw is. Supposing Strangeis making a mistake and the man wasn’t Cust—why on earth should he say his name is Cust? Andthe writing in the hotel register is his all right. You can’t say he’s an accomplice—homicidallunatics don’t have accomplices21! Did the girl die later? The doctor was quite firm in his evidence,and anyway it would take some time for Cust to get out of the hotel at Eastbourne without beingseen and get over to Bexhill—about fourteen miles away—”
“It is a problem—yes,” said Poirot.
“Of course, strictly22 speaking, it oughtn’t to matter. We’ve got Cust on the Doncaster murder—the bloodstained coat, the knife — not a loophole there. You couldn’t bounce any jury intoacquitting him. But it spoils a pretty case. He did the Doncaster murder. He did the Churstonmurder. He did the Andover murder. Then, by hell, he must have done the Bexhill murder. But Idon’t see how!”
He shook his head and got up.
“Now’s your chance, M. Poirot,” he said. “Crome’s in a fog. Exert those cellular23 arrangementsof yours I used to hear so much about. Show us the way he did it.”
Japp departed.
“What about it, Poirot?” I said. “Are the little grey cells equal to the task?”
Poirot answered my question by another.
“Tell me, Hastings, do you consider the case ended?”
“Well—yes, practically speaking. We’ve got the man. And we’ve got most of the evidence. It’sonly the trimmings that are needed.”
Poirot shook his head.
“The case is ended! The case! The case is the man, Hastings. Until we know all about the man,the mystery is as deep as ever. It is not victory because we have put him in the dock!”
“We know a fair amount about him.”
“We know nothing at all! We know where he was born. We know he fought in the war andreceived a slight wound in the head and that he was discharged from the army owing to epilepsy.
We know that he lodged24 with Mrs. Marbury for nearly two years. We know that he was quiet andretiring—the sort of man that nobody notices. We know that he invented and carried out anintensely clever scheme of systemized murder. We know that he made certain incredibly stupidblunders. We know that he killed without pity and quite ruthlessly. We know, too, that he waskindly enough not to let blame rest on any other person for the crimes he committed. If he wantedto kill unmolested—how easy to let other persons suffer for his crimes. Do you not see, Hastings,that the man is a mass of contradictions? Stupid and cunning, ruthless and magnanimous—andthat there must be some dominating factor that reconciles his two natures.”
“Of course, if you treat him like a psychological study,” I began.
“What else has this case been since the beginning? All along I have been groping my way—trying to get to know the murderer. And now I realize, Hastings, that I do not know him at all! Iam at sea.”
“The lust26 for power—” I began.
“Yes—that might explain a good deal…But it does not satisfy me. There are things I want toknow. Why did he commit these murders? Why did he choose those particular people—?”
“Alphabetically—” I began.
“Was Betty Barnard the only person in Bexhill whose name began with a B? Betty Barnard—Ihad an idea there…It ought to be true—it must be true. But if so—”
He was silent for some time. I did not like to interrupt him.
As a matter of fact, I believe I fell asleep.
I woke to find Poirot’s hand on my shoulder.
“Mon cher Hastings,” he said affectionately. “My good genius.”
I was quite confused by this sudden mark of esteem27.
“It is true,” Poirot insisted. “Always—always—you help me—you bring me luck. You inspireme.”
“How have I inspired you this time?” I asked.
“While I was asking myself certain questions I remembered a remark of yours—a remarkabsolutely shimmering28 in its clear vision. Did I not say to you once that you had a genius forstating the obvious. It is the obvious that I have neglected.”
“What is this brilliant remark of mine?” I asked.
“It makes everything as clear as crystal. I see the answers to all my questions. The reason forMrs. Ascher (that, it is true, I glimpsed long ago), the reason for Sir Carmichael Clarke, the reasonfor the Doncaster murder, and finally and supremely29 important, the reason for Hercule Poirot.”
“Could you kindly25 explain?” I asked.
“Not at the moment. I require first a little more information. That I can get from our SpecialLegion. And then—then, when I have got the answer to a certain question, I will go and see A BC. We will be face to face at last—A B C and Hercule Poirot—the adversaries30.”
“And then?” I asked.
“And then,” said Poirot. “We will talk! Je vous assure, Hastings—there is nothing so dangerousfor anyone who has something to hide as conversation! Speech, so a wise old Frenchman said tome once, is an invention of man’s to prevent him from thinking. It is also an infallible means ofdiscovering that which he wishes to hide. A human being, Hastings, cannot resist the opportunityto reveal himself and express his personality which conversation gives him. Every time he willgive himself away.”
“What do you expect Cust to tell you?”
Hercule Poirot smiled.
“A lie,” he said. “And by it, I shall know the truth!”



1 inspector q6kxH     
  • The inspector was interested in everything pertaining to the school.视察员对有关学校的一切都感兴趣。
  • The inspector was shining a flashlight onto the tickets.查票员打着手电筒查看车票。
2 proceedings Wk2zvX     
  • He was released on bail pending committal proceedings. 他交保获释正在候审。
  • to initiate legal proceedings against sb 对某人提起诉讼
3 insanity H6xxf     
  • In his defense he alleged temporary insanity.他伪称一时精神错乱,为自己辩解。
  • He remained in his cell,and this visit only increased the belief in his insanity.他依旧还是住在他的地牢里,这次视察只是更加使人相信他是个疯子了。
4 shrugged 497904474a48f991a3d1961b0476ebce     
  • Sam shrugged and said nothing. 萨姆耸耸肩膀,什么也没说。
  • She shrugged, feigning nonchalance. 她耸耸肩,装出一副无所谓的样子。 来自《简明英汉词典》
5 imprisonment I9Uxk     
  • His sentence was commuted from death to life imprisonment.他的判决由死刑减为无期徒刑。
  • He was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for committing bigamy.他因为犯重婚罪被判入狱一年。
6 alibi bVSzb     
  • Do you have any proof to substantiate your alibi? 你有证据表明你当时不在犯罪现场吗?
  • The police are suspicious of his alibi because he already has a record.警方对他不在场的辩解表示怀疑,因为他已有前科。
7 originality JJJxm     
  • The name of the game in pop music is originality.流行音乐的本质是独创性。
  • He displayed an originality amounting almost to genius.他显示出近乎天才的创造性。
8 sane 9YZxB     
  • He was sane at the time of the murder.在凶杀案发生时他的神志是清醒的。
  • He is a very sane person.他是一个很有头脑的人。
9 remarkably EkPzTW     
  • I thought she was remarkably restrained in the circumstances. 我认为她在那种情况下非常克制。
  • He made a remarkably swift recovery. 他康复得相当快。
10 unaware Pl6w0     
  • They were unaware that war was near. 他们不知道战争即将爆发。
  • I was unaware of the man's presence. 我没有察觉到那人在场。
11 theatrical pIRzF     
  • The final scene was dismayingly lacking in theatrical effect.最后一场缺乏戏剧效果,叫人失望。
  • She always makes some theatrical gesture.她老在做些夸张的手势。
12 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
13 fervent SlByg     
  • It was a debate which aroused fervent ethical arguments.那是一场引发强烈的伦理道德争论的辩论。
  • Austria was among the most fervent supporters of adolf hitler.奥地利是阿道夫希特勒最狂热的支持者之一。
14 entirely entirely     
  • The fire was entirely caused by their neglect of duty. 那场火灾完全是由于他们失职而引起的。
  • His life was entirely given up to the educational work. 他的一生统统献给了教育工作。
15 forth Hzdz2     
  • The wind moved the trees gently back and forth.风吹得树轻轻地来回摇晃。
  • He gave forth a series of works in rapid succession.他很快连续发表了一系列的作品。
16 apparently tMmyQ     
  • An apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space.山穷水尽,豁然开朗。
  • He was apparently much surprised at the news.他对那个消息显然感到十分惊异。
17 whim 2gywE     
  • I bought the encyclopedia on a whim.我凭一时的兴致买了这本百科全书。
  • He had a sudden whim to go sailing today.今天他突然想要去航海。
18 bombastic gRGy0     
  • The candidate spoke in a bombastic way of all that he would do if elected.候选人大肆吹嘘,一旦他当选将要如何如何。
  • The orator spoke in a bombastic manner.这位演说家的讲话言过其实。
19 Christian KVByl     
  • They always addressed each other by their Christian name.他们总是以教名互相称呼。
  • His mother is a sincere Christian.他母亲是个虔诚的基督教徒。
20 obstinate m0dy6     
  • She's too obstinate to let anyone help her.她太倔强了,不会让任何人帮她的。
  • The trader was obstinate in the negotiation.这个商人在谈判中拗强固执。
21 accomplices d2d44186ab38e4c55857a53f3f536458     
从犯,帮凶,同谋( accomplice的名词复数 )
  • He was given away by one of his accomplices. 他被一个同伙出卖了。
  • The chief criminals shall be punished without fail, those who are accomplices under duress shall go unpunished and those who perform deeds of merIt'shall be rewarded. 首恶必办, 胁从不问,立功受奖。
22 strictly GtNwe     
  • His doctor is dieting him strictly.他的医生严格规定他的饮食。
  • The guests were seated strictly in order of precedence.客人严格按照地位高低就座。
23 cellular aU1yo     
  • She has a cellular telephone in her car.她的汽车里有一部无线通讯电话机。
  • Many people use cellular materials as sensitive elements in hygrometers.很多人用蜂窝状的材料作为测量温度的传感元件。
24 lodged cbdc6941d382cc0a87d97853536fcd8d     
v.存放( lodge的过去式和过去分词 );暂住;埋入;(权利、权威等)归属
  • The certificate will have to be lodged at the registry. 证书必须存放在登记处。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Our neighbours lodged a complaint against us with the police. 我们的邻居向警方控告我们。 来自《简明英汉词典》
25 kindly tpUzhQ     
  • Her neighbours spoke of her as kindly and hospitable.她的邻居都说她和蔼可亲、热情好客。
  • A shadow passed over the kindly face of the old woman.一道阴影掠过老太太慈祥的面孔。
26 lust N8rz1     
  • He was filled with lust for power.他内心充满了对权力的渴望。
  • Sensing the explorer's lust for gold, the chief wisely presented gold ornaments as gifts.酋长觉察出探险者们垂涎黄金的欲念,就聪明地把金饰品作为礼物赠送给他们。
27 esteem imhyZ     
  • I did not esteem him to be worthy of trust.我认为他不值得信赖。
  • The veteran worker ranks high in public love and esteem.那位老工人深受大伙的爱戴。
28 shimmering 0a3bf9e89a4f6639d4583ea76519339e     
v.闪闪发光,发微光( shimmer的现在分词 )
  • The sea was shimmering in the sunlight. 阳光下海水波光闪烁。
  • The colours are delicate and shimmering. 这些颜色柔和且闪烁微光。 来自辞典例句
29 supremely MhpzUo     
  • They managed it all supremely well. 这件事他们干得极其出色。
  • I consider a supremely beautiful gesture. 我觉得这是非常优雅的姿态。
30 adversaries 5e3df56a80cf841a3387bd9fd1360a22     
n.对手,敌手( adversary的名词复数 )
  • That would cause potential adversaries to recoil from a challenge. 这会迫使潜在的敌人在挑战面前退缩。 来自辞典例句
  • Every adversaries are more comfortable with a predictable, coherent America. 就连敌人也会因有可以预料的,始终一致的美国而感到舒服得多。 来自辞典例句