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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
IV. Poirot Investigates
|Page 4 of 13||
I explained that I was afraid of obliterating any foot-marks.
"Foot-marks? But what an idea! There has already been practically an army in the room! What foot-marks are we likely to find? No, come here and aid me in my search. I will put down my little case until I need it."
He did so, on the round table by the window, but it was an ill-advised proceeding; for, the top of it being loose, it tilted up, and precipitated the despatch-case on the floor.
"Eh viola une table!" cried Poirot. "An, my friend, one may live in a big house and yet have no comfort."
After which piece of moralizing, he resumed his search.
A small purple despatch-case, with a key in the lock, on the writing-table, engaged his attention for some time. He took out the key from the lock, and passed it to me to inspect. I saw nothing peculiar, however. It was an ordinary key of the Yale type, with a bit of twisted wire through the handle.
Next, he examined the framework of the door we had broken in, assuring himself that the bolt had really been shot. Then he went to the door opposite leading into Cynthia's room. That door was also bolted, as I had stated. However, he went to the length of unbolting it, and opening and shutting it several times; this he did with the utmost precaution against making any noise. Suddenly something in the bolt itself seemed to rivet his attention. He examined it carefully, and then, nimbly whipping out a pair of small forceps from his case, he drew out some minute particle which he carefully sealed up in a tiny envelope.
On the chest of drawers there was a tray with a spirit lamp and a small saucepan on it. A small quantity of a dark fluid remained in the saucepan, and an empty cup and saucer that had been drunk out of stood near it.
I wondered how I could have been so unobservant as to overlook this. Here was a clue worth having. Poirot delicately dipped his finger into liquid, and tasted it gingerly. He made a grimace.
"Coco--with--I think--rum in it."
He passed on to the debris on the floor, where the table by the bed had been overturned. A reading-lamp, some books, matches, a bunch of keys, and the crushed fragments of a coffee-cup lay scattered about.
"Ah, this is curious," said Poirot.
"I must confess that I see nothing particularly curious about it."
"You do not? Observe the lamp--the chimney is broken in two places; they lie there as they fell. But see, the coffee-cup is absolutely smashed to powder."
"Well," I said wearily, "I suppose some one must have stepped on it."
"Exactly," said Poirot, in an odd voice. "Some one stepped on it."
He rose from his knees, and walked slowly across to the mantelpiece, where he stood abstractedly fingering the ornaments, and straightening them--a trick of his when he was agitated.
"Mon ami," he said, turning to me, "somebody stepped on that cup, grinding it to powder, and the reason they did so was either because it contained strychnine or--which is far more serious--because it did not contain strychnine!"
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