Third Girl (Hercule Poirot Series)by Agatha Christie
A desperate woman seeks the aid of Hercule Poirot in a matter of life and death. A near-lethal dose of poison, a blood-stained knife, a revolver, and a family who aren't what they seem all figure in an extraordinary case that takes the celebrated Belgian detective from a village estate to the bohemian streets of London. See more details below
A desperate woman seeks the aid of Hercule Poirot in a matter of life and death. A near-lethal dose of poison, a blood-stained knife, a revolver, and a family who aren't what they seem all figure in an extraordinary case that takes the celebrated Belgian detective from a village estate to the bohemian streets of London.
Read an Excerpt
Hercule Poirot was sitting at the breakfast table. At his right hand was a steaming cup of chocolate. He had always had a sweet tooth. To accompany the chocolate was a brioche. It went agreeably with chocolate. He nodded his approval. This was from the fourth shop he had tried. It was a Danish patisserie but infinitely superior to the so-called French one nearby. That had been nothing less than a fraud.
He was satisfied gastronomically. His stomach was at peace. His mind also was at peace, perhaps somewhat too much so. He had finished his magnum opus, an analysis of great writers of detective fiction. He had dared to speak scathingly of Edgar Allan Poe, he had complained of the lack of method or order in the romantic outpourings of Wilkie Collins, had lauded to the skies two American authors who were practically unknown, and had in various other ways given honor where honor was due and sternly withheld it where he considered it was not. He had seen the volume through the press, had looked upon the results and, apart from a really incredible number of printer's errors, pronounced that it was good. He had enjoyed this literary achievement and enjoyed the vast amount of reading he had had to do, had enjoyed snorting with disgust as he flung a book across the floor (though always remembering to rise, pick it up and dispose of it tidily in the wastepaper basket) and had enjoyed appreciatively nodding his head on the rare occasions when such approval was justified.
And now? He had had a pleasant interlude of relaxation, very necessary after his intellectual labor. But one could not relax forever, one had to go on to the next thing.Unfortunately he had no idea what the next thing might be. Some further literary accomplishment? He thought not. Do a thing well, then leave it alone. That was his maxim. The truth of the matter was, he was bored. All this strenuous mental activity in which he had been indulging-there had been too much of it. It had got him into bad habits, it had made him restless.
Vexatious! He shook his head and took another sip of chocolate.
The door opened and his well-trained servant, George, entered. His manner was deferential and slightly apologetic. He coughed and murmured, "A-" he paused "a young lady has called."
Poirot looked at him with surprise and mild distaste.
"I do not see people at this hour," he said reprovingly.
"No, sir," agreed George.
Master and servant looked at each other. Communication was sometimes fraught with difficulties for them. By inflection or innuendo or a certain choice of words George would signify that there was something that might be elicited if the right question was asked. Poirot considered what the right question in this case might be.
"She is good-looking, this young lady?" he inquired carefully.
"In my view no, sit, but there is no accounting for tastes."
Poirot considered this reply. He remembered the slight pause that George had made before the phrase young lady.
George was a delicate social recorder. He had been uncertain of the visitor's status but had given her the benefit of the doubt.
"You are of the opinion that she is a young lady rather than, let us say, a young person?"
"I think so, sit, though it is not always easy to tell nowadays." George spoke with genuine regret.
"Did she give a reason for wishing to see me?"
"She said" George pronounced the words with some reluctance, apologizing for them in advance, as it were"that she wanted to consult you about a murder she might have committed."
Hercule Poirot stared. His eyebrows rose. "Might have committed? Does she not know?"
"That is what she said, sit."
"Unsatisfactory, but possibly interesting," said Poirot.
"It might have been a joke, sit," said George dubiously.
"Anything is possible, I suppose," conceded Poirot, "but one would hardly think " He lifted his cup. "Show her in after five minutes."
"Yes, sit." George withdrew.
Poirot finished the last sip of chocolate. He pushed aside his cup and rose to his feet. He walked to the fireplace and adjusted his mustaches carefully in the mirror over the chimney piece. Satisfied, he returned to his chair and awaited the arrival of his visitor. He did not know exactly what to expect. . . .
He had hoped perhaps for something nearer to his own estimate of female attraction. The outworn phrase "beauty in distress" had occurred to him. He was disappointed when George returned, ushering in the visitor; inwardly he shook his head and sighed. Here was no beauty and no noticeable distress either. Mild perplexity would seem nearer the mark.
"Pah!" thought Poirot disgustedly, "These girls! Do they not even try to make something of themselves? Well-made-up attractively dressed, hair that has been arranged by a good hairdresser, then perhaps she might pass. But now!"
His visitor was a girl of perhaps twenty-odd. Long straggly hair of indeterminate color strayed over her shoulders. Her eyes, which were large, bore a vacant expression and were of a greenish blue. She wore what were presumably the chosen clothes of her generation black high leather boots, white open-work woolen stockings of doubtful cleanliness, a skimpy skirt, and a long and sloppy pullover of heavy wool. Anyone of Poirot's age and generation would have had only one desire to drop the girl into a bath as soon as possible. He had often felt this same reaction walking along the streets. There were hundreds of girls looking exactly the same. They all looked dirty. And yet a contradiction in terms-this one had the look of having been recently drowned and pulled out of a river. Such girls, he reflected, were not perhaps really dirty. They merely took enormous care and pains to look so.
He rose with his usual politeness, shook hands, drew out, a chair...
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