A Quoirot Mystery.
Foreword: In this novel by Hagatha Christie, we are introduced to the character of Quoirot, a delightful little Belgian detective in England. We also see Christie's use of the narration being performed by a bumbling sidekick, in this case the bumbling Mr. Bastings. This device allows Christie to build up suspense without giving any details that might spoil the ending, as might happen when narrated from Quoirot's perspective. This has led to some criticism of Christie for "coming up with such a danged good idea;" nonetheless the technique has been thereupon pinched by every murder mystery hack since. In addition, this book is the first instance where Christie ends the book suddenly and violently, destroying continuity but also becoming one of her hallmarks.
The book sold quite well when it was published in 1920, well enough that Dame Christie followed up the novel with several "Quoirot" mysteries, which were enjoyed by many people. Several of Dame Christie's Quoirot mysteries have been adapted to television by A&E, all of them rather annoying to watch.
Chapter One - The Tedious Introduction Right Before The Murder
|Chapter One (file info)|
|Listen to "The Tedious Introduction Right Before The Murder!"|
The day began much like any other day. I awoke at 7, showered, ate breakfast, got the paper, dressed, and was out the door by 8 o' clock sharp. I took the 8:15 trolley into Surrey, which gave me time to read the day's stories. By 8:30 I got off the trolley and walked the rest of the way to the small office where I work.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Arthur Bastings. I work in a private detective agency, assisting my employer in his cases. Normally, I walk in the office and set up shop while waiting for Mr. Quoirot, my employer, to come in. However, this morning was different. As I walked in, I noticed Mr. Quoirot's office light on. "Is he here already?" I asked the secretary.
"Yes, it's the strangest thing," she said. "He came in here about 8:20 in a frenzy, waving a newspaper and shouting. He's been in his office pacing like a madman waiting for you."
"I'd better go and see him then," I remarked dryly.
Quoirot saw me as I walked in. "Ah, Bastings, mon ami, have you seen the paper?" Let me try to describe Mr. Quoirot. He was a short, rotund little Belgian man, with a joyful, upturned little Belgian moustache and a sharp, quick little Belgian brain. He had a tendency to get overexcited, but this was my own opinion.
"Which part of it, Quoirot? There are a lot of pages in a newspaper, you know. I myself rather enjoyed page 3."
"No, no, no, no, mon ami!" I am talking about the convention! The convention, mon ami!"
"Convention?" I repeated. "Oh, that's right, the National World War Two Convention. I remember reading something about it. What of it?"
"Do you have any plans for next week?"
"Cancel them. We are going to the convention."
"What?! For heaven's sake, why, Quoirot?"
"I have no idea, it's just a feeling I have. A mysterious feeling."
"Oh, that explains everything!"
But it was no use arguing with him. The next week, Quoirot and I checked into rooms at the Marriot Hotel in London, where several of the other convention-goers were staying for the weeklong event. We got rooms next to each other on the third floor. Quoirot suggested we go to the convention floor. We walked down the hall to the lift. Suddenly, from the other end of the hall, the double doors burst open to reveal a platoon of dark-suited bodyguards almost sprinting toward us, carrying a young man with an electric bagpipe over their heads. The bodyguards headed straight for us-- or rather, for the lift. One of them shouldered me aside as they filed in, so that I fell to the ground. The lift doors closed, leaving Quoirot and I looking at each other in the hall.
"Wonder what all that bother was about..." I muttered. No sooner than the words fell from my lips than the double doors flew open again. A veritable mob of shrieking teenage girls came at us, their mouths foaming. "Where'd he go?!" One of them shouted. She took notice of me and Quoirot. "Where is he?!" she screamed, yanking the lapels of my suit jacket and spraying me with foam from her mouth.
"I-I beg your pardon, miss? Who?"
"Andy MacWealthy!" she yelled in my face. One of the other girls chipped in: "He's so dreamy..." All the girls swooned. One of them fainted.
"Bastings, mon ami, I think they mean the man who was accompanied by the dark-suited men," said Quoirot.
"Yes, yes, that's him!" the girl shrieked, spraying me again. "Where did he go?!"
"He took the lift," Quoirot answered calmly.
The girls groaned. But then the one holding me yelled back. "Alright girls, as many as can fit, take the lift! The rest of you, take the stairs! Don't worry, we'll find him! Move out!!" The girls split into packs, and soon the hall was empty again except for Quoirot and I.
"I almost feel sorry for him," I said. "But what in blazes is Andy MacWealthy doing at the World War Two convention?"
"That, I do not know," Quoirot said, "but I think we will find out soon enough, mon ami."
"What makes you so certain?"
"It's just a feeling I have. A mysterious feeling."
Eventually, we got to the convention center. The entire floor was bedecked in World War Two memorabilia: flags, uniforms, vehicles, and weapons were everywhere. Booths were set up and speakers were talking to audiences about “The War.” Presently, the main speaker was an old, bald German man expounding on how the Nazis were all misunderstood people, and it wasn’t their fault at all for the Holocaust and the millions of dead soldiers and destroyed lives and the like. The man was standing on a stage with a podium in front, Allied and Axis flags on both sides, and a large curtain behind. He was really quite boring. The audience dwindled down to just a few people.
“In conclusion,” he said, but he was cut off. From behind the curtain a high-speed bagpipe riff sounded, followed by a pumping synthesizer. The curtains opened to reveal Andy MacWealthy and his band performing their triple platinum hit, “Let’s Have Sex, (Baby).” Immediately, the mob of teenage girls swarmed the stage, squealing like so many pigs. The German man looked as though he would have a stroke. One of MacWealthy’s bodyguards took the man and tossed him off the stage. At this the German snapped back into reality. “Scottish filth! I’ll make you pay!” But the crowd was too thick, and the man couldn’t make good on his threat.
MacWealthy sang the chorus: “Oh… let’s have sex (sex), baby, ‘cause I want you bad (bad), yeah, I really want to do it (do it), baby (baby), baby (baby), baby (baby)…… Lets! Have! Sex! (drum roll) Baby!” Then came the bagpipe solo. The notes blazed lightning fast out of the instrument. The music rose to a climactic pitch—and then ceased. The audience was reverentially silent for a moment, and then exploded into applause. MacWealthy started talking into his microphone. “So, uh, yeah, thanks a lot. We’re performing here because World War Two is like, important and stuff. And we’re getting paid, so, yeah.” MacWealthy started playing again.
Quoirot turned to me. “Shall we go and see the rest of the convention?” he asked.
“I thought you’d never ask.” We walked away from the noise. Further ahead, we heard angry shouts. We arrived in the middle of an altercation between the German man we had seen earlier and an elderly English lady. Although one could hardly call her a lady at this moment. “Liar!” she yelled. “You know bally well Hitler was a loony! Take it back!”
“I will not, you crazy English buzzard! Der Führer was a genius!”
“He was not, and you know it! Admit it!” The lady began whacking the German with her purple umbrella. I rushed in to intercede, and got whacked with the umbrella for my trouble. “Madam!” I spluttered, and got whacked again. “Cease and desist, I implore you!”
Quoirot ran to calm the lady. “Hush now, madam, ‘tis over and done.”
I turned to the German man, but he was hobbling away and muttering. The lady now with Quoirot yelled out a parting shot: “Lying Hun!”
The man yelled back without turning around, “Crazy English!”
I turned back to the lady and Quoirot. She was about 70 years old and wore the most ridiculous purple hat, along with a hideous purple dress and her purple umbrella. “I suppose I should thank you for helping me with that boor of a German,” the lady said. “My name is Lady Edith Borington. My late husband fought in the war. It’s funny, he seemed so eager to leave me here and go to the front lines.”
“Small wonder,” I muttered, massaging my head.
“I am Hercule Quoirot, and this is my assistant, Monsieur Bastings,” said Quoirot. “We are entirely at your service, madame.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right, now that you’ve chased off that scoundrel of a Nazi,” Lady Borington said. “I tell you, that man is good for nothing.” She knowingly touched the side of her nose with a finger. “Mark my words, he’s up to something.”
Chapter Two - Sacrebleu! A Murder!
We spent a little more time at the convention and then left to eat dinner at a small restaurant near our hotel. "Well, I can't say that I understand why going to the convention was so important, Quoirot," I said. "Sure, there have been some things out of the ordinary, but nothing that might concern us."
"Patience, mon ami, patience. Something may turn up."
"I don't believe you for a minute," I said, pointing my fork at him. ""Face it, Quoirot, this was a waste of time."
Quoirot only smiled and said, "We shall see, mon ami." We finished our meals and returned to the hotel. After a brief introspection on this morning's events, I elected to take the stairs. Quoirot followed suit. We reached our rooms without incident and retired for the night. I was having the most wonderful dream about Pamela Anderson and peanut butter when I was woken up by a series of banging noises. Then I heard it again. "That sounds almost like, like gunfire," I said to myself. "No, that sounds exactly like gunfire." I threw on a bathrobe and went to Quoirot's room. He was already awake.
"Did you hear it, too?" I asked.
"Oui, mon ami. It came from the convention center. Allons-y!"
We exited the hotel and quickly walked to the convention center. We soon found out we weren't the only ones who had heard the gunshots. A small crowd was gathered around something. Quoirot and I pushed ourselves to the front of the crowd. I blanched at what I saw. There, lying in a pool of his own blood, lay the late Andy MacWealthy. He had several gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen and legs. A German obscenity was written in MacWealthy's blood next to him.
Someone screamed and pushed past me. "No!" I recognized the girl who had accosted me in the hotel hallway. "Not Andy MacWealthy! Please!" She whirled to the crowd. "He can't die! Is there a doctor in the house?!"
A handsome but serious-looking man with a doctor's bag burst through the crowd. "Don't worry, I'm a doctor," he said, and flashed a disarming smile. Next he busied himself about the body. He pulled out a stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat. Satisfied with the result, he put the stethoscope away in his bag and brought out a small wooden mallet. He began to systematically smash the mallet down on MacWealthy's bloody body and follow up by bringing his ear near to where he had malleted. Eventually, he put away the mallet and brought out a small vial filled with a clear liquid.
Before I or Quoirot could see what he did with it, someone came around the crowd to the other side of MacWealthy's body with a press camera in tow. "Say cheese!" he said.
"Cheese!" We all smiled as the journalist took the picture.
We went back to watching the doctor, but he had apparently finished. He stood up and faced the crowd. "I'm afraid this man is dead." A shocked gasp rippled through the crowd. The doctor continued, "I did everything I knew how, but, but, but I lost him...!" He began to sob.
"There, there, you did all you could," someone said. The doctor pulled himself together and nodded morosely.
I turned to Quoirot. "Well, it looks as if your mysterious feeling was spot on, Quoirot."
"Indeed," he said.
Quoirot stepped forward. "I am a short Belgian detective, mademoiselle," he said. The crowd burst into cheers. "However," he began again, "It is, how you say, hideously late. MacWealthy is not going anywhere. I will examine him in the morning."
This struck everyone as very good sense, and the crowd soon disappeared, and I was able to return to my dreams.
Chapter Three - The Murder Investigation Begins
The next morning, I went down to the lobby and read the Daily Mail over breakfast. On the front page was the picture the journalist had taken last night, along with the headline "Scottish Popstar Murdered! Music World Rejoices!"
I saw Quoirot enter the lobby floor and waved him over. "Look here, Quoirot. We're on the front page. Although I do wish they hadn't got me in my bathrobe. I look awful!"
Quoirot snatched the paper away from me. "What was that for?" I asked, a little miffed. "Don't worry, you look fine."
"No, Bastings mon ami, I am not looking at myself. I am looking at the doctor who examined Monsieur MacWealthy and the vial he is holding."
I took a closer look. "So?" I said. "He's smiling just like the rest of us."
I looked again. "Why, I do believe you're right, Quoirot. Do you know what this means?"
Quoirot and I made our way to the scene of the murder. This time, the small crowd was a huge gathering, with several news cameras focused on MacWealthy's corpse. As we struck through the crowd, a policeman recognized Quoirot and waved us over to a police van parked near the yellow tape.
"You must be the Belgian detective," said the policeman. "The boys from Scotland Yard are anxious to meet you."
He directed us to the back of the van, where he saw a tall, serious man wearing a dark-colored trenchcoat and a large gold chain. He saw us and held up his identification. "Chief Inspector Chav, Scotland Yard," he said, and put away his ID.
"Beg pardon, Chief Inspector...?" I queried.
The unfortunately-named chief inspector turned to Quoirot. "We understand you're going to be investigating this crime yourself, Mr. Quoirot."
"That is correct."
"Well, naturally Scotland Yard is taking a look as well. We don't expect to need your help on this one, but all the same, we'd appreciate it if you could drop us a line if you uncover anything big."
"But of course," said Quoirot, smiling.
"Right. Good day then."
We left the van and walked to MacWealthy. Quoirot walked around the body, murmuring quietly to himself. He bent down to get a closer look at the German profanity carefully written in blood. Then he at length stood up and turned to me. "Five things, Monsieur Bastings," he said, and began to count them off. "Un, what weapon was used to do in Monsieur MacWealthy? What is its significance? Deux, what does the German writing mean? Who's blood is it written with? Trois, what were Monsieur MacWealthy and his assailant doing in the convention center at three o'clock in the morning? Quatre, does the vial of clear liquid that the doctor from last night used hold any significance? And finalement, cinq: le motif."
I stared at Quoirot in admiration. "Well, I've no doubt you'll solve it before the week is out, Quoirot."
"Not just me, Bastings. I will of course require your help as well."
"Me, Quoirot? What on earth do you mean?"
"How can I be in two places at once? Think, Bastings!" Quoirot knelt back down to MacWealthy's body. He took a pair of gloves out of his jacket pocket and put them on. Then ever so carefully, he stuck his thumb and forefinger into one of the many gunshot wounds. His face lit up, and he pulled out his hand. He was holding a bullet. "Voilà!" he said triumphantly. He stuck the bullet into a small plastic bag, which he then stuck back in his pocket. Then he brought out a small notepad and pen and copied the German blood-writing. Then he stood up again and turned to me. "Come, Bastings, we must analyze these clues."
We were sitting in Quoirot's hotel room. Quoirot was holding up the bullet he had retrieved to the light and making notes. I sat on the bed, making my own suppositions. "You see, Quoirot, according to the data we've gathered so far, this crime seems to be a dead ringer for that German chap we saw yesterday. I mean, think. Who else could write in German, hmm? He's the only one who would have known how, I'm sure of it."
Quoirot looked at me. "Incroyable," he breathed.
"Thank you," I said.
"I wasn't complimenting you. Think, Bastings! Anyone with a rudimentary education in German could have written that!"
"Oh." I was somewhat taken aback. "I hadn't considered that."
"Do not fret, mon ami, it is of little importance. See here:" He stood up out of his chair. "This bullet came from an MP40 submachine gun. It is almost certain that it was the murder weapon."
"Brilliant, Quoirot, now we can track down the murderer!"
"Quoirot shook his head. "Not so, mon ami. You forget we are at a World War Two convention. The murderer could easily have taken an MP40 and some ammunition from any number of locations. We won't be able to track him that way, I'm afraid."
"Rather convenient for the murderer," I muttered darkly.
"D'accord," Quoirot agreed.
"Well," I said brightly, "I'm off to the convention again, provided they haven't closed it off. Toodles!" I left Quoirot and walked across the street to the convention center. Fortunately, the convention was still open. I walked around the many booths aimlessly. As I turned the corner past "Mud -- A Soldier's Best Friend," I saw Lady Borington talking to a dour balding man in a dark green suit complete with bowler hat and polka dotted bow tie. The lady's outfit was now entirely lime green, down to the garish shoes and socks.
Lady Borington saw me. "Oh, Mister Bastings, how do you do?"
"Oh, I'm all right. I'm still breathing, aren't I?" I joked.
The lady threw back her head and howled. "Ah-HAHAHAHA! Oh, that is so FUNNY! Still breathing, ah-HA HA HA!" She recovered slightly. I glanced at the balding man in the dark green suit. He was clutching at his heart and hyperventilating. I wasn't doing much better than he. Lady Borington noticed our reactions. "Oh, I must apologize. I'm a bit of an energetic laugher." I coughed. The man in the suit gave a nervous giggle. "So anyway, Mr. Bastings, I was just telling Mr. Weathersby here about the frightful goings-on last night."
"You mean the murder," I said.
"MacWealthy," I corrected.
Weathersby and I stared at her.
"Well, besides the obvious," she said dismissively. "But this crime strikes me as the kind that was done for personal reasons rather than as a musical statement. There must be a motive."
"I think it's awful," Weathersby broke in. "I'm the floor manager for the convention, you see. Whether the convention is a success or failure rests solely on my shoulders. Having this MacWealthy character at the convention was the worst mistake I could have made. It drew all those idiot fangirls instead of serious convention-goers. And did you hear him after he would finish playing a song?" Weathersby imitated MacWealthy's accent. "Wor-uld Wa-ur Two is like, impo-urtant and stuff, doncha know. It made me so mad to hear him!"
"Mad enough to kill him, perhaps?!" I asked sharply.
"Just about!" he agreed. "And that's not all. Now that he's dead you'd think the madness would stop -- but it's gotten worse! What with all these Scotland Yard folk taking ordinary people aside and interrogating them -- the convention is finished!"
Weathersby shook his head sadly.
"What?! It's gone?!"
"It got pulled yesterday."
"Well, I take it back. You really are screwed." I said good day and went back to the convention. But a doubt was niggling at my mind for the rest of the day. A doubt that whispered that the German chap might not have been the murderer after all.
Chapter Four - The Plot Thickens Like Molasses -- Murder Molasses
The next day, Quoirot received a call from Chief Inspector Chav asking him to come down to the station at 11. I tagged along, not really knowing what to expect. The chief inspector met us outside the building and took us inside. "I asked you out here because we've arrested a suspect for the MacWealthy murder," Chav said. "Since you were at the convention before the murder, I'd like you to provide us with any information on the suspect you might have." Chief Inspector Chav led us to a cell.
"By Jove, Quoirot, it's the German chap we saw yesterday!" I exclaimed.
"Chav looked at me. "You know this fellow?"
"Well, no, but we saw him at the convention. He was talking about the war right before MacWealthy's band interrupted him."
At the mention of MacWealthy's name, the German bristled. "That filthy Scottish dumbkopf! I'll kill him!"
"This old boy's name is Rolf Schnauzer," said Chav. "He fought in World War Two as a Nazi; an SS officer, even. He somehow survived the war and the war crimes tribunal and moved to England a few years ago. He'd been working at the convention for two years now."
"Have you any evidence?" Quoirot asked.
"That he murdered MacWealthy? Nothing concrete so far. But we've found his fingerprints near the scene of the crime. Once we find the murder weapon, we'll be able to pin him for good. So far, this man fits all the questions in this crime."
"Thank you, Chief Inspector. The murder weapon is an MP40 submachinegun. Other than that, we have little but speculation."
"Well, I'd hoped for a bit more than that, Quoirot, but we'll make do, I suppose." The chief inspector seemed disappointed.
We said our goodbyes and left the station. I hailed a cab. "Where are we headed next, Quoirot?" I asked.
We arrived at the law offices of Matthew J. Quintly at around 1:30. I soon discovered that Quoirot and I weren't going to be the only ones hearing the will's reading. I recognized a couple of the fangirls, including the one who had grabbed me in the hallway. I also saw Mr. Weathersby, Lady Borington, and to my great astonishment, I realized that the mysterious doctor who had examined Andy MacWealthy's body and then disappeared into the night was in attendance. He was sitting in the back row and hiding behind a large false mustache, but I was certain it was him.
I nudged Quoirot. "Look," I said.
He followed my gaze. His eyes widened. "Zut alors! This is très intéressant, mon ami. Let us watch and see what he will do."
Quintly entered the room and sat at his desk. In his hand he held a large envelope marked "Private." He took a letter opener and slit the seal. He took out a single piece of paper and began to read it aloud. "I, Andrew MacWealthy, being of sound mind and smokin'-hot body, do leave all of my worldly possessions to my biggest fan..." The entire room was on edge. We all leaned forward. Quimby squinted and said, "Rolf Schnauzer."
The room exploded. "What is this?!" people shouted. "This is an outrage!" "Who the devil is Rolf Schnauzer?"
I glanced at Quoirot. He hadn't stood up. Instead, he was staring intently at the doctor. I looked as well. The doctor had not moved at all, near as I could tell. Finally, he nodded once, as if in acceptance, and left the room.
"Hold on, people! I wasn't finished!" Quintly shouted. Gradually, he regained some semblance of order. He continued, "...leave all my posessions to Rolf Schnauzer, yadda yadda yadda... aha! Except for my first bagpipe, Linda, which will be buried with me in Glasgow.
At this everyone breathed large sighs of relief. "As long as Linda's with Andy, you can't go wrong," said one of the fangirls.
The newspaper reporters started barraging Quintly with questions. "Did you know the contents of the will before it was opened?" one reporter asked.
"No. Next question."
"How long has MacWealthy been using this will?"
"This particular will is quite new. MacWealthy gave it to me less than a week ago."
The reporters scrambled to write down Quintly's reply. "Do you know who Rolf Schnauzer is?" one of them asked.
"Haven't the foggiest," was the answer.
"Will you go out with me?" asked an attractive lady-reporter.
"How about me?" asked a male reporter.
"Well... no." And with that the reporters dispersed to write their stories. Quoirot and I were left with the fangirls, Lady Borington, and Mr. Weathersby.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Quoirot, and Mr. Bastings, too," called Lady Borington, this time dressed in puce. Well, I must say this is a certainly mysterious turn of events, wouldn't you agree?" Everyone agreed that it was quite, if not downright, mysterious.
"Just who is this Mr. Schnauzer?! I demand to know!" yelled the head fangirl. She grabbed my shirt and bellowed into my face. "Who is he?!"
"It's absolute rubbish, isn't it, girls?" added on of the other teenagers. "Everyone knows Andy's biggest fan is Polly Fairchild!"
"P-Polly Fairchild? That's your name?" I was approaching a state of shock.
"Yes, what of it?"
Quoirot suddenly took an interest in our conversation. "Fairchild? The daughter of the famous war profiteer Bainbridge Fairchild?"
"Yes, but I don't see what that has to do with--"
"Mademoiselle Fairchild. Would you be able to tell if a gun had been fired or not?"
"Out of a large group?"
"I suppose, but what does that have to do with Rolf Schnauzer?"
"Everything, mademoiselle, everything! You are a key part of avenging Monsieur MacWealthy and bringing his murderer to justice!"
"Really?" Miss Fairchild's temperament changed dramatically." Then I will help you, detective. Unto my last breath, for it is all that my dear Andy deserves!" She was quite impassioned, and struck a noble pose in front of us. "What are we waiting for?"
We tried to get the attention of the other fangirls, Mr. Weathersby, and Lady Borington. The girls' conversation had veered off topic in a manner like this: "Everyone knows Andy's biggest fan is Polly Fairchild!" "Oh, Andy MacWealthy is so cute!" "Who could ever want to kill him?" "It's dreadful, now there will never be a Mrs. Andy MacWealthy!" "Actually, Andy said he was a permanent bachelor in 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' in February." "But he said he was going to settle down in June!" "What month is it now? I can never remember." "What does it matter, he's dead now!" "Is it 3 already? Time to reapply my lip gloss." "What kind do you use?" "Maybelline. Ever since Andy endorsed it on the telly I use it religiously." "Do you even go to church?" "Just the Church of Andy!" "Oh, I love that album!" "Do you have it with you?" "No, it's at home in Kent." "What's your favorite song on the album?" "Oh, 'Worship Me', without a doubt. Come on, let's sing!" "Ohh... worship me, baby, 'cause I'm strong and sexy, and worshippin' you-ou-ou... Yeah!"
We at last got their attention and told them how we were going to help avenge Mr. MacWealthy. "Hold on a minute," said Miss Fairchild. "I must know! Who is Rolf Schnauzer?!"
"He's an old German man who works at the convention," answered Mr. Weathersby. "But he hasn't been seen for two days now."
"Well, when I find him," said Miss Fairchild, clenching a fist, "he's gonna wish he'd never heard the dulcet, honeyed lyrics of my bonny Andy!"
Chapter Five - Lies and Alibis. Also Murder.
On Thursday, Quoirot, Miss Fairchild and I went to the convention and began inspecting all the MP40s we could find. Time and again, the guns all came up clean. I was giving up hope of ever finding the murder weapon.
"Hold on," said Miss Fairchild. "This weapon's been fired!"
"At last!" I exclaimed. Then I looked at the weapon. "And of course it isn't an MP40." I sank back into despair.
"We must not lose hope, mes amis," said Quoirot. "Keep looking." He took another look at the fired weapon, a Colt 45 pistol, and then caught up with Miss Fairchild.
About half an hour passed in tedium. Then, finally, in the last group of MP40s in the entire convention center, Polly said, "Hey! This one's been fired!"
Ever so carefully, Quoirot took the weapon from her and examined it thoroughly. "We must show this to the chief inspector, Bastings." He turned to Miss Fairchild. "Merci, mademoiselle. You have done Monsieur MacWealthy a great service. Come, Bastings, to the station, immediately!"
As we stepped into Chief Inspector Chav's office, his face lit up. "I assume you have something to show me."
"Oui, Chief Inspector," Quoirot said. He presented the weapon. "This weapon has been fired several times. I believe it to be the murder weapon."
"Excellent!" Chav buzzed his secretary. "Send Maxwell to my office immediately, Miss Johnson."
"Right away, sir," came the reply. Within moments a young man in glasses entered the office. "You asked to see me, sir?"
Chav held out the MP40. "Take this down to the lab and have it dusted for prints, and see if they match with a man named Rolf Schnauzer."
"Right away, sir."
Twenty minutes passed. Maxwell came back to the office. "They match, sir!"
"Capital!" Chav stood up and motioned us to follow. We walked out of his office and into the prison. We passed a long line of cells until the chief inspector finally stopped. "Now that we've got some evidence on this bloke we can put him away for good."
"Chief Inspector, may I ask Monsieur Schnauzer a few questions?" Quoirot asked.
Chav thought a moment. "All right, but I don't see why. He's as good as sentenced already!"
Quoirot and I went in the cell. Somehow, Mr. Schnauzer had found some chalk and turned his cell into a Nazi shrine. I stepped around a large swastika drawn on the floor. "Bonjour, Monsieur Schnauzer," called Quoirot. "Would you mind answering a few questions?"
"Why would I do that?" Schnauzer answered. He was lying on his cot, staring at the ceiling.
"Why, to prove your innocence," said Quoirot.
"Schnauzer sat up. "You think I am innocent?"
Quoirot gave a Gallic shrug. "I have no opinion on the matter," he said. "But if you are innocent, I promise you will not be kept here."
"Whatever. I will answer your questions."
"Bien! Let us begin: Did you know Monsieur MacWealthy before this week?"
"Of course not," Mr. Schnauzer answered quickly.
"Do you know how to operate an MP40 submachine gun?"
"Yes. Der Führer required it."
"What is your opinion of Monsieur MacWealthy?"
"MacWealthy! I hate him! It is well that he died before I could kill him!"
"You say you did not kill Monsieur MacWealthy, but your fingerprints were found on the murder weapon. How do you explain that?"
Schnauzer laid back on his cot. "Simple. I was framed."
I snorted in disbelief. Schnauzer became furious. "I can prove it! I was at the doctor's! Doctor Hamilton saw me there! He can prove my innocence!"
Quoirot stood up. "Thank you, Monsieur Schnauzer. Au revoir."
We left the cell. "Where to now?" I asked.
"Back to the convention, Bastings."
It was lunchtime and most of the convention-goers had left to eat. However, Polly Fairchild and her fangirls were still inside the center. They were holding a vigil for the murdered teenage heartthrob, walking in a single file line, holding candles, and solemnly chanting the words to several of his songs. Miss Fairchild was at the front of the line.
Quoirot walked next to her. "Mademoiselle, would you be so kind as to answer a few questions about the night of the murder?"
"Answer questions? But what good would that do?"
"Any information you possess could mean the difference between finding Monsieur MacWealthy's killer and letting him escape.
"Any information I possess? Why me?"
"Because you have proved yourself to be a true fan of MacWealthy. I am certain that no person would ever kill a celebrity they worshipped."
"All right. Meagan, could you take over?"
The other girl assented and Miss Fairchild stepped out of line to join us. "Now then, mademoiselle, I am going to ask you some questions. First, the time of the murder was around 3 o'clock in the early morning Tuesday. Where were you before that time?"
"3 a.m. Tuesday? Let's see... Oh, I remember. The girls in Intelligence had got a tip that Andy MacWealthy, codename Sexy Scottish Studmuffin, or SSS for short, was near the convention center. I was on stakeout duty at the southern entrance, keeping watch."
"Did you see anyone?" I asked eagerly.
"No one important. Just some man in a suit. He unlocked the convention center doors and shut them behind him. A few minutes later, shots rang out."
"I wonder, mademoiselle, if you could describe the man's appearance," said Quoirot.
"Well, he was not good-looking. He had a large paunch and he was almost completely bald, I remember, except for a ring of grey hair in the back. In short, he was the complete opposite of my Andy."
"What was he wearing?" I asked.
"He was wearing a dark suit, but I don't think it was black. If I had to guess, I'd say it was green."
Quoirot's face brightened. "Bien! Now think, Mademoiselle Fairchild. Were there any other details about this man that you remember?"
"I don't know why this man is so important, but he was wearing a bowler hat and a bow tie."
"Was it polka dotted?!" I yelled.
"Now that you mention it... no."
Quoirot kissed Miss Fairchild's hand. "Merci, mademoiselle. You have done a great sevice to me and Monsieur MacWealthy."
Lunch was over and the booths were reopening. I followed Quoirot to the southern entrance. An idea struck me. "Quoirot, this is where we found that pistol that had been fired."
Quoirot whirled around. "Sacrébleu! You're right! Ahahaha!" He did a little dance and suddenly kissed me on both cheeks. "Excellent, Bastings. You have got the little grey cells in my head working. Come, let us find Monsieur Weathersby."
Mr. Weathersby was a few booths down from where we were. I caught his attention and beckoned him over. "Yes, yes, what is it?" he asked, agitated.
"Monsieur Weathersby, may we ask you a few questions about your whereabouts on the night of the murder?"
Weathersby's eyes narrowed. "You aren't one of those blokes from Scotland Yard, are you? 'Cause I'm telling you again, she had it comin'!"
"Who's she?" I asked.
"She? Oh, um, I mean, heh heh, no one important, ahem, uh... so Mr. Quoirot, you wanted to ask me questions?"
"Yes, we are gathering information to bring MacWealthy's murderer to justice," said Quoirot.
"3 a.m.? Why, I was asleep, or at least I was until those gunshots woke me up. I went out with the rest of the crowd. You saw me there, or at least, I saw you."
We let Weathersby go. "Are we questioning anyone else today, Quoirot?" I asked.
"Oui, certainement. But only if we can find him."
"Why, the elusive Doctor Hamilton, of course. It is time we tested Monsieur Schnauzer's alibi.
It took several hours of hassling with telephone operators and driving around London only to find dead ends, but at last we were inside the office of the genuine Doctor Hamilton. I went up to the secretary and asked if the doctor was in.
"Do you have an appointment?" was the terse reply.
I turned to Quoirot. "Well, that went well. Now what?"
"Now we wait."
And wait we did. We waited, and waited, and waited. And waited. Then we waited some more. At last, we saw Doctor Hamilton. To my utter amazement, Doctor Hamilton was none other than the very doctor who had examined Andy MacWealthy's body and pronounced him dead. He was about to leave for the day when we stopped him. To our gratification, he recognized us.
"You two look familiar. Do you have an appointment?"
Quoirot said, "Actually, Doctor Hamilton, we have some questions to ask you. What are your office hours?"
"Uh, from 9 to 7 Monday to Friday and 10 to 4 on the weekends. Why?"
"That is très intéressant. I wonder, Doctor Hamilton, did you have a patient before you examined Monsieur MacWealthy at 3 in the morning?"
"Let's see, that would be Tuesday the 23rd, right? Yes, actually, I was giving a Mr. Rolf Schnauzer a colonoscopy."
"A colonoscopy?" I said. "At three in the morning?"
The doctor shrugged. "He said it was an emergency. I was in the office anyway, and as long as his insurance company is paying, I've got no problem with it."
"What were you doing in the office so late?" Quoirot asked.
"Why, I was helping myself to the medicinal alcohol, if you must know. Rather potent stuff, it is."
"So you gave Mr. Schnauzer a colonoscopy at 3 in the morning after you had been drinking, and after that...?" I left the question hanging.
"After that, I heard someone screaming outside and went to look. I found Mr. MacWealthy and tried to save him. The rest you know."
"Well, it certainly seems that your words are the truth," said Quoirot. "But have you any proof?"
"Proof?!" asked the doctor incredulously. "Why would you need proof?"
"Because Monsieur Schnauzer is a suspect in Monsieur MacWealthy's murder. He said he was here on Tuesday, and you have supported that claim, but we cannot be completely sure until we have proof."
"Murder? Mr. Schnauzer? Well, I daresay he was capable of it. Cursed at me all throughout the colonoscopy. Though most people usually do that when I'm sticking something up their bum. Anyway, I do have a video of the operation, if you'd like to see it."
Quoirot watched the movie in the back room. I opted out. I don't know about other people, but when it comes to watching videos of someone sticking a long object where the sun don't shine, I'd rather not.
Quoirot came out visibly shaken. The Belgian detective thanked Doctor Hamilton and walked out the door. I followed. Once outside, I said, "Well, Quoirot spit it out. Is Schnauzer guilty?"
Quoirot looked at me. "The doctor was telling the truth. Schnauzer is innocent."
Chapter Six - In Which Quoirot Leaves Bastings to Bumble About While Quoirot Does Something Useful That Will Ultimately Solve the Murder, Prolonging the Suspense Needlessly. Isn't it Annoying?
The next morning, Quoirot knocked on my room door. "I must leave for my office, Bastings," he said simply.
"Oh, alright, Quoirot-- wait, what?!"
"I must investigate the murder more thoroughly at my office."
"And I'm coming too, right?"
Find the gerbil? What the devil did that mean? In any case, I was in no shape to find any sort of gerbils until I had breakfast. I went down to the lobby floor and began selecting food from the breakfast bar by the far wall. I sat at an empty table and started to eat.
Out of the lift I saw Lady Borington exit. Cursing silently for not having a newspaper to conceal myself, I nevertheless sat resolutely, pretending to be invisible. Alas, it was to no avail. The lady saw me and hurried over, gaily calling my name. Softly muttering several unprintables, I faked a smile and said, "Oh, hello, Lady Borington. I didn't see you. What do you want?"
"No, actually," I replied. "It seems the old bean is innocent."
"No!" cried the lady, aghast. "It can't be!"
"It can. Quoirot himself said he was innocent. The German had an airtight alibi."
"Well, I never."
"You know," I said confidentially, "I think that Quoirot is absolutely right. And I think I know who the real murderer is."
"Who? Who?!" The lady was growing excited.
"I don't know if I should tell you," I said, "but what the hey. It was Weathersby."
"Weathersby?!" Lady Borington was shocked. I nodded in confirmation. "No!"
"Think, my lady. Weathersby is the obvious choice. He hated MacWealthy for ruining the convention, so he has the motive. And when Quoirot and I questioned him, he lied about where he was! Lady Borington, it is quite likely that Mr. Weathersby is the murderer!"
"I'm the what?!" Mr. Weathersby had come up behind me! I froze, not daring to look at him.
Suddenly, I whirled around and pointed my accusing finger at him. "You heard me, Weathersby! I know you did MacWealthy in!"
"How dare you! I did not! I shall sue you for slandering my name, you impudent cur!"
"Then answer me this, Weathersby: where were you at 3 o'clock Tuesday?!"
"I-I was, was... that's none of your affair!" Weathersby snapped.
"Aha! So I was right!" Then, acting on a sudden inspiration, I said, "Where is the gerbil, Weathersby?!"
Weathersby paled. "H-How do you know about that?" he gasped. "I covered my tracks so well, it's not possible."
"I thought so," I said. Turning to Lady Borington, I said, "Fetch a constable, quickly!"
"Yes," she said and bustled off.
I turned back to Weathersby but he was gone! I had a moment of panic but I soon saw him running for the hotel doors. I ran after him. I was younger and caught up with him easily. But he was almost at the door! He was going to escape! I leaped and caught his legs, bringing him down. I got up quickly and placed my foot on Weathersby's neck. "You're not going anywhere, murderer!" I yelled. A crowd that had gathered threw up a cheer. Lady Borington returned with two constables.
"Take him away, boys!" I said. The crowd cheered again.
"You won't get away with this, Bastings," Weathersby croaked. "You'll never find the gerbil. Never."
But I wasn't listening. I felt the heady rush of triumph. Not even Quoirot had deducted that Weathersby might be the man. Amazing!
"Oh, that was simply wonderful, Mr. Bastings!" cried Lady Borington, interrupting my reverie. "What shall you do next?"
"Well, Quoirot told me to find the gerbil, whatever that means, so I suppose I shall have to."
"Ooh, ooh, can I help, Mr. Bastings, please?"
"All right," I said, formulating a plan. "My best guess is that the gerbil is somewhere far away from me, probably in another country. Could I ask a big favor of you?"
"Certainly, Mr. Bastings," the lady said.
"Well..." Lady Borington looked hesitant.
"Please, Lady Borington-- it's for the children."
"All right. I'll do it!" The elderly, aggravating lady went off.
Finally! I thought to myself as I entered the convention center, No more annoyances!
"Hello, Mr. Bastings!" called a voice.
"Get away from me!" I shouted and broke into a run. I ran for several minutes. I finally stopped to catch my breath. When I looked up, I was standing near an information kiosk. I still intended to find the gerbil like Quoirot asked. Perhaps it was here in the convention.
"Excuse me, miss," I said to the kiosk lady, "do you know if there are any animals at the convention?"
"Animals?" the girl repeated.
"Specifically, I'm looking for gerbils. Do you have any here?"
"We have homing pigeons..."
I let out a sigh. "I guess not. Where are the pigeons?"
The girl directed me to where the pigeons were kept. The pigeons were caged, cute, and definitely not gerbils. I was losing hope. How was I supposed to find a gerbil in this massive convention? It seemed impossible. And then I noticed the smell around me. It was hideously unpleasant, so much so that I wondered why I had not smelled it before as I retched inside my mouth a little. It seemed to be coming from beneath a display of American pistols. American pistols...
Suddenly the pieces all came together in an instant. I took a look around to make sure that I was in fact standing where Quoirot, Miss Fairchild and I had found the fired handgun. It was. I frantically moved to push the pistols aside. The gerbil must be here!
The smell got stronger as I dug through the pistols. Just when I thought I might faint because of it, my hand brushed something moist. I must admit I let out a yelp that sounded more like a 6-year-old girl than a grown man. I bent closer to see what I had touched. I nearly lost my lunch. Almost entirely obscured by the guns were hundreds of wriggling, writhing maggots, feasting upon some sort of small, dead animal. The smell wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was that I could hear the maggots chewing upon their mammalian banquet.
I had to get out of there. The animal was obviously the gerbil, so there was no point in hanging around. In my haste to leave, I bumped one of the pistols around me. It fell on the gerbil, scattering maggots everywhere. To my horror, I saw that the gerbil had been shot through with a bullet. I sprang up, knocking aside guns. I ran for the hotel and did not stop until I was in my room. I had a lot to tell Quoirot tomorrow.
Chapter Seven - This Murder Is Solved
Quoirot returned to the hotel early Saturday morning. The first thing he did was ask me, "Did you find the gerbil?"
"Yes," I said proudly. "It was all shot up and covered in maggots."
Quoirot looked disappointed. "Where did you find it?"
"By the American pistol display," I said, waiting for the praise.
"Oh, this is terrible!" cried Quoirot. He threw up his hands and collapsed onto his couch.
"What?! What do you mean, terrible?!"
But Quoirot didn't answer me. He just kept rocking back and forth, muttering "Oh, la la, la la" and "Data, data, I need more data."
I finally gave up and went down to eat breakfast. When I returned, Quoirot was... building card houses.
He noticed me. "Oh, la la, mon ami," he said. "Every place I turn, some other obstacle comes up to block the way. You're absolutely sure it was the gerbil?"
Quoirot sighed a sigh of resignation. I do not know where to go from here. I am, how you English say, stumped."
"Well then, unstump yourself, Quoirot. We are this close to solving the case, I can feel it. Come on, Quoirot, think!"
Quoirot shook his head. "It is hopeless," he moaned.
I was getting irritated. "You send me to look for a maggoty rodent while you go off gallivanting who knows where, and when you come back you're whining like a child! I wish I could record you, Quoirot, to show you how you're acting!"
Quoirot sprang up. "That's it! Record! Ahahaha! That's it!" He ran out of the room in a hurry, shouting, "Come, Bastings, I have solved the case!"
"I suppose you're wondering why I've called you all here," said Quoirot mysteriously. We (that is, Quoirot, myself, Miss Fairchild, Mr. Weathersby, Mr. Schnauzer, (both in handcuffs) Chief Inspector Chav, Doctor Hamilton, and Andy MacWealthy's bandmates) were in a Victorian-era sitting room in the hotel, complete with fireplace, mantelpiece, and high-backed yet uncomfortable chairs. Quoirot was standing with one arm resting on the mantelpiece. I noted with some satisfaction that Lady Borington was not among us. Probably still in Portugal, I thought.
"I know, Quoirot," I said. "You're going to tell us who the murderer is."
Quoirot took his hand and smacked the back of my head. "Stop that. You're ruining the suspense."
He turned to the rest of the audience. "As I was saying, the murder of Andy MacWealthy is so far unsolved. I propose we recreate the crime scene. Monsieur MacWealthy was found by the north entrance, clearly shot to death by an MP40 submachine gun. The time of death has been ascertained to have taken place near 3:00 a.m. Judging from the bloodstains, he could not have been killed earlier and brought there, so what were MacWealthy and the murderer doing so late?"
Quoirot continued, "Yesterday I was able to observe Monsieur MacWealthy's financial statements. Each month, the Scottish pop star had an unexplainable loss of funds. MacWealthy's broker wrote it off as groupie payment, but I suspect something far more sinister. Monsieur MacWealthy was being blackmailed!"
We were dumbstruck. Quoirot went on: "So, if MacWealthy was indeed being blackmailed, then that would mean that he and the murderer were meeting for a transaction. But why would MacWealthy's blackmailer murder him? There is only one reason: The murderer stood to gain more money with MacWealthy dead than if he lived."
I saw Schnauzer tense. "But what if, in fact, the blackmailer was not the murderer? Who then, could it be? Someone with a personal grievance, perhaps? Let us say, then, that after MacWealthy pays his blackmailer, another person comes up to him and shoots him, then shoots him again for good measure and says, "Keep the change, ya filthy animal," or something like that, after which he leaves. Let us fast forward to when we find Monsieur MacWealthy. A mysterious doctor mysteriously appears and performs some mysterious techniques. All very suspicious."
We all sat silently, stealing furtive glances at the three likely suspects.
"Now that we have recreated the crime, we may study the evidence. Item one: MacWealthy was incredibly rich, and the person who inherited his fortune would be able to live like a king for the rest of his life. MacWealthy's sole heir was Monsieur Schnauzer. Item two: Monsieur Schnauzer admitted to knowing how to use an MP40. In addition, his fingerprints were found on the murder weapon. Item three: Schnauzer had an intense dislike for Monsieur MacWealthy. Item four: He has video evidence and a written testimonial from Doctor Hamilton that he was getting a colonoscopy while the murder was taking place.
"Item five," Quoirot continued, "Monsieur Weathersby also possessed a burning hatred for the Scottish pop star. Item six: Weathersby lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Item seven: Doctor Hamilton is not licensed to practice medicine, as I discovered yesterday. He is in fact banned for life as a result of 12 counts of medical malpractice in the space of a week. Item eight: The autopsy performed on MacWealthy's body also revealed a potentially fatal amount of hydrochloric acid in his esophagus. It is quite clear that if MacWealthy was not already dead from the bullets, the acid would have finished him off.
Quoirot thumped the mantelpiece. "Messieurs et Mesdames! You have the evidence. It is quite clear to me that the murderer is..."
I couldn't take the suspense any longer. "Mr. Weathersby!!" I shouted.
Chief Inspector Chav clapped a hand on Weathersby's shoulder. Quoirot looked confused. "No he's not. Mr. Schnauzer is the murderer, not Weathersby."
Chav quickly switched hands. But Schnauzer broke free and rushed at Quoirot! The Belgian neatly sidestepped and Schnauzer missed and conked his head on the mantelpiece, leaving him unconscious on the floor.
I was flabbergasted. "But, but, but Weathersby is the man! He has to be! Otherwise, otherwise where could he have been at the time of the murder, eh?!"
"And you told me you had found the gerbil, but that it had been shot. Correct?"
"There, you see? It is really quite simple."
"See what, Quoirot? What do those things have to do with the murder?"
Quoirot put his head in his hand. "Oh, la la, think, Bastings! Monsieur Weathersby was not the murderer because he was shooting the gerbil at that time!"
"Monsieur Weathersby has a deep-seated fear and hatred for gerbils, stemming from an event in his childhood where a rabid gerbil came into his house and bit his sister, which killed her."
The chief inspector broke in, "Mr. Weathersby also has an extensive police record of animal cruelty, aggravated assault on a cute rodent, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, and general nastiness."
Quoirot resumed. "You see, Bastings, Weathersby had found work as a floor manager at the convention. But when he found that a gerbil was living in one of the booths at the convention, he went that night to kill the animal. He had no idea that MacWealthy was being shot the same night and was certainly not the murderer. He is, however, a seriously disturbed individual."
"There's one thing I want to know, Quoirot," said Chief Inspector Chav. "How the devil do you know that it was Schnauzer?"
"There was no escaping the fact that Monsieur Schnauzer was MacWealthy's sole heir. He stood to gain the most from the pop star's death. In addition, the evidence was entirely against him. The only thing protected Schnauzer from out and out conviction was "video evidence" that happened to surface at just the right time."
Doctor Hamilton stood up. "My, my, look at the time," he said nervously.
"Please, sit back down, Doctor. We are just getting to the good part. Unless... you have something to hide?!?"
"Who, me? No, of course not... uhm..." Doctor Hamilton awkwardly sat back down.
"That's better," said Quoirot. "Now, as I was saying: The video evidence seems to be rock solid. Monsieur Schnauzer is indeed receiving a colonoscopy from Doctor Hamilton. However, when one considers that you must record a video, it becomes quite clear that the entire bit of "evidence" is a prerecorded red herring to delude us from trusting the actual data. In addition, Monsieur Schnauzer shouts "money, baby" several times during the procedure. At first, I thought this was just a minor peccadillo Schnauzer possessed. But when taken in context, it is obvious that he was referring to the fortune he was going to inherit."
Mr. Schnauzer was coming to. "Yes, and I would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids, and that dumb Belgian!"
Chief Inspector Chav still wasn't satisfied. "But dash it all, Quoirot, it doesn't add up. There's no way that Schnauzer could have done this alone!"
"Precisely. Monsieur Schnauzer had an accomplice. A person who could "inadvertently" provide the evidence to clear Monsieur Schnauzer of his crimes while being removed from him, so as not to connect the murderer and accomplice together. There is only one person who could have done this: Doctor Hamilton!"
The accused cursed and ran out of the room. "He won't get far," said the chief inspector. "We've got a perimeter set up. It's only a matter of time."
"Then I declare this case closed," announced Quoirot. "The murderer and his lackey have been apprehended. Come, Bastings, we must be going. Good day." We started to leave.