January 25th – The recording was all the proof they needed
Odysse Pierrot was on a case. He was often on a case: more so now as his fame spread. Called in to consult when the police were at a dead end, he invariably found a way to unpick the intricacies of the riddle and solve the crime at hand.
In his own mind, at least, he was undoubtedly the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s fictional Poirot, even if the only similarities he shared with his fictional counterpart were intellectual. He was not Belgian, for instance, nor had he ever wanted to be, coming from a small town just outside Lille, on the French side of the border. He sported a full beard, slightly unkempt, believing that a moustache was for the degenerate and the disappointing. Having personally helped the celebrated author recover several lost days, however, he was sure that her Poirot more than a shadow of himself.
Not that it really mattered. He sought neither personal glory nor public acclaim: for himself the knowledge of solving the puzzle, the intellectual challenge, was enough. His name went unrecorded in all police reports – a helpful member of the public was all that he would allow. He liked it this way, and the police liked it this way, as they were often able to bask in the glory that should, had he been so inclined, to have been his.
Which is why he was here, on a cold November evening, inside the library of Holt Manor, one of a number of minor stately homes dotted around the English countryside, unremarkable from the outside other than a physical representation of some familial wealth. What made Holt Manor remarkable, on this cold November evening, was the body on the library floor.
The police were at a loss. Inspector Quinn, a resolute and level-headed man, was trying (and failing) to understand the French detective’s workings. Odysse Pierrot had, on entering the room, and glancing only briefly at the body, claimed to have known not only the means of death, but also the identity of the killer. He had asked for an inventory of the house staff, looked around the room everywhere but below eye-level, and pronounced himself satisfied.
“Eet ees clear,” began Pierrot, in obviously accented English, “that the murderer was a woman.”
Inspector Quinn exchanged a glance with a newer sergeant, and rolled his eyes. Quinn had worked with Pierrot before: the sergeant had not.
“She ees employ-ed in this ‘ouse as a maid. Eet is to her that we must point the finger of blame.”
Pierrot’s English, while functionally fluent, was peppered with idiosyncrasies. His grammar was, when it needed to be, flawless. He just preferred it this way.
“Eet is, evidammement, a crime of passion. Zis maid,” (Here Pierrot paused, and consulted his list) “…Elsie. She ‘as strangulated ‘er lover. Zis she did from behind, several ‘ours ago.”
“Elsie?” asked Quinn, consulting his own list.
“Oui. Eet is ‘er who who is responsable for ze fabric of ze house, non.”
“Oui…yes,” replied Quinn, somewhat nonplussed. “but where’s the weapon? What did she kill him with. We’ve found nothing.”
“Et you will find nothing. Ze weapon is long gone. But If you cherche in the washing you may find eet there. A rope, about this theek.”
Here Pierrot opened his thumb and forefinger to a distance of about half an inch.
“But…what? What was it, man? How do you know?” blurted the nonplussed sergeant. Quinn rolled his eyes. Pierrot gave him an indulgent, avuncular smile.
“Eet ees all dans les rideaux.”
“The what?” spluttered the sergeant.
“Ze, how do you say, curtains. Look.”
Pierrot walked over to the window, and drew back the heavy curtains. He lifted the material from the bottom, and pointed out the hastily reworked stitching.
“Ze cord was remov-ed, some time before, and used to kill monsieur – la – ”
Pierrot turned the velvet in his hand.
“She evidammement ‘ad a spare, et replaced it after she ‘ad done ze deed. Seek out Elsie. She will tell you zat it is vrai.”
Elsie, as was to be expected, confessed. It was all as Pierrot had said. The re-cording was all the proof they needed.
Inspired by a prompt from here
*This went about 6 minutes over the 10 minutes, but I was having too much fun.