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“You forget, Boris,” she said. “I am accountable to no one. I take my orders only from—Mr. Brown.”
“Oh!” said Tommy, rather taken aback. “Française?” he hazarded.
“All in good time. What an awful place Piccadilly Circus is. There’s a huge bus bearing down on us. It would be too terrible if they killed the five-pound notes!”
But there was a more vital question that drove out all others. Could he, bound as he was, manage to cut his bonds? He essayed cautiously to rub the open blade up and down on the cord that bound his two wrists together. It was an awkward business, and drew a smothered “Ow” of pain from him as the knife cut into his wrist. But slowly and doggedly he went on sawing to and fro. He cut the flesh badly, but at last he felt the cord slacken. With his hands free, the rest was easy. Five minutes later he stood upright with some difficulty, owing to the cramp in his limbs. His first care was to bind up his bleeding wrist. Then he sat on the edge of the bed to think. Conrad had taken the key of the door, so he could expect little more assistance from Annette. The only outlet from the room was the door, consequently he would perforce have to wait until the two men returned to fetch him. But when they did.... Tommy smiled! Moving with infinite caution in the dark room, he found and unhooked the famous picture. He felt an economical pleasure that his first plan would not be wasted. There was now nothing to do but to wait. He waited.
“You must not do that on any account. It might arouse suspicion if you did not stay out till the usual time. Be back by nine-thirty. I will arrive at ten. Mr. Hersheimmer will wait below in a taxi perhaps.”
“What was this man like who called to see Mr. Pace?”
“No, in Derbyshire. I was in town and received a telegram from my wife this morning. Immediately upon its receipt I determined to come round and beg M. Poirot to undertake the case.”
“I shall try and get rid of it. I could never live here again.”
“Well, I’d got my eye on Havering to begin with.... Oh, yes,”—noting my exclamation of astonishment,—“Havering has one or two shady incidents in his past. When he was a boy at Oxford, there was some funny business about the signature on one of his father’s checks. All hushed up, of course. Then he’s pretty heavily in debt now, and they’re the kind of debts he wouldn’t like to go to his uncle about; whereas you may be sure the uncle’s will would be in his favor. Yes, I’d got my eye on him, and that’s why I wanted to speak to him before he saw his wife; but their statements dovetail all right, and I’ve been to the station, and there’s no doubt whatever that he left by the six-fifteen. That gets up to London about ten-thirty. He went straight to his club, he says, and if that’s confirmed all right—why, he couldn’t have been shooting his uncle here at nine o’clock in a black beard!”
“If you please. Tell her that Mr. Havering is outside with Inspector Japp, and that the gentleman he has brought back with him from London is anxious to speak to her as soon as possible.”
“Yes, yes, we needn’t go over all that again. I’ll watch him for you, Anne, and if he gets any fatter and any more cheerful, I’ll send you a telegram at once. ‘Sir E. swelling. Highly suspicious. Come at once.’”
“And what guarantee have I that you will keep your side of the bargain?”
I told her the whole story. It took some time as I was conscientious over all the details. She gave a deep sigh when I had finished, but she did not say at all what I had expected her to say. Instead she looked at me, laughed a little and said:
“So go down to the barber’s and see about it,” I finished.
I smile now as I remember my abrupt entry into the drawing-room. Mrs. Flemming was alone there. She turned her head as I entered.