Poirot's Chronicles - Hercule Ch. 04byvelvetpie©
A great many people have undertaken to portray Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, but in my opinion, none has done it as well as David Suchet, star of ITW productions of Poirot. It is his image that I use as my visual and those of Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings), Pauline Moran (Miss Lemon) and Philip Jackson (Chief Inspector Japp). ENJOY!
Hercule Poirot found himself humming as he dressed early the next morning. Miss Lemon had arranged for tickets for Hastings and himself and they were due at the station in just under an hour. Hercule had awakened at the crack of dawn, unable to contain his joy and had steamed for an hour, scrubbed, trimmed his mustache and now regarded his visage with a critical eye. He was surprised to find that his stomach was twisted into knots but he welcomed the change with a guilty smile.
"Mr. Poirot, your breakfast and your money are ready."
"Thank you, Miss Lemon." He called back and entered his office where Hastings sat, wolfing down a platter of kippers, eggs and potatoes. "Hungry, Hastings?"
"Always when Miss Lemon cooks." He stuffed his mouth with a large potato and bit down, laughing as butter shot out and dripped down his chin. "Her potatoes are heavenly."
"I can see." Poirot smiled, stirring his tisane, then used the edge of his knife to crack his egg, spooning the creamy white and gold innards onto toast. Both men ate steadily until their plates were empty and both cleaned their dishes in the small kitchen sink.
"Miss Lemon, that was outstanding. Thank you very much."
"Yes, thank you!" Hastings chimed in.
Miss Lemon smiled, standing by the door and checking their suitcases. "You're very welcome. I don't often fix breakfast for you but I thought that since you had to catch the train so early, you'd rather eat at home than face questionable fare in the club car."
"You are so right!" Hastings impetuously gave Miss Lemon a kiss on the cheek and her fair features flooded with color. She handed Poirot a wad of notes, which he organized and thrust into his gold money clip and slipped into the pocket of his jacket. "I say! That's an awful lot of money to be carrying, Poirot!"
Poirot merely smiled. He had an idea in mind; an idea that had to do with Joceline and he was determined to see it through to fruition. "Do not fret, mon ami. No one would dare to rob Hercule Poirot."
Hastings looked to Miss Lemon, who shrugged her shoulders in reply. The captain hefted the two heavier cases and Poirot grabbed the remaining two and both headed to the elevator. "We shall see you on Monday, Miss Lemon."
"Have a good time!"
The hack driver helped them with their bags and in no time, they were headed to the train station. Tickets were issued and Poirot and Hastings stood in the queue, waiting to embark. Looking down the platform, the detective saw the smiling face of Joceline Tarrant, standing in the ‘coloured' queue with her band members. She raised a blue-gloved hand in his direction, her eyes warm.
"Look, Hastings. Miss Tarrant!"
When they reached the compartment, Hastings had been filled in as to Poirot's relationship with the famous singer and he sat back, a grin on his face. "Well, well!"
Poirot could only smile, removing his hat and gloves and stowing them. "She is a most beautiful woman."
"That she is." Hastings sat upright. "Why don't we go visit her?"
"On the train? No, Hastings. We must wait."
"A visit from us may make her journey unbearable." Poirot set his walking cane aside. "Let us send her and the band a bottle of champagne and await a visit when we reach Duke Wilmouth's estate."
Hastings again grinned. "Here, here!"
Chief Inspector Japp watched as his constables removed the body of yet another nun from the Saint-Thérèse's Orphanage. The modus operandi was the same, excepting strangulation for cause of death. Sister Evangeline had been smothered to death and her ripe body bore the same bluish tinge as that of Sister Bernadetta and her pussy was filled with semen. Sister Lilia had happened upon the crime scene and had phoned Japp immediately. As with the other murder, nothing was found to be missing from Sister Evangeline's room and no obvious clues pointing to the murderer were found.
Japp growled in frustration and pounded his hand against the wall. The nearest constable, a young man of two months named Nathan, came running over, his face stricken with fear. "Are you all right, Chief Inspector?"
"No." He took a deep breath, paying attention to the loading of the body and plugging his ears against the screech of the siren. "Call Poirot."
Duke Wilmouth's estate was exquisite.
Two busloads of visitors trundled from the station to the estate, bouncing down the gravel-covered driveway and heading toward the centuries-old Tudor buildings. A butler in a starched black uniform and a woman in a smart white suit stood at the entrance, her dark hair twisted into a severe bun that matched the planes of her pinched face. Hastings and Poirot allowed the women to disembark first before joining the queue and stepping into a bit of English history.
"Amazing!" Hastings exclaimed, gazing at the well-kempt Tudor architecture. "Just beautiful!"
"Indeed." Poirot stepped up to the uniformed gentleman, touching his hat brim in acknowledgement. "I am … "
"Yes, Hercule Poirot. Nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Poirot." The butler shook his hand briskly. "I'm Harold Chivers, headman to Duke Wilmouth. On his behalf, I would like to welcome you to Beauford Estates."
"Merci. May I introduce my associate, Captain Hastings?" While Hastings and Chivers shook hands, Poirot's attention turned to the rear bus and a grin of recognition creased his features when he located Joceline at the head of the queue, speaking with the suited lady. The suited lady said something curtly and turned her back on Joceline. The black woman turned to her band mates, spoke a few words then gave them a tremulous smile. Her head raised and their eyes met and she glanced back at the ground, her smile knowing.
"Glynnis is just inside and will show you to your rooms. Neville will deliver your bags in a few minutes."
"Merci." Poirot touched his hat brim again and stepped into the cathedral-like entryway, smiling as he remembered the tasteful surroundings. Murals of Italian-heritage covered the walls, making the safe quite airy and beautiful. Glynnis introduced herself almost immediately, excited by the fact that the great Hercule Poirot was once again in residence at Beauford Estates.
"I'm so glad to see you back another year, Mr. Poirot, and you, Mr. Hastings."
"Thank you, madame. Captain Hastings and I are very happy to be invited back to this beautiful place. Tell me, how is Duke Wilmouth?"
"Over the moon!" She intimated, hefting the heavier of their bags, much to the consternation of both men and headed for the stairs. "'is son, Lord Wesley is set to run for a seat in Parliament this year."
"Oh, yes! I remember reading something about that. The duke must be very proud."
"Indeed ‘e is, Mr. Hastings!" Poirot rolled his eyes at her lack of using his friend's title. "'e's over the moon, ‘e is. ‘e's been preparing the young lord for this moment ‘is entire life and now … " Glynnis threw the doors open to the pair of suites, still gossiping about the duke and Lord Wesley and dropped their suitcases in the sitting room. "I expect that ‘e's going to announce ‘is candidacy at the Ball."
"That will certainly make for a festive mood." Hastings smiled, grabbing his satchel and heading for one of the rooms. "I'll be back in a minute."
Poirot pounced on the opportunity for a bit of privacy with Glynnis. "Miss Glynnis, can you tell me where Miss Tarrant and her band's rooms are located?"
Glynnis' face lost its blustery happiness and she looked down at the carpet, her cheeks burning with shame. "They've been placed in the rear estate ‘ouse, sir."
"I see." Poirot noticed her discomfort and patted her hand in a fatherly manner. "You have nothing to fear from me, madame. I, too, despise discrimination."
"It's not fair, Mr. Poirot. Miss Tarrant and ‘er lads were nice as pie to me and the boys. She even gave us a big tip!"
"You are right, madame, it is not fair, but this is the duke's estate and we must follow his rules." Poirot placed his arm around her large shoulders. "But rules are made to be broken."
Glynnis looked up, a wide smile dawning on her face. "Just what is it that you ‘ave in mind, Mr. Poirot?"
Joceline stood at the side picture window of the room she'd been assigned and watched as Duke Wilmouth, his wife and their only son, Lord Wilmouth entertained a large party on the lawn. Two large tables, festooned with ribbons, were filled with plates of finger sandwiches and fruit and the guests mingled with each other, nibbling as they gossiped and backstabbed. She smiled, thinking of how horrid their lives were compared to hers. She might be in a world that discriminated against her, but at least, she knew who her enemies were.
She was surprised to find herself searching for Poirot. She saw the dapper Captain Hastings in the crowd, but couldn't find Hercule any where. A deep sigh escaped her and she went back to her observation, remembering his promise. The Ball was tonight and he had promised a Ball of their own. She would just have to be patient and wait for whatever he had in mind.
There was a knock on the door and she strode across the room, smiling when she saw Glynnis standing there. "Hello, Glynnis. How can I help you?"
"I'm ‘ere to ‘elp you, ma'am."
"Please don't call me ma'am, Glynnis."
Glynnis smiled. "Yes, ma'am. I ‘ave been sent to collect you for lunch."
"Oh, I see. Well, let me get the boys … "
"No, ma'am … er, Ms. Tarrant. I ‘ave been sent to collect only you."
Joceline stared at the woman for a moment. "What about the boys?"
"You ‘ave me word that they'll be well-taken care of, miss." Glynnis gave a gentle smile. "Now, if you'll be so good as to follow me."
Joceline's heart leapt in her chest as she followed Glynnis down the long corridor and into a part of the house that they'd been told was off-limits to all but staff. A tall door opened into an exquisitely-decorated room and a large red-and-black plaid blanket had been laid out on the Persian carpet, a huge platter of sandwiches and fruit laid out. Poirot arose from his seat, a smile on his face.
"Hello, Joceline." He stepped forward and took her hand, leading her over to the blanket and hovering over her until she was comfortably seated. Glynnis stood by, waiting for Poirot's nod of dismissal, then softly closed the door after herself. "I thought you might be hungry."
"There you are!"
Poirot turned at the shout, smiling when he was Duke Jarrett Wilmouth striding across the lawn towards him, Hastings and a younger man in tow. Jarrett Wilmouth, even at sixty-six, still cut a handsome figure in his tailored suit and trimmed goatee. His flaxen hair flapping like a silken bird's-wing, he moved easily, his long legs eating up the space between the detective and himself until he was grasping Poirot's hand, nearly dislodging a chocolate-dusted truffle from his fingers.
"Duke Jarrett! How pleased I am to see you!" Poirot suffered the duke's robust embrace and discreetly tossed the half-eaten sweet aside.
"We were looking all over for you, Poirot. Where have you been hiding yourself?"
Hastings started to speak but Poirot beat him to it. "I was taking a nap, Duke Jarrett. The train ride was very … "
The duke smiled. "No need to explain the train ride to me. I still hate them!" The duke laughed loudly. "Did you see who we have for entertainment this year?"
Again, Hastings made a move to talk and Poirot cut him off with a quick wink. "No, sir. Who?"
"Joceline Tarrant!" His enthusiasm caught Poirot off-guard, making him wonder who had ordered the shabby treatment of Joceline and her band members. "Have you heard of her?"
"Yes, I have."
"Oh, Poirot, she has the sweetest singing voice I believe that I've ever heard! And have you seen her?"
"Oui, Duke Jarrett. I have seen her."
"Then you know how beautiful she is."
"Oui." He took a sip of his champagne, letting the bubbles percolate on his tongue. "Then tell me, dear friend, why is it that Miss Tarrant and her band relegated to the rear house?"
"I thought that it would be suitable, given that the band needed to practice before the Ball and the house would provide them with ample space and a modicum of privacy."
"That might be fine for the band but not for the lady. Would it be possible that lodgings could be found for Miss Tarrant in the main house?"
"Absolutely, Poirot! I hadn't thought of it like that. Oh, I hope that I haven't offended Miss Tarrant."
Poirot smiled. "No, mon ami, I am sure that she will forgive the oversight."
"Glynnis!" The duke raised a hand above the crowd, gesturing at the woman who was waiting under the wings. She came running, giving Poirot and Hastings a brief bow before turning her attention to the duke. "Glynnis, would you make see that Miss Tarrant is moved to a suitable room in the main house?"
"Yes, sir, but what about the others, sir?"
"Others? The band members can remain where they are."
"No, sir. Not the band members, the other Ball attendees. What do I say to them if they complain?"
The duke drew himself upright. "Tell them to come and see me." Glynnis curtsied and hurried off to do her duty, gifting Poirot with the smallest of smiles. "Now, Poirot, come have a sherry with me and tell me of your latest case."
The Ball was in full swing when Poirot and Hastings entered. Beaufort's ballroom had been transformed into a wonderland, sporting a champagne fountain and lights that twinkled like stars in the heavens. Elegantly-attired men in dove-tailed tuxedos and bowties and ladies in an artist's palette of gowns and silky robes twirled about the parquet floor while a host of others hovered at the edge of the dance floor and still others mingled around the buffet table and bar area.
Poirot had spent quite a bit of money on the ivory tuxedo he sported this evening and he glanced quickly at his associate, who was still fiddling with his bowtie and smoothing the flaps of his shirt down. "You look fine, Hastings. Please cease with the fiddlement."
"Fiddling." Hastings corrected, tipping his tie to the left and sighing. "I'll never get it right."
"Hastings, it is quite fine as it is. Leave it alone."
The two men moved into the flow of party traffic and spent an hour in the company of several young ladies, married women and interested widows. Poirot did his social best to withstand the onslaught of offers of dancing, politely brushing them off and claiming fatigue. When the clock struck ten, the small square stage lit up while the rest of the room was plunged into darkness and Joceline Tarrant's silky voice wafted through the room.
She appeared moments later, her chocolate frame dressed in a golden sheath, sleeveless except for tiny spaghetti straps and two braces on either arm. Her dark hair fell about her shoulders, the thick curls book-ending her neck and teasing the tops of her full breasts. Her brown eyes swept over the crowd, her blood-red lips pressed together as she hummed the introductory measures of Cole Porter's I've Got You Under My Skin.
Joceline stepped off of the stage, microphone in hand and played to the gathered crowd, pretending to sing the words to the gents and smiling openly at the ladies. When her eyes met Poirot's, the lyrics took on a different meaning, well and truly meant for his heart. The entire set, sixty-five minutes long, was smooth, filled with songs that soon had the dance floor bursting with couples. Riotous applause broke out and Joceline graciously accepted the shouts of brava and sang three more songs.
Poirot watched as she bowed several times, accepting the accolades of a grateful audience and embraced Duke Wilmouth. "Miss Joceline Tarrant and her band!" She bowed again, acknowledged her band and disappeared into the darkness.
"Wonderful." Hastings gushed with a dreamy smile. "Just wonderful."
"Indeed." Poirot answered, lifting his glass in tribute, as did several others.
"I wonder where Lord Wesley is. He was supposed to announce his candidacy this evening."
"The maid, Glynnis, told me that he had an emergency in town and will announce at breakfast."
"Ah, I see."
Poirot drained his glass and placed it on the nearest table. "Well, dear friend, I must bid you good night."
"Good night? You're going to bed already?"
"I did not say that." The detective gave Hastings a generous smile. "See you in the morning."
Joceline stumbled blindly down the hallway, her eyes closed and her hands held by Glynnis. For once, the maid's usually gossipy mouth was silent and only the sounds of her clunky shoes matched with Joceline's finer heels reverberated down the long hallway. Finally, they came to a halt and a door squeaked open, releasing a warm draft that curled around her ankles and she was gently pulled inside. Glynnis led her to a specific spot and bade her to remain, releasing her hands.
"'ave a good night, miss."
She remained still, following the instructions that Glynnis had given her and shivered when warm breath caressed the back of her neck, accompanied by a gentle pair of hands on her shoulders. Then, his soft voice at her ear, "You may open your eyes now."
Sconces of white tapers met her eyes, their soft glow chasing the gloom from the enormous room. The creamy light fell upon a phonograph in the corner and a three-legged urn that held a frosty bottle of champagne, two glasses sparkling dully nearby. A small table held fare from the Ball: roast duck breast, smoked salmon, dill sauce and fresh rolls but as famished as she was, the sight of Poirot in evening dress drove all thoughts of food out of her mind. He stepped into her line of sight, resplendent in his suit and bowed low over her hand, his warm lips lingering.
"Welcome to the Ball, Lina."
"Oh, Hercule." His fingers wrapped around hers as he led her over to the champagne, popping the cork and pouring each a healthy glass. Joceline stepped closer, holding her glass up for a toast. "To us."
Poirot's eyes glowed in the muted light. "To us." Each took a long sip, their eyes locked and she leaned forward, pressing her cold lips to his cheek. "Shall we dance?" At her nod, he set his glass down and strains of Ray Noble's The Very Thought of You filled the room. He took her glass, setting on the table next to his and led her out to the middle of the floor. His arm encircled her waist while hers rested on his shoulder and her hand nestled in his. Slowly, they began to move around the room.
Poirot thought that he was in a dream. Her dark liquid eyes were locked onto his and her lush body was pressed against his. He felt himself harden and tried to move away from her but she would have none of it. Her body slid against his, making him tremble deep down. The candles whirled by, alternately lighting the soft planes of her lovely face and limning the curves of her lips. He wanted her. He wanted to feel her lips yield to his, to feel the warmth of her body, of her skin against his.
"Lina." He hadn't realized that he'd spoken her name until her hand touched his cheek. Their dance came to a stand still, his hands at her waist and hers cupping his face. He leaned forward and their lips touched, a thrill snaking through Poirot. Her soft scent, the touch of her fingers on his face all combined with her lips to send him shooting to the clouds. His hard cock pressed insistently against her crotch and she ground her hips into his, moaning lightly.