Unformatted text preview: moment (which they will
afterwards regret, bien entendu) they fling safety to the winds and turn at bay, proclaiming the truth with
great momentary satisfaction to themselves. So it was, I think, in this case. The strain was too great. And
so there came your proverb, the death of the goose that laid the golden eggs. But that is not the end.
Exposure faced the man of whom we are speaking.
And he is not the same man he was - say, a year ago. His moral fibre is blunted. He is desperate. He is
fighting a losing battle, and he is prepared to take any means that come to his hand, for exposure means
ruin to him. And so - the dagger strikes!' He was silent for a moment. It was as though he had laid a spell
upon the room. I cannot try to describe the impression his words produced. There was something in the
merciless analysis, and the ruthless power of vision which struck fear into both of us.
'Afterwards,' he went on softly, 'the dagger removed, he will be himself again, normal, kindly. But if the
need again arises, then once more he will strike.' Caroline roused herself at last.
'You are speaking of Ralph Paton,' she said. 'You may be right, you may not, but you have no business
to condemn a man unheard.' The telephone bell rang sharply. I went out into the hall, and took off the
'What?' I said. 'Yes. Dr Sheppard speaking.' I listened for a minute or two, then replied briefly.
Replacing the receiver, I went back into the drawing-room.
'Poirot,' I said, 'they have detained a man at Liverpool.
His name is Charles Kent, and he is believed to be the stranger who visited Femly that night. They want me to go to Liverpool at once and identify him.'
CHAPTER 17 Charles Kent
Half an hour later saw Poirot, myself, and Inspector Raglan in the train on the way to Liverpool. The
inspector was clearly very excited.
'We may get a line on the blackmailing part of the business, if on nothing else,' he declared jubilantly.
'He's a rough customer, this fellow, by what I heard over the phone. Takes dope, too. We ought to find it
easy to get what we want out of him. If there was the shadow of a motive, nothing's more likely than that
he killed Mr Ackroyd. But in that case, why is young Paton keeping out of the way. The whole thing's a
muddle - that's what it is. By the way, M. Poirot, you were quite right about those fingerprints. They
were Mr Ackroyd's own. I had rather the same idea myself, but I dismissed it as hardly feasible.' I smiled
to myself. Inspector Raglan was so very plainly saving his face.
'As regard this man,' said Poirot, 'he is not yet arrested, eh?' 'No, detained under suspicion.' 'And what
account does he give of himself?' 'Precious little,' said the inspector, with a grin. 'He's a wary bird, I
gather. A lot of abuse, but very little more.' On arrival at Liverpool I was surpised to find that Poirot was
welcomed with acclamation. Superintendent Hayes, who met us, had worked with Poirot over some
case long ago, and had evidently an exaggerated opinion of his powers.
'Now we've got...
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