Unformatted text preview: or the dead?' For a moment the
inspector looked bewildered at what he took to be a religious observation. Then he reacted slowly.
'You mean - ?' 'The dead, M. 1'Inspecteur.' The inspector still took a minute or two to understand.
'I am suggesting,' said Poirot placidly, 'that the fingerprints on the dagger handle are those of Mr Ackroyd
himself. It is an easy matter to verify. His body is still available.' 'But why? What would be the point of it?
You're surely not suggesting suicide, Mr Poirot?' Ah! no. My theory is that the murderer wore gloves or
wrapped something round his hand. After the blow was struck, he picked up the victim's hand and
closed it round the dagger handle.' 'But why?' Poirot shrugged his shoulders again.
'To make a confusing case even more confusing.' 'Well,' said the inspector. 'I'll look into it. What gave
you the idea in the first place?' 'When you were so kind as to show me the dagger and draw attention to
the fingerprints. I know very little of loops and whorls - see, I confess my ignorance frankly. But it did
occur to me that the position of the prints was somewhat awkward. Not so would I have held a dagger in
order to strike. Naturally, with the right hand brought up over the shoulder backwards, it would have
been difficult to put it in exactly the right position.' Inspector Raglan stared at the little man. Poirot, with
an air of great unconcern, flecked a speck of dust from his coat sleeve.
'Well,' said the inspector. 'It's an idea. I'll look into it all right, but don't you be disappointed if nothing
comes of it.' He endeavoured to make his tone kindly and patronising.
Poirot watched him go off. Then he turned to me with twinkling eyes.
'Another time,' he observed, 'I must be more careful of his amour propre. And now that we are left to
our own devices, what do you think, my good friend, of a little reunion of the family?' The 'little reunion,'
as Poirot called it, took place about half an hour later. We sat round the table in the diningroom at Fernly.
Poirot at the head of the table, like the chairman of some ghastly board meeting. The servants were not
present, so we were six in all. Mrs Ackroyd, Flora, Major Blunt, young Raymond, Poirot, and myself.
When everyone was assembled, Poirot rose and bowed.
'Messieurs, mesdames, I have called you together for a certain purpose.' He paused. 'To begin with, I
want to make a very special plea to mademoiselle.' 'To me?' said Flora.
'Mademoiselle, you are engaged to Captain Ralph Paton. If anyone is in his confidence, you are. I beg
you, most earnestly, if you know of his whereabouts, to persuade him to coine forward. One little minute'
- as Flora raised her head to speak - 'say nothing rill you have well reflected.
Mademoiselle, his position grows daily more dangerous. If he had come forward at once, no matter how
damning the facts, he might have had a chance of explaining them away.
But this silence - this flight - what can it mean? Surely only one thing, knowledge of guilt....
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