The night sky has held the fascination of mankind for as long as time itself. Ever since there have been eyes to gaze upwards, there have been hearts and minds that both revere and fear the heavens. For millennia, the stars themselves have been regarded not only as the great mysteries of the universe, but also as those that hold an esoteric truth to life itself. These ethereal conundrums had been the cause of great preoccupation to Poirot and understandably so. Their twinkling brilliance had robbed him of sleep for several nights, but none more so than that very evening, when he found himself swathed in their embrace as he made his way through the velvet night towards the scene of Maurice Kelly’s recent murder.
Whilst the remains of what the police generously called the body (although it would more accurately be described as a kind of scattered pulp) had been mostly removed, the marbles and other paraphernalia of the scene had been left in situ in the actor’s study, with the intention of further examination, perhaps by Chief Inspector Japp’s experts, should they have the stomach for it. As Poirot approached the door of the address, he noticed a vaguely familiar face employed as a scene guard by the front step. Despite the mildness of the night, the young constable was wrapped in his weighty black cloak and wore the travails of the nightshift heavily beneath his eyes. Poirot had seen him many times at Scotland Yard when he had been paying one of his numerous visits to Chief Inspector Japp and believed that he remembered his name to be Somersby.
“Bon soir, Constable Somersby!” Poirot announced, his bright and cordial tones at odds with the solemnity of the night.
Somersby jolted into life with quite a start, as if he had been sleeping upright upon the doorstep.
“Oh! Mr Poirot!” his voice certainly sounded as if it was filtered by somnambulism. “A pleasure to see you, sir. I wasn’t expecting to see you this time of night, sir – is everything alright?”
“Mais oui, Constable, everything is very much – as you say – alright! Poirot, he has been thinking – thinking, thinking all through the evening. And the ideas – they will not let him sleep! So I come here now to see if the ideas, they are correct, non?”
Recognition spread across his face and Somersby grinned and tapped the side of his nose with a gloved finger.
“Don’t tell, me sir – those little grey wassnames have finally come up with an answer!”
Poirot smiled politely at the constable, whilst wondering what the exact translation of ‘wassnames’ might be.
“We must hope that that is the case, monsieur,” replied Poirot. “It is alright that I once more observe scene?”
“Help yourself, Mr Poirot!” exclaimed Somersby. “You’ll find Constable Morse on the door to the study, of course. The Chief Inspector was very clear about securing the scene, you know. But Morse won’t give you any gip. He’s probably more interested in his crosswords, anyhow.”
“Ah! What is it with these young policemen and their crosswords?” Poirot lamented, but with humour. “Inspector Catchpool is also much enamoured with such things.”
“Yes, but, you see – Morse is actually pretty good at them,” said Somersby, once again tapping the side of his nose, perhaps not entirely certain of what this action is intended to portray.
Poirot smiled once more, touching the brim of his hat, before passing Somersby and making his way through the door and towards the study.
As so ably predicted by Somersby, Constable Morse looked up only briefly from his crossword before waving through the renowned detective. Night shift on scene guard was a notoriously monotonous affair and occasionally the most mundane of observations caused unusual conclusions in the mind of a policeman so disposed to erratic cognitive movements. Constable Morse was one such policeman and the thought that struck him was that Hercule Poirot moved very graciously for a man the shape of an egg. He paid him only scant attention as the famed sleuth proceeded with precise delicacy about the crime scene. It wasn’t for a humble street copper such as himself to wonder what incredible machinations were occurring in such a celebrated mind, but it seemed to him that Poirot was paying inordinate attention to the very periphery of the crime scene.
Whatever it was that interested Poirot was soon concluded, as Morse had barely finished dealing with the ‘across’ clues before his visitor was once again at his side.
“I thank you, Monsieur Morse, for your time,” said Poirot, performing the briefest of bows before heading towards the front door and back out into the night.
As he hurried back to Whitehaven Mansions, Poirot was breathing a little heavier than was normal for his good self. This was somewhat in part to relief, but there was also a touch of excitement to be credited, as well. A part of the puzzle had now fallen into place, albeit not the puzzle upon which his Scotland Yard friends were currently focused. Arriving at the door to his apartment, Poirot was faced with a further puzzle. Standing between him and the threshold was yet another constable, and this one appeared to be in a mood not quite as affable as Somersby and Morse. His face grim, the policeman spoke at once to him.
“Mr Poirot, I am sorry to say that Chief Inspector Japp requires your presence urgently at the residence of Inspector Catchpool.”
“But of course,” replied Poirot. “Can you tell me why it is that Poirot is needed at such an hour?”
“I’m afraid to tell you that Inspector Catchpool is dead, sir. It appears that he has been murdered, sir.”