The Kidnapped Prime Ministerby@agathachristie

The Kidnapped Prime Minister

by Agatha ChristieJuly 15th, 2023
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Now that war and the problems of war are things of the past, I think I may safely venture to reveal to the world the part which my friend Poirot played in a moment of national crisis. The secret has been well guarded. Not a whisper of it reached the Press. But, now that the need for secrecy has gone by, I feel it is only just that England should know the debt it owes to my quaint little friend, whose marvellous brain so ably averted a great catastrophe. One evening after dinner—I will not particularize the date; it suffices to say that it was at the time when “Peace by negotiation” was the parrot-cry of England’s enemies—my friend and I were sitting in his rooms. After being invalided out of the Army I had been given a recruiting job, and it had become my custom to drop in on Poirot in the evenings after dinner and talk with him of any cases of interest that he might have on hand. I was attempting to discuss with him the sensational news of that day—no less than an attempted assassination of Mr. David MacAdam, England’s Prime Minister. The account in the papers had evidently been carefully censored. No details were given, save that the Prime Minister had had a marvellous escape, the bullet just grazing his cheek.
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Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Kidnapped Prime Minister

VIII. The Kidnapped Prime Minister

Now that war and the problems of war are things of the past, I think I may safely venture to reveal to the world the part which my friend Poirot played in a moment of national crisis. The secret has been well guarded. Not a whisper of it reached the Press. But, now that the need for secrecy has gone by, I feel it is only just that England should know the debt it owes to my quaint little friend, whose marvellous brain so ably averted a great catastrophe.

One evening after dinner—I will not particularize the date; it suffices to say that it was at the time when “Peace by negotiation” was the parrot-cry of England’s enemies—my friend and I were sitting in his rooms. After being invalided out of the Army I had been given a recruiting job, and it had become my custom to drop in on Poirot in the evenings after dinner and talk with him of any cases of interest that he might have on hand.

I was attempting to discuss with him the sensational news of that day—no less than an attempted assassination of Mr. David MacAdam, England’s Prime Minister. The account in the papers had evidently been carefully censored. No details were given, save that the Prime Minister had had a marvellous escape, the bullet just grazing his cheek.

I considered that our police must have been shamefully careless for such an outrage to be possible. I could well understand that the German agents in England would be willing to risk much for such an achievement. “Fighting Mac,” as his own party had nicknamed him, had strenuously and unequivocally combated the Pacifist influence which was becoming so prevalent.

He was more than England’s Prime Minister—he was England; and to have removed him from his sphere of influence would have been a crushing and paralysing blow to Britain.

Poirot was busy mopping a grey suit with a minute sponge. Never was there a dandy such as Hercule Poirot. Neatness and order were his passion. Now, with the odour of benzine filling the air, he was quite unable to give me his full attention.

“In a little minute I am with you, my friend. I have all but finished. The spot of grease—he is not good—I remove him—so!” He waved his sponge.

I smiled as I lit another cigarette.

“Anything interesting on?” I inquired, after a minute or two.

“I assist a—how do you call it?—‘charlady’ to find her husband. A difficult affair, needing the tact. For I have a little idea that when he is found he will not be pleased. What would you? For my part, I sympathize with him. He was a man of discrimination to lose himself.”

I laughed.

“At last! The spot of grease, he is gone! I am at your disposal.”

“I was asking you what you thought of this attempt to assassinate MacAdam?”

“Enfantillage!” replied Poirot promptly. “One can hardly take it seriously. To fire with the rifle—never does it succeed. It is a device of the past.”

“It was very near succeeding this time,” I reminded him.

Poirot shook his head impatiently. He was about to reply when the landlady thrust her head round the door and informed him that there were two gentlemen below who wanted to see him.

“They won’t give their names, sir, but they says as it’s very important.”

“Let them mount,” said Poirot, carefully folding his grey trousers.

In a few minutes the two visitors were ushered in, and my heart gave a leap as in the foremost I recognized no less a personage than Lord Estair, Leader of the House of Commons; whilst his companion, Mr. Bernard Dodge, was also a member of the War Cabinet, and, as I knew, a close personal friend of the Prime Minister.

“Monsieur Poirot?” said Lord Estair interrogatively. My friend bowed. The great man looked at me and hesitated. “My business is private.”

“You may speak freely before Captain Hastings,” said my friend, nodding to me to remain. “He has not all the gifts, no! But I answer for his discretion.”

Lord Estair still hesitated, but Mr. Dodge broke in abruptly:

“Oh, come on—don’t let’s beat about the bush! As far as I can see, the whole of England will know the hole we’re in soon enough. Time’s everything.”

“Pray be seated, messieurs,” said Poirot politely. “Will you take the big chair, milord?”

Lord Estair started slightly. “You know me?”

Poirot smiled. “Certainly. I read the little papers with the pictures. How should I not know you?”

“Monsieur Poirot, I have come to consult you upon a matter of the most vital urgency. I must ask for absolute secrecy.”

“You have the word of Hercule Poirot—I can say no more!” said my friend grandiloquently.

“It concerns the Prime Minister. We are in grave trouble.”

“We’re up a tree!” interposed Mr. Dodge.

“The injury is serious, then?” I asked.

“What injury?”

“The bullet wound.”

“Oh, that!” cried Mr. Dodge contemptuously. “That’s old history.”

“As my colleague says,” continued Lord Estair, “that affair is over and done with. Luckily, it failed. I wished I could say as much for the second attempt.”

“There has been a second attempt, then?”

“Yes, though not of the same nature. Monsieur Poirot, the Prime Minister has disappeared.”


“He has been kidnapped!”

“Impossible!” I cried, stupefied.

Poirot threw a withering glance at me, which I knew enjoined me to keep my mouth shut.

“Unfortunately, impossible as it seems, it is only too true,” continued his lordship.

Poirot looked at Mr. Dodge. “You said just now, monsieur, that time was everything. What did you mean by that?”

The two men exchanged glances, and then Lord Estair said:

“You have heard, Monsieur Poirot, of the approaching Allied Conference?”

My friend nodded.

“For obvious reasons, no details have been given of when and where it is to take place. But, although it has been kept out of the newspapers, the date is, of course, widely known in diplomatic circles. The Conference is to be held to-morrow—Thursday—evening at Versailles. Now you perceive the terrible gravity of the situation. I will not conceal from you that the Prime Minister’s presence at the Conference is a vital necessity. The Pacifist propaganda, started and maintained by the German agents in our midst, has been very active. It is the universal opinion that the turning point of the Conference will be the strong personality of the Prime Minister. His absence may have the most serious results—possibly a premature and disastrous peace. And we have no one who can be sent in his place. He alone can represent England.”

Poirot’s face had grown very grave. “Then you regard the kidnapping of the Prime Minister as a direct attempt to prevent his being present at the Conference?”

“Most certainly I do. He was actually on his way to France at the time.”

“And the Conference is to be held?”

“At nine o’clock to-morrow night.”

Poirot drew an enormous watch from his pocket.

“It is now a quarter to nine.”

“Twenty-four hours,” said Mr. Dodge thoughtfully.

“And a quarter,” amended Poirot. “Do not forget the quarter, monsieur—it may come in useful. Now for the details—the abduction, did it take place in England or in France?”

“In France. Mr. MacAdam crossed to France this morning. He was to stay to-night as the guest of the Commander-in-Chief, proceeding to-morrow to Paris. He was conveyed across the Channel by destroyer. At Boulogne he was met by a car from General Headquarters and one of the Commander-in-Chief’s A.D.C.s.”

“Eh bien?”

“Well, they started from Boulogne—but they never arrived.”


“Monsieur Poirot, it was a bogus car and a bogus A.D.C. The real car was found in a side road, with the chauffeur and the A.D.C. neatly gagged and bound.”

“And the bogus car?”

“Is still at large.”

Poirot made a gesture of impatience. “Incredible! Surely it cannot escape attention for long?”

“So we thought. It seemed merely a question of searching thoroughly. That part of France is under Military Law. We were convinced that the car could not go long unnoticed. The French police and our own Scotland Yard men, and the military are straining every nerve. It is, as you say, incredible—but nothing has been discovered!”

At that moment a tap came at the door, and a young officer entered with a heavily sealed envelope which he handed to Lord Estair.

“Just through from France, sir. I brought it on here, as you directed.”

The Minister tore it open eagerly, and uttered an exclamation. The officer withdrew.

“Here is news at last! This telegram has just been decoded. They have found the second car, also the secretary, Daniels, chloroformed, gagged, and bound, in an abandoned farm near C——. He remembers nothing, except something being pressed against his mouth and nose from behind, and struggling to free himself. The police are satisfied as to the genuineness of his statement.”

“And they have found nothing else?”


“Not the Prime Minister’s dead body? Then, there is hope. But it is strange. Why, after trying to shoot him this morning, are they now taking so much trouble to keep him alive?”

Dodge shook his head. “One thing’s quite certain. They’re determined at all costs to prevent his attending the Conference.”

“If it is humanly possible, the Prime Minister shall be there. God grant it is not too late. Now, messieurs, recount to me everything—from the beginning. I must know about this shooting affair as well.”

“Last night, the Prime Minister, accompanied by one of his secretaries, Captain Daniels——”

“The same who accompanied him to France?”

“Yes. As I was saying, they motored down to Windsor, where the Prime Minister was granted an Audience. Early this morning, he returned to town, and it was on the way that the attempted assassination took place.”

“One moment, if you please. Who is this Captain Daniels? You have his dossier?”

Lord Estair smiled. “I thought you would ask me that. We do not know very much of him. He is of no particular family. He has served in the English Army, and is an extremely able secretary, being an exceptionally fine linguist. I believe he speaks seven languages. It is for that reason that the Prime Minister chose him to accompany him to France.”

“Has he any relatives in England?”

“Two aunts. A Mrs. Everard, who lives at Hampstead, and a Miss Daniels, who lives near Ascot.”

“Ascot? That is near to Windsor, is it not?”

“That point has not been overlooked. But it has led to nothing.”

“You regard the Capitaine Daniels, then, as above suspicion?”

A shade of bitterness crept into Lord Estair’s voice, as he replied:

“No, Monsieur Poirot. In these days, I should hesitate before I pronounced anyone above suspicion.”

“Très bien. Now I understand, milord, that the Prime Minister would, as a matter of course, be under vigilant police protection, which ought to render any assault upon him an impossibility?”

Lord Estair bowed his head. “That is so. The Prime Minister’s car was closely followed by another car containing detectives in plain clothes. Mr. MacAdam knew nothing of these precautions. He is personally a most fearless man, and would be inclined to sweep them away arbitrarily. But, naturally, the police make their own arrangements. In fact, the Premier’s chauffeur, O’Murphy, is a C.I.D. man.”

“O’Murphy? That is a name of Ireland, is it not so?”

“Yes, he is an Irishman.”

“From what part of Ireland?”

“County Clare, I believe.”

“Tiens! But proceed, milord.”

“The Premier started for London. The car was a closed one. He and Captain Daniels sat inside. The second car followed as usual. But, unluckily, for some unknown reason, the Prime Minister’s car deviated from the main road——”

“At a point where the road curves?” interrupted Poirot.

“Yes—but how did you know?”

“Oh, c’est évident! Continue!”

“For some unknown reason,” continued Lord Estair, “the Premier’s car left the main road. The police car, unaware of the deviation, continued to keep to the high road. At a short distance down the unfrequented lane, the Prime Minister’s car was suddenly held up by a band of masked men. The chauffeur——”

“That brave O’Murphy!” murmured Poirot thoughtfully.

“The chauffeur, momentarily taken aback, jammed on the brakes. The Prime Minister put his head out of the window. Instantly a shot rang out—then another. The first one grazed his cheek, the second, fortunately, went wide. The chauffeur, now realizing the danger, instantly forged straight ahead, scattering the band of men.”

“A near escape,” I ejaculated, with a shiver.

“Mr. MacAdam refused to make any fuss over the slight wound he had received. He declared it was only a scratch. He stopped at a local cottage hospital, where it was dressed and bound up—he did not, of course, reveal his identity. He then drove, as per schedule, straight to Charing Cross, where a special train for Dover was awaiting him, and, after a brief account of what had happened had been given to the anxious police by Captain Daniels, he duly departed for France. At Dover, he went on board the waiting destroyer. At Boulogne, as you know, the bogus car was waiting for him, carrying the Union Jack, and correct in every detail.”

“That is all you have to tell me?”


“There is no other circumstance that you have omitted, milord?”

“Well, there is one rather peculiar thing.”


“The Prime Minister’s car did not return home after leaving the Prime Minister at Charing Cross. The police were anxious to interview O’Murphy, so a search was instituted at once. The car was discovered standing outside a certain unsavoury little restaurant in Soho, which is well known as a meeting-place of German agents.”

“And the chauffeur?”

“The chauffeur was nowhere to be found. He, too, had disappeared.”

“So,” said Poirot thoughtfully, “there are two disappearances: the Prime Minister in France, and O’Murphy in London.”

He looked keenly at Lord Estair, who made a gesture of despair.

“I can only tell you, Monsieur Poirot, that, if anyone had suggested to me yesterday that O’Murphy was a traitor, I should have laughed in his face.”

“And to-day?”

“To-day I do not know what to think.”

Poirot nodded gravely. He looked at his turnip of a watch again.

“I understand that I have carte blanche, messieurs—in every way, I mean? I must be able to go where I choose, and how I choose.”

“Perfectly. There is a special train leaving for Dover in an hour’s time, with a further contingent from Scotland Yard. You shall be accompanied by a Military officer and a C.I.D. man, who will hold themselves at your disposal in every way. Is that satisfactory?”

“Quite. One more question before you leave, messieurs. What made you come to me? I am unknown, obscure, in this great London of yours.”

“We sought you out on the express recommendation and wish of a very great man of your own country.”

“Comment? My old friend the Préfet——?”

Lord Estair shook his head.

“One higher than the Préfet. One whose word was once law in Belgium—and shall be again! That England has sworn!”

Poirot’s hand flew swiftly to a dramatic salute. “Amen to that! Ah, but my Master does not forget. . . . Messieurs, I, Hercule Poirot, will serve you faithfully. Heaven only send that it will be in time. But this is dark—dark. . . . I cannot see.”

“Well, Poirot,” I cried impatiently, as the door closed behind the Ministers, “what do you think?”

My friend was busy packing a minute suitcase, with quick, deft movements. He shook his head thoughtfully.

“I do not know what to think. My brains desert me.”

“Why, as you said, kidnap him, when a knock on the head would do as well?” I mused.

“Pardon me, mon ami, but I did not quite say that. It is undoubtedly far more their affair to kidnap him.”

“But why?”

“Because uncertainty creates panic. That is one reason. Were the Prime Minister dead, it would be a terrible calamity, but the situation would have to be faced. But now you have paralysis. Will the Prime Minister reappear, or will he not? Is he dead or alive? Nobody knows, and until they know nothing definite can be done. And, as I tell you, uncertainty breeds panic, which is what les Boches are playing for. Then, again, if the kidnappers are holding him secretly somewhere, they have the advantage of being able to make terms with both sides. The German Government is not a liberal paymaster, as a rule, but no doubt they can be made to disgorge substantial remittances in such a case as this. Thirdly, they run no risk of the hangman’s rope. Oh, decidedly, kidnapping is their affair.”

“Then, if that is so, why should they first try to shoot him?”

Poirot made a gesture of anger. “Ah, that is just what I do not understand! It is inexplicable—stupid! They have all their arrangements made (and very good arrangements too!) for the abduction, and yet they imperil the whole affair by a melodramatic attack, worthy of a Cinema, and quite as unreal. It is almost impossible to believe in it, with its band of masked men, not twenty miles from London!”

“Perhaps they were two quite separate attempts which happened irrespective of each other,” I suggested.

“Ah, no, that would be too much of a coincidence! Then, further—who is the traitor? There must have been a traitor—in the first affair, anyway. But who was it—Daniels or O’Murphy? It must have been one of the two, or why did the car leave the main road? We cannot suppose that the Prime Minister connived at his own assassination! Did O’Murphy take that turning of his own accord, or was it Daniels who told him to do so?”

“Surely it must have been O’Murphy’s doing.”

“Yes, because if it was Daniels’ the Prime Minister would have heard the order, and would have asked the reason. But there are altogether too many ‘whys’ in this affair, and they contradict each other. If O’Murphy is an honest man, why did he leave the main road? But if he was a dishonest man, why did he start the car again when only two shots had been fired—thereby, in all probability, saving the Prime Minister’s life? And, again, if he was honest, why did he, immediately on leaving Charing Cross, drive to a well-known rendezvous of German spies?”

“It looks bad,” I said.

“Let us look at the case with method. What have we for and against these two men? Take O’Murphy first. Against: that his conduct in leaving the main road was suspicious; that he is an Irishman from County Clare; that he has disappeared in a highly suggestive manner. For: that his promptness in restarting the car saved the Premier’s life; that he is a Scotland Yard man, and, obviously, from the post allotted to him, a trusted detective. Now for Daniels. There is not much against him, except the fact that nothing is known of his antecedents, and that he speaks too many languages for a good Englishman! (Pardon me, mon ami, but, as linguists, you are deplorable!) Now for him, we have the fact that he was found gagged, bound, and chloroformed—which does not look as though he had anything to do with the matter.”

“He might have gagged and bound himself, to divert suspicion.”

Poirot shook his head. “The French police would make no mistake of that kind. Besides, once he had attained his object, and the Prime Minister was safely abducted, there would not be much point in his remaining behind. His accomplices could have gagged and chloroformed him, of course, but I fail to see what object they hoped to accomplish by it. He can be of little use to them now, for, until the circumstances concerning the Prime Minister have been cleared up, he is bound to be closely watched.”

“Perhaps he hoped to start the police on a false scent?”

“Then why did he not do so? He merely says that something was pressed over his nose and mouth, and that he remembers nothing more. There is no false scent there. It sounds remarkably like the truth.”

“Well,” I said, glancing at the clock, “I suppose we’d better start for the station. You may find more clues in France.”

“Possibly, mon ami, but I doubt it. It is still incredible to me that the Prime Minister has not been discovered in that limited area, where the difficulty of concealing him must be tremendous. If the military and the police of two countries have not found him, how shall I?”

At Charing Cross we were met by Mr. Dodge.

“This is Detective Barnes, of Scotland Yard, and Major Norman. They will hold themselves entirely at your disposal. Good luck to you. It’s a bad business, but I’ve not given up hope. Must be off now.” And the Minister strode rapidly away.

We chatted in a desultory fashion with Major Norman. In the centre of the little group of men on the platform I recognized a little ferret-faced fellow talking to a tall, fair man. He was an old acquaintance of Poirot’s—Detective-Inspector Japp, supposed to be one of the smartest of Scotland Yard’s officers. He came over and greeted my friend cheerfully.

“I heard you were on this job too. Smart bit of work. So far they’ve got away with the goods all right. But I can’t believe they can keep him hidden long. Our people are going through France with a toothcomb. So are the French. I can’t help feeling it’s only a matter of hours now.”

“That is, if he’s still alive,” remarked the tall detective gloomily.

Japp’s face fell. “Yes. . . . But somehow I’ve got the feeling he’s alive all right.”

Poirot nodded. “Yes, yes; he’s alive. But can he be found in time? I, like you, did not believe he could be hidden so long.”

The whistle blew, and we all trooped up into the Pullman car. Then, with a slow, unwilling jerk, the train drew out of the station.

It was a curious journey. The Scotland Yard men crowded together. Maps of Northern France were spread out, and eager forefingers traced the lines of roads and villages. Each man had his own pet theory. Poirot showed none of his usual loquacity, but sat staring in front of him, with an expression on his face that reminded me of a puzzled child. I talked to Norman, whom I found quite an amusing fellow. On arriving at Dover Poirot’s behaviour moved me to intense amusement. The little man, as he went on board the boat, clutched desperately at my arm. The wind was blowing lustily.

“Mon Dieu!” he murmured. “This is terrible!”

“Have courage, Poirot,” I cried. “You will succeed. You will find him. I am sure of it.”

“Ah, mon ami, you mistake my emotion. It is this villainous sea that troubles me! The mal de mer—it is horrible suffering!”

“Oh!” I said, rather taken aback.

The first throb of the engines was felt, and Poirot groaned and closed his eyes.

“Major Norman has a map of Northern France if you would like to study it?”

Poirot shook his head impatiently.

“But no, but no! Leave me, my friend. See you, to think, the stomach and the brain must be in harmony. Laverguier has a method most excellent for averting the mal de mer. You breathe in—and out—slowly, so—turning the head from left to right and counting six between each breath.”

I left him to his gymnastic endeavours, and went on deck.

As we came slowly into Boulogne Harbour Poirot appeared, neat and smiling, and announced to me in a whisper that Laverguier’s system had succeeded “to a marvel!”

Japp’s forefinger was still tracing imaginary routes on his map. “Nonsense! The car started from Boulogne—here they branched off. Now, my idea is that they transferred the Prime Minister to another car. See?”

“Well,” said the tall detective, “I shall make for the seaports. Ten to one, they’ve smuggled him on board a ship.”

Japp shook his head. “Too obvious. The order went out at once to close all the ports.”

The day was just breaking as we landed. Major Norman touched Poirot on the arm. “There’s a military car here waiting for you, sir.”

“Thank you, monsieur. But, for the moment, I do not propose to leave Boulogne.”


“No, we will enter this hotel here, by the quay.”

He suited the action to the word, demanded and was accorded a private room. We three followed him, puzzled and uncomprehending.

He shot a quick glance at us. “It is not so that the good detective should act, eh? I perceive your thought. He must be full of energy. He must rush to and fro. He should prostrate himself on the dusty road and seek the marks of tyres through a little glass. He must gather up the cigarette-end, the fallen match? That is your idea, is it not?”

His eyes challenged us. “But I—Hercule Poirot—tell you that it is not so! The true clues are within—here!” He tapped his forehead. “See you, I need not have left London. It would have been sufficient for me to sit quietly in my rooms there. All that matters is the little grey cells within. Secretly and silently they do their part, until suddenly I call for a map, and I lay my finger on a spot—so—and I say: the Prime Minister is there! And it is so! With method and logic one can accomplish anything! This frantic rushing to France was a mistake—it is playing a child’s game of hide-and-seek. But now, though it may be too late, I will set to work the right way, from within. Silence, my friends, I beg of you.”

And for five long hours the little man sat motionless, blinking his eyelids like a cat, his green eyes flickering and becoming steadily greener and greener. The Scotland Yard man was obviously contemptuous, Major Norman was bored and impatient, and I myself found the time pass with wearisome slowness.

Finally, I got up, and strolled as noiselessly as I could to the window. The matter was becoming a farce. I was secretly concerned for my friend. If he failed, I would have preferred him to fail in a less ridiculous manner. Out of the window I idly watched the daily leave boat, belching forth columns of smoke, as she lay alongside the quay.

Suddenly I was aroused by Poirot’s voice close to my elbow.

“Mes amis, let us start!”

I turned. An extraordinary transformation had come over my friend. His eyes were flickering with excitement, his chest was swelled to the uttermost.

“I have been an imbecile, my friends! But I see daylight at last.”

Major Norman moved hastily to the door. “I’ll order the car.”

“There is no need. I shall not use it. Thank Heaven the wind has fallen.”

“Do you mean you are going to walk, sir?”

“No, my young friend. I am no St. Peter. I prefer to cross the sea by boat.”

“To cross the sea?”

“Yes. To work with method, one must begin from the beginning. And the beginning of this affair was in England. Therefore, we return to England.”

• • • • • • •

At three o’clock, we stood once more upon Charing Cross platform. To all our expostulations, Poirot turned a deaf ear, and reiterated again and again that to start at the beginning was not a waste of time, but the only way. On the way over, he had conferred with Norman in a low voice, and the latter had despatched a sheaf of telegrams from Dover.

Owing to the special passes held by Norman, we got through everywhere in record time. In London, a large police car was waiting for us, with some plain-clothes men, one of whom handed a typewritten sheet of paper to my friend. He answered my inquiring glance.

“A list of the cottage hospitals within a certain radius west of London. I wired for it from Dover.”

We were whirled rapidly through the London streets. We were on the Bath Road. On we went, through Hammersmith, Chiswick and Brentford. I began to see our objective. Through Windsor and on to Ascot. My heart gave a leap. Ascot was where Daniels had an aunt living. We were after him, then, not O’Murphy.

We duly stopped at the gate of a trim villa. Poirot jumped out and rang the bell. I saw a perplexed frown dimming the radiance of his face. Plainly, he was not satisfied. The bell was answered. He was ushered inside. In a few moments he reappeared, and climbed into the car with a short, sharp shake of his head. My hopes began to die down. It was past four now. Even if he found certain evidence incriminating Daniels, what would be the good of it, unless he could wring from some one the exact spot in France where they were holding the Prime Minister?

Our return progress towards London was an interrupted one. We deviated from the main road more than once, and occasionally stopped at a small building, which I had no difficulty in recognizing as a cottage hospital. Poirot only spent a few minutes at each, but at every halt his radiant assurance was more and more restored.

He whispered something to Norman, to which the latter replied:

“Yes, if you turn off to the left, you will find them waiting by the bridge.”

We turned up a side road, and in the failing light I discerned a second car, waiting by the side of the road. It contained two men in plain clothes. Poirot got down and spoke to them, and then we started off in a northerly direction, the other car following close behind.

We drove for some time, our objective being obviously one of the northern suburbs of London. Finally, we drove up to the front door of a tall house, standing a little back from the road in its own grounds.

Norman and I were left with the car. Poirot and one of the detectives went up to the door and rang. A neat parlourmaid opened it. The detective spoke.

“I am a police officer, and I have a warrant to search this house.”

The girl gave a little scream, and a tall, handsome woman of middle-age appeared behind her in the hall.

“Shut the door, Edith. They are burglars, I expect.”

But Poirot swiftly inserted his foot in the door, and at the same moment blew a whistle. Instantly the other detectives ran up, and poured into the house, shutting the door behind them.

Norman and I spent about five minutes cursing our forced inactivity. Finally the door reopened, and the men emerged, escorting three prisoners—a woman and two men. The woman, and one of the men, were taken to the second car. The other man was placed in our car by Poirot himself.

“I must go with the others, my friend. But have great care of this gentleman. You do not know him, no? Eh bien, let me present to you, Monsieur O’Murphy!”

O’Murphy! I gaped at him open-mouthed as we started again. He was not handcuffed, but I did not fancy he would try to escape. He sat there staring in front of him as though dazed. Anyway, Norman and I would be more than a match for him.

To my surprise, we still kept a northerly route. We were not returning to London, then! I was much puzzled. Suddenly, as the car slowed down, I recognized that we were close to Hendon Aerodrome. Immediately I grasped Poirot’s idea. He proposed to reach France by aeroplane.

It was a sporting idea, but, on the face of it, impracticable. A telegram would be far quicker. Time was everything. He must leave the personal glory of rescuing the Prime Minister to others.

As we drew up, Major Norman jumped out, and a plain-clothes man took his place. He conferred with Poirot for a few minutes, and then went off briskly.

I, too, jumped out, and caught Poirot by the arm.

“I congratulate you, old fellow! They have told you the hiding-place? But, look here, you must wire to France at once. You’ll be too late if you go yourself.”

Poirot looked at me curiously for a minute or two.

“Unfortunately, my friend, there are some things that cannot be sent by telegram.”

• • • • • • •

At that moment Major Norman returned, accompanied by a young officer in the uniform of the Flying Corps.

“This is Captain Lyall, who will fly you over to France. He can start at once.”

“Wrap up warmly, sir,” said the young pilot. “I can lend you a coat, if you like.”

Poirot was consulting his enormous watch. He murmured to himself: “Yes, there is time—just time.” Then he looked up, and bowed politely to the young officer. “I thank you, monsieur. But it is not I who am your passenger. It is this gentleman here.”

He moved a little aside as he spoke, and a figure came forward out of the darkness. It was the second male prisoner who had gone in the other car, and as the light fell on his face, I gave a gasp of surprise.

It was the Prime Minister!

• • • • • • •

“For Heaven’s sake, tell me all about it,” I cried impatiently, as Poirot, Norman, and I motored back to London. “How in the world did they manage to smuggle him back to England?”

“There was no need to smuggle him back,” replied Poirot dryly. “The Prime Minister has never left England. He was kidnapped on his way from Windsor to London.”


“I will make all clear. The Prime Minister was in his car, his secretary beside him. Suddenly a pad of chloroform is clapped on his face——”

“But by whom?”

“By the clever linguistic Captain Daniels. As soon as the Prime Minister is unconscious, Daniels picks up the speaking-tube, and directs O’Murphy to turn to the right, which the chauffeur, quite unsuspicious, does. A few yards down that unfrequented road, a large car is standing, apparently broken down. Its driver signals to O’Murphy to stop. O’Murphy slows up. The stranger approaches. Daniels leans out of the window, and, probably with the aid of an instantaneous anæsthetic, such as ethylchloride, the chloroform trick is repeated. In a few seconds, the two helpless men are dragged out and transferred to the other car, and a pair of substitutes take their places.”


“Pas du tout! Have you not seen music-hall turns imitating celebrities with marvellous accuracy? Nothing is easier than to personate a public character. The Prime Minister of England is far easier to understudy than Mr. John Smith of Clapham, say. As for O’Murphy’s ‘double,’ no one was going to take much notice of him until after the departure of the Prime Minister, and by then he would have made himself scarce. He drives straight from Charing Cross to the meeting-place of his friends. He goes in as O’Murphy, he emerges as some one quite different. O’Murphy has disappeared, leaving a conveniently suspicious trail behind him.”

“But the man who personated the Prime Minister was seen by every one!”

“He was not seen by anyone who knew him privately or intimately. And Daniels shielded him from contact with anyone as much as possible. Moreover, his face was bandaged up, and anything unusual in his manner would be put down to the fact that he was suffering from shock as a result of the attempt upon his life. Mr. MacAdam has a weak throat, and always spares his voice as much as possible before any great speech. The deception was perfectly easy to keep up as far as France. There it would be impracticable and impossible—so the Prime Minister disappears. The police of this country hurry across the Channel, and no one bothers to go into the details of the first attack. To sustain the illusion that the abduction has taken place in France, Daniels is gagged and chloroformed in a convincing manner.”

“And the man who has enacted the part of the Prime Minister?”

“Rids himself of his disguise. He and the bogus chauffeur may be arrested as suspicious characters, but no one will dream of suspecting their real part in the drama, and they will eventually be released for lack of evidence.”

“And the real Prime Minister?”

“He and O’Murphy were driven straight to the house of ‘Mrs. Everard,’ at Hampstead, Daniels’ so-called ‘aunt.’ In reality, she is Frau Bertha Ebenthal, and the police have been looking for her for some time. It is a valuable little present that I have made to them—to say nothing of Daniels! Ah, it was a clever plan, but he did not reckon on the cleverness of Hercule Poirot!”

I think my friend might well be excused his moment of vanity.

“When did you first begin to suspect the truth of the matter?”

“When I began to work the right way—from within! I could not make that shooting affair fit in—but when I saw that the net result of it was that the Prime Minister went to France with his face bound up I began to comprehend! And when I visited all the cottage hospitals between Windsor and London, and found that no one answering to my description had had his face bound up and dressed that morning, I was sure! After that, it was child’s-play for a mind like mine!”

• • • • • • •

The following morning, Poirot showed me a telegram he had just received. It had no place of origin, and was unsigned. It ran:

“In time.”

Later in the day the evening papers published an account of the Allied Conference. They laid particular stress on the magnificent ovation accorded to Mr. David MacAdam, whose inspiring speech had produced a deep and lasting impression.

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This book is part of the public domain. Agatha Christie (2020). Poirot Investigates. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved

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