The A.b.c. Murders_ A Hercule Poirot Mys - Agatha Christie
After a meeting with the third victim's widow, Lady Clarke, Poirot recognises one feature common to all three of the murders: a man selling silk stockings had appeared at or near to the crime scene, on the day of each murder. He had sold a pair of stockings to Mrs Ascher and to Mrs Barnard, while being sent away without a sale from the Clarke home. A.B.C. sends his next letter, directing everybody to Doncaster. As the St. Leger horse race will take place that day, Poirot hopes to find him on the race course. But A.B.C. strikes in a cinema hall instead, killing George Earlsfield, instead of Roger Emmanuel Downes, a logical victim sitting only two seats away. However, Cust, of whom neither Poirot nor his Legion are aware, slips out of the cinema hall unnoticed, after suffering a blackout. Cust, who has no idea of the happenings, finds the murder weapon in his pocket and blood on his sleeve, and realises the implications.
Tom Hartigan, whose girlfriend is Lily, the daughter of Cust's landlady, informs Inspector Crome of his suspicions regarding Cust. Lily tips Cust off, and he tries to flee, but collapses at the Andover police station. When taken into custody, Cust lacks memory of the murder, but believes he must be guilty. A search of his rooms finds silk stockings, lists of clients, the fine paper of A.B.C.'s letters to Poirot, an unopened box of ABC railway guides, and in the hall, the still-bloody knife used in the last murder. The police find that Cust was never hired by the stocking firm, and that the letters to Poirot had been typed on the typewriter Cust claimed had been given him by the firm. Poirot meets Cust, but doubts his guilt after hearing Cust's full story; Cust has a solid alibi for the Bexhill murder, and has no recollection of any of the murders. Poirot calls a Legion meeting. He categorically proves that Cust is not the murderer. Early on, in discussing the Churston letter, Hastings had suggested that the letter had been meant to go astray. Poirot realises this simple solution is the correct one. The murderer wanted no chance of the police interrupting that murder. Poirot reveals that A.B.C. is Franklin Clarke, brother of victim C, Sir Carmichael Clarke, heir to the Clarke estate, and a member of Poirot's assembled Legion.
Franklin feared that after Lady Clarke's death, which was imminent, Carmichael would marry Thora Grey, his young, attractive assistant. Should such have happened, the Clarke estate would instead go to Thora, and any children she might have with Carmichael. Franklin decides to kill his brother while Lady Clarke is alive and make it look like a serial killing to throw off suspicion. Cust and Franklin met in a chance encounter in a pub, which gave Franklin the idea for the A.B.C. murder plot. He then planned and executed everything so that Cust would be framed—serving as his stalking horse.
Franklin laughs off Poirot's claims, but panics when Poirot states that his fingerprint was found on Cust's typewriter key, and that Franklin had been recognised by Milly Higley, while Franklin was in Betty's company. Franklin tries to shoot himself using his own gun, but Poirot has already had the gun emptied with help of a pickpocket. The police apprehend him. With the case finally solved, Poirot pairs off Donald, once engaged to Betty, and Megan, Betty's elder sister. Cust tells Poirot of an offer from the press to sell his story, Poirot suggests that he demand a higher price for it, and goes on to suggest that Cust's headaches may arise from his spectacles. Poirot tells Hastings that the fingerprint on the typewriter was a bluff. Poirot is pleased that he and Hastings "went hunting once more".
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