Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
Which of Them?
Bouc, director of the train line, and Doctor Constantine are worried and depressed when Poirot joins them in the dining car; they do not see how this complicated case can ever be solved. Poirot is intrigued because he must solve this murder without any of his normal methods; for him it will be an “exercise of the brain.”
Although Bouc and Constantine saw nothing helpful in the search of the passengers’ luggage, Poirot believes several significant things were revealed. First, Macqueen mentioned that Ratchett only speaks English, yet when the conductor knocked on Ratchett’s door, a voice speaking French told him it was a mistake, using a phrase only a true French-speaking person would use. So at twelve thirty-seven, someone who spoke fluent French was in Ratchett’s compartment. The broken watch set at one fifteen, then, must have been left to direct suspicion toward anyone who did not have an alibi for that time.
The next question to be considered is when the intruder entered Ratchett’s compartment. Unless the conductor is complicit in the crime, the only opportunity for someone to secretly board the train would have been when the train stopped at Vincovci. Anyone who might have been looking would not have been surprised to see a Wagon Lit conductor; the only people who could have recognized an imposter were the real conductors, and they were all out on the platform at Vincovci. Therefore the assailant must have been one of the passengers.
Poirot has made a neat, methodical list of every passenger, listing berth number, motive, alibi, evidence against them, and any suspicious circumstances. It is a short version of all the evidence they have already heard. Bouc looks at the list with a grimace and says it does not provide any illumination on the case. Poirot smiles and hands his friend a second piece of paper.