Murder on the Orient Express Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary

Agatha Christie

Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary

Ten Questions

On the paper Poirot gives Bouc are written ten questions still requiring an answer in the Ratchett murder investigation: to whom does the handkerchief belong, who dropped the pipe cleaner, who wore the scarlet kimono, who masqueraded as a Wagon Lit conductor, why does the watch say one fifteen, was the murder committed at one fifteen, was the murder committed earlier than one fifteen, was it committed later than one fifteen, was Ratchett actually stabbed by two assailants, and what else might explain the dead man’s unusual wounds.

Bouc narrows the owner of the handkerchief down to three potential people—Hubbard, Debenham, and Schmidt—but both he and Constantine eliminate the maid and assume it is Debenham’s.

Constantine believes the pipe cleaner is a “faked clue” because Arbuthnot readily admitted to smoking a pipe and using that particular type of cleaner.

Neither Bouc nor Constantine has any idea who might have worn the kimono. They can, however, eliminate many passengers who could not have worn the Wagon Lit conductor’s uniform. Some are too tall and others are too broad, which only leaves the valet, Princess Dragomiroff, Debenham, and Countess Andrenyi. Unfortunately, they all have an alibi, so Bouc and Constantine confess that they cannot fathom who it might have been.

Bouc believes the watch was stopped at one fifteen either by the murderer who wanted to establish an alibi or by the second murderer, the woman in the scarlet kimono, who arrived later but moved the watch hands back to establish an alibi for herself. Constantine heartily agrees with that theory, but Poirot quickly dismisses it by reminding the men that she would have had to stab Ratchett in the dark, realize Ratchett was already dead, deduce that he had a watch in his pajama pocket, reset it (again in the dark), and then dent it until is stopped working.

Poirot has no theory he is willing to share, but both men now agree that the murder happened earlier than one fifteen and that the second stabbing happened after that time.

Poirot notes that all the passengers wrote their names with their right hands except for the Princess, who refused to write. Although Constantine does not believe the woman has enough strength to have inflicted such blows, Poirot suggests “it might be a question of the influence of mind over body.” Dragomiroff has “great personality and immense willpower.”

Constantine is convinced that there had to have been two murderers as several wounds were made at least half an hour after the first; it does not make sense that someone would have stabbed Ratchett and then inflicted fresh wounds on a dead body. Poirot reminds Constantine that a two-murderer theory does not make sense, either.

All the external evidence has been gathered; now all that remains is reasoning through which one or more of the passengers killed Ratchett. Poirot suggests they all close their eyes and think.