Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary
Poirot Propounds Two Solutions
Every passenger is assembled with expectancy. Poirot gives two possible solutions to the crime. His original theory was that someone in this carriage committed the murder; however, now he believes that Ratchett’s murderer boarded the train at Belgrade or Vincovci though an open door. He was given a Wagon Lit uniform and pass-key and immediately stabbed Ratchett, who was drugged with his sleeping medication, and then escaped through Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment. He stuffed his uniform into the first available suitcase he could find before departing through the same door he entered. Everyone gasps.
Poirot gives reasonable answers to their questions and everyone is satisfied until Constantine declares that the murder could not have happened this way and Poirot knows it. Poirot then delivers his second theory. He realized that the only place such a truly diverse group of passengers might assemble is America, which prompted his amazing discovery that everyone on the train was connected to the Armstrongs.
Then he realized that Macqueen knew about the letter; the valet had to have administered the sleeping medicine or Ratchett would have fought back, and Hardman was keeping watch but not for assailants.
Poirot also concluded that Debenham and Arbuthnot were well acquainted and only pretending to be strangers, that Hubbard invented the entire intruder story, and that the broken watch was merely a ruse. Every one of them was careful to ensure Poirot got every piece of staged information correct.
Poirot thought about all the unlikely strangers who served as perfect alibis for one another, and eventually he realized that everyone on the train had to be involved. It was not chance but design that brought each passenger to this train, which also explains why this train was so unexpectedly booked when Poirot tried to secure a compartment. Because Ratchett escaped justice in America, a “self-appointed jury of twelve people” condemned him to death and served, collectively, as his executioner.
It was a cleverly planned operation, and each of them stabbed Ratchett in the dark so that no one would know which of their blows actually killed him. It is revealed that Hubbard is actually Linda Arden, Pierre Michel is the dead nursery-maid’s father, and Arbuthnot was John Armstrong’s best friend. The only innocent in the plot is Helena Andrenyi, the woman who had perhaps lost the most by Ratchett’s horrible actions.
Linda Arden (Hubbard) makes an impassioned plea, reminding Poirot that Ratchett had kidnapped others before Daisy and might have done the same thing to other children if he had lived.
Poirot asks Bouc, as director of the company, what he would like to do. Bouc and Doctor Constantine both agree that Poirot’s first theory is the more likely one; it is the one they will offer to the Yugoslavian police when they arrive to investigate Ratchett’s murder. Having solved the mystery, Inspector Hercule Poirot retires from the case.