10. The Evidence of the Italian
“And now,” said Poirot with a twinkle in his eye, “we will delight the heart of M. Bouc and see the Italian.”
Antonio Foscarelli came into the dining-car with a swift, cat-like tread. His face beamed. It was a typical Italian face, sunny-looking and swarthy.
He spoke French well and fluently with only a slight accent.
“Your name is Antonio Foscarelli?”
“You are, I see, a naturalised American subject?”
The American grinned. “Yes, Monsieur. It is better for my business.”
“You are an agent for Ford motor cars?”
“Yes, you see-“
A voluble exposition followed. At the end of it anything that the three men did not know about Foscarelli’s business methods, his journeys, his income, and his opinion of the United States and most European countries seemed a negligible factor. This was not a man who had to have information dragged from him. It gushed out.
His good-natured, childish face beamed with satisfaction as, with a last eloquent gesture, he paused and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.
“So you see,” he said. “I do big business. I am up to date. I understand salesmanship!”
“You have been in the United States, then, for the last ten years on and off.”
Yes, Monsieur. Ah! well do I remember the day I first took the boat-to go toAmerica, so far away! My mother, my little sister-“
Poirot cut short the flood of reminiscence.
“During your sojourn in the United States, did you ever come across the deceased?”
“Never. But I know the type. Oh! yes.” He snapped his fingers expressively. “It is very respectable, very well-dressed, but underneath it is all wrong. Out of my experience I should say he was the big crook. I give you my opinion for what it is worth.”
“Your opinion is quite right,” said Poirot drily. “Ratchett was Cassetti, the kidnapper.”
“What did I tell you? I have learned to be very acute-to read the face. It is necessary. Only in America do they teach you the proper way to sell. I-“
“You remember the Armstrong case?”
“I do not quite remember. The name, yes? It was a little girl, a baby, was it not?”
“Yes, a very tragic affair.”
The Italian seemed the first person to demur to this view.
“Ah! well, these things they happen,” he said philosophically, “in a great civilisation such asAmerica -“
Poirot cut him short. “Did you ever come across any members of the Armstrong family?”
“No, I do not think so. It is difficult to say. I will give you some figures. Last year alone, I sold-“
“Monsieur, pray confine yourself to the point.”
The Italian’s hands flung themselves out in a gesture of apology. “A thousand pardons.”
“Tell me, if you please, your exact movements last night from dinner onwards.”
“With pleasure. I stay here as long as I can. It is more amusing. I talk to the American gentleman at my table. He sells typewriter ribbons. Then I go back to my compartment. It is empty. The miserable John Bull who shares it with me is away attending to his master. At last he comes back-very long face as usual. He will not talk-says yes and no. A miserable race, the English-not sympathetic. He sits in the corner, very stiff, reading a book, Then the conductor comes and makes our beds.”
“Nos. 4 and 5,” murmured Poirot.
“Exactly-the end compartment. Mine is the upper berth. I get up there. I smoke and read. The little Englishman has, I think, the toothache. He gets out a little bottle of stuff that smells very strong. He lies in bed and groans.