2. The Tokatlian Hotel
At the Tokatlian, Hercule Poirot asked for a room with bath. Then he stepped over to the concierge’s desk and inquired for letters.
There were three waiting for him and a telegram. His eyebrows rose a little at the sight of the telegram. It was unexpected.
He opened it in his usual neat, unhurried fashion. The printed words stood out clearly.
Development you predicted in Kassner case has come unexpectedly. Please return immediately.
“Voila ce qui est embetant,” muttered Poirot vexedly. He glanced up at the clock. “I shall have to go on to-night,” he said to the concierge. “At what time does the Simplon Orient leave?”
“At nine o’clock, Monsieur.”
“Can you get me a sleeper?”
“Assuredly, Monsieur. There is no difficulty this time of year. The trains are almost empty. First-class or second?”
bien, Monsieur. How far are you going?”
“Bien, Monsieur. I will get you a ticket to London and reserve your sleeping-car accommodation in the Stamboul-Calais coach.”
Poirot glanced at the clock again. It was ten minutes to eight. “I have time to dine?”
“But assuredly, Monsieur.”
The little Belgian nodded. He went over and cancelled his room order and crossed the hall to the restaurant.
As he was giving his order to the waiter, a hand was placed on his shoulder.
“Ah, mon vieux, but this is an unexpected pleasure!” said a voice behind him.
The speaker was a short stout elderly man, his hair cuten brosse. He was smiling delightedly.
Poiret sprang up.
M. Bouc was a Belgian, a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits, and his acquaintance with the former star of the Belgian police force dated back many years.
“You find yourself far from home, mon cher,” said M. Bouc.
“A little affair inSyria.”
“Ah! and you return home-when?”
“Splendid! I, too. That is to say, I go as far as Lausanne, where I have affairs. You travel on the Simplon Orient, I presume?”
“Yes. I have just asked them to get me a sleeper. It was my intention to remain here some days, but I have. received a telegram recalling me toEngland on important business.”
“Ah!” sighed M. Bouc. “Les affaires-les affaires! But you, you are at the top of the tree nowadays, mon vieux!”
“Some little success I have had, perhaps.” Hercule Poirot tried to look modest but failed signally.
M. Bouc laughed.
“We will meet later,” he said.
Hercule Poirot addressed himself to the task of keeping his moustaches out of the soup.
That difficult task accomplished, he glanced round him whilst waiting for the next course. There were only about half a dozen people in the restaurant, and of those half dozen there were only two that interested Hercule Poirot.
These two sat at a table not far away. The younger was a likeable-looking young man of thirty, clearly an American. It was, however, not he but his companion who had attracted the little detective’s attention.
He was a man perhaps of between sixty and seventy. From a little distance he had the bland aspect of a philanthropist. His slightly bald head, his domed forehead, the smiling mouth that displayed a very white set of false teeth-all seemed to speak of a benevolent personality. Only the eyes belied this assumption. They were small, deep-set and crafty. Not only that.