I am aware that Poirot has told you that I was silent the day before; I wish you to know that there is no cause for concern; rather for my silence, we know have cause for satisfaction.
Ever since James emerged with his contribution for the murder of Les Okokogwu, I was in aware in the back of my mind that I hadn’t figured out the first true case I was hired to solve, which is cause for embarrassment. I was so busy with the case of the painting that I hadn’t the proper time to give it my full method, but yesterday I gave myself the time to think; and think I did.
I know how Pieter Verhaeren was killed.
I despise myself for not realizing it before; the details were before but I was so unnerved coming to this new time that I failed to take note of the *trifles* I had so spoken to Watson of. Convinced by my employer so of the guilt of Poirot, that I was willing to neglect how unlikely it was that Poirot could have done so. For even if the testimony of the receptionist was true, if Poirot was false to me, if Verhaeren had gone up to his room, Poirot had murdered the man and used two and a half hours to remove the body, Poirot *still* would have had to drag the body all the way down to the furnace room, publicly. For him to have chosen to do so would have been an act of obscene boldness, and to have succeeded, nothing short of miraculous. He would have at least had to know that the receptionist would be unaware from sleep – but how could he have known such a thing? Did he conspire with someone in the hotel to drug her? Even so, with an assumption of conspiracy, he could not have possibly known that the hotel would not have some witness; and considering the care with which this murder was taken, such an act of boldness seems impossible. Furhter, what is true for Poirot is true for anyone; nobody could have murdered Verhaeren in such a way if Verhaeren had gone up to his room, per the promise of Poirot. There is only one solution to this problem, as strange as it may seem.
Verhaeren had gone down to the furnace room by his own volition!
What? you may ask; why would he have done so. Indeed, I could scaracely fathom it, in its improbability. But once I have eliminated the impossibile, the improbable that remains must be true by the principle of my method. And upon realizing this, what happened at the hotel began to unravel.
You’ll remember that Verhaeren had approached the sleeping receptionist and woke her to ask what time it was. A strange act, I thought, but little to think of – until I discovered he had gone to the boiler room by his own voilition. If his intention was truly to know the time, he should have had his own device to read it by. But even if he didn’t, to think that he would have gone out of his way to wake a sleeping receptionist, before taking a brief look around himself, would have been uncanny. Indeed, he didn’t want to observe the time himself; he wanted the receptionist to observe the time. But why would he have done so? Then, I posited that Pieter was unwittingly a co-conspirator in his own murder; his act to tell the receptionist to look at the time was merely a ploy for his murderer to use the time as a way of implicating Mr. Poirot.
As you’ll remember, the receptionist’s testimony, upon observing the clock, indicated that Poirot had two and some hours to commit the murder and dispose of the body, but by Poirot’s account he stayed at the hotel no more than three quarters of an hour. The focus on the clock was merely a way to make Poirot’s guilt seem plausible; and with the information before, with the revelation of Poirot’s innocence the clock seems to have been tampered in order that the murder had taken place. And, indeed, tampering with the clock was practical, given that it was being renovated.
But then again, only one person would have had the opportunity to change the clock. Observe that it was also the same man who had an opportunity to get close enough to the receptionist to drug her, that it was the same man who had the right placement to commit awaken the receptionist when he needed her to observe the clock again and witness Poirot enter and leave the hotel.
The clock’s restoration artist!
Consider this: a murderer had called Pieter Verhaeren and told him that he had an opportunity to enact revenge on Poirot (or Saint-Jerome, as he was then). What Pieter had to do was call Poirot and ask him over to the hotel that day at just the right time; then, not ten minutes before, Verhaeren would enter, ask the receptionist what time it was as a signal to the ‘conspirator’, and then, instead of going up to his room, going down to the furnace room instead, where he would rendezvous with the conspirator in the next step in a plot against Poirot. Meanwhile the murderer had refashioned himself as a restoration artist, and used the large early part of the day to flirt with the receptionist, get close to her, and drug her lunch. The receptionist fell asleep, and the restoration artist had the opportunity to change the clock back a little more than an hour and a half the actual time; then he prepared for the murder. Verhaeren enters, and awakens the receptionist to do as he was instructed; she gave him the wrong time, and noticed it herself. He thanked her and moved to the stairs – but not to his room; rather to the furnace. Ten minutes later, Poirot enters and asks the receptionist where Verhaeren’s room is, and she obligingly tells him. He then moves up to the room, which is empty.
Meanwhile, the restoration artist takes off his trade uniform and moves down to the boiler room. Verhaeren meets the conspirator face to face for the first time, and for his final act; for the artist murdered Verhaeren. But with little time, he washed his face and hands, and covered his bloodstained clothes with his uniform again. He goes back upstairs, changes the clock back to the normal time, and waits for Poirot to leave in frustration – which he does, forty minutes later. Then, when Poirot is about to leave, the restoration artist contrives an noise, an accident perhaps, to wake the receptionist up, just in time for her to see Poirot walk out the door, late in the afternoon around 4:30pm. Then, the restoration artist goes back down to the furnace remove, prepares the body in the appropriate sizes to fit, and places the parts in the furnace. How he did this without such a ghastly mess I do not know; however, I believe perhaps he laid down some plastic wrap per the renovation, used it to cover up the murder, and was able to move it in and out discretely in a large trade canvas bag. With a bloody shirt covered by his uniform, and the bloody plastic hidden in the bag, he left calmly that day, with a smirk on his face, waiting for the true horror to come to the knowledge of everyone else.
What is perhaps most frightening is that this crime could have been committed by one person and one person only; and that this crime was made with such effort to implicate Poirot, and further that it seems to have been committed by a man either unknown or trusted by Verhaeren, that only one motive seems truly fallible: to frame Poirot, and put me on the case to investigate him.
To see it so matched with Poirot, that I too seem to have been framed for a murder that Poirot was put on the case of, makes clear that this is the act of no ordinary person, but a man who had malice and fear of Poirot and I. And I believe we all know who that person is.
And if it is so, that this same person now is associated with and/or leads an organization whose members are dedicated to establishing their validity as peace-loving fictional characters living in the non-fictional world, I trust they will be most dissatisfied to hear the truth of their associate is a vile man, willing to lie, cheat and murder the innocent* for his own purpose. And to those who distrust him, you will be satisfied to know your distrust was not in vain.
Now onto find this Don Juan.
*It is true that Pieter Verhaeren, as a cruel conniving politician, is not the form of an innocent man. However, no act deserves a most unusual, violent death beyond jurisdiciton of the law. Justice must be served.