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The Kidnapped Prime Minister: A Hercule Poirot Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Just as the end of the First World War is drawing to an end, the prime minister is kidnapped and it is down to Hercule Poirot to locate him and avert an international crisis before a crucial conference convenes. THE KIDNAPPED PRIME MINISTER A Short Story by Agatha Christie Copyright This short story is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) ‘The Kidnapped Prime Minister’ was first published in The Sketch, 25 April 1923. This ePub edition published April 2012. Copyright © 2012 Agatha Christie Ltd. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books. EPub Edition © 2012 ISBN: 9780007486588 Version: 2017-04-18 Contents Cover (#ufe74c98f-8105-58cc-a677-14a1539f7c9d) Title Page (#uab4ee858-fee0-51c6-8637-9b4b54f93dc3) Copyright The Kidnapped Prime Minister About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) The Kidnapped Prime Minister ‘The Kidnapped Prime Minister’ was first published in The Sketch, 25 April 1923. Now that war and the problems of war are things of the past, I think I may safely venture to reveal to the world the part which my friend Poirot played in a moment of national crisis. The secret has been well guarded. Not a whisper of it reached the Press. But, now that the need for secrecy has gone by, I feel it is only just that England should know the debt it owes to my quaint little friend, whose marvellous brain so ably averted a great catastrophe. One evening after dinner – I will not particularize the date; it suffices to say that it was at the time when ‘Peace by negotiation’ was the parrot-cry of England’s enemies – my friend and I were sitting in his rooms. After being invalided out of the Army I had been given a recruiting job, and it had become my custom to drop in on Poirot in the evenings after dinner and talk with him of any cases of interest that he might have had on hand. I was attempting to discuss with him the sensational news of the day – no less than an attempted assassination of Mr David MacAdam, England’s Prime Minister. The account in the papers had evidently been carefully censored. No details were given, save that the Prime Minister had had a marvellous escape, the bullet just grazing his cheek. I considered that our police must have been shamefully careless for such an outrage to be possible. I could well understand that the German agents in England would be willing to risk much for such an achievement. ‘Fighting Mac’, as his own party had nicknamed him, had strenuously and unequivocally combated the Pacifist influence which was becoming so prevalent. He was more than England’s Prime Minister – he was England; and to have removed him from his sphere of influence would have been a crushing and paralysing blow to Britain. Poirot was busy mopping a grey suit with a minute sponge. Never was there a dandy such as Hercule Poirot. Neatness and order were his passion. Now, with the odour of benzene filling the air, he was quite unable to give me his full attention. ‘In a little minute I am with you, my friend. I have all but finished. The spot of grease – he is not good – I remove him – so!’ He waved his sponge. I smiled as I lit another cigarette. ‘Anything interesting on?’ I inquired, after a minute or two. ‘I assist a – how do you call it? – “charlady” to find her husband. A difficult affair, needing the tact. For I have a little idea that when he is found he will not be pleased. What would you? For my part, I sympathize with him. He was a man of discrimination to lose himself.’ I laughed. ‘At last! The spot of grease, he is gone! I am at your disposal.’ ‘I was asking you what you thought of this attempt to assassinate MacAdam?’ ‘Enfantillage!’ replied Poirot promptly. ‘One can hardly take it seriously. To fire with the rifle – never does it succeed. It is a device of the past.’ ‘It was very near succeeding this time,’ I reminded him. Poirot shook his head impatiently. He was about to reply when the landlady thrust her head round the door and informed him that there were two gentlemen below who wanted to see him. ‘They won’t give their names, sir, but they says as it’s very important.’ ‘Let them mount,’ said Poirot, carefully folding his grey trousers. In a few minutes the two visitors were ushered in, and my heart gave a leap as in the foremost I recognized no less a personage than Lord Estair, Leader of the House of Commons; whilst his companion, Mr Bernard Dodge, was also a member of the War Cabinet, and, as I knew, a close personal friend of the Prime Minister. ‘Monsieur Poirot?’ said Lord Estair interrogatively. My friend bowed. The great man looked at me and hesitated. ‘My business is private.’ ‘You may speak freely before Captain Hastings,’ said my friend, nodding to me to remain. ‘He has not all the gifts, no! But I answer for his discretion.’ Lord Estair still hesitated, but Mr Dodge broke in abruptly: ‘Oh, come on – don’t let’s beat about the bush! As far as I can see, the whole of England will know the hole we’re in soon enough. Time’s everything.’ ‘Pray be seated, messieurs,’ said Poirot politely. ‘Will you take the big chair, milord?’ Lord Estair started slightly. ‘You know me?’ Poirot smiled. ‘Certainly. I read the little papers with the pictures. How should I not know you?’ ‘Monsieur Poirot, I have come to consult you upon a matter of the most vital urgency. I must ask for absolute secrecy.’ ‘You have the word of Hercule Poirot – I can say no more!’ said my friend grandiloquently. ‘It concerns the Prime Minister. We are in grave trouble.’ ‘We’re up a tree!’ interposed Mr Dodge. ‘The injury is serious then?’ I asked. ‘What injury?’ ‘The bullet wound.’ ‘Oh, that!’ cried Mr Dodge contemptuously. ‘That’s old history.’ ‘As my colleague says,’ continued Lord Estair, ‘that affair is over and done with. Luckily, it failed. I wish I could say as much for the second attempt.’ ‘There has been a second attempt, then?’ ‘Yes, though not of the same nature, Monsieur Poirot, the Prime Minister has disappeared.’ ‘What?’ ‘He has been kidnapped!’ ‘Impossible!’ I cried, stupefied. Poirot threw a withering glance at me, which I knew enjoined me to keep my mouth shut. ‘Unfortunately, impossible as it seems, it is only too true,’ continued his lordship. Poirot looked at Mr Dodge. ‘You said just now, monsieur, that time was everything. What did you mean by that?’ The two men exchanged glances, and then Lord Estair said: ‘You have heard, Monsieur Poirot, of the approaching Allied Conference?’ My friend nodded. ‘For obvious reasons, no details have been given of when and where it is to take place. But, although it has been kept out of the newspapers, the date is, of course, widely known in diplomatic circles. The Conference is to be held tomorrow – Thursday – evening at Versailles. Now you perceive the terrible gravity of the situation. I will not conceal from you that the Prime Minister’s presence at the Conference is a vital necessity. The Pacifist propaganda, started and maintained by the German agents in our midst, has been very active. It is the universal opinion that the turning-point of the Conference will be the strong personality of the Prime Minister. His absence may have the most serious results – possibly a premature and disastrous peace. And we have no one who can be sent in his place. He alone can represent England.’ Poirot’s face had grown very grave. ‘Then you regard the kidnapping of the Prime Minister as a direct attempt to prevent his being present at the Conference?’ ‘Most certainly I do. He was actually on his way to France at the time.’ ‘And the Conference is to be held?’ ‘At nine o’clock tomorrow night.’ Poirot drew an enormous watch from his pocket. ‘It is now a quarter to nine.’ ‘Twenty-four hours,’ said Mr Dodge thoughtfully. ‘And a quarter,’ amended Poirot. ‘Do not forget the quarter, monsieur – it may come in useful. Now for the details – the abduction, did it take place in England or in France?’ ‘In France. Mr MacAdam crossed to France this morning. He was to stay tonight as the guest of the Commander-in-Chief, proceeding tomorrow to Paris. He was conveyed across the Channel by destroyer. At Boulogne he was met by a car from General Headquarters and one of the Commander-in-Chief’s ADCs.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. 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