Excerpt from “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie

Five

The Crime

He found it difficult to go to sleep again at once. For one thing, he missed the motion of the train. If it was a station outside it was curiously quiet. By contrast, the noises on the train seemed unusually loud. He could hear Ratchett moving about next door – a click as he pulled down the washbasin, the sound of the tap running, a splashing noise, then another click as the basin shut to again.1footsteps passed up the corridor outside, the shuffling footsteps of someone in bedroom slippers.

Hercule Poirot lay awake staring at the ceiling. Why was the station outside so silent? His throat felt dry. He had forgotten to ask for his usual bottle of mineral water. He looked at his watch again. Just after a quarter past one.2He would ring for the conductor and ask him for some mineral water. His finger went out to the bell, but he paused as in the stillness he heard a ting. The man couldn’t answer every bell at once.

Ting…Ting…Ting…

It sounded again and again. Where was the man? Somebody was getting impatient.

Ting…3

Whoever it was was keeping their finger solidly on the push.

Suddenly with a rush, his footsteps echoing up the aisle,4  the man came. He knocked at a door not far from Poirot’s own.

Then came voices – the conductor’s, deferential, apologetic, and a woman’s – insistent and voluble.5

Mrs. Hubbard.

Poirot smiled to himself.

The altercation – if it was one- went on for some time. It’s proportions were ninety per cent of Mrs. Hubbard’s to a soothing ten per cent of the conductor’s. Finally the matter seemed to be adjusted. Poirot heard distinctly:

“bonne Nuit, Madame,” and a closing door.

He pressed his own finger on the bell.

The conductor arrived promptly. He looked hot and worried.

“De l’eau minerale, s’il vous plait.”

Bien, Monsieur.” Perhaps a twinkle in Poirot’s eye led him to unburden himself.

“La Dame Americaine – ”

“Yes?”

He wiped his forehead.

“Imagine to yourself the time I have had with her! She insits – but insists – 6 that there is a man in her compartment! figure to yourself, Monsieur. In a space of this size.” He swept a hand round. “Where would he conceal himself? I argue with her I point out that it is impossible. She insists. She woke up and there was a man there. And how, I ask, did he get out and leave the door bolted behind him? But she will not listen to reason. As though, there were not enough to worry us already. This snow -”

“Snow?”

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The three boys moved hesitantly down the wide center aisle, their steps ringing out on the flagstone floor.7 The golden domes that arched above their heads kept their splendor hidden in the gloom, and in between the tall marble pillars that supported them the boys felt as small as insects. Instinctively, they moved closer together.

“Where are the confessionals?” Mosca whispered, looking uneasily around him. “I haven’t been in here very often. I don’t like churches. They’re creepy.”

“I know they are,” Scipio replied. He pushed the mask back onto his face and led the way as purposefully as one of the Basilica’s tourist guides. The confessionals were tucked away in one of the side aisles. The first one on the left looked no different from the others. It was a tall box made from black wood, draped with dark red curtains and with a door in the middle2, which the priest used for slipping into the tiny space behind. Inside, he would sit down on a narrow bench, put his ear to a small window, and listen to all who wanted to tell him their sins and clear their conscience.3

Of course there was also a curtain on the side of the confessional to protect the sinners from curious eyes. Scipio now pushed this curtain aside, adjusting his mask one last time and clearing his throat nervously. The Thief Lord tried very hard to pretend that he was coolness itself,4 but Prosper and Mosca, as they followed him behind the curtain,5 sensed that his heart was beating just as fast as theirs.

Scipio hesitated as his eye fell on the low bench half hidden in the darkness, but then he kneeled down on it. The small window was now level with his eyes and he could be seen by whoever sat on the other side. Prosper and Mosca stood behind him like bodyguards. Scipio just knelt there, waiting.6

[Source]

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Zero
7 August 1944
The Boy

Five streets to the north, a white-haired eighteen-year-old7 German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum. Little more than a purr. Flies tapping2 at a far-off windowpane.

Where is he? The sweet, slightly chemical scent of gun oil; the raw wood of newly constructed shell crates; the mothballed odor of old bedspreads—he’s in the hotel. Of course. L’hôtel des Abeilles, the Hotel of Bees.

Still night. Still early.3.

From the direction of the sea4 come whistles and booms; flak is going up.

An anti-air corporal hurries down the corridor, heading for the stairwell. “Get to the cellar,” he calls over his shoulder, and Werner switches on his field light, rolls his blanket into his duffel, and starts down the hall.

Not so long ago, the Hotel of Bees was a cheerful address, with bright blue shutters on its facade and oysters on ice in its café and5 Breton waiters in bow ties polishing glasses behind its bar. It offered twenty-one guest rooms, commanding sea views, and a lobby fireplace as big as a truck. Parisians on weekend holidays would drink aperitifs here, and before them the occasional emissary from the republic—ministers and vice ministers and abbots and admirals6—and in the centuries before them, windburned corsairs: killers, plunderers, raiders, seamen7.

Before that, before it was ever a hotel at all, five full centuries ago, it was the home of a wealthy privateer who gave up raiding ships to study bees in the pastures outside Saint-Malo, scribbling8 in notebooks and eating honey straight from combs. The crests above the door lintels still have bumblebees carved into the oak; the ivy-covered fountain in the courtyard is shaped like a hive. Werner’s favorites are five faded frescoes on the ceilings of the grandest upper rooms, where bees as big as children float against blue backdrops, big lazy drones and workers with diaphanous wings—where, above a hexagonal bathtub, a single nine-foot-long queen, with multiple eyes and a golden-furred abdomen, curls across the ceiling.

Over the past four weeks, the hotel has become something else: a fortress. A detachment of Austrian anti-airmen has boarded up every window, overturned every bed. They’ve reinforced the entrance, packed the stairwells with crates of artillery shells. The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.

Her Majesty, the Austrians call their cannon, and for the past week these men have tended to it the way worker bees might tend to a queen. They’ve fed her oils, repainted her barrels, lubricated her wheels; they’ve arranged sandbags at her9 feet like offerings.

The royal acht acht, a deathly monarch meant to protect them all10this appositive helps the reader understand the significance of the acht acht where they otherwise would have glossed over it. It’s description helps the reader see the vital importance of these two unfamiliar words[/fragment].

[source]

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

At 1:28 a.m. a policeman opened the door of the cell and 11 told me that there was someone to see me.

I stepped outside. Father was standing in the corridor. He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people, so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me. 2

Then the policeman told us to follow him down the corridor to another room. In the room was a table and three chairs. He told us to sit down on the far side of the table and 3 he sat down on the other side. There was a tape recorder on the table and I asked whether I was going to be interviewed and he was going to record the interview.

He said, ‘I don’t think there will be any need for that.’

He was an inspector. I could tell because he wasn’t wearing a uniform. He also had a very hairy nose. It looked as if there were two very small mice hiding in his nostrils. 4

He said, ‘I have spoken to your father and he says that you didn’t mean to hit the policeman.’

I didn’t say anything because this wasn’t a question. 5

He said, ‘Did you mean to hit the policeman?’

I said, ‘Yes.’

He squeezed his face 6 and said, ‘But you didn’t mean to hurt the policeman?’

I thought about this and said, ‘No. I didn’t mean to hurt the policeman. I just wanted him to stop touching me.’ 7

Then he said, ‘You know that it is wrong to hit a policeman, don’t you?’

I said, ‘I do.’ 8

He was quiet for a few seconds, then he asked, ‘Did you kill the dog, Christopher?’

I said, ‘I didn’t kill the dog.’

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Phil asked the usual questions, but[1] if he had a theory he kept it to himself. “I was looking for you last week,” he said.[2] “I wanted to invite you to a ceili.”

“Oh,” said Larry. “I wish you’d found me.”

“Yeah,” said Phil ruefully.[3] “It was good. But it was at the Liddy house. I don’t suppose there’ll be another one now. Not for a good while, anyway.[4]

“You never know,” said Larry. “I’d say the lad could still turn up.”

The rest of the day sped past, despite the lack of activity. The only noteworthy thing that happened was the sudden appearance, from the quiet street that ran down past the community center, of a white donkey.[5] Nobody knew who owned it or where it had come from.[6] Very few people kept donkeys anymore.

It shouldn’t really have been police business, but since Larry was in the village anyway and had nothing much else to do, he got drawn into the debate about what should be done with it. It was a placid creature and a source of great amusement to the school children, but it was a nuisance to traffic and couldn’t be allowed to stay there.[7] Sergeant Early blew a minor fuse when Larry radioed him for advice, and for a while Larry was at a loss to know what to do. He stood outside Fallon’s with his arm round the donkey’s neck until the word got around and one of the local horse owners came and agreed to take charge of it until someone came to claim it.[8]

 

[1] This comma and use of the “but” conjunction sets the tone for how he deviated from what was expected—that he would suggest a theory. Also serves to connect two different thoughts that if separated by periods would not make as much sense.

[2] Period between two dialogues by the same person, makes a natural pause to indicate a conscious effort at conversation between two associates.

[3] Period emphasizes rueful to be drawn out pause.

[4] Short sentences and many periods set a slow paced conversation, reflecting natural chit chat pattern of associates. “But” at the beginning of a sentence emphasizes the great difference between sentence ideas.

[5] Interrupting preposition serves to emphasize the sudden appearance of the donkey, which is set apart and at the end of the sentence by a comma, which makes it more memorable.

[6] Suggests “or” as good pace quickening and listing tool that adds to sense of confusion.

[7] Parallel structure of independent clauses tied together by comma gives feeling of debate.

[8] Last sentence of paragraph, role of final resolve, which happened in this case. Very long sentence with two “and” conjunctions is like a quick summary. Feels short of breath; the “and” uses suggest multiple events in equal succession.