For 30 years, I have been living in a mill village in the north-western region of Lower Saxony. Idyllic, yet secluded. For 10 years, I have been writing dark humor and mystery short stories. And for another 10 years, I have succumbed to Hercule Poirot’s charm, intelligence, serendipity and of course his green eyes. I cannot help it. It just happened. None of these particulars as a whole or in part could be considered spectacular. To date, they have not prevented me from sleeping or otherwise disturbed me. My passion for him is a part of me, just like my name. But then something happened that thoroughly stirred up all these components and created a highly explosive mixture. And I ended up sitting on my own powder keg.
The moment it all begins is enveloped by sunlight. I am sitting in the garden café of the Weidenhof, less than 20 kilometres away from my home, against the backdrop of the never-ending idyll of a Saturday afternoon. An apple pie from the farm’s own bakery has been placed on a blue and white chequered tablecloth directly in front of me. In my line of sight, I can see wedding guests in joyful anticipation of the bridal couple and the festivities strolling along the path lined with flower pots. Balloons attached to thin ribbons float above their heads. A child rides a bicycle along the path to the playground. A photographer takes snapshots in front of the rabbit warren, which causes her to miss the start of the wedding ceremony at the lake. Her hair is blowing as she hurries after the wedding guests.
In the blink of an eye, the area in front of the wedding barn is deserted. It has become quiet and peaceful. I hear the crunching of steps amid this silence. I know the man who is about to turn the back corner of the barn well enough for his behaviour to pique my curiosity. But not well enough to shout after him like a market woman. And of course, he doesn’t react. I inwardly drop down out of sight and hear myself calling him for a second time.
The man is on the verge of turning the corner of the barn, but I’m reluctant to let him get away. Someone is tapping me on my shoulder. There’s your chance, don’t miss it. I’m just about to stand up when he suddenly stops dead in his tracks. He approaches my table. I hold my breath as he gets closer. That gesture alone should have made me wonder what was going on. Yet I am still bewildered.
The man smiles at me, it almost seems a little contrite. “I’m really sorry”, he says, “that I didn’t react immediately, but I had tunnel vision. Because tomorrow,” he points down to the lake, “tomorrow I’m renewing my vows here. After 10 years. With the same woman.”
All of a sudden, my brain is flooded with a deadly cocktail of neurotransmitters. It feels like an explosion. In the centre of this explosion a volcano emerges which ejects an idea into the sky at breath-taking speed and permeates everything around me. The park-like estate. The wedding barn. The small lake. The coffee house and the garden café. It even includes the rabbit warren.
Suddenly I realise that I have been waiting. Waiting for an opportunity just like this one to set the stage for a stocky gentleman with green eyes who is impeccably dressed in nostalgic attire from many decades gone by. An appropriate stage that takes his skills and the flair that surrounds him into account. For I know this gentleman very well, down to the last corner of his soul. I have already spent sleepless nights with him. I have been tracing his every step and sipped a cassis with him in search of the murderer.
This literary love of my life, however, is under a spell. Copyright protection, to be exact. Nevertheless, in this sunlight-bathed moment, and despite my dazed feeling incited by the fatal, high-octane cocktail, I have no doubt I will find a way around it. A bypass road, so to speak, that will most assuredly lead me to my goal: to declare my love for Monsieur Hercule Poirot in the form of a mystery crime novel.
I scarcely have time to finish my hot chocolate since my synapses are already busy plugging all sorts of story lines and entanglements. But first: the illustrious wedding guests must be created. The epitome of a distinguished, noble society gathers under the archway of the courtyard entrance. Many guests have arrived from England. The mayor repeatedly retrieves speech notes from his jacket pocket.
I allow a group of elderly ladies to take a seat at the table next to me. For testing purposes, the aforementioned gentleman with the green eyes heads towards one of the free tables under a parasol. He gallantly raises his straw hat. He smiles at me. “N´est-ce pas, Madame? This late summer heat is indeed murderous.”
Nodding in agreement, I return his smile. However, I don’t have time for an answer right now since I must first make my way to the large barn gate. Towards my protagonists with their festive garments. With their furtive looks and conversations, fragments of which I have already overheard.
I stand up. All those assembled at the gate of the wedding barn need me now.
Halfway to my destination, I again turn around. Monsieur Hercule Poirot under the parasol over there has changed slightly. He seems svelter to me and slightly taller. He wears fine, yet comfortable shoes. The colour of his eyes is not reflected in the green of the beech leaves, but in the grey-blue of the sky. In a flash I realise who is about to stand up and pursue me.
His name is Achille Perrot. He is the grandson and only descendant of the acclaimed Hercule Poirot.
Yours, Crysta Winter
On 6th August 1975, the death of a famous detective was announced on the front page of the New York Times. The Belgian investigator, Hercule Poirot.
It was the first and thus far the only time such a death notice was published for a fictitious character.