Heroes after the Villain's Defeat
The snowy landscape of the Balkans was rushing past the window. It was dusk, and the beautiful golden sunset was partly visible behind the black pine trees.
Countess Helena Andrenyi was leaning against the glass and watching the picturesque view, nothing but relief filling her mind. Just several hours ago the Orient Express left the border of Yugoslavia. Helena remembered her heart beating wildly when Poirot was telling the police about what happened on the train. What if the great detective gave them the right solution after all? But, thankfully, no.
"Messieurs, I inspected the murder of Giovanni Cassetti, alias Samuel Ratchett, most carefully – with the help of a detective from the McNeil Agency, Mr. Cyrus Hardman," Poirot spoke. "The passengers all have iron alibis. But there was an anonymous enemy of Cassetti's, probably one from the mafia…" and Poirot proceeded to tell the story of a man with a womanish voice.
As he spoke, Count Rudolph Andrenyi clenched his wife's hand and gave her a small smile, as if to say "There it is! Everything will be all right".
The Yugoslavian police were amazed by the fact that Hercule Poirot himself was solving the crime, that they believed his version without a doubt. After some pure formalities the whole Orient Express was free to go.
Now everything was quiet and peaceful. The villain was defeated…
A knock on the door raised Helena from her thoughts. Pierre Michel looked inside:
"Good evening. Are you coming to supper now?"
"No, Michel, I think not," the Count said firmly. "Helena has to rest. Bring our supper to the room, if it's possible."
"Very good," Michel smiled and left.
"Oh thank you, dear," Helena sighed. "I do feel exhausted."
"Of course you are. You pressured your nerves too much, Helena."
"How couldn't I?" the young woman cried, rushing to her husband. "Until the last moment, I feared you would be caught and executed!"
"It's all over now," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "I trusted Monsieur Poirot. He is very kind indeed. He understood all of this. Nothing will happen to us."
"You know, I feel so relieved… a little like Elsa from Wagner's Lohengrin – after the defeat of Telramund," Helena said, a bit shyly. She did feel like that romantic heroine, and she was very much afraid that after the villain's death her husband would leave her (although not for the same reason Lohengrin left Elsa). He was a Hungarian aristocrat from an ancient family, and she – an American actress's daughter. She would now slowly lose her aura of tragic romance in his eyes, and without it, she was practically nothing. Not as beautiful as her late sister, not as charismatic as her mother – just another average girl with some money. He will probably send her to live with her family later. And without Rudolph, Helena was sure she wouldn't be able to live like before.
Count Andrenyi seemed to read her thoughts.
"Sweetest, do you seriously think I married you only because you needed someone to console, help and defend you?" he exclaimed, even a bit hurt. "Do you seriously think I would leave you? Goodness, now that no shadows from the past haunt you and you are happy and contented, I am even happier than before that you are my wife!"
Helena looked into his gray eyes and broke into tears:
"Oh, Rudolph, I'm so sorry!"
"Nothing to be sorry for. All this Cassetti thing still has its aftershock on you, naturally you're almost feverish," the Count said, holding her in his arms. "You need to get away. We haven't even had a proper honeymoon – how about having it now? I'm finishing my business in London in two weeks, and then we can go to Scotland – or will Norway suit you better? I think after the two months spent in Turkey you'd like something northern."
"Choose the place yourself," Helena mumbled gently. "With you, I can go anywhere."
They sat like this, clasped in each other's arms, for hours. The sun set. The pink sky above the horizon turned green, blue, and then, finally, dark purple. Helena's clock chimed eleven times.
"Oh dear, time flies, it's nighttime already," the Count said. Then he looked at the door, then at his wife again. She was still holding his arms, but her eyes were closed and her breathing was steady.
"No trional will be needed tonight, at last," he thought. "But I think… Yes, I'm sure…"
He laid his wife on her bed and rang for Pierre Michel. The conductor came running.
"Michel, prepare Helena's bed, but don't bother with mine," the Count ordered. "I'm afraid Helena is very nervous, it's been an extremely hard day, especially for her. I will stay in her compartment."
"Very well, sir," Michel smiled as he watched the Count helping his wife to get up and walking her out. Still smiling, the conductor began making up the compartment for the night.