At the inquest, Dr. Sheppard presents his evidence about the time and cause of Roger Ackroyd’s death. The coroner notes, but doesn’t stress, Ralph Paton’s absence. Meanwhile, Inspector Raglan alerts the police in neighboring towns to Ralph’s absence. Inspector Raglan reports that nobody saw Ralph at King’s Abbot station—which is odd, since he’s recognizable. Sheppard suggests that he may have made the call to throw the police off the scent. Poirot repeats: “When we find the explanation of that telephone call we shall find the explanation of the murder.”
Poirot continues to believe that the phone call is the key to understanding the case—and yet thus far he appears to have made few inquiries into the call. Or perhaps this is Poirot’s point: the phone call is the most perplexing element of the case, meaning that the only way to understand it is to solve the rest of the case first.
The conversation turns to the fingerprints on the knife. Poirot believes that they’ll lead nowhere useful. Fingerprint records suggest that none of the people in the house held the dagger—which would suggest that the killer was either Ralph or the stranger Dr. Sheppard saw. Suddenly, Poirot asks Inspector Raglan if he checked Roger Ackroyd’s fingerprints, and suggests that the fingerprints belonged to Roger. Casually, Poirot mentions that, while he’s no expert in in fingerprints, the location of the prints on the knife seemed unnatural—not the way someone would hold a blade to actually use it. Raglan promises to look into the matter.
Poirot uses his considerable experience as a detective to give advice to the official police inspector. He often recognizes things that the police are slow to realize—here, for example, that the fingerprints on the knife are arranged in an unusual position, suggesting that they were placed there after (or even before) the murder.
Poirot proposes to Dr. Sheppard that they meet with the “family.” Later that day, they meet in the Ackroyd house with Raymond, Mrs. Ackroyd, Flora, and Major Blunt. Poirot first asks Flora to disclose Ralph’s location if she’s knows it, since doing so would be the best way to clear his name. Flora insists that she has no idea where Ralph is. Next, Poirot makes the same plea to the others. Instead of replying, Mrs. Ackroyd tells Flora that she’s been saved from embarrassment, since her engagement to Ralph was never announced. Yet Flora insists that Raymond still send an announcement to the paper.
Poirot’s questioning would seem to suggest that he still considers Ralph Paton to be a prime suspect. But perhaps he’s taking a different tact, and believes that the best way to solve the crime would be to find out why Ralph Paton has left, whether or not he’s guilty. Flora seems genuinely eager to marry Ralph, in spite of the possibility that he could be a murderer. Perhaps this is because she loves him, or maybe it’s because she wants her uncle’s full fortune.