When Poirot checks in at the hotel, there's a telegram waiting for him: there's been a development in the Kassner Case, and he must return to London immediately. So much for taking a vacation.
Poirot asks the concierge to book him a first-class ticket for a sleeper on the Simplon Orient Express, leaving at 9 p.m. that evening.
Poirot goes to grab a bite to eat in the hotel dining room before the train trip. There, he runs into M. Bouc, the director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits (1.2.24). Um, that means he runs the train line.
The two realize they'll both be traveling on the Orient Express. Serendipity!
When Poirot finishes his soup, he starts observing the other diners (this is clearly one of his favorite pastimes). Two men sitting together at a table catch his notice: one is a younger American man in his 30s, and the other is an older man aged between 60 and 70.
Poirot pays special attention to the older man. He seems nice on the outside, but his eyes give him away. They are "deep set and crafty" (1.2.38). The older man gives Poirot a mean look.
Poirot overhears that the older man is Mr. Ratchett, and the younger man, Hector.
M. Bouc also comments on the men, and he and Poirot agree that they do not care for the older man. Poirot adds that he has something of a "wild animal" about him (1.2.52).
Poirot even thinks that "evil" may have just passed them by (1.2.56).
The concierge approaches and tells Poirot that, surprisingly, all of the first-class accommodations on the Orient Express are booked. That's really weird for this time of year.
M. Bouc says not to worry, since he's a big shot train guy and all. Compartment No. 16 is usually open on the train. They'll get him on board somehow.
At the train station we learn that even No. 16 is booked. After a little haggling, Poirot is put in the No. 7 second-class berth. Apparently a Mr. Harris, an Englishman, hasn't shown up. Poirot can get upgraded to first-class later on.
The conductor shows Poirot to his berth, where he'll be riding along with a man named Hector MacQueen, the younger American man from the hotel dining room.
The two men exchange pleasantries. MacQueen offers Poirot his bottom berth, but Poirot says no, and starts to explain why – because he'll be upgrading to first class at Belgrade – but before he can say this, the train lurches forward and starts on the journey.