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Bodies from the Library: Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age

Bodies from the Library: Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age
Bodies from the Library: Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age Agatha Christie Georgette Heyer Nicholas Blake Christianna Brand Tony Medawar A. A. Milne This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together 16 tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922.At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public’s imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world’s cleverest and most popular storytellers.This anthology brings together 16 forgotten tales that have either been published only once before – perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine – or have never before appeared in print. From a previously unpublished 1917 script featuring Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, to early 1950s crime stories written for London’s Evening Standard by Cyril Hare, Freeman Wills Crofts and A.A. Milne, it spans five decades of writing by masters of the Golden Age.Most anticipated of all are the contributions by women writers: the first detective story by Georgette Heyer, unseen since 1923; an unpublished story by Christianna Brand, creator of Nanny McPhee; and a dark tale by Agatha Christie published only in an Australian journal in 1922 during her ‘Grand Tour’ of the British Empire.With other stories by Detection Club stalwarts Anthony Berkeley, H.C. Bailey, J.J. Connington, John Rhode and Nicholas Blake, plus Vincent Cornier, Leo Bruce, Roy Vickers and Arthur Upfield, this essential collection harks back to a time before forensic science – when murder was a complex business. Copyright (#u74d070d4-130a-5514-a4b5-8d55e05dbe66) COLLINS CRIME CLUB An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) Published by Collins Crime Club 2018 Selection, introduction and notes © Tony Medawar 2018 For copyright acknowledgements, see Acknowledgements Cover design by Holly Macdonald © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2018 Cover illustrations © Shutterstock.com (https://www.shutterstock.com) A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins. Source ISBN: 9780008289225 Ebook Edition © July 2018 ISBN: 9780008289232 Version: 2018-07-04 Table of Contents Cover (#u74272432-c694-58d5-aefe-dc3d10b45a76) Title Page (#u42e6eb5a-e380-5eb1-a606-30a0e1ff4d90) Copyright (#ud43a37c1-28e4-59b2-add7-bbe0edaf0b20) Introduction (#uf02eea90-de71-5b36-a335-3d0e017ff452) Before Insulin (#ud0f297f2-db13-5b17-991b-64fe0d2baaeb) J. J. Connington (#u95e17cd0-ef42-574b-9e26-d4e9007675c5) The Inverness Cape (#u5d11b7a5-5b9d-53bc-8107-3b1ce52220b7) Leo Bruce (#u127fc414-ca94-5d1d-818f-31f8477ff681) Dark Waters (#u43ae077e-8e45-51a5-9527-c52906345077) Freeman Wills Crofts (#u1732695a-649a-5b43-bf3f-7593df3bb69b) Linckes’ Great Case (#u9e533e4a-e619-5109-99e7-5c38722e328c) Georgette Heyer (#u4a5ddd63-86b7-59a5-a442-63356dbf72ea) ‘Calling James Braithwaite’ (#ub2827ef3-0b65-5695-8162-3e38f3b867ed) Nicholas Blake (#litres_trial_promo) The Elusive Bullet (#litres_trial_promo) John Rhode (#litres_trial_promo) The Euthanasia of Hilary’s Aunt (#litres_trial_promo) Cyril Hare (#litres_trial_promo) The Girdle of Dreams (#litres_trial_promo) Vincent Cornier (#litres_trial_promo) The Fool and the Perfect Murder (#litres_trial_promo) Arthur Upfield (#litres_trial_promo) Bread Upon the Waters (#litres_trial_promo) A. A. Milne (#litres_trial_promo) The Man With the Twisted Thumb (#litres_trial_promo) Anthony Berkeley (#litres_trial_promo) The Rum Punch (#litres_trial_promo) Christianna Brand (#litres_trial_promo) Blind Man’s Bluff (#litres_trial_promo) Ernest Bramah (#litres_trial_promo) Victoria Pumphrey (#litres_trial_promo) H. C. Bailey (#litres_trial_promo) The Starting-Handle Murder (#litres_trial_promo) Roy Vickers (#litres_trial_promo) The Wife of the Kenite (#litres_trial_promo) Agatha Christie (#litres_trial_promo) Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) INTRODUCTION (#u74d070d4-130a-5514-a4b5-8d55e05dbe66) ‘Death in particular seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of innocent amusement than any other single subject.’ Dorothy L. Sayers In the beginning was Poe. It all begins with him. An alcoholic American critic who created, among other things, the detective story. And for that, if for nothing else, God bless Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s detective was the Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, a brilliant if patronising bibliophile of independent means who appeared in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, a long short story published in 1841, and in two other short stories. For these and other mysteries, Poe created the concept of a detective story—a story in which murder or some other crime is solved by observation and deduction—and Poe also created many of the tropes of detective fiction: the ‘impossible crime’, the notion of an amateur investigator from whom the professionals seek advice, the least likely suspect as murderer … Quite simply, before anyone did anything, Poe did everything. Or almost everything. While Poe’s stories were popular, and prompted others to try their hand at detective fiction, it would be nearly twenty years before the first novel-length detective story was published. This was The Notting Hill Mystery (1862–63) by Charles Warren Adams, writing as Charles Felix. Though other detective novels appeared, most notably The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins, detection remained generally subordinate to romance and suspense, and it would be a further twenty years before the next landmark in detective fiction, Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, published in 1886. And then, in 1887, readers were introduced to the greatest detective of them all, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. As well as that first novel, A Study in Scarlet, Holmes appeared in three more novels, but it is principally because of the fifty-six short stories about Holmes, published in the Strand magazine, that the character has endured. While Holmes had other ‘rivals’ in the 1880s and ’90s, most notably Arthur Morrison’s investigator Martin Hewitt, none has survived to the present day. The popularity of detective fiction, especially in the short story form, continued into the Edwardian Age, although only two characters from that period approach Holmes in terms of the quality of the stories in which they appear: G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, a Catholic priest with an eye for paradox and a soul for the guilty, who featured in more than fifty stories; and Dr John Thorndyke, R. Austin Freeman’s preternaturally intelligent forensic investigator, although his novel-length cases are more satisfying than the forty-one short stories in which he appears. While the puzzles set by Chesterton and Freeman were for the most part very much in the tradition of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, E. C. Bentley’s 1913 novel Trent’s Last Case was a game-changer, its publication often regarded as marking the beginning of what has become known as the Golden Age of crime and detective fiction. In Trent’s Last Case, Bentley presented a clear problem, the shooting of a millionaire; but he turned convention on its head by allowing Trent to fall in love with a suspect—commonplace now but far from so at that time—and Bentley further confounded readers’ expectations because Trent does not solve the case. Trent’s Last Case was immensely popular and remains in print today, along with Bentley’s second Trent novel and a volume containing all thirteen of the Trent short stories, Trent Interviews (1938). The novel prompted a boom in detective fiction in Britain, and for the best part of the next twenty years a detective short story appeared in almost every issue of almost every magazine: in long-lost titles like The Red, Pearson’s, The Bystander, The Sphere, The Corner, BritanniaandEve, as well as others that have endured like Harper’s and The Tatler. Detective stories—and episodic mystery serials—also became a standard feature in national weekly newspapers like the News of the World, and they could also be found in regional weeklies like the Yorkshire Weekly Post and the Sheffield Weekly Telegraph. These and countless other titles quickly became a strong, diverse and seemingly sustainable market for detective fiction, especially stories that turned on a twist or which featured an impossible crime, an unusual weapon or an unbreakable alibi, and they provided a complementary source of income for many of the best-known Golden Age authors as well as for some opportunistic hacks. As the First World War ended, a steady trickle of novels that have come to be recognised as classics of the genre began to appear. In 1920, the Irish engineer Freeman Wills Crofts published The Cask, a sturdy police procedural whose mystery carried it through multiple editions. The same year, Agatha Christie, unquestionably the most popular writer of the Golden Age, had her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, serialised over eighteen weeks in the weekly edition of The Times, providing a retired Belgian police officer, Hercule Poirot, with his first case, and his first published book in Britain in 1921. In 1923, Dorothy L. Sayers’ first Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Whose Body?, was published, while 1924 saw the publication of The Rasp, the first of Philip Macdonald’s Colonel Gethryn novels. In 1925, John Rhode’s Dr Priestley and Anthony Berkeley’s Roger Sheringham took their first bow in, respectively, The Paddington Mystery and The Layton Court Mystery. And so on. The trickle became a flood … By the mid-1920s the appetite for crime fiction was enormous in Britain, as well as in much of the English-speaking world. As well as the many weekly and monthly magazines that carried crime and detective stories, daily newspapers also published mysteries, often basic puzzle stories in which the object was simply to spot the murderer’s error before the detective. And when radio came along, in the form of 2LO, the precursor to the BBC, it provided a new outlet for detective fiction, a tradition that continues—thankfully—to this day. In 1928, with his tongue (as often) firmly in his cheek, Father Ronald Knox set out ten rules for anyone considering writing a detective story; in America, the crime writer S. S. Van Dine did much the same, albeit at greater length. And in late 1929, Anthony Berkeley founded the Detection Club, a dining club to allow the elite of the genre to gather together and at the same time distinguish themselves from the mass of writers then working to meet the enormous demand for mysteries. With hindsight, the 1930s can be seen as the high-point of the Golden Age, with many of the greatest writers in the genre producing their finest work, carefully constructed novels in which generally bloodless crimes are committed by consistently ingenious means; criminals are protected by unbreakable alibis and seemingly impenetrable mysteries are resolved by unmatchable detectives. The Golden Age can be regarded as having ended in 1937 with the publication of Dorothy L. Sayers’ final Wimsey novel, Busman’s Honeymoon, which she described as ‘a love story with detective interruptions’, despite previously having said that ‘sloppy sentiment’ had no place in detective stories. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is much debate about dates. Some consider that the Golden Age continued into the 1940s, while others argue that it did not end until well into the second half of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, after Busman’s Honeymoon came the Second World War, and nothing was ever the same again. The magazines and newspapers that had survived paper rationing continued to carry mysteries, including the London Evening Standard, which published a detective story almost every day through to the early 1960s. While Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Berkeley had abandoned writing in the genre in the late 1930s, other Golden Age writers continued, with some like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh writing into the ’70s and ’80s. As Berkeley and others had predicted, the focus of crime fiction moved away from detective puzzles, which focused for the most part on ‘Who?’ and ‘How?’, to more psychologically nuanced mysteries in which ‘Why?’ was the driving question. Dating from as far back as 1917, most of the stories and plays in this collection, all of them by writers active in the Golden Age, have either been published only once before—in a newspaper, a rare magazine or an obscure collection—or have never been published until now. They hark back to a gentler time, when murder was committed by simpler means and solved without forensic science. And yet, if the psychological thriller and police procedurals reign supreme today, there are still stories and television series that have their roots firmly in the Golden Age—writers like Elly Griffiths, Ann Cleeves or, in a delightfully mad way, Christopher Fowler; and programmes like Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders, as well as others of mixed lineage like Shetland, Broadchurch and River. There are also a small number of continuation novels, which aim to sustain the traditions of the Golden Age by reviving some of its best-loved characters—the Wimsey novels by Jill Paton Walsh, Sophie Hannah’s Poirot series, Mike Ripley’s Campion novels and unquestionably the best of its kind, Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy, published in 2018. And, happiest of all, many of the classics of the Golden Age remain in print or are available as e-books thanks to publishers like HarperCollins, the British Library and small press imprints like Crippen & Landru, which has published many new short story collections by individual Golden Age authors. Finally, there is the annual Bodies from the Library conference, held each year since 2015 at the British Library in London and attracting an audience from around the world. The event brings together writers, readers and academics to consider and discuss the themes and character of the books of the Golden Age and to focus on particular authors or publishers and their unique contributions. Among other topics, the conference has highlighted the existence of a frustratingly large number of uncollected short stories, forgotten radio and stage plays, and even unpublished material by some of the best-remembered writers of the period. For most of the individual writers concerned there are insufficient stories to assemble new dedicated collections, but there is ample material for volumes such as this, bringing together ‘lost’ works by different writers for their keenest admirers as well as for collectors and new readers who have an insatiable appetite for murder and the innocent amusement of a bygone age. The Golden Age is dead; long live the Golden Age! Tony Medawar April 2018 BEFORE INSULIN J. J. Connington ‘I’d more than the fishing in my mind when I asked you over for the weekend,’ Wendover confessed. ‘Fact is, Clinton, something’s turned up and I’d like your advice.’ Sir Clinton Driffield, Chief Constable of the county, glanced quizzically at his old friend. ‘If you’ve murdered anyone, Squire, my advice is: Keep it dark and leave the country. If it’s merely breach of promise, or anything of that sort, I’m at your disposal.’ ‘It’s not breach of promise,’ Wendover assured him with the complacency of a hardened bachelor. ‘It’s a matter of an estate for which I happen to be sole trustee, worse luck. The other two have died since the will was made. I’ll tell you about it.’ Wendover prided himself on his power of lucid exposition. He settled himself in his chair and began. ‘You’ve heard me speak of old John Ashby, the iron-master? He died fifteen years back, worth £53,000; and he made his son, his daughter-in-law, and myself executors of his will. The son, James Ashby, was to have the life-rent of the estate; and on his death the capital was to be handed over to his offspring when the youngest of them came of age. As it happened, there was only one child, young Robin Ashby. James Ashby and his wife were killed in a railway accident some years ago; so the whole £53,000, less two estate duties, was secured to young Robin if he lived to come of age.’ ‘And if he didn’t?’ queried Sir Clinton. ‘Then the money went to a lot of charities,’ Wendover explained. ‘That’s just the trouble, as you’ll see. Three years ago, young Robin took diabetes, a bad case, poor fellow. We did what we could for him, naturally. All the specialists had a turn, without improvement. Then we sent him over to Neuenahr, to some institute run by a German who specialised in diabetes. No good. I went over to see the poor boy, and he was worn to a shadow, simply skin and bone and hardly able to walk with weakness. Obviously it was a mere matter of time.’ ‘Hard lines on the youngster,’ Sir Clinton commented soberly. ‘Very hard,’ said Wendover with a gesture of pity. ‘Now as it happened, at Neuenahr he scraped acquaintance with a French doctor. I saw him when I was there: about thirty, black torpedo beard, very brisk and well-got-up, with any amount of belief in himself. He spoke English fluently, which gave him a pull with Robin, out there among foreigners; and he persuaded the boy that he could cure him if he would put himself in his charge. Well, by that time, it seemed that any chance was worth taking, so I agreed. After all, the boy was dying by inches. So off he went to the south of France, where this man—Prevost, his name was—had a nursing home of his own. I saw the place: well-kept affair though small. And he had an English nurse, which was lucky for Robin. Pretty girl she was: chestnut hair, creamy skin, supple figure, neat hands and feet. A lady, too.’ ‘Oh, any pretty girl can get round you,’ interjected Sir Clinton. ‘Get on with the tale.’ ‘Well, it was all no good,’ Wendover went on, hastily. ‘The poor boy went downhill in spite of all the Frenchman’s talk; and, to cut a long story short, he died a fortnight ago, on the very day when he came of age.’ ‘Oh, so he lived long enough to inherit?’ ‘By the skin of his teeth,’ Wendover agreed. ‘That’s where the trouble begins. Before that day, of course, he could make no valid will. But now a claimant, one Sydney Eastcote, turns up with the claim that Robin made a will the morning of the day he died, and by this will this Eastcote scoops the whole estate. All I know of it is from a letter this Eastcote wrote to me giving the facts. I referred him to the lawyer for the estate and told the lawyer—Harringay’s his name—to bring the claimant here this afternoon. They’re due now. I’d like you to look him over, Clinton. I’m not quite satisfied about this will.’ The Chief Constable pondered for a moment or two. ‘Very well,’ he agreed. ‘But you’d better not introduce me as Sir Clinton Driffield, Chief Constable, etc. I’d better be Mr Clinton, I think. It sounds better for a private confabulation.’ ‘Very well,’ Wendover conceded. ‘There’s a car on the drive. It must be they, I suppose.’ In a few moments the door opened and the visitors were ushered in. Surprised himself, the Chief Constable was still able to enjoy the astonishment of his friend; for instead of the expected man, a pretty chestnut-haired girl, dressed in mourning, was shown into the room along with the solicitor, and it was plain enough that Wendover recognised her. ‘You seem surprised, Mr Wendover,’ the girl began, evidently somewhat taken aback by Wendover’s expression. Then she smiled as though an explanation occurred to her. ‘Of course, it’s my name again. People always forget that Sydney’s a girl’s name as well as a man’s. But you remember me, don’t you? I met you when you visited poor Robin.’ ‘Of course I remember you, Nurse,’ Wendover declared, recovering from his surprise. ‘But I never heard you called anything but “Nurse” and didn’t even hear your surname; so naturally I didn’t associate you with the letter I got about poor Robin’s will.’ ‘Oh, I see,’ answered the girl. ‘That accounts for it.’ She looked inquiringly towards the Chief Constable, and Wendover recovered his presence of mind. ‘This is a friend of mine, Mr Clinton,’ he explained. ‘Miss Eastcote. Mr Harringay. Won’t you sit down? I must admit your letter took me completely by surprise, Miss Eastcote.’ Wendover was getting over his initial astonishment at the identity of the claimant, and when they had all seated themselves, he took the lead. ‘I’ve seen a copy of Robin’s death certificate,’ he began slowly. ‘He died in the afternoon of September 21st, the day he came of age, so he was quite competent to make a will. I suppose he was mentally fit to make one?’ ‘Dr Prevost will certify that if necessary,’ the nurse affirmed quietly. ‘I noticed that he didn’t die in Dr Prevost’s Institute,’ Wendover continued. ‘At some local hotel, wasn’t it?’ ‘Yes,’ Nurse Eastcote confirmed. ‘A patient died in the Institute about that time and poor Robin hated the place on that account. It depressed him, and he insisted on moving to the hotel for a time.’ ‘He must have been at death’s door then, poor fellow,’ Wendover commented. ‘Yes,’ the nurse admitted, sadly. ‘He was very far through. He had lapses of consciousness, the usual diabetic coma. But while he was awake he was perfectly sound mentally, if that’s what you mean.’ Wendover nodded as though this satisfied him completely. ‘Tell me about this will,’ he asked. ‘It’s come as something of a surprise to me, not unnaturally.’ Nurse Eastcote hesitated for a moment. Her lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears as she drew from her bag an envelope of thin foreign paper. From this she extracted a sheet of foreign notepaper which she passed across to Wendover. ‘I can’t grumble if you’re surprised at his leaving me this money,’ she said, at last. ‘I didn’t expect anything of the kind myself. But the fact is … he fell in love with me, poor boy, while he was under my charge. You see, except for Dr Prevost, I was the only one who could speak English with him, and that meant much to him at that time when he was so lonely. Of course he was much younger that I am; I’m twenty-seven. I suppose I ought to have checked him when I saw how things were. But I hadn’t the heart to do it. It was something that gave him just the necessary spur to keep him going, and of course I knew that marriage would never come into it. It did no harm to let him fall in love; and I really did my very best to make him happy, in these last weeks. I was so sorry for him, you know.’ This put the matter in a fresh light for Wendover, and he grew more sympathetic in his manner. ‘I can understand,’ he said gently. ‘You didn’t care for him, of course …’ ‘Not in that way. But I was very very sorry for him, and I’d have done anything to make him feel happier. It was so dreadful to see him going out into the dark before he’d really started in life.’ Wendover cleared his throat, evidently conscious that the talk was hardly on the businesslike lines which he had planned. He unfolded the thin sheet of notepaper and glanced over the writing. ‘This seems explicit enough. “I leave all that I have to Nurse Sydney Eastcote, residing at Dr Prevost’s medical Institute.” I recognise the handwriting as Robin’s, and the date is in the same writing. Who are the witnesses, by the way?’ ‘Two of the waiters at the hotel, I believe,’ Nurse Eastcote explained. Wendover turned to the flimsy foreign envelope and examined the address. ‘Addressed by himself to you at the institute, I see. And the postmark is 21st September. That’s quite good confirmatory evidence, if anything of the sort were needed.’ He passed the two papers to Sir Clinton. The Chief Constable seemed to find the light insufficient where he was sitting, for he rose and walked over to a window to examine the documents. This brought him slightly behind Nurse Eastcote. Wendover noted idly that Sir Clinton stood sideways to the light while he inspected the papers in his hand. ‘Now just one point,’ Wendover continued. ‘I’d like to know something about Robin’s mental condition towards the end. Did he read to pass the time, newspapers and things like that?’ Nurse Eastcote shook her head. ‘No, he read nothing. He was too exhausted, poor boy. I used to sit by him and try to interest him in talk. But if you have any doubt about his mind at that time—I mean whether he was fit to make a will—I’m sure Dr Prevost will give a certificate that he was in full possession of his faculties and knew what he was doing.’ Sir Clinton came forward with the papers in his hand. ‘These are very important documents,’ he pointed out, addressing the nurse. ‘It’s not safe for you to be carrying them about in your bag as you’ve been doing. Leave them with us. Mr Wendover will give you a receipt and take good care of them. And to make sure there’s no mistake, I think you’d better write our name in the corner of each of them so as to identify them. Mr Harringay will agree with me that we mustn’t leave any loophole for doubt in a case like this.’ The lawyer nodded. He was a taciturn man by nature, and his pride had been slightly ruffled by the way in which he had been ignored in the conference. Nurse Eastcote, with Wendover’s fountain pen, wrote her signature on a free space of each paper. Wendover offered his guests tea before they departed, but he turned the talk into general channels and avoided any further reference to business topics. When the lawyer and the girl had left the house, Wendover turned to Sir Clinton. ‘It seems straight enough to me,’ he said, ‘but I could see from the look you gave me behind her back when you were at the window that you aren’t satisfied. What’s wrong?’ ‘If you want my opinion,’ the Chief Constable answered, ‘it’s a fake from start to finish. Certainly you can’t risk handing over a penny on that evidence. If you want it proved up to the hilt, I can do it for you, but it’ll cost something for inquiries and expert assistance. That ought to come out of the estate, and it’ll be cheaper than an action at law. Besides,’ he added with a smile, ‘I don’t suppose you want to put that girl in gaol. She’s probably only a tool in the hands of a cleverer person.’ Wendover was staggered by the Chief Constable’s tone of certainty. The girl, of course, had made no pretence that she was in love with Robin Ashby; but her story had been told as though she herself believed it. ‘Make your inquiries, certainly,’ he consented. ‘Still, on the face of it the thing sounds likely enough.’ ‘I’ll give you definite proof in a fortnight or so. Better make a further appointment with that girl in, say, three weeks. But don’t drag the lawyer into it this time. It may savour too much of compounding a felony for his taste. I’ll need these papers.’ ‘Here’s the concrete evidence,’ said the Chief Constable, three weeks later. ‘I may as well show it to you before she arrives, and you can amuse yourself with turning it over in the meanwhile.’ He produced the will, the envelope, and two photographs from his pocket-book as he spoke and laid them on the table, opening out the will as he put it down. ‘Now first of all, notice that the will and envelope are of very thin paper, the foreign correspondence stuff. Second, observe that the envelope is of the exact size to hold that sheet of paper if it’s folded in four—I mean folded in half and then doubled over. The sheet’s about quarto size, ten inches by eight. Now look here. There’s an extra fold in the paper. It’s been folded in four and then it’s been folded across once more. That struck me as soon as I had it in my hand. Why the extra fold, since it would fit into the envelope without that?’ Wendover inspected the sheet carefully and looked rather perplexed. ‘You’re quite right,’ he said, ‘but you can’t upset a will on the strength of a fold in it. She may have doubled it up herself, after she got it.’ ‘Not when it was in the envelope that fitted it,’ Sir Clinton pointed out. ‘There’s no corresponding doubling of the envelope. However, let’s go on. Here’s a photograph of the envelope, taken with the light falling sideways. You see the postal erasing stamp has made an impression?’ ‘Yes, I can read it, and the date’s 21st September right enough.’ He paused for a moment and then added in surprise, ‘But where’s the postage stamp? It hasn’t come out in the photo.’ ‘No, because that’s a photo of the impression on the back half of the envelope. The stamp came down hard and not only cancelled the stamp but impressed the second side of the envelope as well. The impression comes out quite clearly when it’s illuminated from the side. That’s worth thinking over. And, finally, here’s another print. It was made before the envelope was slit to get at the stamp impression. All we did was to put the envelope into a printing-frame with a bit of photographic printing paper behind it and expose it to light for a while. Now you’ll notice that the gummed portions of the envelope show up in white, like a sort of St Andrew’s Cross. But if you look carefully, you’ll see a couple of darker patches on the part of the white strip which corresponds to the flap of the envelope that one sticks down. Just think out what they imply, Squire. There are the facts for you, and it’s not too difficult to put an interpretation on them if you think for a minute or two. And I’ll add just one further bit of information. The two waiters who acted as witnesses to that will were given tickets for South America, and a certain sum of money each to keep them from feeling homesick … But here’s your visitor.’ Rather to Wendover’s surprise, Sir Clinton took the lead in the conversation as soon as the girl arrived. ‘Before we turn to business, Miss Eastcote,’ he said, ‘I’d like to tell you a little anecdote. It may be of use to you. May I?’ Nurse Eastcote nodded politely and Wendover, looking her over, noticed a ring on her engagement finger which he had not seen on her last visit. ‘This is a case which came to my knowledge lately,’ Sir Clinton went on, ‘and it resembles your own so closely that I’m sure it will suggest something. A young man of twenty, in an almost dying state, was induced to enter a nursing home by the doctor in charge. If he lived to come of age, he could make a will and leave a very large fortune to anyone he choose: but it was the merest gamble whether he would live to come of age.’ Nurse Eastcote’s figure stiffened and her eyes widened at this beginning, but she merely nodded as though asking Sir Clinton to continue. ‘The boy fell in love with one of the nurses, who happened to be under the influence of the doctor,’ Sir Clinton went on. ‘If he lived to make a will, there was little doubt that he would leave the fortune to the nurse. A considerable temptation for any girl, I think you’ll agree. ‘The boy’s birthday was very near, only a few days off; but it looked as though he would not live to see it. He was very far gone. He had no interest in the newspapers and he had long lapses of unconsciousness, so that he had no idea of what the actual date was. It was easy enough to tell him, on a given day, that he had come of age, though actually two days were still to run. Misled by the doctor, he imagined that he could make a valid will, being now twenty-one; and he wrote with his own hand a short document leaving everything to the nurse.’ Miss Eastcote cleared her throat with an effort. ‘Yes?’ she said. ‘This fraudulent will,’ Sir Clinton continued, ‘was witnessed by two waiters of the hotel to which the boy had been removed; and soon after, these waiters were packed off abroad and provided with some cash in addition to their fares. Then it occurred to the doctor that an extra bit of confirmatory evidence might be supplied. The boy had put the will into an envelope which he had addressed to the nurse. While the gum was still wet, the doctor opened the flap and took out the “will”, which he then folded smaller in order to get the paper into an ordinary business-size envelope. He then addressed this to the nurse and posted the will to her in it. The original large envelope, addressed by the boy, he retained. But in pulling it open, the doctor had slightly torn the inner side of the flap where the gum lies; and that little defect shows up when one exposes the envelope over a sheet of photographic paper. Here’s an example of what I mean.’ He passed over to Nurse Eastcote the print which he had shown Wendover and drew her attention to the spots on the St Andrew’s Cross. ‘As it chanced, the boy died next morning, a day before he came of age. The doctor concealed the death for a day, which was easy enough in the circumstances. Then, on the afternoon of the crucial date—did I mention that it was September 21st?—he closed the empty envelope, stamped it, and put it into the post, thus securing a postmark of the proper date. Unfortunately for this plan, the defacement stamp of the post office came down hard enough to impress its image on both the sheets of the thin paper envelope, so that by opening up the envelope and photographing it by a sideways illumination the embossing of the stamp showed up—like this.’ He handed the girl the second photograph. ‘Now if the “will” had been in that envelope, the “will” itself would have borne that stamp. But it did not; and that proves that the “will” was not in the envelope when it passed through the post. A clever woman like yourself, Miss Eastcote, will see the point at once.’ ‘And what happened after that?’ asked the girl huskily. ‘It’s difficult to tell you,’ Sir Clinton pursued. ‘If it had come before me officially—I’m Chief Constable of the county, you know—I should probably have had to prosecute that unfortunate nurse for attempted fraud; and I’ve not the slightest doubt that we’d have proved the case up to the hilt. It would have meant a year or two in gaol, I expect. ‘I forgot to mention that the nurse was secretly engaged to the doctor all this while. And, by the way, that’s a very pretty ring you’re wearing, Miss Eastcote. That, of course, accounted for the way in which the doctor managed to get her to play her part in the little scheme. I think, if I were you, Miss Eastcote, I’d go back to France as soon as possible and tell Dr Prevost that … well, it hasn’t come off.’ J. J. CONNINGTON (#u74d070d4-130a-5514-a4b5-8d55e05dbe66) Alfred Walter Stewart, alias J. J. Connington, was born in Glasgow in 1880. A clever child with an enquiring mind, he attended Glasgow High School and graduated in 1902 from Glasgow University with honours in chemistry, mathematics and geology. While Stewart could have pursued almost any of the sciences he decided to focus on chemistry. After completing his doctorate in 1907, he took up an appointment at Belfast University where in 1919, after spells working for the Admiralty and lecturing at the universities of London and Glasgow, he became Professor of Chemistry, occupying this chair until his retirement in 1944. He had been suffering for many years from a debilitating illness, and he died in 1947. Stewart had begun writing novels in the 1920s, adopting the pseudonym J. J. Connington doubtless to distance what he saw as a hobby from his academic career. His first book, Nordenholt’s Millions (1923), dealt with a Wellesian apocalypse, brought about by scientific error and ended—in the Clyde valley—by scientific genius. His second, Almighty Gold (1924), was a more prosaic tale of adventure and crime in the world of high finance. Both books sold well, and were well received critically, but this was the 1920s and what John Dickson Carr would later describe as ‘the lure of detective fiction’ was too great. For his first detective story, Death at Swaythling Court (1926), Stewart wrote an entertaining village mystery in which a blackmailing butterfly collector is poisoned and stabbed. This was quickly followed by The Dangerfield Talisman (1926), an ‘old dark house’ mystery with many characters and almost as many clues. For Murder in the Maze (1927), Stewart created his first recurring character, Sir Clinton Driffield, an atypically misanthropic policeman who would appear in seventeen novel-length mysteries. Driffield is generally aided, and sometimes hindered, by his Watsonian friend Squire Wendover, a local landowner in the county where Driffield is the chief constable. Driffield is a far more active chief constable than is customary in fiction—or in real life—and, while he can tend to be didactic, he is one of only a handful of detectives in the Golden Age willing to admit, occasionally, that he is unable to explain every aspect of a case. And Driffield can also proceed in unorthodox ways, never more so than in the extraordinary Nemesis at Raynham Parva (1929). As might be expected from a scientist, Stewart’s mysteries are careful and methodically written and, while some contemporary critics felt the author could sometimes be long-winded, the majority found him adept at constructing ingenious plots, entertaining and imaginative, and above all scrupulous at playing fair with the reader. His novels often feature memorable elements, such as the sinister legend of the Green Devil in Death at Swaythling Court, the hedge maze of Murder in the Maze, the lottery tontine of The Sweepstake Murders (1931) or the ‘fairy houses’ and weaponry museum in Tragedy at Ravensthorpe (1927). ‘Before Insulin’, the only short story to feature Driffield and Wendover, was first published in the LondonEvening Standard on 1 September 1936 as the final story in Detective Cavalcade, a series of stories selected by Dorothy L. Sayers. THE INVERNESS CAPE Leo Bruce ‘You’d think I was used to violence, wouldn’t you?’ asked Sergeant Beef, rhetorically, after all the crime and horror I’ve seen. But there was one crime of violence, I remember, which shocked me more than any of your sneaking poisoners could do. It happened some years ago now. One old lady was clubbed to death in full view of her crippled sister. The most brutal case I ever had to tackle. I knew the old ladies well; nice kind old parties who would do anyone a good turn. They lived together in a big house overlooking their own park. The only thing that anyone could have against them was that they were rich. Miss Lucia was the older of the two and must have been over seventy. She was active, though: moved like a young woman and loved her garden, which was kept ‘just so’ by two gardeners and a lad. Miss Agatha was a few years younger and no one had ever seen her out of her invalid chair since the bad hunting accident she had as a young girl. She would be wheeled out on to the terrace on fine days and sit there watching her sister in the garden. They were very fond of one another and very happy. Then their nephew came to live with them, young Richard Luckery, and I didn’t much take to him. It was known that he hadn’t any money of his own and he must have had a lot from the old ladies because he spent like a madman. Motor-cars, racing, racketing about—an extravagant young devil who cared only for himself. Perhaps what I didn’t like was that he used to dress in the most extraordinary clothes; eccentric, that’s what he looked. And when he started wearing one of those Inverness capes and a deerstalker hat, like Sherlock Holmes, I thought it downright silly. He had friends to play up to him, though, like anyone else who throws money about. One of these, Cuthbert Mireling, lived right opposite to the old ladies’ home, and another, Gilly Ponstock, had rooms at the local pub where Richard Luckery used to drink, sometimes with one of his aunt’s gardeners, Albert Giggs. On a Saturday in June, Miss Lucia said at lunch that she was going to spend the afternoon taking cuttings of pinks and pansies in one of the borders. The gardeners would have gone home and she liked having the garden to herself. In fact, she never missed her Saturday afternoon’s gardening. Agatha asked her nephew to wheel her out on the terrace from which she would be able to watch her sister. This he did, then went up to his own room for a sleep. At about half-past two, in full blazing sunlight, Miss Agatha was horrified to see a man walk furtively out of the shrubbery with a heavy bar of wood and crash it down on her sister’s head. The first blow may have been enough to kill her, but he struck again and again. Miss Agatha screamed, but it was some minutes before Katie, the only servant then in the house, came running out and a few minutes more before Richard Luckery appeared. He seemed rather dazed, and said afterwards that he had been asleep. Miss Agatha then did something which shocked and astounded the servant. She turned to Richard in great horror and shouted, ‘Keep away from me! You killed Lucia!’ Richard protested: he had been upstairs. His aunt was hysterical, he said. He was as shocked as she was. Then he told the servant to telephone for a doctor. The old lady would not be left alone with Richard. It was some time before she became coherent enough to tell the servant exactly what had happened. By now people began to gather. Giggs, the gardener, whose cottage was across the stable yard, appeared and Cuthbert Mireling arrived at the front door, having heard the screams from his home. A doctor was sent for and so was I, and between us we examined Miss Lucia, who was quite dead, and managed to calm her sister a little. It was not until the evening, however, that I could get a statement from her. I had been over the ground by then and seen that the murder had happened about 200 yards from the terrace and that it was possible to reach the shrubbery from the house without being visible from where Miss Agatha had sat. Or, as I thought, to reach the house from the shrubbery for that matter. The first thing that Miss Agatha said was that her nephew must be arrested at once. ‘I saw him do it!’ she kept repeating. I pointed out that it was 200 yards away and asked how she could be sure. ‘I watched him. He was wearing his deerstalker hat and that cape of his.’ ‘But did you see his face?’ She would not or could not give a clear answer to that question. She knew it was Richard. She could see him quite clearly. The cape … the hat … it was Richard. I was to arrest him; not leave him in the house with her. Question her as I might, I could get no more from her. Then I tackled the nephew. Before lunch he had been in the local pub playing darts with his two friends and Giggs, the gardener. He had left his aunt on the terrace and gone upstairs to sleep. He had heard the screams and come down. He could not account for Miss Agatha’s accusations. When I asked him about the Inverness cape he said he had found a stuffy little outfitter’s shop in London which had some old stock of things long out of fashion—spats, fancy waistcoats, Norfolk suits and these capes. He gave me the name and address. He said that he had thought it would be amusing to wear something so dated. Yes, his friends knew where he had purchased it. I asked him to go and fetch it, and he did so, but took a long time over it. ‘Katie had it,’ he explained. (Katie was the servant.) ‘She was mending a tear in it.’ There was no sign of a stain or anything unusual about the thing. I sent for Katie and found out, as I half-expected by then, that she had taken the cape to her room after lunch that day to repair it and that it had actually been in her hands while the murder was committed. It was easy to understand which way the case was developing now, and when I went to the little shop and found that they had sold two of these Inverness capes in the last few months I could see daylight. The shopkeeper could not help me much over the two purchasers. He remembered the first fairly well and his description fitted Richard Luckery, but about the second he was uncertain. He remembered it was a young man, but nothing much more except that he had seemed in a hurry. Next, of course, I cross-examined the two friends, but neither of them had much of an alibi. Cuthbert Mireling had been at home reading, he said, in a deck-chair on the lawn when he had heard screams coming from the old ladies’ house. He had gone across to see what was the matter and whether he could be of any help. Gilly Ponstock had remained in his room at the inn asleep. He knew nothing about the murder till he came down to tea at half-past four and was told by the innkeeper. The gardener had been alone in his cottage. It was a puzzler. Someone had bought one of these capes with which to impersonate Richard Luckery, had put it on in the shrubbery, murdered the old lady and made off. Giggs and Mireling had some sort of motive because each had fair-sized legacies, Giggs as an old employee, Mireling as a son of old friends. Either could have done it, but there was not a shred of real evidence against them. My wife said that case would be the death of me. I couldn’t sleep for worrying over it. I’d tried all the ordinary things that should have provided clues—fingerprints, footprints, the weapon used, but none of them gave me an inkling. If I ever commit murder, I said, it will be like this, in the open where everyone can see me do it. Then I know I’ll never be found out. Then suddenly I had an idea. I searched Richard Luckery’s room, then came downstairs and arrested him. He was charged, tried and, I’m glad to say, in due course hanged. The explanation? Well, he had found what he thought was a very clever way of committing murder. A double bluff. He decided to impersonate someone impersonating him. Perhaps it was by chance that he came on that old stock of Edwardian clothes, or perhaps he was actually looking for something of the sort. He chose that Inverness cape as a garment easily distinguishable, bought another with which to impersonate himself, made a habit of wearing the first one, then waited his moment. He chose a Saturday afternoon because he knew that Miss Lucia would be gardening then, asked Katie to mend his first cape, went down to the shrubbery where he had hidden the second, put it on, murdered his aunt and returned to the house, which he entered while the servant was on the terrace. He had a perfect witness in Miss Agatha, who would swear it was him, because of the cape, and a perfect alibi in that his cape would be in Katie’s room. He knew I should soon find out about the purchase of the second cape by someone who did not resemble the purchaser of the first—some simple disguise, I guessed. The more Agatha swore it was him, the more sympathy he would gain for being impersonated. But, of course, he made his one mistake. They all do, thank heavens, or I don’t know what would become of detectives. He forgot to plan the disposal of the second cape. I found it between the mattresses on his bed. LEO BRUCE (#ulink_8306d546-2f49-52b3-a7ed-0152a7a2d856) Rupert Croft-Cooke, who wrote detective fiction under the pen name of Leo Bruce, was born in 1903. He was brought up in south-east England, an aesthete in a family of athletes, and attended Tonbridge School and what is now known as Wrekin College in Shropshire, where he did well both academically and at the game of darts, at which he excelled. Croft-Cooke published his first work, a slim booklet of verse entitled Clouds of Gold, at the age of 18. Aged 19, after a brief period working as a private tutor, he decided to go in search of what he would later describe as ‘adventure, romance and excitement’. He secured a teaching post in Argentina and travelled throughout South America, taking in Brazil and even the Falkland Islands. After two years he returned to England, and began working as a freelance journalist and writer, as well as broadcasting on 2LO, one of the first radio stations in Britain, which would go on to become part of the BBC. In 1940, Croft-Cooke enlisted in the Intelligence Corps, serving first in Madagascar and later in India. On returning to civilian life, he settled in Ticehurst, Sussex, where he continued to write. In 1953, as part of a ‘war on vice’—defined as encompassing prostitution and homosexuality—initiated by the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Croft-Cooke and his Indian companion and secretary were charged with indecency and convicted. After serving his sentence, he sold up and moved to Tangier, where he spent the next fifteen years writing and playing host to visiting writers including Noël Coward. Over a career lasting more than fifty years, Rupert Croft-Cooke was amazingly prolific. He authored nearly thirty volumes of autobiography, including The World is Young (1937) on his experiences in South America, as well as collections of verse, memoirs of his extensive travels and biographies of Lord Alfred Douglas—Oscar Wilde’s Bosie—and of the entertainers Charles ‘Tom Thumb’ Stratton and Colonel ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody. Croft-Cooke also wrote widely on subjects that interested him, including his beloved darts and the circus, as well as the importance of freedom of the press and the problems caused by ‘petty’ regulation. After his conviction and subsequent imprisonment, he argued for greater tolerance of homosexuality and in support of improvements to the penal system. His writing was highly regarded by critics up to the early 1950s, but after his conviction, reviews tended to be more negative and even favourable ones were marred by obscurely worded but plainly homophobic allusions. As well as his extensive writing under his own name, Croft-Cooke also wrote detective stories using the pseudonym of Leo Bruce. His first mystery novel, Case for Three Detectives, was published in 1936. While the titular detectives parody Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot and G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, the case is solved by a cockney policeman, Sergeant William Beef, who would go on to appear in seven other novels. In the early 1950s, Croft-Cooke abandoned Beef and created another amateur sleuth, Dr Carolus Deene, a history teacher who would appear in more than twenty novels. As Bruce and under his own name, Croft-Cooke wrote many short stories including a round-robin novella with Beverley Nichols and Monica Dickens, author of the Follyfoot series of children’s novels. His last book was published in 1977 and Rupert Croft-Cooke died in 1979. One of four uncollected stories to feature Sergeant Beef, The Inverness Cape was first published in The Sketch on 16 July 1952. The text in this collection is taken from the original manuscript of the story in the author’s papers, where it was located by Curtis Evans, author of Masters of the ‘Humdrum’ Mystery and The Spectrum of Murder. DARK WATERS Freeman Wills Crofts For years Weller, the solicitor, had handled Marbeck’s affairs, and when he received the old man’s letter saying that he wanted to realise some securities, it struck him like a sentence of death. For the securities were gone. In order to recoup some unlucky operations on the Stock Exchange, he had sold the lot. Marbeck was no business man, and as his dividends continued to be paid with unfailing regularity he had suspected nothing. For Weller discovery would mean the end of everything. He would not escape prison. His business in the nearby town, his charming house on the Thames, his position and his friends—all would be gone. He could look forward to nothing but poverty and misery. But there was an alternative. He scarcely dared to put it into words, but if Marbeck were dead he could undoubtedly produce papers which would convince the executors that he had sold at the old man’s request and paid him the money. He saw very clearly how the deed could be done, and with complete safety. The Thames! What was the river for, if not to meet the problems of those who lived on its banks? A little care, an unpleasant five minutes, and then— Weller’s house was on the north bank. He was not married, but his sister kept house for him, helped by a woman who came morning and evening to clean and cook. He would have to choose a time when his sister was away from home, as he must have the home to himself in the late evening. On Wednesday nights for years past he and three friends had met at each other’s houses for a rubber of bridge. There was a dentist, an architect and Marbeck, who was a retired professor of music. The first two lived near Weller on the north bank, but—and this was where the river came in—Marbeck’s house was on the south bank almost immediately opposite. There was no bridge close by, and all four had light skiffs which in suitable weather they used as ferries, preferring to scull directly across rather than to get out cars and drive some miles round. This was Thursday and on the coming Wednesday the meeting was to be at Weller’s. Till then he could easily put Marbeck off with assurances that the sale of the stock was in hand. Wednesday indeed would suit from every point of view, for his sister was going to some friends in Torquay for that entire week. Two small preliminaries required attention. At a London chemist’s Weller bought some of those ‘safe’ sleeping tablets obtainable without a medical prescription. The shop was large and full of customers and he was satisfied that the purchase had attracted no attention. On Wednesday evening he dissolved two tablets in a little whisky, then destroying the remainder. It was the custom for the four men to have drinks when breaking up at the end of the game, and as usual Weller set out the decanter, siphon and four glasses. Into one of the glasses he poured the prepared whisky. While standing at the side table he could see the liquid, but it would be invisible to his seated guests. The other preliminary Weller dealt with shortly before his friends were due. Going to his boathouse, he made sure that his boat was ready for instant use, with rowlocks and oars in place and water gate open. In due course the men arrived and settled down to their game. Weller threw himself desperately into the play, partly as the best way of passing the time, partly lest he should make some error which might later give rise to comment. The evening, the longest he had ever spent, came to an end at last. He and his partner had lost, but without, he felt sure, any suggestion of carelessness on his part. They settled up their few shillings’ debt and then he turned to the glasses. Marbeck was the senior and Weller poured the whisky for him first. After interminable delays the whisky was drunk, second helpings being offered and, as usual, refused. Further delay followed as the guests made their way to the hall and put on their coats in the most leisurely manner. But finally they left and strolled off together down the drive. Weller stood watching them, then slowly closed the door. Now he could drop the pretence of composure. In the hall cloakroom he put on a cap and dark waterproof. Hurrying to a side door, he let himself out and made his way noiselessly towards the Thames. It was not completely dark. More by sound than sight he located Marbeck. The old man was on his, Weller’s, boat slip, a tiny pier adjoining, but outside, his boathouse. Marbeck had moored his skiff, as usual, at the slip. Weller heard him getting in and unchaining his sculls. His movements were slow and fumbling, the result, no doubt, of the dope. But at last he cast off and floated out, a shadow of deeper jet on the dark waters. Weller now worked frantically. In less than a minute his boat was following the other. He tried to steady the thumping of his heart, reminding himself that everything was going perfectly. He overtook Marbeck in mid-stream just as he had intended. ‘Marbeck!’ he called softly. ‘Yes, Yes? Who is it?’ ‘Weller. A small matter I forgot. Ease up a moment.’ The other held water and the boats drew together. Weller unshipped his sculls, laying them parallel to the gunwale at either side. Then, as the skiffs touched, he gripped the gunwale of Marbeck’s, pushed it downwards, and then raised it with all his strength. The skiff rolled violently and then righted itself. Marbeck was overboard. The victim’s single cry would not invalidate Weller’s plan; in fact it would help it. But further cries might give him away, he swung his skiff round to where Marbeck was struggling, and leaning over the gunwale, seized the figure and pushed it under. His waterproof caught somewhere, impeding him, and he jerked it roughly free. He was counting on the dope making the old man stupid. It appeared to have done so, for his feeble struggling soon ceased. One more point and Weller had finished. A glance showed him that Marbeck’s boat was as he wanted it: one oar caught in the rowlock, the other overboard. What had occurred would be obvious to everyone. Some slight indisposition or carelessness and Marbeck had lost an oar. He had made a sudden effort to recapture it before it floated away. The light skiff was unsteady in the water and its sudden roll had taken the old man unawares. Weller now moved at top speed, though still silently. He rowed to his boathouse, replaced the boat, and hurried to the house. There he had a wash and brush up. He thought another whisky permissible while he waited for the next development. Half an hour later it came, just as he had intended it should. Mrs Marbeck rang up to ask if her husband had left. ‘Yes, Mrs Marbeck,’ Weller hastened to reply. ‘He left at his usual time, nearly an hour ago.’ ‘Well, he hasn’t arrived here and I’m rather anxious.’ ‘I’ll come across at once,’ Weller declared and rang off. This call was really part of his scheme. The wet oars, the drippings in his boat, the damp sleeves of his waterproof: all such awkward items would be explained by the speed with which he had hastened across. Everything continued to go exactly to plan. He made his report to Mrs Marbeck, they rang up several houses at which the old man might have called. Then at Weller’s suggestion they telephoned the police. Inspector French was at the house within minutes. He listened to statements and said he would start an immediate inquiry. Then came a period of waiting. Mrs Marbeck urged Weller to go home, but his sickening anxiety prevented him. Fortunately his presence was not suspicious since politeness also required him to stay. At length, two hours later, the inspector returned. To Mrs Marbeck he broke his news with genuine kindness. Her husband’s body had been found lower down the river. He had evidently fallen overboard while making the crossing. Then he turned to Weller. ‘I’d like, sir, to go over to your house to get some further details about Mr Marbeck’s start. If you’ll take me over in your boat, I’ll send the car round.’ ‘Right,’ Weller answered. He put on his waterproof and said he was ready. But the inspector was looking at him very strangely. Weller’s heart missed a beat. All had been going perfectly; what could now be wrong? ‘I said I was ready,’ he repeated shortly. Inspector French bent forward. ‘Excuse me, sir. I see you’ve lost a button from your coat.’ Weller glanced down. This was what he had felt. No doubt it had jammed under the oar. ‘My own fault, inspector,’ he said with truth. ‘It was loose and I omitted to have it resewn.’ French took something from his pocket. ‘It’s not lost, sir. I think this is it. Yes: colour, shape, size and even thread are the same. And do you know where I found it? Gripped in Mr Marbeck’s fingers: I could hardly get it out.’ FREEMAN WILLS CROFTS (#ulink_385ae16d-3db0-5f2a-8460-8075a253a280) Born in Dublin in 1879, Freeman Wills Crofts would go on to become one of Britain’s best loved writers of detective fiction. After leaving school, Crofts joined the Belfast and North Counties Railway, rising to Chief Assistant Engineer. In 1912 he married and, in his early 30s, wrote a novel during a long period of convalescence. In homage to Charles Dickens, this first attempt was entitled A Mystery of Two Cities but by the time it was published in June 1920, by Collins, it had been retitled The Cask after a rewrite that saw the final section of the novel, largely comprising a trial, excised altogether. Fired by this success, Crofts wrote a second novel, The Ponson Case. And then a third … For his fifth novel, Inspector French’s Greatest Case, he created Joseph French, the Scotland Yard detective who would go on to appear in a total of thirty novels, countless radio plays and three stage plays. As Crofts described him, ‘Soapy Joe [is] an ordinary man, carrying out his work, in an ordinary way … He makes mistakes but goes ahead in spite of them.’ More books followed and Crofts was soon recognised as one of the best practitioners in the genre. The railway engineer and part-time organist and choirmaster retired in 1929 to take up writing full time, and in 1930 Crofts was invited by Anthony Berkeley to become a founding member of the Detection Club, based in London. Partly because of this, Crofts and his wife Mary moved to Blackheath, a pretty village in Surrey where their first home was a house, Wildern, which has since been re-named after its most famous owner. Over the next twenty years Crofts would produce many books including The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933), Crime at Guildford (1935) and The Affair at Little Wokeham (1943), all of which are set in Surrey. An active member of the Detection Club, Crofts also contributed to several of their collaborative ventures, including the 1931 novel The Floating Admiral, which he wrote together with Agatha Christie and other members of the Detection Club. During the Second World War, Crofts produced dozens of radio plays for the BBC, many of which he later turned into short stories for the Inspector French collection Murderers Make Mistakes (1947). Throughout the war and in the years immediately afterwards, Crofts continued to write but his output gradually declined and he died in 1957 after a stubborn battle with cancer. Croft’s obituarist in The Times praised the writer for his ‘logically contrived’ plots and his close attention to detail, especially in the construction and breaking down of superficially cast-iron alibis. Crofts’ novels often feature railway travel and the alibis of his criminals often turn on the complexities of pre-internet timetabling. His shorter fiction is similarly precise with the majority turning on what he would style ‘the usual tiny oversight’ or an inconsistency in a suspect’s statement so that they offer the reader an opportunity to outwit the criminal before French. Sixty years after his death, the work of Freeman Wills Crofts is having something of a resurgence. Several of his novels are once again in print and a celebratory collection is in preparation bringing together previously uncollected short stories and some of his unpublished stage and radio plays. ‘Dark Waters’ was first published in the London Evening Standard on 21 September 1953. LINCKES’ GREAT CASE Georgette Heyer I The chief paused and glanced sharply across the table to where Roger Linckes sat facing him, listening to his discourse. ‘It is a big job,’ Masters said abruptly. ‘So much is at stake. It’s not like some stage robbery, where Lady So-and-So’s pearls are stolen. It’s—well, the whole country—perhaps all Europe—is implicated. Maybe I’m wrong to set you on to it. You’re very young; you’ve had very little experience.’ The younger man flushed slightly under his tan. ‘I know, sir.’ Masters looked him over thoughtfully, from his grave young eyes to his brogued shoes. He smiled a little. ‘Anyhow, right or wrong, I’m going to let you see what you can do. I must admit I haven’t much hope. Where Tiffrus and Pollern have failed, a comparative tyro isn’t likely to succeed. But you did exceedingly well over that Panton affair, and it’s just possible you might hit on a solution to this mystery.’ He drummed on the table, frowning. ‘I’ve known it happen before. I suppose the big detectives get stale, or something approaching it. Let’s hope you’ll bring fresh ideas into the business. How much do you know about it?’ Linckes crossed his legs, clasping his hands about one knee. ‘Precious little, sir. You’ve seen to that, haven’t you? Nothing known to the papers, I mean. All I know is that there’s a leak in the Cabinet. Knowledge of our doings is being sold to Russia and to Germany. You say it has been going on for some time. The Soviet got wind of our new submarines. Hardly anyone in England knew about ’em, and yet Russia discovered the secret! Someone must have duplicated the plans and sold them—probably he’s done it many times before—and that someone must be one of those in the small circle of people who knew all the details of the new subs. In fact, he must have been a pretty big man. It only remains for us to find out which one.’ ‘Very easy,’ Masters grunted. ‘It might have been a secretary.’ ‘It might,’ conceded Linckes. ‘You don’t think so?’ ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t seem likely. Who was in that circle?’ ‘The Government knew all about the submarines,’ Masters answered. ‘But the actual plans at the time of the betrayal had been seen only by Caryu, the Secretary for War, Winthrop, the Under-Secretary, and Johnson for the Admiralty, and the inventor, of course, Sir Duncan Tassel. That rather dishes your theory, doesn’t it? Naturally, Tassel is above suspicion; so is Caryu; so are the other two.’ ‘Are you sure that no one else knew of the plans?’ ‘No, I’m not sure. I’m convinced that someone else did know—must have known. Winthrop swears no one could have known, but he can’t supply a counter-theory. He’s more or less running the investigation, you know.’ ‘What does he say?’ ‘He’s terribly worried, of course. We thought at first that his secretary was the man, but we can’t find the slightest grounds for suspicion against him, and Winthrop’s had him in his employ for years. It’s the greatest mystery I’ve struck yet. We’ve been working to discover the betrayer for months, and we’re no nearer a solution now than we were when we began. And still it goes on. Take the affair of the negotiations with Carmania. They leaked into Russia, we know. Or take the case of the submarines. Those plans weren’t stolen, they were just copied. The only person, seemingly, who could have done it, was Winthrop. He alone knows the secret of Caryu’s safe. The plans were with Caryu for three days. All the rest of the time they were with Tassel, and they never left him for a moment. The thing must have been done during those three days that they were in Caryu’s safe, because before that date they were incomplete, and dates show that they can’t have been copied after they were returned to Fothermere. Now, having whittled the date down to three days, how much nearer the solution are we? Of course, everything points to Winthrop.’ ‘Or Caryu,’ said Linckes quietly. ‘My good youth, are you seriously accusing Mr Caryu? Even supposing that he is the man we’re after—which he isn’t—would he have copied the plans while they were in his house? He’s not a fool, you know.’ ‘Where was he during those three days?’ ‘At home. Winthrop went round to his house, and together they examined the plans. That was on the first day, and Winthrop left the house soon after nine in the evening. Shortly after he had gone Caryu put the plans into his safe. He had them with him next day at the War Office, and put them into the safe when he came home. Not even his secretary knew of their existence. They were returned to Tassel on the following afternoon.’ Linckes’ forehead wrinkled in perplexity. ‘When did Johnson see them?’ ‘Before. He worked with Tassel, you see.’ ‘Um! And where did Sir Charles Winthrop go when he left Caryu’s house that night?’ ‘He went straight down to his place in the country—Millbank. Took Max Lawson with him. He was there for the rest of the week, with a small house-party. That wipes him off the list.’ ‘What sort of a man is he?’ Linckes asked. ‘All I know is that he’s fairly young, very clever, and good-looking, rich, and an orphan.’ ‘He’s an awfully decent chap. Everybody likes him. Son of old Mortimer Winthrop, the railwayman. Mortimer separated from his wife when Charles was a kid. You know Charles’ history. She went abroad with the other child, I believe, and Mortimer kept Charles. Did awfully well in the Secret Service during the war, and rose like a rocket. He’ll be a big man before long, if this awful business is cleared up. Of course, he feels pretty badly about it. Means he’ll perhaps have to resign his post.’ ‘Yes, I suppose so. What about Tassel?’ ‘Tassel? My dear Linckes, if you’re going to shadow him I shall begin to regret I ever put you on to the case. Why, you might just as well suspect Caryu!’ ‘Ah!’ said Linckes, and saw the chief’s lips twitch. The telephone-bell rang sharply before Masters had time to speak again. He unhooked the receiver. ‘Hallo! What? Sir Charles? Yes, put him through to me at once, will you?’ He nodded at Linckes. ‘I thought Winthrop would ring up. I told him about you. Our White Hope. Yes? Hallo! Is that Sir Charles? Good morning! Yes, he’s here now. Yes, I’ve told him all I know. No. I don’t think so. Well, he hasn’t had much chance to yet. What? Yes, certainly! Now? All right, Sir Charles, I’ll send him along. What! Oh, I see! Yes, all right. Goodbye!’ He put the receiver back. ‘Sir Charles wants you to go along to his house now, Linckes—16, Arlington Street. Get along there as quickly as you can, will you? I want you to put every ounce of your brain into this. It’s a big chance for you, you know.’ Linckes rose, and drew a deep breath. II Half an hour later he stood in the library of No. 16, Arlington Street, taking in his surroundings with appreciative eyes. He was examining a fine old chest by the window when Winthrop came in. Linckes turned. He beheld a tall, slim man of perhaps thirty-five years old, with an open, handsome face, in which sparkled a pair of dark eyes, singularly expressive, and fringed by long black lashes. Winthrop held Linckes’ card in his hand, and he came forward, smiling. The smile dispersed the slight sternness about his mouth, and left it boyish and charming. Very simply he told Linckes all that he knew, while the young detective listened intently, occasionally putting a question. ‘And that’s all,’ Winthrop ended ruefully. ‘’Tisn’t much to go on, is it?’ ‘No; very little. You don’t suspect anyone yourself?’ ‘I don’t. I admit it looked like the work of an outsider, but I just don’t see how it can be. Masters first suspected Ruthven, my secretary; but that’s impossible. I can account for all his movements, and I know that he didn’t go near Caryu’s place during the three days that the plans were there, for the simple reason that he was with me at Millbank.’ ‘There might be an accomplice.’ Winthrop screwed up his nose, perplexed. ‘Well, of course there might be. But, considering that Ruthven himself doesn’t know the key to the safe, I don’t see how that helps. Besides, Caryu has a most elaborate alarm thing in his safe-room. Only he and I know the workings to it. Either of us could enter the room without disturbing it, provided we did not try to get in at the window, or any funny trick like that, but no one else could. Whoever did it must have watched the place for months; might even have been in the household. Probably was, because there were no signs of burglary. We had no idea anything had been tampered with until we had ample proof that Russia had learnt the secret of those new subs. I tell you, it’s absolutely incomprehensible!’ Linckes pulled out his cigarette-case, frowning. He started to tap a cigarette on it absent-mindedly. ‘The servants have been accounted for, I suppose?’ Winthrop’s white teeth gleamed in an infectious laugh. ‘Oh lor’, yes! They’re all being watched and interrogated, and Heaven knows what besides. We don’t think they have anything to do with it. It’s too big a thing.’ ‘I may act as I think fit?’ Linckes asked. ‘Absolutely! Interview all the servants, or anyone else you like. I say, don’t smoke your own cigarette. Have one of mine.’ Linckes suddenly became aware of the cigarette in his hand. ‘I beg your pardon!’ he exclaimed. ‘I ought to have asked you if you minded smoking. Well, thanks very much!’ He took a cigarette from the box Winthrop held out to him, and inspected it. ‘’Fraid I don’t usually indulge in this brand. I smoke gaspers as a general rule.’ He lit the cigarette, smiling. ‘Do you? I only smoke these. Sometimes, but very rarely, a cigar.’ ‘Of course, I really prefer a pipe to anything,’ Linckes remarked. Winthrop shook his head. ‘Can’t rise to that. I think they’re ghastly things. Look here! Have I told you enough? I mean, ask me any question you like.’ ‘I think I’ve got enough to keep me occupied for a few days, thanks. I’ll be getting along now, if you don’t mind.’ He rose and held out his hand. Winthrop jumped up. ‘Right-ho! And try your damnedest, Won’t you? We’re trying to keep a brave front. But—well, it’s serious. Just as serious as it can be. And until the mystery is solved Caryu and the rest of us are in a pretty sultry position. And—and it happens to mean rather a lot, to me especially, to have the thing cleared up.’ ‘You may be quite sure that I shall do my best,’ Linckes told him. He gripped Winthrop’s hand, and as he did so the door opened. ‘ Charlie, it really is too bad of you!’ chided an amused voice. ‘I suppose you’ve quite forgotten that you asked me to lunch with you at the Berkeley? Oh, I beg your pardon! I’d no idea you were engaged. Daddy, he’s deep in business.’ ‘Well, you shouldn’t burst in on him in that unceremonious way,’ answered Caryu. He came leisurely into the room and cast a quick glance at Linckes. ‘Sorry to intrude like this, Charles. Autonia’s fault!’ ‘How was I to know that he was engaged?’ demanded Miss Caryu aggrievedly. She sauntered forward, bowing to Linckes. ‘I’m not engaged, I’m sorry to say,’ retorted Winthrop. ‘I hadn’t forgotten, Tony, honestly. I was detained, but I was just coming. Caryu, may I introduce Mr Linckes?’ Linckes found himself the object of a keen scrutiny. ‘Very pleased to meet you!’ said Caryu, and shook hands. ‘You’re not Tom Linckes’ son, by any chance?’ ‘Yes, I am, sir. Do you know him?’ ‘Very well. We were at college together. Hope you’ll be able to help us in this business.’ Tony, who had just seated herself on the table, looked up. ‘Oh, are you the new detective, Mr Linckes?’ she asked interestedly. ‘Autonia!’ ‘Well, all right, daddy. You can’t help my knowing. How do you do?’ She extended a small gloved hand to Linckes, who took it, and stammered something that seemed to him inane. ‘I hope you’ll solve the mystery,’ Tony said. ‘You don’t look frightfully Sherlock Holmes-y, you know!’ She smiled mischievously. It was then that Linckes’ heart changed hands. Then he took his leave of them and went out, all thoughts obscured for the moment by the picture of Miss Autonia Caryu sitting on a table with her slim ankles crossed, and a friendly smile on her beautiful red lips. III Nearly three months slipped by, and found Linckes disgruntled. Caryu had been very kind to him. So, too, had Caryu’s daughter. He was a little puzzled by Winthrop. He had been drawn to him from the very first, but he was at a loss to understand his moods. One day Sir Charles would be flippant and gay, the next irritable and restless; he was sometimes most inconsequent and absent-minded. Yet with all this nervous temperament he was undoubtedly clever, always charming, and an eminently responsible person. Once Linckes spoke tentatively to Tony about him, and the girl had laughed. ‘Oh, Charlie’s an extraordinary man!’ she had said. ‘A perfect darling, but quite mad! They think an awful lot of him at the War House, you know. Under that flippant manner of his there’s heaps and heaps of brain. Everybody loves him, but he’s a dreadful trial!’ ‘A trial?’ had asked Linckes. ‘Why?’ ‘Well, he’s so—so moody. And he will forget things. Sometimes he’ll say a thing to me and contradict it within an hour. When I tease him about it, he just laughs and says, “Oh, did I? That was just hot air, then.” It’s a pose, I think. He used not to do it so much.’ Linckes eyes narrowed. ‘Funny! Doesn’t seem quite to fit in with his reputation, somehow.’ ‘That’s why I say it’s a pose,’ Tony had answered triumphantly. ‘’Cos really he’s a most capable person. Daddy says he’s got a huge grip on affairs. And—and now this beastly traitor business has cropped up, and if you can’t solve the mystery it means Charlie and daddy’ll be under a sort of cloud, and it’s—it’s such a shame! I mean, everyone who knows Charlie knows that he’s such a—such a splendid man! Why, look at the things he did during the war! Daddy says he was simply wonderful! Mr Linckes, please do try and solve the mystery! I’d—I’d like to put the man who did the thing in boiling oil! I would!’ ‘Of course I’m going to try my hardest to get to the bottom of it all,’ Linckes said. He tried to speak carelessly. ‘I—I suppose you’re awfully fond of Sir Charles?’ At that Tony had opened her eyes wide. ‘Well, naturally. He’s like a dear elder brother, and I’ve known him ever since I was a kid.’ Linckes’ depressed spirits suddenly soared high. A little colour stole up to the roots of his brown hair. ‘You bet I’ll never rest till I’ve found the man who’s doing the dirty on us all!’ he said impulsively. ‘Would you—er—Would you be pleased if I discovered who it is, Miss Caryu?’ Tony had become suddenly interested in her shoe-buckles. ‘I—I hope you’ll do the deed, certainly,’ she answered. Linckes took his courage in both hands. ‘I mean to. And—and if I do succeed I’m going to ask you a question, Tony.’ ‘Oh—oh, are you?’ had said Tony in a small voice. Not many days after his conversation with Tony, Linckes presented himself at Winthrop’s house, with nothing at all to report. He found Sir Charles writing at his desk. He barely looked up at Linckes’ entry, and the detective knew that one of his black moods was upon him. ‘Oh, hallo!’ said Sir Charles. ‘Sit down! Any news?’ ‘Not much. The butler is now wiped off the list of possibles.’ ‘Well, I never thought he was a possible.’ Winthrop pushed his chair back impetuously. ‘I’m dead sick of the whole business! The wretched culprit, whoever he is, is just one too many for us.’ ‘I’m dashed if he is!’ Winthrop’s ill-humour seemed to react on Linckes. ‘Hang it all, he must give himself away some time!’ ‘Why? He hasn’t done it so far.’ ‘Pretty soon he’ll be trying to bring off another little coup,’ said Linckes savagely, ‘and then I’ll get him!’ ‘Hope you will, that’s all I can say. Help yourself to a cigarette.’ Winthrop pushed the box across to Linckes, taking out a cigarette himself. He lit it, and began to smoke in silence. Linckes glanced at him idly, and suddenly a furrow appeared between his brows. It struck him that Winthrop was smoking in a curious way, rather as though he were puffing at a pipe. Usually he inhaled with almost every breath, sending the smoke out through his delicately chiselled nostrils. ‘If I didn’t know you loathed pipes, I should say you were in the habit of smoking one,’ remarked Linckes. The dark eyes looked an inquiry. ‘You’re treating that unfortunate cigarette as though it were one,’ Linckes explained. Winthrop laughed, throwing the cigarette into the fire. ‘Am I? Well, I’m worried. I suppose it’s a nervous trick. I feel inclined to do something desperate. If only there were a clue!’ Linckes sighed. ‘It’s all so hazy,’ he complained. ‘You can’t even know for certain that the plans of the submarines were sold. You, can’t prove it.’ ‘Well, if the fact that Germany is building submarines almost in accordance with those plans isn’t proof enough, I’d like to know what is!’ Winthrop retorted irritably. ‘Oh, I believe they were sold all right, but it can’t be proved. ’Twasn’t as though the plans were stolen. There wasn’t even a sign of anyone having tampered with the safe. The room—’ ‘For goodness’ sake don’t let’s go all over it again!’ Winthrop begged. ‘We’ve torn it to bits. Oh, yes, I’m getting peevish, aren’t I?’ He smiled reluctantly. ‘You’d be peevish in my place.’ ‘You’re certainly a bit morose,’ admitted Linckes, ‘What a mercurial sort of chap you are! A fortnight ago you were perfectly cheerful, and then you were suddenly plunged in despair!’ ‘Can’t help it. Made that way.’ Winthrop picked up his pen, and started to address an envelope. ‘Oh, now the beastly pen won’t write! Damn! I hate quills!’ ‘Then why use them?’ ‘Heaven knows! I used to like them awfully. Yes, John?’ The butler had entered the room. ‘Mr Knowles to see you, sir.’ Winthrop’s brow cleared as if by magic. ‘Knowles? Show him in, will you? I say Linckes, do you mind if I interview this man? I won’t be many minutes.’ Linckes rose at once. ‘Rather not! I’ll clear out for a bit, shall I? Can you give me a little time when you’ve finished? There are one or two questions I want to ask you.’ ‘Of course! Show Mr Linckes into the drawing-room, please, John.’ Linckes went to the door just as Winthrop’s visitor entered. As he went out Linckes cast him a passing glance, and noted that he was an elderly man with grizzled black hair and a short beard and moustache. He bowed slightly, received a pleasant smile in return, which vaguely reminded him of someone, and went out. He had not to wait long. Presently, from the drawing-room window, he saw Knowles descend the steps of the house and hail a passing taxi. As the vehicle drew up beside the kerb, he turned and saw Linckes. He nodded slightly, smiling, and after speaking to the taxi-driver got briskly into the cab. He let down the window, and as the taxi moved forward looked up at Linckes with a strangely mocking expression in his eyes. Then the butler came to tell Linckes that Sir Charles was at liberty. Winthrop was standing with his back to the fire when Linckes came in, smoking, and he greeted the detective with his old, sunny smile. ‘I say, I’m awfully sorry to have turfed you out like that!’ he exclaimed. ‘My time’s not my own, you know. What do you want to ask me especially? Didn’t you say there were one or two questions?’ Something about him was puzzling Linckes. The frown had quite disappeared from Winthrop’s face; the nervous, irritable movements had left him. He was smiling in his own peculiarly charming fashion, and as he looked at Linckes he sent two long columns of smoke down through his nose. ‘Every track turns out to be the wrong one,’ Linckes answered bitterly. ‘I begin to think we shall never get to the bottom of it all.’ Winthrop went to his desk and picked up the despised quill. He held it poised, smiling at Linckes. ‘Oh, come! Don’t lose hope, Linckes! Something must leak out soon.’ Linckes stared at him. ‘Well, I like that! Only half an hour ago you were groaning that nothing would ever be discovered!’ ‘Yes, but that was half an hour ago,’ Winthrop explained. ‘I’ve taken a turn for the better since then.’ ‘You certainly have. You’ve cheered up wonderfully. Did your visitor bring you good news, or what?’ ‘Knowles? Nothing to speak of. Now, who on earth has been mucking about with my pen? Beastly thing won’t write.’ Linckes leaned forward a little in his chair, eyes narrowed suddenly. ‘You said how well it did write a moment ago,’ he said deliberately. Winthrop turned the pen round in his hand, and for an instant their eyes met. ‘I don’t remember saying any such thing,’ he replied. A tiny smile hovered about the corners of his mouth, as if of triumph. ‘But you did!’ insisted Linckes. ‘What an appalling bad memory you’ve got!’ Winthrop looked back at his hand, scrutinising the bent nib-end that bore unmistakable evidence of having been jabbed down into some hard substance. ‘My dear Linckes, it’s your memory that’s at fault. I believe I cursed the pen.’ He glanced up again, one eyebrow raised quizzingly. ‘Did you?’ Linckes laughed. ‘I must be going to pieces. Yes, I think you did. Still, you did say that you always liked a quill, didn’t you?’ ‘Of course I did! It’s true, too. Well, I’ll see what I can do for you in the matter of Burton, Caryu’s secretary, that you were asking about. Anything else?’ ‘No, not at present, thanks. I must be getting along.’ Winthrop laughed, and held out his hand. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, I suppose?’ ‘Oh, I’m sure to come along to report,’ Linckes answered, and went out, his temples throbbing with excitement. IV A month later Linckes was shown into Caryu’s study. Caryu looked at him hopefully, for there was a glitter in Linckes’ eyes, and a very purposeful look. ‘You’ve got a fresh suspicion?’ he said, with the glimmer of a smile. Linckes sat down opposite him. ‘Yes, sir, I have. And I’ve come to ask your help.’ ‘Have you, indeed? I’m sure I have to imitate the famous Watson, haven’t I? I shall meekly do your bidding, being myself quite in the dark.’ Linckes laughed. ‘That is about the size of it, sir,’ he confessed. ‘But I really believe I’ve got on to the right track at last.’ ‘Any clue?’ ‘No, sir. Pretty strong suspicion, though.’ A shadow crossed Caryu’s face. ‘Only a suspicion, Linckes? I seem to have listened to so many.’ ‘This time it amounts to a conviction, sir. And, because I’m practically certain in my own mind, I’m going to have the cheek to ask you to do something that’ll seem quite insane to you.’ Caryu moved a paperweight uncertainly. ‘I’m not at all sure that I shall comply, then. What is it?’ Linckes clasped and unclasped fingers rather nervously. ‘Sir, you’ve got the plans of the new plane here, haven’t you?’ The elder man smiled a little. ‘You ought to know, Roger. You and your colleagues are supposed to be keeping an eye on them. But if you imagine they can be taken out of this new safe, you’re wrong. No one knows the secret of the combination except myself.’ ‘I know, sir. I don’t expect the thief to attempt it. I want you to tell Sir Charles, when you see him tomorrow, that you have made one or two suggestions on the plans, and are sending them by your secretary to his house for him to see.’ Caryu reddened. ‘What are you driving at?’ he asked levelly. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Just that, sir. I think Mr Fortescue carries documents to Sir Charles’ house fairly often? Minor documents, I mean.’ ‘Certainly. But I do not understand—’ ‘I know, sir. I want you to give Mr Fortescue a package containing blank sheets. Keep the plans in your safe.’ Caryu drew himself up. ‘Linckes, you must please explain yourself. I don’t know what crack-brained notion you have got into your head, but if you are insinuating that Sir Charles is the criminal, I may as well tell you that it is an impertinent and foolish suggestion.’ ‘I’m not insinuating anything, sir. I can’t even tell you who I suspect. But I do beg of you to just do as I ask without mentioning my name. It can’t do any harm, and I believe it’ll enable me to find the man who’s betraying us all.’ Caryu’s face softened a little. ‘You think that whoever is doing it will try to intercept Fortescue on his way to Winthrop’s house? It is rather improbable, isn’t it? He has only a few yards to go.’ ‘That’s just what I’m counting on, sir. It’s too short a distance for him to take a taxi. He doesn’t, I know, for I’ve often been with Winthrop when he has come over with a letter for you, or, as I said, some minor document.’ Caryu was silent for a moment. He looked Linckes over, frowning. ‘And when Fortescue comes to Winthrop and gives him a package of blank sheets,’ he said sarcastically, ‘what am I to say to Winthrop? You don’t seem to understand that if that happens my action in sending blank sheets amounts to a very serious insult.’ ‘No, sir. If Fortescue does arrive, unmolested, and with the blank sheets, you can explain why it was done. You don’t suspect Sir Charles. I haven’t said that I do. It’s quite simple.’ Caryu smiled faintly. ‘Very well. I will tell Winthrop that among other things I am sending him the plan of the new ’plane. Are you satisfied?’ ‘Yes, sir. Thank you!’ Linckes rose and prepared to depart. ‘What happens if Fortescue is sand-bagged?’ inquired Caryu. ‘What will he think of your little plot?’ ‘Not much chance of that, sir,’ Linckes grinned. ‘From Park Lane to Arlington Street isn’t a far cry, and it’s never exactly deserted. But don’t tell Fortescue anything, will you? Not even that you are supposed to be sending plans. Send him off at the usual time.’ ‘“The usual time” covers a wide margin,’ remarked Caryu. ‘I shall send him at about six in the evening. That is the most usual time.’ ‘Then tell Winthrop, sir, casually. And thanks awfully!’ He shook Caryu’s outstretched hand, and went to the door. ‘Mind you, I think you’ve got a bee in your bonnet,’ Caryu warned him. ‘If you haven’t—well, it’ll be a fairly large feather in the bonnet instead.’ V ‘Got another fit of the blues, Winthrop?’ Sir Charles looked up, smiling. ‘Getting rather frequent, aren’t they? Sorry I’m such a surly brute. It’s very nice of you to consent to stay and dine with me.’ Linckes leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. ‘It’s jolly nice of you to ask me,’ he retaliated. ‘I don’t wonder you’re feeling depressed.’ Winthrop gave a short sigh. ‘’Tisn’t very surprising, is it? We don’t seem to get any forrader, do we? Since your ingenious Burton theory there haven’t been any fresh suspicions, have there?’ Linckes turned sharply. Caryu’s secretary had just come into the room. Linckes looked him over quickly, conscious of a sinking sensation of disappointment somewhere in the region of his stomach. ‘Good evening, Sir Charles! Mr Caryu sent me with one or two things for you to sign.’ Winthrop had risen. ‘Yes, that’s right. Oh, don’t go, Linckes! It’s nothing private.’ Dully, Linckes watched Fortescue lay his dispatch-case on the table and insert a key into the lock. After a moment’s twisting and turning he drew it out again and looked up at Winthrop, rather white about the mouth. ‘Funny!’ he said uneasily. ‘It won’t open!’ Linckes’ heart leapt. He lounged back at his ease, outwardly careless, but his eyes never left Winthrop’s face. ‘Won’t open? Perhaps you’ve got hold of the wrong key?’ ‘No; it’s a special lock and key.’ Fortescue’s eyes were rather wide. ‘Then something must have gone wrong with the lock,’ said Winthrop impatiently. ‘You must force it.’ ‘Ah!’ Relief sounded in the secretary’s voice. ‘That’s it, of course. I got hung up on one “island” in the middle of Piccadilly, and when half the people surged forward into the road there was a bit of a scrum, and I dropped the case. I suppose that did it.’ ‘You dropped it?’ Winthrop asked. ‘Rather careless, surely!’ Fortescue flushed. ‘Yes, Sir Charles. But it fell at my feet, and I’d picked it up in a flash.’ ‘I see.’ Breathlessly Linckes watched the secretary burst open the lock. ‘Mr Caryu told me to ask you to run through his memorandum concerning the Crosstown Barracks, sir. Here it is!’ He was turning over some long envelopes. One of these he handed to Winthrop, who took it and pulled out several folded sheets. There was a moment’s silence, broken only by the crackle of paper as Winthrop spread open the papers. Then Linckes saw Sir Charles look up sharply at Fortescue, the lines about his mouth suddenly grown stern. ‘Ah, yes!’ he said quietly. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Yes, sir. Mr Caryu placed several documents in the case. I don’t know what they were, but he told me to give—’ ‘Give them to me, please. Thank you!’ Winthrop cast a hurried glance at each of the sealed documents handed to him. Then he laid the whole sheaf down upon his desk, and shot the secretary a long, keen look. Lastly he turned to Linckes. ‘This is a case for you, I think,’ he said. ‘Oh!’ Linckes sat up. ‘What is the matter?’ He looked inquiringly from Winthrop’s impassive countenance to the secretary’s surprised, vaguely nervous expression. ‘Anything wrong?’ ‘A very great deal. Come and look at these documents. You too, Fortescue.’ Linckes went to the table and spread open the various sheets. Looking over his shoulder, the secretary gave a startled gasp. But Linckes’ heart was beating madly. Every sheet was blank. ‘Good heavens!’ he said. ‘Exactly!’ Winthrop turned to Fortescue. ‘Mr Fortescue, I saw Mr Caryu this morning. He informed me that he was sending certain important papers. Did you know this?’ ‘No, Sir Charles. Oh, heavens! Surely—’ He broke off, staring blankly at Winthrop. Winthrop sat down at his desk. ‘Your case was stolen, Mr Fortescue. Presumably when you dropped it in Piccadilly.’ ‘But—but, Sir Charles, it was only on the ground for an instant. Besides, who could know that the case contained anything important?’ ‘I’m afraid I cannot tell you that,’ Winthrop said coolly. ‘Will you please try and remember the exact circumstances of your dropping it?’ ‘I—I crossed to the “island”, Sir Charles, and waited for the stream of traffic to pass. There—there were a good many people on the “island”, and, as I said, there was a lot of pushing and barging. There was a stout woman who rather lost her head and tried to make a dash for the other side of the road, and had to get back again to the “island” in a hurry. She must have pushed the man standing next to me. Anyway, he fell against me, and I lost my balance, and—and I dropped the case.’ ‘And this man,’ said Winthrop. ‘Was he by any chance carrying a dispatch-case?’ The secretary moistened his lips. ‘I—I’m afraid I didn’t notice, sir. I dare say he was. It was at an hour when most men are coming away from business, and—Oh, heavens!’ He ended on a stricken note. ‘What a fool I am! What a damned fool! If only I’d known that there were important papers in the case! Sir Charles, it—they—they weren’t the new plans?’ ‘That is precisely what they were,’ Winthrop answered. He unhooked the receiver from the telephone and called a number. While he was waiting to be connected he glanced at Linckes, smiling rather wearily. ‘Well, here’s your chance, Linckes. And he’s got away with it, the scoundrel! Hallo! Is that Mr Caryu’s house? Put me through to him, please. Winthrop speaking. Thanks!’ Again there was a pause. Then he began to speak into the telephone. Quite calmly he told Caryu all that had happened. At the end he hung up the receiver and nodded to Fortescue. ‘Mr Caryu wants you to go back, Fortescue.’ Some of the pallor left Fortescue’s face. ‘Mr—Mr Caryu doesn’t suspect me, sir?’ ‘No. You’d better get along as fast as possible. Tell Mr Caryu that I shall come round at once.’ ‘One moment!’ interposed Linckes. ‘Can you remember what the man who fell against you looked like?’ ‘Just—just ordinary,’ answered the unhappy secretary. ‘He was middle-aged, I think, but I won’t swear to it.’ ‘I see. Thank you! Winthrop, I won’t stay to dinner, if you’ll excuse me. I’ll get right on to this at once.’ Winthrop nodded. VI It was close on eleven o’clock that same evening, and Arlington Street was very quiet. One or two people passed down the road, and presently someone left Winthrop’s house and went away in a large limousine. Several people had visited Sir Charles that evening, and he himself had returned from Caryu’s house shortly after eight. For some time after the last visitor had departed there was silence in the street, and then the chunk-chunk of a London taxi made itself heard, and in a few moments a car drew up outside No. 10. A man in an overcoat and opera hat got out, paid the driver, and mounted the steps to the front door. He pressed the bell, and stood waiting to be admitted. He was a medium-sized man, inclined to stoutness, and with a short, grizzled beard. The butler opened the door. ‘Is Sir Charles in?’ asked the newcomer. His voice was rather hoarse and guttural. ‘Yes, sir. But I don’t think he’s seeing anyone else today.’ ‘Would you ask him if he will give me a moment?’ The man handed John a card. The butler read it. ‘Oh, Mr Knowles, sir! I beg your pardon! Will you come in while I see if Sir Charles is still up?’ Knowles entered the house, and the door closed again. From the shadowy depths of the area two men rose stealthily, and crept up the steps to the street. ‘Got him!’ Linckes whispered. ‘Your revolver ready, Tomlins?’ His companion nodded. ‘Yes, it is. Wish I knew what you’re about.’ ‘You soon will know,’ said Linckes grimly. ‘Your men are prepared?’ ‘Inspector Gregory’s at the back of the house, Mr Linckes, and Inspector Marks is just down the road. He’ll come up to the house with Sergeant O’Hara as soon as we get in.’ ‘All right. Don’t forget that all you’ve got to do is to follow me and to do as I say instantly.’ ‘No, sir. Carry on!’ Linckes ran lightly up the steps of the house and rang the bell. After a short pause the door was opened. ‘John, is Sir Charles up?’ ‘Yes, sir. Oh, is it you, sir? Come in!’ Linckes walked into the hall, followed by the other detective. John looked at Tomlins surprisedly. ‘Sir Charles is engaged just at the moment, sir. But if you’ll wait—’ ‘Oh, is he? We’ll just wait here, then. Don’t bother to stay, John.’ He turned to Tomlins. ‘The library is at the bottom of this passage. It’ll be locked, and we shall wait in absolute silence outside. There are two men in the room, and when they come out you are to cover Sir Charles Winthrop. Leave the other to me. See?’ ‘Can’t say I do, sir. But I’ll do as you say, of course.’ ‘Then follow me. Not a sound, remember!’ In perfect silence the two men took up their stations on either side of the library door, revolvers held ready. The murmur of conversation could be heard within, and although neither Linckes nor Tomlins could distinguish any word spoken, they could hear that the talk was worried. Then, after what seemed an interminable time, the key scraped in the lock, and Winthrop opened the door. Behind him stood the man Linckes had seen entering the house a few minutes ago. For a moment there was dead silence as Winthrop stared haughtily from one levelled revolver to the other. Even now Linckes could not but admire the indomitable courage and sang-froid that Sir Charles displayed. ‘Really, Mr Linckes!’ he said, faintly amused. ‘May I ask what you think you are doing?’ ‘Hands up, please!’ Linckes said sternly. ‘If you attempt to escape I shall shoot!’ Winthrop shrugged slightly, and raised his hands. Still he preserved that air of haughty bewilderment. But the man beside him had grown very pale, and was biting his under-lip. The hands that he held up were trembling. Linckes advanced into the room, covering his man. ‘I may be doing you a grievous injury, Sir Charles, but I do not think so.’ With his free hand he drew a silver whistle from his pocket and blew three shrill blasts upon it. ‘Mr Winthrop, will you be so good as to remove your wig and your beard? Your make-up is excellent!’ Disregarding Tomlins’ levelled revolver, Sir Charles lowered his hands. He sank down into his chair, and regarded Linckes with a twinkle in his eye. His fine lips smiled generously. ‘Do tell me how you found out,’ he said pleasantly. ‘Take the wig off, Alec. The game’s up!’ With starting eyes Tomlins watched the pseudo Mr Knowles tear off his wig and beard. Night black hair with a faint crinkle in it was revealed, and when the man had rubbed his face with his handkerchief, removing most of the cunning make-up, the detective’s jaw dropped. ‘Sir—Sir Charles!’ he gasped. A little, low laugh came from Winthrop. ‘Wonderful, isn’t it? Quite difficult to tell us apart.’ He paused, listening to the sudden pandemonium without. ‘Well, you’ve roused the whole household, Linckes, and I suppose your assistants are even now invading my house. You must allow me to congratulate you. I never thought you’d discover me. And I’ve had a fair run for my money, haven’t I? I don’t regret it a bit. Poor Alec’s looking rather glum. But then he always was rather peevish That was what made you suspect me in the first place, wasn’t it? Jolly clever of you to think of that blank sheet scheme. I ought to have guessed, of course. Fact of the matter is, you took me in. I didn’t think you suspected me.’ VII Tony dabbed at her eyes, and gave a tiny sob. ‘It’s so awful, Roger! I c-can’t bear to think of Charlie doing such a thing. I—I just can’t realise it. It—it seems impossible!’ Linckes patted her shoulder uncomfortably. ‘And—and somehow I can’t feel angry with him. He was always such a dear!’ ‘I know. He was just one of those people who couldn’t run straight? ’Twasn’t altogether his fault. And one must admire his courage.’ Tony was silent for a moment, still mopping her eyes. A pair of soft arms stole round his neck. ‘No; and I can’t help admiring you!’ whispered Tony. GEORGETTE HEYER (#ulink_373f1f70-5536-514e-a2b9-9fd75d7b2560) Georgette Heyer, unquestionably one of Britain’s best-loved historical novelists, was born in 1902. She began her career as an author at the age of 19 with the novel The Black Moth, an exciting story about highwaymen set in the eighteenth century, which Heyer had expanded from a short story written to entertain her brother. It was the first of what would eventually be more than fifty novels, the vast majority of which dealt with the Georgian and Regency periods of British history. While views differ as to the extent to which her books trod new ground rather than reviving scenarios and ideas from Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer was extremely popular and she remains so today, loved in particular for her lively and compelling characters and for the comedy and humour with which her novels are peppered. As a critic put it in 1929, Heyer’s historical novels ‘are not historical [and] they are not novel, but they are very good fun’. The same can be said for the dozen novel-length ‘thrillers’, as she called them. The crimes with which these are concerned were considered by some contemporary critics, among them Dorothy L. Sayers, to be largely unoriginal but, as with her much more popular historical fiction, Heyer’s crime fiction was consistently praised for her rich characterisation, vivid dialogue and warm humour. Her dozen detective mysteries are regularly reprinted and some in particular have real merit, in particular A Blunt Instrument (1933), Death in the Stocks (1935) and Envious Casca (1941), a clever locked room mystery. Unlike her historical novels, Heyer’s detective mysteries did not require extensive research, and they were for the most part based on plot outlines provided by her husband, the eminent lawyer George Rougier. Heyer’s interest lay mainly in the characters and she would routinely seek Rougier’s advice when it came to unravelling the mystery in the final chapters and ensuring she had ‘played fair’ throughout the novel. Heyer was a very private person, once saying that her readers would find all they needed to know about her in her books, which she considered as, ‘unquestionably, good escapist literature’. A heavy smoker, she died from lung cancer in 1974. Georgette Heyer’s only uncollected detective short story, ‘Linckes’ Great Case’, was first published in the very rare magazine, Detective, on the 2nd of March 1923, and I am very grateful to the bookseller Jamie Sturgeon for providing a copy. ‘CALLING JAMES BRAITHWAITE’ Nicholas Blake CHARACTERS LADY ALICE BRAITHWAITE … wife of Sir James, daughter of Greer. LAURENCE ANNESLEY … junior partner in Sir James Braithwaite’s firm. LAURA ANNESLEY … his sister. SIR JAMES BRAITHWAITE … shipowner. NIGEL STRANGEWAYS … private detective. CAPTAIN GREER … master of the ‘James Braithwaite’. MR MACLEAN … first mate of the ‘James Braithwaite’. SMITH … a seaman. PART I THE CRIME ALICE: I hate him! There, I’ve said it at last, I hate him. LAURENCE: But, Alice— ALICE: No, I’m not being hysterical. I won’t—sometimes I think that’s what he wants—to drive me mad. LAURENCE: Now you are exaggerating, my dear. James is not—well, not one of the world’s leading charmers. But— ALICE: Hate. I wonder if you know what it’s like. Real hate. Oh, Laurence, what’s going to happen? I’ve stood it for nearly three years. The humiliations, the scenes, the horrible little pinpricks, all the things he does to break down my pride. You can’t imagine— LAURENCE: Perhaps I can, my dear. Remember, I have to work with him. ALICE: It’s like having a—a huge toad sitting across the path, blocking it, blocking it, blocking out the whole future. Oh God, I— LAURENCE: There’s one way out, Alice? ALICE: One way out. LAURENCE: My darling. I love you. You must know that. Come away with me. Leave him. ALICE: I wonder if you mean that. Do you realise—? No, listen. It would be the end of your partnership in the firm. Daddy would be sacked too, and James would see he never got another ship. I couldn’t do it. LAURENCE: My sweet, do you love me? ALICE: I—oh, I don’t know, Laurence. I’m fond of you. You’ve been so kind to me all these months— LAURENCE: Kind! ALICE: No, please don’t make it more difficult for me. You know I can’t. If it was just ourselves—but there’s Daddy. He set all his hopes on me. He wanted me to have the world—and he thinks I’ve got it. Lady Braithwaite! No, it’d break his heart. I am grateful to you, my dear— LAURENCE: Very well. I understand. I’ll not say a word more about it. For the present. Perhaps James will fall overboard during the voyage or something. ALICE: The voyage. I’m dreading it. Do you know why I’m so upset this morning? Why James is bringing you and Laura and me on the voyage? Do you realise what this Mr Strangeways is for? LAURENCE: Strangeways? He’s coming as a temporary secretary, your husband told me. ALICE: Secretary! Laurence, it’s vile. James suspects—shh—oh, it’s Laura. LAURA: Hello, you two. You look very cheerful, I must say. I’ve just been laying in some Mother Siegel’s. Where’s James? (Fade. Sound of subdued voices. Voice of Page-boy growing louder.) PAGE-BOY: Calling Sir James Braithwaite. Room 15. Calling Sir James Braithwaite. Room 15. Calling Sir James Braithwaite. Room— (Snapping of fingers.) JAMES: Here, boy. Haven’t you got eyes in your head? What is it, now? PAGE-BOY: Mr Nigel Strangeways to see you, sir. In the lobby, sir. (Sir James rises. As he goes out, the murder of voices is heard again. Above it, three voices rise.) VOICE I: Who’s that old bird, Reggie? VOICE II: Sir James Braithwaite. The shipowner. Sailing on one of his own ships next tide, I believe. VOICE III: Jimmy Braithwaite sailing on one of his own ships? Crikey! Is he tired of life, or what? (Fade. A door closes.) JAMES: Morning, Strangeways. So you’ve decided to take on the job, eh? NIGEL: Yes, Sir James. I— JAMES: Just step out on the terrace with me a moment. It’ll be quieter out there. (Sound of swing-door. Lobby noises cut off.) NIGEL: (brisk, cheerful, not at all overawed by Sir James) Yes. You made such a mystery of it over the telephone. And I just can’t refrain from poking my nose into mysteries. JAMES: (very frigid) Indeed? It is understood that you will be sailing as my employee, my secretary? NIGEL: (faintest note of amusement in voice) Yes, Sir James. JAMES: Very well, As I think I told you, we are to sail on one of my own ships: the ‘James Braithwaite’. She’s a freighter of some 2,500 tons, with accommodation for a few passengers. My wife—Lady Alice; Laurence Annesley and his sister, Laura—he’s a junior partner in my firm—will be coming as well. We go out on the evening tide. NIGEL: And where does the—er—secretary come in? JAMES: Your job is to keep your eyes open, Strangeways—and your mouth shut. NIGEL: Hmm. A sea trip and a nice fat fee for—keeping my eyes open. JAMES: When I need a job doing, young man, I can afford to pay for it. NIGEL: So you’ve purchased the best detective that money can buy, to keep his eyes open. Open for what, Sir James?… Are you anticipating an attempt on your life, for instance? JAMES: Don’t be ridiculous … I’ll tell you more when we get on board. There’s several kinds of treachery, young man. NIGEL: Just one thing, Sir James. Why the ‘James Braithwaite’? Why have you decided to sail on a small, uncomfortable cargo-steamer, when— JAMES: That’s my affair. Nothing wrong with my ships, let me tell you— (Fade out. Fade in to quayside. Sound of seagulls, winches, commands. Voices, Tyneside accent, are of two stevedores and one seaman.) VOICE I: Got the owner sailing with you, Geordie, eh? VOICE II: Aye, the old—(loud expectoration). And a cargo of skirts. Women on board! I don’t like it. It’s not lucky. VOICE III: Won’t be the first time a Braithwaite boat’s been unlucky, mate. VOICE II: Aye, and for why? Look at the way he sorts them out. Ruddy suicide ships, that’s all they are. VOICE I: Reckon your owner doesn’t worry. He gets the insurance, see? VOICE II: Too true he does. (lowers voice) I was on the ‘Mary Garside’, chum. Gaw, she was a packet! Chuck a cupful of water at her, and she’d start her rivets. And roll! Jees, we was hardly off soundings, and she rolled so you could see passing ships through the ventilators. When she went down— VOICE III: Pipe down, Geordie. There’s the master going aboard. GREER: Morning, Mr Maclean. MACLEAN: Good day to you, Captain. GREER: Got your loading done? MACLEAN: There’s just those crates for Number 3 hold to go in. She’s trimmed by the head a wee bit, I’m thinking. GREER: Step this way a minute, mister. Let Mr Cafferty attend to it. (Steps along deck, down companionway. Noises shut off as they enter the captain’s saloon. The two men relax.) GREER: A-Ah. Well, Donald, they’ll be aboard presently, it’s a great day for me—Alice and Sir James sailing with us. MACLEAN: I don’t grudge it to you, John. I wish he might have picked on some other ship, though. GREER: I know. But ye must let bygones be bygones. MACLEAN: Bygones be bygones! I could forgive him for sailing out the ‘Mary Garside’ ill-found that voyage. Maybe I’d find it in my heart to forgive him that. But when he sets on his lawyers at the inquiry to make out it was my fault, when he loses me my master’s ticket—na, na, John, flesh and blood wilna endure that. GREER: I know, Donald. But he had to save his face. And he kept you on in the company’s service. MACLEAN: Wasn’t that great! A robber steals your reputation and allows ye to keep your badge-cap! And now he’s coming aboard to gloat over it. I’m wondering how I’ll keep my hands off the blasted wee runt. Why must he choose the ‘James Braithwaite’? GREER: You know that as well as I do. (lowers voice) It’s a nice bit of eyewash, sailing on one of his own fleet. After the ‘Triton’ and the ‘Mary Garside’, well, there was nasty talk going about. So he’s sailing with us just to show the Braithwaite ships are all right. And he chose this ship because he knows she’s the soundest in the fleet. He’s got his head screwed on all right. MACLEAN: He’s a damned hypocrite, John, and you know it. GREER: Eh, well, you don’t get on in this world without a bit of that, and he’s good to Alice. Remember that, Donald. He’s made her happy. You should see the letters she writes me. She’s got everything she wants, everything I wanted for her—money, a grand position, hobnobbing with the swells— MACLEAN: Everything she wants?— GREER: Eh, it’s a fair knock-over. To think of my little Alice riding about in a Rolls-Royce—and me who started life a deck-side Geordie. Lady Braithwaite. Her mother’d be proud if she could see her now. And I’m to be a grandfather next year. What d’ye say to that, Donald? A grandfather … No, I’ll not deny he gave you a bad deal: but he’s not as bad as he’s painted—not when he makes my little girl so happy … (Fade out. Fade in to dockside noises and approaching voices) ALICE: Hello, Daddy, here we are. GREER: Well, isn’t this great! Why, you’re looking pale, lass. She needs the sea air to put some roses in those cheeks, doesn’t she, Sir James? JAMES: Evening, Greer. Everything ready for us? You know Mr Annesley. This is his sister—Captain Greer, Miss Annesley. My secretary, Mr Strangeways. GREER: Welcome aboard, Miss Annesley. Gentlemen. Hope you’ll enjoy your trip. This way, please. The steward’ll show you your cabins. LAURA: Steward! Oh, it makes me feel quite queer already. Stewards and basins do seem to go hand in hand, if you follow me, don’t they? Oh, Captain Greer, I do hope this is a steady boat. I always … (Fade out with receding footsteps. Fade in to general conversation.) GREER: This is my saloon. You must make yourselves at home here. There’s a radio set: and you’ll find playing-cards, and— NIGEL: And dominoes? Do you play dominoes, Captain, during the long dog-watches? That’s a game I— LAURA: Oh, Captain, what’s that perfectly dinky contraption over there? GREER: That’s the radio telephone. You can talk to your friends ashore. LAURA: Well, isn’t that sweet? (Knock at door. Door opens) GREER: My first mate. Mr Maclean. MACLEAN: Good evening, ladies. Evening, Sir James—and gentlemen. Pilot’s come aboard, sir. GREER: Very well. Carry on, mister. (Deck and bridge sounds. Orders. Casting away the hawsers. Sound of telegraph. Steam-whistle. Pulse of engines grows louder, quicker. Presently its rhythm is mixed into a different sound—the tapping of a pencil on a table. We are in James’ and Alice’s cabin.) ALICE: James. Please stop tapping with your pencil. It—it gets on my nerves … Why are you looking at me like that? JAMES: Aren’t you a little overwrought, my dear? I was just thinking, you’ve a nice long sea-voyage before you. A nice long voyage with—your husband. ALICE: Yes, James. JAMES: And with young Laurence Annesley. You don’t seem so very pleased with the prospect. Two admirers, and no competition. ALICE: Can’t you say straight out what you mean? Isn’t it rather cowardly—this perpetual hissing? JAMES: Of course, he’s a younger man than I am, isn’t he? A good-looking young fellow, too. ALICE: James, this is contemptible. I— JAMES: And sea air does bring ’em up to scratch, doesn’t it? These shipboard romances. The moon, a lonely deck, the waves swirling past … But of course you wouldn’t encourage anything like that. You’re faithful to your husband, who has—the money. Yes. But you’d be glad of a little extra protection, I’m sure. Strangeways will help to keep an eye on you, and see that nothing— ALICE: So that’s it. I was right. You’ve hired him to spy on me. You admit it. JAMES: Indeed no. I admit nothing. Ask him, if you like. ALICE: You haven’t even got the courage of your own vileness. You have to get somebody else to do your dirty work. JAMES: But perhaps it’s a case of shutting the stable door after the horse is out. This child you’re going to have. It is mine? You’re quite sure? ALICE: (breaks down: sobbing) Oh! How dare you say—? Oh God! (Slam of door. Sobbing fades; then grows louder again, more intermittent, mixed with sea-sounds. We are on deck.) LAURENCE: Darling, what is it? Tell me. Has he been—? ALICE: (during this conversation she gradually controls herself, till towards the end her voice has the flat finality of despair) He—no, I can’t tell you, it’s too horrible for words. LAURENCE: Tell me. You’ll feel better for it. ALICE: He said—he accused me of—that the child I’m going to have isn’t his. LAURENCE: Not his? But that’s— ALICE: He hinted things—about you and me. That’s what he’s got Mr Strangeways for. To spy on us. He’s a detective. LAURENCE: The swine. That settles it. I’m going to have to talk with Sir James Braithwaite. ALICE: No. Stop. It’s no good. You don’t understand, Laurence. I don’t mind the things he says. Not now. I’m broken in, I suppose. One gets used to anything, even the misery he’s made of my life. Yes, I’ve forgotten what happiness feels like. But when he talked about my child, it came to me—what sort of life would it have with him for a father? I can put up with his bullying, his meanness, his suspicions: but I won’t let my baby— LAURENCE: You must leave him, my dear. You must. ALICE: He’d never let me go … (very flat, speaking half to self) Unless … yes, there is one way … Perhaps I shall leave him … Sooner than he— (Cough. Footsteps) GREER: Well, lass, sharpening up your appetite? That’s right. But what’s this? Tears? Well now, this won’t do. ALICE: It’s nothing, Daddy. I—this baby makes me feel weak and silly. It’s nothing, really. GREER: Come now, that’s better, take my arm. We’ll go into the saloon. It’s just on dinner-time. (Footsteps recede. Noises of sea. Then fade into general conversation) LAURA: Well, that’s what I call a slap-up dinner. I only hope I will be able to keep it inside me. Is it going to be very rough tonight, Captain? GREER: Don’t you worry, Miss Annesley. Weather reports say we may run into a bit of local fog. Nothing worse than that. She’ll not jump about much till we get into the Bay, and you’ll have your sea-legs by then. LAURENCE: Well, Strangeways, how’s the—secretarial work going? NIGEL: O.K., thank you kindly. JAMES: Mr Strangeways is a confidential secretary, Annesley? LAURENCE: yes. To be sure. A formidable responsibility—to be the repository of Sir James Braithwaite’s secrets. (Embarrassed pause) LAURA: I’m sure it’ll be very nice for Mr Strangeways to have something to do—to keep his mind occupied, I mean. I mean, there are limits to one’s capacity for playing deck-quoits. I say—that reminds me—where are all the sailors, Captain? GREER: The sailors? LAURA: Yes. I was on the deck quite a long time before dinner, and I never saw a single one. I thought there’d be dozens of them—polishing the binnacle and letting the bullgine run, and so on. LAURENCE: Bad luck, Laura. All your beautiful cruise-wear wasted. GREER: A modern cargo vessel pretty well runs itself, Miss Annesley. You’ll not find seamen on the deck, except when the watches are being changed. We’ve nothing to do but squirt oil into the engine now and then; the rest of the time we spend knitting socks for our nippers. LAURA: Knitting socks?—He’s pulling my leg, isn’t he, Sir James? JAMES: The modern seaman certainly has an easy time if it, compared with the man of thirty years ago. GREER: Aye. All that brass we had to clean. Wherever they could put a bit of brass on those old tramps, they did. JAMES: —And nowadays he doesn’t know when he’s well off. Better food, more comfortable quarters, overtime pay. MACLEAN: He’ll have an easy time, maybe—till the ship starts to go down under his feet. (Another embarrassed pause) LAURA: Oh but how gruesome you are, Mr Maclean. Have you ever been in a shipwreck? Do tell us all about it. GREER: Well, if you ladies and gentlemen will excuse me, I’ll just see if the shore agent has got anything to tell me. He rings me up at 8.30. You see, Miss Annesley, I just put on these headphones, and turn this switch, and— (Pause. Faintly we hear, as over the radio telephone—) VOICE: ‘James Braithwaite’. ‘James Braithwaite’. ‘James Braithwaite’. Cullercoats radio calling. Cullercoats radio calling. Cullercoats radio calling the ‘James Braithwaite’. Over to you. GREER: ‘James Braithwaite’ answering. ‘James Braithwaite’ answering Cullercoats radio. Over to you. (Sound of switch being put over. The others begin to talk quietly, so that we now only hear the captain’s end of the conversation. His sudden excitement, however, soon stops their talk.) GREER: Hello, Tom … How’s the wife keeping?… That’s fine. Anything for me? What’s that? (Long pause: the passengers’ talk dies out: we hear squeaky unintelligible noises through the radio telephone.) Well, that’s a nice thing. Why can’t they keep a better look-out?… Eh?… And what am I supposed to do about it: I haven’t got a padded cell on my ship, have I?… Oh, get out with you!… Oh, he is, is he? Yes, I see. I’ll take action. Yes, I’ll take action. Goodbye, Tom. (Pause. They are expecting the captain to speak) JAMES: Well, Greer, what is it? What was all that about? GREER: I’ve had a rather disagreeable message … A warning, you might say. ALICE: ‘Warning’, Daddy? What—? GREER: it seems a chap escaped from that lunatic asylum at Newcastle last night. LAURA: Oo-er. Is he swimming after the ship? GREER: They’ve just had a report that someone answering to this chap’s description was seen hanging round the docks early this morning, near the ‘James Braithwaite’. A big chap, with a limp—a sort of shuffling walk—is the way they describe it. An ex-seaman, he is. JAMES: (sharply) Well, what about it? GREER: Well, it seems this chap has delusions. He’s what they call a homocidal maniac. ALICE: Oh! GREER: Now don’t upset yourself, lass. No reason to suppose the fellow got aboard. We’ll have the ship searched, just to make sure he’s not here. Mr Maclean, take a search-party if you please, and go right over her. MACLEAN: Very good, sir. (Gets up: sound of door closing) GREER: Lucky we’ve got a detective on board. May come in useful. LAURA: Detective? Well, I’ll say this is a surprise packet. First we get a loony, then a detective—what’ll you give us next?—the Grand Lama of Tibet? Where is this mysterious detective? GREER: (quickly) Now I think we’ll rearrange the cabins a bit. Miss Annesley won’t want to sleep alone. We’ll put her in with Alice: and Sir James can shift into Number 2 cabin—that’s the single one next to mine. Mr Annesley and Mr Strangeways stay as they are in Number 4. Just an extra precaution. No need to fret yourselves. Mr Maclean will find this chap, if he is on board. (Fade. Fade into forecastle. Talk. An accordion or mouth-organ playing) MACLEAN: Tumble out, the watch. Search-party. Stowaway aboard. Evans, take three men and search the deck—lifeboats and everything. Watch yourselves, he may show fight. Escaped lunatic. The rest, follow me. (Someone whistles. Feet running up ladder, dispersing. Voices. We follow footsteps along deck, down iron ladder into engine-room. Sound of engines grows louder. Following conversation carried on fortissimo) MACLEAN: Evening, Chief. VOICE: This is an unexpected pleasure. What can I do for you, Mr Maclean? MACLEAN: Search-party. There’s a lunatic escaped. He may have come on board last night. VOICE: Indeed? If you’re looking for lunatics, ye’d better try the bridge, Mr Maclean. Ye’ll not find them in the engine room. MACLEAN: Sorry, Chief. Captain’s orders. VOICE: Lunatics! In my engine room! T’chah! (Sounds of search. Noise of engines fades into noise of sea. On deck. Footsteps) VOICE I: He’s not in this lifeboat, any road. VOICE II: I always said it was unlucky, bringing women aboard. VOICE III: My sister’s husband went balmy. Used to see angels walking about in t’back yard, in nightgowns. Fair knock-off, he was. They had to put him away. (Voices and steps approaching) VOICE I: He’s nowhere on deck, sir. MACLEAN: Very well, Evans. Follow me, you men. Number 1 hold first. (Sound of steps: then of hatch-cover being removed. Fade into comparative silence of hold, where men are bumping about in search.) MACLEAN: Show a light over here. VOICE II: Jees, look at that, chum! The man with the glaring eyes! VOICE III: It’s a rat, you silly bleeder! VOICE II: What I say is, no luck ever came from having women aboard. VOICE I: We heard yer. Talk about a needle in a haystack. Chap could stay hidden for days in this stuff. What I say— (Fade. Fade in to saloon) GREER: I didn’t want to say it in front of the ladies. But I don’t mind telling you gentlemen, with all this cargo we’ve got below hatches, a chap might stay hidden for a long time—search-party or no search-party. He’s an ex-seaman. He’d know his way about. JAMES: Why wasn’t a better watch kept while she was tied up at the quay? Who’s responsible?’ GREER: You can’t allow for escaped loonies running about loose on the docks. JAMES: You’d better put about, Greer. We’re only four hours out. GREER: (with cheerful authority. Throughout this scene, James is made to sound peevish and insignificant, in contrast with the assurance of the two ship’s officers. We must realise that he is a rather nasty, frightened little businessman, quite out of his element) No need for that, Sir James. JAMES: May I remind you that you’re in my employment? GREER: And you’re in my ship, Sir James. I’m master of this ship, and my authority holds till we’re on soundings again … No, I’ll not make a laughing stock of us both by putting back to port just on the strength of a rumour. JAMES: You may regret this, Greer. NIGEL: We mustn’t get excited. After all, even if he is on the ship, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to run amok and stab us right and left. Homicidal maniacs are like volcanoes—dormant most of the time. Unless this chap’s delusions are centred on someone on board, he— (sharp knock at door) JAMES: (frightened) What’s that? GREER: Come in. MACLEAN: Ship searched. No sign of a stowaway, sir. JAMES: (breathes audible sigh of relief) GREER: Well, Mister Maclean? MACLEAN: I was just thinking, Sir. Ye said this escaped lunatic was reported to be an ex-seaman—a big chap with a limp, a sort of shuffling walk—didn’t ye? GREER: That’s so. What about it?… Come on, man. MACLEAN: Well, e-eh, there was a seaman aboard the ‘Mary Garside’ when she went down, A big chap. His leg was crushed when the falls of the starboard lifeboat parted. As you know, we were in an open boat for six days. What with the pain of his leg, and—well, he went off his head. JAMES: Poor fellow. Very tragic. But I scarcely see— MACLEAN: They put him in an asylum. The asylum at Newcastle. (Pause) JAMES: (whispers to self) At Newcastle? NIGEL: Ah. This gets more interesting. Perhaps the fellow’s delusions are centred upon someone in this ship. In which case— JAMES: (wildly) What the devil is this nonsense? MACLEAN: The poor chap, in his crazed mind, may be holding one of us responsible for the injuries he— JAMES: Are you suggesting?— MACLEAN: Maybe it’s myself. I was captain of the ‘Mary Garside’. Maybe you, Sir James. Maybe he holds one of us responsible for the parting of that lifeboat’s falls, for the ship going down, and— JAMES: I advise you to be careful, Maclean. MACLEAN: But we’re agreed it’s just a delusion the poor fellow has. Neither of us could have wanted the ‘Mary Garside’ to founder. Eh, Sir James? GREER: Well, I’ll be turning in for an hour or two. My watch at midnight. As you’re sleeping alone, Sir James, perhaps you’d like the loan of a revolver. I’ve got a spare one here— (Sound of drawer being opened, revolver taken out and loaded) —not that I think you’ll need it. The chances are twenty to one against the chap being on board. And remember there’s a communicating door between your cabin and mine, in case you—(voice drowned by bellow of steam-whistle overhead) JAMES: Presumably some sort of watch will be kept on the decks? GREER: Surely. But if this fog thickens, it may not be so easy to— JAMES: Lot of damned poppycock. You’re all talking like a pack of old women. I’m off to bed. Tell the steward to call me at 7.30 sharp, Strangeways … You and your lunatics! (Door slams) NIGEL: I suppose the women have locked their door all right. GREER: I told them to, Mr Strangeways. Just to be on the safe side. (Fade in to women’s cabin. Stirring of bunks. Prolonged blast of steam-whistle overhead.) LAURA: Rocked in the bosom of the deep. What life! (Yawns) I wish I could go to sleep. You did lock the door, darling, didn’t you? ALICE: Yes, Laura. We’re quite safe in here. I wish Daddy hadn’t to go on the bridge tonight, though. (Faint sound of telegraph. Steam-whistle again.) LAURA: These marine noises get in my hair. Why must they keep blowing that hooter? We might as well be sleeping in the Zoo. ALICE: It’s not that. It’s because we’re afraid. I know Daddy told us they’d searched the ship and couldn’t find anyone: but we don’t really believe it yet. That’s why we can’t go to sleep. LAURA: You’ve said it, darling … Should we shut the port-hole, do you think? Just to be on the safe side? ALICE: If you like … No. No, please don’t. I hate feeling as if I was in prison. LAURA: Snap out of it, duckie—this is sheer claustrophobia. ALICE: Claustrophobia? (slight laugh) Is that what you call it? (half to herself) You don’t know what it’s like to be in prison. No hope of escape … Ever … But there is a way out— Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/bodies-from-the-library-lost-tales-of-mystery-and-suspense-by/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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