Сетевая библиотекаСетевая библиотека

Ordeal by Innocence

Ordeal by Innocence
Ordeal by Innocence Agatha Christie Evidence that clears the name of a boy sentenced for killing his adopted mother arrives too late to save his life – so who did kill her?According to the courts, Jacko Argyle bludgeoned his mother to death with a poker. The sentence was life imprisonmentBut when Dr Arthur Calgary turns up a year later with the proof that confirms Jacko’s innocence, he is too late – Jacko died behind bars from a bout of pneumonia.Worse still, the doctor’s revelations re-open old wounds in the family, increasing the likelihood that the real murderer will strike again… Agatha Christie Ordeal by Innocence Copyright Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) First published in Great Britain by Collins 1958 Copyright © 1958 Agatha Christie Ltd. All rights reserved. www.agathachristie.com (http://www.agathachristie.com/) Cover design by Mike Topping © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2018 Cover photographs by James Fisher © Agatha Christie Productions, 2018 Agatha Christie asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, 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 ebooks. HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication Source ISBN: 9780007154913 Ebook Edition © OCTOBER 2010 ISBN: 9780007422647 Version: 2018-08-13 To Billy Collins with affection and gratitude If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. I am afraid of all my sorrows. I know that Thou wilt not hold me innocent. Job Contents Cover (#ulink_d53ce783-7d5a-5175-b072-00b0a15509e8) Title Page Copyright Dedication Epigraph Chapter 1 It was dusk when he came to the Ferry. Chapter 2 It should have been a sensational announcement. Instead, it fell… Chapter 3 Hester went slowly up the stairs pushing back the dark… Chapter 4 Calgary said apologetically, ‘It’s very good of you to see… Chapter 5 The Chief Constable’s eyebrows climbed slowly up his forehead in… Chapter 6 The lights went up in the cinema. Advertisements flashed on… Chapter 7 Dr MacMaster was an old man with bushy eyebrows, shrewd grey… Chapter 8 Hester Argyle was looking at herself in the glass. There was… Chapter 9 Calgary had only been gone a few minutes when Dr MacMaster… Chapter 10 ‘I’m sure, Marshall, that you’ll appreciate my reasons for asking… Chapter 11 Night settled down on Sunny Point. Chapter 12 In her spotlessly kept bedroom, Kirsten Lindstrom plaited her grizzled blonde… Chapter 13 Superintendent Huish looked round on them all, gently and politely. Chapter 14 ‘Don’t suppose you got anything?’ said the Chief Constable. Chapter 15 ‘But I don’t want to go home just yet,’ said… Chapter 16 ‘Do you mind if I stay on a bit, Dad?’… Chapter 17 ‘And what are you doing, Hester, my love?’ asked Philip. Chapter 18 ‘There’s a young lady down below wanting to see you,… Chapter 19 ‘I want to talk to you, Kirsty,’ said Philip. Chapter 20 Calgary and Huish looked at each other. Calgary saw what… Chapter 21 There had been nothing to tell Philip Durrant that this day… Chapter 22 Tina parked her car on the grass by the churchyard… Chapter 23 In his hotel room, Arthur Calgary went over and over the… Chapter 24 It was again dusk when Arthur Calgary came to Sunny Point… Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo) About the Author Other Books by Agatha Christie About the Publisher Chapter 1 I It was dusk when he came to the Ferry. He could have been there much earlier. The truth was, he had put it off as long as he could. First his luncheon with friends in Redquay; the light desultory conversation, the interchange of gossip about mutual friends–all that had meant only that he was inwardly shrinking from what he had to do. His friends had invited him to stay on for tea and he had accepted. But at last the time had come when he knew that he could put things off no longer. The car he had hired was waiting. He said goodbye and left to drive the seven miles along the crowded coast road and then inland down the wooded lane that ended at the little stone quay on the river. There was a large bell there which his driver rang vigorously to summon the ferry from the far side. ‘You won’t be wanting me to wait, sir?’ ‘No,’ said Arthur Calgary. ‘I’ve ordered a car to meet me over there in an hour’s time–to take me to Drymouth.’ The man received his fare and tip. He said, peering across the river in the gloom: ‘Ferry’s coming now, sir.’ With a soft-spoken goodnight he reversed the car and drove away up the hill. Arthur Calgary was left alone waiting on the quayside. Alone with his thoughts and his apprehension of what was in front of him. How wild the scenery was here, he thought. One could fancy oneself on a Scottish loch, far from anywhere. And yet, only a few miles away, were the hotels, the shops, the cocktail bars and the crowds of Redquay. He reflected, not for the first time, on the extraordinary contrasts of the English landscape. He heard the soft plash of the oars as the ferry boat drew in to the side of the little quay. Arthur Calgary walked down the sloping ramp and got into the boat as the ferryman steadied it with a boathook. He was an old man and gave Calgary the fanciful impression that he and his boat belonged together, were one and indivisible. A little cold wind came rustling up from the sea as they pushed off. ‘’Tis chilly this evening,’ said the ferryman. Calgary replied suitably. He further agreed that it was colder than yesterday. He was conscious, or thought he was conscious, of a veiled curiosity in the ferryman’s eyes. Here was a stranger. And a stranger after the close of the tourist season proper. Moreover, this stranger was crossing at an unusual hour–too late for tea at the café by the pier. He had no luggage so he could not be coming to stay. (Why, Calgary wondered, had he come so late in the day? Was it really because, subconsciously, he had been putting this moment off? Leaving as late as possible, the thing that had to be done?) Crossing the Rubicon–the river…the river…his mind went back to that other river–the Thames. He had stared at it unseeingly (was it only yesterday?) then turned to look again at the man facing him across the table. Those thoughtful eyes with something in them that he had not quite been able to understand. A reserve, something that was being thought but not expressed… ‘I suppose,’ he thought, ‘they learn never to show what they are thinking.’ The whole thing was pretty frightful when one came right down to it. He must do what had to be done–and after that–forget! He frowned as he remembered the conversation yesterday. That pleasant, quiet, non-committal voice, saying: ‘You’re quite determined on your course of action, Dr Calgary?’ He had answered, hotly: ‘What else can I do? Surely you see that? You must agree? It’s a thing I can’t possibly shirk.’ But he hadn’t understood the look in those withdrawn grey eyes, and had been faintly perplexed by the answer. ‘One has to look all around a subject–consider it from all aspects.’ ‘Surely there can be only one aspect from the point of view of justice?’ He had spoken hotly, thinking for a moment that this was an ignoble suggestion of ‘hushing up’ the matter. ‘In a way, yes. But there’s more to it than that, you know. More than–shall we say–justice?’ ‘I don’t agree. There’s the family to consider.’ And the other had said quickly: ‘Quite–oh, yes–quite. I was thinking of them.’ Which seemed to Calgary nonsense! Because if one were thinking of them– But immediately the other man had said, his pleasant voice unchanged: ‘It’s entirely up to you, Dr Calgary. You must, of course, do exactly as you feel you have to do.’ The boat grounded on the beach. He had crossed the Rubicon. The ferryman’s soft West Country voice said: ‘That will be fourpence, sir, or do you want a return?’ ‘No,’ Calgary said. ‘There will be no return.’ (How fateful the words sounded!) He paid. Then he asked: ‘Do you know a house called Sunny Point?’ Immediately the curiosity ceased to be veiled. The interest in the old man’s eyes leaped up avidly. ‘Why, surely. ’Tis there, up along to your right–you can just see it through them trees. You go up the hill and along the road to the right, and then take the new road through the building estate. ’Tis the last house–at the very end.’ ‘Thank you.’ ‘You did say Sunny Point, sir? Where Mrs Argyle–’ ‘Yes, yes–’ Calgary cut him short. He didn’t want to discuss the matter. ‘Sunny Point.’ A slow and rather peculiar smile twisted the ferryman’s lips. He looked suddenly like an ancient sly faun. ‘It was her called the house that–in the war. It were a new house, of course, only just been built–hadn’t got a name. But the ground ’tis built on–that wooded spit–Viper’s Point, that is! But Viper’s Point wouldn’t do for her–not for the name of her house. Called it Sunny Point, she did. But Viper’s Point’s what we allus call it.’ Calgary thanked him brusquely, said good evening, and started up the hill. Everyone seemed to be inside their houses, but he had the fancy that unseen eyes were peering through the windows of the cottages; all watching him with the knowledge of where he was going. Saying to each other, ‘He’s going to Viper’s Point…’ Viper’s Point. What a horrible apposite name that must have seemed… For sharper than a serpent’s tooth… He checked his thoughts brusquely. He must pull himself together and make up his mind exactly what he was going to say… II Calgary came to the end of the nice new road with the nice new houses on either side of it, each with its eighth of an acre of garden; rock plants, chrysanthemums, roses, salvias, geraniums, each owner displaying his or her individual garden taste. At the end of the road was a gate with SUNNY POINT in Gothic letters on it. He opened the gate, passed through, and went along a short drive. The house was there ahead of him, a well-built, characterless modern house, gabled and porched. It might have stood on any good-class suburban site, or a new development anywhere. It was unworthy, in Calgary’s opinion, of its view. For the view was magnificent. The river here curved sharply round the point almost turning back on itself. Wooded hills rose opposite; up-stream to the left was a further bend of the river with meadows and orchards in the distance. Calgary looked for a moment up and down the river. One should have built a castle here, he thought, an impossible, ridiculous, fairy tale castle! The sort of castle that might be made of gingerbread or of frosted sugar. Instead there was good taste, restraint, moderation, plenty of money and absolutely no imagination. For that, naturally, one did not blame the Argyles. They had only bought the house, not built it. Still, they or one of them (Mrs Argyle?) had chosen it… He said to himself: ‘You can’t put it off any longer…’ and pressed the electric bell beside the door. He stood there, waiting. After a decent interval he pressed the bell again. He heard no footsteps inside but, without warning, the door swung suddenly open. He moved back a step, startled. To his already overstimulated imagination, it seemed as though Tragedy herself stood there barring his way. It was a young face; indeed it was in the poignancy of its youth that tragedy had its very essence. The Tragic Mask, he thought, should always be a mask of youth…Helpless, fore-ordained, with doom approaching…from the future… Rallying himself, he thought, rationalizing: ‘Irish type.’ The deep blue of the eyes, the dark shadow round them, the upspringing black hair, the mournful beauty of the bones of the skull and cheekbones– The girl stood there, young, watchful and hostile. She said: ‘Yes? What do you want?’ He replied conventionally. ‘Is Mr Argyle in?’ ‘Yes. But he doesn’t see people. I mean, people he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know you, does he?’ ‘No. He doesn’t know me, but–’ She began to close the door. ‘Then you’d better write…’ ‘I’m sorry, but I particularly want to see him. Are you–Miss Argyle?’ She admitted it grudgingly. ‘I’m Hester Argyle, yes. But my father doesn’t see people–not without an appointment. You’d better write.’ ‘I’ve come a long way…’ She was unmoved. ‘They all say that. But I thought this kind of thing had stopped at last.’ She went on accusingly, ‘You’re a reporter, I suppose?’ ‘No, no, nothing of the sort.’ She eyed him suspiciously as though she did not believe him. ‘Well, what do you want then?’ Behind her, some way back in the hall, he saw another face. A flat homely face. Describing it, he would have called it a face like a pancake, the face of a middle-aged woman, with frizzy yellowish grey hair plastered on top of her head. She seemed to hover, waiting, like a watchful dragon. ‘It concerns your brother, Miss Argyle.’ Hester Argyle drew in her breath sharply. She said, without belief, ‘Michael?’ ‘No, your brother Jack.’ She burst out: ‘I knew it! I knew you’d come about Jacko! Why can’t you leave us in peace? It’s all over and finished with. Why go on about it?’ ‘You can never really say that anything is finished.’ ‘But this is finished! Jacko is dead. Why can’t you let him be? All that’s over. If you’re not a journalist, I suppose you’re a doctor, or a psychologist, or something. Please go away. My father can’t be disturbed. He’s busy.’ She began to close the door. In a hurry, Calgary did what he ought to have done at first, pulled out the letter from his pocket and thrust it towards her. ‘I have a letter here–from Mr Marshall.’ She was taken aback. Her fingers closed doubtfully on the envelope. She said uncertainly: ‘From Mr Marshall–in London?’ She was joined now suddenly by the middle-aged woman who had been lurking in the recesses of the hall. She peered at Calgary suspiciously and he was reminded of foreign convents. Of course, this should have been a nun’s face! It demanded the crisp white coif or whatever you called it, framed tightly round the face, and the black habit and veil. It was the face, not of a contemplative, but of the lay-sister who peers at you suspiciously through the little opening in the thick door, before grudgingly admitting you and taking you to the visiting parlour, or to Reverend Mother. She said: ‘You come from Mr Marshall?’ She made it almost an accusation. Hester was staring down at the envelope in her hand. Then, without a word, she turned and ran up the stairs. Calgary remained on the doorstep, sustaining the accusing and suspicious glance of the dragon-cum-lay-sister. He cast about for something to say, but he could not think of anything. Prudently, therefore, he remained silent. Presently Hester’s voice, cool and aloof, floated down to them. ‘Father says he’s to come up.’ Somewhat unwillingly, his watchdog moved aside. Her expression of suspicion did not alter. He passed her, laid his hat on a chair, and mounted the stairs to where Hester stood waiting for him. The inside of the house struck him as vaguely hygienic. It could almost, he thought, have been an expensive nursing home. Hester led him along a passage and down three steps. Then she threw open a door and gestured to him to pass through it. She came in behind him, closing the door after her. The room was a library, and Calgary raised his head with a sense of pleasure. The atmosphere of this room was quite different from the rest of the house. This was a room where a man lived, where he both worked and took his ease. The walls were lined with books, the chairs were large, rather shabby, but easeful. There was a pleasant disorder of papers on the desk, of books lying about on tables. He had a momentary glimpse of a young woman who was leaving the room by a door at the far end, rather an attractive young woman. Then his attention was taken by the man who rose and came to greet him, the open letter in his hand. Calgary’s first impression of Leo Argyle was that he was so attenuated, so transparent, as hardly to be there at all. A wraith of a man! His voice when he spoke was pleasant, though lacking in resonance. ‘Dr Calgary?’ he said. ‘Do sit down.’ Calgary sat. He accepted a cigarette. His host sat down opposite him. All was done without hurry, as though in a world where time meant very little. There was a faint gentle smile on Leo Argyle’s face as he spoke, tapping the letter gently with a bloodless finger as he did so. ‘Mr Marshall writes that you have an important communication to make to us, though he doesn’t specify its nature.’ His smile deepened as he added: ‘Lawyers are always so careful not to commit themselves, aren’t they?’ It occurred to Calgary with a faint shock of surprise, that this man confronting him was a happy man. Not buoyantly or zestfully happy, as is the normal way of happiness–but happy in some shadowy but satisfactory retreat of his own. This was a man on whom the outer world did not impinge and who was contented that this should be so. He did not know why he should be surprised by this–but he was. Calgary said: ‘It is very kind of you to see me.’ The words were a mere mechanical introduction. ‘I thought it better to come in person than to write.’ He paused–then said in a sudden rush of agitation, ‘It is difficult–very difficult…’ ‘Do take your time.’ Leo Argyle was still polite and remote. He leaned forward; in his gentle way he was obviously trying to help. ‘Since you bring this letter from Marshall, I presume that your visit has to do with my unfortunate son Jacko–Jack, I mean–Jacko was our own name for him.’ All Calgary’s carefully prepared words and phrases had deserted him. He sat here, faced with the appalling reality of what he had to tell. He stammered again. ‘It’s so terribly difficult…’ There was a moment’s silence, and then Leo said cautiously: ‘If it helps you–we’re quite aware that Jacko was–hardly a normal personality. Nothing that you have to tell us will be likely to surprise us. Terrible as the tragedy was, I have been fully convinced all along that Jacko was not really responsible for his actions.’ ‘Of course he wasn’t.’ It was Hester, and Calgary started at the sound of her voice. He had momentarily forgotten about her. She had sat down on the arm of a chair just behind his left shoulder. As he turned his head, she leaned forward eagerly towards him. ‘Jacko was always awful,’ she said confidentially. ‘He was just the same as a little boy–when he lost his temper, I mean. Just caught up anything he could find and–and went for you…’ ‘Hester–Hester–my dear.’ Argyle’s voice was distressed. Startled, the girl’s hand flew to her lips. She flushed and spoke with the sudden awkwardness of youth. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I didn’t mean–I forgot–I–I oughtn’t to have said a thing like that–not now that he’s–I mean, now that it’s all over and…and…’ ‘Over and done with,’ said Argyle. ‘All of this is in the past. I try–we all try–to feel that the boy must be regarded as an invalid. One of Nature’s misfits. That, I think, expresses it best.’ He looked at Calgary. ‘You agree?’ ‘No,’ said Calgary. There was a moment’s silence. The sharp negative had taken both his listeners aback. It had come out with almost explosive force. Trying to mitigate its effect, he said awkwardly: ‘I–I’m sorry. You see, you don’t understand yet.’ ‘Oh!’ Argyle seemed to consider. Then he turned his head towards his daughter. ‘Hester, I think perhaps you’d better leave us–’ ‘I’m not going away! I’ve got to hear–to know what it’s all about.’ ‘It may be unpleasant–’ Hester cried out impatiently: ‘What does it matter what other awful things Jacko may have done? That’s all over.’ Calgary spoke quickly. ‘Please believe me–there is no question of anything that your brother has done–quite the opposite.’ ‘I don’t see–’ The door at the far end of the room opened and the young woman whom Calgary had just glimpsed earlier came back into the room. She wore an outdoor coat now, and carried a small attaché-case. She spoke to Argyle. ‘I’m going now. Is there anything else–’ There was a momentary hesitation on Argyle’s part (he would always hesitate, Calgary thought) and then he laid a hand on her arm and drew her forward. ‘Sit down, Gwenda,’ he said. ‘This is–er–Dr Calgary. This is Miss Vaughan, who is who is–’ Again he paused as though in doubt. ‘Who has been my secretary for some years now.’ He added: ‘Dr Calgary has come to tell us something–or–ask us something–about Jacko–’ ‘To tell you something,’ Calgary interrupted. ‘And although you don’t realize it, every moment you are making it more difficult for me.’ They all looked at him in some surprise, but in Gwenda Vaughan’s eyes, he saw a flicker of something that looked like comprehension. It was as though he and she were momentarily in alliance, as though she had said: ‘Yes–I know how difficult the Argyles can be.’ She was an attractive young woman, he thought, though not so very young–perhaps thirty-seven or eight. A well-rounded figure, dark hair and eyes, a general air of vitality and good health. She gave the impression of being both competent and intelligent. Argyle said with a frosty touch in his manner: ‘I am not at all aware of making things difficult for you, Dr Calgary. Such was certainly not my intention. If you will come to the point–’ ‘Yes, I know. Forgive me for saying what I did. But it is the persistence with which you–and your daughter–are continually underlining that things are now over–done with–finished. They are not over. Who is it who said: “Nothing is ever settled until–”’ ‘“Until it is settled right,”’ Miss Vaughan finished for him. ‘Kipling.’ She nodded at him encouragingly. He felt grateful to her. ‘But I’ll come to the point,’ Calgary went on. ‘When you’ve heard what I have to say, you’ll understand my–my reluctance. More, my distress. To begin with, I must mention a few things about myself. I am a geophysicist, and have recently formed part of an Antarctic expedition. I only returned to England a few weeks ago.’ ‘The Hayes Bentley Expedition?’ asked Gwenda. He turned towards her gratefully. ‘Yes. It was the Hayes Bentley Expedition. I tell you this to explain my background, and also to explain that I have been out of touch for about two years with–with current events.’ She went on helping him: ‘You mean–with such things as murder trials?’ ‘Yes, Miss Vaughan, that is exactly what I mean.’ He turned to Argyle. ‘Please forgive me if this is painful, but I must just check over with you certain times and dates. On November 9th, the year before last, at about six o’clock in the evening, your son, Jack Argyle (Jacko to you), called here and had an interview with his mother, Mrs Argyle.’ ‘My wife, yes.’ ‘He told her that he was in trouble and demanded money. This had happened before–’ ‘Many times,’ said Leo with a sigh. ‘Mrs Argyle refused. He became abusive, threatening. Finally he flung away and left, shouting out that he was coming back and that she had “jolly well got to stump up”. He said, “You don’t want me to go to prison, do you?” and she replied, “I am beginning to believe that it may be the best thing for you.”’ Leo Argyle moved uneasily. ‘My wife and I had talked it over together. We were–very unhappy about the boy. Again and again we had come to his rescue, tried to give him a fresh start. It had seemed to us that perhaps the shock of a prison sentence–the training–’ His voice died away. ‘But please go on.’ Calgary went on: ‘Later that evening, your wife was killed. Attacked with a poker and struck down. Your son’s fingerprints were on the poker, and a large sum of money was gone from the bureau drawer where your wife had placed it earlier. The police picked up your son in Drymouth. The money was found on him, most of it was in five-pound notes, one of which had a name and address written on it which enabled it to be identified by the bank as one that had been paid out to Mrs Argyle that morning. He was charged and stood his trial.’ Calgary paused. ‘The verdict was wilful murder.’ It was out–the fateful word. Murder…Not an echoing word; a stifled word, a word that got absorbed into the hangings, the books, the pile carpet…The word could be stifled–but not the act… ‘I have been given to understand by Mr Marshall, the solicitor for the defence, that your son protested his innocence when arrested, in a cheery, not to say cocksure manner. He insisted that he had a perfect alibi for the time of the murder which was placed by the police at between seven and seven-thirty. At that time, Jack Argyle said, he was hitch-hiking into Drymouth, having been picked up by a car on the main road from Redmyn to Drymouth about a mile from here just before seven. He didn’t know the make of the car (it was dark by then) but it was a black or dark blue saloon driven by a middle-aged man. Every effort was made to trace this car and the man who drove it, but no confirmation of his statement could be obtained, and the lawyers themselves were quite convinced that it was a story hastily fabricated by the boy and not very cleverly fabricated at that… ‘At the trial the main line of defence was the evidence of psychologists who sought to prove that Jack Argyle had always been mentally unstable. The judge was somewhat scathing in his comments on this evidence and summed up dead against the prisoner. Jack Argyle was sentenced to imprisonment for life. He died of pneumonia in prison six months after he began to serve his sentence.’ Calgary stopped. Three pairs of eyes were fastened on him. Interest and close attention in Gwenda Vaughan’s,, suspicion still in Hester’s. Leo Argyle’s seemed blank. Calgary said, ‘You will confirm that I have stated the facts correctly?’ ‘You are perfectly correct,’ said Leo, ‘though I do not yet see why it has been necessary to go over painful facts which we are all trying to forget.’ ‘Forgive me. I had to do so. You do not, I gather, dissent from the verdict?’ ‘I admit that the facts were as stated–that is, if you do not go behind the facts, it was, crudely, murder. But if you do go behind the facts, there is much to be said in mitigation. The boy was mentally unstable, though unfortunately not in the legal sense of the term. The McNaughten rules are narrow and unsatisfactory. I assure you, Dr Calgary, that Rachel herself–my late wife, I mean–would have been the first to forgive and excuse that unfortunate boy for his rash act. She was a most advanced and humane thinker and had a profound knowledge of pyschological factors. She would not have condemned.’ ‘She knew just how awful Jacko could be,’ said Hester. ‘He always was–he just didn’t seem able to help it.’ ‘So you all,’ said Calgary slowly, ‘had no doubts? No doubts of his guilt, I mean.’ Hester stared. ‘How could we? Of course he was guilty.’ ‘Not really guilty,’ Leo dissented. ‘I don’t like that word.’ ‘It isn’t a true word, either.’ Calgary took a deep breath. ‘Jack Argyle was–innocent!’ Chapter 2 It should have been a sensational announcement. Instead, it fell flat. Calgary had expected bewilderment, incredulous gladness struggling with incomprehension, eager questions…There was none of that. There seemed only wariness and suspicion. Gwenda Vaughan was frowning. Hester stared at him with dilated eyes. Well, perhaps it was natural–such an announcement was hard to take in all at once. Leo Argyle said hesitantly: ‘You mean, Dr Calgary, that you agree with my attitude? You don’t feel he was responsible for his actions?’ ‘I mean he didn’t do it! Can’t you take it in, man? He didn’t do it. He couldn’t have done it. But for the most extraordinary and unfortunate combination of circumstances he could have proved that he was innocent. I could have proved that he was innocent.’ ‘You?’ ‘I was the man in the car.’ He said it so simply that for the moment they did not take it in. Before they could recover themselves, there was an interruption. The door opened and the woman with the homely face marched in. She spoke directly and to the point. ‘I hear as I am passing the door outside. This man is saying that Jacko did not kill Mrs Argyle. Why does he say this? How does he know?’ Her face, which had been militant and fierce, suddenly seemed to pucker. ‘I must hear too,’ she said piteously. ‘I cannot stay outside and not know.’ ‘Of course not, Kirsty. You’re one of the family.’ Leo Argyle introduced her. ‘Miss Lindstrom, Dr Calgary. Dr Calgary is saying the most incredible things.’ Calgary was puzzled by the Scottish name of Kirsty. Her English was excellent but a faint foreign intonation remained. She spoke accusingly to him. ‘You should not come here and say things like that–upsetting people. They have accepted tribulation. Now you upset them by what you tell. What happened was the will of God.’ He was repelled by the glib complacence of her statement. Possibly, he thought, she was one of those ghoulish people who positively welcome disaster. Well, she was going to be deprived of all that. He spoke in a quick, dry voice. ‘At five minutes to seven on that evening, I picked up a young man on the main Redmyn to Drymouth road who was thumbing for a lift. I drove him into Drymouth. We talked. He was, I thought, an engaging and likeable young man.’ ‘Jacko had great charm,’ said Gwenda. ‘Everyone found him attractive. It was his temper let him down. And he was crooked, of course,’ she added thoughtfully. ‘But people didn’t find that out for some time.’ Miss Lindstorm turned on her. ‘You should not speak so when he is dead.’ Leo Argyle said with a faint asperity: ‘Please go on, Dr Calgary. Why didn’t you come forward at the time?’ ‘Yes.’ Hester’s voice sounded breathless. ‘Why did you skulk away from it all? There were appeals in the paper–advertisements. How could you be so selfish, so wicked–’ ‘Hester–Hester–’ her father checked her. ‘Dr Calgary is still telling us his story.’ Calgary addressed the girl direct. ‘I know only too well how you feel. I know what I feel myself–what I shall always feel…’ He pulled himself together and went on: ‘To continue with my story: There was a lot of traffic on the roads that evening. It was well after half past seven when I dropped the young man, whose name I did not know, in the middle of Drymouth. That, I understand, clears him completely, since the police are quite definite that the crime was committed between seven and half past.’ ‘Yes,’ said Hester. ‘But you–’ ‘Please be patient. To make you understand, I must go back a little. I had been staying in Drymouth for a couple of days in a friend’s flat. This friend, a naval man, was at sea. He had also lent me his car which he kept in a private lock-up. On this particular day, November the 9th, I was due to return to London. I decided to go up by the evening train and to spend the afternoon seeing an old nurse of whom our family were very fond and who lived in a little cottage at Polgarth about forty miles west of Drymouth. I carried out my programme. Though very old and inclined to wander in her mind, she recognized me and was very pleased to see me, and quite excited because she had read in the papers about my “going to the Pole”, as she put it. I stayed only a short time, so as not to tire her, and on leaving decided not to return direct to Drymouth along the coast road as I had come, but instead to go north to Redmyn and see old Canon Peasmarsh, who has some very rare books in his library, including an early treatise on navigation from which I was anxious to copy a passage. The old gentleman refuses to have the telephone which he regards as a device of the devil, and on a par with radio, television, cinema organs and jet planes, so I had to take a chance of finding him at home. I was unlucky. His house was shuttered and he was evidently away. I spent a little time in the Cathedral, and then started back to Drymouth by the main road, thus completing the third side of a triangle. I had left myself comfortable time to pick up my bag from the flat, return the car to its lock-up, and catch my train. ‘On the way, as I have told you, I picked up an unknown hitch-hiker, and after dropping him in the town, I carried out my own programme. After arrival at the station, I still had time in hand, and I went outside the station into the main street to get some cigarettes. As I crossed the road a lorry came round a corner at high speed and knocked me down. ‘According to the accounts of passers-by, I got up, apparently uninjured and behaving quite normally. I said I was quite all right and that I had a train to catch and hurried back to the station. When the train arrived at Paddington I was unconscious and taken by ambulance to hospital, where I was found to be suffering from concussion–apparently this delayed effect is not uncommon. ‘When I regained consciousness, some days later, I remembered nothing of the accident, or of coming to London. The last thing I could remember was starting out to visit my old nurse at Polgarth. After that, a complete blank. I was reassured by being told that such an occurrence is quite common. There seemed no reason to believe that the missing hours in my life were of any importance. Neither I myself, nor anyone else, had the faintest idea that I had driven along the Redmyn–Drymouth road that evening. ‘There was only a very narrow margin of time before I was due to leave England. I was kept in hospital, in absolute quiet, with no newspapers. On leaving I drove straight to the airport to fly to Australia and to join up with the Expedition. There was some doubt as to whether I was fit to go, but this I overruled. I was far too busy with my preparations and anxieties to take any interest in reports of murders, and in any case excitement died down after the arrest, and by the time the case came to trial and was fully reported, I was on my way to the Antarctic.’ He paused. They were listening to him with close attention. ‘It was about a month ago, just after my return to England, that I made the discovery. I wanted some old newspapers for packing specimens. My landlady brought me up a pile of old papers out of her stokehold. Spreading one out on the table I saw the reproduced photograph of a young man whose face seemed very familiar to me. I tried to remember where I had met him and who he was. I could not do so and yet, very strangely, I remember holding a conversation with him–it had been about eels. He had been intrigued and fascinated by hearing the saga of an eel’s life. But when? Where? I read the paragraph, read that this young man was Jack Argyle, accused of murder, read that he had told the police that he had been given a lift by a man in a black saloon car. ‘And then, quite suddenly, that lost bit of my life came back. I had picked up this selfsame young man, and driven him into Drymouth, parting from him there, going back to the flat–crossing the street on foot to buy my cigarettes. I remembered just a glimpse of the lorry as it hit me–after that, nothing until hospital. I still had no memory of going to the station and taking the train to London. I read and re-read the paragraph. The trial was over a year ago, the case almost forgotten. “A young fellow what did his mother in,” my landlady remembered vaguely. “Don’t know what happened–think they hanged him.” I read up the files of the newspapers for the appropriate dates, then I went to Marshall & Marshall, who had been the lawyers for the defence. I learned that I was too late to free the unfortunate boy. He had died of pneumonia in prison. Though justice could no longer be done to him, justice could be done to his memory. I went with Mr Marshall to the police. The case is being laid before the Public Prosecutor. Marshall has little doubt that he will refer it to the Home Secretary. ‘You will, of course, receive a full report from him. He has only delayed it because I was anxious to be the one who first acquainted you with the truth. I felt that that was an ordeal it was my duty to go through. You understand, I am sure, that I shall always feel a deep load of guilt. If I had been more careful crossing the street–’ He broke off. ‘I understand that your feelings towards me can never be kindly–though I am, technically, blameless–you, all of you, must blame me.’ Gwenda Vaughan said quickly, her voice warm and kindly: ‘Of course we don’t blame you. It’s just–one of those things. Tragic–incredible–but there it is.’ Hester said: ‘Did they believe you?’ He looked at her in surprise. ‘The police–did they believe you? Why shouldn’t you be making it all up?’ He smiled a little in spite of himself. ‘I’m a very reputable witness,’ he said gently. ‘I have no axe to grind, and they have gone into my story very closely; medical evidence, various corroborating details from Drymouth. Oh, yes. Marshall was cautious, of course, like all lawyers. He didn’t want to raise your hopes until he was pretty certain of success.’ Leo Argyle stirred in his chair and spoke for the first time. ‘What exactly do you mean by success?’ ‘I apologize,’ said Calgary quickly. ‘That is not a word that can rightly be used. Your son was accused of a crime he did not commit, was tried for it, condemned–and died in prison. Justice has come too late for him. But such justice as can be done, almost certainly will be done, and will be seen to be done. The Home Secretary will probably advise the Queen that a free pardon should be granted.’ Hester laughed. ‘A free pardon–for something he didn’t do?’ ‘I know. The terminology always seems unrealistic. But I understand that the custom is for a question to be asked in the House, the reply to which will make it clear that Jack Argyle did not commit the crime for which he was sentenced, and the newspapers will report that fact freely.’ He stopped. Nobody spoke. It had been, he supposed, a great shock to them. But after all, a happy one. He rose to his feet. ‘I’m afraid,’ he said uncertainly, ‘that there is nothing more that I can say…To repeat how sorry I am, how unhappy about it all, to ask your forgiveness–all that you must already know only too well. The tragedy that ended his life, has darkened my own. But at least’–he spoke with pleading–‘surely it means something–to know that he didn’t do this awful thing–that his name–your name–will be cleared in the eyes of the world…?’ If he hoped for a reply he did not get one. Leo Argyle sat slumped in his chair. Gwenda’s eyes were on Leo’s face. Hester sat staring ahead of her, her eyes wide and tragic. Miss Lindstrom grunted something under her breath and shook her head. Calgary stood helplessly by the door, looking back at them. It was Gwenda Vaughan who took charge of the situation. She came up to him and laid a hand on his arm, saying in a low voice: ‘You’d better go now, Dr Calgary. It’s been too much of a shock. They must have time to take it in.’ He nodded and went out. On the landing Miss Lindstrom joined him. ‘I will let you out,’ she said. He was conscious, looking back before the door closed behind him, of Gwenda Vaughan slipping to her knees by Leo Argyle’s chair. It surprised him a little. Facing him, on the landing, Miss Lindstrom stood like a Guardsman and spoke harshly. ‘You cannot bring him back to life. So why bring it all back into their minds? Till now, they were resigned. Now they will suffer. It is better, always, to leave well alone.’ She spoke with displeasure. ‘His memory must be cleared,’ said Arthur Calgary. ‘Fine sentiments! They are all very well. But you do not really think of what it all means. Men, they never think.’ She stamped her foot. ‘I love them all. I came here, to help Mrs Argyle, in 1940–when she started here a war nursery–for children whose homes had been bombed. Nothing was too good for those children. Everything was done for them. That is nearly eighteen years ago. And still, even after she is dead, I stay here–to look after them–to keep the house clean and comfortable, to see they get good food. I love them all–yes, I love them…and Jacko–he was no good! Oh yes, I loved him too. But–he was no good!’ She turned abruptly away. It seemed she had forgotten her offer to show him out. Calgary descended the stairs slowly. As he was fumbling with the front door which had a safety lock he did not understand, he heard light footsteps on the stairs. Hester came flying down them. She unlatched the door and opened it. They stood looking at each other. He understood less than ever why she faced him with that tragic reproachful stare. She said, only just breathing the words: ‘Why did you come? Oh, why ever did you come?’ He looked at her helplessly. ‘I don’t understand you. Don’t you want your brother’s name cleared? Don’t you want him to have justice?’ ‘Oh, justice!’ She threw the word at him. He repeated: ‘I don’t understand…’ ‘Going on so about justice! What does it matter to Jacko now? He’s dead. It’s not Jacko who matters. It’s us!’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent.’ She caught his arm, digging her fingers into it. ‘It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?’ He stared at her. Out of the darkness outside, a man’s figure loomed up. ‘Dr Calgary?’ he said. ‘Your taxi’s here, sir. To drive you to Drymouth.’ ‘Oh–er–thank you.’ Calgary turned once more to Hester, but she had withdrawn into the house. The front door banged. Chapter 3 I Hester went slowly up the stairs pushing back the dark hair from her high forehead. Kirsten Lindstrom met her at the top of the stairs. ‘Has he gone?’ ‘Yes, he’s gone.’ ‘You have had a shock, Hester.’ Kirsten Lindstrom laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. ‘Come with me. I will give you a little brandy. All this, it has been too much.’ ‘I don’t think I want any brandy, Kirsty.’ ‘Perhaps you do not want it, but it will be good for you.’ Unresisting, the young girl allowed herself to be steered along the passage and into Kirsten Lindstrom’s own small sitting-room. She took the brandy that was offered her and sipped it slowly. Kirsten Lindstrom said in an exasperated voice: ‘It has all been too sudden. There should have been warning. Why did not Mr Marshall write first?’ ‘I suppose Dr Calgary wouldn’t let him. He wanted to come and tell us himself.’ ‘Come and tell us himself, indeed! What does he think the news will do to us?’ ‘I suppose,’ said Hester, in an odd, toneless voice, ‘he thought we should be pleased.’ ‘Pleased or not pleased, it was bound to be a shock. He should not have done it.’ ‘But it was brave of him, in a way,’ said Hester. The colour came up in her face. ‘I mean, it can’t have been an easy thing to do. To come and tell a family of people that a member of it who was condemned for murder and died in prison was really innocent. Yes, I think it was brave of him–but I wish he hadn’t all the same,’ she added. ‘That–we all wish that,’ said Miss Lindstrom briskly. Hester looked at her with her interest suddenly aroused from her own preoccupation. ‘So you feel that too, Kirsty? I thought perhaps it was only me.’ ‘I am not a fool,’ said Miss Lindstrom sharply. ‘I can envisage certain possibilities that your Dr Calgary does not seem to have thought about.’ Hester rose. ‘I must go to Father,’ she said. Kirsten Lindstrom agreed. ‘Yes. He will have had time now to think what is best to be done.’ As Hester went into the library Gwenda Vaughan was busy with the telephone. Her father beckoned to her and Hester went over and sat on the arm of his chair. ‘We’re trying to get through to Mary and to Micky,’ he said. ‘They ought to be told at once of this.’ ‘Hallo,’ said Gwenda Vaughan. ‘Is that Mrs Durrant? Mary? Gwenda Vaughan here. Your father wants to speak to you.’ Leo went over and took up the receiver. ‘Mary? How are you? How is Philip?…Good. Something rather extraordinary has happened…I thought you ought to be told of it at once. A Dr Calgary has just been to see us. He brought a letter from Andrew Marshall with him. It’s about Jacko. It seems–really a very extraordinary thing altogether–it seems that that story Jacko told at the trial, of having been given a lift into Drymouth in somebody’s car, is perfectly true. This Dr Calgary was the man who gave him the lift…’ He broke off, as he listened to what his daughter was saying at the other end. ‘Yes, well, Mary, I won’t go into all the details now as to why he didn’t come forward at the time. He had an accident–concussion. The whole thing seems to be perfectly well authenticated. I rang up to say that I think we should all have a meeting here together as soon as possible. Perhaps we could get Marshall to come down and talk the matter over with us. We ought, I think, to have the best legal advice. Could you and Philip?…Yes…Yes, I know. But I really think, my dear, that it’s important…Yes…well ring me up later, if you like. I must try and get hold of Micky.’ He replaced the receiver. Gwenda Vaughan came towards the telephone. ‘Shall I try and get Micky now?’ Hester said: ‘If this is going to take a little time, could I ring up first, please, Gwenda? I want to ring up Donald.’ ‘Of course,’ said Leo. ‘You are going out with him this evening, aren’t you?’ ‘I was,’ said Hester. Her father gave her a sharp glance. ‘Has this upset you very much, darling?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Hester. ‘I don’t know quite what I feel.’ Gwenda made way for her at the telephone and Hester dialled a number. ‘Could I speak to Dr Craig, please? Yes. Yes. Hester Argyle speaking.’ There was a moment or two of delay and then she said: ‘Is that you, Donald?…I rang up to say that I don’t think I can come with you to the lecture tonight…No, I’m not ill–it’s not that, it’s just–well, just that we’ve–we’ve had some rather queer news.’ Again Dr Craig spoke. Hester turned her head towards her father. She laid her hand over the receiver and said to him: ‘It isn’t a secret, is it?’ ‘No,’ said Leo slowly. ‘No, it isn’t exactly a secret but–well, I should just ask Donald to keep it to himself for the present, perhaps. You know how rumours get around, get magnified.’ ‘Yes, I know.’ She spoke again into the receiver. ‘In a way I suppose it’s what you’d call good news, Donald, but–it’s rather upsetting. I’d rather not talk about it over the telephone…No, no, don’t come here…Please not. Not this evening. Tomorrow some time. It’s about–Jacko. Yes–yes–my brother–it’s just that we’ve found out that he didn’t kill my mother after all…But please don’t say anything, Donald, or talk to anyone. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow…No, Donald, no…I just can’t see anyone this evening–not even you. Please. And don’t say anything.’ She put down the receiver, and motioned to Gwenda to take over. Gwenda asked for a Drymouth number. Leo said gently: ‘Why don’t you go to the lecture with Donald, Hester? It will take your mind off things.’ ‘I don’t want to, Father. I couldn’t.’ Leo said: ‘You spoke–you gave him the impression that it wasn’t good news. But you know, Hester, that’s not so. We were startled. But we’re all very happy about it–very glad…What else could we be?’ ‘That’s what we’re going to say, is it?’ said Hester. Leo said warningly: ‘My dear child–’ ‘But it’s not true, is it?’ said Hester. ‘It’s not good news. It’s just terribly upsetting.’ Gwenda said: ‘Micky’s on the line.’ Again Leo came and took the receiver from her. He spoke to his son very much as he had spoken to his daughter. But his news was received rather differently from the way it had been received by Mary Durrant. Here there was no protest, surprise or disbelief. Instead there was quick acceptance. ‘What the hell!’ said Micky’s voice. ‘After all this time? The missing witness! Well, well, Jacko’s luck was out that night.’ Leo spoke again. Micky listened. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I agree with you. We’d better get together as quickly as possible, and get Marshall to advise us, too.’ He gave a sudden quick laugh, the laugh that Leo remembered so well from the small boy who had played in the garden outside the window. ‘What’s the betting?’ he said. ‘Which of us did it?’ Leo dropped the receiver down and left the telephone abruptly. ‘What did he say?’ Gwenda asked. Leo told her. ‘It seems to me a silly sort of joke to make,’ said Gwenda. Leo shot a quick glance at her. ‘Perhaps,’ he said gently, ‘it wasn’t altogether a joke.’ II Mary Durrant crossed the room and picked up some fallen petals from a vase of chrysanthemums. She put them carefully into the waste-paper basket. She was a tall, serene-looking young woman of twenty-seven who, although her face was unlined, yet looked older than her years, probably from a sedate maturity that seemed part of her make-up. She had good looks, without a trace of glamour. Regular features, a good skin, eyes of a vivid blue, and fair hair combed off her face and arranged in a large bun at the back of her neck; a style which at the moment happened to be fashionable although that was not her reason for wearing it so. She was a woman who always kept to her own style. Her appearance was like her house; neat, well kept. Any kind of dust or disorder worried her. The man in the invalid chair watching her as she put the fallen petals carefully away, smiled a slightly twisted smile. ‘Same tidy creature,’ he said. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ He laughed, with a faint malicious note in the laugh. But Mary Durrant was quite undisturbed. ‘I do like things to be tidy,’ she agreed. ‘You know, Phil, you wouldn’t like it yourself if the house was like a shambles.’ Her husband said with a faint trace of bitterness: ‘Well, at any rate I haven’t got the chance of making it into one.’ Soon after their marriage, Philip Durrant had fallen a victim to polio of the paralytic type. To Mary, who adored him, he had become her child as well as her husband. He himself felt at times slightly embarrassed by her possessive love. His wife had not got the imagination to understand that her pleasure in his dependence upon her sometimes irked him. He went on now rather quickly, as though fearing some word of commiseration or sympathy from her. ‘I must say your father’s news beggars description! After all this time! How can you be so calm about it?’ ‘I suppose I can hardly take it in…It’s so extraordinary. At first I simply couldn’t believe what father was saying. If it had been Hester, now, I should have thought she’d imagined the whole thing. You know what Hester’s like.’ Philip Durrant’s face lost a little of its bitterness. He said softly: ‘A vehement passionate creature, setting out in life to look for trouble and certain to find it.’ Mary waved away the analysis. Other people’s characters did not interest her. She said doubtfully: ‘I suppose it’s true? You don’t think this man may have imagined it all?’ ‘The absent-minded scientist? It would be nice to think so,’ said Philip, ‘but it seems that Andrew Marshall has taken the matter seriously. And Marshall, Marshall & Marshall are a very hard-headed legal proposition, let me tell you.’ Mary Durrant said, frowning: ‘What will it actually mean, Phil?’ Philip said: ‘It means that Jacko will be completely exonerated. That is, if the authorities are satisfied–and I gather that there is going to be no question of anything else.’ ‘Oh, well,’ said Mary, with a slight sigh, ‘I suppose it’s all very nice.’ Philip Durrant laughed again, the same twisted, rather bitter laughter. ‘Polly!’ he said, ‘you’ll be the death of me.’ Only her husband had ever called Mary Durrant Polly. It was a name ludicrously inappropriate to her statuesque appearance. She looked at Philip in faint surprise. ‘I don’t see what I’ve said to amuse you so much.’ ‘You were so gracious about it!’ said Philip. ‘Like Lady Somebody at the Sale of Work praising the Village Institute’s handiwork.’ Mary said, puzzled: ‘But it is very nice! You can’t pretend it’s been satisfactory to have had a murderer in the family.’ ‘Not really in the family.’ ‘Well, it’s practically the same thing. I mean, it was all very worrying, and made one most uncomfortable. Everybody was so agog and curious. I hated it all.’ ‘You took it very well,’ said Philip. ‘Froze them with that icy blue gaze of yours. Made them pipe down and look ashamed of themselves. It’s wonderful the way you manage never to show emotion.’ ‘I disliked it all very much. It was all most unpleasant,’ said Mary Durrant, ‘but at any rate he died and it was over. And now–now, I suppose, it will all be raked up again. So tiresome.’ ‘Yes,’ said Philip Durrant thoughtfully. He shifted his shoulders slightly, a faint expression of pain on his face. His wife came to him quickly. ‘Are you cramped? Wait. Let me just move this cushion. There. That better?’ ‘You ought to have been a hospital nurse,’ said Philip. ‘I’ve not the least wish to nurse a lot of people. Only you.’ It was said very simply but there was a depth of feeling behind the bare words. The telephone rang and Mary went to it. ‘Hallo…yes…speaking…Oh, it’s you…’ She said aside to Philip: ‘It’s Micky.’ ‘Yes…yes, we have heard. Father telephoned…Well, of course…Yes…Yes…Philip says if the lawyers are satisfied it must be all right…Really, Micky, I don’t see why you’re so upset…I’m not aware of being particularly dense…Really, Micky, I do think you–Hallo?…Hallo?…’ She frowned angrily. ‘He’s rung off.’ She replaced the receiver. ‘Really, Philip, I can’t understand Micky.’ ‘What did he say exactly?’ ‘Well, he seems in such a state. He said that I was dense, that I didn’t realize the–the repercussions. Hell to pay! That’s the way he put it. But why? I don’t understand.’ ‘Got the wind up, has he?’ said Philip thoughtfully. ‘But why?’ ‘Well, he’s right, you know. There will be repercussions.’ Mary looked a little bewildered. ‘You mean that there will be a revival of interest in the case? Of course I’m glad Jacko is cleared, but it will be rather unpleasant if people begin talking about it again.’ ‘It’s not just what the neighbours say. There’s more to it than that.’ She looked at him inquiringly. ‘The police are going to be interested, too!’ ‘The police?’ Mary spoke sharply. ‘What’s it got to do with them?’ ‘My dear girl,’ said Philip. ‘Think.’ Mary came back slowly to sit by him. ‘It’s an unsolved crime again now, you see,’ said Philip. ‘But surely they won’t bother–after all this time?’ ‘A very nice bit of wishful thinking,’ said Philip, ‘but fundamentally unsound, I fear.’ ‘Surely,’ said Mary, ‘after they’ve been so stupid–making such a bad mistake over Jacko–they won’t want to rake it all up again?’ ‘They mayn’t want to–but they’ll probably have to! Duty is duty.’ ‘Oh, Philip, I’m sure you’re wrong. There will just be a bit of talk and then it will all die down.’ ‘And then our lives will go on happily ever afterwards,’ said Philip in his mocking voice. ‘Why not?’ He shook his head. ‘It’s not as simple as that…Your father’s right. We must all get together and have a consultation. Get Marshall down as he said.’ ‘You mean–go over to Sunny Point?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh, we can’t do that.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘It’s not practicable. You’re an invalid and–’ ‘I’m not an invalid.’ Philip spoke with irritation. ‘I’m quite strong and well. I just happen to have lost the use of my legs. I could go to Timbuctoo with the proper transport laid on.’ ‘I’m sure it would be very bad for you to go to Sunny Point. Having all this unpleasant business raked up–’ ‘It’s not my mind that’s affected.’ ‘–And I don’t see how we can leave the house. There have been so many burglaries lately.’ ‘Get someone to sleep in.’ ‘It’s all very well to say that–as though it was the easiest thing in the world.’ ‘Old Mrs Whatsername can come in every day. Do stop making housewifely objections, Polly. It’s you, really, who doesn’t want to go.’ ‘No, I don’t.’ ‘We won’t be there long,’ said Philip reassuringly. ‘But I think we’ve got to go. This is a time when the family’s got to present a united front to the world. We’ve got to find out exactly how we stand.’ III At the Hotel in Drymouth, Calgary dined early and went up to his room. He felt profoundly affected by what he had passed through at Sunny Point. He had expected to find his mission painful and it had taken him all his resolution to go through with it. But the whole thing had been painful and upsetting in an entirely different way from the one he had expected. He flung himself down on his bed and lit a cigarette as he went over and over it in his mind. The clearest picture that came to him was of Hester’s face at that parting moment. Her scornful rejection of his plea for justice! What was it that she had said? ‘It’s not the guilty who matter, it’s the innocent.’ And then: ‘Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?’ But what had he done? He didn’t understand. And the others. The woman they called Kirsty (why Kirsty? That was a Scottish name. She wasn’t Scottish–Danish, perhaps, or Norwegian?) Why had she spoken so sternly–so accusingly? There had been something odd, too, about Leo Argyle–a withdrawal, a watchfulness. No suggestion of the ‘Thank God my son was innocent!’ which surely would have been the natural reaction! And that girl–the girl who was Leo’s secretary. She had been helpful to him, kindly. But she, too, had reacted in an odd way. He remembered the way she had knelt there by Argyle’s chair. As though–as though–she were sympathizing with him, consoling him. Consoling him for what? That his son was not guilty of murder? And surely–yes, surely–there was more there than a secretary’s feelings–even a secretary of some years’ standing…What was it all about? Why did they– The telephone on the table by the bed rang. He picked up the receiver. ‘Hallo?’ ‘Dr Calgary? There is someone asking for you.’ ‘For me?’ He was surprised. As far as he was aware, nobody knew that he was spending the night in Drymouth. ‘Who is it?’ There was a pause. Then the clerk said: ‘It’s Mr Argyle.’ ‘Oh. Tell him–’ Arthur Calgary checked himself on the point of saying that he would come down. If for some reason Leo Argyle had followed him to Drymouth and managed to find out where he was staying, then presumably the matter would be embarrassing to discuss in the crowded lounge downstairs. He said instead: ‘Ask him to come up to my room, will you?’ He rose from where he had been lying and paced up and down until the knock came on the door. He went across and opened it. ‘Come in, Mr Argyle, I–’ He stopped, taken aback. It was not Leo Argyle. It was a young man in his early twenties, a young man whose dark, handsome face was marred by its expression of bitterness. A reckless, angry, unhappy face. ‘Didn’t expect me,’ said the young man. ‘Expected my–father. I’m Michael Argyle.’ ‘Come in.’ Calgary closed the door after his visitor had entered. ‘How did you find out I was here?’ he asked as he offered the boy his cigarette case. Michael Argyle took one and gave a short unpleasant laugh. ‘That one’s easy! Rang up the principal hotels on the chance you might be staying the night. Hit it the second try.’ ‘And why did you want to see me?’ Michael Argyle said slowly: ‘Wanted to see what sort of a chap you were…’ His eyes ran appraisingly over Calgary, noting the slightly stooped shoulders, the greying hair, the thin sensitive face. ‘So you’re one of the chaps who went on the “Hayes Bentley” to the Pole. You don’t look very tough.’ Arthur Calgary smiled faintly. ‘Appearances are sometimes deceptive,’ he said. ‘I was tough enough. It’s not entirely muscular force that’s needed. There are other important qualifications; endurance, patience, technical knowledge.’ ‘How old are you, forty-five?’ ‘Thirty-eight.’ ‘You look more.’ ‘Yes–yes, I suppose I do.’ For a moment a feeling of poignant sadness came over him as he confronted the virile youth of the boy facing him. He asked rather abruptly: ‘Why did you want to see me?’ The other scowled. ‘It’s natural, isn’t it? When I heard about the news you’d brought. The news about my dear brother.’ Calgary did not answer. Michael Argyle went on: ‘It’s come a bit late for him, hasn’t it?’ ‘Yes,’ said Calgary in a low voice. ‘It is too late for him.’ ‘What did you bottle it up for? What’s all this about concussion?’ Patiently Calgary told him. Strangely enough, he felt heartened by the boy’s roughness and rudeness. Here, at any rate, was someone who felt strongly on his brother’s behalf. ‘Gives Jacko an alibi, that’s the point, is it? How do you know the times were as you say they were?’ ‘I am quite sure about the times.’ Calgary spoke with firmness. ‘You may have made a mistake. You scientific blokes are apt to be absent-minded sometimes about little things like times and places.’ Calgary showed slight amusement. ‘You have made a picture for yourself of the absent-minded professor of fiction–wearing odd socks, not quite sure what day it is or where he happens to be? My dear young man, technical work needs great precision; exact amounts, times, calculations. I assure you there is no possibility of my having made a mistake. I picked up your brother just before seven and put him down in Drymouth at five minutes after the half hour.’ ‘Your watch could have been wrong. Or you went by the clock in your car.’ ‘My watch and the clock in the car were exactly synchronized.’ ‘Jacko could have led you up the garden path some way. He was full of tricks.’ ‘There were no tricks. Why are you so anxious to prove me wrong?’ With some heat, Calgary went on: ‘I expected it might be difficult to convince the authorities that they had convicted a man unjustly. I did not expect to find his own family so hard to convince!’ ‘So you’ve found all of us a little difficult to convince?’ ‘The reaction seemed a little–unusual.’ Micky eyed him keenly. ‘They didn’t want to believe you?’ ‘It–almost seemed like that…’ ‘Not only seemed like it. It was. Natural enough, too, if you only think about it.’ ‘But why? Why should it be natural? Your mother is killed. Your brother is accused and convicted of the crime. Now it turns out that he was innocent. You should be pleased–thankful. Your own brother.’ Micky said: ‘He wasn’t my brother. And she wasn’t my mother.’ ‘What?’ ‘Hasn’t anyone told you? We were all adopted. The lot of us. Mary, my eldest “sister”, in New York. The rest of us during the war. My “mother”, as you call her, couldn’t have any children of her own. So she got herself a nice little family by adoption. Mary, myself, Tina, Hester, Jacko. Comfortable, luxurious home and plenty of mother love thrown in! I’d say she forgot we weren’t her own children in the end. But she was out of luck when she picked Jacko to be one of her darling little boys.’ ‘I had no idea,’ said Calgary. ‘So don’t pull out the “own mother”, “own brother” stop on me! Jacko was a louse!’ ‘But not a murderer,’ said Calgary. His voice was emphatic. Micky looked at him and nodded. ‘All right. It’s your say so–and you’re sticking to it. Jacko didn’t kill her. Very well then–who did kill her? You haven’t thought about that one, have you? Think about it now. Think about it–and then you’ll begin to see what you’re doing to us all…’ He wheeled round and went abruptly out of the room. Chapter 4 Calgary said apologetically, ‘It’s very good of you to see me again, Mr Marshall.’ ‘Not at all,’ said the lawyer. ‘As you know, I went down to Sunny Point and saw Jack Argyle’s family.’ ‘Quite so.’ ‘You will have heard by now, I expect, about my visit?’ ‘Yes, Dr Calgary, that is correct.’ ‘What you may find it difficult to understand is why I have come back here to you again…You see, things didn’t turn out exactly as I thought they would.’ ‘No,’ said the lawyer, ‘no, perhaps not.’ His voice was as usual dry and unemotional, yet something in it encouraged Arthur Calgary to continue. ‘I thought, you see,’ went on Calgary, ‘that that would be the end of it. I was prepared for a certain amount of–what shall I say–natural resentment on their part. Although concussion may be termed, I suppose, an Act of God, yet from their viewpoint they could be forgiven for that, as I say. But at the same time I hoped it would be offset by the thankfulness they would feel over the fact that Jack Argyle’s name was cleared. But things didn’t turn out as I anticipated. Not at all.’ ‘I see.’ ‘Perhaps, Mr Marshall, you anticipated something of what would happen? Your manner, I remember, puzzled me when I was here before. Did you foresee the attitude of mind that I was going to encounter?’ ‘You haven’t told me yet, Dr Calgary, what that attitude was.’ Arthur Calgary drew his chair forward. ‘I thought that I was ending something, giving–shall we say–a different end to a chapter already written. But I was made to feel, I was made to see, that instead of ending something I was starting something. Something altogether new. Is that a true statement, do you think, of the position?’ Mr Marshall nodded his head slowly. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it could be put that way. I did think–I admit it–that you were not realizing all the implications. You could not be expected to do so because, naturally, you knew nothing of the background or of the facts except as they were given in the law reports.’ ‘No. No, I see that now. Only too clearly.’ His voice rose as he went on excitedly, ‘It wasn’t really relief they felt, it wasn’t thankfulness. It was apprehension. A dread of what might be coming next. Am I right?’ Marshall said cautiously: ‘I should think probably that you are quite right. Mind you, I do not speak of my own knowledge.’ ‘And if so,’ went on Calgary, ‘then I no longer feel that I can go back to my work satisfied with having made the only amends that I can make. I’m still involved. I’m responsible for bringing a new factor into various people’s lives. I can’t just wash my hands of it.’ The lawyer cleared his throat. ‘That, perhaps, is a rather fanciful point of view, Dr Calgary.’ ‘I don’t think it is–not really. One must take responsibility for one’s actions and not only one’s actions but for the result of one’s actions. Just on two years ago I gave a lift to a young hitch-hiker on the road. When I did that I set in train a certain course of events. I don’t feel that I can disassociate myself from them.’ The lawyer still shook his head. ‘Very well, then,’ said Arthur Calgary impatiently. ‘Call it fanciful if you like. But my feelings, my conscience, are still involved. My only wish was to make amends for something it had been outside my power to prevent. I have not made amends. In some curious way I have made things worse for people who have already suffered. But I still don’t understand clearly why.’ ‘No,’ said Marshall slowly, ‘no, you would not see why. For the past eighteen months or so you’ve been out of touch with civilization. You did not read the daily papers, the account of this family that was given in the newspapers. Possibly you would not have read them anyway, but you could not have escaped, I think, hearing about them. The facts are very simple, Dr Calgary. They are not confidential. They were made public at the time. It resolves itself very simply into this. If Jack Argyle did not (and by your account he cannot have), committed the crime, then who did? That brings us back to the circumstances in which the crime was committed. It was committed between the hours of seven and seven-thirty on a November evening in a house where the deceased woman was surrounded by the members of her own family and household. The house was securely locked and shuttered and if anyone entered from outside, then the outsider must have been admitted by Mrs Argyle herself or have entered with their own key. In other words, it must have been someone she knew. It resembles in some ways the conditions of the Borden case in America where Mr Borden and his wife were struck down by blows of an axe on a Sunday morning. Nobody in the house heard anything, nobody was known or seen to approach the house. You can see, Dr Calgary, why the members of the family were, as you put it, disturbed rather than relieved by the news you brought them?’ Calgary said slowly: ‘They’d rather, you mean, that Jack Argyle was guilty?’ ‘Oh yes,’ said Marshall. ‘Oh yes, very decidedly so. If I may put it in a somewhat cynical way, Jack Argyle was the perfect answer to the unpleasant fact of murder in the family. He had been a problem child, a delinquent boy, a man of violent temper. Excuses could be and were made for him within the family circle. They could mourn for him, have sympathy with him, declare to themselves, to each other, and to the world that it was not really his fault, that psychologists could explain it all! Yes, very, very convenient.’ ‘And now–’ Calgary stopped. ‘And now,’ said Mr Marshall, ‘it is different, of course. Quite different. Almost alarming perhaps.’ Calgary said shrewdly, ‘The news I brought was unwelcome to you, too, wasn’t it?’ ‘I must admit that. Yes. Yes, I must admit that I was–upset. A case which was closed satisfactorily–yes, I shall continue to use the word satisfactorily–is now reopened.’ ‘Is that official?’ Calgary asked. ‘I mean–from the police point of view, will the case be reopened?’ ‘Oh, undoubtedly,’ said Marshall. ‘When Jack Argyle was found guilty on overwhelming evidence–(the jury was only out a quarter of an hour)–that was an end of the matter as far as the police were concerned. But now, with the grant of a free pardon posthumously awarded, the case is opened again.’ ‘And the police will make fresh investigations?’ ‘Almost certainly I should say. Of course,’ added Marshall, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, ‘it is doubtful after this lapse of time, owing to the peculiar features of the case, whether they will be able to achieve any result…For myself, I should doubt it. They may know that someone in the house is guilty. They may get so far as to have a very shrewd idea of who that someone is. But to get definite evidence will not be easy.’ ‘I see,’ said Calgary. ‘I see…Yes, that’s what she meant.’ The lawyer said sharply: ‘Of whom are you speaking?’ ‘The girl,’ said Calgary. ‘Hester Argyle.’ ‘Ah, yes. Young Hester.’ He asked curiously: ‘What did she say to you?’ ‘She spoke of the innocent,’ said Calgary. ‘She said it wasn’t the guilty who mattered but the innocent. I understand now what she meant…’ Marshall cast a sharp glance at him. ‘I think possibly you do.’ ‘She meant just what you are saying,’ said Arthur Calgary. ‘She meant that once more the family would be under suspicion–’ Marshall interrupted. ‘Hardly once more,’ he said. ‘There was never time for the family to come under suspicion before. Jack Argyle was clearly indicated from the first.’ Calgary waved the interruption aside. ‘The family would come under suspicion,’ he said, ‘and it might remain under suspicion for a long time–perhaps for ever. If one of the family was guilty it is possible that they themselves would not know which one. They would look at each other and–wonder…Yes, that’s what would be the worst of all. They themselves would not know which…’ There was silence. Marshall watched Calgary with a quiet, appraising glance, but he said nothing. ‘That’s terrible, you know…’ said Calgary. His thin, sensitive face showed the play of emotion on it. ‘Yes, that’s terrible…To go on year after year not knowing, looking at one another, perhaps the suspicion affecting one’s relationships with people. Destroying love, destroying trust…’ Marshall cleared his throat. ‘Aren’t you–er–putting it rather too vividly?’ ‘No,’ said Calgary, ‘I don’t think I am. I think, perhaps, if you’ll excuse me, Mr Marshall, I see this more clearly than you do. I can imagine, you see, what it might mean.’ Again there was silence. ‘It means,’ said Calgary, ‘that it is the innocent who are going to suffer…And the innocent should not suffer. Only the guilty. That’s why–that’s why I can’t wash my hands of it. I can’t go away and say “I’ve done the right thing, I’ve made what amends I can–I’ve served the cause of justice,” because you see what I have done has not served the cause of justice. It has not brought conviction to the guilty, it has not delivered the innocent from the shadow of guilt.’ ‘I think you’re working yourself up a little, Dr Calgary. What you say has some foundation of truth, no doubt, but I don’t see exactly what–well, what you can do about it.’ ‘No. Nor do I,’ said Calgary frankly. ‘But it means that I’ve got to try. That’s really why I’ve come to you, Mr Marshall. I want–I think I’ve a right to know–the background.’ ‘Oh, well,’ said Mr Marshall, his tone slightly brisker. ‘There’s no secret about all that. I can give you any facts you want to know. More than facts I am not in a position to give you. I’ve never been on intimate terms with the household. Our firm has acted for Mrs Argyle over a number of years. We have co-operated with her over establishing various trusts and seeing to legal business. Mrs Argyle herself I knew reasonably well and I also knew her husband. Of the atmosphere at Sunny Point, of the temperaments and characters of the various people living there, I only know as you might say, at second-hand through Mrs Argyle herself.’ ‘I quite understand all that,’ said Calgary, ‘but I’ve got to make a start somewhere. I understand that the children were not her own. That they were adopted?’ ‘That is so. Mrs Argyle was born Rachel Konstam, the only daughter of Rudolph Konstam, a very rich man. Her mother was American and also a very rich woman in her own right. Rudolph Konstam had many philanthropic interests and brought his daughter up to take an interest in these benevolent schemes. He and his wife died in an aeroplane crash and Rachel then devoted the large fortune she inherited from her father and mother to what we may term, loosely, philanthropical enterprises. She took a personal interest in these benefactions and did a certain amount of settlement work herself. It was in doing the latter that she met Leo Argyle, who was an Oxford Don, with a great interest in economics and social reform. To understand Mrs Argyle you have to realize that the great tragedy of her life was that she was unable to have children. As is the case with many women, this disability gradually overshadowed the whole of her life. When after visits to all kinds of specialists, it seemed clear that she could never hope to be a mother, she had to find what alleviation she could. She adopted first a child from a slum tenement in New York–that is the present Mrs Durrant. Mrs Argyle devoted herself almost entirely to charities connected with children. On the outbreak of war in 1939 she established under the auspices of the Ministry of Health a kind of war nursery for children, purchasing the house you visited, Sunny Point.’ ‘Then called Viper’s Point,’ said Calgary. ‘Yes. Yes, I believe that was the original name. Ah, yes, perhaps in the end a more suitable name than the name she chose for it–Sunny Point. In 1940 she had about twelve to sixteen children, mostly those who had unsatisfactory guardians or who could not be evacuated with their own families. Everything was done for these children. They were given a luxurious home. I remonstrated with her, pointing out to her it was going to be difficult for the children after several years of war, to return from these luxurious surroundings to their homes. She paid no attention to me. She was deeply attached to the children and finally she formed the project of adding some of them, those from particularly unsatisfactory homes or who were orphans, to her own family. This resulted in a family of five. Mary–now married to Philip Durrant–Michael, who works in Drymouth, Tina, a half-caste child, Hester, and of course, Jacko. They grew up regarding the Argyles as their father and mother. They were given the best education money could buy. If environment counts for anything they should have gone far. They certainly had every advantage. Jack–or Jacko, as they called him–was always unsatisfactory. He stole money at school and had to be taken away. He got into trouble in his first year at the university. Twice he only avoided a jail sentence by a very narrow margin. He always had an ungovernable temper. All this, however, you probably have already gathered. Twice embezzlement on his part was made good by the Argyles. Twice money was spent in setting him up in business. Twice these business enterprises failed. After his death an allowance was paid, and indeed is still paid, to his widow.’ Calgary leant forward in astonishment. ‘His widow? Nobody has ever told me that he was married.’ ‘Dear, dear.’ The lawyer clicked his thumb irritably. ‘I have been remiss. I had forgotten, of course, that you had not read the newspaper reports. I may say that none of the Argyle family had any idea that he was married. Immediately after his arrest his wife appeared at Sunny Point in great distress. Mr Argyle was very good to her. She was a young woman who had worked as a dance hostess in the Drymouth Palais de Danse. I probably forgot to tell you about her because she remarried a few weeks after Jack’s death. Her present husband is an electrician, I believe, in Drymouth.’ ‘I must go and see her,’ said Calgary. He added, reproachfully, ‘She is the first person I should have gone to see.’ ‘Certainly, certainly. I will give you the address. I really cannot think why I did not mention it to you when you first came to me.’ Calgary was silent. ‘She was such a–well–negligible factor,’ said the lawyer apologetically. ‘Even the newspapers did not play her up much–she never visited her husband in prison–or took any further interest in him–’ Calgary had been deep in thought. He said now: ‘Can you tell me exactly who was in that house on the night Mrs Argyle was killed?’ Marshall gave him a sharp glance. ‘Leo Argyle, of course, and the youngest daughter, Hester. Mary Durrant and her invalid husband were there on a visit. He had just come out of hospital. Then there was Kirsten Lindstrom–whom you probably met–she is a Swedish trained nurse and masseuse who originally came to help Mrs Argyle with her war nursery and has remained on ever since. Michael and Tina were not there–Michael works as a car salesman in Drymouth and Tina has a job in the County Library at Redmyn and lives in a flat there.’ Marshall paused before going on. ‘There was also Miss Vaughan, Mr Argyle’s secretary. She had left the house before the body was discovered.’ ‘I met her also,’ said Calgary. ‘She seems very–attached to Mr Argyle.’ ‘Yes–yes. I believe there may shortly be an engagement announced.’ ‘Ah!’ ‘He has been very lonely since his wife died,’ said the lawyer, with a faint note of reproof in his voice. ‘Quite so,’ said Calgary. Then he said: ‘What about motive, Mr Marshall?’ ‘My dear Dr Calgary, I really cannot speculate as to that!’ ‘I think you can. As you have said yourself the facts are ascertainable.’ ‘There was no direct monetary benefit to anyone. Mrs Argyle had entered into a series of discretionary Trusts, a formula which as you know is much adopted nowadays. These Trusts were in favour of all the children. They are administered by three Trustees, of whom I am one, Leo Argyle is one and the third is an American lawyer, a distant cousin of Mrs Argyle’s. The very large sum of money involved is administered by these three Trustees and can be adjusted so as to benefit those beneficiaries of the Trust who need it most.’ ‘What about Mr Argyle? Did he profit in a monetary sense by his wife’s death?’ ‘Not to any great extent. Most of her fortune, as I have told you, had gone into Trusts. She left him the residue of her estate, but that did not amount to a large sum.’ ‘And Miss Lindstrom?’ ‘Mrs Argyle had bought a very handsome annuity for Miss Lindstrom some years previously.’ Marshall added irritably, ‘Motive? There doesn’t seem to me a ha’porth of motive about. Certainly no financial motive.’ ‘And in the emotional field? Was there any special–friction?’ ‘There, I’m afraid, I can’t help you.’ Marshall spoke with finality. ‘I wasn’t an observer of the family life.’ ‘Is there anyone who could?’ Marshall considered for a moment or two. Then he said, almost reluctantly: ‘You might go and see the local doctor. Dr–er–MacMaster, I think his name is. He’s retired now, but still lives in the neighbourhood. He was medical attendant to the war nursery. He must have known and seen a good deal of the life at Sunny Point. Whether you can persuade him to tell you anything is up to you. But I think that if he chose, he might be helpful, though–pardon me for saying this–do you think it likely that you can accomplish anything that the police cannot accomplish much more easily?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Calgary. ‘Probably not. But I do know this. I’ve got to try. Yes, I’ve got to try.’ Chapter 5 The Chief Constable’s eyebrows climbed slowly up his forehead in a vain attempt to reach the receding line of his grey hair. He cast his eyes up to the ceiling and then down again to the papers on his desk. ‘It beggars description!’ he said. The young man whose business it was to make the right responses to the Chief Constable, said: ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘A pretty kettle of fish,’ muttered Major Finney. He tapped with his fingers on the table. ‘Is Huish here?’ he asked. ‘Yes, sir. Superintendent Huish came about five minutes ago.’ ‘Right,’ said the Chief Constable. ‘Send him in, will you?’ Superintendent Huish was a tall, sad-looking man. His air of melancholy was so profound that no one would have believed that he could be the life and soul of a children’s party, cracking jokes and bringing pennies out of little boys’ ears, much to their delight. The Chief Constable said: ‘Morning, Huish, this is a pretty kettle of fish we’ve got here. What d’you think of it?’ Superintendent Huish breathed heavily and sat down in the chair indicated. ‘It seems as though we made a mistake two years ago,’ he said. ‘This fellow–what’s-his-name–’ The Chief Constable rustled his papers. ‘Calory–no, Calgary. Some sort of a professor. Absent-minded bloke, maybe? People like that often vague about times and all that sort of thing?’ There was perhaps a hint of appeal in his voice, but Huish did not respond. He said: ‘He’s a kind of scientist, I understand.’ ‘So that you think we’ve got to accept what he says?’ ‘Well,’ said Huish, ‘Sir Reginald seems to have accepted it, and I don’t suppose there’s anything would get past him.’ This was a tribute to the Director of Public Prosecutions. ‘No,’ said Major Finney, rather unwillingly. ‘If the DPP’s convinced, well I suppose we’ve just got to take it. That means opening up the case again. You’ve brought the relevant data with you, have you, as I asked?’ ‘Yes, sir, I’ve got it here.’ The superintendent spread out various documents on the table. ‘Been over it?’ the Chief Constable asked. ‘Yes, sir, I went all over it last night. My memory of it was fairly fresh. After all, it’s not so long ago.’ ‘Well, let’s have it, Huish. Where are we?’ ‘Back at the beginning, sir,’ said Superintendent Huish. ‘The trouble is, you see, there really wasn’t any doubt at the time.’ ‘No,’ said the Chief Constable. ‘It seemed a perfectly clear case. Don’t think I’m blaming you, Huish. I was behind you a hundred per cent.’ ‘There wasn’t anything else really that we could think,’ said Huish thoughtfully. ‘A call came in that she’d been killed. The information that the boy had been there threatening her, the fingerprint evidence–his fingerprints on the poker, and the money. We picked him up almost at once and there the money was, in his possession.’ ‘What sort of impression did he make on you at the time?’ Huish considered. ‘Bad,’ he said. ‘Far too cocky and plausible. Came reeling out with his times and his alibis. Cocky. You know the type. Murderers are usually cocky. Think they’re so clever. Think whatever they’ve done is sure to be all right, no matter how things go for other people. He was a wrong ’un all right.’ ‘Yes,’ Finney agreed, ‘he was a wrong ’un. All his record goes to prove that. But were you convinced at once that he was a killer?’ The superintendent considered. ‘It’s not a thing you can be sure about. He was the type, I’d say, that very often ends up as a killer. Like Harmon in 1938. Long record behind him of pinched bicycles, swindled money, frauds on elderly women, and finally he does one woman in, pickles her in acid, gets pleased with himself and starts making a habit of it. I’d have taken Jacko Argyle for one of that type.’ ‘But it seems,’ said the Chief Constable slowly, ‘that we were wrong.’ ‘Yes,’ said Huish, ‘yes, we were wrong. And the chap’s dead. It’s a bad business. Mind you,’ he added, with sudden animation, ‘he was a wrong ’un all right. He may not have been a murderer–in fact he wasn’t a murderer, so we find now–but he was a wrong ’un.’ ‘Well, come on, man,’ Finney snapped at him, ‘who did kill her? You’ve been over the case, you say, last night. Somebody killed her. The woman didn’t hit herself on the back of her head with the poker. Somebody else did. Who was it?’ Superintendent Huish sighed and leaned back in his chair. ‘I’m wondering if we’ll ever know,’ he said. ‘Difficult as all that, eh?’ ‘Yes, because the scent’s cold and because there’ll be very little evidence to find and I should rather imagine that there never was very much evidence.’ ‘The point being that it was someone in the house, someone close to her?’ ‘Don’t see who else it could have been,’ said the superintendent. ‘It was someone there in the house or it was someone that she herself opened the door to and let in. The Argyles were the locking-up type. Burglar bolts on the windows, chains, extra locks on the front door. They’d had one burglary a couple of years before and it had made them burglar conscious.’ He paused and went on, ‘The trouble is, sir, that we didn’t look elsewhere at the time. The case against Jacko Argyle was complete. Of course, one can see now, the murderer took advantage of that.’ ‘Took advantage of the fact that the boy had been there, that he’d quarrelled with her and that he’d threatened her?’ ‘Yes. All that person had to do was to step in the room, pick up the poker in a gloved hand, from where Jacko had thrown it down, walk up to the table where Mrs Argyle was writing and biff her one on the head.’ Major Finney said one simple word: ‘Why?’ Superintendent Huish nodded slowly. ‘Yes, sir, that’s what we’ve got to find out. It’s going to be one of the difficulties. Absence of motive.’ ‘There didn’t seem at the time,’ said the Chief Constable, ‘to be any obvious motive knocking about, as you might say. Like most other women who have property and a considerable fortune of their own, she’d entered into such various schemes as are legally permitted to avoid death duties. A beneficiary trust was already in existence, the children were all provided for in advance of her death. They’d get nothing further when she did die. And it wasn’t as though she was an unpleasant woman, nagging or bullying or mean. She’d lavished money on them all their lives. Good education, capital sums to start them in jobs, handsome allowances to them all. Affection, kindness, benevolence.’ ‘That’s so, sir,’ agreed Superintendent Huish. ‘On the face of it there’s no reason for anyone to want her out of the way. Of course–’ He paused. ‘Yes, Huish?’ ‘Mr Argyle, I understand, is thinking of remarrying. He’s marrying Miss Gwenda Vaughan, who’s acted as his secretary over a good number of years.’ ‘Yes,’ said Major Finney thoughtfully. ‘I suppose there’s a motive there. One that we didn’t know about at the time. She’s been working for him for some years, you say. Think there was anything between them at the time of the murder?’ ‘I should rather doubt it, sir,’ said Superintendent Huish. ‘That sort of thing soon gets talked about in a village. I mean, I don’t think there were any goings-on, as you might say. Nothing for Mrs Argyle to find out about or cut up rough about.’ ‘No,’ said the Chief Constable, ‘but he might have wanted to marry Gwenda Vaughan quite badly.’ ‘She’s an attractive young woman,’ said Superintendent Huish. ‘Not glamorous, I wouldn’t say that, but good-looking and attractive in a nice kind of way.’ ‘Probably been devoted to him for years,’ said Major Finney. ‘These women secretaries always seem to be in love with their boss.’ ‘Well, we’ve got a motive of a kind for those two,’ said Huish. ‘Then there’s the lady help, the Swedish woman. She mightn’t really have been as fond of Mrs Argyle as she appeared to be. There might have been slights or imagined slights; things she resented. She didn’t benefit financially by the death because Mrs Argyle had already bought her a very handsome annuity. She seems a nice, sensible kind of woman and not the sort you can imagine hitting anyone on the head with a poker! But you never know, do you? Look at the Lizzie Borden case.’ ‘No,’ said the Chief Constable, ‘you never know. There’s no question of an outsider of any kind?’ ‘No trace of one,’ said the superintendent. ‘The drawer where the money was pulled out. A sort of attempt had been made to make the room look as though a burglar had been there, but it was a very amateurish effort. Sort of thing that fitted in perfectly with young Jacko having tried to create that particular effect.’ ‘The odd thing to me,’ said the Chief Constable, ‘is the money.’ ‘Yes,’ said Huish. ‘That’s very difficult to understand. One of the fivers Jack Argyle had on him was definitely one that had been given to Mrs Argyle at the bank that morning. Mrs Bottleberry was the name written on the back of it. He said his mother had given the money to him, but both Mr Argyle and Gwenda Vaughan are quite definite that Mrs Argyle came into the library at a quarter to seven and told them about Jacko’s demands for money and categorically said she’d refused to give him any.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/ordeal-by-innocence/?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.
КУПИТЬ И СКАЧАТЬ ЗА: 506.91 руб.